How to Write Chapter 1: Include the 4 C's and a Q

[originally published 11/2014; updated 5/2021] Starting a new project is often the most exciting stage. As creative writers, we get to put our imaginations to work dreaming up witty and fun characters, fantastic settings, conflicts that would destroy anyone but our stalwart protagonist, and plot twists that readers never see coming. We get it all…

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Some Useful Plot Structure Definitions

When I first found my way back to writing after putting it aside for far too long (during my entire twenties and thirties), I discovered a whole world of “writing terms” that I’d never heard when I wrote as a young girl and teen. As a reader (and a woman with two degrees in English…

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Lose “Said” & Try Action Tags in Dialogue

Dialogue is one of the most fun parts of a story to write. We can really get in our characters heads while writing dialogue. It’s our opportunity to let our characters speak, to share who they are. We can also use dialogue to develop our characters not only through their words but also through their…

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Explode Moments with Details

One of the hardest parts of writing fiction is to figure out how much detail to put into a scene. Too much, and your reader gets bored and starts skimming until they get to the action-y parts. Too little, and your reader can’t adequately picture what’s going on. You gotta be Goldilocks and get it…

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How to Create Your Own Writer’s Emotion Resource Guide

You’ve probably heard the advice to “write what you know,” and if this whole idea confused you, you’re not alone. If you can only write “what you know,” then how does John Green write so convincingly and beautifully about dying from cancer? He’s still alive and well, and I don’t think he’s had cancer. Or,…

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My #1 Tip for Becoming a Better Writer + a Video!!

Have you ever had this experience:  you had a great idea for a story, so you spent an afternoon or a week or two, getting it down on paper. Then, you read through it, but it didn’t seem to work so well, so you revised it. Maybe you asked your mom or good friend for…

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The Beloved and Oft-Misused Semi-colon

I’m not sure why it is that teen writers love the semi-colon, but they do; however, despite their love for it, they often misuse the poor thing. I don’t think this is all their fault. For whatever reason, at least where I teach, students have a semi-colon “learning gap.” They seem to be either terrified of…

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