Category Archives: General Fiction Writing

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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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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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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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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Creative Cowardice: The Scourge of Good Stories

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If there’s one thing that annoys me more than anything else in terms of fiction, it’s when an otherwise good story is ruined by the creator’s cowardice. It drags down a story that has kept my attention, one that had me hungry for more content, and sometimes? It makes me disregard other material that the creator already has out there. What’s worse? It seems to get more prevalent with each passing year.

Today, I’m going to step up onto a soapbox and explain to you why you need to stick out your jaw, and own your work. Continue reading

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Plot Outlining: Avoiding the Trap

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Anyone who’s written more than a couple of stories will tell you that the worst thing you can do is sit down and start writing cold. You really should know where the story is going to go before you even open up the word processor. The problem, of course, is that it’s tempting as heck to just rush in. Continue reading

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Perspectives: First Person versus Third Person

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So you’ve got yourself a good idea for a story, which is arguably the hardest part. You have a basic framework for how you want your story to progress– it’s okay if you don’t have all of the details down; I usually don’t. But, once you have the basic idea, you have to make a decision: from what perspective will this story be told?

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