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Showing posts from November, 2020

Ruthless F. Scott on "Darling Killing"

When it comes to rewriting, a writer must make hard choices. Fitzgerald warned us writers about the danger of becoming way too attached to something you’ve written. "Keep an objective eye on the whole piece," he says, "and if something isn’t working get rid of it."  In a 1933 Saturday Evening Post article titled “One Hundred False Starts,” he writes: I am alone in the privacy of my faded blue room with my sick cat, the bare February branches waving at the window, an ironic paper weight that says Business is Good, my New England conscience–developed in Minnesota–and my greatest problem: “Shall I run it out? Or shall I turn back?” Shall I say: “I know I had something to prove, and it may develop farther along in the story?” Or: “This is just bullheadedness. Better throw it away and start over.” The latter is one of the most difficult decisions that an author must make. To make it philosophically, before he has exhausted himself in a hundred-hour effort to

The Author Dawn - Rise and Blink

What should be brewing in the mind of the aborning author right from the start? Let's Talk About Passion A few basic questions first. Why are you writing a novel? For reasons of ambition, ego? Well, why not? Most of us, in one way or another, tend the ego. We want recognition, validation, a chance to prove our ability to others and thereby rise above (careful... verging on narcissism). We may need to prove something to ourselves, or more simply, gain a degree of independence from an unsatisfactory mode of existence, the existential nausea of daily grind. We might require purpose, a desire to fill our lives with a mission, and what better way to achieve than by writing a novel? Then, of course, there is the pure need to create, the godlike urge shared by true artists... or perhaps your particular desire to write the novel results from some or all the above working in synergy.  Regardless, please consider your answers,  even before  the first steps  towards actua

A Great Damp Loaf of Description - Experiments in Fictional Imagery

Prepared for appropriate frustration and tapped out fingers? Using our favorite "stand on the shoulders of the classics" approach, we're going to examine the role of detailed character description when it comes to enhancing prose narrative. We've touched on this previously with our High Impact Narrative article and a caboose of Enhancement via Nabokov , but we're not done yet. Let's look at various examples and techniques. A GREAT DAMP LOAF  From Annie Proulx's "The Shipping News":  "A great damp loaf of a body. At six he weighed eighty pounds. At sixteen he was buried under a casement of flesh. Head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair ruched back. Features as bunched as kissed fingertips. Eyes the color of plastic. The monstrous chin, a freakish shelf jutting from the lower face." Note that Proulx first makes a single statement of character impression before moving on to details, i.e., "A great damp loaf of a bo

The Enlightenment of Tragedy - Dramatic Art Primer

Before the novel, there was drama... Ancient dramatists understood the requirements of a good tale, one in which willful human beings engaged in major conflict, the goal being to possess or achieve something of value. A designated character, by virtue of position and personality, became the antagonist, naturally defying the efforts of the protagonist, or hero, to overcome. This basic conflict scenario resurfaces again and again in a myriad of forms, not only in life, but in novels, short stories, and of course, film and television. What makes true dramatic conflict so universally effective is not only its ability to create tension, suspense, and powerful characters, but its unique method for portraying the need for value in human existence. Below we've created a drama primer with quotes ("European Theories of the Drama") from three important dramatists to illustrate the nature of the drama and it's overwhelming relevancy to novel writing discussion here at WE.

Writer Ego and the Imaginary Bob

You begin your first novel with equal parts ignorance and false optimism. Many months, or even years later, you finally learn the enormity of your mistakes. Those popular writer magazines and the  sociable little group of amateur writers that looked like a great plan, at first, now appear unreliable and even time wasting. At this juncture, you will either deny reality, quit altogether, or else vow to become a true and humble apprentice to the art of novel writing .  Ne confondez jamais une seule défaite avec une défaite finale.                                       - F. Scott The process above is nearly inevitable for the vast majority of aspiring authors, and only the eternal narcissist is incapable of achieving a productive second stage. We've discussed this subject more than once. Of course, such a personality will always disagree and fume like a child, but what about less volatile, less serious forms of counterproductive ego? About a year past, a screenplay writer

OMG! Offended Writer Syndrome!

Have you ever been in writer workshops and reacted to criticism of your writing or story by demanding the other writer defend their decision in such detail that it served your purpose of making certain they never gave you unfavorable critique again? Hell hath no fury like a thin-skinned narcissist with a needy manuscript... But wait! Could you be one of them? In case you're not sure if your skin qualifies, Algonkian psychologists have developed a few skin test questions below. Feel free to respond honestly to yourself as you read each one. Everyone wishes to avoid time-wasting instances of Offended Writer Syndrome (OWS) that often takes place in writer workshops all across America. Even at this very moment! Now, time to take THE THIN SKIN TEST : Has any writer ever prefaced their critique of your work by first saying to you, "Don't hate me, please?" Do you sense that writers who unfavorably critique your work are "loa

What the Classics Teach us About Exposition

The literary science of accomplishing exposition is set in stone.   The inexperienced writer dumps it like rocky weights on the reader's head (or not at all).The experienced author delivers at the right time and place, fusing it within the narrative flow so as to avoid the appearance of artifice. But wait, let's provide a simple definition before going further:  " exposition" is that sum of information which must be delivered to the reader to enable them to fully understand the plot of the novel going forward. Generally speaking, the reader learns exposition in a similar manner to the way life teaches it, e.g., upon moving into a new neighborhood, you learn the background history of the neighbors a bit at a time. They tell you about themselves, and others, as circumstances and conditions permit. By combining these fragments, you are finally able to perceive the entire picture of neighborhood society.  The example above should give us a clue as to the best methods for

Best 10 Steps for Starting the Novel - All Genres

As you explore the nooks and literary crannies of NWOE, you'll find considerable words devoted to warning you away from foolish and terrible advice.  But what about professional, tested, and proven advice? Below are ten bullet points for aspiring authors designed to help them overcome any confusion or misdirection when it comes to starting the novel. However, before you investigate, make certain you've already prepared by reading this sensible prologue . Note: the list below makes a base assumption that the writer is a relative novice and currently searching for direction and focus--the same stage every one of us passes through. For those in the second stage, or higher, the list might well begin further down. Nonetheless, we cannot stress enough how important it is to fully understand your genre. Eat and breathe it. Know the currents in the market, what makes for a "high concept" story in this context. You'll never be published otherwise. KEY CONCEPTS : genr

Settings Are 60% - Maximize Opportunity

When considering your novel, whether taking place in a contemporary urban world or on a distant magical planet in Andromeda, you must first sketch the best overall setting and sub-settings for your story.  Wasn't it F. Scott Fitzgerald who said something like, "Setting is 60% of what makes your novel stand out"? A great setting maximizes opportunities for interesting characters, circumstances, and complications. Therefore, with a dash of unleashed imagination and a dose of sufficient research, nothing provides a stronger novel foundation than a great setting. Fact.  One of the best selling contemporary novels in recent memory, THE HUNGER GAMES , is driven by the circumstances of the setting, and the characters are a product of that unique environment as well as the plot. But even if you're not writing SFF, the choice of setting is just as important, perhaps even more so. If you must place your upmarket story in a sleepy little town in Maine winter, then choose a set

IMPORTANT: Coverage Checklist for Aspiring Authors

Note, MARKET VALUE FIRST... Listed below are a summation of "coverage" checkpoints utilized by various screenplay and novel ms readers in both Hollywood and New York. Not every publisher intern or assistant will necessarily employ all these categories (a mistake), however, they're a great checklist for you, the aspring author, to help ascertain whether or not you're meeting your goals for a successful commercial genre novel. MARKET VALUE: Originality, freshness - high concept Clear target readership? Hook Quality STRUCTURE:     Act Zero backstory development Exposition delivery Effective setup with inciting incident Plot line arc, and subplots (if appropriate) Well designed reversals (major and minor) Pinch points (at least two) Catalytic situation driven Conflict, tension, rising action, Every scene relevant (i.e., to driving plot forward) Effective, believable climax Resolution/Denouement CHARACTERS: Antagonist Quality and Role Consistent oppos

Brilliant Fiction Narrative in Four Stages

From Drab or Quiet to Can't Put It Down.    What's one of the best ways to ensure a publishing contract? Master the art of writing fiction narrative, of course. But what does that mean, and are you sure you know the difference between relatively quiet  narrative and cinematic, verve-packed narrative? Are you setting your standards high enough? Are you aware of the level of craft and attention to detail necessary to make you into a great writer? And btw, why shouldn't you strive to be a great writer? All it takes is work. New writers set standards for themselves while often remaining ignorant of just how high their standards must be raised in order to become as competitive as possible in the current literary or commercial book marketplace. Rather than tell, let's show examples of how to take reasonably good fiction narrative and transform it by making it as competitive and energetic as possible. We will add imagery, metaphor, emotion, more active verbs, and bett

The Seven Sins of Novel Rejection

From the Desk of Agent Richard Curtis   *****  (Best of Writer's Edge) "The truth is that if all other things are equal, the author with better writing skills is the one who will rise out of the pack. " As the stakes continue to rise in the publishing business, writers are adopting a wide range of strategies to advance themselves out of the midlist and onto better-selling plateaus. I myself have recommended a number of such strategies. Recently, however, as I respond again and again to the question of what one can do to escape midlist oblivion, it's begun to dawn on me that many writers have been ignoring the most obvious answer: write better .  The truth is that if all other things are equal, the author with better writing skills is the one who will rise out of the pack. Instead of reviewing what's selling these days and who is buying it, I thought it might be worth reminding you about some of the most common and flagrant writing transgressi