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Planning Your Story

Story planning tips and advice. Sample topics: using beat sheets, developing arcs, techniques for those who write by the seat of their pants, deciding on story ideas, etc.

NaNo Prep: 4 Tips for Starting Our Story

"Trail Starts Here" sign with text: 4 Tips for Starting Our Story

Tomorrow, thousands of writers will start their novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I’m not in a good spot in my writing project schedule to participate this year (*pout*), but I’m cheering from the sidelines. (I’m Jami Gold if anyone wants to buddy me.) On this occasion, I wanted […]

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October 31, 2013

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How to Avoid a Sagging Middle in Our Stories

Sagging power pole with text: Have a Sagging Middle?

The middle act of our story isn’t about adding page count to drag out the tension and make the story novel-length. And the middle isn’t a delaying tactic before we get to the “good stuff.” Instead, the middle of our story should be the “meat” of the story. Without setting up the obstacles here, any solution in the final act will seem too easy and won’t be as satisfying.

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October 29, 2013

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NaNo Prep: Do You Know What to Plan in Advance?

Leftover scraps of many posters with text: Don't End Up with a "Hot Mess" after NaNo

Do you smell it? The crisp air, the fallen leaves? (Unless you’re Down Under.) It’s almost time for NaNoWriMo, when thousands of writers will try to cram 50,000 words into a 30-day deadline. Unfortunately, I won’t be doing NaNo this year, as I’m not in the right spot with any […]

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October 10, 2013

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What Do Your Characters Falsely Believe?

Text: How Are Your Characters (big red letters) WRONG!

Last year, I wrote a series of posts about a fabulous presentation by Michael Hauge on “Using Inner Conflict to Create Powerful Love Stories.” But the teachings I picked up from the presentation went far beyond being applicable only to romance. Blogger extraordinaire Janice Hardy was in the workshop with me, and […]

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September 26, 2013

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Are Beat Sheets Intimidating? Cut through the Clutter

Beat Sheets: Back to the Basics

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of story structure. I’ve created several beat sheets and have oodles of posts about the topic. But I’m also not a math person, so the idea of working in Excel for all those worksheets gave me the heebie-jeebies at first. I’m probably not […]

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September 19, 2013

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How to Find the Start of Our Story

Plant sprouting with text: Finding the Start of Our Story

A lot goes into deciding how to begin our story. We have to introduce the characters, the story, and the setting. We have to make it interesting, not confusing, or not accidentally misleading. Etc., etc., etc. If we think about it too much, we might seize up and not write […]

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September 3, 2013

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Do Beat Sheets Lead to Formulaic Writing?

Page of math formulas with text: Are Beat Sheets Too Formulaic?

Last week, Slate.com ran an article about how Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat book is ruining movies. According to that post’s author, “Snyder’s beat sheet has taken over Hollywood screenwriting. … Intentionally or not, it’s become a formula—a formula that threatens the world of original screenwriting as we know it.” I’ve […]

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July 23, 2013

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A Pantser’s Guide to Beat Sheets

Map with text: A Pantser's Guide to Beat Sheets

I’ve mentioned many times that I write by the seat of my pants. I’ve also expressed my love of beat sheets—by creating several of them. I have beat sheets that focus on plot points, another focused on character arcs, and yet another focused on romance arcs. Wait, someone who writes […]

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July 9, 2013

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How to Use Character Flaws to Develop a Plot

Rusted and stained brick wall with text: Flaws Create a Better Story

Last time, we talked about using our characters’ strengths to develop their flaws. But I didn’t get a chance to talk about how we could figure out the matching flaw for a character strength. Many of you are probably familiar with the Myers Briggs test, a well-known test that labels people […]

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April 16, 2013

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The Thin Line between Character Strengths and Flaws

A yin-yang style wave with text: When Is a Character Strength a Flaw?

Last time I asked you to share your superpower, that trait—useful or not—that makes you unique. Everyone shared some great stories, although none of us had skills that would land us on Cracked.com’s “Real People with Mind-Blowing Mutant Superpowers” list. *eyes the superpowers that made the list* Maybe that’s a […]

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April 11, 2013

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