Showing posts from September, 2009

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