Enter the SPRING WRITING INSPIRATION GIVEAWAY for a chance to win great prizes and a one-on-one story development session with Lorin Oberweger!


  • A 25 minute one-on-one story development session with Story Guru Lorin Oberweger
  • A copy of Donald Maass' new book, THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION
  • A package of five high quality highlighter pens for editing
  • An inspirational mug for your writing fuel of choice
  • A writing journal for all your brilliant thoughts

Total prize package value: $150


  • A 25 minute one-on-one story development session with Story Guru Lorin Oberweger

Total prize package value: $100

The more questions on the Giveaway you answer, the more entries you get to win the prizes! 

The giveaway starts on Wednesday March 8, 2017 at 12:00PM PST and ends Wednesday March 22, 2017 at 12:00PM PST . 

We'll choose winners at random and announce them here and on social media. 


Spotlight: Donald Maass - Evoking a Visceral and Emotional Experience in Readers


We are thrilled to be presenting agent Donald Maass as this month's Spotlight Interview. Don is a veteran literary agent, president of the Donald Maass Literary Agency, and author of more than half a dozen writing craft books. 

His seventh and most recent title, THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION: HOW TO WRITE THE STORY BENEATH THE SURFACE, takes you through a comprehensive range of narrative techniques designed to help you provoke deep visceral and emotional experience in readers. 

Don is also an expert writing instructor whose acclaimed workshops and seminars are known for their challenging, high-level content, leading you into a deeper relationship with your work and greater writing success--no matter what your current level of success may be.


This is going to be the sixteenth year you’ve been putting on workshops with Free Expressions, what motivated you to work with them?

Live workshops have a dynamic that the flat page and online PowerPoint cannot achieve. There’s something about time apart in a room of writers that frees creativity. 

In person, I can riff, prompt and engage with writers personally. There’s a feeling of barriers being down, of “the industry” being accessible and open, of the focus being where it belongs: on story. 

Plus, it’s just fun to work with Lorin, Brenda, and the team! 

"It’s important to have time not to meet goals
but to explore the manifold possibilities of story."

What have you learned about conducting workshops over the years? 

Every writer learns differently. You can never tell what will switch on a lightbulb or trigger a story breakthrough. It’s therefore important to approach story craft from a number of angles, stimulating new ideas through a variety of prompts. 

While there’s nothing wrong with daily word count goals, it’s important to have time not to meet goals but to explore the manifold possibilities of story. 

What advice would you give to writers coming to one of your workshops for the first time?

Don’t expect a formula for success, but do expect to assimilate many new ways of deepening your story. 

Expect to write a lot. 

Expect to have fun. 

Expect your brain to hurt. 

That’s all good.


"I realized that plot is only one dimension
of what gives story impact." 


How have your thoughts on fiction craft evolved? 

Once upon a time, I thought only about plot.

Then I realized that plot is only one dimension of what gives story impact. Surprising scenes, micro-tension and manipulating reader expectations are also important. Still later I began to understand how character arcs happen and integrate with the outward plot. 

More recently, I’ve been focusing on areas of storytelling that are not traditional craft topics; for instance, creating a sense of wonder or what produces emotional effect.

The latter is the subject of this new “Emotional Craft” workshop.

What would excite you in a manuscript that came across your inbox RIGHT NOW?

The first impression of a manuscript is created on the first page, so always I value the immediate arrival of a confident storytelling voice, something intriguing and something emotional engaging. 

Beyond that, there is originality and the ability to sustain tension and constant surprise on the page for the length of a novel. What helps achieve those effects is a grasp of plot, scene elements, micro-tension, character arcs, story world, a shifting moral map, and all the other things we learn in workshops. 

And then there is something that is tough to teach but that can perhaps be enabled: an underlying urgency that flows from the author’s own experience.

We shorthand that with the word “passion”, or sometimes “purpose”. As vague as those words are, they are nevertheless part of what sweeps us away when we read.

How is THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION different from your previous books? 

This new book presumes a grasp of all the Breakout essentials. It’s not a recap but an altogether different way of looking at story: through the emotional effect that story produces on readers, and on how that effect is achieved. 

"Readers feel strongly when they are surprised, challenged, inspired, led, misdirected,
and when story connects them to our
greatest values and highest ideals."

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION?

It’s this: What characters feel has little to do with what readers feel. While the question of showing versus telling is not wholly irrelevant, it’s only a small generator of a story’s emotional effect. 

Readers feel strongly when they are surprised, challenged, inspired, led, misdirected, and when story connects them to our greatest values and highest ideals.

Beneath all of that is the writer’s own spirit and emotional journey in creating the story. That more than anything shapes what we’ll feel as we read.

What are you currently reading? 

Apart from client manuscripts and submissions, I’m catching up with UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead, UNDERGROUND AIRLINES by Ben H. Winters, A GENTLEMAN OF MOSCOW by Amor Towles, THE GIRLS AT THE KINGFISHER CLUB by Genevieve Valentine, THE FIFTH PETAL by Brunonia Barry, to name a few. 

Has anyone read BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough?  That one’s coming up on my radar quite a bit lately. 


You can follow Don on his Facebook page and on Twitter as @DonMaass.

All of his books can be found at Amazon.

If you haven't already taken one of his classes, or if you's like to take another, Free Expressions is offering four workshops with Don this year. You don't want to miss out. Whether you're a beginner or a professional, a class with Don is a master class in writing craft.

The Emotional Craft of Fiction - Houston

The Emotional Craft of Fiction - Seattle

The Breakout Novel - Tampa

Story Masters - Toronto

Lorin's War Against Times New Roman - And a New Editor Joins the Team


  • Resources for Writers
  • Second BONI Added Due to Popular Demand!
  • Dedicated Story Development Sessions
  • Rob Sanders Joins the Team
  • Lorin's War Against Times New Roma
  • Dear FreeX
  • Where Are You Writing?



Do you know that Free Expressions can help you on every step of your writing journey? From concept to story development to deep editing, workshops, and more, we're here to help you succeed in 2017.

Personalized Story Development
Editorial Services
Breakout Novel Intensive Workshop - Tampa, Florida
Story Masters Workshop - Toronto, Ontario
Emotional Craft of Fiction Workshop - Houston, Texas & Seattle, WA



Our Hood River BONI sold out so quickly, we decided to offer a second session later this year in Tampa, Florida. If you've never been to a BONI workshop before, come see why so many students think it's the best professional writer's workshop out there. In BONI's sixteen years, the workshop has helped launch many successful writing careers. Limited enrollment, so don't wait to register!

Click here for more information and to sign up! 



Do you have an awesome novel premise
but don’t know where to take it?

Are you stuck in the “mushy middle” of your work
and running out of steam?

Coming soon, an opportunity to win a
free twenty-five minute Story Development Session
with Lorin to help you get unstuck and fired up!

Keep an eye on your inbox! 




We are thrilled to announce that Rob Sanders has joined the Free Expressions team as our picture book editor.

Rob is a published picture book author, elementary school teacher, and writing instructor. He also serves as assistant regional advisor for the Florida chapter of the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

His picture books include: COWBOY CHRISTMAS, OUTER SPACE BEDTIME RACE, RUBY ROSE, OFF TO SCHOOL SHE GOES, and the upcoming RODZILLA, among several others to be published in 2017 and 2018.

Each year, Rob coaches hundreds of picture book writers to greater success. We're so happy to bring his skills to our clients!

Contact us to arrange to work with Rob.



[This article is an oldie but goodie from the archives.]

Imagine this: every day, you duck into your office cubicle. You sit in your chair and feel, as you do every day, kind of squished. The arms of the chair dig into you; the seat’s stiff and unyielding; the lumbar support feels like a fist grinding into your delicate coccyx ALL DAY, for hours and hours.

It’s just not a great chair.

And the funny thing is that in those cubicles all around you sit many other chairs—similar to the one you have but a little more generous in proportion, a little more comfortable for long hours of work. In fact, most of them even look better, and your cubicle can always stand a little sprucing, right?

By the way, all of those chairs are available for your use. No one else needs them. So, why is it that day after day after day, you come into that office and sit in that same, uncomfortable, chair? Because it’s there? Because it’s the chair that someone pulled up to your desk before you arrived?

Truly, you’re sitting in a room filled with more comfortable, more attractive chairs, and you’re just going to sit in that same awful chair every single day? Come on!

And that, my friends, is what you’re doing every time you create a document using Times New Roman. You are selecting the squished, uncomfortable chair of fonts. The stingy, mean-spirited, jerk of typefaces. The ruthless—

Okay. Breathe, Lorin. Breeaaaaathe.

I may be getting carried away. It’s just that it’s an awful font, and if we’re not vigilant, if we don’t pick up arms NOW and fight for greater aesthetics and readability, then we’ll be stuck using this miscreant font for the rest of our days.

So, what’s wrong with it? Well, first and foremost, it’s an overly proportional font, which means it gives only as much space to each letter as each letter requires, rather than giving some of the slimmer fonts a little room to breathe. I mean, why punish poor “l” because it doesn’t need the same space as its more voluptuous compatriots?

Secondly, it’s just a little bit smaller (height wise) at standard twelve points than other twelve point fonts. Which makes it harder on the eyes. Which creates at least a subliminal crankiness (or a fully LIMINAL one, in my case) on the part of agents, editors, and readers.

A standard manuscript page should have somewhere in the neighborhood of about 250 words. A standard page typed in Times New Roman has about 6,853 words.

No really. Check it yourself.

And then join me, brothers and sisters of the word, in fighting the good fight. Select another twelve-point serif font to become YOUR standard. How about a nice Bookman? Or Georgia? New Century? Palatino?? Any of these are better, easier on the eyes, more readable. And just a click away!

So, kick off the shackles of font servitude and make a new selection! Go get yourself a new chair and toss that old, uncomfortable seat right into the office incinerator.

We’ll both be glad you did.



I'm seeing a trend for including less description in writing. For example, characters are breaking into a house. Instead of describing the house and the break-in, you start immediately with them getting to the safe. Unless they're somehow obstructed or confronted, you go immediately to the next action.

My personal preference is for description. But I'm seeing some people say "Get rid of it." Thoughts?

Thanks so much for the question!

In my mind, this has a great deal to do with two things: tension and intimate versus authorial point of view. And really, the two are closely enough aligned that I'll deal with them in package form.

The reason you might be noticing a trend is that it parallels a trend in publishing toward closer viewpoints that reflect, deeply, the psyches and experiences of our protagonists and other viewpoint characters.

Even a relatively static description can be made tense via the viewpoint character's feelings of ambiguity or apprehension in approaching the place. Description can and should reflect that character's state of mind, as well as reflect the viewpoint character's goals for the scene.

In other words, a static description with little emotional content and motivational drive comes across as flat. A description that lets us into the character' state of mind and keeps us in touch with what's at stake in the moment will tend to grip the reader.

So, if a character is viewing the house with a desire to figure out the best way to break in and get to the safe, that description will have more life and purpose. If a person is returning to or arriving at a place that has some emotional significance, that description will also be livelier. If there's some strange, discordant detail in the scene, something that creates uncertainty, that will also elevate the description.

Painting a picture with no emotional content, even if the words are exquisite, doesn't do much for many contemporary readers. We need description to do double or triple duty now, with one of its main objectives to be moving the story along and keeping us rooted in the viewpoint character's consciousness.

Hope that helps!

Send all your questions to: freexnewsletter@gmail.com 



This month Michalea Moore shares her sunporch writing space with us. 


Send a picture to freexnewsletter@gmail.com and we’ll feature it here!