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Jeff Elkins: Bbp Participant, Editor
Member since August 13, 2013

Jeff Elkins is a writer who lives Baltimore with his wife and five kids. If you enjoy his writing, he'd be honored if you would subscribe to his free monthly newsletter. All subscribers receive a free copy of Jeff's urban fantasy novella "The Window Washing Boy."


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Writing sequels is difficult. The Marvel Cinematic Universe currently consists of nineteen feature films, four network television weekly TV shows, and eight online streaming shows. Writing sequels to a genre-stretching side story that exists in a massive universe beloved by fans must be near impossible.

This weekend Jessica Jones season two dropped on Netflix. Whether you enjoy the show or not, there is a lot it can teach us about storytelling.

Writing Sequels: 5 Sequel-Writing Secrets From Jessica Jones »

We think of authors as loners. Locked in dark caves with nothing but their type-writers and a candles, they painstakingly pound out one word after another, bleeding on the page to create a story they hope the world will accept. This image couldn’t be further from the truth.

As John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” One way you can feel more like part of the main is by utilizing the tool of crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing for Writers: The Secret to Connect With Your Readers and Find Your Best Ideas »

On the wall of my office, I have a collage of quotes and pictures that have inspired me. Each quote represents a story from my past. I read over them whenever I need a boost of encouragement (which is at least once a day).

These encouraging words for writers are a wonderful source of strength for me. Many of the quotes on the wall are from friends and family who had the right words for me at the exact right time.

Here are three I lean on regularly to get me through rough patches.

Encouraging Words for Writers: 3 Essential Reminders for Struggling Writers »

Great characters feel real. They talk, act, and respond to stress in ways we recognize, with their own personal character voice. We can relate to them because they seem human.

To write a character that leaps off the page, we need to know her deeply. We need to understand her thoughts and feelings. If our audience is going to empathize with her, we have to first.

3 Inspiring Writing Prompts to Find Your Character’s Voice »

‘Tis the season of holiday parties, children’s winter concerts, filling our schedules to the brim, visiting with family, eating too much, and drinking more than we should. With all of that going on, it can be difficult to stick to our writing regimen.

When we are tired, inspiration feels like a mirage. We feel as though it is just a little bit ahead of us, but with each step we take, it takes a step away. Writing during the holidays can be tough.

Sometimes, the thing we need to get our juices going is a writing challenge.

2 Playful Holiday Writing Prompts to Challenge and Inspire You »

There are few things in the world as weird as being a writer. We pour ourselves into our work, giving it everything we have, pushing through rejection, overcoming one barrier after another, hoping our work will be noticed. In this strange and taxing pursuit, it’s important that we hold onto some truths that can keep us centered, inspirational quotes for writers that will remind us why we write.

Sometimes, the best place to find those truths is in movies.

4 Movie Quotes Every Writer Needs »

As you sit down today to write are you filled with a sense of dread? We’ve come through the first weekend of NaNoWriMo. This is where I always fall behind in my word count.

I never get as much done over the weekends that I think I will. I tell myself, “This weekend I will catch up. I’ll spend a few extra hours, knuckle down, and catch up to my word count.”

But then my wife tells me about some obligation I neglected to notice on the calendar, or my kids need to be driven places I didn’t foresee, or things break in the house that need to be fixed, and I look up on Sunday and all my writing time is gone, and I’m farther behind than I was before the weekend began.

If that’s you, don’t panic! All is not lost. Many of us have been where you are. There is hope.

3 Scenes That Will Boost Your NaNoWriMo Word Count »

For every writer, there comes a special kind of writer’s block: a moment when we run out of gas. Maybe we’ve expended our final reserves of energy trying finish a big project. Maybe we’ve pushed too many days in a row to hit our NaNoWriMo word count. Maybe life has just made production difficult and we can’t muster the energy to get the next page out.

This moment, when we feel like we have nothing left, is inevitable. Therefore, it’s important that we have a plan in place for when it comes.

Writer’s Block: What to Do When You Run Out of Gas »

I’ve found that the greatest threat to us writers is not the well of creativity running dry or time running out before we can finish our latest work or some other writer stealing our million dollar idea. The greatest threat to us lives within us. It is our own fear.

We need not bow to fear. If we can survive its initial surge, it will pass and we can get back to work unhindered. Here are three ways I survive the surge of fear.

3 Tricks to Overcome Your Fear of Writing »

The opportunity to offer criticism comes with undeserved power. As a critic, we put ourselves above the artist, providing our authoritative opinion on the artists work. The thing is, that’s not what every writer needs to hear.

3 Essential Comments Every Writer Needs to Hear »

Looking for an opportunity to reveal a character’s true feelings? Need a place where a character can realistically tell the world how they feel in a monologue? Want to give characters an opportunity to discuss what is coming next in your plot?

Funerals provide an excellent setting for all these moments and more.

Is a Funeral the Perfect Setting for Your Story? »

I know what a friend looks like. Friends are there to support you when you need them. If you call in desperation, they come over. If you need a laugh, they crack a joke. If you’re down, they give a helping hand.

I’ve concluded that the Muses are not my friends.

Beat Writer’s Block with Grimms’ Fairy Tales »

The advice “write what you know” can be disheartening. If you’re like me, you probably feel like you don’t “know” much. How can we write what we know if what we know has been mundane and ordinary?

I’ve got good news for you. You know more than you think.

3 Clever Ways to Write What You Know »

We all know that transforming characters and a driving plot make for great stories. Something we discuss less is how contrasting ideals—and the conflict they create—can also enrich a story.

This week in the United States we will be celebrating the signing of our Declaration of Independence in 1776. Thinking on the ideal of independence has had me pondering how philosophical convictions play a role in our stories. If used well, they can enhance the narrative allowing the story to transcend the characters and become something more.

How to Use Freedom to Create Conflict Like Victor Hugo »

In the short time that I’ve been a writer, I’ve learned a valuable secret that we writers don’t discuss often: a writer is only as good as his or her editors.

Receiving feedback and accepting criticism and edits isn’t easy. No one likes being told what they are doing wrong, especially when the thing being criticized is something we’ve poured our heart and soul into it. When I first started writing, I hated getting edits. Now I pursue edits and editors with vigor.

Receiving Feedback: 3 Things Every Writer Needs to Know About Editing »

Sometimes writing can feel like a race. We rush to finish the next manuscript or the next novel or the next short story. We try to be factories that churn out narratives that will sell. We jump from one project to the next because we’ve been told consumers demand a constant flow of new things to devour.

This race can be exhausting and discouraging. In the midst of it, we can lose sight of the fact that writing, like any art, is a craft that needs to be practiced to be perfected. There is value in slowing down, taking a break from larger works, and practicing small things.

How to Practice Writing Like Van Gogh Practiced Painting »

You’ve spent countless hours pondering the plot, creating the characters’ voices, and building the perfect twist at the end that will leave readers speechless. Once everything is as good as you can make it, you publish your writing and wait. . . .

But no one reads your masterpiece.

Unfortunately, in our content-saturated age, if you don’t grab people by the throat, pull them in close, and yell, “Pay attention to me!” with your first paragraph, they won’t stick around to read the amazing story you’ve crafted. Here’s how to write an opening paragraph that will draw your readers in and keep them reading to the end.

How to Write a Lead Paragraph that Wins Readers’ Attention »

As attention spans grow shorter, there is an increased demand for shorter stories.

I’ve noticed recently a lot of contests and submissions calling for stories under 3000 words. Writing a story this short is different than writing a novel or even a 10,000-word story. We need to get into the story, make a connection with the reader, and then wrap it up without wasting any time. It can feel strange for those of us used to writing larger pieces.

When you’re writing a very short story, editing is crucial.

4 Quick Tips to Edit Any Short Story »

The stories we tell ourselves are like glasses through which we understand the world. They define the field we play on and guide the decisions we make, whether about book publishing or any other area of our lives.

Unfortunately, in the world of writing and publishing, there are a lot of false narratives floating around that create a romantic idea about the life of an author that can end in self-doubt, frustration, and stagnation. To avoid falling into the trap of bad stories, it’s important we pause and consider the world we exist in.

The Truth About Book Publishing: 3 Stories All Writers Need to Hear »

Recently, I shared why Microsoft Excel and Google Docs are some of my favorite pieces of book writing software. Spreadsheets might seem like odd resources for a writer, but I’ve found them to be invaluable tools for planning my stories.

I use spreadsheets to plan my stories in several ways. Today, though, I’m going to focus on just one: creating a beat sheet to outline a story before I write.

Best Book Writing Software: How to Make a Beat Sheet in Google Sheets »