Writing Lessons from Deborah Harkness

htwff-story-300I just stumbled across a couple of interesting blog posts from a writer (Nicole Evelina) who took a master class from author Deborah Harkness (All Souls Trilogy–so worth reading if you have not) on writing. As Camp NanoWriMo is just around the corner, I thought it would be a great time to share them.

Ms. Harkness writes historical fiction but I think there are a lot of parallels between writing historical fiction and writing fanfiction. In both fanfic and historical fiction, the setting is already determined and essentially becomes “window dressing” for the story. Historical fiction authors look for gaps in history to “write into.” Fanfiction authors are experts at this process! Fanfiction basically exists because of these gaps in the story.  I’ve been catching up on Once Upon a Time on Netflix and I can’t stop my brain from turning every time a character goes off for a little (or long) while. (Is anyone else wondering why when the Merry Men showed up in Storybrooke, Mulan wasn’t with them?)

These posts provide a high level look at the process of writing fiction and I think they are really valuable–especially if you are looking to evolve your writing into the next level.

Lessons in Creative Writing from Deborah Harkness:

Part 1 (Character)
Part 2 (Plot, Openings)
Part 3 (Setting, Research)
Part 4 (Worldview)
Part 5 (POV, Tips)

Writing Tool: EditMinion

EditMinionEditing is a tough job, especially when you simply want to bask in the glory of a finished story. EditMinion is a new tool you can use to catch basic errors in grammar, excessive adverbs, repeated words and other style-related errors.

To use it, paste your text into the wizard and click the edit button. EditMinion will analyze your text and highlight a range of errors. Generally these are quick-fixes, so your return on the time invested is pretty high.

While it’s no substitute for a beta reader, Editminion does a great job cleaning up a manuscript.

Give it a try here: EditMinion



Picture Prompt: Empty Benches

Many of you asked for more prompts and writerly inspiration on the recent survey that I posted, so I’ll be posting prompts on a regular basis. I’ll tweet them as well. (Follow me on Twitter here.)  If you need help working with prompts, please see this post.

Picture of empty benches

Prompt: Empty Bench

Image Courtesy Remy Levine Dreamstime Stock Photos

Your Key to a Great NaNoWriMo: Seven Point Story Structure

Seven Point Story StructureI am an avid listener of the Writing Excuses Podcast (features Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler & Mary Robinette Kowal) and last week they focused on something called the Seven Point Story Structure. This is the brain child of Dan Wells who adapted it from a Star Trek role -playing book. (See why I thought it would be great for Fan Fiction writers!)

I’ve Got an Idea, Now What?

Last time I focused on ideas. so now we’re going to take your idea and give it structure using the Seven Point method. Lucky for all of us, Mr. Wells has a presentation of the Seven Point Story Structure on YouTube, so I’ve included the videos in this post. I’m just going to hit the high points and provide you with a worksheet (because I love the worksheets!) so that you can get to work.  The videos are entertaining and he gives lots of geeky examples! He covers information for Romance writers too.

Begin with the End in Mind

Before you write a single word of your story, you must know how it is going to end. If you don’t know how it is going to end, you’ll just be writing aimlessly until you write yourself into a corner, or are forced to go back and start over. So before you do another thing, write down where you want your characters to be at the end of your story. (Just the end, you don’t have to figure out how they got there…yet.)

Once you know where you are ending, you can just put your character in the opposite place for the beginning…so now you have your beginning and your end. Nice, eh?

Seven Point Story Structure Components

Here’s the skinny on the Seven Point Story Structure. This method focuses on the seven pivotal events in your book that drive the story. In the downloadable worksheets for this section, you’ll find examples for this structure.

They are:

The Hook

This is where your characters start from. You set up your character’s world and set their stakes (what they have to lose) in this part.

Plot Turn 1

This is the event that sets your story in motion.  It moves you from the beginning to the Midpoint. You character’s world changes here.

Pinch 1

Pinches are where you put pressure on your hero from your antagonist to force your hero into action.


The midpoint takes your character from reaction to action. At the midpoint, your character determines that she must do something.  (This can take place over a series of scenes.)

Pinch 2

Pinch 2 is where your story takes the ultimate dive. Your hero is literally sitting in the jaws of defeat. Everything has fallen apart.

Plot Turn 2

This point moves the story from the Midpoint to the Resolution. Plot Turn 2 is where you character receives the final piece of information that he needs to make it to the resolution. (No new information can be introduced after this point.) You character believe he has the power to achieve the resolution.


Your hero completes what he sets out to do.

Click here to Download the Worksheets

7 point story structure worksheet

You can apply this structure to each of the threads in your story. Along with a blank worksheet, I’ve provided you with several examples. I happened to watch the first episode (two-part) of DS9 last night, so I broke them down with the 7 point story structure as an example. It’s actually fun to see how movies, tv shows and books make compelling use of this structure. Once you know it, you will see it everywhere!

Dan Wells (see his books here) breaks down Story Structure

If you want to see this in action, I highly recommend reading Partials by Dan Wells. (It’s only $2.99 for the Kindle right now. Such a deal!) He’s also got a horror series that is excellent.

(It’s a 5 part series. I’ve listed them in order.)



Get Inspired with the Fan Fiction Prompt-O-Matic

Fanfiction Prompts to Inspire You

How to Write Fan Fiction is your one-stop-shop for inspiration.

I’ve just set up a new feature at How to Write Fan Fiction–the Fan Fiction Prompt-O-Matic. (Check it out, just to the top left of this post.)

Every time you visit, you’ll get a brand new prompt. Sometimes, all it takes is a single word to set your imagination on overdrive, so if you are looking for inspiration for your next Fanfic, How to Write Fan Fiction is your one stop shop for prompts. (If you want some help working with prompts, head over to  How to Write with Prompts.) And don’t forget, we’ve got prompt tables for those of you who really want a challenge.

Once you have your Prompt, you can use the Mind Map Worksheet to really work out your idea. Spend between 5 and 10 minutes writing down everything you can think of that relates to your prompt. More than once, I’ve had a story outline itself with this process. Prompts are a great way to brush up on your writing skills–just writing a drabble (100 word fic) a day, keeps your creativity flowing. Drabbles often provide the seeds for longer stories–after you’ve had a while to let things simmer in the back of your brain.

If you have any prompts that you’d like me to add to the list, please submit them via the Contact page on this site. And when you write your story, please come back and share a link in the comments of this post so that we call all read it.