Monthly Archives: March 2022

Using Vocal Cues to Show Hidden Emotion

By Becca Puglisi

Any Tolkien fans in the house? I remember, as a teen, readingThe Hobbitby the fire on a rare cold evening in Florida. It became a favorite that I would re-read until my copy literally fell to pieces.

One of my favorite scenes comes right at the beginning: the Unexpected Party. There are a lot of reasons it works so well—one of which is everything Bilbo is not saying. When the dwarves arrive (and keep arriving), he wants to know what they’re doing there, but instead of asking, he puts on his Happy Homemaker face and gets to work being hospitable. As it gets late, he doesn’t show them the door. He refrains from telling Thorin to get off his high horse and show some gratitude for Bilbo funding his little reunion, though you know that’s what he’s thinking.

The interactions between Bilbo and the dwarves ring true precisely because of all the subtext—the contrast between what the character says and what he’s really feeling or thinking. This subtext is a normal part of most real-life conversations; for this reason alone, it should be included in our characters’ conversations. But it’s also useful because whenever a character is hiding something, there’s inherent emotion involved. Emotion is good for our stories because well-written, clearly conveyed character feelings will often engage the reader’s emotions, pulling them deeper into what’s happening. So subtext is good on a number of levels.

But writing hidden emotion is challenging. Authors have to show the character portraying one emotion to the cast (pleasure, in Bilbo’s case) while showing his true feelings to the reader (confusion, frustration, and indignance). It’s a tall order, but this is where vocal cues can come in handy.

Vocal cues are shifts in the voice that happen when someone is feeling emotional.While we may be able to hide our feelings by masking our facial expressions and minimizing certain body language giveaways, the voice is harder to control. In a written scene, these vocal fluctuations act like signposts, leading the reader to the conclusions you want them to draw about the character’s true emotional state.

So when you need to show that a character is hiding their feelings from others, consider the following vocal cues.


Does the voice get high and shrill or go low and rumbly?


Does the character move from a moderated level to almost yelling? Does the voice drop to a near whisper? Is it clear that they’re struggling to maintain a reasonable volume?


Does a clear tone turn breathy or husky when someone is aroused? When the character is close to tears, does the voice become brittle or cracked? Does it lose all expression and become flat when anger hits?

Speech Patterns

Does your verbose character suddenly clam up? Does her timid, verbally stumbling counterpart start running at the mouth? Might poor grammar appear in a well-educated character’s dialogue? Does a stammer or lisp announce itself?

Word Choice

What words might slip into a character’s vernacular when they’re feeling emotional that they wouldn’t normally use? Profanity and slurs? Words and phrases from their first language? Pat clichés?

Nonspeech Interruptions

What sounds begin to pepper your character’s dialogue? Um, Hmm, Uhhh, throat clearing, and coughing can be signs that the character is uncomfortable and needs time to pull him or herself together.

For your character, consider which of these cues might be a possibility, then write it into the story when their emotion changes. Used consistently, they’ll signal the reader that the character is hiding something or that a certain emotion is in play.


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Short Story Tips: 3 Successful Strategies to Write a Short Story

A novel has hundreds of pages to get you involved in the characters’ lives and to transform you to another world, all to leave you with a great ending that you’re thinking about weeks—maybe even years—later.

In a short story, you have to do all that in a few pages. It’s no wonder most of the “new” writers I know would rather write novels. Short stories may be small, but they are mighty. (Not to mention they are a great way to keep up a writing habit.)

Chances are your favorite author started their writing career by writing short stories. Big names and favorite writers like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, Shirley Jackson, Louisa May Alcott, and Sylvia Plath are all short story writers.

I’ve talked about coming up with ideas, plotting, and some key elements of short stories. Now it’s time to stop dilly-dallying and get to writing. This article covers three successful short story tips and strategies to write a short story.

Evolving My Short Story Writing Process

I’m going to be honest: I do not use the same writing process for every story I write. And I really don’t think my fellow short story writers do either.

Each story feels different. There is a different inspiration. There are different life circumstances. There are different writerly moods.

In the introduction to American Gods, Neil Gaiman quotes Gene Wolfe, who told him,

“You never learn how to write a novel. You only learn to write the novel you’re on.”

This goes double for short stories, I think. I’ve never written two the same way. Sometimes I outline, sometimes I don’t, and sometimes I fall somewhere in between. Sometimes I don’t have anything but a first line; sometimes nothing but a character.

That said, there are three basic strategies to get those words on the paper. Over time, you’ll develop your favorites, mash up different strategies, and probably invent your own. Everyone’s creative writing process is different.

Whether you’re new to writing short stories, or are a veteran and just want to mix it up, here are three ways to get you started writing a short story:

Not every short story writer’s process will be the same. Here are three writing strategies to help you write a short story.

For Pantsers: Write the Story in One Sitting

Writers who consider themselves “pantsters” vs. plotters don’t know much about the direction of their story before they start writing. They like to write by the “seat of their pants” and follow their characters where they go.

Sit down. Write the story. Do not stop writing the story. Do not do research. Do not take a break. Write the story from beginning to end, as fast as you can.

This method seems the easiest, but it can take some work later down the line. This is the most likely to end up lacking structure. It’s also the most likely to make the writer feel like their muse is riding along with them.

When I write this way, it’s because of a random idea that pops into my head, not because of writing prompts or anything like that. These stories are never written during my blocked-out writing time. They’re highly inconvenient little beasts, but oh, so satisfying. This is why pantsers pants—for this feeling.

If you write this way, be prepared for heavy edits. But don’t worry too much if this is your preferred way to write.

Story structure comes more naturally the more you practice it and the editing won’t be as daunting after you’ve got a couple of dozen stories under your belt.

For Plotters: A Mixture of Snowflake and Structure

Plotters know everything that happens in their story before they start the writing process. They have an extensive outline.

The snowflake method is how I was taught to write short stories. It’s a bit of a mix of two different methodologies: the snowflake method and Joe Bunting’s The Write Structure.

The basic idea is to write a few sentences telling the whole story. (Six sentences to be exact, though you could start with eighteen if you wanted to have two sentences for each step.) These six sentences are essentially the story outline. Then you expand those sentences into paragraphs, and then those paragraphs into pages.

There’s a formula for this that will help you identify a series of events that drives the plot:

  • Sentence 1: The setup. Give the reader a single character and a setting.
  • Sentence 2: Things get weird. Something happens to the character that’s out of the norm.
  • Sentence 3: Things get worse. The situation escalates.
  • Sentence 4: Things get even worse. The situation gets even worse.
  • Sentences 5: The climax. Your character changes their approach and solves the problem.
  • Sentence 6: The wrapup. Shows the reader the new “normal” for the character.

Want to see this in action?

  • Sentence 1: On Christmas Eve in London, an aging miser goes home to an empty house.
  • Sentence 2: His dead business partner shows up and tells him he will be visited by three ghosts.
  • Sentence 3: The first ghost shows him his happy past and how his happiness was ruined by selfishness.
  • Sentence 4: The second ghost shows him the present, and he softens slightly but doesn’t think there’s anything he can do about it.
  • Sentence 5: The third ghost shows him the future, and he realizes he has to change his ways or he will die alone.
  • Sentence 6: He wakes up on Christmas Day a changed man, determined to help those around him.

I’m sure you figured out this is Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, which is a little long (around 30,000 words, I think) to be considered a short story, but it works anyway.

Why? Because these six sentences are the six elements of plot and the basic elements of story structure. You could do this for every type of writing, every book, and every short story (and I encourage you to try it).

The basics are here. The next step is to expand on these sentences and make them into six paragraphs and then six pages.

With each iteration, more information, backstory, description, and dialogue are added until it is a complete story.

Note: If you are looking to be a flash fiction writer, this method, in my experience works best. Since flash is so short, you don’t have much room at all to add anything. Getting that six-sentence outline and expanding it into about six paragraphs will get you a tight piece of flash fiction with all the elements of story in there.

For Plansters: The What If Question

Plantsers are people who do a little outlining, but mainly like to write by the seat of their pants.

I talked extensively about the value of using the “What if?” question when writing in a previous article.

The What If question is my all-time favorite way of producing short stories. It’s got the spontaneity of pantsing, but gives a bit of structure to the writing process so editing isn’t such a mess.

In summary, this method employs a question-and-answer session to solve the story’s problems. What if X happened to this character? Then A would happen. And then B would happen. And ultimately C would happen.

In the case of old Scrooge, it would go something like this:

  • X: What if a ghost visited this old miser and said he was going to be visited by a whole group of other ghosts to teach him a lesson?
  • A: He wouldn’t listen to what the first ghost was trying to teach him.
  • B: He would kind of get the point with the second ghost, but still think he’s not at fault.
  • C: He would realize he’d better be nicer to people or literally no one is going to care when he dies.

There’s an inciting incident here, progressive complications, the dilemma, and the climax. This method gives you a basic outline, just to get you started in the right direction.

Writing Tips to Keep in Mind as You Write

This section is meant as a refresher. For more in-depth discussion for each of these essential elements of story, and more essential elements, see this post in this blog series.

But if you’re already familiar with story structure, write away with these principles in mind:

  • Your character must have a goal. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “A character must want something, even if it’s just a glass of water.” This goal is what drives your story forward.
  • Your character must make choices. Don’t let them sit around watching what’s happening like they’re binging TV. This is their story; make sure they’re part of it.
  • There must be a change. There must be a “new world order” at the end of the story; otherwise, nothing happened at all.

Don’t Forget Feedback!

I’ve listed three short story tips to go about the process of physically writing a short story, but one of the most important parts of the process of writing any type of story is to get feedback in writing communities.

As you develop your creative writing skills, you’ll write more compelling stories (and maybe even get some published!). But you can’t develop your skills in a vacuum; you need fellow writers to help you along by giving you feedback and support.

Successful authors rely on writing communities, and you should too.

Find Your Short Story Writing Process

These are just three of the countless ways you can write a short story. Not only is each writer different, but each story is different.

I can guarantee that as you move through your writing career, you’ll hone your own process. And probably come across times where your own process just doesn’t work and you have to develop some other way of doing the same thing.

Short stories are a great way to experiment with the writing process, as well as experiment with structure, voice, style, tone, pretty much anything that goes into writing.

If you have no idea what your writing process is as of yet, I encourage you to try one (or all three!) of the above methods. Let’s get writing!

What short story tips help you write short stories? Let us know in the comments.

By Sarah Gribble


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Setting Description Mistakes that Weaken a Story

When you think about the key elements of storytelling, characters and plot immediately come to mind, but what about the setting? Do you view it as 1) a vital story component, or 2) just the place where story events happen?

If you picked 1, nice job. If you picked 2, no worries. Go here, scroll down, and buckle in. Reading through these setting articles will transform the way you view the setting.

The setting tied to each scene carries a lot of storytelling weight because it had the power to touch and amplify anything to do with characters, events, and emotion. Used correctly, a location can characterize the story’s cast, steer the plot, evoke emotions and mood, create windows to allow for active backstory sharing, provide conflict and challenges, and act as a mirror for what the protagonist needs most, reinforcing his motivation at every step.

When it comes down to it, the setting is storytelling magic. What other element can do so much to enhance a story?

Here are five mistakes with settings that can drain power from your story.

1) Treating The Setting Like Stage Dressing

Each setting holds great power, deepening the action as it unfolds and characterizing the story’s cast during the scene. If we only use a few words to summarize the location, it can really impact the reader’s ability to connect with the characters and what’s happening. Vivid, concrete details not only help readers feel like they’re right there, planting specific description and symbolism within the setting also adds layers to the story itself.

2) Focusing On Only One Sense

Another common struggle for writers is choosing to describe through a single sense, specifically sight. While we rely heavily on this sense in real life, our world is multisensory, and our job as writers is to make our fictional landscape as rich and realistic as the real thing.

We want to make each scene come alive for readers so they feel like they are right there next to the protagonist, experiencing the moment as he or she does. This means including sounds which add realism, smells which trigger the reader’s emotional memories and help create “shared experiences,” tastes that allow for unique exploration, and textures that will shed light on what’s important to the character through their emotional state.

Textures are especially critical to include, as a point of view character must directly interact with the setting to bring it about, and every action in the story should have purpose. What they touch should have a “why” attached to it, revealing the POV character’s mindset, and showing, rather than telling, readers what’s really important in the scene.

3) Over-Describing Or Describing The Wrong Things

Sometimes in our enthusiasm to draw readers into the scene, we go a little crazy when it comes to describing. Trying to convey every feature, every angle, every facet of the setting will not only smash the pace flat, it will likely cause the reader to skim. And, if they skim, they are missing all that great description you’ve worked so hard to include. So, to avoid over-describing or focusing on the wrong details, try to make each bit of description earn the right to be included.

It isn’t just about showing the scene—the weather, the lighting, the colors and shapes—it’s also about offering detail that does double duty somehow. Ask yourself, is the detail I want to include doing something more than showing the reader where the characters are? Is it also characterizing, evoking mood, reminding the POV character of his goal and why he wants it so bad? Is this detail creating a challenge in some way, standing between the character and his goal? Is it helping to convey his emotional state, or does it symbolize something important within the context of the story?

Setting description should always be adding to the scene, revealing more about the characters as it helps to push the story forward.

4) Not taking Advantage of POV & Emotion Filters

Another area that can water down the effect of setting description is a very distanced narrative where every detail is explained, rather than shown through the emotional filter of the POV character. A character who is anxious is going to view the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of any given setting differently than a character who is excited, or disappointed, or even filled with gratitude.

Being able to filter the character’s world through their senses and emotions helps to pull the reader close to the character, and creates a deeper understanding of who they are, laying the groundwork for empathy.

5) Choosing A Setting That Is Convenient Rather Than Meaningful

Because the setting can steer the story, evoke emotion, remind the hero or heroine of missing needs and create a window into past pain, we need to get specific when we choose a location. Three questions to ask ourselves as we hunt for the perfect place is 1) what is the outcome of this scene, 2) how can I use the setting to generate conflict and tension (good or bad) to really amp up what is about to take place, and 3), how can I create an emotional value in this setting?

Emotional values—settings which mean something to one or more characters– are especially important. For example, imagine a character who is about to be interviewed for an important job. He’s confident because he’s got the skills they need, and the experience this company covets. His potential employer decides on an informal lunch interview, and our character is eager to impress. A restaurant setting makes sense…but why would we choose just any old restaurant for this scene to take place? Instead, let’s pick the very same restaurant where our character proposed to his girlfriend two years earlier and was rejected. By having this interview take place in this particular restaurant, we have created an emotional value—it represents something to the character: rejection.

Choosing this restaurant will put our character off balance, and the echoes of his past failure will be with him during the interview. This will almost certainly affect his behavior, creating tension and conflict. Will he get the job? Will he blow the interview? The outcome is now uncertain. Take the time to choose the best location for each scene, because the storytelling currency will be well worth the effort!

The setting is a powerful component to storytelling, but only if we fully activate it. So when you choose a setting, consider carefully how the right location can amp up the tension and point the reader’s attention to the very things you want them to notice, be it a symbol in your setting, your character’s behavior because the setting is activating their emotions somehow, or a danger or obstacle tied to the setting that’s about to challenge your character and disrupt their progress to their goal.



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What to Do After Writing a Book: The Do’s and Dont’s

If you’ve finished writing a first draft, you’ve accomplished something huge. You’ve brought your book idea to life and should be proud of yourself! But once the celebration dies down, you might experience a moment of silence as you look at your finished manuscript. You wonder: What comes next?

Maybe you’re not sure what you should do next, or maybe you have an idea of all the things that could follow and feel disorganized and paralyzed by all the possibilities.

The fact is, a lot of budding writers don’t think beyond the “finishing the book” part of writing.

So what is next? This article teaches you what to do after writing a book. 

My FIRST First Draft

I finished my very first first draft in 2011. It was too long (about 145K) and poorly plotted (back in the days before I learned what good writing was), though not a totally pathetic attempt for a first novel.

I sat on this book for several months, then decided to send it off to a proofreader and self publish it.

Not surprisingly, it sunk like a stone into the corners of the internet, never to be heard from again.

My SECOND First Draft

My second first draft was a bit more complicated.

I had participated and completed several NaNoWriMos, during which I wrote several short novels in the 50K-60K word range. Several of them had similar themes.

After my first book didn’t go anywhere, I took out a few of these, compile them into one, slapped a title on it, and called it a book.

As you probably guessed by now, I never rewrote any of these stories. I simply dumped them together into the semblance of a book.

This book never saw the light of day. After throwing it together, I never even bothered paying for the editing and publishing that I did for the first book. This book sat on my computer for a number of years, until the computer crashed and I lost the manuscript completely.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not especially sad about it. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t up to snuff.

My THIRD First Draft

It wasn’t until my third first draft, Headspace, that I finally humbled myself enough to learn exactly how to treat a first draft. This book is the reason I went on to write my fourth, fifth, and sixth first drafts within the span of two years.

So what changed?

What do you do after you finish writing a book? This article shares the Do’s and Don’ts that can guide any writer.

What NOT to Do After Your First Draft

Before we go into what I learned from my third book, I want to talk about a few things not to do with your first draft.

These are lessons that I learned the hard way and hope that by sharing them, you won’t have to learn them the same way.

Do NOT think of your book as “done”

A first draft is a beginning, not an end.

If you’ve never finished a book before, you may feel like you’ve reached some kind of finish line.

The more appropriate way to think is that you’ve reached the end of your first chapter. It is certainly an accomplishment but there is still plenty of work ahead.

Do NOT be afraid of editing

I was afraid of editing.

I admit it. The thought of editing so many pages seemed incredibly scary and daunting, and this is ultimately the reason I never attempted to edit my first and second book.

Editing a book for the first time can be intimidating indeed, but as I will cover later, all you need is a method and a plan.

Do NOT publish your first draft

Maybe there are some literary geniuses out there who turn out a perfect book on their first try, but realistically, that is not the case for us commoners. The majority of first drafts are not ready for literary agents, a publishing house, or even to see the light of day.

The self-publishing process is easy and available these days with services like Kindle Direct Publishing, but the fact is, ease of access do not always produce successful authors. Publishing my first draft without going through a plot editing process was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made as a writer. A first draft is a starting point, not a finished book.

Remember, writing a book doesn’t make it good, rewriting it does.

What to Do After Your First Draft

I am all about making plans. The truth is, having a plan makes me feel a lot less anxious when I have too many options or too many things to do.

If you’re anything like I used to be, lost and confused after you finish your book, trying following the steps below:

1. Take a break (but not for too long)

You’ve probably heard the advice of walking away from your book to rest your mind. This is important, but I want to add something to that—rest with purpose.

This break should not be too long because being away from the world of your story for too long may cause you to lose the momentum needed to properly edit the book. I recommend no more than two weeks.

During this time, you will find your mind wandering back to the story periodically.

You should not actively try to solve the problems within your book during this time, but there’s no way to fully keep your mind off your newly completed novel.

If something comes up, write it down and set it aside. Let your mind drift in and out of the story world without restriction. You might be surprised at what pops up.

Your goal during this period is to try to not try too hard after staying focused for so long to write your first draft.

2. Read a book

Read a book during your break. I recommend either a book on writing that preferably pertains to something you’re trying to work on in your own story—dialogue, setting, development, something else—or a book in the same genre by someone established. You can even take this time to read up on book marketing and learn how a successful book reaches its target audience.

The first gets your mind into a fixing mode, and the later helps inspire new ideas and connections. There are plenty of resources out there for whatever brain boost you might need.

Which will help relax your brain, and find new energy to tackle your story when you return to it?

3. Perform a plot treatment

I’ve gone into detail about how to create a plot treatment on the blog before. The plot treatment is very helpful to fiction writers (and may be adapted for nonfiction as well). Essentially, it is a detailed synopsis of each chapter and what you intended to happen in it. It incorporates notes from the revision list if you kept one.

As you write the plot treatment, try to keep an open mind. Be willing to make big changes and “kill your darlings,” as some say. If you have access to a developmental editor or someone who can help with structural edit, this is a good time to consult with them.

This is a space to experiment and rearrange. Keep in mind that making changes here will be a lot easier than making changes in a later draft, and having the plot treatment as a guide will make the revision process much easier.

4. Rewrite (not tweak) you story

A major mistake I made with my very first book was that I had a fundamentally wrong idea of what “editing” meant in the early stages of writing a book. I thought I had to write the entire book then tweak and fix this book a little at a time until it was perfect.

Have you tried “tweaking” a 400 page book into perfection? It doesn’t work.

At least not after the first draft. The first draft is messy and flawed, as it should be.

The first draft of a book is messy and flawed. The biggest favor you can do for your book is rewrite it.

The biggest favor you can do for your book is to rewrite it.

Start a new document, consult your plot treatment, and rewrite it fresh. This not only gives you far greater control over the story, but frees you from the constraints of what was written in the first draft.

What if you encounter a segment in the first draft that doesn’t need much fixing? Simple, copy it over to draft two.

I do this all the time. Between the plot treatment, the revision list, and being able to recycle parts of the first draft, you will find that your second draft is much smoother, easier, and less of a headache to write.

Take Your Time

I’m a firm believer in the speedy first draft. Get it down, get it out, as fast as you can before it runs away from you.

But the second draft is different. This is where you get to slow down and savor the story, really think about themes, details, and the philosophies, if any, you want to convey to your readers.

You have this luxury because your first draft and plot treatment have already provided you with a solid foundation for your entire story and laid out where the anchors for major events. No matter how messy your first draft is, your story is more grounded than before you started it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should let your second draft go on forever. I previously recommended six weeks for a first draft. For the second draft, I recommend double that time—twelve weeks, or three months.

This should allow you ample time to think, play, and really enjoy the world you created. Better, it will keep you motivated to bring your book from its first and second drafts into any future drafts, until it’s ready to publish.

What do you do after writing the first draft? Let us know in the comments.

By J. D. Edwin


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Fear Thesaurus Entry: Conflict

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental illness, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life. 

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc.

A Fear of Conflict

Notes: Disagreements happen, and while most of us don’t like confrontation, we understand we need to face these moments of friction and try to resolve them. But for some, the threat of conflict sparks such heightened anxiety a person will do anything in their power to avoid it. As you can imagine, characters who fear conflict will struggle in the story because it is something they face again and again on the path to their goal. (For a list of conflict scenarios to use in your story, go here.)

What It Looks Like
Being a people-pleaser
Holding back
Being highly agreeable
Lying when someone asks if something’s wrong (telling them it’s fine)
Not complaining
Putting up with problems rather than bother others for help addressing them
Avoiding certain topics when in a conversation
Changing the topic when things are getting heated between others
Avoiding people who are aggressive and outspoken
Being highly proactive or over-prepared (so nothing will go wrong)
Tentative questions
Finding it almost impossible to say No
Being unhappy or dissatisfied but not voicing it (not saying anything about an undercooked meal at a restaurant, for example)
Not returning things that are broken or under warranty
Putting up with annoyances rather than asking someone to stop
Always giving in
Accepting blame when it isn’t deserved
Letting others have their way
Letting others take the credit
Working harder to make up for another’s deficiency (laziness, a lack of knowledge, poor management skills, etc.) rather than talk to them about it
Not rocking the boat
Telling people what they want to hear
Echoing popular opinions if asked
Coming across as overly nice
Withdrawing or becoming quiet when others are upset
Being a perfectionist
Not self-advocating
Letting other people make the decisions
Being unable to lead effectively
A lump in the throat, causing visible swallowing
Feeling on the verge of tears if confronted
A shaky voice
Backing away from people who are emotionally activated
Collapsed shoulders; taking up less space when threatened

Common Internal Struggles
Wanting to escape when a confrontation happens
Worrying about whether something they are doing is annoying others
Resenting people for the things they do that make life harder instead of asking them to change
Thinking about the worst case scenario
The character putting their needs last
Self-directed anger after a confrontation for not self-advocating or standing up for what was right (sabotaging self-esteem)
Being uncertain in the moment
Struggling to manage heightened anxiety symptoms and just wanting to flee

Flaws That May Emerge
Cowardly, Defensive, Dishonest, Evasive, Gullible, Indecisive, Inhibited, Insecure, Martyr, Needy, Nervous, Oversensitive, Paranoid, Perfectionist, Resentful, Subservient, Timid, Uncommunicative, Weak-Willed, Withdrawn, Workaholic, Worrywart

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
Becoming overburdened because others take advantage of their inability to say no
Being viewed as timid and weak by others
Having people in their life that they don’t really like because they can’t take steps to sever the relationship
Being taken advantage of by others (who may not even realize they are doing so)
A lack of assertiveness keeping the character on the sidelines at work
Becoming burnt out
Doing what others want, not what they want
Personal dreams and goals being put on hold
Problems that grow and lead to dysfunctional situations that will eventually explode

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
Receiving criticism (even when it’s constructive)
Being asked to weigh in, especially during a heated exchange between others
When the character is late or there’s a delay that will be noticed by others
Disagreements in relationships
Arguments and yelling
When the character makes a mistake or can’t follow through (even when there’s a legitimate reason)
Being asked to lead
Having to deliver bad news
Having to raise a complaint, follow through on a warranty claim, or return something to a store
When someone is angry or frustrated around the character.

Don’t forget to check out our Other Fear Thesaurus entries.



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9 Tension-Building Elements For Character Dialogue

By Becca Puglisi

I’ve been thinking a lot about dialogue lately, because when it’s done poorly, it pulls me right out of the story. There are a lot of issues that contribute to weak dialogue: incorrect mechanics, stilted speech, characters calling each other repeatedly by name (Hi, Bob. Hey, Mary. Could you help me with this, Bob? Sure thing, Mary!)…The list goes on. But instead of talking today about the wrong parts of our characters’ conversations, I want to focus on an important element that’s often missing: tension.

Tension is that gut-curdling, oh-crap feeling you get when you realize trouble’s coming. It’s the rising emotion that emerges at the onset or even the barest hint of conflict. Tension is incredibly important because it stirs the reader’s emotion and builds their interest. It should exist in every scene, and an easy way to add it is through our characters’ verbal interactions.

Think about recent conversations—verbal or written—that have generated tension for you. They probably come to mind pretty quickly. This is because every person is different, and when these differences manifest in our communication, it can result in misunderstandings that lead to heightened emotion. The same should be true for our characters. So if you’re looking for ways to up the tension in a scene, plan any verbal exchanges thoughtfully by incorporating one or more of the following elements.

Personality Clashes

At her core, who is your character, and how does she communicate? Maybe she’s very efficient—a fixer who quickly and accurately analyzes and applies information. Now suppose she’s talking to someone with a disorganized mind and rambling conversational style. This can cause frustration for your character, who just wants her friend to get to the point already. She responds by cutting him off, or nods her head impatiently while he’s talking. This triggers the friend’s defenses, putting him on edge. When you build your cast with personality and the potential for conflict in mind, those tension landmines are easy to set.

Opposing Goals

Characters often have conflicting story and scene goals, but what about opposing goals in conversations? We do this all the time in real life—talking to people with a subconscious objective in mind. Your protagonist might be communicating with someone because they want to be heard and appreciated. But what if the other party just wants to prove they’re right? Each character will try and guide the conversation toward what they want, and someone—maybe both parties—will be thwarted. When even our small goals are threatened, our emotions kick in, so this can be a good way to add tension to a scene.

Emotions in Play

We’ve all experienced this situation: you start a conversation with someone who, out of nowhere, bites your head off. Upon closer examination, you realize that the person was upset about something that had nothing to do with you. This universal scenario can be used in our stories. Pile on the emotional baggage just before an interaction, then sit back and watch the sparks fly.


Our insecurities hobble us all the time. We’re sensitive to certain kinds of comments or tones and read unintended meaning into harmless banter. Think about how this might play out with your character. What are his insecurities—in general, but also regarding this particular person or situation? How might they impact him in an upcoming conversation?


How often have you engaged in conversation with an expectation in mind for what the other person will say or how it’s going to go? Sometimes our biases are confirmed, but just as often, they taint our interactions, dooming them to failure before they even begin. We may have a chip on our shoulder that sets a negative tone for the entire exchange. Expecting certain things, we might read into what the other person is saying, misconstruing their true meaning or intent. When it comes to your character, ask yourself: Is there any bias he might bring into this conversation that could result in misunderstanding?


Maybe you’ve heard the old saying about the word assume: it makes an ass out of u and me. How many arguments and mix-ups have come about because of incorrect assumptions? How can we apply this common occurrence in our stories? Think about what knowledge your protagonist may take for granted—something they think the other person knows or doesn’t know. Or maybe they believe that the person shares their opinion about a certain topic when they really think the opposite. How might assumptions like these cause a conversation to go south?

Small Annoyances

Your protagonist might begin a scene with great intentions, expecting to enjoy a happy chat with one of their favorite people. And everything is fine—until that person starts doing something that grates on your character’s nerves. Frequent interruptions, talking with their mouth full, listening while checking their email, consistently mispronouncing a certain word—it could be literally anything that drives your character bonkers. What might that thing be for your protagonist? What quirks can you give the other party to add an element of tension to the conversation?

Cultural Differences

A character’s culture is going to impact their communication style, determining what is acceptable and what isn’t, what’s respectful and what’s offensive. Gestures, eye contact, word choices, personal space—these things vary from one locale to another. Your character’s ignorance about these factors could result in all kinds of fallout, from busted business deals and problems at work to the death of a budding romance. This is definitely something to keep in mine in a multi-cultural cast.


I’ve saved this one for last because it plays a very subtle part in most conversations, but it’s so understated, we don’t always pick up on it. Subtext is what you really mean, as opposed to what you say. It’s saying He seems nice when what you really mean is He is a tool of the highest order. We’re not always 100% honest with our words, and the same should be true of our characters. When we take the time to figure out what they really think or want to hide, we end up with interactions that are realistic and nuanced. And the potential for tension and conflict are huge.

These are just some of the elements that can contribute to misunderstandings and tension in our characters’ conversations. Regardless of which you choose to explore, there’s one thing they all have in common: unrealized expectations. The protagonist expects Character B to share her beliefs, want what she wants, have a base of knowledge on which to build or communicate the same way. When these expectations are shattered, it sets her back on her heels and triggers frustration, embarrassment, hurt, and a range of other emotions. So figure out what your character expects out of a conversation, then block her, and tension is sure to follow.


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Fear Thesaurus Entry: Certain Kinds of People

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental illness, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life. 

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc.

Fear of Certain Kinds of People

Notes: A person who has been traumatized may become fearful of the kind of person who hurt them—men, women, people of a certain race or nationality, members of law enforcement, the government, etc. There can be other causes, such as an irrational fear resulting from a mental illness or being conditioned in their upbringing to be afraid of certain people groups. Regardless of how it arises, this goes beyond a simple trust issue; a fearful mindset toward certain kinds of people will restrict the character’s options and who they’re willing to interact with, limiting them in many ways.

What It Looks Like
Avoiding places where the people they fear are likely to be
Becoming anxious when an opportunity arises that will bring the character in contact with the people they fear
Speaking disparagingly about the people
Gravitating toward media that affirms their bias (watching movies with “those kinds of people” as the bad guys, subscribing to podcasts or YouTube channels that affirm their beliefs, etc.)
Their demeanor changing when someone from that people group enters their space (falling silent, not making eye contact, watching them furtively, becoming confrontational, leaving the room, etc.)
Showing signs of physical distress when faced with the people they fear: going pale, extremities trembling, accelerated breathing, clenched fists, etc.
Crossing the street to avoid close proximity to those people
Taking a work-from-home job that ensures the character will never run into the people they fear
Surrounding themselves with their own kind of people (hanging out with women, the character immersing themselves into their own culture
The character worrying so much about running into those people when they go out that they become homebound
Feeling endangered when those kind of people are around
Others viewing the character as ignorant, biased, or discriminatory
Strained relationships with family members because of the character’s ideas about certain people
Feeling misunderstood
Speaking out against that people group in an effort to protect or inform others

Common Internal Struggles
The character being challenged when they meet someone they fear who seems to defy their ideas
Wanting to shelter loved ones from certain kinds of people but being unable to do so
Recognizing that the fear may be irrational but not being able to change the fear response
The character knowing their fear is interfering with their friendships but clinging to it anyway
Seeing so clearly that the fear makes sense but not being able to convince others

Flaws That May Emerge
Antisocial, Callous, Cynical, Defensive, Disrespectful, Fanatical, Haughty, Hostile, Ignorant, Inflexible, Irrational, Obsessive, Prejudiced, Suspicious, Uncooperative, Withdrawn

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
Missing out on social interactions where certain people might be present
Being limited to certain professions or work projects
Having few friends (because they can’t accept the character’s mindset toward certain people)
Other people not being able to relate to the character because their ideas are so “out there”
The character constantly having to defend themselves to people who disagree with them
Friction with the character’s children when other parents won’t let their kids associate with them because they don’t want them exposed to harmful ideas

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
Having to work with the type of person the character is afraid of
A child, sibling, or other loved one dating “those kind of people”
A person in this group being promoted to a position of power or influence
Being slighted or even marginally disrespected by this kind of person.



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Is My Story A Mystery, Horror, or Thriller?

By Lucy V Hay

Lots of writers enjoy mystery, horror and thriller novels … but are not too sure what differentiates them. As a result, when they attempt their own, they might get stuck.

As a script editor in the UK who’s worked on predominantly horror and thriller, plus as an author myself who has written mystery, I am in a position to advise!

First up, let’s take a look at mystery.


I had one of those English Literature teachers who’d bellow ‘To know a word is to define a word!’ This means I always look first at the dictionary. Here’s what it says about mystery:

A novel, play, or film dealing with a puzzling crime, especially a murder.

“the 1920s murder mystery, The Ghost Train”

This is an okay definition. Whilst mystery typically involves a crime – Agatha Christie is STILL the queen of the genre – it’s the ‘puzzling’ nature that is most important.

Typically there will be a BIG REVEAL at the end when the person BEHIND IT ALL is unveiled. Mysteries tend to be cerebral on this basis.


Here’s what the dictionary says about this one:

A literary or film genre concerned with arousing feelings of horror.

“a horror film”

In other words, we want to be SCARED by Horror. That tracks! So far, so good.

Horrors tend to lay out the potential threat from the beginning: a creature, a serial killer, a haunted house, etc. This means in a Horror we are principally VOYEURS. We sign up to watch terrible things happen to people.

In certain subgenres, this is obvious. So-called ‘torture porn’ movies like the SAW franchise invite us to witness murder and mayhem in ever-increasingly spattering ways.

But even in less grotesquely flamboyant horror, the story will relate to a cultural, base fear most of us have.

Fears for our children (especially them dying); fears of being taken away/sent into a hell-like place; fears of being out of control; about sex, rape, pregnancy or other violations; of being eaten alive, being dismembered, or burned alive.

What’s more, these types of story feel unstable and make us worry FOR the characters in it … And yes, maybe even freak out when said characters are attacked and/or killed. This is why groups of characters picked off one by one can be so popular in horror stories.


A novel, play, or film with an exciting plot, typically involving crime or espionage.

“a tense thriller about a diamond heist that goes badly wrong”

This is less illuminating. After all, mystery can involve crime or espionage too … Plus there’s lots of thrillers that do neither of these things. Now what??

Wait! The keyword in this definition is ‘exciting’. As the name ‘thriller’ suggests, our story just needs to THRILL. This usually happens with some kind of deadline as a ‘race against time’: a chase, if you will.

In contrast to Horror, the Thriller invites the viewer to put themselves in the protagonist’s place. The story will ask, ‘What would YOU do?’.

*Something* is happening – but the characters in the center often don’t know exactly what and/or why. They will chase after this mystery in order to solve it – whether it’s a conspiracy, a supernatural occurrence, an abduction, or something else.

Thrillers typically relate to a more intellectual fear most of us have, such as our children being kidnapped; of abduction/being held hostage; of living in an unsafe home; having our identities stolen; being watched or persecuted in some way; of authorities who cannot be trusted, such as governments, teachers, or medical staff. This is why the lone protagonist in a Thriller is so popular.

So what’s the breakdown here?

  • A Mystery needs a BIG REVEAL of whom is BEHIND IT ALL (usually at the ending, but not always)
  • Mysteries tend to be puzzles that need to be solved
  • In Horror, we sign up for the SCARES
  • Horrors tend to be voyeuristic
  • Horrors often focus on groups of people, picked off one by one
  • Thrillers don’t tend to be Horrors (since Horrors lay out the threat from the beginning)
  • In a Thriller, we sign up for the CHASE
  • Thrillers often focus on lone protagonists who are ‘up against it’
  • Thrillers tend to be ‘races against time’
  • Mysteries may be Thrillers as well, or they may not

A Big Question

I believe we can decide what our novels are by asking one BIG question …

‘… Do I want to keep my antagonist hidden until the ending or not?’

If you don’t want to keep the antagonist hidden, you’re probably writing a horror. This is because you need to establish the threat from the outset.

If you DO want to keep your antagonist hidden for that BIG REVEAL, then you’re probably writing a mystery or thriller.

(Of course this will depend on the story, we’re talking generalizations here … but from my work with writers, it’s surprising how often this question works!).

Learn the Conventions

So, if you’re writing a Horror, obviously your novel needs to be scary. A good way of studying the conventions of Horror is by considering why your favorite Horror novels scared *you*.

In my case, Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill scared me so much it took me a whopping three weeks to read it because I kept getting creeped out!

The story of a washed-up rock star who buys a ghost on the internet he then can’t get rid of, the threat in Heart-Shaped Box is established early on. Hill piles of dread by the ton, making even the smallest moments seem frightening. As the chapters build towards a bloody, crescendo ending, we can’t be sure anyone will get out alive.

If you’re writing a thriller or mystery, it’s slightly different. Personally, I favor mystery elements in Thriller (if not a full-blown mystery) because I love twists. This may – or may not – feed your BIG REVEAL, it’s up to you.

But if you’re hiding your antagonist’s true intentions, you need to be careful. One of the biggest issues B2W sees when writers try this is they hold the antagonist back BUT don’t replace that role function with another. This then means there’s a big fat hole where ‘nothing happens’.

Devices such as red herrings, misdirection, working theories, a stooge antagonist, etc. will help you write a satisfying plot AND compelling characters in your thriller or mystery.

In other words, stuff that **stands in for the perp** … ’til we get to the actual perp. 

You can do this no matter what genre or type of story you are writing. Immerse yourself in the mystery genre via mystery novels, movies, & police procedurals to guide you. 

Good luck!


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Fear Thesaurus Entry: Relational Commitment

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental illness, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life. 

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc.

A Fear of Relational Commitment

What It Looks Like
A lackadaisical attitude and approach to dating and friendships
Dating many people at once to maintain superficial relationships
Breaking things off if a relationship gets too serious
Sabotaging serious relationships (treating the other person badly so they’ll leave, picking fights, ghosting them, etc.)
Being disloyal—cheating on a romantic partner or abandoning an old friend for a new one
Abandoning a fiancé at the altar
Continually postponing a wedding date or refusing to set a date
Reluctance in making future plans
Being nonchalant about even short-term plans, such as not preparing for date night until a few hours prior
Not dating at all or investing in new friendships
A lack of excitement, passion, or interest in the relationship or the other person
Thoughts of commitment causing physical or emotional distress (shortness of breath, anxiety, hyperventilating, nausea, etc.)
Having many casual friends but few deep and long-lasting ones
Frequently canceling get-togethers with friends
Being a one-sided friend (only reaching out when the character needs something, only getting together when it’s something the character really wants to do, etc.)
Being inflexible
Always having an “escape plan” so the character can leave an event early if they want to
Living on the outskirts of true community
Being more comfortable with strangers and acquaintances than with friends
Keeping a lot of pets to fill the void

Common Internal Struggles
Wanting connection but being unable to move past a certain point to achieve it
Experience fight-flight-or-freeze responses when commitment becomes a possibility
Doing things to push the other person away, then feeling guilt, shame, or self-loathing
The character knowing something’s wrong with them but not knowing what it is
Wanting to change (recognizing the fear and knowing the unresolved wound that’s behind it) but not being willing to do so

Flaws that May Emerge
Abrasive, Addictive, Antisocial, Dishonest, Disloyal, Evasive, Indecisive, Inflexible, Inhibited, Manipulative, Pessimistic, Rebellious, Self-Destructive, Self-Indulgent, Selfish, Stubborn, Temperamental, Uncommunicative, Uncooperative, Volatile, Withdrawn

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
Spending a lot of nights along
Being perceived as selfish and superficial by others
Being a third wheel at social events
Having no one to confide in
Experiencing a crisis and having no one to care for the character
Constantly having to explain the latest breakup to people
Unpleasant conversations with parents or siblings who see the truth and confront the character

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
A romantic partner proposing marriage, suggesting they move in together, or asking to meet the character’s parents
A romantic partner saying I love you
Someone important to the character dying and reinforcing the knowledge that everyone eventually leaves so it’s best not to get too close
Playing a bonding game with friends, where personal information is shared
Being invited to vacation with friends
Being asked to play a significant role in a friend’s wedding
The character being asked point-blank by a trusted loved one about their commitment issues.



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Deliberate Practice: How to Become Great (At Writing or Anything)

How do you become truly great at something, one of the best in the world? Or at least better than you are?

Many people believe that greatness comes from talent and natural inclination. They believe that great athletes and artists are born, not made, and so what’s the point in trying if you’re not naturally talented?

I used to believe that, too, but everything changed for me when I discovered practice, the idea that not only can you become great through your own efforts, but that all of the best writers, musicians, painters, and athletes in the world have done the same.

In this guide, we’re going to be exploring how you can become a better writer by following  the principles of deliberate practice (this is The Write Practice, after all), but generally, how you can improve your skill level in any field.

We’ll look at the four components of deliberate practice that will make your practice time actually work. Finally, we’ll get a chance to start actually practicing our writing through a creative writing exercise.

Ready to accomplish your writing goals? Let’s get started!

Are Great Writers Born or Made? (In Other Words, Does Practice Really Matter?)

Like many people, as a young, aspiring writer, I believed that great writers were talented, that they had an innate ability for writing that all but predisposed them for success.

There was a problem with this mindset, though, because every time I received negative feedback on my writing, it made me question whether I had enough natural ability. Could I succeed at a professional level when people were criticizing my best work?

Sometimes I would get so discouraged I would think I should just quit. But then, just in time, someone would praise my writing and I would go back to believing I was a genius destined for greatness.

And this is the problem with having a fixed mindset in which you are born with a certain amount of natural ability that predetermines your performance. Instead of being able to use feedback to improve your skill level, you become very vulnerable to it.

When I instead adopted a growth mindset, believing that the most important criterion for my success was the amount of effort I put into practice, it changed everything for me.

This mindset helped me to focus on what I could control—my focus, persistence, and the coaches and mentors I surrounded myself with—rather than what was outside of my control, namely whatever innate talent I did or did not have.

It transformed my life so much that I started a whole community around it, The Write Practice, to help others accomplish their writing goals through deliberate practice.

But there is good practice, practice that will help you actually succeed in your writing life, and there is bad practice that will just lead to a lot of hours wasted. What are the components of deliberate practice, and can you make sure you’re practicing effectively?

If you want to become a great writer, you need to develop a deliberate practice. This article shares four components you should add to your writing practice.

What is Deliberate Practice? Definition of Deliberate Practice

>Deliberate practice is the effortful, structured, repetition of tasks for the purpose of improvements of performance beyond a current skill level.

The term deliberate practice was first coined by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and a team of researchers to describe why some classical musicians achieve elite performance and others don’t. In their study, K. A. Ericsson et al stated that those with expert-level performance in music had at least 10,000 hours of practice over the course of their lifetimes.

Malcolm Gladwell then popularized this into the “10,000 hour rule,” or about ten years, in his book Outliers.

As Ericsson says, “This is based on findings from a wide range of domains where research has suggested that a minimum of 10 years of goal-directed, hard work is required for an individual to reach a level of expert proficiency.”

The 4 Components of Deliberate Practice

There are four deliberate practice principles that you must follow if you want to reach expert-level performance. Namely, deliberate practice is structured, effortful, and requires feedback and repetition.

Here are the four things you need to develop an effective writing practice:

1. Deliberate Practice Is Structured

Deliberate practice is a structured activity with the explicit goal to improve current level of performance. For example, if you have the goal of becoming a better basketball player, simply playing a lot of basketball may lead to improvements in performance. However, incorporating drills, exercises, and other structure methods to develop certain aspects of your game will lead to much faster improvements in actual performance.

The same is true for writers. Spending a lot of time writing will certainly help you become a better writer, but having a specific focus when you write will help you improve faster. For example, you could focus on show don’t tell one writing session, or when you’re editing, you could focus on crafting more realistic dialogue.

Purposeful practice focuses on one aspect, one specific skill, not the entire craft at once.

Also, the exercises must also be tailored to your current level of skill. That means that having a coach or teacher who can direct you to the right focuses for your skill level is helpful.

As Daniel Coyle says in The Little Book of Talent, “There is a place, right on the edge of your ability, where you learn best and fastest.”

How to Apply It To Your Writing:

  • Use short, structured writing exercises (like the ones we have daily on The Write Practice) to practice specific writing skills.
  • Write several short stories. Short stories have traditionally been the training ground for writers.
  • Whatever you do, finish your writing pieces (e.g. novels, essays, nonfiction books, short stories, articles). If you don’t finish, you fail to through each phase of the writing process and miss many practicing opportunities.

2. Deliberate Practice Is Effortful

When you hear that you need 10,000 hours to become a top-level performer in a field, whether it’s writing, music, athletics, or accounting, you might think that all you have to do is put in the hours and you’ll reach all of your goals.

However, Ericsson calls the type of practice that is just about putting in the hours “naive practice” as opposed to deliberate, focused practice. Naive practice, he finds, doesn’t lead to superior performance. Instead, it ends with relative mediocrity.

In other words, you can’t journal your way to becoming a great writer.

You can’t journal your way to become a great writer. Great writing comes through deliberate, effortful practice.

How to Apply It To Your Writing:

  • Write a piece you can publish. Journaling in private is cathartic, but extended writing for public consumption forces you to put in the effort required to get better.
  • Again, finish your writing pieces. Writing until “The End” takes effort, but it’s what’s required to get better.
  • Join a writing contest like this one.

3. Deliberate Practice Requires Feedback

Without expert feedback, without someone looking over your shoulder to see what’s working in your practice and what’s not, you simply won’t improve.

You can practice for 100,000 hours, but without constant feedback, your skill level will plateau.

This was the biggest game changer for me in my writing. As I mentioned, I used to view negative feedback as a threat to my talent.

Once I adopted a practicing mindset, though, feedback became my greatest resource.

How do you get feedback? In the writing field feedback comes from three places: expert feedback from editors and other professionals, peer feedback from other writers, and audience feedback from readers. All are incredibly helpful and can lead to lasting change, but expert and peer level feedback should be prioritized.

Most of all, take all feedback graciously, accepting what you can learn and letting go of what isn’t helpful for you in that moment. Remember that consistently negative feedback doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer or, even more, that you never will be a great writer. It just means that you need more practice!

How to Apply It To Your Writing:

4. Deliberate Practice Requires Repetition

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

We get better through consistent practice, by repeating the above steps hundreds, even thousands of times.

Stephen King famously wrote hundreds of short stories that were rejected by editors before his first one was published. He would put a nail through rejection letters until he had a stack of them almost as long as the nail. Then he would start the next story.

In the same way, to develop your creative skill, you need regular practice. Writing one story, one book, one blog post, one essay isn’t enough. Instead, once you’re finished with one book, start the next one.

There is something freeing about this. So many people treat their writing as this thing that must be perfect, and it freezes them up, causing writer’s block and a host of other problems.

What if your writing doesn’t have to be perfect? What if it could just be practice? How could that change your mindset, helping you to write more and become a better writer faster?

How to Apply It To Your Writing:

  • Practice consistently! That’s why we post one new writing exercise every day, to give you the chance to practice. Subscribe here.
  • Join the 100 Day Book program and finish a book through a proven process. Then, when you’re finished, write another book using the same process!

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

This is also where intrinsic motivation comes in. If you are running off only extrinsic motivation, external rewards, you will quit. You won’t have enough driving you to keep showing up when the work gets hard.

No, the people who succeed are intrinsically motivated. They have the grit and persistence to keep going because they are driven by the work itself.

I love this quote from Robert Green, which I think speaks to this level of commitment. He says,

Engaged in the creative process we feel more alive than ever, because we are making something and not merely consuming, masters of the small reality we create. In doing this work, we are in fact creating ourselves.

Do you have this level of motivation for your practice? Could you develop it?

How The Write Practice Can Help You Become a Better Writer

How do you practice writing?

At The Write Practice, we truly believe that everyone can become a great writer through deliberate practice.

Over the last ten years, we’ve published thousands of lessons, created hundreds of hours of videos and trainings, and led dozens of writing courses.

In that time, we’ve helped millions of people learn new writing techniques, write books, get published, and accomplish their writing goals.

We’d love to help you too.

Every day, we post a new writing lesson and exercise, giving you the chance to learn something new and put it to practice immediately.

If you’d like to practice with us, sign up for our writing community or consider starting your first practice exercise below.

Happy practicing!

So how about you? Are you willing to put in your 10,000 hours? Are you willing to practice writing deliberately? If you are, then you’ve come to the write place . . . oops, sorry, bad habit!

By Joe Bunting


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