Begin, Keep It Up, End It

This is a guest post from Kristina. I did not write this, but I hope you will nonetheless find it useful. 

Beginning, middle, and end, that’s all it takes to write that novel you’ve been putting off. Sounds easy, right? Well, if you remember which parts are most important, it can be.  

The Beginning

The beginning is CRUCIAL. To begin a book is to introduce your main characters, world, and the emotions/circumstances that will drive your story. This introduction is not only for the reader, but for yourself. Outlining and character charts can only help you so much with getting to know your characters. It’s kind of like saying you know a person just by seeing their social media profile: age, gender, location, where they work, et cetera. And you want to fill out all of this, if only for you to know, but putting this character description in action is how you will really get to know him or her.

Especially if you’re writing in first person, you want to know your protagonist’s voice: think I am my protagonist. I am my protagonist. Just don’t mutter this repeatedly out loud if you’re writing in a café or some other public place. Unless your goal is to scare the loud table beside of you away to reclaim peace and quiet for writing. In that case, throw a good creepy look their way to accompany the muttering, and you should be good to go.

Keep It Up

The middle is CRUCIAL. Now, you know your characters and their situation(s), but you need to grow both of these things. Even if your beginning starts out huge with some intense action scene or something, it should still be the smallest part in your book. Writing your novel will be like dancing up a staircase: you’ll waltz up several steps to start, linger a step or two, waltz up a couple more, and repeat.

Here’s what I mean by “linger.” After that intense action sequence, some explanations to cool down will be necessary. This is a good time to introduce any backstory vital to understanding your characters and what is going on right now in your plot. (Notice I said “now.” You don’t want to prematurely reveal backstory that gives away motive or, worse, the whole story before it even begins.)

Often times, this is the part people refer to when they say “it took a while to get into, but it was a great book.” You can’t control every individual’s preference on what defines a “great book,” but you can add flavor to this necessary point by adding subtle clues, for example, sensory imagery that adds something creepy to the atmosphere for a paranormal novel while providing insight to the future plot. With this, your reader will be intrigued by the information both provided and shown to them in scene, making them think something strange is definitely going on/about to happen.

As for the deeper middle, this is where throwing in clues can only get you so far. Eventually, your characters will need to act on these clues and details in one or more turning points. For example, the turning point in one of my novels is when my protagonist learns she has gained a stalker (on top of everything else I already put her through) via an incident that happened towards the beginning of the book. That incident was a “clue” or setup for what would happen far later.

But, if I could only say one thing about the middle of your book, it would be to set the reader aside for a minute to think about yourself. What scenes are you most looking forward to writing here? Is it a first kiss/acknowledgement of feelings between your protagonist and hero in a romance novel? Maybe a fight scene that will set up the ending? Whatever it is, it’s important that you have fun writing it, because if nothing is keeping you going through writing the middle of your novel, there will probably be nothing to keep the reader going either.

End It

The ending is CRUCIAL. Plots and subplots are wrapped up, every secret is revealed (unless, for instance, you’re writing a series), your villains get what they deserve or get away with the crime, and your main characters live or die happily ever after. Make sure not to cheat your reader or yourself on this. Take the time to thoroughly conclude what needs to be concluded. You don’t want an awesome twisty middle with a blah ending that feels more like a summary. Go ahead. Have fun. Punish (or not) your villains. Let your heroes bask in their accomplishments (or kill them off. It’s your book. I don’t know what you plan on writing!). And above all, fit that final piece in your novel’s beautiful puzzle. Then stand back and admire your work!


Notice how I emphasized that each part of your novel is crucial? That’s because each part of your novel IS crucial. The beginning is what yanks the reader in, the middle is what keeps the reader there, and the ending is what makes the reader not want to leave. Yes, the beginning is key to hooking an agent or publisher, but the middle and end will make them stay in your story world. So, when writing and revising, don’t focus all of your attention on only one of these three things. Put your heart and energy into every sentence of your book, and I guarantee you’ll end up with something awesome! :) 

Kristina M. Serrano graduated from CFCC with an Associates Degree in Arts, as well as from UNCW with a BFA in Creative Writing Fiction and a Certificate in Publishing, landing on the Dean’s and Chancellor’s Lists. She is the Executive Editor for The Corner Club Press, plans on soon querying the latest two of the four YA novels she’s written, and has dozens of unfinished novels and plots stored away for a rainy day. Aside from writing, she enjoys reading, singing, and sharing ice cream with her hyper Bichon Frisé doggie, Jake.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, or Blogspot.

I have underestimated three things in my life.

  • One: My driver’s licence test. Turns out you actually have to know how to drive. Let’s just say I did it more than once.
  • Two: Any diet I have ever been on. 
  • Three: NaNoWriMo. Seriously, this one kicked my butt all the way to Christmas and back. 

Last year around this time I wrote a very optimistic post about this annual occurrence. My suggestions were valid, but perhaps not as concrete as they could have been. I faded in week two, granted at the end, but fade I did. Anyone who has done NaNo before will warn you about the notorious week two. Anyhow, this year my preparation will be better. As I mentioned I cannot write without direction and research shows your chances of finishing increase with planning.

Before the first of November, I plan to have done these five things.

by Mia Botha

Advice: Using Real College as Setting

safyresky asked: I’m writing a story that takes place in the present in the USA. I’ve been researching post-secondary options there because one of my main characters is going to university/college (I’m Canadian and know basically nothing about american schools). I was wondering, is it okay to make reference to actual universities/colleges in real life? Or would it be better to make one up due to copyright issues? Could I use a real post-secondary institution but make up my own characters as Profs and the like?

Titles, names, and places cannot be copyrighted, so using a real life place is not a copyright concern. What is a concern is the possibility of defamation, specifically libel, which is when you publish a false statement about a person or entity which can negatively impact their reputation. As long as you don’t plan to make any false or negative statements about the college that you use, you’re okay to use it. And yes, you can (and actually should) make up your own professors and that sort of thing. You wouldn’t want to use real people without their permission. If you choose to use a real location, you will need to do a lot of research to make sure you render it fairly accurately. You can make up fake residency halls and on campus vendors, but you wouldn’t want to place a large river running beside it if there isn’t one. You also wouldn’t want to have them handing out law degrees if they don’t have a law school, so make sure you do some research. :)

If you’re concerned at all or if you need to have something horrific or otherwise negative take place there, you may want to consider making up your own college.

I think that’s probably one of the most significant moments in an aspiring writer’s career: How do you react to that first realization that you don’t know squat?

Meagan Spooner, author of LARK ASCENDING (out Oct. 1), on the necessity of humble pie. Listen to the interview here, or download it on iTunes or Stitcher!

Infuse Your Writing With Culture, Real and Fantasy

As I’ve been abroad for now three whole days, I’ve come to realize that I definitely cannot at this point write in the perspective of any person from England. Not at all. But, that’s not a bad thing. I am still a girl from New Jersey, which means I’m used to an incredibly different kind of culture in itself. For instance, they look at my abercrombie & fitch skirt and peanut butter sandwiches and know I am definitely not from around here.  

I am writing this post to encourage more of that. Culture is an interesting aspect of books that often goes overlooked unless the book happens to be about a culture that is so foreign to you. Culture does not have to be foreign to be impactful though. It can be subtle and thoughtful. Consider Susanna Clarke’s novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. So much of this book is about what it means to be English. Now, I’m not English. I don’t pretend I know what it means to be English, but this book was so interesting. It is two English magicians deciding for themselves what it means to be English. Undoubtedly, they are both technically English, but what does it mean?  J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye also shows a similar culture- one I’m more familiar with. Holden Caulfield, who I find incredibly relatable as a former prep-school student who often did travel to Manhattan, is part of a very select demographic of American teenagers. While almost everyone does find him so incredibly relatable, in truth, there are still so many little indicators of who he is and where he comes from and what it is like to live in his shoes. We can’t all run away from our boarding schools and spend a week in Manhattan. It’s expensive and inefficient. 

But anyway, today’s tip if to experiment with culture. Think of what defines you as you. How you, as an individual stand out and simultaneously present yourself as a member of a specific society. This is one way to add a deeper layer to your novel and add thought behind it. 

Resources: Writing Injuries and in Hospitals 

So you want to write about an injured character, but it’s been years since you’ve been to the hospital, or you’ve simply never had this particular injury. It’s been said that writers should write what they know, but this advice is limiting and outdated. With a whole world of information out there, there’s no reason you shouldn’t write the character you want. So when writing an injured character, it’s important to know which injuries will lead you to which parts of the hospital, what a hospital is like, and what procedures, treatments, and recovery is like for each particular injury. Here are some sources I hope will help. 




Remember that every injury is as unique as your character, but it’s important to know the facts; the more details you can give, the more the reader will understand what your character is going through. This is a great way to set the stakes, set up a plot, or set the scene. 

Temporary Leave

For now this blog will have guest posts from my publicist and members of The Corner Club Press. I have ensured their posts stay true to my blog, so I hope all of you find them equally helpful as the posts I write. It’s going to take some time for me to finish my revisions series because of this, but I desperately need the down time, so I hope all of you can understand. During this time, I can answer questions you send me, so if you have any, feel free to ask. 

Tuesday Tropes: Evil Stepmother

I don’t need to give you a list of examples for you to know how prevalent this one is. We all know about the evil stepmother, as she’s a predominant figure from ancient texts to fairy tales to modern stories. She often hates her stepchildren, who hate her in return, and she favors her biological children. She’ll do whatever it takes to make sure she and her children are the happiest, wealthiest, and most powerful in the family, and dad? Well, he’s either not in the picture anymore or won’t do a thing to stop the stepmother from abusing the stepchildren.

Why this can be bad: The unfortunate thing here is that there is some truth to this. A child living with a stepparent is significantly more likely to be killed or maimed by that stepparent than if they were with both biological parents, so it’s not terribly surprising to see this crop up so often in fiction. However, it appears in an overwhelming amount of fiction, so it’s sort of become like the Evil Uncle trope in the sense that I know a stepmother is going to be evil before I’ve even met her. It’s an expectation I’m waiting to be confirmed, without any chance of surprise. For example, I’m currently reading Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron, and while I’m already getting fed up with all the other predictable tropes being thrown at me, the evil stepmother plotting her stepson’s death was just the icing on the cake, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t roll my eyes.

How you can fix it: Change it up. And I don’t mean by making an evil stepfather, since that cliche exists, as well, though played out much less than the evil stepmom. I mean change it like make her a good figure. We so very rarely see a fictional stepmother that loves her stepchildren, let alone see that love reciprocated. While of course the kids are probably going to love their biological mother, whether she’s dead or disappeared, that doesn’t mean they can’t love their stepmother, as well. Mixed families are much more prevalent than they used to be and there are many people with great relationships with their stepparents. I’d love to see more stories with loving stepmoms involved.

Bottom Line: Like all cliches, use this very sparingly, but also recognize that this gives you a lot to subvert and play around with if you do decide to use it.

Kurt Vonnegut: 16 Rules For Writing Fiction

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

9. Find a subject you care aboutand which you in your heart feel others should care about.

10. Do not ramble.

11. Keep it simple. Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred.

12. Have guts to cut. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

13. Sound like yourself. The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child.

14. Say what you mean. You should avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing, if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.

15. Pity the readers. Our stylistic options as writers are neither numerous nor glamorous, since our readers are bound to be such imperfect artists.

16. You choose. The most meaningful aspect of our styles, which is what we choose to write about, is utterly unlimited.

Watch on

Screenplay Format: ACTION


Writing with Color: Description Guide - Words for Skin Tone

We discussed the issue of describing People of Color by means of food in Part I of this guide, which brought rise to even more questions, mostly along the lines of “So, if food’s not an option, what can I use?” Well, I was just getting to that!

This final portion focuses on describing skin tone, with photo and passage examples provided throughout. I hope to cover everything from the use of straight-forward description to the more creatively-inclined, keeping in mind the questions we’ve received on this topic.

So let’s get to it.

S T A N D A R D  D E S C R I P T I O N

B a s i c  C o l o r s


Pictured above: Black, Brown, Beige, White, Pink.

"She had brown skin.”

  • This is a perfectly fine description that, while not providing the most detail, works well and will never become cliché.
  • Describing characters’ skin as simply brown or beige works on its own, though it’s not particularly telling just from the range in brown alone.

C o m p l e x  C o l o r s

These are more rarely used words that actually “mean” their color. Some of these have multiple meanings, so you’ll want to look into those to determine what other associations a word might have.

Read More


A kind follower reminded me of that '7 Cardinal Rules of Life' post going around, and they asked me if I would ever do my take on them (that being, a writerly take). Well, seeing as how I’ve been running a Writer Positivity series for over 100 posts, I thought it would be a fun chance to collect some of my favorite advice!

PS: The above are not meant to be taken as ‘literal’ rules for writing, but rather advice for leading the lifestyle of a writer~ ♥︎

Looking for more writerly content? Make sure to follow for your daily dose of writer positivity, advice, and prompts!

Fighting Words


Advance, assail, assault, beset, charge, drive, foray, hurtle, launch, lunge, maul, press forward, push, rush, storm, surge


Blast, breach, carve, cleave, cleft, crack, cripple, crunch, demolish, destroy, disable, disfigure, disintegrate, divide, fragment, impair, mangle, mar, perforate, pulverize, rend, rift, ruin, rupture, sever, shatter, snap, splinter, split, wreck


Access, barge in, barrel in, horn in, infiltrate, intrude, invade, penetrate


Blow up, bomb, burst, detonate, erupt, fragment, go off, ignite


Collapse, descend, dive, drop, fall prone, header, lapse, plummet, plunge, slip, slump, sprawl, topple, trip, tumble


Agile, electric, fleet, hasty, nimble, quick, rapid, speedy, swift


capture, catch, clasp, grasp, grip, latch on to, nab, seize, snag, snatch, take


Bat, batter, bash, blow, bludgeon, box, buffet, bust, chop, clobber, clout, cuff, flail, hammer, haymaker, jab, knock, lash, paste, pummel, punch, rabbit punch, slap, slug, smash, sock, strike, swat, swipe, thrash, thump, uppercut, wallop


Bounce, bound, hop, jerk, jolt, leap, pounce, rise, skip, spring


Annihilate, behead, dispatch, eliminate, eradicate, erase, execute, exterminate, extirpate, finish, immolate, liquidate, massacre, murder, neutralize, obliterate, purge, slaughter, slay, snuff, terminate, waste


Bolt, dart, dash, escape, flee, gallop, hurry, lope, pace, scramble, race, rush, sprint, whisk


Bark, bellow, call, cry, holler, howl, roar, screech, shout, shriek, wail, yell, yelp


Blast, fire at, gun, open fire, nail, pick off, plug, pop, pull the trigger, salvo


Cut, gash, gouge, hack, hew, impale, incise, lacerate, pierce, prick, puncture, slash, slice, stick, thrust


Avert, bar, block, cease, check, defend, deflect, fend off, guard, halt, hold off, keep at bay, lull, obstruct, parry, push back, prevent, rebuff, repel, repulse, resist, shield, stave off, stun, ward off


Cast, catapult, chuck, eject, fire, fling, hurl, launch, lob, pelt, pepper, pitch, project, propel, shoot, shower, sling, spray, strew, toss


Accelerate, ambush, barrage, barricade, beat, bombard, buck, bushwhack, brandish, careen, clash, cleave, clench, clip, collide, crash, crawl, creep, crush, damage, dance, disappear, dodge, emit, exhaust, expel, fence, fly, freeze, frenzy, glance, grapple, grind, hasten, heave, hem in, hook, leave, lift, lurch, maneuver, net, onslaught, overtake, overwhelm, provoke, pursue, push, rally, reach, recoil, regress, retreat, rigor, rive, scatter, shove, shrivel, slip away, smatter, splatter, step, strain, stretch, strive, stroke, struggle, suppress, swerve, swing, swish, swoop, thrash, twirl, upset, urgent, vanish, vanquish, volley, waylay, wield, wither, wrestle, yield

Interesting Writing Prompts
  1. Every year on your birthday, you are visited by yourself from one year in the future. This year, no one shows up.
  2. Describe each day of the week as if it were a person.
  3. Write a story that begins with a word randomly picked from the dictionary.
  4. You wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of your books speaking to each other. Which books are speaking, and what are they saying?
  5. A story about discovering that a certain religion (or your own) has been proven to be true.
  6. Or, alternately, discover that your current religion (or your character’s) has been proven to be false.
  7. Write a scene immediately following a tragedy. You may give hints to what the tragedy could be, but you cannot reveal what it really is/was.
  8. Your main character becomes self-aware and realizes they’re living in a fictional story.
  9. Write about the person you are know, meeting the alternate version of yourself at the same age you imagined you would be at a younger age.
  10. Write a story from the viewpoints of a pen and paper being used to write a story.
  11. Write a story in just six words.
  12. You ride a subway through underground New York City and discover you can remember the pasts of your fellow passengers.
  13. What, exactly is a soul mate? Get creative.
  14. A short story about yourself, writing a novel. In the same short story, the main character of your novel begins writing a novel about you.
  15. You discover the lampposts on your street are watching and gossiping about you.
45 Things I Want to See More of in Stories (Post-Apocalyptic Edition)
  1. Leftover inconveniences (braces, casts, etc.)
  2. Renewable energy
  3. Creative attempts at fuel
  4. Cooperation
  5. Warlords
  6. Increased infant mortality
  7. Change in hierarchy (laborers more important than white-collar workers, etc.)
  8. New governmental structures
  9. Mercenary groups
  10. Formation of new states
  11. Formation of non-state groups
  12. Regrowth of land
  13. Lack of food security
  14. Reduction in gun usage (as ammunition runs out)
  15. Decrease in age of pregnancy and/or marriage (as life expectancy decreases)
  16. Direct effects of the apocalyptic event
  17. Increased multi-generational homes (as building houses becomes difficult again)
  18. Increased multi-family homes
  19. Attempts at sophisticated surgery with rudimentary tools
  20. Reduction in birth control
  21. General reduction in technology that requires sophisticated manufacturing
  22. Simple food
  23. Handmade clothing
  24. Clothing from animal products
  25. Houses built for natural lighting
  26. Attempted—and failed—swift adjustments to lack of technology
  27. Changes in views of morality
  28. Different types of law enforcement
  29. Changes in religion
  30. Attempted attachment to old societies
  31. Deliberate breakaways from old societies
  32. Attempts to cling on to old ideas of beauty despite changes in available beauty products
  33. Reduction in hygiene
  34. Increase in water-borne illnesses and parasites
  35. Lack of clean water
  36. Reduction in luxury goods
  37. Increase in homelessness
  38. Lack of communication capabilities
  39. Return to radio
  40. Lack of light pollution
  41. Attempted school systems
  42. Return to apprenticeship-style teaching
  43. Return to agricultural-style living
  44. Dealing with environmental fallout from apocalyptic event
  45. Dealing with environmental fallout from previous generations