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Sunday, November 18

Writing Prompt: The Chain Story: Just One More Thing

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Since it's the start of what is a holiday week for many people, let's keep it simper and fun this week.

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.

My to-do list looked complete, until I flipped it over.


Let the fun begin.

Saturday, November 17

Real Life Diagnostics: Does This Scene Work and Grab Your Attention?

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 December 8.

This week’s question:

Does this scene work and grab your attention? 


Market/Genre: Middle Grade

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, November 16

7 Tips on Writing a Series

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

 This week's Refresher Friday takes another peek at things to consider before your write a series. Enjoy!


A novel series is an investment, both on the writer’s part, and the reader’s. Most of the time, it’s designed from the start to span multiple books—either open-ended or with a predetermined number of books planned. It’s a commitment to live in the same world with the same characters for years—or decades in Sue Grafton’s case.

The series might be a collection of stand-alone novels that all explore a common genre, such as a mystery or a romance. It might have a common element that ties the books together, such as characters who all work at the same law firm, or romances between a common group of characters. In some series, you can even read the books out of order and it won’t matter, because they’re not dependent on each other to understand the overall story.

Thursday, November 15

The Long Con – Author Lessons Learned from a Year on the Convention Circuit

By John G. Hartness, @johnhartness

Part of the Indie Author Series


I might have mentioned that I do a lot of conventions. 36 so far in 2018, with a couple still to go. That’s up from 29 in 2017, and way more than I intend to do in 2018, so let’s take a look at some of the sales numbers, expenses, and lessons I’ve learned across the last two years of selling paperbacks at conventions all across the Southeastern United States.

One caveat before we start: I have excluded Dragon Con from these numbers. I don’t sell books at Dragon Con, because that’s not what I go to that convention for. Plus, it’s so much more expensive than any other con I do that it would skew the numbers.

First, the raw numbers. In 2018 I sold $15,240 in books at conventions. That’s a pretty good increase from the $11,953 I did in 2017, around 27% from 2017 numbers. Not bad, right?

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.