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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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How do I distinguish between self-doubt and objective recognition of fault?

I start writing a short story, I'm loving it. If I didn't love it, if I didn't want to tell it, I wouldn't be writing it. I finish the first draft, I still love it, and am so proud of completing i...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Galastel‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Leo‭

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Is writing policy pages in a lighthearted manner harmful in any way?

Recently, I threw together a draft of a policy page about promotional content, with some guidelines on what to keep in mind to avoid spamming. (Incidentally, this is for Codidact itself.) I decided...

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

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How can I pinpoint a story's moral dilemma?

In this answer, Mark Baker makes a statement about story: All story ideas are basically a variation on one thing. A man (or woman, or child, or small furry animal) has two desires, both of which h...

4 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by icanfathom‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by DPT‭

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What innovative techniques can make a textbook for learning a foreign language "pop"?

One of the biggest obstacles I've encountered learning Chinese is the incredibly dull and boring textbooks. Yes, the grammar in them is important, but it's so boring! Typical writing reads like: ...

5 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by becky82‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by johnDanger‭

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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 4y ago by DPT‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by What?‭

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Good exposition examples

Sometimes exposition is just necessary. Although there's plenty of youtube videos with examples in films of exposition done right, I'm struggling to find good examples of written exposition. I te...

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

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Is a lawful good "antagonist" effective?

In my post-apocalyptic novel, my protagonist is not necessarily "good", and although the antagonist is an honest and kind person, my protagonist perceives her as "evil". My antagonist is the leade...

14 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by weakdna says reinstate monica‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Kevin‭

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How do you avoid the problem of a collaborative work having separate voices?

I've not done collaborative writing before, but I've read several works, and sometimes the text strikes me as having a split personality: some parts were clearly written by one author, while others...

3 answers  ·  posted 12y ago by Craig Sefton‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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What is the correct way to mark a section as a translation?

I am often in the situation where I would like to cite a source in another language, and as such include my own translation alongside the quotation. I have been told that translation is a form of ...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Moshi‭  ·  last activity 3d ago by Mithical‭

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mice don't tap and tablet-users don't click: what word can I use for all audiences instead?

I am documenting features on a web site. The audience is end users, who could be anywhere from seasoned Internet veterans to relatively new people who came for my site's content but aren't general...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  edited 3y ago by Canina‭

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In a dialogue, how can I hint that the characters aren't telling the whole truth?

In one scene, I have a conversation between three characters: A, B and C. A's son and B are involved in something illegal. C isn't aware, and since A and B aren't entirely sure she can be trusted, ...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Evil Sparrow‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Tau‭

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Is it a good idea to leave minor world details to the reader's imagination?

As a writer, I used to write short stories and poems. As a reader, fantasy is my favorite genre. And I am currently working on my first novel, an extraterrestrial fantasy thriller. When describing...

9 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Sangeetha‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by DPT‭

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What is the Current State-of-the-Art / Any Successful Experiements with EPUB Format?

As a zipped web-page, EPUB has long offered the possibility of completely changing how a book looks and feels with dynamic content and interactive content. But since EPUB came out (2007), I really...

3 answers  ·  posted 1y ago by James McLellan‭  ·  last activity 14d ago by ArtOfCode‭

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HTML tags versus CSS classes: is one preferred over the other for the same styling?

We publish documentation online using HTML. For things like fixed parameter names and other code literals, we use <code> tags. My question is about styling these in tables. On our referenc...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by Canina‭

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"The tale how" vs. "The tale of how"

My SO and I were discussing the following sentence in his writing: This is the tale how once the Septemi helped King Nicodemus subdue walking firestorms, how we hunted cultists and mongrelfolk i...

2 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Sigma‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by xtal‭

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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 4y ago by icanfathom‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by sesquipedalias‭

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Why does the second act 'reaction' and then 'action' need to be drawn out?

I subscribe to the school of writers who like to (and often must), outline their stories before writing them. For a long time however, I did not use the 3-act structure. My mentality on that has no...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Thomas Myron‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Kevin‭

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Books in a trilogy are significantly different lengths. What to do?

I’ve managed to write a fantasy book, Lord of the Rings-style. That is, a single story that would almost certainly be published as three separate books with multiple branching plotlines. Or at le...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Galendo‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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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 4y ago by theonlygusti‭  ·  last activity 4y 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 4y ago by weakdna says reinstate monica‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by ab2‭

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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 4y ago by codeNewbie‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by DPT‭

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Has self-publishing killed the in-person critique group?

I belonged to an excellent critique group for many years. More than one member of that group went on to commercial publication of the works that they refined in that group. But since we moved a cou...

4 answers  ·  posted 6y ago by Mark Baker‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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How can garden path sentences be used (and misused)?

"A garden path sentence is a grammatically correct sentence that starts in such a way that a reader's most likely interpretation will be incorrect; the reader is lured into a parse that turns out t...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Paul A. Clayton‭  ·  last activity 2y ago by gmcgath‭

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Technical Writer Skill Set

As technology and industry demands evolve, what tools/skills should one focus on learning/improving as a technical writer?

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by yashikaissrani‭  ·  last activity 14d ago by ArtOfCode‭

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Is there any benefit when writing out instructions to split it up into lots of little paragraphs, or is it better to leave it in one paragraph?

I was putting together an instruction page (for setting up a game that my business created), which included a whole lot of various pointers, most of which were only a sentence or two long. These ex...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Mithical‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How to ask for permission to use readers' endorsements?

I have a blog with long, analytic articles. Because of their nature, they don't really attract much clicks. However, once people distill it thoroughly, many of them express that the articles are in...

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

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Everyone's a woman: how do you show that through gender-neutral language?

In my latest short story I'm playing around with common gender misconceptions. It's set in a near future society were men have disappeared, and all roles are taken up by women. The theme is played ...

1 answer  ·  posted 3y ago by Liquid‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by Prahara‭

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How to write an introverted main character with accidental charisma

I’m planning a medieval-style fantasy epic in which a young protagonist is plucked from his humble life, acquires great powers, and ultimately saves his civilisation from the Big Baddie (a politica...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by xtal‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by What?‭

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Is there a formula for creating stakes?

I thrive off of formulas. I don't do well with brainstorming or figuring out how things in my stories should happen, but I can make a lot of progress if there's a one-size-fits-all formula which ca...

6 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Thomas Myron‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Kevin‭

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The excessive use of 'and'

The word 'and' is an indispensable conjoining tool in any form and discipline of writing. Although, a repetition of the word can make a paragraph too tedious to read, and it only lengthens a senten...

5 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Chagat Nahn‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How can one "treat writing as a job" even though it doesn't pay?

I hear this advice a lot: "Treat your writing as a job." But it seems to me that this is easier said/done when it is actually paying off and, thus, one is encouraged to do it. But what if one is be...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by user394536‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Are competitions worth it in order to get published?

I have recently finished my 25,000 word novella and contacted some publishers and agents about a month ago. I have only heard back from a couple rejecting me but considering the format of my book a...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Tttttttttttttt‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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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 4y ago by klippy‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Secespitus‭

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How to organize ideas to start writing a novel?

Beginner here. So, I have tons of ideas for a novel, and in fact I want to write one (even a series), but I'm struggling a lot in actually starting writing the story. I have ideas for characters an...

7 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by KLTKGK‭  ·  last activity 20d ago by Mithical‭

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Ending a line of dialogue with "?!": Allowed or obnoxious?

A dialogue of mine contains the following sentence: "You fired all three of them?!" Trouble is, I'm not sure I've ever seen a novel that used a question mark and an exclamation point together...

5 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Evil Sparrow‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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Writing slurred speech

One of my characters gets drunk and accidentally kills another. He has a couple of lines where he needs to sound obnoxiously, falling-down drunk. Is there a good way to accomplish this? What sound...

6 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by Evil Sparrow‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by aparente001‭

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How to use professional jargon when writing fiction?

The military, the medical professions, police, etc. - they have their professional jargon. One noteworthy characteristic of this jargon is the extensive use of abbreviations. Those abbreviations ar...

3 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by Galastel‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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How should I document a database schema?

I am going to be writing some user-facing documentation for a database that visitors can query. That is, the people writing queries are not the ones who created the database; they can come in, look...

3 answers  ·  posted 9y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  edited 2y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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What's a good market for experimental novellas?

A short story of mine has grown until it's become a bit of a monster - about 15K. I don't know if that makes it a novelette or a novella, but it's certainly too long for most of the journals I woul...

3 answers  ·  posted 11y ago by micapam‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by DPT‭

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What's "fair use" for borrowing someone else's invented term?

Let's say I'm writing a sci-fi novel. I want to use a word which another writer has coined, which has become well-recognized outside the original book, for the name of an alien species in my story....

4 answers  ·  posted 12y ago by Lauren Ipsum‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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What is the possessive form of et al.?

When referring to a paper with multiple authors by using the name of the first author and "et al.", how does one indicate possession? For example, is it correct to write, "Einstein et al.'s paper ...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by BR11‭  ·  last activity 14d ago by ArtOfCode‭

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+4 −0
Which parts of a character's plan should be revealed beforehand?

Two characters (one is a PoV character) come up with a plan to break a third out of prison. They succeed, with only minor complications. If I describe too many details of their plan beforehand, it ...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Evil Sparrow‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by Razetime‭

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+4 −0
Writing "light hearted" lead characters

For some reason, when I find myself writing a male protagonist, I seem to default to the brooding, gritty kind of man that could easily find his place into a noir novel. Those characters are often ...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Liquid‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by Prahara‭

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+4 −0
Action scene pacing and clarity

I am using, for action scenes, this three act format which allows me to control pacing and create order in hectic environment: Action - analysis - reaction Johann fired (action) his pistol and mi...

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

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How to show powerful emotion in a character trying to hide it?

This question deals with showing the emotions of characters when those characters are actively trying to hide their emotions. If the emotion is something subtle, like apprehension or annoyance, you...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Thomas Myron‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by Prahara‭

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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 4y ago by Vishwa‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Secespitus‭

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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 4y ago by Carlie‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Outlining the climax made me lose interest in writing the actual story

I am a discovery writer. I wrote more than 50% of my first novel's first draft. I got really confuse about some aspects of writing, so I took a break and analysed my plot. I've started developing...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Sangeetha‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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+4 −0
Should you write character description points in bulk or spread them out?

I've heard a lot of people saying they skip descriptions if they are written as one bulk list, but others say it's important that we let the reader know what the character looks like and include al...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Klara Raškaj‭  ·  last activity 4y 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 4y ago by srini‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭