Filter Out Filter Words

The most common stylistic problem I find while editing early drafts (both my own and those of critique partners) is excessive filtering and filter words. Filter words are terms and phrases that filter action or insight through a character’s point of view (POV). Overusing them is like asking your reader to watch your story unfold while looking through a dirty window. So, writing an immersive scene means the filter words …

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Pacing and Paragraphs

Having spent the last three years as a member of a robust online critique group and the last year as judge in a novel contest, I’ve learned several things about what makes writing effective. I’ve found many people have a story to tell, but only a small minority have the ability to tell their story well. One such aspect of good writing is pacing. Stories should speed up when the …

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Critique Groups: The Writer’s Lifeline

If you are a writer or aspire to write, you soon discover it’s not as easy as it looks. In fact, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve been writing professionally for over thirty years. It’s a career where the minute you think you’ve mastered the craft, your editor returns a document covered in markups and comments that triples the size of your MS Word file. Hence, writers …

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3rd Person Omniscient POV

Third-person omniscient point of view gives a profound feeling to a story. However, it is an older form and a writer must consider the PROS and CONS. R. C. BeckettR. C. Beckett  was given a collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazines as a teenager and read hundreds of the stories — he was hooked and started writing fiction in 2013.   He loves to write hard science fiction, but can’t …

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Expert Advice from a New Writer

Writing advice surrounds me. Everyone, it seems, is an expert. One day, all that information on self-publishing, pitching a story, and writing query letters will come in handy, but for now I feel like I’m drowning in unhelpful advice. Sink with me to the bottom of the writing-advice ocean, where I talk with Mark Stevens, author and host of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) Podcast. Why would Mark bother …

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Short Story Elements

Short stories are fun to read because they pack an unexpected emotional punch. However, “short” does not mean easy to write, or a formless type of expression. Quite the contrary, they are written and rewritten numerous times with herculean effort to be efficient, banish loose ends, conclude with a plot twist plus a memorable last line. The big picture of a small story The plot follows the shape of a …

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Writing Query Letters

Writing the Great Ending

Writers are a creative group of people who have invented several satisfying ways to end a story. The Straightforward: The story problem is solved, conflict is resolved and the main character’s journey ends. This is the most common ending, a “happy ending”. The Shocker: Typical of horror, crime and thriller genres. Careful foreshadowing leads to an ending with a twist. The reader is surprised but says “I should have seen …

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Plot is the Beating Heart of a Story

What allows an author to convert something familiar, important or truthful into a story that is interesting? Simple answer: a plot. A story is NOT your diary, your years working as a gallbladder surgeon or the truth that advertisements lie. Readers want a plot that pulls them from the beginning to the end with a sense of satisfaction. Authors, whether they intentionally plan a story or not, often end up …

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Keys to Improving the Flow in Your Writing

Editors, publishers, literary agents, and readers love edgy and quirky writing – but not at the expense of writing flow.— Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Flow in writing is difficult to define, but readers always seem to recognize it. A flowing science fiction novel sucks the reader into the story, makes the unbelievable logical and prevents the poor reader from putting the book down until the last word passes into their brain long …

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