For Writers

Writing a novel and finding book publishers isn’t easy. Learn how to write a novel, beat writer’s block, find literary agents and publish a book with these free writing tips from YouCanWriteANovel.com!

6 Easy Steps to Writing Unforgettable Characters

Salem - A Kiss Before Doomsday

This is Salem, one of the most powerful sorcerers in the Dru Jasper series. Whatever you do, don’t make fun of his hat.

Every writer knows that creating interesting characters is one of the toughest parts of the job.

I don’t feel like an expert on characters by any means, but RT Book Reviews said this about my latest book: “MacNaughton has a real gift for developing quirky and crazy characters.”

Nice to hear, but I’ll tell you: it’s not really a gift. Nobody is born knowing how to write great characters. It’s a skill, and like any skill, it can be learned.

Want to know how I do it? I’ve laid out how to create your own characters, step-by-step.

You can read it here on Fiction University.

What elements of writing do you struggle with? Leave me a comment below.

Want more useful writing tips? Subscribe to my author newsletter. >

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New Author Interview on Blog Talk Radio

Wooden Pants - Daily Author podcastThe Daily Author turned out to be one of my favorite live interviews ever. Richard and I got into some pretty in-depth discussions about:

• What it takes to overcome creative anxiety
• Connecting with your creative support network
• The importance of knowing good advice from bad
• Independent vs. traditional publishing – there is a third way
• The long journey from freelancer to author
• And much, much more!

Plus, I’m doing a special giveaway just for podcast listeners. Listen here.

Don’t forget to subscribe for bonus content and an extra chance to win. >

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Storytelling Made Easy (Even If You’re Not a Writer)

Storytelling Made Easy by Michael Hauge

Expert storytelling advice for business leaders. Or anyone, really.

If you think about it, storytelling is a skill we all use every day. We tell stories at the water cooler, in meeting rooms, in social media, and around the dinner table.

Knowing how to tell a great story helps you communicate, do better in business, and be more fun at parties.

Think you’re no good at telling stories? You can be, if you want, for just $1. (More on that in a moment.)

Storytelling is a skill, and like any skill, it can be learned. Just ask Michael Hauge.

The guy is a storytelling genius. He’s not only a best-selling author, he’s also one of Hollywood’s top story experts. He’s worked on projects starring Will Smith, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise, Reese Witherspoon, and Morgan Freeman. He’s given lectures and workshops on storytelling to more than 80,000 people worldwide.

He knows what he’s talking about. And he can teach you how to tell stories.

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How to Get the Book Cover You Really Want

I don’t know about other authors, but for me the moment when a book becomes “real” (and not just a story floating around in my imagination) is when I see the artwork for the book cover.

Ever wondered what the book cover process looks like from the author’s perspective?

It starts with cover concepts from the editor.

akbd2Last fall, while I was still writing the manuscript, my editor sent me two variations of the cover and asked for my opinion.

They had decided that in this book, only Dru should be on the cover, not Greyson. (If you haven’t already read Book 1, I won’t spoil the end for you, but I will say this: it’s not exactly a Disney ending for our guy Greyson.)

However, they did want to imply that Hellbringer is back on the road by including tire tracks. And not just ordinary mortal tire tracks, but glowing red tire tracks of doom. Oh yeah!

akbd1(If you haven’t read Book 1 yet, Hellbringer is a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona possessed by a literal speed demon. Which leads to the most “hellish” car chases ever.)

The biggest thing I love about these cover concepts is Dru’s new sassy silhouette. Also, I love the magical sparkles and cryptic circles floating around her. They add a fun comic-book feel that just screams “MAGIC!”

Uh oh. Problem…

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Electric Spec Interview on Writing Short Fiction

Electric Spec fantasy and science fiction short stories

Wait, are these stories AC or DC?

It was a real honor to have the chance to sit down and talk with Electric Spec about what makes short stories so relevant today. As writers, short stories give us the opportunity to connect with readers in ways that novels don’t. Besides, talking about how to write short stories is just plain fun.

Also, for probably the first time ever, I talked about the science fiction stories I discovered when I was 12 years old that made me decide to become a writer.

If you enjoy an engrossing science fiction or fantasy short story (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?), then you need to check out Electric Spec. For over a decade, these fine folks have been putting out some of the best speculative fiction out there. Give them a shot.

Click here to read my Electric Spec interview.

And speaking of short stories, don’t forget to subscribe to my author newsletter to get a free Dru Jasper story. >

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The Simple Secret to Fixing Ugly Story Problems

how to write: retroactive continuity

When you’re in the middle of writing, don’t stop. Except for coffee.

It happens to every writer: you’re writing along when suddenly you need to go back and change some fact or detail.

Because if you don’t fix it, the story won’t make sense. Should you stop writing at that moment to go fix it?

Nope. That could kill your momentum.

Here’s a better idea. It’s called a retcon, and comic book writers have been using it for decades.

Retcon is short for “retroactive continuity” and it means that you’re stating a new fact that changes what’s come before.

In other words, you’re changing the past.

This is a term I first encountered in the massively entertaining and informative book Writing for Comics with Peter David. (Mr. David, by the way, has an impressive list of comic writing credits, including Spider-Man, Wolverine, Supergirl, Hulk, Star Trek, and tons of others. He knows what he’s talking about.)

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Should You Self-Publish Your Novel?

Ginormous Library

If you squint really hard, you can almost see my books … Oh wait, no, that’s James Patterson.

Which is better, self-publishing or a traditional publishing deal?

If you’re a hands-on, DIY type of person with an entrepreneurial mindset, then you might be better suited to self-publishing. If you’d rather focus on the writing and not deal with the rest of it, you might prefer traditional publishing.

I’ve done both. Here’s the truth: there are benefits and drawbacks to both self-publishing and traditional publishing.

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How I Make a Living as a Writer (And You Can Too)

Make a living writing

Copywriting for fun and profit. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.

I’m proud to say I’ve built a full-time career around writing, as both a novelist and a copywriter.

That means splitting my time between the two. Usually I spend the morning writing novels, then spend the afternoon writing marketing and advertising copy for business clients.

(“Copy” is just fancy ad agency shorthand for “words that sell stuff.”)

I’m not alone. There have been innumerable examples of copywriters who also successfully wrote fiction. James Patterson, Salman Rushdie, Joseph Heller, and Dorothy Sayers, to name a few.

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How to Plan and Write A Novel

non-English typewriter

Think Microsoft Word is a pain to use? Try cranking out 100K on this sucker.

I’m often asked what my writing process looks like.

How do I write a book? It’s pretty simple, actually.

(Not easy. But simple.)

First, I start with the basics:

  • Who are the good guys?
  • What are they trying to do?
  • And, especially, why?
  • Who are the bad guys?
  • Where does this take place?

Then I boil all of that down into a strong core idea. For example: a bookish crystal shop owner has to save the world from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – who drive possessed muscle cars.

The idea has to work at the core level, it has to really grab me, before I start writing it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Then I figure out how to make the whole book work, beginning to end, in a short synopsis. Maybe one page. That takes time. And even once I have that figured out, I don’t start writing it yet.

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How to Never Get Writer’s Block. Ever.

writers block

Writer’s block(s). Get it? … Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Let me tell you the secret to getting rid of writer’s block forever.

I’ll admit, I’ve certainly had days where I feel like I don’t know what to write, or I worry that everything I write is terrible.

Some people call that writer’s block. I call it “Monday.” :-)

But seriously, what most people call “writer’s block” is an insidious combination of those two problems.

Problem #1: Not knowing what to write. Continue reading

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