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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. Sessions include:

Django Wexler

Django Wexler

  • Science fiction and fantasy
  • How to get rep’d by an agent
  • Writing for the internet
  • Memoir
  • Intensive Saturday fiction class
  • Romance writing
  • Power editing your manuscript
  • Powering up your imagination
  • Indie marketing
  • The writing life
  • First page feedback from an agent
  • Poetry
  • Kid Lit
  • Voice in creative nonfiction
  • Career planning and even more . . .
Bonnie Rough

Bonnie Rough

All this for $95! In addition, on Sunday, a 3 hour master fiction class from Robert Dugoni. Sunday class, $45.

We’re g0ing to have a blast. Come join us!

May 13 – 15. For more details.

Matthew Sullivan

Matthew Sullivan

 

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…

SF Trading Card Winners

You know you want to be on my newsletter mailing list (4-5 times/year) for the giveaways and insider information. Last time, I offered a drawing for cool packets of Walter Day Science Fiction Trading cards. Also, remember that if you sign up for my newsletter I’ll send you a free short story.

And the trading card winners are (drumroll here):

Thomas Morrow and bn100. Congrats to both! I’ll be in touch today to ask for addresses.

My thanks to all who entered!

A Dangerous Game of Spycraft . . .

. . . amid the bloom of psychic abilities.

My new series, beginning with At the Table of Wolves.

  Coming from Saga Press next winter!

THE MILIEU:

England. Spring, 1936. Magic has come into the world in the form of psi-abilities. These powers have broken through in a slow, subconscious tide since 1914, brought to the surface by the suffering of the Great War. The advent of this phenomenon is called the bloom. Talents occur in perhaps one in a thousand people. The full range of paranormal abilities is not yet known, but they include hypercognition, remote view, mesmerizing, hyperempathy, darkening and the spill, with strength classified from 1 to 10. Talents come into people at various stages of their lives, especially at adolescence. People still mistrust the bloom, with its paranormal gifts, both coveted and despised. Kim Tavistock is a 5 for the spill.

The Third Reich has been working for years to weaponize these powers. Now they have succeeded in a manner no one could have guessed.
Read More…

Aphids in the story

Have you got aphids in your story?

aphidAphids are today’s metaphor for repetitive and unnecessary words, paragraphs, and scenes that can suck the life out of your story. Aphids undermine the health of your story by:

  • destroying the pacing
  • inserting flab into lines and pages
  • sending the plot wandering

The story may be strong in all other respects, but flab and even short detours can cause readers to grow bored and annoyed. I’m the last person who should tell you to write tight and short, since I enjoy evocative writing. However, that style is no excuse for aphids.

Look for aphids when you’re ready to revise. Adopt a hunter attitude. You’re going to kill these sap sucking little beasts. You’ll be wearing your editor hat for this task, and adopting an editor’s attitude.

Macro level bugs.

Take a look at your chapter and scene openings. Set up paragraphs showing the character traveling, arriving, and thinking about arriving are tiny little story killers. Begin in the middle of a conversation, or at least when the door is already open and the main character’s ex-wife is standing there, frowning. Aftermath sequences where we consider what just happened guarantee that nothing happens right now. Sometimes you gotta have them, but cut out most of them, or piggy back such internal narrative on scenes that do forward the action. Beware of scenes without plot or structural purpose.

Why? Again, pacing. You don’t need one big action scene after the next, but be fearless in cutting scenes when there is no mission the scene delivers.

At the story level, pacing is a tricky element to get right. Your story’s ideal pacing will be dictated by your material and the style of book you’re writing. Also, the amount of description and context will be influenced by the inherent interest of your milieu. One trick I use to grab an overview is to make a list of every scene (whether or not it’s a chapter) and state what the forward movement is, or the vital mission. I rate the scenes from 1 to 5 for conflict and tension. Too many 2s and 3s, and I can suspect pacing is an issue.

It’s easier for readers to forgive background, exposition and character portraits early on in a book,

10% Solution

when the author is providing context and set up for the story. But after the middle of the novel slow pacing becomes a good excuse to put a novel down.

Micro level critters.

At the line level, watch for those life-sucking little quirks that wilt lines in a hurry: liberal use of adjectives, adverbs, and just plain too many words, saying things twice, plus repeating yourself. Any good book on editing will give you cringe-worthy lists of words or syllables that are indicators of aphids at work, such as -ly, -ion, of, that, was, were.

One of the best is Ken Rand’s concise and classic guide, The 10% Solution.

The Garden as a Whole.

IMAG0206It’s amazing how the quality of the whole story can be undermined by things as  small as habitual word choice and a few extraneous paragraphs. But when we consider the experience of the reader, isn’t it true that the pages themselves have to flourish and shine? Every page we write gives the reader either another reason to go on or reason to consider setting this one aside. At the rate people are downloading books onto reading devices, they always have something else to read. I know I do.

Pick up a page of your manuscript at random. How inherently interesting is it? How many critters lurk in the lines?

It is undoubtedly hard to rewrite. Sometimes we get revision blindness because we’re so close to the work that the critters easily hide from us.

A few diagnostic questions.

Here are some questions I use when searching for flab in my stories.

  • Why will anyone care about this scene? What is the point, here?
  • Is there enough tension in this scene? How far have I strayed from strong emotion?
  • Could I cut 10% from this page without hurting it? (Try it!)
  • Am I using a “cinematic eye”? In this movie-obsessed age, I try to remember that my novel is not a movie. In spite of the fact that I may see a movie in my head, I will never convey this movie by writing visual descriptions.
  • Are there opportunities to accelerate the pace after the midpoint, and then further in the book’s last quarter?

If we’ve worked hard at premise, story, and character, let’s not drop the ball with this part of the execution. The pace of your story and the experience of the reader at the line level will have a huge impact on its appeal.