Posts Tagged With: how to write

4 Ways to Handle Foreign Languages in Fiction

How to Use Foreign Languages in Your NovelWhen a character in your story speaks a foreign language, should you write it out in that language, or in English?

How can you make the dialogue sound exotic without confusing the reader?

These are tricky questions.

Foreign languages can lend your characters and locations a more exotic flair, and even increase the dramatic tension in a scene.

But before you start sprinkling a certain je ne sais quoi into your prose, understand that you have four options.

Continue reading

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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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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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One Simple Trick to Write Everything Better

One Simple Trick to Write Everything BetterWhat if there was one single trick that could help you write better, faster, and easier than ever before?

What if that trick could help you organize your thoughts, get started sooner, and finish every writing project, from a blog post to a novel?

There is such a trick. And as a full-time writer, I use it every day.

Find out what it is on Fiction University.

P.S. For more helpful writing tips, subscribe to my free author nrewsletter.

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6 Secrets of Science Fiction and Fantasy World Building

6 Secrets of Science Fiction and Fantasy World Building

How do you, as a writer, build a new world that fascinates your readers, draws them in, and makes them want to come back for more?

If you write fantasy, science fiction, or horror, you need to do your world building the right way.

I’ve revealed the shortcuts and tips you should use — and the pitfalls you must avoid — over at Fiction University.

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Why You Should Never Be Afraid to Write

Writers' Forum magazine (UK)

Writers’ Forum is the leading writing magazine in the UK. Check it out.

One day, almost exactly 10 years ago, I walked into a bookstore in Hawaii and discovered something fascinating.

It was an overly large magazine, with big glossy pages that flopped over in the humid air, and it was chock-full of articles on how to write. The magazine was called Writers’ Forum.

It was from the UK, a long way away.

At the time, I was an angsty aspiring writer, so of course I devoured that magazine cover to cover, hunting for advice I could use to become a real author. I decided that someday, I wanted to see my name published in that magazine.

But was my writing good enough? I suspected not. At least not yet.

Little did I know what was about to happen next. Continue reading

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Want to Be a Better Writer? Read This.

Railroad tracks reading a book

Go ahead, read a book. Maybe not on railroad tracks, though. Just saying.

I’ve talked to hundreds of best-selling authors about their early years, before they were published.

By and large, they wrote about half a dozen unpublished manuscripts before they sold their “first” novel.

Aside from cranking out thousands of pages of prose, how do you learn the writing skills you need to improve over time?

Continue reading

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How to Use Rejection to Grow Stronger

No - rejection

Photo credit: foilman on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-SA

This is a true story.

Not long ago, an aspiring writer reached out to me for advice on how to deal with the worst kind of rejection.

Delia (not her real name) had decided once and for all to finally write that book she’d been dreaming about for years.

And she did it – she finished the book, which by the way most people don’t. Continue reading

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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.

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