Craft & Technique

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Writing the Unlikable Character (and Why You Should)

We talk a lot about the importance of writing characters that readers like or can relate to—and by “we” I mean anyone who feels strongly about books, regardless of profession. It’s nice to know when the good guy is good and when the bad guy is bad. That’s what you expect from a story....

How to Amp Up Your Story

Do you ever write something and immediately find yourself wanting to edit it (or worse—delete it)? Or are you struggling to really develop an idea? It’s tough not to immediately begin the rewriting process or automatically start second guessing yourself. Sometimes, as writers, we can get lost in continually improving a piece, trying to...

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Go There: Lessons In Writing From Dear Old Dad

BY ANDREW MARANISS People assume that when your father is a Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling author, he must have helped you a lot with your first book. For a while, I thought he might, too. I’d email first drafts of my chapters for “Strong Inside” to my mom and dad, and I soon discovered why...

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Wrestling Alligators: On Embracing Curiosity

BY LIZ CRAIN GIVEAWAY: Liz is excited to give away a free copy of the second edition of her just released book, Food Lover’s Guide to Portland, to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in the US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won...

When Your Novel Writing Clicks

Light-bulb moments. Aha moments. Flashes of recognition. Revelations. Call them whatever you like. I like to think of them as clicks. In the writing life, the best kind of click is that moment something makes you realize exactly what’s been missing from the not-quite-right scene you’ve been working on. Or the instant you put...

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7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Mike Meginnis

BY MIKE MEGINNIS This is a recurring column called “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers at any stage of their careers can talk about writing advice and instruction — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journeys that they wish they knew at the beginning. This is installment is from Mike Meginnis, author of...

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A Book in 30 Days: What Writers Can Learn From Rapid Publishing

BY AMANDA L. BARBARA The Internet has brought about a new age of experimentation in publishing, and stepping into the literary laboratory is the prolific storytelling duo, Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. The authors’ recent project, “Fiction Unboxed,” was a crowdfunded experiment in writing and publishing a book live in 30 days. Platt’s...

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4 Ways to Write a Killer Plot Twist

When I started reading Gone Girl, I’ll admit I had high expectations. “It’s incredible,” one friend told me after recommending it and praising it profusely. “You just won’t even believe what happens …” She stopped short, looking guilty. “I can’t say any more,” she said, almost at a whisper. “I don’t want to give...

What Halloween Can Teach Us About Character Development

This is the first year my 3-year-old has really gotten Halloween, so we’ve spent October seeking out any excuse for him to wear his costume and spend the day yelling “Boo!” As a result, at an array of fall festivals, we’ve collected a countertop full of pumpkins of assorted shapes and sizes; a small...

Use Word Choice to Set the Mood

No matter what the genre, a good writer needs to set the mood for readers. Whether it’s a creaky old house or the tense moments leading up to a final confrontation, atmosphere can make or break the experience in any piece of writing. It makes the story believable. In the following excerpt from The Art...

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10 Writing Techniques from Bram Stoker’s Dracula

October conjures up images of crackling fires, shivering leaves, the grinning teeth of a jack-o-lantern … and, if you’re a fan of classic horror, that iconic, fanged master of the night, Count Dracula. We feel there’s no better time than October—National Dracula Month—to share some writing tips and techniques that authors can learn from Dracula and apply to...

Tips and Inspiration to Write a Book in a Month

One of the things I love about working at Writer’s Digest is the excitement each time a new issue hits newsstands. And it’s especially true with the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest–because this special guide to Writing a Book in a Month arrives just in time for November’s National Novel Writing Month challenge. Regardless of whether...

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The 5 Attributes of a Successful Ghostwriter

BY KELLY JAMES-ENGER I’ve been writing about making money as a freelancer for well over a decade now. I have written five books, dozens of articles and hundreds of blog posts about the subject. I get many questions, and lately many of those have been about the field of ghostwriting. What is ghostwriting? How...

5 Quick Tips for Writing in Multiple Perspectives

Writing a novel from one unique perspective can be challenging enough for many writers, but writing a character’s story through multiple perspectives will multiply the challenges, but also the rewards. Adi Alsaid’s new novel, Let’s Get Lost (Harlequin Teen, 2014), is an excellent example of using multiple perspectives to effectively tell the story of...

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The Rules of Writing According to 20 Famous Writers

Few professions are as solitary yet as full of advice as writing. You do it alone, usually, but everyone you meet is an expert in what writers do, don’t do, should do, always do, never do, can’t do… Even Anne Rice, who shares her thoughts about rules below, once noted that her doctor advised...

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An Idea a Day: August 2014

Generating good, usable ideas can be difficult for any writer, new or established. While John Steinbeck may have been exempt (he famously compared ideas to rabbits, saying “You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”), we are not all on Steinbeck’s level. To those of...

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Jump-Start Your Next Story with Two Truths and a Lie

The only way to be a writer is to write, right? This is the advice we give at WD, online and in the magazine. If you want to write, you must write. But sometimes getting started is difficult. Perhaps you have a fully-formed character but no idea what to do with him. Maybe your...

Writing On the Rails: Survival Tips for Traveling Authors

After years of crisscrossing the country by car, plane, train, bus, and even on foot for stretches, one of my favorite modes of transportation remains the railroad. Yes, it can be a little shabby, but not nearly as bad as some bus stations I’ve seen. Plus, it has a great literary history: Jack Kerouac...

3 Ways to Save Your Backstory from the Cutting Room Floor

BY SHENNANDOAH DIAZ Backstory is crucial to the novel writing process. It gives your character substance and drive while adding depth, history and realism to your fiction.  It takes a great deal of hard work to develop your character’s backstory. Unfortunately for the sake of the novel, much of that hard work ends up...

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Authors Lisa Gardner and M.J. Rose Talk Character, Genre Definitions, Writing Process & More

On Wednesday, bestselling authors (and recent coauthors) M.J. Rose and Lisa Gardner held a session on creating compelling characters and suspenseful narratives at ITW’s ThillerFest. Here are some takeaways from their advice, and some excellent quotes from the Q&A that followed. Lisa Gardner on perfect heroes: “A character needs flaws to seem real. Without them,...

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The 7 Essential Elements of a Bestselling Novel

On Wednesday afternoon, legal thriller author and writing instructor William Bernhardt (the Ben Kincaid series) outlined the 7 elements he says make for an unputdownable novel--be it thriller, mystery, suspense or other. Here are his his guidelines for crafting a blockbuster. 1. Readability. All authors should strive for clarity, but bestselling authors go beyond simply...

Editing Poetry: “Say It or Don’t Say It”

As poet and Pulitzer nominee Clifford Brooks states below, “…just as it is crucial that a writer creates his or her own voice, the way we edit is also a matter of self-discovery.” I couldn’t agree more. I’m a true believer in the idea that no two poets create or edit the same way,...

Keep it Simple: Keys to Realistic Dialogue (Part II)

The following is the second in a two part, guest blog post from Eleanore D. Trupkiewicz, whose short story, “Poetry by Keats,” took home the grand prize in WD’s 14th Annual Short Short Story Competition. You can read more about Trupkiewicz in the July/August 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest and in an exclusive extended interview with her online. In this post,...