Agree or Disagree? #1: Don’t open your story with dialogue

Learn more about TimIn our “Agree or Disagree?” series, we learn something new every day about how to write a great novel.

There’s a lot of advice out there, but one thing is certain: there’s no “one right way” to write a novel. Do you agree or disagree with today’s tip?

People talking at a party

I’ve never met these people in my life, so unless one of them is telling me I won the lottery, I really don’t care about what they’re saying. Moral of the story: when writing dialogue, give readers a reason to care! (cottonbro)

Without further ado …

Novel-Writing Tip #1: Don’t open your story with dialogue

It’s a risky move: jumping right into your story with dialogue between two or more characters. When that’s the first thing readers see when they open your book, they aren’t going to know who’s speaking, what the context of the conversation is, or why they should care about what’s being said.

And when readers don’t care about what’s going on, they’ll be more likely to put the book down.

Especially for beginning writers, I argue it’s best not to open with dialogue. However, if you choose to go this route, be aware that since this approach can be disorienting for readers, you should provide clear context for the conversation.

Agree or disagree? Give us your two cents below … and don’t forget to explain WHY!

Starting soon! The 365-Day Indie Author Challenge teaches you something new every day about how to write a great novel—and you’ll end the year with an excellent published book.

5 mind-blowing epiphanies to give you a fresh start on writing (and a new lease on life!)

Learn more about TimOver the years, I’ve heard from writers who have told me about the realizations they’ve had—scratch that, call them full-blown epiphanies because of how earth shattering they felt in the moment—that have spurred them to action and driven them to reach great heights with their writing.

Hearing about epiphanies other writers have had can also help you hit the reset button and mentally wipe the slate clean, so you can focus on what’s really important—telling the story you want to tell—without any past discouragement dragging you down.

In this article, I write about epiphanies writers have had that went on to change their lives:

1. You can build a writing empire. Have you considered indie publishing? So many writers are hell-bent on signing with a traditional publisher they forget all about the alternative. Instead of hanging around, waiting for someone to recognize your talent, take matters into your own hands and get your book onto Amazon as soon as it’s written. Start generating passive income—a few dollars in royalties for each copy sold—while you start writing your next book. Each book you publish helps you add more readers to your audience and generate more income. Powerful!

2. Your writing life is only just beginning. It’s easy to think that any previous attempts to write a novel have set you back several years and discouraged you to the point where you’re gun-shy to try again—or worse, made you feel that maybe writing isn’t for you after all. But flip the script: everything you’ve done up to this point is just the prep work.

Every successful person, whether we’re talking about writers or entrepreneurs, goes through several (and in some cases, quite a few) tries before they get it right. So it’s up to you to recognize that now is only the beginning, and you’ve got all that past knowledge and experience to draw from this time. As Thomas Edison is famous for saying: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison’s tenacity only gave us light bulbs. You know, no big deal.

3. The time is now. Ever have the feeling that you just can’t wait any longer to try for your dream? Listen to your intuition, go with your gut, trust yourself. Whichever cliché you choose, it all boils down to one age-old piece of advice first spoken by the ancient philosopher Nikkei, who we know today as Nike: Just Do It. And with the weather cooling down, now is truly the perfect time to start.

4. Next year comes fast. Holy smokes, has it been a year already? That’s exactly what you’ll be saying next year at this time. For me, the longer I live, the more often this happens, where I look back with astonishment on how fast the past year went by. The epiphany here is that one year is the perfect amount of time to write a novel, and next year, when you look back, you’ll be able to feel proud of all of your accomplishments, including one major achievement: becoming the author of a published book. One option to get started right away is our 365-Day Indie Author Challenge.

5. You have the ability to write. Capitalize on it! One of the biggest epiphanies of all is realizing that you don’t need to settle for less. Your desire to tell stories and your ability to write is your ticket to the life you’ve always imagined. Don’t throw that away! Too often, a fear of failure—or almost worse, a fear of success—get in the way of taking a shot at writing a novel, and I’m here to tell you that I’ve seen MANY writers come from absolutely nowhere, with no experience, no confidence … just the strong desire to tell their stories … and write novels that launched them headfirst into prolific careers.

The ball’s in your court on what to do with these epiphanies. Have you had any of your own? Comments welcome!

3 reasons why you CAN write & publish a book this year

Learn more about TimThe 365-Day Indie Author Challenge is starting up again on September 1st, and this FREE year-long writing adventure is your chance to achieve something great by writing (and publishing) a terrific novel.

You could be a total beginner without a single word on the page, or you could be halfway through your novel wondering how to move forward.

Either way, join us, and we’ll get you on your way to becoming a published author!

How do I know you can do it? Because I’m pulling out all the stops to make it as easy as possible for you.

Here are the 3 reasons why you can definitely do this:

1. You can jump right in. Maybe you already have an idea—an inkling of what you’d like your story to be about. Don’t worry, we’ll be developing that idea and turning it into a gripping narrative that has everything readers expect and want in a great book.

If you don’t have any ideas yet, relax. We’ll brainstorm.

2. You can write your novel in bite-sized chunks. This means you’re never lost as you learn! We’ll spend the first week getting our ideas together, learning how a simple idea blossoms into a full-blown story. You’ll also learn what NOT to do—those early mistakes that can make it a lot harder to get through your whole novel.

You’ll win early, and win often. After just 30 days, you’ll have a complete first chapter! Congrats! That’s really something to be proud of. Show it to family, friends, fellow writers. See what they think. Now, let’s build on what you have and learn how to put together the rest of your exciting story.

All the while, your fellow writers in the group are there for advice, questions, encouragement, and camaraderie.

While some of us are total beginners and others are veteran authors and industry professionals, we’re all gunning for the same goal: a book published by this time next year.

Get on board! You can sign up here to start on September 1st (or October 1st, your choice).

Why you shouldn’t wait (even 1 more minute) to write a novel

Learn more about TimThere are plenty of reasons aspiring novelists decide to put off actually writing their novels.

As writers, we tend to be an introspective bunch, often internalizing what we see and hear on a daily basis. While this part of what makes us so capable of baring our souls and telling stories, it can sometimes be to our detriment.

Such is the case, for example, with the haters and naysayers in our lives.

Tune ’em out

Have you ever told someone you wanted to write a novel (or were already writing a novel) and were met with immediate criticism and discouragement?

These are the haters and naysayers, and there’s no shortage of people like this, as you might find out when you announce a big goal … and right away, someone comes straight out of the woodwork for the sole purpose of telling you what you are and aren’t capable of.

“Maybe you should take classes first!” someone might say when you wax enthusiastic about your project.

Or …

“Wait until later when you have more experience!” (My personal favorite. Like, How can I get experience if I don’t—well, anyway.)

Or even …

“You’re not qualified to write a book!” Ugh.

What they don’t realize is that you don’t need qualifications to write a book. Sure, some guidance is nice, especially when you’re a first-time novelist, but there are no barriers to entry, and no gatekeepers, for those who truly have the desire to write & publish a great novel.

People like this are all over

These types can be anywhere: at home, at school, at work, at church, lurking on internet forums, ready to pounce and tell you What Not To Do the second you tell them what it is you very much want to do.

(On a side note, you might be wondering why some people are like this. I’ve been racking my brain my whole life trying to figure this out. Best I can come up with is while certainly there are some who wish to hold you back—because in cutting you down they are able to feel better about themselves, like a grade-school bully—there could be other reasons, and generally speaking I do like to give people the benefit of the doubt. For example, it could be they’ve never taken a risk before and are afraid on your behalf. Or the opposite: maybe they’ve been in over their heads with something before, and they’re genuinely trying to save you from the same thing happening to you.)

But when it comes to writing a novel, I’m here to tell you that there is no time like the present.

Hanging back is a BIG risk

Life presents us with windows of opportunity, and in waiting, you run the risk of losing that window.

With so much at stake—this is your writing future we’re talking about!—kick the can down the road at your own peril.

Remember: that which you make a priority gets done. The flip side is that when something isn’t a priority for you, it can fall by the wayside very quickly. Life happens! That’s an almost egregious cliché, but it’s probably the best way to say it.

There will always be a reason you can’t invest the time to write a novel. But if there is any way that you can squeeze an extra hour out of your day, I would highly recommend doing this now, when the desire is high and the determination is there.

The alternative is waiting for the day when your life is suddenly free of all demands and commitments, which, needless to say, is never going to come.

And you are certainly not going to wake up one day, suddenly “qualified” to write a novel.

It’s a leap of faith, but one that will pay off.

The rest of your life starts when you have that first solid novel under your belt, because it’s the foundation your writing career will be built on.

So I say take that leap!

If you want to give yourself some serious motivation to get it done, we’re kicking off this 365-day writing challenge very soon. I’d love to see you there.

Oh! And the naysayers in your life? Invite them to join you.

I’ll accept no debate: Fall is the best time to write a novel

Learn more about TimThe writing journey of a lifetime starts just as the weather turns crisp.

It’s time for the next 365-Day Indie Author Challenge, and I’ve added two more start dates: September 1st and October 1st.

This is the time of year I look forward to sipping warm beverages on cold mornings and spending late evenings filling pages with words.

Fall window scene

Photo credit: Ioana Motoc

With dusk arriving earlier every day, all it takes is your mind—buzzing with new ideas for characters and possible plot twists—to fill any room with the bright light of creativity.

Let’s take those ideas and, with the help of the lessons I send you each day, focus them into a tight narrative that will keep readers curled up on their couches and beds for hours on end.

You’ll still have plenty of time for long walks in the fresh, clear autumn air every day. You know, those invigorating walks that always seem to replenish your thirst for adventure, exploration, and a new direction in life?

As the cool days of autumn set in, the wind kicks up, and colorful leaves swirl just outside your window, consider spending the time writing. Throughout the coming season, and as the chilly rain gives way to flakes of snow, you’ll be working toward an achievement that so many only dream about.

Whether you choose to start on September 1st or October 1st, you’ll still be able to write & publish a book that will be released in plenty of time for it to be wrapped in a bow and placed under many a decorated tree next holiday season.

Try as you might, you’ll never change my mind: fall is simply the best time of year to write a novel.

Do you agree? I’m willing to entertain other opinions below 🙂

A writing contest! And an impressive young author: Books & Buzz Magazine

Books & Buzz Magazine, August 2022, Volume 4 Issue 11This month, I had the good fortune of interviewing Camille S. Campbell, author, poet, and artist who—despite her young age—already has two award-winning novels to her name. Another of Camille’s books, Her Poems, celebrates strong female role models and is used as a teaching tool in classrooms across the country. She’s been a contributor to Girls’ Life Magazine and her impressive rĂ©sumĂ© even includes interviewing celebrities.

Camille has been writing since age six, when she wrote a fantasy book—in three days—complete with hand-drawn illustrations of goblins and other creatures. “It was the first time my stories kept me up at night,” she says. “The feeling was exhilarating, and the imagined world felt alive to me.” In our interview, Camille talks about the fascinating research she did to write her fantasy adventure novels, reveals what to expect a lot of just before writing success comes, and tells us about the dream she had that started it all.

Before we dive in, do you have a story or two from your life you want to share? Enter it into our Best Vignette Contest this month! You could win a VIP Writer Pass to our first-ever Camp Vignette, which takes place from September through November, where we’ll help you turn your most entertaining life stories into a published book.


This is the Letter From the Editor in the latest issue of Books & Buzz Magazine. Not a subscriber? Start getting all of our great articles by subscribing for free!


Ready to explore this month’s issue? Let’s get into it:

First up, author Guy Windsor gives us a very simple trick for staying focused on a project: let external forces keep you on task. As an example, Guy explains that instead of hooking up a tube to the dehumidifier in his workshop so it can drain outside, he lets the attached tank fill up. This means he has to empty it by hand, giving him the perfect excuse to go into his workshop every day. “It would take ten minutes to set up the drain option,” he says, “but I have not—and will not—because once I’m in the workshop, I usually start fiddling about with the next project.” He calls this a “positive constraint,” and he’s got some advice for coming up with a few of your own.

Next, bestselling author Ann Charles draws a comparison between writers and mountain climbers. “How can writing and climbing possibly be similar?” she asks. “For starters, no matter the size of the mountain, climbing it takes planning, time, and expertise.” Despite obvious differences, you’ll be surprised at how much novelists actually have in common with climbers. But beyond the analogy, a learning opportunity awaits. Ann shares eight lessons you can take from mountain climbers that will help you avoid losing your way—and strengthen your resolve to reach the top.

Finally, award-winning author Melinda Curtis knows what it’s like to feel stuck while in the middle of writing a story. Having been there before, she also has some tricks up her sleeve—five to be exact—for getting the words flowing again. Melinda’s credentials are solid: “I’ve stared down looming deadlines with no word count, I’ve been lost in the middle of books, and I’ve gazed numbly at the blinking cursor,” she says. Consider the tips she gives a vital part of your writer’s toolbox, ready to use the next time you’re finding it difficult to move forward.

Whether you’re a writer busy on your next novel or a reader who’s enjoying our selection of books at ChapterBuzz, I hope you can find a few moments to kick back and enjoy this month’s issue of Books & Buzz Magazine.

Happy reading,

Timothy Pike
Editor-in-chief, Books & Buzz MagazineSubscribe now for free!

Books & Buzz Magazine: After a challenge, success is all the sweeter

Books & Buzz Magazine, July 2022, Volume 4 Issue 10And they’re off! Just this morning, writers in the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge have embarked on the journey of a lifetime as they write, finish, and publish their novels. I’ll be with them every step of the way, and I’m excited to see the stories that emerge from this year-long adventure.

If you would like to join us, the doors will be open for just another few days. The more voices and creative inspiration we have in our group, the better.

Even if you’re not a writer, you’ll find plenty to read when you join ChapterBuzz. Read published books, join the Fan Clubs of our authors, and give feedback to writers as they post new chapters. It’s a lot of fun, and it helps our authors!

This issue, meanwhile, is packed with literary talent—and, as it happens, on-air talent as well—and you are going to love what you find in our virtual pages:

Featured on our cover this month is Alan R. Warren, radio host and bestselling author. Born at a time when autism wasn’t very well understood, Alan faced challenges his peers didn’t as he came up in his career. “People always told me I would never be on radio because I wasn’t a good communicator,” he says, “and that I would never be able to write professionally.” Well, he proved them wrong on both counts, and in our interview, Alan talks to me about what first sparked his desire for a career in radio, the double standard he calls out in his new true crime book series, and the one feeling he needs to experience before he can sit down and write a story.


This is the Letter From the Editor in the latest issue of Books & Buzz Magazine. Not a subscriber? Start getting all of our great articles by subscribing for free!


Then, horror author Kelly Florence wonders if society puts too much pressure on young people to succeed by an early age. “It shouldn’t matter,” Kelly writes, “how long it takes for us to accomplish our goals, as long as we get there. It shouldn’t matter at what age we get married, or start our dream career, as long as they are things we want.” Kelly’s piece also explores the meaning of happiness in different cultures, and how we can avoid stress and anxiety by not comparing ourselves to others—and take back our lives by not paying heed to the “social clock.”

Next, Meg Hafdahl, Bram Stoker Award–nominated author, puts in a good word for an art form that’s not as popular as it used to be: the short story. “The humble short story can often be overlooked,” Meg says, “especially as readers’ habits and tastes have changed over the decades.” In fact, novels were considered a lesser art form—even dismissed as a “feminine pursuit”—back in the pre-Victorian era, while the short story was the more versatile, more widely read format. Meg, whose career began, fittingly, with a short story, has written quite a few of them and assures us that she plans to write many more.

Finally, award-winning fantasy author Richard H. Stephens gives us a glimpse into his writing process, and it’s a lot simpler than you might think: he doesn’t outline. Nor does he world-build, create characters, or fret over magic systems. “In some circles, I am called a ‘pantser,'” he says. “It means I fly by the seat of my pants. Truth be told, I like to think I fly by the seat of my character’s pants.” The way Richard describes it, he’s merely tagging along and telling the story of what his characters are experiencing. Although he admits this approach doesn’t work for everybody, it saves him time and stress—and also prevents writer’s block.

When you get a few moments amidst the chaos of outdoor festivities, fix yourself an ice cream cone, kick back, and enjoy this month’s issue of Books & Buzz Magazine.

Happy reading,

Timothy Pike
Editor-in-chief, Books & Buzz MagazineSubscribe now for free!

This writing group is about to start on Chapter One. You could be, too!

Learn more about TimWe’re going to start with Chapter One.

When you’re writing a novel one step at a time, it’s best to start from the very beginning.

In this case, the very first week of our year-long novel-writing challenge will be spent getting your ideas together. Then, learning the basics of how to make your first chapter stand out—that is, what should be included, and what certainly shouldn’t be included!—as well as the best way to bring it to a close so that your readers can’t wait to start in on Chapter Two.

In just 30 days, you’ll have a finished first chapter.

It’s a first chapter you can share with anyone. Getting people interested in your story—and rooting for your success—will give you a huge boost as you write the rest of your novel.

So stop by, introduce yourself, and get settled. You’ll be a part of a group of writers who have only one thing on their minds: finishing an excellent novel this year!

With a week left, don’t get stuck NOT writing a novel this year

Learn more about TimImagine, for a moment, the next 12 months of your life.

You COULD be spending each day …

  • Writing each morning as the sun comes up, or typing out your latest exciting chapter deep into the late night hours. Really, whatever time of day you enjoy most and feel most productive. Wouldn’t it be great to get back into that writing routine again?
  • Learning the best ways to bring your ideas together and structure your plot. Just think of all the possibilities for your characters, scenes, settings, and plot twists!
  • Telling friends to go check out your published book on Amazon … around this time next year.

Sounds pretty good, huh?

Now, imagine NOT doing any of that.

See the difference?

The power to succeed as a novelist is in your hands—literally—so come join us on a year-long adventure writing your novel.

I’ll look for you!

As one of the few, you’re in the company of esteemed writers

Learn more about TimIt’s a club few ever make it into: the esteemed society of published authors.

Even these days, when anybody can self-publish, there’s still a huge barrier to bringing a story from your imagination all the way to the bookshelf.

That barrier is not your ability to write, nor your ability to tell a story. These things can be learned. No, the barrier is just … yourself.

You don’t have to be a wordsmith on the level of Hemingway, Morrison, King, or Lee to write a book that captivates readers—I mean, have you read some of the popular works of the last decade or two? Some of the most mainstream books (I won’t call them out by name) are from authors who could use a refresher course in the art of writing … yet their stories capture the imaginations of readers everywhere.

And that’s what’s important. You simply have to be driven, passionate about your craft, and ready to tell your story.

In short, you have to want it.

They say “80% of success is just showing up,” but I think that’s only because showing up is no small feat in itself. There’s no “just” about showing up. When you show up, it means you already harbor a great deal of the desire you need to follow through—and the guts to do it.

And sure, we’ll call that 80%. Sounds about right to me.

Yet still, it’s that last 20% that trips up many an aspiring novelist, because it requires discipline, focus, and courage to make it through the home stretch, and not everyone has this kind of mental fortitude.

If you can’t wait to get started, the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge is just around the corner, yours for the conquering.

Writer, if you give it your all, and you want it badly enough, then success is yours … along with admission to an esteemed club only the most dedicated ever make it into.

Not to mention that steeping yourself in the company of success-minded writers only lifts you to greater heights!