Character background sheets be damned

So often when I pick up a book on characterization or encounter a characterization tip on Twitter, I’ll see the “character background sheet” espoused as the be-all and end-all of character development.

These sheets include questions about things like your main character’s profession, eye color, and astrological sign. In fact…


(But so do you)

A few years ago, I met a famous novelist at a conference. He’d sold millions of books. It seemed like he published a new book every time the wind changed direction. As I told him about National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo), he turned skeptical, and he asked me, “How…


Productivity advice, schedules, and apps are all well and good, but don’t forget this crucial element of creativity

A word on play.

A serious word on play.

I write this as one who just wrote a craft book. This might be defined as a lot of thinking about writing: how it happens, why it happens, how to do it, why do it. When I grew up in the…


The raw truth, the literal truth, and the truth of a “lie”

Confessional booth

I’ve been wondering why humans have such a deep need to confess, to bare their souls in search of relief. Whether a confession happens in a church confessional, on a therapist’s couch, or at an AA meeting, the goal is similar: to find reconciliation, grace. To unshed burdens. To gain…


“Nothing is as obnoxious as other people’s luck,” said F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Or their success.

By human nature we compare ourselves to others. We’re social creatures, and social creatures create a pecking order, so we tend to rank ourselves against others’ achievements because our brain is wired to figure out…


Surrender is a word soaked with negative connotations. To surrender is to be weak. You surrender when you have no more will to fight, when you lack strength, when you lack belief. Surrendering can seem like a character flaw, especially in victory-at-any-cost America. Never surrender, never give up. …


“Dog Looking at and Listening to a Phonograph, ‘His Master’s Voice’, The Original RCA Music Puppy Dog Logo Symbol for Advertising” by Beverly & Pack is licensed with CC BY 2.0.

When Tom Hanks asked Nora Ephron for writing advice, she exclaimed, “Voice, voice, voice!”

It’s as if Ephron was telling Hanks to talk louder, to project, to speak from his diaphragm. But a writer’s voice isn’t so simple. It’s an enigmatic and elusive thing. I couldn’t help but thinking that…


If you make your novel into a sandbox, castles will emerge.

I was recently asked whether it’s more difficult to write the beginning or the ending of a novel. My answer? Neither. The most difficult part of a novel to write is the middle — popularly known as the “muddy middle,” or just the “muddle.” …


What does it really mean to be a “real” writer?

Many people hesitate to call themselves a “real” writer. They often think they need to be published to be a real writer — that they need to give readings, speak at conferences, earn a living from their work — even when they’ve been writing for years.

I don’t like money…


Rejection is a sign that you’re pushing boundaries, opening doors.

To be an author is to be rejected. Sometimes a publisher rejects your work. Sometimes a friend or family member responds unfavorably. Sometimes you reject yourself. …

Grant Faulkner

Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month, co-founder of 100 Word Story, writer, tap dancer, alchemist, contortionist, numbskull, preacher.

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