Tips for Writing Short Stories



Writing short stories means beginning as close to the climax as possible — everything else is a distraction. A novel can take a more meandering path, but should still start with a scene that sets the tone for the whole book.

A short story conserves characters and scenes, typically by focusing on just one conflict, and drives towards a sudden, unexpected revelation. Go easy on the exposition and talky backstory — your reader doesn’t need to know everything that you know about your characters.

Short Stories: 10 Tips for Creative Writers


Get Started: Emergency Tips

Write a Catchy First Paragraph

Develop Your Characters

Choose a Point of View

Write Meaningful Dialogue

Use Setting and Context

Set up the Plot

Create Conflict and Tension

Build to a Crisis or a Climax

Deliver a Resolution

  1. Get Started: Emergency Tips

Do you have a short story assignment due tomorrow morning? The rest of this document covers longer-term strategies, but if you are in a pinch, these emergency tips may help. Good luck!

What does your protagonist want?

(The athlete who wants her team to win the big game and the car crash victim who wants to survive are not unique or interesting enough.)

When the story begins, what morally significant action has your protagonist taken towards that goal?

(Your protagonist should already have made a conscious choice, good or bad, that drives the rest of the story.)

What unexpected consequences — directly related to the protagonist’s goal-oriented actions — ramp up the emotional energy of the story?

(Will the unexpected consequences force your protagonist to make yet another choice, leading to still more consequences?)

What details from the setting, dialog, and tone help you tell the story? Things to cut:

Ttravel scenes. (Save words. “Later, at the office, I…”)

Character A telling character B about something we just saw happening to character A. (Cut the redundancy.)

Facial expressions of a first-person narrator. (We can’t see what our own faces look like, so don’t write “A smile lit my face from ear to ear.”) See Writing Dialogue.

What morally significant choice does your protagonist make at the climax of the story?

(Your reader should care about the protagonist’s decision. Ideally, the reader shouldn’t see it coming.)

Drawing on real-life experiences, such as winning the big game, bouncing back after an illness or injury, or dealing with the death of a loved one, are attractive choices for students who are looking for a “personal essay” topic. But simply describing powerful emotional experiences (which is one kind of school assignment) is not the same thing as engaging your reader’s emotions. An effective short story does not simply record or express the author’s feelings, but generates feelings in the reader. (See “Show, Don’t (Just) Tell.”)

For those of you who are looking for more long-term writing strategies, here are some additional ideas.

Keep a notebook. To R. V. Cassill, notebooks are “incubators,” a place to begin with overheard conversation, expressive phrases, images, ideas, and interpretations on the world around you.

Write on a regular, daily basis. Sit down and compose sentences for a couple of hours every day — even if you don’t feel like it.

Collect stories from everyone you meet. Keep the amazing, the unusual, the strange, the irrational stories you hear and use them for your own purposes. Study them for the underlying meaning and apply them to your understanding of the human condition.

Read, Read, Read

Read a LOT of Chekhov. Then re-read it. Read Raymond Carver, Earnest Hemingway, Alice Munro, and Tobias Wolff. If you don’t have time to read all of these authors, stick to Chekhov. He will teach you more than any writing teacher or workshop ever could.

-Allyson Goldin, UWEC Asst. Professor of Creative Writing

  1. Write a Catchy First Paragraph

In today’s fast-moving world, the first sentence of your narrative should catch your reader’s attention with the unusual, the unexpected, an action, or a conflict. Begin with tension and immediacy. Remember that short stories need to start close to their end.

No         I heard my neighbor through the wall.

Dry and uninteresting.

Yes        The neighbor behind us practiced scream therapy in his shower almost every day.

The second sentence catches the reader’s attention. Who is this guy who goes in his shower every day and screams? Why does he do that? What, exactly, is“scream therapy”? Let’s keep reading…

Yes        The first time I heard him, I stood in the bathroom listening at our shared wall for ten minutes, debating the wisdom of calling the police. It was very different from living in the duplex over middle-aged Mr. and Mrs. Brown and their two young sons in Duluth.

The rest of the paragraph introduces I and an internal conflict as the protagonist debates a course of action and introduces an intriguing contrast of past and present setting.

“It is important to understand the basic elements of fiction writing before you consider how to put everything together. This process is comparable to producing something delectable in the kitchen–any ingredient that you put into your bowl of dough impacts your finished loaf of bread. To create a perfect loaf, you must balance ingredients baked for the correct amount of time and enhanced with the right polishing glaze.” -Laurel Yourke

  1. Developing Characters

Your job, as a writer of short fiction–whatever your beliefs–is to put complex personalities on stage and let them strut and fret their brief hour. Perhaps the sound and fury they make will signify something that has more than passing value–that will, in Chekhov’s words, “make [man] see what he is like.” –Rick Demarnus

In order to develop a living, breathing, multi-faceted character, it is important to know way more about the character than you will ever use in the story. Here is a partial list of character details to help you get started.










Single or married?



Favorite color


Favorite foods

Drinking patterns



Something hated?


Strong memories?

Any illnesses?

Nervous gestures?

Sleep patterns

Imagining all these details will help you get to know your character, but your reader probably won’t need to know much more than the most important things in four areas:

Appearance. Gives your reader a visual understanding of the character.

Action. Show the reader what kind of person your character is, by describing actions rather than simply listing adjectives.

Speech. Develop the character as a person — don’t merely have your character announce important plot details.

Thought. Bring the reader into your character’s mind, to show them your character’s unexpressed memories, fears, and hopes.

For example, let’s say I want to develop a college student persona for a short story that I am writing. What do I know about her?

Her name is Jen, short for Jennifer Mary Johnson. She is 21 years old. She is a fair-skinned Norwegian with blue eyes, long, curly red hair, and is 5 feet 6 inches tall. Contrary to the stereotype about redheads, she is actually easygoing and rather shy. She loves cats and has two of them named Bailey and Allie. She is a technical writing major with a minor in biology. Jen plays the piano and is an amateur photographer. She lives in the dorms at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She eats pizza every day for lunch and loves Red Rose tea. She cracks her knuckles when she is nervous. Her mother just committed suicide.

  1. Choose a Point of View

Point of view is the narration of the story from the perspective of first, second, or third person. As a writer, you need to determine who is going to tell the story and how much information is available for the narrator to reveal in the short story. The narrator can be directly involved in the action subjectively, or the narrator might only report the action objectively.

First Person. The story is told from the view of “I.” The narrator is either the protagonist (main character) and directly affected by unfolding events, or the narrator is a secondary character telling the story revolving around the protagonist. This is a good choice for beginning writers because it is the easiest to write.

Yes        I saw a tear roll down his cheek. I had never seen my father cry before. I looked away while he brushed the offending cheek with his hand.

Second Person. The story is told directly to “you”, with the reader as a participant in the action.

Yes        You laughed loudly at the antics of the clown. You clapped your hands with joy.

(See also Jerz on interactive fiction.)

Third Person. The story tells what “he”, “she,” or “it” does. The third-person narrator’s perspective can be limited (telling the story from one character’s viewpoint) or omniscient (where the narrator knows everything about all of the characters).

Yes        He ran to the big yellow loader sitting on the other side of the gravel pit shack.

Your narrator might take sides in the conflict you present, might be as transparent as possible, or might advocate a position that you want your reader to challenge (this is the “unreliable narrator” strategy).

Yourke on point of view:

First Person. “Unites narrator and reader through a series of secrets” when they enter one character’s perceptions. However, it can “lead to telling” and limits readers connections to other characters in the short story.

Second Person. “Puts readers within the actual scene so that readers confront possibilities directly.” However, it is important to place your characters “in a tangible environment” so you don’t “omit the details readers need for clarity.”

Third Person Omniscient. Allows you to explore all of the characters’ thoughts and motivations. Transitions are extremely important as you move from character to character.

Third Person Limited. “Offers the intimacy of one character’s perceptions.” However, the writer must “deal with character absence from particular scenes.”

  1. Write Meaningful Dialogue


Make your readers hear the pauses between the sentences. Let them see characters’ lean forward, fidget with their cuticles, avert their eyes, uncross their legs. –Jerome Stern

Dialogue is what your characters say to each other (or to themselves).

Each speaker gets his/her own paragraph, and the paragraph includes whatever you wish to say about what the character is doing when speaking. (See: “Quotation Marks: Using Them in Dialogue “.)

No         “Where are you going?” John cracked his knuckles while he looked at the floor. “To the racetrack.” Mary edged toward the door, keeping her eyes on John’s bent head. “Not again,” John stood up, flexing his fingers. “We are already maxed out on our credit cards.”

The above paragraph is confusing, because it is not clear when one speech stops and the other starts.

No         “Where are you going?” John asked nervously.

“To the racetrack,” Mary said, trying to figure out whether John was too upset to let her get away with it this time.

“Not again,” said John, wondering how they would make that month’s rent. “We are already maxed out on our credit cards.”

The second example is mechanically correct, since it uses a separate paragraph to present each speaker’s turn advancing the conversation. But the narrative material between the direct quotes is mostly useless.

Write Meaningful Dialogue Labels

“John asked nervously” is an example of “telling.” The author could write “John asked very nervously” or “John asked so nervously that his voice was shaking,” and it still wouldn’t make the story any more effective.

How can the author convey John’s state of mind, without coming right out and tellinig the reader about it? By inference. That is, mention a detail that conjures up in the reader’s mind the image of a nervous person.

Yes        John sat up. “Wh– where are you going?”

Yes        “Where are you going?” John stammered, staring at his Keds.

Yes        Deep breath. Now or never. “Where are you going?”

No         John sat up and took a deep breath, knowing that his confrontation with Mary had to come now, or it would never come at all. “Wh– where are you going?” he stammered nervously, staring at his Keds.

Beware — a little detail goes a long way. Why would your reader bother to think about what is going on, if the author carefully explains what each and every line means?

Let’s return to the first example, and show how dialogue labels can affect the meaning of a passage.

Yes        “Where are you going?” John cracked his knuckles while he looked at the floor.

“To the racetrack.” Mary edged toward the door, keeping her eyes on John’s bent head.

“Not again,” John stood up, flexing his fingers. “We are already maxed out on our credit cards.”

In the above revision, John nervously asks Mary where she is going, and Mary seems equally nervous about going. But if you play a little with the paragraphing.

Yes        “Where are you going?”

John cracked his knuckles while he looked at the floor. “To the racetrack.”

Mary edged toward the door, keeping her eyes on John’s bent head. “Not again.”

John stood up, flexing his fingers. “We are already maxed out on our credit cards.”

All I changed was the paragraphing (and I changed a comma to a period.) Now Mary seems more aggressive — she seems to be moving to block John, who seems nervous and self-absorbed. And John seems to be bringing up the credit card problem as an excuse for his trip to the racing track. He and Mary seem to be desperate to for money now. I’d rather read the rest of the second story than the rest of the first one.

  1. Use Setting and Context

Setting moves readers most when it contributes to an organic whole. So close your eyes and picture your characters within desert, jungle, or suburb–whichever setting shaped them. Imagining this helps balance location and characterization. Right from the start, view your characters inhabiting a distinct place. –– Laurel Yourke

Setting includes the time, location, context, and atmosphere where the plot takes place.

Remember to combine setting with characterization and plot.

Include enough detail to let your readers picture the scene but only details that actually add something to the story. (For example, do not describe Mary locking the front door, walking across the yard, opening the garage door, putting air in her bicycle tires, getting on her bicycle–none of these details matter except that she rode out of the driveway without looking down the street.)

Use two or more senses in your descriptions of setting.

Rather than feed your readers information about the weather, population statistics, or how far it is to the grocery store, substitute descriptive details so your reader can experience the location the way your characters do.

Yes        Our sojourn in the desert was an educational contrast with its parched heat, dust storms, and cloudless blue sky filled with the blinding hot sun. The rare thunderstorm was a cause for celebration as the dry cement tunnels of the aqueducts filled rapidly with rushing water. Great rivers of sand flowed around and through the metropolitan inroads of man’s progress in the greater Phoenix area, forcefully moved aside for concrete and steel structures. Palm trees hovered over our heads and saguaro cactuses saluted us with their thorny arms.

  1. Set Up the Plot


Plot is what happens, the storyline, the action. Jerome Stern says it is how you set up the situation, where the turning points of the story are, and what the characters do at the end of the story.

A plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance. –Jane Burroway

Understanding these story elements for developing actions and their end results will help you plot your next short story.

Explosion or “Hook.” A thrilling, gripping, stirring event or problem that grabs the reader’s attention right away.

Conflict. A character versus the internal self or an external something or someone.

Exposition. Background information required for seeing the characters in context.

Complication. One or more problems that keep a character from their intended goal.

Transition. Image, symbol, dialogue, that joins paragraphs and scenes together.

Flashback. Remembering something that happened before the short story takes place.

Climax. When the rising action of the story reaches the peak.

Falling Action. Releasing the action of the story after the climax.

Resolution. When the internal or external conflict is resolve.

Brainstorming. If you are having trouble deciding on a plot, try brainstorming. Suppose you have a protagonist whose husband comes home one day and says he doesn’t love her any more and he is leaving. What are actions that can result from this situation?


She becomes a workaholic.

Their children are unhappy.

Their children want to live with their dad.

She moves to another city.

She gets a new job.

They sell the house.

She meets a psychiatrist and falls in love.

He comes back and she accepts him.

He comes back and she doesn’t accept him.

She commits suicide.

He commits suicide.

She moves in with her parents.

The next step is to select one action from the list and brainstorm another list from that particular action.

  1. Create Conflict and Tension

Conflict is the fundamental element of fiction, fundamental because in literature only trouble is interesting. It takes trouble to turn the great themes of life into a story: birth, love, sex, work, and death. –Janet Burroway

Conflict produces tension that makes the story begin. Tension is created by opposition between the character or characters and internal or external forces or conditions. By balancing the opposing forces of the conflict, you keep readers glued to the pages wondering how the story will end.

Possible Conflicts Include:

The protagonist against another individual

The protagonist against nature (or technology)

The protagonist against society

The protagonist against God

The protagonist against himself or herself.

Yourke’s Conflict Checklist

Mystery. Explain just enough to tease readers. Never give everything away.

Empowerment. Give both sides options.

Progression. Keep intensifying the number and type of obstacles the protagonist faces.

Causality. Hold fictional characters more accountable than real people. Characters who make mistakes frequently pay, and, at least in fiction, commendable folks often reap rewards.

Surprise. Provide sufficient complexity to prevent readers predicting events too far in advance.

Empathy. Encourage reader identification with characters and scenarios that pleasantly or (unpleasantly) resonate with their own sweet dreams (or night sweats).

Insight. Reveal something about human nature.

Universality. Present a struggle that most readers find meaningful, even if the details of that struggle reflect a unique place and time.

High Stakes. Convince readers that the outcome matters because someone they care about could lose something precious. Trivial clashes often produce trivial fiction.

  1. Build to a Crisis or Climax

This is the turning point of the story–the most exciting or dramatic moment.

The crisis may be a recognition, a decision, or a resolution. The character understands what hasn’t been seen before, or realizes what must be done, or finally decides to do it. It’s when the worm turns. Timing is crucial. If the crisis occurs too early, readers will expect still another turning point. If it occurs too late, readers will get impatient–the character will seem rather thick.-Jerome Stern

Jane Burroway says that the crisis “must always be presented as a scene. It is “the moment” the reader has been waiting for. In Cinderella’s case, “the payoff is when the slipper fits.”

While a good story needs a crisis, a random event such as a car crash or a sudden illness is simply an emergency –unless it somehow involves a conflict that makes the reader care about the characters (see: “Crisis vs. Conflict“).

  1. Find a Resolution

The solution to the conflict. In short fiction, it is difficult to provide a complete resolution and you often need to just show that characters are beginning to change in some way or starting to see things differently.

Yourke examines some of the options for ending a story.

Open. Readers determine the meaning.

Yes Brendan’s eyes looked away from the priest and up to the mountains.

Resolved. Clear-cut outcome.

Yes While John watched in despair, Helen loaded up the car with her belongings and drove away.

Parallel to Beginning. Similar to beginning situation or image.

Yes They were driving their 1964 Chevrolet Impala down the highway while the wind blew through their hair.

Yes Her father drove up in a new 1964 Chevrolet Impala, a replacement for the one that burned up.

Monologue. Character comments.

Yes  I wish Tom could have known Sister Dalbec’s prickly guidance before the dust devils of Sin City battered his soul.

Dialogue. Characters converse.


I just published an ebook of short stories and flash fiction on Amazon called Tapestry of Words. I enjoy writing short stories and I found that these tips were helpful with my writing. Take a look at my new book. Just follow this link.  Have a blessed day.    Shirley

Article first posted on Jerz’s Literacy Weblog

Christmas is coming… early! (GIVEAWAY: November 10th!)

Christmas is coming… early! (GIVEAWAY: November 10th!)


Here is a book just for Christmas. Enjoy the look…Shirley

Originally posted on No Problem Child:

I know, it’s only November… but hear me out. :-)

This year, when Christmas comes… I want you to be able to share with your children the greatest gift of all… the whole story of the God who loves!

And in order to do that, I’ve got a new resource for you…

Christmas Advent Adventure


This! It’s an Advent storybook with 25 engaging stories spanning the entire Bible! It introduces the loving God, the Savior of mankind, and the meaning of His birth… It helps you paint the picture to your children of the TRUE story of redemption… the TRUE gift that we remember in December.

Christmas! Advent Storybook

Every page features a 1-minute, easy-to-read-aloud story, with colorful, fascinating artwork, and a friendly little bug to hunt and find somewhere on the page.

This book is near to my heart for several reasons. First of all, my bestie wrote it. Her name is Natasha and she blogs here. Here’s what…

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6 Tips To Hook A Reader on Page One


Originally posted on Carly Watters, Literary Agent:

I’ve read thousands of “page ones.” Very often I don’t read page two.

Sometimes all I read is that first page and I make judgements based on what I see there. As an agent and a reader my practice is that if I’m not connecting with the material I move on–and quickly.

I wish I had time to give writers (and their books) more of a chance but I can tell a lot by one page: sense of dialogue, setting, pace, character, voice, and writing talent–yes, usually all from one page. Five at the most.

So how are you supposed to get us past one page?

6 Tips To Hook A Reader on Page One

1. Learn how to balance what readers need to know vs. what you, as the writer, want to tell us. I can sense a writer who is trying to show off very quickly. It really only takes…

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Determining What to Write About


One of the first and most important decisions for every writer is determining what to write about. Making this decision can feel overwhelming often because of long-held notions we have about what it means to be a writer. Many people believe that authors just have ideas that come to them or, worse yet, that authors are so intelligent that they are able to create something unique that has never been seen or thought of before.

In reality, neither scenario is entirely true. Most of the time, authors decide what to write about from examining their personal lives and interests or by examining the work of other authors and making parts of existing material into something new and different.

Writing about things you know and care about is important for several reasons. For one, it usually makes writing much easier: if you are writing from personal experiences, you can spend more energy on adding creative twists to a story that already exists.

Second, if you are writing about something you care about, you usually have a deeper sense of the subject and will have more information from which to write. Choosing topics or experiences that you care about will develop a sense of “you” which only you can create.

Here are some strategies for coming up with ideas for writing:

Make lists of topics or things that you are interested in—hobbies, issues, things, places

Draw a floor plan of your home and make a list of three memorable events that happened in each room

Make a list of problems that you have seen characters face in movies, TV shows, or books, and use one as the basis for your own story

Make a list of your most memorable experiences and determine which might be the basis for a piece of writing

Maintain a personal journal and collect thoughts and descriptions that might be used as the basis for a piece of writing

Think about “small moments” of life to expand and explore rather than creating large, involved stories Read and re-read the authors that you are fond of.

Look for places where you can pick up where they left off or think of how the story could be retold from a different character’s perspective

Take elements from an existing storyline from a book, movie, or play and work your own real-life or past experiences in to create a new story

Make a list of your favorite movies or books and look for patterns in the storylines or look for storylines that can be combined or changed

Read, read, read—all great authors are readers who constantly look for ideas from other authors For more information:

Developing Ideas for Writing (Prewriting): 49F395/CE2B510E7D9975AE852569C3006ACCCC?OpenDocument

Originally published by NCTE (National Council Teachers of English) Date unknown

A Geyser in Nevada‏…

A Geyser in Nevada‏…


I thought Yellowstone had this market cornered. Shows you what I now :) It’s a great story with beautiful pictures.

Originally posted on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog:

Be sure to watch the video at the end.

In the early twentieth century, a farmer decided that he needed to improve the agriculture on his ranch in Nevada. He figured that a well needed to be dug to bring water and nutrients to the soil above.

He lived in a barren desert and the water stored deep beneath the Earth’s crust would have provided a more sustainable crop for this harsh and dry area. He knew that a well with ample water was needed to supply bountiful crops.

What he didn’t know was what was waiting for him deep below the soil. He began to dig a deep well when problems soon arose. After digging deep into the Earth searching for water, he found what he was looking for. The problem was that the water was incredibly hot. Over 200 degrees in fact, making it impossible to create a…

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The Myth of the Book Store Signing



I think we all have the same dreams about book signings but Kate reminds us why it’s a waste of our dream time.

Originally posted on katemariecollins:

Yes, I know it’s Friday. Hush. I got spoiled, so I’m passing it on. LOL.

Every author has, at one point, had the same daydream. The one where you’re doing a signing at a major bookstore. There you sit, at a small table, looking sharp and having a line of people chatting with you. Some have waited hours to meet you, out in the cold.

It’s a myth. It’s not going to happen for several years, possibly decades. Don’t ever kid yourself that it’s going to happen two weeks after you release your first book if you don’t already have a few important things.

1. Name recognition: are you a celebrity? Does your photo grace the cover of a tabloid? Are you a candidate for political office? Did you just win an Oscar, Emmy, or Grammy? Get out of prison after serving time for a crime you didn’t commit? Escape…

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9 Tips For Writing Killer Fiction


This past week I had the pleasure of attending an author appreciation and awards Gala at The Hopkins Club on John Hopkins University Campus.  My husband and I had a blast. We were invited by the Focus on Women’s Magazine for my contribution of Dobyns Chronicles to their book store. Focus on Women, aid women all over the world who are used (sold) for sex, battered and abused.

I wish to thank Josclyn Wolfe, Publisher of Focus on Women Magazine and Lisa Hurt the Chairwoman of the Gala for showing us authors a very nice time.

I actually received this blog this morning and wanted to share it with everyone. It has a lot of very good information.  Have a blessed week.

Know That Most Good Fiction Follows A Succinct Formula

Read the most popular, best selling fiction and you’re bound to notice a pattern. It always follows a succession of logical steps that know exactly how to hook you emotionally. This was first observed in early Greek tragedies and later seen within the works of William Shakespeare. Since then, many authors follow this distinctive formula known as Freytag’s Pyramid. Although many other formula’s exist, this one is most often used. Why? Because it’s tried, tested and true. It’s been around for centuries. It goes something like this:
The writer sets up the story, with important background information, such as: Setting, prior events, and the back story of characters.
Rising Action
The story sets up various related incidents for the reader, the reader then becomes ‘hooked’ into the story.
The epicentre of conflict where action begins, also the turning point for the protagonist(s) or characters.
Falling Action
The conflict between protagonist and antagonist unravels…
Dénouement (resolution, revelation or catastrophe) Old French: untying of the knot.
Comprises the events from falling action into resolution, or the ending.

Do Your Research

Trying to sell your fiction and/or submit it? Find out what some of the hottest genres are and upcoming genres about to break. Currently vampires are a dying species. Shades Of Grey-esque fiction is on its deathbed while Dystopian, Tech thrillers (hackers, hacking, cybercrime, cyber espionage) are on the rise, think Mr. Robot and Blackhat. The Internet and technology are evolving faster than we are and this could be both a profitable and prolific niche to write about. Thrillers like, The Girl On The Train are hitting all the right notes with readers. As always, Romance, from the super-cheesy Harlequin novels to Nicholas Sparks are still tugging at readers heartstrings everywhere. I also foresee Weird and Bizarro fiction becoming more mainstream in the near future as both authors and readers expand their limits of creativity, with writers such as Christoph Paul and his alter ego Mandy De Sandra leading the pack.

Challenge Yourself: Write What’s Interesting Not Just What’s Familiar

Have a keen interest in a particular subject? Take a chance; explore, learn about it then write it. Keep things like familiarity for working through problems your characters may encounter, only. Often when you’re stuck with a piece of writing, this comes in handy. Have similar characters popping up in the same piece? Combine them and eliminate anything that doesn’t serve your story. Learn the skill of knowing what to keep and what to cut out. But always keep the cuts to refer back to later on or to use in other pieces.

Know Your Ending Before Your Beginning

You wouldn’t plan a vacation without knowing your destination, why would you write something without knowing how it will end? Although this hit and miss, laissez-faire attitude can work in life, it doesn’t necessarily translate well to the page. You have to know how it will end but your reader doesn’t need to know until that point. If plotting works for you, use it. If it doesn’t, don’t use it but always know your destination.

Know What POV Is And Stick To It!

Rookie mistakes found in fiction often center around issues with the writer not understanding Point Of View and writing it effectively. This confuses readers and you’ll have editors and agents relegating your work to the slush pile if they see you don’t understand POV. Spend time learning it and then applying it to every piece you write. Your readers, editors, agents and publishers will appreciate it. And it keeps you from looking like a newbie.

Write In A Strong Voice

Know the difference between the Active and Passive Voice in writing. Learn to moderate between them effectively. The majority of fiction nowadays demands that you use an Active Voice. Even within academic and research writing, scientists and researchers are now being encouraged to use it to convey their work better. A simple formula for using both voices is below:

In the Active Voice, the subject comes first.
In the Passive Voice, the object comes first.

Formula for Active Voice:
Subject + Verb + Object
Formula for Passive Voice:
Object + To be + Past Participle [verb] + By + Subject.

Active: Anne eats pizza.
Passive: Pizza is eaten by Anne.

Active: Matt Haig wrote a book about Mental Illness.
Passive: A book was written by Matt Haig about Mental Illness.

Deliberately Write Flawed Characters

There’s no conflict or interest if your characters aren’t flawed in some way. It’s boring to the reader. People in life aren’t perfect, your characters shouldn’t be either. If it doesn’t specifically suit a particular character to be flawless, don’t write them that way!

Write The Stories YOU Want To Read

Often the stories that need to be told are the ones that are unique to you and your life experiences. Why? Because undoubtedly on this revolving ball of dirt, you’re bound to find many others who are looking to read the exact same things you’re interested in. If you don’t enjoy reading it, chances are you won’t enjoy writing it either. Know what you like and what you’re interested in and write it. The world is waiting to hear your story.

Above All Else, “Keep It Simple, Stupid!”

Use simple words that pack the most meaningful punch. Your writing shouldn’t need dictionary, a thesaurus and Wikipedia just to digest it. It shouldn’t be about writing, it should about the story. Don’t fret about mistakes either. Everyone makes them. Anything on paper with enough good editing after can be easily fixed. Major on the major, Plot, POV etc., minor on the minor, spelling mistakes etc.. Don’t obsess about what others may think about you, your story or your writing, just write it. Often this is the main factor contributing to Writer’s Block. And the only way to get past it, is to stop worrying and just write.

SM CADMAN is a self-taught fiction writer from some godforsaken city that behaves more like a hick town in Ontario, Canada.  She started writing fiction in 2012/13 and was published shortly thereafter in a small anthology. She’s currently working on a Sci-Fi/Tech/Thriller novel, and has a poem coming out in a literary review in October. A short story she wrote about Time Travel will be published in January/February along with a few other pieces that will be published in another anthology around the same time too.

She can be found in the following places:

Twitter: @SMCADMAN
Main Website:
Co-Editor, Website:

OCT 20, 2015

How to Write a Book Review.

How to Write a Book Review.


Very good blog on what to do and not do concerning book reviews. I’m a firm believer that if you read it reviw it. That doesn’t mean it has to be posted to the net.

Originally posted on Lit World Interviews:

How to Write a Book Review with Ronovan Writes

Everyone has their own way of doing a book review and in a way that is how it should be. Always remember a book review is an opinion. That being said and out of the way, I do think there needs to be some common considerations taken.

I don’t believe published book reviews on volunteer sites should:

  • Be for tearing down an author and that author’s work.
  • Nor do I think a poorly written book should be praised.
  • And being paid for a review just doesn’t cut it, unless you work for a site that has ads and also gets paid for the service of book reviewing like major newspapers or magazines. But that’s a job, not a volunteer thing. And even then, honesty is the best policy. For most of us, receiving a good book to review is a nice perk of book reviewing.

Poorly Written Books

Yes, I’m…

View original 1,195 more words

How to Start a Blog: A Step-by-Step Guide for Writers


Good Morning, I’ve been on vacation in North Carolina and had an absolutely wonderful time visiting with my girlfriend.  Since it rained the entire time I was there, we stayed in the house, laughed, talked of old times, old friends and ate lots of good food. A better vacation couldn’t have been found anywhere.

This article is from “The Write Life” originally published in July. I liked the fact it gives step by step instructions which will help Newbies as well as Old Timers. Enjoy and have a blessed day.  Shirley


So you want to start a blog?

If you’re a writer, it makes perfect sense: You can use a blog to serve as your author platform, market your book or find new freelance writing clients.

But where do you begin? Though you’ve got the writing part down, the rest of the process can be overwhelming. Hosting, themes and all that other techy stuff can stand in your way for years.

Well, today is the day that ends. We’re here to help you navigate every step of starting a blog, from choosing your domain name to publishing your first post.

Here’s how to start a blog as a writer:

1. Pick a domain name

First things first: Where are people going to find you online? As a writer, you are your brand, so we recommend using some variation of your name. To check availability, simply visit Bluehost and click on “new domain.”

If none of the obvious options are available, try tacking a “writer” onto the end of your name, as in You could also use a “.net” or “.biz” domain, but keep in mind that most people automatically type in “.com” before thinking of other endings.

You can, of course, opt for a creative blog name, but remember that your interests and target audience may change as the years go by. When I started blogging in 2012, I focused solely on adventure travel and named my blog Travel Junkette. Since then, I’ve expanded my niche and recently switched to — because my name won’t change, no matter what I’m blogging about. I wish I’d started out using my name as the domain, and would advise you not to make the same mistake I did.

Once you’ve settled on your domain (or domains, if you’re like a lot of us writerpreneurs!), don’t wait to buy it. Even if you’re not ready to start a blog right now, you don’t want to risk losing the domain you want.

Before you actually click “purchase,” though, you might want to read the next step; we’re going to tell you how to get your domain name for free.

2. Purchase a hosting package

Now that you’ve picked out your domain name, it’s time to choose a web host. Your hosting company does all the technical magic to make sure your site actually appears when people type your newly anointed domain name into their browser. In other words, it’s pretty important.

We use MediaTemple to host this blog, but it’s typically better for blogs with lots of traffic, so you probably don’t need that if you’re just starting out. For a new blog, try Bluehost. It’s used by top bloggers around the world and is known for its customer service and reliability. Bluehost’s basic hosting plan costs $3.95 per month — and as a bonus, the company throws in your domain name for free when you sign up.

Be sure to put your purchase (and all the purchases listed in this post) on a business credit card and keep those receipts; they are investments in your business and are therefore tax deductible.

3. Install WordPress

We’re almost through with the techy stuff, we promise! You have several different choices for blogging platforms, but we like WordPress best. Not only is it totally free, but it’s easy to learn, offers a wide variety of themes, and has an online community and lots of plugins that make blogging accessible to everybody.

You can read comprehensive instructions for installing WordPress on your new blog here. Once you’ve completed that, you can officially log into your blog and start making it look pretty.

Still too techy for you? Try (as opposed to It’s a cinch to set up, but won’t allow you as much control over your site’s design and functionality. If you choose to go this route, you can skip steps one and two of this post. Simply visit and click on “Create website.” Though the free default inserts into your domain (, you can pay to use your own domain(

4. Put up an “under construction” sign

While working on your blog’s appearance, you might want to put up an “under construction” or “coming soon” sign to greet visitors. You don’t want any potential clients or readers to Google your name and find a half-finished site. (And you may think you’re going to finish setting up your blog tomorrow — but we all know how badly writers procrastinate when there are no looming deadlines!)

To set up a little sign that says “under construction,” just download this plugin. You could even include a link to your Twitter or Facebook page so visitors have an alternate way of getting in touch with you. When you’re ready to share your blog with the world, simply deactivate and delete this plugin.

5. Choose a theme

Now we’re getting to the fun stuff! Your theme determines what your blog looks like, and you’ve got a lot of options to choose from. Yes, there’s a wide range of free themes, but if you’re serious about blogging, the customization and support offered by paid themes can’t be beat.

Here at The Write Life, we use Genesis, which is one of the most popular premium themes available. Another popular and flexible theme is Thesis. For my personal site, I use Elegant Themes, which has a wide selection of beautiful themes at a reasonable price. All of these themes come with unlimited support — essential when you’re starting a blog.

6. Create a header

If you truly want your blog to look professional, it’s worth getting a custom header. You can ask your favorite graphic designer or create something yourself with Canva.

My favorite option? Order one on Fiverr. I’ve had great luck getting headers and other graphics designed in this online marketplace, where thousands of people offer their services for $5 per gig.

7. Write your pages

Though you’re starting a blog and not a static website, you’ll still want a few pages that don’t change. (“Pages” are different from “posts,” which are the daily/weekly/monthly entries you publish on your blog.)

Here are some pages you may want to create:


The about page is frequently touted as one of the most-viewed pages on blogs, so don’t overlook it. Include a photo and brief bio, and explain why you’re blogging and why the reader should care. What makes you an expert? How can you help them?

Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through — blogging is a personal affair!


You want your readers to be able to get in touch with you, right? Then you’ll need a contact page.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; just tell your readers how best to reach you. Avoid putting your full email address on here, as spambots could get ahold of it. To work around that, you can use a plugin, which we’ll link to below, or simply write something like “yourname AT yoursite DOT com.”


It’s your blog, so flaunt what you’ve got! Show your prospective clients and readers that you deserve their time and attention with examples of your past and present work. You can see examples of great writer portfolios here; personally, I love Sara Frandina’s.


Do you have a list of favorite writing tools? Or maybe books that have inspired you? Readers love resources pages, and for bloggers, they can also be a way to earn income from affiliate sales. Check out The Write Life’s resources page for inspiration.

Start here

You probably won’t need this at first, but a “start here” page is smart once you have a decent amount of content. It’s a great opportunity to express your mission and highlight your best work, so your readers can see the value of your blog without wading through months or years worth of posts.

Joanna Penn does a good job with hers, encouraging readers to download her ebook and then choose a topic that interests them.

Work with me

If you’re using your new blog to sell your writing services, this page is crucial. Be clear about how you can help people and how they can get in touch with you. You could even list packages of different services, like Sarah Von Bargen does on her site.

Once you’ve set up all your pages, make sure they’re easily accessible from the home page. If they’re not showing up, you may have to adjust your menus.

8. Install plugins

Plugins are great for everybody, but they’re especially useful for those of us who are less comfortable with the technical side of things but who’ve managed to set up a self-hosted blog. Think of them as apps for your blog; they’re free tools you can install to do a variety of things.

Though having lots of plugins can undermine the functionality and security of your blog, there are several we recommend everyone look into:

Better Click-to-Tweet: Encourage readers to share your content by including a click-to-tweet box within your posts; this plugin makes it easy.

Contact Form 7: If you want to avoid putting your email address on your contact page, use this contact form plugin, which is frequently updated and receives good reviews.

QuickieBar: Want to get readers to sign up for your free newsletter? Or want to announce the release of your latest book? This plugin allows you to create a banner for the top of your blog.

Mashshare: These “Mashable-style” share buttons are like the ones you see here on The Write Life. Another popular option is Digg Digg. It doesn’t matter which plugin you choose; it’s just essential you make social sharing easy for your readers.

WP Google Analytics: This plugin tracks the visitors to your site so you can see what people are interested in and how they’re finding you.

WP Super Cache: Another plugin that’s not sexy, but is important. Caching allows your blog to load faster — pleasing both your readers and Google.

Yoast SEO: This all-in-one SEO plugin helps you optimize your posts so you can get organic traffic from search engines.

9. Install widgets

If your blog has a sidebar, you might want to spruce it up with a few widgets, which are small boxes with different functions.

Here are some ideas:

About box

You’ve probably seen this on a lot of blogs; it’s a box in the upper right hand corner welcoming you to the site. Check out Jessica Lawlor’s blog for a simple — yet excellent — example.

Social media icons

Make it easy for your readers to follow you on social media by including links to your profiles in the sidebar. Here’s a basic tutorial for adding custom social media icons.

Popular posts

Once you’ve been blogging for a while, you might want to highlight your most popular posts in the sidebar, which you can do with a basic text widget. We do this here on The Write Life so you can find our most popular content quickly and easily.

10. Purchase backup software

Don’t overlook this important step just because you don’t have content yet! It’s better to install this software early than to start blogging and not remember until it’s too late.

Free options exist, but I’ve never had good luck with them — and for something as important as my entire blog, I don’t mind paying a little extra. (It’s a business write-off, remember?!) Popular backup options include VaultPress,BackupBuddy and blogVault.

11. Start your email list

I know, I know — you haven’t even started blogging and I already want you to build an email list. Trust me; you’ll be so glad you did.

Alexis Grant, founder of The Write Life, agrees with me. “If I could go back and do one thing differently for my business, it would be starting a newsletterearlier,” she writes. “My email list is THAT important for my business, bringing traffic to my website, buys of my products and opportunities I never could’ve expected.”

Even if you don’t have anything to send, just start collecting email addresses. The best way to entice people to sign up is by offering a free ebook or resource. For great examples, check out The Write Life’s How to Land Your First Paying Client or Grant’s social media strategy checklist.

Our favorite email newsletter platform is Mailchimp. It’s intuitive, fun and free for up to 2,000 subscribers. There are lots of other tools you could choose, though; here are a few more options for building your email list.

Once you’ve created your list, entice your readers to subscribe by adding a subscription box to your sidebar, and maybe even installing a plugin likePopupAlly.

12. Write!

If you really want to start a blog, you’re going to need to… start blogging.

We recommend creating an editorial calendar — even if it’s just you blogging. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it can even be scribbled out in a notebook.

What’s important is that you plan your posts in advance, so you can keep track of your ideas and stick to a schedule. It’s also a chance to assess and tweak your content strategy. What do you want to write about? How will you draw the readers in?

Don’t forget you’re writing for the web, so your style should be different than if you were writing for print. Keep your tone conversational, use “you” phrases to speak to the reader and break up text with bullet points and sub-headers. Keep SEO in mind, but don’t make it the focus of your writing.

13. Promote, promote, promote

You’re almost there! Now that you’ve started writing, it’s time to get readers. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but for many writers, this is one of the most surprisingly time-consuming aspects of blogging. Though it’d be nice if we could just write (that’s what we love to do, right?), it’s nicer to have people actually reading your work.

One of the best ways to attract new readers is guest blogging on more popular blogs. To help you out, here are seven writing blogs that want your guest posts, plus seven more. (And don’t forget about guest posting for TWL!)

It’s also essential to interact with other bloggers. Share their content with your community, comment on their posts and support them when and where you can. Hopefully, they’ll return the favor!

Social media is another great way to get more traffic to your new blog. In addition to sharing your posts and networking with fellow bloggers, make sure you’re constantly trying to grow your author following on social media.

14. Get help if you need it

If you feel stuck at any point, don’t be afraid to invest in a course or ebook, like these ones:

Sometimes a little outside help is all the boost you need.

Other than that, creating a successful writing blog is about hard work and consistency. Keep posting helpful and engaging content, optimizing it for SEO and sharing it with your networks — and you’ll soon see your new blog start to blossom.

Congratulations, you’ve now officially started a blog as a writer. Guess it’s time to get writing!

Do you want to start a blog? What stood in your way until now?

Susan Shane