Saturday, October 30, 2010

How High Are the Stakes? Building Better Conflict and Dilemma into Your Book

Dilemma is the problem your book solves, whether it is how to plant a bonsai garden or who killed the victim in a murder mystery. Dilemma, also known as the dramatic arc, forms the path of your reader’s journey through your book. Without strong dilemma, there’s no story.

One of my students, Chris, was writing the story of her grandmother’s life, but she wasn’t happy

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Acceptance and Rejection--Balance in the Creative Life

One spring, I was wallowing in the discontent of rejection letters. I’d sent my first novel to agent after agent, publisher after publisher. No one wanted it. This new novel crossed genres—it was written from the point of view of a young woman but it was meant for adult readers.

I believed in the book and wanted to see it in the hands of potential readers. But my disappointment was so great that

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Finding Theme in Your Book: An Exercise in Searching for Repeating Patterns

After months of revising my novel-in-progress, I was still stumped as to its theme. My chapters hung together pretty well but the manuscript lacked that wonderful sense of wholeness that a theme-rich book delivers.

One evening I was reading a scene to my writers’ group. When I finished we talked about the characters, especially the main character, a search-and-rescue pilot. One of the writers, bless her, asked me that pivotal question that opens huge doors inside.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Feeling the Fear and Writing Anyway--Facing the Inner Critic

In each stage of writing your book, chances are you’ll meet a most unsavory part of yourself: the Inner Critic. It’s a negative self that delivers negative self-talk.  It casts its own particular light or shadow on your writing life, and it can stop you completely.

Many writers have different names for their critics. Sue Grafton, the mystery writer, calls hers ego. “Ego is the piece of me that’s going, How am I doing, champ?,” she says. “Is this good? Do you like this? Do you think the critics will like this?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Creating the Page-Turner: Tricks to Great Pacing in Your Books

For twelve years, I wrote a syndicated weekly newspaper column. I only had six hundred words each week, so I learned to wrap the column neatly. The ending was always tied up with a clever image, like a bright bow on a tidy package.

When I went back to college for my MFA in fiction and began my first novel, this search for closure no longer suited my writing.  Novels explore, they expand, they lead to deeper secrets and more adventurous events.  When one of my teachers noticed this tendency to neaten up my chapter endings, she decided to broaden my understanding of pacing.  How it differs in books--as opposed to short pieces