Craft and Story Beginnings

The Value of “Show, Don’t Tell” In Your Writing

When I first started to write fiction and send my manuscripts out for feedback, the first and most frequent thing my readers said was "Show, don't tell." In theory, I understood what this meant. But it was almost impossible for me to put it into practice after comments such as, “Why don’t...

7 Reasons Agents Stop Reading Your First Chapter

Previously, I attended the Writer Idol Event at Boston Book Fest. It was not for the faint of heart, but for those willing to brave public ridicule, it was a great way to get helpful feedback. This is how it worked: An actress picked manuscripts at random and read the first...

5 Ways To Increase Conflict

The curse of a vivid imagination is that you can almost always imagine something that would make the situation worse. This is why if there is a sudden lurch on a flight, you can count on me to grip my armrest, mentally picturing the wing suddenly falling off of the plane....

How to Write a Great Opening Line

For some of us, writing fiction seems a lot like trying to pick up a Hot Stranger in a bar: The opening line makes or breaks us. If we blow our opening line in a bar, the Stranger turns off, never to find out what scintillating people we are; in a...

Rules for Writing and Revising Your Novel

When you revise, you must go back and fine-tune your work—add, delete—what needs to go in, be taken out. Repair the characters. Do it when your mind is still fresh with the scenes and the characters of that chapter. However, you must be unbiased (which is hard toward what you’ve just...

Another Take On “Show, Don’t Tell” For Writers

It’s a writing rule most of us have heard before. And it’s a good one. Because no reader wants to be spoon-fed a story. Readers want to see the story for themselves, to make up their own minds. It’s more interesting and entertaining that way, and even more importantly, it lets...

The Key to a Good Series is Excellent Characters

I’m a series junkie. In addition to those noted above, faves include Lew Archer, Spenser, Elvis Cole, Parker, Fletch, Jack Reacher, Harry Bosch … I could go on. And one of the things that draws me to series is that feeling of slipping into a familiar world – a place with...

Writing the Male Point of View

I’ve got a release coming out in September called Wasteland. It’s written in first person, male point of view. You might be thinking, But you’re a chick, how can you write male point of view? I guess we’ll find out if you think I can write the male point of view...

Agent Jon Sternfeld On: Engaging Your Audience

Engage your audience: While I’m not a writer, I feel like I’ve developed a firm grasp on why some novels work and some simply don’t. Often during critique sessions, I find myself going over a concept that I think applies well across the board of all genres: ENGAGE YOUR AUDIENCE. Jon Sternfeld is...

Does Your Story Have a Hook or Merely a Gimmick?

Agents are always looking for something different inside their massive slush piles. Something unique and original—a “hook.” I became especially aware of this last summer, while querying agents I was invited by one agent to revise and re-submit my novel. Her main suggestion? A stronger hook. I'll be honest—the...

Find Writing Ideas All Around You

People often ask me: "Where do you get your ideas?" Most of the time, I don't know exactly how I came up with an entire book plot, but for someone who's only been writing since May of 2009 (and yes, this is really true) lots of ideas have gone from my...

5 Techniques for Managing Group Critiques

1. Know your group, and tailor your critique sessions accordingly. It’s helpful to begin each reading with a quick introduction, in which the writer is given the opportunity to communicate her needs to the group. 2. Ask each member of the group to read her work aloud, rather than simply giving group...

How Live Readings Can Help Your Writing

Two years ago I began transitioning from my career as a journalist by tapering off my work for The New York Times. I took my debut novel through several edits and began to explore the complicated road to publication. Social Media provided an opportunity to write for others and vastly expand...

How to Stay Objective and Improve Your Main Character

So how’s your relationship with your significant other going? The one with your heroine or hero, I mean. In a writer’s life, a main character is a very significant other. Now that my first published novel is about to be released, I realize how much I’ve learned about the writer-main character...