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How to Be the CEO of Your Life

Photos by Megan Tsang HandMay 24, 2019, was my last day as a high school English teacher. Last week I gave myself a bit of a vacation as my husband and I spent time visiting his family and friends in Virginia and lounging at the beach. So I consider today, June 3, 2019, my first day of work as my own boss. Related Reading: So…I quit my job! I’ve dreamt of being an entrepreneur since before I was old enough to correctly pronounce the word. But juggling my writing business with my teaching career for all these years has taught me that whether you are self-employed or not you do have the power to be the CEO of your life. And if I don’t hold on to those lessons that I’ve learned I won’t truly live the life of an unbossed woman even as a full-time freelancer and entrepreneur as I co Read More

Limiting the Number of Characters

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig  This is the second post in a short series about making our lives easier as writers. One thing that I’ve tried to be more conscious of as the years have gone by is limiting the number of characters I introduce in a story or series. With a cozy mystery series, for example, the field of characters is already going to be pretty crowded. You have a sleuth and a sidekick and around five suspects. And then you have recurring characters: friends and family of the sleuth and  some sort of police presence. The more characters we add, the harder it is for readers to keep up.  And we run the risk of not having the space to make the characters more than one-dimensional. One bit of advice is not to name every single character in your book.  The waitress Read More

Seven Common Problems Writers Have With Characters

Most writers love creating characters and writing about them – but it can be a struggle to get characters right. If you’re normally quite plot-focused, you might find yourself creating characters who are lifeless “pegs” that fit into the right-shaped spaces in your plot. If you’re much more character-focused, you might struggle with the size of your cast (more isn’t always better!) … or you might find it really difficult to let your characters suffer and struggle. In today’s post, we’re going to look at seven common problems that writers struggle with … and some ways to get past them. Problem #1: Creating Characters Who Are Three-Dimensional If you’ve been writing fiction for a while, you’ve probably come across the advice to avoid writing “flat” or “two-di Read More

Short Stories as Mini-Trilogies: Can it Work?

By Sarah Dahl, @sarahdahl13 Part of the Focus on Short Fiction Series JH: Just because they're short, doesn't mean they can't tell a long story. Today in our series “Focus on Short Fiction” Sarah Dahl returns to talk about writing trilogies - in the short form. Technically, short stories have less time and space for everything: fewer characters, less world building, simpler arcs and subplots. Most times, there are no subplots, of course, and world building has to be spot-on: You need to create a sense of the people and place with just a few strokes of your pen. The drama is usually focused on one plotline and has one climax, very late in the story. Mastering this craft is mastering setup, timing and arcs, characters and resolution within as little space as possible. Writing short m Read More

Storytelling Exercise: Three Acts

Today’s storytelling exercise is an excerpt from my book, Story Drills, which is filled with fiction-writing exercises that impart basic techniques of storytelling. Today’s exercise is from chapter forty-five. It’s called “Three Acts.” Enjoy! The three-act structure is one of the simplest and most effective ways to outline or analyze a story and its structure. The three acts are as follows: Setup Conflict Resolution In the first act, the plot and characters are established, and we learn what the central conflict is. It’s roughly 25 percent of the story, but this is a guideline, not a rule. The second act is the longest of the three acts, usually about 50 percent of the narrative. In the second act, the story builds up to a climax in which the conflict hits a boiling poin Read More

25 Story Starters for Writing Fiction

Are you a storyteller? Do you want to be a storyteller? If you’re interested in writing flash fiction, short stories, or novels, then you’re going to need lots of ideas, especially if you want to write professionally. Some of us have too many ideas; others don’t have enough ideas. Maybe we have a solid idea for a story, but something’s missing. We need to spice it up by adding subplots or characters. Maybe the setting or story world isn’t rich enough. Perhaps your story lacks theme. Story starters are a great way to get ideas for writing stories, but they can also be used to generate ideas for improving stories that are already in the works. Story Starters Today, I’d like to share twenty-five story starters. You can use these story starters to inspire a new story or to breat Read More

Storytelling Exercise: Tone and Mood

Today I’d like to share an excerpt from Story Drills: Fiction Writing Exercises, which helps beginning to intermediate storytellers develop fiction writing skills. This exercise is from chapter sixty, and it’s called “Tone and Mood.” Enjoy! Tone and Mood Tone and mood give a story a sense of atmosphere—how a story feels—its emotional sensibility. Atmosphere is often established through a story’s setting: An old abandoned Victorian mansion beneath a full moon on a windy night can elicit a dark and creepy atmosphere. However, tone and mood can also come from the characters. A clumsy, awkward character can evoke a humorous tone for a story. And events can shape a story’s tone and mood; consider the difference in tone between a story about a star athlete making it to the big Read More

How to Develop Your Best Novel Writing Ideas

Writing a novel is no small task. In fact, it’s a momentous task. Some writers spend years eking out a first draft, followed by years of revisions. And that’s before they even think about the grueling publishing process. In other words, you’re going to spend a lot of time with your novel. So you better love it. No, wait — loving it is not enough. You have to be in love with it. You have to be obsessed with it. Committed to it. It’s normal to lose interest when you’re on your tenth revision, but if you’re losing interest in your plot or characters while writing your first or second draft, the problem might not be you or your novel. The problem might be that you tried to commit to something you didn’t love. That’s never a good idea. For many writers, the trick to sticki Read More

Curiosity and Creativity for Writers

Today’s post is an excerpt from my book, Ready, Set, Write: A Guide to Creative Writing, which takes you on a tour through the world of creative writing while offering writing ideas and inspiration. This is from chapter thirty-one, “Curiosity and Creativity.” Let’s find out how fostering curiosity can increase your creativity. Enjoy! Curiosity and Creativity Even though inspiration abounds all around us, we writers sometimes get stumped. We search for essay topics, plot ideas, and interesting language for our poems. Unfortunately, our searches don’t always yield desirable results. But by fostering curiosity, we can ensure a constant stream of creativity. Some of the best writing ideas come from asking simple questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Most writers are curious Read More

From Ready, Set, Write: Getting Ready to Write

Today, I’m excited to share an excerpt from my recently published book, Ready, Set, Write: A Guide to Creative Writing. This is from the book’s introduction. Enjoy! A Writer’s Journey Begins When I was a little girl, my mom used to sit, curled up on the couch, with a thick paperback novel in her hands and a big bag of M&Ms in her lap. I’m still trying to quit my candy habit! But books are forever. My mom taught me to read by the time I turned four. The rhyming stories of Dr. Seuss were among my early favorites. Soon I was devouring Charlotte’s Web and Little House in the Big Woods. Later it was the Narnia books and A Wrinkle in Time. I constantly checked out Where the Sidewalk Ends from my school library. Whenever I asked for new books, my mom would take me to the used paper Read More

How to Get the Most Out of Your Writing Practice

Everybody wants to know the secret to success, and writers are no exception. We often talk about all the things one must do in order to become a successful writer. From studying grammar to working through multiple revisions, from sending out submissions to building a platform, writers must wear many hats if they hope to succeed. However, most of those tasks are irrelevant (and success is impossible) if a writer hasn’t acquired the basic skills necessary for doing the work. There’s no reason to worry about submissions, readers, and marketing if your writing habits and skills aren’t up to the task of getting the project done. You might have a great premise for a story, but if you don’t know how to write a story—or if you don’t have the discipline to finish a story—you’ll ne Read More

7 Sure Signs You Picked the Wrong Freelance Writing Niche

Being vegan in a family of ​very ​carnivorous Texans makes for some extremely awkward holiday dinners. Don’t get me wrong, though.  Most of my family is super supportive, and they respect my choice to avoid eating meat or any animal products. But sometimes, I still have to hear the occasional uncomfortable comment at the dinner table. ​Honestly, these don’t bother me that much. It is what it is, and I’m toooootally down to share stuff like how I get enough protein (maybe it’ll change someone’s mind about their meat consumption)! But a few years ago, I had an overly pushy family member do something that really bothered me: “Here, have some of this turkey,” ​he said, even though he knew I don’t eat meat. To which I replied something along the lines of “No Read More

How Novelists Can Say More with Less

Less is more. More impacting. More riveting. More intriguing. Throughout history, marriages have failed and wars have been won or lost over a mere word or two. Jesus said, “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.” Simply stated, as was his style. I often share with my clients something my eleventh-grade English teacher used to spout frequently: “Say what you mean. Don’t say what you don’t mean.” The best way to say what you mean is to use only the words you need—the most appropriate words for your context—and discard the rest. Think of the pages of your novel as expensive real estate. Writers who want to write well should aim to be as picky about the words they string together as the foods they eat or the clothes they wear. Pickier. Bogging Down Your Writing Is a Bad T Read More

M MacKinnon on How to Write Paranormal Fiction

Writing fiction with paranormal elements can be tricky, especially in a modern setting. You want your readers to suspend their disbelief and just go with the story. You don’t want them to roll their eyes because the concept of your paranormal world is too far-fetched. Today we’re talking with paranormal romance writer M MacKinnon to get her take on writing paranormal fiction. How to Write Paranormal Fiction Paranormal elements in a story should be necessary and seem natural within the confines of the setting and plot. The paranormal should fit in because it feels right and makes sense for the plot of the story, not because you’re trying to jump on a popular trend. Paranormal fiction is a genre I fell in love with at a young age, so I was super excited to talk with this month’s int Read More

Assessing Yourself as a Writer: Does Your Writing Make the Grade?

By Joyce Sweeney Part of The Writer’s Life Series JH: It's not always clear to know what to focus on to improve our writing, but Joyce Sweeney has a formula to help writers grade their stories. Please give her a warm welcome. Joyce Sweeney is the author of fourteen novels for young adults and two chapbooks of poetry. Her books have won many awards and honors. Joyce has recently switched to writing adult fiction and is represented by Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour agency. Joyce has also been a writing teacher and coach for 25 years and offers online classes. In 2019, she, Jamie Morris and Tia Levings released Plotting Your Novel with The Plot Clock (Giantess Press). At this writing, 62 of Joyce’s students have successfully obtained traditional publishing contracts. Joyce lives in Read More

The #1 Rule on How to Write Viral Content for Your Blog or Website

One of the things that surprised me the most when I started Positive Writer was that a lot of my content was going viral. I didn’t expect that to happen and, if I am being honest, I didn’t start writing articles with going-viral in mind. I created my blog to share my thoughts about writing and since I felt what I wanted to express wasn’t really being talked about at the time, I might as well give it a shot and see if anyone cared. They did, and how! At first, when my posts started taking off, I thought it was just luck. And, to a degree it was, but after a while, I noticed a trend. I had stumbled on to one of the most important aspects of being a writer online – at least, a writer who writes stuff that gets not only noticed but also passionately shared. Before we get into what t Read More

Genre in Writing

This post from December 2016, has been re-edited and re-published in April, 2019. Broad and Narrow Genres Since the proliferation of Creative Writing courses in universities in the Anglo world, much has been written and said about “genre” in writing. Creative Writing contrasts with Nonfiction Writing in the broader sense. The former is the sort of writing that novelists, short story writers and poets employ. Nonfiction includes traditional biographical works, academic texts, journalism, and books on a diverse range of subjects, such as food (recipes), self-help and memoir. Within fiction, there is a breakdown into specific genres: science fiction, romance, historical fiction, mystery, horror, detective stories, action, fantasy and adventure. Literary Fiction and Commercial Fiction Li Read More

The Myth of the Natural Writer

There’s a legendary joke about the writing life, often attributed to Margaret Atwood. It goes like this: A brain surgeon and a writer meet at a party. The brain surgeon says to the writer, “How interesting, I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and in fact, when I retire, I’m going to be a writer.” The writer replies, “Well, isn’t that a coincidence. When I retire, I’m going to be a brain surgeon.” Countless young people want to pursue writing while still in school, but ultimately choose more stable careers (whether brain surgery or accounting or lawyering). Some think they’ll have time to write on the side, but it rarely turns out that way. So, as they near retirement—or when they have all the money or stability they need—then they write their first book. Often, it Read More

Choosing Just the Right Words — Guest: Kathy Steinemann

While I’m recovering from my latest surgery this week, I’m grateful for another guest blog today. Kathy Steinemann is here to talk about word choice, but not in the way we usually think of the issue. We often talk about word choice in reference to our voice, but choosing the right word can be complex. We need to consider our characters’ voices, which can conflict with our voice, and sometimes we might want to break grammar rules for the sake of voice. In other words, knowing how to apply “the rules” with voice and word choice can require a tricky balance. The problem increases if we unintentionally choose the wrong word from our brain, whether due to a lack of knowledge or just simple typos. (And typos can get the best of us no matter our knowledge level, so we can’t give ou Read More

Fixing Split Ends: How to End a Story Perfectly

Some writers know what their ending will be right from the start. Others discover it in the course of writing the story, because even if you have an outline, things change. You get a better idea, or a character becomes more interesting than you expected. But not knowing how to end a story in a way that satisfies you (or an editor) is why many people abandon stories. What keeps going wrong? Even well-known writers abandon stories sometimes—the feel for the story disappears, or something else seems more urgent. Some stories are more like exercises—and don’t aim to be polished, finished works. But if you have stories that you feel are interesting and well-executed (up until the end) and this keeps happening, let’s look at a few things you can do to break that no-ending barrier. Ide Read More