Archive for the 'CRAFT' Category

Flog a Pro: would you turn this bestselling author’s first page?

Trained by reading hundreds of submissions, editors and agents often make their read/not-read decision on the first page. In a customarily formatted book manuscript with chapters starting about 1/3 of the way down the page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type), there are 16 or 17 lines on the first page.

The challenge: does this narrative compel you to turn the page?

Please judge by storytelling quality, not by genre—some reject an opening page immediately because of genre, but that’s not a good [...]

Bafflegab

Flickr Creative Commons: RA.AZ

This delightful word was originally coined in the fifties to describe deliberately confusing bureaucratic jargon.  Since then, science fiction writers have co-opted the term for the scientific background you feed your readers to explain the ways in which your world differs from reality.  It’s the bafflegab that persuades your readers to suspend disbelief.

It’s most often used in science fiction, of course, but other genres use bafflegab as well.  Fantasy novels require a magic that behaves according [...]

C-c-considering Cadence: Understanding One Quality of Voice

The Oxford Dictionary defines cadence as “a modulation or inflection of the voice, a rhythmical effect in written text, a fall in pitch of the voice at the end of a phrase or sentence” or simply as “rhythm”. For purposes of discussion today, I have a brief illustration of how it can affect reader experience.

Consider the following lines:

I do not like green eggs and ham,
I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.

A classic by Dr. Seuss, yes? But take a simple stanza like [...]

The Six Archetypes Every Novel Needs

Archetypes are time-tested character types from which hundreds of your favorite characters are drawn. Harry Potter. Ishmael. General Woundwort. All of these are based on classic archetypes that I’m too lazy to look up but I’m pretty sure have origins that date back thousands of years. Here are the six character archetypes you need to put in your novel to create your own classic characters.

The Hero

The person your reader will follow around for a few hundred pages. His sword: sharp. [...]

How to Listen to a Famous Author Talk About Writing

Over the past year I’ve spoken at a number of writer’s conferences, where I’ve met a great many fabulous, dedicated and talented writers and listened to a lot of keynote speeches by best selling novelists. And while just about all of them were incredibly entertaining, riotously funny, and full of I must remember that one, my writer friends will love it! anecdotes, ultimately they all made my heart sink.

Why? Because I believe that instead of being helpful, those hilarious, inspiring [...]

Better than They Know Themselves

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

~ Henry David Thoreau (Walden)

____________

Most readers and writers agree: the most memorable part of a story is usually not the plot, but the characters. It follows that as writers, we need to know our characters very well. And if we do our jobs, by the end of the book the reader will know our characters very well, too.

But something I haven’t [...]

Cooking a Book

Wikimedia Commons

There’s this guy. He’s an adrenaline junkie. The woman’s a massage therapist. They meet and… and… and… well of course they fall in love. That’s a given. But it won’t last (or will it?). And then there’s something about traveling from Montana to Maine and jumping out of a million airplanes. His name’s Elias… no J.P., and hers is Ellie. No. Allison. And of course they both have secrets—his involves feeling responsible for someone’s death, maybe an ex-lover. [...]

More on Voice and Structure

I posted some time ago about the challenges of voice and structure in my (then) work in progress, a novel called Dreamer’s Pool, first instalment of the Blackthorn & Grim series,  which is a historical fantasy/mystery series for adult readers. At that point I was wrestling with the self-imposed limitations of the format – three contrasting first person narrators alternating chapters. I love writing in first person, but I wondered at that point whether my control freak approach was forcing [...]

The Reader’s Emotional Journey

Flickr Creative Commons: Chiot’s Run

When I was little I hated tomatoes.  Not tomato sauce, mind you.  When my mother made spaghetti I’d eat three helpings.  After dinner I’d lie on the couch, clutch my belly and groan.  But actual tomatoes, sliced on a sandwich?  Bleech!  Go figure.  I was a kid.

This tomato aversion persisted into adulthood.  Then one day I was visiting a client and his wife at their home in the Catskill Mountains.  They’d bought garden tomatoes, still [...]

How to Keep Writing? Break It Down.

photo by Jeff Golden

Please welcome multi-published author-extraordinaire Claire Cook today to Writer Unboxed! Claire wrote her first novel in her minivan when she was 45. At 50, she walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. She is now the USA Today bestselling author of twelve books and a sought after reinvention speaker. Her latest book, called Never Too Late, is a writer’s helpmate and resource tool, and an writer’s [...]

The Tyranny of Motive

Desperation by Josh Sommers

The legendary coach Vince Lombardi used to greet his players at training camp by saying: “Within every man there is a burning flame of desperation. That is why you are here.”

I would include women in that, of course, and wouldn’t restrict the application to football. Or sports. Or Wisconsin.

This flame of desperation arises from some nameless place inside us, creating a profound sense of yearning that we often cannot define, but it is as intrinsic to [...]

Imagining Beyond One’s Own Experience, or What the Fiction Writer Calls “Going to Work”

It’s not often that one hears a statement that is both undeniably true and contradictory to the nature of everything we do. But at a reception this past spring, I heard such a statement.

A small group of us were discussing the life of the author in whose honor the reception was being held. This author, who had written both a memoir and a novel, had been separated from his family at the age of twelve and forced to become a [...]