Why Writers Should Never Have Downtime

Here’s a scenario that you’ll probably find familiar: You’re sitting there, brow knit in concentration, working very hard on untangling a knotty story problem, when along comes a non-writing friend or family member. “Whatcha doin’?” he asks. You give him barely a glance, your mind still lost in your make-believe world. “Working.” “Uh-huh,” says Mr. Friendly […]

2 Rules for Making Time to Write

“‘It is only half an hour’—‘it is only an afternoon’—‘it is only an evening’—people say to me over and over again—but they don’t know that it is impossible to command oneself sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes—or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometimes worry a whole day. These […]

5 Ways to Open Yourself to Inspiration

If you’re like most writers, coming up with story ideas is rarely a problem. More than likely, your brain bubbles over with more ideas than you’d be able to use in two and half lifetimes. I’ve yet to meet a writer who decided Hmm, I’d like to be an author—and then sat down to brainstorm […]

Putting Your Writer’s Ego in Your Back Pocket

I’m lucky. Everything I write turns out flawlessly. I have perfect instincts that ensure everything I write is right on the mark. I know the instant I write something crummy, and I’m able to toss it out the window before anyone else ever gets a glimpse of it. By the time my words reach my […]

the all-important link between theme and character progression

The All-Important Link Between Theme and Character Progression

Theme is a slippery concept. The prevailing wisdom among writers is that if you apply any deliberate force to your theme, you’ll end up with a heavy-handed Aesop’s fable. On the other hand, a story without a theme is shallow escapism at best and an unrealistic flop at worst. Theme is arguably the single most […]

How a Writing Warm-Up Routine Can Help You Write Better

Writers are, in a sense, athletes. We hurdle the high walls of writer’s block, we tackle mountains of research, we sprint through rapid-fire action scenes, and sometimes we even manage to hit a home run or two. So what makes us think that, unlike physical athletes, we can force our brains into action without taking […]

Should You Keep Your Writing a Secret?

I spent most of 2006 preparing to write a story about an apparently amnesiac young woman who is rescued by three very disparate friends during the Battle of Britain in 1940. Almost from the very beginning, this tale of mistaken identity, murder, and disappearing royalty had me bursting with excitement. I couldn’t wait to begin writing. […]

Character: The Most Important Part of Your Story’s Beginning

If all of writing was as difficult as the first 50 pages, I probably would have wimped out years ago and found myself a new vocation. (Something easy and safe—like being a Walmart greeter or maybe the collector of the quarters from Laundromat machines.) Despite the fact that I already know every plot turn that […]

The Importance of Art

Is Art Important to the World?

What is art? Why is this seemingly random act of creation found in every society? Why is it cherished, lauded, idolized? Is art important? For me, as someone who dares claim the lofty title of “artist,” that last question rings the loudest. Why is my writing important? Or perhaps more truthfully phrased: Is it important? […]

How I Edit Fiction

No two writers write in the same way. But even fewer writers edit in the same way. We all wield our red (or blue) pens (or pencils), hacking flabby words and injecting strong verbs and nouns in their places. We all share the end goal of a crisp, clean, beautiful final draft. And we all pull […]