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Story Description: Finding the Right Balance

Landscape at sunset with text: How Much Description Is "Just Right"?

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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February 23, 2016

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

Pen on a notebook with text: Why Isn't There a Right Way to Write?

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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December 15, 2015

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

Modern building beside old brick building with text: Fiction vs. Non-Fiction

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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September 8, 2015

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Tangents and Subplots: When Do They Work?

Shopping cart in the woods with text: Is This Scene Out of Place?

My Elements of a Scene Checklist helps us identify whether a scene is truly necessary and contributing to our story by making sure it fulfills a story purpose. The same judgment criteria can apply to subplots as well. Let’s take a look at how can we make sure our tangents and subplots are adding to the story and not acting as a distraction.

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August 25, 2015

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Can We Learn from Reading “Bad” Writing?

Man with a disgusted look and text: Should We Read Bad Writing?

When we end up with a “dud” of bad writing from a book we’ve purchased, what should we do? Should we treat it as a learning experience or just close the book? My answer has changed over the years, so let’s take a closer look at when we might want to slog through bad writing to try to learn what not to do—and when we wouldn’t.

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August 4, 2015

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Should Our Protagonist Be in the First Scene?

A face hidden by a hoodie with text: When Should Readers Meet the Protagonist?

Most stories open with the protagonist on page one, but every once in a while, our story seems to work best if we start with another character. If we understand why the protagonist usually works best as the point-of-view character for the first page, we might be able to remake those exceptions into stronger openings.

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February 17, 2015

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You Have a Superpower—Use It!

Wooden figures holding hands with text: Are You Using Your Superpower?

This is a crazy and chaotic time of year for many of us, and this stressful time of year can also bring out the worst in people. Luckily, we all have a superpower. We have the power to make someone else’s day better. Or at the very least, we have the power to provide a bright spot in their otherwise crappy day.

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December 23, 2014

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What Makes a Story’s Black Moment a Black Moment?

Black-and-white image of cemetery cross with text: What Creates a Black Moment?

The Black Moment is usually one of the most emotional sections of the story, so it can be difficult to pull together. If we read stories (or watch movies), we’ve seen this beat play out endless times, so we probably understand the plot point more than we may think. But let’s take a closer look and see if we can learn something new.

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December 16, 2014

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