Swedish Writer MM Justine Shares How She Turned Her Dream of Becoming a Writer into 3 Published Books

by MM Justine in For Beginning Writers

Since its inception, the focus of this blog has been to encourage writers to turn their dream of becoming a writer into a reality. This week I’m featuring an interview with Swedish author, MM Justine. The points she makes about taking online classes, reading to understand what other writers were doing, and benefiting from reader […]

Tension: Two Easy Ways to Pack Tension in a Scene

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers

Tension is a sensation in the body. Fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals are hardwired to be on the alert. Possums play possum. An elk herd circles the calves. Octopi retreat into grottoes. Gorillas pound their chests. And, as for humans, what signs of danger raise our hackles? When we see movement out of the corner […]

Writing Models: How Close Study of Top-Notch Writers Can Up Your Game

Writing models can help you turn a so-so draft into a work of art. In the old days, before bookcases filled with how-to books that made the act of writing seem simpler than it ever is, aspiring writers learned the craft by closely studying the work of other writers. In 1971, after the death of […]

Music vs. Silence: Does Listening to Music Get in the Way of Writing?

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers, Learn How to Write

Does music help you write, or does it get in the way? Music has the power to stop the chatter in our heads, and it can shift our mood. Because music opens us to feelings, listening to it can help us get into that zone of deep concentration from which inspired work arises. But, music can […]

Rejection: Why Actors Expect It And You Should, Too

When we begin writing, we’re in touch with our deepest and most creative selves. It’s joyful. It’s fun. We’re walking the tightrope of success–and in constant danger of falling off. Those falls come from rejection. But rejection also brings many positives: life lessons about balance, reframing, and disaster preparedness. In this post I’m going to […]

5 Reasons Agents Take A Pass (And How to Get Publishers Anyway)

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers

Agents guard the gateway to the “Big 5” New York publishers. Known as “trade book publishers,” all five have the ability to get books reviewed by the few remaining newspapers that do book reviews, such as The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. They have marketing departments to coordinate an author’s book launch. First, […]

Online Classes in Novel Writing

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers, Learn How to Write

Online classes teach you how to write. In a previous post I talked about how MOOCs make it possible for any aspiring writer to learn the basics of fiction. This week I’m sharing some more places writers can get help. These online classes are either free or cheap. In the classes that do charge a […]

Summary Passages Must Show and Tell

Summary passages keep stories moving forward to the next “big scene.” A “scene” means the action that’s happening in pseudo-real-time. There’s conflict between people or between a person and a force of nature, and the author knows that readers want to see those moments dramatized. The protagonist confronts his or her nemesis or reaches a […]

“Show, Don’t Tell” | Still Sound Advice, or Lame Idea?

“Show, don’t tell.” What does it mean, and should writers pay attention to this time-worn advice? In this post I’m going to look at three writers who use narrative exposition–old-fashioned storytelling–and see what they’re doing on the “show, don’t tell” front. Let’s start with a bit of background. Wikipedia cites a passage in a Chekhov letter […]

Story Starters Keep Your Story Ideas from Going Stale

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers

Story-starters are the key to a writer’s long-term success, but what are story starters and how can you turn them into actual stories? Essentially, story starters are the notebooks writers keep about the things they observe in the world. These journals don’t gaze at the writer’s navel. They’re other-centered, outward looking, and curious about all […]