Shannon Bolithoe : A Writing Life

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How to Storyboard in Scrivener 

How to Storyboard in Scrivener

by Matt Herron

“Storyboarding as it pertains to novels and short stories is the process of mapping out your story, often using index cards, in a high-level way that allows you to see your story visually and rearrange it.

Scrivener’s corkboard view provides the perfect interface to storyboard your novel digitally…”

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Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 45: Avoiding “Said” 

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 45: Avoiding “Said”

“What’s this, you say? Avoiding “said” is one of the most common writing mistakes? How can that be? Surely writers overuse this ubiquitous little word more often than not, don’t they? As a matter of fact: nope. Indeed, trying to avoid this hard-working little speaker-attribution tag can, in most instances, lead you into some major prose problems.

If you run a word-frequency search through your manuscript, “said” is probably the verb that shows up the most. For some writers, that sets off alarm bells in their heads. If a word shows up that frequently, then surely you must be overusing it. Readers will notice its repetition and stumble over it as it clutters your prose.

As a result, you might be tempted to start replacing “said” with more colorful alternatives. After all, writers are always being told to look beyond pedestrian verbs like “walked” for more specific and “showing” choices, such as “sauntered,” “limped,” and “marched.” The same must be true of “said,” right?

It’s a legit question–so let us take a look…”

Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in iTunes).

The post Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 45: Avoiding “Said” appeared first on Helping Writers Become Authors.


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The Do’s and Don’ts of Editing 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Editing
By Anna Elliott

I realize that my timing isn’t perfect for this post. At least, not for all of those WU-ers who are participating in NaNo this year– which after all is largely an exercise in letting your creativity and your story flow by NOT thinking about editing. But it’s been several years since NaNoWriMo fit into my writing schedule, and since for me this month happens to be largely devoted to edits, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been thinking about the process. If you’re in the process of an edit, maybe some of my strategies will work for you, too. And if you’re NaNO-ing, maybe it will come in handy once the month is over and you’ve (hopefully) got a solid part of your first draft down. So, my editing do’s and don’ts:

DO: Give yourself some time between finishing a draft of your story and picking it back up to edit. I’d say at an absolute bare minimum a week, but more time is probably even better. The distance will help you to see your story with fresh eyes during the editing process, which is vital to figuring out what weak spots need to be strengthened, what character arcs need to change, etc.

Don’t: Be afraid of the process. I actually love editing– once I get started. But when I first open up a book file with an editorial eye, I usually have a moment of near panic: Oh no! What if I read it and it’s absolutely terrible! That’s when I just have to remind myself to breathe and dive in. Messy first drafts can always be made better– that’s the point of an edit after all. And if your book was truly, irredeemably bad, it’s unlikely you would have managed to finish it to the point of having a draft to edit. So take heart and just click open the file. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised when the draft you thought was in shambles isn’t nearly as messy as you feared.

Do: Be willing to cut, cut, cut. Depending on your process, this step may vary for you–I know some authors write a very bare-bones first draft and then expand on it during edits== but for me, the first draft is all about getting everything in my head onto the page. Everything. Descriptions, long internal monologues, etc– I throw it all in. Your mileage may vary, but it works for me; that’s how I discover the essentials about my characters and their journey. Then the editing step for me is all about condensing that first draft down, eliminating the unnecessary and making each page of story as lean as possible while still holding onto the essentials I discovered in the first draft. I look at each sentence, asking myself whether it’s absolutely crucial to the story I want to tell. If not, out it goes.

Don’t: Push yourself to edit too quickly or work through too much in a single editing session. It can be easy to get sucked into your own story and start reading it as a reader instead of as the story’s architect that you are. Obviously when we read books for entertainment– even when we read critically– we’re probably not examining every single sentence with an eye to deciding whether it could be better/tighter/more effective. That effort is exhausting– but also essential. I find that I start losing focus after editing 4-5 chapters and need to take a break if I’m going to keep up with the intensity of the edit.

Do: Celebrate the process. Editing can feel overwhelming– after all you’re effectively spending your working days staring at a giant list of everything that’s wrong with your manuscript. But I’ve found that just taking it step by step cuts down significantly on the overwhelm. Even major plot issues are usually resolved much more easily than I feared if I just tackle them one at a time. And without wanting to sound too Pollyanna-like, I try to be grateful for the process, too. If you’re editing, that means you’ve finished a book– which is definitely cause for celebration. Even if the book isn’t ready for any eyes but yours, you’re still another step further down the road in your writing career.


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Don’t hate me cause I’m marketing!

Source: Don’t hate me cause I’m marketing!

By Ana Spoke

“My previous post on pricing a first self-published book at $0.99 generated quite a discussion! Once again it shows just how many opinions are out there – some support my strategy, other authors are unhappy with having to give the work away practically for free. My personal view is “this is just what it is” – a free market, where prices are set by the laws of supply and demand. I do think my 2.5 years of hard work are worth more than $0.99, but I will just concentrate on promoting it so hard that before you know, it will be a series and a movie, and I will buy a pair of Manolos, just to see what all the fuss is about. My goal is to get the book into hands of as many readers as possible, with the hope that one of them knows Coen brothers. Seriously, does anyone here know even one of those guys?…”

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Writing With Heart: Creating An Emotionally Engaging Character

Writing With Heart: Creating An Emotionally Engaging Character

By Ryan Lanz

“Someone recently asked me about writing with emotion.  This is really about creating the emotionally engaging character because if you don’t write emotion into your character, the reader won’t connect with that character on an emotional level.  It’s hard to explain the difference between a great story and an emotionally satisfying story because the distinction is subtle…”


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How to write a children’s book and get it published

How to write a children’s book and get it published

By Miles Salter

“Miles Salter reflects on the slow process that led to the release of his new book for children, launched in York this week

Six years ago, I had a moment of inspiration. What if, the little mental bang inside my brain went, I could re-write Little Red Riding Hood for today’s audience, rather like Roald Dahl did when he wrote Revolting Rhymes in the 1980s?

My version would be a cracking story with adventure and humour and fun, eccentric characters. It could, I thought, be irresistible to kids…”

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5 Ways to Take the Vanity Out of Your Non-Fiction Book

 5 Ways to Take the Vanity Out of Your Non-Fiction Book

By Ken Dunn

“No one wants to hear about how you struggled with adversity and came out on top without learning some lessons along the way.

The idea of writing a non-fiction book to help bolster your credibility, draw in new clients or educate people is not new. Unfortunately, there are more people than ever that are deciding to pen their stories and publish a book that outlines everything they have been through. Their hope is that their story will inspire others and maybe even land them a few new clients.

With the ever-falling costs of creating, producing and publishing a book, we are being overwhelmed with more books being publishing on an annual basis than ever before.  Over 1.1 million new books were published in 2013, according to Bowker, an international research agency that focuses on the publishing industry. Sadly, most of these new non-fiction books are poorly written and never sell more then a few dozen copies to friends and family. Most of these books are all written the same way: “I was born, I grew up, when I was young I had challenges, when I grew up I had more challenges, something tragic happened, it made me realize, I made some changes, now I’m successful and you can be too.” Yuck!…”

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Creative Writing: Narrative Writing Tips- Choosing 1st 2nd or 3rd person

Creative Writing: Narrative Writing Tips – Choosing 1st 2nd or 3rd person

By Rebecca Zammit

“Creative Writing: Narrative Writing Tips- Choosing 1st 2nd or 3rd person Ever wondered how to choose either first, second or third person when writing a ..”

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Passive Voice: Myths and Facts

Passive Voice: Myths and Facts

“Many people have been taught, or convinced, that passive voice should never be used and active voice should always be used. Some people have gone so far as to say there is a “rule” that using passive voice is wrong.

As with many “rules” about writing, this is another one that began as a good general principle and over time morphed into an inflexible rule. The primary underlying reason behind this is that active voice is typically preferred to passive voice as it is often stronger.

Overuse of passive construction is a secondary reason for the “rule.” Passive voice is frequently seen by those who are trying to sound formal or academic. It is commonly seen in business, government, and academic writings. It is also used as a way of communicating events and actions without taking or placing blame.

Although active voice is stronger, there are some situations where passive voice is the better choice. Before we can choose when to use active voice and passive voice, we need to understand the difference between the two…”

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Five Common Dialogue Mistakes

Five Common Dialogue Mistakes

“‘Dialogue is an important piece of fiction writing. Whether you enjoy writing dialogue or struggle with it, you’ll need it and it will need to be written as well as your narrative.

Dialogue does more than relay a conversation in fiction. Dialogue can:

  • Show readers your character’s personality.
  • Make your characters feel more real and genuine.
  • Help with the flow of your story.
  • Move the plot of your story forward.
  • Add to the action of your story and hint at what is to come.

Dialogue is easy to read and breaks up your narrative, which helps with the flow of your story. Dialogue can speed up or slow down the pacing of your story. It can pull readers deeper into your story by showing readers more about your characters and the plot, but it needs to be written well.

It can be easy to make mistakes with your dialogue that will have the reverse effect on readers and “pull” them out of your story.

Watch for these common mistakes when writing dialogue…”


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How To Finally Finish (And Publish) Your First Novel

How To Finally Finish (And Publish) Your First Novel

By Taylor Cook

“Finally completing that story you have been working on really isn’t as hard as it sounds. Whether you are just starting to write a book and need some direction or have completed one and are wondering what your next move is, I am here to guide you on how to finally finish that book and turn it into a published novel.

First and foremost, you need to finally finish writing it. It’s important to delegate some time to working on it, whether it be once a day or on the weekends. If it’s a shorter story (known as a ‘novella’) then aiming for one chapter per week is a good starting point.

Once you finish a chapter it’s important to stop and read over it and make the changes then and there while everything is still fresh in your mind. Make sure the narrative flows properly and fix as many spelling mistakes as possible while you can. (You will thank yourself for it once you come to the editing phase!)…”

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Words to Knock Out of Your Writing

Words to knock out of your writing. Procrastinators, idlers, flat modifiers, qualifiers, and other words that weaken writing and should be eliminated.

By Jay Harez

“Words build your story. The words you choose can strengthen or weaken your story. Some words are unnecessary and can make your writing sound awkward, indecisive, and weaken your story. Procrastinators, Idlers, Flat Modifiers, and Qualifiers are words that can weaken your writing. Look for these words in your story, and if they are weakening it, you should knock these words out of your writing…”

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The Final Draft: How I Go About Rewriting a Book

The Final Draft : How I go about Rewriting a Book

By Natasha Lester

“My big focus for the last few weeks has been the final redraft of my fourth book, which has the working title One Night. A reader recently asked me what I do in the final draft, how I go about rewriting a book, so I thought I’d give you a bit of a sneak peek.

The third draft is the one I print out. I sit down and read through it once, without a pen, to see how it reads, to get a feel for where I’m really engaged and where I’m losing interest, and to see how the characters appear on paper. Then I read it through with a pen and I scribble all over it! But what am I focussing on? What particular things do I tend to be scribbling about?..”

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What is the Right Chapter Length?

What is the Right Chapter Length?

By Nat Russo

“Let me just preface everything I say in this article with “In the case of my style of writing…” That should drive the point home that I’m not trying to establish any “rules” I think people should follow.

For me, chaptering is a tool that serves at least four different purposes, and sometimes each at the same time…”

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Why speculative fiction may be the best way to depict reality

Why speculative fiction may be the best way to depict reality: The form exposes society and our lives in places that realistic fiction can’t touch.

By Shweta Taneja

“In 2001, while receiving the Carnegie Medal for his children’s book The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, author Terry Pratchett said, “We categorise too much on the basis of unreliable assumption. A literary novel written by Brian Aldiss must be science fiction, because he is a known science fiction writer; a science fiction novel by Margaret Attwood is literature because she is a literary novelist. Recent Discworld books have spun on such concerns as the nature of belief, politics and even of journalistic freedom, but put in one lousy dragon and they call you a fantasy writer.”

Pratchett was England’s most popular author in the 1990s (before yet another fantasy author took over with her saga of a boy who knew magic), having sold over 85 million books worldwide in 37 languages. The Amazing Maurice is the tale of a cat and a group of rats fighting monsters and two-legged humans in a quest for their survival, and defies any categories – be it a metaphor, a children’s book or even a fantasy fiction.

For most of us, it’s the dragons who breathe fire, immortal vampires with icy smooches and marble skins, and werewolves and robots and faeries and artificial intelligence who want to take over the world – these are the things that take us back again and again to the speculative genre. We live in these make-believe worlds, we see them through the dragon’s eyes, through the wizard’s adventure, through the superhero’s flight in the sky. For those few hours a day, swashbucklers we, slay with our Valyrian swords, dashing away from the Nazgul, and facing the worst tormentors by becoming Jedi masters. For fantasy, be it in gaming or books or movies, is perceived by the majority as escapism and a desire to live in alternate realities…”

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Five habits that led to Ian Rankin’s success as a fiction crime writer

Five habits that led to Ian Rankin’s success as a fiction crime writer

By Courtney Shea

“Scotland’s Ian Rankin considers himself an accidental crime novelist, having fallen into the genre that made him a star. His latest, Even Dogs in the Wild, marks the 20th time out for everyone’s favourite curmudgeon, Detective Inspector Rebus. Here Rankin – who starts the Canadian leg of his book tour in Vancouver next week – shares some of the secrets to his success, including why writing sex is a not-very-sexy endeavour…”

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Author Sophie King shows how to write a novel

Author Sophie King shows how to write a novel

“Today we launch the first in a series of articles by published author Sophie King, who shares her own extensive experience of the tips and pitfalls of embarking on the writing of your first novel. Sophie King has had sixteen novels published. Her latest is The Wedding Party, which tells the story of a middle-aged couple getting married in nine months time. She also runs local writing courses. For details, email

Your first novel! It’s a big thing, isn’t it? Perhaps it’s been a lurking ambition for years – something you will do “one day when there is time”. Or maybe you’ve recently retired or been made redundant which has given you extra hours in the day. But now, here you are, sitting at your desk, with your pen in hand or in front of your keyboard. And suddenly it seems like a very daunting task…

In this new series, I’ll show you how to find an idea that will grab the reader; how to draw convincing characters; how to find the right plotting method for you; how to get to grips with viewpoint; how to write dynamic dialogue and – crunch time – how to get published…”

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Emotional Wound Entry: A Home Invasion

Emotional Wound Entry: A Home Invasion

“When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers…”

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Fiction University: Real Life Diagnostics: Diagnosing a Story Idea

Fiction University: Real Life Diagnostics: Diagnosing a Story Idea

By Janice Hardy

“Real Life Diagnostics is a weekly column that studies a snippet of a work in progress for specific issues. Readers are encouraged to send in work with questions, and I diagnose it on the site. It’s part critique, part example, and designed to help the submitter as well as anyone else having a similar problem.

If you’re interested in submitting to Real Life Diagnostics, please check out these guidelines.

This week’s question:

I wrote a query letter to see if I can pinpoint any potential problems in the novel before I even finish writing it. Thoughts?

Market/Genre: Young adult

Note: Doing something a little different this week. The focus won’t be on the writing, but on testing the story idea to see if it can carry a novel.

On to the diagnosis…”

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How to Write Better Horror Stories

Tips for writing horror stories.
“Please welcome guest author P. Wish with an insightful post that features eight ways to write better horror stories.

So you want to write better horror? The question is, how?

This article breaks down the process into eight easy tips, focusing on how to find inspiration, the right setting, and support system for your work…”

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