My latest post on JMWW - about inciting incidents, pinch and major points, master scenes, and more! Get the low down on what these are, where they should show up in your book, and how to fix/plan/tweak if they're missing.
Down to the Bones
We can talk ad nauseum about elements of craft where fiction is concerned, and we will in other posts, I promise, but what's really important, is underlying structure, how a story/book is put together.
If you're not making the right connections at the right time, the piece will be just a wandering mess with some key moments that the reader knows should really mean something, but kind of don't.
Here are key points and scenes to determine in your story/book. You can figure these out now, when you've just started (best way!), halfway through (nice save!), or once your book is finished (all is not lost!). Once you've read through them I'll put you to work.
What sets events in motion and leads to the FIRST MAJOR PLOT POINT. This should happen fairly quickly. Ideally within the first 5-10 pages. Definitely Act One. (I'm a fan of IN MEDIAS RES—starting your story/book in the middle of the action that changes the status quo of your characters and their world. Starts everything with a bang and also gets the inciting incident out of the way.)
To read the full article:
Writing the Pitch: A Workshop for Aspiring Authors
(Register for my class at Johns Hopkins (Odyssey Program) if you're local)
Have a book of fiction completed or almost there? Ready to look for an agent? This is a workshop for writers with a completed work of fiction (or nonfiction) who are ready to find an agent. Participants will learn the five parts to a pitch, read and discuss examples from contemporary books, then begin writing their own, to be edited and refined over the course of our three sessions. Participants will have the opportunity to read drafts of their pitch as practice, receiving presentation tips from the instructor. We'll discuss and analyze the elements of a writer's "platform" (or bio), along with workshop presentations on how to structure your query letter, and about which conferences to attend to make your pitch to agents and editors and to receive valuable professional feedback.
919.297.01 Homewood $69.00 (3 Sessions) Tuesdays, Apr. 2-16, 2013, 7-8:30 p.m.
REGISTER: (scroll down to bottom of page): Writing the Pitch
I invite whoever is ready to be part of a 'JUST WRITE IT' program to sign up and finally do what you're always saying you want to do: write that book.
I will take on 3-5 people who want 1, 3, or 6 months of mentoring and editing from me to start, continue, or finish a manuscript. You will turn in a set number of pages every two weeks and I will read and edit them. We will also have two phone calls a month where I'll inspire and challenge you to move forward on your manuscript.
The right Real Writer will commit to meeting the two week deadline that he/she sets, as well as the page count, based on whether he/she chooses a 1, 3, or 6 month writing blitz. That's what it is. A blitz. Choose to deeply engage with your writing dream for whatever period you can commit to. Try one month and then add another! Or 3!
You'll receive both mentoring AND editing from me, which is twice the benefit, but you'll only pay for half of those services.
I hear all the time from writers that they need someone to push them. They need structure. They need someone to talk them through the details of their book. And they need someone who can edit the work so they can improve as they write.
And year after year (after year!) they don't write that book. It never has the life it should, and they miss out on the amazing, challenging, inspiring, high-inducing experience of navigating their story and meeting and interacting with their characters.
No waking up in the middle of the night with a scene in their head. Laughing to themselves in line at the grocery story when a line of dialogue shows up. Feeling the magic of a plot piece falling into place. Ideas come from everywhere. I swear, it starts to seem like the whole world is conspiring to help you write the book.
The only way to make this happen is to just do it. There's no other magic formula (sorry!). And I'd like to help writers during the process, as what I'll teach you along the way will improve your writing. You'll see it happening as you progress!
If you're SERIOUS about your writing, email me firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll figure out the best plan for you.
When I say serious, I mean it. Here's a little tough love for you: don't waste my time or yours if you're not. (But I hope you'll be ready someday, I don't want you to miss out on the experience.)
Fiction, nonfiction, or poetry - all are welcome.
Let's get it done, once and for all, shall we?
Nothing like shaking things up in the new year, right?
What grooves have you fallen into that no longer serve you? Ready to be more daring and see what happens?
When (not if!) something amazing happens - share a bit in the comments.
REGISTER NOW! Telesminar: WHAT EDITORS WANT:
Monday, December 17, 7:00 p.m. EST.
What you'll learn:
- the picky little things that mean so much and can transform your manuscript
- the 5 Acts and what should be in each one
- what should be in your first sentence, your first paragraph, and your first two pages.
$50 includes the recording and my critique of your first 2 pages.
Email me and save your space! email@example.com
(If you missed it, the recording and the critique will be available for purchase after the call.)
The Next Big Thing Blog Hop is a chance for authors around the world to tell you what they’re working on. The author answers 10 questions about their next book, and tags the person who first tagged them, plus at least 5 other authors.
Happily, I was tagged by Vonnie Winslow Crist who whose speculative fiction book, Owl Light comes out soon from Cold Moon Press. Check it out: http://vonniewinslowcrist.wordpress.com
Here are my answers to the questions:
What is the working title of your book?
ROSE AND JESSE (but also considering SPIRIT OF THE MAKER. Rose is a seamstress and Jesse is a Baptist minister/missionary, so the title works well for both).
Where did the idea come from for the book?
It is based on a true family story – my great grandmother took in a Baptist minister as a boarder when she was 83 and fell in love with him (he was 55). I’m told she was a rather emotionally repressed/cold woman and when it became apparent to the family, everyone was both surprised and horrified. Nothing actually happened between my great grandmother and the minister, but the family stepped in anyway. Her brothers told him what was going on and asked him to move out, which he did. My grandmother sold her house and rented an apartment near him, brought him meals, pies, took in his laundry. This non-relationship went on for another year until she had a stroke and had to be put into a nursing home. I was fascinated by her romantic awakening and wanted to explore their relationship, such as it was (imagining some new, risky, surprising events), her inner life, as well as the fact that age doesn’t prevent a woman from falling in love and feeling desire.
What genre does your book fall under?
Either literary or women’s fiction.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I always pick actors in my head at the start of a writing project – it helps with visualizing movements, expressions, hearing dialogue, imagining what they might be feeling. So I picture John Cusack and Helen Mirren. I can imagine some delicious, dangerous tension of all sorts between these two, as well as the needed conflict between their reserve and vulnerability.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
An 83 year old seamstress falls in love with her middle-aged Baptist minister boarder, experiencing an awakening that makes clear the life she’s never lived and the woman she wants to be before it’s too late.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am seeking representation.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
1 ½ years. Thank goodness for my critique group and its regular deadline. 15-20 pages every 3-4 weeks does (eventually) a novel make!
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Because Rose is a solitary person and has lived alone a long time and the details of daily life are her life, there are elements of EMILY, ALONE that resonate with ROSE AND JESSE. Beyond that, I haven’t come across a story of this kind anywhere. (Suggestions welcome!)
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
This book has been in the back of my mind for a long time, at least fifteen years. The story of my great grandmother and the minister would come up periodically at family get-togethers. My mother was just thirteen at the time and thought it ‘gross’. She didn’t have much information, which, in the end, was probably for the best. It allowed me a scaffolding on which to build the story I wanted to tell. I didn’t start the book for fifteen years because I just wasn’t ready to explore the story, emotionally, and in terms of the level of my writing skills. When I was ready for a new project, there it was. And it's been quite a ride ever since, different from anything I’ve written before.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I’m fairly certain that the age gap and the circumstances of the characters would be a big draw, but of course I wanted to push the boundaries. I wanted to stay true to the basic facts of the story, but I did want to create interactions, moments, and experiences that would stand in for actual stages of a relationship – flirting, courtship, marriage, sex, etc. – and that Rose would be able to read into enough to feel like that’s what they really were, to feed her imagination and feelings for Jesse. For example, Rose converts for Jesse, and he baptizes her in a river (actually happened), which stands in as a sort of wedding ceremony, binding her to him. It was challenging, and fun, and has made for some risk-taking with Rose that was both nerve-wracking and exciting to write. I wanted there to be a big payoff for the reader and there are several! The fact that she is an 83 year old woman and he is middle aged, works its own magic – both compelling you to read, but also making you uncomfortable, which is exactly the reaction I’m going for. Both are also sensible people, who have lived on the fringe of intimacy and close relationships, so their movement toward the center is a leap for both.
Links to the more of the next chain of bloggers/writers coming soon!
IMPROVE YOUR DIALOGUE
(most fun - #5!)
1) Pick a movie to watch that you've never seen before. With the sound off, write the dialogue for a scene just from what's happening on screen. Watch the scene again with sound on to see if you picked up what was really happening. If not. Go back and match up gestures, expressions, movement, etc. to see what you missed.
2) Just listen to a scene without watching it. Listen to what is said, the rhythm, volume, pauses, interruptions.
3) Whenever you can, listen in on people in cafes, at work, on the bus, train, when someone is on the phone - especially in the bathroom! Or just women talking between stalls - you hear the craziest things. (Sorry guys, this lets you out, unless you're sharing deep, dark stuff while standing at a urinal? Are you? Do tell!). Write down what is said (you're learning how people naturally talk).
4) Write some of your key scenes ONLY in dialogue. No action or description. Just back and forth dialogue. Have characters say what they want to say without actually saying it. Each character comes from the place of want - their goal, their motivation. That should inform the dialogue. Once you have the dialogue just right. Go back to add movement, facial expression, gestures, pauses, inner monologue (thoughts/doubts), etc. where they are natural and necessary. Not just to break up dialogue.
5) Eavesdrop on children and write down what they say. Kids are brilliant. They are funny, wise, direct, curious, and unbelievably imaginative. They will teach you how to take risks in your dialogue.
Make sure to tag where needed - 'she said', 'he said'!
Extra tip: Too much talking by one character - that goes on for long periods without interruption, or too much back and forth between characters without the 'she/he said' makes for disembodied dialogue that loses impact and loses your reader.
Dialogue should always further plot, develop a character or characters, or develop relationships or conflicts between characters. Don't waste time with 'Hi, how are you?' 'How was your day?' etc. Get straight to the good stuff. Readers have enough of the boring filler-speak in their daily lives.
Watch your diction - make sure it agrees in tone and level with the character and the book itself.