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.
“The desk in the room, near the bed, with a good light, midnight to dawn, a drink when you get tired…” -Jack Kerouac Good old handsome Kerouac, rolling up his shirt sleeves, drinking and typing at speed through the night. Who doesn’t love On the Road, jouncing around in the back of a flatbed, arguing […]Read More Writing Tip 13. Designing Great Writing Mornings
I’ve read successful stories that skimped on the darkest hour and the showdown. I’ve enjoyed books that were slow to offer Act One’s promise. But, ask a reader to miss out on the enjoyment of Act 2 character-developing adventures? Never. Impossible choices. The hard and often impossible choices characters make in Act Two and throughout […]Read More Writing Tip 11. Choices, Choices.
What Billy Wilder said of screenwriting works as well for novelists. “If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.” A Checklist For Your Act 1. An opening page/image that communicates time, place, tone, promise of genre, and a hint at the central conflict. A harbinger of […]Read More Writing Tip 10. A Checklist for Your Act 1.
It’s no secret that acquisitions editors have red flags, like spelling errors, and getting the publishing house’s name wrong in the cover letter. It’s well to reflect, though, that we appreciate authors who write with authority, finding ways of getting time of day, setting, tone, the promise of genre, and some hint at the central […]Read More Writing Tip 9. Help Getting Past Acquisitions.
“Type faster.” -Isaac Asimov, when asked what he would do if he only had six months to live. “Stop typing and enjoy.” -Me, in response to the season. (If at all possible–not if it’s going to cost you your $20,000 advance.) December gets busy, tangles, and overflows with things we’d like to do. Of course, we […]Read More Writing in the Holidays: Permission to Enjoy Ourselves
“Every goal you write takes you a step closer to your grand and astonishing dreams.” –Thaddeus, The Writer’s Boon Companion. The Big Bright Goal The big goal is worth writing down right now, and even on a daily basis. For example: I am a best-selling fantasy author, publishing one or two novels a year, and […]Read More Writing Tip 8. Keep Goals Flying
Here’s a fun game—spot the theme, as stated in the first half of the first act of the novel or film, usually by a supporting character or similar. One of my favourites was the moment in Spectre when Moneypenny, on the phone with Bond, tells James she can’t help him just then because she has […]Read More Writing Tip 7. Running with the Theme.
Some movie titles resonate over the decades, with just a single word: Greed, 1924 Superman, 1978 Heist, 2001 Memento, 2000 Charade, 1963 One Great Word I’ve been reading Michael Connelly’s The Crossing. I admire the way he joins the inner and outer conflicts in the single word, crossing. The outer problem is finding the point […]Read More The One Word Tip. Writing Tips, Day 6.