Critical Things to Do Before You Write Your First Novel

Hindsight is twenty twenty they say. Before I ambitiously embarked upon the adventure of a lifetime, I had no clue what to expect. Sure, I’d read many novels and books and blog posts on how to write them.

What I quickly found out was reading about writing, and actually writing, are totally different. It’s like thinking you’re a good singer because you watch America’s got Talent and belting out off key tunes at a karaoke bar. Time for a reality check.

What I wish i knew blog image

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How to Write Fiction


Writing fiction—what a life! You can choose any time, any place, any situation, then drop in characters you’ve created. A blank sheet is a good thing. It’s raw material that you can build a new world (or worlds!) with.

I’ve worked as a history professor and researcher. It was great, but it’s a job where you have to dig and search and make sure you have your facts straight. In fiction, it comes from your head. It’s harder than I thought, but much more fun.

Here are a few tips on writing fiction and where I draw my ideas from:

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4 Ways to Write Powerful Emotional Scenes

The barista stared at me a moment then felt the need to explain. “It’s black tea.”

I could see as much.

What I wanted to know was why in the middle of Texas there were tea wrapped in rice paper with Chinese characters scrawled on them. They looked like they had gotten lost en-root some Chinese farmer’s market trip. I could picture him walking down the road in dusty sandals towing one of those big carts behind him filled with produce. A bag of tea falls from his cart and into a nearby rice field.

4 Ways to Write Powerful Emotional Scenes

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The Map to Finding your Voice


Voice is like a hidden treasure. Once you discover it and open its lid, riches abound. For some writers, voice is something they have sailed many seas to find. So, we’ve made a map to make it easier.

I’ve talked before about how VOICE comes from living life and experiencing new things, and that can be true. It can also come from within, knowing yourself, but what makes readers love the Voice of a book? Authenticity comes to mind. There is a voice inside of us all. Once we find it, we genuinely make friends through our characters with our readers. Continue reading

The Best Writing Advice I Ever Recieved

I once spent a year learning the art of chopping in China.

Why you ask? Why not! Actually it was a cultural misunderstanding as I was under the impression I’d be learning to make Chinese food. You can imagine my disappointment and horror when my teacher brought in a live duck and slit its throat it in front of us the first week of school. This was not what I signed up for.

Life experiences

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Fight Scenes: A Break in Action


How long does a movie’s intense action scene last? It’s not just “Bang, pow; kick, punch, roll, jump,” without pause; movies throw in little “breathers” of comedy or surprise so that the audience can take a breath or laugh to relieve the build-up of tension. Then they go back to building it up again. This way the audience’s excitement doesn’t peak and then fall, but rather is built up in smaller increments, like an up-hill hike. You might want to run the whole distance, but you’d end up burning out without breaks. However, if you time your breaks strategically, you can build up your momentum and finish with a feeling of accomplishment, rather than collapsing in relief that you’re done. So how do you do this in fiction?

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How to Confidently Name Your Characters


Names. They’re usually the first piece of personal information you learn about a person. And they have so much power. As parents, the names we give our children (real or hypothetical) shape an essential part of who they ultimately become. It could ruin their lives.

Is that a slightly dramatic assessment? Maybe. But I’m a writer. And a theater nerd. Being dramatic is part of my DNA. Continue reading

5 Ways to Write Killer Descriptions


When crafted well, descriptions are a powerful way to draw the reader into your world by making it realistic, believable and lovable. When done poorly, readers skim over the paragraph or worse, close the book and doom it to that dark corner of the bookshelf. All your hard work, coffee, sweat and tears are gone in an instant.

Writers tend to fall into one of two camps. Overloading the senses with trivial information, or on the other hand, not adding enough realistic detail. According to Robert McKee in his book Story, “At one end of reality is pure fact; at the other end, pure imagination. Spanning these two poles is the infinitely varied spectrum of fiction.” Where do you find your own writing?

Here we will cover five ways to span this infinitely varied spectrum to help you develop your craft.

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Four Critical Tools for Editing Your Way to Success


What comes to mind when you think about the editing process? If the mere word “Editing” makes you want to hide under your comforters, or find a boat and sail off the face of the earth, I understand. Or maybe you’re a super planner and love the editing process and have all sorts of handy excel charts mapping your progress.

No matter what your feelings are regarding the editing process, there are tools and tips that can help.
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