Wagon or Wain? The Perils of Linguistic Anachronisms

I almost fell into the trap recently. My protagonist, speaking of his brother, said, “That would be John going off half-cocked, Uncle, not me.” A nice evocative expression for someone who acts without thinking, right? The only problem is, the story is set at the beginning of the 14th century in western Europe. Guns didn’t… Read more »

#5onFri: Five Tools to Rock Your Revision

Revision is my favorite part of the writing process. I’ve often heard writers describe drafting as the “magical” stage, where you can discover new things and let your imagination run wild. It’s true–magic happens while drafting. But magic also happens in revision. Once you’ve written “The End,” you have a chunk of writing to play… Read more »

Balancing The Author Voice With Writing Modes

Our author voices are made up of a combination of modes. The four main ones being dialogue, description, action, and internal thought. Those are the most common modes balancing fictional prose. Too much of any one mode—clumps of description, trains of dialogue, pages of action, and dumps of internal thought—bogs down prose and makes it… Read more »

Ask the Editor: Five Reasons Your Revision Process is Stalled

I have a tendency to over-correct in my editing process. This is especially true when I receive feedback from critique partners, and it’s difficult to get centered enough within myself to know what’s actually working and what isn’t. Even when I’m not receiving critique, I tend to be self-critical and perfectionistic (not sure if that’s… Read more »

By Any Other Name: Voice Across Genre

I’m a long time fan of Stephen King and his particular way of telling a story. In the mid-80s, shortly after I began working at my local library, I came across the novel Thinner.  I picked up the book. As is my habit, I didn’t look at the author’s name; I only read the title… Read more »

#5onFri: Five Story Blunders and the Secrets to Avoiding Them

Do you know what entices a reader’s brain and what frustrates it? I enjoy learning about how brains work, and as a writer I particularly appreciate Lisa Cron’s book Wired for Story, which uses brain science to explain how to create a satisfying story. I have combined what I’ve learned from Wired for Story with… Read more »

Mythic Structure: The Virgin’s Promise, Part Two

In the last speculations, I introduced you to Kim Hudson’s The Virgin’s Promise, the feminine archetypal structure and promised that I’d analyze two stories in my next column. I decided to explore Ever After, the Cinderella movie starring Drew Barrymore for my first selection. The Virgin’s Promise is a screenwriting tool, first and foremost, and… Read more »

#5onFri: Five Ways to Take Your Story from Good to Great

We’ve all experienced it. We finish a story or a draft and we know deep down that something is missing. It’s a good story–but it’s not great. It doesn’t have the pop and sizzle that we’ve achieved in the past or maybe that we’ve witnessed in another writer. But what’s missing? Before you take a… Read more »