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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

5 Types of Surprises

Last time I talked about the differences between surprise and suspense, saying that we should actually try to use both in our writing. I don't see enough articles that speak to how to write surprises and how to write them well. So I've broken down the element of surprise into five categories that may help.

Out of the Blue

The out-of-the-blue surprise is what it sounds like--it comes out of the blue. It isn't foreshadowed or expected in any way. In some ways, this can be the hardest surprise to pull off. Not because it's difficult to write, but because if you do it wrong the audience will feel cheated or disappointed.

One of the most important aspects of writing surprises is that the surprise isn't a disappointment. You want to make sure it doesn't undermine or cheat the reader. You don't want that being the surprise. If the out-of-the-blue surprise isn't a disappointment, it can be a fun one to throw into the story simply because the audience won't be expecting it.

For example, it could turn out in the story that the protagonist's cousin and close friend is actually working with the antagonist. If this was not foreshadowed and the audience was not prepared for this revelation in any way, it's an out-of-the-blue surprise. However, if your audience knows the cousin character well and this revelation seems to go against all that she is and what they believe of her, you run the risk of unbelievability. It may not sit well with them. In some cases, the audience may feel that the writer threw it in there for shock or in an effort to try to make the story more interesting.

But, if the revelation comes and it fits the character in some way (though not foreshadowed), it will be a big surprise, and while shocking, will still be believable.

The out-of-the-blue surprise is probably the easiest to write but the most difficult for the audience to accept.

Foreshadowed Surprise

A foreshadowed surprise is--yup, you guessed it--a surprise that has been foreshadowed. Now in order for it to actually be a surprise, you can't be heavy-handed with the foreshadowing. When you are heavy-handed with the foreshadowing, the audience guesses the outcome before it happens, so it's not actually a surprise.

To be successful at this, the foreshadowing is there, but it's subtle. If we use the example from the last section, we might give hints earlier in the story that the cousin character is working with the antagonist character, without actually revealing that fact outright, until the proper moment.

When you subtly foreshadow, and then the surprise happens, the audience thinks back and says, "Oh yeah, that makes sense. I see that now."

A foreshadowed surprise takes a bit more skill to write, but it's easier for the audience to accept, because it makes sense with what came prior.

A good example of a foreshadowed surprise in Harry Potter is **spoiler** that Harry is a Horcrux. There is enough foreshadowing in the seven books, but it's very subtle. So when we find out, it's a big surprise, but it all fits. 

The Twist

People love a good twist. It's almost its own thing. But in order to pull off a good twist, it needs an element of surprise. It belongs in the surprise, not suspense, category.

I've talked about this in other posts, but a twist works off a shift in context. Sure, of course there is foreshadowing, but we actually move beyond subtle foreshadowing. We give the audience much more context for how to interpret the information they are receiving.

Last time I mentioned the movie the Sixth Sense, which is famous because of its twist. In the Sixth Sense, the audience is given context for everything that is happening with and to Bruce Willis's character. For example, the reason his wife won't talk to him is because they're having marriage problems.

A twist shifts the context. The content is the same it's been (i.e. Bruce Willis's wife won't talk to him), but our interpretation and understanding of it changes with new information or a new revelation about the information we already have (we find out Bruce Willis is dead).

This is what makes a twist so powerful. The content was there in front of us the whole time. We had even interpreted it. But the reality was actually different than we'd assumed.

A twist is probably the most difficult surprise to pull off, but it's the easiest for the audience to believe--they've been staring at the evidence the whole time. They just didn't see it that way. They may say things like, "I can't believe Bruce Willis was dead!" But this comes from surprise and shock, rather than them disbelieving the story to be authentic. They have a hard time taking in the new information--it's not that it ruins their suspension of disbelief, it's that they are so surprised.

Exceeding Expectations

You can surprise your audience by exceeding expectations. You may have heard the concept that if you show a gun hanging on the wall in a story that that gun needs to go off by the end of the story (Chekhov's gun). The audience expects the gun to go off. So you surprise them by not having it go off once, but three, four, five times at the end.

That's the simple way to explain it. Of course, there are other facets in play and things you can do wrong--I mean, if you are writing a cozy story, then having the gun go off and kill five people probably wouldn't fit the tone. However, having it go off five times and hit other things, maybe even humorously, might work.

But it's the idea that you surprise the audience by moving beyond what they expect. You not only give them what they expect, but you take it much further to something they didn't even imagine.

That's surprising.

The Trope Twist

If you aren't familiar with the term "trope," then I highly suggest checking out, where you can learn more than you ever wanted to about them. A trope is a storytelling technique that has been used enough for the audience to recognize (consciously, or more often, subconsciously). It's a pattern in storytelling. It can be about plot, character, story structure, and just about any number of things. For more about what at trope is, read this page.

Here are some quick examples:

Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World (Story type)

Tsundere (Character type)

Taking the Bullet (Micro-plot element)

It Sucks to be the Chosen One (Story/character element)

Be Yourself (Theme)

The Call Knows Where You Live (Plot element)

Basically, a trope is any thing that is done regularly in storytelling. Some people get a little disheartened learning and exploring tropes for the first time, because tropes may seem to oversimplify their amazing story (not to mention that uses a witty tone in most all their entries (that is admittedly very entertaining)). But tropes aren't bad, and every story has them. They're only bad when they are handled poorly. And they get annoying if the same tropes seem to keep cropping up in the same ways. For example, after Harry Potter got big, I swear, almost every book had the prophecy trope in it. It was annoying.

That's where surprises come in.

I bring up this example a lot, but one of the reasons I love Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy is because he took familiar tropes and twisted them in unexpected ways, so that even though we as the audience are familiar with the concept of "the chosen one," we couldn't guess the ways Brandon Sanderson ended up twisted them. So we were surprised.

When you twist a trope, you take something familiar to storytelling, and you do something atypical with it.

These work doubly well for writing twists in general. Because the audience knows the trope, they have an expectation (interpretation, context) already for the outcome in a story. But if you do something different, they'll be surprised. They'll say things like, "I didn't see that coming." Well, that's because that trope usually doesn't end that way. You, the writer, did something uncommon with it.

You can twist tropes in a number of ways. You can deviate from expectation. You can also move the expectation up, so that it happens and is dealt with much sooner than is typical. For example, "the chosen one" dies before Mistborn even starts. What a clever way to start a story. What happens when the supposed chosen one dies trying to defeat the ultimate villain? What's next? When you read the back cover of Mistborn, it's surprising. You can twist typical character roles. You can twist typical character tropes. You can twist typical plot outcomes.

When you mess around with tropes, you can come up with something surprising.

However, you can also, like the other surprises, end up with a worse story, if you don't do it right. Which leads me to the next important point.

Where Surprises Go Wrong

Surprises work off doing something the audience doesn't expect. But as I mentioned earlier, they can go wrong when that something is a disappointment or "lesser" than what is expected. The audience will feel cheated or shortchanged. You need to keep your promises to the audience. Whatever the surprise is, it should either be just as good as what the audience expected from the story, or better.

Surprises can alter the overall outcome of the story.

Or they add to the overall story.

But they should not takeaway from the overall story.

You don't want to "cheat" the audience by promising them vanilla ice cream and then giving them broccoli by the end. You can surprise them by promising vanilla ice cream and then giving them chocolate ice cream instead (assuming they like chocolate as much as vanilla, so the exchange is equal). And you can surprise them by promising broccoli and then giving them ice cream instead (something they like even better). And you can surprise them by promising them broccoli, delivering that dish, and also vanilla and chocolate ice cream (exceeding expectations).

But you should definitely not promise food and serve them nothing.

(I understand that people will grumble different dissents to my metaphor because they don't like ice cream or whatever the case, but it's to illustrate my point, all right?)

So, go forth and surprise me.

Related Posts

Crafting a Killer Undercurrent for Your Story 
The Mechanics of Rendering Mysteries and Undercurrents
How to Write What's Not Written (Subtext)
Vague vs. Ambiguous: Which are You Writing
Context vs. Subtext (Context Should Not Become Subtext)
Surprise vs. Suspense--Which is Better?
Validating the Reader's Concerns
Hiding What the Main Character Knows from the Reader

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Surprise vs. Suspense--Which is Better?


You've probably heard about the concepts of surprise and suspense in writing. You may have even heard them compared and contrasted. From more than one source, I've heard it illustrated with the following story, which I think might actually come from an old Hitchcock movie, but I'm not sure, so if you know where it comes from, please feel free to leave it in the comments.


Imagine watching a show where a bunch of guys are playing poker. As an audience we are watching, watching, and watching them play poker. They are talking about everyday things.

Then suddenly a bomb goes off.

That's surprise.


In the suspense version, we are watching the same story, except before the poker starts, we see a scene where someone plants the bomb, with a countdown.

The players arrive and we watch essentially the same thing--them playing, talking about everyday things. The only difference is that every once in a while, we get a glimpse of the countdown on the bomb.

That's suspense.

In one version we don't know the bomb is coming. In another we are worried about it.

Usually the follow-up question to this lecture, is, which is better? Surprise or suspense?

Well, with this example, suspense, obviously.

The "surprise" version was actually pretty boring until the bomb went off.

But here is where my opinions start to deviate from this example.


The surprise example isn't actually that great. I mean, don't get me wrong, this is a prefect, fast, and easy way to explain the difference to beginning writers, but good surprises are more than that. And in this example, we start with nothing.

A surprise is more effective when you start with at least something. I mean, to write a good surprise, the story still needs to be interesting. It should have other material. It should probably have foreshadowing of some sort.

In fact, some of the best surprises have foreshadowing, but we've misinterpreted it, were blind to it, or didn't have the full context for it.

A great example that comes to mind is The Sixth Sense. People may nitpick at the movie today, but when it came out, audiences' minds were blown. And it wasn't so much over the suspense. It was over the surprise of finding out Bruce Willis's character was actually dead. Sure, you can call those sorts of things "twists"--but I'd argue every twist has an element of surprise. That's why it's a twist.

Some of the best uses of surprise are twists.

It's where you provide the audience with something.

Sometimes the information you provide does not even have to correlate with the surprise. They can be two different things, but what matters is that the audience has something so that they aren't just sitting there getting bored watching people play poker. Usually that something does need to be resolved or play a part in the story, but my point is, the audience should still have story movement and direction.

Sometimes the best surprises happen in stories that take us in one direction, but then suddenly pop up with something unforeseen, completely unforeshadowed.

Surprises often have a place in mysteries, where you think the villain will be one person, only to discover it's someone else. In Sorcerer's Stone, the trio are convinced that Snape is the villain. Sure, there is suspense, about how to get the stone and deal with Snape. But the surprise is discovering that the villain is Professor Quirrell, not Snape like we all thought. Like the Sixth Sense, one of the things that makes this surprise great is that we can look back at the events of the book with more context and see how it all makes sense. But it was never stated on the page that Quirrell was even a suspect.

Surprise needn't lack power. 

I think the point where some people get confused about the surprise-vs.-suspense-and-which-is-better argument is that suspense is required to write a great story. Surprise isn't.


Suspense means the audience is worried about what could happen. In the example above, the audience is worried the bomb could go off and kill someone, but they are hoping it doesn't, or that it's discovered, or that the characters get away. Suspense contains an element of worrying.

A classic example is when a character is trying to sneak somewhere without someone else, perhaps someone on guard, knowing. Maybe they are carrying something that might be noisy and give them away. Maybe they have to walk across a forest floor that is littered with twigs that can snap or little rocks that clack. As they make their way to their destination, the audience is sweating it out and on the edge of their seats. Can the character be quiet? Will the guard notice him? The character accidentally snaps a twig. Did the guard hear it? Will he spot the character?

Suspense comes out of tension. It's worry that something (usually) negative may happen. That means there is a hope in the audience that somehow something may not happen. Suspense isn't created by the inevitable. It's created through possibilities. Will the bomb go off? Will the character snap a twig?

Tension is often the promise or potential of problems colliding. Suspense takes place when the audience is invested in and worried about that, and often hoping it doesn't.

Maybe it should be noted, though, that suspense can also actually come from the possibility of something positive happening. Will Suzy get the job of her dreams? Will Frodo be able to throw the Ring into Mount Doom?

So you can hold readers with the promise of something good.

However, you can argue that most suspense set-ups innately have a positive or negative possibility. The positive part of the bomb, is the possibility that the characters will notice it under the poker table and get away safely. The negative part of Suzy's is that she may not get her dream job.

But I'd probably still argue that the bomb set-up is more closely related to the potential for the negative while the Suzy set-up is more closely tied to the positive.

You can play around with this sort of thing in stories. You can give the audience the potential for a really bad and a really good outcome to hike up suspense. Either Frodo destroys the Ring and saves the world, or he doesn't and the world is destroyed. Those are high stakes. The high positive and high negative amplify suspense.

You can have two negatives. Will Prim or will Katniss have to participate in The Hunger Games? Will Katniss have to die or will she have to kill other children? Both options of each are horrible.

You can have two positives. Will Bella find love with Edward or with Jacob? Finding love with either person would be a good thing, except you can't have both. So you get the "Team Edward" and "Team Jacob," and that's where the suspense comes from.

In a double-negative set-up, what pulls the reader in is the dread that something bad probably will happen and wondering what the outcome will be or if there is some way to avoid both possibilities. In a double-positive, what pulls the reader in is the hope that the protagonist gets the same outcome the reader desires.

Epic fantasies like Lord of the Rings, tend to have high positive and high negative set-ups. Dystopians or horrors tend to have double-negatives. Romances are more likely to have double-positives. This is a generality of course, and it's entirely possible to mix-up any one of these. For example, while I feel that in many romances, the protagonist has to pick between two good things (whether they be two people, love vs. a job, love vs. travel), there are still many many set-ups within the story that have a positive and negative, or even a double-negative. So this isn't so much a rule, as it is an observation, and may give you some idea of what your audiences expects.

Which is Better?

Usually this lecture ends with the idea that suspense is a better choice than surprise. While suspense is necessary for a good story, in some story parts, you might find that surprise is actually a more desirable option. The Sixth Sense was great because the people were surprised.

But here's the thing: Why are we telling writers to pick one?

Why not both?

Surely a fantastic story has suspense and surprise.

We know the bomb is under the poker table, but what surprises us is that there is more than one--someone else had the same idea, and it goes off earlier.

We know the bomb is under the poker table, but what surprises us is that one of the players actually came to play with his buddies with a similar intention. He pulls a gun and wants to kill one of the players who previously wronged him. He's actually a cohort of the bomber's, but the bomber didn't know he'd be there.

We know the bomb is under the poker table, but we didn't see the face of who planted it. The surprise is that we later learn it's the target's soft-spoken sister.

Consider when you can choose both.

My Blog Won an Award!

Hi everyone, quick note that some of you may have already seen on social media. I found out Sunday night that my blog, this one that you are reading, won the Writer's Digest award as one of the top writing websites for 2017! I'm so surprised and excited! I had no idea anyone even nominated me or anything.

Here's what's even crazier. I apparently won it in April, and I had NO idea until two days ago! There are only 20 websites listed in my category (writing advice), and I can't believe I was listed! It's like a dream come true!

Writer's Digest is the top magazine in the writing industry, and basically everyone who does writing stuff online knows about the awards. I'm so excited, and I get to put the award up on my site (already did actually).

I have daydreamed of someday having this award on this website--I had no idea that "someday" was last April! What?!

The only way I found out, was because Writer's Digest made a list of the top 20 out of the top 101 listed sites online on Sunday, and I noticed I was getting traffic from a Writer's Digest page (which shocked the pants off me), so I followed the link and saw myself listed! I don't know who or how many people nominated me, but thank you so much for helping make one of my dreams come true!

If you would like to nominate a writing website for 2018, send an email to with "101 Websites" in the subject and which website(s) in the body. I'm not opposed to winning again ;) But I'm just floored I won and had no idea nor did I know anyone had even nominated me! Merry Christmas everyone!

P.S. The winner of my 10-page edit giveaway has been selected! I'm waiting to hear back from the winner before I announce who it is.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Weight of Words

When you are writing fiction, words carry a kind of weight. They work a bit like a camera lens, guiding the audience what to view and what to focus on. What subject you choose to spend words on in the scene shapes the audience's perception of the story.

However, there are some subjects in your story that deserve a heavier weight of words than others. For example, if your story is about a young girl trying to become a professional soccer player, and you spend a whole chapter talking about an old willow tree that grew in her childhood home's backyard (which carries no symbolic or ulterior value other than it's just an old willow tree she likes), you've spent more words on the subject than it was worth. The reader may not always be able to pinpoint what is wrong, but they'll feel like the story got uninteresting. They don't care about the tree. It's not important.

More often though, this sort of thing happens on a much smaller scale in a scene. Let's say that you have a scene where your protagonist goes to a religious event, and the purpose of the scene is that she needs to get specific information or help from a religious leader. If the narrator spends three paragraphs describing what the bathroom in the church looks like, the pacing is going to drag. The bathroom doesn't merit having that many words describing it. The bathroom doesn't deserve that much focus. It's not important to the story.

The more important a subject or idea is to the scene, the more words it's worth. The moment where the protagonist gets the needed information from the religious leader, is the point of the scene, so that moment merits more words than the bathroom does. This concept relates to my post a few months ago about discerning what should happen on-page from what should happen off-page. Part of learning how to write professionally, is learning how to gauge what subject merits what amount of words.

If you use a lot of words on a subject that isn't actually that significant to the scene or overall story, the text becomes unbalanced. That subject carries more weight than it's worth, and the text is leaning in that direction, when it should be leaning in a different direction.

This sort of thing can apply to almost all parts of a story. It relates to setting description. If your character is traveling to Idaho to view the total solar eclipse, but during the viewing, you spend more words describing a stranger's shoes than you do the actual solar eclipse, it's probably a problem. The story should be focusing, leaning toward the solar eclipse, but instead, it's leaning toward a random person's shoes. It's unbalanced.

It can happen with characters. If Lavender Brown gets more words and characterization about her than Ron Weasley in Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, we have a problem. Textually, Lavender Brown is getting more weight and focus. It's unbalanced. That plot line is supposed to be about Ron.

It can happen with theme. If we spent a whole chapter describing, pondering, and creating a whole history about the old willow in the protagonist's backyard, the audience will think it's going to be significant to the story, most likely in a thematic way. But if it isn't, and it has nothing to do with the story, than it has far more words than it merits. If the theme of your story is supposed to relate to love, but the text actually spends more focus and weight and pondering on the meaning of independence, your story is leaning in the wrong direction.

And of course, it can happen with plot. If you spend more weight on a tertiary plot than you do the primary plot, guess what? Either the tertiary plot became the primary--which often doesn't work, because the subject matter isn't as important--or the story is unbalanced.

Now, there is a reason I use the word "spend." It might sound weird to some of you when I say "spend weight." But spending is often exactly how it functions. Like money, you have a finite amount of words to spend writing your story. I'm not saying you can't write a big, fat, full novel. Your book is like a purchase. There are pots you need to purchase and there are houses you may need to purchase. A house needs more money to own. Some stories are like pots. Some stories are like houses. So the amount of words your story merits depends on what kind of story you want to tell. If words were like money, you wouldn't want to spend a whole chapter on an insignificant willow tree. You just way overpaid for that willow tree. The reader doesn't want all that money put into creating an amazing willow tree. They want you to spend it elsewhere. You spent too many words, too much weight, too much focus on that tree that the reader doesn't care about.

The pacing slows. The reader gets bored. You begin losing their attention.

Perhaps no words are more valuable than the words at the very beginning of the story. You have to win over the reader's care. You have to try to get them to be invested in the story. But if you spend your first chapter's words unwisely--spending two solid paragraphs describing an insignificant rock--the reader is going to be subconsciously tempted to put the book down. You. Are. Trying. To. Win. Them. Over. Don't spend the precious weight of the story describing a random rock.

In the beginning of the narrative, because the reader hasn't been won over yet, and you haven't gotten far into the story, every possible subject in the scene carries an equal weight--or perhaps it would be better to say, no weight. This means every word you start writing, begins to shape the story's, or scene's focus.

Because the reader isn't invested in the story yet, it's very important that you don't overspend your words on any subject. Create the scene, but do it on a tight budget. Spend enough words on the subjects to create them in the reader's mind, but not so much that it becomes overwrought and uninteresting.

As the reader becomes more invested as the story progresses, they will begin to care more about stuff that is more "expensive." They'll sit through longer descriptions. They'll sit through two solid paragraphs about the concept of independence. If the willow tree is thematic, and therefore significant to the story, they may even sit through a whole chapter on it.

But that's the catch. To merit a more expensive price tag, it needs to be more significant than other subjects.

With all that said, though, in some cases, it is possible to break that rule and open a story with two fat paragraphs pondering the concept of independence, but it needs to be good, clever, and either entertain the mind or the feelings. Don't spend $100 on a cliche. If you are going to open that way, you've got to bring something new to the table, and talk about the concept of independence in a way the reader hasn't seen before.

Now back to the very beginning, where the reader isn't yet invested in the story. Subconsciously, when they begin reading your book, they're trying to decide if they care about it. So what you spend your words on is important. Luckily, depending on your genre, you should know what your reader picked up the book for. If they picked up romance, they want romance. If they picked up adventure, they want adventure. If they picked up something humorous, they want to laugh. Usually the real romantic moments and real adventure happens later in the story, which is why you need to promise the reader with hooks that if they keep reading it, they'll get to it. In a romance, this might mean in the starting scene, you spend a few words on your progatonist's loneliness. In adventure, this might mean in the opening, your character mentions his desire to find aztec treasure. This is one of the reasons so many people in the writing industry say you should start your story with your character having a goal of some kind--it often makes it easier to make promises to the reader. It's only one reason, but it's a reason.

One final point I need to make so that everyone reading this doesn't go off and way overwrite the truly significant subjects of their story. There is another well-known writing rule: less is more. Often this is true with significant subjects. Promises, teases, hooks, subtext, are bigger than what's on the page, and naturally carry more weight because of that--the "rest of the words" happen in the reader. They don't need to be overwrought. Often those things are best short and powerful. This is because carefully choosing specific words--words that mean more than what's actually on the page--carry more impact than an overwrought passage. Less is more. But that's veering into a different topic too big for this post.

Suffice it to say that insignificant subjects should not unbalance your story because you've spent more words on them than they merited. And don't shortchange the more important parts that deserve more words--more weight, more focus.

Last of all, don't forget, though, that in key moments, sometimes less is more, because what's being said is bigger than what's in the text. 

Blog Birthday Giveaway

In case you missed it last week, I'm doing a giveaway to celebrate my five years of blogging! You can enter to win a 10-page edit from me, right here! You do not to be a serious writer. Hobbyist writers are welcome to submit.

For full editing needs, you can visit my editing website,!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Giveaway--10-page Edit + 5th Blog Birthday!

This week is a special week, because my blog turns five years old. Five!

What's funny is that a year prior to starting this blog, I hated blogs.

I felt that they were egocentric, often a poor use of time, and that most of them would fade out in a matter of years. I mean, I really never thought that I would want to start one. Sure, I thought about it, because I wanted to work in the writing industry and 6+ years ago, they were all the craze--I actually jumped on the bandwagon pretty late.

But something happened about six years ago. A desire fell over me to start a blog. I managed to resist the desire for almost a whole year, but in the end, I gave in. And I'm so glad I did.

To quote Dumbledore:

"Which goes to show that the best of us must sometimes eat our words."
When I started this blog, I looked at other blogs and many of them were five years old; I admit I was a little envious of their backlog, their audience, their comments, their length--five years seemed unimaginably far away! (In the end, I also admit I largely started this blog for myself, to keep track of my own ideas about writing.) So five years is particularly special to me.


(Giveaway is now closed. Congrats to Roberta for winning!)

To celebrate my blog birthday, I'm doing a giveaway: the winner gets a 10-page edit from me.

What can you possibly learn in a 10-page edit? 

Well, you might be surprised! You will not only receive specific feedback for those 10 pages, but you will also receive insight on your strengths as a writer and suggestions on how to take your writing to the next level. I've said before that usually I can discern what level a writer is at within the first five pages of a manuscript. To some people, that sounds crazy, but to those who've worked in the industry for several years, it's completely believable.

Who is doing the editing?

In case you are a newcomer, here is a little about myself:

Mentored by a creative writing university professor, an award-winning international best-selling author, and a full-time professional freelance editor, I have worked in the fiction-writing industry for over five years. I have edited for both award-winning and best-selling authors and have worked on manuscripts written for middle grade, young adult, and adult readers. I hold an English degree with honors and served as a fiction editor and managing editor for the literary journal The Southern Quill. When not editing, I'm penning my own stories and running a writing tip blog. I also serve as a writing coach on

What can I send as my 10 pages?

You can send 10 pages from a novel or a short story, or anything in between. Heck, I'll even look at fanfiction.

How to Enter

Celebrate with me by entering to win (you know I do this because it's fun to give you guys stuff, right?) It's easy to enter:

    Share this giveaway post off my Facebook profile.

    Reblog the giveaway post off my Tumblr.

    Retweet the giveaway tweet on my Twitter.

    Comment on this post.

That means you can enter a total of four times. 

The winner will be selected December 18th! (Winner is selected randomly through

You must be a friend or follower of me to win. (Please note that if you "share," you must share publicly so that I can see it, otherwise I can't tell who shared)

For full editing needs, you can visit my editing website,


Blogging Milestones and Expansions

December 2012--Published my first two blog posts here and here

January 2013--Published my first writing tip post.

April 2013--Got to be a guest on the Author's Think Tank Podcast

September 2013--Featured blogger on Glipho

Joined Tumblr (the reason Tumblr is significant is because it greatly grew my audience--in fact, I have more followers there than anywhere else.)

Became a regular blogger on Author's Think Tank

December 2013--First blog giveaway I participated in. 

2014--Had some posts really take off on Tumblr

Late 2014-Early 2015--Took on the name September C. Fawkes ;)

January 2015--Got my first piece of physical fan mail *heart eyes* (Thanks Jake!)

February 2015--Started writing more intensive writing tips, including some on breaking common writing rules. There is definitely a change here in my writing tips. I'd had a big growth spurt concerning writing in general that led to this.

August 2015--Started putting my writing tips on Youtube

September 2015--Was both a panelist and presenter at Salt Lake Comic Con (my first conference appearance as a guest), pulling from info on my blog.

September 2016--Got listed as a top writing tip blog on Writers Helping Writers *heart eyes*

October 2016--Got invited to be a resident writing coach at Writers Helping Writers.

July 2017--Added the Writing Tip Index to my blog and updated the appearance

September 2017--Opened Fawkes Editing--my freelance editing website.

October 2017--An editor from Penguin Books contacted me saying he liked my blog and sent me a copy of their latest writing book, Light the Dark!

December 2017--Five years of blogging!

December 2017--??? [some good news I'm waiting to be able to announce]

Most Popular Tips of All Time

#1--Writing Empathetically vs. Sympathetically and Sentimentally

#2--15+ Tactics for Writing Humor

#3--How to Write What's Not Written (Subtext)

#4--6 Things I've Learned as a Professional Editor

#5--5 Most Common Mistakes with Dialogue

* Excluding Tumblr Posts

Hopefully it wasn't weird to post the milestones and stats, but I wanted to take a moment to remember them since the number five carries significance to me.

Looking forward to 2018! There will be at least a couple of new career adventures for me.

Thank you for your support!