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Saturday, April 20

Real Life Diagnostics: Does This YA Opening Draw You In?

Critique By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

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: Four

Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through May 18.

This week’s questions:

1. Do the opening and closing paragraphs grab your attention and make you want to read on?

2. Is the internalization too much like 'telling' and boring?

Market/Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, April 19

How Your Setting Can Affect Your Characters

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week's Refresher Friday takes another look at how your setting can help you craft better scenes. 

Setting is an often underused tool. We all create one, usually more than one, but we don't always take advantage of what the right setting can do for our novels--the setting is just "a place where the novel takes place," not something crafted to serve the story.

This is a missed opportunity, because setting can bring out subtleties in the story and deepen an entire scene. It can evoke both character and reader emotions.

Let's say you have scene where you want your protagonist to feel uncomfortable, because she's confronting a co-worker who just stabbed her in the back at work, and she dislikes both the co-worker and confrontation.

Where would you set it?

Thursday, April 18

Sight with Insight: Maximizing Your Author Senses

By Sherry Howard, @SherLHoward

Part of The Writer’s Life Series


JH: A writer’s senses are important tools in crafting fiction. Please help me welcome Sherry Howard to the lecture hall today to share some thoughts on making the most of your senses.


Sherry Howard lives in Middletown, Kentucky, in a household busy with kids and pets. She worked as an educator, and now has the luxury of writing full time. Her debut picture book, Rock and Roll Woods, released in October, 2018. And her middle grade NF, Deep Sea Divers, just released. She has more books in the pipeline for publication soon.

Sherry loves to meet other readers and writers, so be in touch on social media here:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Take it away Sherry…

Wednesday, April 17

Raise Your Novel's Stakes by Narrowing the Focus

stakes, tension,
By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Making readers care about your story takes more than just creating likable characters. Here's an updated look at handling stakes in a story.

Stakes are critical to every story, because without stakes, readers have no reason to care about what's going on. As interesting as protagonist Bob might be, if nothing he does matters he won't hold interest for long. Even if he does intrigue readers at first, if nothing ever worsens for him, they'll get bored almost as fast. That's why it's so important to keep escalating the stakes in a story.

But escalation is only half of it. The other half, is making readers care about those stakes.

You might be tempted to open with lives in danger, the world about to end, or puppies and kittens in peril. As the adage goes, "Start with the action," and characters in dire straights says, "Look how important this is!" right away.

Tuesday, April 16

Writing Realistic Teenagers in YA

By Jodi Turchin, @jlturchin

Part of the How They Do It Series


JH: The young adult market has been hot for years, and many writers are testing these deep waters. Jodi Turchin visits the lecture hall today to share some tips on writing realistic teens. Please help me give her a warm welcome.


Jodi Turchin is a Young Adult novelist represented by Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary. She’s also a photographer, a high school English teacher, a former actress and director, an Independent Scentsy Consultant, a Younique presenter, and a dog-mom.

Website | Twitter

Take it away Jodi…

Monday, April 15

Why Conflict Is so Hard to Create in Romance

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Romances don’t usually have a villain, but there is a strong conflict driving the plot.

The romance genre is an odd mix of writing difficulties. On one hand, it’s easy to write because it has a clear structure and set of goals for every story—get two people to fall in love and live happily ever after. One the other, since both protagonists want the same thing, it’s extremely difficult to create conflict—and plot is created by conflict.

Unlike most novels, there is no mustache-twirling antagonist standing between the lovebirds and happiness. And since the protagonists need to come together in the end, you can’t have one defeat the other. Without these common antagonistic elements, finding a conflict strong enough to drive a plot can be quite the challenge.

Until you realize that most romance novels have a person vs. self conflict.

Friday, April 12

What's the Problem? The Four Classic Conflict Types

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week's Refresher Friday takes another look at the different types of conflict--something I received a lot of questions about at the California Dreamin' Writers Conference I spoke at last weekend.  

Conflict is vital to any story, but it isn't always between people, which can be a bit confusing for writers looking for their antagonist. Some stories pit the protagonist against society, or a natural disaster. Others have the traditional hero vs. villain setup.

No matter the genre though, there will be conflict in the story, and understanding what's at the heart of yours will make it easier to write. For example, if you have a person vs. self conflict, you'll know your protagonist will act in ways that are personally harmful, and the plot will show how he or she overcomes that trait or flaw causing trouble in his or her life.

Let's look at the four classic story conflict types and how they define the basic conflict structure.

Thursday, April 11

Juggling Two Author Platforms, Is it Worth it?

By Charity Bradford, @charitybradford

Part of The Writer’s Life Series


JH: It’s hard enough managing one author career, but what happens when you have a pen name that needs equal treatment? Please help me welcome Charity Bradford to the lecture hall today, to share tips on juggling multiple author platforms.


Charity Bradford has been a voracious reader ever since her 5th grade teacher introduced her to the world of books with WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS. She soon became kindred spirits with Anne Shirley and got lost in the worlds of Card, McCaffrey, Bradbury, and Nagata. By college, she was sewing her own Starfleet uniform and developing her alter-ego as a comic book sidekick. She lives in Northwest Arkansas with her hubby and four kids. Some of her guilty pleasures include binge watching Doctor Who and Ancient Aliens. Charity also writes clean contemporary romance under the name River Ford.

Website | Website (River Ford) Newsletter Sign-up | Charity on Facebook | River on Facebook |Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram

Take it away Charity…

Tuesday, April 9

Never Suffer Writer’s Block Again

By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton  

Part of the How They Do It Series (Contributing Author)

JH: Not being able to write sucks. It's emotionally draining and can make us question our entire career choice. Laurence MacNaughton has tips on never being blocked again. 

Have you ever sat down to write, and everything you wrote seemed terrible? Every writer has felt that way, at one time or another. Here's the uncomfortable truth about those critical thoughts: they can actually help you become a better writer. But only if you know how to recognize those thoughts for what they are, and then train yourself to have them at the right time.

There are two sides to your creative process.


The creative side of your writing process helps you get the rough draft down on paper.

The critical side, on the other hand, helps you revise and polish the final draft.

Saturday, April 6

Real Life Diagnostics: Does This Romantic Thriller Opening Work?

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: Two

Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through April 20.

This week’s question:

Does this romantic thriller opening work?

Market/Genre: Romantic thriller

On to the diagnosis…