Book review : “Writing Plots with Drama, Depth & Heart: Nail Your Novel” by Roz Morris

81UxKD+nWgL._SL1500_Title: Writing Plots with Drama, Depth & Heart: Nail Your Novel

Author: Rox Morris

Genre: Writing, Research & Publishing Guides

Publication date: January 5, 2015

My ratingNovel Girl - 5 stars


♥ ♥ ♥

Book Description

What keeps a reader curious? It’s the story. You might have a dazzling prose voice and plausible characters, but if they don’t do anything, the reader is likely to lose interest.

So where do you find story ideas? How do you make them into a captivating read?

Do you know what genre you are best suited to write? What is literary fiction and how do you write that? How will you give your book depth without seeming preachy or bringing the plot to a standstill?

What are the hidden patterns that ply the reader’s emotions, regardless of your genre or style? How can you use them with originality? If you want to write a story that breaks the usual conventions, how do you do it?

Whatever type of novel you want to write, this book will show you, in down-to-earth tutorials, games and exercises.

Use it before you write and when revising, to diagnose your story’s strengths and weaknesses, to decide how to begin, what to put in the middle, how it should end. If you’ve had feedback from critique partners and editors, use it to decode what’s really wrong – instead of what they think might be.

Most of all, use it to find out where you already have spellbinding plot material. Discover where your best ideas are hiding and how to tell stories with drama, depth and heart.

By a bestselling ghostwriter, literary author, creative coach and book doctor.

♥ ♥ ♥


I have a “Best Everrr” shelf on Goodreads and I haven’t added a new book to it for 8.5 months — that is until a minute ago when i added this one. It’s reserved for books that are more than five stars, books I would happily read twice (as a rule of thumb I dislike re-reading books), and ones that went above and beyond what i hoped and expected.

I loved Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart: Nail Your Novel, as it states the basics you’d expect in a ToC but then it feels written in a personal way, easy to connect to, and really reaches out to find a way to make the reader understand the content in a way they can readily apply to their own work.

I won’t delete this book from my Kindle for a while although I delete most books after I finish. I’ve bookmarked some pages that I will reference often and am finally relieved I’ve found information that I’ve been hoping to have for revision/editing phases of writing my books.

This book is a good all rounder yet avoids the Jack Of All Trades trap. There are minimal sections you’d skip if you were an experienced writer and beginners could easily understand it.

I highly recommend this investment if you’re a writer. We never stop learning, so why stunt your writerly growth? :)


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Read the first 40 pages of “The Rental” for free!

Click to read!

Click to read!

I’ve uploaded the first three chapters / 40 pages of The Rental to Wattpad. What is this site? It’s a place readers can view whole or partial excerpts of books and you can view everything there for free. No sign up is needed. Just click the link below to go through.


but I have even bigger news . . .

. . . ready?

You can now PRE-ORDER The Rental!

Amazon global link  |  iTunes

The cover reveal is coming on Aug 21! Make sure you subscribe to Novel Girl so you don’t miss it. It is HOT and BEAUTIFUL! (If I may say so. Berto Designs did it ;) )

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Rental by Rebecca Berto

The Rental by Rebecca Berto

Giveaway ends September 30, 2014.

Enter to win

Writing is hard; here’s a plan

I finished my manuscript, The Rental and have handed it into my editor. Now I have a new task: how the hell do I plan and start the sequel to his novel? All the stress! All the things to resolve! All. The. Writers. Block.

I want to share something with you today, and it’s what I’ve done to get myself out of that anxious/stressful/sanity-testing phase of how to put a story together when it’s just not coming together.

Call it writers block. Call it a hole. Or call it the writing blues.

But you need to read these tips, so you might not have any of those feelings going forward.

◊  ◊  ◊  STEP ONE  ◊  ◊  ◊

The important thing here is to develop ideas and a plan based on tension, twists and conflict that will serve your manuscript as best possible. What am I talking about?

Stakes. Stakes make a story, and without good ones, they are bad. And bad stakes make for boring and even confusing storytelling.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the worst things that could happen?
  • What are the best things that could happen?

Under each of those question headings, list 5 –10 things that come to mind. Issues to put down could include:

  • The MC (main character) gets hurt/killed if the antagonist (bad guy) wins out;
  • the love interest hurts the MC;
  • the MC’s past comes back to haunt him or her;
  • the MC’S family or friends get hurt because of the MC’s issues; and
  • the MC is betrayed/cheated/harmed/hated/discarded, etc.
  • The main character could finally marry their lover;
  • the MC and lover can put their dark pasts behind them; and
  • the MC is happy again, and has a purpose in life.

Writing down these ideas can help resolve your own inner conflict by surfacing the essential need of the story. When you put these ideas together, you can develop a workable plan, one that will test your characters to their limits and by the end, your ending might just write itself. Endings don’t happen when storylines and character arcs are screwed and/or inefficient. All the endings in the world won’t feel right if you don’t nail the characters, theme, pacing, plots and subplots up to that point.

◊  ◊  ◊  STEP TWO  ◊  ◊  ◊

Now that you have jotted down the best and worst things that can happen in your story, you can write out a plan, dividing the story into four quarters (I say “four” because movies operate on the three-act structure, but books have four definitive sections).

Use the worst things you listed at the plot or pinch points, the midpoint and black moment.(You’ll read what these are below.) Pepper in the good things you listed along to create hope.

Section your plan into:

Beginning — ¼: (include the hook within the first scene and first plot point* between 20 — 25%)

¼ — ½: (include the first pinch point [otherwise known as a low point where things fall apart] at ~ 37.5% and the midpoint† at ~50%)

½ — ¾: (include the second pinch point (see above) at ~ 62.5%)

¾ — end: include the second plot point* at 75 — 80% and the black moment [otherwise known as the moment everything falls apart and nothing looks like it’ll work out] at ~ 90%)

* plot points are moments that change the direction of the story such as going on a quest, accepting a deal, etc.

† The midpoint marks the change where the characters now somewhat control their future. From 0 — 50% they might have been forced on their pathway, confused or lost. But, from 50% on, they might have a clue which sheds some light, or maybe they willingly accept their fates and go on with renewed vigour.

I hope the above helps you. Writers block, writers blues, writers hole and all that jazz really sucks. Cheers to happier writing from here on out! *raises champagne glass*


I have sucked. I currently suck. I will suck. (Or the life of a writer)

So I’ve been quiet on Novel Girl lately. I’m sorry, my dear followers! I loves you all lots. But I’ve had to take time to reconnect with me.

You all know what I mean.

You’re writers. You are creative spirits. You live off the grey, not the black and white. You feed from the hope of possibility. You hold your breath for your email to ding or your sales stats to refresh, all the while with your bottom lip tugged under your teeth. You fail. You cry. You whine. You try. X 10.

So you may see where I’m going with this post. Before I go there, I need to thank LOTS of people. Lauren, Beth, L, Ari, Simone and Tamsyn in particular. I hit shit luck and not only sunk into writer woe but total writer woe that encompassed my life turning into life woe, too. It’s just the way it happens in my profession. And I’m so very appreciative to have kind friends who put up with me and helped me out through some hard times.

I know so many others probably feel similar if not exactly the same to how I’ve been feeling. I’m coming out of that phase now — “seeing the light” so to speak. Below, I’m going to share my thoughts on how it occurs and how to get out of it. Tips, so to speak.

Let’s break down the causes so we can face straight-on what we’re dealing with.


  • A beta reader/critique partner is harsh in their feedback nature, may call you and/or your work harsh names, trashes you and/or manuscript with no helpful advice.
  • You are stalked by haters of your work either by hate mail, fake and nasty reviews, social media trolls who slander or talk down to you on their profiles or comment/interact so on yours.
  • Lots of your writer friends are winning awards, getting amazing reviews, or hitting bestseller lists and you are dismal in comparison.
  • Your book isn’t selling.
  • You’ve read books that in your opinion are bad quality or nothing special and they’re making leaps and bounds with success and you aren’t selling though your books are getting great reviews or you and your beta readers/critique partners feel your quality is extremely high.

    Photo credit: Choconancy1 / flickr

    Photo credit: Choconancy1 / flickr

  • You are on social media, especially Facebook, at least every few hours and spend probably hours a day on there.
  • You are always seeking out posts/tweets/statuses from fellow  authors or bloggers and saddened when you aren’t mentioned or when they don’t like your work or they simply ignore you.
  • You see other authors talking or even boasting about certain successes and you spontaneously compare yourself, deeming yourself not as good and it depresses you.
  • Your days are filled with marketing tasks and you rarely get time to write.
  • You get sad so you make a vague post or maybe even a blatant rant on social media and then you get a tonne of comments and you are all depressed by helping each other sharing depressing replies/comments.
  • You seek out forums or websites where you know you are talked badly about and read updates to see what the latest news is.


  • Take a break from the writing world. The severity depends on what you feel you need. Sometimes a total block can be bad. Coming back to a zillion emails and essential social media messages that could have been beneficial to your career, but are now missed opportunities could sink you back into depression. So just limit yourself. Check all writing work related stuff on technology once a day? Max twice a day?
  • Focus on happiness. It’s just fact that if you surround yourself with negativity, you become that negativity. We all need to cry or complain to our best friends in private, and that’s normal. What is unhealthy is publicly discussing your woes / anger / frustrations / hardships. I’m not kidding. Stop interacting in negative social media posts, stop scrolling through Facebook feeds so often and stop telling yourself negative things about your career and success. This is guaranteed to make you feel better, even if just marginally.
  • 1486700_801581466535033_908219304_nStop comparing yourself to other writers. This quote sums it up: “If you continuously compete with others, you become bitter, but if you continuously compete with yourself, you become better.” —
  • If you hate reading, don’t force it. Lots of people may tell you to “relax and just read a book.” Well chances are if you are like me you get so hateful with anything linked to authordom or publishing that reading — a huge factor — becomes the last thing you want to deal with. So don’t. We are creative people so instead watch music videos, start a new TV series, watch a movie. These are helpful to kickstart your creativity and ideas but are totally different from the world you need to get away from.
  • Get obsessed with something else. I’m lucky that as well as being an author I’m also a designer for my business, Berto Designs. For me, that means getting supplies, doing extra work, fixing my website, extra marketing and interaction with potential clients. This helped me focus on what I love. I also have a dog who’s rather like my child as I don’t have any. He has been getting lots of pats and walks and play-time and cuddles. I also focused on my boyfriend for the first time in probably years. It’s been freeing and beautiful. I’m remembering that I have a life outside of writing and we need that. Writing has its downs and you need to remember you’re an awesome person away from that. Maybe for you this other obsession can be spending time with your kids, cooking, playing video games, fishing, shooting (animals and legally of course if you’re allowed), cleaning the garage, emptying your clothes and sending the extras to goodwill, etc.
  • See your friends! I do not kid. You are actually allowed to see them. And you don’t have to worry about coming home early to sneak in some book promotion or writing another chapter. You can really just got out and enjoy yourself totally in the moment. No other worries. Okay?
  • Read good reviews/manuscript feedback. We are told not to read reviews because it’s detrimental to our feelings but the good ones are little miracles! *Just make sure you can access these good reviews without running into the bad ones* It doesn’t matter if you have 1 or 100 glowing, oh-my-god, amazing reviews. Read one. or ten. Or every single review you’ve ever gotten. The fact that a stranger, or at least a person who you never would have known if not for the love of your work, can love something you did that much is proof that you are awesome. Remember opinions are like assholes: everyone has one.
  • Write a letter to yourself. Go on and trash the shit out of yourself or someone else or The World. But you must do it by pen and paper. You need to stay away from technology since it’s highly likely it’s mixed up in all the depression you have about the writing world. After you’ve written out all your feelings reflect on what seemed most prominent. Use that information to create a plan as to what positive things you need to do to become happy again.
  • Give yourself time and do not rush this stage. The most crucial advice I can give you is to stop worrying about taking too much time. If you’re like me you will never ever publish anything less than your best work you could achieve at a particular time. Going back into writing hateful will result in shitty work out there that you will later regret. Everyone goes through this, so allow yourself to be normal. Relax, forget your worries. Meditate. You can even sit in bed with the covers up to your chin and play your solitaire app until you need to recharge your phone and lucky for you your charger is an arm’s reach away from you because your battery is suddenly a few percent.

Writing is your life, and you will go back to it when you are truly ready.

* * *

So, yeah I rambled lots there, but I hope that helped you. Please add your tips or share your stories in the comments if you’d like to.



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Killing your darlings

Guest post by: Kate Belle

Thanks so much Rebecca for hosting me on your lovely blog and a big HELLO to all your regular readers! x

When I first started writing seriously I dreamed of having my books published, of writing full time and days alone at my computer, drowning in beautiful, beautiful words. Eighteen months ago I thought writing full time was an unachievable dream, yet through hard work and good luck I’ve managed to achieve it this year.

It’s been a long wait to get here but, like most big aspirations – marriage, children, owning a home – working as a writer has had its down sides. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’d much rather be here than anywhere else. But there are things about writing I wasn’t prepared for. One of them is killing my darlings.

There are times when the muse strikes and a story gushes from brain to screen (or pen) like a snow melt waterfall. These inspired moments leave me lit up with an almost post coital afterglow. I kid myself I’m a genius, it’s only a matter of time before the literati discover me and come to pay homage in my foul, dark study.

idea-funeral illustration

Then reality bites. Hard.

I’ve just finished a major rewrite of my second novel. I’ve made no secret of the fact that this novel has been a tough one to write. I didn’t expect it to come rolling out pitch perfect on the first draft, but I also didn’t expect it to be an exercise in hammering out lumpy, awful prose that looked unfit for my dogs dinner.

After sending it to my editor, forewarning her of its unworthiness, she emailed me back some suggested improvements. To my horror, she wanted me to lose one of the three character’s view points. She told me my book would be better without the one part of the novel I thought was good, my favourite character and the voice I LOVED most.

At first it was like a punch in the guts. All I could see was how pretty the prose was, how elegant, how insightful, why would you delete it? Being a professional I quelled the urge to argue, gulped back my protests and tried to digest why and how.

This character’s words took up a largish chunk of the latter part of the book, maybe a good 20,000 words of an 85,000 word novel. I’d have to rewrite the important parts of her story into another character’s viewpoint. Yes, this would be a lot of work, but it wasn’t my biggest problem.

It was the prospect of cutting out all that glory. I just didn’t want to do it. I was ATTACHED to the voice, the words, the character in a way that wasn’t helping the book as a whole. I had to do some serious mental acrobatics to come to terms with chopping her out completely.

After much rumination and nail biting I came to understand this character gave too much away. The style of her voice was too laden and literary to fit with the story. And she wasn’t someone readers would easily warm to.

So, the surgery began. In hindsight it might have been easier to just cut all her stuff out of the draft and start again, like ripping off a band aid. But doing it that way was just too hard to face. Instead I took a razor blade and slowly, painstakingly sliced pieces of her out. I remoulded some of her words into another character’s voice or dumped them in a ‘save for another day’ file. My reluctance has meant I will have to do yet another rewrite because I know I’ve left a lines and paragraphs in there that really need to go. It just hurt too much to do it on the first round.

Now I’ve completed the amputation I can see it was worthwhile. The story is richer for it, the character in question is richer for it. I have a stronger plot, a more consistent narrative, and my darlings aren’t quite dead. They’re just locked up in the cage of another file somewhere waiting for their time in a story to come.

Have you ever had to get rid of something you loved only to realise it was the best thing to do?

* * *

~~~ Rebecca’s Random Spotlight ~~~

[Rebecca here: I LOVED The Yearning by Kate Belle so much (5+ stars) and would like to spotlight her books here!]

The Yearning

Yearning lo res



It’s 1978 in a country town and a dreamy fifteen year old girl’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of the substitute English teacher. Solomon Andrews is beautiful, inspiring and she wants him like nothing else she’s wanted in her short life.

Charismatic and unconventional, Solomon easily wins the hearts and minds of his third form English class. He notices the attention of one girl, his new neighbour, who has taken to watching him from her upstairs window. He assumes it a harmless teenage crush, until the erotic love notes begin to arrive.

Solomon knows he must resist, but her sensual words stir him. He has longings of his own, although they have nothing to do with love, or so he believes. One afternoon, as he stands reading her latest offering in his driveway, she turns up unannounced. And what happens next will torment them forever – in ways neither can imagine.

Read an extract here.


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Breaking the Rules

Breaking the Rules by Kate Belle



Grace is a beautiful woman in complete control of her world. A long time ago she chose a career over children and marriage, and has never regretted it. Then Ramon Mendez walks into her office. Ramon is about to commence his PhD, a work on erotic literature, and from the outset there is something about him that makes Grace’s blood run hot. Aware of the need to maintain her professional reputation, she rejects his advances, but he persists. And during their intimate supervision sessions, her defences start to crumble, for Ramon’s work is exposing desires within Grace she never knew existed.

Amazon  |  iTunes  |


Bloom by Kate Belle - lores



Thirty-six-year-old Emma’s life looks as perfect as could be. She loves her solid, straight-laced husband Gary, who has given her three beautiful, if spoilt, children and a secure life. But something is missing. Gary hardly notices her anymore and she feels frumpy and invisible. Her friend, Lisa, talks her into joining a social boot camp class at the local gym. Emma immediately recognises their instructor as the gorgeous runner she sees each evening while walking her dog in the park. He introduces himself as Ramon Mendez. In spite of herself Emma is besotted.

Before long her mind is filled with guilty fantasies of him. One evening, when things at home have become too much to bear, she bumps into him alone in the park. An opportunity presents itself and no one need ever know. Ramon promises and delivers everything that’s missing from her marriage – passion, romance and excitement – but Emma must discover if they are the things she really wants.

Amazon  |  iTunes  |


About the author:


Kate is a woman of many passions who juggles her pens with the rest of her life. She holds a tertiary qualification in chemistry, half a diploma in naturopathy and a diploma in psychological astrology. Kate believes in living a passionate life and has ridden a camel through the Australian desert, fraternised with hippies in Nimbin, had a near birth experience and lived on nothing but porridge and a carrot for 3 days.

Kate lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter, and a menagerie of neurotic pets.

Blog/website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter @ecstasyfiles  |  Goodreads  |



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Hard writing makes easy reading

Guest post by: Ann Warner

Hard writing makes easy reading — Wallace Stegner

Easy writing makes hard reading — Ernest Hemingway

In other words, it’s easier to write badly than to write well.

Of course, no one sets out to sabotage their wonderful story with poor writing, but it’s often difficult for the writer to recognise shortcomings in their own prose. I would guess that most writers believe their first book is wonderful. I certainly did. It was only after I realised I had been suffering from a serious case of first draft infatuation, and that the book was, in fact, dreadful, that my journey as a writer truly began. I can now report that the most effective things I did during that journey were to seek critique relationships with other writers, to search out ways to improve both my general writing and my story-telling skills, and to keep on writing.

Writing Skills

Since “story” is conveyed with words, the more effectively the writer uses words, the more compelling the story will be.

A simple way to improve writing skills is to pick up any writing craft book and apply the advice therein. There are many books to choose from and all have something to offer. Here are examples of the kind of suggestions found in these books:

  • Avoid overuse of names in dialogue: “Yes, Cassandra, I see the whale.” “Oh, I’m glad you do, Jonah.” “Of course, Cassandra, I’ll just move — eughhhh!” Etc, etc.
  • Avoid regular use of exclamation points.
  • Avoid inexact language…words like some, a bit, many, a few.
  • Limit adverbs, cliches, and thats.
  • Root out repeated words, phrases, and information.
  • Eliminate excess prepositions: (out into the yard vs into the yard, up onto the table vs on the table, etc.)
  • Make non-specific descriptions specific: e.g. a few boys versus three boys wearing tan slacks.

Although these suggestions may appear simplistic, following them can result in dramatic improvements in writing quality.

An excellent way to subsequently check on your progress is to utilize a website such as After signing up for this free site, work can be uploaded and subsequently analysed using Prowritingaid’s algorithms. A series of suggestions for more effective wording will then be generated. This is the site I use to check my final drafts before I submit to my editor.

One interesting side effect of my focus on putting the words together better has been that while my first novel ran 125,000 words with very little plot to hold it together, my novels now run from 70,000 — 80,000 words and do have plots.

Story-telling Skill

Storytelling is a right brain, creative activity so whether it can be learned is an open question, but it can certainly be enhanced.

Click to buy

Click to buy

My recommendation to anyone seeking to develop this skill is to read Lisa Cron’s book, Wired for Story. I suspect if Wired for Story had been available when I started writing fiction, my writer’s journey would have been a much less meandering one.

When I first picked the book up it was, in part, because the subtitle appealed to my scientific side…The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence.

But, don’t let the brain science label scare you away. This is first and foremost a well-written, easy-to-read book that contains insights and specific suggestions that will help anyone wishing to improve their storytelling skills.

Reading the book, I was pleased to learn that neurological studies have shown that the brain has a reward system in place that allows for the enjoyment of good fiction. This implies there’s a benefit to the fictional experience. This benefit may well be that reading about characters dealing with tough situations adds to the reader’s personal store of knowledge. In other words, story gives the reader a way to experience trouble without risk. In fact, Cron says it’s likely that as we read, we are wondering, “If this happened to me, what would it feel like and how would I react?”

As an author, I love the concept that my stories, in addition to being entertaining, might help readers better understand and deal with their own circumstances. I’ve had a number of readers tell me that has been true for them, and I consider these comments among my greatest rewards as a writer.

Along with new insights into the power and role of story, Wired also contains specific suggestions for writers to apply to their writing. One useful reminder is that plot is only what happens. Story is how those events affect the protagonist. That means the goal of the storyteller has to be to let the reader in on how the protagonist feels about everything that happens, as it happens.

Wired also tackles a common piece of advice given to writers: Write what you know. Cron expands on that advice by saying that what writers actually need to do is to tap into what we know to be the emotional truth about the human condition.

The Critique Relationship

Image credit: miadcommunicationdesign / flickr

Image credit: miadcommunicationdesign / flickr

The purpose of the critique relationship is to be both supportive and critical. This type of balance may be harder to achieve when you’re not personally acquainted with the person offering a critique. When you’re sitting in front of someone, everything they say will be accompanied by a tone of voice, body language, and possibly a twinkle in the eye, a leavening that is missing in relationships between internet critiquers. However, it’s still possible to have good internet-only relationships. I’ve had several that have been very helpful to my writing career.

Finding good critique partners is part art and part luck. A good relationship, however, also requires a hefty dash of personal chemistry. My rule of thumb is that if I find myself reacting to a critique with fresh enthusiasm for my story, that critique partner is a keeper. If, however, the person’s comments make me feel discouraged or irritated, then I know that’s a relationship I need to terminate.

Although all of these suggestions are straightforward and generally easy to implement (especially with the assistance of the internet), they are not a quick fix. I’m not sure there are any quick fixes, although some writers will progress more quickly than others. But, ultimately, to be a success, the most important characteristic of all for the writer to cultivate is the persistence needed to do that hard writing.

I’d like to thank Rebecca for the opportunity to do this guest post!

* * *

Signature-guest post

pngannAnn has a Ph.D. in chemistry and a past career as a clinical chemist and toxicologist. She finds herself drawn to writing stories that explore the resilience of the human spirit. Ann has lived and travelled extensively. These experiences now serve as a rich resource for the creation of compelling characters and unconventional settings.

Ann has published two novels with Samhain Publishing and has now self-published three additional novels. Her most recent release is Doubtful set in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand. That setting is all that remains from her very first (dreadful) attempt at writing fiction.


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Rebecca Berto is the author of Precise and Drowning in You. If you want book-release updates, please sign up at this form (email only when news, not weekly).

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How to develop a three-dimensional character

Creating characters for your books isn’t as easy as coming up with a name, hair colour and eye colour. Making them three-dimensional requires brain power. You need to get to know your characters to make them jump off the page and a good way to getting to know someone is to ask questions.

Below are some questions you should ask your characters to find out what really makes them tick. (Please don’t do this in public because you may get caught talking to yourself. Nobody wants that.)

I’ll play along and create a character to give you examples.

What’s your character’s name?

  • Easy right? Well, sort of. Thought needs to be put into coming up with a name. You don’t want something that the reader will have trouble pronouncing, but you do want to make it something that sticks with your reader.
  • I’ll name my character Cadence McAlister, or Cade for short.

Does your character have any hobbies?

  • Your character can’t just sit around all day. They need to have an outlet…something that they love to do. Whether it’s sports, art, shopping, computer games, reading, or volunteering at the local animal shelter your character needs a hobby. It adds depth to your character.
  • Cadence loves to listen to old, vinyl albums. She often goes to yard sales to find vintage albums to play on the record player her grandmother gave her.

What is something your character always carries with them? Why?

  • You may not think this is important, but it is. When answering this question don’t immediately jump to the obvious like keys, wallet, money, or cell phone. Almost everyone carries around these things. Think of something only your character will carry. For instance, on my keychain I have a simple, hemp bracelet my husband gave me almost ten years ago. It’s dingy and falling apart, but I would be devastated if something happened to it.
  • In Cade’s pocket is an old guitar pick given to her by her father. It was a memento from her parent’s first date. She carries it because her father died of cancer two years ago and it reminds her of all the times they spent playing guitar together.

What is your character’s biggest fear?

  • Great question. Making your character face their fears is always fun, but knowing why they have that fear is also important. I think it’s important, at this point, to distinguish fear from phobia. Fear is a primitive human emotion. It is an instinct that protects us. A phobia, however, is when fear is out of proportion to the potential danger. But to that person, the danger feels real because the fear is overwhelming. So your character can have both fear and phobia.
  • Cadence has a fear of not living up to her father’s expectations. He was a distinguished neurosurgeon and he expected her to do the same. Her last promise to him was that she would graduate medical school and work on finding a cure for cancer. Now, here’s the kicker. She has a phobia of hospitals. Everything bad that’s ever happened to her has been inside of a hospital. When her father was diagnosed with cancer they were in the hospital. The first time she saw her father undergo chemotherapy they were in the hospital. And the last time she saw her father take a breath they were at the hospital. See the conflict.

What’s one thing your character could change about themselves?

  • We all have something we would change about ourselves. It can be hair color, weight, height, shoe size, financial standing, or erasing a scar. We all have insecurities, even those of us that are self-assured.
  • Cadence wishes she could change her eye color because every time she looks in the mirror she sees her dad staring back at her, reminding her of the person she’s supposed to be.

For time’s sake, I’ll post more questions below that can provide extra insight into who your characters really are…

  • How does your character dress?
  • What’s their favorite food?
  • If they could be anyone for a day who would they be?
  • Who inspires them?
  • Do they have any mannerisms like cracking their knuckles or shoving their hands in their pockets?
  • What ticks them off?
  • What makes them laugh?
  • Any distinguishing characteristics? Birthmarks? Scars?
  • Have they ever been in love? Had their heart broken?

Remember, the answers to these questions don’t necessarily need to be show up in your MS, but you should know them to make your character well rounded.

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Kat Maxwell

Katrina Maxwell



Rebecca Berto is the author of Precise and Drowning in You. If you want book-release updates, please sign up at this form (email only when news, not weekly).

Follow Novel Girl by the buttons in the top left corner of the home page to stay updated.

Important news: “Being Kalli” isn’t being published

I am sad to announce this news about my novel, Being Kalli but I love being able to have such a close connection to my readers and I need to say some stuff.

First up the news:

Being Kalli.v2.2.1I have decided Being Kalli won’t be published in the next couple of months as I had hoped. It may never get published. This is because I pride myself on publishing manuscripts that are as close to perfection as I can make them and I’ve had conflicting feedback regarding this story. Unfortunately, my confidence is wavering. I’ve been having thoughts and worries about publishing this story for a while and have decided if I’m uncertain as I have been, it’s better to not publish it.

I can’t make a first impression again, and I want the published novel to as good as it can be. I believe it’s a great story but I’m the most biased person around in my position. Maybe it’s not, but I can’t take that risk.

The Outlook:

I don’t want to make myself a liar. There is a chance I could still publish it in the future. It could be 2014, 2015 … I have no idea when I’ll get my confidence back but I don’t have it anymore and I can’t let it out thinking it’s “good enough”.

The good news in all this:

The good news is I could publish it if my readers want this story. That’s why I’ve put up the first 12 chapters in early, unedited draft form. There may be typos or sentences that aren’t all that clear (thank goodness for editors who take care of these issues), but it is available to read on Wattpad.

It would mean the absolute world to me if you give it a go and give me feedback in the form of voting it up, commenting, messaging me or sharing it with an interested friend to read.

Wattpad is a site for writers to post their writing drafts up for readers to follow along and read as chapters are posted.

>>> You can read chapters 1 — 12 of Being Kalli here. <<<

I have a feeling you’re probably wondering what I’ll be up to next, and so I’ll let you know I’m going to be focusing on my Pulling Me Under series (the novella prequel book #0.5, Precise (a new, special edition) and the upcoming novel #1, Pulling Me Under). These stories are psychological, dark contemporary books.

Precise is already published and available at different stores here.


And if you do feel like posting encouraging words, I always read my comments on my posts from my amazing Novel Girl readers.

Thanks for reading this and sorry to have let you all down, but it’s for the best for all of us!



Rebecca Berto is the author of Precise, and Drowning in You. If you want book-release updates, please sign up at this form (email only when news, not weekly).

Follow Novel Girl by the buttons in the top left corner of the home page to stay updated.

We all feel like the worst writer in the world (but we’re not)

Sometimes we feel downright stupid as writers, and it always occurs at similar stages of writing patterns. Sure we feel amateur when we start out, but that may be accurate considering we have learnt so little and have so much more room to grow.

But I’m talking about times we feel — without exaggerating — that we are literally the worst writer in the world when it’s just a knee-jerk reaction. It happens/happened to me when:

  • I read a Colleen Hoover, Khaled Hosseini or Jodi Picoult novel;
  • when I wrote my second full-length manuscript; and
  • every time I get past the 25% mark in my current draft.

Does this happen to you, too?

overcoming writer's block - crumpled paper on ...

I needed to write this post because I always feel like it’s just me. I believe I personally cannot be a great writer unless I read lots of different types of books to refine and grow my style. I read traditional books and self-published depending on what story catches my eye or what book a friend refers to me. So it comes as no shock I sometimes stumble across modern classics that blow my mind.

How the hell can I write that good?
What’s the point when I can tell my writing sounds flat and boring?
I’m just me and I always sound like I’m trying too hard to sound good — but never do.

Guys, all normal!

I’m not sure how many of you know but I’ve written lots for years although I’m only 22 ½. I wrote fan fiction of a Charmed episode when I was 11 (30,000 words). I started/tried to write a novel when I was 14/15 and pushed working on that until I was 18 or so (42,000 words). Between those years I started many manuscripts and failed.

"Writing", 22 November 2008

(Photo credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle)

My first serious manuscript I started, finished and edited/revised to high heaven and back was Pulling Me Under (book #1 in the series; Precise is the prequel, book #0.5). As with all my other manuscripts I got the dreaded Writer’s Block. It took 4.5 months to finish it. I freaked out the next few drafts. Cut thousands of words from the start. Added necessary scenes later.

The thing is it doesn’t get easier as you go on. Well, not how I foresaw it would. I assumed I’d get so much practise, become so talented and knowledgeable that I’d learn what amateur mistakes not to make (show vs tell, character quirks, character likeability, story arc, balancing storylines, etc). But I didn’t see that the growing would still continue as much as I learnt initially in my writing life still 3 years later from my first serious manuscript.

Guys, here’s the thing. I know this will sound like a bit of a brag, but my latest novel, Drowning in You didn’t quite sink. On June 7 (American time) it became an Amazon bestseller (Top #57 out of the entire Kindle store).

Yet, my current working manuscript, Being Kalli, almost didn’t happen during my third draft because I was like, “It’s soo crap!”. You heard right. Only because of extreme circumstances and even better friends did it not end with the fate of the big “delete” button.

I had thought my writing was  more refined than ever before, the story was killer and unique…

…and then I got beta/critique comments back for it. Man, I have some very smart and astute writing friends.

I almost caved in.

  • Too much to change.
  • I didn’t have enough talent.
  • It sounded too crap.
  • People wouldn’t like it enough.

These are whiny, untrue excuses, Rebecca.

You can do it!!

You can do it!! (Photo credit: Abi Booth)

Because you can do it. If I can, you can. It took a month of crying and whining and possibly losing friends because of my attitude, but I made it and I am shocked at how great this story has turned out. There is absolutely no way I would have stepped up to the next level in my writing career if I didn’t hit this low.

It’s not just a cliché! You absolutely will not become a better writer until you hit the lows. You can’t improve until you learn both from the good and bad.

Trust me, you can do this and I know it even though I may not know you, because if you’re as hungry for writing success as I am, you’ll make it.


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Rebecca Berto is the author of the novella, Precise and the New Adult Contemporary Romance, Drowning in You

Follow Novel Girl by the buttons in the top left corner of the home page to stay updated.