How to use action beats in your writing

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The golden rule of writing: Show, don’t tell

“Show, don’t tell” is probably the advice writers hear most often from editors and writing mentors. But many writers struggle to understand what it really means. “Telling” means you give readers your interpretations and conclusions, while...

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How to punctuate dialogue tags and action beats correctly

One little thing that drives many editors crazy is incorrect punctuation of dialogue and action beats. Let’s start with a definition: A dialogue tag is a speaker verb such as “Tina said.” It tells your readers which character is speaking. An action beat ...

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How to use participial phrases in your writing

Before I explain what the problem with participial phrases is, let me start with some definitions so we’re all on the same page. What is a participle? Participles are verbs that function as adjectives, which means that they modify a noun or a pronoun. There ...

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Writing in chronological order

If a readers tells me she was up all night, reading, because she couldn’t put down my book, it puts a big grin on my face. Because that’s exactly what I want: for readers to become totally immersed in my fictional worlds. So, how can we achieve tha...

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Participle problems in fiction

You’ve probably heard of dangling participles, but participles can create other problems in fiction too. Before I dive more deeply into that, let me explain what a participle is. Present participles are forms of verbs that are formed by adding -ing. Exam...

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10 tips for winning NaNoWriMo

It’s November 1, and that means NaNoWriMo—NationalNovel Writing Month—is starting today. If you are participating, here are 10 tips on how to win NaNoWriMo and write 50,000 words in November. Set a daily writing goal. To complete 50,000 words on November...

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Fast-drafting or writing slowly?

Writers are often advised to write a first fast draft and get down the bones of the story as quickly as possible without stopping to revise, edit, or look up things, and then take their time revising. Other writers prefer to write slowly and edit as they go, p...

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How to keep track of your writing progress and why you should

Most authors I know keep track of their word count in some way. If you don’t already, here are some reasons why you might want to start. Seeing your word count grow is a wonderful motivator that will keep you going. Often, you don’t realize how far you hav...

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How and why to avoid autonomous body parts in your writing

You have probably all experienced it: you’re reading a book—maybe a romance or a mystery novel—and suddenly, you grind to a halt and wonder where all these zombies are coming from. I’m talking about sentences like these: Her eyes followed Kathryn aroun...

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