Stephen Bly’s Formula for Non-formula Fiction

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Stephen Bly died in the summer of 2011, but his words of wisdom will live on in my heart forever. In the summer of 2008 Steve was the keynote speaker at Oregon Christian Writers Conference. These are notes I captured in one session. I only wish I could share his humor, too.

Steve Bly’s formula for non-formula fiction: Certain things he tried to include in all his books.
  1. Have the reader on the edge of the chair every 12 minutes. (from Stephen Spielberg, i.e., Raiders). Every chapter should get the reader excited and scooting up to the edge.
  2. Write the dialogue for the whole chapter before I write anything else.  They start to talk and he starts writing to move the story along.
  3. Every 20 pages, I make sure I have included all 5 senses.
  4. Every 100 pages of mss add humor—give the reader a laugh.
  5. Every 100 pages give the reader something to cry about.
  6. Try to include memorable minor characters.
  7. Point to turning point when the protagonist’s life turned around.
  8. No paragraph over 150 words.
  9. Have six sentences that are six or less words on every page. Mix lengths.
  10. Read every chapter out loud 3 times. Third time: Get a quiet place where it’s just you, and read it to the Lord.
For more info on Stephen Bly and his books see

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