Ask an acquisitions editor, why reject stories by good writers? The answer is often, I can’t tell what this story is about. This response, or its cousins The conflict was slow to emerge, or There’s no story here, shows that structural problems are spoiling the party. But developmental editors are pricey. You see their ilk […]Read More Writing Tip 23. Story Editing How-tos.
EXT. SPACE AROUND THE DEATH STAR Vader’s ship spins out of control with a bent solar fin, heading for deep space. INT. DARTH VADER’S COCKPIT Vader turns round and round in circles as his ship spins into space. -George Lucas. Star Wars IV, A New Hope. Spinning that Vader craft out into space saves a […]Read More Writing Tip 22. End With a New Beginning in Mind.
“You may wish to write down your five-year plan for writing, year by year. What a splendid vista of accomplishment, I must say.” -Day 23, A Writer’s Boon Companion : Thirty Days to an Extraordinary Volume Dorothy Parker famously announced, “I hate writing. I love having written.” That little mot has been quoted much too […]Read More Writing Tip 21. A Five-Year Plan.
To develop engaging characters, it’s worth taking the time to list flaws and balancing strengths. I see so many flawed protagonists in our short fiction subs box, but few of them achieve the balance that helps the reader take them to their hearts. Balance involves developing inner and outer longings. kindnesses and sacrifices. falls and […]Read More Writing Tip 20. Developing Engaging Characters
“The cloud cover had blocked out the half-moon and the snow had shut visibility down to less than fifty metres. Good, thought Tom…more murk, better cover. But he still didn’t have a plan.” -Andy McNab. State of Emergency. “Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?” – JRR Tolkien. The Return […]Read More Writing Tip 19. Heading for the Final Showdown.
“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks.” -JRR Tolkien. The Hobbit. The call to adventure is a large part of the fun of being a writer. A terrific idea sets us onto the storytelling trail, running out like Bilbo without his pocket handkerchief. We pound away […]Read More Writing Tip 18. Get Set for Adventure.
‘True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.‘ – Robert McKee One of the great uses of drafting time is early revision. Strengthening character growth can be addressed with revisions at any stage past the start […]Read More Writing Tip 17. Revising for Character Growth
In a 3-act story, the darkest hour occurs at about the 2/3 point. It’s preceded by a moment of beauty and reflection that sets up the darkest hour. This moment of peace reminds us of exactly what’s at stake in the struggle. Think of The Fellowship, and the pause in the action inside the darkest, […]Read More Writing Tip 16. Making the Darkest Hour Darker.
Whether a manuscript crosses an editor’s desk, or is loaded onto an e-reader, readers will read on if the author invents characters in which they’re invested. There are a lot of ways to do that—resonance, unique situations, careful plotting–but the clear path most often missed in the manuscripts I read, is “protagonist’s choice, not reaction.” […]Read More Writing Tip 15. Developing Strong Characters. Intention vs Reaction.
It kills me when I hear readers complain that there’s too much description in a book. In my experience as an acquisitions editor, most “unneccesary” description is only misplaced. “When you’re writing a book, it’s rather like going on a very long walk, across mountains and valleys and things, and you get the first view […]Read More Writing Tip 14. Climbing Mountains, Placing Description.