5 lessons from a lost novel

5 Lessons From a Lost Novel

Mistakes are unavoidable. To fear them is to fear life itself. To try to eliminate them is to waste life in a futile struggle against reality itself. I daresay no one has more opportunities to learn these truths than does a writer. As writers, our lives are a never-ending litany of mistakes. Certainly mine has […]

Use Plot, Character, and Theme in Every Scene

How to Intertwine Plot, Character, and Theme in Every Scene

If plot, character, and theme are the foundational underpinnings of story itself, then they must be present in every scene as well, right? But that gets tricky. How can you make sure these elements are doing their job in every scene? And if they’re not present in every scene, does that necessarily mean the scene is […]

secrets of storytelling

The 5 Secrets of Good Storytelling (That Writers Forget All the Time)

I’m having a harder and harder time getting excited about stories these days. Not because I don’t love stories, but because I do love them—and because it’s ever-increasingly difficult to find truly great ones that employ all the secrets of good storytelling. By “great stories,” I mean stories that are put together with intelligence, understanding, passion, […]

5 Tips for Organizing Subplots

Imagine you walk into a candy shop, but what you discover inside, instead of candy, is display after display of subplots. Enough to make any writer’s mouth water, right? Writers love the idea of subplots. They’re rich, juicy, complex, and full of opportunities for taking your story to the next level. But organizing subplots, or […]

How to Create Meaningful Obstacles Via Conflict

How to Create Meaningful Obstacles Via Conflict

Conflict is one of those terms frequently used as a catch-all for compelling storytelling, when it’s really just one aspect of what makes a strong story. We use it even though we really mean the scene needs a clearer goal, or more tension, or a better character arc, but saying “this scene needs more conflict” […]

Free Scrivener Template: How to Structure Your Story

Love Scrivener? Me too. This insanely comprehensive word processor, designed to help authors organize all their writing notes and files in one place, is arguably the single best digital tool for writers ever created. These days, I use it exclusively for my fiction (buh-bye, Word), and it is constantly helping me refine my approach to […]

Most Common Writing Mistakes (Flat Plots)

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 60: Flat Plots

One of the most deflating criticisms authors hear is that “they’re writing flat plots.” Not only does this (seem to) indicate a certain lack of personal depth, it’s also a sign the story is boring and forgettable. Fortunately, there’s no reason you need ever fall prey to this pitfall. In our last installment of the Most […]

Move the Plot2

What Does It Mean to Move the Plot?

“Move the plot, move the plot—everything in your story must move your plot!!!” So rail all writing professors. Meanwhile, the writers themselves just want to bang their heads against their keyboards in desperate frustration. “Okay, yes, fine, great—I want to move the plot. But what does that even meeeeaaannnn?!?!?!?!” (Enough interrobangs, for you?) (No?) (Okay, sorry: […]

2 Ways To Make Sure You've Chosen the Right Scene

2 Ways to Choose the Right Scene

Today, I’m guest posting over on Jerry Jenkins’s site, with the post “Does This Scene Deserve a Place in Your Story? 2 Ways to Find Out.” Here’s an excerpt: “Cut this scene. It doesn’t move the plot.” That is my most frequent comment on manuscripts I edit for others. It causes most writers to groan. […]

How to Write a Story Without a Plot (and Why You Shouldn't)

How to Write a Story Without a Plot (and Why You Shouldn’t)

Can you write a story without a plot? Ultimately, that depends entirely on your definition of a story. There are quite a few people who would argue for plot-less variations, but I’m not one of them. When I talk about story, I’m talking about plot. Why? Because it’s the most intuitive entry point to a […]