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Category > Basics

Periodization for Writers

Periodization is a principle used in may sports and I’ve discovered it also applies to writing. In the sports world, it involves planning your workout year into smaller segments to avoid overtraining while consistently making improvements. The goal is to use the principle of periodization in order to make continuous forward improvement while avoiding burn […]

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Character Generators

While listening to a Writing Excuses episode called Engaging Characters, their guest Nancy Fulda, mentioned character generators. (Season 9 Episode 10 ) I’d never heard of such a thing! Since I’m working on a new novel outline, I was curious enough to check it out. I do already use a name generator to help […]

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Quick-and-Dirty Tips for Polishing Your Prose

So, you’ve brainstormed, written, and rewritten. The plot is sufficiently exciting, the theme powerful, the dialogue realistic, the characters complex and believable, the ending unpredictable yet perfectly fitting. Point-of-view and tense issues have been addressed, grammatical errors corrected, clichés banished. But yet…after reading your piece one last time, a lingering dissatisfaction remains. It doesn’t seem […]

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On Sticky Notes, Character Wheels, and Russian Folklore, Or…Planning a Novel

I first met bestselling author Jodi McIsaac when she joined our local speculative fiction writing group (IFWA), shortly after she moved from Vancouver to Calgary. Then I had the pleasure of attending one of her panels at When Words Collide, entitled “Plotters, Pantsers, and Quilters.” She was firmly in the “plotters” camp. And when I […]

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Detailed Character Descriptions: Yea or Nay?

On August 20, 2013, we received the sad news that great American writer Elmore Leonard had passed away. I’m ashamed to admit I’d never heard of Mr. Leonard before Twitter told me of his passing, though of course I was familiar with the Hollywood adaptations of his work. That day, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of […]

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Breaking Out of a Stylistic Rut (Or Finding One)

As a writer, “style” is a thing we’re supposed to find. It will define us, they say; set us apart as a distinct, creative voice in a vast field of creative voices. It’s our brand. It’s the thing—our “signature”—that marks each of our stories or novels as uniquely ours no matter how different in subject matter […]

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Fight Scenes That Sizzle

  I write violent fiction. As a kid, I loved action movies and heroic fighting fantasy novels. I read The Iliad and The Odyssey when I was eleven and told my mom I preferred The Iliad because of the fight scenes. To this day, when I sit down to watch a movie, I will always […]

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Scene-stealing Antagonists

Merriam Webster defines an antagonist as, “one that contends with or opposes another,” and lists “adversary” and “opponent” as synonyms. Oxford defines the term as, “a person who actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something; an adversary.” Of course in a literary context, an antagonist doesn’t have to be a person. I recall learning in […]

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Sh*t from Shinola

  If you’re like me, you spent most of Monday watching Hurricane Sandy pummel the east coast. Every image of flooded streets or burning power lines emblazoned itself into your retinas. The problem was, not all those pictures were real. The one above, for example, combined a photo of New York’s harbor with a storm […]

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Fire it up! A writing exercise

Last week, Christie talked about using timed writing exercises to restart your creative fires. Here’s a similar exercise that you can use to jolt yourself out of a rut. It’s based on Kerouac’s Spontaneous Prose method. You may have tried something similar in a writing class–I know I have. Find an object to study. Maybe […]

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