Monday, 30 July 2012

After The First Draft: Part 2

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A short series looking at how to approach revisions. Part 2: Pinocchio Needs A Soul.

Your characters, particularly your MC, are the most important aspect of your story. If people don’t engage with them, they aren’t going to finish reading the book.

You don’t want to wait until you’re polishing the final draft to sort this out. You want to do it as early in the process as possible. Once readers are hooked into the characters, you have a solid foundation to build on.

That doesn’t mean your characters should jump through windows and have kung-fu fights (even though it might add a fresh twist to the Regency romance you’ve been working on).

What it does mean is your characters need to be more than puppets being moved from scene to scene.

Monday, 23 July 2012

After The First Draft: Part 1

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A short series looking at how to approach revisions. Part 1: Avoiding the Accordion.

Once you have a complete first draft it isn’t always clear what to do next.

By a complete first draft I mean where you have a beginning, middle and end with no place markers you intend to fill in later. It may need a lot of work and even wholesale changes, but there are no gaps in the sequence of scenes.

At this point there will be some obvious technical changes you need to make. Clarify, cut, develop etc. but generally the story is there.

So you have this thing. Now what?

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Two Sides To Every Story. At Least.

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Tension is a key element of drama. Tension is a question. It’s an outcome you want to know. It’s anticipation. Tension comes in different sizes and shapes.

“There’s a bomb on the bus!” is a different kind of tension to “Are you waiting for someone?”

The big, explosive stuff (physical or emotional) takes care of itself. You may need to manage it, but tension will be present. My daughter’s been kidnapped! — very hard to underplay.

This post is about working tension into smaller, more intimate scenes.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Writing A Bottle Scene

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There are times in a story when not much is going on. Your character is isolated or apart from everyone else, away from activity or the main plot.

Readers may find this sort of scene dull or pedestrian and the suggestion will be to zhoosh it up somehow. This advice will most times be right. However, sometimes you want a scene to be low key or concentrated down to a few ingredients.

There’s nothing wrong with this, often the strongest character moments come in the quieter moments. But that doesn’t mean you should have long scenes over a cup of coffee and endless banter, nor does it mean you need a bomb on a bus and SWAT teams flying in through windows to make it exciting.

One of the best ways to see how to make the most of a limited situation is to take a look at what TV shows call a ‘bottle episode’.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The 5 Best Pieces Of Writing Advice

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The following are the five best pieces of advice to do with writing that I have come across. Obviously there are many excellent tips out there and how useful they are depends on the kind of writer you wish to be, but these are the ones that made a big difference to me and seemed to make the most sense.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Making Your Readers Care Like Your Characters Care

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In any story the main character will have something on their mind. They will worry and fret based on how important ‘the thing’ is to them.

Just because they happen to think this thing is worth obsessing over or getting upset about doesn’t mean the reader will also.

Showing the character really worked up about this thing won’t automatically make the reader feel the same way.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Reading With An Agenda

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There are probably some books you feel like you should read but you don’t really want to. 

They’re great books—you know this because everyone says they are. They win awards and feature on Best Of lists and when you look at the photo of the author on the back, they seem to be saying: “This is what a real writer looks like.”

But your heart sinks if you even think about picking the book up. It’s not your style, it’s not your genre, it’s too long, it’s too boring.

Well, there’s a way around this problem.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Not All Characters Deserve To Be In The Story

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It’s pretty easy to overpopulate a story.

Usually, it’s to make things seem realistic (an office should have people in it, a party should be crowded).

Sometimes it seems like a clever ploy (with 73 suspects the reader will never guess who the murderer is!).

Or it can be a way to give different types of readers someone to root for. These characters are the love story, these guys provide the adventure, this one will appeal to older women, this one to comedy fans...

Too many characters often make a story hard to follow, confuse the reader and create unnecessary complications. But once they’re in, taking them out can seem daunting, like pulling at a single loose thread that ends up unravelling the whole cardigan.

It’s really not that hard, though.

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