Does A Plot Outline Stifle Creativity Or Enhance It?

A plot outline can either stifle creativity or bring a novel’s plot into sharper focus. I don’t outline before I begin a novel, but when I am revising, an outline helps me make decisions about which scenes to keep and which to throw out. Scene Outline of Draft 1 When I began The Vermillion Sea […]

Story Arc | A Simple Way to Understand Plot

A story arc is the chain on which the pearls of your novel are strung. You can think of story arc as the things that happen—the scenes or episodes—from the beginning of the novel to its conclusion. The story arc—also called a narrative arc—is the same thing as plot. Some writers are naturals when it […]

What Are Half-Scenes?

Half-scenes are a great way to cover a lot of ground in a short time. Consider using half-scenes when you want to get to your next big scene, when you need to trim the story’s word count, or when you’re taking a walk down Memory Lane. In my post explaining the difference between scene and […]

Scene and Summary | What’s the Difference?

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers

Scene and summary are the key building blocks of any novel. Some novelists devote more of their page count to scenes. Other writers use fewer scenes and more summary. Sometimes, publishers want writers to cut a book’s length, and writers are forced to compress moments in the tale when they might have wanted to let […]

Writing Practice | Your Number One Goal

by Marylee MacDonald in General

A daily writing practice can turn the dream of becoming a published author into a reality. As author Jean Hegland says, “If you can brush your teeth, you can write a book.” In this post, I’m going to show you how to set up a writing practice. A Writing Practice Is Like Any Other Habit […]

First Person Narrators | How Far Can You Bend The Truth?

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers, For Readers

Are all first person narrators liars? I would submit that they are. As Mark Twain’s first-person narrator, Huck Finn, wrote, “ I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary.” First person stories and memoirs have one thing in common. Both use an […]

20 Mistakes New Authors Should Avoid

Dallas literary agent Jim Donovan told an audience of aspiring, Arizona writers that he sees new authors make the same mistakes over and over. Donovan, a literary agent and author of A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn | The Last Great Battle of the American West, reduced his experience in the publishing industry […]

Pitching to Agent Michael Carr

Pitching a novel to agent Michael Carr couldn’t be easier, especially if you know what to avoid. “The Number 1 thing is don’t brag and say ‘I can make you millions,’” said Carr, an agent with Veritas Literary Agency. Carr doesn’t care if you’re a rookie. Can you tell a story? “If I can’t put […]

Direct Observer | A Camera’s-Eye Point of View

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers, For Readers

 The Direct Observer point of view (also called the Third Person Objective) forces a writer to “show don’t tell.” Indeed, you can’t tell. You must only show, and if you want to portray characters with inner turmoil, you will have to figure out how to convey those feelings through dialogue. Direct Observer is a tough […]

Sagas | The Magic of a Storytelling Voice

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers, For Readers

Sagas are one of our most enduring story forms. In sagas the voice of a narrator takes us back into a heroic time of grand deeds, power struggles, and families pitted against one another. Sagas are about survival. Something is a stake. That’s why sagas make terrific templates for new writers. Here you sit in […]