Missives From Troy

I am Helen Doremus. I write. I sing. I create things. I know kung fu. I wear a hat. I occasionally curse. I like pie. Exciting stuff, all. 
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Posts tagged "writing problems"
  • Me: Do this.
  • Characters: nah




A professional script reader read 300 screenplays for five different studios, all the while tracking the many recurring problems. The infographic he made with the collected data offers a glimpse at where screenwriting goes wrong.

pay attention to this

this is important even if you don’t write scripts

(via nothingenduring)

Well, friends. I don’t think I’m going to make it.

I’ve made headway, but I’ve lost so much time in the last two weeks to random work crises and disruptions that there’s no way I can make what’s left up in the next twenty-four hours.

A noble effort has been made, though, and I will finish Returners (obviously). I’m well into the second act, so that’s a huge accomplishment from looking back a month ago. As always, I applaud those who can wrestle the time into submission and I hope to be among your ranks next year. I’ll be sure to post my final word count at the buzzer tomorrow, because I’ll still be writing feverishly in the meantime.


So, I’m pretty far behind my word count with only three full days left on the clock. I’ve cleared my schedule as best as I can for Thursday and Friday, but this is still looking like a herculean task to get accomplished in the remainder of the week. Easily in excess of a dozen hours required behind the keyboard, even taking into consideration how productive my writing sprints have been this month.

However, I’m going to push through. I want a first draft of Returners under my belt before I turn to my other writing projects in December. Wish me luck!


Technophobes rejoice! Your typewriter iPad is here.


102 Resources for Fiction Writers

Are you still stuck for ideas for National Novel Writing Month? Or are you working on a novel at a more leisurely pace? Here are 102 resources on Character, Point of View, Dialogue, Plot, Conflict, Structure, Outlining, Setting, and World Building, plus some links to generate Ideas and Inspiration.


10 Days of Character Building

Name Generators

Name Playground

The Universal Mary Sue Litmus Test

Priming the idea pump (A character checklist shamlessly lifted from acting)

How to Create a Character

Seven Common Character Types

Handling a Cast of Thousands – Part I: Getting to Know Your Characters

It’s Not What They Say …

Establishing the Right Point of View: How to Avoid “Stepping Out of Character”

How to Start Writing in the Third Person

Web Resources for Developing Characters

What are the Sixteen Master Archetypes?

Character: A compilation of guidance from classical and contemporary experts on creating great dramatic characters

Building Fictional Characters

Fiction Writer’s Character Chart

Character Building Workshop

Tips for Characterization

Fiction Writer’s Character Chart

Villains are People, Too, But …

Top 10 Tips for Writing Dialogue

Speaking of Dialogue

Dialogue Tips

Advantages, Disadvantages and Skills (character traits)

How to Write a Character Bible

Character Development Exercises

All Your Characters Sounds the Same — And They’re Not a Hivemind!

Medieval Names Archive

Sympathy Without Saintliness

Writing the Other: Bridging Cultural Difference for Successful Fiction

Family Echo (family tree website)

Interviewing Characters: Follow the Energy

100 Character Development Questions for Writers

Behind the Name

Lineage Chart Layout Generator


How to Write a Novel: The Snowflake Method

Effectively Outlining Your Plot

Conflict and Character within Story Structure

Outlining Your Plot

Ideas, Plots & Using the Premise Sheets

How to Write a Novel

Creating Conflict and Sustaining Suspense

Plunge Right In … Into Your Story, That Is!

Fiction Writing Tips: Story Grid

Tips for Creating a Compelling Plot

Writer’s “Cheat Sheets”

The Thirty-six (plus one) Dramatic Situations

The Evil Overlord Devises a Plot: Excerpt from Stupid Plotting Tricks

Conflict Test

What is Conflict?


The Hero’s Journey: Summary of the Steps

Outline Your Novel in Thirty Minutes

Plotting Without Fears

Novel Outlining 101

Writing the Perfect Scene

Fight Scenes 101

Basic Plots in Literature

One-Page Plotting

The Great Swampy Middle


Magical World Builder’s Guide

I Love the End of the World

World Building 101

The Art of Description: Eight Tips to Help You Bring Your Settings to Life

Creating the Perfect Setting – Part I

Creating a Believable World

An Impatient Writer’s Approach to Worldbuilding

Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions


Character and Setting Interactions

Creating Fantasy and Science Fiction Worlds

Creating Fantasy Worlds

Questions About Worldbuilding

Maps Workshop — Developing the Fictional World Through Mapping

World Builder Projects


Quick Story Idea Generator

Solve Your Problems Simply by Saying Them Out Loud

Busting Your Writing Rut

Writing Inspiration, or Sex on a Bicycle

Creative Acceleration: 11 Tips to Engineer a Productive Flow

The Seven Major Beginner Mistakes

Complete Your First Book with these 9 Simple Writing Habits

Free Association, Active Imagination, Twilight Imaging

Random Book Title Generator

Finishing Your Novel

Story Starters and Idea Generators


How to Rewrite

One-Pass Manuscript Revision: From First Draft to Last in One Cycle

Editing Recipe

Cliche Finder

Revising Your Novel: Read What You’ve Written

Writing 101: So You Want to Write a Novel Part 3: Revising a Novel


My Writing Nook (online text editor; free)

Bubbl.us (online mind map application; free)

Freemind (mind map application; free; Windows, Mac, Linux, portable)

XMind (mind map application; free; Windows, Mac, Linux, portable)

Liquid Story Binder (novel organization and writing software; free trial, $45.95; Windows, portable)

Scrivener (novel organization and writing software; free trial, $39.95; Mac)

SuperNotecard (novel organization and writing software; free trial, $29; Windows, Mac, Linux, portable)

yWriter (novel organization and writing software; free; Windows, Linux, portable)

JDarkRoom (minimalist text editor; free; Windows, Mac, Linux, portable)

AutoRealm (map creation software; free; Windows, Linux with Wine)

I’ve had a couple of Thursday Quotes get hits before, but the Steven Moffat one today seemed to strike a chord with folks, especially with the couple of people who took offense/got riled at the concept in the quote.

So, here’s the thing. My take on the quote was that just adding a bunch of swearing to dialog to make it “adult” is a cop out on trying to spin a good phrase. Not that swearing isn’t a natural part of conversation or that it’s always better to steer away from it (I swear all the fucking time and incorporate plenty of cussing in my writing, so clearly that’s not what I believe), but that just tossing in a couple of swear words to make a PG sentence an “adult” sentence is lame and phoning it in. It’s not trying to get anything extra across, it’s just shock value for the sake of upping some perceived rating or maturity level. 

Also, Moffat writes for TV. Admittedly, he writes for Brit TV where cursing is a little less risque than in the States, but he still probably has to deal with censors, producers, and the like who need whatever show he’s working on to stay in X or Y speech boundary. I mean, he’s not going to insert the same kind of dialog into Doctor Who as he did in Coupling, right?

So the other side of what he’s probably referring to is having to find ways to talk around censorship, so that characters can have the conversations they need to have in the contexts they need to have them. 

Feel free to continue to disagree with the sentiment. It’s no skin off my nose if people do disagree with the quote, but as for the sentiment that cursing in dialog should be telling you something about the character or the extremity of the situation as opposed to just being a “fuck,” “shit,” or “assballs” thrown into “Jack went to the store to get some milk,” then yeah, I agree that cursing just for the sake of making something seem “adult” is a cop out. 

And now, have a funny: History of the Word “Fuck”

I don’t know if proud is the right word, but I am somebody who does not, on the whole, have the highest regard for my own stuff in that when I look all I get to see are the flaws.
Neil Gaiman

Stories like this both give me a strong feeling of vindication for books/movies/television I don’t like and a healthy dose of paranoia when I look at my own writing. Still, the rant above is full of useful reminders about how indulgent you should and should not be with your characters and your own personal sense of comfort when it comes time to put pen to paper. 


This question came in:

Do ever go through phases where you’re too tired/listless/depressed to write anymore? If so, what do you do to get through it?

So I thought I would put up a motivational poster, for you, Juan, and for anyone else who needs it. (Original photo by Holly Gaiman at the Hay Literary Festival.)