Category Archives: How To Build a Better Story

Your Novel Needs a Second Story

One of the keys of a successful novel is often the presence of two (sometimes more) major storylines. Unfortunately, as a book doctor/novel editor, I often see manuscripts-in-progress that are just too stingy in this regard. I recently read a review of a movie that addressed this very point. Reviewing the movie Warm Bodies, Mick… Read More »

The Cat Sat on the Mat – John le Carré on Plotting

John le Carré is the pen name of David John Moore Cornwell, the British author of espionage novels, including The Spy Who Came in from the Cold; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Russia House; The Tailor of Panama; The Constant Gardener, and many others. He worked briefly for British intelligence, MI5 and MI6, in the… Read More »

Are You a Plotter or a Plunger?

To plot or not to plot? My advice: It’s wise to make a plan before you embark on a long journey. (Especially for the crazy road trip known as NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, November’s annual caffeine-fueled, group-dare exercise soon to be undertaken yet again by thousands of avid writers.) You’ve heard, perhaps, the famous… Read More »

The Role of the Story’s Reader

It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear. —Italo Calvino (in the fictional voice of Marco Polo), in Invisible Cities Calvino is expressing something very important about stories. They do not live in the head or the voice of the teller (or the writer). Good stories are shared. A good… Read More »

6-Word Stories Aren’t Really Stories. Sorry, Mr. Hemingway.

Contrary to what some like to claim . . . 6-word “stories” aren’t really stories. Sorry. The myth began, I believe, with a blithe (and clearly inaccurate) statement by Ernest Hemingway that this 6-word “story” was possibly “his best prose ever”: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Okay, that’s interesting. It’s a concept. It’s a… Read More »