Robert McKee Answers “What Should I Ask Myself Before Writing a Story?”

Robert McKee, the guru of storytelling and author of Story, answers a writer’s question: “What questions should a writer ask herself prior to writing a story?

It’s a good question, but McKee provides a great answer, distilling the thousands of questions that swirl within a writer’s mind into possibly the single most important question to ask yourself before writing any story.

By |December 8th, 2015|Writing|0 Comments

Do You Know the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing?

5-editors-tackle-the-12 fatal flaws of fiction writingIf you don’t know the 12 fatal flaws of fiction writing, don’t worry. I didn’t either.

In fact, I’m willing to bet there are at least a dozen more (that I’m sure to discover in due time). But, as for the specific 12 fatal flaws of fiction writing I’m currently discussing, five fantastic editors cover them in a book that releases tomorrow, aptly titled 5 Editors Tackle The 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing.

Truth be told, I haven’t finished reading it, but gauging from the first three chapters, this is a book I’ll certainly finish before embarking upon my own great novel-writing adventure.

Better Fiction Writing

Of the half-dozen bookshelves in my house, one is solely occupied by books about the writing craft. 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing has earned a high spot on those shelves, and will be a recommended resource to the authors I work with and the writers I know.

C.S. Lakin, Linda S. Clare, Christy Distler, Robin Patchen, and Rachel Starr Thompson all present their own small essays regarding each of the 12 fatal flaws. In other words, that’s five editors’ suggestions on every fatal flaw. At first I thought this rather redundant (especially considering that the first chapter covers overwriting). But as I read through the chapter, I saw how each editor brings her own particular and useful insights to the topic at hand.

They also cover the flaws of:

  • Nothin’ happenin’
  • Weak construction
  • Too much backstory
  • POV violations
  • Telling instead of showing
  • Lack of pacing and tension
  • Flawed dialog construction
  • Underwriting
  • Description deficiencies and excesses
  • Pesky adverbs and ‘weasel words’
  • Flawed writing mechanics

Best of all, the editor-authors offer three utterly practical features throughout the book:

  1. Before and after examples that show how to effectively fix the fatal flaws.
  2. A checklist for each fatal flaw to help the reader-writer find these flaws in their own works.
  3. An example passage that allows the reader-writer to test themselves in discovering these fatal flaws, plus a suggested revision so that the reader-writer can see how closely their changes would have aligned with these editors’ changes.

5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing easily receives a five-star rating from me for its brevity, clarity, and practicality. If you want to get better at novel-writing, be sure to add 5 Editors to your writing library.

Disclaimer: I was offered a free advanced reader copy of 5 Editors from C.S. Lakin, on whose site I’ve previously guest posted: “Don’t Fear the Reaper: Why Writers Need Editors.”

By |November 30th, 2015|Self Publishing, Writing|0 Comments

About “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” My New Book on Editing

Don’t Fear the Reaper: Why Every Author Needs an Editor releases today.

For the next three days, it will be available for 99¢, so if you’re remotely interested in learning more about how an editor can help your book, I highly recommend purchasing it soon.

Don't Fear the Reaper: Why Every Author Needs an EditorThe book came about following a discussion with an online writing group of mine. They helped me to realize that this kind of book could be helpful to many authors who may be unsure about seeking out an editor’s help.

Personally, my favorite chapter is the last and longest one, “Unveiling Validation’s Hiding Place: How to Defeat Every Writer’s Nightmare.” I collected dozens of quotes from very well-known authors that ought to both challenge and inspire every author.

As for what the rest of the book holds, here’s the chapter breakdown:

  • Copyediting Essentials: What Is a Copyeditor and Why Exactly Do I Need One?
  • Your First Line of Defense: 10 Steps to Better Self-Editing
  • How to Make an Editor Love You: 10 Guidelines to Best Prep Your Book for Editing
  • How to Make an Editor Not Like You So Much: 7 Ways to Incite an Editor
  • Less than Ready: A Word of Warning about Undercooked Books
  • Unveiling Validation’s Hiding Place: How to Defeat Every Writer’s Nightmare
  • Afterword: 20 Must-Read Books on Writing and Publishing

An early version of the first chapter has already appeared online, and an earlier version of the second chapter will soon appear online as well, offering you ample opportunity to sample the book’s content.

I do plan to release a print version in the near future, but for now the book is only available for Kindle devices.

Guest Posts

Additionally, I’m fortunate to have a number of guest posts going up this week and over the next month. For instance, today I’m guest posting at Social Media Just For Writers, run by Frances Caballo, on How Hurry Kills Good Books, an adapted post from Chapter 5.

Share the Deal

I’d be greatly appreciative if you would consider sharing my book today through social media. Here’s a sample tweet:

Are you an author unsure of your next step? ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper: Why Every Author Needs an Editor’ is 99¢ today [Click to Tweet]

If you’re not a writer, consider directly sending this link ( to your writer friends.


Feel free to leave a comment if you have any particular questions about this book. Honestly, I’m nervous about its release, but it’s the kind of book I wish I would have had prior to releasing my own book, so I’m hopeful that it can help others like me.


By |December 1st, 2014|Self Publishing, Writing|0 Comments

Visual Writing Quotes: Harper Lee


“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” — Harper Lee

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

By |November 20th, 2014|Quotes, Writing|0 Comments

How (Not) to Respond to a Bad Book Review

How Not to Respond to a Bad Book Review on The Write LifeI’m writing at today on how not to respond to a bad book review.

I look at the plight of one Stephan J. Harper, an author whose defensive and self-justifying rants on a bad book review of his own work made him a minor Internet celebrity. I feel for the guy, because no one likes a bad review. But there are certain, shall we say, unwritten rules of etiquette when it comes to author/reviewer interactions, and Mr. Harper breaks every last one of them.

I share my own poor reviews as well. Fortunately, rather than causing me to question my existence, these reviews make me laugh today. Every writer, no matter their fame or ability, will garner a bad review.

How to Turn a Bad Book Review into Positive Action

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield gets to the heart of the matter and shares a lesson that all writers would do well to learn as early on as they can: “The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.”

So with this kind of dinner presented before us on a consistent basis, how can we effectively handle the inevitable? I close the post by offering “7 Non-Career-Destroying Ways to Deal with Bad Book Reviews,” all of which I’ve tried and all of which I’m sure I’ll be trying again with each new book.

I hope you’ll take some time and read the post, then leave your comment on that post about how you handle bad reviews.

Read “About to Respond to a Negative Review of Your Book? Read This First” at

By |October 29th, 2014|Guest Posts, Self Publishing, Writing|0 Comments