How to Edit Your Own Writing Like a Pro

Once you have completed a first draft, written the last sentence, and declared “I’m done!” with a sigh of relief, the self-editing begins. Any changes between that moment and the moment you send it to an editor are self-editing. This is the time you take your creative ideas and turn them into a work of art.


Why is self-editing important?

You can’t have good writing without self-editing. A muse is usually a very timid creature that will only show itself when its sure you won’t look at it too closely; most writers can’t limit what they put onto the page while they write the first draft. Actually, I have yet to meet a productive writer who limits what they write on the first draft. The best way to let the creativity pour out onto the page is to do it without worrying how it comes out. Unfortunately, that means what comes out unhindered onto the page tends to be mostly awful, sometimes even to the point of being unreadable to anyone but the author.

That’s where self-editing comes in. You take the good ideas written badly and turn them into something worth publishing and reading. If you’re a brand new aspiring author or a somewhat more experienced author looking to up your editing game, these tips will help you develop an effective system for editing your own work. Continue reading “How to Edit Your Own Writing Like a Pro”

Pacing Fiction

Photo credit splgum on Deviant Art


If you’re a writer who’s not familiar with the idea of pacing, you should be; it is one of the most powerful influences on how engaging each scene is. It’s almost entirely about the emotions portrayed in the scene. If the pacing doesn’t match the emotions your characters are feeling, the scene will feel “off,” confusing, or boring – and those are three emotions you never want your readers to feel about your writing.

Simply put, pacing is how fast or slow the scene feels to a reader. It’s a scene-by-scene issue that changes depending on what you’re writing about. Some genres have more fast-paced scenes (like action, suspense, and some modern sci-fi). Others will lean toward scenes with slow pacing (like romance, drama, or coming of age stories).

Pacing affects two big things: your readers’ emotional response and how well they can understand the story. Let’s look at other ways it can affect your fiction: Continue reading “Pacing Fiction”

Everything You Need to Know About Writing Anti-Heroes

Ah, the anti-hero, the protagonist that we love to hate. They might be ruthless, vile, selfish, and insane, but there’s something about them so undeniably human that we must know more about them. We might be hoping for their redemption, or maybe they’re doing the things we secretly wish we could do.

The trick with the anti-hero is making them unlovable, but still interesting enough that everyone wants to know about them. People are fascinated with dark and creepy characters because they are willing to do things that readers themselves will never do, but if the character gets so dark that they’re unrelatable, it doesn’t feel as personal. Most characters who people are willing to follow despite their questionable morals have something to make them feel justified. If not, they’re in a familiar enough place that it feels like the killer could be right at your door…

So how do you create a bad guy interesting enough that people want to follow them for a whole book? Continue reading “Everything You Need to Know About Writing Anti-Heroes”

Signs Your Loved One Is a Writer



If you suspect that your loved one is a writer, don’t panic. Writers function differently than normal people, so it’s alright to feel nervous. But if you are supportive of your writer friend or family member, you can feel assured that you will not find yourself murdered in their next novel, and you might even enjoy reading it. Here are some signs that your loved one might be a writer and what to do about it: Continue reading “Signs Your Loved One Is a Writer”

Why Your Characters Should Have Flaws

Image by Ian Sane via Flickr Creative Commons
Image by Ian Sane via Flickr Creative Commons


If you’ve hung around the writing world for long, you’ve surely heard of the Mary Sue. Mary Sue is the character that is stunningly beautiful, everyone loves her, and she can do no wrong. She has the looks, the lovers, the life. Her brother, Marty Stu or Gary Stu, is equally as flawless. And if you are a denizen of the writing world, you know that the Toxic Twins should be eternally prohibited from entering your fiction under any circumstances. There are a few very practical reasons why, and another very good reason: Fictional perfect people harm real imperfect people. Here’s why: Continue reading “Why Your Characters Should Have Flaws”

7 Fiction Mistakes That Make You Look Like a Noob



If you’re writing for your own pleasure, you can write whatever you want. Break all the rules. There’s nothing wrong with writing and publishing because you want to write and be published. But if you’re writing to be read, there are some things that make you look like an author noob big time. Please do not include these 7 newbie author mistakes in your novel:

1. Using Too Many Names for One Character

I know, I know. When you’re writing, it can feel like you’re using a character’s name so many times that it must be getting obnoxious. It probably isn’t. What is obnoxious is needing five pages to understand that “Sarah,” “Mrs. Jones,” “the schoolteacher,” “Harry’s wife,” “the blonde,” and “the thin woman” are all the same person. If the only reason you’re calling the character something else is that using her name feels redundant, it’s probably not helping anything. We’re used to referring to people with just their names and pronouns, so that will work just as well in writing as it does in conversation. Continue reading “7 Fiction Mistakes That Make You Look Like a Noob”

How to Make Time Make Sense in Fiction

Image: How to Make Time Make Sense in Fiction


Keeping track of time is as obvious as “once upon a time” is to begin a story. But it’s not a cliché; it’s obviously essential to helping your readers understand the story. The hard part is that someone reading your story will probably know how well you give an impression of time better than you know. Here’s a couple simple tips to keep your story’s timeline intact:

Create a consistent timeline.

In the midst of revisions (or just the amount of time it takes to write a full-length novel), it’s really easy to forget who knows what and what hasn’t happened yet. As you organize and reorganize your story, facts can get lost or put out of place. Maybe in your first draft Demi found out that she was adopted in Chapter 8, but in your second draft you moved that discovery to Chapter 4. If you don’t happen to remember that Demi is confused about how little she looks like her mom in Chapter 6, suddenly she has a serious case of unintended amnesia.

The most basic way to keep your events in order is to create a plot timeline. It’s unlikely that your novel is in perfect chronological order. You probably have flashbacks to things that happened before the story starts or dialogue that reveals the past. There might even be dreams or prophecies about the future. That can make it really confusing to keep track of what has already happened and what hasn’t in each scene. A plot timeline might look something like this: Continue reading “How to Make Time Make Sense in Fiction”

Foreshadowing: Questions That Keep Readers Reading



Every novel needs suspense. If you raise interesting enough questions, people will keep reading because they want to know the answers. You should be raising questions like “Who is this person?” “Will they achieve their goals?” and “Will they get a happy ending?” Every chapter should answer some small questions and raise more to keep the readers in suspense. By the end of the book, all or almost all of those questions should be resolved so that they feel like their purpose in reading the book is fulfilled.
question stairs

That’s where foreshadowing comes in. Foreshadowing is about raising questions that build towards the major events in your novel. All of the questions your reader asks are driving his curiosity toward the climax—that’s what makes the climax exciting and the ending so riveting. You need to introduce characters, objects, and feelings that raise the questions answered by the major events of your novel. Continue reading “Foreshadowing: Questions That Keep Readers Reading”

Purposed Words: 3 Ways to Craft Memorable Sentences



This is Part 3 in a 3 part series on purposing your writing, from a large scale to a small scale. See part 1 here: Purposed Scenes: 2 Things that Make Chapters Amazing and part 2 here: Purposed Characters: How to Win Your Readers’ Hearts

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen,” George Orwell opened his novel 1984. The single word “thirteen” was easily understandable, but unexpected. If he had written that the clocks struck one, his first line would never have gained the attention that it has.

A good word choice is one that gets your meaning across, but a great word choice is one that resonates in your mind and your memory. While particular words are more of a detail, it can double the impact of what you’re saying.

What makes a good word into a great word?

Continue reading “Purposed Words: 3 Ways to Craft Memorable Sentences”

Purposed Characters: How to Win Your Readers’ Hearts


This is Part 2 in a 3 part series on purposing your writing, from a large scale to a small scale. See part 1 here: Purposed Scenes: 2 Things That Make Chapters Amazing Check back on Thursday to learn more about how to purpose your words.

You’re a good writer if you can cause sadness, anger, and happiness with only your words. The difference between an instruction manual and a poem or novel is that someone has put emotion into it. So how do you put emotions into your story and thus win your readers’ hearts?

We feel emotion when we read poetry because we feel the emotions the poet had when she wrote it. In fiction, we feel the emotions that the characters have. The purpose of your entire book is to explore the emotions of one or a couple main characters and take readers along for the ride. Continue reading “Purposed Characters: How to Win Your Readers’ Hearts”