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Stephanie Dethlefs
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We all know that it’s important for writers to also be avid readers. But today I want to talk about what it means to study a book for certain structural elements or devices that the author used effectively.

There are three types of reading that a writer should do. One is reading for pleasure, which I strongly encourage you to do on a regular basis. The second is reading how-to books, or instructional books on the ins and outs of craft or publishing or the writing life. …


Writing can be hard. It can be lonely. It can feel unachievable. Here is a list of reasons why you should keep writing anyway.

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Your story matters.

It matters because it is a snapshot of the human experience (yes, even sci-fi/fantasy/horror-monster stories!) These snapshots build a network of experiences through which readers and listeners are able to gain new awareness of the world. These new understandings lend themselves to empathy, to openness, to acceptance. And that will change the world.

Your story will affect someone.

Right now, there is one person out there who really, really needs your story to feel seen or less alone.


What if I told you there was a strategy that would both keep you focused and save time as you write your story? Well, my friend, there is.

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I wanted to title this article “begin with the end in mind,” one of Steven Covey’s trademarked 7 habits of Highly Effective People. But alas, that phrase was already taken. It’s all about setting goals, about deciding ahead of time who you want to be and what you want to do. It’s about being outcome-oriented.

Within the context of writing a single story, this phrase reminds me of the value of knowing…


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Hopefully, if you are a writer, you are also a voracious reader. This is the most effective way to understand story and craft.

It’s also worth it for writers to consider why readers read, because then we can make decisions about who our ideal readers might be and what might draw them to our story. Are they looking to be entertained? Thrilled? Scared? Inspired? Are they looking to be informed, to learn to see things from another perspective?

Of course, there is no single answer…every reader is unique. And, unfortunately, there is no magic wand that will ensure every reader…


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I think that most writers, especially those in the early stages of developing a writing life and/or career, probably think that the support comes once the work is mostly done, whether it’s in the form of an agent, editor, or publisher.

So, in other words, we have to have proven our worth as writers by getting to that point, before accepting help. This doesn’t make any sense to me and honestly, I think it’s damaging to writers. Despite the fact that we know it takes a village to bring a book to life, we continue to perpetuate the idea that…


My middle-grade novel was a mess.

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I’d been writing in circles, creating a first draft that was decidedly not working. The problem was that I had two main characters who were alternating as narrators, and I couldn’t keep track of where their narratives intersected.

Well, okay, that was ONE problem. One of many.

I also hadn’t started out with any kind of plan. A scene had arrived in my mind, and I’d written it. Then I’d tried to flesh out the story around it. Who were these two kids? How did they get to this pivotal scene?

It was like…


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You know how some books stick with you for years? Perhaps it was the shocking twist at the end, or the content resonated with something you were going through at the time. Books stay with us for all kinds of reasons. But no matter the reason, it was likely that you were hooked from the first page.

About ten years ago I read the novel The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, by Brady Udall. While I don’t remember all of the details of the story, what has never left me is how the first paragraph grabbed me by the neck.


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You’ve probably heard lots of writing advice about fleshing out your characters, whether it’s by using physical descriptions, body language or backstory. The protagonist is the main character, the person whose story it is that you’re writing, and it is absolutely important that you have a fleshed out, three-dimensional vision of who this person is so that the reader can, too. Likely, you’ll know things about this character that might not ever directly make it onto the page. What kind of coffee do they drink? What are their greatest fears? Are they allergic to iguanas?

However, there are three essential…


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Today we are going to be digging into a seemingly simple topic: cause and effect. I say “seemingly simple” because, in stories as well as in life, we know that generally one thing leads to another. You spill your coffee down your shirt, like I did this morning, and you’ll change shirts. Someone cuts you off in traffic, and you feel annoyed. Cause, and effect. For writers this is no different. The protagonist spills coffee down her shirt, and she goes to change. …


NOTE: This article is Part 2 of a series. If you haven’t yet read Part 1 of this series, The Big Picture, please go back and do so first. Having a clear idea of the project you’re going to be working on is essential before getting into the specifics. Otherwise, it’s kind of like following a recipe with only a list of ingredients.

This second part involves a three-step process for getting specific about what you are going to work on, and when. This is where the actual work gets done, where you begin to see pages filling with words…

Stephanie Dethlefs

Stephanie Dethlefs is a writer, book coach, podcast host, and fan of the perfect grilled cheese. Unstick Your Story with Stephanie at https://hellowriters.net

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