Posts in Category: "Writing"

Blog posts under the "writing" category contain advice and craft discussion, as well as personal progress updates on my own writing.

Compiling Beta Reader Revision Notes

If you’ve ever had more than one beta reader reviewing your manuscript at a time, you’ve probably amassed a fair amount of feedback in chapter notes, line-by-line comments, questionnaires, and/or written summaries.

Compiling all this feedback into an organized document that actually helps you tackle story revisions can be challenging. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can make the process easier on yourself.

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Beta Reader Signup Questionnaires

For anyone who has looked for beta readers on forums or social media, you may know that people are eager to sign up, but not everyone follows through. Today I’ll describe one way you can better engage with beta readers early: having them fill out a brief signup questionnaire.

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Tips for Surviving Query Letter Hell

I suck at writing query letters.

In fact, I’m so awful at making a story sound enticing, I’ve given up explaining the premise of new movies to my boyfriend. When I do, he inevitably has no interest in seeing them.

This September I spent upwards of thirty hours writing and rewriting (and rewriting) the 200 words that comprise my query letter’s pitch. Thankfully I had some patient feedback from beta readers and other writers on the internet. Otherwise, I’d still be sitting on a supremely dry and boring excuse of a query for These Fleeting Flames.

Today I’m going to share a few hard-won tips that helped me write a half-decent query letter.

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Plot Structure: The First Pinch Point

This week I took a deep dive into studying the plot beat known as the “first pinch point” which, in Three Act Structure, occurs halfway through the first half of Act II. For those of you keeping track, that 3/8 of the way into your story — or at the 37.5% mark.

What prompted my exploration into the first pinch point? Beta reader feedback on the first draft of my novel, These Fleeting Flames. Readers weren’t feeling any threat from the antagonist within the second quarter of the story.

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Google Docs: Beta Reading Tips

Many writers like to use Google Docs for sharing their writing with beta readers or critique partners — the documents are online, you get email updates for your reader’s comments, and you can even have a discussion in the document itself. Here are a few tips to help you (both critiquer and writer!) get started with Google Docs.

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Stuck Writing Your Story? Try Reading a Craft Book!

Even when we outline our stories, occasionally something still goes wrong during the actual process of writing.

Somewhere in the second half of my current work-in-progress, These Fleeting Flames, I realized something wasn’t quite right. There was interpersonal drama, epic battles, political manoeuvring, dragons (I mean, you can’t go wrong with dragons)… but something was just missing. I decided I wouldn’t start writing the third act until I figured out what, precisely, was wrong with the second half of Act II.

In search of guidance, I cracked open a writing craft book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time: Deborah Chester’s The Fantasy Fiction Formula. And I credit her chapter on the “SPOOC” for helping me figure out where my story went astray.

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Trimming Your Novel: Low-level Trimming

What lasts in the reader’s mind is not the phrase but the effect the phrase created: laughter, tears, pain, joy. If the phrase is not affecting the reader, what’s it doing there? Make it do its job or cut it without mercy or remorse. – Isaac Asimov

You’ve already taken a step back from your story and trimmed superfluous content that doesn’t fit into three-act structure. Then you analyzed each scene and made sure it plays a strong role.

Now, at last, it’s time to ensure every sentence and word in your manuscript is pulling its weight. Read on to learn how you can identify and fix potential issues bogging down your writing.

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Trimming Your Novel: Medium-level Trimming

You’ve already taken a step back from your story and trimmed superfluous content that doesn’t fit into three-act structure. Now it’s time to inspect the remaining scenes.

At this stage, we’re still not quite worrying about word choice and sentence structure — rather, we’re concerned about whether our scenes begin in the right place, end in a timely manner, and do not repeat content from earlier scenes. As well, we want to ensure each scene is pulling its weight by developing character arcs, advancing plot, and informing theme.

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Trimming Your Novel: High-level Trimming

Get out your notebook! Taking a step back from your manuscript and studying the entirety of your story can help you trim your word count. At this stage, you might cut entire scenes or chapters. You might cut or combine characters. You might rearrange, add, or remove plot elements. Sentence-level details are not a concern yet.

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Cut Your Novel In Half — Without Losing the Story

The title sounds preposterous, but I’ve done it. The first draft of Prison of Whispers was around 245,000 words. After a little research, I determined most authors have a better chance finding representation if their novel’s length is within accepted industry standards. For second world adult fantasy, that’s around 100,000 to 120,000 words.

So with my 245,000 word behemoth, I had a big problem.

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