“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

— Natalie Goldberg

When was the last time a book changed you? What stories have made you think, cry, fall in love, feel uncomfortable, left you in a state of awe or despair?

Pouring our deepest feelings into stories allows us to connect with other people across time and space. And in writing with emotional honesty, we better understand ourselves.

As much as I’ve internalized inspirational messages like “write the book you want to read” and “believe in your writing,” I still procrastinate and feel down about the quantity and quality of my stories. Change is easier said than done.

But on rare occasions, I’ll find a piece of writing advice that triggers a metamorphosis. My entire mindset shifts, and I become an altogether different type of writer, behaving in ways I had never attempted before.

These are the three pieces of writing advice that changed my life.

1. Aim for Rejection

In 2017, I started seriously submitting my writing to professional publications. That…

When I was asked to be a judge for the Page Turner Awards, the contest almost sounded too good to be true. The prizes were bigger and more numerous than normal writing contest fare: publishing contracts, audiobook productions, film rights options, and writing mentorships. But after scouring their website and watching the heartwarming video interviews with past winners, I was quickly won over by the organization’s genuine compassion for writers.

The judges are paid in good feelings, so the sole reason I’m passionate about promoting the Page Turner Awards is because it’s such an excellent opportunity for writers to be…

Trunk stories are novels or short stories you’ve had to bury because — for whatever reason — they feel lifeless. Here, I’ll explore tips and tricks for sensing when a story deserves to bite the dust or be reanimated with fresh parts.

“Trunk stories are stories you know aren’t good. Stories that don’t quite work and you can’t seem to fix. Stories you no longer believe in. Stories that taught you something valuable about the writing process but have no outer redeeming value.” — Alex Acks

A Personal Anecdote

There’s no such thing as a perfectly plotted book. In any story, you’re bound to find plot holes, flawed character logic, and boring scenes. Plus, it’s just not possible to please every reader. When you’re constructing your plot, take some of that pressure off of yourself and focus on telling a story that makes you excited to share it with the world.

To create that confidence in your work, you can avoid these four common plotting pitfalls I’ve encountered as a developmental editor, reader, and writer.

1. Lack of personal stakes

If you’re a writer, you’re probably familiar with struggling to convey your ideas through words alone and screaming your creative aspirations into the void of an uncaring universe. Feelings like this are common enough to have colloquial terms within the writing community — and if you name something, you gain power over it.

Let’s take a look at some writer problems and how to handle them.

Imposter Syndrome

Writers must strike the right balance between rich details that will immerse readers in the story and excessive descriptions that will put the audience to sleep. Overwritten prose can weigh readers down with too much verbiage. Underwritten prose might not allow the reader to fully visualize and experience the story.

Most writers lean more one way than the other, but your style might vary depending on the type of information you’re trying to convey or your intentions for a particular project. You might tend to overwrite setting descriptions and underwrite dialogue, or vice versa. …

Music is memory. We all have songs that transport us back to a particular time and place — or a particular person. When I hear “Fireflies” by Owl City, a spark of freedom ignites in me as I imagine my sixteen-year-old self driving to school on a frosty, dark morning in my banged-up Ford Taurus, chasing the possibilities ahead of me like so many fireflies.

My life is mapped out in music notes. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses sends me to a muddy field near my middle school, where I’m trudging across with a baguette in hand…

How would you take revenge against your greatest enemy? Or perhaps “enemy” is too strong a word, and it’s someone who’s just so annoying that you’d like to see them…disappear.

In one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous stories, “The Cask of Amontillado,” the author inhabits the mind of a monstrous man bent on vengeance. I’ve read this story many, many times, and I notice something new with each reading. You can listen to my narration of the story, or read a text version.

At the time of writing this story, Poe had a feud with fellow author Thomas Dunn…

When I see someone’s nose stuck in a book, I get nosy myself. I squint and crane my neck, casting surreptitious glances across the restaurant or hallway because I just have to know what they’re reading (God forbid I actually strike up a conversation).

I don’t entirely understand what drives that curiosity. Perhaps it feels like knowing their reading tastes will give me insight into who they are — an odd sort of bond between two strangers. …

Diane Callahan

Fiction writer and editor, a.k.a. YouTuber Quotidian Writer. www.quotidianwriter.com

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