Craft

(Under construction – more content coming soon! I’m only one woman you know.)

“Is it who or whom? When should I use ‘I’ instead of ‘me’ again?” These questions and more answered about how to sling words to make yourself sound halfway literate!

The Most Misunderstood “Rules” of Writing, Part 1: Show, Don’t Tell

See? Even Hemingway said stupid crap sometimes!

I’m generally of a mind that rules are lame. You don’t know how much trouble I’ve ended up in because of this attitude, being a military member and all. Example:

Me: Why can’t I put my hands in the pockets of my uniform? It’s winter and it’s cold.

Severe-Looking Instructor: Because it’s unprofessional.

Me: Frostbite is also unprofessional.

Severe-Looking Instructor: Drop and give me twenty…[keep reading]

The Most Misunderstood “Rules” of Writing, Part 2: Grammatical Correctness

Got some bad news about pet peeve #3…see newly-added definition #4 at Dictionary.com. And this is why “grammar” rules arent really rules.

I used to wonder what was more important—wordsmithing or storytelling. This was when I was on my O. Henry Prize kick, reading dozens of beautifully written short stories that received high praise despite lacking plots or any deep meaning (to me, anyway). As a result, for a while I believed wordsmithing was more important and focused a lot on improving my prose. Then I realized short stories were a career dead end and began focusing on novels, where I came to the opposite conclusion…[keep reading]

Not just for eighth grade book reports! See below on how to give your story a unifying worldview with subtext and depth.

How to Use Fiction to Tell the Truth

What deep truths lie within?

What if I told you the best fiction was all about telling the truth?

“But Shana, it’s fiction!” you might respond. “It’s not real! How is my erotic paranormal romance about shapeshifting unicorns supposed to tell the truth about anything?”

Well, let me explain…BTW, if YOU have written an erotic paranormal romance about shapeshifting unicorns, PLEASE SEND ME THE BUY LINK ASAP…[keep reading]

How The Rise of Skywalker Will End

Let’s think like professional screenwriters and make an educated guess about what’ll happen to these crazy kids!

[Note: this post contains speculation, but no spoilers]

Hope y’all had an awesome Thanksgiving! Here’s an early Christmas present for you:

Want to know how the upcoming final chapter in the latest Star Wars movie trilogy will end? I’ll tell you!…[keep reading]

Don’t let your story go off the rails! Figure out how to craft a coherent narrative arc here.

Baking Literary Bread, Part 1: The Basic Ingredients Every Story Must Have To Succeed

Everybody who’s ever attempted to bake a delicious loaf of bread from scratch knows firsthand the endeavor is part art, part science. The delicate balance of flavors and textures—that’s art. Ensuring the loaf doesn’t dissolve into a puddle of goo—that’s science. There are an infinite number of different kinds of bread you can bake—banana, zucchini, raisin nut, marble wheat, etc.—but they all have certain ingredients in common—flour, baking soda, salt, water—and require a certain order of preparation—mix ingredients, bake, let cool. Without the right ingredients in specific quantities and in the proper order, you end up with the aforementioned inedible goo…[keep reading]

Baking Literary Bread, Part 2: The Right Recipe For Success

In my last column, I talked about the critical ingredients to craft a coherent story. You might recall my genius bread-baking metaphor: like a story, there are an infinite number of different kinds of bread you can bake, but all loaves of bread have certain ingredients in common that make it bread rather than cake or pizza. However, just knowing what ingredients to put in isn’t enough. You also need to know the ratio of each, and the order in which they should be added…[read more]

Baking Literary Bread, Part 3: How To Solve Common Story Problems Using the Recipe

Last time, we discussed the correct order and ratio of all the necessary ingredients for a successful story: hook (page 1) -> inciting incident (anytime before plot point 1) -> plot point 1 (PP1; 20-25% mark) -> midpoint (50% mark) -> plot point 2 (PP2; 75% mark) -> climax/denoument (last 90%).

Knowing the correct order and ratio can solve a lot of issues with a manuscript that readers complain about but authors may have a hard time interpreting. Here are a few ambiguous but common problems decoded into their meaning and solution…[keep reading]

Breaking Down What a Story Actually Is…And What It Isn’t

There’s a lot of story implied here…

No writing workshop is complete without a definition of a story explained to the audience of aspiring authors. They come in flavors from simple to complicated, though I prefer the simple ones.

A plot is not a story! A plot is a series of events that forms an overarching narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. A plot is stuff that happens. A story is stuff that happens for a reason, which is provided by the characters. At its very basic elements, a story is “plot plus characters.”…[keep reading]

3 Reasons Why You Should Never Skip the Inciting Incident

“Hmmm…I need to start my story off with a bang because I’m told your average reader is a narcoleptic millennial with ADD…I’m just gonna start it in the middle I guess…Dammit, why is writing so hard??”

Maybe I’ve been cursed by the book gods and need to sacrifice another virgin at the secret blood altar they keep in my local library’s basement (all the best libraries have one), but I’ve had crap luck with books lately. I’ve DNF’d the last four out of five books I’ve read, primarily for story mechanics issues. They’ve either dragged or didn’t establish a solid foundation before jumping into the action, or just weren’t very compelling stories. I’m a slow-as-shit reader, so slogging through a book I’m not that into can take weeks to reach the payoff of a “meh” experience. If a book doesn’t hook me within the first ~30%, I peace out and move on…[keep reading]

Read here for details on how to make compelling and unforgettable characters who aren’t just wish fulfillment vehicles for yourself! …Well you can write a protagonist who’s a thinly veiled version of yourself if you want, but it’ll be lame.

3 Easy Steps to Write a Compelling Villain

Who would these two knuckleheads be without each other?

Crack open any Storytelling 101 book and it’ll tell you conflict is your story’s engine. Every story since the history of forever has centered around someone trying to solve a problem; otherwise, it’s not a story so much as a series of anecdotes, or an aside, or your drunk uncle’s ramblings.

Stories which lack a strong central conflict feel weak or meandering…[keep reading]

How to Create “Real” Characters

Another terrible Hemingway quote. Why was this guy popular again?

Characters in your heard are not real people, no matter what a platitude typed in Corsiva font scrolled across a picture of a quill tells you. They are not people, and they don’t do anything you don’t make them do. To think otherwise is to have a fundamental break with reality, and please see your doctor to adjust your medication dosage accordingly…[keep reading]

The Only Thing You Really Need To Know About Your Characters

“But what should my hero’s favorite color be? Dammit, writing is so hard!”

Please don’t tell me you’ve got a binder or notebook stuffed with pictures you found on the Internet of what your main characters look like, along with facts about them like their favorite color, the first song they danced to, their ideal vacation spot, etc. I mean, you can do that if you’re bored…okay I did that on my website as part of a promotion for my book Reckoning. But don’t mistake this for character development, because it’s not…[keep reading]

Not sure what the difference is between hard and soft sci-fi, or sociological and psychological storytelling styles? Find out here, as well as other key differences and tropes of popular genres!
Everything I’ve learned about the writing craft I mostly stole from other people, so read directly from the sources I’ve poached from here!

Good Books To Read If You Wanna Be a (Better) Writer

Writers are always giving out advice on how to write, assuming for some reason that people care. I mean, you don’t see doctors prattling on to whoever will listen about the best ways to reset a bone or writing blog posts about identifying infectious diseases.

Maybe writing is unique in the sense it seems like something everyone should be capable of doing. With some sad exceptions, everybody is literate, everybody’s got “What if…?” story ideas, and everybody can tell a good story from a bad one. And yet only a tiny handful of people can sit down and complete a coherent story; even fewer a GOOD coherent story…[keep reading]

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