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This week’s top writing advice from around the web for July 25
I subscribe to dozens of writing advice sites and new advice articles come into my news reader at a steady pace. Feedly, is the most popular feed reader, available for all platforms, and the one that I personally use, so when I mention an RSS feed, I’ll include the Feedly link as well.
You can see some of my favorites at my Writing Advice Sites resource page.
Here are the best writing advice posts from this previous week. Occasionally I include an RSS feed. To subscribe to an RSS feed, add the feed URL to your RSS reader app. The most popular is Feedly, which is the one that I use. It has a website and mobile apps, and it keeps track of which articles you’ve read, synched across all your devices.
Having multiple races is a key staple of fantasy — elves, dwarves, goblins, vampires, witches, humans. And having mixed heritage is also a common trope. Unfortunately, the stories can sometimes have uncomfortable parallels to-real life racial issues. Mythcreants guest author Fay Onyx, producer and host of Writing Alchemy, a podcast that centers intersectional characters, offers some advice about how to deal with a situation where having a multi-racial background is linked to disabilities. I can see how this can go really badly if you don’t handle it well, and can turn out to be unintentionally hurtful. For more insights, follow Fay Onyx on Twitter at @writing_alchemy. Mythcreants is one of my all-time favorite websites for writing advice specific to speculative fiction genres. Get their RSS feed here (direct Feedly signup link).
Writing Character Descriptions that Hook Readers by Angela Ackerman
Writing physical descriptions of characters is always an issue for me. Am I telling too much? Not enough? Are the descriptions boring and perfunctory? In this guest post for Writers in the Storm, Angela Ackerman talks about how to choose descriptive details that really make an impact. Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Thesaurus and its many sequels. I own a copy of this book and use it frequently, and highly recommend it. She is also the co-founder of Writers Helping Writers and you can subscribe to the Writers Helping Writers RSS feed here. Or follow Ackerman on Twitter at @AngelaAckerman. And the Writers in the Storm blog is very well worth following on RSS.
Should You Write a Cozy Mystery? by Elizabeth Spann Craig
I’m a huge fan of cozy mysteries, and also cozy paranormal mysteries. And the series I’m writing now is basically a cozy sci-fi mystery. So my answer to “should you write a cozy mystery?” is “absolutely!” If you’re on the fence, check out this post by Elizabeth Spann Craig, a best-selling cozy mystery author. And follow Craig on Twitter @elizabethscraig or on Facebook at Elizabeth Spann Craig Author. She also collates a weekly list of the best new writing-related articles, called Twitterific Writing Links, which then all get added to the Writer’s Knowledge Base database. So if you think my list here is much too short, check out her Twitterific Writing Links post for July 25.
Story Pacing: 4 Techniques That Help Manage Your Plot’s Timeline by Joslyn Chase
This is a long, comprehensive article about keeping the story moving along, and how it works differently in different types of stories and different genres, with examples and exercises. Joslyn Chase is a thriller writer — you can see all her books on Amazon here and follow her on Facebook here. This article is a guest post for The Write Practice, an advice site from a group of writers. They also have a writing critique community and a newsletter. Follow The Write Practice on Twitter, on Facebook, or subscribe to their RSS feed.
The Steadfast, Flat-Arc Protagonist in Story: The Beginning by September C. Fawkes
I’ve been reading a lot of writing advice articles about character arcs. In great stories, the protagonist has to change in some significant way, either for the better or the worse. But a lot of my favorites don’t have that. James Bond, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Wonder Woman, anybody from The Simpsons or Seinfeld or pretty much any sitcom or detective show ever — these are great stories but don’t necessarily have great character arcs. Instead, they have strong, compelling central characters that pretty much stay the same. And we like them that way. So how do you tell a compelling story if you don’t have character transformation milestones to hang the plot on? In this post, freelance editor September Hawkes lays out the different ways to tell a story with a main character who doesn’t change. If you like this, check out her professional website, FawkesEditing.com, follow her on Twitter @SeptCFawkes and on Facebook at September C. Fawkes. You can also subscribe to her blog’s RSS feed here.
The Benefits of Writing Book Reviews by Sam Risak
This is the third article I’ve seen this month about whether writers should write book reviews. There was Marj Charlier’s As a writer, reviewing books can be quite a quandary and also Greer Macallister’s Should Authors Review Books? In her post for Writer’s Digest, book reviewer and literary magazine editorial assistant Sam Risak argues that it can help you become a better writer. I’ve got my own take on this. First, if you’re worried about offending your fellow writers, don’t write whether you personally liked or didn’t like the book. Write about who would like the book. So, for example, if a book is full of sex and violence, instead of saying “this book has too much sex and violence, it’s awful,” you can say something like, “I’m a big prude and personally don’t like all this sex and violence that people have been throwing into books lately. I blame Shakespeare for getting the trend started. But if you like books with a little — ahem — action in them, this might be your cup of tea.” Or you could just review books that you like. Nobody’s forcing you to review books you hate. Second, I recommend reviewing books that your readers would also like. So, if you write sexy vampire books, review other sexy vampire books. Folks who read your review will scroll down and see your bio and say, “Hey, this person has the same taste in books as I do and writes about sexy vampires! I should check them out!” Here at MetaStellar, we love publishing book reviews, and are very happy to include links to all your book pages and social media feeds in your bio. Submit your book review on this submission page.
Fight, Flight, or Freeze: What’s Your Character’s Go-To Response? by Becca Puglisi
Becca Puglisi is one of the founders of the Writers Helping Writers website and the author of the Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, which has sold over half a million copies. In this article, she argues that people are hard-wired to respond in one of three ways when they think they’re in danger — they go on the attack, they run away, or they go still. Knowing what category your character falls into will help improve your writing. I’d add a fourth category. Some people, when faced with danger, lean into it. They see a guy pointing a gun at them, and instead of running, fighting or freezing, they go, “ooh, cool gun!” Sometimes this is because they’re idiots and don’t know they’re in danger. Other times, they know they’re in danger, but by leaning into it, in some situations, you can reduce risk. Instead of shooting, the guy with the gun might well respond by saying, “Oh, you think so? It’s got the new folding stock.” Or maybe the situation is dangerous, but you can’t affect the outcome no matter what you do. For example, the bus you’re on starts veering side to side on a cliff-side road. You might respond by saying, “If we live through this, it’s going to make the best story ever!” That way, you’re not trying to fight with the driver, distracting them when they need to be paying attention. And you don’t try to jump off the bus. And you don’t close your eyes and freeze up. Instead, you’re still alert and aware of what’s going around you, you’re not panicking, you’re staying loose, and you also help the people with you stay calmer. But I can’t think of a verb that begins with the letter “f” that would describe this type of reaction. Update: My editor, Melody Frienthal, suggests “finesse.” I think that’s just perfect. So there you go. Fight, flight, freeze, or finesse.
Accessing Deep Point of View Via Description—A Writing Exercise! by Bonnie Randall
If you’re having trouble getting the hang of deep point of view — and who isn’t? — this article has a great exercise that can help you sharpen those skills. Bonnie Randall writes paranormal romantic thrillers. If you like her advice, follow her on Facebook at Bonnie Randall Writer. This article was a guest post for one of my favorite writing advice sites, Janice Hardy’s Fiction University. You can subscribe to the Fiction University RSS feed here, or follow it on Twitter or on Facebook. Also, check out my list of Resources About Deep Point of View.
Why Everyone Should Write (Even if You Think You Stink) by K. M. Weiland
Feeling a little down about your writing? This post should help. And it’s by one of my favorite writing advice people, K. M. Weiland, the award-winning author of acclaimed writing guides such as Structuring Your Novel and Creating Character Arcs. You can subscribe to her blog, Helping Writers Become Authors, via its RSS feed, on Twitter, and on Facebook.
Q&A: The Truth in 1vX and How it Works by Chelsea Schmitt
So you want your protagonist to fight off a bunch of attackers all at once. Does that ever work? Advice on how to create realistic fight scenes and characters from a third-degree Black Belt. This site is mostly in a Q&A style, with more than 500 fight-related questions answered. If you like the site, you can support them on Patreon. One of my favorite articles by Chelsea Schmitt is Tip: Women Are Not Weaker Than Men. Almost makes me want to get back to the dojo…
How to Make Large Conflicts Exciting by Chris Winkle
This wouldn’t be a “best writing advice of the week” roundup without a post from Mythcreants, my all-time favorite writing advice site. In this post, Chris Winkle, the site’s founder and editor-in-chief, writes about writing epic stories with large-scale conflicts without boring or confusing readers to death. If you want more of their advice, get their RSS feed at Mythcreants.com/feed or follow them on Twitter @Mythcreants.
Sell More Books with a Marketing Mindshift by Jenna Harte
Jenna Harte writes romance and cozy mysteries, not speculative fiction, but when it comes to marketing their books, romance writers have all the rest of us beat. If you ever get a chance to join Romance Writers of America, I strongly recommend it. These writers kick ass. In this guest post for Janice Hardy’s Fiction University, Harte talks about switching away from a mindset of selling books to a mindset of building a fanbase. I like where’s she’s going with this. If you like her advice, check out her blog, Write with Harte. or follow her on Facebook at Jenna Harte Author.
Close Encounters of the Initial Kind – Tips for When Characters Meet by John J Kelley
In this post for Writer Unboxed, writer John Kelly talks about the first time your key characters meet each other and how those initial encounters can serve to illuminate their personalities or underscore key themes in your story. For more advice from Writer Unboxed, follow them on RSS and on Twitter.