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.
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.
Some of the best work on supporting characters I’ve read, involves turning threshold guardians into allies. Look at the way Gandalf and the Hobbits turn the Elves into allies. The Elves engage in saving the world in ways they would never previously have countenanced. Turning threshold guardians into allies = rich character development. The protagonist […]Read More Writing Tip 12. Character Development in Lothlorien.
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.
Identifying the exact story goal sometimes feels like herding cats. (Sorry, cats, it’s just a phrase, I’ll never overstep.) There’s so much going on in our imaginations — so many motivations, difficulties, supporting characters with their own individual goals, mysteries, magic, and transformations, that at times all this creativity seems like more of a hindrance […]Read More Your Story Goal. Writing Tips, Day 5