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One Step at a Time

Today I hit a muddy patch in the novel. Not exactly a brick wall. Not really a bout of writer’s block, but a serious resistance to doing the work.

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I did feel like writing but I just couldn’t quite picture the next sequence. If I’m perfectly honest, I

didn’t really believe in the plot at that point. I had confidance in the overall plot, but this section was like looking across a chasm where the bridge was down.

Twenty minutes into staring at the screen and getting nowhere, I reluctantly concluded I had to do some deep, methodical plotting. I was going to have to think this section of the story through in excruciating detail. And I so did-not-want-to.

Mind games.

This reminds me how much of writing is a mind game. The game of talking yourself into things (like writing anyway) and out of things (like worrying that it’s not very good.) Read More…

Picky questions on the novel

For writers, what is the hardest part of a novel? Maybe it’s page 1 and page 400–and many big chunks in between. Some books go like that.

But today I’m more interested in what’s the most important part of a novel. Despite how crucial a good ending is, and how challenging the middle is, I think the beginning is the critical place. At least the beginning in terms of the musing you do before you write.

For me, first come the big-picture questions.

Big, sloppy questions.

1. What genre? Some of the aspiring writers I meet are surprisingly conflicted about what type of story to write. My only advice is to read in likely genres. Read a lot. Learn what stories you adore. You’ll be spending many years with them.

In my recent two books forthcoming from Saga, the answer to the genre question was Fantasy.

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2. What kind of fantasy? Paranormal espionage. So many kinds of fantasy. Just read the nominees for the World Fantasy Award, and you’ll see the amazing variety of the literature. Read More…

Generating Ideas

It’s a perverted fact of the universe that writers are sometimes stumped about what to write. Give them a snappy first line in a timed writing exercise, and they jump in, keyboard clicking furiously, and then wow you with what they read out loud.

But for an original story? Um. A novel for crying out loud? Um, indeed.

Not that I’m talking about myself, you understand. Of course not.

But we shall fret no more, because there are three–count ’em, three–chances to shake loose your story ideas in a small, brilliant conference this weekend. And  if there’s no way you can pack up and get to Wenatchee, I’ll close this post with an idea-generating strategy of my own. Read More…

The Cozy Con with Big Inspiration

Robert Dugoni

Robert Dugoni

What do Robert Dugoni, Agent Rachel Letofsky, and memoirist Bonnie J. Rough all have in common? A: They’ll all be in Wenatchee WA for Write on the River in 5 weeks!

Join us on the sunny side of Washington State for a day-and-a-half conference on the beautiful campus of Wenatchee Valley College. The Write on the River Conference annually attracts approximately 120  writers to learn from the experts, including New York Times best-selling authors like Robert Dugoni and Rebecca Zanetti. Read More…

The Door Into Scene

Scenes are the building blocks of the long story.

Scenes are the building blocks of the long story.

One simple step can save your next scene.

Even with the loosest of plot outlines, authors usually have an idea of the next thing that can happen. But there are always options. Refer to the action or insight in a narrative bridge? Bring it on stage by itself? Tuck the information bit by bit into several scenes?

“Forward the plot” is the usual scene advice. But even following that criteria it’s  easy to write tepid, low-interest scenes. So how do we sort out the on-target and meaningful next sequence?

Let your intuition help

Here’s a quick way to help you open the right door into the next scene: Give it a title.

It doesn’t need to be catchy or meaningful to anyone else. But to you, it reflects the dramatic essence of this sequence. Examples from my work in progress:

Blood on the silver screen Read More…