How to Make the Most of Your Chapter Endings

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While we recently discussed the importance of getting a book ending right, I’d like to talk about another form of endings, that to me are equally important.

Of course, as you I’m sure so astutely gathered from the title, I’m talking about chapter endings.

While writing and revising, I like to imagine that one day, a reader will be reading my book in the middle of the night, and will eventually have to decide do I read another chapter or go to bed?

My goal, in that hypothetical situation, is to make it difficult for the aforementioned reader to put the book down. I want my readers to think I’ll just read one more chapter, then realize ten chapters later that they hadn’t intended to read this much. If I do my job correctly, putting the book down will never be an easy decision.

Although it may feel like it, accomplishing this feat isn’t a work of magic—it’s a combination of tension, intrigue and great chapter endings. But what exactly makes a great chapter ending?

My favorite kinds of chapter endings tend to go one of three ways:

  1. They drop shocking information. Usually this is a big reveal, some kind of plot twist, or unexpected danger to the character. I tend to be quite fond of these in my own writing, because as I’m drafting they make me want to continue writing.

    Example: “Someone closes a hand over my mouth.” —Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (page 341)

  2. They leave you asking questions. These questions can range from how the hell is the character going to get out of this to who is that mysterious stranger that keeps appearing everywhere? The point is, if you leave your readers with questions about the story at the end of a chapter, chances are they’ll want to continue reading to try to get those answers.

    Example: “‘He’s not joking,’ Brendan says to me. ‘And I hope you know how to use a gun.’” —Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (page 119)

  3. They end on a haunting or particularly evocative note. These can vary pretty widely, but sometimes the right image to echo the mood of the book or whatever is happening can be just the transition a reader needs to push them on to the next chapter.

    Example: “Because it’s so difficult to fight what you cannot control and right now I can’t even control my own imagination as it grips my hair and drags me into the dark.” —Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (page 109)

I used all of my examples from Unravel Me because I particularly love how Ms. Mafi ends her chapters, and I often found myself saying one more chapter while reading. I raved about its genius here.

While those aren’t the only three ways to end a chapter in an interesting manner, they happen to be my favorite techniques, and I’ve found that they work well. But now I want to hear from you: what techniques do your favorite chapter endings use? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
What makes a great chapter ending? Writer @Ava_Jae shares some tips on effective ways to end your chapters. (Click to tweet)  
Are you making the most of your chapter endings? (Click to tweet)

The Truth About Writing Advice

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The truth about writing advice is that everything is subjective. Everything. (Except maybe this).

I’ve now written well over 350 posts, most of which involve some kind of tips or thoughts on writing, the process of novel-writing and the publishing world. And sometimes, as is bound to happen when you write about any particular topic over the course of two years, I look back at old posts and think, that’s interesting. I do x differently now. 

Writing is so subjective that sometimes I don’t even adhere to the same tips I gave two years ago. And that’s fine—it doesn’t make them less helpful, it’s just because I’ve learned to do things a little differently.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that nothing is set in stone. Just because I (or any other writing blogger out there) has a particular technique, or opinion, or idea that works really well for them, doesn’t mean that if it doesn’t work for you, you’re somehow less off. Just about every writing rule or trend out there has an exception, even several exceptions. Take everything you read with a grain of salt.

For every wonderful program, application or technique that fifty writers rave about, there are fifty writers who find it doesn’t quite work for them.

For every opinion or tip I share, I know there are some out there that disagree or find the tip useless, and that is completely ok.

Writing is subjective, and writers all work differently. There isn’t a right or wrong path and there isn’t a magical process that will guarantee success.

There are just writers like me figuring things out as we go, and sharing what we learn along the way. And if it helps, wonderful, and if it doesn’t, that’s completely fine, too. Just keep doing what you’re doing and above all: write.

I’m curious: where do you get your writing advice? Favorite blogs/websites/books/etc.? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
"Just about every writing rule or trend out there has an exception." (Click to tweet)  
"The truth about writing advice is that everything is subjective."  (Click to tweet)

How to Write Effective Endings

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Throughout the course of writing several manuscripts, my methods, skills and tools have changed pretty dramatically. But there’s one thing that has remained constant in my first drafting process, regardless of the genre, word count, method or experience: the ending always intimidates me.

When I played around with pantsing, the reason for this intimidation was pretty obvious: I was writing a book and I had no idea how it was going to end. It terrified me to think that I was eventually going to reach what I knew had to be the conclusion, and I would sit and wonder how I could possibly conclude this book.

Outlining, however, didn’t solve my ending anxiety. Sure, it helped that I actually knew what would happen (it helped a lot, actually), but the thought of it still terrified me. What if it’s not epic enough? What if I end too soon (a common problem of mine)? What if there are too many questions at the end? What if my readers are disappointed? What if what if what if?

I am the master of book-ending angst.

Thankfully, after writing several pretty terrible endings (and a couple good ones, I hope), and reading an abundance of endings that have completely blown me away, I’ve learned a couple important elements necessary in every good ending.

  • Address the main problem/antagonist. When I first wrote this bullet, I said “solve the main problem,” but that’s not entirely true. You see, your protagonist doesn’t necessarily have to win every time, but you must address the problem one way or the other. If your character defeats the antagonist and saves the world, great, you can check off this bullet. But maybe your character doesn’t win, at least not entirely, and the antagonist is wounded but gets away. That’s acceptable, too—the key is that the main problem is addressed in some way, usually with a big victory, or a major loss on your protagonist’s part. At the end of the day, your protagonist should have tried his or her darndest to fix the main problem that’s been comprising the plot of your novel, and whether they win or lose is up to you. 

  • Tie up loose ends and provide closure. It’s important to note, that even if you’re writing the first book of a series, you still must tie up loose ends. Naturally, you can still leave some series-wide questions open and hint at possibilities of future plots and problems. But as for the main plot itself, the big problem must be addressed and your readers should not be left still wondering about several subplots or questions by the end of the book. For a series, the endings are about balance: leaving enough questions that the reader will want to move on to the next book, but still answering enough that it stands alone and creates a complete arc.

    As for standalone novels, or the last book of a series, all loose ends must be tied up and accounted for. You readers should have a sense of closure and all subplots and mystery questions should be answered.

  • Complete the character arcs. This is an element that I’ve often struggled with because character arcs, at least for me, often happen organically. Unless your protagonist is a static character, he or she will likely be changed by whatever they experience throughout the course of your book—and your ending should reflect that change, whether it’s maturity, a new outlook or worldview, etc. 

  • Bonus: echo the beginning. This isn’t a requirement, but some of my favorite endings echo images or lines from the beginning of the book. It really gives the book a full-circle feel and helps to create closure. I go into detail about this wonderful effect in my great final sentences post so I won’t go into it again, but if you can manage it, I definitely recommend it. 

What tips do you have for writing effective endings? 

Twitter-sized bites:
Having trouble with your WIP's ending? Here are some tips to writing effective endings. (Click to tweet)  
Does writing "the end" intimidate you? Writer @Ava_Jae shares some tips for effective endings. (Click to tweet

Discussion: Are You a Jerk (to Your Characters)?

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I’m relatively sure that if my characters were real, most of them would hate me.

There are few things I enjoy more than taking my characters’ perfectly peaceful lives and ripping them to shreds, then setting the shreds on fire and throwing the ashes into Mount Vesuvius. I love taking terrible situations and making them worse, and making my characters feel entirely hopeless before they rise above and overcome their difficulties.

I love scarred, conflicted characters—whether it’s emotional, physical or mental scars. Sometimes they start off scarred at the beginning, sometimes I inflict the damage within the plot, but in the end, I find those kinds of characters much more fun to write and read about, and so I’m rather cruel to my characters.

But the thing is, I truly believe it’s necessary to bring out your inner sadist, at least to some extent, while writing.

Every story requires conflict. The magnitude of that conflict will from genre to genre (and even within your book), but without conflict, there isn’t a story. The ability to take an initial conflict and make it worse (then worse than that) can take story from good to amazing. It can lead to essential urgency to keep reading, and at the end, when your characters overcome the insurmountable odds you set them against, their victories are that much more memorable.

I don’t hesitate to admit that I’m a jerk to my characters. I’m proud of it, even.

But now I want to hear from you: are you a jerk to your characters? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Are you a jerk to your characters? Why or why not? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog! (Click to tweet
Do you bring out your inner sadist while writing? Here's why you may want to. (Click to tweet)

Don’t Over-spice Your Manuscript

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When writing, there’s an abundance of stylistic elements available at our disposal to add a little extra something to our writing. Telegraphic or run-on sentences, purposeful repetition, strikeouts, onomatopoeia, particular wording or structure, single-line paragraphs...the possibilities are pretty near endless. 

Occasionally, we writers will become particularly attached to a stylistic element or two, and it’ll become a sort of crutch that we use far more often than even we realize. My stylistic crutches tend to vary from manuscript to manuscript—for a previous WIP it was single-line paragraphs, and for my more recent WIP it’s run-on sentences (go figure). 

I once read that stylistic elements like the ones mentioned above should be used like spices. A little spice sprinkled across your pages will give it a particular zing, a fresh bite that that readers will recognize as part of your voice. It gives your work that little extra je ne sais quois that readers love. 

But just like a stew, something starts to happen if you throw in too much spice—the extra flavor becomes too much. It’s noticeable, but in a way that makes people frown and say there’s something not quite right. That delicious bite loses it’s effect and becomes lost in the sea of too many flavors, and before you know it, you can’t taste much of anything. 

The same thing can happen in your writing. 

The thing I try to remember while writing and editing is this: the more times you use a particular stylistic effect, the less punch it has. With every use, it becomes a little less effective, until, if overused, it has little to no effect at all. 

The key to incorporating stylistic elements into your writing is to use them with discretion. Every use should have a purpose. A sprinkle of telegraphic sentences here and a pinch of repetition there—just enough to give that zing without drowning your readers in spice. 

What stylistic elements do you like to incorporate into your writing? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Are you over-spicing your MS? One writer discusses what happens when you overuse stylistic elements. (Click to tweet
How are writing and cooking related? Writer @Ava_Jae discusses the dangers of over-spicing your MS. (Click to tweet

Writer Fear, Debunked: I’ll Never Write This Well Again

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Not too long ago, I received another lovely e-mail from one of you wonderful readers, and in it was mentioned a fear that I suspect most writers know all too well.

Sometimes, when we write something that we’re particularly proud of, whether it’s a paragraph, scene, chapter, short story, poem, or book, we get this little nagging voice that says this is the best you’ll ever do. 

Sometimes, when we struggle after that great story or whatever it is, the voice says, you’ve plateaued. Might as well settle for mediocrity, because you’re not going to get better than this. 

Sometimes, when the struggle continues, the voice says, you’ll never write as well as that passage again. It’s over. 

And let’s be honest. Sometimes, we’re tempted to listen to that voice. 

Don’t do it. 

The wonderful thing about writing is that it’s a skill that we can always improve. There’s always more to learn, more ways to develop and hone our craft, more techniques and tips that even the top earners of the field are still taking in. There isn’t a final master level and we never plateau. 

The thing I love about writing is that much of the learning is subconscious. We learn every time we read a new book, every time we read a tip that resonates with us, every time we sit down and start writing. We learn with every edit we incorporate, every manuscript we evaluate, every tear we shed (figurative or literal) over revisions or getting that line just right. 

So whenever you reach a point when you start to think you’ll never write as well as that sentence/paragraph/passage/book/whatever, I want you to stop and tell that voice to shut up. 

Because not only will you write as well as that passage—you’ll write better. One day you’ll look back at what you thought was your best and you’ll realize just how much you’ve improved because your work now? It makes that fabulous passage look average. 

As long as you keep reading and writing and pushing to improve, I promise you you’ll get better. It may not feel like it, and you may not even realize it at first, but with every scene you write and book you read and sentence you edit, you are improving. You are learning. 

You are writing better than ever before. 

Have you ever heard the nagging voice? What did you do to overcome it? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Have you ever worried that you'll never write as well as you have before? Here's why you shouldn't. (Click to tweet
Worried that your writing skill may have plateaued? You don't need to, and this is why. (Click to tweet)

How to Write Realistic Dialogue

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I’ve often found it’s easy to tell a writer’s skill level by taking a look at their dialogue. With just a few lines, you can easily tell if the dialogue is working (or not), which is important because character speech can easily make or break an otherwise great story. 

The good news is well-written dialogue can really make your manuscript shine, and if you remember certain guidelines while writing or editing, it can make all the difference. 

So when writing dialogue...


  • Let your characters ramble. In reality, we ramble while having conversations all the time. We switch from topic to topic, sometimes randomly, and go on unnecessarily about silly little details that are fun to talk about.

    Don’t let your characters do this. Everything your characters say should have a purpose, and unnecessary ramblings are not allowed in fiction.

  • Use it to convey obvious information. Or, as some writers like to call it, use the “As you know, Bob.” If your protagonist is a dentist with three kids, the way to tell us not to have her mention to her friend, “As you know, my three kids Elana, Mike and Maggie have beautiful teeth because I put my dentist skills to good use at home.”

    If both characters in a conversation know a particular bit of information that you want your readers to know, chances are you don’t want to use dialogue to tell us. Characters have no reason to tell each other information they already know, and readers will recognize it for the poorly disguised info-dump that it is.

  • Mention names every couple lines. This is a pretty common mistake, and it’s easy to do. Thankfully, it’s also very easy to fix (the “Find” feature is a beautiful thing).

    Point is, your characters are certainly allowed to mention each other’s names, particularly when they’re trying to get their attention or make a point. But they should not  mention each other’s names several times in a conversation, or even in every conversation. We don’t do this is real life, and neither should our characters. 


  • Think about context. In this case, by “context” I mean your character’s background and surroundings. A high-class 18th-century woman is going to speak very differently from an uneducated man of that time, or a teenager in today’s society, or a king from another world. How your characters speak, what they choose to say and to whom is very much dependent on the setting, your character’s background, and personality, which are all important to remember while writing dialogue.

  • Remember everyone speaks differently. If you removed all of your dialogue tags, you should still be able to pick out which of your characters said what. Every one of your characters should have a different voice and viewpoint that should come across in the dialogue.

  • Read it aloud. I’ve written in the past about the importance of reading your WIP out loud, but even if you don’t read your entire WIP out loud, you shouldn’t definitely try to at least read your dialogue aloud. Or have someone else read it to you.

    Why? Dialogue should sound natural and flow easily, and sometimes, what flows in our minds when we read, doesn’t actually flow as well as we think. Reading our writing out loud solves that problem, because the awkward phrases your brain doesn’t trip over, your tongue will still catch. 


  • Silence can be powerful. Sometimes, what a character doesn’t say is just as powerful (or even more powerful) than what they do say. Silence, in a way, is it’s own form of dialogue.

  • Straightforward isn’t always the answer. It wasn’t until semi-recently that it occurred to me that just because a character asks a question, doesn’t mean whoever they’re talking to has to answer. Eureka! Changing the subject, answering a question with a question, or dancing around the answer can sometimes be even more interesting than the answer itself. As a bonus, unanswered questions also make for added tension and intrigue.

  • “Said” isn’t evil. While action tags and non-said dialogue tags are great in moderation, “said” is not a word that needs to be avoided. The nice thing about “said” is that it acts as an invisible dialogue tag. That’s not to say that you should use it every time, but it’s actually less noticeable than the alternative tags and are often overlooked while reading. 

What tips do you have for effective dialogue? 

Twitter-sized bites:
Is your dialogue realistic? Writer @Ava_Jae shares dos, don'ts and tips to remember while writing dialogue. (Click to tweet)   
Having trouble with dialogue? Take a look at these tips for writing realistic conversations. (Click to tweet)

How to Determine a Good CP Match: Trial Runs

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After you’ve found a couple potential CPs, your first step isn’t to send off your entire manuscripts to each other—it’s to test the waters and make sure you’re a good match. 

When evaluating CPs, you want to be sure that not only will they be able to help you in a way that you want, but you’re also able to help them. And the easiest way to determine right off the bat whether or not you’ll be a good match is to trade samples, usually first chapters, to see each others critiquing styles. 

Sometimes, however, it’s not easy to determine what exactly you should be looking for when trading first chapters. How can you tell whether or not you’ll be a good match based off of a ten page trade? 

While I don’t think there’s a foolproof method to determining perfect CPs, there are a few things you can pay special attention to that can help you make your decision: 
  1. Feedback. This, of course, is the most important factor. Take a look at the feedback—is it helpful? Remember that sometimes helpful means saying something you didn’t want to hear, or indicating you may need a lot of work. Determine whether or not you like the way they delivered the feedback (was it balanced?) and whether you think their comments can help you.

    Sometimes, you’ll trade with someone and they’ll say nothing but nice things about your writing. This can feel great, but let’s be honest—it’s not helpful. Even if they loved your first chapter, they should be able to pick out even a couple nit-picky things to suggest some improvements—if they don’t, chances are they aren’t going to be very helpful CPs.

    On the flip side, you may trade with someone who rips your work apart entirely and without telling you what is working or how you could possibly improve your work. If that’s the case, you may want to find someone else. Honest feedback is good, but even the toughest feedback should make suggestions for improvement, rather than saying that your work is terrible.

  2. Time expectations. If you’re looking to have feedback on your full MS in a month and it takes your CP trial buddy three weeks to get your first chapter back to you, that’s a pretty good sign that you may want to work with someone else. On the flip side, if you aren’t able to provide a quick turnaround time and your CP trial buddy gives you your chapter back in an hour, you may want to make sure that you both have the same expectations as far as turnaround times go.

    Having a quick or long turnaround time doesn’t necessarily make or break a CP relationship—the key is to make sure that you establish early on what the expectations are, and stick to the deadlines that you set.

  3. MS length. If your MS is 60,000 words and their MS is 150,000, that may be a good sign right from the get-go that you’ll want to swap with someone else. Your manuscripts don’t have to be the same exact length, of course, but ideally you want them to be comparable, so that one CP isn’t stuck with twice as much work as the other.

  4. Do you like their MS? When doing CP trials, you’re not only trying to determine whether they can help you—you want to make sure that you can help them. If you find that you didn’t really enjoy the first chapter that your CP trial buddy sent you, then now may be the time to bow out. Because the truth is, if you don’t enjoy your CP’s MS on some level, it’s going to be much more difficult for you to give them a balanced critique—and it’ll make the process much less enjoyable on your end.

  5. Balance. A good CP relationship is about balance. Ideally, you should be at about the same stage of your writing ability and experience. Your WIPs, expectations, and ability to give feedback should be similar. When you find someone who fits that right balance for you, you know you’ve found yourself a great CP match. 

What do you look for when choosing CPs? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Looking for CPs? Here are 5 signs to look to help determine whether or not you're a good match. (Click to tweet)
What do you look for when choosing CPs? Writer @Ava_Jae discusses 5 signs that you'll be a good match. (Click to tweet

Write What Scares You

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Late last spring, I came up with an idea for a new book. It was an ambitious idea, different from anything I’d written in a long time, and required a lot of world-building. As in, an entirely new planet, species and language, kind of world-building. 

I’ll admit, it intimidated me. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. But I liked the idea, and I had a feeling that I may even be able to love the idea if I dove in headfirst, and after plotting it, I knew that if I somehow managed to pull it off, it might even be good. 

So I started writing. Tentatively, at first. I called it an experiment and tested the waters and told myself that if it didn’t work out, it was fine. It was just testing an idea. 

When I hit 10,000 words, I knew I had to make a commitment. This wasn’t just a little experiment anymore—if I continued down this road and fully committed myself to the project, I could have a completed draft in a matter of weeks. 

It still scared me. I still worried that I wouldn’t do the story justice, that I’d lose interest or confidence in the story halfway through. I hated the idea that I may hit 20 or 30k and realize it was wrong, as I had done with an ambitious project in the past

But despite my nervousness, I made it official and told Twitter I was working on an actual WIP. Which made it official to me, at least. 

Now several months and drafts later, I’m starting to think this WIP may be the best MS I’ve ever written. I love the story, the characters, the world that I was terrified to create. I love the plot, every jerk character or snarky line, you guys, I’m a tad bit obsessed with this WIP. And I love it. 

But had I allowed my fear to stop me from writing it to begin with, had I given in to the voice that whispered it won’t be good enough, I never would have fallen in love with my new characters and world. I would have missed out on several weeks of absolute joy while first drafting and revising. 

I’m not saying this MS is going to be The One—I have no idea what will happen from here. But regardless of what does or doesn’t happen with this WIP, I am so grateful for the experience. And even if the only ones who ever read it are my CPs, I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

I’d heard writers say you should write what scares you, and it always seemed like a nice idea. But now that I’ve experienced it myself, I can tell you with absolute confidence that the fear is worth it. Acknowledge it, accept that your project makes you a little nervous, then write it anyway. 

Because at the end of the road, when you’ve conquered your fear and have a shiny new WIP to boot, the feeling of accomplishment and wonder makes it all worth it. 

Are you or have you ever written something that scared you? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Don't let fear paralyze your words. Writing what scares you might just lead to your best work yet. (Click to tweet
Have you ever written something that scared you? Writer @Ava_Jae shares her experience with fear and writing. (Click to tweet)

4 Ways to Improve Your Writing

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As writers, we are always looking to improve (or at least, we should be). Like many skills, writing is not a craft that you ever master—there is always more to learn and more ways to improve. 

Most writing resources and blogs (including this one) will tell you the number one way to improve your writing is to write—which is true. You cannot improve your writing if you don’t practice and take the lessons you learn along the way and incorporate them into your words. 

But rather than writing another post about the importance of writing, I’d like to discuss some other ways for writers to improve their skills.  

  1. Pay attention to your surroundings. Whether you’re washing the dishes, taking a walk in the park or stuck in parking-lot-like rush hour traffic, paying attention to our experiences is the first step to conveying a sense of verisimilitude (or realism) in our writing. I’m sure you have all at one point or another come across a passage while reading and thought yes, that’s exactly what that’s like! While those moments can feel like magic, they don’t come to the author through spontaneous inspiration—they begin by paying attention to our experiences so that we can accurately convey them on the page. 

  2. Critique as much as possible. You wouldn’t think that critiquing others makes you a better writer, but it truly does. I’ve written in length about this before, so I won’t go into it in detail, but in short, forcing yourself to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t in other people’s work makes it easier to then recognize the same patterns in your own work, particularly when editing. 

  3. Read widely and often. Stephen King said it best: “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” I’ve written about this before as well, but it’s worth saying again: writers MUST read in order to improve.   

  4. Take note of what you like/dislike while reading. I don’t mean that you literally have to write things down (although that doesn’t hurt), but while you’re reading it’s good to pay attention to what you like and what you don’t like. Was that description particularly evocative? What was it about it that really engaged you? Did that chapter feel as if it dragged? Why do you think that was the case? Reading actively is a great way to learn different techniques and writing nuances than you can then incorporate into your own work. 
Other than writing, what methods would you add to the list? 

Twitter-sized bites: 

Writers are always looking for ways to improve their craft. Have you tried these four methods? (Click to tweet)  
What do you do to improve your writing? Writer @Ava_Jae discusses four ways to help improve your craft. (Click to tweet

Book Beginnings: Where to Start?

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I’ve been doing a lot of editing and critiquing lately. Between working on my WIP, reading for CPs and being semi completely addicted to Write on Con’s critique boards, I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve spent several days switching between several forms of critiquing and editing. 

I’m not complaining—I love it. But because of that, I’ve read a fair share of opening scenes lately that reminded me of the importance of starting your novel in the right place. 

Deciding where to start your book can be a difficult task. Oftentimes, new writers especially will fall into the trap of starting their novels too early, dumping a load of backstory at the beginning before the action starts. While this can be useful for first drafts to help the writer understand more about the story, when it comes to revised drafts for the readers, it’s often necessary to cut the backstory and weave it throughout the prose. 

The key to starting your novel in the right place is to start the first scene right at the cusp of where the story begins. 

That may sound obvious, but it actually requires you to think about where your story starts. Usually, and most effectively, this is right before the inciting incident—that is, the event that changes the course of your protagonist’s life. 

Let’s take a look at a few published novels and analyze where their respective authors began their stories: 

Inciting Incident: When Alina’s convoy is attacked in The Fold, she unwittingly awakens a dormant power that she never knew she had.  
Where the story starts: Alina and the convoy are about to enter The Fold. 
Inciting Incident: Katniss’s sister is chosen during The Reaping to enter The Hunger Games, so Katniss takes her place to save her life.  
Where the story starts: Her last hunting expedition just before The Reaping. 
Inciting Incident: Hazel meets Augustus Waters, the boy who turns her life upside down (in a good way).  
Where the story starts: At the Cancer Support Group, just before Hazel meets Augustus. 
I think the pattern here is pretty clear. 

Identifying the right place to start your novel is easier than you might think—once you’ve established your inciting incident, all you need to determine is where to start that gives your readers just enough information about your character and their surroundings to care when the incident arrives. 

Because just at the moment when your readers begin to connect to your characters is when you want to throw your characters into the event that will change everything for them. 

How do you determine where to start your story? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Does your novel start in the right place? Writer @Ava_Jae discusses how to determine a good place to begin. (Click to tweet) 
The right book beginning is key to hooking your readers. Did you start your novel in the right place? (Click to tweet)

Public Critiques: Terrifying and Totally Worth It

Photo credit: Peter Alfred Hess on Flickr
With Write on Con gearing up for their annual online writer’s conference (August 13-14), the critique forums have recently opened. This is a great opportunity for PB, MG, YA and NA writers to get their queries, first 250 words and/or first five pages critiqued, as well as a chance for writers of all genres and categories to practice their critiquing skills

I’ll be the first to admit that for the longest time, I found public critiques enormously intimidating. For years I glanced at forums and online critiques, but I never dared to submit my writing. Truth be told, I was terrified to post my work publicly, only to have it torn apart for all to see. And let’s be honest, it sounds pretty scary. 

But last winter I finally participated in a public critique session, and to my surprise, I loved it. 

The thing is, getting your work critiqued is always scary. Invariably, it stings, and sometimes it makes you want to hide your work in a hole where no one will ever see it again. But receiving and utilizing critiques is the fastest way I know to improve not only the critiqued work, but your level of skill in the craft of writing. 

That being said, public critiques can seem even more terrifying because you’re not just asking one person to tear your work apart—you’re opening it up for anyone who is willing to take the time to point out the flaws in your work. And it’s a little scary, yes, until you consider that you’re all in this together. Every person who critiques your work is looking for a critique as well (and if they critique your work, it’s good etiquette to take the time to critique their entries as well). Everyone is there to learn, and no one is perfect. 

The one downside of public critiques is that sometimes you’ll get conflicting advice—one person will say they love your first line and someone else will say to get rid of it, etc. But every time you show your work to more than one person, there’s a chance that you’ll receive conflicting advice—it’s a hazard of critiquing. In the end, it comes down to you deciding what’s best for your writing. 

I definitely recommend public critiques to writers of all stages. It’s a fantastic learning experience for all involved, and as a very nice bonus, you’ll end up with much stronger work by the end of it. 

Have you ever participated in a public critique? What was your experience like? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Have you ever participated in a public critique? Here's why one writer swears by them. (Click to tweet
Public critiques may be terrifying, but writer @Ava_Jae believes they're more than worth it. And here's why. (Click to tweet)

Critique Giveaway Winner!

Photo credit: Eva Blue on Flickr
Short post today. 

First and foremost, I’d like to thank all of you who entered for making the giveaway a success! We had over 250 entries, which is very exciting (at least, to me), and it was pretty fantastic to see how many people were psyched about the giveaway. So thank you! 

Now for the news that you really came here for. 

Are you ready? I don’t think you’re ready. 


I’m really not very good at dragging these things out. 

The winner is…


Yay! Congratulations, Jen! I’ll e-mail you shortly with details about your prize. 

To all other who entered, there is good news! Because this giveaway was such a success, I’ve decided to do more giveaways like this in the future. So yay! Keep a weather eye out. Or ear out. Or something. 

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and thanks again for supporting Writability and being amazing! 
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