How To Pick The Right Genre For Your Novel (And Why Your Sales Depend On It)

picture of books arranged according to genreDo you want to sell thousands of copies of your novel?

Maybe you want to sell to a traditional publisher through an agent.

Or would you rather sell directly to readers through self-publishing?

No matter which route you choose, your ability to pick the right genre for your novel can mean the difference between success and obscurity.

Genre is the type of story you’re writing.

Most booksellers and readers recognise genres such as:

  • Romance
  • Mystery
  • Science Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Thriller
  • Suspense
  • Historical

But these are just categories, right?


What makes genre so important


Agents and editors tend to specialize in a few specific genres. Unless your manuscript fits the genre an agent represents, it will end up in the slush pile.

Agents and editors use genre to see if you know what you’re writing.

There’s nothing an agent hates more than hearing “well, my book is a little bit of a mystery, but it’s set in a dystopian future, so it’s sort of sci-fi… and there’s a love story, so it’s also kind of a romance…”

If you don’t know where your book fits, you’re saying you don’t know your target audience.

And without understanding your target audience, you won’t know how to market your book.

This will make an agent think twice about signing you.

If you’re adamant that you “don’t want to be labeled” because your book is “so complex” – well, that’s a clear indication that you’re more interested in your identity as an artist than you are in being a selling author.

Which will make an agent reject you outright.


Your ideal audience uses genre to find your book


Let’s say you love mysteries.

You’ve got a long trip ahead. You’ve read all the books by your favorite authors, and you need to find something new.

In about twenty minutes.

You’re not going to wander randomly around the store. You’ll go straight to the mystery section.

So if I’ve written a mystery but shelved it under Romance because the detective falls in love, you won’t find my book, because you weren’t looking there. (And some poor romance reader is going to be annoyed because she was expecting a lot more romance, not all this solving-the-guy’s-death business.)

In short, choosing the right genre is about improving your odds of making a sale.

Here are four simple steps to help you choose the right genre for your book.


#1. Get to know genre options


A quick look at Amazon’s Books page, or a stroll through any bookstore, will show you the main classifications for fiction.

The Amazon bestseller page for books splits its lists by genre.

Look at the top five bestsellers in each genre. Read each book description. What does each genre emphasize?

For example, James Patterson’s NYPD Red 2 is on the list for “Mystery, Suspense & Thriller.” The description features crime scenes, brutal slaughter, and shocking murders.

Now glance through the Romance list. Nora Roberts’ The Collector also involves solving a murder.

But it describes “the woman with no permanent ties finds herself almost wishing for one” and “Ash longs to paint her as intensely as he hungers to touch her.” The focus is obviously the passion between the protagonists rather than the resolution of the case.

Once you’ve looked through a few book descriptions, you’ll understand which elements are most important to each genre’s readers.


#2. Identify genre elements in your work


Look closely at your novel.

Does it have a love story? A crime?

Are there elements of magic or the supernatural?

Is it set in the past, present, or future?

What age are the protagonists?

What drives the plot?


You’re looking for elements that could help narrow the focus.

What do you feel is most important about the book?

Which elements do you enjoy the most? What are you the most proud of?

You don’t need to make a decision about genre yet. You’re just looking for the story pieces that will help you decide. You want to know what you’re working with.

Once you’ve got a list of your story elements, you’re ready to move to the next step.


#3. Identify your “most likely reader”


What sort of reader would love your novel, and why?

Keep in mind: the question is not which readers might enjoy your novel. Anyone could buy the book by chance, and be surprised at how much they enjoyed something outside their norm.

But your odds of finding that person are slim. That’s not marketing – it’s luck.

Instead, you’re targeting the fan who will go absolutely nuts for exactly what you’ve written.


Who is the screaming super-fan for this book?

Try to imagine a specific person.

Pretend you’re reading a review by your super-fan. What does it say?

Beyond the generic “this book is awesome,” what does the super-fan specifically adore about your novel?

Its twisty plot, like a Dan Brown suspense?

Or maybe the intricate and thorough world building, like Hugh Howey’s Wool series?

The world-stage fantasy politics, similar to George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones titles?

Or maybe the toe-curling love scenes, like E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey?


What does your super-fan complain about?

Keep genre conventions in mind.

If the couple in your love story die at the end, romance fans will be up in arms, because they expect a “happily ever after” (or at least “happily for now”) resolution.

Disappointing a reader means poor sales and bad reviews.

Make sure your super-fan will be happy with the entire story, not just some aspects of it.


#4. Use comparative titles to nail your sub-genre


Each genre carries books by writers who offer different “flavors” – different sub-genres.

Take mysteries. Dan Green writes police procedurals in his Max Segal series. These are very different from the cozy amateur sleuth of Jessica Beck’s Donut Mysteries, or the sexy, silly fun of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series.

In the young adult genre, there’s a wide disparity between dystopian love stories like The Hunger Games and Divergent, the frothy Braced to Bite, and the angsty Twilight.


Once you know your most likely buyer, imagine you’re looking at an online bookstore sales page for your novel.

Underneath the “purchase” button you’ll find recommendations for other novels, with the phrase “People who bought this also bought…”

Think of three novels your super-fan might enjoy that are similar to yours in style and content. See where these are categorized on Amazon or in your local bookstore.

This is how you will identify the genre that best suits your novel.


However you plan to publish, learning to pick the right genre for your novel is crucial.

It will teach you how to match the best elements of your writing with the audience that will most appreciate them.

The better you get at identifying your strengths and your reader, the more accurately you’ll pick your novel’s genre. And the more sales you’ll make.

Try it and see.

How do you identify the right genre for your novel? Let me know in the comments!


About the author:

Cathy Yardley is a novelist, teacher, editor, and writing coach at Sign up for her free e-course Jumpstart Your Writing Career, and receive helpful hints on pinpointing where you might be stuck – and how to get back on track for a successful fiction-writing career.

Image: Categories courtesy of Bigstockphoto

Do Negative Thoughts Give You Writer’s Block? 5 Ways To Cut Loose

picture of man with sword to cut through writer's blockDo you find yourself struggling to write?

Sometimes, negative thoughts make it difficult for us to write.

As writers, part of our job seems to be to struggle against ourselves.

But it doesn’t have to be so hard.

You can’t avoid the struggle, but it doesn’t have to paralyze you from doing the work you love.

You can fight these negative thoughts – and writer’s block – using a few proven techniques.

The key is to learn how your mind works.

Dr. David D. Burns, in his book Ten Days to Self Esteem, writes: “When you feel upset, the thoughts that make you feel bad are often illogical and distorted, even though these thoughts may seem as real as the skin on your hand. In other words, when you feel lousy, you are nearly always fooling yourself about something, even though you aren’t aware of this.”

Here are five patterns of distorted thinking that cause writer’s block, and how to fix them. The catch is that you have to write them down. The solutions will work only if you do the exercises with pen and paper.


#1. All-or-nothing thinking


All-or-nothing thinking is when you paint the world in black or white.

You may get a rejection letter and think, “I’ll never be a writer.”

You falsely believe that either you’re a writer, or you’re a hack. There is no in-between.

To beat all-or-nothing thinking, use counter-examples. A counter-example is an example that disproves your all-or-nothing statement.

We use them when we point out the flaws in a person’s statement.



Angela finished her novel six months ago. The rejection letters have been piling up.

Today, she received another one. She feels defeated and wants to give up.

“I’m a loser,” she thinks.


To blast through her distorted all-or-nothing thinking, Angela starts writing counter-examples like:

- I’m the mother of two lovely children

- I exercise every day

- I show up and write, and I enjoy it

- I got an email from someone who loved a short story I wrote

By writing down examples of how she isn’t a loser, Angela feels better. Counter-examples help dissolve the absolute nature of all-or-nothing thoughts.


The next time you feel down in the dumps, identify the thought, and write at least five counter-examples.


#2. Emotional reasoning


When you feel sad, you tend to think sad thoughts.

Feel like a loser and you’re more likely to act like a loser.

But your feelings don’t make something true.

They don’t make you a loser; they merely make you feel like one.

In his book, Dr. Burns writes: “Your emotions result more from the way you view things than from what happens to you. That simple idea can help you change the way you think and feel.”

To deal with emotional reasoning, ask yourself: What would I have to believe in order to feel this way?

Then write the pros and cons of having that belief. This will reveal how the belief is helping you, and whether or not you want to keep it.



Stephen feels frustrated with a story he’s working on.

He asks himself: What would I have to believe to feel this way?

The answer: I would have to believe that I will never be a writer. No one wants my writing, which means I should give up.

Stephen then grabs and pen and paper and makes a list of the pros and cons of having this belief.















Stephen takes a deep breath and reviews his list. The negatives of this belief clearly outweigh the positives, so he’s better off not believing this.

He doesn’t feel so bad anymore. The feeling is still there, but it’s less strong.


#3. Shoulds / Have-to’s / Musts


Any should, have-to, or must will bring up resistance to moving forward.

You may want to do the task, but deep down, you may be disconnected from the why.

The solution is to reconnect to why you’re doing what you’re doing.

What are you trying to accomplish?



Danielle is surfing the web, thinking, “I should be writing. I have to write if I’m going to amount to anything.” 

She writes:

What am I trying to accomplish by writing? I want to write because I love writing. Somewhere along the way I’ve lost that joy. I think it’s because I put too much pressure on myself to write like Hemingway. 

Why do I love writing? Because it feels right. It’s hard to explain. I love the challenge of it. And it makes my heart sing.

Why do I love the challenge? I don’t know. It feels like something I was put on this planet to do. I love it. Even writing this, I’m already feeling lighter. I’m getting in touch with the feeling I used to have.


When you do this exercise, keep writing. Keep digging deeper to find your why.


#4. Dwelling on the negative


When you dwell on the negative, you zoom in on what’s wrong.

You forget about what’s going right in your life.

To get out of a negative funk, explore worst-case scenarios until you run out of steam.

This will help you let out the nervous, fearful energy that makes you focus incessantly on what could go wrong.




Charlie is stuck with a story. And he’s blowing it out of proportion.

He decides to write down all his thoughts:

I’m a loser. I can’t write. If I were a good writer, I’d be able to come up with stories.

What’s the worst that could happen?

I’d end up on the street if I don’t write today. Really? No, I wouldn’t.

I’m being dramatic because I think that if I feel dejected, someone is going to come to my aid – just like my parents did when I was a child.

I notice that I don’t feel as bad about my writing.

So what if I’m stuck? Most writers spend some time on plateaus. What’s wrong with that?

I’m doing my best, and that’s enough.


Undoubtedly, you will write more than this. The important thing is to keep writing and get everything out on paper.

You may eventually start writing positive ideas, or you may not. It doesn’t matter, as long as you get all that anxious energy out.


#5. Letting life overwhelm you


Have you noticed that problems outside writing can stop you from writing?

The more worried I am, the less I can write.

Put another way: the more I think about my problems, the less space I have to focus on writing.

The solution isn’t to solve your problems, but to write them down, and brainstorm.

Getting them down on paper gets them out of your mind, which will calm you.




Joshua’s been arguing with his wife because they’re tight on money. He feels the pressure to write something great.

He feels like he’s going insane with all the thoughts swirling in his head, so he grabs a pen and paper, and writes:

I need to make more money. But how?

What can I do right now?

I could write out those emails I’ve been meaning to send. I could ask Bruce to give me the promised introduction to that editor. I’ll put these on my to-do list and do them first thing tomorrow.

What about Betty?

We fought about money, and about my not being there for her.

She’s right. I need to spend more time with her and the kids. I spend too much time working. I’m trying to make money, but nothing’s happening.

I need to take a break, give myself time to recharge. And I need to establish priorities. 


This exercise is about exploring your problems and brainstorming solutions. As you write things down, your problems loosen their hold on your mind because you can see them on paper.

This is not a quick fix, but something you do consistently to explore what you action you can take right here, right now.


Our thoughts play tricks with us, but we can fight back.

To do this, you have to be willing to uncover the truth (with pen and paper). You have to be willing to unravel what stops you from putting words on paper.

These exercises can be used interchangeably, so feel free to mix and match. Use what feels right.

But above all, do them.

Pick one problem right now, and use one of the exercises to nix it. You owe it to yourself.

What do you do to break through writer’s block? Share your tips in the comments!


About the author:

Henri Junttila is the founder of Wake Up Cloud, where he shows you how to turn your passion into a thriving business. Grab his free special report, and check out his book How to Write Nonfiction eBooks: A Proven 17-Step Guide.

Image: Cutting through courtesy of Bigstockphoto

2 Amazing Ways To Revise Your Novel (And When To Use Them)

picture of woman pruningYou know you need to revise your novel, but where do you begin?

The complexity of a novel can be overwhelming.

50,000-150,000 words means you can’t keep everything in your head.

Flipping back and forth between hundreds of pages makes it hard to remember where you are. You can’t see the story’s structure.

Or can you?

Two methods allow you to actually see the structure of a story, regardless of its size.


#1. Shrunken Manuscript


Purely by accident, I invented the Darcy Pattison Shrunken Manuscript Technique. I was broke, but had agreed to review a manuscript for a friend.

In an attempt to be thrifty, I took a novel and shrank it to the fewest possible pages before printing. I single-spaced the manuscript, took out all white spaces at the beginning and end of chapters, and then shrank the font to 8pts.

Hard to read? Yes! But half the number of pages.

Suddenly, an amazing thing happened. I could see the story structure. A whole chapter took up only one page. Act 1 was a mere 5 pages. This was easy to see, understand, and evaluate for story structure.

Ideally, shrink the manuscript to about 30 pages, which will eventually lie on the floor in three neat rows of ten. For longer stories, try putting everything into columns, or shrink to 6pt font, since you won’t really be reading from this copy.

If all else fails, evaluate the manuscript in two chunks of about 30 shrunken pages each.

First, mark the scenes or pages you are evaluating with dark markers. (Yellow highlighters don’t show up at a distance.) For example, you might mark the places where the villain and protagonist are in direct conflict, whether it’s just a couple of paragraphs, a scene, or an entire chapter.

Then, lay the pages on the floor or on a large cabinet or table. Stand back to look over the story and evaluate.

You can clearly see the frequency, duration, and location of protagonist-villian interaction. If these interactions are not appropriate for your book, you can plan an effective revision.


For my middle grade novel, SAUCY AND BUBBA: A Hansel and Gretel Tale, I shrank the manuscript, and marked places where Krissy, the stepmother, interacts directly with Saucy, the protagonist. Because of story events, Saucy and Bubba run away from home, which means there are no direct interactions in the story’s middle, except for a brief phone call. Acts 1 and 3 are full of interactions, though, so this is a successful structure for this story.


#2. Spreadsheet Plotting


The second method of evaluating a novel for revision involves Spreadsheet Plotting.

Here, you use your favorite spreadsheet software to create a chart that summarizes your story. Create columns with labels such as: character name, setting, main plot, subplot, #words, and so on. Include whatever categories fit your needs. For example, mystery writers may want to include a column for clues.

Next, create rows for either scenes or chapters, depending on how deep you want to delve. Fill the information into the grid.

In this version of spreadsheet plotting, I used columns for Act#, Headline (short blurb for chapter), Day (time of year), POV, Setting, Action, and Emotion. Create columns to fit your genre of writing.

In this version of spreadsheet plotting, I used columns for Act#, Headline (short blurb for chapter), Day (time of year), POV, Setting, Action, and Emotion. Create columns to fit your genre of writing.


You decide what information goes into a column. In the main plot column, for example, you may simply indicate Act 1, Act 2, or Act 3, or you may be more specific.

For example, my novel The Hero’s Journey has clearly defined steps: ordinary world, call to adventure, meeting with mentor, crossing the first threshold, tests/allies/enemies, approach to the inmost cave, supreme ordeal, reward, the road back, resurrection, and return with elixir.

When your grid is ready, you can sort your novel according to any of the columns you’ve created.

I sorted the Spreadsheet Plotting by setting. You can see that 3 of the Act 1 scenes are at Home, and 16 of the Act 2 scenes are at Home. However, there are no Act 3 scenes at Home. Is this right or wrong? Only the author can decide.

I sorted the Spreadsheet Plotting by setting. You can see that 3 of the Act 1 scenes are at Home, and 16 of the Act 2 scenes are at Home. However, there are no Act 3 scenes at Home. Is this right or wrong? Only the author can decide.


Caution: Be sure to use consistent language, especially the first word in the entry, so the sort works well. If you write “kitchen scene” in one place, but “baking cookies” in another, the sort won’t catch that the cookies are baked in the kitchen.


Shrunken Manuscript vs. Spreadsheet Plotting


Both shrunken manuscripts and spreadsheet plotting reduce a novel to a manageable level.

At-a-glance analysis is simple in either method. However, each method has its strengths and weaknesses.

Because a shrunken manuscript uses a tiny font, it is hard to read the text. That’s usually alright, because you don’t need to read it; you only need to know what happened in a certain section. However, the tiny font does cause a problem for some people. You can alleviate this by leaving chapter titles or other key identifiers in a large font.


The advantage of a shrunken manuscript is that it shows proportions.

Let’s assume you marked your five strongest chapters with a bright X. (Five chapters works well for up to about 40,000 words; after that, mark another strong chapter for each 10,000 words.)

When you evaluate the novel, check to see which marked section is longer or shorter. In other words, you’re evaluating the proportions, or how long each event occurs.

I often find that an author marks the final chapter as a strong chapter. Good! The climax is usually the final chapter, and it should be strong.

But too often, that final chapter is only 3-4 pages long, compared to other chapters of 10-15 pages each. This means the chapter happens too quickly; it isn’t strong enough.

Climaxes should take up an extended space in a novel, creating a big scene that drastically changes the characters’ lives. Shortchanging the climax means a flat ending and a reader who feels cheated. This common mistake is easily seen in a shrunken manuscript.


The advantage of spreadsheet plotting is the ability of a spreadsheet program to sort.

You can click on any column and sort it into ABC order. Let’s assume you have scenes that take place in twelve different settings, but the most emotional setting is your mother’s kitchen.

By sorting, you can see where in your story’s structure kitchen scenes occur. If only one scene occurs in the kitchen, perhaps the emotional content is weak.

If ten different settings occur only once in the novel while the kitchen setting is repeated often, the story may be drowning in kitchen (emotions) and lack variety in setting.


Spreadsheet plotting can give you information on proportion, with a column for word count; but it isn’t visual enough.

A shrunken manuscript can be sorted using color-coding, perhaps using purple to mark scenes in the kitchen and red to X scenes in the garden. But it’s clumsy compared to sorting a spreadsheet column.

In other words, these are complementary tools that tell you something about your story.

Use the two methods in conjunction as you revise your novel, because the biggest advantage of both techniques is shrinking your novel to a manageable size that allows you to see the story at a glance.

When you want a simple count of how many times an event takes place in a certain setting, use Spreadsheet Plotting. Try this technique to evaluate POV, chapter length, or emotions.

When you want to see proportions, use a Shrunken Manuscript. It tells you not just where an event happens, but how much space it takes up.

When would you use one technique over the other? Let us know in the comments!


About the author: 

Writer and writing teacher Darcy Pattison blogs at Fiction Notes, one of Write to Done’s Top 10 Blogs for Writers. Download her free e-book After the First Draft at Fiction Notes. Tweet Darcy @FictionNotes.

Image: Pruning courtesy of Bigstockphoto

5 Ways To Improve A Perfect Story

Close up portrait of a young business man with the office buildiYou’ve written a story you’re proud of.

You’ve edited it until there’s nothing left to do. It’s perfect!

Isn’t it?

Of course.

But how can you enhance it?

That’s the challenge I face every day as a “copy doctor” when members of my writing program send me their work-in-progress for my comments.

Often I despair. Their stories are excellent. What can I do?

Then I ask myself these questions and – in a few moments – I find at least five ways to improve their stories.

Apply this checklist to your own work and see for yourself!


1. Do the characters chatter in a vacuum?


Maybe the dialogue snakes down the page with no indication of where the conversation is taking place. Are we still in the kitchen or the bar or… has the story shifted to the Sinai desert?

A simple way to remind us is to drop in a ‘dialogue beat,’ some trivial intrusion from the environment.


“That’s ridiculous,” Jack said.

Jill pouted. The barman grinned.


Ah, we’re still in the bar.

By the way, did we need the dialogue tag “Jack said?” Pundits tell us we should minimize repetitions of “he said/she replied.” They’re tedious.

What people say and how they say it should, in theory, give the reader enough clues. But do they? Not always.

After the third exchange we lose track. Remind us. A dialogue beat can do that.


“What happened to my drink?”

The barman brought Jill a Campari.


Now we know it was Jill speaking, not Jack.

Bring us back us to the context, continually. The story will gain depth.


2. Are the conversations robotic?


If we want to engage the reader – and we do, don’t we? – we must embed surprise, conflict, or intrigue into every passage.

I did it just then by interrupting myself with a question. Of course, that “conflict” can be as gentle as a lover’s pillow talk. But it must be there. Because conflict provokes emotions, and emotions engage the reader.

This is particularly true of dialogue. Show us the characters’ emotions throughout. Otherwise, the conversation will be flat. The simplest way to animate dialogue is to add body language.


“You killed my father!”

“Darling, you exaggerate.”


Dramatic? Yes. But what do the words mean? Reveal the emotions behind those words.


“You killed my father!” Her voice was broken glass.

“Darling, you exaggerate.” His eyes crinkled with amusement.


The next step is to drop in the characters’ thoughts or reflections. If a scene is written from the point of view (pov) of just one character, it’s no trick to present these directly to the reader.


You arrogant bastard, Jill thought.


But how can we convey the thoughts of other characters, without head hopping between different viewpoints and confusing the reader?

Have your main pov character observe the other person’s body language and speculate on their thoughts or feelings. This helps us stay in the main pov.


She saw his fingers tremble. Maybe she had frightened him, after all?


The eyes that looked back at her were cold with anger.

In a romance they might be “fierce with unrequited lust.”


Body language – and its interpretations – can be laid on with a fine brush or a trowel, according to your genre.


3. Does a descriptive passage invoke all five senses?


An inexperienced author might tell us simply what their characters see and hear. The other three senses are ignored. So the story is two-dimensional. To give it depth, show us also what the pov characters smell, taste and feel.


The chill winter air tasted of bonfire smoke. Jill warmed her hands at the crackling log fire, fragrant with apple wood, and wished devoutly she had worn shoes that did not pinch.


Now we are in that scene, exploring it through all of Jill’s senses. But did you notice how slow that passage was?

To lull the pace in any scene, drop in a lot of sensory detail. To quicken the pace, refer merely to sights and sounds. The brain understands references to sight and sound much faster than it does to the other three senses.


4. Is the story balanced in its pace?


Have you ever read a passage of beautiful prose and thought “That’s lovely but it’s dead?”

Chances are, all the sentences and paragraphs were of the same length. If you want to animate a scene – say, at a moment of tension – cut the sentences. Even to fragments.

Then give the reader a comfort break in the next paragraph by lengthening them again or perhaps, by dropping in a few dependent – that is, hanging – clauses.

Just like that.

Incidentally, an easy way to check if your paragraphs are balanced is to reset a page in Word to single-spaced, 9 points Time Roman. Justify the text. Stand back from your computer. The page will now look much as it would to the reader of a Kindle or printed book.

Has your text shrunk into one grey boring slab? Vary the paragraph lengths!


5. How tired is the story’s language?


A story need not dance with wordplay. Often, the most powerful tale is written in the most prosaic style. But the words should pull their weight. Here’s where the Find utility in Word can be a great help.

First, put the term ing into the search box. That will reveal, among many other words, all your gerunds.

Gerunds? These are weak verb forms that end with ing, like walking and sighing. Ration your gerunds to, say, just two per paragraph unless you want to send the reader to sleep.

Next, input the term ly. It will highlight most of your adverbs.  Sometimes, adverbs are necessary.

If Jack laughed, did he do it happily or bitterly? We need to know.

But adverbs, which qualify verbs, can usually be replaced with a more precise verb – he grinned, leered, winked, etc. – or with a colourful expression.


He made a noise like a duck swallowing a frog.


Adjectives can be just as dangerous. If you spot more than two in one sentence, ask: could I drop them or use some figure of speech instead?


The chamber was cold, empty and forlorn, chilled by the relentless wind.


That’s too many adjectives. Why not write:


The room was as cold as a taxman’s heart?


Needless to say, there’s more than that to being a “copy doctor.”

If you don’t have a good story to start with – a structure of conflict that’s emotionally strong, and characters readers can connect with – no amount of tinkering with the language will improve it.

But if your story is otherwise competent, take action on the five steps above and you’ll turn a good tale into a great one.

What changes will you make to your perfect story? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!


About the author: 

Dr. John Yeoman, PhD Creative Writing, runs the Writers’’ Village Academy program in fiction writing and is a tutor at a UK university. He has been a successful commercial author for 42 years. You can find a wealth of ideas for writing stories that succeed in his free 14-part course at Writers’ Village.

Image: How to improve courtesy of Bigstockphoto

Scene Stealers: Build Tension

cheerful thinking or planning young business woman with pen, isoWelcome to Scene Stealers, our series of writing prompts designed to flex your creative muscles.

We’re thrilled that so many of you are participating in our writing prompt series. (Read the other Scene Stealers here and add one of your own.)


How it works


  • We set the scene
  • You steal it, make it your own, and
  • Share your creation in the comments section of this post

Of course, it’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to share your work, but we hope you’ll do the exercise anyway.


The ground rules:


  • Your story must begin with the exact wording we provide.
  • Your story must be 350 words or less.
  • Your work must be original and not previously published.
  • WTD provides an encouraging and safe environment for writers to grow and learn from each other. We’d love you to comment on other people’s submissions in a friendly and supportive manner.
  • We reserve the right to delete any comments or entries we deem inappropriate and those that do not meet the specifications above.


This month’s installment Build Tension allows you to exercise your writing muscles by writing a story in which you build tension slowly. Remember, you are heading towards a climax.


Scene Stealer #21

She looked up from her writing. Was that a creak? But she’d oiled the hinges just yesterday.  


Now steal this and make it your own.

We can’t wait to read what you come up with, so please add your submission to the comments section of this post.


By Vinita Zutshi, Associate Editor at Write to Done. Vinita also blogs at Carefree Parenting.

Image: Listening courtesy of Bigstockphoto