Craft & Technique

The ABCs of Story: Plots, Subplots, and Sub-Subplots

The arrangement of a narrative is often singular in its focus: It details the peaks and valleys, dips and pivots, of a single story. But a single story needn’t be such a direct thrust. Imagine the metaphor of a roller coaster, but now weave in another roller coaster—perhaps even two rides...

Exploring Star Wars and the Hero’s Journey

“In the three decades since I discovered The Hero with a Thousand Faces, it has continued to fascinate and inspire me. Joseph Campbell peers through centuries and shows us that we are all connected by a basic need to hear stories and understand ourselves. As a book, it is wonderful to...

Don’t Find Your Writing Voice—Accept It

I found my voice as a writer rather late in my writing life. I spent about twenty years trying to write fiction. I had read fiction voraciously as a boy and young man, but had largely stopped reading it by the time I decided to try writing it. It was a...

paula munier, beginnings, how to write beginnings

Brainstorming for Story Ideas

The best beginnings are based on strong story ideas that immediately set the book apart from all others of its ilk. If you have a bad feeling that your story idea is not compelling or unique enough to hook agents or editors, much less readers, then this post is just for...

Write Short Fiction

The Strategic Use of Short Fiction

The new world of self-publishing options calls to mind the golden age of the pulp magazines. During that era, roughly 1920–1950, writers could earn decent money pounding out stories and novellas for a penny a word. Later, the 1950s boom in mass-market paperbacks provided another source of lettuce for the enterprising...

Debbie Macomber

Talking Rejection With Debbie Macomber

Occasionally, my favorite moments of an author interview are the ones that don’t entirely make it into print. With Debbie Macomber, the cover star of the January 2017 Writer’s Digest, the moment came when the conversation turned to rejection. Read any interview with Macomber, and you’ll see how relatable her early...

Develop a Fascinating Premise for Your Mystery Novel

I used to think that I couldn’t write a mystery novel because I’m not very good at making things up. Where would I find ideas? Then I stumbled across a terrific idea at a yard sale. It was at a Victorian house with gingerbread-trimmed gables and leaded glass windows. I was peppering...

7 Misconceptions About Revision

Rewriting is 90 percent of the writing process. If you don’t believe me, download The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as Taken from the Journal of the Whills. That’s what a first draft looks like. That’s what your first draft looks like to any reader who’s willing to be honest with you....

Using Internal Dialogue to Achieve Multiple Effects

Internal dialogue is the inner voice of character. Which is, frankly, a very metaphysical subject. In most modern cultures—and, consequently, most modern literature—there’s a dichotomy within the self: there’s an I and a Me. I like my eyebrows. I have to be strict with myself when it comes to pecan pie....

What Is Your Character’s Cornerstone?

If you’re not watching the excellent HBO series Westworld, you should. Not only is the show a study in deft plotting and complex themes, but it’s a delicious, entertaining mystery that continues to surprise me week after week. (The season 1 finale is tonight at 9:00 EST, but it’s worth a binge-fest.)...

Answers to Your Novel Writing Questions

I’ve interviewed enough authors over the years to know this: Even the most successful among them can remember with vivid clarity the tentative tingling of first sitting down to write a novel and feeling as if they had no idea what they were doing. In fact, some of them still experience...

5 Things Breaking Bad Can Teach Us About Writing

I think the general consensus among those writers who teach the craft is that you must read—and read widely—about the craft of writing, particularly those authors who write in your genre. But I think there’s a lot you can learn about writing from other mediums, too. Specifically television. Every other week,...

Cause and Effect: Telling Your Story in the Right Order

A game of billiards begins with the cue ball striking the racked balls, which then scatter across the pool table. After that the players take turns trying to clear the table by pocketing another ball (either stripes or solids), all while keeping the cue ball out of the pockets. We all...

How to Review Your Plot: Using Your Notes and Outline at Revision

You’re nearing the finish line and feel like you need a final push forward to reach completion. You’ve slogged your way through the long, seemingly interminable middle, and your energy has flagged. Writers often experience self-doubt in this stage (worrying that it won’t come together well), and some have issues with...

4 Ways to Write a Compelling Character

Where do fictional characters come from, and, more important, how do you build one from scratch? For some writers, characters whisper in their ears or appear in their dreams; for others, building a character requires as much effort and forethought as constructing a house. Though the method will vary for every...

Use Mind Mapping to Plan Your Next Writing Project

Seeking a creative boost for your next writing project? Try mind mapping, which harnesses the power of brainstorming and free association to develop an idea or concept. Whether you’re planning a novel, an article, an instructional course, a blog post, or a product or service related to your author brand, the...

Fiction Writing

How to Write Suspense Like Stephen King

Aside from the fact that no less an authority than William Faulkner recommends reading widely in different styles and genres, there’s still another compelling reason why you might want to study Stephen King’s novels no matter what kind of writing you do. King is the number one horror writer in America,...

television, writing

6 Things American Horror Story Can Teach Us About Writing

I think the general consensus among those writers who teach the craft is that you must read—and read widely—about the craft of writing, particularly those authors who write in your genre. But I think there’s a lot you can learn about writing from other mediums, too. Specifically television. Every other week,...

5 Tips from the WD Novel Writing Conference: Day 1

The inaugural Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference, which kicked off today, is a chance for attendees to immerse themselves in the craft of novel writing: plot, characters, setting, point of view, and more. In sessions that ranged from hooking readers with a strong beginning to modulating your novel’s pace, today’s speakers shared...

paula munier, beginnings, how to write beginnings

Strong Beginnings: A Trick to Editing Your Novel

The best beginnings possess a magical quality that grabs readers from the first word and never lets them go. But beginnings aren’t just the door into a fiction world. They are the gateway to the realm of publishing—one that could shut as quickly as it opens. Nail a beginning and you...

television, writing

6 Things Friends Can Teach Us About Writing (Part 2)

I think the general consensus among those writers who teach the craft is that you must read—and read widely—about the craft of writing, particularly those authors who write in your genre. But I think there’s a lot you can learn about writing from other mediums, too. Specifically television. Every other week,...

Friday Reads: Chart Your Course with Author in Progress

Let me set the scene: You’re sitting at home, perhaps in your office or at your kitchen table, maybe sipping some coffee or tea. You’d like to start writing your novel … but instead you’re staring at the cursor on your laptop screen as it blinks back at you. You’re suddenly possessed of a...

Robert Crais

4 Free Extras From the New Writer’s Digest

Did you know every single issue of Writer’s Digest includes bonus online exclusives? And they’re not just for subscribers—they’re for everyone! We must have been feeling extra inspired when we put together the November/December 2016 Writer’s Digest, because we rounded up even more extras than usual. Learn what really drives Robert...