Monday, March 18, 2013

Basic building blocks of a successful story:

Open your story by making something happen fast, and then keep something happening throughout. 
Action—the guiding force of any story—is not only physical movement of some kind, it is often change and development in your character’s thoughts or emotions.
Give your reader something interesting and difficult to think about immediately—on the first page if possible. Introduce him or her to a character involved in sustained action and you will pique and keep his or her interest as your story unfolds.

You must quickly introduce and develop characters your readers can care about:
Your reader seeks sympathetic and or interesting characters—characters that will serve as a doorway to your story. These characters will become your reader’s guide and serve as his or her window into your story as events develop.

Keep your main character or characters in some sort of peril throughout your story:
Your job, whether a writer of fiction or non-fiction, is to bring your characters and your readers from a state of complete ignorance to a state of full understanding of all aspects of your story.
A writer makes a contract with a reader to guide his or her characters to a resolution of the conflicts put in their way. This must be done in a manner your reader will accept as reasonable.
Imagine as you write that your reader is looking over your shoulder. Imagine that you, the writer, and your reader are active partners in creating your story.

Show your characters in action:
Introduce your characters by showing them under appropriate stress. For example, through action or dialogue, reveal the good guy and the bad guy (or girl). Your reader wants to know whose side to be on, and wants to know it right away.

Show your reader what is at stake in your story:
All readers, and especially your editor or agent, want to understand the central conflict of your story even before they start reading. Place this one or two sentence summation of what is at stake in your story as early as possible.
Study the blurbs on the back and inside flaps of book jackets. They are carefully constructed to assure an interested reader understands what the hero or heroine may gain or lose at the end of the story.

“A grand tale of intrigue, deception, true love and exile.” This is the Denver Post blurb on Wilbur Smith’s novel Monsoon.

Every scene—everything in your story must reinforce the reader’s understanding of your story’s central conflict. Every scene—every small conflict and its resolution, must be a step in resolving the central conflict.
Not only must every scene you write move your story toward resolution of the central conflict, every big important scene must include your main characters.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Your editor or agent probably has a list of problems to watch for as they read your work----

One, two or even five of the listed problems or errors may not make him or her reject your manuscript if it is otherwise readable because each professional reader, editor or agent is seeking an interesting, well-written, salable manuscript. Each professional reader has in his or her head a certain number of errors and omissions considered a personal limit. The number varies, but if this personal “stop” is reached, it will cause rejection of your manuscript.

As you work through your fourth, fifth or sixth revision—imagine your agent or editor sitting at a desk with this checklist and a pencil, reading your pages. You can stay under that reader’s particular error limit, whatever it may be, by eliminating as many of the problems addressed in this book as possible during the writing process. When you finish writing you can double-check to eliminate more during each revision.

Most writers find that when they revise their work the third or fourth time, they are so sick of looking at it they begin to skip—to hurry through. When that happens, put your work away for a week if possible before attempting to work on it again. It also helps to edit by reading each paragraph starting at the end of the work.

Another way to revise is to change the form of your work—make the words look different on the page. If you are revising on screen, single-space or print each chapter out. If you are working with a printed version, triple-space or single-space for the next print for revision.

Keep Writing

From Writer to Author

Friday, March 8, 2013

From Writer to Author by Anne Haw Holt

I published From Writer to Author on Kindle the last week of February. This is my first try with an e-book and I was astonished at how easy it is. I plan to publish this book in paper through Amazon in June. My fiction was published by Avalon in hardcover. Amazon purchased all five of my books in 2012 and is gradually publishing them in paper and on Kindle. 

From Writer to Author is an expanded version of the handout titled "Clean Up Your Writing" I give people who attend classes I call "Prepare Your book for Publication."  I do these classes in libraries and for small writing groups where I can give writers some individual attention. From Writer to Author is a handbook--something  to refer to regularly as a writer trains to prepare a clean manuscript. 

I don't know everything about writing or editing. I learn something new constantly, but my work gets better. Sometimes I think it could improve a little faster, but it does improve. Writers have to work at polishing their work until it becomes automatic to produce a clean manuscript.

Editing is the worst thing about the new "publishing revolution" not only do individuals publish books without  editing but even mainline publishers have cut their editing staff to the bone. We used to get some real support from our publisher, but that seems to be gone. 

Getting every error out of sixty thousand to more than one hundred thousand words is not easy, but we writers are going to have to learn to do it ourselves unless we have money to hire a professional editor. Most of us do not have $2.00 or more per page to hire someone to polish our work. It falls to us to learn how to do it. 

Anne Haw Holt
From Writer To Author