Writing Advice

Take Your World-Building to the Next Level

By Michaela Whatnall


World-building is an essential part of writing any novel, be it fantasy, sci-fi, or even realistic fiction. The world which your characters inhabit must come alive for the reader in order to be believable and compelling. And it’s clear when a novel has succeeded in creating a living, breathing world—how many times have you heard someone wish they could live at Hogwarts?


So you’ve done the basics—you’ve developed a world for your characters and story to inhabit, filled with its own rules and unique details. But how do you make sure the world will exist vividly for the reader? How do you take it a step further to ensure yours is a world your reader will feel they know intimately?


While this post will be focusing on world-building in fantasy and sci-fi novels, world-building is equally important for realistic fiction or any other genre. What makes your world unique, be it the dragons that lurk in the mountains or the wacky neighbors who populate your main character’s street, is what is going to bring your story to life.


Take a look at these five tips for taking your world to the next level.

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Be Brave & Write Inclusively: A Resource List

On Sunday, May 1, I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop at GrubStreet’s Muse & the Marketplace conference. Here’s a snippet of what it was about:


“Character” refers to the people in your book and keeping them real in word, deed, and circumstance.  But “character” also refers to the need for the writer to exhibit true character in the crafting of the stories s/he tells. Attendees will explore how to write through fear and with empathy and compassion to tell the stories that are either not told enough or not told at all. This requires risk-taking and a bit of bravery, especially in our highly-charged political environment. Come prepared for a frank and generative discussion.

Of course, with this description, some attendees were a little surprised when my talk focused almost entirely on writing diverse characters. I’m happy to say that I didn’t lose very many listeners after the first five minutes and, even better, everyone in the room participated throughout the talk and after during the 30-minute discussion session.


Note that I did not say 30-minute Q&A. I’ve done my fair share of programming, especially around talking about diversity in children’s literature, and I’ve found that opening up avenues for attendees to not only speak with the presenter on the same level, but also communicate openly with their fellow writers (or agents, marketers, editors, librarians, etc.) is imperative to generative conversations. Everyone should feel heard and be able to contribute their knowledge and experiences.


After the workshop, which ended exactly on time (thank you very much), I promised attendees that I would share the many resources I used to create my presentation. Of course, I want these resources to go beyond the conference attendees so…eat your heart out, readers! And a huge thank you goes out to Michaela Whatnall, one of my amazing spring interns who did a lot of digging and compiling to make these resources shareable.

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Caution: Speed Bumps Ahead

By Hannah Andrade


As a resident of San Diego, I dislike anything that slows my rate of travel. Traffic is a blight to the sunny beaches and, when the roads are clear, I take full advantage. Anything that causes me to press the brake pedal are irritants. Pot holes fall into this category, as do speed bumps.


Not only do speed bumps occur in inconvenient places but they require me slowing to a crawl so that the bottom of my car won’t scrape the asphalt. They are an interruption to my drive, a disruption to the rhythm of my journey.


Unfortunately, speed bumps are not limited to the road. They pop up in novels, used as a tool to create suspense. Writers equate suspense with anything that slows the journey to the story’s climax. As we saw in a previous article, this is not the case.

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Treating Your Setting as a Character

By Laura Nsafou


In the long discussion of diversity in literature, the focus is on the characters and their unique perspectives. Many writers pay so much attention to the personas within their story that they end up neglecting one of the biggest indicators of diversity. Diversity is reduced to merely the personal background of a character and not the place where they live. The location of your story is just as important as the characters within it.

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Make Every Word Count

How to Tighten Your Manuscript

By Michaela Whatnall


Revision comes with many challenges, but there is one that can be particularly hard to face—cutting down your manuscript. As a writer, you’ve spent months, maybe years, getting your words onto the page, only now to be faced with the task of removing many of them. Tightening your novel, however, is one of the most important steps in creating a finished work.


Every scene, every paragraph, every sentence should be working towards a purpose. Otherwise, the prose will drag, and no matter how good the story, readers will get bored. The process of cutting down may seem intimidating, but by being aware of common types of filler, you can tackle the job and bring your novel to the next level. Naomi Musch conceives of cutting filler as “trimming the fat” in her article Why You Must Trim the Fat in Your Novel, What it Means, and How to Do It. Think of your story as meat your readers want to devour; in order to give them the best reading experience possible, you need to cut away the fat to get at what your story is really made of.


There are many levels on which to approach the issue of cutting filler from a novel. Entire chapters, characters, and plot points may be cut, or your focus could be on tightening wordy sentences. In this post, we’ll concentrate on how to make cuts to scenes and paragraphs.


So, how do you identify sections that need to go?

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