How to solve plot problems with a simple technique

In this article, you’ll learn a simple, yet powerful technique to solve all of your plot problems. If you’ve come here from Wattpad, you probably just want the Solving Plot Problems Template that you can use for your own plot problem today.

Especially in science fiction and fantasy, or in any longer story with a large amount of elements or characters that you need to keep track of, there are the inevitable plot problems that can really stump us writers.

plot problems

Writer’s Block by Jonno Witts on Flickr

I’m sure you’ve experienced it…. “If Character X does this, then that will affect Character Y in this way, which doesn’t work because people in World Z don’t do that kind of thing. But if Character X doesn’t do that, then how does she do it?”

I found while writing my first novel (an epic science fiction spanning multiple generations with 5 main characters) that these kind of plot problems could be so severe and intimidating that I often gave up working on my novel for weeks, months or years at a time. I would wait for the answers to “hit” me like bolts of magical inspiration lightening. Sometimes they did hit me — sometimes in the strangest places, like in the shower, or driving my car, or just after waking up. But often they didn’t hit me and I was left with plot problems that felt like I’d never be able to solve. EVER.

Then I discovered this technique, which I’m about to show you. And now, whenever I run into a plot problem, I sit down and use it and it ALWAYS works. It’s simple and will take you less than 30 minutes to learn how to use for your own story. Continue reading

A beautiful long sentence about long sentences – Long Sentence #2

Pico Iyer wrote a playful and eloquent article for the Los Angeles Times about his decision to write long sentences as a form of protest against our world’s obsession with speed. He explained that as a young journalist he had succumbed to the need for speed and crunched his writing into short soundbites, but as he matured in his writing and probably in life too, he discovered the glory of, and more importantly (to me), a powerful rationale for writing longer sentences. I’ve always wanted to find a solid defense for the long sentence, so that I could write on without inpunity, but had never come up with anything clever, and so it was a real pleasure for me to find this article.

Follows is the most beautiful, and one of the longest sentences in his article that gives a colourful, heartfelt explanation of his decision to write long sentences. Prepare to be amazed.

Enter (I hope) the long sentence: the collection of clauses that is so many-chambered and lavish and abundant in tones and suggestions, that has so much room for near-contradiction and ambiguity and those places in memory or imagination that can’t be simplified, or put into easy words, that it allows the reader to keep many things in her head and heart at the same time, and to descend, as by a spiral staircase, deeper into herself and those things that won’t be squeezed into an either/or.

To learn more about Pico Iyer, see his website.

Create your own personal writing style guide

'Writing' by jjpacres on Flickr

Does your writing have style? 'Writing' by jjpacres on Flickr

In this post I’ll give you a free style guide template to work with, and I’ll cover the following:

  • What is a style guide?
  • Why create a personal style guide?
  • How to create a style guide.

In university we learn about style guides such as MLA and APA, which are so confusing that you practically need a guide to use them–especially if you take a psychology and a history class at the same time!  But style guides don’t have to be complicated or long–they can be as short as one page!

My first run-in with a simple, personalized style guide really delighted me, so I thought I would share this simple tool with you. Continue reading

What is grammar?

So, what is grammar?  One of the best definitions of grammar that I have heard comes from a book called The Practice of English Language Teaching (link opens book on Scribd), which defines grammar as:

the description of the ways in which words can change their forms and be combined to form sentences.

For example, “I pie eated” is not grammatically correct, because the word “To eat” has not been formed ‘correctly’, and the order of the words is ‘incorrect’.  The grammatically correct form is “I ate pie.”

Grammar has two aspects:

  1. Morphology : the forms a word can take (how words change: eat/eats/ate/eaten or city/cities/city’s/cities’ or do/doable/done/undone/did/redo).
  2. Syntax : the order that words go in (how words are ordered in a sentence: I ate pie–subject/verb/object).  See Wikipedia or the Practice of English Language Teaching, for more info. Continue reading

7 Types of Sentence Fragments and How to Use Them

This article is for beginner to advanced native and second-language English speakers and teachers. For a shortened version of this lesson, download my lesson, Advanced Sentences, and feel free to use or adapt it, without copyright.

This article contains the following sections, feel free to jump down to any of them:

  • The Importance of Grammar
  • Types of Sentences
  • What is a Sentence Fragment
  • The 7 Sentence Fragments
  • Examples of the 7 Sentence Fragments
  • Examples of Long Sentences Using Many Fragments
  • Sentence Fragment Lessons for English/ESL Teachers

The Importance of Grammar

Run! by Glenn~ on flickr

As an ESL teacher, I found that my own writing drastically improved once I started teaching grammar to my students–especially the 7 different types of sentence fragments. I had learned English grammar in high-school, but those classes were boring; I had more important things to concentrate on, such as the outfit I was wearing, or how dreamy Cory Haim was in License to Drive. When I started teaching grammar as an ESL teacher, I was actually re-teaching myself, and the most valuable aspect of grammar that I re-learned was the 7 sentence fragments.

Understanding how to use these fragments properly will help you:

  • Write sentences that are grammatically correct, because you will finally understand grammar
  • Write longer sentences
  • Write sentences that have different structures, which is important for rhythm and flow (the musical aspects of language)
  • Use commas properly, because you will finally know where to put them!

I am convinced that most writers–beginner and advanced–need more practice in understanding and using sentence fragments properly, and I hope this lesson will help you learn to write more eloquent and grammatically correct sentences.

Continue reading

Most frequently used words in English

Vocabulary notepad, by Streetfly JZ on Flickr

Did you know that the average person uses only 2000-5000 words on a daily basis? One of the most important tools I use as an English, ESL & Literacy teacher is a most frequently-used-words list.

It is possible to make countless vocabulary exercises & games from the crucial 2000 most frequently used words, and they are also the key words for learning the long and short vowels & spelling rules, for children grades 2-6, but also for adult English speakers that suffer from lower levels of literacy (80% of Canadians score 3 or lower out of 5 on the literacy scale, see here). Continue reading

Collaborative self-publishing?

Collaborative self publishing within a social network

I recently read an interesting blog post about the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. regular publishing that really made me think long and hard about how self-publishing could be made more successful.   The answer that I came up with is a collaborative publishing platform.  I don’t think it has really been done yet, and definitely not in a truly collaborative way.

Continue reading

Reading for Learning a New Language

"Day 14" by Margo Conner on Flickr

If you are learning a new language, the most useful and pleasant thing you can do for your study is READ!!!  As an ESL teacher, I have noticed that my students who are regular readers, really advance more quickly than students who do not like reading.  Therefore it is important to foster the skill of reading. Continue reading

The Importance of Sound for Mastering a Language

Talking with Your Child (Woman Alive 1974) by Mod as Hell on Flickr

When we are young, we learn the sounds of our language automatically from our parents, but when we learn a new language we need to pay special attention to the sounds. In most languages, including English, sound is made with two types of letters: 1) Consonants and 2) Vowels

The consonants are similar in many languages, but vowel sounds may be very different from language to language. Continue reading