Friday, October 30, 2015

Omission--The Art and Craft of What to Delete

This week I removed a page from my novel's opening chapter. I'd worked on that page for two years, off and on, and workshopped that chapter maybe a dozen times. It was as good as I could make it. But I hadn't seen that there was material I didn't need, and I couldn't see that in even the eleventh draft, just because the shape was still evolving in my mind.
This week, I had a new perspective, thanks to some feedback from an agent. Opening chapters need to do two things, she said. Introduce the character and put them into some immediate action. I had the action, no problem. But I spent too long introducing the character. Now, what I've omitted, makes room for more tension in the storyline.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Building Your Writing Routine--What Will Keep You Going This Winter?

What's the difference between a writer who gets a book finished and a writer who never does?  A writing routine.  Believe it--there's nothing more important.  Not talent, not a great idea.  It's down to basics:  putting self in chair, putting hands on keyboard or taking up the pen.

I recently finished Elizabeth Gilbert's new book on creativity:  Big Magic.  Gilbert has produced well in her writing career.  She has had huge successes (Eat, Pray, Love) and lesser ones.  Gilbert's no stranger to the magic of the Muse, but she defines it differently. 

It's what happens when you are listening.  And when you have a writing routine.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Story Told from Then, Story Told from Now--Getting Clear about Your Narrative Point of View

Deciding who is telling your story--that's a big moment in writing a book.  But even more important is deciding where your narrator will be standing, as he or she tells the tale.  Is the narrator speaking in real time, as the story is happening?  Or from what's called the "retrospective" point of view, looking back from the distance of years?

Which narrative point of view will best serve your story?  Can you move back and forth between them?  And if so, how do you weave them together to make a cohesive book?

Friday, October 9, 2015

Saying No to Everything Else--How Much Can You Realistically Give to Your Book?

When we happily begin our books, we really don't know what kind of time they will take. Such naivete is a good plan, in a way. Ignorance of what we've signed up for keeps us enthusiastic for quite a while. We write, accumulate pages, stay high on the process.

Until we compare notes with another writer.

"I write every day," our new writing friend says. "My instructor/mentor/favorite famous writer days you have to, if you want to really finish your book."

We slink back to our writing desk, wondering what to do now. It doesn't help that our new friend (pick one): (a) is single, no kids; (b) doesn't have to work; (c) is retired and looking for stuff to do; or (d) works at home and can write anytime.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Why False Agreements Make Strong Chapters

The inner story of a book is the transformation of a person, the main character or narrator, through a series of outer events.  This is called a narrative arc.  Without this narrative arc, a book is just like reading a list of crises.  
Readers want to witness growth.  The narrative arc is the journey of growth. A clear narrative arc makes a book feel cohesive. 

But since narrative arcs are about change, the character's journey often starts with something they don't understand.  Something they are challenged by.  Another way to look at this:  it starts with a false agreement.