Six impossible things


Getting the Backstory In

A character’s backstory – all the stuff that happened to them prior to the start of the novel – starts with the highs, lows, traumas, and major life events of the character’s past. This is the stuff that has shaped the character’s personality – what they want, […]

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Backstory, part 2

While the amount of backstory the writer needs to make up, and whether they make it up in advance or as they write, varies a lot depending on the writer’s process, the amount that goes into the story has almost nothing to do with the writer’s process, […]

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Backstory, part one

Backstory is one of the most potentially useful tools in the writer’s toolbox; it’s also one of the most often misused. First, a definition: Backstory, as I use the term, is anything and everything relevant that has happened prior to the start of the story. For most […]

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Pavement conditions (More Driving Metaphors)

A while back, I had a discussion with a fellow professional writer whose stated goal was rapid production. Since he was the sort of writer who writes in huge bursts, focusing on speed above all else had been working well for him. My objection was that he […]

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Choreographing scenes

Scene choreography or planning is a thing that some writers do up front, some do as a routine part of their process, and some hardly ever bother with even though they’re not pantsers, strictly speaking. What I’m talking about here is a whole class of preparation variously […]

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Looking for Perfection

A long time back, I heard a story about a man who wanted a famous artist to draw him a picture of a cat. “Come back in a year,” the artist told him. A year later, the man returned, eagerly anticipating the masterpiece that had taken the […]

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Outlines and Revising Them

There are two sorts of outlines that writers do: submission outlines and planning outlines. A submission outline is my term for the one you send to the agent or publisher in hopes of selling the book. A planning outline, on the other hand, is a writing tool. […]

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Nuts and Bolts: How I Fix Things

One of the reasons I spent the last two posts on the process part of revision is that I believe that understanding your process saves enormous amounts of time in the long run. Specifically, having some idea how your first-draft process works and what exactly you’re trying […]

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Fixing What’s Broke, Part 2

Writers go about doing revisions in different ways, depending on the what and why of the revisions and on the writer’s personal best process for them. As always, there is no One True Way; if what you are currently doing isn’t working, try something else. The only […]

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Fixing what’s broke

Fixing a broken manuscript comes under the general heading of “revisions,” and since I haven’t talked about revising for a while, and since I’m in the middle of doing some in the current WIP, this seems like a good time to go over them. There are three […]

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