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Showing posts from August, 2009

When a Scene Isn't Working

This article that I wrote originally appeared on Suite101.

When a Scene Isn't Working

Tips For Overcoming Writer's Block

Here are three questions to ask when a particular scene seems stalled.

Whether you believe in "writer's block" or not, there are always times when a writer gets stuck on a particular scene. It can almost feel like hitting your head against a brick wall.

Many times, the writer's unconscious instinctively recognizes when there's something wrong with the scene. While not all scenes have the same problems, there are three questions a writer can ask himself that might help jump-start the writing flow.

What Is the Character's Scene Goal?

The character should walk into the scene hoping to accomplish something by the end of the scene. This is his Scene Goal. He may or may not achieve it—in fact, more often than not, he doesn't succeed—but he has this purpose in mind at the start.

Also, the character should pursue this goal for the major…

Avoid the Sagging Middle

This article that I wrote originally appeared on Suite101.

Avoid the Sagging Middle

Tips to Write a Dynamic Center Segment of a Novel

Here are a few principles to help a writer avoid a stagnant or slow-paced middle section of a novel.

The focus of the middle of the novel is to push your character to the climax. If writers can keep that point in mind, it will help them craft the events of the middle section to be more driven and purposeful. Here are a few principles to write by.

Strive For Constant Change

Obstacles force the character to adjust his plans toward his external goal.

Faced with each obstacle, the character has to decide what to do next. He makes adjustments, still with that external goal in sight.

Then, another obstacle. More adjustment, more decisions. More striving toward his external goal, but via a different path.

Then another obstacle.

This is the ideal pattern for the middle portion of the book. It provides constant change for the character, which also keeps the reade…

Beginnings To Avoid

This article I wrote originally appeared on Suite101.

Beginnings To Avoid

Three Things That Weaken a Story Opening

There are three aspects of a character's actions and decisions that can weaken the first chapters of an otherwise good story.

There are many ways to start a story, and no "right" or "wrong" way. However, there are a few principles to follow that can help strengthen a novel's beginning. Here are three character traits that a writer should avoid in the first chapters.

The Character Doesn't Decide to Fight.

The phrase, coined by Dwight Swain, means that the character doesn't make that Decision which starts the story.

If a character doesn't commit himself to his external goal:

1) the character seems passive, which makes him unsympathetic to the reader.

2) the beginning seems to drag, which might lose reader interest.

3) the reader has no reason commit to the story if the character isn't committed himself.

Starting With a Subplot Unr…

Q&A: Fictional settings

From Teri D. Smith:

How much liberty are we allowed in creating a new place in our settings? I have a 3rd book of a series set in a town in California. My opening scene takes place in a park, but I can't find a park in the town that's like the one in my head. Can I make one up entirely or can I use an existing park and "plant" some trees or a place for an outdoor concert?

Camy here: It's fiction. The sky's the limit! Create new places with impunity!

Now, since you're using a real town, don't call your fictional park the same name as a real park in the town. Make up a name so your readers—if they're familiar with the real California town the book is set in—won't get jarred out of the "fictional dream" of the novel to say, "Hey, that's not in XYZ park. This person didn't do her research!"

If your setting—whether a house, park, building, or entire city—is fictional, make it obvious to your readers that it's fictional.…

The Decision That Starts the Story

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This article that I wrote originally appeared on Suite101.

The Decision That Starts the Story

Knowing How and Where to Begin Your Novel

Start your story in such a way that the reader has to buy the book to keep reading.

The beginning of a book is where the writer hooks the reader and reels him in. The opening page makes the reader keep reading, and then the end of the chapter is what gets him to buy the book.

While that opening page is key, so is the end of that chapter.

Avoid Long, Dragging Beginnings

A long beginning will sometimes deter a reader browsing in the bookstore because the beginning may be indicative of the entire book. The reader wants to know what the book will be about, what it will be like, and they don't have hours in front of the bookshelf. They will want to know quickly.

Therefore, as a writer, start as you mean to go on.

Create the same climate in the beginning as you do for the entire book. Most importantly, don't make the beginning drag on for too long. K…

Promotion Routines for Writers

I'm over at Routines for Writers today talking about Promotion! And before you click away, I want to stress that it's never too early to think about promotion!

Hi there! My name is Camy Tang, and I'm thrilled to be guest blogging today!

Now, before you look at the title and think it doesn't apply to you, let me tell you—I firmly believe that it's never too early to start promotion, especially if you are a serious writer, seriously pursuing publication.

Your book contract might come next week or next year or in a few years, but if you already have your promotion and marketing set up, you're a leg ahead of all the other writers submitting to agents and editors. Yes, they look to see what you already have set up in terms of marketing!

Click here for the rest of the article

Q&A: Planning a series

From Sarah Forgrave:

- I've got a series idea that would follow a family with three daughters and a basic storyline for each. I'm a plotter and planner, so I'm wondering if you recommend planning out all three or four stories at once so they're intertwined? Do you have any other tips on how to approach a series?

Camy here: It depends on the storylines you're thinking of.

If you'd like each story to stand on its own (which most of my editors have wanted, but may not necessarily be true for your editors), then my suggestion is to spend time really developing each character so that you know their fears, desires, wounds, etc.

The characters' actual storylines for their novels might end up changing as you write each story, also, so this is a safe route to go--you have a good handle on the characters, but you're leaving yourself some wiggle room in terms of their stories.

If you're thinking that you'd like the stories to be strongly intertwined, then you …

More Tips for How to Present Backstory

This article originally appeared on Suite101.

Additional Tricks to Make a Character’s Past History Compelling

Here are some more subtle ways to present exposition without obviously telling the reader.

The previous article on backstory mentioned this:

The key to presenting backstory in a way that is interesting to a reader boils down to one piece of advice: Make the reader want to know the information.

Aside from the points in that article, there are also some other more subtle ways to accomplish this.

Connect Information to Action

This is a case of using both "showing" and "telling" in order to present backstory.

The writer can first "show," in action, a character's personality, trait, or proclivity. For example, show Joe's strange aversion to the barn in a few short paragraphs of action and dialogue.

This action will trigger an emotional reaction in the reader. Make the reader feel Joe's fear and dread as he stares into the dark barn doorway.

T…

Q&A: Market research

From Sarah Forgrave:

- Do you have any market research tips (i.e., What are some of the ways you check to see if your story has been done before or what books might be similar to your idea)?

Camy here: Great question! Before I do every proposal, I check to make sure my story hasn't been done before. Often, I check this even before I write the story.

First I make a list about my story:
(1) Genre
(2) Character careers
(3) Villain career/type
(4) Overall theme/plot premise
(5) Setting
(6) Targeted publisher/line

Then I go online to Amazon or Christianbook.com (since I write Christian fiction, Christianbook.com is a smaller, easier database to search) and search for books similar to mine.

I will usually start with the publisher or line I'm targeting and search within that parameter for all the other things. For example, for my Steeple Hill novel, I searched within all the Love Inspired Suspense books on Amazon for any novels recently published in my chosen setting, Sonoma, California.

Since n…

My Five Best Plotting Tips for Novelists

I guest blogged about plotting on the blog of my friend Pamela James:

My Five Best Plotting Tips for Novelists

Thanks to Pammer for letting me guest blog today!

Now, just to warn you, not all of these will resonate with you because every writer is different and works differently in how he/she crafts the story. For me, sometimes every story writes itself differently! Oy! But hopefully these tips will help you if you get stuck.

Click here for the rest of the article

"Is it easier to write suspense because of the built-in conflict of a villain?"

I was over at Life with Missy:

I’m so excited to be on Missy’s blog today! Missy asked me to answer the question, "Is it easier to write suspense because of the built-in conflict of a villain?"


Actually, the presence of a villain in romantic suspense makes it a bit harder to write. Suspense villains tend to have very strong motivations for the evil and mayhem they’re causing, but that also means I have to make sure that their every action and decision is logical and works toward their ultimate desire.

Click here for the rest of the article

Crossing Over

I'm over at Seekerville today talking about crossover!

A few people have asked me about when I first switched genres. I learned a few things along the way, and there's also something very important I realized—whether you're a Christian fiction writer who wants to cross over to mainstream or a contemporary romance writer wanting to cross over into romantic suspense, there are a few things a writer should do to give you a better chance of success.

Click here for the rest of the post and to chime in to the conversation!