The Story Comes First: Everything Else Is A Slow Second

The first, most important part of handling exposition is realizing that it’s going to need handling. Once you’re aware of that, you won’t be as easily tempted to break off in the middle of an opening or crisis to treat the reader to a completely unnecessary lecture on how the protagonist was frightened by a big dog in childhood or on the history of the building where the murder happened to take place. Second, readers are only interested in explanation … Learn More →

How Much Detail?

You’ll collect hundreds, possibly thousands, of setting details as you do your research, but, as with your character research, all of this information won’t end up in your novel. So how do you know when enough is enough? Here’s a checklist that will help you decide whether to include or exclude a detail: Does the detail avert attention from the main story line? (if so, take it out) Would removing the detail harm the story or confuse the readers in … Learn More →

Getting Started On A Short Story

Having trouble getting started? Try freewriting. The rules are simple: sit down with a pen and paper and write for ten minutes. Don’t stop to think. Don’t let the pen come off the page. This classic exercise is designed to give your subconscious ideas a chance to emerge without being impeded by the censoring “filter” of your conscious mind. Some writers like to keep a notebook near their bed, so they can write immediately upon waking, before the distractions and … Learn More →

Outlining Exercise

Practice outlining by doing the process in reverse: Start with a published novel or nonfiction book you’ve read recently (preferably one that would be similar to a book you’d like to write), and try to write a one-paragraph summary of each chapter or scene. Then, read through the outline to see if you can follow the narrative “thread” of the book. Better yet, show your outline to someone who has not read the book and see if they can tell … Learn More →