Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Writing Advice Database

Before You Start

An overview of how to write a novel
How to format your manuscript
It's important to have a good premise...
But execution is more important than originality
Are you the right person to write that book? (nonfiction)
Why you shouldn't follow trends
Can you turn your blog into a book?
Novels with disaffected male protagonists are common; it's important to make yours really stand out
Should you write in first person or third person?
Are you sure you want to genre hop?
Do you have a plot?
Is your premise an archetype or a cliche?
Should you write a sequel?
You Tell Me responses: What are your favorite books on writing?

The Writing Process

The limits of verisimilitude
What is pacing?
What is voice? How do you craft a great voice?
Seven keys to writing good dialogue
Is your dialogue stilted?
How to craft a dynamic relationship between characters
Do you suffer from one of these writing maladies?
Is there such a thing as being too controversial?
What makes a great setting
Avoiding non-said/asked dialogue tags
How to work with a co-writer
Your characters have to have the power to make a choice for that choice to resonate
How to create a Series Bible
The one sentence, one paragraph, and two paragraph pitch
How to craft a good one sentence pitch
You should probably go easy on the similes
Five Writing Tips I learned from HARRY POTTER
The importance of complexity, as demonstrated by The Wire
What it means to "show" instead of "tell"
Character and plot are inseparable
Are you sure you want to begin with dialogue?
Is your protagonist sufficiently sympathetic?
Does your novel have enough conflict?
All about prologues
You Tell Me responses: What makes for good dialogue?
Do you (and your readers) know what your characters want?
You Tell Me responses: What is the best writing advice you've received?
You Tell Me responses: What is the worst writing advice you've received?
You Tell Me responses: How do you deal with writer burnout?
You Tell Me responses: How do you deal with the "Am I Crazies?"


Comprehensive revision checklist
How to incorporate feedback when you receive a manuscript critique/editorial letter
You Tell Me responses: When do you follow/ignore advice about your writing?
You Tell me responses: How do you revise?
You Tell me responses: How do you know when your novel is finished?

Genres and Classification

What makes literary fiction literary?
The difference between young adult and adult fiction
Commercial fiction isn't quite a genre
Book club fiction
The difference between mysteries, suspense, and thrillers
Sports novels need to have something more.
When in doubt, go with the section of a bookstore your book would be categorized in

Staying sane during the writing/publishing process

When should you give up?
The perils of overconfidence
It's not you, it's the odds
Dealing with the new book jitters
You Tell Me responses: how do you deal with writer's block?
Dealing with negativity
Dealing with frustration
You Tell Me responses: How do you handle rejections?
10 Commandments for the happy writer


Nathan Bransford said...

Hi all, in a continuing effort to make the blog more navigable, I put together a FAQ-style compendium of all the writing advice on the blog, including the You Tell Mes and their fantastic comments.

abc said...


and thank you.

Marilyn Peake said...

Thanks, Nathan. It's helpful to have such wonderful advice listed in one post; makes it easy to find.

Yvette Davis said...



pubbloghub said...

Well, damn Nathan! That's completely awesome of you. Above and beyond as always.

Bane of Anubis said...

Nathan, you rock! Thanks for GAAB, as usual.

Margaret Yang said...

...with awesome sauce.

And victory sprinkles.

Memoirs of a Bulimic Black Boy said...

Thanks, for the wise and thoughtful compilation. I’m getting a prophetic word that there is a book deal in your future. So let it be said so let be done.

Scott said...

You, sir, most certainly rule!

Novice Writer Anonymous said...

Exactly what I've been looking for! So glad I found your blog. The advice given in your posts and in the comments will be invaluable to me throughout my life. (Which will hopefully be very long and very much involving writing and exploring the stories swimming in my brain.)

Thanks, again!

Horserider said...

Thanks so much! It's so great and helpful of you. :) I bookmarked it for future reference.

TKA said...

Good gravy! With a resource like this in front of me I will have to use a gargantuan amount of self-discipline to do anything besides sit at my computer reading for the next who knows how long.

Thanks, Nathan. You're the best!

:)Ash said...

This is fabulous, Nathan. Thanks.

Rick Daley said...

This is a (choose one or more of the following:

- Gold mine
- Treasure trove
- Awesome post
- Must-read
- Toolbox and a half
- Well-organized listing of incredibly helpful advice on the craft of writing
- All of the above

MARIAN said...

The list is great!


Reesha said...

Just what I needed.

You should have a button on your blog that says "Like my post? Buy me a beer."

Dan said...

Too bad you left out: "Where to send court side Kings tickets" - now I guess I'll just toss 'em...

Ink said...

Is your dialogue stilted?

I hadn't read that one, and am now glad I did. ...the bell of stopping... Oh, such chuckles.

Kristi said...

Just when I thought it couldn't be done, you reached a whole new level of awesomeness. Thanks. You know, you could put out a book on this stuff. :)

Dutch said...

I wanted to have some really clever way to say thanks Nathan.

But every witty remark just didn't seem to fit.

So, Thanks.

Gitty Up - Dutch

Daren said...

Wonderful. We are forever indebted to you, Nathan. It'll be even better if you continue to update it with your new posts!

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

Thank you very much Nathan. I will have to bookmark this page as mandatory reading for each phase of the writing process.

Jeanie W said...

That's handy! Thanks, Nathan!

MahoneyMusings said...


Mira said...

Wow Nathan. This is amazing. Thank you for making all this information easily available at people's fingertips.

Wow. So helpful.

So many I haven't read, too. I'm going to be busy.

You truly do write and run an awesome blog.

Melanie Avila said...

Wow! Thanks!

Nancy Coffelt said...

And here I thought I'd actually get some writing done today.

Nope! I'm going to be unwrapping all the presents you left under tree instead.


Carrie said...

Wow, no one mentioned Carolyn See's Making a Literary Life as a favorite book on writing? It's really good.

Yat-Yee said...

My! Thank you so much! Quite the list here. Bookmarking it. Thanks again. And again.

Renee Sweet said...

Nathan, thanks so much for all you do.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Wish I had some clever witticism to use as a thank you. But, nope, don’t have one. I will, however, bookmark and refer to this frequently…maybe that’s the best thanks of all.

Best Regards, Galen

Precie said...

Thanks for this compendium! SOOOOO convenient.

So...when is your book contract finalized? ;) I mean, look at all's definitely book fodder.

Tricia said...

Nathan, Thanks for such a great resource. What do you think about this idea...

Author, Tricia Cohn started a storytime experiment on Twitter. All we need are creative writers to add their own line to the story. To read the facebook story visit:

Everyone has a story to share. Share yours, 1 comment at a time. Follow @storyexperiment on Twitter.

Being Beth said...

Oh wow -- a million thanks for doing this. You are THE BOMB!

Mira said...

Nathan, You know, Kristi's right. You could turn this and other sections of your blog into a book.

I quickly skimmed Amazon - are there any other books like this? I didn't see anything.

There are writers that don't surf the web that might find a book from a literary agent really helpful.

You certainly have the platform.

And you write well, Nathan. Your writing is smooth, readable, well-paced, funny. You have a unique voice.

Besides, you have so much time on your hands.

You should think about it.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks, Mr. Bransford. Many thanks.

Colleen R. said...

Thank you so much. Great list!

*Coming out of lurking to say thanks.*

Tomas said...

I need to go through this list but from yesterday's, the "said" hyperlink was well worth revisiting (which I point out to other writers in the midst of their m.s. who maybe thinking about this ... as I am!)

I read (screenplays - lots and lots of them) which are not books but presentation counts for a lot. of course, the people who most need to go though this won't, and though it may seem like basic stuff, putting the extra effort into polishing your m.s. is key, in my humble opinion.

Jenna said...

Wow, LOVE this!!!! Everything I need in one place! :D

That said, I read the "are you sure you want to genre hop?" again, and YES, I DO!!!


Someone asked me what bookshelf my work would be on the other day, and I replied with 'I'd like it to be in and amongst Margaret Atwood, Walter Tevis, and Kazuo Ishiguro.' The erotica writer I was talking to replied with "Uh, yeah, I'd love that, too, but I don't write like they do. No one takes erotica seriously."

That got me thinking, because this was my knee-jerk response to an off-the-cuff question. What I like about these writers is NOT that they are amazing writers, but that their stories are very human and surprise me with their beauty. These writers will also have the balls to write science fiction and do it well on the heels of their other amazing work which is not SciFi in nature.

Walter Tevis wrote The Color of Money, which was amazing, but he also wrote The Man Who Fell to Earth. Margaret Atwood can write Oryx and Crake and the Handmaid's Tale set in a post-apocalyptic future, but that doesn't stop her from writing about 3 jilted women in The Robber Bride. And as for Ishiguro, how different in subject are The Remains of the Day and Never let me Go? VERY different.

These are the people whom I emulate. Their stories illustrate the beauty and pain of humanity. How can I not wish to be like them? How can I not strive for such perfection, regardless of genre?

Of course, they follow EVERY OTHER RULE you've listed here, so I suppose if you must genre hop, be perfect in every other way, eh?

T. Anne said...

Wow you really do love us. You rock Nathan!

Anonymous said...

Outstanding!! Triple stars!

Justus M. Bowman said...

A winner is you.

Morgan Xavier said...

Ok, I LOVED reading "The limits of Verisimilitude." I didn't know what the word meant, so I thought to look into it. The post was awesome. It confirmed that maybe my premise might just stand out, and now I am definitely writing with the intent of giving the world some, "crazy rap fiction."

Thanks, Nathan!!

Laurel said...

I'm speechless. Words fail. Wow.

Thanks, this is spectacular.

D. G. Hudson said...

This is an excellent idea, Nathan, and I certainly appreciate your efforts to help us get our work as professional as it can be.

Your blog surpasses my expectations, again and again. Please keep it up.

One of the first things I love to do after getting my coffee in the morning is to check out this blog. I don't always wait for the notice in the mail.

Eric said...

This is the sharpest of double-edged swords.

On the one hand, maps and compasses can help a lost writer out of the woods.

On the other hand, if you always follow the beaten path, you'll always be going somewhere others have already been.

Newbee said...

You must have known I needed this today...(hehehe) The writer's block has attacked along with perfect weather. Ah...summer.

Lady Glamis said...

Completely awesome and helpful. Thank you!

Other Lisa said...

Wow! This is really amazing. And I'm with everyone else who said, "this should be a book."

Marissa Miranda said...

This is going to be super helpful! Now I can check this post first to look for your previous posts instead of back clicking through the blog for ages or trying to google whatever I'm looking for. Thanks!

Marissa Miranda
Don't Judge Me By My Cover

PS According to my word verification, I am "spashil". Is that one of the good kinds of special... or one of the bad ones? =P

Thermocline said...

Your expertise is appreciated but it's your caring, so obvious throughout all your posts but especially so today, that shows off your class.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Sweet! Thanks for compiling all this together. I'm definitely bookmarking this page when I get home.

At the risk of sucking up, you truly are a help to writers everywhere.

SeaHayes said...

It is like a buffet of your most insightful work. Appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

Nathan, with all your wisdom and knowledge, when is the last time you cut a deal?

Nathan Bransford said...


Last week. Here's a post with more background on the things I do and don't blog about. This blog doesn't exist for me to trumpet my deals and dealings with clients.

Lara said...

I haven't been reading that long, only about six months. I didn't realize you had such an impressive collection of advice on here. This is real nice!

Kat Sheridan said...

Ah, the perfect way to break through writer's block; reading a host of wonderful, inspirational stuff! Thank you for the time it took to put this together for us!

Lara said...

I cannot believe that even a post like this garners a negative comment. What. The. Hell is wrong with people? I swear!

PurpleClover said...

Wow. You're so...nice.



Thanks a bunch. As usual you are a tremendous help!

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mira said...

I had to re-post this, didn't like something I said.

Nathan. Last post for me today. I'm just excited about the idea of you writing a book.

And no, this isn't some intense sucking up. I'm getting this tingly feeling I get when I talk to someone about possiblities.

The thing is, if you wrote a book, it could not only get some really useful information out there - just think of all the authors it would reach - but it could help with the role of the agent in the coming technology shift.

You could talk about e-books, mainstream publishing, self-publishing, what an agent does. The image of the agent.

You could make it a compliation of many agents, but frankly, I like your voice the best.

I think it would find a definite market - so many people want to write a book, and wonder about agents.

Heck, I'd rep it myself, but I'm not sure I have the right contacts for you. You might know a person or two though that you could speak to about the idea, if it interests you.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic list. Nathan, you're the best!

Sandra K. said...

Thanks, Nathan. It's wonderful to have your advice organized and easy to find. You're the best!

Subtle Rose said...

Mega-appreciation for all your work, Nathan. Thank you.

Laura Martone said...

I'm with Kristi, Precie, Mira, and Other Lisa - all this awesome info would make a must-have book! Even though I've bookmarked today's post, I'd still buy the book. I may own a Sony e-reader, but I'm still one of those old-fashioned gals that like to hold a book in their hot little hands (and then proceed to ravage it with dog-ears, day-glo highlights, you name it).

Anyhoo, I know it's been said a gazillion times already today (and on countless other days), but you really are a groovy guy - thanks for taking the time to guide us eager writers along the nebulous path to publishing success!

Dawn Maria said...

I'm at a place with my writing where your Ten Commandments for a Happy Writer called to me. So I read it. I'm pleased to say that I already do most of the things you listed and appreciate the firm reminders about the rest.

Cameron said...

You could compile these into your own book, Nathan. All you have to do is write a snarky, 250-word intro for each of the five sections and you're ready to proceed to proposal. Of course, first you'll have to find an agent.

Dearth of Reason said...

I don't know about Nathan compiling his blog into a book. He has a post on the subject and makes the fantastic recommendation that if the blog does not gain anything, if it's not better for being in print, then it's probably not a good idea.

Yes, he has a treasure trove of helpful posts, but I would argue that the best thing about lurking in Nathan's blog is the wild array of commentary, idea exchanges, opinions, and even the battles taking place in the comments. This is a community, a reality tv show, with a soul of its own. Amidst all the chatter, capturing the soul in printed pages would be a prodigious challenge and I don't think it would come close to the real thing.

String me up for contrariness, but I assert that a book, however useful, would be worse than the living (free) blog.

BarbS. said...

Brilliant, Nathan. Thanks so much!

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...


However, now I will have to take a leave of absence from real life for a large part of the weekend to really read it.
I thank you sincerely - my family may use slightly more sarcasm!

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

Dear Lara and Nathan,

Please don't consider my comment negative. All I'm saying is that if Mark Twain had followed Elmore Leonard's "Rules of Writing," then The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn would never have been written.

Nathan's advice is the right advice if you want to try to make a living as a writer. If you're writing because you're reaching for something tangentially--something between the bounds of truth and fiction and you're trying to share that journey--you're not going to get there worrying over genre tropes and the sins of creative dialog tagging.

Mira said...

I keep making important mistakes and having to re-post. Hate that.

Oh shoot. Taking a risk here....Okay, I know I said I was done posting, but I can't let Dearth's comment go unchallenged.

Dearth - I get what you're saying, but what if you could have both? A book and a blog? The book would enhance the blog, in that it would bring readership. The book would reach people the blog doesn't.

The goal of a book wouldn't be to emmulate the blog, it would be to well....write a book.

Can't you just see Nathan's picture on the cover? He's such a cutie. It would sell like hotcakes.

Sometimes it blows my mind that the publishing industry doesn't take advantage of ready-made ways to promote and expand it's own image and business - ways that would provide a service as well.

Anonymous said...

Eric. Not you. Anon 1:48.

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

Dearth - I've got to say that a 'How to' book which even attempted to distill the essence of this Blog would be a much more attractive read than the ones currently available.
Having said that I wouldn't be reading the book at this time of night (UK) when trying to plan for an observed lesson (for the day job)!

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mira said...

Sheesh. Not again. I need a proofreader.

Oh. And I wasn't suggesting Nathan write a book about the blog. I was suggesting that he write a book about agents, writing and writers.

And Dearth, yes, this place can be a wonderful source of information, debate, entertainment and community.

Totally agree.

Mary said...

A one-stop shop. Brilliant, Nathan! Thank you.

wink said...

Awesome! If I could I would send you a big batch of brownies for thanks!

Jen C said...

Now that I found myself pulling the bell of stopping on the Tram of First Drafticus and entering the Land of Revisionis, this database is very timely. Thanks!

Tina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
erinn said...

You're the man.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nathan: Can you help? In April of last year I sent an agent a query; she did not wish to see book but recommended I send query to agent at her agency; never heard from 2nd woman. Now the agency has a new person who I think might be a good fit. Will I be breaking protocol if I send 3rd person a query? I am trying to avoid no-no of saying to an agent, 'Hey I sent this to this other agent at your firm and heard nothing, so I'm sending it to you.' What do you think?
Thank you.

Writer from Hell said...

... into the light.

Your blogs should be a must read for writers / wannabe writers. I wonder where you get your wisdom from (its not from 'years' as we all know)!!

Anonymous said...

Very good.

Morgan Xavier said...

Haha, I meant 'gangsta rap fiction'...that's what I get for trying to write a comment in the last thirty seconds of my lunch break. Hmmmm. What about 'crazy gangsta rap fiction?' Maybe my fairies will live for rap instead of raves. Or both. Fairies fighting the system.

Giggle. All sorts of funniness going on in my head right now. Sigh. And I can't even share it.

Well, Nathan, I'm think I'm actually going to use this idea in my novel. Thanks for the inspiration!

Claire said...

When I was reading this, I was thinking, "I love this guy!" I look forward to your blog everyday and always learn something new.
When I'm frustrated or being lazy these blogs help me choose to get back on the right path. And now I have this resource page to help me every step of the way. As usual, thanks!

Lupina said...

Stunningly generous.
When can we pre-order the book?

mkcbunny said...

Wow. This is amazing. Thank you for taking the time to do it.

Baaaa said...

You've answered so many of my questions. Thanks for all your hard work in putting this together!

Cass said...

Thanks Nathan.

I don't know if this was asked/answered yet...

Will this later be moved to the right hand side of your main page for us to follow the links or should we bookmark this page/post.

You Rock Nathan. You really do!


John W. said...

A veritable feast. You have outdone yourself.

Nathan Bransford said...


Already there, and thanks!

Carmen said...

I think the 10 commandments for a happy writer is good.

Maya / מיה said...

This is extremely helpful!! Thanks so much.

A post I'd love to see: would you please compile a list of books in each "genre"? I don't live in the US, so maybe this list would be easy for me to figure out on my own on a trip back, but I always have trouble wrapping my head about exactly what is considered what. I'd appreciate it!

putzjab said...

Many thanks for this. It's agents like you that help us poor wannabee-published writers make our dreams come true.

Fadz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fadz said...


I have your blog on the sidebar of my own for a couple of months now, and I've been reading your words of wisdom, as well as the insightful (and amusing) comments from everyone every time you put up a new post.

Thanks for this compilation. It so rocks. Like, totally. May the Eternal Monkeys smile upon you.

PS: I hope you don't mind if I link this post in my blog.

gem said...

What a great post. I'd like to send this to every writer I know. In fact, I think I'll post a link on my creative writing class board. Nathan, your blog is a really an asset to up and comers. You are a good egg. Maybe you should publish a book of your own on this stuff!

Lara said...

Yes -- Eric, it wasn't your post that I thought was negative-- I was referring to the Anon poster who was all "So when did you last sell a book" or whatever.

Honestly, only one negative comment, that's really pretty good for the Internet when you think about it. But it still makes me shake my head.

Eric said...

Sorry for my misunderstanding, I thought I'd read through all the other posts.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff here!

Chuck H. said...

What they said.

Lara said...

No worries Eric! I actually thought your response was pretty thoughtful by the way. Wanting to write and wanting to learn enough about publishing to actually get published are two different things, ya know?

ryan field said...

This is great. I wish something like this had been around ten years ago.

freddie said...

This is terrific! Hope you don't mind my posting a link to this on my blog. May put it in the sidebar so people can continually access it.

lotusgirl said...

What an incredible resource for us as writers. Gold star for you! Thanks!

Rick Baker said...

Nathan, this is just what I was looking for today. Excellent way to add some relevance your blog--for those of us seeking writing craft type of advise, that is. Thanks!

Whirlochre said...

Thanks, this is great.

David H. Burton said...

I added this to my submissions page where I have advice for writers on submissions. I also have a list of publishing-related blogs where you are, of course, already listed!

Thanks for this!

Anne Lynn Rosen said...

Required reading! Thank you so much.

Cass said...

Okay - I should have looked first.

This is a great resource.

Have a good weekend!


nkrell said...

Thanks for this very helpful info.

Vacuum Queen said...

Ummm...I do not see the "Pay Now" button for all of these posts. Is this not a workshop??? I feel like I've hit the lottery by finding your blog.

Mary said...

I just came across your blog. What a great resource! I appreciate you putting all this stuff online as I continue to dream of being a writer, I don't always know where to start.

gapyeargirl123 said...

Thank you sooo much for this! I was trying to find a post a couple of weeks ago that I knew I'd seen here, but as I saw it several months ago, I couldn't find it. The list is great! *g*

Bunny Hills said...

This is so brilliant. I guess I don't need to add another Thank You! but I really want to. Thank you!

Melinda said...

Thanks a lot, really helpful!

Rabid Fox said...

This looks like a goldmine. Thanks a ton.

Anonymous said...

I have finished my first work, and am worried about factual information. What is the deal with real sports team names, tv shows, song titles and celeb names? I can't find a solid answer anywhere, and this site seems to be pretty honest and upfront. Thank you in advance!!! I have not done an official copyright or sent to an agent yet because of these issues.

Ryon said...

So. Much. Information.

wow.... thanks Nathan... this will be my new favorite place on you blog in the coming months I'm sure...

I actually came to the Writing Advice section of your blog, hoping to find some peace of mind on a question that has been nagging me for the past few weeks.... naturally I gravitated to "Staying Sane During the Publication Process", where I read the "10 Commandments for the Happy Writer" with glee, and hoped that if you had a chance you could lend some more advice for me.

I have just finished my first novel and am in the throes of passionate and merciless revision. I have started a blog to chronicle the direction my life is taking as I seek to find publication and continue with my writing, as well as all the other joys life friends, family and coffee.

I have been told by a friend of mine, who once worked in the literary world, that this blog will hinder my chances of finding a literary agent and publication, and that I should carefully consider mixing my personal world with my professional one. I wasn't hoping for the blog to help my chances of publication, but I don't want it to create any additional obstacles for me either.

Am I shooting myself in the foot by writing about my quest for publication? Or is she just being a good, albeit overly cautious, friend?

I know you are a busy guy with a wonderful blog of your own, but any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks,

Professional Writing said...

Every person who is in blog writing has got his own style. With bloggers coming from different cultural backgrounds, different styles of blogging are not a surprise. One can always improve on his writing skills and be more popular amongst the viewers. There might be a lot of writers writing blogs, however only creative bloggers are the ones who are successful. With more creativity in writing, it is certain that a blogger will attract more subscribers to his blog. Now the big question is "How to be creative while writing a blog?"

Becky said...

Hi Nathan,

I love this blog! One thing I've always wondered - and am currently trying to navigate - is the crit partner relationship. How to find them? Where to find them? How do you know they're the 'right' crit partner for your book (and not that just don't agree with what they're saying)?

I don't know if you have a blog about this or could point me in the right direction? I've always found this to be one of the trickiest parts of finding the right feedback.


Nathan Bransford said...

Hi Becky,

The Forums are a great resource for that!

viviankirkfield said...

Just discovered your blog at Dawn's Tales from the Motherland! Congratulations on such a wonderful resource for writers...and human beings in general.:) I'm following you on Twitter and will bookmark your page.

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