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Saturday, May 30

WIP Diagnostic: Is This Working? A Closer Look at Creating Compelling Openings

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: Three

Please Note: As of today, critique slots are booked through June 20.

This week’s questions:

1. Do you find the opening easy to understand? If not, why not?

2. Do you find it compelling? If so, why?

3. Can you easily access the story, setting and character?

4. Are you immediately engaged? If not, why not?

Market/Genre: Historical Fiction

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, May 29

When Two Writers are Better Than One: How to Collaborate on Your Next Novel

By Sarah Skilton, @Sarah_Skilton

Part of The Writer's Life Series

JH: Teaming up with a fellow writer can be a great way to share the writing burden and produce more books. Sarah Skilton shares thoughts and tips on things to consider when considering collaboration.

Tash Skilton is the pen name of Sarvenaz Tash (author of The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love and Virtually Yours) and Sarah Skilton (author of Fame Adjacent and Club Deception), who met on Twitter and parlayed their online friendship into an IRL one. Their Guidebook to Forever Friendship includes getting each other's '90s pop culture references, passionately discoursing their favorite TV shows/books/movies via email, and cheering each other on through the psychological matrix that is motherhood. They have a complicated relationship with the Internet, but will also always love it for facilitating their bicoastal friendship (and the writing of their books).

Their first book together, Ghosting: A Love Story (a multicultural, millennial spin on You’ve Got Mail), released May 26, 2020 from Kensington in paperback, e-book, and audiobook, and has sold foreign translation rights to five territories.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

Take it away Sarah...

Thursday, May 28

When to Tell and Not Show

By Swati Teerdhala, @swatiteerdhala

Part of The How They Do It Series

JH: Showing and not telling is a core aspect of writing, but sometimes telling is actually better for the story. Swati Teerdhala shares thoughts on when it's okay--and preferable--to tell and not show. 

Swati Teerdhala is the author of the upcoming novel, The Tiger at Midnight, the first in a trilogy. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a B.S. in Finance and History, she tumbled into the marketing side of the technology industry. She’s passionate about many things, including how to make a proper cup of chai, the right ratio of curd-to-crust in a lemon tart, and diverse representation in the stories we tell. She currently lives in New York City and can be found wandering the streets with a pen or camera in hand.

Instagram | Website  Twitter

Take it away Swati…

Wednesday, May 27

A Handy Checklist to Strengthen the Narrative Drive in Your Scenes

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

A strong narrative drive is crucial to keeping readers hooked.

Like pretty much everyone these days, I have a lot going on in my life. I get distracted, and then I forget things, and that leads to unhappiness in a variety of ways. Making lists helps keep me focused and prevents me from forgetting things (as much, let’s be honest here).

This carries over into my writing.

It’s also a reason I love outlining.

Wait, hang on! Before you pantsers and anti-outliners click away, this isn’t about outlining (per se). It’s about a tool to help writers keep their stories moving forward. It’s about crafting a strong narrative drive, and it doesn’t have to happen in the first draft if that’s not your thing.

Tuesday, May 26

The Antithesis Method: A Simple Solution to Getting Unstuck in a Scene

By Bonnie Randall

Part of The How They Do It Series 


JH: Stuck in a scene? Maybe going forward isn't the right way to handle it. Bonnie Randall shares her method for fixing a troublesome scene. 

A challenge I have used when stuck on a scene that feels wooden, isn’t working, or just refuses to write itself is something I have nicknamed “The Antithesis Method,” and it’s as simple as this:
Just write the scene precisely opposite of how you had planned to write it. If they were going to be friends, make them fight. If they were robbing a bank, have them get robbed. If they were headed to a wedding, land them at a funeral.
Sound like a lot of work and a lot of dismantling? Trust me, it is—put it can be well worth it.

Saturday, May 23

WIP Diagnostic: Is This Working? A Closer Look at a Suspense Novel's Opening Page

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: Four

Please Note: As of today, critique slots are booked through June 20.

This week’s question:

Is this opening page working?

Market/Genre: Suspense

On to the diagnosis…

Thursday, May 21

Writing a Page-Turner: Turning Points: Three Act Structure for Novelists

By Kris Bock, @Kris_Bock

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: Structure is a great tool to help writers develop and write their novels. Kris Bock shares thoughts on the value of turning points in a page turner. 

Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her writing craft books include You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, and Advanced Plotting.

Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs.

Chris Eboch Website | Blog | Goodreads 

Chris also writes for adults as Kris Bock. Her Furrever Friends Sweet Romance series features the employees and customers at a cat café. Watch as they fall in love with each other and shelter cats. Get a free 10,000-word story set in the world of the Furrever Friends cat café when you sign up for the Kris Bock newsletter. You’ll also get a printable copy of the recipes mentioned in the cat café novels.

Kris also writes romantic suspense set in the Southwestern U.S. If you love Mary Stewart or Barbara Michaels, try Kris Bock’s stories of treasure hunting, archaeology, and intrigue in the Southwest.

Kris Bock Website | Blog | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Sign up for the Kris Bock newsletter 

Take it away Kris...

Wednesday, May 20

What's Their Story? Discovering the Front Story of Your Non-Point of View Characters

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

We often spend a lot of time on the backstories of our characters, but how often do we consider their front stories?   

Non-point of view characters don't get nearly enough love and attention as point of view characters. It's understandable, because they're not the ones driving the plot or charming the readers, so our focus is on more critical elements of the novels.

But those characters and their lives have the potential to create conflict and deepen our stories. How they feel, what their goals are, what they want from life, can all affect what the protagonist is trying to do or trying to avoid.

Not knowing how they fit into the world and the story is missing a huge opportunity. At some point, you really want to ask:

What is this character's front story?  

Odds are this isn't a term you've heard before, and I think I'm the only one who uses it. But it's a useful tool for determining how a non-point of view character fits into the story.

Tuesday, May 19

Organizing the Chaos: 5 Revision Tips for Pantsers

By Orly Konig, @OrlyKonig

Part of the How They Do It Series


JH: Revising a novel takes many forms, and pantsers have a different approach. Orly Konig shares tips on revising as a pantser.


Orly Konig is an escapee from the corporate world. Now she spends her days chatting up imaginary friends, drinking too much coffee, and negotiating writing space around her cats. She is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and a member of the Tall Poppy Writers. She’s a book coach and author of The Distance Home and Carousel Beach.

Website Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram | BookBub | Goodreads

Take it away Orly…

Monday, May 18

I Had to Do This: Clarifying Ambiguous Pronouns

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Ambiguous pronouns can muddy a scene, and cause unintentional hilarity. Make sure yours are clear. 

Ambiguous pronouns creep into our work and they're not always easy to spot. We know what they refer to because we wrote them, but if the pronoun isn't near what the referenced noun was, or there are a lot of nouns in the sentence, it's not always clear to readers. It can trip them up and make them pause to figure out what we mean.

It, this, and that are prime offenders.

Exactly what is it referring to?


It is used often when writing, and most of the time it's easy to figure out what it refers to.

Let's try some examples:
Bob grabbed the shotgun and ran for the box of shells sitting on a crate by the ax. It wasn't enough, but he needed every weapon he could find right now.
Okay, what is the "it" here referring to?