Announcing: DIY MFA Blog Party!

The problem with taking a step away from your computer or your notebook to do anything – eat, talk to someone, clean your house (heaven forbid) – is that every moment you spend doing those things, you’re not writing. I know from experience that slogging through Amazon or combing your nearest bookstore shelves for the… Read more »

Prompt: The Opposite of Eavesdropping

Anyone who’s ever taken a writing class has had to do the eavesdropping exercise.  You know, that exercise where you go to a public place and listen in on someone’s conversation and write everything down. It’s supposed to teach you how people talk (and how book dialogue is much more interesting than in-real-life dialogue.) This… Read more »

Nine NO’s of Dialogue

There are nine things you should beware of when writing dialogue.  I call these the “Nine NO’s” because they’re things that as a general rule writers should try to avoid.  Notice, though, that these are not the “Nine Nevers” just Nine NO’s.  That means that while you should try to avoid these things, you shouldn’t… Read more »

Demystifying Dialogue: Perfect Your Punctuation

The one grammar problem I see most frequently when I teach creative writing is with dialogue punctuation.  And it’s understandable why this topic leaves many writers mystified.  Dialogue punctuation is confusing.  Is it a comma or a period before the end-quote?  What if you have a question mark or an exclamation point?  Here’s a quick… Read more »

Prompt: Extract an Outline

Extracting an outline is a great way to evaluate your story and kickstart the revision process.  When you extract an outline you flip the process around, writing the story first and doing the outline later.  Instead of using the outline to decide what you plan to write, you use it to determine what you’ve already… Read more »

Untraditional Outline Techniques

This past week we’ve been talking about outlines.  On Monday I asked the question: Plotter or Pantser? Where Do You Stand?  That post got me thinking about my own writing process. I’m usually not a seat-of-my-pants writer but I hate traditional outlines.  Something about long lists (I.A, 2.b–it’s all Greek to me) just doesn’t work… Read more »

How to Create a Story Map

One of my favorite ways to outline or plan a story is to map it out like a subway or road map.  Here’s how this technique works. Each road or subway line represents a different story-thread or plot line.  The dots (exits on the highways or subway stops) represent different scenes or moments in the… Read more »

Plotter or Pantser: Where Do You Stand?

Plotter: n. (1) A writer who plots out his or her story in the greatest of detail before starting the draft; (2) a writer obsessed with outlines, index cards and writing apps; (3) a writer who spends most of his or her time organizing the novel then writes it in about ten minutes. Pantser: n…. Read more »

Prompt: Get to Know a Supporting Character

This week we’ve talked about supporting characters and how to use them effectively.  Recall that supporting characters are meant to do just that: support the main character by shining a spotlight on different aspects of that protagonist’s personality.  Even villains are supporting characters (though perhaps not “supportive” characters) because they help bring out a side… Read more »

Why Moms Matter in YA and Children’s Literature

The first thing you learn when writing for children and teens is that you have to get rid of the parents.  With parents or other adults around, the kids don’t have as many opportunities to go on adventures or get into trouble.  The easiest way to solve this problem is to kill off (or otherwise… Read more »