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Sue Weems: Becoming Writer, Editor
Member since June 25, 2015

Sue Weems is a writer, teacher, and traveller with an advanced degree in (mostly fictional) revenge. When she’s not rationalizing her love for parentheses (and dramatic asides), she follows a sailor around the globe with their four children, two dogs, and an impossibly tall stack of books to read. You can read more of her writing tips on her website.


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When I was a kid, I loved reading Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels that had alternate paths written into the story. If you aren’t familiar with them, they were elementary or middle grade chapter books that begin a story and at key moments, offer the reader a choice: “To go through the portal, turn to page 37. To run away, turn to page 45.”

I loved seeing the story change with the choices, and I reread the books making different choices each time to experience a new story. I’ve channeled my inner adventurer to put together a fun prompt.

Writing Prompt: How to Choose Your Own (Writing) Adventure »

Many writers I know are overwhelmed and struggle to focus on writing anything. Do I research? Get a draft down? Should I be blogging? Do I need to get a business license? What about social media? What’s for dinner? (Sorry, my kids added that one).

A few years ago, I learned a technique that helped me get a handle on my to do list, and freed me to prioritize my writing. Along with sneaking time to write, learning to write in batches has changed the way I work.

How to Actually Focus on Your Writing »

I often hear practicing writers ask, “What if I can’t think of anything to write about?” Sometimes they even have notebooks full of observations, but they feel like none of them are good enough for a story.

I’ve felt the same way, but there are more opportunities or seeds for ideas in our notebooks than we think. It might be an image, a snippet of a conversation we overheard at lunch, or a social issue that grates against us. Once we have the seeds, how do we take those seeds and develop them into stories?

How to Develop Story Ideas Into Amazing Stories »

Authors often get asked where they get their story ideas. It’s one of the most common questions my student writers wish they could ask their writing heroes. They think, “If I could just find a way to come up with the next best-selling story idea like [insert famous author], then I’ll make it as a writer!”

But they misunderstand one critical truth: the magic isn’t in the ideas. It’s in the execution. We need the ideas to get started, but many writers don’t have a system for capturing the ideas around them daily, and they don’t develop ideas consistently in practice.

We all have files full of unfinished projects and story ideas spread across notebooks and online platforms. Why do ideas lose their luster the moment we start writing them?

Story Ideas: How to Beat Shiny-New-Idea Syndrome and Actually Finish Your Projects »

How organized are you? I realized last year that I had spread my writing over various notebooks and virtual programs and platforms to the point that it took me an hour to find a snippet I wanted to use. The best book writing software will help you get your words on the page, but it won’t organize them on your computer so you can find them again — as I experienced firsthand while hunting down that snippet.

By the time I finally found it, I was frustrated and worried that maybe I was losing more writing than I was saving. Not losing it in the sense that the writing was gone, but losing track of where and how I manage my writing process.

Where do you keep your writing?

Best Book Writing Software: How to Organize Your Writing so You Never Lose It Again »

This time of year many writers begin to evaluate their progress to celebrate wins, grieve losses, and reset for the year ahead. Here are two questions to guide your reflection and help you build better habits for the coming year (and maybe even some writing resolutions).

2 Questions Every Writer Should Ask (Instead of Writing Resolutions) »

Writers across the globe spent a frenzied month neglecting their laundry, sneaking writing time at lunch, and compulsively checking their word counts. Whether you won, lost, or didn’t participate at all, here’s what NOT to do the day after NaNoWriMo ends.

What Not to Do When NaNoWriMo Ends »

Writing is a solitary profession for the most part, but sooner or later, we realize we need a network of people, from beta readers to editors and eventually readers. Some writers retreat, discouraged by unkind comments or unsupportive friends or family, believing that someday, somehow their work will reach a wider audience.

But writing alone and hard work aren’t enough by themselves. Very few writers can write and launch a book and career entirely in isolation. (Plus, being a part of a writing or creative community is much more fun.)

Here are a few small steps for finding, joining, or building a writing community.

Writers Group: How to Build a Fantastic Writing Community »

I stood in a long line last week while a single checker bumbled through multiple orders, finally requiring a manager to come take over. I’m a notorious snoop (I mean, people-researcher), so I began furtively sizing up the purchases of those around me while I waited. And what I found was a fantastic writing prompt.

Writing Prompt: Take Your Character Shopping »

Do you argue with strangers on the internet? (I plead the fifth). Even if you have enough self-control not to engage most arguments and comment sections, chances are high that you think through how you would argue with them if you weren’t fairly certain they are a troll in an alternate universe. Also if your mother wasn’t your friend on Facebook.

Are you leveraging those thoughts? Or just rehearsing them, allowing yourself to feel irritated and angry? Put that energy to good use for your writing. Your next character is hiding in the comments section of nearly any forum. Here’s how to find him or her.

How to Create a Character Based on Internet Comments Sections »

As writers, there is no replacement for reading as a practice to become a better writer, but studying film or television can be just as instructive.

Ultimately we’re building models for our own work by asking one critical question. What if that one question could make you a stronger reader, viewer, and ultimately writer?

How to Analyze a Story Like a Master Writer »

You finally reach the last page of a book that kept you up all night and close it with the afterglow of satisfaction and a tinge of regret that it’s over. If you enjoyed the book enough to stay up reading it way past your bedtime, consider writing a review. It is one of the best gifts you can give an author.

But as you face the five shaded stars and empty box, a blank mind strikes. What do I say? I mean, is this a book really deserving of five stars? How did it compare to Dostoevsky or Dickens?

Maybe there’s an easier way to write a book review.

How to Write a Book Review: The Complete Guide »

There are three words that can kill any dream before it leaves the ground: “As soon as …” As soon as I finish this course … as soon as I get noticed … as soon as I revise … as soon as I get a marketing plan in place … as soon as the kids are in school … as soon as I ride the glitter pony of creativity … and on and on.

Yes, it is helpful to have action steps that inform your forward motion, but for too many of us who want to do creative work, we’re waiting on something that isn’t really keeping us from our writing. Our real barriers are beliefs that tell us we have to wait for the right conditions, along with the false assumption that one day we’ll “arrive” at our goal of being a successful writer and the need to create will feel satiated.

Newsflash: those “right” conditions and that “perfect” moment are not coming.

How to Be a Successful Writer: Why You’ll Never Arrive and What to Do Instead »

I’ve just signed up for a writing contest, and I turn on “Eye of the Tiger” as I sit down to pound out my first draft. This is it, I tell myself. This will be the story that finally wins. I light my creative candle called “Field of Dreams” and place a mug of freshly pressed coffee next to my laptop. A few finger exercises and I am ready to write the story to end all stories.

But what if nothing comes? Or worse, a story pours out and it’s terrible? What if I don’t win? How can I develop a winning mindset without reading an entire shelf of self-help books and further distracting myself?

The Winning Mindset You Need for a Killer Writing Contest Entry »

I’m working through a revision, and one of my main problems is the protagonist. My editor and a beta reader both suggested amping up her emotional appeal, leaving comments such as, “I’m not invested in this character yet” and “I want to care about her, but I don’t in this scene.” Ouch. I’ve created a bland character.

So amping up emotional appeal. Is there a lipstick for that? How do I amp up emotional appeal?

4 Bland Character Problems and How to Fix Them »

Sometimes I get stuck wondering how to write a scene during a first draft. Or maybe I can’t figure out how to revise a story to make it better. Sometimes I wonder if I am ever going to make any progress in my fiction and life. (Please tell me I’m not alone!)

I’ve been revising this summer, and it’s taking longer than I’d like. I keep returning to the basics of good storytelling to evaluate my scenes, and yesterday, it occurred to me that there are three questions I can ask to clarify almost any scene. Coincidentally, they are the same three questions I usually ask myself to tackle almost any life problem.

How to Write a Scene: 3 Questions You Should Ask Before You Write »

Daily writing produces a kind of experience and writing practice that is irreplaceable. But what if I’m writing every day, but my writing is still falling short of where I want it to be? (I’m asking for a friend.)

Do I push away from my writing desk to get better? Do I need a university course? Should I pay an editor? Sacrifice my first born child or a kidney?

Write more! I tell myself. But writing more is not enough. (Insert exasperated sigh.) Isn’t it hard enough just to write? What else do I have to do?

Practice differently. This is the secret to becoming the writer you want to be as quickly as possible.

The Best Writing Practice: Why You Need to Practice Differently »

Subtext is the underlying message in a scene. In The Godfather, when Don Corleone says, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” we know someone (and a horse) is in serious danger. When I tell my kids, “I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse,” I probably mean “Do your chores or I’ll shut down the wifi.”

Same statement, different subtext.

How to Harness the Power of Subtext »

My family moves a lot. Beginnings are often stressful, disorienting things, while endings might be joyous, grief-filled, and everything in between. Funny how stories are like that too. It’s often so difficult to know how to begin a story or how to tie it up at the end. Why are beginnings and endings so hard to do well in writing and life?

How to Begin a Story: 3 Quick Ways to Improve Beginnings and Endings »

A little over ten years ago, I had almost a decade of English teaching experience, a couple years paid freelance writing work, several creative writing university courses under my belt, and a few small publications in poetry and nonfiction. A friend’s mom, Mae, had written a query letter for her second novel. She asked me to read it and give her some writing feedback. What could go wrong?

When Mae asked, I had not attempted to write an entire novel or a query letter. I had read thousands of novels and a few letters, but I had not studied the structure and requirements of each. I assumed writing was writing. Surely with a degree in English and a little experience, I was qualified to give good feedback?

Nope. Not even close.

How to Give and Take Better Writing Feedback »