Tag Archive - writing mechanics

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…

Writing Mechanics: Avoiding the “I” Trap and Other Irritants

In today’s post editor Linda Clare continues our look at Fatal Flaw #12: Flawed Writing Mechanics. We’ve taken a look at scene structure, and now we’ll cover some of the smaller bits that jam up the gears of writing mechanics.

This week we’re discussing how poor writing mechanics can lead to dull writing. Let’s examine how repetitive pronoun/proper name use and other small mistakes can weaken fiction and what we can do to strengthen our work.

Get Out of the “I” Trap

In the Julia Roberts/Brad Pitt movie The Mexican, Roberts leans out a window, hurling all Pitt’s possessions on him. He protests, “But I . . . I . . . ”

She yells back. “I, I, I, I, I. It’s always about you, Jerry.” She then throws something else onto his head.

When writers overuse pronouns in their fiction, I think of this scene. Every writer faces the same challenge: how to communicate the story without boring readers by repeating pronouns at the beginning of sentences. Continue Reading…

Writing Mechanics: Scene Structure as a Mini Novel

This month we wrap up our yearlong look at the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing. Editor Rachel Starr Thomson opens up our look at Fatal Flaw #12: Flawed Writing Mechanics. We’ll be looking at the bigger picture regarding our fiction, and Rachel begins with a look at scene structure.

Way back in month 2 of this series, we talked about the need to open scenes in the right place. The general rule is to open in media res—that is, while something is happening. On the other hand, it’s generally best to bow out while things are still happening: close the dinner conversation with the last line of dialog, not after everyone has fallen silent, gotten up from the table, washed the dishes, and gone to bed.

To put that succinctly: “Come late; leave early.”

We’ve also looked at various elements of a great scene: action, pacing, description, dialog, POV, the many ways to show and not just tell your story.

But as our yearlong series wraps up this month, we’re going to take a step back and look at scenes as a whole. We’ll be paying some attention to genre and how certain genres call for certain writing styles.

This week, I want to kick things off by discussing the all-important structure of a scene. Continue Reading…

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