The Missing Link in Memoir Character Development
Jane Friedman
by Lisa Cooper Ellison
7h ago
Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash Today’s post is by writer and editor Lisa Cooper Ellison. Join her on Wednesday, June 19, for the online class The Psychology of Character Development for Memoirists. In a previous career, I worked as an inner-city special education teacher. Many of my students were trauma survivors who’d experienced unspeakable violence. Some days books, chairs, and desks were thrown against the wall without warning. Hours later, the same student would smile and laugh as if nothing had happened. Sometimes we’d learn the reason for their outburst, but others remained a m ..read more
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What to Ask Your Beta Readers
Jane Friedman
by Andrew Noakes
7h ago
Photo by Yi Liu on Unsplash Today’s post is by Andrew Noakes, founder of The Niche Reader. You’ve assembled your team of excellent beta readers, you’ve convinced them that yes this manuscript is your precious creation, years in the making, but no you will not have a complete meltdown if they don’t enjoy every single aspect, and you’ve hit send. Job done, right? Wrong! It’s time to think about what you’re going to ask your beta readers once they’re finished reading. Although asking “what did you think?” is sure to elicit some kind of response, you’re going to have to dig a l ..read more
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How Symbols Can Support Your Writing Life
Jane Friedman
by Lisa Tener
7h ago
Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash Today’s post is excerpted from Breathe. Write. Breathe.: 18 Energizing Practices to Spark Your Writing and Free Your Voice by Lisa Tener. When my husband Tom and I began dating, he took me to his mom’s house one weekend and invited a couple he knew. As the four of us walked down the road, I spied an owl, high up on a branch in a distant tree. “Look, an owl!” “Where?” Carol asked. No one else saw it until we walked much closer. “That’s not an owl,” Steve said. It clearly looked like an owl to me. “It’s too exposed to be real. It must be a plas ..read more
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What Do We Really Mean When We Say “Show, Don’t Tell”?
Jane Friedman
by Janet Fox
4d ago
Today’s post is by author and book coach Janet S Fox. Let me just start with: I do not condemn “telling.” There’s a place for it in every story, and that’s mainly in the interstices between scenes. But there’s a reason we must show things when we are in scene and not tell: readers attach to clear actions and emotions. And that’s key to pulling the reader into your story. Here’s what I see in stories that “tell” too much: two people are having a conversation, but the dialogue is stilted and expositive. Or a character is reacting in a scene, but we don’t understand why because the emotion ..read more
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How Naming a Character Is Like Naming a Child
Jane Friedman
by Ginny Kubitz Moyer
1w ago
Today’s post is by author Ginny Kubitz Moyer. Over the course of my life, I have chosen names for two real human beings and approximately 200 fictional ones. The processes are surprisingly similar. Both involve a blend of logic and intuition, and both feel like deeply consequential decisions. Of course, it’s fair to say the stakes are higher when naming a baby. You’re choosing a moniker that will (in most cases) follow another person throughout their lifetime, forming others’ impressions at school, in the job market, even online. The responsibility feels weighty, and it is. But choosing ..read more
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When Writing Gets Hard: 3 Hidden Causes of Writer’s Block
Jane Friedman
by Susan DeFreitas
1w ago
Today’s post is by regular contributor Susan DeFreitas (@manzanitafire), an award-winning author, editor, and book coach.  One newspaperman, Red Smith, is credited with saying, “Writing is easy. You just sit at your typewriter until little drops of blood appear on your forehead.” When Dorothy Parker was asked if she enjoyed writing, she replied with characteristic wit by saying, “I enjoy having written.” All of which is to say, writing is famously hard. If you occasionally hit a rough spot for what feels like no reason at all, then the solution is often to stop for a ..read more
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Writing Lessons from Jane Austen: Story Questions and Northanger Abbey
Jane Friedman
by Robin Henry
1w ago
Photo by Paolo Chiabrando on Unsplash Today’s post is by book coach Robin Henry. In case you missed it, 2025 is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth. There will likely be celebrations, adaptations, and fan fiction abounding all year. It’s worth taking a moment to think about what makes Austen one of the true GOATs in literature.  Great novels ask readers to think about interesting questions. Rather than supply answers, their authors present readers with opportunities to consider two types of story questions: Big Picture or Thematic Questions Plot Questions Fo ..read more
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Crafting Memoir with a Message: Blending Story with Self-Help
Jane Friedman
by Maggie Langrick
2w ago
Photo by Google DeepMind Today’s post is by Maggie Langrick, publisher at Wonderwell Press. In my role as founding publisher at Wonderwell Press, I meet many aspiring authors who are stuck on the question of whether to write a how-to book or a memoir. On one hand, they yearn to share their story but haven’t got the platform or literary cachet required to compete in the narrative nonfiction space. On the other hand, they have helpful insights to share but don’t feel comfortable writing a prescriptive book, especially if their advice stems from personal experience rather than professio ..read more
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Choosing Story Settings Based on Genre
Jane Friedman
by Jane K. Cleland
2w ago
Photo by Laila Gebhard on Unsplash Today’s post is by author Jane K. Cleland. Join her on Wednesday, July 10, for the online class Mastering Suspense, Structure & Plot. Different genres come with different reader expectations that pertain to setting. For instance, readers expect cozies to be set in small towns and hard-boiled detective stories to be based in cities. In some genres, such as fantasy, world building is crucial. For instance, if you’re writing a novel about an underwater civilization, you might: Integrate challenging terrain, such as caverns and mountain ranges to enable your ..read more
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The Compounding Value of Small Group Writing Retreats and Intensives
Jane Friedman
by Sandra Eliason
2w ago
Photo by Ray Harrington on Unsplash Today’s post is by retired doctor turned writer Sandra Eliason. When I hung up my stethoscope in 2017, I started writing, believing that my 30-plus years of chart notes, limited as they were, had kept me somewhat in practice. My first degree was in English, and most of my years as a doctor were before computers, when the chart wasn’t automated fill-in-the-blank, and I had an opportunity to tell a patient’s story. Winning the 2016 Minnesota Medicine magazine writing contest encouraged me to go for it. I soon learned, however, that chart writing and creative w ..read more
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