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Tuesday, November 13

Making Readers Feel (and Care)

photo credit Al Bogdan
By Scott H. Andrews

Part of the How They Do It Series


JH: A double shot of guest authors today. Writing a great story isn't always enough--we have to emotionally connect to our readers to really hook them. Please help me welcome Scott H. Andrews to the lecture hall to share tips on how to make readers feel.


Scott H. Andrews taught the Odyssey Online class "Standing Out: Creating Short Stories with That Crucial Spark" in 2018 and will be teaching the upcoming Odyssey Online class "Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers."

Scott writes, teaches college chemistry, and is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the six-time Hugo Award finalist online fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies. His literary short fiction has won a $1000 prize from the Briar Cliff Review, and his genre short fiction has appeared in Space & Time, Crossed Genres, and Ann VanderMeer’s Weird Tales.

Scott has taught writing at the Odyssey Workshop, Writefest, and online for Odyssey Online Classes and Cat Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. He has lectured on short fiction, secondary-world fantasy, editing, magazine publishing, audio podcasting, and beer on dozens of convention panels at multiple Worldcons, World Fantasy conventions, and regional conventions in the Northeast and Midwest. He is a six-time finalist for the World Fantasy Award, and he celebrates International Stout Day at least once a week.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | YouTube | Instagram | iTunes

Take it away Scott...

8 Secrets to Pitching Your Novel Like a Pro

By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton  

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

When you get the opportunity to pitch your novel face-to-face to an editor or literary agent, you need to know exactly what to do – and what mistakes to avoid.

Even if you've written the world's greatest novel, no one will know it unless you can get an someone to read it. But persuading a busy industry professional to risk their valuable time on your unpublished manuscript is no picnic.

But you can do it right. Prepare yourself for novel pitching success by avoiding these deal-breaking blunders.

Mistake #1: Trying to Tell the Whole Story


The moment you sit down to pitch, you may experience the almost irrepressible urge to tell your entire amazing story from beginning to end in intricate detail.

Monday, November 12

On Tonight's Episode: Fixing Episodic Chapters

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

We're continuing on the golden oldies tour with an updated look at what to do when your chapters feel episodic. Enjoy!


Sometimes, the first (or later) draft of a novel can feel like a lot of loosely connected scenes strung together. Instead of chapters that flow together and build off one another so the story reads like it's one seamless entity, it feels disconnected. Every chapter might work on its own, but the book reads choppy, there's a lack of tension, and readers don't feel like they're getting anywhere, even if the plot in advancing.

The story feels episodic.

An episodic-feeling novel often develops when you have a lot of point of view character, location, or goal changes and you lose the plot thread tying the chapters together. Things are happening, possibly even exciting "doing all the right story stuff" things, but information is being dropped out there and it's not really going anywhere. There's no cause and effect between chapters, even if there is within scenes. For example:

Sunday, November 11

Real Life Diagnostics: Does This MG Science Fiction Opening Pull 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: One


Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through November 17.

This week’s questions:

1. Given that the uni-pad is described/explained a bit in the prologue, does the way the device is mentioned in the first chapter work?

2. If you were querying a literary agent or publisher with this manuscript, would you supply the prologue first or go straight to the first chapter?

3. Even though the character's word choice and diction are a bit elevated, does it still work for this MG story/character?

4. Does introducing the chair the main character is sitting on as a "fully-reclined leather chair" but then calling it a "uni-pad chair" a bit later jolt you as the reader?

5. Lastly, does this opening pull you in? Is there enough here to keep you wanting to read more?


Market/Genre: Middle Grade Science Fiction

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, November 9

Goals, Conflicts, & Stakes: Why Plots Need All Three

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week's Refresher Friday revisits and heavily updates one of my most-referenced articles--the trio of goals--conflicts--stakes.  


Goal - Conflict - Stakes. They're the Holy Trinity of plotting. They're the pieces that make up every scene and every plot in a novel, and without them, you're likely to find yourself lost in the literary woods trying to figure out what to do or where the story goes.

No matter what type of story you're writing, the goal-conflict-stakes trio is there. A character will want something (goal), there will be something preventing them from getting it (conflict), and a consequence if they fail (stakes).

What trips up many writers, is that all three of these have more than one use. For example, a novel will have both plot and story goals, internal and external conflicts, personal and story stakes. Knowing which one fits the scene you're working on will help you create a much tighter and more interesting plot.

Thursday, November 8

Simple Steps to an Author Auto-Responder

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy

Part of the Indie Author Series


One of the topics I’d heard other independent authors talk about a lot was auto-responders, but for years, I put off actually setting up one of my own.

Being an indie author means we’re constantly juggling demands and having to prioritize. I didn’t understand how valuable an auto-responder could be, so it never seemed to jump to the top of my list.

I was also intimidated. I didn’t know what to write in my auto-responder.

This year, I tackled it.

Wednesday, November 7

Do I Look Like a Protagonist? Ways to Describe Your First Person Narrator

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Jumping back to 2015 with an updated look at ways to describe your first-person point of view narrator--and a few things not to do.


First person point of view has its own share of challenges, but one of the trickier ones is describing your narrator. You’re always looking out, never in, and it can be awkward to have your character talk about their own attributes. If done poorly, you wind up with a character who sounds incredible self absorbed.

Before I suggest things to try, let’s start with some common cliches you don't to do.

Tuesday, November 6

6 Questions to Help You Gut Check Your Story Structure

By Swati Teerdhala, @swatiteerdhala

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: I'm a huge proponent of story structure, whether you're a plotter or a pantser. It's an incredibly useful tool to help writers write their novels. To share her tips on checking your story structure, Swati Teerdhala visits the lecture hall today. Please give her a warm welcome.

Swati Teerdhala is the author of the upcoming novel, THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT, the first in a trilogy. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a B.S. in Finance and History, she tumbled into the marketing side of the technology industry. She’s passionate about many things, including how to make a proper cup of chai, the right ratio of curd-to-crust in a lemon tart, and diverse representation in the stories we tell. She currently lives in New York City and can be found wandering the streets with a pen or camera in hand.

Instagram | Website  | Twitter

Take it away Swati...

Monday, November 5

10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Setting

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I'm deep into NaNo this month on a new book, so here's a dip into the archives for one of my favorites. Enjoy! 


Some writers craft meticulous settings and build an amazing worlds, while others use the minimal details to suggest a place. But no matter what kind of story you write, it takes place somewhere. Maybe it's a small room, a town, or even a galaxy. What's more, setting can be a backdrop or a character in the novel. It's versatile!

But what if you're not sure where to set your novel? Then here are a few questions you can ask to find the right setting for your story:

1. Where are your favorite places?


If you’ve always loved a particular location, that passion will spill over into your novel’s setting. A favorite city could be the perfect place for your characters to live. If there’s no specific place, something more general like the beach or the mountains could work as well.

Sunday, November 4

Writing Prompt: The Photo Prompt: Because It's There

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt is a photo prompt. Write whatever comes to mind, be it a description, a story, or even a poem.

Write something inspired by this photo.