Pointers from the Pros: Agent and Author Donald Maass on Great Fiction (Pt. II)

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.

I spoke at the 30th annual Romance Writers of America conference in Orlando, Fla.  Although I couldn’t go to all the faboo sessions being offered, I took a ton of notes at the classes I was lucky enough to attend—and I’m sharing some of those tips with my lovely blog readers. (<—Thanks for being so fabulous, BTW!)

The first afternoon of the conference, I attended the PRO Retreat, which was stockpiled with talks by awesome agents, editors, and authors.  *ahem—Donald Maass much?*

Here is what else Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction author/agent extraordinare Donald Maass of Donald Maass Literary Agency (or, The Donald, as I like to call him) had to say about writing great fiction. Click here for part I.

The Donald.


  • The notion of microtension
    • Microtension: the line-by-line tension on the page, which causes apprehension on the part of the reader and makes them move forward
    • It’s that “What’s going to happen?” feeling you get when you’re reading—it’s not in the story, not in the scene, but “what’s in the next few seconds?”
    • If you understand the principles, the underlying conflicting emotions inside the central character, you can do anything on the page.
    • Highly emotional and emotionally gripping writing


  • Ask yourself these questions:
    • What in the world of my story makes me personally furious?  Why?
    • What is the greatest injustice that you know, and how on the page can you give that fury to your heroine?
    • What are two new probs your MC can face?  And what are two ways your character can NOT get it?
    • What are two things your MC wants?  What is the opposite?  Two times to reject it and then, when she gets what she wanted, REJECT it?
    • In what way is the antagonist right? In what ways is he most human in what ways?
    • What are things only your heroine notices what about your world?
    • What could she say that would be shocking to even herself?
  • Knowing the answers to these kinds of questions and implementing some of them will make your fiction great.

Click here for part I with The Donald.