Tag Archives: fiction writing

Writer’s Block: The Brutal Truth

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Every single writer who has been working for longer than a year or two has hit a wall. It’ll often happen at the absolute worst time, too. And there is absolutely nothing I or anyone else can say that will save you from it.

Sure, there are articles scattered across the Tubes of the Internet Machine, books filling half of the self-help section of Barnes and Noble, and everyone from psychics to motivational speakers all insisting that there is a silver bullet for Writer’s Block. The only trouble is that they’re full of crap. Continue reading

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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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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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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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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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Characters People Loathe, Part One: The Mary Sue

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Everyone reads a book now and then that makes you want to punch one of its characters in the throat. Sometimes that’s because one of them is a total jerk, and you’re supposed to hate him. Sometimes it’s an unintentional side effect of a peculiar quirk that just rubs you the wrong way.

The worst of them is the Mary Sue. Continue reading

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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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