HOW TO CRITIQUE YOUR MANUSCRIPT

On Victory Crayne’s website, a complete version of, How to Write a Critique is available. This site has many wonderful ways to improve a writer’s writing skills.  I critique my own writing, using this form. I find it essential in developing better writing skills.  Go to Victory Crayne’s website for more ways to improve writing skills or just brush up on the great writing skills you have acquired.

http://www.crayne.com/howcrit.html

Opening

Do the first few sentences or paragraphs of the story grab your attention? Do they present the protagonist’s main problem? Remember how you judge a book or story when you first see it in a bookstore. Don’t we often base our decision to buy or not buy upon those first few sentences? Did this author grab your attention fast enough?

Conflict

By conflict, I do not mean lots of slam-bam action. Conflict is “The mental or moral struggle caused by incompatible desires and aims. That is the kind of conflict that makes stories vitally alive.” – Ben Bova in “The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells”.

Is there emotional conflict WITHIN the main character? Between the main characters? Emotional conflict is part of what gets readers interested. For example: love vs. loyalty; greed vs. duty; fear vs. desire; revenge vs. self-doubt. Is there enough conflict between the characters? Is it expressed through action, dialogue, attitudes, or values? Were the characters sufficiently contrasted? Or did they seem to be totally satisfied with their roles? Did they have the potential to transform each other?

Plot

Was the main plot clear and believable? Did the main character have a clearly defined problem to solve? Did you feel by the end of the piece that this problem was solved or did the character become resolved to live with it? Were you able to determine the time and place of the story quickly enough? Did the story start at the right place? Did it end at the right place in the plot? Are there scenes which do not seem to further the plot? Were there too many flashbacks, which broke your attention? Was every subplot useful? Did it add to the overall story or did the author seem to stick it in just for complexity?

Pacing:

Did the plot/subplots move fast enough to keep the reader’s attention? Resolution of conflict: Did the conflict and tension in the plots and subplots come to some reasonable ending? Or did the author leave us hanging, wondering what happened? When you finished, were there things that you still felt needed to be explained? If the author did leave some conflict unresolved, did they indicate somewhere that future stories are pending?

Setting

Is there enough description of the background in the story to paint a picture that seems real enough for the reader? Did you feel that you were transported to ‘that time or place’? Was there too much description so modern readers might tend to become bored? Was the description written with clichés? Did the author use good enough names for people, places, and things? Names help set the tone for a story. Were some names of people hard to keep track of? Did some names seem inconsistent with the character? Were the names too stereotypical.

Timing

Is the timing and order of events in the story consistent? For example, did John drive his new car on his vacation in chapter six but it wasn’t until chapter ten that he bought it?

Characterization

Did the people seem real? Or were the main characters stereotypes or one-dimensional cardboard characters? Were the facts about the characters accurate and consistent? People do not exist in a vacuum. They have family, friends, a job, worries, ambitions, etc. Did you get a sense of enough of these, but not too much, for the main characters? Did you get a good picture of the culture, historical period, location, and occupation of the main character? Did you get enough of a sense of paradoxes within the character? Enough of their emotions, attitudes, values?

Backstory: Were you distracted by too much background information of a character at one time? Did the author seem to dump a lot of information on the background of a character in one or two long speeches, or did we learn about that character here and there in smaller pieces? Did the protagonist undergo some change in the story? Does each chapter/page have enough sensory description? Can the reader easily sense what is happening physically to the main character? Were there enough words of sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste? If the story used a person as the antagonist (villain), did they seem real too? Or did they seem so evil or one-sided that they were more like ideal villains? Did they have some redeeming qualities too? Did the villain seem to be a hero in their own mind?

Dialogue

Did the words from the mouths of the people in the story seem consistent with their personalities? Was there too much or not enough dialogue, in your opinion? Usually writers err on the side of not enough dialogue. Did any character tend to talk in long monologues?

Were you able to sense the conflict, attitudes, and intentions of each character in their dialogue without the author telling you of these directly? Were you able to detect any exchange of power that is sexual, physical, political, or social? Did the dialogue seem easy to speak? Can you ‘hear’ it? If it sounds unusual, you might suggest that the writer try reading it aloud. Does each character have their own speech rhythm, accent (if necessary), vocabulary, and even length of sentences?

Point of View

Was a given chapter or section written from one person’s point of view? Are there too many points of view in the story? Did the story skip around between the first person or third person point of view (POV)? Were the changes in POV signaled clearly?  If the story was written in the third person POV, as most stories are, did the story stick with the omniscient (all knowing) POV, use a limited POV (where we don’t know everyone’s motives except by clues from their words or actions), or did the author mix the two? Did the author’s choice seem right to you?

Show versus tell

When in the POV of a character, did the author describe what his/her senses showed, e.g., sight, sound, smell, touch, taste? Or did the author just tell you the dinner was very good? Did the author describe exactly how the people acted? Was there too much abstract language where specific details would have made a greater impact on the reader?

Format of the text

Was it easy to read or were the paragraphs too long or the lines too long (not enough margin)?

Would it help to put blank lines between paragraphs? If the piece is to be read on a computer monitor, adding a blank line between paragraphs will make it much easier for your critics to read. Note: when you submit the final version to print publishers, it is best to adhere to their manuscript format (no blank lines between paragraphs).

Grammar and spelling

Was the English readable? Were there too many grammatical errors, misuse of punctuation, run-on sentences, etc.?

Did you point out any typos or misspelling? How many times have you missed that in your writing because you passed over it without seeing it? Were there so many such errors that they made reading the piece difficult for you? Did the author use too many exclamation points (one of my weaknesses)? Were there any cliches in the narrative? For example, I once wrote “fruits of mother nature” and “thoughts burning in his mind”, both of which are cliches. In dialogue cliches are okay if the character would speak that way.

Style

You may wish to comment on the style the story was written in, e.g., humorous, wordy, sparse, literary, homespun, technical, etc.

 

 

The Top 10 Elements of a Book People Want to Read!

 

 

 

 

Many Indie writers are just now finishing their summer novel writing and will publish soon!  I thought it would be a great time to repost this article about the elements of good writing for readability!

By Writer Digest contributor, Helga Schier, PhD, Editor, Guest Column | March 16, 2015

This guest blog is written by Helga Schier, PhD, former Big Five editor and founder of With Pen and Paper, an independent editorial services firm. With over 20 years of experience in the (self-)publishing industry. For more information, visit http://www.withpenandpaper.com

Aim for High Readability

People enjoy books with a high level of readability—books with a captivating story and memorable characters, books we can’t put down, books that stick with us long after we’ve read the last word.

As an independent editor, I’ve come across my fair share of readable books, and all of them are well crafted on three distinct but intricately connected levels.

  • The surface structure of the words on the page, which includes grammar, punctuation, and spelling
  • The level of style and voice, which is defined by the choice of words, the sentence rhythm, the use of literary techniques and images, and the tone or approach
  • The content level, where the fictional world comes to life.
  • Highly readable books are polished, refined, sophisticated, and mature on all three levels. To fulfill the potential of your book, develop and sharpen the following top ten elements.
  1. Your Words Are Your tools; Make Sure They Are in Working Order.

Avoid typos, sort out commonly mistaken words such as die/dye or there/their/they’re. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!] Watch your grammar—make sure your nouns agree with your verbs and the personal pronouns fit. If a paragraph begins in the past tense, it likely ought to end in the past tense, too. Figure out where those commas go to help your readers make sense of your sentences. Sounds basic? It is. So run that spell-check and get it right.

  1. Check for Inconsistencies.

Writers revise their work constantly. As a result, characters may appear or disappear at random, because chapters were rearranged; subplots remain unresolved, because chapters were cut; and timeline issues may tiptoe in. Looking for inconsistencies and holes in your story is an integral part of polishing your work.

  1. Avoid Overwriting.

Your style or voice should step into the background to serve your story. No need for a clever metaphor in every sentence, or for an adjective before every noun. Avoid complicated sentences if a simple sentence will get your point across. Avoid inflated sentences and unnecessary introductory or summarizing phrases. Don’t be verbose—every sentence has a point; get to it.

  1. Avoid Underwriting.

Allow your language to adapt to its context. Using the same words and/or sentence structures repeatedly makes a novel repetitive and monotonous. If the teenage girl and the CEO of a multibillion dollar company have the same voice, we’ll learn more about the writer than about the characters and their relationships. Avoid clichés and create your own personal images instead. Or use clichés and stereotypes to your advantage—say, to define a character.

  1. Make Sure Your Characters Are More Than a Name.

As a reader, I want to be able to relate to your characters. I don’t have to always like them or agree with their choices, but I want to understand why they say and do whatever it is they say and do. I want to care for them, fear and worry with them. Therefore, your characters need to be recognizable and unique at the same time. They need to be complex rather than cardboard cutouts, and dynamic rather than passive. Even a bad guy deserves a redeeming quality.

  1. Show, Don’t Tell.

“He was anxious.” Or: “She was happy.” Or: “They were angry.” That’s telling. Trouble is, this does not really tell me what I am to imagine. Is he chewing his nails? Is she smiling as she embraces her newborn baby? Are they raising their voices to a level that could be heard down the block? That’s showing, and it conjures up a clear image in your reader’s head. And that’s what you want.

  1. Sharpen that Dialogue…

Dialogue passes on information between characters and to the reader. Dialogue propels the plot forward. And, dialogue reveals the personality of the dialogue partners, as well as their relationship. Avoid repeating small talk, too much clever banter, and uninterrupted speeches. At least two people should exchange information, ask questions, answer them, comment, fight, tease… whatever. The way your characters interact with each other says a whole lot about them and about their relationship.

  1. …And Expose that Subtext.

People don’t necessarily say what they mean or mean what they say. Every conversation has a subtext. Dialogue is not only about what is being said, but also about how the dialogue partners feel about and relate to each other. Do they like each other? Who has the upper hand? Do they trust each other? Show us in their gestures, glances, body language, and behavior while they’re talking. Is anyone leaning in or moving away? Anyone nervously fidgeting with a pen? Anyone looking out the window because he is bored or to the floor because she is ashamed? The narrative must support the dialogue by exposing the underlying tension, conflict, and motivation of your characters.

  1. Drive the Plot Towards Your Reader’s Aha-Moment.

A readable novel provides meaning to the world we live in, which is to say that the succession of events must make sense. Your characters react to these events in ways that are motivated by their psychological disposition. The interplay of events and character behavior moves your plot forward. The writer’s hand should remain invisible. Therefore, prepare your plot twists within the novel before they happen, and give your characters a reason for their behavior. These clues should not be so obvious that we can predict the way your story goes, but in retrospect, once the plot has twisted a certain way, your preparation must become clear. It’s your readers’ aha-moment, if you will.

  1. Build Your World.

Stories don’t happen in a vacuum. Your story could happen in China in the distant past, in present day America, or in the future on a planet you imagined. Your readers need to know how your world compares to theirs. This is world building, which involves establishing a clear timeline, a recognizable locale of your overall story, and, just as importantly, the ambiance of any given scene.

As a writer, you must create a world populated with characters who live their lives before our eyes, and you must do so with words only. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!] There is no camera to show us that the police car drives off with lights flashing, no sound to give us the sirens, and no actors to make a comment sound bored or sexy or irritated or funny or scared. Your words and their rhythm build your world and make it turn.

Your words are your tools; make sure they are in working order.

21 Do It Yourself Tips on Writing!

21 Do-It-Yourself Editing Tips by Melissa Donovan http://www.writingforword.com, July 4, 2017

*proofreading and editing

*Tips for Editing Your Own Work.

*The human mind is a funny thing; it likes to play tricks on us.

For example, when we proofread and edit our own writing, we tend to read it as we think it should be, which means we misread our own typos and other spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes as well as problems with word choice and sentence structure, context, and overall readability.

Do-It-Yourself Editing Tips

Here are twenty-one do-it-yourself editing tips that you can put into practice for polishing your own writing:

  1. Proofread and edit every single piece of writing before it is seen by another set of eyes. No exceptions. Even if you hire a professional editor or proofreader, check your work first.
  2. Understand the difference between proofreading and editing. Edit first by making revisions to the content and syntax. Then proofread to check for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  3. Use the Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word when you edit. This feature saves your edits. You can then review the changes you’ve made and approve or reject them.
  4. Step away from a piece of writing before you proofread it. The longer the piece, the longer you should wait to proofread it. Let a novel sit for a few weeks. Let a blog post sit overnight.
  5. Before proofreading and editing, run the spelling and grammar checker. Then run it again after you’re done polishing to check for any lingering typos. However, don’t count on software for spelling and grammar. Use it as a fail-safe.
  6. Read your work aloud. Pronounce each word slowly and clearly as you read and check for mistakes.
  7. Proofreading should never be a rush job. Do it s l o w l y.
  8. Don’t review your work once and then send it out into the world. I recommend editing until the piece reads smoothly and then proofreading it at least three more times.
  9. At the very least, proofread until you don’t catch any more errors.
  10. Read the piece backward so you can see each word separately and out of context.
  11. Look up the spelling of proper names as well as scientific and technical terms that you’re not familiar with to make sure you’re spelling them correctly.
  12. Don’t make any assumptions. If you’re not sure about something, look it up so you can fix a mistake (if there is one) and learn the correct way.
  13. Don’t forget to proofread titles, headlines, and footnotes.
  14. Pay attention to the mistakes you’ve made in your writing. You’ll find that you tend to make the same ones repeatedly. Keep track of these and work on avoiding them during the initial writing process in the future.
  15. Choose one of the many style guides and stick with it. This will make your work more consistent, and you’ll have a trusty resource to use when you have questions about style and formatting.
  16. Start building a collection of grammar books and writing resources so when you do run into questions (and you will), you have access to reliable and credible answers.
  17. If you intentionally let grammatical mistakes slip through, do so by choice and make sure you have a good reason. It’s okay to break the rules if you know why you’re breaking them.
  18. Pay attention to formatting. Use the same formatting on all paragraphs and headings for a professional level of consistency. Learn how to use these features in your word processing software (in MS Word, this feature is called Styles).
  19. Proofread when you’re fresh and wide awake. Proofreading doesn’t go over well when you’re tired or distracted.
  20. Proofreading and editing can be tedious, so break up your revision sessions by doing other tasks that help you clear your mind: exercise, play with the pets or kids, go for a short walk, or listen to some music. Try to avoid reading or writing during these breaks.
  21. Make it your business to develop good grammar skills. Read up on grammar or subscribe to a blog that publishes grammar posts (like this one) to stay up to date on proper grammar.

Some people love the proofreading and editing process. Others despise it. If you’re into grammar, the mechanics of writing, and polishing your work, then proofreading and editing will be easier and more enjoyable for you. If not, just look at it as part of your job — something that goes along with being a writer. And once you’re done proofreading and editing, make sure you get back to your writing.

 

 

 

Adventures in Writing:  The Complete Collection

8 Ways to Convince Book Bloggers to Review Your Book

8 Ways to Convince Book Bloggers To Review Your Book

Book bloggers actually do want to review your book! But we don’t have a lot of time so when you forget to include vital information or don’t follow the submission instructions, your requests end up in the trash bin. Here are 8 ways to convince me—and other book bloggers—to review your book:

via http://www.bookdaily.com/  There’s no reason to pile on and make your request email an epic read – that’s your novel’s job. When approaching reviewers keep your request on point. Give each blogger exactly what they ask for – no more, no less. Remember, we get lots of emails and the easier you make it for us, the greater your chance of acceptance. Here’s what should always be included.

1. Reviewer’s name: Guess what? You may have to read through the blog a bit to find it. Check contact information. Read all the way to the bottom of submission guidelines. It’s there. Now address your email to an actual person. Don’t write a generic salutation like To whom it may concern, Madam, Sir or other nonsense. Personalize it like Hi, D or Ms. Bale. Start requests using a smidgen of professionalism.

2. Your name: State this in your first sentence and again at close. Something like My name is Wendy Woman, author of Windy Woods, and… Sign off with Sincerely, Wendy/Ms. Woman. You get the drift.

3. Book title: Again, include this in paragraph one similar to the example given in #2.

4. Word count: If your request is for an eBook, include word count. If for print, reference page count. Reviewers need to have an idea of the time investment required.

5. Genre: Thriller, Mystery, etc. In a world of crossovers and sub-genres it can be difficult to classify your novel’s niche. Try and focus on the main thematic element. Is it something taking place in a galaxy far, far away? Science Fiction is for you. A post-apocalyptic world? Dystopian. Who done it? Mystery. Fast-paced, high stakes? Thriller. Even if your novel has elements of romance, action, or mystery classify it under one main heading then choose the underlying classifications to further identify it, such as Romantic Suspense – a romance novel with elements of suspense. As a reviewer if I’m told a novel is thriller, then I expect a fast-paced read. If it ends up plodding and drags my review will reflect this perceived negative due to deviation from the genre’s norms. But if this same book was referenced as a fantasy, I’d expect a more character-based journey and the slower or uneven pace would fit. Therefore my review would not perceive this as a negative. Simply put – KNOW YOUR GENRE – and know it well.

6. Time frame: If you have a hard date for reviews (release party, tour, campaign), tell a potential reviewer up front. Otherwise, don’t even mention time frame in your email. If a hard date is the case, always give a minimum of two months lead time. This allows reviewers to decide if they can meet your deadline. Don’t email two weeks before said date. We may not even get to your request within that time. Conversely, if you are like most authors and have no established date by which you need reviews, don’t say anything about a time frame. Referencing you want a timely review goes back to the slap in the face moment mentioned earlier. We try to make reviews timely – but timely to authors and timely to reviewers are very different. Authors are happy when reviews are posted the following week. Reviewers are happy when we post the following month (or two, three…).

7. Book blurb/synopsis: Sell reviewers on your book. Make it sound like something we’ve gotta read ASAP. Don’t do the lazy thing and simply provide a link. Copy/paste description/synopsis/blurb into the email body. Make it easy for reviewers to take a chance on you, an unknown indie, to want to read your novel.

8. Subject line: State Review Request or Book Review. Don’t get all flowery or funky and make the email subject line long and convoluted. Anything longer won’t show up in a condensed line anyway.

***

See? It isn’t difficult to compose a concise request detailing a novel’s basics. You don’t need to write another manuscript to get your point across. You don’t need to brow-beat reviewers or blow sunshine up dark places. You don’t need to denigrate or puff yourself up to get a point across. If reviewers want more simply go off submission guidelines – follow reviewer guidelines first and foremost.

Otherwise, lean on the side of KISS – Keep It Simple, Silly!

WANT TO SHARE THIS TIP? TWEET THIS:

🐦CLICK TO TWEET🐦 #Authortip from @BookDailycom: 8 Ways to Convince Book Bloggers To Review Your Book by @DABale1 http://www.bookdaily.com/authorresource/blog/post/1966703 #amwriting #writerslife

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: In her previous career, D.A. Bale traveled the United States as a Government Relations Liaison, working closely with Congressional offices and various government agencies. This experience afforded her a glimpse into the sometimes “not so pretty” reality of the political sphere. Much of this reality and various locations throughout her travels make it into her writing.

She dreams of the day she can return to visit Alaska.

You can find out more about her on her website www.dabalepublishing.blogspot.com and on Twitter

THE GIRL IN BLACK by Kathy Lauren Miller – A REVIEW

“The Girl in Black” by Kathy Lauren Miller is a hauntingly taut murder mystery as well as an awesome page-turner! The mystery begins with high school senior, Kate Mckenna who happens to live in an old Victorian manor that is also the Mckenna Memorial Funeral Home. Her father, Dr. Brendan Mckenna, happens to be the county’s Chief Medical Examiner. Shy Kate, whose social life as always been nearly non-existent until she is thrust into the limelight when the promiscuous prom queen, Ashley is found tortured and murdered.

Accusations run rampant in Kate’s High School concerning several male students that were involved with Ashley. To make matters worse, Ashley’s remains now reside at the funeral home where Kate lives. Kate and her best friend Cooper, a computer nerd, and Kate’s unattainable heartthrob, handsome Shane, all become involved in Ashley’s murder. Suddenly, Kate finds herself in the cross hairs of the sadistic killer and the vengeful ghost of Ashley, the murdered prom queen. What happens next is beyond Kate’s worse nightmare. The Girl in Black is a fascinating and terrifying murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the end. I highly recommend this book. (less)

The Top 10 Elements of a Book People Want to Read!

By Writer Digest contributor, Helga Schier, PhD, Editor, Guest Column | March 16, 2015

This guest blog is written by Helga Schier, PhD, former Big Five editor and founder of With Pen and Paper, an independent editorial services firm. With over 20 years of experience in the (self-)publishing industry. For more information, visit http://www.withpenandpaper.com

Aim for High Readability

People enjoy books with a high level of readability—books with a captivating story and memorable characters, books we can’t put down, books that stick with us long after we’ve read the last word.

As an independent editor, I’ve come across my fair share of readable books, and all of them are well crafted on three distinct but intricately connected levels.

  • The surface structure of the words on the page, which includes grammar, punctuation, and spelling
  • The level of style and voice, which is defined by the choice of words, the sentence rhythm, the use of literary techniques and images, and the tone or approach
  • The content level, where the fictional world comes to life.
  • Highly readable books are polished, refined, sophisticated, and mature on all three levels. To fulfill the potential of your book, develop and sharpen the following top ten elements.
  1. Your Words Are Your tools; Make Sure They Are in Working Order.

Avoid typos, sort out commonly mistaken words such as die/dye or there/their/they’re. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!] Watch your grammar—make sure your nouns agree with your verbs and the personal pronouns fit. If a paragraph begins in the past tense, it likely ought to end in the past tense, too. Figure out where those commas go to help your readers make sense of your sentences. Sounds basic? It is. So run that spell-check and get it right.

  1. Check for Inconsistencies.

Writers revise their work constantly. As a result, characters may appear or disappear at random, because chapters were rearranged; subplots remain unresolved, because chapters were cut; and timeline issues may tiptoe in. Looking for inconsistencies and holes in your story is an integral part of polishing your work.

  1. Avoid Overwriting.

Your style or voice should step into the background to serve your story. No need for a clever metaphor in every sentence, or for an adjective before every noun. Avoid complicated sentences if a simple sentence will get your point across. Avoid inflated sentences and unnecessary introductory or summarizing phrases. Don’t be verbose—every sentence has a point; get to it.

  1. Avoid Underwriting.

Allow your language to adapt to its context. Using the same words and/or sentence structures repeatedly makes a novel repetitive and monotonous. If the teenage girl and the CEO of a multibillion dollar company have the same voice, we’ll learn more about the writer than about the characters and their relationships. Avoid clichés and create your own personal images instead. Or use clichés and stereotypes to your advantage—say, to define a character.

  1. Make Sure Your Characters Are More Than a Name.

As a reader, I want to be able to relate to your characters. I don’t have to always like them or agree with their choices, but I want to understand why they say and do whatever it is they say and do. I want to care for them, fear and worry with them. Therefore, your characters need to be recognizable and unique at the same time. They need to be complex rather than cardboard cutouts, and dynamic rather than passive. Even a bad guy deserves a redeeming quality.

  1. Show, Don’t Tell.

“He was anxious.” Or: “She was happy.” Or: “They were angry.” That’s telling. Trouble is, this does not really tell me what I am to imagine. Is he chewing his nails? Is she smiling as she embraces her newborn baby? Are they raising their voices to a level that could be heard down the block? That’s showing, and it conjures up a clear image in your reader’s head. And that’s what you want.

  1. Sharpen that Dialogue…

Dialogue passes on information between characters and to the reader. Dialogue propels the plot forward. And, dialogue reveals the personality of the dialogue partners, as well as their relationship. Avoid repeating small talk, too much clever banter, and uninterrupted speeches. At least two people should exchange information, ask questions, answer them, comment, fight, tease… whatever. The way your characters interact with each other says a whole lot about them and about their relationship.

  1. …And Expose that Subtext.

People don’t necessarily say what they mean or mean what they say. Every conversation has a subtext. Dialogue is not only about what is being said, but also about how the dialogue partners feel about and relate to each other. Do they like each other? Who has the upper hand? Do they trust each other? Show us in their gestures, glances, body language, and behavior while they’re talking. Is anyone leaning in or moving away? Anyone nervously fidgeting with a pen? Anyone looking out the window because he is bored or to the floor because she is ashamed? The narrative must support the dialogue by exposing the underlying tension, conflict, and motivation of your characters.

  1. Drive the Plot Towards Your Reader’s Aha-Moment.

A readable novel provides meaning to the world we live in, which is to say that the succession of events must make sense. Your characters react to these events in ways that are motivated by their psychological disposition. The interplay of events and character behavior moves your plot forward. The writer’s hand should remain invisible. Therefore, prepare your plot twists within the novel before they happen, and give your characters a reason for their behavior. These clues should not be so obvious that we can predict the way your story goes, but in retrospect, once the plot has twisted a certain way, your preparation must become clear. It’s your readers’ aha-moment, if you will.

  1. Build Your World.

Stories don’t happen in a vacuum. Your story could happen in China in the distant past, in present day America, or in the future on a planet you imagined. Your readers need to know how your world compares to theirs. This is world building, which involves establishing a clear timeline, a recognizable locale of your overall story, and, just as importantly, the ambiance of any given scene.

As a writer, you must create a world populated with characters who live their lives before our eyes, and you must do so with words only. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!] There is no camera to show us that the police car drives off with lights flashing, no sound to give us the sirens, and no actors to make a comment sound bored or sexy or irritated or funny or scared. Your words and their rhythm build your world and make it turn.

Your words are your tools; make sure they are in working order.