Monday, November 21, 2022

How to Become a Faster Runner

So you want to be a faster runner? There are things you can do and all kinds of workouts you can incorporate into your regular running routine to help. But first, here’s the running formula for speed and pace, as it relates to time and distance.

  • Speed = distance / time (6 mph)
  • Pace = time / distance (10 min. miles)

Here are the two formulas for time, if that’s the unknown variable you want to find.
  • Time = distance / speed 
  • Time = distance x pace
And there are two formulas for distance, if that’s what you’re trying to calculate.
  • Distance = time / pace
  • Distance = time x speed
It really just depends on if you’re a pace person or a speed person. But either way, if you know the pace, you can figure out the speed and if you know the speed, you can figure out the pace.

SPEED (dist./time)

PACE (time/dist.)

5 mph

12 minute mile

5.5 mph

11 min. mile

6 mph

10 min. mile

6.5 mph

9 min. mile

7 mph

8.5 min. mile

7.5 mph

8 min. mile

8 mph

7.5 min. mile

8.5 mph

7 min. mile

9 mph

6.7 min. mile

9.5 mph

6.3 min. mile

10 mph

6 min. mile

Of course you can get even faster than the numbers on this chart. So let’s find out how.

3 Types of Runs to Make You a Faster Runner

The three types of runs that will make runners faster are:
  1. Speed workouts
  2. Long runs
  3. Hill repeats

The most obvious type of workout runners need to utilize to get faster is speed work. Speed workouts come in many forms and varieties. You can do fartleks (Swedish for “speed play”) where you decide to run to a tree, a mailbox, or a street sign as fast as you want, then you go at your normal pace, then you’ll do another fartlek, as many as you want. It’s interval training without strict intervals or speeds. Or you can find hundreds of speed workouts online with pre-defined speed intervals.

Adding longer runs to your repertoire can be as simple as a 6-miler once a week, or you can work up to 10-15 mile runs. You can certainly work it into your plans for training for longer races and even create an off-season where you don’t include long runs.

Hill workouts can be done on a treadmill set to an incline or outside. If done outside, find a location where there’s a significant hill. Then you run up and down it over and over again. Hill repeats strengthen your legs while giving you an opportunity to practice your form. Speed is NOT the goal on the hill workouts. It’s the act of running up the hill that will make you faster on flat workouts. 

The Essential Workout Runners Need

One essential workout runners need to get faster is strength training, or weight training. Strengthening your muscles as well as stretching them will keep you balanced and ultimately make you faster. Running requires lots of work, effort, and energy expenditure in your calves, quads, hams, and glutes. So be sure to do a lower body workout at least once a week, followed by adequate time to S-T-R-E-T-C-H those all-important muscles for your favorite cardio activity: running. 

Two Things Most Runners Don’t Think About

Two things most runners don’t think about that will improve your speed is to focus on your form and to incorporate recovery days. I can’t go into all the specifics of proper form here because it can get pretty nuanced, but it includes landing on the balls of your feet (not your heels), leaning forward from your ankles (not your waist), and loose arms with relaxed shoulders. 

Lastly, definitely remember to include recovery days. YOU NEED DAYS OFF! Even if it’s only one day a week. You don’t need to be completely immobile on your days off. You can walk a mile or two at a leisurely pace. Or do yoga. Or a simple 20-minute stretch routine. Just don’t run at least one or two days a week. It helps your muscles recover and come back stronger. It also helps prevent injuries. Because who wants to show up race day morning and get an overuse injury during your warmup? Rest days are for recovery. Just imagine your muscles getting stronger and it will help you “stay still” for a couple days.

Keep writing, keep running.

Christie :)

What’s your favorite speed workout? Share in the comments.

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Monday, November 14, 2022

Training for Your First 5k

I started running in college. There was a jogging class taught by the same professor whose group I was in for my Freshman orientation. He also taught my health class, which was a required elective. He had lost almost 200 pounds when he was in college – by running. And now he was a lean, mean, fitness machine. So I signed up. (I also took a weight training class and an aerobics class with him.)

At the end of my jogging class, there was a race. People were walking faster than me. As a 20-something year-old, it was embarrassing. But I did it. If you’re gearing up to run a 5k race, here’s a few tips to remember.

Why Train for a 5k

After having severely sprained my ankle earlier this year, I feel like I’m starting over from scratch. Ever since I decided which ultramarathon to run four years from now, I feel like I need a fresh start to build up my stamina again. Thankfully the body has muscle memory, so it hopefully won’t be as hard training to build back up to running three miles as it was the very first time I ever ran that distance.

So why should you train for a 5k race? Three big reasons come to mind.
  1. If you’ve never run a 5k race before, you should train.
  2. If you haven’t run 3 miles in a very long time, you should train.
  3. If you want to get faster and win the race (or try to place in your age bracket), you should train.
Training for a race, no matter what the distance, is the smart thing to do to help prevent injuries. Injuries happen from underuse, from overuse, and from accidental missteps (we won’t talk about jumping off escalators - even though it was just a small hop and I was already at the bottom).

Build Up Your Stamina

You may have heard of the Couch to 5k program. They take people who don’t run and get them off the couch to run their first 5k. The main benefit of training for a race no matter what the reason (first time, not run in a long time, or want to win), is to build up your stamina so you can feel good about completing the race no matter what your time ends up being.

There are 7 ways to build up your running strength and stamina while training.
  1. Increase time (run 30 minutes instead of 20)
  2. Increase distance (run 3 miles instead of 2)
  3. Increase hills (add hill training once a week)
  4. Interval training (run 5.0 for 4 min., run 7.0 for 1 min.)
  5. Increase speed or pace (run 6.0 mph instead of 5.5 mph)
  6. Cross training (basketball, swimming, yoga, cycling, etc)
  7. Strength training (muscle strength is important even for runners)
All good training schedules basically use a combination of the above methods to increase your running stamina and prepare you for a good race result.

Create a Training Schedule

Even if you’re not training for a race, your running routine is, in essence, also a training routine, right? Two factors come to mind when creating a training schedule for your running routine. 
  1. What is your goal?
  2. How often do you run each week?
If your goal is to go from 0 to 5k, that training schedule is going to be hugely different from one that is for someone with a goal of running an ultramarathon. However, if the person who wants to run an ultra hasn’t run very far or very often in quite some time, then they should start off with the goal of going from 0 to 5k first.

The further the race distance you’re training for, the more important it is to create a strong base. If you run 5 or 6 miles a day 4 or 5 days a week, then you have a very strong running base already. When I was training for my very first marathon, I ran 3 to 4 days a week (including the long run), and averaged 2-4 miles per run (excluding the long run - obviously I built up to longer distances each week for that).

You can easily create your own training plan for any distance when you consider your base mileage and your goal mileage. There are lots and lots of plans online to help you if you’ve never run a race before, but if you have, then you don’t really need someone else’s chart because you have experience on your side. Unless you want to get faster and win. In that case, yes, find a training plan (and maybe a few running partners) to help push you.

Here’s one simple option for training for your first (or next) 5k race. I recommend building up the base first in case you have to adjust things, and then find a race to run because you’ll already be ready and won’t have the added stress of a time limit (or the ticking time bomb as we writers like to say).

A 6-week training chart to build up to 3 miles of running, with a run/walk combo. My goal is to run for 9 minutes, followed by 1 minute of walking (a strategy from Jeff Galloway) for 3 miles. So here you go. And of course – ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.

*R2 = run for 2 minutes. W3 = walk for 3 minutes.








*R2, W3

1 mile

R2, W3

2 miles

R2, W3

2 miles

R3, W3

2 miles

R3, W3

2 miles

R3, W2

2 miles

R3, W2

2 miles

R3, W1

2 miles

R4, W1

2 miles

R4, W1

2 miles

R5, W2

2 miles

R5, W3

3 miles

R6, W3

3 miles

R6, W3

3 miles

R6, W2

3 miles

R7, W2

3 miles

R8, W2

3 miles

R9, W1

3 miles

From there, I can increase distance, increase time spent running, or increase my speed. I can also throw in interval training and hill training. All of which I plan to do to train for my crazy Wild Things Race 50k ultra in January 2027.

Keep writing, keep running.

Christie :)

How many 5k races have you run? Zero? Forty or more? Share in the comments!

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Monday, November 7, 2022

Choosing an Ultra Marathon

Earlier this year, probably around the time I turned 46, I suddenly decided I wanted to run an ultra marathon. Say whaaaat?!?! Yeah, call me crazy, but I had already done two marathons in the past. Anchorage Alaska Midnight Mayor Sun Marathon in June 2000 [finish time → 8:26:14] and the Myrtle Beach Marathon in February 2002 [finish time → 6:32:23]. I know I’m slow, but that’s not the point.

The point is that when I decided to look up just how long an ultra marathon was, I discovered that it was any race distance longer than a marathon rather than a set 100-mile race, which is what I thought it was. Because that will probably NEVER happen. So I set out to find the shortest possible ultra I could find, and as it turns out a 50k is a popular ultra distance because it’s only 31 miles.

That’s only 4.8 miles longer than a marathon. I could totally do that, right?

And what I thought was a cool idea would be to run a 50k when I’m 50 years old. That’s only 4 years away, so I guess the next step is to find the race I want to participate in. But how do I decide on the best ultra marathon race to run in?

Once I chose my distance (50k), I considered six other factors to help me choose.
  1. Location 
  2. Type
  3. Time Limit
  4. Weather
  5. Day and time
  6. Coolness Factor


The first question to ask yourself is where you want to run the race. In a big city? At the beach? An exotic location? How far do you want to travel to get there? Drive or take a plane? In the US or somewhere else in the world. I happen to know of an amazing race finding resource and if you haven’t heard of yet, you’re missing out. You have to check it out. Stat. You can factor distances, regions of the US, what month the race is in and so much more. Works great on mobile too! 

I decided I didn’t want to fly and that I wanted a race in the southeast, near the coast, that wasn’t too far to drive to. About 50 results popped up for 50k races in the southeast.


Next, decide if you want a road race or a trail race. A lot of trail races were popping up, so I took that out of the equation because that meant lots of hills and I wanted the easiest race possible and as flat as possible. Florida has lots of flat land, so things were looking in that direction. 

Types of races:
  • Trail races (usually means hills or mountains)
  • Road races (usually less rigorous)
  • Hilly vs. flat


Some people love to race to win. But lots of us middle-of-the-packers and especially us back-of-the-packers don’t care about winning or even necessarily making a certain time. That being said, time is still an important factor to consider. Are you going to run the race, walk the race, or do a combo? Honestly, most people do a combo. Jeff Galloway even says that 9-10 minutes of running followed by 1-2 minutes of walking can make you have a better race time. 

If you know your average pace time and you know your race distance, you’ll need to calculate how long it will take you to finish the race. Maybe even factor in if you get injured and have to walk the entire distance. Since a 50k is 31 miles and the average walking speed is around, let’s say 3.1 mph, then a 50k could take a slow “racer” about 10 hours to complete. 

Lots of marathons have an 8-hour cut-off time. My Alaska marathon had 8.5 hours. I was so thankful. Even still, that gives someone roughly 3 mph to finish the race. And I found a 50k with a 12-hour time limit! Although it might actually be 16 hours (they had both times listed and I don’t know which was the accurate number). 

The last thing to consider about a time limit is if you want it to be a qualifying race or not. This is really important to a lot of serious runners, so be sure to check the race website to find out for sure. Personally, for this race, it didn’t matter to me a bit. Although the race I found did have the distance certified by USTAF. So that’s always nice.


The weather definitely plays into the location you choose. Time of year as well. I guess that could technically be another factor. I didn’t want to run a big race in the middle of the summer because that’s when I host my own race, the Writers Who Run 5k & 10k Race for Literacy in July - in North Carolina. 

So weather, location, and time of year kind of all go together. I didn’t want it to be super hot or super cold. Florida in the dead of winter is not considered cold to someone who’s used to a snowy winter in January. With a low of 45 and a high of 70, Florida was looking better and better for my 50k race location. One race I found was in January and that seemed a good time for a race in Florida since hurricane season is over by then and it’s not very rainy.


This might be the least important contributing factor. Most races are held on a Saturday or Sunday. I prefer to race on Saturdays so my Sundays are free to worship, rest, and relax. But I have run races on Sundays in the past. Time of day can be important too. Some races are actually run at night, which is part of that particular race’s coolness factor. I’ve done one. The Maggie Valley Moonlight Race in western North Carolina. It starts at 8:00 pm and was a great race! But for a 50k? I definitely need it to be a daytime thing.


Lastly, you want to feel like the race is going to be fun. The coolness factor can be time of day, location can also play into it, the medal, the race’s purpose like a charity of some kind, or a fun theme like donuts, hot chocolate, the popular Color Runs, or something else. When I saw the title of this race – WILD THINGS RACES – I had to check it out. I mean, my last name is Wild after all. So… this race is in mid-Florida on a flat, paved surface, with a 12-hour time limit, and it’s based on the book, Where the Wild Things Are by the late Maurice Sendak. (I have address labels with that theme!) The race takes place on a Saturday and it’s a 5k loop repeated 10x so that everyone feels like they’re at a party during the entire race and nobody is “left behind” and feeling alone. Perfect! I’m all in!

When you find a race that checks all the boxes, it’ll be a good one for you! For me, that ended up being a 50k in the southeast (specifically Florida), on a paved, flat surface, with a really long time limit of 12 hours, on a Saturday, with low chance of rain (hurricane season was over) and temps between 45-70 degrees, and a cool theme of Where the Wild Things Are. 

The last question I had to ask myself was if I wanted to run the race the YEAR I turned 50 (2026), or when I actually WOULD BE 50 (2027). Because the race is in January and my birthday is in April. I asked my husband and he said, “When you’re 50.” So that means in 4 years and 2 months (January 2027), I’ll be running in the Wild Things Races in Ocala, Florida to celebrate turning 50. Wish me luck! And feel free to join me!

Keep writing, keep running.


Christie :)

What's the longest race you've ever run in? Share in the comments.


Monday, October 31, 2022

Dealing with Writing and Running Distractions

It’s Halloween morning as I sit here writing this. And there’s nothing scarier than letting your plans get derailed from a distraction, no matter how big or small. After I graduated from college, I stopped writing. Life included things like finding a job, having two children, and even going back to school to get my elementary education degree. Back then, it seems like all I was writing was lesson plans. I’ve had the dream ever since I was a little girl to become a published author with lots of books on bookstore and library shelves. But life distracted me. The scariest thing for a writer with big dreams is to never reach their goals. And if I wasn’t writing anything, that would happen to me too. So how do you get rid of distractions or deal with them when they show up?

  1. Schedule time for your goals
  2. Set priorities to protect what’s important
  3. Get away for a weekend to help you focus

Schedule Time For Your Goals

I’ve heard people say, “If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t get done.” I have found that to be true. Of course, just because I don’t have my calendar filled with things to do doesn’t mean I’m sitting around like a bump on a log doing absolutely nothing. It just means that I’m letting daily distractions get in the way of doing anything meaningful that would help me reach my goals.

Like run a 50k or write my middle grade fantasy series.

One thing you can do is get a planner. On the calendar, schedule a time block to sit down and write. It doesn’t have to be 2 or 3 hours every single day. It can be as little as 20 minutes just two to three days a week. Schedule your exercise time. Put it on the calendar. It will help you be more consistent and every time you look at your calendar, you’ll have something to look forward to and start getting excited about it.

What about big distractions that you know about ahead of time? Like holidays (hello, Halloween), weddings, family reunions, or graduations? Schedule your writing and running time around those dates. Either take a few days off or schedule it for a different time.


Set Priorities

Setting priorities means putting what’s most important to you at the top of your list. People who like to run in the mornings guard their workout routine (and their time) because running is a priority for them. If you don’t do it first thing in the morning, it won’t get done. Others may like going to the gym right after work because that feels more convenient – and it’s on their calendar, so it’s a priority.

If there’s something you want to do, you have to make it a priority, or else you’ll let distractions take over. Want to attend a writing retreat next summer, then schedule it! Otherwise, you’re saying to yourself, “Well, if nothing else better comes along, THEN I’ll go on the retreat.” That line of thinking is evidence that the retreat is not a priority for you. Priorities come first, no matter what else comes along. Granted, other things do come along like sickness or death. In those cases, your health or dealing with grief becomes your new priority.

So protect your writing and running schedule by actually putting your time on the calendar. That way other things can’t creep in and take over that time. That goes for daily rituals, weekly priorities, and yes, also annual events, like the Writers Who Run Retreat.

Get Away for a Weekend

Another way to deal with distractions is to create a mini-getaway for a couple days. A two or three day weekend can do wonders for blocking out daily distractions and creating the space to focus on your goals. You can go to a local B&B, or the Motel 6 just down the street. One or two nights is all it takes to get away from the family, the dogs, and the phone so you can focus on your goals. 

A weekend getaway is a welcome distraction from the daily grind of cooking meals, doing laundry, and other chores. If you’re lucky, your spouse and children will pitch in and help out while you’re gone. If not, it’ll be there when you get back. More often than not, most writers seem to prioritize writing over cleaning house anyway. So you’re definitely not alone there.

What to do on your weekend getaway? Work on your most pressing project, even if you don’t have any hard, fast deadlines. Set a mini goal for yourself, such as finishing the next four chapters or running through your second-pass revision. While you're at it, set a goal to run too. Prepping for a race? Be sure to map out a route ahead of time, or make sure the hotel has a gym with a treadmill.

To sum it all up, the best way to deal with distractions is to prioritize what’s most important, set aside time on the calendar to focus on it, and possibly take a weekend to yourself a few times a year to make a little momentum toward your bigger goals.

Keep writing, keep running.


Christie :)

What’s one of your priorities? Share in the comments.

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Monday, October 24, 2022

Becoming a More Consistent Writer and Runner

It’s no fun when you’re in a writing rut or a running slump. Inaction. What? No writing or running?! Yes, it happens to the best of us. Sometimes life gets in the way and we take a much longer break than anticipated.

Maybe it’s spring and your allergies have kicked in - no running. Maybe it’s summer and it’s too hot. Or your autumn allergies are in full swing combined with being too chilly for an early-morning run. Maybe it’s winter and it’s just downright too cold no matter how many layers you dress in. Or maybe all of these things are simply excuses for a reason to not go out and run. Some people join a gym and use a treadmill. Others don’t care what the elements are doing, they’ll run outside no matter what. 

Writing ruts are no different. Writer’s block, deadlines, procrastination, being consistent, you just finished a big project… no matter what the reason is, it’s still just an excuse. 

Rather than beat yourself up over it and continue to stay stuck, stalled, or stagnant, try getting more consistent with a writing or running schedule to break out of the cycle of inaction.

Set a Goal

The number one way to get out of a rut and get more consistent with your writing or running is to set a new goal. Sometimes getting excited about a new goal is all it takes to get back in the saddle again. Perhaps you’re participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) or you’ve just signed up to run your next 10k race. Either way, having a goal gives you something to work toward and gives you a new opportunity to create a little momentum.

When thinking about your goals and trying to be consistent toward reaching them, think about these seven tips.

  1. Follow Your Dreams
    Be sure you’re following your own dreams and not someone else’s. If you’re not following your own dreams, then ask yourself whose dreams are you following? Parents, society, teachers, friends? When you follow your own dreams, you truly care about the results and that will help you be more consistent.

  2. Break Your Goals Into Bite-size Chunks
    When your goals are large, it’s easier to think about reaching them when you break them down into smaller tasks. This also helps create consistency.

  3. Get Organized
    Getting organized gives you clarity about your priorities and helps you manage your time better. So clean off your desk and see a boost in your consistency with your writing.

  4. Know Your Why
    Writing down your goals and posting them where you can see them every day is a great way to keep them front and center. But take it another step further. Write down WHY your goals are so important to you. WHY do you care about this goal or your bigger dreams? Knowing your why will make you more conscious about taking action so you don’t procrastinate. Action creates clarity and consistency.

  5. Connect with a Fellow Writer or Runner
    Talking with a trusted friend who understands or even shares some of the same goals as yours can help you when you struggle with negative emotions. Brainstorming, listening, and sharing with each other bolsters consistency, accountability, and momentum.

  6. Take Time to Do Things You Love
    Things you like doing keep your creativity alive, which is important for writers. Finding time to do things aside from working toward your goals increases creativity, efficiency, consistency, and productivity. It could be knitting, painting, collecting something, baking, or playing a musical instrument.

  7. Visualize Your Results The more often you visualize your dreams and the journey to get there, the more dedicated you’ll be toward it. You’ll be more excited to continue taking consistent action. So keep the bigger picture in mind and enjoy your results!


Give Yourself a Challenge

There are two types of goals: achievement goals and habit goals. Setting a new goal typically makes people think of an achievement goal such as writing 50,000 words toward your novel in a month, or participating in a fun 10k race. But habit goals are what can create real consistency around your writing and running dreams.

One way to create and track a habit goal is to write down the action you want to accomplish on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis and put a check mark on a calendar every time you take action. Another thing you can do is to issue yourself a fun new challenge. What’s something you can do for 5, 10, or even 30 days in a row? Write for 10 minutes a day? Write a poem a day? Run a mile? Stretch for 10 minutes?

I created a social media livestream challenge. To show up live and share things about writing and running for 45 days in a row. So far, I’ve done 3 videos, which is more than I’ve done in the past 6 months. So I’d say my challenge has been successful so far in helping me take action.

Celebrate Your Wins

Sometimes it’s hard to have a winner mindset when you feel like you can never gain any traction with your goals of being a more consistent writer and runner. You want to write five times a week, but you only manage one day. You want to run four times a week, but you only manage one day. Yikes! What’s a writer and runner to do?

If you follow the tips above, you’ll be well on your way to creating more consistency when it comes to reaching your goals, whether they be an achievement goal or a habit goal. Another way to create more consistency with your writing and running is to attend the annual Writers Who Run Retreat where you’ll be running every morning for 5 days in a row and you’ll be writing, revising, and learning more about craft for 5 days as well. Attending the retreat creates massive momentum!

The final tip is to celebrate your wins! Keep taking action even in the face of failures or setbacks. Focus on your efforts rather than the results. And celebrate EVERY WIN, no matter how small. You wanted to run 3 miles today, but you only walked 1 mile? Great! You got out there and did. Habit streak kept intact. WIN! You wanted to finish the next chapter in your book, but you only got 2 pages written? Great! You still wrote and maintained consistent action. WIN!

Not only should you celebrate all your wins, no matter how big or small, but it also helps to celebrate the wins of other people. See that someone just finished their first 5k in 45 minutes? Give them a high five! Someone published a poem in a local magazine? High five! Following others and seeing their successes will motivate you to keep going - especially when you celebrate their wins with them.

Keep writing, keep running.


Christie :)

Which passion do you most want to get consistent with? Your writing or your running? Click here to share a comment.

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Thursday, July 28, 2022

Three Book Recommendations to Help You Tackle Revisions

I have a picture book manuscript that I have revised 17 times. Ultimately, my agent couldn’t sell it, even though she tried for a solid year. It was a biography about a white male from Scotland in the 1800s about a very popular toy he accidentally invented. Apparently, the world didn’t want any more male biography picture books at that time.

While revising a picture book is no small feat, revising a novel always felt like an even bigger feat. Most of my revisions were inspired by my amazing critique group and the feedback they offered me month after month. Other revisions came after carefully processing the information from multiple writing workshops, conferences, and retreats I attended.

Today, I share with you three books about editing and revision that have helped thousands of writers move forward in the writing process. Because your story deserves more than just a proofread and a polish. You’ve got to strengthen your story to make it the best that it can possibly be. And that only comes from revising it.

Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin

It’s hard to look at your own writing objectively. If your goal is to create a tight, polished, publishable story—self-editing is a skill you need to learn. Intuitie Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing was published in 2020. With 280 5-star reviews on Amazon and 5 fabulous testimonials on the blurb section, you can’t go wrong with this pick!

Intuitive Editing will lead you to deepen and elevate your own work, while developing your editing skills. Martin teaches you how to solicit and process feedback. She helps you discover what works for your story and your style—to find the best version of your own book vision, whether you’re writing fiction, narrative nonfiction, or memoir. This book will give you the tools you need to approach editing and revising your own writing filled with inspiration, motivation, and confidence.

The book is divided into four different parts. Every chapter is filled with lots of examples and includes two main sections: How to Find It, and How to Fix It. Probably the best part about the book is her extensive list of probing questions to help you think more deeply about your book. The very same types of questions she asks her clients.

Troubleshooting Your Novel by Steven James

Steven James is an award-winning author. This book, Troubleshooting Your Novel, was published in 2016 and won the 2018 Storytelling World Award. This book was written to help you revise your novel after you have completed the first draft. The subtitle reads: Essential Techniques for Identifying and Solving Manuscript Problems. And EVERY manuscript has problems in the first draft.

This book spends a great deal of time focusing on plot and character, as well as other story elements such as dialogue, suspense, voice, subtext, and flow. James helps you fulfill reader expectations and become a writer that readers can trust. He helps you check your manuscript for problems with context and continuity.

The book is broken down into 5 parts and includes a total of 80 chapters.

  • Part I: Story Progression 
  • Part II: Characterization 
  • Part III: Narrative Techniques 
  • Part IV: Reader Engagement 
  • Part V: Style and Finesse

Each short 3-4 page chapter includes an overview, how to fix the issues of that particular element, a question with a quick fix, and a list of tips to fine-tune your manuscript. Chapter 50 includes a great chart of 9 dialogue problems and how to fix them. This is a great book published by Writer’s Digest Books. I highly recommend it!

The Last Draft: A Novelist’s Guide to Revision by Sandra Scofield

According to the Amazon description, The Last Draft: A Novelist’s Guide to Revision by Sandra Scofield is the “definitive handbook for the novelist who is ready to revise.” That’s all of us, right? Once you get your first draft written, get this book to help you turn your manuscript into the novel of your dreams.

Sandra Scofield is an award-winning novelist, a longtime teacher, and a critic. She shows you how to reread a work of fiction with a new view of the subject and vision in mind. You’ll learn how to take things apart and put them back together stronger and deeper.

The book, published in 2017 published by Penguin Random House, includes an overview of “the novel” and explains helpful literary concepts like narrative structure, character agency, and core scenes, using plenty of examples from both classic and contemporary writers.

Scofield outlines her stages of revision and goes deep into each.

  1. A Close Look 
    • Description Assessment 
  2. The Plan 
    • Summaries 
    • Core Scenes 
    • Lines of Threads 
  3. The Process 
  4. The Polish

Lastly, the book includes some wonderful additional resources including Recommended Books on Craft, Lessons from Model Novels, Sample Scenarios, Storyboarding, and a Scene Template. The Last Draft is for both beginning and advanced writers. It provides a detailed, step-by-step plan with invaluable advice to guide you through the emotional and intellectual journey of being a novelist.


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