5. “Why story trumps plot” by Philip Martin
“Beginning writers often believe that the plot is the clever thing that a writer does, and so they craft intricate plots – plots that do not pay off until late in the story, if at all. The truth is that plot is like a skeleton; it’s good to have but has little intrinsic appeal. Story is a stronger attention-getting device,” writes Philip Martin in this breakdown of the three key elements that make for a successful story.
4. “What’s the best thing you can do to improve your writing?” by Jack Smith
“Writing can be a real bloodletting at times. You give it your all, but your brain freezes. Your story or novel is just not working out – the characters are flat, the scenes are flat, and the plot is going nowhere. You sure could use a strategy or two, something that makes your fiction live and breathe. So what strategies can you use to improve your writing chops? What’s the one thing that will make your fiction improve tenfold?” begins this article by Jack Smith, which asks five novelists one simple question: What’s the single best strategy that will help a writer improve?
3. “The psychology of world building” by Gabriela Pereira
“Most writers think world building is the artistry of creating a setting for your story. They imagine fantastical lands with dragons soaring over castle gates or the intergalactic battles in a ‘galaxy far, far away.’ But the truth is that world building is essential in any story, even if that world seems ordinary or mundane. World building has less to do with your story’s environment and more to do with the characters you put in it. You must build around your characters, and this means adopting an ecological perspective on what your story’s setting really is,” writes Gabriela Pereira in this five-step guide to creating fictional worlds that feel immersive and real to the reader.
2. “9 manuscript mistakes only first-timers make (and how to fix them)” by Toni Fitzgerald
“The first self-published book I edited was written by a longtime newspaper reporter. Seasoned and self-confident, he decided to set sources aside and pen a novel, his first work of fiction. He told me he didn’t think he needed an editor, but a novelist friend had advised him to get another pair of eyes on the manuscript before self-publishing. Enter me. The reporter’s book demonstrated real promise: It had intrigue. It had romance and humor. It also had the main character’s name spelled three different ways in the first 13 pages, some confounding narrative inconsistencies, and 642 adverbs (I counted).” Learn more of the most common mistakes our copy editor Toni Fitzgerald sees from newbie authors in this popular article.
1. “Drafting those many drafts: The 10 revision phases” by Jessica Stilling
“To really ready a novel for publication, a writer must spend time with his or her book. Like any budding relationship, you, the writer, must court your novel, take it out to dinner, meet its parents, and see it through its most trying and desperate times. As a writer, you have to stay up all night with your novel crying and talking and sometimes even clawing your hair out before that perfect moment of inspiration can truly help you cross the finish line,” warns Jessica Stilling in our most popular article of the year, a guide to the 10 revision stages every novel needs.