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Everything You Need to Know About The Basics of Writing

Get creative writing tips, learn quick outline methods, and discover ways to improve your writing skills with Writing Basics.

In order to successfully write and publish a book, you must know the basics of writing. Use this issue of Writer's Digest on writing basics to sharpen your writing skills and improve your writing. You'll find articles on creative inspiration, how to outline a novel, examples of query letters, how to write compelling characters, and other informative information such as money-saving tax tips for writers.

Fuel Your Creative Inspiration

Sometimes it's easy to find story ideas and write freely. Other times, you may face writer's block. In any case, this issue provides 52 creative writing tips to help you get started writing. It's recommended that you choose one day per week and spend 30 minutes on each prompt. Take for example, this fun writing prompt: "You're standing outside a restaurant next to a phone booth when, suddenly, it rings. Your gut tells you not to answer it, but with each ring you can't resist. Finally you pick up the phone--and end up having the most amazing night of your life." Use creative writing prompts to evoke new story ideas--the possibilities are endless!

Four Characteristics to Help You Write Compelling Characters

Part of what makes a novel great is its cast of characters. Learn how to write compelling characters from an article written by David Corbett. He gives examples of methods for deepening characterizations and suggests that the characteristics of compelling characters can be narrowed down to four crucial elements:

  • A driving need. ambition, or goal. Characters must want something. The stronger the will or desire, the greater the drama and conflict.
  • A secret. This can be a trait or incident from the past that if revealed, can cause a character's standing in his/her world to change forever. Secrets can also attract a reader's interest.
  • A contradiction. This is what can make a character unpredictable, setting the stage for the kind of surprising behavior that can keep readers enthralled, wondering what might happen next.
  • Vulnerability. Vulnerability can be the result of a character's secrets, needs, desires or contradictions--they are all interconnected.

Three Simple Outline Methods For Your Novel or Book

Before you start writing a novel or book, it is recommended that you outline your story first. This will help to organize your ideas and keep you focused. Written by Sarah Domet, author of 90 Days To Your Novel, you will discover how to write an outline for a novel and why creating an outline is necessary. This article gives examples of three outline methods for writers to use. The first outline method she discusses is called the "Structure-Plus" outline, which is the most traditional method. This type of outline is great for writers who love details and aren't planning on making big changes to their story. The "Signpost Outline" encourages writers to briefly note the basics of their story--who the characters are, what the scene is about, etc. Writers who despise outlining or want more creative control over their story might prefer this style of outlining because it allows you to lay down the groundwork but develop the details as you write. Lastly, the "Notecard Technique" recommends writers use a notecard with plot, setting, and character information to represent each scene. This type of outline method might work best for writers who want to visually picture their story and have the flexibility to rearrange scenes. Just be sure to keep the notecards in a safe place so you don't lose them.

Interested in learning more about writing?

Buy the Writing Basics issue now! (It is also available digitally.)

Connecting the Dots vs. Drawing the Whole Damn Picture: A Veteran Ghostwriter Takes Back His Pen and Finds Something To Say

Connecting the Dots vs. Drawing the Whole Damn Picture: A Veteran Ghostwriter Takes Back His Pen and Finds Something To Say

Writing for oneself after a decades-long career as a ghostwriter is a challenge unto itself. Here, author Daniel Paisner discusses his career as a ghostwriter, how the process differs from writing his own work, and if the two ever intersect.

Who Are Sensitivity Editors? And How Much Does Sensitivity Reading Pay?

Who Are Sensitivity Editors? And How Much Does Sensitivity Reading Pay?

Sensitivity readers offer a very specific and focused edit to manuscripts. Here, C. Hope Clark shares what a sensitivity editor is, how much it pays, and where you can start.

Kate White: On Building In Brainstorming Time

Kate White: On Building In Brainstorming Time

New York Times bestselling author Kate White discusses the process of writing her new psychological thriller, The Second Husband.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 615

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a desire poem.

Writer's Digest Best Writing Advice Websites for Writers 2022

Writer's Digest Best Writing Advice Websites for Writers 2022

Here are the top writing advice websites as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

Love the Art. Work the Business. | Nikesha Elise Williams

Nikesha Elise Williams: On the Power of Self-Publishing

In this indie author profile, novelist Nikesha Elise Williams shares her path to self publishing and the creative marketing strategy that's led to her success.

Change of Plans

Change of Plans

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, there's been a sudden and unforeseen change of plans.

5 Things to Know When Writing About the Music Industry

5 Things to Know When Writing About the Music Industry

Author Ashley M. Coleman gives you her top five tricks for writing about the music industry—even if you're not an industry expert.

10 Tips on Covering Events as a Freelance Journalist

10 Tips on Covering Events as a Freelance Journalist

From planning ahead to staying late, Alison Hill shares 10 tips for journalists while covering events as a freelancer.