9
votes
9answers
2k views

Inventing names for Sci-Fi characters

How can I invent names for fictional characters in a future-setting Sci-Fi story so they won't be connected to any existing culture? I considered the following options: Invent some random names. ...
9
votes
6answers
3k views

Is it better to describe the main character's physical appearance early on in the story?

I'm writing a novel, and I just realized I don't describe be main character's appearance until Chapter 3 (each chapter is 1500~2000 words long and there are 25 chapters in total). I do mention that ...
9
votes
6answers
3k views

What are the advantages and disadvantages of digital rights management for self-published authors?

DRM (digital rights management) is being used in just about every electronic format, including files used in electronic readers. My question is whether this is a good thing or a bad thing for writers, ...
9
votes
7answers
1k views

How do I make an ESL character sound realistic?

I have to write an assignment in which there's an English character talking with a English as a Second Language (ESL) character. It is turning out really, really badly. I have a general idea of what ...
9
votes
10answers
287 views

An alternative to saying 'users' when describing features

I'm creating some copy describing new web-app features for a number of different audiences (users, managers of sections of the site, owners of sub-sites which use our platform etc.). I'm finding ...
9
votes
5answers
2k views

What does being “heavy handed” mean? And how does one avoid it?

I've come across the term "heavy handed" before, and it seems to be one of the more egregious mistakes that one can make while writing - at least that's the impression I get from critics. What does ...
9
votes
5answers
738 views

Is it really so “impossible” to get published by a traditional publisher?

I was an avid reader in my early years (as in hard copy - books), and I still am (just now via computer)... and I never got wind of such difficulties in publishing, until now. Is it like going up ...
9
votes
5answers
2k views

If you get an advance do you ever have to give it back?

Do publishers give you an advance as some sort of earnest money for your manuscript? If your work doesn't sell very well do you have to give the advance back to them? Do they ever just buy your work ...
9
votes
5answers
593 views

What's “fair use” for borrowing someone else's invented term?

Let's say I'm writing a sci-fi novel. I want to use a word which another writer has coined, which has become well-recognized outside the original book, for the name of an alien species in my story. I ...
9
votes
5answers
915 views

When should a chapter end?

When writing a novel, when should I end a chapter? Note that I'm not talking about chapter word-count (that topic was discussed here). I'm interested to know when should I end my chapters ...
9
votes
9answers
261 views

Will my readers feel like they are reading a children's storybook if there are illustrations in my novel?

I'm writing a novel. I also have good drawing skills. I would like to add illustrations of the setting, locations and characters. I may include 8 or 10 illustrations (the novel is approximately 200 ...
9
votes
13answers
2k views

Does a technical writer need a technical background?

Does a technical writer need a technical background?
9
votes
6answers
631 views

Time management for part-time writing

I'm currently writing a book, and would eventually hope to be a writer as a career. However, at the moment I'm struggling to find the time and the discipline to actually sit down and write ...
9
votes
9answers
2k views

How to write realistic female dialogue

I just can't make my dialogue sound like it's being said by a woman. As a friend of mine pointed out, "This woman talks just like you, Jack." I tried imitating the speech patterns of various females ...
9
votes
7answers
1k views

How do you make a character witty?

How can a character be made to appear witty, or funny? That is, the character amuses other characters, not the reader, who should ideally be impressed with the characters wit. The only way that I can ...
9
votes
5answers
1k views

How should dialog be formatted?

Is there any "official" rule that I should keep in mind when formatting character dialog? Line breaks, placement of quotes, mixing dialog with action descriptions etc. For example, I want to build a ...
9
votes
6answers
866 views

What are the tricks to avoid repetition in writing?

After some time of working on my research, I usually have a structured information of my results, which I can best describe in bullets/numbers. Unfortunately, this is not what academia expects. For ...
9
votes
3answers
534 views

When *should* I use passive voice?

Is there ever a good time to use passive voice in nonfiction?
9
votes
5answers
16k views

How many words/hour should you aim for when writing your first draft?

A couple of axioms here. Firstly, most people agree that you should write your first draft quickly, without too much care on quality, and get something down on paper first. The real writing begins ...
9
votes
6answers
973 views

Ways to improve your writing skills

As a CS major I've learned that knowing how to write is critically important, but, I'm not really sure how to improve my writing skills. I'm currently trying to write a tech blog in English, but, ...
9
votes
4answers
450 views

When writing on paper, how do you move things about?

I am amazed thinking how people used to write before the computer ever came about. Before that, everyone was forced to write on paper. I'd very much like to write on paper but my ideas come in a ...
9
votes
5answers
3k views

Is Academic Ghostwriting legal?

I recently learned of the concept of academic ghostwriting (see, e.g. this article) - by which I mean the situation where a student goes to another person, or perhaps a service, and pays them to ...
9
votes
4answers
252 views

How to juggle work and NaNoWriMo?

I love to participate in NaNoWriMo, but this year for the first time I'll have a full-time job during November. Is it feasible to write less on weekdays and "make up" for it on the weekend? Should I ...
9
votes
3answers
126 views

How does one go *back* to editing an older piece?

I have a longer work that took me a lot of effort to get through, and the moment I finished it, my life went crazy. That was about 6 months ago, and in the intervening time I haven't been able to ...
9
votes
2answers
329 views

Are online critique groups a good substitute for editors?

I'm thinking of self publishing. Now what all the blogs tell me I have to do is hire a professional editor, who will see any plot / character holes, other story problems etc. (For the moment, I'm not ...
9
votes
5answers
133 views

What style suggestions are common for which words are used in hyperlinks?

With a purpose of avoiding "More details here" style links that do not provide any information in the link itself, what styles are common/popular/suggested? A good example case (with bold as the ...
9
votes
5answers
516 views

How can I learn how to outline, so I can write like an architect?

I've just watched one part of Brandon Sanderson's lecture on writing, the section entitled Gardeners & Architects and I realised I'm a Gardener, almost exclusively. This often ends up with me ...
9
votes
4answers
628 views

How do you determine if a plot device is too coincidental?

I see lazy plot devices as anything that is too coincidental. Person One just so happened to be in the 'area' when Person Two was attacked (then they end up running into each other a bunch of times ...
9
votes
3answers
642 views

How can I create my own deadline?

I'm very responsible when I'm writing a tech book or article under contract. I have a deadline, my editor is expecting my work, and I turn it in on time. Sometimes I put it off a bit, but I pride ...
9
votes
3answers
223 views

How to figure out if an agent is “on the straight” or “shady”?

Are there any specific signs (singular or groups of) that I should pay attention to when it comes to agents? I have read about agents who work for less reputable publishing houses, charging fees for ...
9
votes
4answers
3k views

Characters with no names

I've got a few short stories going, and I've foregone naming any of my characters. It started because I just didn't have any good names in my head and I was going to take care of it later, but now I'm ...
9
votes
3answers
2k views

Little did he know

In the movie "Stranger Than Fiction" the professor of literature makes quite a big deal about the phrase "little did he know." I've written papers on "Little did he know." I've taught classes on ...
9
votes
4answers
673 views

How do I avoid a “mid-story info dump?”

I am revising the manuscript for a novel. About a third into the story, a major turning point occurs when the main character (through whom the reader follows the story) realizes that things are not at ...
9
votes
2answers
131 views

When is it a good time to move on to another project?

I've seen it mentioned in software development the concept of Fail Early, Fail Often. Using failure as a learning process is important to get better at any craft. In my writing, I have a habit of ...
9
votes
4answers
153 views

When is it acceptable to refer to an undefined group of people in academic writing?

Within my students' college writing, I found much writing referring to essentially imaginary, or not well-defined groups of people. Here are some examples: These days, more and more people carpool ...
9
votes
2answers
357 views

Is it typical to add variation to the words used for a character's name to keep it spicy?

A friend has asked me to read through a chapter of his story and give my opinion. Lets say he has two main characters Mr John de Havilland and Mrs Sally de Havilland. I've noticed that the author ...
9
votes
4answers
376 views

Balancing loads of equally-important characters

If you have a dozen good guys, but four of them are the protagonists and the other six are more in the background, it's not that hard to skew the pagetime of each character towards those that are more ...
9
votes
4answers
264 views

How to improve my skill at writing a question?

I'm a member of some SE sites, like SO and CSTheory. In those sites I'm an active member, I'm reading Q&A and also answering some questions or asking questions, but I think my writing is poor. I ...
9
votes
4answers
347 views

How can I strike a balance between setting and plot?

I'm not a fan of Tolkien's work, but it's relevant to my question, so take it as a reference point. I love linguistics, culture, and worldbuilding, but sometimes have difficulty focusing on specific ...
9
votes
3answers
7k views

What's the difference between academic and journalistic writing?

I'm not talking about "boring" academic papers that are 99% science and 0% interesting. But in comments on a draft of my senior thesis, my teacher made the comment that my writing style was quite ...
9
votes
7answers
146 views

What are the reasons behind Writer's block?

I read the question Help! I've got Writer's Block which explains solutions to the problem. I was wondering why someone gets writer's block? Is it anxiety? Is it due to the fact that the ...
9
votes
2answers
727 views

An organization writes its acronym in lower-case - do I have to, too?

I'm writing an article that includes reference to an organization - let's say National Ecological Council of Concerned Citizens - which, instead of NECOCC, uses the acronym necocc, i.e. lower-case ...
9
votes
3answers
306 views

Conlang question

Diving (OK, dove) into conlanging for a novel I'm working on. The Conlang is atmospheric and allows for some subplot intrigue, but it's not absolutely essential to the story. I've got basic grammar, ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

When should I use punctuation with bullets?

When writing bulleted items, what are the rules for placing periods? Presumably bulleted items that aren't sentences wouldn't require punctuation: Orange Apple Banana But how about sentence ...
9
votes
10answers
2k views

Fictional diary for a novel

When it is appropriate to use the diary form for a novel? Which are the most effective published examples? (I mean fictional diaries, so not Anne Frank's diary).
9
votes
3answers
214 views

How to write a novel if you only have five minutes here, ten minutes there to work on it?

I once read an interview with some Fantasy author, who told how she wrote her first novel in the breaks between classes when she was working as a teacher, because she couldn't write at home due to her ...
9
votes
4answers
2k views

What is the process for turning a story into a “movie” script?

This is probably a slightly vague sounding question, but I'm curious as to how "stories" go to the point of becoming a film production (at least to the point of becoming a script).
9
votes
2answers
246 views

How should I go with hiring an illustrator for a webcomic?

I want to start writing a webcomic, but as my talent as an illustrator is limited, I would only write the scripts and let to someone else the task to bring my script into picture. The only problem is ...
9
votes
2answers
667 views

Do I really need disclaimers?

I write non fiction books about computer science and security (Zzz) but with the security bits in particular, do I really need to put a disclaimer saying "hey don't go hack the government" on my ...
9
votes
3answers
2k views

What's with all the hate on adjectives and adverbs?

Ok, I'm starting to get a feel for this, but I'm hoping someone can explain it more clearly for me. I learned in all my English classes that sensory imagery is important, which naturally involves a ...

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