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Essential Fiction-Writing Tools of the Trade

This is a reprint of a post printed seven years ago. If you’re a fiction writer, you need to get The 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing. With dozens more Before and After passages and expanded content, this #1 best-selling must-have resource should have a prominent place on your shelf. Be sure to pull it out, though, and refer to it as you work on every scene of every novel. Buy it in print or as an ebook HERE.

Let’s talk about writing mechanics. I suppose it’s only to be expected that in a book written by editors there would be some admonition to write correctly. Meaning, someone has to mention the obvious: that to present flawless writing, a writer needs to learn how to write grammatically correct sentences.

Don’t panic—this isn’t going to be a grammar lesson. If you want to take the time to learn about grammar, there are plenty of books and blogs that can help (especially Say What? The Fiction Writer’s Handy Guide to Grammar, Punctuation, and Word Usage, another book in The Writer’s Toolbox Series).

But really, every writer should spend time learning the tools of his trade. We use words, and in abundance. We writers should wield them both creatively and correctly. Continue Reading…

The Perils of Purple Prose

This post is an excerpt from the book 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing. Robin Patchen dives into purple prose to show you what that is and how to avoid it in your writing.

What do you want people to experience when they read your novel? Do you want them to marvel at your fabulous writing skills? Are you hoping they’ll be impressed by your outstanding grasp of grammar? Perhaps you want to dazzle them with your exceptional vocabulary?

Or do you want them to experience a story?

Truth is, often times, you can either impress people with your prose or you can tell them a story, but you can’t do both. So many of my editing clients’ manuscripts are riddled with prose so filled with flowery language that the meaning is lost. I find myself offering the same advice over and over, my take on Nike’s slogan: Just say it. Continue Reading…

3 Ways to Ramp Up Your Fiction Pacing and Tension

Strong pacing and tension are critical in a fictional story, but they’re some of the hardest elements to understand and master. That’s because there isn’t one “right” way to pace a story, nor is there one definable factor that creates tension.

One thing readers will attest to, though: if a story’s pacing drags for too long, they’ll stop reading. And if they don’t feel tension, they’ll likely start falling asleep.

What is pacing? It’s the pulse rate of your story. At times you’ll want a slow, thoughtful pace. Other times a racing one. And those elements that create tension impact the pacing of a story. No tension means a sluggish pace.

The Culprits

Backstory and heavy opening-scene information dumps cause a story to screech to a grinding halt. Overwriting as well bogs down the pacing and kills tension. Telling instead of showing detaches readers’ interest.

But there are many other offenders that contribute to poor tension and pacing. Once you are aware of them, you’ll be able to seek and destroy the culprits that are out to drag down your scenes. Continue Reading…

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