The Art of Semi-Fiction

The Art of Semi-Fiction

Exploring Every Corner of the Written Word

All Episodes

In which Robynne and Jane continue their three-part series on tropes, clichés, stereotypes, and archetypes. In this second part, you’ll learn seven ways to avoid these ominous obstacles to accomplished authorship. You’ll learn why you should read a lot in your genre and why you need to write original plots and characters . . . and much more. While expounding their seven points, Robynne and Jane discuss shirtless sweaty hunks and flawless beauties, Shrek the Musical (and the movie), and Jane’s pellet stove in Montana. If that’s piqued your interest, listen in to learn how to write with originality and creativity! The post Episode 34: Tropes, Clichés, Stereotypes, and Archetypes (Part 2) appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.

Apr 2020

22 min 21 sec

In which Robynne and Jane dive into a three-part series on tropes, clichés, stereotypes, and archetypes. In this first part, you’ll get everything from detailed definitions to the pitfalls associated with these four nemeses of good writing. Intrigued? We thought you would be. And though every single writer alive has fallen prey to using one, or more, of these dastardly fiends, don’t despair! There are ways to recognize, avoid, and eliminate them from polluting or diluting your powerful writing. Although we love our nonfiction friends (we are both nonfiction writers, as well!), this series is really for people who are writing fiction or creative nonfiction … narrative stories of some kind, whether true or not. Well, for them and anyone who wants to hear Jane struggle as Robynne throws some hilarious quizzes her way! The post Episode 33: Tropes, Clichés, Stereotypes, and Archetypes (Part 1) appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.

Mar 2020

20 min 53 sec

In which Jane asks the burning question: can I write both fiction and nonfiction? On the way to answering that question, Jane talks about how it’s often expected that writers pick one lane and stick with it, primarily because it makes the marketing efforts a whole lot easier. But there are plenty of authors who successfully straddle both genres. Jocelyn Green, for example, has written eight historical fiction novels. But she has also published eight nonfiction books, as well. But how does she do that? It probably starts with an agent who is okay with you pursuing both genres. Robynne notes that the underlying reason some agents prefer you to stick with one genre and even sub-genre, is simply because publishers will find you easier to market if you contain yourself to one corner of the writing world. So, is it possible, then, to write both? Absolutely. Listen in to find out how! The post Episode 32: Can I Write Both Fiction and Nonfiction? appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.

Mar 2020

21 min 3 sec

In which Robynne and Jane discuss the ever-interesting and wildly popular topic of Memoir. Robynne points out the vast changes the last ten years have seen in the definition and popularity of memoir, as well as the specs and inherent marketability. What is a memoir today? A compelling personal narrative that is written about an event or time period in which something important happened. A NY Times best-selling author, and friend of Robynne and Jane, gets a mention as her many memoirs are perfect examples of the side of memoir dedicated to folks who are either famous or who have done something extraordinary. But the genre of memoir is shifting … there is now room in the market for the compelling stories by regular people. The key? Their stories need to have some sort of universal appeal. So, join Jane and Robynne as they discuss this topic to find out if your personal story might have a place on the Memoir shelf. The post Episode 31: Should I Be Writing Memoir? appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.

Feb 2020

21 min 10 sec

In which Robynne and Jane continue the conversation on Self-Editing. Jane’s already decided she now likes the thought of self-editing. But by the end of the episode, she absolutely loves it. Why? Because it’s easy AND effective. This go-round, on the chopping block are adverbs. They are usually markers for weak verbs. (Hint: “ly” words are often HUGE red flags for sluggish verbs. Example: she ate greedily vs. she gobbled.) Also getting the chop are stage directions … omitting unnecessary, obvious information makes your writing clearer, tighter, and more effective. Although Robynne and Jane both support paying attention to those blue and red lines in your document, Robynne also cautions against trusting spellcheck without question. The red and blue lines are tools to help you identify problem areas in your work. Spellcheck is a tool to help, too. But those tools are only effective if your eyes are on your words and taking context into consideration. Robynne admits her love for the “find and replace” functions, and explains how they can help make sweeping changes in your manuscript in a super quick and easy way. And, there’s more. But you’ll have to listen in to find out what. The post Episode 30: Self-Editing (Part 2) appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.

Sep 2019

21 min 32 sec

In which Robynne and Jane delve into the incredibly important, yet often misunderstood topic of Self-Editing. It’s such a large and important topic, however, that this is only Part 1 of a two-part series. And even then, the subject is not exhausted. Here’s something Robynne learns about Jane in the first minutes of the episode: Jane does not like self-editing. Or she didn’t. But Robynne quickly edges her to the dark side of Self-Editing Enthusiasts. And it wasn’t very hard. Self-editing is the chance to take your basic manuscript from drab to fab. And it’s how you make sure you are presenting your very best work to an editor, agent, or publisher. In this episode, you’ll get some very specific tips on how to make this whole self-editing thing easy. And you start with a list. (Jane likes that part a lot.) Making this list helps organize the process. And going through the list methodically is Robynne’s key to success. “But wait!” Jane interjects. “Does this mean you have to go through your manuscript several times?” “Nay, dear Jane,” Robynne replies. And then she tells you how via the first seven points. The post Episode 29: Self-Editing (Part 1) appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.

Sep 2019

21 min 40 sec

In which Jane and Robynne pull up their big girl britches and dive into the prickly subject of being envious of our fellow writers. Robynne reluctantly admits that, yes, in a way, she’s experienced moments of jealousy. In her defense, however, it wasn’t over an author’s ability or opportunity. What was she jealous about? Listen in! Jane then admits to her personal struggles with the green-eyed monster. She relayed a moment when she was at an Inspire workshop with multi-published author, Sarah Sundin, who spoke about “God’s Waiting Room.” (Note: if you’re an Inspire member, this talk is available on video at This image was a wonderful illustration about the joys and struggles and benefits of being in a holding pattern when those around you seem to be marching forward toward their writing goals. Ginny Yttrup, another multi-published author, also gets a mention, with a wonderfully candid quote about envy and an even more wonderful response. Do you struggle with this kind of issue? Are you needing a little encouragement, as well as a tiny bit of accountability? Well, pull up a chair and a cup of tea and let’s talk this through … The post Episode 28: Jealousy and Envy appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.

Aug 2019

21 min 46 sec

In which Robynne and Jane talk about creating complex, compelling characters. And before you nonfiction writers tune out. This isn’t just for fiction writers … or for memoirists and narrative nonfiction writers. Everyone needs to know how to make characters sing. Robynne starts with discussing the importance of understanding the whole character you’re writing about, not just the 45-year-old man he is in your story. Knowing your character’s background, and what formed them, helps your reader to understand words and actions in the present. But for your reader to understand that, you must first flesh out your character in your own mind. Jane and Robynne throw in a Writing 101 tip before launching into the list of “creating compelling characters” tips: No character (person) is either all good or all bad. If your protagonist is a saint, he will be hard to identify with. If your antagonist is evil incarnate, he’s two-dimensional and weak. And then, of course, we launch into specifics for creating a character with depth and resonance and deep, compelling interest. Knowing the stakes of the main character is important. And then knowing what your main character is after will help you craft the nuances of your character’s personality. Listen in for the rest of our tips for making sure your characters are so riveting your reader can’t put the book down. The post Episode 27: How to Create Compelling Characters appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.

Aug 2019

22 min 17 sec

In which Jane and Robynne explore the many reasons for writing at all. Jane opens with a question to Robynne: Why do YOU write. As usual, Robynne’s answer is a little unorthodox … it’s a combination of many, many things, including a bit of a compulsion, a way to learn about herself and others, a way to process events and emotions, a way to share information and encouragement. Jane followed that up with an interesting question: would you, as a writer, still write if there were no hope of publication or public eyes on your words? The motivation for writing comes in different forms and writing has so many outlets. Jane does a great job of exploring all of these and encouraging us to remember why we started writing in the first place. There are many reasons to write … for publication, for personal growth, for ministry, for processing emotions and events. Jane and Robynne help define and value each of these many kinds. The post Episode 26: Why Do You Write? appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.

Aug 2019

21 min

In which Robynne and Jane dive into the many ways to increase the stakes of your fiction or narrative nonfiction. Creating some sort of tension is imperative to grab your reader’s attention (and keep it!) and these tips will help you do just that. Jane starts with a great definition of stakes: what creates conflict in your novel: spiritual, financial, physical death or loss. Robynne adds that death is a profound stake, but, really, all stakes need to be is some important conflict. Internal stakes are as important and real as physical stakes. Whatever it is, it must be large and important. Francine Rivers’ The Last Sin Eater is used as a wonderful example where there are multiple physical and emotional stakes, and they come through multiple characters. Cynthia Ruchti’s Miles from Where We Started is another great example of multiple stakes: emotional, financial, and spiritual. Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend is also packed with physical, social, and emotional stakes. Robynne’s point is that all books holding our attention are just full of stakes. After establishing what stakes are and giving solid examples of authors who’ve done it well, Robynne plunges into 8 points for HOW to increase the stakes in your own stories. When to enter the story is first on the list, followed by making sure the stakes are personal to the main characters. If the stakes are happening to someone else, with little or no impact to the main characters, then why are we following their story? Number 3 is to find a way to connect your main POV character’s stakes to other characters. Intertwine them, making your POV character’s response to THEIR stakes have an impact on someone else. Number 4 is to have a deadline. If your characters have to do or learn or accomplish something by a certain point in time, the tension, and, therefore, stakes, are immediately heightened. There are four more tips, too. But you’ll have to tune in to find out what they are! The post Episode 25: Increasing Stakes appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.

Aug 2019

21 min 28 sec