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The Truth about Writing Mechanics

Today wraps up our year-long exploration of the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing. We hope you’ve learned a lot of useful things to seek out and destroy these flaws. Be sure to get the most benefit from this course by purchasing the book! 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 (available in all formats via numerous online bookstores).

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…

Searching for the Poetry in Story

Today Robin Patchen takes a look at cadence and rhythm as we begin to wrap up attack on Fatal Flaw #12: Flawed Writing Mechanics. Don’t miss the other posts that tackle this important topic (start with this one).

If your readers wanted poetry, they’d pick up a Robert Frost anthology. Or perhaps Emily Dickinson or Shakespeare, right?

I don’t think so.

Yet, readers are looking for poetry, even if they don’t know it.

Well, maybe not poetry, but cadence. Readers want to hear words put together in beautiful ways. They want sentences to roll like waves or batter like bullets. They want to see alluring alliterations and evocative metaphors.

Readers long for beauty in words the way tourists seek out beauty in landscape and architecture. Perhaps they fly to Paris for the wine and cheese, but they’ll admire the Notre Dame on the way to dinner, and the trip will be richer for it. Continue Reading…

Writing Mechanics: To Paragraph or Not to Paragraph

Today editor Christy Distler continues our look at Fatal Flaw #12: Flawed Writing Mechanics. We’ve looked at how novels are structured like mini novels, and explored sentence structure. Now we’ll take a look at paragraphs to see just what problems they pose to the fiction writer.

Earlier this month, Rachel talked about scene structure, describing how to write scenes as “mini novels.” Today I want to talk about another type of structure in fiction: paragraph structure. We’ve already looked at why white space is important, but to use white space well, we need to understand when to start and end a paragraph.

Here are some basic guidelines for paragraphing (in fiction):

  • Begin a new paragraph anytime the speaker changes. By starting a new paragraph, the reader will automatically know a different character is talking.


“Good morning, Joe,” John said from the next cubicle over.

“Hey, John.” Joe sat down at his desk. Continue Reading…

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