Tag Archives: novel

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!

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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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.


Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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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

Source: thewritepractice.com

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3 Crucial Steps That Will Improve Bad Writing

Today’s post is written by Jeff Goins. Jeff is the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. His award-winning blog, Goinswriter.com, is visited by millions of people every year.

Deliberate writing practice is the foundation of The Write Practice. Deliberate practice writing can take your writing process to the next level.

If you want to meet your writing potential in life, you have to write. Just like basketball players spend hours shooting free throws so that they don’t choke when it counts in a game, writers need to ingrain a type of practice that works for their writing process into their DNA.

In this article, you’ll learn a writing practice that will help you develop a regular routine of practice to improve your creative writing skills.

Bad Practice—and the Illusion of Practice—Don’t Create Expert-Level Performance

Stephanie Fisher had come a long way from her hometown of Jamestown, New York, to Augusta, Georgia, but this was her dream and she wouldn’t give it up. The year was 2010, and it was her seventh time auditioning for American Idol.

She had never made it this far in the singing talent show, but this time, things were going to be different. This time, she would see the judges.

Dressed in a silvery sequined top, donning pearls around her neck and fishnet stockings, Stephanie stepped onto the platform of America’s most popular talent show, smiling nervously before the judges.

“Wow,” a couple of them said, remarking on her outfit.

“I almost wore the same thing,” Randy joked.

Simon rolled his eyes, obviously annoyed.

“Okay,” Kara said, “let’s hear it.”

In her black and white oxfords, Stephanie spread her feet apart as if to ready herself, and she opened with Peggy Lee’s “Fever.”

At this point, Stephanie was snapping her fingers and provocatively staring down the judges, who were audibly groaning. Her rhythm was off, the notes were wrong, and everyone on the set knew it, including Stephanie. They told her to stop. She frowned.

“Thank you, Stephanie,” Simon said.

“What did you think?” Kara asked.

“Terrible. Honestly, you can’t sing, sweetheart.”

Stephanie admitted to being a little starstruck in the presence of Victoria Beckham, who was a guest judge that day. Later she told a reporter this was something the producers told her to say. Victoria offered to turn around in hopes that it would make the contestant feel more at ease. Stephanie accepted the offer, which felt forced and a little too theatrical for me.

The young grad student started again, a little more awkwardly, this time singing “Baby Love” by The Supremes. It wasn’t any better. After a measure or two, Victoria turned back around. This time Kara added to the critical jabs, saying it was better when she was looking. Another burst of laughter erupted from the judges.

“With the greatest respect,” Simon said in a proper British accent, pausing for dramatic effect, “you have a horrible voice.”

“Really?” Stephanie said, looking stunned but still smiling nervously. All the preparation, all those long years of dreaming, had led to this?

“Yeah,” Randy chimed sympathetically. “You ain’t got it goin’ on.”

“You can’t give me a few minutes to get un-nervous?” she pleaded.

“We’d need years, Stephanie,” Simon said, and the judges again all laughed in unison. And as I watched the YouTube video recounting this painful story years after the fact, I realized how true that was.

It’s Not Just About Trying

Our parents told us to try our best. Whether at school or Little League, we were encouraged to give it our all, and that was enough to make them proud.

But the truth is there are different kinds of trying. Anders Ericsson has been studying this for years and in his book Peak, he’s come to a surprising conclusion: not all effort is equal.

Stephanie Fisher had been practicing singing for years. She’d been trying. But the 10,000-hour rule, at least as far as she understood it, had not worked. What was she doing wrong?

The answer, according to Ericsson, lies in what he calls deliberate practice.

In his recent book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, he says that when you embrace the deliberate-practice mindset,

. . . anyone can improve, but it requires the right approach. If you are not improving, it’s not because you lack innate talent; it’s because you’re not practicing the right way.

So what is the right way to practice? Deliberate practice requires the following:

  • You must push yourself past your comfort zone and attempt things that are not easy for you.
  • You must get immediate feedback on the activity you are practicing and on what you can do to improve it.
  • You must identify the best people in your field and find out what sets them apart, then practice like they do.

If you’re not doing these things, you’re not really practicing. At least, not in the way that is going to lead to excellence.

If you’re not engaging in deliberate practice, you’re not practicing in the way that leads to excellence.

The Secrets to Writing Like Hemingway

When Ernest Hemingway was living in Paris in the 1920s, he received an exceptional education in writing, a unique opportunity he may not have even been aware of.

Every day, he would get up and go to a cafe, where he would write for a few hours. First, he’d edit the previous day’s work, a discipline he developed that influenced his style for the rest of his life. Unlike many other authors at the time, he was constantly tightening his prose, trying to make it cleaner, shorter, better.

In the afternoons, he would visit his friends in the Latin Quarter, people like Gertrude Stein, Scott Fitzgerald, and Ezra Pound. They would critique his writing, give him feedback on what he was doing right and what he was doing wrong. Then he would apply what he learned.

This was an incredible opportunity, but it wasn’t an accident. Hemingway was born in Chicago, and after a brief stint in the Red Cross during WWI, he wandered for a while, trying to find his way in life. It was author Sherwood Anderson who encouraged him to move to Paris where “the most interesting people in the world lived.”

So he did, and nearly seven years later, when his informal apprenticeship was over, he had learned the discipline of deliberate practice.

Challenge Yourself to Deliberate Practice

If you want to do the same, you must:

  1. Push yourself in your practice. In my book The Art of Work, I call this painful practice, because it might hurt a little. That’s what happens every time we go outside our comfort zone.
  2. Seek out critical feedback. We live in the age of inflated egos when most people are afraid to give their honest opinions. But in order to become a truly great writer, you will need people in your life to tell you, “you can do better.”
  3. Seek out the greats and learn their secrets. You don’t have to move to Paris, but you need to find prominent writers in your genre, living or dead, and find out how they do what they do.

The truth is there are people who have a natural ability when it comes to writing, but this is incredibly rare. If you want to get better at writing, you need to construct some  writing goals for you this year, and then develop some practice plans that will help you develop good, deliberate practice writing habits.

More and more, science is proving that what we used to call talent is really just hard work that pushes you to a level of performance that you hadn’t previously attained.

What makes a writer great is not the talent, but the practice.

When was the last time you practiced something deliberately? What did you learn? Share in the comments!

By Jeff Goins

Source: thewritepractice.com

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How to Write When You Don’t Feel Like It: 5 Practical Tips You Can Try Today

Are there times in your life when it’s more difficult to write? Do you want to learn how to write when you don’t feel like it?

As a writer, you probably feel frustrated when the muse doesn’t show up, or you feel stuck on a bad idea for a story but desperately want to write one. One day you’re passionate about writing. You’re in the zone.

And then, something happens.

You skip a day. And then two. A week goes by and you haven’t written a paragraph. You enter a black hole of unproductive writing sessions.

You feel guilty, like you should be taking your writing more seriously, but you just can’t muster the willpower to actually write. This is real life for a real writer: there are days when we don’t want to write, where not even an extra-large cup of coffee will get you through a writing session.

In this article, we’ll talk about why you don’t feel like writing and what you can do about it.

It’s Normal to Not Feel Like Writing

At some point in every major writing project I’ve ever worked on, I’ve wanted to give up. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve felt so exhausted, so stupid, so humiliated that I wanted to quit being a writer and give up my dream altogether.

Steven Pressfield calls this the Resistance, a malicious, sentient force actively seeking the destruction of your creative thinking and  art. I call it the ugly middle. Whatever you want to call it, the truth is that when you reach this point, you’re close to a breakthrough.

The best thing you can do is push through it.

5 Practical Tips to Push Through Unproductive Attempts at Writing

How do you push through? Here are five tips to help you focus on your writing when it’s the last thing you want to do:

Have you ever sat down to write and felt completely unmotivated? There are five practical tips you can try to push through your writing time—even if you don’t feel like writing.

1. Find Your “Creative Nook”

In the acknowledgments of The Golden Compass, Phillip Pullman thanked a museum café, saying that every time he went there, the problems he was having with his novel were solved in an hour.

Sometimes, all you need is the right location, your personal creative nook.

I wrote my first book sitting in a particular seat in a particular coffee shop. This location became my own personal writing space that, on many days, triggered my creative juices.

Others like to write outside or in their home office. How about you? Where do you feel most creative?

2. Make It Your Job

Many of the best writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Salman Rushdie, and Virginia Woolf, wrote professionally before becoming fiction authors (Rushdie was a copywriter, Hemingway and Woolf journalists).

If you want to become a better writer, you have to practice writing—and finding a full-time job in writing might be the creative career you need in order to actually dedicate plenty of time to writing.

Consider reaching out to your local newspaper or a company that needs marketing copy. Perhaps you can volunteer or even get a part-time job there.

For the last five years, I’ve worked professionally as a writer, and while there are still times I don’t want to write, the fear of disappointing the people I write for and the need to support myself and my family keep me going.

Also, there’s nothing like a deadline to boost your creativity!

3. Take a deep breath. If that doesn’t work, take a walk.

If you’re stuck in the middle of a writing project, you may just need to reset your brain. Try closing your eyes and taking several deep breaths.

If that doesn’t work, grab a notebook and a pen (or your iPhone with Evernote) and take a walk. This will clear your head and get your subconscious working to solve your creative blocks. Sometimes fresh ideas need to come from doing something different, and preferably something that causes movement.

Spending time out of a chair is good for your mental health—and physical health, too!

4. Hang Out With Other Writers

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” said Jim Rohn, and it’s true, the people you spend time with rub off on you. Your lack of motivation could stem from hanging out with the wrong people.

By hanging out with other writers, their passion for their writing will inspire you to go back to your own. It’s never a waste of time building a community of writers who you can support, and who will support you in return.

5. Sit With the Pain and Grieve

Sometimes, writing is just hard, and you can’t do anything about it.

I used to procrastinate and promised I would come back to my writing later when I felt more inspired. Now, I recognize that the pain is a given. The sooner I get through it, the sooner I can have a breakthrough.

So I scrunch my face up. I whine. I write in my grief journal. I grieve the fact that creativity, like birth, is always difficult. But the fruit is worth it.

And then I write, whether I feel like it or not.

The Best Writing Can Come After a Slow Period

Whether you’re an amateur writer or a published author, every writer experiences days where they just don’t feel like writing.

However, if you want to become a better writer, you have to practice—and this means writing through the bad writing days, or low moments where you just don’t feel like writing.

On day you don’t feel like writing, set some small, simple goals for you to accomplish and push through the disinterest. If this doesn’t work, or even if it does, try one of the five practical tips in this article to ignite a spark and love for writing again.

If you do this, you’ll be on your way to becoming a better writer—and a far more resilient one.

 What do you do when you don’t feel like writing? Let us know in the comments.

By Joe Bunting

Source: thewritepractice.com

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Best Practices for Working with an Independent Editor

By Lisa Poisso

Most writers have read the wide-eyed articles from newly-agented writers detailing the pressure of revising and returning edits on a tight schedule and working with an assigned editor. But what if you’re the one hiring the editor? By their nature as entrepreneurs, every independent editor’s business practices vary. Ask your editor about these common expectations and practices before agreeing to any work.

Before Your Edit

1. Agreements about the business details of your project protect you both. An agreement needn’t be a formal printed contract signed in person; an email constitutes a legal agreement. The agreement should define the scope of work, start and finish dates and other relevant deadlines, total cost and payment schedule, and a clear explanation of what happens if either party cancels or breaches the agreement.

2. New writers often mistakenly believe they need a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) to protect their material. Your work is legally copyrighted the moment you commit it to print, making NDAs cumbersome, unnecessary, and often a sign of professional mistrust.

3. Most editors require a deposit to get your book on their calendar, customarily ranging from a flat fee of $100 or more to the first half of the total fee. You can expect to pay your total editing bill in full before the editor releases the edited manuscript.

4. If you can’t or don’t want to use your editor’s preferred payment method, aren’t located in the same country as they are, or prefer a slow payment method like personal checks, ask if your choice will create any issues. Allow enough time to process payments without holding up the project.

5. Missing your editing date by even a day or two could leave your manuscript without time to fit into its scheduled slot, if the deadline is tight or your editor is busy. Communicate as soon as you suspect you may have a problem hitting your scheduled editing date.

6. The time it takes to edit a manuscript varies widely, depending on your manuscript’s needs, the type of editing, and the editor’s schedule and work practices. Developmental editing usually takes the longest. Line editing is slower than copyediting, and proofreading is the fastest editing service.

If there were such a thing as a typical editing rate among all these levels of service, it might run from 20,000 to 35,000 words per week. You get what you pay for. If all the editor has time for is a breakneck race through the manuscript, that’s precisely what you’ll get.

Don’t try to reverse-engineer what you think an editor’s editing rate should be based on words or pages per hour. Manuscript speed doesn’t account for writing an editorial report or letter; creating a style sheet; formatting and preparing the file; running automated software and macros to check mechanics, formatting, and style; an initial read-through; a follow-up read-through; or book mapping and structural analysis. If there’s no time for these (or if your editor prices the edit without them), you’ll be missing many aspects of a thorough professional edit.

7. Submitting a manuscript that’s as error-free as possible allows your editor to spend their time on elements that require professional skill and judgment. If the writing needs extensive spelling, grammar, and punctuation cleanup, those things are exactly where the editor will spend their time. Leaving messes for the editor to clean up costs money—your money. Clean manuscripts give editors elbow room to help you elevate your story and writing.

8. Don’t jump the gun with fancy formatting or graphics. It’s not time for your manuscript to look like a book yet. Standard manuscript format—12-point double-spaced Times New Roman, one-inch margins, first-line paragraph indents instead of tabs, one space (not two) between sentences, and no line space between paragraphs—lets your editor get right to work.

9. Although most editors spot-check facts and look for obvious errors (mostly for narrative and internal consistency), factual accuracy—including science, geography, history, and foreign languages—is your responsibility as the author.

During Your Edit

10. Some editors consider work complete when they return the edited manuscript to you. This is typical for edits designed to inspire revision and new writing, such as developmental or line edits. Other editors ask that you review and approve or revise their edits and return the manuscript for final adjustments; this is more typical for polishing edits like copyediting or proofreading. These editors will review some or all of your changes; the first sort consider that a new round of editing. Neither way is wrong or superior. Included follow-up rounds generally mean higher rates; many editors who don’t include follow-up rounds offer deep discounts for additional rounds. Ask your editor what’s included.

11. Especially early in your writing career, your manuscript could need multiple rounds of the same type of editing. If a developmental edit leads to significant changes, for example, you could need a second round after revisions. Don’t let this possibility take you by surprise.

12. Expect to work using Microsoft Word and tracked changes. Most editors use Word because it permits the use of editorial tools that increase the accuracy and quality of the edit, a benefit you very much want for your manuscript. Agents, editors, and other publishing professionals will also expect to receive your manuscript as a Word file, not as a PDF or “compatible” file. Word and tracked changes look intimidating but aren’t difficult to learn, and working with them is part of a writer’s baseline skills.

13. You may not hear much from your editor while your edit is in progress, or they may contact you with various questions. Both are normal. Editing isn’t a sequential process that starts with chapter one and finishes at “The End.” Editors work in layers. There’s often not much to say about an edit in progress beyond “Yep, still working.”

14. For anything but proofreading, edits are the beginning of the revision process, not the end. Reviewing a copyedit is relatively straightforward, but line and developmental edits are designed to steer you toward deeper, better writing. It’s up to you to follow through with the work.

After Your Edit

15. Editing is a subjective process, and you’re free not to take every edit and recommendation. It’s your book and your vision. Most editors include follow-up time to review points of confusion or disagreement. Disagreeing with the substance of the feedback, however, does not entitle you to a discount or refund.

16. A full-length edit can generate hundreds of comments and tens of thousands of edits. Considering this scope, the final manuscript will inevitably contain some residual errors. You can minimize these by starting with a manuscript as clean as you can possibly manage and finishing with a professional proofread.

17. Just as you wouldn’t want your editor to discuss or share your manuscript with others, it’s unprofessional to share your edits online or kvetch about the specifics with other writers or editors. The edited final product is yours to do with as you wish, but the edits, comments, and editorial feedback themselves are intended for you alone.

18. If you find yourself rejecting most of the edits and suggestions in your edit, you may have hired the wrong editor for the job or pushed for a level of editing your manuscript wasn’t ready for. More often, you simply need some emotional distance from the feedback. Putting away a difficult edit for a while can help you regain objectivity.

19. American authors, don’t file a 1099-MISC for editing fees if you paid using a service such as PayPal. Payments made with a credit card or payment card and certain other types of payments, including third-party network transactions, must be reported on Form 1099-K by the payment settlement entity under section 6050W and are not subject to reporting on Form 1099-MISC

20. Want to thank your editor? Recommend them in writers’ groups. It’s the editorial equivalent of posting a reader review online. And consider sending a signed copy of your book. If your editor doesn’t have space to keep it, they can donate it to a Little Free Library—more readers for your brilliantly edited creation.

This article does not constitute legal or financial advice; for specific issues and questions, you should seek advice from a qualified attorney or financial professional.

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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Stoking Your Story’s Fire: Three Considerations for Revising Scene by Scene

By David G. Brown

The Two Pillars of Storytelling

After my first couple years as a fiction editor, I realized that all of my developmental feedback for clients fit into one of two categories. The first is immersion: the quality of a narrative that transports readers to another time and place. The second is emotional draw: that which maintains readers’ interest in a character and thus keeps them turning pages.

Immersion is achieved with scene-based writing, which means a focus on the protagonist’s moment-to-moment experience of setting and conflict. A reader’s sense of immediacy grows out of sensory details, movement, action, and dialogue.

Emotional draw is more complicated. Readers are diverse, and each one brings a slightly different reason for turning the page. But the main components are:

  • Trajectory—the momentum of a character struggling toward a goal
  • Anticipation—a desire to know what happens next
  • Stakes—a looming consequence should the character fail

Immersive Potential

The author’s first job, whether they are writing fiction or narrative nonfiction, is to transport readers into their characters’ world. Context is important in any story, but sensory details are paramount since they are key to a reader’s imaginative experience of the text.

Comb through your scenes with this principle in mind. On every page, ask yourself what your readers might be seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling. Do they know within a few sentences where a scene is taking place? Can they picture the surroundings? Do they have a physical sense of the characters moving through and occupying space in this locale?

Judge each sentence by the following criteria: does it convey the focal character’s moment-to-moment experience of the scene? Or does it instead provide context?

The more scene you have on each page, the deeper your readers’ potential immersion. As soon as you showcase context, your readers’ imaginative experience diminishes. That’s not to say there isn’t room for snippets of context. It’s a question of balance.

Context includes setting, world-building, backstory, and even interiority—your protagonist’s analysis and reflections. Again, context is important, but it works best when it surfaces in hints rather than explanations.

Treat your readers like detectives—give them clues and let them come to their own conclusions about context.

Chapter Arcs and Consequence

Here’s another reason scene-based writing is so important: it’s where both plot and character come to life.

When characters make decisions and take risks, readers see them for who they really are. Witty asides and snippets of narrative context can give a story much depth, but the true essence of character is contained in what they are willing to do—or not—to get what they want.

Therein lies the nugget of a chapter arc: a character either takes action toward a goal or reacts to a new obstacle. The result is a consequence—their path forward has changed. In most cases, the scene will have some bearing on the overarching narrative trajectory (more on trajectory in a moment), but the action/reaction and consequence might also develop a subplot.

Take a close look at each scene in your manuscript and ask yourself:

  • Does the focal character make a choice or take action in pursuit of a goal?
  • Does this choice or action result in a consequence that leads into the next scene?

If the answer is no or if you aren’t sure, flag the scene for reconsideration: either bring it into the story’s chain of consequence or send it to the chopping block!

Plot is a Chain of Consequence

A large part of emotional draw flows out of trajectory: a character struggling toward a goal. As the protagonist makes decisions and takes risks in pursuit of their goal, they court failure of some kind. If nothing is at stake, it’s extremely difficult to hold readers’ interest, and without a specific goal, the story becomes aimless.

In terms of structure, the beginning of a narrative is the point when a character’s underlying motivation crystallizes into this clear, relatable, and specific goal—the first link in the story’s chain of consequence. Keep in mind, many novels open sometime after this point. For example, in Moby Dick, Ahab’s inciting incident is implied.

In genre fiction, the narrative goal is often in sharp focus: it’s a quest to save the world or a mission to stop a killer. While emotional draw in literary fiction is usually connected to deeper thematic elements, the narrative goal is still a major component, even if the quest is subtler.

A protagonist’s goal is sometimes referred to as a narrative bridge—a question asked in the beginning of the novel that is answered by the end. The protagonist’s goal is the question, and whether or not they achieve it is the answer. This answer also forms the final link in the story’s chain of consequence.

The rest of the narrative chain lies between the inciting incident and the climax. That means each scene causes the next. In other words, if you map out your story scene by scene, there should be a causal transition between each segment: this happens, therefore this happens, but then this happens, therefore… The alternative lacks momentum; it’s anecdotal: this happens, and then this happens, and then this happens.

Here’s a simple example: Rumpelstiltskin.

The miller’s daughter is the protagonist. Her inciting incident comes when her father brags to the king that she can spin gold from straw. She is therefore locked in a room where she is expected to perform her magical feat.

Father and daughter are in deep trouble, but then Rumpelstiltskin appears and offers to do the deed in exchange for her necklace. She agrees and therefore presents the king with his gold the next morning. But then the king wants even more gold; therefore the miller’s daughter needs Rumpelstiltskin’s services again and must make greater and greater sacrifices to pay for them.

The chain of consequence wraps up at the climax: eventually, when Rumpelstiltskin comes to collect on his final demand (her first-born child), the miller’s daughter tries to renegotiate. He gives her an unlikely escape clause: she must guess his name. She therefore follows him into the forest, finds his home, and overhears him singing his secret.

A novel is much more complex, especially given subplots like interpersonal arcs and side quests. For this reason, it’s a good idea to create separate causal maps for your story’s main trajectory as well as the secondary storylines. However, when you look at the big picture, each scene should fit into one of these chains of consequence.

Bringing It All Together

Though this article first touches on the importance of your readers’ story-world immersion, you are better off to focus your initial self-editing efforts on your manuscript’s chain of consequence. You might find that entire scenes aren’t pulling their (causal) weight, which means they either need to be cut or substantially changed to align with the protagonist’s trajectory. For this reason, it’s best to nail down the structure before you start fleshing out and polishing scenes.

To conclude, here are a few more tips for your next self-editing adventure:

  • Take time away from your project. Work on something else for a month or two!
  • On your next read through, pretend your worst enemy is following along over your shoulder. What would they say? What would they roll their eyes at?
  • Between each draft, consider your story from wildly different angles—what if the protagonist and antagonist traded places? What if you switched genres? How would the conflicts play out in a different time and place?
  • Don’t be afraid to tear down walls and install a new front door. In fact, sometimes we need to burn down the house altogether to find the best way forward.

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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Top 100 Short Story Ideas

Do you want to write but just need a great story idea? Or perhaps you have too many ideas and can’t choose the best one? Well, good news. We’ve got you covered.

Below are one hundred short story ideas for all your favorite genres. You can use them as a book idea, as writing prompts for writing contests, for stories to publish in literary magazines, or just for fun!

Use these 100 story ideas to get your creative writing started now.

Editor’s note: This is a recurring guide, regularly updated with ideas and information.

If you’re in a hurry, here’s my 10 best story ideas in brief, or scroll down for the full version.

Top 10 Story Ideas

  1. Tell the story of a scar.
  2. A group of children discover a dead body.
  3. A young prodigy becomes orphaned.
  4. A middle-aged woman discovers a ghost.
  5. A woman who is deeply in love is crushed when her fiancé breaks up with her.
  6. A talented young man’s deepest fear is holding his life back. 
  7. A poor young boy or girl comes into an unexpected fortune.
  8. A shy, young woman unexpectedly bumps into her soulmate.
  9. A long journey is interrupted by a disaster.
  10. A young couple run into the path of a psychopath.

Why Creative Writing Prompts Are Helpful

Below, you’ll find our best creative writing prompts and plot ideas for every genre, but first, why do we use prompts? Is it just a waste of time, or can they actually help you? Here are three reasons we  love writing prompts at The Write Practice:

1. Practice the Language!

Even for those of us who are native English speakers, we’re all on a language journey to go from beginners to skilled writers. To make progress on this language journey, you have to practice, and at The Write Practice, believe it or not, we’re really into practice! Creative writing prompts are easy, fun ways to practice.

Use the prompts below to practice your storytelling and use of language. The more you practice, the better of a writer you’ll become.

2. When you have no ideas and are stuck.

Sometimes, you want to write, but you can’t think up any ideas. You could either just sit there, staring at a blank page, or you could find a few ideas to help you get started. Even better if the list of ideas is curated from our best plot ideas over the last decade that we’ve been publishing lessons, writing exercises, and prompts.

Use the story ideas below to get your writing started. Then when your creativity is warmed up, you’ll start to come up with your own ideas!

3. To develop your own ideas.

Maybe you do have an idea already, but you’re not sure it’s good. Or maybe you feel like it’s just missing some small piece to make it better. By reading other ideas, and incorporating your favorites into yourstory, you can fill your plot holes and generate creative ideas of your own.

Use the story ideas below to develop your own ideas.

4. They’re fun!

Thousands of writers use the prompts below every month, some at home, some in classrooms, and even a few pros at their writing “office.” Why? Because writing prompts can be fun. They get your creativity started, help you come up with new ideas of your own, and often take your writing in new, unexpected directions.

Use the plot ideas to have more fun with writing!

How to Write a Story

One last thing before we get to the 100 story ideas, let’s talk about how to write a great short story. (Already know how to write a great story? No problem. Just skip down to the ideas below.)

  1. First, read stories. If you’ve never read a story, you’re going to have a hard time writing one. Where do you find great stories? There are a lot of places, but check out our list of 46 Literary Magazines we’ve curated over here.
  2. Write your story in a single sitting. Write the first draft of your story in as short a time as possible, and if you’re writing a short story, try to write it in one sitting. Trust me, this works. Everyone hates being interrupted when they’re telling compelling stories. Use that to your advantage and don’t stop writing until you’ve finished telling yours.
  3. Read your draft. Read your story through once, without changing anything. This will give you a sense of what work it needs going forward.
  4. Write a premise. After reading your first draft, get your head around the main idea behind your story by summarizing your story in a one sentence premise. Your premise should contain four things: a character, a goal, a situation, and a special sauce. Not sure what that means or how to actually do that? Here’s a full premise writing guide.
  5. Write, edit, write, and edit. Good writing is rewriting. Use your second draft to fill in the plot holes and cut out the extraneous scenes and characters you discovered when you read the first draft in step #2. Then, polish up your final draft on the next round of edits.
  6. Submit! Real writers don’t keep their writing all to themselves. They share it. Submit your story to a literary magazine, an anthology series, enter it into a writing contest, or even share it with a small group of friends. And if it gets rejected, don’t feel bad. You’ll be in good company.

Want to know more? Learn more about how to write a great short story here.

Our 100 Best Short Story Ideas, Plot Ideas, and Creative Writing Prompts

Ready to get writing? Here are our 100 best short story ideas to kickstart your writing. Enjoy!

10 Best General Short Story Ideas

Our first batch of plot ideas are for any kind of story, whether a spy thriller or a memoir of your personal life story. Here are the best story ideas:

  1. Tell the story of a scar, whether a physical scar or emotional one. To be a writer, said Stephen King, “The only requirement is the ability to remember every scar.”
  2. A group of children discover a dead body. Good writers don’t turn away from death, which is, after all, the universal human experience. Instead, they look it directly into its dark face and describe what they see on the page.
  3. A young prodigy becomes orphaned. Orphans are uniquely vulnerable, and as such, they have the most potential for growth.
  4. A middle-aged woman discovers a ghost. What do Edgar Allen Poe, Ron Weasley, King Saul from the Bible, Odysseus, and Ebenezer Scrooge have in common? They all encountered ghosts!
  5. A woman who is deeply in love is crushed when her fiancé breaks up with her. “In life every ending is just a new beginning,” says Dakota Fanning’s character in Uptown Girls.
  6. A talented young man’s deepest fear is holding his life back. Your character’s biggest fear is your story’s secret weapon. Don’t run from it, write about it.
  7. A poor young boy or girl comes into an unexpected fortune. Not all fortunes are good. Sometimes discovering a fortune will destroy your life.
  8. A shy, young woman unexpectedly bumps into her soulmate (literally bumps into him). In film, this is called the “meet cute,” when the hero bumps into the heroine in the coffee shop or the department store or the hallway, knocking her books to the floor, and forcing them into conversation.
  9. A long journey is interrupted by a disaster. Who hasn’t been longing to get to a destination only to be delayed by something unexpected? This is the plot of GravityThe Odyssey, and even Lord of the Rings.
  10. A young couple run into the path of a psychopath. Monsters, whether people who do monstrous things or scaly beasts or a monster of a natural disaster, reveal what’s really inside a person. Let your character fall into the path of a monster and see how they handle themselves.

Now that you have an idea, learn exactly what to do with it. Check out my new book The Write Structure which helps writers take their ideas and write books readers love. Click to check out The Write Structure here.

More Short Story Ideas Based on Genre

Need more ideas? Here are ideas based on whichever literary genre you write. Use them as character inspiration, to start your own story, or borrow pieces to generate your own ideas. The only rule is, have fun writing!

By the way, for more story writing tips for each these plot types, check out our full guide to the 10 types of stories here.

10 Thriller Story Ideas

A thriller is any story that “thrills” the reader—i.e., gets adrenaline pumping, the heart racing, and the emotions piqued.

Thrillers come in all shapes and forms, dipping freely into other genres. In other words, expect the unexpected!

Here are a few of my favorite thriller story ideas:

Rosa Rivera-Ortiz is an up-and-coming lawyer in a San Diego firm. Held back by her ethnicity and her gender, she works twice as hard as her colleagues, and she’s as surprised as anyone when she’s requested specifically for a high-profile case. Bron Welty, an A-list actor and action star, has been arrested for the murder of his live-in housekeeper. The cop heading the case is older, ex-military, a veteran of more than one war, and an occasional sufferer of PTSD. Rosa’s hired to defend the movie star; and it seems like an easy win until she uncovers some secrets that not only make her believe her client is guilty, but may be one of the worst serial killers in the past two decades… and he knows she found out.

It’s the Cold War. Sergei, a double-agent for the CIA working in Berlin, is about to retire when he’s given one final mission: he’s been asked to “defect” to the USSR to help find and assassinate a suspected double-agent for the Kremlin. Sergei is highly trusted, and he’s given to understand that this mission is need-to-know only between him and very few superior officers. But as he falls deeper into the folds of the Iron Curtain, he begins to suspect that his superior officer might just be the mole, and the mark Sergei’s been sent to kill is on the cusp of exposing the leak.

It is 1800. A lighthouse on a barren cliff in Canada. Two lighthouse keepers, German immigrants, are alone for the winter and effectively cut off from the rest of the world until the ice thaws. Both Wilhelm and Matthias are settled in for the long haul with warm clothes, canned goods, and matches a-plenty. Then Wilhelm starts hearing voices. His personal belongings disappear from where he’d placed them, only to reappear in strange spots—like the catwalk, or dangling beneath the spiral stair knotted in brown twine. Matthias begs innocence. Little by little, Wilhelm grows convinced that Matthias is trying to convince him (Wilhelm) to kill himself. Is the insanity real, or is this really Matthias’ doing? And if it is real, what will he do to defend himself? There are so many months until the thaw.

Click for thriller short story ideas.

20 Mystery Story Ideas

Enjoy a good whodunit? Then you’ll love these mystery story ideas.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Ever hear the phrase, “It is not who fired the shot but who paid for the bullet?” This is a philosophy Tomoe Gozen lives by. Brave and clever, Tomoe follows clues until she learns who ordered the murder: Emperor Antoku himself. But why would the emperor of Japan want to kill a lowly soldier?

Mystery writer Dan Rodriguez takes the subway every day. Every day, nothing happens. He wears earbuds and a hoodie; he’s ignored, and he ignores. Then one evening, on his way home from a stressful meeting with his publisher, Dan is startled out of his funk when a frantic Middle-Eastern man knocks him over at a dead run, then races up the stairs—pursued by several other thugs. The Middle-Eastern man is shot; and Dan discovers a mysterious package in the front pocket of his hoodie. What’s inside, and what does he need to do to survive the answer?

A headless corpse is found in a freshly-dug grave in Arkansas. The local police chief, Arley Socket, has never had to deal with more than missing gas cans and treed cats. His exploration of this weird murder digs up a mystery older than the 100-year-old town of Jericho that harkens all the way back to a European blood-feud.

Click for the mystery short story ideas.

20 Romance Story Ideas

Ready to write a love story? Or perhaps you want to create a subplot with a secondary character? We’ve got ideas for you!

Hint: When it comes to romance, a sense of humor is always a good idea. Have fun! Here are a few of my favorite love story ideas:

She’s a cop. He’s the owner of a jewelry store. A sudden rash of break-ins brings her to his store over and over and over again, until it becomes obvious that he might be tripping the alarm on purpose—just to see her. That’s illegal—but she’s kind of falling for him, too. Write the moment she realizes she has to do something about this crazy illicit courtship.

Colorado Animal Rescue has never been more challenging than after that zoo caught on fire. Sally Cougar (no jokes on the name, or she’ll kill you) tracks down three missing tiger cubs, only to find they’ve been adopted by millionaire Bryce Champion. Thanks to an antiquated law on the books, he legally has the right to keep them. It’s going to take everything Sally has to get those tiger cubs back.

He’s a museum curator with a fetish for perfection. No one’s ever gotten close to him; how could they? They’re never as perfect as the portraits, the sculptures, the art that never changes. Then one day, an intern is hired on—a young, messy, disorganized intern, whose hair and desk are in a constant state of disarray. The curator is going half-mad with this walking embodiment of chaos; so why can’t the he stand the thought of the intern leaving at the end of their assistantship?

Click for the romance short story ideas.

20 Sci-Fi Story Ideas

From the minimum-wage-earning, ancient-artifact-hunting time traveller to the space-exploring, sentient dinosaurs, these sci-fi writing prompts will get you set loose your inner nerd.

Here are a few of my favorite sci-fi ideas:

In a future society, neural implants translate music into physical pleasure, and earphones (“jacking in”) are now the drug of choice. Write either from the perspective of a music addict, OR the Sonforce agent (sonance + enforcer) who has the job of cracking down.

It’s the year 5000. Our planet was wrecked in the great Crisis of 3500, and remaining human civilization survives only in a half dozen giant domed cities. There are two unbreakable rules: strict adherence to Life Quality (recycling doesn’t even begin to cover these laws), and a complete ban on reproduction (only the “worthy” are permitted to create new humans). Write from the perspective of a young woman who just discovered she’s been chosen to reproduce—but she has no interest in being a mother.

So yeah, ancient Egypt really was “all that” after all, and the pyramids turn out to be fully functional spaceships (the limestone was to preserve the electronics hidden inside). Write from the perspective of the tourist exploring the ancient society who accidentally turns one on.

Click for the short story ideas.

20 Fantasy Story Ideas

Bored teenaged wizards throwing a graduation celebration.

Uncomfortable wedding preparation between a magic wielding family tree and those more on the Muggle side of things.

A fairy prince who decides to abandon his responsibilities to become a street musician.

Just try to not have fun writing (or even just reading!) these fantasy writing prompts.

Click for the fantasy short story ideas.

The Secret to Choosing the Best Story Idea

Stories, more than any other artistic expression, have the power to make people care. Stories have the ability to change people’s lives.

But to write a great story, a life-changing story, don’t just write about what your characters did, said, and saw. Ask yourself, “Where do I fit in to this story? What is my personal connection to this story?”

Robert Frost said this:

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader. Robert Frost

If you can connect your personal story to the story you’re writing, you will not only be more motivated to finish your story, you might just be able to change the lives of your readers.

Next Step: Write Your Best Story

No matter how good your idea, writing a story or a book can be a long difficult process. How do you create an outline, come up with a great plot, and then actually finish it?

My new book The Write Structure will help. You’ll learn how to take your idea and structure a strong plot around it. Then you’ll be guided through the exact process I’ve used to write dozens of short stories and over fifteen books.

By Joe Bunting

Source: thewritepractice.com

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Fear Thesaurus Entry: Leading

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 Leading

Leading is not easy. It means being responsible and accountable, making decisions that will have a wider impact, and facing scrutinization for certain actions taken. This fear can cause characters to avoid stepping forward when asked (or needed), resent having this role thrust upon them, and even affect those already in a leadership role.

What It Looks Like
Resistance to being in charge
Avoiding making a final decision
Not wanting to be responsible in bigger ways
Not wanting to speak out or speak one’s mind
Letting others decide
Being risk-adverse
Pointing out one’s flaws and lack of suitability to others
Self-sabotage (to prove to others they aren’t leadership material)
Avoiding conflict and arguments
Bringing on a partner to co-lead
Obsessing about one’s missteps and mistakes
Indecisiveness and hesitation
Asking someone else to pass on bad news
Avoiding being the one to make hard decisions (and instead passing the buck or putting it to a vote)
Pulling back or hiding out in stressful times
Trying to avoid public speaking (preferring email and other “silent” ways of communicating, or having someone else make the speeches)
Being prone to over-analyzing rather than decisiveness
Wanting to keep things smaller and less complicated due to doubts of being able to handle something bigger
Wanting to stick to what’s known rather than innovate and experiment
Setting smaller goals because they are easier to achieve
Feeling not up to a challenge
Resisting or minimizing growth (of a movement, a business, a community) to keep things manageable
Pushing people away
Finding reasons to stay in the comfort zone rather than ask, What’s next?
Seeing the drawbacks, not the potential
Feeling one’s knowledge is inadequate and that can’t be changed
Viewing failures or lackluster progress as proof of one’s inability to lead
Focusing on what could go wrong, not what could go right
Worrying about the repercussions
Pretending things are okay when they are not
The character becoming prickly in situations where they don’t know the answer

Common Internal Struggles
Wanting to hide from responsibility, but feeling cowardly to want that
Wanting to make things better, but only seeing one’s own shortcomings
Believing leading would be a disaster (if the character hasn’t taken on the role yet)
Wanting to do right by others but fearing one’s efforts will only disappoint
Feeling unworthy of the belief others have in their abilities
Feeling like an impostor
A desire to go back to simpler times
Taking criticism to heart
The misbelief that they are only capable of so much, rather than see personal shortcomings as temporary and subject to change
Over-focusing on mistakes and failures rather than successes
Believing successes are due to luck more than skill
Having good ideas but not wanting to be blamed if something goes wrong

Flaws That May Emerge
Addictive, Defensive, Disorganized, Evasive, Humorless, Impatient, Inattentive, Indecisive, Insecure, Irresponsible, Jealous, Nervous, Oversensitive, Perfectionist, Pessimistic, Uncommunicative, Withdrawn, Workaholic, Worrywart

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
Holding back great ideas out of the fear of being singled out and asked to lead
Suffering with a less-than-ideal status quo
Being unhappy in a follower role
Being stuck with bad leaders and situations that don’t improve
Feeling like they are living beneath their potential
Having to put up with poor leadership because they are unwilling to step forward
Leading, but with a fear-based mindset that catastrophizes rather than see limitless potential
Being pessimistic about the future
Feeling cowardly for not having the courage to step forward

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
Being asked to take something over
A survival situation where the character is the best suited to lead
Being the oldest in an emergency, so siblings look to the character to lead
Being promoted at work
Being asked to be in charge of a project, committee, event, etc.
When others come to the character in dire need of help
Needing leadership experience to round out college applications
A death in the family that makes the character a successor
Knowing by not stepping up, greater harm will come.


Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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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 sticking with a novel is actually quite simple: find an idea that grips you.

Get in Touch with Your Passions

Before you chase every crazy idea into the ground, stop and take a breath. Think about what moves you: books you couldn’t put down, movies you’ve watched dozens of times, TV shows you couldn’t stop talking about, and songs you played so many times, you’re sure they have bonded with your DNA.

By identifying your passions, you can figure out what makes you tick, and that’s a great start to your quest for novel writing ideas that you can really sink your teeth into.

All your past and present obsessions hold the clues to your future commitment to your own novel. Pay close attention to your preferences for genre, theme, setting, style, character archetypes and above all — emotional sensibility. Make lists of what you love about your favorite stories, and soon you’ll see the shape of your own novel start to emerge.

Generate and Gather Plenty of Novel Writing Ideas

Once you’ve made some general decisions about the novel you’re going to write, it’s time to start generating specific ideas.

Of course, the best novel writing ideas come out of nowhere. You’re on your hands and knees scrubbing the floor and suddenly that big magic bulb over your head lights up. Or maybe you have so many ideas, you don’t know where to start. It’s even possible that you’re aching to write a novel but are fresh out of ideas. Your mind feels like a gaping void.

Actually, story ideas are everywhere. The trick is to collect a variety of ideas, and let them stew while you decide which one is worth your effort. Here are some quick tips for generating ideas:

  • Hit the bookstore or library and jot down some of your favorite plot synopses. Then rework the details to transform these old plots into fresh ideas for new stories. Try combining different elements from your favorite stories. And use movie synopses too!
  • Load up on fiction writing prompts and develop each prompt into a short (one page) summary for a story.
  • Harvest some creative writing ideas from the news.
  • Grab a subplot from your favorite movie or TV show — a story line that wasn’t fully explored — and make it the central story problem.

Create a stash file for your ideas. It can be a folder on your computer or a box you fill with 3×5 index cards. You can also write all these ideas in a notebook. Just make sure you keep them together so you can easily go through them.

Let Your Novel Writing Ideas Marinate

Some ideas are so enticing, you can’t wait to get started. If you’re writing a poem or a piece of flash fiction, then have at it. If things don’t work out, you’ll lose a few hours or maybe a few weeks. But imagine investing months or years in a novel only to realize your heart’s not in it. Try to avoid doing that by letting ideas sit for a while before you dive into them.

The best ideas rise to the top. These are not necessarily the bestselling ideas or the most original ideas. They’re the ideas that are best for you. Those are the ones that will haunt you, keep you up at night, and provoke perpetual daydreams.

These are the ones worth experimenting with.

Experiment to See Which Novel Writing Ideas Can Fly

There’s a reason people test drive cars and lie around on the beds in mattress shops. When you make a big investment, you want to feel right about it. You can’t know how a car will drive until you actually drive it. And you can’t know how a bed will feel until you relax on it for a while. And you definitely can’t know what your relationship with your novel will be like until you experiment with it.

In truth, the experimental phase is when you start writing the novel — just like the test drive is when you start driving the car. But you haven’t committed yet. You’re still open to the idea that this is not for you. This might seem like I’m nitpicking over semantics, but you’ll find that discarding partially written novels wears on you after a while. If you play around with your story with the understanding that you’re experimenting, and if things don’t work out, you can always walk away without feeling guilty or like you gave up. Go back to your idea stash, and start tooling around with the next one.

How do you experiment with novel writing? I’m so glad you asked. There’s a lot you can do. Start by brainstorming. Sketch a few characters. Poke around and see what kind of research this novel might require. Draft a few scenes. Write an outline. If you keep going through these motions and can’t shake your excitement, then you are finally . . .

Writing Your Novel

At this point, you’ve already started writing your novel. But suddenly, you’re not just writing a novel. You’re deeply, passionately, obsessively writing your novel. If a couple of weeks go by and you haven’t had time to write, you miss your characters. When you get stuck on a scene, you simply work on some other part of the story because you’re so obsessed. You have to fight the urge to tell everyone about how the story is coming along. Your trusted buddy, whom you bounce ideas off of, is starting to think you’re taking it all too seriously. “Maybe you should watch some television a couple nights a week,” he says, looking concerned.

This is a story that’s captured your full attention. And that’s a good sign that it will capture the attention of readers. You are ready to commit.

Many (or most) of your novel writing ideas might end up in the trash or in a bottom drawer. But every one of them will be worth it when all of that idea generating, planning, and experimenting finally pays off. Every idea that doesn’t work will pave the path to the idea that will set you on fire.

So no matter what, no matter how many ideas come and go, no matter how many drafts you discard, never give up. Just keep writing!

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

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