photo of Elizabeth Engstrom by Mary Bartnikowski

Link to Table of Contents

Oak Tree Graphic

Writing Tips

The Three Act Structure
Point of View
Overdone Plots
How to Write a Query
Weekly Writer’s Workshop Format
The Art of the Short Story
The Synopsis
The Art of the Essay
A Simple Approach to Plot
Evaluating Your Original Idea
Last Draft: The Final Polish

How to Start Before You Start

  1. Does your idea have a good “What If” factor?
  2. Can you state your idea in one sentence?
  3. Can you visualize the ending?
  4. Do you know who is telling the story? Have you chosen a point of view?
  5. Is your protagonist flawed?
  6. Is there an interesting conflict?
  7. Does your protagonist have ghosts in his/her closet that have led to this problem?
  8. Does your protagonist begin with reluctance to engage in the conflict?
  9. Is your protagonist eventually invested in fixing the problem so much that he/she can’t just shrug and walk away? Are there dire consequences for that action?
  10. Will your readers root for your protagonist and worry about his/her fate?
  11. Is your antagonist strong, with a dedicated mission?
  12. Will readers love to hate the antagonist?
  13. Are your characters different from you and different from each other?
  14. Do your characters have memorable names and odd quirks and characteristics?
  15. Is the time frame taut and purposeful or loose and weak?
  16. Is this story trite or original?
  17. Is this story similar to one you’ve read? What is the fresh aspect that you bring to the story?
  18. Do you have enough passion for the idea to keep writing on it for a year or more?