Writing Craft Tips

Pantser, Revised

If you know me at all well, you already know that I’m an avowed pantser. (If you don’t know me, or don’t know what a pantser is, it’s a writer who “writes by the seat of her pants”, i.e., organically.) I hate outlines and I love spontaneity. I love the open-ended response to “what if…?”… Read more »

New Craft Books For Writers

Lately I’ve discovered some new writing craft books that have become staples of my reference shelf. I wanted to share my impressions of these recent releases, so I hope you enjoy. THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION: HOW TO WRITE THE STORY BENEATH THE SURFACE, by Donald Maass (Writer’s Digest Books, 2016). I’ve long been a… Read more »


Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what motivates a protagonist to action. Lisa Cron, in her terrific craft book STORY GENIUS, describes what she calls the character’s “misbelief” – a belief that has been the source of much agony for the character. Others refer to this characteristic as a “back-story wound”, or… Read more »

Bury the Backstory

Recently I watched one of my all-time favorite movies yet again, A Knight’s Tale with the late Heath Ledger. I love it for its quirky characters, its wry humor, its evocative dialogue, its historical twists, and its way of making history relevant by the use of contemporary music. But I also love the way the… Read more »

Getting To The Story Heart

Today, a blog post for writers: getting to the emotional heart of your writing. This is one exercise in a series of exercises I’ve got planned for my talk at our Montana spring SCBWI retreat in two weeks. Readers want stories that touch them in a deep way. They want stories that resonate long after… Read more »

Revision Techniques

I love revision. My first drafts tend to be real ugly ducklings. If there’s a swan inside, it only emerges after multiple revisions. In this post, I’m giving you two things: first, my ten-point global revision technique; and second, my detail checklist. The detail checklist is especially helpful for getting rid of those pesky errors… Read more »

Tension On Every Page

A year plus ago I had the good fortune to attend a conference featuring three greats: Christopher Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Donald Maass. I already had books by each one of them, and I carried my copies along for their signatures. One of these is my well-used copy of Maass’s WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL… Read more »

Creating Conflict

Last week I posted about tension and “death stakes”. This week I’ll broaden the conversation to discuss conflict, in the most general terms. Once again, I’ll also invoke one of my favorite writers, James Scott Bell, and his craft book CONFLICT AND SUSPENSE. He states that a successful novel is “the emotionally satisfying account of… Read more »