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 […]

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 […]

Ten Honest Review Sites for New Authors

Books flood into review sites, and the sheer numbers overwhelm book review editors. They must make choices: the big New York publishers or the little guys? Publicists are Tweeting the editors and importuning them with e-mails. “Well, are you going to review my guy or gal or not?” Probably not. There’s just not time. And […]

Kick Off Your Novel With a Great First Line

by Marylee MacDonald in For Readers, For Writers Doing Revisions

The first line of your novel could be the most important sentence you write, but don’t worry about perfecting it until you’ve written all the way to the end. Your first and last lines are what connect the arc of the plot, and if you don’t yet know how the story ends, you can only […]

Could A Writing Getaway Improve Your Focus?

by Marylee MacDonald in For Writers Doing Revisions

A writing getaway can inspire you to write your novel or finish it. I plan a getaway when I’m doing my final edits and don’t want a lot of distractions. You know the kind of distractions I mean. People hoping you’ll put a meal on the table table. Laundry in the dryer. Weeds in the […]

Tension Skyrockets When You Tweak the Setting

by Marylee MacDonald in For Writers Doing Revisions

Use setting to heighten tension in a story. Put a character in a place she or he doesn’t feel physically or psychologically comfortable, and you immediately inject tension into the scenes. Will she or won’t she figure out how to cope? In my story “Oregano,” Janice Dawkins comes in at the end of a long […]

Writing Tips Every Author Needs

Writing tips can help you discover the one small change that will make a difference. Writing is as much about the habit of writing as about what you write. If you’re a morning person, write at dawn. Night-owls write after everyone goes to bed. The important thing is to honor your unique gifts. Find your […]