Friday, October 15, 2021

NaNoWriMo Prep: Planning Your Novel’s Middle

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Continuing with the annual NaNo prep posts...we dive into the turning points and problems of writing your novel's middle.

Middles might be the most common tough spot for writers, and with good reason. The middle makes up half the novel, and it’s where all the heavy plot workings happen. We usually have a decent idea of how our stories start, and roughly how they end, but that middle? What do we put in there? That often eludes us.

This is when a lot of novels start to bog down, so there’s a good chance many NaNo writers will stumble here. But don’t worry, because I know a great trick to overcome middle woes. The Mid-Point Reversal!

This is a major event that happens in the middle of your novel that helps bridge the gap between the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end (act one and act three for those using the Three Act Structure). It effectively breaks your three acts into four acts, making each section a little easier to manage.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Importance of Commas, Meter, and Reading Aloud for the Fiction Writer

By Dario Ciriello, @Dario_Ciriello 

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: How your writing sounds is just as important as how it reads. Dario Ciriello discusses how rhythm and meter work to create memorable writing.

I recently completed an edit for a client, Cordia Pearson1, whom I’d gently persuaded to let me introduce Oxford commas into her list phrases. The reasoning for this is that using the Oxford (aka serial) comma never does any harm, and can prevent serious confusion. Consider the sentence,
My parents, Jesus, and Lady Gaga taught me all I know.
If you remove the serial comma after Jesus, the meaning changes, and not for the better.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Writers: How to Tell the Future

By R.W. W. Greene, @rwwgreene

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: One of science fiction’s strengths is showing future possibilities and what life might be like in them. R.W.W. Greene shares tips on how to create plausible (and intriguing) futures.

R.W. W. Greene is the author of The Light Years and Twenty-Five to Life, on bookshelves now via Angry Robot Books. He is represented by Sara Megibow of the KT Literary Agency.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Take it away RWW…

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

13 Tips for Writing a Halloween Story

By Rayne Hall, @RayneHall

Part of the Focus on Short Fiction Series

JH: Drawing inspiration from holidays is a great way to spark a new story. Rayne Hall shares 13 tips for writing a Halloween tale.

A Halloween story has two characteristics: it must unfold on or around the time of Halloween, and it must be scary in some way. Here are some ideas and tips for creating your own scary Halloween story.

1. The story features a Halloween ritual – but not necessarily a predictable one.

The story plot needs to involve Halloween customs or rituals. However, these don't need to be the conventional trick-or-treating, carved pumpkins and fancy-dress costumes. Consider the seasonal traditions of other cultures, regions and religions and draw on them for inspiration.

Monday, October 11, 2021

How Far is Too Far? How Narrative Distance Affects Telling

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

There can be a fine line between a far narrative distance and telling.

Not all points of view use the same narrative distance. A first-person point of view pulls readers in close, while an omniscient point of view keeps them at a distance. Both are valid narrative distances, but the farther away you get from the reader, the riskier it is you’ll slip up and start telling instead of showing.

Maybe you pull away from the narrative for style, or because you want to show more than just what the point of view character knows. Maybe you aren’t comfortable inside a character’s head and don’t yet know what’s going on in there. Or maybe your point-of-view-skills are still a little shaky and you don’t even realize you’re doing it—until your get feedback with comments such as “this feels told” or “I felt detached from the character.”

I see this most often in third person point of view novels, where there’s already a layer of distance between reader and character. If you’re not solid in the point of view character’s head, it’s easy to forget who’s narrating the story and start explaining why characters act as they do, or what a character knows. If a distant omniscient narrator is your goal, that’s fine, but if you want a tighter perspective—that’s a problem.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

WIP Diagnostic: Is This Working? A Closer Look at Writing a Non-Human POV

Critique by Maria D'Marco

WIP Diagnostics is a weekly column that studies a snippet of a work in progress for specific issues. Readers are encouraged to send in work with questions, and we diagnose it on the site. It’s part critique, part example, and designed to help the submitter as well as anyone else having a similar problem.

If you're interested in submitting to WIP Diagnostics, please check out these guidelines. 

Submissions currently in the queue: Seven

Please Note: As of today, critique slots are booked through November 27.

This week’s questions:

1. Does this opening work to hook the reader?

2. Does it establish the "alien" POV of the protagonist?

3. Does it establish the initial conflict and goal?

4. Does it need to be clear to the reader that this is a lab if the protagonist does not understand that concept?

Market/Genre: Science Fiction

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, October 08, 2021

NaNoWriMo Prep: Planning Your Novel’s Beginning

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Many writers know what they want to write about, but have no idea where to start.

For many, the beginning of a novel is the hardest part. Getting the right opening scene, finding the right inciting event, even figuring out the perfect first sentence can keep you from getting anywhere at all. But don't worry.  Beginnings aren't as scary as they appear.

In many ways, they're the easier part, since you probably already know the most critical aspects of your story--the protagonist, the goal, the conflict, and the setting.

If you're not yet sure on what to put in your novel's beginning, let's take a closer peek at what goes into a beginning.

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Placing Short Fiction, Part Two: Contests and Red Flags

By José Pablo Iriarte, @LabyrinthRat

Part of the Focus on Short Fiction Series

JH: Contests can be a great way to get your writing out there, but be wary of those who take advantage of writers. José Pablo Iriarte shares some red flags that a publisher doesn't have your best interests in mind.

In my last guest post, I talked in general terms about selling short fiction, focusing on considerations such as how to find a market, how much pay rate might matter to you, how to format manuscripts, print versus online markets, and magazines versus anthologies. In my mind, the theme was You've finished you story . . . now what? As I said in July, though, there was really too much I wanted to say to be able to fit in one post, so now I'm back with more thoughts on what to do—or what not to do—with your short work. Today the focus is less on selling and more on adjacent questions, such as . . .

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Making Magic Systems That Work and Wow

By Bethany Henry

Part of The How They Do It Series

JH: There's something magical about making magic, and it's often a fantasy writer's favorite part of writing in that genre. Bethany Henry shares tips on how to create a compelling magic system for your novel

Bethany Henry writes fantasy novels, and blogs about writing and wellness at When not writing, she can often be found on the frisbee field, drinking tea, or reading picture books with her two little girls. Sign up for her email list for weekly posts on writing craft—along with fun extras like quotes and freebies.  

Website | Blog | Facebook | Pinterest | Email List

Take it away Bethany...

Monday, October 04, 2021

5 Ways to Restart Your Writing After a Break

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Finding momentum after a writing break isn't easy, but there are tricks to ease yourself back into it. 

Writing breaks happen for many reasons—from life getting in the way, to a lull in creativity, to being busy with other writing things that aren’t putting words to paper. For the lucky writers, returning to writing takes little to no time and the muse picks up where she left off.

For the rest of us… [repeated sound of forehead hitting the keyboard]

I haven't written a word in months due to a family medical issue, but unlike my previous breaks, getting back to work is harder this time. My focus is off, I'm easily distracted, and I run out of energy far to quickly. I suspect it'll be a while before I'm able to do any real quality writing. 

In the past, this would have frustrated me to no end. This time, though, I know why it's so hard (just stress, and that's not changing any time soon), and I just have to take it a step at a time. Whatever I can do, I'll do, and when I need to stop, I will.