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Wednesday, November 13

Keeping Your Distance: How Narrative Distance Works in Your Novel

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

The narrative distance in a novel has more affect on it than you might think. Especially when it comes to point of view.

Over the years, I've critiqued a lot of manuscripts, and a common area writers stumble over is narrative distance. They're not always sure what it is, how to use it, or how it affects their point of view.
Narrative distance is that feeling of closeness (or lack thereof) between the reader and the characters. It's what makes the point of view feel close or distant.

There's no "right" narrative distance. It's up to the writer to decide where they want the reader to be, but it's easy to fall into a "limbo narrative" where it isn't clear where--or even who--the narrator is. When this happens, we often slip into telling or too much filtering and readers feel disconnected from the characters and the story.

Tuesday, November 12

3 Secrets to Writing Vivid Settings

By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: Settings are an often overlooked aspect of a novel, yet they're opportunities to bring your story's world to life. Laurence MacNaughton returns to share three secrets for creating settings readers will get lost in. 

There are three elements that make up every story: people, problems, and places. To form a good story, those elements need to be in balance, because each one affects the others. That's why you need to put as much effort into the places in your story—your setting—as you do for your characters and your plot.

Here are the three best ways to make that effort pay off, so that your setting comes alive.

Monday, November 11

The Joy of Discovery: Keeping Readers Hooked Through Story Revelations

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

The need to know is what keeps readers interested in your novel. Don't let them down.

My husband and I watch a lot of movies, and we often discuss them over a meal afterward. Years ago, we were deciding if we wanted to see Men in Black 3. We both loved the original, felt the sequel was meh, and had read not-great reviews about the third (we did end up seeing it).

Then my husband said something profound (as he often does) that really related to writing and keeping readers hooked in a novel.

"The first movie had the joy of discovery in it that was missing from the second."

Which totally nails why a book, especially in a series, can fall flat.

One of the ways readers stay interested in a story is by learning new things about the world and characters. The discovery of who they are, what they can do, and how everything works, can be very compelling.

Saturday, November 9

Real Life Diagnostics: A Look at a Middle Grade First Page

Critique By Maria D'Marco

Real Life 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 Real Life Diagnostics, please check out these guidelines. 

Submissions currently in the queue: Zero

Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are open.

This week’s question:

Is this opening working?

Market/Genre: Middle Grade Science Fiction

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, November 8

SPARK UP YOUR STORY – A Workable Plan for Adding Tension, Suspense, & Intrigue

By Jodie Renner, fiction editor, @JodieRennerEd

Part of the How They Do It Series


JH: Keeping the reader glued to the pages of our novel is a goal for every writer. Jodie Renner returns to the lecture hall today, to share tips on adding tension and intrigue to the story. 

We all know that thrillers and other fast-paced popular fiction need lots of tension, suspense, and intrigue to keep readers riveted to the story. But so do all the other genres, to varying degrees. No matter what type of fiction you write, it’s all about hooking your readers in, engaging them emotionally, and keeping their interest to the end.

Tension, conflict, and complications are what drive all fiction forward and keep readers engrossed.

A happy scene is a boring scene. If the character has no cares or the problem is minor or easily solved, readers will lose interest and look for another book. And intrigue is what piques readers’ curiosity and keeps them turning the pages of your story, no matter what the genre. And of course, you’ll need to ratchet up the tension and suspense a lot more if you’re writing a fast-paced, nail-biting page-turner. Go through your manuscript with the list below to see if there are some ways you and amp up your story to make it more engaging.

Thursday, November 7

Building YOUR Indie Author Brand

By Ray Flynt

Part of The Indie Author Series


JH: Once you decide to go indie, the next step is to ensure you have a strong author brand. Ray Flynt is back this month with tips on how to build your indie author brand.

Forty-six years ago I moved to an unfamiliar community to develop a new program for my employer. Eventually, I’d be hiring staff, but to begin with it was just me. I only had two contacts in that new community. One was a minister who had once preached at my home church. He hardly knew me, but when I showed up to say “Hi,” he made me feel welcome.

During a tour of his church, we stopped by the choir room. He asked if I sang, and when I replied that I did, he invited me to come for choir rehearsal the following night. I showed up as the proverbial stranger in a strange land. The following Sunday, I joined with forty-five others to sing in the choir loft. I began to make friends.

Tuesday, November 5

When Not to Kill Your Darlings: Exposing Another Awful Writing “Rule”

By Dario Ciriello

Part of the How They Do It Series


JH: Kill Your Darlings has been a writing-advice staple forever, but there are times when we shouldn't follow that advice. Dario Ciriello is back this month with his thoughts on the topic.

Recently, In the course of beta reading a long Epic Fantasy novel by a very skilled and highly-acclaimed author friend, I came across a single major issue: a subplot and its characters, fascinating and well-written and full of wonder and wisdom, had grown so large it threatened to hijack and overshadow the core narrative.

I could see three main ways to fix this. These were: (i) pare that entire subplot down by at least a third; (ii) break it up further still with interspersed scenes happening elsewhere; (iii) reassure the reader, using brazen foreshadowing, and more than once, that all the events taking place in this subplot were relevant to and would tie back into the core plot.

Friday, November 1

Some Dos and Don'ts for Pitches and Blurbs

By Suzanne Purvis 

Part of The Writer’s Life Series 

JH: Pitching is part of being a writer, so it's a skill we should all develop early. Suzanne Purvis is here today to share tips on what to do--and not to do--in our novel pitches and blurbs.


Suzanne Purvis is a transplanted Canadian living in the Deep South, where she traded “eh” for “y’all.” An author of long, short, flash fiction, and poetry for both children and adults, she has won several awards including those sponsored by the University of Toronto, RWA, Bethlehem Writers, and Women Who Write. You can find her work in print anthologies, magazines, ezines, and ebooks.

She leads workshops at Lawson Writer’s Academy and for Romance Writers of America, including her popular Sizzling, Scintillating Synopsis, Potent Pitches and Brilliant BlurbsRevision Boot Camp and now she’s honored to be teaching Margie Lawson’s Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices and More class.

Her next class, Potent Pitches and Brilliant Blurbs, begins November 1st.


Take it away Suzanne…

Thursday, October 31

You Should Quit Writing: Coexisting with the Naysayers in Your Head

By Sylvia Whitman, @SylviaWhitman

Part of The Writer's Life Series


JH: I think most writers struggle with self-doubt and fear at some point in their careers. It's a tough job in a tough industry. Sylvia Whitman takes the podium today to share some thoughts and exercises on calming those fears and getting back to our days.


Sylvia Whitman lives in Sarasota, Florida, and teaches writing as a visiting instructor at Ringling College of Art and Design. She has published hundreds of articles for adults and children, a dozen books for young readers, and a handful of short stories in magazines ranging from Redbook to The Florida Review. Her books include Under the Ramadan Moon (Albert Whitman) and aYA novel The Milk of Birds (Atheneum). A finalist for the 2014 Amelia Walden Award, The Milk of Birds also earned a spot on the Amelia Bloomer Project List, the International Reading Association’s Notable Books for a Global Society and Bank Street College’s Best Children’s Books of Year.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Take it away Sylvia...

Wednesday, October 30

Ten Things to Remember if You Want to Be a Published Author

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Publishing is a crazy business, with both joys and sorrows at all levels. If you want to survive, it's important to keep things in perspective.

With computers, the physical exercise of writing has never been easier. You open a file, start typing and wham! You’re writing. Literally anyone can write and publish a book these days.

This can shine an unrealistic light on the whole process, and make writing a compelling novel look easy. Anyone who’s ever struggled over a stalled plot line or a character who didn't work can tell you writing isn't easy at all--or at least, writing a good novel isn't.

It takes work, craft, skill, and imagination. Most of all, it takes dedication and perseverance, and a faith that you will make it one day.