Friday, May 3, 2013

Six Steps to a Superior Story

Here's my list to improve our fiction.

  1. Visit with the characters.

                Get acquainted with them like we would a new friend.  Ask them questions.

                        What is your greatest fear?

                        Have you lived here long?

                        Any children?

               Listen to what music they turn on in the car?

               Visit their home and comment on pictures.

               Get to know them so well that we can guess how they will react in a situation.


  1. Turn off our internal editor when we write.

          After coming up with plot points plus a black moment, we might want to do a chapter by chapter outline. That depends on whether we're a plotter or a pantser, but either way, when you’re ready to write, turn off your internal editor and start writing with few interruptions and no stopping to make it better..

         Mark any spots where research is needed to make it real.

         Disregard wording, grammar, or spelling.

         Let the writing flow

        **editing comes after the rough draft**

        **research comes after the rough draft**

        **rethinking comes after the rough draft**

 (This obviously is for contemporary fiction. Historicals require a certain amount of research before  you can begin.)

     3. Utilize a simple storyboard

Make a poster with a square for every chapter of our book. Put the main plot lines on different color sticky notes. Put the appropriate color or colors in each square. Then, at a glance, we can see which plot line needs more attention. 

Get a new set of sticky notes (different colors than the first) Put 2-3 things that weave through the book such as a foreshadowing, a symbol, a subplot. Spot them throughout the storyboard making sure the thread shows up three or more times in our book. Otherwise, delete it.

Find more elaboration on this simple storyboarding technique at:

4.      Check the first three chapters.. If you find more than twenty words of  backstory,  delete
it or work it in three-quarters through the book.

5.      Read through the turning points in our story to see where our character grows. They do
grow, do they not? Our characters change their viewpoint and their actions because of the trials they face. Think how we can make that trial or conflict worse?

       Write ten things that can happen that are worse. Use number nine or ten. The writer/editor in us seems to go for easier first and more creative later.


6.      Even if we've read it a hundred times, reread Writing  the Breakout Novel workbook one more
time before we finish our rewrite. Using our manuscript, choose a blank sheet of paper and
answer every question Donald Maass asks. Again, choose our later thoughts instead of earlier,
more lazy ones.

These six steps will ramp up the interest and make our fiction more than good. These six steps will cause our words to capture and imprison the reader's attention. These six steps will make our story superior. Isn't that what we're trying to do?
#writing #4RV #books #storyboard #Maass #characters #backstory #editing #conflict #publishing #fiction     


  1. Janet,
    I'm presently editing a picture book manuscript and I plan to follow these tips. Thank you very much for sharing them. I know they'll be helpful.

  2. For some people these steps work very well; for other people, they don't. For example, not everyone can outline and write fiction. Tony Hillerman stated that outlining stopped all creativity for him. Some people can't write without an outline. I'm not one who can outline and write fiction.

  3. Thanks for your comments. Anyone else have feedback? What works for you?

  4. Great insights, Janet. Thanks for a wonderful article. This one goes on my bulletin board.

  5. Thank you, Ginger. Your words mean a lot to me.

  6. Dear Janet,
    I love your storyboard ideas. Very simple, efficient, and effective in helping to get the story jam-packed full of neat ideas.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Celebrate you.
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

  7. I like the storyboard idea too. And I'm going to have to pull out my copy of Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook and take another look. :-)

  8. Great tips, Janet. I've written with an outline and without and actually prefer the panster method. The story creates itself. Although, when retelling a old tale, having a GPS for the story works well too.