Friday, January 9, 2015

4 Craft of Writing: Best Craft Tips from 2014, part A

Before we roll-out our fabulous lineup of bloggers with great craft of writing tips for 2015, we thought it might be fun to look back over our 2014 craft posts and highlight some of the best tips that we found to be fresh and useful. The ones below come from the first half of 2014 and cover aspects from Character Development to Worldbuilding to Prologues. We hope you'll find a snippet that speaks to you and then click the link to read the full article. And remember the blog labels! Follow Craft of Writing to read more great craft articles than could be mentioned here.

Finally -- don't forget our new monthly Ask a Pub Pro column where you can ask a specific craft question and have it answered by an industry professional. So, get those questions in! Or, if you're a published author, or agent, or editor and would be willing to answer some questions, shoot us an email as well!

Craft of Writing: Best Craft Tips from 2014, part A

Character Development:

Whenever writing a character, always keep one question foremost in mind: what is this character’s motivation? What does this character want? Characters drive stories, and motivation drives character. So that basic motivation should never be too far from the character’s thoughts. What does this character want and what is he or she doing in this scene to get it? It’s almost a litmus test for the viability of a scene. If your character isn’t doing something to get closer to what he or she wants, then you should be asking yourself if the scene is really necessary.
(from Using Soap Operas To Learn How To Write A Character Driven Story by Todd Strasser on 2/11/14)

Plot Element (A Ticking Clock):

The clock is mainly a metaphor. You can use any structural device that forces the protagonist to compress events. It can be the time before a bomb explodes or the air runs out for a kidnapped girl, but it can also be driven by an opponent after the same goal: only one child can survive the Hunger Games, supplies are running out in the City of Ember....
Only three things are required to make a ticking clock device work in a novel:
-- Clear stakes (hopefully escalating)
-- Increasing obstacles or demand for higher thresholds of competence
-- Diminishing time in which to achieve the goal
(from The Ticking Clock: Techniques for the Breakout Novel by Martina Boone on 5/20/14)

World Building (Details):

Whenever you have an opportunity to name something or to get specific about a seemingly random detail in your story, do it. Don’t settle for anything vague or halfway. Be concrete. You never know when one of these details might come in handy later. They’re like tiny threads that you leave hanging out of the tapestry of story just to weave them back in again later.
(from Crafting A Series by Mindee Arnett on 1/28/14)


“Write without fear
Edit without mercy”
Your first draft should be unafraid. Personally, I’m a planner, but you don’t have to be; I know published authors who aren’t. The important thing is that you embrace the flow of creation and let the story and its characters live. Don’t judge at this point. Write until it’s done.
Once you have that first draft in place, set the story aside for a few weeks, then take off your writing-hat – with all its feathers and furbelows – and don your editing-hat instead. The hat your inner editor wears is stark. No-nonsense. Maybe a fedora.
(from Edit Without Mercy by L.A Weatherly on 1/7/14)


Even less likeable characters are readable and redeemable so long as they are striving for something they desperately care about. One of the basic tenets of creating a powerful story is that the protagonist must want something external and also need something internal one or both of which need to be in opposition to the antag's goals and/or needs. By the time the book is over, a series of setbacks devised by the antag will have forced a choice between the protag's external want and that internal need to maximize the conflict. The protagonist must react credibly to each of those setbacks, and take action based on her perception and understanding of each new situation.
(from Use Action and Reaction to Pull the Reader Through Your Story by Martina Boone on 5/2/14)



Theme is important when writing. It can be one of the things that puts the most passion into your work. What is it you are really trying to say with this book? You don’t have to know before you start writing. Heck, you don’t even have to know while doing the first revision. But as you go over your manuscript again—and again—you will see things popping out at you. Tell the truth. Dreams matter. Work together. Listen to your own heart. Those are the things that make us fall in love with literature. Once you begin to notice these repetitions (or if you know what you want to say from the start) the real fun begins, because you begin to see all kinds of beautiful ways to make it evident. Symbolism and dialogue and imagery.
(from Write What You Love and Stay True To Your Passion by Katherine Longshore on 6/20/14)

Story Structure:

On Prologues:

The point I’m trying to make is that you should always strive to be confident in every page, to the point where you should never need a crutch like a prologue. Instead, the beginning needs to be amazing. Not necessarily adrenaline-filled, not necessarily action-oriented. Just damn good. Every page of your book should be, at the very least, strong and interesting writing, and your opening should have the tangible hooks of the ‘problem’ we feel in this book, even if they are only tugging ever so gently. If you have a prologue its worth examining the real page one and making it stronger, finding your real beginning, having faith in your book and your writing. If it doesn’t hold up, prologue or no, the book won’t work.
(from An Agent's Perspective on Prologues by Seth Fishman on 2/24/14)

On story structure and finding the heart of the story:

As a novelist, I have to be both mother and master of my imagination. Story structure is what both of those roles rely upon—structure nurtures, protects, rules and drives the raw imagination. Months into working on Willow, the other characters began to want to have voice in different ways that the original epistolary form would not have allowed. Although I was confident in the characters, I had to also have confidence in my ability to tap into my imagination and structure it so that the soft, intangible electric energy of the original idea or the heart of the story (what Turkish author Orhan Pamuk calls “the secret center” of the novel) are bolstered and illuminated. Structure is always what I go back to when I’m feeling panic or insecurity.
(from Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet of Creativity by Tonya Hegamin on 3/28/14)

-- Posted by Susan Sipal


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