Dive Into The Conflict and Make Your Book Blurb Sing

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dive Into The Conflict and Make Your Book Blurb Sing

Two weeks ago, we started talking about how to write a book blurb for your story and began with the first step, which is a hook. You can check that out here. And the second step is here.

So, if the first step is creating that hook, the second step, according to Shayla Raquel is dangling the characters. Then our next step is what Shaun has no problem doing in real life with anyone other than his own daughter, dive into the conflict.


  • Create hook
  • Dangle characters
  • Dive into conflict

What does “dive into the conflict” mean?

It means that in that book blurb, you want to show your potential reader what the conflict of the story is.

What’s a conflict?

It’s just when one force goes against another while the character tries to get their goal. The character wants something. The conflict is the obstacles that stand in her way. Super simple, right?

Or as Sean Glatch says in Writers.com,

“At its most basic, conflict is the clash of opposing forces with a character’s own pursuit of a goal. The character must overcome these opposing forces to achieve the goal. These opposing forces might take on numerous shapes, and might even exist solely within the character’s own psyche.”

Shayla Raquel has a couple great examples of blurbs that show conflict.

Frederick Starks has it all—a gorgeous wife who was his high school sweetheart, three beautiful children, a mansion and cars others envy, millions in the bank, respected in his community, admired by his employees, loved and respected by loyal friends. He revels in the hard-earned power and control he’s acquired.

As the saying goes, “All that glitters is not gold,” which Starks discovers when gut-wrenching betrayal by his wife sends him over the edge and into a maximum security prison.

When the Serpent Bites, Nesly Clerge


This brings us to the fourth step and that’s DETERMINE THE CONSEQUENCES.

You want to show what is about to happen. It’s that formula we talked about before.

“Conflict (“Character must do this”) + Stakes (“Or this will happen”) = Consequences.”

This is basically showing the reader what will happen if the character does or doesn’t get their goal.


And the final step according to Shayla Raquel? It’s just DINE ON THE BIG QUESTION, which, of course, makes me hungry.

She writes,

“End your blurb on an intriguing question or a point of tension—something that will convince the reader to take a chance on buying your book.


Bruce the bear likes to keep to himself. That, and eat eggs. But when his hard-boiled goose eggs turn out to be real, live goslings, he starts to lose his appetite. And even worse, the goslings are convinced he’s their mother. Bruce tries to get the geese to go south, but he can’t seem to rid himself of his new companions. What’s a bear to do?

Mother Bruce, Ryan T. Higgins

Whew. And there you go.


Sometimes, you know, I don’t think about the consequences, but it’s important to or else you might get put in time-out for the dog kennel – Pogie


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!



How to Make Your Book Blurb and Trippy Art About Dragon Intimacy How to Make a Shart Tantalizing?

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
How to Make Your Book Blurb and Trippy Art About Dragon Intimacy How to Make a Shart Tantalizing?

I’ve decided it’s time for a new series of podcast now that we whacked character lies down to a mush of sobs.

There are all different ways to write these blurbs and make them tantalizing to readers, but there are set steps. We’re going to focus on the first one here.

First let’s explain what a book blurb is, right? It’s just the description of your novel that goes on the sell page on Amazon or other places. It’s short. It’s sexy. It’s enticing. You use it on social media, on Amazon.

It is the ad for your book that is everywhere your book is available to be sold and some other places too.


Oh, this baby is about 150 to 200 words.


Shayla Raquel has a great post from last year where she writes,

“Similar to what a writer would do for a query letter, a hook is meant to entice the reader to bite. It takes several tries to get the hook just right, but once you’ve got it figured out, the reader won’t be able to resist. When writing your hook, consider the following:

  • Who is the main character(s)?
  • What do they most deeply desire?
  • What stands in the way?
  • What is the setting or context for the story?”

She then gives some great and quick examples of this:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

The Martian, Andy Weir

Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don’t live to see the morning?

The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

The Reedsy blog uses this one as an example. It’s Uncanny Times by Laura Anne Gilman.

Huntsmen, according to the Church, were damned, their blood unclean and unholy. Yet for Rosemary and Aaron Harker, the Church was less important than being ready to stand against the uncanny, as not being prepared could lead to being dead. 

But Blurbmedic has a really lovely infographic and guidelines, which is probably why it’s Blurbmedic.

It creates a template that’s really amazing at showing how the blurb is a teaser and also organizes the story, connecting emotion and tension to make a blurb interesting.

Hooks can be opened or closed.

And that site says that the open hook is the “statements or questions that make a reader ask more questions. The reader will have to read the book to find out.”

Carrie is dying.
The moment she opened that door, her life had turned poopy.

You’re like, “Wait, what? Why is Carrie dying? What door? Why did she open it? what happened?”

The closed hook makes you ask questions and find answers.

Carrie is dying.

First, she opened the door that let in the zombie. Then the zombie bit her, but this kind of zombie doesn’t want to eat brains. It also eats poopy.

The point here, according to Blurbmedic, is to get the reader to be afraid of missing out on knowing what happens. The hook will build up the tension and make everyone intrigued.

It’s a really big first step.


A great exercise for this is to use the Killogator logline formula created by Graeme Shillin.

He says to write:

  • “SETTING: When and where your story takes place.
  • PROTAGONIST: Who your main character (hero or heroine) is.
  • PROBLEM: The issue or event that causes your Protagonist to take action.
  • ANTAGONIST: Who or what tries to stop your Protagonist.
  • CONFLICT: The major obstacle, difficulty, or dilemma your protagonist faces.
  • GOAL: What your Protagonist hopes to win, achieve, find, or defeat.”

You put it in here, also created by Graeme. Cool, right?

“In a (SETTING) a (PROTAGONIST) has a (PROBLEM) caused by (an ANTAGONIST) and (faces CONFLICT) as they try to (achieve a GOAL).”


In real life, you don’t want the question of defecation location to be open ended.


Emerald City Seeks Fiction

Emerald City seeks fiction for our upcoming issues. We are a quarterly online fiction magazine that publishes traditional short stories, flash fiction, and hybrid works. We believe fiction is a necessary part of life; captivating storytelling transports us to other worlds while allowing us to make more sense of our own. We’re less interested in what genre something is or its literary status than we are in how much it moves us. Whether traditional, experimental, or something else fun, we publish well-crafted stories that make us reevaluate ourselves and our place in the world. emeraldcitylitmag.org




The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Feel the Awe and Get Through the Tough Times

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Feel the Awe and Get Through the Tough Times

Awe can get us through time times, scientists are saying. We’ll check this theory out, define awe a bit, and obviously–get goofy.


Sparty says: Slow down. You move too fast. Smell every tree and fire hydrant.






The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Buying Beyoncé’s Bidet and Is It Excitement or Is It Dread?

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Buying Beyoncé's Bidet and Is It Excitement or Is It Dread?

Those two topics aren’t necessarily connected.

As a human being, I tend to get sort of an anticipatory anxiety before I do things—a lot. I think of it as stage fright.

And it turns out that this anticipatory sort of anxiety can be a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder or a panic disorder.

Recently, though, I started to think of it as maybe an adrenalin rush that comes from excitement.

Anticipatory anxiety is sometimes overwhelming for me when I watch a video or a movie I have to look away or do something else at the same time. In a book? I’ve been known to turn to the last page just to make sure that everyone says.

Rafa Euba says, “Labeling anxiety as mere excitement seems a bit frivolous, although this might be a question of semantics to a certain extent. I agree that the apprehensive excitement one may feel while parachuting, or on a rollercoaster, may be enjoyable overall, even though it will contain an element of anxiety.”

So, I’m still not sure personally. But I know the feeling before I’m about to give a speech is a very different feeling than when I’m worried about making money.

That dread feeling—that worry for the characters—is a key thing that keeps a reader reading or a viewer watching, but it might not be so awesome as an element in our real lives, right?

Though, side note, there can be positives to some amounts of anxiety. It can help us focus. It helps us not do super stupid things that would kill us. Anxiety keeps us from getting Darwin Awards for trying to feed alligators Bud Light.

So, how do you start to deal with anxiety when it’s not part of a bigger mental health diagnosis?

Try to create a calming routine—work with intention to bring some chill into your day. That might be breathing, meditating, relaxing your muscles, journaling. Record and track your thoughts.

Linda Esposito writes:

Track your thoughts. A common practice of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is recording your thoughts, followed by the subsequent feelings, and how your feelings then inform your actions.

“For example:

  • Thought: If things don’t go as planned, I will be miserable.
  • Feelings: Hopeless, afraid, worried, unsafe, unmotivated.
  • Behaviors: Isolating from friends and family, avoidance of activities you formerly enjoyed, refusal to engage in problem-solving.

“Here’s an example of a reframed thought:

  • Thought: Although I don’t like uncertainty and I’m worried about the future, I have agency over how much time and energy I spend worrying.
  • Feelings: Hopeful, somewhat sad, less worried, and more feelings of being in control.
  • Behaviors: Asking “Am I being realistic?” Focusing on what’s going well in your life, and choosing problem-solving over excessive worrying.

And realize you can’t control everything. And stop with the big all-encompassing words like always, complete failure, total success, everybody, never, nobody.


Try to cultivate your chill





The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!


We’re talking about hooks here.

So, last week I talked about hooking your readers. And I promised that I’d keep talking about it.

I am keeping that promise.

Hooking your reader might make you think of pirates and nasty horror movies, but it really just means keeping your readers actually reading your book. I’ve broken it down to two sections of two hints a piece and one section with just one lonely hook.

Let’s get started!



We like stories where we can quickly identify with the main character, or at least a character, pretty early on.

Think about all the BuzzFeed quizzes that ask, “Which Succession Character Are You?” “Which Buffy Character Are You?” “Who Are You In The Wire?” “What Disney Princess Are You?”

It goes on and on.

We humans like to identify with characters who are in the stories we read or the videos we watch. It’s like a nice pat on the back that says we aren’t alone, and it creates community.


  1. Start with dialogue on the first line. It’s hard to care about the person speaking if you haven’t met them yet.

“Wow,” he said. “That is really it.”

Huh, the reader said.

2. Tell us stuff we don’t need to know.

So, in 1870 or something like that I had this great great aunt who allegedly stepped on a nail or something, not that it matters. Although, maybe it mattered to her, but yeah. I don’t know why I’m telling you this.

Neither does the reader.

3. Introduce 18 characters in the first paragraphs. It’s hard to remember who is who and who is important.

As Belinda walked inside the Timberland RV Campground in Trenton, Maine, she waved hello to Lincoln, son-in-law of the owner, a retired man with a name like Jack or something, and then she waved to Debbie, Lincoln’s wife, who was riding on a golf cart with Charlene. Peggy was perched on the back with a blonde child whose name I think is Jackie…Or maybe Sam?

Enough said, right?

4. And finally don’t describe things just for the sake of describing them.

Timberland RV Campground descended into a slight hill, managing to split itself across two town lines. It was Trenton in the front and Ellsworth in the back and the back was where there were no trees surrounding the sites, just pull-in places for the giant RVs and motorhomes and campers and busses. I have no idea which is which. I’d never been in a campground before, but they had hook-ups at some of the sites for water and sewer, or just one, and electricity. There were metal fire rings and some people had fancied up their sites with flowers and decks and lobster buoys because … Maine.

So, those were the no-nos, right? Here’s the second tip.


If possible, make your situation not quite so run-of-the-mill. You have a love story. It’s set in Paris. Okay, great. Can it be set in a tattoo parlor in Paris? Or maybe a desk shop?

Readers like both the familiar and the unexpected, so take something typical like a love story and add in a little weirdness – a love story between a human and an aquatic being. That can keep them reading.



Nobody wants to read a story where the main character is always angry or always happy or always passionate or always mellow. There are ups and downs to people’s emotions in real life (WHAT? ATTACK ON TITAN ISN’T REAL LIFE?). There should be ups and downs in your character’s emotions, too.

Some writing coaches/teachers/whatever-word-you’d-like-to-use advocate changing emotions in every scene in big ways. I think this works sometimes and sometimes it sort of lulls the reader into expecting those shifts and therefore that makes those shifts less authentic.

Authentic emotion = good

Changing emotion = good

Forced emotion = bad


Not knowing what is going to happen is a big deal when someone is reading the story. Make them wonder what might happen.

One method to do this is to not tell them everything right off. Give some elements of what is happening, but not all.

So, in the NEED series, I have the main character see a man in the woods at the side of the road and also pointing at her plane as it takes off. The reader thinks, “Wait. Who the heck is that man?”

In Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling, introduces the Boy Who Lived, but what did he live through and how? The reader wonders and reads to find out…



The reader needs to care about the character. We want Mr. Potter and Ron and Hermione to survive because those kids are lovable, but we also are worried that survival might not be an option. The stakes are high and those magical bad guys are powerful. These babies aren’t superheroes. Death is possible. Near death happens all the time. We obsess that the trio might not survive.

That’s a hook.

That high stakes conflict coupled with imperfect heroes who tyr so hard? That’s the key.

And there you go. Maybe some more next week, okay?

I hope your writing is happy and you are well!

Writing is About Facing Out and Facing In

Novelists Are Public Writers, Too, Plus exercise and place to submit May 2023

Raymond Peter Clark has a new writing book out, Tell It Like It Is: A Guide to Clear and Honest Writing, and Katherine Gammon has a piece about it in Poyntor.

There are a couple excerpts in there that I’ve fallen a bit in love with and I wanted to share it with you.

This book is for what they are calling public-facing writers, which seems to be a distinction that doesn’t include novelists, which I find pretty interesting.

Novelists are also public facing writers. All writing except diaries or personal journaling is. That’s because the act of writing is the act of communicating.

You are always communicating to someone else. That someone else is not your pinky toe. That someone else is the reader.

Anyway, she writes of Clark’s advice:

Repeat your key points, but in different forms

“Tell ’em what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them,” is an old adage in writing. Clark spruces it up with advice to vary the forms of repetition: The same information in a quote, a graph and an anecdote, for example, can reduce the feeling of redundancy.

Interpret what you see into themes and make connections

Part of the job of a public writer is not just to report but to interpret: What are the emerging contained in the news event or situation? How can we help readers make sense of the world? To do so, Clark says writers should continue to learn from multiple schools of thought — science, anthropology, political science, economics, literature and more — in order to find meaning in the news, and also to explore the deeper reasons why something is happening.

It’s fun to think of these bits of advice. Often novelists are told NOT to repeat information by their agents and editors, so we too have to mask the ways that we are actually repeating something to the reader. We show them that our character is insecure, let’s say, in how they react to situations. Then we show how they grow.

But as novelists, we also have to not just lay out the facts of the story, we have to interpret those bits and images and dialogues and moments of cause and effect to make an entire world that our reader makes sense of. There’s a real push and pull that happens in this communication.

A piece of writing — any kind of piece of writing — is a contract between us and the reader. There is a moment when you hit PUBLISH on an article or a moment where your book is picked up by a reader and all your control? It’s gone.

That’s kind of beautiful (though occasionally scary) because it’s a leap of faith and trust in ourselves as writers and our readers to get it, to have explained it well, to have created it well on the page and then for the reader to create it in their own brains and hearts.

That’s pretty damn beautiful.

That’s not an AI thing. That’s a human thing. That connection. And it’s important.


This comes from Joy Harjo’s MasterClass, which is a really lovely, energizing class.


Ploughshares — Emerging Writer’s Contest


May 15, 2023

Entry Fee:


Cash Prize:


E-mail address:




Three prizes of $2,000 each and publication in Ploughshares are given annually for a poem or group of poems, a short story, and an essay. Each winner also receives a consultation with the literary agency Aevitas Creative Management. Writers who have not published a book or a chapbook with a print run of over 300 copies are eligible. Using only the online submission system, submit three to five pages of poetry or up to 6,000 words of fiction or nonfiction with a $24 entry fee, which includes a subscription to Ploughshares (there is no entry fee for current subscribers), between March 1 and May 15. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Ploughshares, Emerging Writer’s Contest, Emerson College, 120 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116. (617) 824–3757. Ellen Duffer, Managing Editor.



How To Think About Chapter Transitions?

How Do You Begin and End a Chapter?


Thanks for hanging out here for a moment with me. And good luck with your story!

The Power of Silence In Writing

And how to put it on the page


It often surrounds us.

But sometimes it is just completely and utterly gone.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a moment of high trauma (personal or public). It’s the moment when something big happens, something so big that time feels like it slows down or stops completely. Your brain switches into another gear and you’re straining looking for clues, trying to figure out where the danger is coming from, what it is, and how to survive it. I’ve had people describe these moments when they’ve had a gun pointed at them in the parking lot of a motel, when a man has raised a fist in a dining room, when they’ve realized a loved one having a heart attack in their aunt’s living room, when they were at recess in fourth grade and a bully was heading over to give them a wedgie.

For me, one of the times I experienced this was at the Boston Marathon when the bombs went off, and I was trying to understand what was going on. Even though I was on my cell phone, the world whooshed out for a moment. My personal world was silent even in the chaos. Then the sounds of cops on radios and the cacophony of panicked voices and runners feet hard against the asphalt streets rushed back in.

As writers, we explain these moments and try to encapsulate them and sometimes? Well, sometimes we try too hard and write and write and write giant redundant paragraphs that instead of immersing our readers in the silence and shock and stress or a moment and instead overwhelm with noise.

Here’s the thing: There is a great power in silence in our world and on the page.

Silence appears on the page in a couple of places.

  • It’s in the white space. The white space is just the places on the page where there are no words.
  • It’s in the words you actually choose and how you structure them.

What do I mean by that? When we choose words on the page, those words make associations in our minds and in the readers. So, we want to pick the words sometimes that play into the silence sometimes. This is a really great device for scenes of heightened emotion and suspense.

For word choice, she cackled isn’t the same as she laughed.  Those are loud things though. For a more silent experience, she whispered isn’t the same as she said.

And for structure? You have a lot to play with.

Here is a quick example.


I heard the dog growl and then I heard a scream and wondered what might be happening, what might have caused that growl and scream.

Too much writing there, right? A lot of padding. A lot of distancing words (heard, wondered) that lessen the impact and the immediacy of the moment. Here it is with a bit more silence.


The dog growled. And then, someone’s scream shattered the air. Who was that? No. What was that?  

Add in white space to make it more tense:

The dog growled.

And then, someone’s scream shattered the air.

Who was that?


What was that?  

Add in specifics to make it even more tense:

Hackles raised, the dog growled by the mailbox, which leaned toward the darkness of the Mud Creek Road.

And then, a shrill, cackling scream shattered the humid air.

Who was that?


What was that?  

You can see all the differences in there, right?

Like any tool, you don’t want to overuse it, but you want to know about it, know that it’s there (just like you’d like to know if there was a mass of zombie gerbils trundling down the street toward your home). Sound and silence are really important tools on the page. Just like a guitarist wants to know about an entire string on her instrument and a pick and what happens to sound when you use a bridge or what happens when you tap out a beat on the guitar’s side, you want to know about all the tools you can use as a writer. 

Silence is a tool, and it’s an important one. Sound is too.

Does Your Form Match Your Function?

Thoughts on Writing Action and a Little Bit on Pacing

So, I’ve been talking a bit about action scenes lately. And one of the big adages that writing coaches and writers put out there is that you want the form to match the function.

Chuck Wendig is a big advocate of this and he writes,

“Form and function do well together across all types of writing, but this is particularly true in terms of writing action. I find that when I write action, the form of my writing moves to match the pacing of the action. I tend to like my action sequences presented as a short, sharp shock, and so the writing tends to mirror that. Shorter sentences. Sentence fragments. Blunt, brutal language. Words like rabbit punches. Like the stitching of prison shivs.

“Is this necessary? No, probably not. But there’s value in setting the pace of your scene with the clip at which you write. You don’t want to write long, languid patches of prose in writing action. We want action to be fast, exciting, engaging, and most of all, easy-to-read. Writing action is in this way like writing dialogue: you want it to come across to the readers without them halting, without them pausing to take a breath.

“That’s not to say there’s no value in slowing things down — pacing is a tricky thing. The escalation of any story has its peaks and valleys and you can give an action sequence those same valleys, too — you can collapse moments just as easily as you can drag them out. The value in that is the value of crafting tension. By pausing before the money shot, the cookie-pop, the underwear-shellacking, you’re forcing the audience to hold their breath a little bit.”

One of the most important things he says here is this: It’s tricky. You want a balance of detail and feeling/senses. You want your reader to know what’s happening but also to feel what’s happening in the scene. Each gut punch should make them flinch and worry.

There is pacing that happens within a scene as well as within a chapter as well as within the entire structure of a book.

Fight and action scenes are no different. There are places within those action scenes where you might want to slow things down.

Why is that?

Well, it’s because your job as a writer is to focus the reader on a whole bunch of things, but the main ones are:

1.   What is happening in the scene?

2.   Why is it happening?

3.   What is the harm or help that this event is doing to your main character?

4.   What are the stakes: physical and emotional?

To get that balance, you have to pick and choose what you’re going to write.

If you write every single detail and every single movement, it allows the reader to truly see the scene, BUT it also makes a lot of readers fall asleep.

What? Fall asleep in an action scene? How is that even possible?

Well, it’s possible because there’s no:

1.   Sensation. We also want bits about how it feels to fall down hard on your bum or get punched by a hamster.

2.   Stakes. There’s no emotional resonance for the character.

3.   Character revelation: You want to show subtext in this action scene. You want it to have a reason.  You don’t want it to be just fighting for the sake of fighting but it isn’t building or dismantling their character or moving the plot forward.

You can look at the simple structure of your sentences and paragraphs and analyze them for pacing:

Think about how long the sentences are.

Think about where the periods are. Where are the commas.

How long is the paragraph? How many sentences are in that paragraph?

How much white space (places with no writing) is on the page?

Short sentences and paragraphs make your writing much more clear and more clean to the reader. But they are also great resonating moments for stories.

Jesus wept.

That’s a big deal moment right there. Two short words.

Think about how different the pacing of that is compared to:

Carrie started crying because she was a little overwhelmed by getting up at 5 a.m. consistently to get all her work done and because she basically has no love of mornings, not that she has a great love of nights either. Honestly, does the woman love anything other than manatees and if not, why does she live so far from manatee habitat. Maine seems like a bad life choice for a weeping, manatee-loving woman like Carrie.

Don’t Make Your Readers Bad Swoon

Writing action scenes means picking details.

Readers, have you ever read an action scene and it made you feel dizzy?

You are not alone.

This happens when the writer wants to put every single detail of the scene inot the scene, on the page, and in your mind. This is a really kind want of a writer, but the thing is that it doesn’t really work.

Writers, I’m talking to you now. Take off your reader hat and just put on your writer hat while I tell you this: You do not want to make your readers swoony in a bad way.

When you tell us every single characters’ actions, thoughts, emotions, and placement in an action scene, it overwhelms us. So, what you want to do is pick and choose here.

You want to pick and choose:

1. The characters that have the most at stake emotionally and physically.

2. The characters that the reader is the most attached to.

The best way to deal with this is to usually try to stay super close to your protagonist during the action scene. Make sure that you are writing the scene from the viewpoint of that characters. If your puppy main character is watching a Star Wars style space battle, you want to make sure you tell it from that puppy’s point of view.

Our jobs as writers is to pick and choose the details that matter and then trust the reader to recreate that scene in their brains. We don’t want to distract them with the color of the puppy’s collar unless that matters.

If we do the opposite, if we show the reader every little action that happens, then we risk boring the hell out of them, but also we don’t give them to focus on.

Spoiler: You want them to focus on your protagonist and then maybe the antagonist. You want them to focus on the stakes, what your hero wants, and what’s standing in her way.

Think of it like this: You are a movie director. The page is your camera. You want to put the things in focus that matter.

Masterclass has this lovely tidbit.

via Masterclass

That’s all a direct quote. What I love about it is that it talks about the most important part.

You don’t want a sword fight in there just for the sake of a sword fight. That sword fight or the hamster zombie troop running down the street after you needs to be there for a purpose.

Once you have that purpose, pick the details.

I think I’ll probably talk more about this next time, too. I hope you’re doing well and safe. It’s snowing madly here right now. And poor Shaun’s just had his third cancer (in less than a year) scraped out of his hand. He’s had three types of skin cancer in one year. This is the kind of overachieving we don’t want. 🙂

our front porch. You can totally tell this isn’t staged because we still haven’t taken the cushions in for winter (Yes, it is March) and one is lopsided. 

I’m posting writing tips and things about how we’re trying to live better lives over here if you want to check it out. My regular website is here. No pressure though, obviously. Thanks for reading this! And happy writing. 

Ideas aren’t the sexy gods we think they are. Gasp!

The sexy place is the actual writing.

Almost every time that I go to a school visit and am asked questions or when I’m interviewed by newspapers, I get asked two things:

  1. Where do you get so much energy?
  2. Where do you get your ideas?

I don’t actually think of myself as having a ton of energy. Like right now, it’s 7:06 a.m. and I’ve been up since 5. I went to bed around 11. I’m a bit tired actually, and no, I don’t have any coffee or even tea in my system yet. I know! I know! You’re probably thinking what half of the people ask me in public events:

  1. How are you so weird/quirky? Does your mind really work like that?

Just kidding—sort of.

This post isn’t actually about productivity or weirdness. It’s about ideas.

Chuck Wendig recently had a post about AI where he wrote about how so many of us think that ideas are the holy grail of writing and all creativity. People are always asking:

  • Where do you get your ideas?
  • How do you know an idea is a good one?
  • How do you not lose your ideas?

Ideas are cheap. They are the extras that die on the street while the superheroes battle above them. Ideas are often barely differentiated in the scene—just a mass of them crumpled by falling cars and buildings and laser blasts.

That’s the thing.

Writing and art isn’t necessarily about the ideas. Writing and art are about the craft that sculpts that idea into a story or an art piece or a song that connects to other humans on an emotional level.

Wendig writes on his blog,

“But again, the idea is a seed, that’s it. Ideas are certainly useful, but only so far. A good idea will not be saved by poor execution, but a bad idea can be saved by excellent execution. Even simple, pedestrian ideas can be made sublime in the hands of a powerful craftsman or artist. Not every idea needs to be revolutionary. Every idea needn’t be that original — I don’t mean to suggest the plagiarism is the way to go, I only mean in the general sense, it’s very difficult (and potentially impossible) to think of a truly original story idea that hasn’t in some form been told before. The originality in a narrative comes from you, the author, the artist. The originality comes out in the execution.”

That’s the magic of being a human and not being AI when you create art. The process is where the art becomes alive, where the story becomes real, where the unexpected (rather than the program) creates spark and light and joy and beauty.

AI can’t do that. At least not yet.


Part of that is about flow.

A long time ago—back in the 1980s—this guy Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was studying happiness. He gave people pagers. Remember this was in the 1980s. Then he and his research assistants would send the people messages at random times and ask how they were doing, feeling, what they were doing, etc. It sounds a bit like when your mom texts you, honestly.

And he discovered flow. People were happy when they were super engaged in the task they were doing. People weren’t happy when they were doing nothing. They were happy when they were involved in something. Playing soccer. Playing music. Creating art. Solving a problem.

Minds were blown.

When people were in the ‘flow,’ they forgot about time, space, all the other detritus in their lives. They were focused on the now, on what they were doing. What they were doing might be writing, sports, hanging out with other humans, art, and so on… But for them the involvement was so intense that they became engaged and absorbed into it and were happy.

That might happen if you’re a reader and into reading a great book.

That might happen if you’re a painter and created something spectacular on the canvas.

The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” – (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).


Lincoln Michel writes on his blog,

“The unnecessary is most necessary part of art. Art is exactly the place to let your eye linger on what fascinates it. Art isn’t an SEO optimized app or a rubric for overworked teachers to grade five-paragraph essays. Art is exactly the space—perhaps the last space left—where we can indulge, explore, and expand ourselves. If we can’t be weird, extraneous, over-the-top, discursive, and hedonistic in our art, where can we be?”

So, as a writer, flow and process, the actual act of writing your story is far more important and interesting that the original idea. What it is that happens in our minds that makes those little epiphanies, the moments where we are swept up in the flow—in the act of creating—and our prefrontal cortexes are firing on all cylinders and heading into warp drive. That’s what’s interesting.

Ideas happen everywhere. Looking at other art. Reading a book. Living a life. But process and art and writing? That is where you turn the idea into something else—something that breathes in a way that AI can’t do yet or even in a way that other people can’t do yet because it requires putting in the work so that you can get those gorgeous, beautiful, holy-poop moments.

And those moments? They’re pretty addictive.

As Wendig writes, “It’s just idea, small-i. You’re not done when you have an idea. You’ve barely even begun. The wonder is in what comes after. The wonder is in the work.”

And that’s what I wish more people talked about, not idea generators or where the ideas come from initially, but how they are shaped and formed to create a story that carries people along to somewhere new and magical, to somewhere that they might create a new and magical story from ideas that were germinated in yours. How cool is that?


More about the 8 traits for flow.

Wendig’s piece about AI and the Fetishization of Ideas

Finding Flow

Counter Craft