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Avoiding "Practical Action" Sentences

Avoiding "Practical Action" Sentences

One way you can up your writing game is to challenge yourself to look for and eliminate the vast majority of “practical action” sentences in your prose. I’m referring to those functional movements your characters make to accomplish basic tasks. Things like coming downstairs in the morning or walking across the kitchen. The underlined sentence below is an example: Ethan left the party at straight up ten o’clock and bolted...

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A Quick Explanation of "In Medias Res"

A Quick Explanation of "In Medias Res"

One of the biggest decisions you’ll make when writing a novel is where to begin. Of course your story really begins well before page one, with all the events that made your world what it is and with all the experiences that made your characters who they are. But when we’re talking about page one, we need to pinpoint where our written story, our plot, is going to begin. You’ll often...

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Research for Writing and Life

Research for Writing and Life

As a freelance editor and a mother of four kids, I have learned that basic research skills are a must, both in writing and in life. Children, like writers and editors, are curious creatures. We all wonder about things that have little to do with our everyday lives. So we do research. Sometimes we fall down the rabbit hole and don’t come out for hours.  As writers, use this curiosity...

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Improve Your Dialogue Using the Four S's

Improve Your Dialogue Using the Four S's

We know dialogue makes for good storytelling, and we know that getting two people talking can make a scene interesting. But, of course, dialogue isn’t interesting just because it exists. The possible things your characters could say at any moment need to be curated and carefully shaped by you. That shaping means you are going to want every bit of dialogue to be directed toward your story purposes. Therefore, if...

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How I Access My Emotions When I Write (And You Can, Too!)

How I Access My Emotions When I Write (And You Can, Too!)

Why do you like the writing you like? I think many writers’ work becomes popular because their writing touches readers on an emotional level. Whether writing makes you laugh or cry, whether you give the novel a place of honor on your bookshelf or throw it against the wall, it makes you feel something.  One of my favorite writers, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has been asked in several interviews how he writes such deeply...

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How to Choose Between Past or Present Tense

How to Choose Between Past or Present Tense

I’ve listened in and been a part of many conversations about choosing the past or present tense in storytelling, and the most common advice I hear from one writer to another is some version of, “Do what feels right.” Friend, there is better advice out there and I’m going to give you some right now. First, imagine a nurse asking a doctor, “Scissors or scalpel?” and the doctor saying, “I...

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You Need Story Structure: A Cautionary Tale

You Need Story Structure: A Cautionary Tale

When I was 19, I started writing my first novel. I’d written fan fiction as a young teen, but my original works were rarely longer than a few pages. I was an avid reader, though, and I’d been told I was a prodigious writer. I thought that was all I needed to write. This was the first year I studied writing formally. I’d decided in high school that I wouldn’t...

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5 Ways To Tackle Revisions

5 Ways To Tackle Revisions

Many of us are in the thick of National Novel Writing Month, commonly known as NaNoWriMo, and hope to have most or all of the rough draft of a book finished by the end of the month. Even if you’re not, you probably have a manuscript lying around in some stage of completion that you’ve been avoiding. And most writers do. Revising after that initial dump of creativity is hard,...

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