craft/technique

5 Writing Perspectives to Be Thankful For

Every day at Writer’s Digest, I’m particularly thankful that I get to read about writing and edit some really skilled teachers and experts. The varied perspectives, voices and authorities on the craft keep me on my toes and enrich my experience as a writer and a reader. Today, I pulled five...

The Great Debate: To Prologue or Not to Prologue?

As many of you know, book publishing industry professionals and readers alike have openly expressed their dislike of prologues. Act first, explain later. Great advice from James Scott Bell. Be careful with backstory and prologues. #writetip — Nat Russo (@NatRusso) September 30, 2017 Yes! Prologues don't work all the time, do...

Launching Into Scenes with Action

All great novels and stories start out with a mere idea. Maybe it’s a large idea that spans centuries and crosses continents, like Patrick Rothfuss’s first book in The Kingkiller Chronicles series, The Name of the Wind; or maybe it’s magic realism manifest into stories, like Aimee Bender’s books. No matter...

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...

Your Writing Voice: The Tools of the Trade

We hear the word “voice” a lot in appraisals of writing. The term can be confusing. You might hear, “Aden’s voice is just so original!” or “The voice of this piece really punched me in the gut.” These are terrific compliments, but what exactly is voice? Most commonly, voice refers to...

Smart Ways to Get Organized and Be Productive

Take it from me: The moment it dawns on you that you’re failing at something is not a good time to start keeping track of your efforts. And the moment it sinks in that you’re succeeding? Well, that’s not a great time to get your act together either. Bad form though...

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...

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....

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...

emotion, fiction, stakes

How to Create Moral Stakes in Your Fiction

We experience life as feelings. Yet, so much fiction is written to minimize feelings or leave them out altogether. It’s as if emotions are not a fit subject or writing about them is too simplistic. Even fiction that celebrates feelings, romance for instance, can sometimes work with only a limited and...

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,...

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...

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,...

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...

How to Use Objects to Strengthen Your Characters

One of the most common techniques fiction writers fail to implement is the use of objects. Chances are, your character isn’t just standing there, spouting off dialogue. The character is doing something with his hands. She’s exchanging a business card. He’s fiddling with a pencil. Objects provide concreteness to scenes and...

Understanding character development using the tv show Friends.

6 Things Friends Can Teach Us About Writing (Part 1)

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,...

How to write strong dialogue, from the TV series Fargo.

3 Things Fargo (Season 2) 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 Monday,...

Writing tips and writing techniques

4 Tips to Improve Your Writing Instantly

If the “Pro Tips & Techniques” theme of the September 2016 Writer’s Digest sounds a little vague, I’ll fess up: That’s by design. Our most reliable contributors have a way of occasionally pitching outstanding articles that just don’t happen to fit with any of our issue themes. And as I was...

5 Things Friday Night Lights 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 Monday,...

3 Things House 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 Monday,...