Archive for the 'CRAFT' Category

“Visionaries on the Decks”: Storytelling


“To Declare Your Story’s Intent”

There are things important to you. You hurt. You know stuff. I don’t. You see things that I cannot…You have everything you need, including the courage to declare your story’s intent.

— Donald Maass, Writing 21st Century Fiction

Not for nothing am I looking forward to the November 3-7 Writer Unboxed “Un-Conference” in bewitching Salem, Massachusetts. The final day, a Friday, as you might know, is given over to our good WU colleague Don Maass, who’s going to [...]

Flog a Pro: would you turn this bestselling author’s first page?

Trained by reading hundreds of submissions, editors and agents often make their read/not-read decision on the first page. In a customarily formatted book manuscript with chapters starting about 1/3 of the way down the page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type), there are 16 or 17 lines on the first page.

The challenge: does this narrative compel you to turn the page?

Please judge by storytelling quality, not by genre—some reject an opening page immediately because of genre, but that’s not a good [...]

It’s a funny world.

A lot of humorous novels build the comedy into the characters.  We watch two hapless lovers stumble toward each other in rom-coms or pull themselves out of increasingly bizarre situations in screwballs.  You can write this kind of humor with nothing more than insight into human nature and enough love for your characters to laugh at them.  But you need a different set of skills to create a book where the comedy is built into your fictional world, whether it’s the [...]

How a Book Coach Can Jumpstart Your Writing Career

photo by Graham Binns

It happened again last month. A writer emailed to say that she had finally finished her manuscript and it was now ready for my professional feedback. “I’ve wanted to get it to you for months,” she wrote, “but I had to make sure it was finished first.” Uh oh, I thought. I wasn’t being mean — that was hard won experience talking. I knew this person was a good writer. That’s almost never the problem. The [...]

On the Quilting of One-Liners (and the Second Coming of Once-Dead Darlings)

photo (adapted) by jude hill

There are wire bins in my office, marked with the titles of different projects. One bin, however, is just labeled “Ideas.” Sometimes I throw plot lines in that bin. Sometimes I’ll write the title of a possible future novel — with nothing else because I don’t know anything else but the title.

Mostly, however, I toss in one-liners. I don’t put these one-liners in a word document because I like the physical reminder — they sit [...]

On Stage: Talking about Writing

Some time ago, at a literary festival, I was in the authors’ green room talking to a new writer whose first public appearance as an author was that very day. She was clearly very nervous, though trying hard to look as blasé as the rest of us more experienced speakers must have looked to her. (This of course was far from the truth—most of us still get stage fright to one extent or the other). Finally, she burst out with, [...]

Why Every 1st Novel Should Be a Ghost Story

photo by Jesse Draper

Today’s guest is author Siobhan Adcock. She received her MFA in fiction from Cornell University, and her short fiction has appeared in several literary magazines. She has worked as a writer and editor for Epicurious,,, and The Knot among other digital publishers.

Her debut novel, The Barter, is a ghost story and a love story about two deeply conflicted mothers—separated by 100 years—and the impossible barter that ultimately binds them. Set in Texas, in present day, and at the turn [...]

I’d Know That Voice Anywhere

photo by Mike Bailey-Gates

Please welcome Katrina Kittle to Writer Unboxed as a regular contributor. Katrina is the author of four novels for adults—Traveling Light, Two Truths and a Lie, The Kindness of Strangers, and The Blessings of the Animals— and one novel for tweens, Reasons to Be Happy. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and is an experienced teacher of creative writing as well as a manuscript consultant. You can learn more about Katrina in her bio box at the end of [...]

Let it Go

I have two daughters, ages 5 and 7, which means– as people with similarly aged daughters will probably tell you– that we like the movie Frozen in our house.  A lot.  We do not even have a television, and I have still heard the signature song Let it Go so many times that I click my teeth to it while folding laundry.  My husband absent-mindedly whistles it while writing computer code.  If my 8 mos. old opened his mouth and [...]

Gems Vs. Necklaces

Flickr Creative Commons: Claude & Penny Cruz

I love necklaces.  No, I’m not a hippie.  I’m not a cross-dresser.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)  I just love the many ways in which women make themselves beautiful.  A French twist, a bare shoulder, smoky eyes, a pretty necklace.

Diamond necklaces are stunning.  Not that I see them except in the window at Tiffany’s, mind you.  But to be gorgeous a necklace doesn’t need to be made of rare gems.  More [...]


Photo by lindseyy

In April of this year, I got a call from my agent that went something like this:

She:“I’ve been hearing from several editors that they’re looking for a book like X. They were wondering if I had anything to submit that would fit the bill. I don’t, but I do have an author who could write a book like that.”

Me:“You do?”

She:“Yeah. You. Can you get it done in twelve weeks?”

Which is about when a [...]

Take Five: The Caller by Juliet Marillier

U.S. cover for The Caller

Congratulations to WU contributor Juliet Marillier on the upcoming U.S. release (Sept. 9th) of her latest novel, The Caller! We’re happy she’s with us today to answer a few questions in a WU Take Five interview.

We’re also pleased to tell you that Juliet will be giving away a hard-back copy of The Caller to a randomly chosen commenter for this post, to be shipped later in September to anywhere in the world.

Without further ado, our [...]