Saturday August 2

Articles (info on craft)

on May 31st, 2010 by Fiction Editor Beth Hill

This is a list of links to articles on writing—craft, technical issues, writing tips. These articles are typically longer than what you’d find on a blog page and since they’re already online at my Web site, I thought linking would be the best way to make the information available.

Check for updates to this page.

Article links will take you to A Novel Edit, my editing Web site. A link in the navigation bar there will return you to The Editor’s Blog.

Writing Scenes for Your Novel—Novels are a series of connected scenes. Scenes meaning characters performing actions in some location. Read about the importance of novel scenes.

Story-specific Words—Choose words that have meaning for your story. Words specific to the setting, character, tone, and genre.

A Novel Ending—The way you end you novel is as important as the way you begin it. Tips on how to leave your readers at the end of the story.

Writing for the Emotions—Don’t cheat your readers out of feeling as they read your work. The importance of writing for the emotions.

Show and Tell—Learn how to bring the reader into the story instead of holding him at a distance from the action and emotion.

Punctuation—Proper punctuation is vital for clear communication. And yes, writers need to know the rules, even if they plan to break them.

Writing with Impact and Depth—You can write with both impact and depth, creating notable characters and memorable plots. A look at cures for flat or boring writing.

Writing to Entertain—The purpose of a novel is to entertain. Writing is about more than the mechanics. Reminders of what readers are looking for in fiction and story.

17 Responses to “Articles (info on craft)”

  1. What a great site to find! I’ve been reading through the articles, and they are proving not only interesting, but very helpful. I knew I made the right decision when I finally joined the writing group on Facebook.
    Looking forward to more communication via our Facebook and here.

    Elizabeth K

  2. Elizabeth, I’m glad you found helpful information. I hope to see you often.

  3. Misti says:

    Hi Beth, What are the rules when using italics to emphasize certain words in a sentence. Example: She could not only hear his heart beat, but she could also feel it like it was her own. The emphasize would be on the word feel so I would put it in italics or do nothing to it for a manuscript. Also sound words such as Bang, tick, ting, etc. Do I or can I put those in Italics? Example: Bang! The loud sound echoed throughout the building.
    Thanks for all your help!

  4. Misti, if you want to emphasize a word, italics would be the correct choice. Yet I don’t see any reason to use italics for feel in this case—the contrast is clearly emphasized by the wording. And yes, do use italics for sound words. Check out options for italics and quotation marks in this article on Single Quotation Marks.

  5. Mist says:

    Right, thank you so much!

  6. Marie says:

    Hello Beth, I was wondering if you could please help me. I am using a known poem’s words in my manuscript. I’m not using the whole thing, only a few lines and was wondering if I needed to cite it within my manuscript. If so how would I go about doing that? Thank you so much.

  7. Marie, you’ve got two issues to consider when you use the words of another writer in your work—permission and acknowledgement. Please see this article on Plagiarism for more information.

    While you do need to cite sources for material not your own, you don’t need to cite those sources in the body of a novel.

    Acknowledgements are typically included in the front matter of a book—on the copyright page, in the preface, or on a separate acknowledgements page. Sometimes acknowledgements are included in back matter. (A publisher will have a preference.)

    Besides acknowledging sources, you may also need to secure permission to use text if it’s not in the public domain. Fair Use rules of copyright law can give you an idea of how much text you can use without having to require permission of copyright holders, but songs and poetry, because even one line is integral to the whole, are looked at differently. If a poem or song is still under copyright, you should seek permission to quote even a single line. Citing a source is not the same as securing permission—you need to do both for some uses of the works of others.

    Publishers can help you with these issues, but if you need to secure permissions, you could start trying to require them now, before you approach publishers.

    I hope that answers your question.

  8. Marie says:

    Thank you, this helped a lot. The poem I’m using is Edgar Allan Poe’s
    The Raven, which is in the public domain. I shouldn’t have any trouble with permission, right?

    By the way this blog is amazing!

    • Marie, I’m glad that the info helped. And I’m glad you find the blog amazing. I hope everyone finds it useful.

      For public domain works, you don’t need permission to quote from them. But you still need to cite your source. And you can’t fold the work into your text as if it’s your own. Anything that’s not your own needs to be cited as the work of someone else.

  9. Tom says:

    Hi Beth, thank you for your the Editor’s Blog and sharing your wisdom.

    I have a style question that is proving difficult to answer through web and blog searches: I have several scenes in my manuscript that are media broadcasts, e.g. a t.v. talk show. I want the reader to feel like they are experiencing the broadcast as if they were a character in the story. To that end, I have written the broadcast dialogue (host and guest) in italics, without quotes, dialogue tags, scene descriptions or host/guest reaction.

    These scenes are sprinkled throughout the novel, lasting about 1 or 2 pages. My wife thinks these passages are boring and read too much like a transcript. I am hoping the reader will feel like they are experiencing the broadcast, perhaps seeing a t.v. screen in their minds eye.

    What do you think….should I present these scenes in standard format with dialogue tags and character descriptions? Your guidance would be much appreciated!



  10. Tom, no matter the source of the material, you don’t want characters to simply talk, with no movement or response or thought or emotion. So whether we’re talking dialogue between two people at a bar, in an office, at a murder scene, or on a TV set, writers need to provide more than just the dialogue itself.

    Readers need to see movement and facial expressions and the ways characters hold their bodies. We need action beats. We need to see how characters react to the words of others. We need insight into their thoughts.

    If you only give readers straight dialogue, they won’t get enough. They won’t see or feel the scene. Instead it will be as if talking heads have taken over. Readers need motion and the visuals as well as the words.

    Also, who is the viewpoint character during these scenes? Is it one of the characters or is it someone or a variety of someones who watch these broadcasts? Some character should be responding to these broadcasts; otherwise, why show them? If they don’t spur a character to react, why are they part of the story?

    Beyond putting such scenes to work in multiple ways for plot, you also don’t want to bore the reader. Straight dialogue, with no explanation, can bore readers. They need more than just words without reaction.

    There might be one instance when such a scene could work, but I still wouldn’t include only dialogue; the talk show characters should move and react to one another—there’s no reason not to put them in motion. If a murderer or a detective or the like was watching the talk show to search for clues, you could show the murderer or detective watching, yet focus the reader on what’s taking place on the TV. You wouldn’t have to show the murderer or detective in action. And you could even make this work for different characters throughout the story.

    If you did something such as this, you’d want to make the TV scenes fairly short. And you’d still want to use dialogue tags and action beats and action. Straight dialogue doesn’t contain enough clues, can’t do enough on its own. And readers would be looking for something other than talk. You could show the talk show people moving, in the words of the character who’s watching them. That way the scene still gets the reaction of the viewpoint character, whoever that is. And readers will get tidbits about the personality of the viewpoint character, even if they don’t know who he is.

    However you ultimately approach this, keep in mind that scenes need a variety of elements to be successful. Since no single fiction element can convey everything that needs to be conveyed in a scene, a scene of only one element doesn’t work.

    Your wife’s reference to all dialogue sounding like a transcript is right on. Transcripts don’t provide all the details. In fiction, we need to include character actions and reactions.

    I hope this helps.

  11. Sina says:

    Hi Beth,
    I have a short form question for you. I use multiple 3rd person view for the script. It contains a lot of dialogue interleaved with descriptions and some thoughts of the respective main character of the scene. Now, how do I distinguish the thoughts from the spoken bits other than through tag lines, for instance Holly though: “…”
    In the novels I looked at for reference I have seen either italics for the thought or “…” But which is correct?
    Apart from wanting to use the correct form for the thoughts I don’t want to confuse the reader in scenes full of deception between dialogue and the occasional thought. they need to be distinguishable.
    Hope to hear from you & thank you in advance for your tips! best, Sina

    • Sina, use italics rather than quotation marks—save quotation marks for spoken words. But you actually don’t have to use italics either. See the article How to Punctuate Character Thoughts for more information.

      Also, when you said script, did you mean a screenplay? Unless you’re doing a voice over, viewers don’t actually get to listen in on a movie character’s thoughts. One big plus of books over movies is that ability to convey character thoughts.

  12. Pamela says:

    Hi Beth,

    Thankyou for being so generous with your experience. I have a quick question I am hoping you can help me with. I am writing a fantasy novel where the Point of View (POV) character changes at the beginning of each chapter. The majority of the chapters are written in 3rd person limited POV but there is one particular character who is better portrayed using first person POV. Is it frowned upon to use different types of POV’s in the same manuscipt?

    Thankyou in advance!

    Kind Regards,

    • Pamela, you can mix POVs. It may take readers a bit longer to get used to going from third person to first person or vice versa, but it’s been done before, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Make sure you introduce the first-person scenes early in the story so readers can get used to that POV.

      Also, keep in mind that readers may assume that the first-person narrator is your protagonist. If that’s not the case, make that clear from the start. Maybe have your first-person narrator focus on the protagonist in his early scenes so readers understand what’s going on.


      When you say the POV character changes at the beginning of every chapter, does that mean you have a lot of characters as viewpoint characters? Keep viewpoint characters to as few as possible while still making the story work. It’s hard for readers to get close to characters if they’re asked to jump from character to character to character. It’s not impossible to have multiple viewpoint characters, but having too many can create unnecessary distance for a reader who wants to imagine himself inside a story.

      I hope that helps.

  13. Pamela says:

    Hi Beth,

    Thank-you for your feedback. I am feeling more confident with my progression now.

    Kind Regards,


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