Monthly Archives: February 2015

Story Length: Why You Shouldn’t Worry

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Throughout a longish college career, I spoke to a couple dozen other writers, young and old, new and experienced. We talked about habits and methods, shared anecdotes on the Dreaded Writer’s Block and how to overcome it, and generally kibitzed with each other. We’d discuss the things we were working on at the time, and humbly brag about how amazing we all were.

One of the most jarringly divisive topics turned out to be the length of stories, especially novels. I was kind of shocked to see how strongly some of these writers felt about the subject. Continue reading

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Plot Holes: What They Are and How to Avoid Them

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We’ve all found a few plot holes in one story or another, and there is nothing that breaks immersion faster. Something about finding a glaring inconsistency that is unacknowledged by the writer nags at us, and makes us focus on the mistake rather than the story as a whole.

I find myself taking an almost perverse pleasure in spotting them from time to time, especially within well-established and popular works. Maybe that says something about me as a person, but there’s something about it that gives me a rush when I can jump up and say, “Ah ha! You screwed up!”

I don’t need to tell you why plot holes are bad. If you don’t already know why, then you should probably consider doing something else with your time besides writing. Instead, I’m going to tell you how to avoid them in the first place.

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Academic Fraud: Plagiarism, Deception, Fabrication and You

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In one of my first articles, I went off on something of a tangent when discussing plagiarism. Because the subject is so important to discuss, thoroughly and in detail, I thought that it would be a good idea to write an article covering some of the most prominent forms of academic fraud and dishonesty.

Read this article carefully, because it might just save your college career.

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Dialogue: How to Write Interesting Conversations

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People like reading dialogue. Most readers tend to not actually read every word that’s on each page of a story; they skip over sections of description, picking up a sentence here or there so that they can get the gist of it. But, by and large, every word of dialogue that’s written is usually read. Something about the sight of quotation marks catches our eye, and commands our attention. That means that your dialogue is usually the most heavily scrutinized portion of your stories.

So it had better be good.

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How to Make Your Paper Longer, Part Two: The Sneaky Way

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I told you last week that trying to use tricks and chicanery to artificially inflate your paper’s length is the wrong way to go about it. Before I go any further, I want to reiterate the reasons not to use the tricks I’m about to tell you.  Continue reading

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Original Ideas: The Thing Nobody Can Make For You

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Every writer has been there. Every. Single. One. It doesn’t matter if you’re as prolific as Stephen King or as agonizingly slow as George R.R. Martin (still waiting on Book Six, you know). It is going to happen to you eventually, and, if you love writing, you’ll be desperate to fix it. So you go ahead and read some dandy articles on Top Six Story Idea Generators and you follow the advice you’re given.

And, of course, it doesn’t friggin’ work.

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Characters People Loathe, Part Two: Passive and Reactive

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Let’s continue our look at characters people tend to hate, shall we? Last time, I wrote about Mary Sues, which is a type that is pretty easy to spot. This next one is a bit more nebulous, and can be harder to pin down, because they can be likable people! In the hands of another author, they would likely be compelling and genuinely interesting. Unfortunately, there’s something about them that just seems… off.

Maybe it’s because they don’t actually do anything on their own. 

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How to Make Your Paper Longer, Part One: The Right Way

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In my first video, I told the viewers that I wouldn’t use that series to teach people how to artificially increase the length of their papers. That much is going to remain true– for a short time. Today, however, I’m going to give you some advice on reaching your page quota the right way. There won’t be any tricks or chicanery in this post; it is designed to actually boost your word count.

The fact of the matter is that professors are increasingly requiring digital copies of papers. This is ostensibly to reduce plagiarism, but a side effect of that is that there is a handy little word counter in the bottom left corner of Microsoft Word, so the second they open your document, they’ll know you’ve pulled a fast one. Even if that doesn’t tip them off, they’ll be able to see that you’ve messed with margins and spacing and font sizes. So, really, it doesn’t pay to be sneaky very often anymore.

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Author Overreach: How to Lose a Reader in Ten Pages or Less

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It isn’t enough for some authors to tell us about their characters or the setting when they’re working on a story. They can’t limit themselves to just a bit of background information. No. In order for them to tell you about this world that they have created, they need to tell you about each of its Kings and Queens. From the beginning of the monarchy. In order. And in excruciating detail. Also, how the monarchy was formed. And the attempted revolution three hundred years before the current story takes place. But don’t worry about that revolution, because it didn’t work. You know what else didn’t work? When notable citizen Mark Lingtree thought it would be a good idea to try to bring metal carriage wheels to market fifty years before the story began. It wasn’t that they were designed poorly, you understand– they worked quite well, but they were hard to manufacture, and delivery times were too long. Speaking of things that were too long, did you…

I think you get it. This is an author who needs an intervention, because it is entirely possible to give too much detail when you’re writing a story.

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