how-to

How to Write: Show and Tell

“Show; don’t tell.” Writers take great pride in passing on this standard advice. But what does it mean to “show” instead of “tell”? What does “show don’t tell” look like? And is that a hard-and-fast rule or just a rule of thumb? Are there any situations in which you should “tell,” not “show”? If you’ve […]

Yay! Juvie Fantasies and Major Online Writing Course

As of May 1st, prices are going up on Holly Lisle’s online career-survival course for novelists. Update: I’m just going through the first couple of walkthroughs Holly has so far added to How to Think Sideways. And all I can say is, “Wow!” Two important announcements that Holly Lisle posted on her blog last week: […]

Everything’s a Metaphor—7 Ways to Build Meaning into Your Story

I should begin by clarifying what I mean by “metaphor.” I do not mean abstract symbolism that you force the reader to dig through, so that he can make-believe he understands what the story’s about, while looking down his nose at the Philistines in the audience. What I’m talking about is “show; don’t tell” metaphors. […]

7 Ways to Eradicate the Copulative (How to Get Rid of the Verb “To Be”)

“To be, or not to be?” Not is usually the answer. Eliminate the verb “to be.” This basic writing and revision tip you’ll hear all over the place, although much of the advice I’ve read is missing important points—or at least points that I consider important. What do we mean by “to be” verbs? We […]

10 Steps to Punch Up Your Prose

If you read a lot, you’ve probably read at least one author you admire. Her words seem to flow through your heart like a river. And ever since you’ve been putting together your own sentences on paper, you’ve perhaps wished that you could work literary magic as she. You may not realize, much of the […]

How to Turn Character Ideas into Characters

They say ideas are a dime a dozen, even character ideas. Many experienced authors don’t even think about it anymore; they don’t remember when they were just starting out, facing a blank page, without any idea how to make their characters full and interesting. Because when it comes right down to it, if you want […]

How to Write a Character-Driven Flash Story Really Fast

A couple Fridays ago— This is just after my computer gave out, and I was behind schedule on everything. Come Friday morning, I had not started writing a story for #FridayFlash. I didn’t even have an idea. So I used the following 5-step process to whip one together, in less than 3 hours from start […]

Writing Prompts from Classic Stories

Here’s a way to come up with story ideas: retell a classic story, with a twist or two. Or merely use an extant story for inspiration. Finding inspiration in other stories is a long-held tradition in every medium, including film, television, and prose. Walt Disney is the obvious example, having made umpteen animated features out […]