Top 20 Middle Grade Agents: 129 Sales in the Last 12 Months

What agents are selling middle grade novels? does a great job of monitoring the business of selling manuscripts to publishers. If you’re looking for an agent, you’ll want to spend a lot of time there doing research on agents to find the perfect match for you and your stories. Here’s just one way to […]

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Scenes: The Skeleton of a Novel

skeleton copy

You’re a human being: you can stand up, sit down, or do a somersault. That’s because you have a skeleton that gives your soft tissue a structure. Likewise, it’s important to give your novel a structure that will hold all the soft murmurings about characters, places and events. It begins with understanding the structure of […]

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Tone: Is your Romance Sensual or Intellectual?


I am currently reading Eleanor and Park, a YA romance; one of the interesting things about this story is the author’s choice to create a sensual tone. It’s not sexy or intellectual. The choice of tone is interesting because often a romance can devolve into physical stuff of sex. Instead, Rowell walks a fine line […]

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Storytelling: One Surprising Approach to Plotting

Storytellers Statue on Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure Park. One of the most amazing American storytellers that ever lived.

Plotting is probably the hardest thing I do. I can explain to you 29 different plot templates. And I often write about plotting a novel. Theory, I know. And I know that I can plot a story pretty well. It’s just HARD. The problem is that there are a series of inter-connected scenes which build […]

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Thanks, Optimus Prime: What the Transformers Can Teach Us About Plot


I am writing a science-fiction trilogy and I’d like it to have general appeal to kids and teens. So, recently, I went to see the new Transformers 4: Age of Extinction to see what I could learn. Here’s one of the official movie trailers. If you can’t see this video, click here. Transformer’s Major Plot […]

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Off-Stage Scenes Rarely Work – Unless You Are Scarlett

In GONE WITH THE WIND, the real action often takes place off-stage. Yet, Margaret Mitchell manages to pull it off. Can you?

Here’s a common problem that I see in first drafts: the main action has happened off-stage. Think about Scarlett O’Hara and the other southern women sitting at home waiting; in an attempt to avenge his wife, Frank and the Ku Klux Klan raid the shanty town whereupon Frank is shot dead. But the raid takes […]

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NOVEL REVISION CHARTS: 2 Tools for Smart Re-Thinking of Your Story

Finseth's Novel Revision Chart

An aid to smart revising based on Darcy Pattison’s techniques Guest Post by Claudia Finseth I recently took Darcy’s Whole Novel Workshop and read her book, Novel Metamorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise. Between the two, there was a great deal of valuable new information to process. I’m very visual, so one way I worked through […]

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The Conversation of Literature: What Are They Saying About Your Book?


We don’t write in a vacuum. Your story is in the context of the whole of literature, and specifically, the literature of your genre. How does your story add to, change, enhance the conversation? This question was brought home to me as I picked up my son’s comic book. It’s a reproduction of the original […]

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Scene: Fast or Fast-Paced?

Fast-paced scenes aren't necessarily fast scenes.

Is your scene fast or fast-paced? There’s a difference, an important difference. A fast paced scene has lots of small changes happening, which keeps the reader on the edge of his/her seat. Think of it as the last few minutes of a basketball game where the ball changes hands often, and the score bounces back […]

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How to Ruin Your Novel’s Opening with a Few Wrong Words

Choosing the right set of words–the diction of your novel–is crucial, especially in the opening pages of your novel. Novels are a context for making choices, and within that context, some words make sense and some don’t. A novel sets up a certain setting, time period, tone, mood and sensibilities and you must not violate […]

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Begin in the Muggle World: Opening Scenes


Where should your novel begin? The Harry Potter series doesn’t start with the death of Harry’s parents, because Harry wasn’t old enough to remember that. It doesn’t start with the first day in Hogwarts School because it wouldn’t bring us into Harry’s world with a strong enough sense of character and a strong sympathy for […]

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13 Blast it Out of the Park Posts of 2013

c. Dwight Pattison. My favorite picture that my husband took this year. Pelicans along the Arkansas River

It’s a time to look backward. What are the 13 most popular posts on Fiction Notes in 2013? Here’s the countdown! Posts Written in 2013 13. 63 Character Emotions to Explore When your character gets stuck at sad, even sadder and truly sad, explore these options for more variety. 12. 5 Quotes to Plot Your […]

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Novelists: You are Gifted & Talented

Gifted and Talented If you have finished a draft of a novel (however messy!), you are Gifted and Talented. The fact that you are Gifted and Talented has an important implication for revising your story. GT Learners. First, I’ve talked with Gifted and Talented Teachers about how their students learn. When they learn something new, […]

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Rudolph’s Top 5 Writing Tips

Merry Christmas from Rudolph, Fiction Notes and Darcy Pattison

Happy Holidays Just got an e-newsletter from the North Pole and Santa passed along these writing tips from the Frosty the Snowman, posted for the young-at-heart who are writing novels this year. Back by popular demand is my series on writing tips from popular Christmas figures. First published in 2007, they are updated here for […]

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