Do You Really Know How To “Show, Don’t Tell”?

Confused about “show don’t tell” when you write? This blog post by Sue Coletta , courtesy of Ryan Lantz’s blog, will assist! Certainly helped me.

A Writer's Path


Yesterday marked my deadline for completing the pre-edits for Marred. “Pre-edits” seems like it would be an easy task. It wasn’t. Once the track edits begin in two weeks, I’m not allowed to change anything other than what the editor points out. So I wanted to go through the manuscript…one…more…time…and improve it to the best of my ability.

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Posted by on October 1, 2015 in General Discussion


Plotter? Pantser? Maybe a bit of both?


In blogs and on critique sites, there can be a lively exchange between fiction writers about the merits of being  a “Plotter” or a “Pantser.”

The Plotter camp favors outlining and structuring  your novel, the most extreme plotters subscribe to developing all the elements of your story, asking in depth questions about plot, characters, pacing, pinch points,  before beginning to write. Some write out long narrative style outlines, others more truncated versions.

On the other side of the discussion, the Pantser’s , as the name implies, write by the seat of the pants with very little more than a general idea in mind.  Just write it. Often cited are feelings that extensive outlining would rob the story of any spontaneity or creative spark.

While I lean towards being a plotter, eventually I’ve employed  a “bit of both.” I’ve found great value in outlining my story, but then I hit a point where I just started writing, adjusting the outline to fit where I have wandered. Returning to the outline gives me a quick look at possible plot holes, further character development needed, and a chance to restructure as needed. It’s turning out to be a very useful tool.

And  here’s my revelation:

# 14   I suspect  plotters spend more time on the front end, and probably less in re-writes and revisions. And  pantsers do more editing and rewriting at the end.  But whichever way a story is approached – plotter, pantser, or a bit of both, you still wind up needing to attend to all the elements of a good novel.

To see the lessons I’ve learned while writing my first novel, click here:   Lessons I’m learning while writing…


Posted by on June 5, 2015 in Writing the Book


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Conquer the blank page – and a way to beat writer’s block

Taking writing tips from fashion design and furniture making, learning to let go and write #amwriting

Nail Your Novel

When you sit at the keyboard (or seize your writing irons), how certain are you about what you’re going to write?
I’m a big fan of plans, but sometimes they’re frustrating. We know the next point in the story but can’t get the characters there. We need to set up a development and it won’t work. Or we need something, anything to darn well happen.

This week I heard the broadcast journalist Libby Purves (@Lib_Thinks) ask two creatives about their processes, and the results were rather interesting (listen to it here) . They weren’t writers, but what they described was exceedingly familiar.

Katherine Hooker Nail Your Novel

The moment when you get the pencil out

Fashion designer Katherine Hooker (left) @KatherineHooker and furniture maker Peter Korn (below) (who has written this book about creativity) were asked about the moment ‘when you first get the pencil out and think now I’m going…

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Posted by on May 31, 2015 in General Discussion


How to Fix Your Story Without Going Back to the Drawing Board

Here’s a reblog from Drew Chial about untangling and bookmarking your first draft without losing momentum. Great tips.

Drew Chial

1. TitleThe Case Against Editing as You Go

When I first started writing I scrutinized every paragraph the moment after typing. I counted the syllables so I could adjust for rhythm and flow. I checked my metaphors to see if they mixed wrong, I ran every verb through the thesaurus, and I dialed all my hyperboles back.

By the end of the day my word count hovered around the same number I’d started at. Sometimes it was in the negative. My effort to fine tune the perfect page kept me from finishing my stories.

Writing is hard. I was making it harder than it needed to be, writing the way I’d seen authors work on TV. They’d type THE END, pull the last page out of their typewriter, set it on top of the stack of pages, pat it, and hand the completed work to their publisher. Their publisher called them…

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Reading other debut novels while writing…




I’m at the half way point of the first draft of my book, am at around 46,000 words.

I’ve eased off a bit on the intensive study of fiction writing I was doing, and begun to read other new debut novels. And I’m finding it very helpful.

It’s helped me to identify some issues I’ve had in my own writing.  It’s easier to see how someone else handles characters, narrative descriptions, structure and scenes, than to recognize it in my own work. I’ve enjoyed reading these novels, and when I reach a stretch of text I want to skim through, I stop and study it.

When I start a writing session now, I have gained a little distance. It’s provided a welcome break from over-absorption in developing my own story, and the words flow easier.

And…. not only have I gotten help with my own writing and enjoyed the stories, I am also supporting some new writers while I’m at it!


Lesson learned:

#13.  Reading other debut novels while I’m writing my first book is very helpful.


To see the lessons I’ve learned while writing my first novel, click here:   Lessons I’m learning while writing…


Posted by on May 16, 2015 in Writing the Book


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Developing Minor Characters

Major Role of Minor Characters

Major Role of Minor Characters

Minor characters in a story can provide opportunities to develop plot and add depth to main characters. Richness, intrigue and interest can be woven into the story by letting the minor characters provide foreshadowing, backstory, and show different aspects of the setting and main players. Having interesting, well developed and believable minor characters makes for a better novel overall.

Whenever possible — when I need a minor character for a “function” – a teacher, an employer, a store clerk etc., looking to see how a relationship/friendship that relates to one or more of my main characters  just might enrich the plot. Instead of having “throw away” or cardboard characters, or combining two or three minor characters into one with more depth makes a more relatable story.

Of course there will always be a cast of unrelated “bit part” characters who show up once and disappear, but if possible, even those should be as developed as much as possible.

In my “practice novel,” a rescue team is introduced around the midpoint. They haven’t existed in the early chapters, but will have a major role in the second half. I had two minor characters fulfilling minor functions early on, and I have consolidated them into one character. This new minor character, who has been a teacher of the protagonist, becomes a contact point between the protagonist and the rescue team leader. He is the leader’s brother. The brother’s expanded role makes parts of the story more plausible, and more interesting.

This expanded role allowed me to add more depth to the team leader, as well as the protagonist. It increased the level of intrigue, and I will use him again farther into the story.

Writing a story is like weaving a tapestry. By interweaving the colors/characters, it starts to build a beautiful picture, and develops more depth while using a smaller cast.


To see all the lessons to date, click here:   Go to Lessons I’m Learning….



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Fiction – Writing Software

The decision to invest in a fiction writing program was an easy one for me. I needed a way to organize information. Tired of wasting energy, time and effort jumping between spreadsheets and documents, searching for things — as small as spelling a character’s name, location, or relationship to becoming frustrated when I wanted to make changes to multiple chapters that I had stored on separate documents.

The choice of which one to use was the difficulty. I read reviews and investigated multiple writing programs, and narrowed my choice to Scrivener, Write It Now,  WriteWay, or the free version of  yWriter. Scrivener seems to be the choice of many writers, but the learning curve was more than I wanted at this time. I was looking for a more intuitive based program. WriteWay and yWriter didn’t seem to fit me as much as the one I ultimately chose, Write It Now. WIN4 Write It Now provided the most flexibility. I like to “co-opt” databases– that doesn’t mean tampering with any of the program itself — I simply like to use fields for what I want, not necessarily what the original intent of the program design intended. I played with my new program for a few weeks, and fine tuned a system that works well for me.

I appreciate the organization and functions of the program, and using it allows me concentrate on my writing. I also works well in checking overall structure, and I can make changes to my outline as I revise.

Chapters and Scenes, Characters, Locations, Notes and Ideas, are made available in a collapsible menu on the left side of the screen, and provide instant navigation to any point in the story. Having the ability to color code scenes and chapters, and colors correspond within the story board function, is indispensable. I use it to track POV (Point of View). Moving, adding or deleting a scene or chapter is smooth, and there are nifty tools built into it – the ones I use most often are:


thesaurus and spell check,

global word find and replace (when I decide to rename a character or change a location),

word count to track my progress (or identify overly long/short scenes that might need attention),

reading level for each scene (useful because this novel is geared to young adults),

word usage (number of times words are used),

graphs to track everything from conflict and action to meeting writing goals

The character builders, with thought provoking built in questions and prompts is interesting and helps flesh out characters, and the program has relationships and friends tracking and visual charts. I had already built my characters before I installed the program, and only played with it a little so far. There is a lot more this program can do. I think all of the programs I looked at supplied most of these functions.

Bottom line: choose a program that fits you and your style. They are meant to help you organize and ease some of the more mundane, and sometimes  overwhelming issues that come with organizing and writing a long piece of fiction.

I’ve only used this program for a couple of months now, but I think first draft and early revisions will be the programs strongest point. I’m guessing I’ll transition to WORD for final manuscript fine-tuning, but won’t know until I get there!

Do you use a software program for writing?  What have you found to be the most helpful product or function?

 Lesson #11:   Using a fiction writing software program helps me concentrate more on my writing, keep track of characters and their relationships, locations, and provides me with an easy way to insure my novel’s structure is on target. Along with other helpful writing tools, it speeds along a first draft, with places to store and retrieve thoughts and ideas, and make changes to the text easily as I go.

To see all the lessons to date, click here:   Go to Lessons I’m Learning….


Posted by on April 28, 2015 in Writing the Book


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