Crafting Novels & Short Stories

Publish date:
Crafting Novels & Short Stories

Crafting Novels & Short Stories
by The Editors of Writer’s Digest Books
Writer's Digest Books, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1-59963-571-2
ISBN-10: 1-59963-571-2
$19.99 paperback, 368 pages

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About the Book
Learn how to create stories that captivate agents, editors, and readers alike! Inside you’ll find the tools you need to build strong characters, keep your plots moving, master the art of dialogue, choose the right point of view, and more.

This comprehensive book on the art of novel and short story writing is packed with advice and instruction from best-selling authors and writing experts like Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Sims, Hallie Ephron, N.M. Kelby, Heather Sellers, and Donald Maass, plus a foreword by James Scott Bell. You’ll learn invaluable skills for mastering every area of the craft:

  • Define and refine your characters.
  • Make your plot and conflict high-energy and intense.
  • Hone your story’s point of view.
  • Create a rich setting and backstory.
  • Craft dialogue that rings true.
  • Select the right words and descriptions throughout your story.
  • Revise your story to perfection.

Throughout you’ll find supplemental sections that cover special topics like getting started, beating writer’s block, researching your work, and getting published. They’ll help you integrate your skills into a balanced, productive, and fulfilling career.

Whether you’re writing flash fiction, a short story, a novel, or an epic trilogy, you’ll come away with the tools you need for strong and effective storytelling.

Table of Contents

Foreword by James Scott Bell


Focus on the Writing Life: Getting Started

Getting Started by the Editors of Writer’s Digest
Your Novel Blueprint by Karen S. Wiesner

Part 1: Characters: The Stakeholders in Your Story
Draw Character from the Strongest Sources by Nancy Kress
Create the (Im)perfect Heroic Couple by Leigh Michaels
It's All Relative by Elizabeth Sims
Hooked on a Feeling by David Corbett
3 Techniques for Crafting Your Villain by Hallie Ephron
Killer Personalities by Charles Atkins
What's My Line by Michael J. Vaughn

Focus on the Writing Life: Feeding Your Creativity
Creative Lollygagging by Michael J. Vaughn

Part 2: Plot & Conflict: Your Story's Action, Events, & Suspense
Story Trumps Structure by Steven James
Write Well-Crafted Scenes to Support Your Story by James Scott Bell
Map Your Novel With a Reverse Outline by N.M. Kelby
Use Braiding to Layer Your Story Line by Heather Sellers
Hook, Grab and Pull by Les Edgerton
8 Ways to Write a 5-Star Chapter One by Elizabeth Sims
Strengthen Your Scenes with 5 Easy Tips by James Scott Bell
Rescue Your Story from Plot Pitfalls by Laura Whitcomb

Focus on the Writing Life: Beating Writer’s Block
Start Me Up by Elizabeth Sims

Part 3: Point of View: The Voice of Your Story
Understanding Differences in POV by James V. Smith, Jr.
The Intruder by Kristen Hohnson Ingram
Using Perception to Enhance Your POV by Alicia Rasley
Taking Turns by Simon Wood

Focus on the Writing Life: Using Your Muse
Make Your Own Muse by N.M. Kelby
Compost by Heather Sellers

Part 4: Setting & Backstory: The Context for Your Story
Time & Place by Donald Maass
Refine Your Setting Skillset by Brian Kiteley
Why Backstory is Essential by Larry Brooks
6 Ways to Layer in Backstory by Hallie Ephron
Weave in Backstory to Reveal Character by Rachel Ballon
How to Build Suspense with Backstory by Leigh Michaels

Focus on the Writing Life: Balancing Writing With the Rest of Life
Marry Your Life to Your Writing by Sheila Bender
The Write-at-Home Mom by Christina Katz

Part 5: Dialogue: What Your Characters Say to Readers
Weave Action, Narrative and Dialogue by Gloria Kempton
Amp up Dialogue with Emotional Belts by Todd A. Stone
12 Random (but useful) Thoughts about dialogue by Michael Levin

Focus on the Writing Life: Maximizing Your Productivity
Reinventing Your Relationship With Time by Sage Cohen

Part 6: Description and Word Choice: What You Tell Readers
Master the Art of Balancing Description and Summary by Ron Rozelle
Better Left Unsaid by Nancy Kress
Make Your Tone Pitch Perfect by Lara Adair
He Said, She Said by Leigh Anne Jasheway
Follow the Rules for Stronger Writing by Nancy Lamb

Focus on the Writing Life: Researching Your Work
Researching Your Work by the Editors of Writer’s Digest

Part 7: Revision: How Your Story Comes Together
How to Gain Perspective on your Work by Elizabeth Sims
Fire Up Your Fiction: Four Techniques by Donald Maass
What to do When Your Novel Stalls by John Dufrense
Put Your Story to the Plausibility Test by Steve Almond
Keep Your Story Moving at the Right Pace by Jessica Page Morrell
Take Your Novel to the Finish Line by Lin Enger

Focus on the Writing Life: Getting Published
Getting Published by the Editors of Writer’s Digest

Appendix A: Fiction Genre Descriptions
Appendix B: Resources for Novel and Short Story Writers

Poetic Forms

Sedoka: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the sedoka, a 6-line question and answer Japanese form.


Plot Twist Story Prompts: Dream Sequence

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your characters dream a little dream.

WD Vintage_Armour 12:03

Vintage WD: Don't Hide Your Light Verse Under a Bushel

In this article from 1960, poet and author Richard Armour explores the importance of light verse and gives helpful hints to the hopeful poet.


Tessa Arlen: On Polite Editorial Tussles and Unraveling Mysteries

In this article, author Tessa Arlen explains how to navigate the differences between American and English audiences and create a realistic historical mystery.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 547

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 lazy poem.


Denise Williams: Romance, Healing, and Learning to Love Revisions

Author Denise Williams recounts her experience with writing her first book while learning about the publishing industry and the biggest surprise about novel revisions.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 13th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.


Shook vs. Shaked vs. Shaken (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use shook vs. shaked vs. shaken on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.