Sensory details are not just something to be shoehorned into your description to make your writing sound more vivid. Sensory details are something that should be considered when creating your scenes and your story as a whole, because they are things for your reader to experience through your character, and your character doesn’t experience these senses as fleetingly as a line of text would suggest. If you’re not quite sure what this means, consider this:

Using All Five Senses in Your Story: Why You Should Do It, and How

Writing and storytelling are two sides of the same coin, and one usually needs to be skilled in both to create a great story. If your prose is not engaging, your story may not be enough to maintain your reader’s interest; therefore, those of us in the business of helping writers like to suggest that … Read more

4 Basic Ingredients to Make Your Story More Complex (the critical narrative elements of a compelling story)

Every story has different requirements. Some don’t need much character development. Others don’t need tight plots. But for your story to be the most engaging and compelling it can be, it should comprise these basic narrative elements. 1. Character Reader-Character connection Characters are the reader’s entry point and anchor in the story: what hooks them … Read more

As a book editor, I'm going to set the record straight about writing rules.

Writing Rules Explained: Should We Follow Writing Rules?

(Video transcript) Not a fortnight goes by that I don’t read the comments section of an article about writing and find a comment spurning writing rules and advice of any kind and it grinds my gears. “Rules stifle creativity!” they proclaim. “They make you write for editors and not for yourself! Writing is an art and … Read more

A lot of people say you should avoid writing dreams in novels. But why?

4 Reasons You Should Avoid Writing Dreams in Novels

If you’re on a book editor’s website reading blog posts about writing then you’ve been in the writersphere long enough to have heard that editors and agents hate dreams in novels. Many people in the writing community tend to just parrot what they’ve heard others say so the reasons behind these remarks get lost and … Read more

I don’t like character questionnaires and profiles because knowing things about someone is completely different to knowing someone and if you're going to follow a character through a story you need to know who they are. Characters navigate the plot by making decisions and acting, and it's important to be able to anticipate what these decisions and actions might be if you want your character to be consistent. But, where do you start to develop a character?

How to Develop a Character

(Video transcript) I don’t like character questionnaires and profiles because knowing things about someone is completely different to knowing someone and if you’re going to follow a character through a story you need to know who they are. Characters navigate the plot by making decisions and acting, and it’s important to be able to anticipate … Read more

6 Dialogue Habits that are Killing Your Story

Dialogue can be tough to write, but it can tougher to read. These common dialogue habits might be killing your story.  1. “Talking Head” syndrome What’s the problem? “Talking Head” syndrome is exactly what it sounds like: when you reduce your characters to nothing more than talking heads by not balancing dialogue with thought, action … Read more

I often hear writers say, "I have an idea for a book, but I don't know where to start."

How to Turn an Idea into a Story

How to Turn an Idea into a Story (Video transcript) I often hear writers say, “I have an idea for a book, but I don’t know where to start.” That’s because an idea doesn’t equal a story. Ideas don’t tell us much about the story at all. Ideas often involve no characters, no conflict and … Read more

Every Friday, I read the first chapter of a book I've never read before to see what lessons I can learn about first chapters.

First Chapter Friday #1 (April 2016)

Don’t know what #FirstChapterFriday is? Coraline, Neil Gaiman Engaging First Sentence? It’s great. It gets to the point instantly, and is so succinct that I can’t even summarise it, so I’ll just quote it: Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house. “The door” says it all. Gaiman could have … Read more

As long as you're not head hopping, writing your story from more than one point of view opens a range of possibilities for making your story more interesting. Some stories work better when you stick to one point of view, but if you want to do a bit of experimenting, here are some ways that multiple viewpoints can enrich your novel.

6 Ways Using More Than One Viewpoint Can Enrich Your Novel

As long as you’re not head hopping, writing your story from more than one point of view opens a range of possibilities for making your story more interesting. Some stories work better when you stick to one point of view, but if you want to do a bit of experimenting, here are some ways that … Read more

The problem with passive voice is that it's clunky, vague,  ineffective and sounds as awkward and baffling as stream water flowing backwards up a mountain. These things are true a lot of the time, and yes active is mostly preferable to passive. Yet, here I am saying that sometimes passive voice is better.

3 Ways to Effectively Use Passive Voice

Active voice tells us the subject is doing the action (The dog chased the cat). Passive voice tells us that the subject is having the the action done to it (The cat was chased by the dog). Easy enough to understand in theory, but confusing and frowned upon nonetheless. The problem with passive voice is that … Read more