Summary Passages Must Show and Tell

by Marylee MacDonald, June 3, 2017 in For Beginning Writers, For Writers Doing Revisions

Summary passages keep stories moving forward to the next “big scene.” A “scene” means the action that’s happening in pseudo-real-time. There’s conflict between people or between a person and a force of nature, and the author knows that readers want to see those moments dramatized. The protagonist confronts his or her nemesis or reaches a […]

“Show, Don’t Tell” | Still Sound Advice, or Lame Idea?

by Marylee MacDonald, May 27, 2017 in For Beginning Writers, For Writers Doing Revisions

“Show, don’t tell.” What does it mean, and should writers pay attention to this time-worn advice? In this post I’m going to look at three writers who use narrative exposition–old-fashioned storytelling–and see what they’re doing on the “show, don’t tell” front. Let’s start with a bit of background. Wikipedia cites a passage in a Chekhov letter […]

Story Starters Keep Your Story Ideas from Going Stale

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers

Story-starters are the key to a writer’s long-term success, but what are story starters and how can you turn them into actual stories? Essentially, story starters are the notebooks writers keep about the things they observe in the world. These journals don’t gaze at the writer’s navel. They’re other-centered, outward looking, and curious about all […]

What The Heck Are Likable Characters?

by Marylee MacDonald in Characters, For Beginning Writers

Have you heard the term “likable characters” tossed around in your book group or circle of writing friends? If you’ve been in the writing biz any length of time, you may have even received e-mails from agents: “I didn’t find the protagonist likable” or “I just didn’t fall in love with your character.” Fifteen or […]

New Novel Worksheets| 3 Worksheets That’ll Help You Get Started Writing Your Novel

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers

Starting a new novel scares writers, even authors who’ve been at this writing game for years. In this post I’m going to give you three simple worksheets to help you firm up the novel that’s trapped in your head. Once you’ve put words on the page, you’ll have taken the first step in writing the […]

Character Checklists | Fill One Out for Every Character in Your Book

by Marylee MacDonald in Characters, For Beginning Writers

Character checklists can help you keep track of the people in your novel. Using character checklists gives you a systematic way to explore the wants, needs, and personality traits of all your people, not just the ones onstage at the moment. In the prewriting stage, I use the questionnaire below to help me get to know […]

Hiring An Editor | Should You Spend The Money?

You’ve slaved over your novel, and now you’re ready to send it out into the world. Should you consider hiring an editor, and if so, what kind? If your novel needs help with plot and characterization, hire a developmental editor. If you’re shaky on facts and need someone to check your dates, proper names, timeline, […]

Writing Dialogue | A Writer’s Cheat Sheet

Writing dialogue comes naturally to many writers. Others avoid it entirely. If you are going to use dialogue, make sure you work hard to capture readers’ interest. Here’s a cheat sheet with pointers I’ve picked up over the years. Must-Dos When Writing Dialogue Dialogue must do three things. It must: sound realistic advance the plot […]

Dialogue Exercises : 40 Writing Prompts To Get You Going

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers

Dialogue exercises are a great way to strengthen your ability to listen to your characters. When you’re working on dialogue exercises, you’re not worrying about plot or where the scene’s headed. You’re not distracted by furniture or waiters or sunsets. In essence, you’re closing your eyes and giving your complete attention to the subtext of […]

Writing Your Memoir | A Step-by-Step Guide

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers, For Memoir Writers

Writing a memoir will force you to dig deep in the archives of your soul. When you recall the past and try to figure out just what it is that’s compelling you write a memoir, you’ll find yourself looking through old photos, postcards, letters, and newspaper clippings. Writing a memoir can be as overwhelming as […]