Reflection on how experience, rather than fuelling imagination, can stifle and smother it. The importance of imagination.


Powerful and impeccable writing skills are necessary for professionals across all industries to convey their messages to their audiences/customers. Even the most established writers constantly fine-tune and brush-up their writing skills to ensure that they communicate effectively. Whether you are writer, a lawyer, or an entrepreneur, some great tips will surely help you to produce high-end quality documents:

Practice is the Key to Perfection
If you are not sure how to bush-up your writing skills, know that practice is the most important component to master this art. You will find significant improvement just by keeping some time aside for writing regularly and sticking to this schedule.

Mix it up
The use of repetitive words and phrases can cause your readers to lose interest in your written document. Variety attracts interest; using a wide span of descriptive words and incorporating a number of various sentence structures can keep your reader focused and can produce a more interesting and persuasive final piece.

Less is More
Avoid unnecessary terms or vague verbiage. When a simple word can serve the purpose, do not make it complicated by using long words or phrases. Readers are more interested in getting to the point and do not want to waste their time on understanding unclear metaphors. This simple step can create a significant difference in your finished product.

Avoid Grammatical Errors
It is advisable to comply with the accepted rules of grammar in your piece of work. Grammatical rules are meant to enhance the clarity of your writing; avoiding these rules may create a negative impression of your language competence on your readers.

Consult the Experts
Even the most accomplished writers often need professional Proofreading advice on their work. It is advisable to consult an editor, or you can also attend a class in writing, to improve your writing skills.

Read More
Reading other materials occasionally and more often for pleasure can help you write fresh and relevant literature. Take some time out to read a novel, newspaper or magazine. These can provide exposure and can add new ideas and new phrases to your vocabulary that you can incorporate into your writing projects.

Do not be Afraid of Failure
Fear of failure is the biggest obstacle most writers face. Muster the courage to write and submit your finished work to an editor or proofreader. It will help you achieve success in your chosen field.

Be Patient
The best advice to improve your writing skills is to simply write more often. Most accomplished authors set aside a few hours from their schedule each day to practice their expertise. If you can inculcate this level of commitment in yourself, no doubt, you can improve your writing skills over time.

Proofread Many Times
Even the veteran writers can sometimes miss subtle grammatical errors. Academic Proofreading is the only way out to identify and rectify these errors. Do it as many times as you can to create a perfect piece, free from any grammar or spelling mistakes.

Well-read people are mostly great writers too, but the art of writing can also be mastered by following the above-mentioned tips. Doing so is a must for anyone who really wants to improve their writing skills.

Source: prproofread


Trying to figure out what your style is isn’t as hard as it might seem. I’ve seen a lot of writers get asked questions like “how did you develop as a writer?” or “how did you find your style”, so I feel like this is a topic I should talk about. If you stop stressing out about it, it will all happen naturally. If you continue to read and develop your craft, your style will continue to form.

The styles that writers develop are usually not planned. Most people don’t sit down and think “well, who do I want to sound like?” It’s true that you could be influenced by writers you admire or read a lot of, but it’s not usually a conscious decision. A writer’s style develops naturally over time. It comes from writing A LOT.

If you write a lot and spend time working on your craft, a style will develop on its own. Forcing a style, however, will usually not work. If you force vocabulary you wouldn’t normally use into your writing, your readers will be able to tell.  If you try to mimic your favorite authors, your writing will feel unnatural. Don’t force a style that isn’t yours because you will not produce your best work.  I know it might seem like a good idea to emulate a writing style that is popular, but that’s not the best way to go.

Ultimately, you should use words that feel natural to you and write every day. Try to be clear and concise with your writing. Growing and seeing your writing style change over time is normal, as long as you keep working on improving. Also, try not to compare your writing to someone else’s. Just because you don’t write like Mark Twain, that doesn’t mean you’re not any good. Writing styles are different and it’s hard to compare them.

Here are a few natural ways to develop your own writing style:

Consume what inspires you

Once you figure out what you like and what motivates you, keep going. Reading a lot will help you develop your style and pick out what inspires your own writing. I’m not saying you should mimic what you like, but you will pick up bits and pieces of the novels you’re consuming. That’s not a bad thing. If you consume what you like to read, you’ll find more inspiration for your own novels. What you like will start to creep into your writing.

Try to write different genres

Make sure you experiment to figure out what you’re best at. Write a lot and try writing in different genres and art forms. You might be able to tap into something that you didn’t even know inspires you until you try it. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Be concise

Don’t dance around what you want to say, just say it. Try figuring out how to get the point faster without bogging down your writing with unnecessary information. This will help you develop a style that will make your writing more appealing. Think about what you want to say and figure out the best way to say it.

-Kris Noel

Source: fictionwritingtips


As some of you already know, I just finished a book a few days ago titled The Glorious In-Between that contains two asexual, aromantic characters. It took me almost a week to write the ending. This has been true for every book I’ve ever written, from When Stars Die to The Stars Are Infinite.

I don’t know why endings are so difficult for me to write. It isn’t that I’m getting to the end of the book and I don’t want it to end, because I do want it to end! I desperately want to finish the dang draft! I just tend to slow down, and I can’t even explain why this is so. 

Endings are hard, regardless of whether or not you can blow through one in a day or drag yourself through the next couple of days trying to get that ending down. 

The book has to end, though. It has to tie up all loose threads (an exception can be made for books in a series) and end in a way that is both satisfying and unpredictable.

First, let me present the five types of endings:

  1. The happy ending
  2. The unhappy ending
  3. The tragic ending, wherein the protagonist does succeed at his/her objective but had to sacrifice something for it
  4. The sacrifice, wherein the protagonist sacrifices his/her objective for the greater good
  5. The bittersweet ending

If you know these five types of endings, you’ll at least be able to choose how you’d like to end your book, depending on the progression of your book. You don’t want to do an unhappy ending for the sake of an unhappy ending. The ending you choose has to make sense with everything that has occurred in your book. 

One thing that used to happen to me in the past is that I would write the draft of the book but not write the ending and let the draft cool. I’d write the ending in the revisions. That has worked for me, but it’s something I’m not interested in doing anymore. I just want to get the ending over with.

You can outline your ending in detail. I did not do that. I just wrote the ending by the seat of my pants. I binge wrote The Glorious In-Between, so it was exhausting having to outline it, too, at the same time. I’m not sure if this is going to happen with All Stars Align, which will be the title of the third book in The Stars Trilogy. I already know exactly how I want to end the third book, but that doesn’t mean the ending won’t be any less difficult for me to write. After all, I already knew how I wanted to end The Glorious In-Between before I even began outlining it. 

In any case, the best endings for any book are endings that leave the readers remembering that book. After all, everything can be great and fantastic, until you get to the ending. It doesn’t matter how much your reader loved your book before the ending. If the ending is poor, readers are going to finish your book with a bad taste in their mouths—and then most likely forget they ever read that book. 

You don’t want that to happen. 

Resonance with endings can occur through narration, dialogue, and description.

Here are some final tips for your ending:

  • Don’t introduce new characters or subplots. The ending of a book generally occurs in the last 30-50 pages, so there really is no time to introduce a new character or subplot. The only exception to this is if you’ve foreshadowed a character throughout the book and then put that character in those last 30-50 pages. Of course, I think I actually broke this rule with When Stars Die, when I do introduce a new character in the very last chapter. No readers have complained, of course, but it’s also an epilogue. 
  • Don’t spend too much time musing. Endings are generally fast-paced, because the ending is coming to a head, and you want the ending to have the most tension out of any part of your book, so you need to minimize descriptions.
  • Don’t change the tone. If the tone of your ending changes, it will sound tacked on to readers, like the chapter was a mere afterthought. 
  • Make sure your objective is strong. Your MC is after something, and that something needs to be made obvious in some way. Novels of a literary nature have some leeway on this, but other types of fiction really don’t. The MC is either going to achieve that objective in some way, or the MC is going to lose out on that objective.
  • Think of several possible endings. Don’t limit yourself to just one possible ending. Imagine as many as you can, and then choose the one that makes the most sense for your story. Although I knew how I wanted to end The Glorious In-Between, this doesn’t mean I stuck with the EXACT ending I had planned. I thought of several possible endings within the type of ending I wanted to do, and then as I came upon the ending, it occurred to me what type of ending would make more sense with how I’d written the story up to that point. So the ending must be in line with the story. It needs to make sense, and you don’t need to choose the easy way out. Readers are going to know otherwise if you do. 

Source: thedancingwriter

1. What class or classes do you teach?

I’m in my fourth year of teaching Junior English (American Lit and Composition) and Literature of England. This year I also get to teach Media Literacy for the very first time, which is exciting and horrifying all at once.

2. What type of writing do you deal with most often? Essays? Short answer? Outlines?

A little bit of everything. One of the awesome parts about teaching high school is that we get to experiment with a little of everything. In 11th grade our big focus point is the argumentative essay, but we also write screenplays, short stories, memoirs, poetry, ACT test essays, etc. 

3. How important is good grammar and spelling to you?

In a finalized, published piece it’s super important — noticing an error will immediately take your reader out of the piece and stop caring. (Which makes me hope to God I’ve done an alright job proofing this.) In drafts and revisions, though, it’s alright to be a little messy. 

It’s also important to know your purpose for a piece of writing. Creative pieces have a lot more leeway for weird grammar and sentence structure than a formal essay does. Personally, the best advice is that, in all walks of life, you need to know the rules and have a purpose for breaking them. Laziness doesn’t count.

4. Which style do you prefer students use in your class (MLA, APA, CMS, etc.)? Why?

Most Humanities teachers still roll with MLA, and I’m just fine with that as I’ve been using it for 10+ years through undergrad and high school. I’m just starting a Master’s of Education program which requires APA for everything and the differences are subtle, so knowing how to switch is also an important skill. Most of the time I’ve found that, since I know MLA pretty well, I can switch between formats with minimal pain. Regardless of your familiarity, resources like Purdue OWL are essential for students. Use them!

5. Do you have any tips for doing research?

Start early, use a system that’s comfortable for you, and dive right in. Many teachers require steps be completed in a certain order (research question, then thesis, then outline, then notecards, etc.) which can really trip up some students. My high school English teacher, for example, required that we take notes on index cards and use a complicated numbering system to keep track of which source the evidence came from. It was a nightmare. I’m just not wired to organize or process things that way. I’m a mental pre-writer — I don’t have notebooks filled with outlines or mind-maps or anything— so I usually start mulling over a topic or two in my head for a week or two before I start researching. After I’ve got my idea, I’ll comb through databases and articles to see what others say about my idea, then posit my own claim, and start writing to see where I end up. A lot of my initial writing is revised to hell by the end, but to me this process makes sense: the end result is the same, I just take a different route.

If your instructor is having you follow a specific research or note-taking process that doesn’t work for you, talk to them! Come up with an alternative. Same thing if you’re having difficulty finding sources or putting an idea into words. Teachers and librarians have been at this stuff a long time, and we’re here to help!

6. What are your biggest pet peeves when it comes to students’ writing in your class?

I have a few, but the biggest one is assuming that I’m too dumb to catch plagiarism. I’ve spent nine months reading everything you’ve written, so when you all of a sudden sound like a completely different person it’s fairly easy to catch. I know how to use Google. Most of the time catching a plagiarist is no more complicated than entering a few key phrases and seeing what pops up. 

Also, it’s bad karma. Writing is tough work, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Passing off someone else’s sweat, pain, and spiritual breakthroughs as your own will catch up with you even if you don’t get caught right away. Don’t be a dick.  

7. What are some writing mistakes that you make that you’d like to caution your students against?

Finding the purpose, audience, and tone for a piece of writing is really difficult for a lot of people. Memoir and persuasion should read differently, just like a tweet and a resume will read differently. It’s up to you to ensure that your formal writing stays formal. Over time your voice will grow to a point where you sound like you no matter the genre or format, but even then you have to be very deliberate about the words and phrases you choose to include based on who will be reading the piece and what the expectations are. Knowing when to switch between voices will make your life so much easier.

8. What do you think is the most important thing students should know about writing in your class?

Your first draft will always suck. Probably your second draft, too. Then the third, then fourth, fifth not so much but then you’ll break it again for the sixth. If you keep at it, though, and ask for feedback from instructors and writing groups, read other authors you admire, and revise until your eyes bleed, after a while it will start to grow into something you’re really proud of, then excited about, until finally you’re sitting in front of a piece you can’t believe you had anything to do with. And I will be so pumped to read it.

Thank you to Jake for his shrewd acumen and advice! We hope that you’ve learned something, even if you haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in years.

If you are a teacher and you’d like to be a part of the Ask a Teacher Series, please shoot us a message! We’d love to have you!


Five Fool-Proof Tips to Starting Your Novel


Five Fool-Proof Tips to Starting Your Novel

Source: blotsandplots

Teachers, as I’m sure you all know by now, are an excellent resource. With many students returning to school for fall classes in the next few weeks, we think now is a great time to hit up real-life teachers for some back-to-school advice!
Below is an interview with Carolyn Clare Givens, M.A., a teacher, writer, and editor. 
1. What class or classes do you teach?

I taught college freshmen English Composition and Introduction to College Reading and Writing, a remedial-level writing and reading comprehension course. I work as a grader and give critical feedback on master’s-level theses. I’ve also taught a group of home schooled high school seniors a college prep composition course. In addition to my teaching, I’ve worked as an editor for an online magazine and for a non-fiction book publisher, and done freelance editing on fiction and non-fiction books.

2. What type of writing do you deal with most often? Essays? Short answer? Outlines?

Typically, I deal with essays—both academic and non-academic. I’ve also spent considerable time working with authors on book-length non-fiction and fiction manuscripts.

3. How important is good grammar and spelling to you?

Good grammar and spelling are necessary for clear communication. They are a means to that end. However, the English language is remarkably malleable. It is possible to utterly butcher the grammar and spelling of a sentence and still communicate the intended meaning (though that is more difficult in writing than it is in spoken communication).

4, Which style do you prefer students use in your class (MLA, APA, CMS, etc.)? Why?

My students used MLA in the English Composition and Intro classes. That was the standard format used by the University for general humanities classes. At the master’s level, the students use APA, as they are writing a methodical assessment of a project. In my non-fiction book editing, I’ve used mostly CMS. As I’ve worked in communications, I’ve had some exposure to AP Style, but have never used it exclusively.

I think the key to note in any style is that very word: “style.” Yes, each style guide includes a method for citation. Those methods provide the reader with a simple way of finding the source material in a given paper or book. Each style guide’s citation system is fairly simple, and a careful reader can navigate it when it has been implemented correctly. But that’s not the point of the different style guides. Rather, each guide provides a method or “style” for presenting information. The method for presenting information in APA, for example, is one of scientific reporting—the writer has done the experiment, case study, research, etc., and is reporting the process and the results. MLA’s purpose is different. Instead of reporting the findings, the author’s goal in MLA style is to walk the reader through the process of thinking—presenting the thesis and unfolding the supporting evidence, like an attorney presenting his case. CMS’s style is the most flexible. In both presentation and documentation, the goal of CMS is to clearly communicate ideas and show the support for them properly. AP Style’s primary purpose seems to be brevity. It is a system developed for journalism and limited text space. 

My preference for students to use depends upon the subject matter they are presenting. Most of my teaching and my own academic writing has been within the humanities. MLA is a robust style guide for those subjects and the kind of research and presentation of ideas typically associated with them. For those working in the sciences and social sciences, APA provides a quality standard for presenting research and results. As I have worked with authors and on my own writing outside of academia, I have come to appreciate the flexibility of CMS. I think a more limited system, like MLA or APA, is proper to use as a student is learning, but CMS allows the writer to use the pieces of both of those systems that will be most helpful in presenting his information in a way that is accessible by the common reader. Call it my humanities bias, but within academia, I prefer MLA’s method of presenting information, and I think it provides a simpler transition to CMS for later writing.

5. Do you have any tips for doing research?

I once had a college professor who had us write a note card for each fact we gathered, with the citation information on the back and the fact on the front. I felt like I was in fourth grade all over again. 

I don’t think you need to be quite so simplistic as that, but I do think there are some simple things you can do that will make presenting your research easier. One of the biggest issues my students seem to have had was with proper citation. I’m a proponent of the Albert-Einstein-never-memorize-something-you-can-look-up rule. There’s a story of a reporter asking Einstein for his number, and Einstein had to look it up in the phone book to give it to the man. His thinking: why memorize it when you know where to find it? Forget trying to memorize MLA or APA or CMS citation formats. You can look them up. You don’t even have to buy the book anymore. I strongly recommend Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) as a resource. However, every citation format has the same basic elements: Who wrote it? Where? When? In what format was it presented? What page was it on? What was the URL? Learn those. Forget about what order they need to go in, just get the basics down. Then, as you do your research, write or type that information at the top of the page and write your quotations under it. As you write your paper, if you use a quote, copy and paste the citation info into a page at the end of your paper. Then, when you go to create your works cited list, you will save yourself eons of time when all you have to do is look up the proper formatting for your citation and put the bits of information in the right order. 

Yes, I know Word has an “Insert Citation” option. If you use it, CHECK IT! It has often gotten things wrong. “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”

The other tip I’d have is more on the “avoiding plagiarism” side. I suggest doing your research, reading it through so you’re familiar with it, then setting it aside as you prepare your ideas for your paper. Think through what you think on the topic and how you want to present those thoughts. Write that much. Then go back through and insert the support for your ideas that you found in your research. Remember, this is your paper. YOU are the one whose ideas should be primary.

6. What are your biggest pet peeves when it comes to students’ writing in your class?

“In my opinion” – It’s your paper. I sure hope this is your opinion. You don’t need to say it.

“Basically” – Does the sentence need this word? (The answer is no.)

7. What are some writing mistakes that you make that you’d like to caution your students against?

What are some writing mistakes that you make that you’d like to caution students against?

Trying to sound “intelligent” by using big words. Look, I’m a word geek. That’s why I teach English and I write. I love words. I love GOOD words. I strongly recommend you make it a practice to keep yourself alert to the new words you encounter in everyday life and stop and look them up when you don’t know them. This is the most natural way to increase your vocabulary. I also recommend getting a paper dictionary. I love the ease of, but it does not offer me the ability to see 40 other words on a page along with the one I’m looking up. Paper dictionaries are great for growing vocabulary. All that to say, work on growing your vocabulary. Theright word in the right place can make all the difference. However, use the words that come most naturally to you in your writing. If you are more likely to say “use” than “useage,” write “use” in your paper. Simple, clear communication is your goal.

8. What do you think is the most important thing students should know about writing in your class?

You are communicating ideas. Writing is simply a vehicle for doing that. We’ve got a lovely language that is flexible and strange and has all sorts of cobbled-together rules for use because it’s been a cobbled-together language from the start. And some of those rules are worth noting and remembering and following and some of them should be thrown out the window with the silly people who made them up. English is a living language. The rules you learn today may be out of date by the time you’re forty. Such is the nature of having a living language. But the essential thing you need to keep in mind is that you are communicating ideas. Whatever rules you follow, whatever words you use, whatever style guide you choose, it all needs to be in service to that goal: to clearly communicate the ideas in your head through the medium of writing to your reader. Sometimes clear communication is a matter of getting your commas in the right place. Sometimes it’s spelling the words correctly and not mixing up your homophones. But sometimes clear communication means you throw out the rules and you put the words down on the paper as they tumble from your mind. Sometimes we just need to get them out and the order and the spelling and the grammar is subservient to the thought and passion and feeling behind them. That’s okay. Just write. Put words on paper. Record thoughts. That’s how future generations will know who we are. 

(Though you might want to find a friend to proofread your paper before turning it in to your English professor.)

Thank you to Carolyn for sharing her wisdom and advice! We hope that you’ve learned something, even if you haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in years.

If you are a teacher and you’d like to be a part of the Ask a Teacher Series, please shoot us a message! We’d love to have you!

And you can check out the rest of the Ask a Teacher Series here!


I get a lot of questions from writers who think their story is too close to its inspiration or too similar to another story. I can’t give you direct answers because it’s your story. I can’t write it for you. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t help you find a way to make it different.

Step One: Similarities

Is your story too similar to another story? Or is to too similar to the inspiration? Make a list of all the similarities between them. This includes, plot points, dialogue, characters, back stories, fight scenes, world building, settings, sub plots, and character interactions.

  • Characters: Make sure names, appearances, back stories, personalities, and roles of characters differ. I can’t give you a number of “how much is too much” in terms of similar characters because it depends on cast size. You can have characters who share some similarities, but try to make those similarities a little bit different too.
  • Character Roles: If you can match up all of your character roles or archetypes with the characters in the other story, you should change things around a bit. You don’t want too many parallels.
  • Back Stories: These can be unique to characters more than appearances or names. Make sure these are different. If your characters have the same or similar back stories as characters in another story, it’ll be difficult to make these characters original.
  • Major Plot Points: Stay away from the major plot points and major parts of the story you’re trying to distance yourself from. Did the other story have its opening scene in a school? Put your opening scene elsewhere. 
  • Specifics: This is mostly in relation to world building. Make a list of everything that is specific to the inspiration source or the other story (for example, the word muggle and its usage from Harry Potter is specific to that universe). You cannot use any of these things. Stay away from them.

Step Two: What Can’t Happen?

Make a list of things that are specific to the inspiration or to the story that yours is similar to. An example is a boy wizard with an odd scar. That’s obviously Harry Potter. That’s something that you can’t do unless you separate it from Harry Potter so much that no one thinks of Harry Potter when they learn about your character. This is an example of what you cannot do.

Continue making a list of everything that you cannot do or don’t want to do in your story. Do you want to write a dystopian that is original? I can tell you right now to get rid of any sort of system in which people are separated and assigned a career or are associated with one particular thing because of that. This has been used in the dystopian novel since before any of us were born. Getting rid of that will lead you away from most dystopian novels right from the beginning.

If you find that one of your plot points is too similar to that of another story, take note of what happened in that other story. Your story can’t do that. Do something else. However, you should do more than just change the outcomes of the plot points. The whole story should go in a different direction due to this change.

Step Three: What Never Happened?

If you find something that never happened in the inspiration source or the original story and if it works with your story, put it in. Make it as different as you can. Adding the new and taking away the used can help you do this. If you’re writing something similar to Percy Jackson, don’t use the same myths. Use different myths. Take away some of the used myths. If you’re writing something similar to Harry Potter, use different magic systems and different magical creatures.

Step Four: There Are Still Similarities!

Yeah. There’s going to be a lot of similarities to lots of other stories too. You’re going to have tropes in common with most of the stories within your genre. Pure originality is impossible. Some stories have the exact same premise (The Hunger Games and Battle Royale), but have different settings, characters, plots, outcomes, and are different overall.

Step Five: It Takes a While

This is not going to happen overnight. You need to put effort into your story and it’s going to take a long time if you want to get it right. Don’t give up after a week.

Over time, your story will evolve on its own. Writers rarely end up with what they first imagined their story to be. It will naturally go off on its own road. Follow it and stick with it.

Step Six: The Test

Find a beta reader who has read/seen the inspiration source or who has read/seen the story that is similar to yours. Don’t tell them that you’re trying to distance them. Don’t mention the inspiration source or the other story at all. Have them read it. If they say nothing about it being similar to those other stories, you should be okay. However, you should still ask and see what they say.

Source: thewritingcafe

Teachers, as I’m sure you all know by now, are an excellent resource. With many students returning to school for fall classes in the next few weeks, we think now is a great time to hit up real-life teachers for some back-to-school advice!

Below is an interview with Carrie Pack, a writer and teacher. Enjoy!

1. What class or classes do you teach?

This will be my eighth year teaching at the college level. I have taught everything from beginning journalism to editing, as well as advertising writing and ethics courses.

2. What type of writing do you deal with most often? Essays? Short answer? Outlines?

In the classes I teach, I require several writing styles, including essays, hard news and creative writing. I’ve included short answers on exams and created graphic organizers to help students outline their work. The only types of writing I’ve never taught is creative (at least not long form, like novels or short stories) and poetry.

3. How important is good grammar and spelling to you?

I believe good grammar is essential. When you write, word meaning and punctuation are extremely important. It’s how we convey meaning. Think of it like this: When we speak we have our tone of voice, body language, facial expressions, rate of speech, and even volume to convey meaning. When we write, all we have is punctuation and the precision of our words.

Because word choice is important, spelling is too. However, spell check has gone a long way to help us be better spellers. You just have to know the difference between loose and lose. Spell check won’t catch that. In my opinion, spelling is less important while writing, but becomes essential when proofing your work. That’s something students don’t do enough of: editing/proofing. Read it out loud. It really helps you to find errors you won’t find while reading silently to yourself.

4. Which style do you prefer students use in your class (MLA, APA, CMS, etc.)? Why?

At the college level, these are really dictated by your discipline. Certain majors prefer MLA and others prefer APA. Because I’ve primarily taught mass communication courses, we prefer MLA for citation style and Associate Press Style (also known as AP Style) for writing, but even that is a hard-and-fast rule. When learning a new style, pay attention to numbers and citations. Those are always the biggest differences for formatting in one style versus another.

5. Do you have any tips for doing research?

Do it. That may sound redundant, but I don’t think students do enough research. At a university, you have so much at your disposal. Don’t waste it. At the college where I teach, the reference librarians are super helpful but remain an underutilized resource. Research for a major term paper can be daunting; I recommend asking an expert—a reference librarian.

6. What are your biggest pet peeves when it comes to students’ writing in your class?

Not supporting an argument with evidence and reasoning. If you believe something to be true, you have to cite experts or professionals who agree, and if it’s not direct proof, you have to provide the reasoning that allowed you to come to that conclusion. Your opinion is not enough. This ties into the research question. If you know what you’re talking about—meaning, you did research and a lot of it—it’s much easier to support your arguments with examples or expert opinions.

7. What are some writing mistakes that you make that you’d like to caution your students against?

Being too wordy. We’re all such inefficient communicators. I’d recommend taking a journalism class to learn how to write more concisely. Using empty words and phrases in your writing is the equivalent of using the word “like” repeatedly when you speak. It makes you sound less intelligent, even if you have something really valuable to say.

8. What do you think is the most important thing students should know about writing in your class?

Writing is something you have to practice—like sports, music, dance, cooking; the more you do it, the better you become. If you remain averse to writing and put it off, you’ll never improve.

Also: just write. Force yourself to get the words on the page. Even if it’s horrible. Write a draft, and then spend most of your time editing. Then edit it again.

Thank you to Carrie for her excellent insights and advice! We hope that you’ve learned something, even if you haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in years.

If you are a teacher and you’d like to be a part of the Ask a Teacher Series, please shoot us a message! We’d love to have you!


If you are writing for fun, and if you don’t want any help, please write any way that works for you. I am not trying to convert you to writing with a plan. It truly does not matter to me how you write. However, if you are struggling to finish a book that makes sense, I would love you to carry on reading.

Why should you do it?

When I used to teach Writers Write regularly, one of the first things I asked students was: How does your story end? I did this for two reasons. Firstly, as much as some people love the idea of working with meandering storylines, it has been my experience that those writers seldom finish writing a coherent book. Secondly, most people who go to workshops or sign up for courses are truly looking for help, and I’ve learned that the best way to succeed in anything in life is to have a plan. Successful people will tell you that you need to know where you’re going before you begin.

Smell the roses

This does not mean that you can’t take time to smell the roses, or explore hidden paths along the way. It simply means that you always have a lifeline and when you get lost, it will be easier for you to find your way back again. Remember that readers like destinations. They love beginnings, middles, and endings. Why do you think fans are terrified that George R.R. Martin will die before he finishes A Song of Fire and Ice? They want to know how the story ends. 

Here are seven reasons why I suggest you write your ending first.

  1. If you know who the characters are at the end of the story, you will know how much you should reveal about them at the beginning. 
  2. You will be forced out of the ‘backstory hell’ that beginner writers inhabit and into the story the reader wants to read.
  3. Hindsight is an amazing thing. We all know how different life seems when we’re looking back. We can often tell where a problem began. We think about the ‘what ifs’ with the gift of hindsight. You can use this to your advantage in fiction writing.
  4. You will have something to work towards. Instead of aimlessly writing and hoping for the muse to show you the way, you will be able to pull the characters’ strings and write the words they need to get them from the beginning through the middle to the end.
  5. Plotting from the ending backwards saves you so much time because you will leave out stuff that isn’t meant to be there. You will not have to muddle through an overwritten first draft.
  6. Writing the end forces most of us out of our comfort zones. We have to confront the reality of what we are doing. It might not be as romantic as flailing around like a helpless maiden, but if you want writing to be your profession, it’s good to make the outcome visible. This is a way to show yourself that you are serious. The end gives you a goal to work towards.
  7. The ending is as important as the beginning. Good beginnings get people to read your first book. Great endings get readers to buy your second book.

There are a handful of famous authors, like Stephen King and George R.R. Martin, who say they don’t plot. I think they just don’t realise they are those rare authors – natural born storytellers, and that plotting is instinctive for them. I have interviewed many successfully published authors and I can revel that the majority of them do believe in plotting. They outline, in varying degrees, before they begin. And yes, most of them know what their ending will be. Why don’t you try it? What have you got to lose?

I truly hope this helps you write, and finish, your book.

by Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy 10 (Amazingly Simple) Tips to Get You Back on The Writing Track and The Author’s Promise- two things every writer should do. You could also read The Top 10 Tips for Plotting and Finishing a Book.

Source: amandaonwriting