Writing Craft Tips

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 »

Tension!

Tension is essential in stories that will resonate with readers. As a reader, you know the feeling – staying up way past your bedtime because you can’t put that book down. This post is a short introduction to crafting tension that will have your readers hanging on every word. Rule number 1: story is conflict…. Read more »

Newest Catchphrase: Write Up!

I spent the past weekend at the New York SCBWI conference and, as always, it was enlightening and energizing. But what struck me was a message that I heard repeated a number of times from various speakers – editors, agents, and authors – and it was “write up!” “Write up” means writing up for children,… Read more »

For Writers: On Voice and Tone

Editors and agents often say that they sign an author because of the excellent/compelling “voice” of the work in question. What does this mean, and how do you accomplish it? First, some definitions… Tone: the “atmosphere” of a narrative, generated by using diction (word choice) and syntax (sentence structure). Specific genres are characterized by their… Read more »