Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel about caregiving and ALS. Her short story collection, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, was a finalist in the Foreword Reviews' INDIEFAB Awards. Her fiction has won Gold and Silver Medals from Readers' Favorites International Book Awards, the Barry Hannah Prize, the Ron Rash Award, and many others.

2017-12-05
Writing Models: How Close Study of Top-Notch Writers Can Up Your Game
Writing models can help you turn a so-so draft into a work of art. In the old days, before bookcases filled with how-to books that made the act of writing seem simpler than it ever is, aspiring writers learned the craft by closely studying the work of other writers. In...

2017-11-17
Journalism vs. Fiction: What’s the Difference?
What’s the difference between journalism and fiction, and why should you care? Well, if you’re a writer in this day and age, you’re likely to do more than one kind of writing. Long-form journalism often pays. Fiction rarely does. Or, at least, it can take time for people to find...

2017-11-04
Do Women Writers Face an Uphill Battle? How Women’s Writing Communities Can Help
You’d think that in this day and age, women writers would have it made. After all, women buy more books than men. At writing conferences I’ve attended, women far outnumber men. Whether we’ve devoted our lives to our careers or families, I sense in women writers a pent up desire...

2017-10-21
Publishing Myths I Wish I’d Known | 10 Misconceptions About Writing and Selling Books
Which publishing myths cloud your vision? By “publishing myths” I mean misconceptions about the world of publishing today. To succeed as a writer, you must write a great book. To succeed as an author (meaning you intend to have a career writing more books) you must educate yourself about the...

2017-10-14
Syntax and Sentences: How to Make Your Story Sing
Syntax is the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences. The cumulative goal of sentences in fiction should be to please the reader’s inner ear. To get a handle on the syntax of your sentences, you’ll want to have a basic understanding of grammar. If that’s a subject...

2017-10-07
Fine-Tune Your Storytelling Voice and Make Your Book Stand Out from the Crowd
Finding the right storytelling voice has launched the career of many a novelist. In this post I’m going to talk about how to discover where your voice is strongest and how you can build from there. In a previous post, I provided a word cloud so that you could begin...

2017-09-29
Voice-Driven Fiction | Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore Voice
Voice is like the juice in an apple. If there’s no juice, the apple tastes dry, and the reader won’t take another bite. And, readers aren’t the only ones who’ll take a pass. Unfortunately, apart from the issue of “likeable characters,” the single biggest reason agents send you a “bong”...

2017-09-14
Music vs. Silence: Does Listening to Music Get in the Way of Writing?
Does music help you write, or does it get in the way? Music has the power to stop the chatter in our heads, and it can shift our mood. Because music opens us to feelings, listening to it can help us get into that zone of deep concentration from which...

2017-09-07
Are You Puzzled By How Goodreads Wants You to Post Reviews?
Goodreads is a puzzle. Readers who haven’t gone on the site before find it hard to post reviews. Learn how to help your readers help you. Image from Pixabay via reidy68 Most people can figure out how to post reviews on Amazon, but if you’re an author, you also want...

2017-08-31
Rejection: Why Actors Expect It And You Should, Too
When we begin writing, we’re in touch with our deepest and most creative selves. It’s joyful. It’s fun. We’re walking the tightrope of success–and in constant danger of falling off. Those falls come from rejection. But rejection also brings many positives: life lessons about balance, reframing, and disaster preparedness. Learning...

2017-08-19
5 Reasons Agents Take A Pass (And How to Get Publishers Anyway)
Agents guard the gateway to the “Big 5” New York publishers. Known as “trade book publishers,” all five have the ability to get books reviewed by the few remaining newspapers that do book reviews, such as The New York Times and Los Angeles Times . They have marketing departments to...

2017-08-04
Online Classes in Novel Writing
Online classes teach you how to write. In a previous post I talked about how MOOCs make it possible for any aspiring writer to learn the basics of fiction . This week I’m sharing some more places writers can get help. These online classes are either free or cheap. In...

2017-07-27
Online Writing Classes: Enroll Now in Free and Cheap MOOCs
Online writing classes can save you from a world of hurt. Rejection from agents. Bong letters from publishers. Or, if you’re self-pubbing it, no sales on Amazon. Aspiring writers have passion and desire. However, it’s often hard for a new writers to put their stories into words. So, how do...

2017-06-17
Sentences and the Senses: Where Rick Bass Discovers Stories
Sentences are where stories begin, according to Rick Bass, winner of the prestigious Story Prize. “What I’m hungering for as a reader is the visuals, the reminders that the world is a beautiful place, and I’m just trying to bring, you know, almost a painterly illumination on sentences, on objects,...

2017-06-11
Omniscient Narrator: How to Work with an Old-Fashioned Storytelling Voice
The omniscient narrator stands above the story, has a view of everything and everybody, can go anywhere, move around, enter any character’s mind, travel vast distances and cover long periods of time. The writer knows everything and can comment and summarize and shift from character to character and place to...

2017-06-03
Summary Passages Must Show and Tell
Summary passages keep stories moving forward to the next “big scene.” A “scene” means the action that’s happening in pseudo-real-time. There’s conflict between people or between a person and a force of nature. The author knows that readers want to see those moments dramatized. The protagonist confronts his or her...

2017-05-27
“Show, Don’t Tell” | Still Sound Advice, or Lame Idea?
“Show, don’t tell.” What does it mean, and should writers pay attention to this time-worn advice? In this post I’m going to look at three writers who use narrative exposition –old-fashioned storytelling–and see what they’re doing on the “show, don’t tell” front. Let’s start with a bit of background. Image...

2017-05-20
Story Starters Keep Your Story Ideas from Going Stale
Story-starters are the key to a writer’s long-term success, but what are story starters and how can you turn them into actual stories? Essentially, story starters are the notebooks writers keep about the things they observe in the world. These journals don’t gaze at the writer’s navel. They’re other-centered, outward...

2017-05-13
Character-Driven Fiction Takes Readers Back to 1968 | Sharon Solwitz’s New Novel
ONCE, IN LOURDES author Sharon Solwitz has one previous novel, Bloody Mary , and a collection of short stories, Blood and Milk , which won the Carl Sandburg Literary Award from Friends of the Chicago Public Library and the prize for adult fiction from the Society of Midland Authors, and...

2017-05-06
How Much Should You Be Spending on Book Awards?
Book awards can help your book gain traction. When you’re attending a book fair, having a shiny sticker on the cover draws attention. And when you’re setting up your author’s pages, featuring the “bling” can’t hurt. At a book festival a shiny, gold sticker on the cover of a book...

2017-04-28
What The Heck Are Likable Characters?
Have you heard the term “likable characters” tossed around in your book group or circle of writing friends? If you’ve been in the writing biz any length of time, you may have even received e-mails from agents: “I didn’t find the protagonist likable” or “I just didn’t fall in love...

2017-04-22
How Do I Know When My Novel Is Done?
Sending out your novel is easy. You can upload it to CreateSpace or fire off an e-mail to an agent. Whew! you think. Now my novel is done. It’s out of my hands. At one extreme are writers who send out work soon after they’ve finished a first or second...

2017-04-15
A Productive Rant About Building An Author Platform
How do writers in general, but particularly late-life writers, establish an author platform? By “late life” I mean writers over sixty. By “author platform” I mean a soapbox that is slightly elevated above the crowd and that allows authors to shout to passersby that our books exist. That doesn’t mean...

2017-04-06
Setting And Its Impact on Character : Insights On The Human Condition
The setting of your novel plays an important role in how characters behave. Here’s a simple trick that will help you use setting as a lever to get characters out of their heads and into action. To add tension to a scene, make a character too hot or too cold....

2017-04-01
Author Platforms: What Are They And How Can You Build Them?
In this post I’m going to explain author platforms so that you can decide whether you want to invest time in building one. Essentially, author platforms are soapboxes. Authors stand on their platforms to gain the attention of a crowd. Politicians have platforms, as do political parties. It’s helpful to...

2017-03-24
Louise Erdrich wins NBCC fiction prize for ‘LaRose’
Matthew Desmond’s “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” wins nonfiction prize. Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.washingtonpost.com When book awards come out readers have a chance to see which writers are gaining the attention of book critics. Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite writers, and I’m glad to...

2017-03-24
7 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Writing Files
Are you like a bear in hibernation? Now that it’s spring maybe it’s time to clean out your writing cave and get organized. “Picture this: a bear has been hibernating all winter, sleeping a lot, eating everything within reach, and staying close to its den. March comes. The air warms....

2017-03-17
Launch Week for A Debut Novel About Surfing, Drugs, and a Sister’s Love
This week I’m featuring an interview with California author Kathleen Doler, whose debut novel, THE HOOK , has just come out. I hope you’ll share this author’s excitement about reaching this milestone. It’s a terrific book with a strong female protagonist facing challenges from her present and her past. Kathleen...

2017-03-12
New Novel Worksheets| 3 Worksheets That’ll Help You Get Started Writing Your Novel
Starting a new novel scares writers, even authors who’ve been at this writing game for years. In this post I’m going to give you three simple worksheets to help you firm up the novel that’s trapped in your head. Once you’ve put words on the page, you’ll have taken the...

2017-03-04
Story Structure | Filling the “Plot-holes”
Story structure is something I’ve worked long and hard to learn. If I wrote detective fiction or romance novels, I’d have a readymade scaffolding onto which I could hang my plot hooks and turning points. Those genres have conventions no writer of genre fiction can afford to ignore. With literary...

2017-02-24
Character Checklists | Fill One Out for Every Character in Your Book
Character checklists can help you keep track of the people in your novel. Using character checklists gives you a systematic way to explore the wants, needs, and personality traits of all your people, not just the ones onstage at the moment. As part of your prewriting exercises, create character checklists...