Writing Tips: Show, Don’t Tell

writing tips show dont tell

Show, don’t tell — what does that mean?

The first time I heard the advice “Show, don’t tell,” I was young and it confused me.

Show what? Isn’t writing all about telling a story?

At the time, I shrugged it off as some kind of mysterious double-talk, but the phrase kept popping up: show, don’t tell.

It rolled off my teachers’ tongues. I spotted it in books and articles on the craft of writing. A couple of times, it appeared in red on my papers with an arrow pointing to a specific sentence or paragraph. Then, I took a poetry class and had a big aha moment where show, don’t tell became abundantly clear. Read more

Why The Right Word Choices Result in Better Writing

better writing

Find out how the right word choices result in better writing.

Have you ever read a sentence and wondered what it was trying to say? Ever gotten hung up on a word that felt out of place because the meaning of the word didn’t fit the context? When was the last time you spotted a word that was unnecessarily repeated throughout a page, chapter, or book?

There are two sides to any piece of writing. The first is the message, idea, or story. The other side is the craft of stringing words together into sentences and using sentences to build paragraphs. Adept writing flows smoothy and makes sense. Readers shouldn’t have to stop and dissect sentences or get hung up on words that are repetitive or confusing. Read more

What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers

what if writing exercises for fiction writers

What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers.

Good fiction is comprised of many different elements: believable characters, realistic dialogue, and compelling plots. Every decent story has a beginning, middle, and end. Intriguing tales are built around conflict and are rich with themes and symbols. And those are just the basics.

It can be pretty overwhelming.

Fiction writing is hard work. It requires a complex and diverse set of skills. Stringing words together into sentences only scratches the surface of what goes into good fiction writing. Fiction that is truly worthwhile is layered with meaning. It’s made up of an infinite number of tiny parts. Most importantly, it has a sense of truth and realism that the real world often lacks.

Mark Twain said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” And Stephen King said, “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”

In other words, fiction, at its best, feels truer than reality. Great writers make it look easy, but writing that kind of fiction, the kind that’s worth reading, is nothing short of magic. Read more

How to Develop Your Best Novel Writing Ideas

novel writing ideas

How many novel writing ideas do you need?

Writing a novel is no small task. In fact, it’s a momentous task. Some writers spend years just eking out a first draft, followed by years of revisions. And that’s before they even think about the grueling publishing process.

In other words, you’re going to spend a lot of time with your novel. So you better love it. No, wait–loving it is not enough. You have to be in love with it. You have to be obsessed with it.

And obsessions cannot be forced. It’s normal to lose interest when you’re on your tenth revision, but if you’re losing interest in your plot or characters while writing your first or second draft, the problem may not be you or your novel. The problem may be that you tried to commit to something you didn’t love. That’s never a good idea.

For many writers, the trick to sticking with a novel is actually quite simple: find an idea that grips you. Read more

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Couplets and Quatrains

Couplets and quatrains

Couplets and quatrains, a poetry writing exercise.

Today’s writing exercise comes from 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which takes writers on an adventure through different forms and genres while offering tools, techniques, and inspiration for writers.

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 called “Couplets and Quatrains.” Enjoy!

Couplets and Quatrains, a Poetry Writing Exercise

Poetry may not be the most widely read or published form of writing these days, but it’s probably the most widely written.

Despite the lack of enthusiasm for the form among readers and publishers, poetry still has a traditional place in our culture. You’ll hear poetry read at most significant events, such as weddings, funerals, graduation ceremonies, and presidential inaugurations. Poetry is the foundation for most children’s books, and it’s so closely related to songwriting that in many cases, it’s hard to tell the difference between a poem and a song lyric. Read more

The Number One Secret to Successful Writing

secret to successful writing

The secret to successful writing.

Please welcome guest author Marcy McKay with her top secret for successful writing.

You finally muster the courage to let someone else read your work. A live human being, a person who is actually qualified to share his or her opinion on your writing (unlike your Great Aunt Edna who thinks everything you do is perfect).

This individual reads your piece and gives a vague response. “It’s good. I mean, I like it, but something is missing.”

It’s similar to when you try to duplicate that delicious pizza from your favorite restaurant on your own. It tastes okay, but something still seems off – just not quite right.

So, what’s that certain spice for your writing? The recipe for literary success? Read more

Are You a Stickler for Good Grammar?

good grammar

Are you a stickler for good grammar?

“I don’t like to end sentences with prepositions,” my friend said while we were discussing ways to restructure a sentence.

“But it’s fiction,” I told her, “In college, as a creative writing major, I was taught to learn the rules, and then break them.”

In this case, it sounded unnatural to write the sentence without ending it with a preposition. Following the rules too rigidly is especially problematic in dialogue. Nobody would say “To which store are you going?” No. We say, “Which store are you going to?”

Writers need to value good grammar, but sometimes it makes sense to break the rules. Read more

Writing Prompts for Music Lovers

creative writing prompts

These creative writing prompts might make you want to dance.

Some days, ideas don’t come easily.

You may find yourself staring at a blank screen or doodling in your notebook with nothing to write about.

You may find that you’d rather just listen to some music or go out dancing. Maybe you’d rather play your guitar, practice your singing, or go to a concert?

If you’re a writer and a music lover, then these creative writing prompts are perfect for you. They’ll infuse your words with musicality and make your writing rock. Read more

Do You Need a Creative Writing Degree to Succeed as a Writer?

creative writing degree

Do you need a creative writing degree?

Young and new writers often ask whether they need a creative writing degree in order to become an author or professional writer.

I’ve seen skilled and talented writers turn down opportunities or refuse to pursue their dreams because they feel their lack of a degree in creative writing means they don’t have the credibility necessary to a career in writing.

Meanwhile, plenty of writers with no education, minimal writing skills, and scant experience in reading are self-publishing, freelance writing, and offering copywriting services en masse. Read more

How to Make Time to Practice Writing Every Day

practice writing

Practice writing to become a true master of the craft.

By now, most of you have heard of the 10,000-hour rule, which was made famous in the book Outliers. The rule states that in order to become an expert at something, you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice.

In other words, a master writer has already spent 10,000 hours writing.

Working at it for 40 hours per week, it would take 250 weeks (or almost five years) to become an expert. If you can only spend half that time, or 20 hours per week, on your craft, it would take ten years to master. For people with busy lives and responsibilities (like full-time jobs and families to care for), it could take a couple of decades to master the craft of writing.

And why shouldn’t it? After all, an expert is someone who has put in the time to become proficient. And while some writers are born with talent, which gives them an advantage (maybe they only need 8,000 hours of practice to become an expert), even the most talented among us must practice writing in order to become true wizards of word craft. Read more

How to Defeat Writer’s Block

writers block

Let’s diagnose and defeat writer’s block!

Wikipedia defines writer’s block as “a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.”

However, I have come to believe that in most cases, writer’s block is a symptom, not a condition.

Before we can cure writer’s block, we have to diagnose it.

Writer’s block is almost always presented as some mysterious disease. A writer sits down to work and nothing happens. The ideas are gone. The words don’t come. It must be writer’s block!

At times, writers certainly lose their inspiration or face challenges that prevent them from working. I’m not saying we shouldn’t call this writer’s block. What I am saying is that in my experience, there’s usually some underlying cause, and it’s often something that’s easily remedied. Instead of blaming our inability to work on a vague condition, we can figure out what’s really preventing us from writing and fix the real problem.

Today, let’s dissect writer’s block and figure out what causes it. We’ll also explore some solutions for curing writer’s block, and I’ll share some writing tips that have helped me stay inspired. Read more

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Rock and Rhyme (Poetry)

101 creative writing exercises - Rock and Rhyme

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Rock and Rhyme Poetry.

Today’s post features an exercise from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which is filled with exercises for various forms of writing, including fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. It will inspire you while imparting useful writing techniques that are fun and practical.

This exercise comes from “Chapter Eight: Free Verse.” The creative writing exercises in this chapter focus on free-form poetry writing.

I chose this exercise because it’s fun and inspiring. It asks you to use a song as a foundation for writing a poem. Many song lyrics are poems in their own right. This exercise focuses on rhyming, but it also shows you how to look at your writing’s musicality and encourages you to think about rhythm and meter in your work.

Give it a try, then come back and tell us what you learned. Feel free to share the poems or lyrics that you write from this exercise in the comments section. Read more