Short stories, flash fiction, novels, and novellas: there are countless stories floating around out there — and those are just the fictional works.
It’s no wonder writers get frustrated trying to come up with a simple concept for a story. One look at the market tells you that everything has been done.
But what makes a story special is your voice and the unique way that you put different elements together. Sure, there might be something reminiscent of Tolkien in your work, but so what? Echos of Lord of the Rings can be found in some of the most beloved stories of the 20th century: Harry Potter and Star Wars, for example.
I’m not saying J.K. Rowling and George Lucas intentionally used elements of Tolkien’s work in their stories. Maybe they did; maybe they didn’t. But I would bet both of them read and appreciated Lord of the Rings. Whether they were conscious or not of its influence on their work doesn’t really matter. Read more
As an editor and writing coach, I often receive requests from people who are seeking writing help. Some are seeking professional services; they want someone to edit a book they’ve written or coach them through the process of writing a book. Other times, I get questions about writing that range from simple to complicated. One person might send me a sentence and ask if it’s grammatically correct; another will ask what they should do to become a rich and famous author.
We all need a little help every now and then, and there’s nothing wrong with asking questions or seeking advice. But to get the right kind of writing help, it makes sense to start by understanding what kind of help you need. Read more
Today’s writing exercise comes from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which takes writers on an exciting journey through different forms and genres while providing writing techniques, practical experience, and inspiration.
Each chapter focuses on a different form or writing concept: freewriting, journaling, memoirs, fiction, storytelling, form poetry, free verse, characters, dialogue, creativity, and article and blog writing are all covered.
Today, we’ll take a peek at “Chapter Seven: Form Poetry” with a poetry exercise simply called “Haiku.” Enjoy! Read more
Please welcome guest writer Bessie Blue with some tips on polishing your manuscript.
Have you ever written a first draft and edited it in next to no time? You found three grammar mistakes—typos, really—and your outline was so solid there were no plot holes.
As you sent your story to writing contests, you were bothered by a nagging thought: you just knew you could still improve your manuscript. But you didn’t know how.
So off the story went. And sure enough, it wasn’t accepted into a single contest.
I’ve struggled with this problem, and I’ve learned a thing or two about editing and proofreading. Read more
My Debut Novel
A few days ago, I published my debut novel, which is titled Engineered Underground. It’s the first book in my science-fiction Metamorphosis Series.
The book is currently available for Kindle and as a paperback from Amazon, and it will be available in all other bookstores by July.
Plus the Kindle edition is on sale for just 99¢ until this Friday, April 3, 2015.
If you like science fiction, military, mystery, or superhero stories, please check out my book or tell a friend about it.
Now let’s get to the giveaway! Read more
When we’re writing, we run into a lot of technical issues. Where do the quotation marks go? When is it correct to use a comma? How should titles be formatted?
Some of these questions are answered by the rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But other questions are not addressed by grammar. There’s no official rule for how to format a title.
We writers need trusted resources that we can use to resolve all these issues, especially if we want to produce work that is both grammatically correct and stylistically consistent.
Style guides answer grammatical questions and provide guidelines for consistency. But there are lots of different style guides, from the The AP Stylebook to the The Chicago Manual of Style. Which one should you use? Read more
A lot of young people first come to creative writing because they have a burning desire to express themselves. Emotions are running high, ideas are flying, and opinions are in full supply. What better way to get it all off your chest than writing it down?
Self-expression is the heart and soul of all forms of creative writing from fiction and poetry to memoirs and essays. We combine our inner thoughts and feelings with what we perceive in the outer world and put it into words.
When we balance what’s happening inside with what’s happening outside, real magic happens: that’s the sweet spot where we connect with readers.
For some of us, self-expression couldn’t be easier. Give us a pen and a piece of paper and our ideas will come pouring out. For others, putting thoughts and feelings into clear, coherent sentences and paragraphs is a challenge. Everything comes out garbled, and only the writer can make sense of it. Read more
Those of us who spend a lot of time studying the craft of writing inevitably come across bits of writing advice that we hear over and over again: show don’t tell, write what you know, and kill your darlings. These writing tips can be a bit cryptic, but the one about revisions is crystal clear: writing is rewriting.
The intention is to get ideas out of your head and onto the page (or the screen, as the case may be) as quickly as possible without worrying about grammar, spelling, and punctuation. You don’t need to get the details right. Just get that rough draft completed. You can clean it up later.
Like most writing tips, this one is debatable. Some writers prefer to labor over each sentence while composing a first draft. This means fewer edits later. Others use the drafting process to navigate through their ideas. This often means more revisions when the drafting is done; in other words, the bulk of time is spent on rewriting. Read more
Writers and artists, and human beings in general, have always been inspired by the cycle of nature. The seasons provide a rotating backdrop for our lives. They mark the passage of time, and they represent change–moving on and letting go.
A season can provide a setting for your story or the subject for your poem. Seasons can function as metaphors. They can bring challenges for characters in the form of severe weather and natural disasters. Even the absence of seasons will affect a piece of writing.
On a tropical island, the weather doesn’t change much. Seasons barely exist in some places, and that shapes the rhythm of life there. On the other hand, in more common climates, seasons dictate daily life: plant in the spring and harvest in the fall.
“I used to think freedom meant doing whatever you want. It means knowing who you are, what you are supposed to be doing on this earth, and then simply doing it.” — Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
Ah, words of wisdom.
I was assigned Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg for a creative writing course in college. We were supposed to read a chapter or two a week, but I had a hard time putting it down and ended up inhaling the entire volume in a couple of days. It’s one of the best writing resources on the market, but what’s great about this book is that it’s a blast to read.
Goldberg, who has penned a number of books about writing, including several well-known writing resources, mastered the mechanics of writing in college. It was later that she discovered how to tap into her creativity and write more artfully. Four years after that discovery, she began teaching writing workshops and has since become a widely adored master of the craft. Read more
Today’s post is an excerpt from 10 Core Practices for Better Writing. This is from “Chapter Two: Writing,” and it’s for people who are wondering how to become a writer.
First, Give Yourself Permission to Write
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” – Richard Bach
I admire people who are fearless. When they want to do something, they do it. They don’t worry, plan, wonder, analyze, or seek permission. They simply do what they want to do.
But most of us are more cautious. We’ve experienced failure. We don’t like taking risks. We’ve seen amateurs trying to pass themselves off as professionals. We’ve had our writing critiqued and the feedback wasn’t good. We set the bar high — nothing short of a potential bestseller is worth writing. Read more
A poem can come out of nowhere and land on the page, fully formed, in just a few minutes. A poem can also be the result of hours (or weeks) of laboring over line breaks, word choices, images, and rhythm.
Poems are funny little things, appearing out of nowhere and disappearing for no apparent reason. Poets have to be diligent: be prepared when a poem arrives and if it doesn’t, go out and chase it down.
There are many ways to write a poem, and not all of them involve sitting at a desk staring at a glaring screen or curled up in a chair with a pen and notebook. Instead of waiting for poems to fall out of the sky, try some of these poetry writing ideas and activities, and go catch them! Read more