Writing for Life


Hacking Your Reader’s Brain

Man concentrating

Today’s guest post is by Jeff Gerke, award-winning author, former book publisher, and writing instructor. I heard Jeff give a talk on this topic and was enthralled. Be prepared to learn something that will blow you away—the truth about reader engagement. His topic ties in wonderfully with what our editors have been examining all month—Fatal Flaw #7: Lack of Pacing and Tension. Jeff provides a whole other way of understanding why our fiction often lacks these crucial elements.

What makes a novel a best seller? What makes it something readers careen through, staying up until three in the morning to finish? What causes readers to tell all their friends they have to read a given novel?

Now, I would wish the answer to be “excellent fiction craftsmanship.” I would like to report that the secret to a novel’s success is the hard work and disciplined training of the writer. Converting telling to showing, keeping that point of view consistent, replacing all those flabby “to be” verbs and “–ly” adverbs with their fitter, punchier alternatives.

Yes, I would like to report that, but I can’t. Continue Reading…

The Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing


4 Key Ways to Ramp Up Tension and Pacing in Your Fiction


This month we’ve been looking at pacing and tension, the fiction writer’s Fatal Flaw #7. This isn’t always easy for writers to assess in their scenes. How can you tell if your scene is dragging and there is little tension?

Our four editors explored some great ways to ramp up tension and pacing in novel scenes. To reiterate, here are some key points:

1)  Inner and outer conflict. First, overall, you want to have your pages full to the brim with conflict. Meaningful conflict. Showing a character fussing for a full page about her lousy manicure isn’t all that meaningful.

Now, that situation could be the center of a really hilarious comedic moment, and if so, terrific. Humor—great humor—is so often overlooked, and it ramps up pacing and engages readers. But not all novels are chock-full of funny moments.

Conflict is tension. Meaningful conflict creates strong tension. Hemingway said, “Don’t mistake movement for action.” Just because you have a lot of things happening, plot-wise, doesn’t mean anything is really happening. You could have tons of exciting car chases and plane crashes and shoot-outs and the reader could be dozing off, nose planting into your book. Continue Reading…

Grammar, Punctuation & Confusables


Understanding the Subsequent Consequences

Say What new

Actions have consequences. How often have you heard that?

But is it of any consequence if you use consequently and consequential interchangeably?

Consequences are results. Your child disobeys, the consequences are some form of discipline. You text while driving, the consequences may well be a ticket or a traffic accident.

Consequently and consequential are closely related, but have subtle differences in meaning. Consequently is a conjunctive adverb; it connects two independent clauses. Use it when something occurs as a result of something.

  • My alarm didn’t go off; consequently, I was late for work.

Consequential means following as an indirect or secondary result, or following as a logical conclusion.

  • Long-term unemployment and depleted housing stock were some of the consequential (indirect/secondary) effects of Hurricane Katrina.

The more common use and meaning of consequential is importance or significance.

  • Marigold’s family was in a frenzy as they prepared to entertain their Dutch uncle—a consequential man in the Netherlands. (Or you might say “a man of some consequence.”)

It can also mean pompous, self-important. Continue Reading…

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