Writing 101: Hard-Knox College

📅 March 18, 2020

A ttend writers’ groups, seminars, and conferences.  

B e confident. Put words on paper and let someone read what you have written.  

C reate a character for the reader to love and a character to hate.

D rive your main character “up a tree and throw rocks at her.”   

E nvision your character with an obsession. What drives him/her forward? [James Scott Bell]

F igure out the writing routine that works for you and stick with it.   

G enerate a list of “first lines” and use them to spark your imagination. Example: Lorna was not sure when the idea to run away had seized her.

H elp another writer by sharing what you have learned.

I ncrease your skill set with books, webinars, and courses [online and off].   

J oin your state Writers’ Association.

K eep going even when you want to quit or are “certain” of failure. Never stop for the day unless you have conquered the immediate challenge you are facing.  

L ink unrelated events. View two people or happenings. Connect them. [David Baldacci] Example: window washer and homeless person. What if the window washer is really a burglar and the homeless person sees him breaking in, but is not believed by police? Will he act on his own to stop the thief? Offer help?

M ake “said” your default attribution. “For readers, it is practically invisible.” [James Scott Bell] Flowery verbs have gone out of fashion with today’s reader.

N arrate: decide between 1st person or 3rd person. To make sure you have made the right choice, take one paragraph and write it both ways. Which one works?

O utline. There are two approaches to writing—Plotters [follow an outline] and “Pantsters” [write by the proverbial ‘seat of their pants.’] To some degree, know the end from the beginning. Characters come and go, plots twist and turn, but you need to know where you are going…at the very least, from the beginning to the end of a chapter.

P ace your story, sometimes using “scene” [dialogue and action with the characters] and sometimes using “summary” [condensing a long section into a review].

Q uit telling yourself, “I can’t do this.”

R ead your work out loud.

S tep away from your manuscript and write freestyle on a blank page, even if it sounds like gibberish. When you re-read, you may find one sentence, phrase, or idea you can use.

T ake the reader into your confidence. Reveal things the hero does not know. Involve reader in the solution. [James Scott Bell]

U se a team to help, especially if you are an independent author: critique group, beta readers, editing, formatting, website design, cover design, layout, marketing.   

V isualize. Use sensory images to put your reader in the scene. Help your reader see, hear, taste, touch, smell. Remember: “Show. Don’t tell.”

W rite dialogue when you have writer’s block. 

X the adverbs. Today’s fiction does not use ‘-ly’ words. Instead of: “She’s gone,” George said sadly, try— Shutting the door, George bowed his head. “She’s gone.”

Y ield to the voices of experience and wise advice. 

Z est is essential. If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. For the first thing a writer should be is—excited. [Ray Bradbury]


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Holly Bebernitz

Native Texan Holly Bebernitz moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1967. After thirty years of teaching speech, English, and history on the secondary and college levels, she retired from classroom teaching to become a full-time grandmother. The change in schedule allowed the time needed to complete the novel she had begun writing in 1998. When Trevorode the Defender was published in March 2013, the author realized the story of the Magnolia Arms was not yet complete.


Semi-Finalist - 2021 Royal Palm Literary Award Competition - Florida Writer's Association