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Saturday, September 26

WIP Diagnostic: Is This Working? A Closer Look at a First Chapter Ending

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: Three

Please Note: As of today, critique slots are booked through October 17.

This week’s question:

Would this be a good enough dramatic ending for the first chapter to make you want to read more?

Market/Genre: Middle Grade Historical

On to the diagnosis…

Thursday, September 24

Character Creation Made Easy-ish

By Jacqueline Myers 

Part of The How They Do It Series 


JH: Figuring out who your characters are is often harder than figuring out your plot
. Jacqueline Myers shares tips on how to create characters with ease.

Jacqueline is currently happily at work on her second mystery series (under the pen name, Gilian Baker) while sharing what she's learned with other writers. Using the synergy of personality theory and brain science, Jacqueline coaches writers using a proprietary methodology that helps them overcome their debilitating creative blocks so they can write un-put-down-able books.

If you are struggling, she'd love to see how she can support you! Schedule your free story strategy session here. You can also email her at jacqueline@intuitivewritingcoach.com.

Grab her first cozy mystery, Blogging is Murder, for FREE here. 

Take it away Jacqueline…

Wednesday, September 23

The Recipe for Writing a Great Scene

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy 

A great scene is a lot like a great meal. It whets an appetite for more, it fills up the senses, and it satisfies the hunger.  

A lot of things can happen in a scene. Plot things, character things, backstory things. We even describe them as “this is the scene where Bob finds the body in the trunk,” as if the scene has one purpose only. 

But great scenes subscribe to the other rule of three: Every scene needs at least three reasons for being in your novel.

That doesn’t mean three plot things, however. It means that every scene will accomplish multiple tasks. 

It might advance the plot, develop a character, reveal information, describe the world, explore the theme, raise the stakes, up the tension, foreshadow an event, etc. Which three (or more) elements in a scene is up to the writer.

Tuesday, September 22

Employ the Four Seasons to Enhance Atmosphere in Your Novel

By Bonnie Randall

Part of The How They Do It Series 


JH: Dipping into the archives today for a golden oldie from Bonnie Randall on how writers can take advantage of the four seasons to establish tone and mood in their novels.

Frankie Valli alone can’t establish a mood in your novel—but the literal four seasons just might.

First, though, let’s consider what comprises atmosphere. Certainly the five senses play a leading role, but real richly atmospheric pieces also play off a reader’s presentiment to a location, their innate responses to it. 

Consider, for example, author Barbara Michaels (aka Elizabeth Peters). Michaels loved setting her Gothic mysteries in sprawling old mansions with closed off wings and dusty rooms. 

BOOM! there’s your atmosphere; all of us can immediately appreciate the sense of dread, fear, mystery (maybe even doom) when faced with an old building like this. 

Saturday, September 19

WIP Diagnostic: Is This Working? A Closer Look at Finding the Right Opening Scene

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: Zero

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

This week’s questions:

1. Is there too much telling and not showing?

2. Am I’m forcing too much background into the opening?

3. Does the dialogue sound natural and believable? Is there too much dialogue?

4. is there anything you think I should improve on that I didn’t notice?

5. Would you want to keep reading?

Market/Genre: Unspecified

Note: This is another story we’ve followed through multiple revision.

On to the diagnosis…

Thursday, September 17

Don’t Fall Prey to The Dark Side of Good Writing Habits

By Shanna Swendson, @ShannaSwendson


Part of The Writer’s Life Series 


JH: Building good writing habits is a great idea, but be wary of changes that negatively affect other aspects of your life. Shanna Swendson discusses the dark side of even good habits. 

Shanna Swendson earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas but decided it was more fun to make up the people she wrote about and became a novelist. She’s written a number of fantasy novels for teens and adults, including the Enchanted, Inc. series and the Rebel Mechanics series. She devotes her spare time to reading, knitting, and music. Her next release will be the paranormal mystery Interview with a Dead Editor, coming October 1. 

Website | Twitter Facebook | Goodreads

Take it away Shanna…

Tuesday, September 15

Create a Powerful Story Cast: A Master List of Character-Building Resources

By Angela Ackerman, @AngelaAckerman

Part of The How They Do It Series 


JH: Developing a novel takes so much brainpower, it's nice to find some tools to lessen the load on our creativity.  Angela Ackerman shares some great resources and tools for building and developing your characters.


Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (now an expanded 2nd edition) as well as seven others. Her books are available in eight languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers, as well as One Stop for Writers, a portal to powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Take it away Angela...

Saturday, September 12

WIP Diagnostic: Is This Working? A Closer Look at Mixing Internal Thoughts into a Third-Person POV

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 through September 19.

This week’s questions:

1. Am I getting closer to an acceptable opening?

2. Does this sound realistic, like something a 10 year old would gripe about?

3. Did I ground the setting?

Market/Genre: Middle Grade

Note: We’ve had a lot of resubmits lately, and here’s another. The previous versions are here: first, second, and third for those curious to see how this revision has developed.

On to the diagnosis…

Thursday, September 10

Why Query Letters Matter to Self-Published Authors, Too

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Part of the Indie Authors Series

If you’re self publishing, you might think your query-writing days are over—but they’re not (sorry!). The target of those query letters has simply changed.

A good query letter bears a striking resemblance to good cover copy. They’re both designed to entice a potential reader to pick up the book. The same skills that go into writing a strong query letter also apply to great cover copy, and you’ll need great cover copy for your self-published book. 

Think about it—a query for an agent or editor only needs to convince a handful of people to read the book. Cover copy has to convince every reader to read it. That’s a lot of pressure for a few paragraphs.

Luckily, some of the details that complicate a query letter don't apply to cover copy, which makes the process a little easier. 

Wednesday, September 9

Stop Dreaming, Start Doing Workshop Series

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Are you ready to stop dreaming and start writing?

Do you have a story to tell but you can’t quite get it on the page? Are you ready to see your name in print, but you don’t know how to get there? Are you dying to get an MFA, but you don’t have the time, money, or other resources to dedicate yourself to going back to school?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, let me tell you about a free workshop series.



Gabriela Pereira, the creator of DIY MFA, is releasing an amazing FREE video series called Stop Dreaming, Start Doing, designed just for people like you.

In this series, you’ll learn...