Every story – good and bad – starts with a “What if” idea. So what’s yours, how can you tell if it’s any good, and how can you build a story off that?

5 Ways to Tell If You Have a Good Idea for a Book

Every story starts with a “what if” idea: What if a teen girl with chronic depression woke up one day with psychic powers? What if Germany had won World War II (…you see this one a lot)? What if we found out aliens had been secretly colonizing Mars for hundreds of years? What if a young boy with two progressive dads and thick glasses moved to the Deep South? What if I lightly fictionalized my own life story (…I wouldn’t advise this one, tho—most authors overestimate how interesting their lives are to other people)?…[keep reading]

A good “What if” idea is great, but you gotta get the words on the page, babe, or your idea doesn’t mean squat. Check out this section on how to start actually WRITING a book.

What You Absolutely Need To Know Before You Start Writing

In my last article, I discussed how authors often fall into the trap of obsessing over irrelevant character details at the expense of info that matters. You don’t need to know everything about a character, only certain critical details: desires, strengths, and weaknesses. The same holds true for starting a story: you don’t need to know everything, only certain things…but you NEED to know those key things…[keep reading]

9 Steps to Start Your Story

Let’s say you’ve confirmed your what-if idea is worth expanding into a whole story. Yay!

Now what?

This is where most people get stuck after they decide they want to write a novel. They might write a few pages, or even a few chapters, and then stall out. Part of this is waning interest and competing priorities; writing an entire novel is hard and takes a long time, dammit! If you’re not committed, it’s probably not gonna happen…[keep reading]

Ending is easier than beginning, but hard to do well. Stick the landing with these tips!

The 4 Key Attributes of a Good Ending

There’s honestly not a lot to say about endings except they should be a satisfying conclusion of everything that’s come before—but, of course, that can be harder than it sounds. An exceptionally good ending can elevate a story to greatness (The Usual Suspects, The Shawshank Redemption), or ruin it (Season 8 of Game of Thrones, The Rise of Skywalker for some current examples). To clarify, when I say good ending I mean satisfying, which isn’t necessarily a happy ending…[keep reading]

If you don’t even know what this means, you’ve got some reading (below) to do!

Plotting versus Pantsing, and 4 Hybrid Options to Plot Out Your Novel

The biggest issue with writing a book is that you need to somehow fill up blank space on a page with words. Specifically, words that form a narrative. Failing to do this means you’ve failed to write a book.

This is ALWAYS, 100% of the time, the reason people try and fail to write a novel.

The problem is it’s quite easy to think a lot about writing a book, and then not put any actual words on a page. In a future post I’ll discuss how to find the time to write, but for now I’ll address the beat before the actual writing, which is to have a plan…[keep reading]

Just like a movie or TV show, every novel is composed of scenes where stuff happens (mostly). Want me to get more specific? …Okay!

9 Steps to Constructing a Good Scene or Chapter

You know how sometimes you’ll read an entire chapter of a book and think to yourself, “What did I just read?” Or maybe, “What was the point of that?” Well, the reason you’re asking yourself this question is because whoever wrote the chapter didn’t know how to properly construct a scene…or it’s supposed to be some kind of deep literary nonsense, though if that’s the case you’d probably think to yourself “Soooo deep…” while secretly feeling ashamed because you assume you’re too dumb to understand it…[keep reading]

How To Write A Good Fight/Sex Scene

Let’s be honest—the vast majority of fight/sex scenes in Hollywood and literature only exist to titillate. Most could be replaced by a sign or sentence that says “And then they have sex,” or “And then they fight.” I lump sex scenes and fight scenes together because the mechanics and purposes of both are very similar…[keep reading]

We Need To Talk About The Darkest Minds and the Importance of Choice

You may have blinked and missed it, but The Darkest Minds movie released in August 2018 is one of the most recent Young Adult (YA) dystopia joints adapted from a popular novel to crash and burn at the box office.

Cue the proclamations from on-high that the YA dystopia genre is dead. DEEEEAAAAD!!

But it’s unfair to blame an entire genre for the failure of an individual movie. While the Han Solo movie also performed below expectations nobody declared science fiction dead, or that thrillers were dead when The Snowman garnered scathing reviews. The Darkest Minds didn’t fail because audiences don’t want YA dystopias, but because it was a bad movie that flunked the basics of Storytelling 101…[keep reading]

Unless you’re Stephen King or a romance author, it’s probably gonna take you a LONG time to write your book. There’s just no way around it when you’ve got to squeeze 60-90K words out of your head. Find out some tried and true methods on how to do it here.

4 Steps to Finding Time to Write

You know the saying, “Writers write every day”? Here’s the thing: this isn’t true. The vast majority of successful writers don’t actually write every day; maybe most days, but not every day. Sometimes they get sick, or overwhelmed with family stuff, or go on vacation, or get hit by a car, et cetera. Things come up, life happens.

The real saying should be: “Writers finish.” Successful authors finish projects, period. If you never finish, you’ve effectively done nothing. …Unless you’re writing just for fun, and then none of this advice matters anyway. BTW, good luck with that Cinderella/Batman mashup story told from celebrity shock jock Howard Stern’s point of view! [keep reading]