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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Does A Pen Name Protect An Author?

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers

Does the pen name Richard Bauchman mean anything to you? How about Robert Galbraith? Okay, here’s a third: Rosamond Smith. The true names of the authors above are Stephen King, JK Rowling, and Joyce Carol Oates. Unlike most new authors, these famous writers didn’t write under a pen name because they were afraid of getting […]

Literary Magazines: Where Writers Get Book-Jacket Credits

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers, For Readers

Literary magazines are a great way to build your resume. What? You didn’t know you needed a resume? Yes, you do, but not a resume of the traditional sort. You’ll need a cover letter to approach agents or publishers, and if that letter includes a strong record of publication, then it’s more likely the agent […]

Notebooks: The One Item Every Writer Needs

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers

Writing notebooks from other creative people can inspire us to keep track of our own creative thoughts. On the tab called Writing Notebooks, I lay out the general idea of keeping a writing notebook, but I want to go into a little more detail here. That’s because it’s so important for writers at any stage […]