Creating a Plot and Other Writing Tips

By User:Revital9 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By User:Revital9 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Writing takes skill, we all know that. But what are some ways you can hook your readers and make them want to keep reading?


Having a strong plot can not only keep readers entertained, but also make it easier to write the story in the first place. John Dufresne on Writer’s Digest writes in “How to Let Plot Guide Your Short Story” that “The basic plot of every story—regardless of length or complexity—is: A central character wants something intensely, goes after it despite opposition and, as a result of a struggle, comes to either win or lose.” The plot is the narrative, and when writing, it should lead you to characters, theme, tone, point of view, setting, and all the other aspects of writing you should take into consideration.

One thing to keep in mind is that plot and story are not necessarily the same thing, according to Belinda Williams. All your characters have started their story before the beginning of your story. Now, some of their backstory may be important for the current story, but starting the story from the beginning of a character’s backstory may drag things out too much. You don’t want to bore your readers.

For a fun infographic that outlines plots, check out A Ghost Writers Blog’s “How to write the plot of a story,” which covers things such as the noble quest, insurmountable hurtles, and extreme self-sacrifice.

Side note: Plotting can also refer to whether you outline your book ahead of time, or you pants it (write by the seat of your pants.) Plotters tend to be more left-brained, and pantsers tend to be more right-brained. See the infographic at Author Zoo.

Conflict and Tension

All good stories need conflict and tension. According to Live Write Thrive, “Conflict is good for us.” Otherwise, what will push our characters to grow? Live Write Thrive also talks about inner conflict and outer conflict, which are both critical.

Helping Writers Become Authors explains conflict as “Goal + Obstacle = Conflict.” According to their article, in order to double your conflict, all you need to do is add some complications to the equation. Basically, make it as hard as possible for your character to accomplish his or her goal.


The pace of a story is also important, in terms of keeping your readers’ attention. Live Write Thrive has an article called “4 Key Ways to Ramp Up Tension and Pacing in Your Fiction” that emphasizes having engaging characters, writing scenes with a purpose, and interweaving moments of self-reflection with action.

For fun, Ellis Shuman Writes gives a list of the 13-step formula on what it takes to write a Dan Brown thriller novel, based on non-stop reading sessions. The list includes cliffhanger chapters, ruthless villains, and conspiracies or threats.

How do you approach your stories? Please share in the comments!

Guest Post: Top 7 Famous Literary Bars You Should Visit (Infographic)

By Linda Craig

Writing is often thought of as a solitary activity, but thanks to this infographic, you can visit your favorite author’s watering holes.

Throughout history, it has always been the case that with every famous writer, there is a pub or bar that becomes equally as famous thanks to their connections as the favoured drinking establishment of said famous writer. There really is something to be said about the fact that a glass of whiskey is often a writer’s best friend, and in the case of all of the examples we have put together for you in this cool infographic, that certainly seems to be the case. Continue reading

What Are Your Goals For 2016? (Write More With Dictation Software)

By Adam Diaz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Adam Diaz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s still the first month of the year, so I think this post is still valid. Anyway, in the past couple weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it is I want to accomplish this year.

And in the last few weeks especially, I’ve come up with a lot of ideas for stories that I’m excited to write, but find that between the full time day job and co-producing the I Know Dino podcast, I’m often too tired or unmotivated at the end of the day to actually see through. Weekends are tough too, since I want to fit in time to see friends and family, plus catch up on my blogging and dinosaur-ing.

That’s why I was so intrigued by Monica Leonelle’s Write Better, Faster book. She talks about writing via dictation, which I hadn’t even considered as an option until now. But she makes a good point, that it’s much faster to make your word count, plus it saves your wrists. It might make it harder to go to your favorite coffee shop to write, but I plan to still do that on some of my weekends to figure out my outlines.

Outlining is another important part of the process. For example, the more details you have about what chapters you want to write and what scenes to include in each chapter, the faster and easier it is to actually get your ideas down on paper/your laptop.

I haven’t started using the dictation method yet, though I did buy dictation software last year, called Dragon, because I thought it would help my husband and I to transcribe notes from our podcast’s interviews. We ended up using Fiverr instead, and I’ve been looking for a way ever since to take advantage of it. The program is fairly intuitive–the first step is to record yourself reading a sample they give you, so that the software can learn how you pronounce words and transcribe more accurately.

Another program you can try is Windows Speech Recognition (WSR). I have a Mac, so can’t speak too much about the software, but Tech Tools for Writers gives some helpful tips for getting started.

As usual, The Book Designer has an insightful post on things to keep in mind when editing your dictated book. Things to keep in mind include your first draft of a dictated book tends to be wordier, pause when dictating to figure out what exactly you want to say, and go through several rounds of editing afterwards.

Once I get some outlines down for books I plan to write this year, I plan on trying out this new-fangled way of writing. I’ll let you know how it goes.

By the way, I first learned about Monica Leonelle via a deal I got from Goodriter, a free email list that sends you weekly deals on writing courses, books, software, and more. (And no the link to Goodriter is not an affiliate link, though all the links to Amazon in this post are.)

Guest Post: 4 Tips for Developing Compelling Characters


By Marianne Stenger

This post was originally published on The Australian College of Journalism is part of Open Colleges, and provides writing and media-related training.

Continue reading

Looking for Innovative Stories? Here’s a List of Ebooks, Apps, Websites, Games, and More

Ebooks, or maybe I should say stories, come in all shapes and sizes: EPUB, apps, virtual reality, games, and more. If you want to see some exciting, innovative new forms of storytelling, check out this list (sure devices have some limitations and enhanced ebooks haven’t exactly taken off yet, but there are ways to make ebooks great): Continue reading

An Interview with Dean Economos and Alyssa Machinis, Co‐Authors of A North Shore Story


Dean Economos and Alyssa Machinis are the co-authors of A North Shore Story:

For the teenagers of Chicago’s North Shore, everyone has something to hide.

In a daring attempt to impress the elusive Sophia, Michael makes the biggest decision of his life, stealing over a hundred thousand dollars from St. Theodore Community Church.

That same night, Nichole’s insecurities are finally forgotten with a drug she soon won’t be able to control.

When Michael makes his getaway, he sees his friend Joseph cheat on his girlfriend with the priest’s daughter and knock over a candle that sets the church ablaze.

As the consequences of that night unfold, Joseph is blamed for the fire and the missing money. Can the teenagers of the North Shore confess their vices to help their friend? Or will their greed, infidelity and jealousy change all their lives forever?

Read on for Dean and Alyssa’s interview. Continue reading

Indie Authors: Making the Most out of Scrivener


Scrivener is an amazing tool for writers. You can organize your notes, keep your research all in one place, easily make edits or move around chapters, and even export all your work into other file formats.

At first, using Scrivener may seem daunting because there are so many features. But luckily, many people who use Scrivener regularly are willing to share their tips and tricks. If you are looking for some help, then try Beyond Paper Editing’s “Scrivener Cheat Sheet: Start Using Scrivener Now,” which also includes a downloadable cheat sheet.

And if you’re looking for templates to use, check out Justin’s “Free Scrivener Templates,” which has links to multiple templates for full length novels, short stories, and non-fiction books.

Last, if you want to use Scrivener to help you turn your manuscript into an ebook, then read Angela Quarles’ “Writer Wednesday: Creating an ePub file Using Scrivener + Dreamweaver + Sigil + Kindle Previewer,” an in-depth guide on how to use Scrivener in your workflow to create a clean ebook file.

Got any Scrivener tips? Please share in the comments! And happy writing!

Guest Post: Proofreading Style and Grammar with Document Grader


By Patrick Roberts

Patrick Roberts is the creator of Document Grader, a tool designed to grade writing on a deeper level than the average grammar checking program. Authors can easily use the tool to help with their work.

Document Grader goes beyond finding superficial grammar or spelling mistakes, as most grammar checking tools already do.  Instead, the service highlights a wide range of language/usage issues that might affect the readability of your writing, including phrases that might be too wordy, colloquial, passive or cliched. When you click on these contextual highlights you will see an explanation of the issue along with some useful examples of what to do and what not to do.  In many cases, you can fix the issues in your writing with a single click.

Patrick created the following video to show what Document Grader looks like in action:

Patrick Roberts is a self-employed IT professional who is interested in internet based tools for writers. Along these lines, he recently released Document Grader ( to help authors of all shapes and sizes improve their writing habits.

Publishing and Virtual Reality

By Runner1928 (Google Cardboard assembled.jpg) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Runner1928 (Google Cardboard assembled.jpg) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times is known for its innovation. Back when I was getting my masters at NYU, I had the opportunity to get a tour of their research facility, and I was impressed. Now, the newspaper is experimenting with journalism and virtual reality, and has already created some compelling content.

According to an article in Pacific Standard, virtual reality journalism is so immersive, it can leave you shaken, and it’s an “experience on demand.” The New York Times delivered 1.2 Google Cardboard viewers to subscribers so they could immersive themselves in a story about three refugee children. And there are many more stories. The point is to be compelling (though journalists must taken into consideration ethics when producing these films), and it’s not just limited to journalism.  Continue reading

Indie Authors: Self-Editing Before Getting Your Manuscript Edited

By Phoebe (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Phoebe (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Editing is an important step to publishing, both indie and traditional. A book that is poorly edited can be a big turn off to readers. Bridget McKenna gives an example in her post, “Why I Didn’t Keep Reading Your Book, Part 2“:

Your opening sentence demonstrated that you don’t know the difference between “number,” which is used to describe things that can be counted, such as fenceposts and birds, and “amount,” which is used to describe something functionally impossible to count, like water or sand. So “a large amount of birds” flapping around the very first line of your book didn’t fill me with a sense of promise for your writing or a lot of respect for your editor. I’ll never know whether you told a good story—what I found in the few pages convinced me you couldn’t write well enough for the quality of the story to make a difference to me.

Steamfeed has a list of grammar mistakes to watch out for, so as to keep your readers happy. Examples include it’s v. its, affect and effect, and quotation marks. Continue reading