cause and effect

How to Make Our Story Feel Meaningful

January 12, 2017 Writing Stuff
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Story is different from plot, but sometimes we can have lots of plot ideas, and we might not be sure if—or how—we can pull those together into something that feels like a story. Let’s get some tips…

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Backstory: When Is It Necessary?

September 13, 2016 Writing Stuff
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We often think about the purpose of backstory in terms of “what do readers need to know?” But with that perspective, it’s too easy to include too much backstory. Instead, we might be better off if we think about backstory from the perspective of what the story needs.

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Stuck on Plot? Start at the End — Guest: Janice Hardy

August 9, 2016 Writing Stuff
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Today, Janice Hardy shares her tip for getting unstuck with our plot. Whether we’re plotters or pantsers, working backward from the end can help us figure out our story’s plot. Sometimes we need to shake up how we do things to get the creative juices flowing again, and working backward can be the key we need.

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When Is a Shocking Scene Necessary…or Gratuitous?

August 2, 2016 Writing Stuff
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As authors, we need to be careful when dealing with shocking, horrifying, or potentially problematic story elements. Let’s explore the steps we can go through to figure out the right approach for our genre, story, and characters.

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Plot Obstacles & Character Agency

May 17, 2016 Writing Stuff
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Ashley asked a question in the comments last week that gets at the heart of strong, proactive characters. Even in literary fiction, characters are usually faced with making choices, and whatever triggers those choices is where we’ll find plot and character agency.

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Want to Evoke Emotions in Readers? — Guest: Marcy Kennedy

April 14, 2016 Writing Stuff
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To create a great emotional story, we need to know not only the vocabulary of describing emotions, but also how we can evoke emotions in our readers. Marcy Kennedy’s here to show us how deep point of view can help us evoke those emotions we want within our readers.

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Writing Building Blocks: Paragraph Breaks & Voice

April 12, 2016 Writing Stuff
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From school, we’re probably all familiar with using topic sentences to break ideas into paragraphs in non-fiction, but the rules are different for fiction. Choosing where to put paragraph breaks is one of the most voice-dependent decisions we can make as writers.

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Story Description: Finding the Right Balance

February 23, 2016 Writing Stuff
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For every aspect of our story, we have to find the right balance. One element many writers struggle with is description: too little leaves our readers floating without an anchor, and too much drags our story’s pacing. So how do we find the right amount and know whether we need more or need to cut?

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Ask Jami: Why Isn’t There One Right Way to Write?

December 15, 2015 Writing Stuff
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When we’re young, the world feels like it’s made up of wrong answers and right answers. Not surprisingly, writing is one of those areas of our life where “one right way” doesn’t apply, and there are several reasons why there’s no definitive “right” way to write a book.

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When Is a Good Editor Not Good for Your Story? — Guest: Misti Wolanski

September 8, 2015 Writing Stuff
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Many writers write both fiction and non-fiction (even if the latter is just blog posts), but the two types of writing require different skills—from authors and from editors. The better we understand the differences, the better we can follow the right rules at the right time and the better we can judge whether an editor is skilled in the right areas to be a good editor for us.

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