As writers, we know that learning our craft is a lifelong endeavor. Even well-known published authors still study their craft. These craft masters want to become the best they can be.
After I earned my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, I continued my craft studies with various teachers and felt as if I got an entire second degree. I love writing. I love learning about writing. I love practicing my storytelling techniques.
If you’re a writer, I know you feel the same way, and I have a gift for you.
Some of my writing mentors and friends and I are teaching in-depth writing craft webinars this year. You’re invited to a FREE webinar on Thursday, April 1 for a sneak peek of what we have to offer. Be our guest for quick craft tips, writing exercises, and Q&As from writing pros. Topics include emotional storytelling, outlining, scene structure, poetry techniques for prose, and much more.
To sign up for the FREE Craft Collection night, please click here and scroll down to the April 1 event.
On May 13, I’m teaching a webinar on adding poetry to your prose. Other webinar topics in the series include Writing Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell, Backstory is Fore-story by Donald Maass, Emotional Storytelling by Lorin Oberweger, Dialogue as Action by David Corbett, Character Matters by Sheree Greer, Crafting Your Novel by Emma Dryden and many more!
I hope to see you on April 1.
P.S. If you miss the free event, you can check out the webinar series here.
In this 30-minute video below, author Joanna Penn interviews author and writing teacher James Scott Bell about his book on dialogue, “How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript.”
Bell gives some great tips to make your dialogue sing and catch the eye of an agent, publisher and reader:
Characters shouldn’t be feeding each other information they already know. Example: Brother to sister: “Look sis, our mom, Linda who is a school teacher is home.”
Don’t hide exposition or backstory in dialogue. Readers are savvy, will pick up on it, and won’t be happy. Bell says if you must convey the information, try turning the exchange into a confrontation. More information tends to be exchanged when people are confrontational.
When using an action beat instead of the dialogue tag “she said or he said,” make sure the action is integral to the story — otherwise you’ll wear out the reader over the course of a novel.
Read your dialogue out loud. Make it snappy and vital. Make it sing. Also read dialogue out loud from other novels and screenplays.
Think subtext—what are the characters really saying underneath the words they speak?
For many more great tips on using dialogue to quickly improve your manuscript, watch the video here:
For you Nanowrimo peeps, try this exercise to increase your word count: Dive deep and write some dialogue runs between characters down the page without any tags or actions. Just straight dialogue. See if you can get into a rhythm and keep going. You can clean it up and add actions and attributions later.
I’ve been working on my fantasy novel lately and feeling as if I need to get closer to my protagonist. Scenes have been clicking along but I was starting to feel that some of my protagonist’s feelings and reactions to what is happening around her need to come out more.
Expanding on an idea I first heard about from author James Scott Bell, I decided to start a daily journal from the point of view of Caitlin, my protagonist.
My plan is that when I’m done writing a scene or a segment of a scene, I’ll take five minutes and write in her journal about how she feels about what just happened. Read more
In his book Plot & Structure,James Scott Bell has a great chapter on story endings. He writes about the different types of endings, including the twist or surprise ending.
In a way, all of our endings should incorporate surprise or the unexpected. We don’t want our stories to be so transparent that the reader can guess what comes next, eventually becoming bored with our story.
So how do authors come up with great twist endings? Bell admits he doesn’t know exactly as it’s not something that can be boiled down to a formula. But he does offer tips for helping us brainstorm possibilities. Read more
I love Alderson’s youtube channel because it’s full of fantastic short clips about the craft of writing and plotting that I play in the background when I’m cooking, doing dishes, or when I need a short break. Read more
If you’ve just finished NaNoWriMo, you’ve taken a deep breath and are now ready to dive into revisions. In a webinar Tuesday sponsored by Writer’s Digest, bestselling author James Scott Bell revealed his strategy for revising manuscripts. Here are some highlights from his presentation.
First, let your manuscript cool off. He lets his draft sit for several weeks, then he prints a hard copy. While you can read it on your computer, Bell says he likes to recreate the feeling the average reader will have when they pick up the book. It’s also easy to make notes on the pages as he goes. Read more