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Q&A

General Q&A about the craft of professional writing, editing, and publishing. Questions about all types of writing are welcome -- fiction, technical documentation, scholarly articles, poetry, scriptwriting, blogs, and more.

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Tools to overcome a block from: "My words are bad"

It's said that writers improve through writing. Maybe true, but I've discovered the first draft of any new piece I write is still really, really bad. The characters are flat, the descriptions lac...

6 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by DPT‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by What?‭

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What's the point of writing that I know will never be used or read?

Writing can be a very difficult, frustrating, stressful and effortful process. It can also be very isolating to the writer. Given that writing is a form of communication, what is the point of writi...

7 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Chris Sunami‭  ·  edited 2y ago by ArtOfCode‭

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How much detail is too much?

I've read a few amateur stories online and sometimes the author will include so much detail that the reader gets a little bored or distracted and forgets what the actual story is talking about. How...

5 answers  ·  posted 6y ago by M. McGarry‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Canina‭

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What information about a fictional world is unnecessary?

I was able to gain some insight already thanks to How much detail is too much?, but I still need a more precise answer, because my details aren't bound to a particular scene. I was searching for s...

5 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by E.Milla‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Describing the taste of food

I’m asking about this not because I have a tendency to do so myself, but rather because I find it unusually aggravating when I come across it in other people’s works. I’m wondering if this sort of ...

4 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Grace‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Is publishing a book around the age of 14 possible?

I'm currently in the beginning stages of writing a book. I'm not very far along (I have the lore for the universe written and about half of the outline) however I am genuinely pursuing this. I want...

1 answer  ·  posted 3y ago by Carlie‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Is the first page of a novel really that important?

I am reading in a few blogs like this that the first page of the novel is really important if it has to get published. Is this true? Can a good story not compensate for an ordinary first page. I h...

6 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by codeNewbie‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by DPT‭

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How to write strategy and schemes beyond my real-life capabilities?

I am interested in how to write compelling schemes, large-scale strategies and tactics etc. There are lots of fictional stories where the characters are amazing strategists, or incredibly intellig...

10 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by theonlygusti‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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What genre would a fictional eyewitness account of a real historical event fall under?

I've written a short story about a true historical incident which involves a very famous person in history. The incident is true as are the people involved in it. But the story is a fictional eyewi...

1 answer  ·  posted 3y ago by srini‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How do I introduce dark themes?

My story involves a superhuman organization that aims to overthrow the main government, through any means necessary. This involves murder and some rather gruesome deaths. Additionally, there might ...

5 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by overlord - Reinstate Monica‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How to convey the anatomy of a humanoid race?

I am writing a extra-terrestrial high fantasy novel. The story is completely set in an alien world. No visits from Earth and no visits to Earth. My characters are humanoids, who look like elves...

4 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Sangeetha‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by DPT‭

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Is there any popular wisdom on the word "seem"?

I've just started noticing this word a lot in books. Something about it rubs me the wrong way. For example, I read a book where the following happened I stumbled to the ground and hit my head. ...

4 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by klippy‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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How to prove that my blog is just not average?

In the question What can I ask my readers to help me and how?, a skeptical answer is provided: my blog which is about challenging existing dogmas is just an average. There are many cranky blog of s...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Ooker‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How do I know if my cast is diverse enough or too diverse?

Basically, I am writing a story and I want to know if the characters are diverse enough or too diverse. If I just state the characters' races, sexualities, etc, it might seem forced but I didn't re...

4 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by kaleidoscope‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Is there a convention about the use of Old English in Hymns? Is it wrong to modernise the words?

Although most hymns were written in earlier centuries, I notice that modern-day collections of them tend to keep the use of old English in them. For example: Use of Begger instead of the more mo...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by fluffykittycute‭  ·  edited 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Rapid change in character

A story I am currently working on contains a scene where a figure with a certain character quite unexpectedly has a change of heart, and I am having difficulty finding a way of smoothing the transi...

7 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by A Lambent Eye‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How to hint at an antagonist's identity?

A significant antagonist in my trilogy is an omnicidal alien by the name of Loki, whose characterisation borrows from Griffith, Keizer Ghidorah, Randall Flagg, Saruman and Hastur. Throughout the se...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Tiarnaard Cheannasach‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How can you redeem an awful character, who hits close to home?

There is a problem with a redemption arc: Anon is an incredibly powerful god with powers of mysterious origin. In the story, he starts out as bad but is supposed to be redeemed later. There is a p...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Mephistopheles‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Scale: How to handle a personal story set in an epic war?

In both my last writing project and my current one, I have found an unexpected problem. Both tales are focused on a single character and their personal journey, but both tales are also set in the m...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Thomas Myron‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How can I write a dark protagonist for whom there is no hope?

In my ongoing effort to weed out every beginner-related problem I might have before I write my novel (what do you mean? I'm not delaying at all), I have now come to a dreaded area: dark protagonist...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Thomas Myron‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by icanfathom‭

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What makes an ending "happy"?

In this answer, Amadeus makes the case for happy endings based on their far greater popularity compared to unhappy endings. This leads me to wonder, what exactly makes an ending "happy"? Before I...

6 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Mark Baker‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Kevin‭

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Is the genre 'fantasy' still fantasy without magic?

Is writing fantasy novel with no mages, witches, wizards or anything remotely magical a waste of time? Can it still be classified as fantasy?

9 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Chagat Nahn‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Averting Always Chaotic Evil

Always Chaotic Evil denotes an entire species in a fictional setting as outright evil - no matter how one treats them, they reward kindness with treachery and violence. Frequent recipients of this ...

5 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by System‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Is it illegal if I use religious material in writing my novel?

I have a serious problem. I am going to start writing a novel and it contains material from another religion. Something like this: my book involves Moses vs Pharaoh. Moses is only a mentor and not ...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Mudbrains‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Choice of words on writing

Novice on writing here, except few academic reports. I've got an idea to write a blog about my travel experiences, Although I speak Queen's English, I wish to write this blog for anyone interested...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Vishwa‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Secespitus‭

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How do I get beta readers?

I wouldn't feel comfortable asking friends and family to read my work and getting their feedback. And I don't have an online platform to ask strangers. What are my other options?

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by klippy‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Secespitus‭

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+2 −0
What can I ask my readers to help me and how?

I have a growing non-fiction blog about challenging existing dogmas in my culture, and it has been attracting a good amount of readers. However its growth is still not optimal, as they just read or...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Ooker‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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+2 −0
The concept of "Exotic Culture" and the necessity of a new world

A personal point of view on the necessity of a new culture in fiction "A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away", "Pandora", "Dune", "Middle Earth". All quite different worlds compared to ours, b...

4 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by M.N.Raia‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Lost my ‘magic’ concerning characters

I love creating characters, and for me it’s been the joy of writing for however long I’ve been doing it. I have maybe three or four unfinished projects which house characters whom I love, and they’...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Grace‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Introducing evil characters before the evil deeds take place

Is it possible to introduce evil characters (be identified as evil) before the action (the crimes committed by the characters) takes place?

4 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Yukang Jiang‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Amadeus‭

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Detail vs. filler

How can I minimise the "filler" text that I end up writing when fleshing out a scene with detail? An appropriate level of detail seems to me to be a fundamental requirement for good prose. Whateve...

7 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by sesquipedalias‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by DPT‭

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Is it alright to add scenes that don’t move the plot forwards much but develop relationships/character?

For example, let’s say the main plot is that the characters are on a quest to go find something. Can an author spend three scenes in a row detailing what happens on their journey there, even if the...

6 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by user40771‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by DPT‭

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Should one invest in a professional editor before querying?

Let's say you have completed a novel. Since you're not totally naive, you have also complete a few drafts, where with "few" I mean at least more than two. You are at a point that your book seems ...

1 answer  ·  posted 3y ago by Liquid‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by DPT‭

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How could the disregard for both plot and dialogue tell the story?

I want people to understand what I write, but I do not want to use conventions such as plot or dialogue to tell a story. Without a plot I have been criticized of not having written a story, but s...

4 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by cælvm‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Do living authors still get paid royalties for their old work?

Do authors still get paid royalties for their old works? For example, If I decided to buy a copy of the "Odessa File" by Frederick Forsyth or "Kane and Abel" by Jeffery Archer, do the authors get p...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by srini‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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+1 −0
Does a point of view need to be introduced when or right after the character is introduced?

In the novel I'm trying to write, I probably will have to introduce a second point of view because my initial main protagonist will be mostly unable to act after some point. Now I'm considering to ...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by celtschk‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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What should come first—characters or plot?

I'm starting a new fantasy story, and although I had a loose idea of plot, I began sculpting my characters before writing anything. Creating images of them in my head, developing their personaliti...

7 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by weakdna says reinstate monica‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by ab2‭

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Transitional sections

As I mentioned in my other recent question, my novel in progress has three main locations. I feel those three settings are strong, fully imagined places, with interesting storylines. However, the...

4 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Chris Sunami‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Can we use other things than single-word verbs in our dialog tags?

"Albert, you're already drunk! Stop it!" she implored him. "Nah, if I stop drinking, I won't have an excuse to miss work tommorrow!" he joked around. I am wondering if it's possible to ...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by yocu‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Amadeus‭

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What are good ways to improve as a writer other than writing courses?

As a novice writer to improve my writing I have taken one online course. I want to ask, what are good ways to improve as a writer other than writing courses?

6 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by codeNewbie‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Is having elaborate metaphors ever a bad thing?

Is having elaborate metaphors a bad thing in a short story (for the purposes of the story being accepted by a magazine)? How can I know if my metaphors are too elaborate?

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Yukang Jiang‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How to realistically describe pain?

So, I was doing a writing excersie, I came up with, to help me with sentence structuring and developing my style. One thing, I ran into, however, was that I couldn't describe pain very well. Th...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Mephistopheles‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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+2 −0
Punctuation assistance with complicated list of titles during a formal greeting

I'm working on a scene in a high-fantasy setting where the main characters greet each other for the first time. Part of the greeting is also a definition of what each of the characters mean to each...

1 answer  ·  posted 3y ago by PeteMcRepeat‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Advice for indicating sources in tables

I'm writing a thesis about the Accords by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS). If I put a table exactly from the Accords, I write in the table note "Source: BCBS (year)". If I start...

1 answer  ·  posted 3y ago by CarLaTeX‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

71%
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Doubt about a particular point of view on how to do character creation

Of course developing a character is quite an intimate process. But still, like a story, you can in fact have some tools that give you some sort of axiomatic path on "how-to". There is a TV writer ...

4 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by M.N.Raia‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Amadeus‭

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What's the difference between time-tested and formulaic?

Maybe this is all in my head, but it seems that novel writing for a lot of genres has become mainstreamed to the point of formula. We have articles, podcasts, and books telling us how to: Create ...

4 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by icanfathom‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by sesquipedalias‭

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Should a scene break always be put in place when there is change in location, times, and dates?

I have read many books where the character is in one place at a certain time and, without a scene break being utilised, they are all of a sudden in a different place at a different time, but it wo...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by N.Houghton‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by DPT‭

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Is it cliché to have two best friends fall in love?

I am writing a detective novel and wanted to include two best friends who are working together. Eventually they fall in love but one of my readers said it's too boring and cliché. Is that true? S...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Felisha‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How do we create our own symbolisms?

In the Bible, the apple is a symbol for knowledge, immortality, temptation, the fall of man and sin. The book itself gave the apple a symbolic meaning. How can you as an author give an object like ...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by blackbird‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Can a fight scene, component-wise, be too complex and complicated?

Okay, there is some preliminary information for you to be able to answer this question: There is a sword of great power, a McGuffin, and a destined one who wields it. The destined one has two compa...

5 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by A. Kvåle‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Amadeus‭

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