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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.)

What Is Pastiche in Literature, and Why Is Sherlock Holmes Perfect for It?

What Is Pastiche in Literature, and Why Is Sherlock Holmes Perfect for It?

What has made Sherlock Holmes so adaptable and changeable throughout the character’s original inception? Author Timothy Miller explains.

How to Write Through Grief and Find Creativity

How to Write Through Grief and Find Creativity

When author Diana Giovinazzo found herself caught in the storm of grief, doing what she loved felt insurmountable. Here, she shares how she worked through her grief to find her creativity again.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Our Brand-New Digital Guide, 6 WDU Courses, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce our new “Get Published in 2022” digital guide, six new WDU courses, and more!

5 Tips for Keeping Your Writing Rolling

5 Tips for Keeping Your Writing Rolling

The occasional bump in the writing process is normal, but it can be difficult to work through. Here, author Genevieve Essig shares five ways to keep your writing rolling.

From Script

How to Write from a Place of Truth and Desire and Bending the Rules in Screenwriting (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, exclusive interviews with screenwriter Steven Knight (Spencer), Mike Mills (C'mon C'mon), and David Mitchell (Matrix Resurrection). Plus, how to utilize your vulnerability in your writing and different perspectives on screenwriting structure.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Forgetting To Read

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Forgetting To Read

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's mistake is forgetting to read.

Tapping Your Memories for Emotional Truths on the Page

Tapping Your Memories for Emotional Truths on the Page

Sharing even a fraction of our feelings with our characters will help our stories feel more authentic. Here, Kris Spisak explains how to tap into our memories to tell emotional truths on the page.

Poetic Forms

Trinet: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the trinet, a seven-line form based on word count.

Tammye Huf: On Real Love That Sparked Inspiration

Tammye Huf: On Real Love That Sparked Inspiration

Debut novelist Tammye Huf discusses how her own familial love story inspired her historical fiction novel, A More Perfect Union.