How to Show Hidden Emotion and Subtext

Everybody lies.
You do.
I do.
And our characters certainly do, too.

It doesn’t make us evil, callous, or bad…it’s a defense mechanism. When a person is uncomfortable, under pressure, or doesn’t feel safe, they hold back. It might be information, what they really want or need, their true opinions, or something else. But under it all, what’s really being hidden is EMOTION.

In fiction, we see this happen in almost every dialogue exchange. Our characters say one thing but feel another, yet carefully hide those emotions to avoid feeling exposed and vulnerable. They worry others will judge them, view them as weak, or use their emotions against them.

No matter what the reason is for holding back, writers face a big challenge because they must show what’s on the surface AND what’s hidden (subtext) so readers are always in the loop.

So how can writers show what a character is attempting to hide from everyone else?

Come find out!

Upcoming Webinar

Hidden Emotion and Subtext: Making Dialogue Crackle What Isn’t Said

Looking to up your show-don’t-tell game when it comes to character emotion? Then this is the webinar for you. Join Angela as she digs into hidden emotion, subtext, and the truckload of ways to show what’s happening beneath the surface and use it to pull readers in.

When: Saturday, March 20th, 11 am MST

Where: Zoom (Limit of 100 people)

Who: Angela Ackerman

Cost: $20 (2-hour session)

Can’t make it live? Don’t worry, a limited time recording will be made available.

(If interested, don’t wait too long to register. The last time Angela gave this webinar it filled up, which is why she wanted to offer it again for any who missed it.)

See you there!

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Relationship Thesaurus Entry: Guard and Prisoner

Successful stories are driven by authentic and interesting characters, so it’s important to craft them carefully. But characters don’t usually exist in a vacuum; throughout the course of your story, they’ll live, work, play, and fight with other cast members. Some of those relationships are positive and supportive, pushing the protagonist to positive growth and helping them achieve their goals. Other relationships do exactly the opposite—derailing your character’s confidence and self-worth—or they cause friction and conflict that leads to fallout and disruption. Many relationships hover somewhere in the middle. A balanced story will require a mix of these dynamics.

The purpose of this thesaurus is to encourage you to explore the kinds of relationships that might be good for your story and figure out what each might look like. Think about what a character needs (good and bad), and build a network of connections for him or her that will challenge them, showcase their innermost qualities, and bind readers to their relationship trials and triumphs.

Description: When charged or convicted of a crime, a person is taken into custody and placed in a secure cell, either alone or with others. One or more guards monitor those incarcerated to ensure they and others are safe. Guards enforce rules, transport prisoners from their cell to other secure areas, accompany them to hearings, necessary appointments, and other court-appointed appearances. Generally their job is to tell the prisoner what to do, where to go, and how to behave. Because guards have power and authority while prisoners have none, what this ultimately looks like depends on the ethics of the legal system in place and the rules and regulations guards are bound by as they carry out their duties.

Relationship Dynamics:
Below are a wide range of dynamics that may accompany this relationship. Use the ideas that suit your story and work best for your characters to bring about and/or resolve the necessary conflict.

Invading privacy as part of the job, searching an inmate or their cell for contraband and weapons
Working to keep prisoners calm during stressful moments (after family visits, when an appeal is overturned, after sentencing, etc.)
Cracking down on disruptions to enforce peace
An inmate having a legitimate problem that guards don’t take seriously
An inmate feeling micromanaged and constantly watched by authority
A guard intervening in a conflict to protect a prisoner from other inmates
A prisoner who tries to uncover a guard’s weaknesses to manipulate them
A prisoner who incites others to cause trouble for the guards (for entertainment, to distract them, or to put them in peril)
Guards trying to get information from prisoners via threats, force, or punishment
Taking away items from a prisoner to remind them who is in charge
Turning a blind eye to cruelty or violence unless it reaches a certain level
A guard who takes discipline too far and badly injures a prisoner
A guard who uses their position of power for gain (taking bribes, demanding sexual favors, etc.)
A guard being paid to pass on messages, contraband, or to arrange for special privileges
Trying to intimidate a guard by making threats to use outside connections to hurt a guard’s family

Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
Prisoners wanting to escape the guards keeping them locked up
Inmates who struggle with authority figures
Guards trying to turn a prisoner into an informant when the prisoner knows that will get them killed
Wanting to control the actions of a prisoner prone to violence
Wanting to get revenge on a guard when he or she has all the power
Knowing a guard is unethical and sadistic and being unable to do anything about it

Clashing Personality Trait Combinations: Manipulative and perceptive, dishonest and trusting, controlling and independent, private and controlling, disrespectful and proper, evil and alert

Negative Outcomes of Friction
A prisoner attacking a guard
A fatality resulting from a brawl
A prisoner getting hold of a weapon and using it on a guard
A prisoner inciting a riot
An inmate gaining leverage over a guard (threatening their family, or uncovering a crime and threatening to expose the guard)

Fictional Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
A prison riot where both are being targeted by the same enemy
When the guard takes an interest in an inmate looking to turn their life around
When a guard is overtaken and an inmate steps in to help
When an inmate is the target and the guard steps in to save them

Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Change
Jaded guards may encounter prisoners who are ready to make big changes in their life and regain the belief that not every criminal is irredeemable
Prisoners might make changes to their life because a guard takes the time to get them involved in something positive (a re-education program, therapy, community service, support group, etc.)
A guard may realize this job is taking too much, sapping their hope and belief in humanity, and as a result, make a career change that leads to greater fulfillment
A prisoner may see corruption or discrimination happening within the prison system and seek to bring about reform

Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
A Fall from Grace, Betrayal, Crossroads, Danger, Endings, Enslavement, Evil, Freedom, Friendship, Hope, Inflexibility, Innocence, Isolation, Journeys, Obstacles, Passage of Time, Perseverance, Rebellion, Sacrifice, Stagnation, Suffering, Transformation, Violence

Other Relationship Thesaurus entries can be found here.

Need More Descriptive Help?

While this thesaurus is still being developed, the rest of our descriptive collection (15 unique thesauri and growing) is accessible through the One Stop for Writers THESAURUS database.

If you like, swing by and check out the video walkthrough, and then give our Free Trial a spin.

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11 Techniques for Transforming Clichéd Phrasings

One of the things that pumps me up the most when I’m reading a book is when the author phrases things in a way I’ve never seen before. It could be a familiar concept or image—red hair, an urban street, fear—but when it’s written differently, I’m able to visualize that thing in a new way, as if I’m seeing it from a new angle.

This idea of turning tired phrases into new and interesting ones has intrigued me for a while—so much so that I have a notebook full of samples I’ve found in various books. When I get stuck trying to describe something in my own writing, I study those passages to see how the author was able to put a new twist on a well-used phrase. As a result, I’ve figured out a couple of tricks for how we can amp up our descriptions for both fiction and nonfiction works.

The beauty of these techniques is that they work for settings, physical features, character emotion—all kinds of descriptions.

1) Ask Questions to Drill Down and Find the Perfect Phrase

Writing is hard work. Sometimes, when we get hung up on a certain passage, it’s easiest to fall back on the phrasings that are most comfortable: butterflies in the stomach, snow that sparkles like diamonds, a peaches-and-cream complexion, etc. To move beyond these clichés, focus on one aspect of the description and experiment with new ways to describe it. Take this sentence, for instance:

Her eyes are like the lit end of a cigarette, burning into me.
~Al Capone Does My Shirts, Gennifer Choldenko

What a great way to express an angry gaze. You can almost imagine the author’s brainstorming process: How do the eyes burn? What do they look like as they’re burning? What description could I use that expresses both the anger in her eyes and the way they make the viewpoint character feel? This is a great example of how a potentially clichéd phrase can be freshened up with a little extra thought and effort.

2) Mix Up The Senses

Oftentimes, our passages fall flat because they’re described with the most obvious senses: objects have visual descriptors, and sounds are given auditory comparisons. But mixing the senses can often create a fuller, more layered description.

Their voices were loud and rough and had the sharp edges of crushed-up beer cans. ~Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu

Here, two of the senses are employed to show us how the voices sound: auditory (loud and rough) and textural (the sharp edges of beer cans). Mixing the senses not only makes for unexpected descriptions, it’s also a great way to add dimension and draw readers a bit more into the story.

3) Play With New Words

…entwined as if nothing could ever shoehorn them apart.
~Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor

I never would’ve thought to use the word “shoehorn” here. The obvious choice is pry or tear them apart. But obvious choices, over time, lose their impact and end up sounding flat. Taking the time to explore other word choices can result in a phrase that sounds totally different.

…with eyelashes so spiderleg long…
~The Sky Is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson

And don’t underestimate the impact of making up a brand new word. Just be sure that it’s a perfect fit, so it doesn’t read strangely.

4) Add An Element Of Emotion

Descriptions often read a bit boring because they simply show how something looks, or feels, or sounds. They’re one-dimensional. Emotion, on the other hand, is stirring, awakening physical and emotional sensations inside the reader. When we add an element of emotion to a descriptive phrase—especially when the feeling isn’t overtly mentioned—it adds depth, like in the following example:

He’s not the father I need. He’s a faulty operating system, incompatible with my software.
~Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson

There’s no mention of emotion here, but it still comes through because Anderson has used a comparison that expresses disconnectedness and resulting sadness. Readers are smart, and they appreciate subtlety. Choose comparisons that convey the right emotion and it will come through for readers.

Bonus Resource: The Emotion Thesaurus. Use this collection of emotions to exactly identify the feeling you want to highlight so you can infuse it into your passage.

5) Use Unusual Comparisons

Something deep and painful wrenched out of him, like nails splintering wood as they pulled free.
~Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor

This example is one of my all-time favorites because it accomplishes so much. Taylor adequately conveys the character’s emotion through an unusual but perfect comparison: the sound of nails pulling out of a wood plank. We’ve all heard that noise; it makes me wince just thinking about it. Using this sound to describe someone’s pain is so much more effective than claiming that his heart ached or his chest hurt. To create a description that resonates with readers, experiment with different comparisons.

6) Add Personification

Father’s silence is not merely the absence of sound. It’s a creature with a life of its own. It chokes you. It pinches you small as a grain of rice. It twists in your gut like a worm.
~Chime, Franny Billingsley

Here, the author could easily have said that the father was a man prone to awkward silences. Instead, she used personification to bring those silences to life. They don’t merely make others feel uncomfortable; they pinch, and choke, and twist. This gives life to the father’s typically inanimate moodiness, making it much more active and intentional. With the added personification, this example packs a heavy punch.

7) Zoom Out

Writers are creatures of habit; we get used to seeing things a certain way and describing them from that perspective. But if we zoom out and look at the object as a whole, we’re able to see it and describe it differently.

He was handsome in a way that required a bit of work from the viewer.
~Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater

Stiefvater could have focused on the boy’s eyes or musculature or coloring to describe his looks. But by zooming out and viewing him as a whole, she was able to describe him from that vantage point and come up with something new and interesting.

8) Zoom In

This result can also be achieved by zooming in, rather than out:

I’m holding it so tight my pulse punches through my fingernails.
~If You Find Me, Emily Murdoch

Pulse is one of those emotional indicators that we overuse. It’s always pounding, racing, or thundering like a drumbeat. Here, Murdoch uses this internal sensation in a new way by narrowing in on a part of the body not usually associated with the pulse. And it works because at times of high emotion, you can feel the increased pulse throughout the whole body—even in the tips of the fingers. As this example shows, narrowing the lens can be a great way to describe things from a new perspective.

Bonus Resource: The Physical Feature Thesaurus. Expand your description vocabulary by considering body parts that you’ve never thought of before.

9) Use Contrast

The world felt immense, revolving in the universe with small Susannah McKnight clinging to it.
~Steal Away, Jennifer Armstrong

Some of the things we want to describe are just really difficult. Capturing the immensity of anything—an incredibly small object, big feelings, a large-scale setting—sometimes seems beyond our ability to adequately express. The temptation is to stop the pain and just explain to the reader how big or small it is. A much more compelling technique is to use contrast. Compare the thing to its opposite, and you’ll be able to convey meaning without resorting to telling.

Bonus Feature: One Stop for Writers’ Setting Tutorials. Learn about how to employ various technique and devices to enhance your setting descriptions. The list includes instruction on utilizing contrast, light and shadow, symbolism, hyperbole, and more.

10) Characterize

He bristled with latent power as he greeted people with the slippery, handsome accent of old Virginia money.
~Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater

I like this passage because it describes this man using characterization rather than a list of physical features. You don’t have a specific picture of what he looks like, but you have a general idea because you know he’s powerful and wealthy and maybe a little slimy. All of that is enough to paint a mental picture. The next time you struggle with describing a new character, consider introducing him with information other than how he looks. Using his job, character traits, quirks, or his values can have a greater and long-lasting impact on readers than a litany of physical features.

Bonus Resource: The Character Builder at One Stop. Use this tool to get to know your character intimately. This will make it clearer which elements of characterization you’ll want to emphasize with your descriptions.

11) Mix and Match

Moonlight froze the landscape; everything was a ghost of itself.
~Steal Away, Jennifer Armstrong

This setting description combines multiple techniques. The author has zoomed out to envision the landscape as a whole instead of focusing on the minutia. She also added some personification, as if the moon had used its latent powers to purposely freeze the setting. And a beautifully chosen metaphor creates the imagery and mood needed for the scene.

Bottom line: describing things in new ways is hard work.

It takes time and brainpower and more words than using the expected phrasings. But the payoff is multi-faceted, resulting in descriptions that do double duty, reveal something unexpected, and wow the reader. Your new phrasings may be somewhat awkward at first. But with practice, turning a unique phrase will get easier and become a more natural part of your style.

If you’d like to try your hand at rewriting some well-used phrases, here are some examples to play with. Use the techniques mentioned above and see what you can do with one of the following:

  • Belinda was so mad she could spit nails
  • Sunburned skin
  • A little black dress
  • A dilapidated house

Feel free to share your results in the comments. I’d love to see what you come up with.

Posted in Character Traits, Characters, Cliches, Description, Emotion, Experiments, Writing Craft | 6 Comments

Turn Envy into Energy

Years ago there was a commercial for Pepto-Bismol where a nerdy guy in glasses looked straight into the camera and says, “Can we talk about diarrhea?” It was an effective ad because they took the bull by the horns, as it were. They didn’t sugar coat the malady; they didn’t try to cleverly talk around it. 

People get diarrhea. But they don’t like to talk about it. Sometimes, however, they have to in order to stop it. 

That’s the feeling I have right now in talking  to writers about a malady that may affect every one of them from time to time: envy. Can we talk about envy?

Ann Lamott has a great chapter on envy in her writing book, Bird by Bird. Here, in part, is what she says:

If you continue to write, you are probably going to have to deal with it because some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving writers you know—people who are, in other words, not you. You are going to feel awful beyond words. You are going to have a number of days in a row where you hate everyone and don’t believe in anything . . . If you do know the author whose turn it is, he or she will inevitably say that it will be your turn next, which is what the bride always says to you at each successive wedding, while you grow older and more decayed . . . It can wreak just the tiniest bit of havoc with your self-esteem to find that you are hoping for small bad things to happen to this friend—for, say, her head to blow up.

Funny, yes; but the truth is that envy is a serious waste of time and a drain on your energy. Like any emotion, it can be a chronic condition or a momentary blip. If it is the former, you really have to do something to eradicate it.  Let me suggest a few things:

1. Acknowledge your humanity and the fact that you care about what you’re doing. That’s the basic reason you feel the way you do. You’re invested in your writing emotionally, as you should be. You’re also not perfect, and don’t expect you ever will be.

2. Look at the part of your feelings that wants the other person to fail, or not enjoy success. That’s the ugly bit you’ve got to get rid of. If you have an active spiritual life, this is a good place to bring out the big guns. The Book of Proverbs, chapter 14, verse 30 says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”  The ancient philosopher Epicurus wrote: “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” Whatever practice you engage in, the great religions and philosophical views have always talked about the jewel of contentment. Buddha said, “Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth.” That’s worth pursuing.

3. Write. This is always the best antidote to any writerly anxiety. Get involved in your project. Put your head down and produce the words. Turn envy into energy and write!

4. Improve. Anyone – anyone – can improve their craft. You are always at a certain level, and you can with some effort get to the next level. Your competition is really only with yourself. There is joy and confidence when you see yourself improving. 

5. Prepare. Know that a pang of envy may come at any time. Before that happens, affirm your own worth and say a bit of Lawrence Block’s “A Writer’s Prayer” (from his book, Telling Lies for Fun and Profit):

For starters, help me to avoid comparing myself to other writers. I can make a lot of trouble for myself when I do that . . .Lord, help me remember that I’m not in competition with other writers. Whether they have more or less success has nothing to do with me. They have their stories to write and I have mine. They have their way of writing them and I have mine. They have their careers and I have mine. The more focus on comparing myself with them, the less energy I am able to concentrate on making the best of myself and my own work. I wind up despairing of my ability and bitter about its fruits, and all I manage to do is sabotage myself . . .When I read a writer who does things better than I do, enable me to learn from him . . .

A hearty Amen to that. 

James Scott Bell

Resident Writing Coach

Jim is the author of the #1 bestseller for writers, Plot & Structure, and numerous thrillers, including Romeo’s Rules, Try Dying and Don’t Leave Me. His popular books on fiction craft can be found here. His thrillers have been called “heart-whamming” (Publishers Weekly) and can be browsed here. Find out more about Jim on our Resident Writing Coach page, and connect with him on

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Relationship Thesaurus Entry: Teacher and Student

Successful stories are driven by authentic and interesting characters, so it’s important to craft them carefully. But characters don’t usually exist in a vacuum; throughout the course of your story, they’ll live, work, play, and fight with other cast members. Some of those relationships are positive and supportive, pushing the protagonist to positive growth and helping them achieve their goals. Other relationships do exactly the opposite, derailing your character’s confidence and self-worth or they cause friction and conflict that leads to fallout and disruption. Many relationships hover somewhere in the middle. A balanced story will require a mix of these dynamics.

The purpose of this thesaurus is to encourage you to explore the kinds of relationships that might be good for your story and figure out what each might look like. Think about what a character needs (good and bad), and build a network of connections for him or her that will challenge them, showcase their innermost qualities, and bind readers to their relationship trials and triumphs.

Teacher and Student

Description: A staple in kid lit, this relationship is one that most people have experienced firsthand. But it can be current for an adult in this profession or as a backstory event for someone with the school years firmly in their rearview mirror. Some factors that could influence the dynamics of this relationship include the age of the student, individual personalities, school funding, student limitations (learning disabilities, problems at home, lack of parental involvement, etc.), and extraneous pressures on the teacher at the time (facing a chronic illness, the death of a parent, financial difficulties, etc.).

Relationship Dynamics:
Below are a wide range of dynamics that may accompany this relationship. Use the ideas that suit your story and work best for your characters to bring about and/or resolve the necessary conflict.

Showing mutual respect for each other
A teacher helping a reluctant or struggling student bloom
A student recognizing the role a teacher is playing in their own development and success
A teacher seeing beyond the student’s academic needs and taking steps to meet this needs
Struggling to teach an apathetic student
A disrespectful or hostile student resisting learning and disrupting the school environment
A teacher not knowing how to properly service a student with learning or behavioral disabilities
Trying to teach a child being hampered by over-involved, enabling or absentee parents
A student being taught by a tenured teacher who is just going through the motions
A willing learner being hampered by unmet needs (being hungry, not getting enough sleep, suffering abuse at home, etc.)
A teacher distracted by personal issues being apathetic or distant
Being taught by a teacher with unrealistic expectations
A teacher belittling or disparaging their students
A student constantly challenging a teacher’s authority
The relationship being hampered by bias or prejudice on either side

Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
A teacher wanting to teach while a student wants to put in as little work as possible
Both the student and the teacher wanting control
A student wanting to keep a secret (a learning disability, abuse, neglect, etc.) that the teacher is determined to uncover
A teacher wanting to keep a secret (a criminal record, an affair, an unpopular ideology, etc.) that the student wants to uncover and exploit
A teacher wanting to skate through their day while the student wants attention or a challenge
One character wanting more from the relationship than the other desires (romantically, emotionally, etc.)

Clashing Personality Trait Combinations: Apathetic and Enthusiastic, Cruel and Timid, Disrespectful and Just, Playful and Humorless, Impulsive and Impatient, Rebellious and Controlling

Negative Outcomes of Friction
A student losing trust or respect for people in authority
A student who was punished unfairly or wasn’t believed deciding that standing up to the people in charge is a waste of time and effort
The student withdrawing emotionally and not getting the help they need
A student not succeeding academically and being limited in future endeavors
A teacher becoming disenfranchised with his or her profession
A teacher not learning from difficult experiences with a student and repeating mistakes with others in the future
The teacher losing their job
A student being suspended or expelled
Bias or prejudice being reinforced, making it harder to overcome

Fictional Scenarios That Could Turn These Characters into Allies
A competition or contest that the student’s club (sponsored by the teacher) wants to win
Getting rid of another teacher or administrator
A shared criminal endeavor, à la Breaking Bad
An unknown that they must research and explore (a source of magic connected with the grounds, a prophecy that will destroy the school building if it comes to pass, etc.)
Inequity or unethical behavior in the school environment that they choose to fight together
Freeing the student from a toxic relationship
Exacting revenge against someone who wronged the teacher

Ways This Relationship May Lead to Positive Growth
A teacher reaching a struggling student and gaining confidence in his or her own abilities
Success with a difficult student revitalizing a teacher’s belief in their profession
A teacher seeing the problems in her school or district and taking steps to make things better
A student learning something that alters their perspective (realizing they’re not stupid, that they’re good at reading, math can be fun, teachers aren’t the enemy, etc.)
A student being inspired by a teacher to pursue a certain career, scholarship opportunity, etc.
The student being able to help other students with the knowledge they’ve gained

Themes and Symbols That Can Be Explored through This Relationship
A Quest for Knowledge, Coming of Age, Crossroads, Inflexibility, Innocence, Journeys, Knowledge, Obstacles, Perseverance, Rebellion, Refuge, Rite of Passage

Other Relationship Thesaurus entries can be found here.

Need More Descriptive Help?

While this thesaurus is still being developed, the rest of our descriptive collection (15 unique thesauri and growing) is accessible through the One Stop for Writers THESAURUS database.

If you like, swing by and check out the video walkthrough, and then give our Free Trial a spin.

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Why Should You Join a Writing Community?

Writing is hard, but it can be easier if you’re not doing it alone. Eileen Cook is here to share 5 reasons why you should join a group.

Writing may be a solo journey, but a writing community can make it a road trip.

Writing is a solitary pursuit. You set off, a lone writer on a story journey armed only with your creativity and imaginary friends. Unless you’re co-writing your book, you’re solely responsible for getting words on the page, which can be freeing.

However, there are many benefits to being a part of a group that supports you, challenges you to be better, and helps take your writing to the next level. And besides, a road trip with friends is always more fun.  

Here are five reasons to expand your writing community to include more than just imaginary friends.


This comes as a shock to no one: writing and publishing are hard. There’s
lots of rejection. At some point, most writers consider giving the whole thing up and spending their time doing anything (including repeatedly hitting their head on the desk) that seems more productive. 
A writing community has your back when things get tough. They remind you that you’re not
alone. Sharing our difficulties makes those hard times easier to manage. Plus, when it’s time to celebrate, there’s a group ready and excited to join in.


You can’t know everything. Not only is it impossible, but even trying eats up all your free time that could be spent binge-watching Netflix. A strong community provides access to writers with a variety of interests and knowledge that can assist you. 
My community is at the Creative Academy for Writers, and I’m amazed at the range of members there—from an Olympic athlete to those who work in law enforcement and everyone in between. Having contacts for subject-specific information can be a benefit to any writer.


Experts suggest that if you want to work out more frequently, try having a “gym buddy.” You’re much more likely to drag yourself out of bed if someone is expecting you. A community offers opportunities to build strong writing habits and helps hold you accountable to your expressed goals and targets.

Daily writing sprints with your buddies can get the creative juices flowing or get you started on your daily word count goal. Retreats or workshops where members plan novels, establish goals, or draft their stories together provide opportunities for members to encourage each other toward their objectives and brainstorm solutions to problems as they arise.

Reality Checks

One of the best things about being a creative person is having a wild imagination. One downside about being a creative person is having a wild imagination.

Sometimes we use that creativity for good; other times, we use it to generate conspiracy
theories, second guessing, and doubt. A writing community can check your reactions and offer guidance. Do you reach out to the agent who hasn’t responded to your query to make sure they received it?  Should you respond to a bad review or let it go? A community can help you sort these things out.

Experience and Networking

Publishing is a complicated, ever-changing business. A community of people at all different stages of the journey provides you with opportunities to learn from those with more experience or someone who took a different path. If you’re the veteran, interacting with newbies can remind you of your passion and jump start your excitement.

Interested in joining a writing community? Poke around. Whether you need critiques, a group that caters to a specific genre, or an online/in-person gang, the right fit is out
there. To get you started, here’s a list of communities. And check out The Creative Academy for Writers! Membership is free, and I’d love to see you there.

Eileen Cook is a multi-published, award winning author with her novels appearing in nine languages. Her books have been optioned for film and TV. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. She’s an instructor/mentor with The Creative Academy for Writers and Simon Fraser University Writer’s Studio Program where she loves helping other writers tell their unique story. Her most recent novel is You Owe Me a Murder, and her non-fiction title Full Time Author, written with Crystal Hunt, came out in January of 2021.

Eileen lives in Vancouver with two very naughty dogs.

Posted in Critiquing & Critiques, Guest Post, Writing Groups | 3 Comments

Critiques 4 U!


Happy February, everyone! Angela and I are hard at work doing all the things, as I’m sure you all are, too. We’re hoping that you’re finding time to dedicate to your writing. If so, you might have a first page that could use some extra love, and I’m just the person to give it ;).

If you’re working on a first page (in any genre except erotica) and would like some objective feedback, please leave a comment. Any comment :). As long as the email address associated with your WordPress account/comment profile is up-to-date, I’ll be able to contact you if your first page is chosen. Just please know that if I’m unable to get in touch with you through that address, you’ll have to forfeit your win.

Two caveats:

  ▪    Please be sure your first page is ready to go so I can critique it before next month’s contest rolls around. If it needs some work and you won’t be able to get it to me right away, let me ask that you plan on entering the next contest, once any necessary tweaking has been taken care of.

  ▪    I’d like to be able to use portions of winning submissions as illustrations in an upcoming presentation on first pages. By entering the Critiques 4 U contest, you’ll be granting permission for me to use small writing samples only (no author names or book titles).

Three commenters’ names will be randomly drawn and posted tomorrow morning. If you win, you can email me your first page and I’ll offer my feedback. 

We run this contest on a monthly basis, so if you’d like to be notified when the next opportunity comes around, consider subscribing to our blog (see the left-hand sidebar).

Best of luck!

Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments