20
votes
2answers
9k views

Which words should not be capitalized in Title Case?

I would need a list of all words that are not capitalized in English titles. I would also like to make sure if it's true, that all first and last words of a title are capitalized no matter what. I'd ...
19
votes
17answers
2k views

Are complex sentences uncommon or unwanted in English?

I wrote my opinion essay using a lot of different complex grammatical structures, linking words and so on, and some of the sentences were even over 4 lines long. However, I was afterwards told by my ...
19
votes
5answers
6k views

How to describe the point-of-view character without using mirrors

In fiction, the main character is often the first person we meet in the story. Given that the story is written from his/her point of view, how would you describe what they look like? The classical ...
19
votes
7answers
812 views

Should I avoid modern words/phrases in fantasy writing?

When writing, I tend to want to use words or phrases that have meaning in the real world, but wouldn't necessarily have meaning in the world in which I'm writing. For example, in a fantasy world, a ...
19
votes
11answers
2k views

Could I reach the level of good writing style as non-native language speaker?

I currently write in Russian, but I think of switching to English to gain more audience and to play with both languages and linguistics. So could I ever reach the level of native English writers and ...
19
votes
2answers
279 views

Warning signs that a publisher may be shady?

Are there any specific signs (singular or groups of) that I should pay attention to when it comes to publishers? I have read about publishing houses that charge their authors quite large amounts of ...
19
votes
3answers
5k views

Using the real world in writing

To what extent can you use locations, businesses, etc. from the real world in fiction? I know someone cannot copyright a city, but what about a particular location in the city that's private. Can I ...
18
votes
6answers
491 views

Writing discipline

In today's frenetic, fast-paced lifestyle (especially if writing is not currently your career or means of earning an income), it can be extremely difficult to "make" or find the time that can be set ...
18
votes
9answers
2k views

Any Technique to See if Your Idea is Original?

I usually get quite a lot of ideas for stories, but every time I want to develop them into a full fledged story, I get paranoid about how it might not be an original idea, and how it might be ...
18
votes
11answers
2k views

How do you track random thoughts and ideas?

If you're like me, you get story ideas anywhere and everywhere. If I'm at a computer, I'll write down the idea in onenote or outlook or scrivener (depending what's open). If I just have my phone, I'll ...
18
votes
13answers
1k views

How does a code monkey become a novelist?

I have always loved creative writing, but honestly do not see software engineers that write fiction all that often. Heck, I do not see software engineers that read fiction all that often either. To ...
18
votes
10answers
1k views

Where is a good place to find writing prompts?

I love using writing prompts to come up with story ideas. I'm looking for good sites that have a lot of good writing prompts. One that updates fairly often would be best. :)
17
votes
8answers
1k views

Is it frustrating not to know the narrator's gender?

I have written a 1st person piece and reading it I realize it's very difficult to tell if the narrator is male or female. There are one or two clues, and they come pretty late in the piece. Would ...
17
votes
10answers
8k views

Tools for science-based world building?

I tend to lean towards science-fiction and fantasy, so world building matters a lot to me. A while ago, there was a question which asked how to go about organizing your universe, which was ...
17
votes
7answers
1k views

What's Essential In A Combat Scene?

I've just been reading a bunch of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books. Although they were the most enjoyable read I'd had in ages I always found myself skimming long segments that described involved ...
17
votes
13answers
4k views

Can a book be written without an antagonist?

I have had this thought running through my head and wondered what your thoughts were on it. Can a book, a story I should say, be written without an antagonist or antagonistic theme? I have an idea ...
17
votes
7answers
2k views

Taking notes while reading

I read books for fun and to help my writing. I want to remember the cool things I read, but I don't want to distract from the enjoyment of reading. Any suggestions on how to take notes or better ...
17
votes
4answers
515 views

What's the distinction between “vanity publishing” and “self publishing”?

This question came up on the pros and cons of publishing avenues question; when I tried to look it up, I found the results confusing. For example, SFWA's explanation of publishing types gives the ...
17
votes
4answers
3k views

Dashes vs. Commas vs. parentheses?

Occasionally I write sentences containing subparts with extra information. I never know how to block off this information from the rest of the sentence. Three ways I have seen are dashes, commas, and ...
17
votes
3answers
639 views

How do authors incorporate languages they don't speak?

In many, many English-language novels I've come across characters who speak other languages, most often French for whatever reason. In many cases, such as with Ulysses and Lolita, this is a simple ...
17
votes
4answers
969 views

Should cliffhangers be used in every chapter?

This is not a great question but I use a lot of cliffhangers. And I have a habit of making cliffhangers in the end of every chapter that I write just to hook the reader. The question is, is it a good ...
17
votes
7answers
2k views

Finding before/after examples where writing has been improved, to learn from

I'd like to see a series of example paragraphs, showing before/after a rewrite, to give me specific examples of how writing can be improved. Is there anywhere that shows such things? I once read the ...
17
votes
4answers
343 views

Resources about different people types?

I'm native German, but trying to write in English for various reasons. One of the big points in a story is to keep the characters very distinct from each other, and that requires some knowledge about ...
16
votes
8answers
2k views

What makes writing emotional?

Over the years, my English professors seem to have agreed on one thing: that I'm a superb technical writer, but terrible at eliciting emotional response in something like a story or an argumentative ...
16
votes
5answers
2k views

I'm getting tired of “he said” “she said” in dialogue; how do I get around it?

I get tired of "he said", "she said", "they replied". Is there a better, but still reasonable way, to indicate dialogue?
16
votes
12answers
759 views

How much planning should go on before beginning writing?

I really want to begin my first novel, but I'm just not sure how clear of an outline I should have before I start. Is a detailed synopsis of each chapter really necessary, or is it enough to just go ...
16
votes
9answers
2k views

Tips for expanding my vocabulary?

Looking back through my texts, I noticed that I often use a lot of the same words and resort to using quite a basic vocabulary. I was wondering if there are any good exercises or anything else for ...
16
votes
10answers
2k views

What can I do to make my writing fit the 1950s?

I'm working on a project (for a game) that needs to have a strongly 1950s feel. I, however, was born in the 1980s, so my writing has plenty of things that would sound out of place in the 1950s. For ...
16
votes
9answers
913 views

What methods can I use to revise my writing?

Background I am finding it challenging to transform an early draft into a finished product. My biggest challenges are putting the prose in the proper order and using topic sentences and transitions ...
16
votes
7answers
388 views

When editing for a person, how much can be changed?

The context is a technical document that is written by one person and then sent out for review by others. The reviewers change word tense, change from active to passive voice, and make other style ...
16
votes
7answers
2k views

When should one *not* present events in chronological order?

Some stories tell well from beginning to end, all in a neat little line...and some don't. When can a story be improved by using a different order in the telling? Off the top of my head, I'd say ...
16
votes
8answers
197k views

Right usage of “P.S.” in Emails

I've been wondering this for a while. What is the correct usage of "P.S." in e-mails? Where should and shouldn't it be used?
16
votes
4answers
3k views

What is a beat?

I keep hearing the word "beat" in Writers.SE, as in "... break your scene into beats" from this question. What is a beat? How is it different from a scene?
16
votes
5answers
4k views

Signs of Bad Character Development

When creating a character, what red flags would show me that I'm creating an unbelievable or unsympathetic character? I know that to be believable and sympathetic a character must not lean too much ...
16
votes
3answers
552 views

Is there a quick way to know I have created a Mary Sue?

For those who don't know what a Mary Sue is: see here. The problem is, there are far too many ways a character can be a Mary Sue, as seen here. Many websites that offer tests to see if your ...
16
votes
7answers
939 views

Best practices for maintaining documented code examples?

A good SDK (software development kit) includes plenty of well-documented examples. It also includes good tutorials and developer guides, which introduce concepts in logical progressions, typically ...
16
votes
3answers
1k views

How do you make a character quintessential, but not cliched or cartoony?

I think it's hard to make a character standout and embody their traits without becoming cliched or cartoons. How do you do this? What are some tips to enlivening a character and making them memorable? ...
16
votes
3answers
273 views

How do I write a synopsis?

I have to write a synopsis to submit to an agent. Are there any guidelines for writing a good synopsis?
16
votes
4answers
2k views

Is there any point in learning to write in cursive?

I remember learning it as a child, and I remember I was told it was important and every kid in the class had to learn it. But now that I think about it, I haven't used cursive for years. What was ...
16
votes
1answer
506 views

Pantsing a story?

I heard a writer talking about pantsing a story. What does that mean?
16
votes
4answers
573 views

As a non-native English speaker, Is it better to get translated or get copyedited for long texts?

My English level is average. I can write fluently and my vocabulary is not too limited. With the thought in mind that the end result must be perfect, is it better for me to write my long text (100 ...
16
votes
2answers
699 views

Techniques to disguise authorship of text

As Wikipedia and at least one answer on this site suggest, the name stylometry encompasses certain techniques to determine authorship of text. Although stylometry itself appears to require a certain ...
15
votes
13answers
3k views

How much swearing is TOO much? (And how much is not enough?)

I've noticed that some of the most successful writers refrain from using profanity, such as Stephanie Meyer and Norman Mailer. Are readers turned off by swearing in books? More importantly, is it ...
15
votes
11answers
1k views

Which techniques can I use to become a better editor when editing my own writing?

I'm looking to improve my ability to edit and correct my own writing. What are some techniques I can use to help me with this?
15
votes
8answers
3k views

What breaks suspension of disbelief?

So much of Sci-Fi and Fantasy requires the viewer (or reader) to suspend their disbelief: The speed of light can be circumvented, magic works, vampires are real (and may or may not sparkle), etc. ...
15
votes
9answers
1k views

Is there a rule of thumb about the number of pages a work of fiction should have?

To be considered a "real" book, is there a rule of thumb about the number of pages one should have? If it has too few then people call it a short story (e.g., Fahrenheit 451) and if it has too many ...
15
votes
6answers
667 views

How can I make a story bigger?

I have written a first draft of what I want to be a novel -- aiming for 50-70K words. When the ending arrived I was at about 30K. So I essentially have to double the length. My list of notes scattered ...
15
votes
7answers
5k views

What is the difference between writing in the first and the third person?

What kind of story is better suited for each one? Are there advantages or disadvantages inherent to each form? For example, writing in the first person you are always following a character, while in ...
15
votes
6answers
629 views

How can I effectively invent a language?

I want to make a particular language that adapts to the story. And the language has to have x and y and e characteristics for example. Is there a protocol to follow on the process of making a ...
15
votes
5answers
8k views

Submitting a novel for publication: do editors still expect Courier font?

About ten years ago an agent told me not to submit manuscripts in fonts other than Courier (or Courier New) and to double-space lines. He said editors were prejudiced against manuscripts that looked ...

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