Category: Writing Craft

A-Z Writing Tips: Stakes, Conflict, Comedy, Outlines & more!

Category: Writing Craft

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The April A-Z Writing Challenge is complete! Over at Writeonsisters.com Robin and I made it through the whole month, taking turns with the letters. Our format of 3 Writing Tips + 2 Examples + 1 Link for more help went over great with our readers! I’ve already posted letters C (Character Change) & E (External Conflict), and below you will find the rest of my letters from the challenge…

F is for False Stakes

Before writing this post, I Googled “false stakes” to see what other people had written on the subject and found… nothing! Not a single article or blog post on false stakes of the non-vampire variety. I felt like a student studying dark matter, questioning whether it’s even real since it can neither be seen nor detected using current technologies. However, I believe false stakes exist in many books. I will attempt to explain…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com

I is for Internal Conflict

A couple letters ago, I talked about External Conflict – all those forces in the universe that are bumping up against the protagonist. Now we’ll discuss Internal Conflict – the sometimes black hole of doubt within the hero. Like External Conflict, Internal Conflict must get in the way of the hero achieving his goal. Most importantly, Internal Conflict forces the hero to make hard choices…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com

K is for Kittens!

Know what we need in the middle of this A to Z Challenge? A fun post full of cute kitty pictures! But I also have some bonafide advice for writers with cats. Just this year we adopted a stray kitten from the shelter, and I’ve learned a few things about writing from home with a fuzzy feline…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com

L is for Laughs

I’ve spent most of my career writing cartoons and teen sitcoms where getting laughs from the audience is paramount! Not surprisingly, many screenwriters are comedians. I, alas, am not. Luckily, we all have the ability to be funny if we keep in mind the following three tips…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com

O is for Outlines

As a screenwriter, outlines are mandatory. Not so for authors. If you’re penning a novel, it seems as if you must choose between two camps – plotter (those who outline) or pantser (those who start writing a manuscript sans outline). But it doesn’t have to be one or the other, and I think the vast space between these polar opposites is where most writers fit. So with that in mind, the following three tips for outlining are more like stages, moving from macro to micro in scope.

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com

Q is for Questions

Questions are what keep readers interested in a story. At every moment in your novel, the reader must want to know the answer to a question, otherwise there’s no reason to keep reading. There are three types of questions in every good story, and I’ll endeavour to give you some tips on how to make these questions entice readers all the way to The End. 

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com

R is for Reversal

One of the many things I’m learning from writing this blog is that people have different definitions for writing terms. When Robin first wrote a post on reversals, I thought to myself, “Oh, I call those Turning Points!” Perhaps that’s the screenwriting term. But both mean the same thing – a moment where the story takes a sharp turn, or in other words, reverses direction. The major Turning Points or Reversals happen at the end of each act, at the midpoint and in the finale. Minor ones can happen anywhere. 

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com

U is for Unreliable Narrators

I love unreliable narrators because they go hand-in-hand with surprise endings. No matter the genre, when a narrator is not telling the truth there is mystery in the story.

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com

W is for Writer Wellbeing

Being a writer can take a toll on us, physically, emotionally and mentally. When we get engrossed in writing, it’s easy to forget to look after ourselves. So I’ve come up with three things I am going to try to do every day to take better care of myself…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com

X is for X-Ray

What does “x-ray” have to do with writing craft? I didn’t choose it just because I needed an “X” word for the #AtoZChallenge, or because I already used “x-rated” for last year’s post (X-Rated: Should YA Books Have a Rating System?), but because all writers need to be able to check the spine of their story. Hence, we need to x-ray our novels to see the bones.

Stories are about transformation, a journey that changes the hero. In screenwriting, checking the spine means making sure every scene in the story informs and affects this change. I do this at the outline stage when I have all my scenes laid out and summarized into paragraphs. If you don’t outline, you can make a scene list based on your draft, writing one line for each scene.

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com


The A to Z Challenge Details

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Hello fellow bloggers! I just realized when I comment on all your lovely blogs that my gravatar sends you to my personal website instead of Writeonsisters.com where all of the A-Z blogs are posted. Please visit me and Robin over there! Our theme for this year’s challenge is:

3, 2, 1… BLASTOFF to Stellar Writing!

We have tons of writing tips and a few space jokes to share. Looking forward to seeing you!


A-Z Writing Tips: E is for External Conflict

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Our two greatest problems are gravity and paperwork. We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming. Wernher von Braun, Rocket Engineer

Conflict is the engine of every story, and there are two kinds: internal and external. Because we’re on the letter E, let’s examine the external type of conflict…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com


A-Z Writing Tips: C is for Character Change

Category: Characters, Writing Craft

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Last year, on a complete whim, the WriteOnSisters signed up for the “Blogging From A to Z Challenge.” Not only did we survive the month and post every day (except Sundays, as per the challenge rules), we made friends with other bloggers and found some great blogs to follow. That’s not to say it was easy. A post a day is a lot of work, so we decided for 2015 we needed a strategy (click here to read it) and a theme to focus our posts, which is…

3, 2, 1… BLASTOFF to Stellar Writing!

We’re going to prime your writing to take off! Each post consists of:

  • 3 quick tips on one aspect of writing (i.e. conflict, stakes, narrators, etc.)
  • 2 examples of good technique
  • 1 resource for more in-depth help

And now, here is my first post of the #AtoZChallenge… C is for Character Change

 


Choosing the Right Character Arc

Category: Characters, Writing Craft

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Two weeks ago I blogged about How to Create a Character Arc from Plot, followed my own advice, and came up with… multiple character arcs for my heroine. Yep. At least four or five, and I’m not sure which one is the right one for the story. What’s an I-have-too-many-ideas writer to do? Well, here are four different approaches: Pick, Plot, Pitch and Personal…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com


How to Create a Character Arc from Plot

Category: Characters, Story Structure, Writing Craft

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There are lots of things that make a story good. In fact, I’m constantly overwhelmed trying to keep track of them all. But what elevates most stories above the rest is a satisfying character arc. What is this? Well, at the most basic level it is a story where the character changes. If your character doesn’t change, you don’t have an arc. And you must have an arc! Not sure you buy that? Read this post where I explain how stories that lack character change fall flat because they don’t connect with readers.

Since character arc is so important, some might think that every writer would start a story with the hero’s change in mind. That would be smart. I wish I wrote that way. Alas, my ideas are born out of situation, not character. I always think of the plot first. This means I have to create a protagonist for the plot to change…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com


4 Components of a Good Hook

Category: Book Blurbs & Synopses, Writing Craft

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Last week I blogged about the Hook vs Plot Twist Conundrum and realized it would be a good exercise to take some books off my shelf and read the jackets to learn more about what makes a good hook. After perusing my collection of YA and MG novels, I decided all good hooks had these four components…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com


The Hook vs Plot Twist Conundrum

Category: Story Structure, Writing Craft

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Last month I wrote about a story’s hook. And two weeks ago Robin wrote about reversals, the big and the small. For the purpose of this post, I’m talking about the big type of reversal – the plot twist! I’ll explain how I got twists and hooks mixed up and how to tell them apart.

To refresh, a HOOK is what draws people to your book and makes them want to read it, and a PLOT TWIST is when your story takes a sharp turn due to a surprise reveal of information. The hook is linked to an event that happens early on in the story (Act I), and a plot twist happens later (Act II or III), often at such crucial moments like the MidPoint or the Crisis or The End.

Okay, that all sounds pretty logical, so how does anyone get these story elements mixed up? It goes something like this…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com


4 Emotive Tools of Horror

Category: Writing Craft

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I have begun outlining a horror story, something that has turned out to be so much fun that I wonder why it took me so long to seize this genre and make it my own. But better late than never! Last week I blogged about the one simple rule of writing horror. This week I’m going to talk about the four emotive tools used in horror stories…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com


One Simple Rule of Writing Horror

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I love scary stories! As a kid, I devoured every R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike and Lois Duncan on my small town library’s shelves. When the Scholastic Book Fair came to my school, I ordered more spine-tingling novels. I would read them under my covers with a flashlight, not for atmosphere but because I was supposed to be asleep and I’d be in trouble if my parents caught me reading past my bedtime. I would even stay up late writing scary stories and terrifying myself so much I couldn’t shut my eyes, though I knew in the end my protagonist would survive.

When I grew up I worked in kids television and wrote mainly action comedies. Nothing in the horror genre… until now. I didn’t set out to write a horror. I had this germ of an idea and just started developing it, spinning yarns that were creepy but nothing close to pants-wetting. I thought of the story more as a mystery, maybe a thriller, but horror… could I write that?

To find out what I learn, click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com


3 Things That Make A Story Worth Writing

Category: Story Structure, Writing Craft, Theme

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I’ve had many false starts on my writing journey – stories that started strong and got lost in the middle, stories that fell flat and forgettable at the end, stories that had a debilitatingly weak character arc. I found ways to address all those problems, but in the process still wasted a lot of time. Since my theme for 2015 is “Be More Productive!” I’m aiming to avoid these false starts and less-than-stellar stories. So I took a good hard look at what makes a story worthy of being written and decided it comes down to these three things…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com


Reading for Writers 101: Character Motivation

Category: Characters, Writing Craft, Reading for Writers 101

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I read a lot. And since I’m a writer, reading isn’t just entertainment, it’s instructional. I learn from every book, whether good, bad or middling. That’s what inspired “Reading For Writers 101.”

Today’s lesson: Character Motivation.

Have you ever read a book where the hero does something that seems forced, out-of-character or unbelievable? I have. Lots. And the thing that drives me crazy about this is that it’s such an easy fix! Why? Because fiction writers can literally make up reasons for anything! When a character’s actions are unmotivated, it’s because the writer didn’t create, set up or communicate those motivations. Here are a couple examples and solutions…

Click here to read the whole post on Writeonsisters.com


Top 10 Writing Tips of 2014 + What’s New for 2015

Category: Writing Craft

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Every year I learn new things about writing. Every. Single. Year. But in 2014 I feel I really topped up the ol’ brain with writing tips. Maybe because this was my first full year blogging, and creating a post every week forced me to learnby analyzing the mistakes I made, dissecting problems I encountered, and studying the breakthroughs I eventually had. So, without further ado, here are my Top 10 Writing Tips of 2014…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com


How To Choose A Main Character

Category: Characters, Writing Craft

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In a novel, the main character must go through a life-changing event that transforms them by end of the book. (For more read What Is Character Change and How to Create Character Change.) With that in mind, it should be easy to know who is my protagonist, right? Just build the novel around whoever has the biggest change to make! Except in my current WIP I’m not sure who that is. Both potential heroines will change by the end, but who should lead the story?

Click here to read the full post at Writeonsisters.com


Mushy Middle Tips for NaNoWriMo

Category: Story Structure, Writing Craft

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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…

Mapping the Mushy Middle

The key to not getting lost in the middle of your novel is a map. Often we writers have an idea of what is the crisis at the end of Act II – the ALL IS LOST moment when it looks as if the hero will never achieve his goal – but how do you get your hero there? The answer is…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com


15 Story Beats to Keep Your NaNoWriMo Novel on Track

Category: Writing Craft, Story Structure

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So NaNoWriMo has begun! Some people do a lot of planning, some don’t, but no matter which side you’re on, you might come to a place mid-month where your story feels like it’s gone off the rails. A lot of people will tell you to plow through! But I think better advice is to take an hour to step back and examine your basic story beats and ask yourself these questions…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com


How Writing Horror is like Writing Comedy

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I love scary stories. I grew up reading R.L Stine and Christopher Pike and Lois Duncan. I experienced the teen slasher flick revival that started with the movie SCREAM. I wanted to write my own scary stories! However, I spent the last decade writing comedic kids television shows. What the heck happened?

Well, frankly, I found out writing comedy requires the same elements as writing horror. Seriously, these seemingly opposing genres are really two sides of the same coin. Here’s why…

Click here to read the whole post on the 4 Basic Elements of Comedy & Horror at Writeonsisters.com.


Not All Feedback is Created Equal

Category: Writing Craft, Feedback & Critique

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Last week I blogged about the difference between critique partners and cheerleaders (answer these 5 questions to find out which is which). In short, cheerleaders are friends or family members who cheer us on and love our writing no matter how bad it is. Cherish their enthusiasm, but never rely on them for helpful feedback. Get a critique partner for that.

Once you find a proper crit partner, you’re golden, right? Well, maybe. Thing is, not all feedback is equal. Today I will answer the age-old question…

What is good feedback?

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com


Writing Unforgettable Endings

Category: Story Structure, Writing Craft

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The thing about writing a novel or film is that it all comes down to the ending. A great ending is what makes a story memorable. All of the books on my bookshelf have unforgettable endings. The books that don’t make the cut may have had fascinating premises, entertaining characters, and intriguing plot twists, but the endings didn’t resonate. It’s like those books lead me to a dead end. I got there, shrugged and went, “Oh, that’s it?” I want a story that ends somewhere remarkable!

So how do you write that? I’ve been pondering this for some time, and believe it or not, I think it comes down to these two things: Character Change and Surprise.

Read the full post on Writonsisters.com


Back to School Writing Craft Refresher

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It’s September 1st! Last week I blogged about how I was getting ready for a new year. To continue that theme, this week I’m brushing up on writing craft skills I acquired last year. Because everyone knows the first week of school is all about re-remembering what you forgot over the summer…

Click here to read the full post on Writeonsisters.com