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Friday, January 19

Free Show, Don't Tell Workshop (and More) at the OCLS Writers Conference in Orlando, FL

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

On Saturday, January 27, 2018, I'll be giving a free workshop on Show, Don't Tell at the Orange County Library System Writers Conference.

Hope to see you there!

About the Conference

Make 2018 the year you finish and publish a novel. The OCLS Writers Conference will provide the tools and knowledge you need to reach your writing and publishing goals this year. Authors and publishing professionals will teach workshops on both craft and business topics.

This conference is free to the public, but registration is required for all attendees.

Take a peek at all the great workshops offered:

Thursday, January 18

The Long Con: Ten Things You Need to Know About Going to Conventions as a Writer

John G. Hartness
By John G. Hartness, @johnhartness

Part of the Indie Author Series

JH: Please help me welcome Fiction University's newest faculty member, John G. Hartness. He'll be writing about his indie author experience and expertise every other month. 

John G. Hartness is a teller of tales, a righter of wrong, defender of ladies’ virtues, and some people call him Maurice, for he speaks of the pompatus of love. He is also the best-selling author of EPIC-Award-winning series The Black Knight Chronicles from Bell Bridge Books, a comedic urban fantasy series that answers the eternal question “Why aren’t there more fat vampires?” He is also the creator of the comic horror Bubba the Monster Hunter series, and the creator and co-editor of the Big Bad series of horror anthologies from Dark Oak Press and Media. 2015 has seen John launch a new dark fantasy series featuring Quncy Harker, Demon Hunter.

In his copious free time John enjoys long walks on the beach, rescuing kittens from trees and recording new episodes of his podcast the Writer’s Journey, where he interviews other writers and explores their journey to writing success. John is also a contributor to the Magical Words group blog. An avid Magic: the Gathering player, John is strong in his nerd-fu and has sometimes been referred to as “the Kevin Smith of Charlotte, NC.” And not just for his girth.

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Patreon | Podcasts

Take it away John...

Wednesday, January 17

Plotting a Novel: The Big Picture vs. Single Scenes

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Plotting a novel (or a short story) seems like it ought to be an easy thing to do, because you’re just describing what happens in the book. But “How do I plot a novel?” is also the number one question I get asked, so clearly, plotting is harder than it looks.

When I first started writing, I too struggled with plotting. I didn’t fully understand what it was, so I wound up explaining how my characters explored whatever cool idea I’d come up with. I had no actual plots, even though I’d thought I did. All my novels sounded like this (and yes, these are manuscripts I’ve written):
  • A fantasy novel about a group of pirates who get caught up in an ancient prophecy and have to fight an evil god
  • A science fiction novel about a group of teens who get stranded on a new colony world and have to survive until help comes
  • A middle grade novel about a group of outcasts at a school for monsters

Tuesday, January 16

5 Lessons on Writing Humor

By Chris von Halle, @ChrisvonHalle

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: There's an old joke about dying is easy, but comedy is hard, and Jack Lemmon knew what he was talking about. If you're struggling with the funny, Chris von Halle visits the lecture hall today to share some tips on writing humor.

Chris von Halle is pretty sure he has superhuman powers, if only he could discover and untap them. Until he does, he’ll just have to be satisfied with living in Ridgewood, New Jersey, engaging in such extraordinary activities as watching tennis and basketball, playing video games, and trying to improve his already sublimely muscular rear, if he says so himself.

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram |

Take it away Chris...

Monday, January 15

Why Should Fiction Writers Blog?

By Anne R. Allen, @annerallen

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: When I sold my first novel (back in 2008), everyone told me I needed to start a blog. All the authors were doing it, and if I wanted to be successful, I had to jump in. As a teen fantasy author, I had no idea what to blog about (or why anyone would care that I was blogging at all), so I fell back on what I knew--writing. For me, it worked out great, but not all writers have been as lucky. For those facing the "to blog or not to blog?" question, the delightful Anne R. Allen visits the lecture hall today to share her expertise on blogging as a fiction writer.

Anne R. Allen is the author of 12 books, including her new release from Kotu Beach Press: The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors. Her award-winning blog, Anne R. Allen's Blog…with Ruth Harris was named one of Writer's Digest's Best 101 Websites for Writers. She's also the co-author of How to Be a Writer in the E-Age, with NYT bestseller Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter |

The Author Blog: Easy Blogging for Busy Authors is available in ebook for $2.99 for a limited time at Nook, Kobo, Apple, and Amazon. The paper version launches in February 2018.

Take it away Anne...

Sunday, January 14

Writing Prompt: The Chain Story: Just a Squeak

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt is a chain story! I’ll give you the first line, and someone else comments and builds off that line. Next commenter will build off that line, and so on.

In the event of two commenters posting at the same time and sending the story in different directions, just pick the line you like best, or try to incorporate both if you can.

It started with a squeak.

Let the fun begin.

Saturday, January 13

Real Life Diagnostics: Does This Women’s Fiction Opening Work?

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 February 10.

This week’s question:

Does this opening work?

Market/Genre: Women's Fiction

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, January 12

What Can Fiction University Do for You? (With a fixed link)

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Last week a lot of folks had trouble answering the survey due to the survey not embedding itself in emails and on mobile devices. So here it is again for those who wanted to answer, but couldn't.

Thanks to all who did!

Click here to go to the survey if you don't see it below.

Fiction University celebrates its 10th Anniversary this March. It's changed a lot over those ten years, growing from an author's blog to a site dedicated to helping writers achieve their writing dreams. 

With the new year starting, I decided it was a good time to hear from you guys about what you want from the site and how I can best help you with your writing journey.

If you have a few minutes, please answer this quick 9-question survey about the site and how it can better serve you. I would greatly appreciate the feedback.


Apologies for the problem, I didn't know this software was a bit twitchy (grin).

Create your own user feedback survey

So What? Making Readers Care About Your Story

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week's Refresher Friday takes another look at stakes and ways to make readers care about your story. Enjoy! 

Give readers a reason to care and they'll read on. Problem is, sometimes you can have all the right pieces of good storytelling in place and the reader still doesn't care, but you're not sure why. This often equates to the dreaded "it was well written, but it just didn't grab me" type comments and rejections.

So how do you get those pesky readers to care in the first place?

Four things.

1. Stakes 

"Go to bed" doesn't get much of a response. "Go to bed or else" does, because the "or else" could be something bad. The fear of that something bad forces a reaction. When the reaction you want is fear and worry (which leads to caring), you have to dangle something bad as a threat.

Let's say you have a scene where Joey is sitting at the dinner table, and his babysitter is forcing him to eat his broccoli. He refuses, she insists. This is going to get ugly and one person is going to end the night unhappy. Even though they both have strong goals to drive the scene, do you care if Joey eats his vegetables? Probably not. It doesn't matter if he does. Nothing will happen to him if he doesn't.

Thursday, January 11

Understanding Your Print Book Formatting Options

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy

Part of the Indie Author Series

In two of my earlier posts for the Indie Author Series, I covered Understanding Your Ebook Formatting Options and Three Quick Tips to Help Your Print Books Look Professional.

Today I want to return to the topic of formatting—specifically formatting our print books. As the marketplace grows more and more crowded, we need every advantage to stand out and to make our books an enjoyable reading experience. That means we need professional-looking, easy-to-read formatting for all versions of our books.