Writing Advice

A collection of writing advice, helpful websites, and blogs to help you hone your craft.

These are some of my favorite websites for writing advice:

Writers Helping Writers

Helping Writers become Authors Well written articles with very specific advice. You will learn something.

Lara Willard’s Write, Edit, Repeat I love the well-organized layout of this website. Everything is categorized by topic and easy to find.

Write on Sisters Solid advice for the beginner, written in a cozy “chatting over coffee” tone.

A list of my posts on writing advice

Betraying the reader’s trust-authortoolbox - What happens when a writer completely disregards established genre tropes? ...
Rapid Release Review - Rapid Release by Jewel Allen, my recommended source for getting started with this strategy ...
Sell More Books with Rapid Release-Author Toolbox - Rapid release strategy is the current hot ticket in the indie-author circuit. Many authors are saying this, combined with writing to market, is the only way to make any money as an author. The theory is that by releasing books on a fixed schedule: quarterly, monthly, or weekly (yes, weekly!) authors can capitalize on the Amazon algorithm and maximize their exposure and, therefore, profits. Why does rapid release strategy work? This strategy is most prevalent in category genres: romance, mysteries, etc. These categories rely on small numbers of voracious readers (those who read dozens of books a year) as opposed to the blockbuster strategy (large numbers of readers who read one or two titles a year) of traditional publishing. This small group of readers will be more likely to read indie authors, use digital, rather than print, and will utilize the Kindle Unlimited service. Indie authors who use the rapid release strategy claim that the momentum created by the closely timed releases drive readership. I am not convinced this is the entire picture. My theory: I believe the success of this strategy is linked to the series model (grouping the books in a series, rather than single titles), not the actual spacing of the releases. As a reader, trying to sort through the garbage pile that is Amazon Kindle Unlimited is daunting. I don't have the patience to download twenty samples trying to find something to read. Instead, I will start with a book I already liked, look at the "also bought" and then choose something from there. Then, I will binge read the entire series. I call this the "Netflix approach." Reading an entire series is far easier than searching through single titles each time I finish a book. The books don't need to be in any numerical order, as long as they are similarly titled, or linked in some way so that I can reasonably assume the next book will be similar to the current. For example, I am currently reading a series of horror books called "The Haunting of …" These are all haunted house stories. Each has a different protagonist, and a different setting. Nothing links any of the stories except the author and the series titles. But since I enjoyed the first one, I have continued through the series. Some of these books are better than others, but personal laziness ensures that I will continue the series rather than going back to KU garbage pile. And because I know I'm not unique in this aspect, you can use this trait to sell more books. Let Amazon sell your books By grouping your books in a series, you increase your readership, because Amazon will prompt your readers at the end of each book to continue the series. With one click, readers will be looking at the landing page for your next book. If you wait months, or years between releases, you will lose readers. This is where rapid release comes in. The rapid release capitalizes on the benefits of grouping books in a series because it amplifies the effectiveness of the Amazon algorithm that boosts new releases. By releasing rapidly, it gives this benefit to the entire series, not just an individual book. This means that rather than having a 12-week boost for a single book, a well-timed six book series could be boosted for 60 weeks therefore increasing the likelihood that a new reader will be introduced to the work. In addition, because readers tend to consume the entire series rather than search for a new author, they will also read more of your books. In addition, Amazon will remember which readers have read your books and recommend your other books or your new series when it's released. Using Amazon's built-in system is far more effective than relying on your website and email list. I read over a hundred books a year. I habitually binge read authors' entire backlist, but I have signed up for ZERO author newsletters. I have gone to ZERO Facebook pages. I have visited very few Twitter accounts or author websites. As a consumer of books, I don't care about these things. I only care about finding a book I want to read, and the most effective means of finding my next read has been through the Amazon recommendations. Am I in the minority? I doubt it. While there are superfans out there who will read every word of your newsletter, and there are authors who have obsessively devoted fan pages on Facebook, those are all devoted to people who are already fans. They do nothing to increase readership. If you don't have an established fan base, these things will do very little to sell more books. What if I can't write a book a week? Not all rapid release authors do a book a week. Some find success releasing monthly or every 11 weeks (These authors use the 12-week preorder schedule where they next book will be available for preorder the day the previous book is launched.) Nearly all successful rapid-release authors hire editors and book designers, and farm out as many other publishing-related tasks as they can afford. If you are a slow writer, you can still use this strategy, but make sure you have all, or most of the books written before you release the first book. You could also pull a previously published series, give it a makeover and re-release using this strategy. Yes, you will lose any reviews you had, but if the series isn't performing, then you aren't losing much. Research There is tons of information about rapid release. Through the next month, I will be digging through these sources and reviewing several of them for you, so keep checking back. Rapid release is a strategy that many indie-authors have used to finally break through the noise on Amazon and begin selling books. If you are having trouble getting traction for your writing, rapid release may be worth investigating. ...
Reporter Syndrome-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Tips for Avoiding Reporter Syndrome-author toolbox - Reporter syndrome happens when the point-of-view (POV) character becomes a third party to the action in the scene, rather than being a direct participant ...
Snowflake Method Review-www.themanuscriptshredder.com How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method: Recommended-authortoolbox - How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method is a solid writing book, even if you don't use the technique ...
bad writing habits-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Bad Writing Habits to Eliminate Now - Halloween is a good time to let bad habits die As a fantasy writer, I love all things magical, and recently I have turned that attention into researching Wiccan beliefs. (This is a purely scholarly pursuit, I promise.) One of the major Wiccan holidays is Samhain which is also known as Halloween. (I should note that some Wiccans make the distinction between Halloween and the true cross quarter day of Samhain, which usually falls around November 6-7.) Many of the familiar Halloween customs can be traced back to pagan fall festivals. If you'll forgive my getting personal, I love Halloween, and not just because it's the one holiday that's all fun with no pesky visiting family obligations. Halloween is the one time of year where even us muggles can imagine a certain charge in the air. But how does this all relate to writing? One of the major themes around Samhain is death. This can be seen not only in the skeletons and ghosts decorating homes and businesses, but also in nature. Plants have begun dying back, leaves are dropping, and many insects will soon perish in the coming frosts. Drawing from this theme, many Wiccans consider this time of year an ideal time to reflect on their own lives to identify personal traits or habits that they wish would die as well. In the spirit of Samhain, here is a list of bad writing habits. If any of these are holding you back, make an effort to let them go. Comparing yourself to other writers There will always be someone better than you, that doesn't mean you are a bad writer. Constantly comparing yourself to others will stifle your creativity and paralyze you. It will also make you feel as if you are never going to be good enough. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is you. Make your goal to be better than you were yesterday. Procrastinating Butt in seat. I know the pantry needs organizing. I know you need to check you stats, your Twitter followers, your... whatever, but you can't publish what you didn't write. And the only way to get it written is to stop procrastinating and get it done. Waiting for inspiration This isn't exactly the same as procrastinating. The simple truth is that writing isn't sitting around waiting for your muse. Muses show up when you are actually working. So get your pretty pens and fancy notebooks (I know you have them.) and actually brainstorm. Get into the habit of thinking about stories. If you have 10 ideas and 9 of them are complete crap, then you still have one good idea. And one good idea is all you need to get started. Editing while drafting As an editor, I must insist that you DO NOT try to edit your stories as you are drafting them. Drafting and editing take two different parts of the brain. Don't stifle your creativity by stopping your workflow to fret about commas or restructure sentences. Especially since I (or another editor) may tell you later to delete the entire scene. Editing while you are drafting is a complete waste of time. And it's keeping you from achieving your goal: a completed draft. Editing in the wrong order Books are really written during the editing cycle, but if you do your edits in the wrong order you will be wasting countless hours. There is no reason to worry about punctuation in a sentence that will need to be reworded. There is no need to worry about paragraphs in a scene that will need to be cut. Make sure you are doing your edits in the right order. Not promoting yourself or your work If you aren't promoting your work, you won't get anywhere as a writer. You don't have to be everywhere, but pick somewhere to start. Right now, I focus on connecting with writers on Twitter, promoting my blog on Pinterest, and I have an ad for my book on Amazon. Without these, I would have few "writer" friends, no blog traffic, and almost no book sales. Yes these things take time, and yes they eat into my profits, but 100% of zero is zero. Bashing other writers/editors/agents on social media You're allowed to not like something, but loudly proclaiming how awful the writing is on the latest bestseller just makes you look petty. The same goes for slamming the judges of a writing contest. Also whining about agenting process isn't going to win you any friends. Abusing "nice" agents/editors Most agents and editors are truly nice people and many have a hard time saying "no." If an agent or editor has been nice enough to give you a few suggestions, don't badger them with endless revisions. Looking at your pages costs them time, which translates into time they are not spending on "paying clients." Nearly everyone in publishing is on a strict budget. Don't expect professionals to do work for you for free. This is just a short list, but I hope it gives you a place to start. Anytime of year is a good time to give up bad habits, so even if this time of is more about parties and candy than recognizing the cycles of nature, you can still make a promise to yourself to eliminate the bad habits that are holding you back and give your writing the attention that it deserves. Happy Halloween and Happy Writing Have a bad writing habit you want to eliminate? Share it in the comments. Know a writer who would love this? Share it on social media or pin one of these images: Let TMS help you with your next book. Get your copy of Your Novel, This Month today! ...
when telling works-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Telling Isn’t Bad - “Show, don’t tell” is probably the most commonly given advice in writing, but there are places where telling is the right choice. ...
NaNoWriMo Plot Point Scrivener Template-www.themanuscriptshredder.com NaNoWriMo Plot Point Scrivener Template - The Manuscript Shredder's NaNoWriMo Plot Point Calendar is now a Scrivener Template ...
Monday Writing Roundup-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Monday Writing Roundup-August 20 - Monday writing roundup: writing exercises, book piracy, and more. ...
outlawed openings-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Outlawed openings: can they work?-author toolbox - Most writing advice blogs will tell you to never use dreams, flashbacks, or waking up to begin your story. But can they work? ...
enneagram character arcs-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Using Enneagrams for Character arcs - Using Enneagrams to map out your character arcs will create realistically flawed characters and make their transformations feel real. ...
hire the manuscript shredder Hire The Manuscript Shredder - Get Shredded! The Manuscript Shredder is always looking for new pages to get her claws into.  Opening pages are the gateway to getting an agent's attention. If these aren't hitting the mark, your story will never get out of the slush pile. This is where The Manuscript Shredder can help. Hire me to critique your opening pages. (1250 words, additional pages extra) What do you get? Detailed feedback on plot pacing characterization world building conflict dialogue prose narrative distance as well as suggestions for improvement Want to learn more? Click on my Fiverr link Need help on your query letter, instead? Click here   Looking for a freebie? You can take your chances with the blog in exchange for a free critique. http://themanuscriptshredder.com/get-shredded/     ...
scene structure-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Scene Structure - Structuring your scene correctly is the secret to writing an engaging story. Make sure your scenes have these essential elements ...
Getting out of an Editing loop-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Getting Out of an Editing Loop - How authors can avoid the endless revision/rewriting trap. Editing loop:How to identify it, how to get out, and when to let a project go ...
Bending the timeline-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Bending the Timeline - Too often writers unintentionally bend the reader’s sense of time. In deep POV, these mistakes create distance by jarring the reader’s connection with the character’s experience. Watch out for these micro-time trips. ...
Using amnesia as a plot device-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Amnesia as a plot device-authortoolbox - Using amnesia in your story can lead to a contrived plot. Without proper preparation, readers will be left annoyed and confused. Don't fall into this trap. Follow these simple tips ...
Eliminating word crutches in writing-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Eliminating Word Crutches - Every writer has words or phrases that habitually show up in their work. These crutches bog down a manuscript and make it feel repetitive. Don't let overused words ruin your novel ...
When to Ignore Beta Readers-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Beta readers: When to Ignore Them - Having too many beta readers swamps the new writer with advice, and that isn’t always helpful. Don’t let beta feedback trap you in an endless editing loop. Learn to evaluate writing advice and take back control of your story. ...
Introducing magic to readers-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Realistically Introducing Magic-authortoolbox - Introducing your readers to your magic system takes careful consideration. Don't blindside them with the supernatural. Prepare them properly and they will be ready to believe anything. ...
Printable revision checklist-www.themauscriptshredder.com Revision Checklist Printable - Getting stuck in an editing loop can destroy your forward momentum. This printable revision checklist will keep you on track by  helping you do the right edits in the right order. ...
Avoiding stage directions in writing-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Avoiding Stage Directions - In novels, “stage directions” are sections where the author begins listing a character’s visible actions without giving the thoughts or feelings associated with them. As a result, the reader is bombarded with useless information, unable to discern which actions are meaningful. ...
scene and sequel-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Scene and Sequel: Making them work together - "Scene and sequel" doesn’t have to be mysterious writer talk. This simple formula will help you create the lean exciting plotlines readers crave. By mastering this technique, you can cut out all the dead weight and unlock your story’s true potential. ...
Motivating your Characters-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Using Character Motivations in Plot Chains-authortoolbox - People may not always behave in a logical manner, but when you are planning out your stories, your characters should. Creating characters without any internal logic will produce an inconsistent, illogical mess. Fortunately, there is a simple trick for fixing this problem ...
Creating the Perfect love interest-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Creating the Perfect Love Interest - The love interest is an integral part of contemporary plot structure. But too often that character is little more than a pretty face designed to be the main character's dream girl. Today's love interest needs to be more than just a skirt waiting to be rescued. Make sure your love interest is a person who matters. ...
World-building:Why sprinkles don't work-www.themanuscriptshredder.com World-building: why sprinkles don’t work-author toolbox - Just chopping info-dumps into smaller pieces isn't really that sneaky. The savvy reader will still sense that something isn't right. Sprinkling world-building randomly into your story is like tossing skittles on top of your tiramisu. It doesn't solve the real problem. Fortunately, there is a better way ...
Novel revision and editing checklist-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Novel Revision and Editing Guide - Revising without a plan can lead to hours of wasted effort and frustration. Rather than getting stuck in an endless editing loop, use this novel revision and editing guide to make sure you are doing the right edits in the right order ...
magic fix it scene-www.themanuscriptshredder.com The Magic Fix-it Scene - Adding material to your manuscript to solve a problem? The magic fix-it scene rarely works. While these scenes are intended to solve a specific problem, they often cause a host of other issues. But there is a better way ...
Opening Action-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Opening Action: how to make it work - Start with action sounds like simple advice, but making it work takes careful consideration and planning. The opening action sets the tone for your entire story. Make sure yours doesn't fall into one of these traps. ...
A pantser tries to plot-www.themanuscriptshredder.com A Pantser tries to Plot - My first attempt at plotting crashes hard. ...
Scene Planning worksheet-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Scene Planning Worksheet - Scene planning worksheets will give you a simple framework to brainstorm your ideas so you will be ready when you actually have time to write. ...
Choosing the right POV-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Choosing the Right POV Character-authortoolbox - Tips for choosing the right point of view (POV) character for your scenes and improving eavesdropping problems in first-person POV ...
creating conflict in every scene-www.themanuscfriptshredder.com Creating conflict in every scene​ - Conflict is the essence of plot. Without it, there is no story. ...
avoid info-dumping in dialogue-www.themanuscriptshredder.com How to avoid info dumping in dialogue - Trying to sneak backstory into your dialogue rarely works. Fortunately, there is a better way ...
Author Intrusion-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Correctly using Author Intrusion - Correctly using Author Intrusion can create another layer of storytelling to your novel, but unintentional intrusions jar the reader, create distance and make your writing sound amateurish ...
first page mistakes-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Most Common First Page Mistakes - The first page is the introduction to your entire novel. Create an effective first page by avoiding these writing mistakes ...
opening chapter mistakes-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Most Common Mistakes in Opening Chapters - Common mistakes that will ruin your opening chapter and how to fix them. ...
Bad Writing advice-www.themanuscriptshredder.com Bad Writing Advice you should ignore - While most writing bloggers have good intentions, some are unwittingly giving out incorrect or incomplete advice. ...
Transforming telling into showing Changing Telling into Showing - "Show don’t tell” is probably the most commonly given advice in writing. So why is it so important? ...
avoiding stilted dialogue Avoiding Stilted Dialogue-author toolbox - Bad dialogue will ruin an otherwise great story. Don’t fall into these common traps. ...
Using beats in dialogue Correctly Using Beats in Dialogue - Use beats in your dialogue to anchor your characters in their settings, control pacing, and tell the complete story. ...

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