Today (yesterday to readers of this post), I was noodling around looking for ideas for this blog post. I stumbled on a blog post from two years ago based on a series from one of my favorite blogs: Writers Write. Back in 2016, they were running a series called Write Your Novel in a Year (Anthony Ehlers is the blogger of this series, the link is for the 1st post – this is the last). He had a new post every week and at this time in 2015, they were up to week 14. Continue reading
My critique partner, Jenn Windrow, now teaches a class called “How to Be a Hooker,” which shows writers how to write an exciting hook for your book…basically the first 50-150 words. Catch your reader in those first few words, and they will hopefully keep reading. The idea is to lead with a hook. Something that gets the reader thinking, asks a question, or presents a challenge that the reader wants to figure out.
Back in the fall, I entered a contest for the first 50 words put on by the Ruby Slipper Sisterhood and Jenn helped me polish my entry. Below is our text conversation where I gave her intros and she gave me feedback, and I think it’s very insightful. At the end of this post, you can read the final version. Continue reading
I’ve got to say, I just love a cold start on a fresh story. It’s almost a miracle the way ideas bump together and a structure starts to build up where before there was just random litter. I feel like a caveman, bumping rocks together and watching pretty sparks come out . . . and light my campfire.
I found the video clip we’ve been showing this week of Diana Gabaldon’s process to be very natural. The thing that amazes me is that she relies on only one external input – that crystal goblet from a Sotheby’s catalog. For me, I like to have at least two things bump together.
Those things can be words (like in Elizabeth’s writing sprints on Fridays) or images (all praise to Google Image search). My own experiences are like the logs on the fire – the sparks I get (if I’m lucky) fall on some dry memory ready to burst into flames and story.
For example, my Bunny Blavatsky stories started out when I was googling women photographers. Google led me to Bunny Yeager (image from The Atlantic.com). What an exciting name for a character! Full of cuteness and jet planes and all sorts of resonances. But Continue reading
There’s a dramatic setting, mortal jeopardy, the stakes are nosebleed high and there’s no obvious way out. All the major players are present—heroine; hero; scary otherworldly nemesis; powerful scheming old crone and her grandson, the heroine’s jealous, spoiled half-brother.
I’m trying to do the scenes justice, but I’m feeling a little out of my depth. I know what happens, and why. Stuff happens. Tension escalates. Somebody gets hurt. Somebody dies. The death is right for the story and I’m sure I want to make that choice, but I’ve never killed off a character before. This is a new challenge for me and I want to master it.
A story has to go through a lot of revisions before it’s the story you want. Way back when I didn’t keep accurate records about such things, I started a novel about a paranormal plumber, and the first two paragraphs went like this:
Mrs. Copra had sounded very worried when she called about her stopped up toilet, and Jennifer knew, as soon as she stepped into the noxious miasma in the foyer, that it was going to be a tough job. She checked her toolbelt, flipped the switch to warm up the cryo-zapper on her back, and felt in her bandolier to make sure the tranquilizer darts were ready and waiting. She could feel the tension, like stage-fright, building up, so she glanced back out the door at the truck to read her slogan. “We don’t save the world, but we make it a happier place.” She looked over at her partner, Tilly, and nodded. “Let’s go make some happy!”
Tilly’s tense face suddenly relaxed into a zen-like calm. “Aaarrrgh,” she growled like a pirate. “Let’s go happy that motherfucker.”
This gave me, the writer, a lot of information about the story that was supposed to come. My heroine was going to be a kick-ass plumber who knew her business and was a total Ghostbuster type. She was going to have a female buddy, and this was going to be a lot of action and some fun. But I didn’t really know what the conflict was going to be, and the first sentence was awful. Still, as beginnings go, it was promising and fun, so I went on to write my first NaNo about my paranormal plumber.
In 2010, Jennifer became Perz, and Tilly became Perz’s sister, Demi, and the new beginning looked something like this: Continue reading
The opening lines, paragraphs, and chapters of a story have a lot of work to do. They need to set the tone; introduce the characters and setting; set-up the conflict; and catch (and keep) the reader’s attention. Ideally, the opening of a story should be an irresistible invitation to the reader; one that hooks them and then keeps them turning the pages all the way to the final conflict resolution and happily-ever-after.
In Kay’s recent Would You Buy This Book post she talked about a blog that has a regular feature where the opening page of a best-selling novel is posted and readers are asked to vote on whether it would catch their interest enough to keep them reading or not. While I’m not likely to make a reading decision based on a single opening page, it is an interesting exercise and underscores how important it is to get a story off to a strong start. In the McDaniel program we spent quite a bit of time working on the opening lines to our stories, trying to find just the right words to hook a reader – not a task for the faint at heart.
The opening of a story is important but, Continue reading
I’ve been doing revisions on my WIP, and it’s been going pretty well. I’ve been pleased with my changes, and pleased that I can detect at least some of the book’s flaws and fix them. Almost done! She said, for about the fifteenth time in the last two months.
Fresh from a chapter revise and thinking about a couple of workshops I went to at RWA nationals, I was casting about for a topic for today when I stumbled across this post on Writer Unboxed. I thought it was huge fun.
The poster, Ray Rhamey, has a regular feature on this blog called “Flog a Pro,” in which he posts the opening page of a best-selling novel and asks you, the blog reader, if you’d pay to read the first chapter. He’s got the math all worked out: if the book costs $15 and there’s 50 chapters, then each chapter costs 30 cents. Would you pay 30 cents to read the chapter?