Thursday 29 November 2012

When A Scene Isn’t Working


There comes a time when you have to face facts. You’ve tried to convince yourself that scene where your main character goes back to her old house and stares at it for four pages is a good scene, an important scene where the reader learns things they need to know, but... it just isn’t a very interesting scene.

You know this because none of the people who’ve read it have ever said anything good about it. Quite a few have said bad things about it. And most have not mentioned it at all. You could take their silence as a sign they’re okay with it, but do you really want to write a story that’s just okay?

So, something’s got to change.

Monday 26 November 2012

Knowledge Is Power But Story Is King

Knowledge is power. Or is money power? Maybe power is power. Certainly a gun is power. But if there are two guns and only one has bullets, and you know which, then we’re back to knowledge is power. Unless what you know is that the empty gun is the one in your hand.

The point I’m making is that no rule is universal. Just because something is true in one situation, doesn’t make it true in another. You need to understand the context.

Thursday 22 November 2012

The Funnily Enough: A Place for Writers


Since the web’s going to be fairly quiet today, I thought I’d take this time to mention my other site, The Funnily Enough. A place for writers to find information that will help them write a better book.

I visit a lot of writing blogs on a daily basis (usually when I should be doing something useful) and I come across a lot of posts about the craft and business of writing. Sometimes it’s a tiny site with hardly any followers, or it could be a huge corporate site with many contributors covering a host of subjects.

Unlike most collator sites which use an automated system to hoover up vaguely pertinent articles, I select everything personally and leave out stuff which is either too basic or overly esoteric.

Monday 19 November 2012

What Episodic TV Teaches Novelists


After the last post on episodic writing a lot of people mentioned TV as an example of where an episodic structure works very well. So I thought I'd address that.

The first thing to bear in mind is that just because something is delivered in an episodic format, doesn’t mean it’s episodic narratively speaking.

If I take a novel and split it up into sections, and then let you read one chapter a week, then that’s an episodic way to read the story, but it makes no difference to the story itself.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Episodic Storytelling Is A Problem

The problem with episodic storytelling is that often the writer can’t really see the problem with it.

Stuff is happening to the main character, as it’s supposed to. Maybe even quite interesting stuff. Different scenes may not be directly connected, but they’re still happening to the same person, so it feels like there’s a connection.

But when you have a character who goes from one thing to another seemingly at random, what you end with is a character who has nothing better to do. It’s not very captivating when the story meanders and the main character doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Monday 12 November 2012

Secrets Of Language Revealed!

The point of language is to communicate your thoughts. The rules of language are there to clarify structure and prevent misreading. If you can communicate what you want to communicate without following those rules, that’s perfectly okay.

However, it’s easier to follow the rules because that’s why they’re there—to clarify your meaning—and most people are already aware of them.

And, generally, if you’re not sure if it should be a semi-colon or an em-dash, is the adverb necessary, does the repetition work as emphasis or is it clumsy, chances are you’re over-thinking it.

I know what I want to say but I don't know how to say it is another way of saying you don't really know what you're trying to say.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Story Questions Worth Pursuing

You don’t make readers want to know what happens next by not telling them what’s happening now.

There’s a guy, he’s being chased by someone. We don’t know who, we don’t know why. Clearly he doesn’t want to be caught, but other than that everything is a mystery. So as the reader you’re going to keep reading to find out what’s going on, right?

Well, maybe if you have absolutely nothing else better to do. But for most of us, that implication that everything will become clear if we keep reading, and that it’ll be totally worth it, just doesn’t pay-off in most cases.

Because it’s easy to make it seem like there’s something amazing around the next corner. It’s much harder to actually have something amazing waiting there.

So how do you make it clear that the journey will be worthwhile, and at the same time not reveal too much and ruin the surprise?

Monday 5 November 2012

Stealing Good Ideas Is Okay

While there’s nothing new under the sun, somethings are blatant rip-offs. And although it's perfectly possible to successfully repeat an established character or familiar story concept, those successes are fairly rare (not that it stops people trying).

The problem is most people steal the wrong bit of a story. The superficial, obvious stuff isn’t what makes a story work, it’s just the easiest to copy.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Why First Chapters?

This post is more a question than the usual rambling on about the craft of writing I usually inflict on you.

The question is this: When you send out stuff to agents, why do they insist on getting the opening chapters?

Is there something especially telling in those chapters? And if so, what?
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