Archive for the ‘Writing Advice’ Category

To Be Brief

I’ve just finished the third draft of my work in progress–(which, since you ask, is a dystopian science fiction novel) and among my goals was homing in on wordiness.

In third drafts, I bear down on sentences and paragraphs. Not only to smooth them out, but with an eye to brevity. I eliminated 11 pages worth of sentences and paragraphs. Because writing better often means shorter. As in these examples:

Passive voice. I believe there are times when passive voice is excellent. Just not very often, since it is like sand in the gas tank. Don’t need it, and it does damage. TRY: A computer search for the word was (and were):

  • Each branch was talking. vs: 
Each branch spoke.
  • Entering the hall, she noted that he was not at his usual sentry duty.
vs: Entering the hall, she noted his absence from sentry duty.

Saying things twice. As in stringing together clauses that repeat the thought. “She was restless, couldn’t sit still or keep her mind on the lecture.” This is first draft stuff. Cut, cut, (I told myself.) Read More…

My latest top ten writing tips

If you’ve ever tried to write a novel, this picture may speak to you!

Every few years I post my top 10 writing tips here. Why do I keep changing this list? It might be because my list is influenced by the latest unpublished manuscripts that I’ve critiqued for conferences. Does this imply that writers are making different mistakes than previously? I don’t know. Maybe I’ve just changed my mind!

Kay’s top ten, sure-fire, writing tips:

1. Work harder on an original premise: The Napoleonic wars with air power from dragons; a murdered girl relates her story from heaven; an alien universe that tunnels through our own. Respect your ideas, but deepen them. Read More…

Four Things a Novel Must Have.

Think of all the things a piece of fiction must have. Who can ever get it all right? For example, we’re told to excel at plot, character, setting, point of view, dialogue, conflict, tension, pacing, and style. If it’s science fiction, add cool science ideas and scope. The list is long and demanding.

The good news is that a novel doesn’t have to have everything right.

Remember Randall Jarrell’s wonderful line: “A novel is a narrative of a certain length with something wrong with it.” So here’s Kay’s Rule of Imperfection: You don’t need to do everything supremely well. Optimize what you can and forgive yourself for the rest.

Because the pursuit of perfection leads to many an unfinished novel.*

So where does this leave us in our writing process, our current novel? For starters, we can look at our strengths and capitalize on them. Read More…

Two fiction classes comin’ up

I’m giving two live online workshops this fall! I’ve found that webinars are fun and can get us re-engaged with our writing. (To hear about all my online teaching–and other cool stuff–you can join my newsletter.)



Six Slippery Sins: Good advice that goes astray

Often what we think we know just isn’t true. “Common knowledge” about fiction can deaden our stories, including time-honored advice like start fast and get to the point in dialogue. We’ll take a fresh look at “vivid” descriptions, and how “showing” sadness can end up distancing a reader by “telling.” For writers at all levels, this class examines the deeper truths suggested by, or obscured by, fiction maxims.

Saturday, September 26 (Time to be announced.)

Click HERE to register for the PNWA Conference, one day or several.

(More class details to be posted soon on the PNWA website.)



Move Along, Folks: Pacing the novel

One agent who gets 10,000 pitches a month says that 95% of rejected manuscripts are paced too slowly. We can fix this! This pacing workshop is for beginning and intermediate-level novelists and exposes classic pacing mistakes, large and small. We’ll identify the dramatic underpinnings that give horsepower to a story’s unfolding and their use in structure and scene. We’ll also come away with on-the-page tools that can keep the wind in your story’s sails.

Saturday, October 3, 4:15 – 3:30

Click HERE to register for the Write on the Sound Conference, one day or several.

This Sunday: My plotting workshop

Class will be on Sunday, not Saturday.

Join me this Sunday for a 2-hour workshop on plotting the novel!

Mapping the Labyrinth at the Rambo Academy of Wayward Writers

Mapping the Labyrinth: Plotting Your Novel So Stuff Happens with Kay KenyonOn-line class: Sunday, August 2, 2020, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific Time

How do you develop a novel’s plot? Is it luck, or trial and error, or are there classic approaches to achieve your best story? Learn how to use structural principals to take your character on a transformative journey inspired by great plotting. Become fluent in turning points, those fork-in-the-road hinges that catapult your story in a dramatic rising action. Concept, subplots, conflict–we’ve got ’em covered. Let’s map our way out of the maze and conquer the art of plotting.

More information:


Cost is $99 ($79 for Patreon supporters and former students, which includes classes/workshops at the Cat Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers.) Cat is offering a few scholarships: For information on applying, click here.

To register for this class, send an email to Cat Rambo with the following details:

  • The email address that you use for Google stuff
  • The name of the class: “Mapping the Labyrinth” with Kay Kenyon
  • Whether you would prefer to pay via Paypal, check, or some other means.

You will be invoiced when the class slot is reserved.

I hope to see you on Sunday, August 2nd!