Skip to main content

Writing the “True Novel”

In the May/June issue’s 5-Minute Memoir, bestseller Patti Callahan Henry detailed how she took a story from real life and transformed it into fantastic fiction. As she discovered, it’s no easy task.

Here’s what she learned:

1. Start with the facts, but don’t be tethered to them. Ask yourself, What if … ?

2. Put aside all data—the names, dates, places, etc., of the real event—so that you can get to know the fictional characters that will inhabit your story.

3. Look deep into the story to find the heart. What does this story mean to you? Why does it matter?

4. Break free from chronology. Don’t rely on this happened, then that happened.

5. Examine the real-life story for synchronicities. What deeper meaning can you extract from them?

6. Understand that the outcome of your novel can be different from the outcome of the real-life story.

7. Remember what Mark Twain said: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities.” Explore those possibilities.

Getting Started Writing a Beach Book

Getting Started Writing a Beach Book

Sun, sand, and surf are only a fraction of what a beachside setting can bring to your stories. Here, bestselling author Amy Clipston helps us get started writing a beach book.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Old Technology

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Old Technology

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have your characters use old technology to accomplish a goal.

10 Questions to Ask Yourself for an Airtight Plot

10 Questions to Ask Yourself for an Airtight Plot

No matter the genre of book you’re writing, certain questions authors ask themselves can help them strengthen their plots and, by extension, strengthen their stories, Here, authors Boyd Morrison and Beth Morrison share 10 questions to ask yourself for an airtight plot.

A Master Class in Failure (To Find Writing Success)

A Master Class in Failure (To Find Writing Success)

Failure is often a step in finding success but navigating the treacherous terrain of rejection can be burdensome. Here, international bestselling author Marcia DeSanctis shares a master class in coming back from failure.

Telling My Story: How to Work Through Painful Feelings While Writing a Memoir

Telling My Story: How to Work Through Painful Feelings While Writing a Memoir

When revisiting your past means unearthing painful memories, it’s important to find solitude somewhere. Here, author Laura L. Engel discusses how to work through painful feelings while writing a memoir.

Podcasting Tips | Brendan O'Meara

The Writer’s Guide to Being a Great Podcast Guest

More writers than ever are appearing on or even hosting podcasts related to their writing. Host of the "Creative Nonfiction Podcast" Brendan O'Meara shares how to make it an enjoyable and successful experience.

T.M. Blanchet: On Letting Go of What’s Holding You Back

T.M. Blanchet: On Letting Go of What’s Holding You Back

Author T.M. Blanchet discusses the unforeseen element of surprise in publishing her debut YA fantasy, Herrick’s End.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 608

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 mom poem.

How I Went From No Book to Book Deal in Under a Year

How I Went From No Book to Book Deal in Under a Year

From picking up a reading habit to navigating daily word counts, award-winning journalist Carley Fortune shares how she went from no book to a book deal in less than a year.