Story Scene

If you’re struggling to get started or need that extra push to get through a tricky scene, this might be helpful.

You can read the full article at NowNovel.com

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Writing the Perfect Scene

We’ve all heard the classic writing advice, “Show, don’t tell.” But according to Dwight Swain, author of Techniques of the Selling Writer, “Most folks get ‘Show, don’t tell’ wrong because they take it literally rather than figuratively. It’s not about proof (showing sad characters cry) but about causality (revealing why characters cry). Don’t just show readers the effect of emotion, reveal the cause so they can feel it too.”

Swain further said, “Your reader reads first and foremost for emotional stimulation.”Image result for writing quotes by dwight swain

Writers invoke and shape emotions by creating scenes.

A workshop I attended recently by Damon Suede (author of  Verbalize, a new guide to characterization and story planning suitable for newbies and experts, pantsers and plotters) took a different angle to scene writing that I had never heard before. Here’s Damon’s take on writing scenes.

We’ll start by defining what a scene is: A scene is a unit of struggle between opposing forces. Scenes are clear, active steps which create problems and move the story toward its final outcome.

Every scene should lead the character to his or her objective. A character’s objective needs to be challenging enough to sustain your character throughout the story’s length, significant enough to attract character attention and to inspire escalating risks, and relatable enough that anyone can grasp the character’s need to pursue it.

A scene follows the pattern of:

  • GOAL: Specific object that drives action. The immediate gimme-gimme. Make it something you can photograph (e.g. grandkids or a bungalow in the Maldives), but avoid abstractions (e.g. happiness or peace).
  • CONFLICT: Obstacles opposing the goal. Friction between the POV character’s needs and the reality they face. This is not necessarily combat, but a force which must be tackled during the scene.
  • DISASTER: Failure to accomplish the goal. A defeat that ends the conflict. It raises the stakes and derails progress via threats, complication, or impediment. It should demand a decision.

Each scene reveals character tactics. The character makes an offer/demand which is either accepted or rejected, requiring a new offer/demand. For best results, establish time, place, point of view, and context as soon as possible. Identify stakes within the first half-page to engage readers. Keep building to hooks that make readers turn the page.

After each scene, comes the sequel. This is not a sequel as in the next book in a series. This is different. In this case, a sequel is the aftermath. It acts as a transition between two scenes. Sequels are internal and pinpoint character action. They allow adaptation/course correction after interactions to improve the odds of success.

A sequel follows the pattern of:

  • REACTION: Emotional effects of disaster. Use this to reveal character: fear/hope, virtues/failings. Make it believable.
  • DILEMMA: Situation with no good options. Review the options. Amplify difficulty by challenging habits.
  • DECISION: Choosing the best of (bad) options, which leads to new tactics. Demand sacrifice, and make sure this points directly at a new/next goal.

Sequels bridge scenes. Whatever decision the POV characters make initiates a new tactic for the subsequent scene. These tactical shifts allow POV characters to regroup.

The Overall Scene Structure by Better Novel Project

(Infographic courtesy of Helping Writers Become Authors)

Scenes drive the story forward through external action that impact characters (and readers) via tactics and objects. Sequels deepen the story through internal assimilation by characters (and readers) via actions and objectives. You must have both to wring as much satisfying emotion from the reader as possible.

-Taken from Damon Suede’s workshop, Scene & Sequel: the rhythm of fiction

 

 

Keep It Simple

Keeping it simple, imagine that. I find it funny that when we teach writing in schools, we do everything but this. We give kids lists of alternative, flowery words and phrases to use, we provide them with other words for ‘said’, and teach them the proper use of adverbs. Yet in the real writing world, the world of editors and agents and publication companies, all of this is frowned upon.

This article sums up “keep it simple” quite nicely. Enjoy!

Writing your first novel-Things you should know

fewer-wordsWhenever you write, you should aim for maximum simplicity. You want tight writing with no redundancies, flowery language, or longer than necessary words. Shun pretentious writing. It exposes your inexperience.

I borrowed the following example from a class I am taking through Udemy. It does a great job of showing what I am trying to explain. If you haven’t checked Udemy out, I would highly recommend their classes. They are informative, interesting, and very easy to follow, and are a fraction of the cost of most sites I’ve visited. Now back to my blog and the example 🙂

The specific point I am trying to make is that the colors red and gray go well together.

The point I am trying to make is that the colors red and gray go well together.

My point is that the colors red and gray go well together.

The colors red and gray…

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Ideas to Help Write Better Characters

Great tips on character development and a bit of info on an upcoming writing contest.

Rachael Ritchey

In honor of the upcoming Adventure Writing Contest that starts the end of February (click here for more info) I want to help writers by offering info and websites that will hopefully help us all be better writers.

That’s the goal.

Today we’re going to look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (click here for more detailed information from simplypsychology.org). Maslow originally published this motivational theory back in 1943, then I believe it was updated in 1954. This is a psychological look at what motivates humans from our most basic needs up.

But maybe you’re wondering what this has to do with writing fiction? A lot actually, and it could go a long way to helping write better, more believable characters whose behaviors are directly related to their motivations and deepest needs.

Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs By User: Factoryjoe (Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs.svg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The chart…

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Stop Procrastinating and Get that Story Finished

The first week of 2018 started off with a bang (literally and figuratively speaking). I finally finished my latest project, which is now in publication stage. Launching a new book is always exciting, and when you finally see it in print, nothing compares to holding a physical copy of your book in your hands. That feeling never subsides, no matter how many books you write.

But before you can celebrate the release of a new book, you have to finish writing it.

make-time

I read posts in writing forums all the time from writers who have difficulty finishing the book they’re writing. They have so many ideas and start a ton of projects, but have a hard time finishing any of them. It takes discipline and pushing your internal editor aside to get it done.

An informational meeting I attended recently focused on that exact topic. During this meeting, I jotted down a list of rules to follow that I think will help struggling writers finish their first draft. If this is you, I hope you will find this information useful.

  1. Ditch the negativity. You can’t go into writing with the attitude that you won’t finish or it’s too hard or no one will like your work. Ignore your inner demons and write.
  2. Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft. Start by getting your ideas on paper. Anne Lamott said, “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.” Your first draft is supposed to be messy. Just get it written. first-draft
  3. Send your internal editor on vacation. I know it’s tempting to edit your work as you go. Believe me, I do it too. But if your goal is finish the manuscript, stop worrying about it being perfect and get the words on paper. You can leave a sticky note or a quick sentence to remind yourself where you left off, but NO EDITING ALLOWED! Go back and fine tune it later.
  4. Lock yourself in your room and put a do not disturb sign on the door. I don’t mean this literally. I simply mean to tell your family and friends that you love them then give yourself that alone time to write without distractions. Get off social media and turn off the TV. Absorb yourself in your ideas.
  5. Pre-plan. Have your story map, outline, character sketches, etc…ready before you start.
  6. Believe in the magic. Go in with the idea that your plan will work. Stick to the rules and stay positive (see rule number 1).
  7. Recruit a cheering squad. Set up a support system and make yourself accountable to other people. Only choose people who will motivate you.
  8. Create a great writing space. Clear the clutter, get comfortable, and have everything you need accessible.
  9. Feed your brain. Eat protein and high energy food. Stock up on those protein bars and have them handy.
  10. Take a break. Stop and stretch every 45 minutes. Get the blood pumping. Take a quick bathroom break, walk a few laps around the room, or stretch for a minute or two. Then go right back to writing.
  11. Set yourself up for success. Every time you push yourself, you create new neurological pathways in your brain. When you constantly stay in your story, you will get better and faster, and your story will become tighter. Set daily writing goals and stick to them, then reward yourself.
  12. It’s ok to get stuck. If you do get stuck, move away from the computer for a minute (see rule number 10). Concentrate on a scene with a particular character. Write a placeholder and move on to the next scene or chapter. Leave headers for each chapter then add details. Make notes of what you’d like to see happen. Time yourself – give yourself 20 minutes of hands on the keyboard. You’ll soon find yourself writing for much longer than that. Refer back to your map, outline, or other pre-writing notes. If all else fails, ask a friend to help brainstorm.
  13. Celebrate success. Yay! You did it! Now crack open that bottle of wine and celebrate. You worked hard, and you deserve it.

Now that your draft is finished, walk away from the keyboard for a few days before you go in to clean up the mess. Cleaning up the mess is an entirely different blog post.

You can do this! Just keep writing.

5 Ways to Find “The Zone” When Writing.

Here’s a great article on how to get in the writing zone.

The Nerdy Lion

Do you know that feeling when everything clicks? When the words flow like endless pools of serene water? When you stop thinking about writing and just…write?
It feels good, doesn’t it? And lord knows when you read it back you think, “Damn, I’m good, like I’m really good. Jesus, this is the best thing I have ever read.” Then you stop for a second and wrinkle your brow. “Wait, did I write this?”

I know what you’re thinking, “Is there a magical pill for this?” A drug you would kindly pay for? Probably, but I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to mention drugs online so I can’t back anything publicly.

Do not fret my fellow Lions and Lionettes, for I have discovered the secrets to unlimited access to, “the zone!” Or not, maybe I’m just a crazy lion waiting for Mufasa to come back……NYLAAHH!

Disclaimer: There may or may not be…

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Writing a Stellar Book Blurb

write a poetry book blurb

I don’t know about you, but writing the novel is the easy part, compared to writing the book blurb. How do you take a 100+ page novel and condense it to fit on the back cover of a book? And how do you make it intriguing enough to get people to want to read it? Writing a book blurb has always been challenging for me, but I recently took several classes on this topic and learned a few things that you might find helpful.

The blurb on the back of your book is all about the journey.  Who is your protagonist? What is his or her goal? What problems are they up against? Readers want to discover this journey on their own.  Give them a glimpse inside your book that draws them into the character’s world.

There are three main elements to a good book blurb.

  1. The setup. This is the underlying theme of the book, the problem. For example, “She was kidnapped not once, but twice, and now someone wants her dead.”
  2. The capture. This is the backstory, the kickstart, the conflict. The capture tells the reader about the hurdles the character has to get over to meet their goal.
  3. The intrigue. Leave the reader with a question. Will the character succeed or fail?

When writing a book blurb, always remember to include the name of the protagonist, Image result for book blurbwhat the protagonist wants, and how the protagonist got in this situation. What is the connection between the protagonist and the antagonist? What are the main events that kickstart the story? What is the first main event that stops the protagonist from moving forward? Also, make sure the tone of the blurb matches the tone of the book. If the book is dark, emotional, mysterious, then the blurb needs to be too.

Be careful though, because a book blurb is not a synopsis or a summary of your book. Blurbs should be around 200 words and should focus on the struggle. A blurb is not a detailed description. A book blurb is also not an endorsement. Testimonials should not be included in your blurb. If you want to include them before or after the blurb, that’s fine, but they should not be present in the blurb itself.

For more information on this topic, visit the following sites:

Writing Blurbs for Novels

How to Write Back Blurb for Your Book

How to Write an Effective Book Blurb

How to Write a Fiction Book Blurb

A Simple Outline for Writing a Killer Book Blurb

7 Tips For Writing a Book Blurb

How to Write a Great Book Blurb

What’s the Difference Between a Book Blurb and a Synopsis?

How to Write a Killer Book Blurb

Ten Question Cheat Sheet for Writing a Compelling Book Blurb

Examples of Book Blurbs