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Friday, February 28

Tightening Your Novel With a Preposition Patrol

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy 


There's nothing wrong with prepositions or prepositional phrases. They're a perfectly good tool in a writer's toolbox. But they're often found hanging around troublesome sentences, or even sentences that aren't bad, yet you know in your heart they can be better--if you could only figure out why they bug you in the first place.

For those who haven't been in English class in a while, a preposition is kind of like a stage director. It shows (directs) the relationship to the other words and phrases, connecting them and showing how they relate to each other. Often it's a physical or spatial distinction, like Bob put the knife on the table. The zombie brains splattered above the door. In the courtyard, three zombies tried to chew through an old Barcolounger.

Thursday, February 27

Becoming a Self-Published Author


By Patricia Cruzan

Part of the Indie Authors Series

To become an author certain disciplines need to be developed: reading books, studying the language, and studying others’ books. Most writers love to read, so that discipline isn't that hard. But, if you want to write children’s books, spend time at children’s areas of a public library, at home bookshelves, or at a bookstore. Reading books of various genres and levels will help you become familiar with the types of books you can write.

Wednesday, February 26

Titles: The First Impression a Novel Makes

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with titles. They either come to me like bolts from the blue, or I spend months struggling to find the right one. Usually, the easier the title comes to me, the more well-formed the story idea is.

When this happens, I know I've tapped into a critical element of the story, and that element will likely resonate throughout the entire novel. That's the power of the right title.

The cliché says you can't judge a book by its cover, but readers do judge them by their titles. A great title will catch the eye and entice a reader to pick up your book, while a bad title will keep readers away or attract the wrong readers for your story.

Tuesday, February 25

The Emotionally Healthy Publishing Career

By Sara Megibow, @SaraMegibow

Part of the How They Do It Series


Publishers Marketplace | KT Literary Agency

Please welcome literary agent Sara Megibow, who joins us today to share some advice on how not to go crazy as a writer.

Sara is a literary agent with nine years of experience in publishing. Sara specializes in working with authors in middle grade, young adult, romance, erotica, science fiction and fantasy and represents New York Times bestselling authors Roni Loren and Jason Hough and international bestselling authors Stefan Bachmann and Tiffany Reisz. Sara is LGBTQ-friendly and presents regularly at SCBWI and RWA events around the country.
Take it away Sara...

Monday, February 24

Find the Help You Need, When You Need It

One of the challenges of a site with over 1000 articles is to make it as easy as possible for readers to find what they're looking for when they need it. To make that process easier, the site contents bar (on the left) has been revamped for better navigation.

Within each section are links to pages with a sampling of the most helpful articles on that topic and a link to see all the articles on that topics.

You'll also find the search bar and a complete label listing if you're looking for something more specific. Every writing article is labeled with the topic (or topics) it covers.

Within each article you'll also find links to additional in-depth information on that topic, and we're working to make these links every more helpful moving forward. One of the long-term goals in 2014 is to cross-link every article on the site to make it as searchable and easy to use as possible.

Sunday, February 23

The Other Side of the Story is Now Fiction University!

I don't think it's possible to redesign a site and not make a joke about "you might have noticed some new changes," so...you might have noticed the new look this visit.

The rebranding to Fiction University has been in the works for a while now, and we're excited to take the site in this more focused direction. My goal has always been to educate writers and help them improve their craft, and we'll be offering more ways to do that in 2014.

This will be an on-going process, so please pardon our digital dust during this renovation. Besides the new look, the URL will change to fiction-university.com in the coming month. While we don't expect any snags you never know how the internet will behave. If you come across any weirdness accessing the site in the next week or so, this is why. Rest assured we'll be working to fix any issues that might occur as quickly as possible. Our plan is to have support for existing links using the original URL (blog.janicehardy.com) as well as the new URL, as long as Google and Yahoo behave themselves.

Saturday, February 22

Real Life Diagnostics: Developing the Setting in an 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 blog. 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: Six (+ 2 Resubmits)  

Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through April 5. The Sunday diagnostics will shorten that some when my schedule permits, but I wanted everyone to be aware of the submission to posting delay.

This week’s questions:

Is the environment developed enough? Is the character interesting? Would you read on?


Market/Genre: Unspecified

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, February 21

Get Over Overstating: Trimming Unnecessary Words

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Often, when we tinker with our manuscripts we repeat ourselves. Sometimes this is good, as it reinforces critical elements of the story, but sometimes it just gunks things up and tosses in extra words. Here are some tips on finding--and eliminating--those unnecessary words in your own work.

Tell Me Everything


A common unnecessary word or phrase is one that states something the reader can clearly figure out from the text. Trimming it can tighten up the prose and make it read more smoothly.
I darted to the window [and peeked out.] Enzie was running down the walk, waving her arms above her head and yelling.
It's clear that the narrator here looks out the window after she darts to it because she tells you what she sees. Leaving in "and peeked out" won't hurt the story, but the goal is to start picking up the pace in this scene since something bad is about to happen. Having a shorter sentence achieves that.

Thursday, February 20

Understanding Your Ebook Formatting Options

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy

Part of the Indie Author Series


When I first decided to self-publish, one of the decisions that tied my stomach into the most knots was how to format my ebook. I had a meager budget, and I’ll be honest—I’m not exactly a technological wiz kid. I still use an ancient cell phone with no internet capabilities, and I get heart palpitations every time my computer hiccups.

But what I realized was that ebook formatting isn’t nearly as scary as I thought. In fact, I actually fell a little in love with the process. We have a lot of options, which means we can all find the one that works best for us, for our book, and for our budget.

Wednesday, February 19

Looking for a Writer and Illustrator Conference? Take a Peek at Springmingle


I'm fortunate to belong to Southern Breeze, a wonder chapter of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). Their annual spring conference is coming up and it's a fantastic conference for writers and illustrators of juvenile fiction and non-fiction from picture books to young adult novels. Not a SCBWI member? No problem. Non-members are welcome and encouraged to attend. In fact, it's a great way to meet the members and see if it's a group you'd like to join.

For those who'd like to help get the word out about this event, please tweet or share, or even copy this information right off the site and post it to your own site. The more who hear about it the better, and I appreciate any and all efforts made to spread the word.

Tuesday, February 18

How to Craft a Love Scene

By Guest Author Robin Constantine, @RConstantine14

Part of the How They Do It Series

Please help me give a big welcome to YA author Robin Constantine, who joins us today to share some tips on writing love scenes.

Robin is a born and bred Jersey girl who moved down South so she could wear flip-flops year round. She spends her days dreaming up stories where love conquers all, well, eventually but not without a lot of peril, angst and the occasional kissing scene.

Her YA debut, The Promise of Amazing, was released on December 31, 2013 by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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

Take it away Robin...

Monday, February 17

Are You Missing Opportunities to Make Your Writing Stronger?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

There are a lot of rules in writing. Some are solid ones, like rules of spelling or grammar, but others are more nebulous, like how to start a scene or whether or not to use adverbs. I like to look at these ambiguous rules as opportunities to improve a sentence or scene. Some "rules" have become common because they're hard to explain to new writers and it's easier to just say no.

But these are all moments that can help you revise your novel and show off your skills. They're opportunities to strengthen your novel.

Saturday, February 15

Real Life Diagnostics: Adding Emotions to a 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 blog. 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: Seven (+ 2 Resubmits)  

Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through April 5. The Sunday diagnostics will shorten that some when my schedule permits, but I wanted everyone to be aware of the submission to posting delay.

This week’s questions:

1. Does this scene feel compelling?

2. This scene needs to be emotional and painful without being overly dramatic or sentimental. Am I portraying the fear and grief accurately?

3. There are a couple places where I used repetition to show how Minnie is struggling to comprehend and respond to what she sees. Does this work? Or should I cut the repetitive parts?


Market/Genre: YA Fantasy

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, February 14

Do You Think He Likes Me? Conveying Emotions

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Describing outward emotions can often sound forced because people in the moment feeling those emotions aren't usually thinking, "I just want to stare deeply into his eyes." They're thinking about the color, the way the other person makes their heart race, how time seems to stop when their gazes meet. It's the effect of that deep gazing that's on their minds not the actual gazing part.

Let's say you're writing a situation that requires an emotional response. Instead of looking at the character who's about to become emotional in some way, try going inside her head and thinking about what that person would feel.

Wednesday, February 12

An Age-Old Question: How Do You Show a Character's Age?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

In some novels, age doesn't matter. The characters are adults and if they're thirty or fifty the book unfolds pretty much the same way. Readers can assume the characters are about the same age as they are (if they're adults of course) and it still tracks.

Other novels read differently depending on the age of the character. Imagine a YA novel if you suddenly made the protagonist thirty. Nothing would read correctly and readers would likely assume that author couldn't write.

Tuesday, February 11

Where to Stick It – Three Types of Scenes That are Begging for Humor

By Tiffany Reisz, @TiffanyReisz

Part of the How They Do It Series


Hi Writing Writers!

I’ve got a new erotic novella out today called MISBEHAVING (Harlequin/Cosmo). It’s the story of Beatriz, a sex blogger, who has to write a review of a sex position manual. The only problem is that she’s stuck at her sister Claudia’s wedding without a date. Enter Ben, the one who got away in college who is acting as groomsman to his friend Henry. MISBEHAVING is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, which is the precursor to our modern day romantic comedies. My readers who are used to my darker erotic works were shocked to hear I wrote a rom-com. But I had a good reason to do it—I wanted to.

Friday, February 7

Testing...Testing...is This Query On? Diagnosing Problem Stories

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I like to write queries before I start a novel, because I find it helps me pinpoint the core pieces of my novel and lets me know right away if I'm missing one. Typically, if I can't write a query there's an inherent flaw with the novel. Until that gets fixed, the query (and novel) will never work.

If you're just testing your novel idea before you write it, getting stuck on the query is not so bad--but if you've spent years writing your novel, and suddenly find yourself struggling with a query, it can be pretty disheartening.

Wednesday, February 5

Studying the Waking Up Scene: Is it Really That Bad?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

One of the things on the common list of writing “nevers” is starting a scene with someone waking up—especially if it’s the opening scene. At first glance it doesn’t seem like it should be so taboo. After all, it’s a clear start to a day or a situation, and it gives both readers and writers a leaping off point for the story.

Like the don't use adverbs advice, this is a “rule” that is quoted frequently, but doesn’t always come with solid reasons as to why it’s bad. So let’s look a little closer at this all-too-common scene and study why writing pros advise against it.

Tuesday, February 4

Three Tools For Making Characters Come Alive

By Guest Author Kerry Schafer, @KerrySchafer

Part of the How They Do It Series


Please help me welcome Kerry Schafer, who's here today to share some tips on making our characters come alive.

Kerry was born and raised in Canada, moved back and forth across the border several times, and finally settled on a compromise. She now lives in Washington state, but within an hour’s drive of her home and native land. Her childhood book collection traveled with her through all of those moves, and although she now owns a Kindle she continues to acquire books and bookshelves. During her lifetime, Kerry has worked as a lumber piler, an OB nurse, a secretary, and a substitute teacher, among other things. No matter where she lives or what she is doing, she finds a way to create writing time. Currently she balances writing and family with her work as a mental health counselor

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

Take it away Kerry...

Monday, February 3

4 Successful Authors Share Their Behind-the-Scenes Stories

Today I'm on the road over at Publishing Tips for the Restless Writer, participating in a round up interview about writing and publishing in, Publishing Panel with the Pros: 4 Successful Authors Share Their Behind-the-Scenes Stories. I'm there with the always fabulous K.M. Weiland, Kathryn Fitzmaurice, and Joanna Penn, so come on over, take a peek and say hello!

Saturday, February 1

Real Life Diagnostics: A Look at a Middle Grade Opening. Does it Draw 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 I diagnose it on the blog. 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: Seven (+ 1 Resubmit) 

Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through March 22. The Sunday diagnostics will shorten that some when my schedule permits, but I wanted everyone to be aware of the submission to posting delay.

This week’s questions:

Does it make you want to read more - and if not, what can be done to make it stronger? Is there enough description to grab you?


Market/Genre: Middle Grade

On to the diagnosis…