Writing tips & prompts.

This page addresses a few of the common questions new writers who join my workshops have asked over the twenty plus years I've been an instructor. Whether you're new to the craft or a seasoned writer in search of inspiration, I hope you find the following material useful.


A basic technique for making your writing come alive is the use of active voice. In active voice, the subject of the sentence is doing something. In passive voice, something is being done to the subject of the sentence.  Continue Reading →


Your story takes place in the present, but at some point your character may flash back to a vivid detail or scene from the past. These glimpses of a character's backstory allow readers to connect with the character by showing the origin of that character's emotions or motivations. Continue Reading →


Don't let something as petty as formatting prevent you from being taken seriously.  Continue Reading →


First-person: I saw this, I did that. The "I" character speaks to the reader directly. First-person viewpoint confines the writer to what the "I" can know, whether that "I" be the author or someone else. In Turning Life Into Fiction, Robin Hemley advises: "Don't use first person simply to get closer to a character...."  Continue Reading →


Description isn't a "grocery list" of images and sensations. Pick up a book and turn to a page of description, a passage where a character or a room is being introduced to the reader. What's happening?  <Continue Reading →

Getting started: Choose a turning point in your life, or the life of your character, and write about it. Don't worry about where it will fit in the book for now, just get it committed to paper.

Overcome writer's block: Take a book off the shelf (fiction works best) and open it at random. Point to anywhere on the page and begin writing from the sentence your finger landed on. Chances are good you'll write your way back to your WIP (work in progress).

A friend said her dad asked her to help him zip up his gorilla suit. I said it sounded like an interesting story. What do you think? Write for 10 minutes.

Recommended reading:

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. All book links below are affiliate links, and I receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

1,000 Creative Writing Prompts: Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More by Bryan Cohen

Take Ten for Writers: 1000 writing exercises to build momentum in just 10 minutes a day by Bonnie Neubauer

The Five-Minute Writer: Exercise and inspiration in creative writing in five minutes a day by Margret Geraghty

Lessons List:

PDF Handouts:

Manuscript Format

Your manuscript is like a job interview. Use this free guide to make a good first impression.

Writing Dialogue

A one-page guide that covers basic dialogue punctuation.

Showing Thoughts in a Manuscript

Do you use quotation marks? Italics? Past or present tense?

The First Chapter

A one-page checklist developed by my mentor, Dee Lopez, for her writing workshop students.

Common Dialogue Copyedits

A quick guide to common dialogue punctuation mistakes.

Quick Comma Guide

Basic comma usage.