Showing posts from 2009

A good post for those who write humorous fiction

I love the Edittorrent blog, and Alicia Rasley posted this one that I thought was a really good post for those of us who incorporate humor in our fiction: I was reading Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich, and I realized that one reason she's so popular with her readers is that she knows what's fun and spins it out to an enjoyable length. She doesn't just allude to it-- she exploits it. Click here to read the rest of the post

Conflict In Every Line

I'm at Seekerville talking about adding conflict in every line . Camy here! I wanted to talk about conflict today, because we all could use more conflict in our lives, right? Especially now that it’s December and Christmas is around the corner? (Breathe ... breathe ... I’m just kidding! I mean, I’m kidding about us needing more conflict in our lives, not about Christmas being around the corner. And if you’ve still got your head stuck in the sand of denial about Christmas—you have only nine days left, sugar. Get cracking.) Anyway, one of the best things I picked up from a Donald Maass seminar was his injunction to add tension to every sentence on the page. Chime in and add your own before and after writing!

Troubleshooting a Weak Climax

This article that I wrote originally appeared on Suite101. Troubleshooting a Weak Climax Ideas For Fixing a Disatisfying End to the Story If the climax of a novel seems off, here are a few common weaknesses that can be fixed. Sometimes a writer’s critique partners or first readers will comment that they didn’t like the ending of a story, or that the novel didn’t resolve well. While critique is always good, a vague “I didn’t like the ending” isn’t helpful for fixing it. However, there are a few mistakes often made but easily fixed to create a stronger climax. The Character Isn’t Boxed In Make sure you have taken away all other options for the character. If the character reaches the climax but still has several ways out, or a reason to not keep fighting toward the climax, it makes the character look silly or stupid. Work on your character motivations and increase conflict so that the character is forced into the bottleneck of the climax. A good way to box the character in i

Creating an Emotionally Resonant Climax

This article that I wrote originally appeared on Suite101 Creating an Emotionally Resonant Climax How to Bring a Story to an End There are four steps that can heighten tension and reader interest in the climax of a story. The Beginning of the End is often used to refer to the climax of the story, or roughly the last 25% of the novel (in terms of word count or page count). After building the tension and conflict of the middle of your novel, now you want a strong ending that will grip the reader, then provide resolution and release of tension. Give the Character a Certain Personal Principle It heightens the emotional effect of the climax to bring the character’s principle into the mix. Tying principle with external situations gives life meaning for the character, which can help heighten emotional and psychological resonance between the reader and the character. This is one way a writer can manipulate the reader’s feelings through fiction. Have the Character Keep His Princip

Excerpt - A NOVEL IDEA by ChiLibris

Camy here: I'm especially pleased to post this excerpt because I'm in this book, too! I have a piece on finding and developing your writer's voice, that elusive "something" in your writing that makes the piece uniquely yours. I hope you guys enjoy this excerpt enough that you'll buy the book! All proceeds from this book go to charity. A Novel Idea Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (November 1, 2009) by Various Best-Selling Authors (contributions from best-selling authors including Jerry B. Jenkins, Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Randy Alcorn, Terri Blackstock, Robin Jones Gunn, Angela Hunt and more) ABOUT THE BOOK: Best-selling Christian fiction writers have teamed together to contribute articles on the craft of writing. A Novel Idea contains tips on brainstorming ideas and crafting and marketing a novel. It explains what makes a Christian novel “Christian” and offers tips on how to approach tough topics. Contributors include Jerry B. Jenkins, Karen Kingsbur

Heighten the Climax By Resolving Subplots

This article that I wrote originally appeared on Suite101 Heighten the Climax By Resolving Subplots Tie Up Threads Before the Last Section of the Novel Simplifying the plot by tying up subplot threads can make the climax more emotionally heightened. Subplots are wonderful things. They can help the reader better understand the characters by showing them in various situations and how they react. Subplots can also complicate a plot and help it take its meandering way to the climax. But there is also one trick many novelists use to make the climax of the novel more emotionally intense, and that is to tie up subplot threads beforehand. Complicate, Then Simplify Take advantage of subplots that enhance and complicate the plot. It makes for more interesting reading and your reader won’t be able to put the book down. However, as you build toward the climax of the book, strip away the subplots so that only the climax problem remains or any minor subplot threads that directly rela

Eliminate Repetitive Scenes

This article I wrote originally appeared on Suite101. Eliminate Repetive Scenes Rehashing Information May Cause a Sagging Middle in Your Novel Utilize a scene index to look at your novel’s story structure and identify possible repetitious scenes to beef up the pacing. Many times, writers will be able to see that their middle “sags,” or the pacing slows in the middle portion of the novel. There are several ways to avoid the sagging middle , but often the problem can be some repetition of information. Identifying it, however, can be difficult when faced with searching a 100,000 word manuscript. Utilize a Scene Index For each scene, skim the scene and jot down key elements: Pertinent information to the plot that is revealed Key character emotions that are uncovered or hinted at Changes to the character that results in different decisions New developments or plot twists New characters introduced Character backstory that is confessed or discovered Many times, writing

Writing Interesting Valleys in Between Peaks

This article that I wrote originally appeared on Suite101. Writing Interesting Valleys in Between Peaks Keep the Reader Intrigued Even If Conflict Has Ebbed In lulls in the novel, narrow the scene’s focus or change things up to keep the reading pace strong. Stories are a series of peaks and valleys, high tension scenes and low tension scenes, also known as Scenes and Sequels . You must have those lulls in order to give the reader a chance to catch his breath, and also to set up the next scene. However, while you must have these low tension scenes, make sure they don’t put your reader to sleep. Use Words and Phrases to Pace the Sequel In general, higher tension scenes have shorter sentences and a choppier reading flow to encourage a faster reading pace, so for lower tension scenes, use longer sentences and more flowing grammatical structure. Obviously, don’t go to extremes. Use your own better judgment in this. However, this can be a valuable tool to clearly indicate to

The first page, part 11 - Query letters and critique partners

This is the last post of my series on things to look for in your first page. Click here for part ten. Use that first page with a query letter Now, many people advise not to put anything into an envelope with a query letter except for the query letter. This is good, safe, and proper. But if you are a trifle daring, why not include your first page? After all, if you’ve spent all this time working on it and revising it and making every word count. It ought to be so fantastic that an editor skimming that page will shout, “I must read the rest of this novel!” If you plan to include the first page with your query letter, that should also spur you to put more time and effort into that first page to make it worthy of that brief glance. After all, you’ll only get that one chance. Utilize your critique partners Every piece of writing could use another set of eyes to catch errors, or tell you if something you thought was clear as a bell is actually a bit muddled. Take advantage of friends to go o

80% discount on Snowflake Pro

From Camy: I just saw this program being used today by a friend of mine, and I can tell you it's fantastic. Very easy to use and intuitive. If you have problems: --writing a synopsis or --structuring your novel or --pacing your plot or character arc then this program will help you with that. From Randy Ingermanson: Final Reminder: 80% discount on "Snowflake Pro" ends soon To Readers of my Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine: Just a quick reminder that my 80 percent discount on "Snowflake Pro" ends soon. As I write this, about 24 hours remain before I'll end this special. (It ends on Friday night at midnight, California time.) Snowflake Pro is software to make my Snowflake method faster, easier, and more fun. In the last few days, a very large number of you, my loyal e-zine readers, have taken advantage of this one-time special offer to get Snowflake Pro. Thanks to all of you who've already e-mailed me to tell me how much you like it. This note is just a remi

Control Story Flow With Sequels

This article that I wrote originally appeared on Suite101. Control Story Flow With Sequels The Classic Sequel as Described By Dwight Swain Dwight Swain’s Sequel can be broken down into easy segments to enable the writer to write a strong story segment that develops character and transitions to the next Scene. One of the most famous writing books is Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain, where he breaks down fiction writing into modules. One of his most popular techniques is Scene and Sequel (described in this article). Swain describes a Sequel as “a unit of transition that links two scenes,” but Sequels tend to encompass a broader range of purposes than just transition. Reaction The Sequel following a Scene allows the writer to slow the pacing and give the reader some breather space. This can be easily accomplished by enabling the character to react to what just happened in the previous Scene. This controls the story’s tempo and flow by giving the character

Q&A: Deepening Character

Camille Cannon Eide asked: Hi Camy - I'm working on a substantive edit and I'm looking for ways to deepen a character, give her more dimension. What are some ways to bring out more of a character's strengths and weaknesses, give the reader more of a reason to root for her? Camy here: You’re actually talking about two slightly different things—character richness and character sympathy. Character richness: A three-dimensional character with flaws and strengths actually doesn’t just jump out of a writer’s head. Typically, authors spend a great deal of time embellishing and digging deeper into a character, whether before the book is written or as they’re editing. Three-dimensional characterization is a deliberate, concentrated effort. One of the best books I’ve found for doing this is Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins, chapters 1 and 2. She uses dramatic techniques to enable writers to create a richer character, just the way a good actor will create a richer charact

Writing Conflict-Filled Scenes

This article that I wrote originally appeared on Suite101. Writing Conflict-Filled Scenes The Classic Scene as Described By Dwight Swain Dwight Swain’s Scene can be broken down into easy segments to enable the writer to write a high tension, interesting story segment. One of the most famous writing books is Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain, where he breaks down fiction writing into modules. One of his most popular techniques is Scene (described in this article) and Sequel. Swain describes a Scene as “a unit of conflict lived through by character and reader.” The key word here is Conflict. Goal The Scene moves the story forward by changing your character’s situation. To do that, the character has to want something different than what he already has: the Scene Goal. Basically, what the character is striving for in the Scene. He doesn’t necessarily achieve it, but he has to at least have an idea of what he wants at the beginning of the Scene. There are thr

Author-Speak Cheat Sheet

Hey guys, Sorry I've been MIA for a few weeks. I've been fighting off some kind of sicky that's left me really tired and headachey (and NO, I'm not pregnant! :) Anyway, I'll kick off the week with this great "cheat sheet" by Janet Dean that basically summarizes all the major fiction writing terms that a writer might encounter from a contest judge. These are terms thrown around pretty often in the writing community because they refer to common principles which, if mastered, help a writer improve. Author-Speak Cheat Sheet Upon occasion, I play golf. Perhaps I should say golf plays me. Either way, there’s a language to this game. Terms that make me grunt, “Huh?” Like: “Pick the ball clean.” “Get down on the ball.” “Play your drives off your left heel.” I can’t blame my game on these baffling words of advice, but they’re not helpful if I can’t decipher their meaning. Writing has its own language too. I call it author speak. Click here to read the rest of the a

Marks of an Amateur - the Query Letter

Really great post on edittorent: Marks of an Amateur - the Query Letter Are you committing any of these query faux pas?

Daily writing prompts

Writing even a little every day is a really good way to keep your creativity flowing and to keep your productivity up. I have always liked writing prompts because they can be just a short short story or they can turn into an entire novel! has a new Twitter account that tweets a writing prompt every day! Click the link below to follow their Twitter:

Getting away with it--

I just read this great post on Alicia Rasley's blog. She has a very candid style which I appreciate and like. I agree with what she's saying in this about writers who want to "buck the system"--not that it's wrong, but you have to make concessions if you do: I have noticed a sort of interesting attitude in some submitters. It's that the trick is "getting away with it". You know, say I point out that a four-page long prologue all in italics (because, I guess, it takes place in the villain's head) might be kind of annoying. (I'm making this particular issue up, as the attitude is the important thing.) And the submitter comes back with (rule #1-- don't argue when you're being rejected... it doesn't help), "But (insert bestselling author's name) got away with it!" Click here for the rest of the article

The first page, part 10 - Proofread

This is the last post of my series on things to look for in your first page. Click here for part nine. Proofread that page with a fine tooth comb After you’ve worked on that first page to set up the story, showcase your writer’s voice, and wow the editor reading it, give it to your most detail-oriented critique partners or a freelance editor (like moi —sorry, I couldn’t resist some blatant self-promotion) to correct any typos, grammar errors, or punctuation errors. You do NOT want your first page to have an error on it. Nothing spells “unprofessional” like an error on the very first page . The editor or agent will see that one little error and it will negatively tinge his/her impression of the entire manuscript and of your writing. You don’t want even a slightly negative thought to enter the editor’s mind as he reads. You don’t want even a question of your professionalism to niggle at the agent’s brain as she scans that first page. Now, I’m not saying that an error means an automatic r

Increase the Tension of a Scene

This article that I wrote originally appeared on Suite101. Increase the Tension of a Scene Building Peaks in the Story Build the story toward the climax by ramping up conflict in scenes. Novels are a series of peaks and valleys, the ebb and flow of tension. If the story were all tension, it would tire the reader out. If the story were all tension-less, it would be boring. A novelist should build the tension of the story in each peak and balance that with a valley. But each peak should build to a higher point of tension than the one before. Combine Conflicts Into a Single Scene Sometimes, a story will have several separate scenes, but each scene’s tension level is the same. Consider combining scenes. The addition of obstacles will make the scene worse and worse, ramping up the tension rather than having separate scenes of the same tension level. For example, a detective is searching for a lost child. In one scene, he confronts a drug dealer. In a second scene, he

Q&A: When to break the rules

Kathleen L. asked: Hi, Camy, thanks for this opportunity. You are one of my favorite writing teachers. Your last article on showing versus telling raised a question for me. When is it okay to break the rules? Not just for telling, but for say, using an unusual tag in dialogue. "Come here," he said. versus "Come here," he demanded. (I realize beats are the most effective. ie He stomped his foot and clapped his hands at the dog. "Come here!")Anyway, can we sometimes use an unusual tag? Thanks in advance. Camy here: You can break the rules whenever you want to! Seriously. It’s YOUR story. The “rules” are there to guide you so that you don’t go overboard. They’re not there to constrain you and box in your creativity. At the end of the day, creativity wins over “rules.” I usually suggest to writers to stick with the “rules” as much as they can, but if a particular sentence or piece of writing just “feels” better with the rules broken, then try it! I fully beli

The Value of the Unanticipated

This article that I wrote originally appeared on Suite101. The Value of the Unanticipated Sprucing Up a Blah Scene A writer can inject unexpected disaster into an uninspiring scene to take it from boring to brilliant. Many times, writers themselves know when a scene is lacking. They may have structured it well, conveyed just the right amount of information, and revealed wonderful characterization via clever dialogue. Yet they'll read the scene they've written and know something is off. While the solution isn't always lack of conflict, many times adding a specific type of conflict can lift a drab scene to one with sparkle. Add the Unanticipated A well-structured scene can still be boring if there's not enough conflict, or if the conflict is too predictable. Dwight Swain is the first writing teacher to publish about Scene and Sequel . In a Scene, the character has a scene goal and obstacles against that goal. Are your obstacles unique? Or are they predi

Building Toward the Climax

This article that I wrote originally appeared on Suite101. Building Toward the Climax Increasing Pressure On the Protagonist of a Novel Make the middle of the novel ramp up the tension and conflict and set the reader up for the exciting climax. Many times, a sagging middle could be because the tension is not increasing, but remaining the same. There are several things to keep in mind to help the middle build tension and drag the reader along for the ride. Make Things Worse As you introduce more change and complications to the character, make sure that it all works to thwart the character from his external goal. Each obstacle should make it harder and harder for him to reach his goal, making his situation worse and worse. This increase in trouble will increase the tension of the story, and increase reader interest. Strive for the unexpected and unanticipated when you add conflict to the story. Drop surprising disasters on your character. This doesn't necessarily mea

Q&A: Emotional reactions

Debra E Marvin asked: Hi Camy, here's my question: Somewhere in a judges' comment or a 'how to' book I grasped an idea that I thought would improve my work. reaction, emotion, dialogue meaning to me that when something happens or someone speaks, our character has a reaction that prompts an emotion and then they speak. (This done with the idea that these 'things' are part of the conflict). Problem is, that by doing this, I now have been told that I'm burying my dialogue, because some have been at the end of a sentence or two of 'reaction and emotion'. However, popping that dialogue to the front of the paragraph doesn't seem to make sense. I feel like I latch on to these rules, thinking I'm doing the right thing and then . . . Camy here: Let me suggest a slight tweaking of that "reaction, emotion, dialogue" tool. One of my favorite tools for writing emotion is Motivation Reaction Units , which Dwight Swain writes about in Techniques

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 goa

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

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. Star

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 fictio

The Decision That Starts the Story

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

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