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Tag: fiction writing

Fiction Writing Hacks: Mastering Conflict – Online Course Now Available

My second online course — a quick, digestible 20 minutes — has been published on Skillshare. The topic? Fiction Writing Hacks: Mastering Conflict.

In this class, I cover the basics of conflict, how important it is in writing fiction of all kinds (and even creative nonfiction), and ideas for how to come up with new conflict.

If you’re not familiar with the platform, Skillshare is a lot like Netflix for creatives and learners. It has tons of cool courses on everything you’d want to know about your creative pursuits, including writing!

Please join me on Skillshare, and let me know what you think. If you’re new to the platform, you can even get two months free with this link.

My first class, Getting Started Writing Short Stories, is also still available and is going strong. Feel free to check it out!

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Short Story Brainstormer: A Writer’s Outlining Journal — New Book Release

I’d like to introduce you to the Short Story Brainstormer: A Writer’s Outlining Journal.

Designed to help you organize and outline all of your short story ideas, the Short Story Brainstormer has built-in prompts for every element you’ll need to figure out your characters, plot, and more. It will guide you through the process of outlining a solid tale with a time-tested story structure and plenty of conflict to bring it to life.

This paperback book starts with instructions on how you might follow each prompt and then sets you free to follow your own style. Follow the prompts, freestyle it, or do a mix of both.

There is plenty of room to write in each story section so you can test and refine your story ideas. There is space for outlining 10 full short stories, whether they are flash fiction stories or novelettes. It’s the kind of writer’s tool you’ll come back to again and again.

With inspirational quotes on writing scattered throughout and a place for miscellaneous notes at the end, it’s a fun, fresh place to keep all of your story ideas in one place until you are ready to get down to the business of writing them.

And just for fun, the Short Story Brainstormer is available in four different covers, so you can use the one that suits you best.

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Resources for Fiction Writers—Holiday Update!

It’s Here!

The next update of my massive—and getting even bigger—”Resources for Fiction Writers” page is now live, and it’s right HERE!

I’ve added quite a few new resources, all marked by an asterisk for easy indexing. There are new videos, new podcasts, new websites, and new blog posts, all designed to help you succeed as a writer and, as the case may be, a self-publisher.

And to top it off, I’ve added a shiny new Pinterest-friendly graphic to go with it. (Hint: Feel free to pin the list to your favorite board, along with any of your favorite resources from it!)

resources for fiction writers

A New Way to Access the Resources for Fiction Writers Content

Speaking of Pinterest, I recently created a new Pinterest board that is basically a budding clone of my Resources for Fiction Writers list. It will take me a while to pin every single item on the list but all the new items are already there plus some old favorites.

As always, if you have a resource you highly recommend, I’d love to hear from you so I can check it out myself and maybe add it to the page.

Go forth and enjoy, and I hope you have a wonderfully productive season!

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Giveaway! Saving on Money on Editing & Choosing the Best Editor


I am giving away ten paperback copies of my book Saving Money on Editing & Choosing the Best Editor on Goodreads.

Book Description

The self-publishing industry is booming, and if you’re a self-published author, so is the competition. Having your book professionally edited is an essential step in getting your story to stand out from the crowd. But who knew that editing services were such a pricey proposition?

Janell E. Robisch, a professional editor with over two decades of experience, will show you how to save money on professional editing by

•Having patience
•Using readers
•Using editing tools
•Practicing smart shopping

Finally, in the bonus final chapter, you’ll find out how to choose the best editor for your money.

You’ve worked hard on your book. Make sure that when you hit Publish, it shows.


You can enter the giveaway with the link below. The giveaway ends August 15, 2017, so sign up while you can. Thanks!





Goodreads Book Giveaway

Saving Money on Editing & Choosing the Best Editor by Janell E. Robisch

Saving Money on Editing & Choosing the Best Editor

by Janell E. Robisch

Giveaway ends August 15, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

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Past or Present? Using Tense Effectively in Fiction

For the main narrative voice of your story, you need to choose a verb tense. Once you do, consistency within the narrative is essential. I stopped reading one self-published book after less than a chapter because the author couldn’t make up her mind about verb tense. The constant switching between past and present was confusing and made it impossible for me to become engrossed in the story.

There are exceptions, such as dialogue and flashback, when you can switch tenses, but for the most part, you need to pick a tense and stick to it.

Which Tense Should You Use?

The most common tenses for narrating a story are past and present. Historically, the past tense seems to have the upper hand, but the use of the present tense has recently become more common, especially with the rise of young adult fiction.

The present tense lets an author tell the story as it is happening.

Jill stares down at the bed with its mussed sheets. The faint scent of perfume tickles her nose. It’s not her perfume. Her stomach twists into a tight knot.

The past tense tells a story as if in reflection. The narrator can be speaking of something that happened five minutes ago or five hundred years ago.

Jill stared down at the bed with its mussed sheets. The faint scent of perfume tickled her nose. It was not her perfume. Her stomach twisted into a tight knot.

tense, verb tense, fiction, writing fictionSome argue that present tense lends a sense of immediacy to the story and to the action. I’ve read too many novels, however, written in the past tense with plenty of action and immediacy to accept this argument at face value. Nonetheless, the present tense has its place, especially in modern literature, and I have no problem with it when it’s used well.

In the end, the choice is stylistic. Choose whichever tense feels best for you and your story. In any case, be deliberate in your choice, and consider your audience. Many readers have a preference for one over the other.

In a sense, your choice of tense is like your choice of point of view.

How do you want the story to feel? How close and intimate do you want it to be? Do you want your narrator to be immersed only in the immediacy of events, for which the present tense would work well, or do you want him to be able to reflect on the choices that he has made as the reader is learning about them (e.g., “That ended up being the worst mistake I’d made since I’d started working the case.”)?

You may choose the present because popular writers in your genre are writing in the present tense and you feel that is the tense that readers expect.

You may choose the past tense because it is the one that you are used to and the tense in which you are most comfortable writing.

If you’re unsure about which to use, try writing the same scene in each tense and comparing them in terms of both your comfort level and their overall readability. Maybe even have someone else read them as well. Which one prompts the emotional response from the reader that you are looking for?

When Is It Okay to Switch Tenses?

Whether you use past or present tense, there will be times when you can switch tenses. You shouldn’t change tense on a whim, but under specific circumstances, it is okay and even expected. Here are a few common examples.


Of course, characters may speak in whatever tense is appropriate.

“What is Jane doing?” (present)

“I was just trying to fix the faucet!” (past progressive)

“She told me about the murder.” (simple past)

“They will blow up the state capitol!” (simple future)


If your main narrative is in the present tense, flashbacks can be written in the simple past tense. For example, the previous story about Jill might continue like this, with the past tense making the flashback clear and the present tense bringing the reader back to the immediate situation:

Her stomach twists into a tight knot.

This morning, Jack kissed her in this very bed. He touched her skin with his gentle hands. He said she was the only woman for him.

Her rage boils up like fire in her belly. She is going to kill him.

tense, verb tense, flashback, fiction, writing fictionIf your main narrative is in the past tense, however, short flashbacks can be written in the past perfect tense:

Her stomach twisted into a tight knot.

That morning, Jack had kissed her in this very bed. He had touched her skin with his gentle hands. He had said she was the only woman for him.

Her rage boiled up like fire in her belly. She was going to kill him.

If your narrative flashback is longer, you can frame your flashback with several verbs in the past perfect tense before switching to simple past. Then, use at least one past perfect verb to signal the end of the flashback before coming back to the present. For example

Her stomach twisted into a tight knot.

That morning, Jack had kissed her in this very bed. He had touched her skin with his gentle hands. They laid in bed long past the alarm and talked about their wedding plans. She wanted a three-tiered vanilla cake with white icing, and he said that was perfect. Whatever made her happy. The only thing he cared about was that she would be the one walking down the aisle. He had said she was the only woman for him.

Her rage boiled up like fire in her belly. She was going to kill him.

Note how the paragraph breaks in these examples also serve to separate the flashbacks from the immediate story.

Adverbs and Tense

Some folks flag words such as such as now or phrases such as “This morning” as being in the present tense. However, these are not verbs and, therefore, don’t have a tense.

In fact, now has several meanings, all of which indicate the immediacy of the present moment but cover its use in both the past and present tenses. According to Merriam-Webster Online, now means both “at the present time or moment” and “at the time referred to.”

Phrases such as “last night” and “this morning” are relative terms and can be used in both past and present tense narrations:

Jill thought about last night. Where had Jack been until 11 p.m.?

Some writers prefer to use phrases such as “the previous night” to prevent confusion, but both are correct.

Which tense is your favorite, past or present? Why do you prefer it?


Garner’s Modern American Usage, Bryan A. Garner

“Present Tense Books,” Mignon Fogarty,

“The Pros and Cons of Writing a Novel in Present Tense,” David Jauss, Writers Digest, excerpted from On Writing Fiction

Writing: Past or Present Tense?,” Debbie Young, Self Publishing Advice Center

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