Music vs. Silence: Does Listening to Music Get in the Way of Writing?

by Marylee MacDonald, September 14, 2017 in For Beginning Writers, Learn How to Write

Does music help you write, or does it get in the way? Music has the power to stop the chatter in our heads, and it can shift our mood. Because music opens us to feelings, listening to it can help us get into that zone of deep concentration from which inspired work arises. But, music can […]

Rejection: Why Actors Expect It And You Should, Too

by Marylee MacDonald, August 31, 2017 in For Beginning Writers, For Writers Who Need Readers

When we begin writing, we’re in touch with our deepest and most creative selves. It’s joyful. It’s fun. We’re walking the tightrope of success–and in constant danger of falling off. Those falls come from rejection. But rejection also brings many positives: life lessons about balance, reframing, and disaster preparedness. In this post I’m going to […]

5 Reasons Agents Take A Pass (And How to Get Publishers Anyway)

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers

Agents guard the gateway to the “Big 5” New York publishers. Known as “trade book publishers,” all five have the ability to get books reviewed by the few remaining newspapers that do book reviews, such as The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. They have marketing departments to coordinate an author’s book launch. First, […]

Online Classes in Novel Writing

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers, Learn How to Write

Online classes teach you how to write. In a previous post I talked about how MOOCs make it possible for any aspiring writer to learn the basics of fiction. This week I’m sharing some more places writers can get help. These online classes are either free or cheap. In the classes that do charge a […]

Summary Passages Must Show and Tell

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?

“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 […]