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.

How Effective Is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro TechniqueThe Pomodoro Technique is deceptively simple.

Set a timer for half an hour or so, ignore all distractions, and focus on your work.

On the surface, it seems far too simple to be effective.

But it does work. Amazingly well.

In fact, I can pinpoint the exact moment my novel-writing career took off a few years ago. It happened right after I adopted the Pomodoro Technique.

Once I started using a timer, eliminating distractions, and tracking my results, everything changed. Continue reading

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What Every Writer Should Know About Theme

What Every Writer Should Know About ThemeTheme seems to be one of those angst-triggering bogeymen that writers constantly wrestle with. But when you examine it closely, there’s really nothing complicated about it. Theme is simply the lesson the main character learns over the course of the story.

(Or, in the case of a tragic ending, the lesson they failed to learn.)

Every story, from the silliest comedy to the deepest work of literature, delivers a moral message on some level. It basically says “life is like this.”

Think about some of the most famous movie quotes of all time:

“There’s no place like home.”

“Greed is good.”

“Use the Force, Luke.”

All of those quotes point directly toward the theme of the story. Continue reading

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Never Suffer Writer’s Block Again

Never Suffer Writer’s Block AgainHave you ever sat down to write, and found that everything you wrote seemed terrible?

Every writer has felt that way, at one time or another.

Here’s the uncomfortable truth about those critical thoughts: they can actually help you become a better writer.

But only if you know how to recognize those thoughts for what they are, and then train yourself to have them at the right time.

There are two sides to your creative process.

The creative side of your writing process helps you get the rough draft down on paper.

The critical side, on the other hand, helps you revise and polish the final draft.

In order to be write, you actually need both of these very different thought patterns in your head. You just can’t have them at exactly the same time. Continue reading

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How to Create Characters in 60 Seconds

How To Create Characters in 60 SecondsWhen you create great characters, they walk onto the page and make your story unforgettable.

They can bring every scene to life.

But creating characters takes tons of time and effort, doesn’t it?

Not necessarily.

I’m here to show you how you can create an impressively good character in 60 seconds or less.

 

Sound impossible? Here’s the secret:

You don’t need to write ten pages of backstory to make a great character. All you need is four short sentences.

Sentence #1: Name & Appearance

What is this character’s name?

If you don’t have a name in mind yet, use a placeholder name. (More on names in a moment.) Next question:

How would you describe this character’s appearance, in a single word, or as few words as possible?

Don’t limit yourself to just hair, clothes, or general physical description. Get creative. Come up with any noticeable outward feature that sounds good, and jot it down.

Continue reading

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Introducing the Six-Figure Master Fiction Plot

Lester Dent Master Fiction PlotEver wish you could write a novel in just a matter of weeks . . . and then sell it for good money?

Lester Dent did exactly that. In fact, he wrote his first novel in just thirteen days.

You read that right. Thirteen days.

Over the course of his career, he wrote nearly 200 novel-length stories. He crammed the pages of pulp fiction magazines with stories cranked out under various pen names. During the Great Depression, while legions of writers were starving, he boasted that he made $18,000 a year with his writing. In today’s terms, that’s more than $250,000 a year.

He often wrote a book-length story every month, using a “master plot” formula of his own devising.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get your hands on that top-secret recipe for success? You bet it would.

So here it is. Continue reading

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Answered: Your Most Burning Questions About Editors

James Persichetti, Developmental Editor at Lost Hat Editorial Services

For every brilliant manuscript that grows into a best-selling novel, untold thousands of others get dumped into the recycle bin. What’s the crucial difference between them?

Ask Jamie.

Over the years, James Persichetti has seen more unpublished manuscripts cross his desk than most people could read in a lifetime. He started out at the incomparable Nelson Literary Agency (Bird Box, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, etc.).

Now, he’s launched Lost Hat Editorial Services, a boutique editing business that helps writers like you succeed. Here he is, in his own words, to tell you how to find the right editor, polish your book to perfection, and avoid the biggest mistakes aspiring writers make. Continue reading

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5 Most Inspiring Books for Writers

Did you resolve to finish your novel this year?

I salute you. The bad news is that 80% of those who set New Year’s resolutions give up by the second week of February, according to U.S. News.

So, right about . . . now.

Need a little help staying inspired to write your novel? Here are the best books to keep you going.

P.S. For even more inspiration, writing tips, and other good stuff, subscribe to my author newsletter. (It’s free!)

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6 Best How-To Books for Writers

Countless best-selling authors have told me that in their early years, before they were published, they relentlessly studied the craft of writing. Consequently, I’ve had hundreds of writing books recommended to me.

Here are the very best of them all, the books I always keep within arm’s reach of my writing desk.

#1: Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

Way back when I worked for a book distributor, Michael Wiese Productions sent me a sample copy of the original Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. I devoured that book, and it helped launch my career as a novelist.

The original Save the Cat! book series was aimed at screenwriters. This brand-new version by Jessica Brody seamlessly adapts Blake Snyder’s methods for novelists. It’s one of the best “how to write a novel” books of the decade.

Get it. Read it. Follow it. You’ll be glad you did.

#2: The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

Whenever you or I write the first draft of the story, our characters tend to exhibit the same cliche body language: nodding, shrugging, grinning. Pretty uninspired stuff, really.

Solution? Crack open this book, which contains more than 150 pages of body language, internal sensations, and mental responses to every imaginable emotion.

Is your character determined? Show him rolling up his sleeves. Is she mortified? Show her covering her face with her hands. Instantly, this book will have your characters winking, swaggering, leaning closer, tapping their feet, tightening their fists — and coming alive on the page.

While you’re getting this book, pick up the rest of the books in this series. Believe me, you’ll use them.

#3: Writing Screenplays That Sell by Michael Hauge

Michael Hauge is a storytelling genius. He’s not only a best-selling author and inspiring speaker, 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. This book is packed solid with practical, nuts-and-bolts techniques you can use to write a better screenplay, novel, short story, or any work of fiction. It’s no exaggeration to say that reading that book forever transformed the way I look at stories.

Plus, Hauge is a super, super nice guy. Every time I talk to him, I come away wiser. So check out his books.

#4: Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham

You really should read all of Jack Bickham’s books on writing, but this one in particular. It is packed with masterful techniques to keep readers hooked throughout a story.

Perhaps the biggest revelation in this book is the way Bickham breaks down cause and effect. Stories are told not just in scenes, but also in something he calls “sequels.” A sequel is a moment (or even a whole chapter) when the lead character emotionally reacts to the previous scene, revisits the big story questions, works through a dilemma, and decides on a new course of action.

If you want to become a successful author, you need to master the scene and sequel technique. This book shows you how.

#5: The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics by Dennis O’Neil

Even if you don’t read comic books, you can’t deny their enormous impact on popular books, movies, and TV shows today.

Best-selling novelist and comic book legend Dennis O’Neil breaks down the elements that make comic book stories work.

It’s also a fascinating primer on solid storytelling techniques that can benefit any writer.

#6: The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Tami D. Cowden, Carol LeFever, Sue Viders

I happened to pick up this book at the Tattered Cover bookstore nearly 20 years ago, and I have never since found a more practical guide to character relationships.

Aimed at romance writers (but useful to anyone), this book divides male and female characters into eight broad archetypes. Male types include The Chief, the Bad Boy, the Best Friend, etc. Female types include the Nurturer, the Free Spirit, the Librarian, and so on.

This is not in-depth psychology, here. But it works. Take a look at my Dru Jasper urban fantasy series. I have a Librarian named Dru and a Bad Boy named Greyson. They fall in love. By and large, the critics love them.

The genius of this book is that it shows you how the archetypes interact with each other. For example, how do the Bad Boy and the Librarian drive each other crazy? How do they work together as a team? How do they eventually change each other for the better? Read the book and find out.

What are your favorite writing books?

I’m always on the lookout for new books to add to my shelf. What titles have you found to be especially useful, interesting, or inspiring? Let me know.

By the way, for more free writing tips (and other cool stuff), why not subscribe to my newsletter?

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8 Secrets to Pitching Your Novel Like a Pro

8 Secrets to Pitching Your Novel Like a ProWhen it comes to publishing a novel, the actual writing is only half the battle. In order to get the attention of a publisher, you have to know how to “sell” your book.

I think we can all agree that most writers are not natural-born sales professionals. So it’s easy to understand why the idea of sitting down across the desk from an editor and pitching your novel might make you break out in a cold sweat.

No worries. There are basically eight big pitfalls you have to avoid — all you have to do is navigate around them, and let your story shine through.

I’ve explained how to do it here, on Fiction University.

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Writers: Outline Your Novel the Incredibly Easy Way

Every day, I’m thankful to have the opportunity to write for a living. Seriously. Every single day.

That’s why I share my tips and techniques to help aspiring writers navigate the pitfalls of the writing craft.

One of my favorites is a method for outlining novels that is super simple, quick, and (dare I say) fun. Here it is.

P.S. Get even more writing tips (plus other cool freebies) when you subscribe to my author newsletter.

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