Lengthening the Chain: Part 2

A few weeks ago I shared a bit of wisdom I learned from Bruce Coville at the Florida SCBWI’s winter conference. In that post, I related how important it is for us, as writers, to lengthen the chain for our readers. Bruce went on to share a few practical ways for us to do this:

1. Take Your Art Seriously, But Also Take Yourself Seriously As A Business Person. Learn to read contracts. Learn to negotiate. Know what’s happening in the industry.

This is important because the more secure you are from a business standpoint, the more attention you can give to the writing of your stories. Confidence creates freedom—from indecision, from worrying that you missed something, from stressing over having to do something that you know you suck at (like balancing the checkbook or creating a marketing plan). If we can educate ourselves on the business-y things, we’ll become more confident in our abilities, which frees us up to focus on the writing.

2. Take Your Art Seriously But Take Yourself Lightly. Strive to be great, but also try to be good.

Oh my word. How awesome is this? Because good people do good things, right? If we’re so tied up in our craft and our ego, how will we have time for the real world and the people in it? Craft is important, but kindness and patience and forgiveness and truth-sharing—these are the gifts that truly help others. If we embrace these good things and practice them ourselves, not only will we be helping others in real life, but the goodness will also come through in our writing.

3. Never Throw Anything Away. Ideas are usually better than your skill level.

He talked about going back years later and rewriting an earlier story idea that he hadn’t been able to do justice to at the time. My skill level hasn’t evolved quite that far, but I HAVE learned the fine art of cannibalization. That story stinks, but the setting is really unique and interesting. Let me use that in my WIP. This idea is pedantic and elementary, but I love the character. Into my new story he goes. Truly, no idea is without value.

4. Embrace the Unfinished Chord. Leave something for the reader to dream about.

As a musician, I LOVE this analogy. An unfinished chord is…somewhat unsettling. It fills you with this itching desire for something more. This is one of my criteria for a truly great book: reading the final page and thinking about the story…and thinking. Going to bed and waking up…still thinking. As an author, I’d love for each of my stories to leave a little question in the reader’s mind. Something to keep them thinking and make them wonder and maybe start them asking questions they wouldn’t have asked before.

Good stuff, yes? Thank you, Bruce Coville, for sharing your wisdom and thereby lengthening all of our chains.



Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
This entry was posted in SCBWI. Bookmark the permalink.
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] LINK: PART 2 of Lengthening The Chain […]

Leslie S. Rose
7 years ago

I’ve had the honor of hearing Bruce speak. Awe-inspriing. Thanks for sharing.

Misha Gericke
7 years ago

Hey ladies,

Congratulations on a well deserved Most Useful Blog nomination for the Paying Forward Awards.


Misha Gericke

Daniyal Memon
7 years ago

Latest Forex Market Tips Online, Free Forex News updates, Daily Forex News, Daily updates about Currency Exchange Rates

7 years ago

This is an amazing post. I really like it, thanks a lot for sharing.

Theresa Milstein
7 years ago

#3 really resonated with me because I overhauled a middle grade I wrote in 2006. I loved the idea, but it needed so much work. I’m querying it now, and am going further with it than I did last time.

Karen Lange
7 years ago

Great stuff. I can see where it helps bring clarity to our writing. Thanks so much, Becca, for sharing. Lots to think about!

Jemi Fraser
7 years ago

Embrace the unfinished chord… wow! I love that! What a beautiful way to express it 🙂

ED Martin
7 years ago

Great advice! I’ve run into ideas that are “better than your skill level,” and it just makes me work harder to hone the craft, because there are stories I definitely want to be able to tell someday.

Martha Ramirez
7 years ago

What awesome advice! Thank you so much for this!

7 years ago

SO excited about IndieReCon! An wow. I absolutely love these tips! The “Never Throw Anything Away” is a great one! You just never know when something will come back around~

Thanks, Becca! <3

Traci Kenworth
7 years ago

Lengthening the chain…good image and idea!! Thanks!!

Miranda Hardy
7 years ago

More great advice. Thank you for sharing it with us.

7 years ago

Great post, Becca, thanks!

Natalie Aguirre
7 years ago

Even though I’m not a musician, I really liked the unfinished chord analogy too. There was lots of great advice there. Thanks for sharing it.

T. Drecker
7 years ago

I like the unfinished chord analogy… or a slightly inharmonic one. Nice list!