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Training Your Writing to Behave

Two and a half years ago I brought home a dog from the Austin Animal Center, where I was volunteering, with whom I’d fallen rather quickly in love. From the…

Do You Know Your Central Story Question?

When I’m working on an edit for an author’s story, the first thing I ask myself once I finish my first cold read—before I start on the deep-dive edit, before…

How to Handle the Pandemic in Your Stories

(This post originally ran in the Writers in the Storm blog, but it felt timely to me to post it again.) Probably the concern I hear most from authors these…

How to Not Hate Editing Your Writing

(This post originally ran, pre-pandemic, on the Writers in the Storm blog.) Author Liz Fenton—half of the writing team, with Lisa Steinke, behind bestselling novels like The Good Widow—recently told me about…

Building Community in a Fractured World

Recently a writers’ organization asked me to contribute a post for their members on the theme of community. It seemed like such a perfect fit given the camaraderie and inspiration…

Diagnose Story Problems by X-raying Your Plot

When authors I work with struggle with certain foundational elements of their stories—like keeping characters moving along clearly defined arcs, maintaining momentum and stakes, story structure, or just getting lost…

Creating Tension with Lizard-brain Writing

(This is one of my most popular posts; it originally appeared on the Writers in the Storm blog in 2015.) Writers love their brains: We exploit our highly evolved prefrontal…

How to Weave in Backstory without Stalling Out Your Story

(This article originally appeared in Writer Unboxed here.) Your characters don’t just spring to life at the beginning of your story. If you’ve developed them fully, they are “real,” three-dimensional…

You Are a Writer, No Matter What

I’m writing this at the end of a hard year, as disheartening a year as many of us have ever known. I’m not going to recap the many offenses of…

How to Know When to Quit Writing

I started writing almost from the moment I knew how, wanting even as a little kid to give voice to the worlds that lived in my head, to emulate the…

What I Didn’t Know about My Own Industry

Every day my job involves getting to work with authors on stories they may have been working on for months, if not years. You would expect that they know these…

Why Do You Write?

If someone told you right now that you’d never be published, or that wherever you are as a writer now is the most you would ever achieve…would you stop? Recently…

Why You Can’t Rush Your Process

In a couple of years I’ll be celebrating my thirtieth anniversary of entering the publishing field as an editor. It kind of blows of my mind to look back over…

A rational antidote for emotional thinking

“Mom I’m afraid that I’ll never be good enough, that I’m a failure.” “You may be right. You should quit, sweetheart.” Can you imagine ever having this exchange with your…

Write like a writer; edit like an editor

Recently I spent an exhilarating hour and a half talking to an author about editing—not his manuscript specifically, but the concept of editing in general. (This is how word nerds…

Impostor Syndrome

Did those words send a little worm of self-doubt turning in your belly? Did they bring up an uncomfortable memory or rush of emotions, or slide a knife of uncertainty…
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