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    Potential Lies Your Protagonist Could Tell Themselves

    Conventional wisdom suggests that protagonists should likable, or at least if not likable, relatable. The strongest protagonists could be those that the reader sees themselves in, even for a moment. But what is it that they recognize? Could it be self-delusion? Great stories often come out of the internal struggles that characters face as the story progresses. Sometimes as the story unfolds, the lies crumble before them, one at a time, so characters have to recalibrate how they view the world and their circumstances.  Lies can be the biggest obstacle protagonists face. Here are some suggestions on lies your characters may believe. Potential Lie #1: Others’ approval is everything! What…

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    Creating the “Happy” Protagonist

    Recently I finished listening to the audio version of “A Gentleman in Moscow” and I have to say, it was one of the best books I have read in my life! Besides the stellar writing, the complicated plot, the big ideas that it addressed, I liked it because the main character, Count Alexander Rostov, was happy. He was happy despite his harrowing circumstances, the loss of his position and relationships, the tedium of his prison and the hopelessness of Soviet Russia in the mid-20th century. Was Rostov Pollyanna-ish, a goody-two-shoes, or completely unrelatable? Not at all, despite his own confession that he was a fuddy-duddy. Instead, I was compelled to…

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    Tips For Writing A Worthy Anti-Hero

    You’ve watched them, or read about them, and you knew the main character was the one you were supposed to be cheering for, but . . . what if that protagonist wasn’t always good? They may be an anti-hero, and if you’re conflicted about them, you’re supposed to be. Read this: Men’s Health: 19 Anti-Heroes We Can’t Stop Rooting For Why do we like Anti-Heroes so much? Anti-heroes are often troubled, complicated, and come with a lot of baggage. Perhaps their popularity is a reflection on a more cynical society that we are drawn to anti-heroes more than the typical good guy. We may identify with their values. Moral absolutes…

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    Capturing Your Readers with Character Hooks

    When I was in college, I listened to a speaker who, at the podium, had a towel on his arm much like a waiter. When he began his speech, I kept waiting for him to make reference to the towel. Oh, I thought, the longer that he took to get to the point, this is going to be creative and good, and I’m going to be dazzled by the reasons why the towel is there. I watched him, waiting, hanging on every word. But he went through his entire 30-40 minute presentation a never mentioned the towel at all.  I was baffled, but I had been hooked by his presence.…

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    Reasons Why Your Manuscript May Have Been Rejected

    Getting a rejection is no fun. After all the work that you’ve put into a project, it is discouraging and sometimes demoralizing to receive yet another rejection email. It’s all the more painful if this is the third, or thirteenth, or thirtieth, or three hundredth one. There could be reasons why. Most editors, agents, and publishers don’t take the time to point out flaws in a submission. And if you ask, you’re likely not to get an answer. So consider these — admittedly oversimplified— problems that could have been the culprit. Have you written about old trends? Publishing, like everything else, has trends that ebb and flow. No one has…

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    Nine Signs of Amateur Writing

    It usually takes me about a page or so, maybe even less. But I can tell an amateur writer by their prose. Here are the nine most obvious mistakes I see amateur writers make. Amateurs put in all the fascinating research. Unless the book is Les Miserables, and the writer is going on and on about Parisian sewer systems, research is usually way more fun for the writer than it is for the reader. Experienced writers know the reader isn’t there for the fascinating detail, they’re there for the story. Cut back your research information and share just enough to get the point across. Amateur writers tell what every character…

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    Multiple Points-of-View: Tips for Clarity and Creativity

    Years ago, back when I was tinkering with my first novel, I met another writer for coffee. She left the impression she was far more experienced than I was about writing. When I described my first ever work-in-progress to her, I said, “I alternate points of view between this college age woman and her sister-in-law who  . . . .” “Let me stop you right there,” she said. She may have even condescendingly patted me on the hand. “Don’t write in dual POVs. At least not in your first book. You really need to know what you’re doing first. Save that for when you’re really good.” Or something like that.…

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    Tips for Writing A Redemptive Story

    Stories often end with hope: things are set right, amends are made, broken lives are restored. None of us are so perfect that we haven’t needed a chance at redemption. Hope is a universal. You will never go wrong if all points in your story lead to a second, or third chance. Readers resonate with redemptive endings and you can write one too. (Redemptive endings aren’t the same thing, by the way, as a happy ending.)  What should your character be like? Don’t think that a redemptive arc or a hopeful ending looks like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. It doesn’t. Not at all. This is one of the reasons why…

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    Everyone Needs A Spark!

    Join time-crunched writers every for 10MinCon21, an online writing conference July 15-17, 2021. Click here to register now! FAQS for 10MINCON21!  When will this conference be held? July 15-17, 2021 Thursday-Saturday (all times are Eastern Daylight USA time). This is a 100% virtual event via Zoom. What kinds of speakers will be there? We’re very excited to host Angela Ackerman, the coauthor of The Emotion Thesaurus and the website Writers Helping Writers, best-selling suspense author Steven James, literary agent and YA author Eric Smith, and editor extraordinaire and author Tex Thompson. These four speakers are known in their fields and will lead sessions on business, publishing, craft, and editing.  How…

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    10MINCON21 Conference Schedule

    Everyone Needs A Spark! (all times are Eastern Time, USA) Can’t make the Zoom call? No worries! Your admission ticket allows you access for a limited time so you can watch at your convenience. Day 1 – Thursday, July 15, 2021 (all times are Eastern Time, USA) 5:15 – 6:00: Cocktail Hour! You provide the drinks, we provide the conversation! This is your chance to meet new and old friends, share some laughs, and make some new memories! 6:00 – 6:15: Welcome! Our Master of Ceremonies Ian McAllister officially kicks off 10MINCON2021! 6:15 – 6:30: Opening 10 Minute Novelists founder Katharine Grubb 6:30-8:00: Keynote: Steven James “Suspense Essentials: Secrets to…

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    How To Strengthen Your Flabby Middle (for your novel, not your gut)

    Writing the beginning of your book was the best! You knew how to introduce your characters, how to describe that setting, and you created a dynamic inciting incident to get the story rolling. You’re rewritten it hundreds of times and you finally got it right! Then there’s the end. Perhaps you’ve got it all planned out too. You know how the big climactic drama answers all the questions and creates permanent change for the main characters. You can see that last scene, as if it is a movie! But then you have to deal with the middle. Uh boy. You may have hundreds of pages that just sit there, boring…

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    Tips for Writing Strong Rising Action

    What’s going to happen next? We’re at the edge of our seat? The plot thickens! Do your readers have these kinds of reactions as your story progresses? They can if you have strong rising action. Rising action is the progress of your main character as they move toward the big climax. Figuratively, this is like climbing a mountain. The higher the altitude and the steeper the narrative incline, the harder the going for your characters. Progress is not a straight line, instead it is full of hazards, steep inclines, crevasses, obstacles, unpredictable weather, faulty equipment, and self doubt. Yet, as your protagonist faces conflict and tension, their journey generally continues…

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    Questions To Ask When Writing A Scene

    Rhett Butler takes his hat and heads to the door. Scarlet O’Hara is right behind him. They’re parting for the last time. She pleads after him, asking in her self-absorbed way about her future. What will she do? “Frankly my dear,” he says at the threshold. “I don’t give a damn.” And he turns his back on her forever. This is a classic scene from a classic film, one that may even be all that a viewer can remember from Gone With the Wind. The scene concludes the relationship between Rhett and Scarlet and the film and leaves the viewer satisfied and probably wondering what took him so long. The…

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    How To Tease Your Reader With Red Herrings

    A great writer is like a magician: they can create diversions to get attention off reality and the truth of a situation. In literature, red herrings are often the devices that writers use as a sleight of hand. A red herring tricks the reader, but in a good way, and creates a surprise at the end which delights and resonates with the reader. How do you create a red herring? In the development of the plot, regardless of the genre, a writer can look for parallel or false trajectories of the plot or subplot that can, potentially, lead to nowhere. Often mysteries do this well. Check out any Agatha Christie…