rise above cliche

There are some characters you are likely to enjoy more in fiction than you would in life. These are the dysfunctional characters who make stories interesting by behaving badly for good reason.

As the writer of these characters it is your job to understand, even if they cannot, why they do what they do.  One way of doing this is to know their childhoods, their families and their key relationships. In some cases it might not be possible or appropriate to include these details in the story itself, nevertheless, you must know them so well that they inform your characters’ words and actions.

Writing prompt: Create a character whose version of the truth cannot be trusted. Incorporate at least one cliché from the list below, making it feel fresh. 

like showing a red rag to a bull

it’s no picnic

time is what keeps everything from happening at once

pissed as a newt

useful as a screen door on a submarine

a day late and a dollar short

off like a prom dress


it’s like this

A metaphor is an implied comparison between two things that are unlike each other but have something in common. When used with restraint, metaphor is a way of conveying depth and complexity without ‘telling’ your reader what to think.

“Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space” Orson Scott Card

Think about how an eggshell conveys fragility, an icicle conveys chill, or a shredder conveys destruction.

Select a character in your life and show us who they are by how they are like one of the following (without mentioning what you are comparing them to):

An unopened tube of lip gloss

a cracked whiffle ball

spool of thread

a bleached wooden clothespin

Keep your writing to 150 words. Begin with “In a year it won’t matter…”

dynamics of plot

Plot is dynamic. It has purpose, meaning and motion – cast your ideas in terms of something happening, people talking and behaving.

Thoughts and emotions become the engine of plot when they trigger actions that cause significant consequences that impact outcome.

Make the struggle worth witnessing.  Compelling story is founded on effective, strongly felt conflict where opposing forces are fairly evenly matched and the final outcome is always in doubt.

What your characters think won’t matter if they don’t act.

your first draft in one year

A typical novel is 80,000 words–100,000 words.

There are 365 days in a year

So if you wanted to write an 80,000 word novel in one year, you would need to schedule 220 words/day. That’s roughly one double-spaced 12font page.

Or 100,000 word novel would be 274 words/day, less than 2 pages.

Of course, you’d want to account for days ‘off’, so you’d need to adjust accordingly.

Think of it. A first draft of your novel in one year. Only a page or two per day.

How hard could that be?

want help? Free one hour consultation – contact me at words@justwritenow.org


our inner apocalypse

Creative writing is a way to externalize our fears and heartbreaks, our inner apocalypse – and it can satisfy longing, ease sorrow, relieve pain, release stress.

This is true for fiction, as much as for creative nonfiction.

Think about this:

Stress isolates when we most need connection.

Creative writing helps, try it.

Writing prompt: take a stressful experience or painful memory and transform it creatively into a story that serves as metaphor – give it a beginning, middle, and satisfying end. For example, a childhood experience of being bullied may provide the kindling for a story of redemption. Place that story in a world under water, on a distant planet, in a small neighborhood in Cleveland, or in your own back yard. Fiction or nonfiction, it doesn’t matter.

make it personal

If you want your reader to care, you must be genuine. Write the truth and don’t hide behind abstractions.

Take risks. Scrutinize your life. Be fearless about revealing what is truly there.

Then, use restraint. Find a measure of distance from your experience, be disciplined with your edits.

The personal essay is not private but to be compelling it must be personal.