Category: Fiction Craft

“On The Artistic Temperament and a Writers Need For Privacy”

When I first think of the concept of artistic temperament, I think of the stereotype of moodiness, broodiness, and emotional explosiveness....

“The Secret Musicians Know That Can Help Writers”

I am grateful that I came to writing after years spent as a practicing musician, where I learned perspectives that make my writing life...

“Deadline Walking”

As a child, I wrote an epic poem about a unicorn, planning to perform a recitation of it during the annual school talent show. I spent days...

“In Taos”

In Taos, late one summer afternoon, my wife Linda and I came upon a festival in the plaza. There were booths selling Indian crafts,...

“Editing’s Many Layers”

Small presses don’t have the reputation that larger presses do of maintaining high editorial standards. But my experience with these...

“The Assignment”

I am haunted by a writing assignment I first attempted as a senior-year final-semester English major at the University of Wisconsin in...

“4 Ways To End a Story: Short Stories & Flash Fiction”

It’s difficult to describe good and bad art with accuracy. Creative writing suffers the same fate. What makes a polished story? How does...

“Unfaithful Writer”

I’ll admit it, I have problems committing. When I first met my current “amor” I swore I had never seen an idea so sexy,...

“Creative Writing: From the Outside In”

People finding out that I write poetry are oftentimes surprised, for any variety of reasons. Perhaps they don’t think it accords with...

“On Fearless Writing”

I’ve been writing fiction and essays for twenty years. Since 2010, I have tried to write fearlessly. Though I’m not quite there...

“Fat-shaming the Muse”

Like millions of young readers over the past half-century, I was enchanted by the pioneer stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I picked up...

“Striving for Immortality”

Every night, my wife and I listen to an old time radio program. In the twelve or thirteen years we’ve been doing it, we’ve heard...

“Creativity’s Marathon”

This morning, after dropping my daughter off for a playdate and beginning the walk home, I found myself thinking about something that has...

“Curmudgeon Writer Expostulates on . . . The Prologue: Who Needs It?”

I used to teach “Novel Writing” at a college that has asked to remain anonymous. I had to give up teaching the class for my...

Why I Write: “Writing to Understand”

My views on writing have changed through the years. As a kid, I wrote to gain some attention. As a teenager, I wrote to transport myself...

“Tips and Rules to Use in Writing Historical Fiction”

These are the lecture notes I used at Missouri State in W. D. Blackmon’s class and at the Creamery Arts Center. Have any of you written...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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,...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

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 three on crime...

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...

“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.”...

“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...

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...

“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...

“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!...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“The Digital Narrative”

Narrative nonfiction is tricky, full of emotional nuance and blatant subjectivity. Also, thanks to technology, we all write it all the...

“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,...

“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...

“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...

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...

“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....

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...

“Hook the Skimmers”

Congratulations! An editor loves your prose. You’ve sold your story. Feel wonderful. You should. After the euphoria collapses, you...

“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: •  ...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

“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...

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,...

“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...

“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...

“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,...

“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...

“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...

“Budgeting Complication”

Google complication in literature and you will get a ton of results about just that: conversations about manipulating that part...

“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...

“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...