The 10-Step Checklist to Writing an Above-Average Novel

“Anybody can write a novel.” Writers sometimes hear that statement from dismissive non–writer family and friends. Rightfully, we dislike the insinuation, since we know full well how much education, talent, skill, effort, and dedication is required for “anybody” to write a novel. Still, there is a certain measure of truth in the idea that “anybody can […]

how to choose your story's plot points

How to Choose Your Story’s Plot Points

You’ve got a story, and you’ve got characters who are doing stuff in that story. That means you’ve got a plot. But how do you know if you’ve got your characters doing the right stuff at the right time? At first glance, this seems intuitive. Story is (or should be) a chain of causes and effects. Something […]

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. 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 been […]

How to Write Unique Themes

How to Write Unique Themes

Here’s a mind-bender for you: the best story themes are both universal and unique. But how does that even work? How can you learn to write unique themes that say something fresh and new—and yet are resonant to every person on the planet? Good question. This is something I’ve been mulling lately after a comment […]

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, […]

The Great Novel-Writing Checklist (Just in Time for NaNoWriMo!)

I adore lists. They bring order to the chaos of my brain and allow me to rest in the knowledge that even if I don’t remember everything I have to do, the list remembers [spoken in an epic Jeremy Irons bass]. This is why today I’m going to share you with you my ultimate novel-writing checklist—and […]

Preparing for NaNoWriMo: Your Guide to Outlining Success

Forget turkeys and football. NaNoWriMo—or National Novel Writing Month—has turned November into  “da Writing Month.” But as so many authors have learned over the years, the best way to be successful in November is to start preparing for NaNoWriMo in October (aka Preptober). If you’re going to have a decent shot at writing 50k good words […]

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” […]