Writing Tips

Click on a Writing Tip title to go to that page.

The Downside of Destiny: why your fantasy hero shouldn’t have one —Spring 2016

Be the Bad Guy: don’t solve story problems too quickly —Winter 2015

Go for the Knockout: writing action and fight scenes —Fall 2015

Going for the Title: creating a good title for your story —Summer 2015

Camel vs. Motorcycle: the three beats of a good query letter —Spring 2015

When it’s Write to Murder Your Characters: and why you must never waste a death —Winter 2014

Writing for the Ages: writing for every age from picture books to YA —Fall 2014

Don’t Color Me Fuchsia: why you can’t use vivid words too often —Summer 2014

The Map is Not the Territory: the seven “shalt nots” of writing jacket copy —Spring 2014

And It Was Just Right: four lengths of pitch/synopsis —Winter 2013

Twisted Plots: the necessary change of direction —Fall 2013

One Perfect Rose: writing description —Summer 2013

Don’t Skin the Cat! : better ways to solve a story problem —Spring 2013

Coincidentally… : the uses and abuses of coincidence —Winter 2012

Becoming a Hero: story structure points 9 & 10 —Fall 2012

Climbing Up to Kaboom: story structure points 7 & 8 —Summer 2012

Rise Up & Commit: story structure points 5 & 6 —Spring 2012

Foiled Plans: story structure points 3 & 4 —Winter 2011

Lights, Camera, Kickoff: story structure points 1 & 2 —Fall 2011

Fixing the Most Common Intermediate Mistake: how Scene/Sequel structure forces your protagonist to become active —Summer 2011

The Most Common Intermediate Mistake: inactive protagonists —Spring 2011

The Art & Necessity of Critique, part 3: size matters —Winter 2010

Set up & Pay Off: creating more emotional impact in your story —Fall 2010

A POV Footnote: how many beginner mistakes can be avoided by writing in close 3rd person —Summer 2010

Single Spy to a Teeming Horde: point of view, part 2 —Spring 2010

Tense Persons: point of view, part 1 —Winter 2009

Villains: because a good bad guy is the author’s best friend —Fall 2009

High Concept: whether your plot or your premise is stronger, what that means, and why it matters —Summer 2009

Scoring in the Elevator: all I know about writing a good two sentence pitch —Spring 2009

Show and Tell: the proper uses of summary —Winter 2008

Taking Out the Trash: how to dig out your unique writer’s voice —Fall 2008

Tale of Two Synopses: more on writing a synopsis that works —Summer 2008

Rising to the Occasion: the climax of your novel —Spring 2008

Middle-of-the-Novel Mud: how to winch your way out and stay out —Winter 2007

Doghouse on Malibu Beach: what you should, and shouldn’t, put in the first five pages of your manuscript —Fall 2007

Taking away the “Easy” Button: Bell’s three rules for writing about magic —Summer 2007

Pitching to the Pros: what you can (and can’t) expect if you ask someone to evaluate your writing, and what kind of sample you should offer them —Spring 2007

Hunting for an Agent: shotgun or target pistol —Winter 2006

Playing for Higher Stakes: why your dog is more important than the universe —Fall 2006

Exploding Writing Myths: some things “they” say that might be true for them but not for you —Summer 2006

Are you the next American Idol?: some things to think about before you decide to self-publish your book —Spring 2006

A Time to Write: how to phrase your New Year’s resolution properly —Winter 2005

TV or Not TV isn’t the Question: why we don’t care what kids do instead of reading —Fall 2005

What Color Hat Does Your Universe Wear?: the role your setting plays ­—Summer 2005

How Big a Hammer? : is it important for the reader to understand your theme? —Spring 2005

The Irrational Optimism of Writers: why this particular form of insanity is a good thing —Winter 2004

The Pesky Typo Hunt: why you should take the trouble to track them down and eliminate them before they can breed —Fall 2004

A Point of E-tiquette: does your T-shirt have holes in it —Summer 2004

Making your Reader Believe: whether he wants to or not! —Spring 2004

The Art and Necessity of Critique, Part 2: how to give and take criticism without coming apart at the seams —Winter 2003

The Art and Necessity of Critique, Part 1: how to find (or create) a writers’ critique group —Fall 2003

Writing the Other: writing from the viewpoint of the opposite gender —Summer 2003

Beating the Evil TV: the most valuable tip I’ll ever give you—and it’s short too! —Spring 2003

Badge & Handcuffs: writing with authority —Winter 2002

The Editor is Never Wrong, Mostly: well, hardly ever —Fall 2002

Do You Want a Cookie?: the question of revising on spec —Summer 2002

But What do the Trees Say?: or, the unimportance of worldbuilding —Spring 2002

Writing the Dread SynopsisWinter 2001

Writing Children’s Books vs. Adult BooksFall 2001