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Showing posts from August, 2007

Dressing at conferences

Angie Breidenbach over at F.A.I.T.H. blog posted a great article on dressing professionally at conferences. She's talking specifically about the ACFW conference coming up in September, but her advice is great for any writing conference with the exception of the more casual ones like Mount Hermon and Oregon Christian Writers Conference, which are on campgrounds in the woods. Many other conferences, like ACFW and RWA, are set in hotels, and Angie's article is exactly the advice you need for how to dress.

ACFW Conference Wear

Scene transitions – switching POVs

Switch character point of views at scene changes, not within a scene.

While it’s not technically wrong to do one POV switch in a scene, it is very jarring to the modern-day reader. Readers ten years ago probably wouldn’t care as much, but the trend these days in publishing is one POV per scene.

As a reader yourself, notice if there’s a POV change in the middle of a scene. Does it jar you, even just a little? You absolutely don’t want to pull the reader out of the story world even a little.

Eat and leave. That’s all she had to do.

If Grandma didn’t kill her first for being late.

Lex Sakai raced through the open doorway to the Chinese restaurant and was immediately immersed in conversation, babies’ wails, clashing perfumes, and stale sesame oil. She tripped over the threshold and almost turned her ankle. Stupid pumps. Man, she hated wearing heels.

Her cousin Chester sat behind a small table next to the open doorway.

“Hey Chester.”

“Oooh, you’re late.” As usual, but Chester wasn’t about to actua…

Scene transitions – follow Scene with Sequel

I’m a big proponent of Dwight Swain’s Scene and Sequel concept because I’m a psychology major, and I’ve read a few books that explained why Scene and Sequel works so well psychologically in readers. It all makes sense to me that our brains are geared a certain way, and Scene and Sequel resonate with most people psychologically, which is why they’re so effective.

However, when you transition to a Sequel, make sure you keep up some type of conflict or tension in the scene. This is something Swain doesn’t mention, but Donald Maass recommends constant tension and conflict in order to keep the reader reading, and that applies to the more reflective Sequels in your novel.

The conflict or tension doesn’t have to be something major, but just something minor as a thread throughout the scene. It can even help form that rise at the end of the Sequel.

For example, in chapter three of Sushi for One, Lex has a Scene where she finally is able to ask this guy out on a date. In the following Sequel in ch…

Scene transitions – ending hooks

End each scene/chapter with a hook sentence or paragraph, just like your opening. This is sometimes referred to as a “rise.”

If you are using good scene structure (which you should be doing like a good writer), you’ll be following Dwight Swain’s Scene and Sequel pattern, which naturally gives you a rise at the end of every scene or sequel.

This keeps the reader reading, because it presents something surprising or curious at the end of the scene, and they want to find out what happens next! “Just a few more pages …” Aaaah, music to a writer’s ears.

”It’s gonna be okay, Mom.”

She wrapped her arms around her son. As far as she was concerned, things couldn’t get much worse.

Then a beam of light sliced through the darkness as someone pushed the front door open.

Nowhere to Hide by Debby Giusti


Back out on the porch, she lifted the shotgun and said, “Come any closer and I’ll shoot you.”

Buried Secrets by Margaret Daley


I glanced out the [plane] window a final time. Saginaw, Michigan—and Mom, Pop, an…

Scene transitions - opening hooks

Start each scene/chapter with a hook sentence. You can also have a hook paragraph if the paragraph isn’t too long.

This is not just for the opening sentence of a book—use this technique for the opening of every scene.

Something mysterious, curious, dangerous, ominous. Grab the reader’s attention from the get-go.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“Saints above, girl. What are you doing here?” the shackled man hissed. A Bride Most Begrudging by Deeanne Gist

It was not the rock—it was never the rock; it was the air. In High Places by Tom Morrisey

A dead man spoke to her from the shadows. The Dead Whisper On by T.L. Hines

It was raining the night he found me. Demon: a Memoir by Tosca Lee

“Move and you’re dead.” Buried Secrets by Margaret Daley

Rule for Women Ministers No. 1: Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain on church premises—especially on the Monday morning after Easter. Earth to…

Character description – emotional reaction

Instead of just describing a person, you might want to think about integrating the description with the point of view character’s emotions in reaction.

For example, rather than:

The tall blonde walked into the room, a scarlet dress swirling around her long legs. A man near the bar turned to look at her. Charlene sat at her table and stared at the strange woman.

You can instead write:

Charlene started and sat up at her table as the tall woman swept into the room. The stranger tossed her blonde hair in a flirtatious gesture, calculated to make the men at the bar look at her. Hussy. She’d probably chosen that red dress because the side had a slit up to her hip, revealing more leg than was decent.

Or

Charlene looked up as the tall woman swept into the room. She had gorgeous blonde hair—Charlene would have killed for that long and heavy mass down her back. Her scarlet dress swirled around her body, giving tantalizing glimpses at long, slim legs that Charlene could never have no matter how many h…

FYI

Hey guys,
I lost power here on Friday night and I'm posting this from the library. We're not getting power back until Tuesday, and I'm traveling on Wednesday, so I'll resume my Story Sensei posts on Friday.
Camy

I've written a novel and I have no clue what to do next!

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Congratulations! Typing “The End” is one of the best achievements of a writer’s career!

No first draft is perfect (except God’s first draft), so now’s the time for the revision process.

If you haven’t yet read my first article, “I want to write a book and I have no clue what to do,” go back and skim through the resources listed there. There might be a few books, articles, or resources you haven’t seen yet, and they might be useful to you for tightening structure or deepening characterization.

The following resources are for the revision and submission process.

Do a little large-scale revision.

Often, even the best manuscript needs some larger scale revision—shifting scenes, changing character goals, rewriting the climax. The one thing I notice the most in manuscripts that I do for freelance editing is a need for more conflict in the story.

Most people avoid conflict in real life, but in fiction, conflict is what keeps a reader reading. The best books I read for figuring out ways to ad…

I want to write a novel and I have no clue what to do!

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Congratulations! You’ve decided to take that wonderful, scary step and write that novel burning inside you.

Writing is an art, just like music. A musician wouldn’t expect to sit down at a piano or take up a violin and immediately crank out a perfect rendition of Mozart. Good music requires learning and practice. Good writing is the same way, requiring learning and practice.

Thanks to the internet, free and inexpensive resources are readily available to anyone who wants to write their first novel. This article lists some tips, books, articles, and websites that I found most useful when I started writing.

Join a writing community.

The best money I spent was in joining an online writing organization. Writing groups have informative discussion loops, workshop archives, and sometimes critique groups. Often, published authors are on the email loop to give advice that you can’t read in a book.

I joined American Christian Fiction Writers, which is a large organization that has a lively writin…