Archive for the ‘Writing Advice’ Category

Crossing that chasm in your novel

Sometimes we writers (you know who you are) hit a blind spot in the novel. Not really a bout of writer’s block, but a serious question about What Comes Next.

We might nobly feel like writing but we can’t quite picture the next sequence. Even when we have confidence in the overall plot, sometimes a section is like looking across a chasm where the bridge is down.

All the light goes out of the room, and we may find ourselves sullen and resentful. This is not what we signed up for. Writing flows, it doesn’t require construction work, for crying out loud. We begin to think: My planning didn’t work, my plot is too thin. I am one of those writers whose time is, sadly, up. My novel hates me.

As we get a grip on this hissy fit, we eventually conclude that it’s time to do some deep, methodical plotting. We’re going to have to think through this sequence of the story in excruciating detail.

And truthfully, we’d rather put pins in our cheeks.  Read More…

15 questions to guide your novel

Sometimes you just gotta get methodical. Novels are big and unruly, but chaos does not need to reign. Here are 15 framing questions that can help you discover and define what you what to write. I’ll use one of my books to give examples.

Questions 1-4. The main “handles” readers will use to discover your book.

1. What genre? Some aspiring writers 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.

For my book, the answer to the genre question was Fantasy. But there are so many types of fantasy, and some form popular subgenres such as gaslamp, sword and sorcery, grimdark, folkloric. So we drill down. (For examples of types of fantasy, see my post Landscapes of Fantasy.)

2. What kind of fantasy? In the case of the book I had in mind, it was historical fantasy with psi-powers. Read More…

Pitching your novel

How do you pitch a novel? And why lavish time on it? Is it just so that we won’t be caught flat-footed when someone asks what the story is about?

The Point of Pitching

While it’s true that an intriguing, quick blurb for a novel makes us look more professional–and saves us the embarrassment of stumbling through a confused rendition, a pitch also has a deep marketing purpose.

A  pitch positions your novel amid the world of books. It gives instant perspective on the story, pinpointing genre, tone, and unique features. Publishing today depends on branding and brevity. For better or worse, we’re in the world of entertainment and marketing with its thirst for audience definition. Read More…

Writing a novel synopsis

The two-page synopsis is one of the toughest things I have to write. Yes, even harder than the chapter outline.

I mean, if I have 20 or so pages to convey my story in a detailed way, it’s kind of like writing a short story. The old line “Sorry this response is so long, but I didn’t have time to make it short,” carries a hidden truth. In many cases, long is easier than brief.

So, yes, I do think the two-page synopsis is murder. I like to start long and gradually pare down. (There are people who can pound out a synopsis in one sitting, but these people can never be my friends.) Read More…

Pitching a Novel

How do you pitch a novel? And why lavish time on it? Is it just so that we won’t be caught flat-footed when someone asks what the story is about?

The Point of Pitching

A pitch is more than a conversational gambit. It’s true that an intriguing, quick blurb for a novel makes us look more professional–and saves us the embarrassment of stumbling through a painful and confused rendition. But a pitch also has a deep marketing purpose that goes beyond elevator encounters with editors.

A pitch for your novel positions your story amid the world of books. In that larger context, it gives instant perspective on the story, pinpointing genre, tone, and unique features. Read More…