How to Write Dialogue

Dialogue refreshes. Seeing quotation marks on a page has been proven to increase readability, which means that readers find the page more interesting. And you want your readers to stay interested. Dialogue breaks up “gray text” and gives your eyes a break too. Dialogue uses basic rules for punctuating and formatting: When the speaker changes, … Read more

The Quest for Universal Plot Types

For centuries, writers and critics have tried to put stories into basic categories. Novelist Kurt Vonnegut described eight of them: Man in Hole, Boy Meets Girl, From Bad to Worse, Which Way is Up?, Creation Story, Old Testament, New Testament, and Cinderella. He argued that stories have beautiful shapes which can be drawn on graph … Read more

Don’t Overload Your Readers With Your Message

Great writing is not only enjoyable, it has something to say – there is greatness in the theme. It may not be primarily a moral or a lesson, but something about the story appeals deeply to the heart. I believe that your skill as a writer determines the weight of the message you can communicate. … Read more

Holding Back Your Backstory

Authors call the hidden part of a character’s life their “backstory.” When I was acting in plays, directors might ask me to decide what my character was doing before the scene began. Since my character is supposed to be a real human being, he has a life outside of what appears on the stage or … Read more

48 Writing Prompts for Middle School Kids

Are you stuck for something to write about? Or are you looking for prompts to use in the classroom? These prompts are aimed at middle school students (roughly age 11 – 14) – but younger or older writers might enjoy trying them as well. I’ve split them into different types of prompts – imaginative prompts, … Read more

Top 10 Online Tools for Book Authors

Writing and publishing a book is a huge (and wonderful) undertaking – and you’ll want all the help you can get. There are loads of great downloadable tools out there for book authors, like Scrivener (for writing), Calibre (for producing ebooks) and KDP Rocket (for finding good keywords to use on Amazon). But in this … Read more

How to Write Your First Screenplay

Have you ever daydreamed about writing for the big screen? I know I have! Writing a screenplay that gets picked up by Hollywood could see your story reach millions of people – whereas even bestselling novels often only sell in the tens of thousands. Writing a screenplay is very different from writing a short story … Read more

How to Write a Short Story: Six Crucial Steps

Short stories are tricky to write well. Every word counts – and you don’t have long at all to establish characters and get the plot going. While most of my fiction-writing time goes into novels, I’ve written a bunch of short stories over the years (and even won an occasional prize). There’s plenty to like … Read more

A New Kind of Didactic Novel

Didactic fiction is nothing new. Aesop’s tales are didactic, as are Langland’s The Vision of Piers Plowman, Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Hesse’s Siddhartha, and Orwell’s Animal Farm. The authors of all these works desired to teach readers a lesson about the moral significance of human behavior. The word didactic is from a Greek verb meaning … Read more

Where to Get a Writing Critique

From time to time, I receive emails from writers, asking me to critique attached poems or short stories. In the early days, I would send a polite reply, explaining that I hadn’t time to critique their work. Now I simply delete the email and attachments and get back to my own writing. The DWT Contact … Read more

How Short Is Short Fiction?

Readers and listeners have enjoyed short fiction since antiquity, but the Web reveals an enthusiastic surge of interest in it, along with various terms to describe it. The traditional term for fiction shorter than a novelette (7,500—20,000 words) is “short story.” In the old days, short stories in print magazines averaged about 7,500 words. Some … Read more

How Long Is A Novel?

Before the advent of ebooks, modern fiction writers concerned themselves chiefly with two lengths: long (novels) and short (short stories). With the advent of digital publishing, the terms novella and novelette have taken on a new significance. In the 17th century, the word novel referred to a book-length story shorter than a romance. Indeed, the … Read more