Writing Tips

I run an award-winning writing tip blog at SeptemberCFawkes.com. I also serve as a writing coach on WritersHelpingWriters.net (home of the Emotion Thesaurus).

Below is an archive of sorts of my writing tips, organized by topic, along with a couple articles I refer writers to.

Beginning

Story Structure Explained: Prologues, Hooks, Setups, Inciting Incidents

The Hero's Journey Explained: The Beginning

Coming up with a Good First Sentence

Tips on Starting a Story

How to Start Writing When You Have No Idea Where to Start

The Weight of Words

How to Stand Out in the Slush Pile 101

Look Forward, Not Backward, to Pull the Reader In 

How to Write Stakes in Storytelling

Believability

Inconceivable! Dealing with Problems of Unbelievability

Dealing with Dumb Ideas--Placeholders, Building Blocks, and Portrayals

Validating the Reader

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Only One Impossibility"

Brainstorming

The REAL Key to Brainstorming: Restrictions

Flipping Story Stuff

Stacking Your Brainstorming Ideas

Coming up with a Plot (from scratch)

How to Come up with Great Titles

Dealing with Dumb Ideas--Placeholders, Building Blocks, and Portrayals

Brainstorm Your Antagonist's Plotline Earlier

How to Add Dimension to Your Story's Theme

Obligatory Scenes and Conventions

Breaking Writing Rules

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Show, don't Tell"

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Don't Use 'Was'"

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Don't Use Adverbs, Adjectives"

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Only Use 'Said'"

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Don't Use Filter Words"

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Don't Use Passive Voice"

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Don't Use Flashbacks"

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Write What You Know"

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Only One Impossibility"

Hiding What the Main Character Knows from the Reader

Can You Write to a Theme?

How to Use the Thesaurus Properly

When and How to Weaken a Passage

Characters

Complex Characters and the Power of Contradiction

Dramatica's Character Archetypes

Making Unlikeable People into Likeable Characters

Character Traits that Hike Up Tension

Creating Stunning Side Characters (and Why They Matter)

Relationship as a Character: Crafting Duos, Trios, Groups that Readers can't Resist

Pairing Behaviors with Odd Demeanors for Originality

"The Emotional Range of a Teaspoon": Your Characters' Spectrum of Emotions

Considering the Irrationality of Your Characters

How to Pick the Right Character Names

Fixing the Mary Sue Character in Your Story

Making Characters Stuck in the Background Pop Out

The "Twins as Clones" Writing Epidemic

The Passive Value Heroine

Writing Extreme Characteristics

Never Confuse Characterization for Character

What You Need to Know Most About Character Voice

10 Methods to Make Your Characters Likeable

How to Write Excellent Introspection

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Don't Use Filter Words"

Crafting a Body Language Voice

Helps for Writing Children

3 Redemptive Character Types

Working with a Large Cast of Characters

Conflict

Coming up with a Plot (from scratch)

Are Your Conflicts Significant?

The Struggle is Real: Make Your Protagonist Suffer for Success!

Keeping Conflicts Unresolved

The Oft Forgotten Conflict and How to Make it Work: Man Vs. God

Context

Context, Text, and Subtext: What They Are and How They Help With Storytelling 

Context vs. Subtext (Context Should Not Become Subtext)

Making Strengths into Weaknesses (and Vice Versa) through Context

Validating the Reader

When to "Tell" Emotion

Description

Picking the RIGHT Details

Three Tweaks that Keep Details Interesting

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Don't Use Adverbs, Adjectives"

The Weight of Words

How to Handle Blocking

How to Use the Thesaurus Properly

Purple Prose: What it is, How it Works, How to get Rid of it

Back to Basics--Imagery 

When and How to Weaken a Passage 

Writing Food Scenes

When Descriptions Turn Boring . . . (And How to Fix Them) 

Dialogue

5 Most Common Mistakes with Dialogue

Writing Realistic and Complex Dialogue

Kicking "Great" Dialogue up to "Killer" Dialogue

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Only Use 'Said'"

Generic Dialogue—Staaaahp

(Don't) Tell Me How You Really Feel

How to Punctuate Dialogue

Writing Callbacks

Discovery Writing

Writing by Intuition

Discovery Writing: 2 Tripwires and a Pitfall

Discovery Writing and Outline Writing—Kinda the Same Thing Actually

Editing

6 Things I've Learned as a Professional Editor

How to Get a Job as an Editor

Help! I'm Stuck on a Story and I Can't Move on!

Dealing with Dumb Ideas--Placeholders, Building Blocks, and Portrayals

How I Write an Editorial or Critique Letter

Making Your Manuscript Reader-friendly 

7 Tricks to Refresh a Scene You've Edited 68345.27 Times 

100+ Questions to Help Evaluate Your Manuscript

Visions and Impressions 

 
Emotion

Writing Empathetically vs. Sympathetically and Sentimentally

Let Your Reader do the Work

Raw vs. Subdued Emotions: Getting them Right in Your Story

"The Emotional Range of a Teaspoon": Your Characters' Spectrum of Emotions

Gaining Incredible Emotional Power by Crossing Opposites

Choosing Relatable Descriptions to Power up Empathy

Selecting the Right Sentence Structure for the Right Emotion

Dealing with Melodrama: What it is, How it Works, and How to Get Rid of it

The Most Important Part of Sequels and Retellings

The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

When to "Tell" Emotion

Ending

How to Write Exceptional Endings

Story Structure Explained: Climax, Denouement, Epilogues, and Endings

The Hero's Journey Explained: The End

Epilogue

Story Structure Explained: Climax, Denouement, Epilogues, and Endings

Feedback

The Real Reason You NEED to Give Positive Feedback!

Feeding us Criticism

100+ Questions to Help Evaluate Your Manuscript

Flashbacks

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Don't Use Flashbacks"

 
Foils

Playing with Foils

Grammar and Punctuation

Dangling Modifiers and How to Correct Them (Purdue OWL)

How to Punctuate Dialogue

How to Use an Ellipsis Properly

How to Use a Dash—in Fiction Writing

The Easiest Explanation of Semicolons ;) 

How to Use a Dash—in Fiction Writing 

Hooks

5 Tricks that Help with Hooks

Look Forward, Not Backward, to Pull the Reader In 

Story Structure Explained: Prologues, Hooks, Setups, Inciting Incidents

How to Write Stakes in Storytelling

Reeling Readers in via Curiosity

When to "Tell" Emotion

Humor

15+ Tactics for Writing Humor

Guardians of the Galaxy and the Art of Constructing Jokes (Film Cit Hulk Smash)

Info-Dump
How to Dump Info without Info-Dumping (Shallee McArthur)
 
Lifestyle

How to Write When You Don't Have Time

Why Some People Don't Support Your Writing Goals

How to Deal with People Who Don't Support Your Writing

The Long Road

6 Skills Fiction Writing Will Give You

Accepting that You'll Disappoint Readers

A Toast to the Closet Writers

On Talent and Success

What Does it Mean to Be Gifted?

How Seriously Should You Take Writing?

The Benefits of a To-Do List

Dealing with Loneliness

Taking Risks as Part of the Creative Lifestyle

 
Micro-Concepts

Writing Micro-concepts

Middles

Story Structure Explained: Pinch Points, Midpoints, Plot Points, and Middles

Story Structure Explained: Pinch Points, Midpoints, Plot Points, and Middles, con't

Mastering Midpoints (The Saviors of Saggy Story Middles)

The Hero's Journey Explained: The Middle

Mystery

The Mechanics of Rendering Mysteries and Undercurrents—How to Withhold Info Right

The Secret of a Successful Mystery: Making the Reader a Participator

Hiding What the Main Character Knows from the Reader

 

Originality

"Everything Has Already Been Done Before"—Has it Really?

Obligatory Scenes and Conventions

​​Outlining

What to Outline When Starting a Story

How to Outline When Starting a Story

On-Page or Off-Page? Discerning Significant Scenes

What to Do When You Write Yourself Into a Corner

Discovery Writing and Outline Writing—Kinda the Same Thing Actually

Pacing

8 Common Pacing Problems

How Structure Affects Pacing

5 Tricks that Help with Hooks

Look Forward, Not Backward, to Pull the Reader In 

How to Write Stakes in Storytelling

Plot and Structure

Skyscraping Costs

Ramping up Try/Fail Cycles

What to Outline When Starting a Story

Coming up with a Plot (from scratch)

5 Types of Surprises

The Story Shape that Permeates Just About Everything

What to Do When You Write Yourself Into a Corner

Dealing with Dumb Ideas--Placeholders, Building Blocks, and Portrayals

Story Structure Explained: Prologues, Hooks, Setups, Inciting Incidents

Story Structure Explained: Pinch Points, Midpoints, Plot Points, and Middles

Story Structure Explained: Pinch Points, Midpoints, Plot Points, and Middles, con't

Story Structure Explained: Climax, Denouement, Epilogues, and Endings

Scene vs. Sequence vs. Act

Obligatory Scenes and Conventions

The Hero's Journey Explained: The Beginning

The Hero's Journey Explained: The Middle

The Hero's Journey Explained: The End

Point of View

Pros and Cons and Types of Third Person

Pros and Cons of First Person, How to Deflate the Cons

Picking the Right Viewpoint Character for Your Scene

Point of View Penetration

Minor Viewpoint Errors

How to Write Excellent Introspection

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Don't Use Filter Words"  

Publishing

How to Publish Yearly

Traditional Publishing: Short Stories and Poetry

Traditional Publishing: What it is, How it Works, and How to Do it

Self-Publishing: What it is, Who it's For, And How it Works

How to Stand Out in the Slush Pile 101

Prologue

How Prologues Actually Function & 6 Types

Working with Teasers

Story Structure Explained: Prologues, Hooks, Setups, Inciting Incidents

 
Profanity

Writing with #$@%&* Profanity

Reader's Experience

Validating the Reader

Deviating the Reader's Experience from the Character's

When to "Tell" Emotion

Hiding What the Main Character Knows from the Reader

Inconceivable! Dealing with Problems of Unbelievability

How to Dump Info without Info-Dumping (Shallee McArthur)

Validating the Reader's Concerns

The Most Important Part of Sequels and Retellings

Working with a Large Cast of Characters

When Descriptions Turn Boring . . . (And How to Fix Them) 

Look Forward, Not Backward, to Pull the Reader In 

Making Your Manuscript Reader-friendly 

100+ Questions to Help Evaluate Your Manuscript

Visions and Impressions 

Relationships

Writing Relationships Readers Can't Resist: Crafting Duos, Trios, Groups

How to Convey an Established Relationship Quickly

 
Setting

5 Most Common Mistakes with Setting

Maximizing or Minimizing Your Setting

How to Handle Blocking

Appealing to Wonder Powerfully in the Modern Age

Writing Food Scenes

Sequels

The Most Important Part of Sequels and Retellings

Scenes

Scene vs. Sequence vs. Act

Starting a Scene: Two Important Questions

Leaving Your Stamp on a Scene

On-Page or Off-Page? Discerning Significant Scenes

Structuring Satisfying Scenes

Creating Mini Character Arcs Within a Scene

The Story Shape that Permeates Just About Everything

Writing Food Scenes

Obligatory Scenes and Conventions

Shock/Dark Content

The Value of Shock

Why We Need Stories about Dark Things

Writing What's Evil >:D (without Promoting it)

Showing

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Show, don't Tell"

Back to Basics--Imagery 

Stakes

How to Write Stakes in Storytelling

Skyscraping Costs

Ramping up Try/Fail Cycles

Empty Threats

Story Structure Explained: Pinch Points, Midpoints, Plot Points, and Middles

Story Structure Explained: Pinch Points, Midpoints, Plot Points, and Middles, con't

Style

Purple Prose: What it is, How it Works, How to get Rid of it

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Don't Use Adverbs, Adjectives"

Back to Basics--Imagery 

Structuring Events in the Correct Sequence

Please Don't Write this Sentence in Your Opening

Boom! Bang! Pow! Using Onomatopoeias Well

Wordiness

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Don't Use Passive Voice"

Minor Viewpoint Errors

The Weight of Words

How to Write Excellent Introspection

How to Use the Thesaurus Properly

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Don't Use Filter Words"

5 Tricks that Help with Hooks

How Structure Affects Pacing

How Often Should I "Refresh" a Pronoun? 

When and How to Weaken a Passage 

Fluttering 

When Descriptions Turn Boring . . . (And How to Fix Them) 

Subtext

How to Write What's Not Written (Subtext)

Context vs. Subtext (Context Should Not Become Subtext)

Context, Text, and Subtext: What They Are and How They Help With Storytelling 

Undercurrent vs. Subtext vs. Theme

Surprise

Surprise vs. Suspense--Which is Better?

5 Types of Surprises

Suspense

Surprise vs. Suspense--Which is Better?

Teasers

Working with Teasers

Telling

10 Cheats to "Tell" Well

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Show, don't Tell"

When to "Tell" Emotion

Temptations

Rendering Temptations

Tension

Tension vs. Conflict (Hint: They aren't the Same Thing)

Mastering Stylistic Tension

5 Tricks that Help with Hooks

Look Forward, Not Backward, to Pull the Reader In 

How to Write Stakes in Storytelling

Accidentally Undercutting Tension (and How to Stop) 

 
Text

Context, Text, and Subtext: What They Are and How They Help With Storytelling 

 
Theme

How to Write Your Story's Theme

How Theme and False Theme Affect Your Protagonist (Amanda Rawson Hill)

2 Types of Truth in Fiction: Do You Know Which One You are Telling?

Why We Need Stories about Dark Things

Can You Write to a Theme? 

Preach vs. Teach

How to Add Dimension to Your Story's Theme

Titles

How to Come up with Great Titles

Tone

Exactly How to Create and Control Tone

Undercurrents

The Mechanics of Rendering Mysteries and Undercurrents—How to Withhold Info Right

Crafting a Killer Undercurrent for Your Story

Please Don't Write this Sentence in Your Opening

5 Types of Surprises

Undercurrent vs. Subtext vs. Theme

 
Vague Writing

Vague Vs. Ambiguous: Which are You Writing?

How to Handle Blocking

Visions and Impressions 

Voice

What You Need to Know Most About Character Voice

Crafting a Body Language Voice

Well-being

The Long Road

Drawing out the Dragons

6 Skills Fiction Writing Will Give You

Accepting that You'll Disappoint Readers

To the Unpublished Writer: You're Doing Okay.

When to Stop Being a Beginner

Tips for Writing Motivation

A Toast to the Closet Writers

On Talent and Success

What Does it Mean to Be Gifted?

Why Some People Don't Support Your Writing Goals

How to Deal with People Who Don't Support Your Writing

How Seriously Should You Take Writing

Dealing with Loneliness

Help! I'm Stuck on a Story and I Can't Move on!

Taking Risks as Part of the Creative Lifestyle

Lessons on Failure: Kingdom of the Sun 

 
Worldbuilding

Creating Fictional Species and Societies

Tips on Creating Your Own Fantastic Beasts

Sanderson's 3 Laws of Magic Systems

Writing (Magical) Items: Weapons, Attire, Potions,Tools, Steeds

Appealing to Wonder Powerfully in the Modern Age

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Only One Impossibility"

Creating Fictional Languages (Conlangs) 

 
Writer's Block

Why We Get Writer's Block (and How to Overcome it)

How to Start Writing When You Have No Idea Where to Start

What to Do When You Write Yourself Into a Corner

Writing by Intuition

Dealing with Dumb Ideas--Placeholders, Building Blocks, and Portrayals

Writer's Block with Depression and Anxiety

Young Writers

Tips for Young, Aspiring Authors

Writing Advice for Middle-School Writers

© 2017 by September C. Fawkes

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