Beating Writer's Bane
Ok, so I'm writing this story about genetically enhanced humans. The idea is that they are all dark haired as a side effect of the genetic manipulation, but my main character is blonde, and I can't come up with a plausible idea as to why this happened. Can anyone help me?!

This sort of question may require a few more details. Why are they genetically enhanced? How so? Is the genetic enhancement ingrained in humanity as a whole? Is it passed down from parent to child or is it something that needs to happen at some time after conception or birth?

The go to, simple, explanation is “recessive genes”. Or mutation. But depending on the exact situation that may be too simple or implausible.

Followers, can you help a writer out?

The Renegade Word is having a flash fiction contest! Enter up to 2 stories of 1,000 words or less for the chance to win $100 USD. Full details at the link. Deadline is August 31, 2013.


Writing an interesting novel is all about your ability to cut needless or boring information. When I was younger I often found myself thinking about why characters never go to the bathroom or do any mundane activities in books. I thought, “When I write a novel, MY characters will take bathroom breaks.” This is a weird thing to think about when you’re in middle school, but it’s safe to say I was a weirdo (I still am, don’t worry). As I got older, however, I realized why these things should NEVER happen.

• No one wants to read about your character doing things we do every day that ARE UNINTERESTING. The only time your characters should be in the bathroom is when they are staring at themselves in the mirror and thinking about life (avoid writing this scene because it’s overdone, but I know it happens). Maybe they’re checking their appearance or maybe they’re in high school and they’re hiding out from the school bully. The point is…WE DO NOT WANT TO KNOW WHETHER THEY ARE POOPING OR PEEING. Especially in novels with a lot of action, we don’t want them to suddenly step away from your well-crafted scene and say “well, I gotta go take a wiz.” THAT’S why it doesn’t happen.

• Everything in your novel should drive the plot forward, not bring it to a screeching halt. When we take the time to describe over and over again what our characters are wearing or how they look or what they’re going to eat, we take away precious time we could be spending with more important character development. Explaining how your character dresses once is usually enough. Obviously there are circumstances where you need to continually explain what your character is wearing, but that isn’t normally the case. We want to hear about the love interest’s bulging muscles over and over again, especially if they have no depth whatsoever.

• I read because it takes me away from the normal world and transports me somewhere more interesting. I’m not saying my life isn’t interesting, but reading IS a form of escape. I don’t want to read about characters doing the same stupid crap I do all the time. I don’t want to hear about them taking a shower every chapter or how they lace up their shoes. CUT THIS INFORMATION. CUT IT NOW.

• You don’t want to waste everyone’s time. If someone reading your novel keeps waiting and waiting for your narrative to go somewhere, they’re going to get bored. You want it to be exciting so that people stay interesting. Anything unnecessary will only turn people off from your work. You need to be very careful about what you decide to include. The boring stuff is always unnecessary.

This post is mainly a way for me to yell at my middle school aged self for being so stupid…in case I get a time machine.Thank you for your time.

-Kris Noel

Alone these lines, your novel is set within a universe where nothing should happen that doesn’t drive the plot forward. Maybe your character is a great cook - it has nothing to do with the plot, she just is. If you have her cook, she must also be doing something else to move the plot forward: solving her mystery, breaking up with her boyfriend, having a tense conversation with the killer sitting at her kitchen table, etc.

If your character takes a potty break, the reader expects something from it. Why else would we be reading about body functions? It can be as simple as ‘I left her to go pee, and when I came back she had turned into a werewolf.’ Take advantage of everyday things, they are plot gold!

Last thing I want to add onto here is details. Especially in a short story, but for novels too, every detail should go toward making a point or setting. Your character is eating green beans. How do they feel about those green beans? Where are they eating them, who made it? You don’t have to nail this in the first draft, but when you go back, think hard about those details that don’t seem to have a point. How can you make them better?

-Agent Black


Nothing kills a writer’s spirit more than excitedly telling someone their story idea, only to be told ‘oh so-and-so wrote that.’ The word originality gets thrown around a lot, often about lofty literary books no one wants to read or used to taunt genre writers. Be original. You can’t be interesting if you’re not original.

Who the fuck cares about being original?

No one can write your story but you. It doesn’t matter if the general theme or the vaguest plot summary has been done before. It’s your story. Your experiences and what you bring into it make it unique.

Don’t make the mistake of trying too hard. The ‘I have to make this different’ mantra has ruined many a good story. Follow your instincts. It will save you a lot of hassle down the road.

Write what you want. I don’t care if it’s been written before. Do you know how many decent ‘person gets sent to magical school’ books out there before and after Harry Potter? Do what you want!

The great thing about writing the story you want to read is you’re doing it because no one else has. not quite in the way you want. That’s where the originality comes from, not forced quirkiness that is painful to write and comes off hollow.

Yeah, this^

And if you want the championship example, Shakespeare was well aware that he was a literary thief. The last line of the Taming of the Shrew is a direct reference to the fact that the basic story is flat out stolen from another very popular play. And I think we can agree that Shakespeare didn’t suffer much from his “lack of originality.”

Objectives Provide Story Momentum



When the objective is clear and the character is moving towards it, the reader will stay with the story, at least until they reach a natural break in the narrative.

But ever be reading a book and you find yourself in a section where not much is happening, no great action or set piece, but you can’t stop reading?

You go from one line to the next and it’s like you’re leaning forward as you’re going down a hill and it would almost be more effort to stop than to just keep going.

That’s the power of momentum.

Read More


This will not help everyone and some of you may plan in a completely different way. However, a lot of people struggle with where to begin so here we go.

Where do I start?

I would make a mindmap of everything you already know about your novel. This can be the amount of characters, personality of them and where your story is heading. It isn’t that important to have all the names of characters sorted but it is useful to jot some names down you could use.

How I use a mind map to build stories

Mind Mapping for writers

Sorting through your ideas.

Firstly write down your story idea and the plot of your novel. Here you are laying out all of your ideas and you can begin to see which ones work well and which ones don’t. You can then start creating and thinking about making a timeline for your novel.

You can make this as detailed as you want, it’s up to you. You may find yourself with a large gaps between major events but that’s fine.

Use a Timeline whilst Novel Writing

Creating/Developing Characters

Create a fictional character from scratch

Five ways of creating three dimensional characters

How to create a character

Ask yourself this question, what is the point of this character?

Then start to think about how they fit into the plot, their attributes both positive and negative that contributes to the story. Then you can start creating their personality, quirks and background. 

I always find creating a character the most interesting bit. If you’re struggling, create a mind map to help you visualise your character. 

It’s also a good idea to start thinking about this characters relationship with other characters. I like to write this down on each character profile.


We will at some point do a more detailed post, this is just the basics.

Top down approach: Create a general overview of the world and determining broad characteristics before then going into further detail. It can require a considerable amount of work before you have enough detail.

Bottom up approach: Focussing more on the small part of the world where the novel is set putting great consideration into the parts that are important to the novel. However this approach can cause inconsistencies. 


The rules of quick and dirty WorldBuilding

World building help (Forum)

What Next?

You can plan further and continue expanding your ideas. I prefer to write a brief summary for each part of the novel, with bullet points with what I want to happen and when. This just gives me a focussed outline. And I enjoy it!

Writing frames are also useful to help you flesh out your ideas further. 

But really, just get writing!



Death should be a very real threat in your world. It should not be something brushed off like “Oh, he’s just sick.” No. Death is forever looming. Make that known.
And if your book is about immortal beings, then what is possibly even worse than death?

(Unless you are writing a comic for DC or Marvel, in which case… Death is cheap apparently. (I’m sorry, I love comics, don’t be angry.))


Death should be a very real threat in your world. It should not be something brushed off like “Oh, he’s just sick.” No. Death is forever looming. Make that known.

And if your book is about immortal beings, then what is possibly even worse than death?

(Unless you are writing a comic for DC or Marvel, in which case… Death is cheap apparently. (I’m sorry, I love comics, don’t be angry.))

Wooden Writers: Pens and Styluses

Do you care about good stories? How about the art of writing? Well if you care about these things, then I think it is safe to assume that you care about the tools that are used for the art of writing. And if you do indeed care about writing tools, then perhaps you might be interested in my kickstarter project for customized wooden pens and styluses.

This project allows you to pledge for pens/styluses that will then be customized with your choice of wood, hardware, and general design once funding is finished on June 23rd. If you are interested, you can visit the site at the link above or below:

Best regards,

Barret Galauner and Paul Justis

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