Tuesday, August 4

Understanding Your Hero’s Life BEFORE the Journey Begins

By Rachel Funk Heller, @RchelFunkHeller

Part of the How They Do It Series


Characters don't exist in a vacuum, and while we don't want to tell readers every single thing that ever happened to them, it's a good idea for us writers to know the life-shaping events of our characters' pasts. Rachel Funk Heller visits the lecture hall today to show why those early days of a character's life are so vital (and helpful) to your story and plot.

Rachael began her career as a journalist and worked as an independent television writer/producer for over two decades. She is a former CNN producer who worked in both the Atlanta headquarters and the Washington D.C. bureau. She is the author of The Writer’s Coloring Book® available at writerscoloringbook.com.

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Take it away Rachael...

Monday, August 3

Writing Basics: The Midpoint Reversal

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

For a while now, we’ve looked at the basic of the major turning points in the Three Act Structure. So far, we’ve discussed how the opening scene leads to the inciting event, which leads to the act one problem, and presents the protagonist with the act two choice. That choice throws the story into the middle of the novel, and will drive the protagonist to the midpoint reversal. The results of the midpoint reversal will drive the second half of the middle toward the end of act two and the beginning of the climax (see how this all builds upon each other? This is why structure works so well).

Today, let’s tackle the point that changed my writing life forever—the midpoint reversal.

Sunday, August 2

Writing Prompt: Revise This Boring Opening Page

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt focuses on an exercise designed to work on a particular skill or technique, such as a POV exercise or character builder. Today’s skill: Revision!

I’ve written a very flat, very boring opening page. It’s your job to revise it into something worth reading that will grab a reader. Edit the bad writing, strengthen and clarify the goals, conflict, and stakes, develop the setting, establish the character, etc. You know the drill.

I’ve left enough clues to take this is any number of directions, so have fun with it. Send it to a dark and scary place, or make it the start of a romantic comedy. Add whatever details strike you, as long as you can still identify this scene as the scene I started—so no completely rewriting it from scratch. The goal is to make this monstrosity better.

Saturday, August 1

Real Life Diagnostics: Establishing World and Mystery in a YA Opening Scene

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 I 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: Five 

Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through September 5.

This week’s questions:

1.Does this work as an opening?

2.Do you start to get a sense of the protagonist's voice and of the relationship between the two boys?

3. Am I trying to establish too much (ghost, small people in a forest, their relationship, and the problem) for an effective beginning. I don't want to confuse the reader but I do want to start at an interesting point without having to explain everything.


Market/Genre: YA fantasy

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, July 31

An Easy Tip for Developing Story Ideas

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week's Refresher Friday takes another look at how to narrow down (or come up with) your story ideas. Enjoy! 

I got a great question in the comments recently:
I would love to write a duology or trilogy but I can't start writing unless I have an idea of what I want the story to be. And I have no clue! I have a character and I have the universe and rules set but I'm just not sure what kind of story I want to tell. I have a very vague idea but nothing concrete and I can't start writing unless I have The Idea down. It's so frustrating. Any advice?
As I happen to be in "story idea" mode right now, this came at the perfect time. I've spent the last several weeks taking nuggets of ideas and turning them into blurbs and rough outlines I can write a novel from. Some of these nuggets were no more than a general idea, a character, or a cool "what if" premise, so I rolled up my sleeves and went into brainstorming mode.

Thursday, July 30

How to Drive Yourself Crazy as a Writer: Read Reviews

By Alex Hughes, @ahugheswriter

Part of the Indie Authors Series


Being a writer can make you crazy (or maybe that's a prerequisite to being a writer?), and never is that more apparent than in how reviews can make us feel. To celebrate the release of her new book, How to Drive Yourself Crazy As a Writer, Alex Hughes returns to the lecture hall today with a fun and helpful look on how (and why) reading reviews is a great way to make you lose your mind.

Alex, the author of the award-winning Mindspace Investigations series from Roc, has lived in the Atlanta area since the age of eight. Her short fiction has been published in several markets including EveryDay Fiction, Thunder on the Battlefield and White Cat Magazine. Her latest book, How to Drive Yourself Crazy As a Writer, is a humorous look at the things we writers can do to avoid being sane. She is an avid cook and foodie, a trivia buff, and a science geek, and loves to talk about neuroscience, the Food Network, and writing craft—but not necessarily all at the same time! For all the latest news and free short stories, join Alex’s email list.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound

Take it away Alex...

Wednesday, July 29

A Writer, A Character and A Reader: A Different Sort of Trilogy

By Bonnie Randall

Special Guest Author

This meme is so true: in order to create quality prose we need to craft, project a unique character’s voice, and review our own work from the objective stance of a reader. A tall order, this prescribed trinity, yet with even more broad-strokes implications than just the confines of our current WIPs. In order to best serve a writing career, an author needs to invoke this Holy Trinity all the time.

Tuesday, July 28

Planning Your Plotting

By Chris Eboch, @Kris_Bock

Part of the How They Do It Series


I'm a huge supporter of both plotting, and planning your plotting, so I'm delighted to welcome Chris Eboch to the lecture hall today to share some thoughts and exercises on plotting. Some of these are also great techniques for those who like to jump start the brain with a writing exercise before your writing session.

Chris's novels for children include The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; and Bandits Peak, a survival story. Her writing craft books include You Can Write for Children and Advanced Plotting. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog. Sign up for her workshop newsletter for classes and critique offers.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound

Take it away Chris...

Monday, July 27

The Difference Between Setup and Setup

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Writing can be a confusing endeavor. The same words can mean very different things depending on the context, which can make it hard to fully understand certain concepts. For example, “writing” can mean the act of crafting a novel, the technical aspects of it, or the prose or story itself. When someone says, “the writing is what matters most,” what are they talking about? Technical skill? Story? Getting words down on a regular basis?

Setup is one of those situational words.

Sunday, July 26

Writing Prompt: Free Write!

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt is a free write, so take the line below and run with it. It doesn’t have to turn into anything, just let the words flow and see where they go.

Continue this opening sentence:

Bubbles. Bubbles everywhere.


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