Category: Writing Craft

Writing Gender-Inclusive Romance

Category: Writing Craft, Game Writing, Writing YA

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For more than a year I’ve been writing and story editing a dating adventure game called LongStory. At the start of the game, players select their avatar and gender, choosing whether they want to be referred to as “she”, “he” or “they”. We don’t write different dialogue or storylines for different player genders. LongStory is written to be gender-inclusive.

What does that mean? Well, gender-inclusive or gender-neutral means using language that avoids bias towards a particular gender. This might seem daunting considering this is a dating game that includes romantic storylines, but it’s not if you follow these three tips…

Click here to read the full post on WriteOnSisters.com


How to Straighten Your Story’s Spine

Category: Writing Craft, Revising, Screenwriter Tips for Novelists

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Sometimes I write a story where lots of exciting stuff happens, my protagonist is proactive and has a goal, and I’m hitting all the right beats (if you don’t know what those are, check out this post on the 15 Story Beats), yet the story still feels flat. What’s wrong? What am I missing?

The truth of the matter is often I’m not missing anything. I spend a lot of time developing my stories and I know all the story parts that I need to make a story sing, but effectively implementing those parts into a manuscript is a whole other challenge. In a manuscript, those parts can get out of whack or lost or muddy. So how do you fix it?

By doing something we screenwriters often call “tracking the story’s spine.” A story’s spine is the character arc woven into the plot; the two should always go together just like your vertebrae and your spinal cord. Tracking a story’s spine means making sure the protagonist’s transformation (arc) is addressed in EVERY SCENE of the journey (plot). Because after all, as I’ve said before (specifically in this post about character journeys), every story is about change.

So let’s get started…

Click here to read the full post on WriteOnSisters.com


15 Story Beats to Keep Your Novel On Track

Category: Writing Craft, Story Structure

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Regardless of whether you’re a plotter or pantser, you might come to a place mid-way through where your story feels like it’s gone off the rails. During NaNoWriMo, the mantra is just plow through! Keep writing! It’ll work itself out! But I think better advice is to check in with your basic story beats. It doesn’t matter if you plan them ahead of time or figure them out partway through writing. The important thing to know is that these beats are an extremely useful tool to avoid writer’s block, mushy middle syndrome and general NaNoWriMo fatigue.

Click here to read the full post on WriteOnSisters.com


The Hero’s Emotional MidPoint

Category: Characters, Writing Craft, Story Structure

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This week I’m honing the middle of my WIP, so it’s time to dust off the Archives and refresh my knowledge on The Hero’s Emotional MidPoint. What’s that? Click here to find out.


3 Reasons to Write a Pitch Before Finishing Your Novel

Category: Writing Craft, Loglines

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This month at WriteOnSisters we’re talking about pitching! A pitch comes in many forms – query, synopsis, one-liner, or book blurb. Anything that “sells” your book to anyone else is a pitch. Usually pitches are written after a novel is complete, because that’s when a writer needs to “sell” their novel to an agent or a publisher or directly to the masses via self-publishing. However, I’m going to encourage you to use pitches differently…

As story development tools.

Yes, I’m suggesting we write those dreaded pitches before and during the novel writing process. I’ll give you three reasons why…

Click here to read the full post on WriteOnSisters.com


6 Questions to Make Sure Your Story Has Stakes

Category: Writing Craft

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Once upon a time I was working on a revamped novel idea – a fun, scary, action-packed revenge story. It was going to be great. I was feeling especially confident after reading this blog: “Why Revenge is Such a Brilliant Plot for Beginner Writers.” I pictured myself pounding out this simple revenge story while my other novel, a more complicated mystery-thriller, percolated. What a swell plan, and then I noticed something was missing…

STAKES. Holy moly! There were no stakes! And I don’t mean that my vampire hunter heroes forgot their wooden stakes. No, the problem was if my vengeful hero didn’t get her revenge… oh well. Shrug. No biggie. She’d survive. Though all the other points made by the above blog are spot on, like having a proactive hero with a goal, an absence of story stakes can be a writer’s downfall.

Click here to read the full post on WriteOnSisters.com


Camp NaNo & My Escape From The Outlining Outhouse!

Category: Writing Craft

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Last November I attempted my first NaNoWriMo… but despite all my preplanning, my story simply wasn’t ready to be churned out in one go. I hit roadblock after roadblock because I hadn’t developed something crucial regarding the story or the characters, and had to go back to change things, and try again. Which, I suppose, is what writing is all about. But I’d rather develop those things before I get into the messy process of writing. So what was I missing?

Click here to read the full post on WriteOnSisters.com and find out.


2 Parts of Character Need: Psychological + Moral

Category: Characters, Writing Craft

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I’ve been reading writing craft books for almost two decades, and it’s gotten to the point where most of them don’t tell me anything I don’t already know. But recently I had a creative crisis that prompted me to look hard for new information, and I came across THE ANATOMY OF STORY by John Truby. I highly recommend you check it out. I’m not going to regurgitate the book’s content; I’m simply going to highlight a small tidbit I found in Chapter 3 that has completely changed how I approach developing the hero’s character arc…

Click here to read the full article on WriteOnSisters.com


A Pre-Writing Checklist

Category: Writing Craft, Outlining

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(aka 4 Essential Story Elements to Develop Before You Write)

Starting a new project is always exciting. After I applied to a writers grant with my current WIP this February, I decided to start another novel, or rather resurrect an idea I’d developed a year earlier. I already had character sketches and a beat sheet complete, so I rushed right in to writing a scene-by-scene outline only to discover by Act II that I didn’t actually have a story…

Click here to read the full post on WriteOnSisters.com


Masterplots Theater – Week 4 of the #AtoZChallenge

Category: Writing Craft

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It’s over! We did it! And we’re taking next week OFF!

Here are my final posts for Blogging A-Z 2016…

T is for Thriller

How do you tell the difference between a mystery and a thriller? I explain…

V is for Vengeance

For all those writers who are just dying to exorcise a past wrong through fiction, this is the masterplot for you! 

X is for X Meets Y (Genre Mashups)

All month we’ve been talking about writing individual masterplots, but what if you’re deliberately writing a story in two genres? What the heck is that? Well, I’d call that a “mashup”, or for the purposes of the A-Z Challenge, an “X Meets Y” masterplot.

Z is for Zoomorphic

For the final letter of the month, I get to break down the plot of my new favourite movie: ZOOTOPIA.


Masterplots Theater – Week 3 of the #AtoZChallenge

Category: Writing Craft

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It’s week 3 of the April A-Z Blogging Challenge. Here are my MASTERPLOTS THEATER contributions at WriteOnSisters.com

N is for Nemesis

Even if you’re not writing a full-fledged rivalry story, mastering the details of the Nemesis plot will strengthen any hero-villain relationship.

P is for Pursuit

Commonly called the Chase Plot, we examine how to base an entire story around the villain pursuing the hero.

R is for Rite of Passage

Many people think this is another term for “coming-of-age story.” Though youthful tales involving loss of innocence and puberty most definitely fit the mold, not all Rite of Passage stories are about teenagers because we humans can encounter “life problems” at any age.


Masterplots Theater – Week 2 of the #AtoZChallenge

Category: Writing Craft

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It’s week 2 of the April A-Z Blogging Challenge. Here are my MASTERPLOTS THEATER contributions at WriteOnSisters.com

H is for Happily-Ever-After

This masterplot isn’t necessarily a Love Story; it just means the ending is happy! Check out this post to see what I mean.

J is for Journal 

Think your teen diaries would make a great novel? See if they have these five qualifications.

L is for Love Story

And finally, I break down the Love Story masterplot, which doesn’t necessarily mean everything ends happily-ever-after, though some readers may disagree.


Masterplots Theater – Week 1 of the #AtoZChallenge

Category: Writing Craft

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Hi all! So I’m super busy over at WriteOnSisters.com writing three posts a week for the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here are my contributions thus far:

B is for Buddy Love

Perhaps you’ve been contemplating a story idea that has two compelling lead characters and can’t decide which is the true hero. Well, I have good news for you — maybe you don’t have to choose! Today we study a masterplot that has two heroes: Buddy Love. Click here to read the full post.

D is for Dystopia

Despite the cry of “dystopian stories are sooooo over!” new ones come out every month. It feels to me that dystopia is not just a trend; it’s a genre that’s here to stay, just like sci-fi or historical fiction, and frankly it’s been around much longer than The Hunger Games. So if you have an idea that’s set in a false utopia, never fear, there’s hope of publication after all! Click here to read more about this masterplot.

F is for Fool Triumphant

That last masterplot was pretty intense, so today we’re going to lighten things up! If you love comedy, you might have a Fool Triumphant story in your repertoire. Click here to read the full post.

 


A Screenwriter Gets Schooled in Novel Writing

Category: Writing Craft, Screenwriter Tips for Novelists

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Today I’m guest posting on fellow writer Sara Letourneau’s blog about the similarities and differences between screenwriting and novel writing…

I started my writing career as a television screenwriter, but my first love has always been books. So, after screenwriting for what seemed like an eternity to my young self (though I’d only been making a living at it for five years), I decided it was time to write a novel. Being a “seasoned professional,” I estimated I could develop a book idea and write a first draft in one year. After all, I already knew how to craft great stories. Novels simply used more words to tell those stories, right?

Oh, the naiveté of inexperience. I soon learned that more differentiates novels and screenplays than the number of words.

But let’s start with the similarities. I wasn’t totally wrong; many screenwriting skills do transfer to the process of writing novels…

Click here to read the full post on Sara’s blog.


1 Key Question for Worldbuilding (+ A Handy Checklist)

Category: Writing Craft

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I’m a newbie to hardcore worldbuilding. Up until recently, I’d only developed stories that took place in the real world. I may have put fantastical creatures in the stories, but the setting was Earth as we know it. Now I’m writing a novel that takes place 100 years in the future, still on Earth, but it won’t be an Earth we recognize because, you know, it’s post-apocalyptic! That means I get to make up all kinds of stuff. Fun! It also means I need to figure out what Earth could be like in the future after a major disaster. Daunting!

I had some ideas, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything obvious during my first worldbuilding attempt, so I turned to the Internet and searched for worldbuilding checklists. I found a few blogs that were helpful, but for the most part the information I uncovered was either super general or intimidatingly detailed (really? 500 questions to answer! That seems excessive). So I created my own checklist and in the process discovered there is really just one question to rule them all! Ahem. We’ll get to that. But first…

Click here to read the full post on WriteOnSisters.com


Character Development: The Reaction Chart

Category: Characters, Writing Craft

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Creating characters to populate your novel or screenplay is a lot of fun. You get to devise different backgrounds and opinions and alliances and secrets and all kinds of interesting stuff that brings the cast to life. But you can have the most detailed character sketches and richly drawn cast ever, and your story could still fall flat. How? It all comes down to how your characters react

Click here to read the full post on WriteOnSisters.com


Mushy Middle Writing Tips For NaNoWriMo

Category: Writing Craft, Story Structure

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Hey NaNaWriMo writers! How’s it going? It’s mid-November and that means you’re deep in Act II and might be encountering some mushy middle difficulties. So here are some tips to get you through…

Click here to read the full post on WriteOnSisters.com


Character Development: The Interaction Chart

Category: Characters, Writing Craft

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Last week I shared Ten Questions To Ask Your Characters to make sure the supporting cast is as well-rounded as the protagonist. But that’s just step one to developing a novel’s cast. Now that we know who everyone is, what they want, and what their role is in the story, it’s time to figure out how they interact with each other…

Click here to read the full post on WriteOnSisters.com.


Top Ten Things Writers Should Ask Their Characters

Category: Characters, Writing Craft

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A week before NaNoWriMo began, I realized I didn’t know my supporting characters. Whoops! I had spent so much time figuring out my plot based on my heroine’s goal that I had neglected all the other characters, of which there are many because I’m writing a horror and a body count is required! But I didn’t have time to do full character sketches for all of them. So I came up with ten questions to ask my characters that cuts to the essence of their very souls — in ten minutes or less.

Click here to read the full post on WriteOnSisters.com


Reading for Writers 101: Resolving a Disconnect Between Show & Tell

Category: Writing Craft, Reading for Writers 101

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Sometimes when I’m reading a book, a scene takes me right out of the story because I don’t “buy” it. It’s not that what is taking place is completely implausible, it’s that the writer has not convinced me of its truth. I have faith that a skilled writer can make a reader believe anything. The catch? There must be solid reasons the characters do what they do (aka character motivation), and I blogged about that in this post Reading for Writers 101: Character Motivation. However, the issue I encountered in the book I recently read is not so much a lack of character motivation, but rather a lack of factual actions to back up that motivation…

Click here to read the full post on WriteOnSisters.com