Category: Fiction Craft

“Playing on the Ladder with Micro-Fiction”
It was a precocious high school freshman who introduced me to the adorable boxed set of flash fiction published by McSweeney’s, One...
“Playing on the Ladder with Micro-Fiction”
“Critiquing the Critique”
I’ve found the most difficult part of writing is in receiving meaningful critiques—hell, who am I fooling? My problem is in getting any...
“Critiquing the Critique”
“Where Do Ideas Come From?”
Someone posed that question on an online fiction writers forum. The thread went on for months. Responses included the following sources of...
“Where Do Ideas Come From?”
“Giving your Setting a Little Character”
I read somewhere that you should treat the setting of your story like a character. Give it a strong identity, allow it to have mood swings,...
“Giving your Setting a Little Character”
“Save Your Abandoned Art”
You are going to write a story so gripping that your readers will forget their problems and disappear inside your well-placed words. You...
“Save Your Abandoned Art”
“Stimulus and Response: Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty”
In fiction, stimulus and response work like a ping-pong game. They make you look at the line-by-line progression of a story. Stimulus is...
“Stimulus and Response: Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty”
“Time to Turn Your Flash to the Dark Side”
“Narrative,” writes Peter Abbott in The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, “is present in every age, in every place, in every...
“Time to Turn Your Flash to the Dark Side”
“Use POV To Close That Distance in a Flash”
I never fully grasped point-of-view until I read David Jauss’s amazing essay “From Long Shots To X-Rays: Distance and Point of View in...
“Use POV To Close That Distance in a Flash”
“How to Craft Compelling Characters”
The source and exact nature of the curious phenomena we refer to as characters remains something of a mystery, but the craft of...
“How to Craft Compelling Characters”
“Want to Make Your Dialogue Sparkle?”
Have you ever finished writing a scene of dialogue, re-read it and wondered why it doesn’t sparkle? Below is an example of such a...
“Want to Make Your Dialogue Sparkle?”
The Craft of Writing ‘Great’ Short Fiction
Don’t be fooled – writing great short fiction is no easy feat. Although, this form of writing is relatively brief compared with the...
The Craft of Writing ‘Great’ Short Fiction
“Making Your Scenes Work Harder”
When I started my novel, Cradlesnatch, I estimated it would be around 50,000 words, which is normal for a YA novel. However it’s...
“Making Your Scenes Work Harder”
“Could Your Dialogue Be Doing More?”
Humans communicate by talking each other, it’s something we do all the time to tell each other things. So when it comes to writing...
“Could Your Dialogue Be Doing More?”
“Make the Impossible Look Real”
In his book, Writing the Break Out Novel, Donald Maass states: “take that which is improbable and make it look...
“Make the Impossible Look Real”
A Review of The Art of Character
The Art of Character by David Corbett (Pengin, 2013)   Like most writers, I have several books in my bookshelves on craft. In...
A Review of The Art of Character
“Cutting Your First Draft”
Yesterday I reached the end of my second draft of Cradlesnatch. Three weeks ago the first draft stood at 92,000 words. Today the word...
“Cutting Your First Draft”
“Why You Should Battle the Proofreading Ogre and How to Manage the War”
Proofreading is so much more than reviewing text for errors. It is a masochistic activity that follows close on the heels of the euphoria...
“Why You Should Battle the Proofreading Ogre and How to Manage the War”
“Writing a Fight Scene”
It’s been a long journey, but I’ve finally reached the last section of my novel, Cradlesnatch, and what I need to do now is...
“Writing a Fight Scene”
“6 Quick Proofreading Tips”
What a busy week! We had National Grammar Day on March 4, and today, March 8, is National Proofreading Day. For someone like...
“6 Quick Proofreading Tips”
“How To Show Your Character On The Page”
When my first novel, Fury, went out to publishers it received several rejections giving similar feedback. They couldn’t connect...
“How To Show Your Character On The Page”
“Looking at the Big Picture – Are Your Character Motivations Working?”
Sometimes when you’re editing, you can find yourself spending so much time focusing on the line by line detail that you lose track of...
“Looking at the Big Picture – Are Your Character Motivations Working?”
A Review of 6 Books on the Craft of Fiction
Here’s the skinny on six of the “how-to” books for fiction writers in my bookcase – three on fiction generally and...
A Review of 6 Books on the Craft of Fiction
A Review of Two Books on Revision Techniques
My bookcase holds two books that deal with revising and editing fiction: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and...
A Review of Two Books on Revision Techniques
“The Art of the Book Review”
I just got off the phone with my friend, L. Marie, who recently created a blog, “Thoughts about writing and life.”...
“The Art of the Book Review”
“Creating Memorable Characters”
Before you begin your new story, take a little time to create fresh new characters that are your own. Using someone else's...
“Creating Memorable Characters”
What’s the Big Deal about Your Inner Critic?
Well, I’ll tell you: she’s taking up space in your head that could be put to better use. And thanks to Robert Dugoni, I learned to tell...
What’s the Big Deal about Your Inner Critic?
“Pick Up a Baton and Orchestrate Your Characters!
Are your characters earning their place in your fiction? When they appear on the page do they make your story move? If you said...
“Pick Up a Baton and Orchestrate Your Characters!
“Is It Possible to Teach Editing?”
I’m working on my syllabi for my fall classes. It’s always an interesting challenge. I like to use a white board–I can erase easily!...
“Is It Possible to Teach Editing?”
“The Hard Work of Writing”
  “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I’ve been guilty of saying just that to...
“The Hard Work of Writing”
“What Is Your Daily Word Count?”
Many fiction writing experts advise writers to set a daily writing goal, usually 1,000 words per day. There are several benefits for...
“What Is Your Daily Word Count?”
“Lessons for the Genres”
As I examined my AWP conference loot, I pulled out a book called Creative Writing: Four Genres in Brief by David Starkey. A gentleman at...
“Lessons for the Genres”
“Don’t Tell Me What to Think or How to Feel: Avoiding Didacticism”
In my last article, I touched upon the importance of subtlety of theme in effective writing. This can also be understood as the avoidance...
“Don’t Tell Me What to Think or How to Feel: Avoiding Didacticism”
“Finding Your Voice”
One of the most difficult, but essential, questions for beginning writers is this: how do I find my voice? Giving guidance about finding...
“Finding Your Voice”
“What Makes a Main Character?”
Readers remember compelling main characters. Who could forget Harry Potter? Scarlett O’Hara? Don Vito Corleone? Dorothy Gale? What is...
“What Makes a Main Character?”
“Processing Feedback”
Here is what most writers forget. You are the boss of your own story. Not the other writers in your critique group. Not the famous author...
“Processing Feedback”
“Giving Your Tale a Twist”
In many ways, twist endings are the lifeblood of flash fiction, the sudden reversals that change everything. Flash fictions like this are...
“Giving Your Tale a Twist”
“The Digital Narrative”
Narrative nonfiction is tricky, full of emotional nuance and blatant subjectivity. Also, thanks to technology, we all write it all the...
“The Digital Narrative”
“Don’t Write Off the Comments of Workshop Readers—Even If They Are All Idiots”
In her article “Workshopping,” Stephanie Vanderlice sums up the phenomenon of the writing workshop in a four-word sentence: “Writer,...
“Don’t Write Off the Comments of Workshop Readers—Even If They Are All Idiots”
“Are You Ready to Write?”
You’ve decided to write your first novel. Congratulations. You can’t wait to sit down and write. You’ve come up with a...
“Are You Ready to Write?”
“Avoid the Bog: Save Revision for Later”
I spent this past weekend being an academic. While I’ve presented at plenty of writers conferences, this past weekend I gave a paper...
“Avoid the Bog: Save Revision for Later”
The Challenge Beyond Craft: Slot-Filling (Part II)
In Part I, I discussed the challenge of content, of filling each “slot” with something, and the overwhelming uncertainty associated...
The Challenge Beyond Craft: Slot-Filling (Part II)
“Instant Gratification: Sharing Your Creative Work”
Whenever I successfully complete a story, poem or creative work, my first impulse is that of a high school gossip with a secret: share it....
“Instant Gratification: Sharing Your Creative Work”
The Challenge Beyond Craft: Slot-Filling (Part 1 of 2)
A few weeks ago, in “Give Readers Something To Love,” I discussed the realities of your flash fiction submission being one of hundreds...
The Challenge Beyond Craft: Slot-Filling (Part 1 of 2)
“Hook the Skimmers”
Congratulations! An editor loves your prose. You’ve sold your story. Feel wonderful. You should. After the euphoria collapses, you...
“Hook the Skimmers”
“The Arc of the Story”
Read any popular novel and you are likely to find similarities in story structure. The classic story arc adheres to this structure:...
“The Arc of the Story”
“Location, Location, Location”
You're reading through the first draft of your story. You have an interesting protagonist, an engaging plot, and a terrific opening to...
“Location, Location, Location”
“Igniting Your Writing Core”
Sometimes our writing creativity can blaze up like a bonfire and other times it can sputter like a weak campfire. It may wane, flicker at...
“Igniting Your Writing Core”
“How to Mine your Childhood for Story Gems and More”
If you were to write a recipe that, when fully cooked, would produce a complex result called you, what would the ingredients be? A while...
“How to Mine your Childhood for Story Gems and More”
“Why Write Fiction?”
Passion is the reason I write fiction. Why else would I do it? It’s one of the loneliest jobs in the world. The payoff is not...
“Why Write Fiction?”
“Write It Out”
Clichés can be accurate portrayals of certain situations. The phrase “[S/he] threw me under the bus,” for instance, invites the image...
“Write It Out”
“As Far As You Can Go”
Hopefully you’ve all read Lesley Glaister’s, As Far As You Can Go. I chose this as I’m going off on my own Australian adventure...
“As Far As You Can Go”
“TV Watching Does Not Waste Writers’ Time”
As writers, we probably won't feel guilty about watching primetime television shows if we've written eight straight hours and...
“TV Watching Does Not Waste Writers’ Time”
A Short Course in Short-Short Fiction
Short-shorts seem so simple. Also known by such names as sudden, flash or micro fiction, short-shorts are tight little tales packed into 1,...
A Short Course in Short-Short Fiction
“7 Tips for Writing Flash Fiction”
What is Flash Fiction? Flash forward to flash fiction, a form of fiction writing which is increasing in popularity day by day. Flash...
“7 Tips for Writing Flash Fiction”
“Components of a Good Opening Scene”
In The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, writer and former literary agent Noah Lukeman...
“Components of a Good Opening Scene”
“See Me”
Transparency is not art, but it is increasingly a part of life. There is no longer much of a choice when it comes to exposure. Writers,...
“See Me”
“Creating a Masterpiece”
In the days when many professions were controlled by guilds, your masterpiece was not your best or most celebrated work.  It was your...
“Creating a Masterpiece”
“The End”
… You don’t miraculously arrive at the ending. You have to have a sense of drama. And you discover the ending in the writing, or...
“The End”
“Budgeting Complication”
Google complication in literature and you will get a ton of results about just that: conversations about manipulating that part...
“Budgeting Complication”
“Who Matters”
I remember a rule from an undergraduate fiction workshop. Looking at my transcript, I must have learned it from Bret Lott. I worked with...
“Who Matters”
“Sweet Refrain”
I heard it twice this summer in Sewanee. The first time, it came from my fellow workshopper's flash fiction piece. The second time, it...
“Sweet Refrain”