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Thursday, January 28

3 Quick Building Blocks to Creating Crackling Character Chemistry

By Bonnie Randall

Part of The How They Do It Series 


JH: When sparks fly between characters, so do the pages. Bonnie Randall shares tips on creating irresistible chemistry between your characters. 

So, I’m reading a novel right now—romantic suspense—and I’m enthralled by the snap-crackle-pop of sexual tension between two of the characters.

Except…I don’t think they’re the characters the author intended me to get giddy for. In fact it might even freak her out to know that the hottest couple she created is… <drumroll> the hero and the heroine’s grandmother.

Yes. Grandmother.

(Hey—don’t look at me that way. I don’t make the news, I just report it).

Wednesday, January 27

How to Shame Your Characters and Win Readers

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

If your characters aren’t hiding shameful secrets, you’re missing an opportunity for a stronger story.

Close your eyes and think about your most shameful secret. Feel that twist in your gut? That flush creeping across your skin? Have you pulled in on yourself, maybe crossed your arms and hunched your shoulders?

Remember those feelings, because you can make serious use of them in your writing.

Few things motivate a character like the fear of shameful secrets coming to light. It doesn’t even have to be a really bad secret, just one that makes a character cringe and wish it never happened. Maybe they bullied someone. Maybe they stole something. Maybe they dropped the vial of zombie virus and started the apocalypse.

Whatever it is, it hurts them to think about it and horrifies them that someone else might find out—or worse—call them on it. It saps their confidence, pops into their mind at the worst times, and can ruin an otherwise excellent day.

And that’s a good thing.

Tuesday, January 26

How to Sneak Flashbacks into Your Novel

By Spencer Ellsworth, @spencimus

Part of The How They Do It Series


JH: Flashbacks are on the "use with caution" list of writing, but done well, they can enrich a novel. Spencer Ellsworth share thoughts on how to make flashbacks work in your story.

Spencer Ellsworth is the author of The Great Faerie Strike from Broken Eye Books and the Starfire space opera trilogy from Tor. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and three children, and would really like a war mammoth if you know a guy.

Take it away Spencer…

Monday, January 25

Writers: Stop Being Nice to Your Characters

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Going easy on your characters often results in a plot that no one wants to read.

There are some writers who cringe at the thought of putting their characters into danger. Caring authors who encourage and look after their fictional charges as they send them on their literary ways.

I’m not one of those writers.

I love to torment my characters. I cackle with glee when I devise something horrible to do to them. Maybe it’s my dark side coming out, I don’t know.

Take the characters in my teen fantasy series, The Healing Wars. The heroine, Nya, never gets a break from me. First, I kill most of her family (this is before the story opens). Then, I give her an evil “is it a blessing or a curse?” magical ability (she can heal, but only if she shifts pain from one person to another). To add insult to this injury, I give her a little sister who can heal without the nasty drawback and all its nastier side-effects (because ya know, being jealous of your little sister really bites).

Saturday, January 23

WIP Diagnostic: Is This Working? A Closer Look at a Cozy Mystery Opening

Critique By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

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: One

Please Note: As of today, critique slots are booked until January 30.

This week’s question:

I've been working hard on creating better characters. My goal is for Cherry to be compelling from her first moments—is that coming through?

Market/Genre: Cozy Mystery

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, January 22

Why Your Novel Isn’t Hooking Your Reader

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy 

How to tell the difference between good setup, and bad setup, in your novel.

I’ve always written fantasy and science fiction, so I learned right away how perilous setup is to a novel. I wrote dozens of terrible beginnings and first acts that were barely more than a dramatized version of my notes. Characters gave lectures, they didn’t have conversations. And I’d stick my authorial nose into the story to explain the things my characters didn’t know.

I even wrote the dreaded, history-ladened “fantasy world building prologue” a time or two. [shudders]

On the bright side, facing this extra challenge early on helped me figure out how show, don’t tell and point of view worked, which made writing in general a lot easier. It also taught me a very good lesson I still use today.

Thursday, January 21

4 Secrets to Successful World Building

By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton


Part of The How They Do It Series

JH: A believable world is a must for a fantasy or science fiction author, but how much world do you really need to build? Laurence MacNaughton shares four secrets to craft a world readers will want to explore.

Anytime you write a story that breaks the boundaries of the "normal" world, you need to do what's called world building. Do it right, and you'll transport your readers to an amazing place they've never been. Do it wrong, and it will kill your story faster than a stake through the heart.

Whether you're talking about magic, monsters, aliens, space travel, whatever it is you want to write about, there's an art to world building. 

Wednesday, January 20

5 Steps to Your Next Novel Idea

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Want to write a novel, but you just don’t know what to write about? This easy process can help.

Finding fresh novel ideas is a daunting process, even when you know exactly the kind of story you want to tell. But sometimes you don’t know what you want to write, or you have a vague idea of a concept but aren’t sure how to take it beyond that.

Maybe you know the types of novels your like to read, and the movies and TV shows you enjoy watching, and you know you want something along those lines, but still can’t find the right idea to develop. It’s just too overwhelming.

Sometimes, you just need a little help guiding your muse to the right idea for your novel.


Not knowing what you want to write about is frustrating, and it could cause you to jump into writing a novel with an idea that’s not yet ready. Diving in too soon often results in hitting a wall a few chapters in, which leads to even more frustration and a fear that you can’t be a writer after all.

Tuesday, January 19

Procrastination: Dump Old Myths and Discover a Fun Solution

By Rochelle Melander, @WriteNowCoach

Part of The Writer's Life Series


JH: Writers have a lot of "legitimate" ways of not working (I'm just doing research, honest!) Rochelle Melander busts a few myths about goofing off, and what we can do to get back to writing

Rochelle Melander is a speaker, professional certified coach and the author of 11 books for adults, including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It) and Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity.

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Take it away Rochelle…

Monday, January 18

A Lifeline for When Writing is No Longer Fun

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy 

Losing the fun of writing is more than just writer’s block. And it takes a different path to fix it.

Talk to a group of writers and you’ll hear a common theme—we write because we can’t not write. It’s our passion, our love, what we enjoy doing.

But what happens when we lose the joy of writing?

Years ago, I started a novel I couldn’t wait to write. I loved the idea, the world, the characters. I was excited about the theme and how this novel would stretch my creativity. The first draft went well and I submitted it to my critique group.

And they hated it.