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There is no faster way to convey a sense of uncertainty than including hedging and crippling language in your writing. Words have power, meaning, and convey more than just the definitions. Choosing to write in certain ways will weaken what your saying, thus weakening your message. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to identify those words as the au…
 
Language can be fun. It’s not always the dry, boring material you learned in school. Those are important for fundamentals, but when you learn to play with language, you reveal new potential in writing. Because english is a strange combination of several different language, there are lots of opportunities for wordplay. Just look at Shakespeare’s wri…
 
One key to good writing is to accepting that sometimes, you’ll need to leave things out entirely. This is often based not on any hard and fast rules, but on instinct. We can’t teach instinct, but we can help you identify those moments when they happen. Most often, the things that need to be left out leave a manuscript feeling awkward or bulky. Some…
 
The sentence is the core of writing. While every language has different requirements on what makes a sentence, they all usually share common threads. Complete sentences need a subject and a verb. A thing doing something. That simple construction is the foundation for all the world’s best stories. To write, you need to know what makes a sentence. No…
 
A phrase is one of the basic elements of a sentence. Without knowing the different kinds of phrases and what they do, sentences can feel disjointed. Phrases often dictate comma placement or flow. In this episode, Ley and Leigh break down the different kinds of phrases, from introductory to prepositional, and when a phrase can be a sentence all its …
 
Commas. They’re a problem. It can be difficult to remember where commas should be and, more importantly, where they shouldn’t be in a sentence. New writers often hear the suggestion to put a comma wherever feels natural. Stephen King even recently tweeted, “If you hear a pause in your head, the comma goes in (see what I did there?). If you don’t yo…
 
Language is made up of so many different pieces. Often, you use them instinctively because it’s what you grew up learning. To write, however, you should become more familiar with all the different parts of speech and how they should be used. Knowing that, then, will help you break the rules when necessary. This is the second part of our episodes ab…
 
No one can be a good writer without knowing the basics of the language in which they write. You may have learned terms like nouns and adverbs in school, but its quite possible you’ve forgotten what they actually mean or how they should interact. Maybe you’re still learning, as all writers are. That’s why we’re taking two episodes to break down the …
 
When someone talks about the formatting of a book, there are many different things this could mean. They could be talking about the final book format, or the manuscript formatting requirements. Those are fairly simple, though. Some of the more difficult formatting comes from the writing requirements most often encountered in professional and academ…
 
As a writer, you should be striving to become a student of language. This doesn’t mean becoming a polyglot, but learning to love the study of the language you use to write. It is vital to know the rules of a language in order to become a good writer, because it is only then that you can really know how to properly break the rules. If you’re writing…
 
Finishing a book is probably the most difficult part of the writing process. Editing can be daunting and publishing simply overwhelming, but none of that can even happen if you never reach the end. This is an especially important goal as we enter National Novel Writing Month, where people across the country (and now across the world) attempt to wri…
 
Building a brand around yourself as an author is a key element of successful marketing. This is even more important if you plant to write several books or different series. Having an author brand is how you can lead people to all of your books, not just the most successful ones. A brand is what people perceive as being you. When it comes to retail …
 
Publishing can be a daunting process, especially if you’re a new author and unsure what comes after finishing that manuscript. You may be looking at is and asking yourself “what now?” Do you self-publish, or pursue traditional publishing? What about the title and the cover and the formatting? Even once you’ve decided those things, it’s not the end.…
 
If you think about your favorite books, they’re probably not standalone novels. Many of todays books, especially in fantasy and sci-fi settings, are part of a set. Writing a series, though, can be difficult work. Not only do you need to consider the plot of a single book, but the plot that will connect all of them. This, of course, doesn’t always a…
 
Story would not be the same without multiple characters. You often need a villain and at least one supporting character. In some genres, especially epic fantasy and science fiction, there will be at least a dozen prominent supporting characters. There are even some cases where the supporting characters are almost main characters of their own. It’s …
 
Stories could not exist without some form of character. Especially in the Hero’s Journey, it is the main character who drives the story forward. Readers connect better to the story when it is about the people inside the pages. That’s why one of the first things any author should build is their main character. While some authors don’t plan their cha…
 
Worldbuilding is one of those things that we at Writing Roots (especially Leigh) can talk about for a very, very long time. There is so much that goes into the process of creating the world of a book, even if that book is based in modern Earth. You need to consider things like the history of the place and culture, the languages, and the geography. …
 
One of the most common types of structures, especially in fantasy writing, is the Hero’s Journey. It’s why we’ve talked about it as much as we have over the course of this podcast. As we get further into Preptober, getting ready for National Novel Writing Month, one thing we suggest is to plan out the story you want to write. Yes, even you pantsers…
 
We are one month away from National Novel Writing Month. October, sometimes known in writing circles as Preptober, is the time to start planning for trying to write 50,000 words in one month. Before you can do any writing, you need some kind of idea. Something needs to stir your imagination so you can create wonderful worlds and characters. Leigh, …
 
Whether it’s a dystopian or utopian outlook, humans have been looking towards the future for almost all of history. The reason for painting on cave walls was to teach future generations. The reason we record current events is to make sure those to come know what happened in their past. The thing with the future, though, is that we don’t know what’s…
 
What is a superhero? Do they have to have superpowers of some kind? Did their origins have to be tragic? Are characters superheroes only because they started in comic books? No matter the answers, superheroes have become a massive piece of the storytelling world in recent years. We can largely thank the Marvel Cinematic Universe for that. Even befo…
 
Storytelling has evolved more rapidly in the last 100 years than in the centuries before all because of film. Movies and television have changed the way we consume stories, sped up the process for evolving genres, and given another way for people to share the stories they want to create. Even before books, people were trying to tell story through p…
 
Monster fiction as we know it came into being in the early 1800s. A large volcano erupted in 1816, causing what has become known as the year without a summer. It was during this time that we got some of the best monster fiction creations. It was during that summer that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein as part of a writing contest. Most of the modern…
 
Fairy tales have been one of the go-to ways to teach children about the world for centuries. Though the stories have changed greatly since their origination, we can recognize titles such as Snow White, Thumbelina, and The Little Red Riding Hood. When it comes to the history of storytelling, fairy tales and bedtime stories cannot go ignored. While t…
 
Both William Shakespeare and the invention of the printing press had a major impact on storytelling across the world. This is when stories for entertainment alone became popular – and accessible – for the masses. Books were no longer for the elite and plays were written for the common man as well as royalty. This was also brought in a time where co…
 
There came a time in the history of storytelling, especially around the rise of Christianity in Europe, where story became a way to educate the general populace. However, it started long before Christianity was even established. Back in the times of the Greeks and then Romans, theater was used to teach the common people about the gods and their wor…
 
There was a point in the history of storytelling where the tales began to include a character arc. They also became more about man versus man, rather than man versus monsters. The stories became about overcoming the external foe as well as becoming something better. About starting as the underdog and becoming the hero. One such example is the bibli…
 
Some of the earliest stories we know from the time around the beginning of written language were stories about gods and fate. This is where stories started to transform from being primarily for survival to conveying ideas beyond the individual. This was a pivotal time, not only because of the introduction of written language, but for the concept of…
 
Story has been imbedded in human culture since the beginning, even since those prehistoric times before written language. Though we may not have those written records of what stories they told, we do know they were telling them. Prehistoric people showed story in their art on cave walls, in the traditions they passed down from generation to generat…
 
Choose Your Adventure books are a unique way to involve the reader in the storytelling process. Many of you may remember the old Goosebumps “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories, but it’s not a structure reserved for middle grade books anymore. Writing a Choose Your Adventure, or interactive, structure is difficult. For you pantsers out there, it’s e…
 
Serial stories have started to make a comeback in the writing format recently. While it’s always been there in the form of comic books and fiction magazines, the internet has helped this unique structure gain popularity and strength. Many authors have created episodic and serial stories over the centuries. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published the Sherl…
 
If you’re looking for a unique way to tell a slow burn suspense, consider the reverse story structure. This is all about going backwards in time. The reverse structure isn’t just hitting rewind and watching the whole thing from front to back, but by taking pieces of the story and telling them out of order. Most often it’s happening to the main char…
 
“Story within a story” is a fun framing device for writing your novel in a unique way. The idea behind this structure is that the narrator is actually a character. We get to see what is happening in their life as well as what’s happening in the tale they’re telling. This structure is anything but new. One of the oldest uses is in the 12th century t…
 
A paradigm shift structure is more than a simple plot twist. As the definition states, it’s a fundamental change to the underlying assumptions. One of the most famous uses of this structure is The Sixth Sense, a film by M. Night Shyamalan. In the movie, both the audience and the main character experience a paradigm shift that completely reframes th…
 
Amnesia has been used in storytelling for a very long time. Soap operas and telenovelas use lost memory frequently to ramp up the drama in their stories. You can use it to, and for more than just a subplot in your own story. There are lots of ways to use amnesia. It can be a witness to a crime having to remember what exactly they saw, or a characte…
 
One way to play with structure and step outside the normal bounds of linear storytelling is to consider the recursion structure. You may know this best from the film Groundhog Day. Recursion is when at least one character relives the same day (or other period of time) again and again. This structure really lends itself to a story focused on the cha…
 
If you’re looking for a unique way to tell a story – especially a crime story – consider the Rashomon structure. Originally a Japanese film, Rashomon told the storyh using the subjective views of those involved in the events. The same scene was shown several times from all different perspectives. Using the Rashomon structure means digging into the …
 
It’s about time. Stories about time. Throughout August, we’ll be talking about the use of time within story structure, as well as less common structures available. Story structures are the framework used to build a fiction novel or even short stories. Common ones include the three-act, five-act, seven point, or the hero’s journey. Some stories, tho…
 
It’s about time. Stories about time. Throughout August, we’ll be talking about the use of time within story structure, as well as less common structures available. Story structures are the framework used to build a fiction novel or even short stories. Common ones include the three-act, five-act, seven point, or the hero’s journey. Some stories, tho…
 
Every editing conversation should end with positives and those favorite moments your editor found while reading. An editor isn’t there just to tell you what you did wrong. They should also tell you what you did right, what you did well. This is part of constructive criticism. There will always be things that could be improved, but it is easy to get…
 
Worldbuilding can apply to all types of writing, but it is essential for speculative fiction. Modern – and even historical – fiction is easy when it comes to worldbuilding. There is an expectation that the readers will know what you mean when you say a small town or big city. They have knowledge of our world already. When you’re showing a world tha…
 
Dialogue can be tricky for authors, especially if you’ve never heard of the idea of beats in dialogue. It can either feel stilted in an attempt to make it grammatically correct, or end up nonsensical with a lack of structure. What goes in the dialogue and what goes around it? What actually needs to be said out loud? These are all things writers wor…
 
Stories generally develop in one of two ways: with a focus on the plot with the characters playing their parts, or a focus on the characters as they navigate the world. In other words, plot-driven or character-driven. Both are valid storytelling techniques and play to the interests of readers in varying genres. Even if you are driven by one, though…
 
A key to unique characters is to develop and maintain character voice. Think of your favorite books. Can you tell who is speaking without needing to read the dialogue tag? If you can, that means that author developed the character voice. Each character should have their own unique way of thinking and speaking within the story. This doesn’t mean you…
 
Narrative flow is important for keeping your reader engaged in the plot. You want to keep driving them forward to the next event or next reveal. There are times, though, when it’s okay to reveal something, then step back in time to explain how you got there. This was a major piece of the Disney movie, Emperor’s New Groove. It was also a narrative s…
 
You’ve probably heard about the trope of Chekov’s Gun. We’ve talked about it here multiple times. The idea behind it is that if there’s something, such as a gun, described in the story then it needs to come into play somehow. It’s the idea of setup and payoff. This can be fairly easy for plotters. Leigh, however, is adamantly not a plotter. This le…
 
The narrative in a story has so much influence on how the story will progress. Most authors are familiar with the broad categories of first person and third person, but there are subtle differences within those broader categories. One of the less-used POVs is first-person omniscient, which comes with its own difficulties. When you choose a narrativ…
 
One major part of the editing process is doing what’s known as developmental edits. These are structural changes to a story. That can be removing scenes or making sure the stage is properly set for the end. As the author, these needed changes can be difficult to see. We get attached to scenes or characters that may have no purpose overall. If you’r…
 
Editors are an invaluable piece of the publishing process. No one should publish without having someone with editing knowledge look at the manuscript. If you think about all of the books with a New York Times Bestselling label, they’ve all been pushed through a meticulous editing process. For new authors – especially self-published authors – that p…
 
There are so many subgenres listed in KDP and other self-publishing sites that it can be more than overwhelming to figure out the right ones. Experienced authors and publishers know the importance of picking the right one, which just increases that pressure. In this extended episode from our archives, we take a closer look at how to figure out your…
 
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