Another book (my 14th!) is born…. my Editing Guide

Yes, my fourteenth title is alive! To-date I have published three novels (a chick lit and two crime novellas), eight collections of short stories, and two writing exercise guides.

My latest book is my ‘Writer’s Guide to Editing Fiction’ which will be available as a paperback (via CreateSpace) and eBook (Smashwords, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk etc.) and I’m thrilled.

I’ve taken much of the feedback I’ve given my editing clients over the last nine years and put it in this book. Will this mean that you don’t need an editor? Sadly not, but whoever you use (I’d gladly help you and offer a free 1,000-word sample), will be eternally grateful (hopefully!) to receive a more refined novel.

So, more about the book… this is the blurb…

How to polish your novels and short stories – a comprehensive guide including a 170+ tips checklist.

In this book we look at (including some exercises):
– the components of your story;
– points of view;
– tenses;
– the power of three: beginnings, middles, ends
– another power of three: characters, settings, plots
– conflict and pacing
– polishing your writing: 170+ tips for making your writing shine;
– the layout of your book;
– and finally (a summary checklist)…

This book is suitable for…
– Writers of any age and experience;
– Writers of novels and short stories (predominantly – it will help scriptwriters and poets too);
– Writers looking to have their writing taken seriously!

 

Post-weekend Poetry 099: Beginnings by Neil Ellman

Welcome to Post-weekend Poetry and the ninety-ninth poem in this series. This week’s piece is by Neil Ellman.

Beginnings (after the painting by Kenneth Noland)

The circular logic of the universe

defines its end

denies its beginning even after it began

ending where it survives

in endless circles of the mind

the shape of destiny told as history

repeated endlessly

as a Circle of Fifths around a clock

the rings of trees

as the myth of creation that never was—

its logic is none

other than where it begins

and ends

begins again, again

and never ends.

*

I asked Neil what prompted this piece and he said…

Continue reading

Guest post: Open with a BANG! by Melodie Campbell

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of beginnings is brought to you by Melodie Campbell.

Open with a BANG!

Last term at Sheridan College, I asked my fiction writing students this question:

“How long do you wait when watching a movie or TV show before switching channels?’

Five minutes?  Two minutes?  30 seconds?  The responses varied, but averaged out at one minute.

I told them: “One minute.  That is one page of movie script.  The first page of a novel.  So you are telling me that if the FIRST PAGE of writing doesn’t grab you, you don’t give the book/movie/sitcom a chance?”

Struck dumb, is how they looked.  Yes, audiences are a fickle lot now.  I’ve found editors to be even more demanding.  You have to grab them on your first page these days, and better – with your first line!

How to do it?

Start in the middle of something.  Start with action or dialogue.  Do NOT open with the weather, or description of location, or simple back-story.  Start with the meat.

Here’s an example from my novel, Rowena Through the Wall:

“I saw the first one right after class.”

This is a perfect opening line to teach from.  This sentence does many things:

1. It opens with the protagonist.  “I saw” – from this, we know that the book will be in first person – we are introduced to our protagonist.

In fiction, readers expect the first person they encounter, to be the protagonist.  This is the character they expect to become attached to.  Don’t disappoint them.

2. It opens with mystery:  “I saw the first one…”

First one of what?  And – it’s the first, so we know there will be more!  Lots of questions to intrigue the reader.

3. It gives some clue to setting.  “…right after class.”

In those well-chosen eight words, we have introduced the protagonist, the setting and a mystery.

Other good openers:

“He was a well-dressed burglar, Marge had to admit.” (from “School for Burglars”)

Marge is the protagonist – we are in her head and she is watching a burglary in progress.  Talk about opening in the middle of something!  And we have a picture of the burglar in our minds.

“The thing that shocked Emily was how incredibly easy it was to hide a murder.” (from “Life Without George”)

Emily is the protagonist, and probably a murderer.  Will she get away with it?  Will we want her to get away with it?

And from the masters:

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” (from Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier)

We know this is a first person story – we have met the protagonist.  We know Manderley is a setting, and is important to the story because of that last word – ‘again’.

“I’d been waiting for the vampire for years, when he walked into the bar.” (from Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris)

First person again, protagonist in the first line, vampire is key to the story, and we know the setting.

All this, from one line.  Open your books with a bang!  Your readers will keep reading.

And maybe an editor will even get past the first line.

Thank you, Melodie! My favourite is Iain Banks’ from Crow Road: ‘It was the day my grandmother exploded’. I wrote one recently for one of my Tuesday Tales stories called Root of all evil which a reader has told me is one of his favourites: ‘Thelma was your root of all evil, not money’.

Melodie Campbell has over 200 publications and was a finalist for the 2012 Derringer and Arthur Ellis awards. She is the General Manager of Crime Writers of Canada. Library Journal says this about Melodie`s third novel,

The Goddaughter (Orca Books, Sept. 2012): “Campbell`s crime caper is just right for Janet Evanovich fans.  Wacky family connections and snappy dialogue make it impossible not to laugh.”

THE GODDAUGHTER on Amazon.

A PURSE TO DIE FOR on Amazon.

Follow Melodie’s comic blog at http://funnygirlmelodie.blogspot.com and her website is www.melodiecampbell.com.

The following is an excerpt from THE GODDAUGHTER:

We got through the border with no problem at all this time.  Of course, it’s much easier to get through borders without a semi-frozen dead body pretending to be asleep in the back seat.

***

Morgen: I love that. 🙂

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with crime novelist Alan Tootill – the four hundred and ninety-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: The End of the Beginning by Alicia Rasley

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of ending story openings, 🙂 is brought to you by contemporary women’s fiction and Regency romance novelist, blogger and writing guide book author Alicia Rasley.

The End of the Beginning

I’d like to blog about openings to stories—that is, how to effectively start your story.  It’s a subject big enough, I could write a book about it, and probably will! (Here are some posts on my own blog that discuss openings.) So to keep this relatively short, I want to focus on the all-important last paragraph.

The beginning of a story has a lot to do, and it might be most helpful to write your opening, write the rest of your story, then come back and revise the opening so it is more effective in setting up the plot questions and themes. I was helping a friend with a story just today, and we discussed the “end of the beginning”. This book is about a girl raised in Europe who was forced by her parents to study piano for years. She is disillusioned by music and eager to get far away from her parents, so chooses a college in the US that has lost its music program. That’s the opening, setting up her college story.

I suggested that the author think about what is going to happen later in the book. The college is going to resuscitate the music program and recruit the protagonist to be the first major, and in the end of the book she’s going to found her own punk band, showing that she has chosen her own way (not the parents or school). Boy! This is good, because it forces her to change, to learn to value her own talent, to choose rather than just react.

The end of the opening, however, could set up the “praxis” of her journey, by posing a bit of a conflict or question. In a way, the last paragraph in the opening could serve as a “hinge” to the rest of the story, actually helping to open up to the rising conflict and rising action of the middle, and hinting at the theme that will be resolved in the ending.

His first chapter has her choosing a college, deliberately selecting the one that has lost its music program. I suggested a final paragraph that would emphasize what the author wants the reader to think about. But to achieve that, he must identify what that is!  Does he want the reader to think about her disorientation at being in the US after Europe, a fish out of water? Or her sense of her musical talent being trapped by the expectations of her parents even as she arrives in this new place?

He agreed with the latter, that her journey should start with her resistance to those expectations about music, and so he wanted to draw the reader’s attention to this. So he ended the first chapter this way, “My first class was History of Culture, in the Humanities Quad. Shoved into a corner of the lecture hall was a grand piano, swaddled in a gray quilted cover. I hurried past and took a seat in the center, directly in front of the professor.”

This sets up the conflict between her desire to be “merely a student” and her musical talent, and provides a concrete action (hurrying past the piano) to symbolize the beginning of her journey from resistance to self-acceptance. If the author wanted to emphasize her “fish out of water” aspect, how could that be achieved with the same situation (entering her first class lecture hall)?  Maybe she could look around and realize that everyone else in the class is dressed down while she dressed up? Or that she has the wrong textbook?

Another way to use that final paragraph in the first chapter is to set up a motif (a recurring thematic image or concept) which the rest of the story will develop. For example, in my Regency novel Poetic Justice, the first chapter pits the hero John against an enemy, who tries to trick him by offering an alliance and then trying to kill him. I was worried that the adventure of this opening would conflict with the quieter aspects of the rest of the story. But when I realized that no matter what the situation, John was always being “tested”, especially by the class system that scorns him as a tradesman.

By the time his shipmates arrived panting, daggers drawn, the light was gone entirely and the dock was slippery with blood. Two of the bandits had fled, and the third lay unconscious on the dock. John loosed his death grip on the saddlebag, let his first mate take it, let his steward peel his fingers from around the knife and put it away. He nudged the bandit with his foot. “Tell your employer,” he said, then paused to drag in a breath, “that I passed that test too.”

Thus, in the final paragraph of the first chapter, I emphasized this motif of “the test” to connect this scene with the rest of the story, which develops and finally resolves the recurrent pattern by having him pass the ultimate test by winning the heroine’s heart.

Look at your own first chapter and think of how you might use that last paragraph to set up the rest of the book, by establishing the context or conflict, by posing a question the rest of the story will answer, or by connecting the first scene with the rest of the story using a theme or motif.  Any examples from your work?

Finally, I’d like to thank Morgen for asking me to guest blog here!

You’re so welcome. That was great, thank you, Alicia!

Alicia Rasley is a RITA-award winning novelist who has been published by major publishers such as Dell, NAL, and Kensington. Her women’s fiction novel The Year She Fell has twice been a Kindle #1 bestseller in the contemporary fiction category. Her articles on writing have been widely distributed, and many are collected on her website The Writer’s Corner. She also blogs about writing and editing at Edittorrent. Her Regency romance Poetic Justice is currently available as a Kindle Select book.  She is also the author of the plotting guidebook The Story Within, available for the first time in electronic format.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with fantasy and horror author Lea Ryan – the three hundred and fiftieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. My eBooks are now also on Amazon, with more to follow, and I also have a quirky second-person viewpoint story in charity anthology Telling Tales. I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.

Today’s sentence starts

Here are today’s beginnings to do with as you wish:

1503. I breathe in until my lungs hurt… (first person)

1504. You prefer one but… (second person)

1505. Hugo didn’t feel that he really knew himself/her until… (third person)

1506. The sports day was a huge… (you can use any pov)

1507. I find the music soothing… (first person)

1508. “It’s ice cream soup,” you say (second person)

1509. She’d never been so wet… (third person)

1510. The people queued patiently… (you can use any pov)

1511. I ask if I can have another… (first person)

1512. You know it’s going to be the last… (second person)

1513. Trudie didn’t have the heart to tell him… (third person)

1514. As the huge man lunged… (you can use any pov)

Each set contains for different points of view so if you are weaker at one than the others, you may like to try these first. One of my favourites is the second-person point of view which is rarely used and not particularly commercially welcomed. It’s where the narrator is talking to the reader (you) rather than talking about him / herself and I’d recommend anyone who’s not tried it before to do so. It may take a bit of getting used to but hopefully it’ll grow on you as much as it did me. 🙂 You can read more starts here.

Today’s sentence starts at Twitter’s @sentencestarts

I have two writing-related Twitter profiles, the main one being @morgenwriteruk and the other is @sentencestarts, the latter of which does what it says ‘on the tin’. Here are the beginnings posted today (to do with as you wish):

1491. It seems alien to me and yet… (first person)

1492. You kick at the wooden post… (second person)

1493. She’d kept it in her pocket for years… (third person)

1494. Simple enough a plan… (you can use any pov)

1495. I can feel my face paling… (first person)

1496. You’re enjoying it but… (second person)

1497. He was certainly going to have a go… (third person)

1498. The card wobbled… (you can use any pov)

1499. I try to keep quiet as he… (first person)

1500. You’re willing her to leave… (second person)

1501. Millie wondered what the male equivalent to mutton dressed as lamb was… (third person)

1502. The scroll had been written in… (you can use any pov)

Each set contains for different points of view so if you are weaker at one than the others, you may like to try these first. Second-person point of view is rarely used and is where the narrator is talking to the reader (you) rather than talking about him / herself. It’s one of my favourite points of view to write although not commercially popular which I think is a real shame, although having started reading Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights Big City (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bright_Lights,_Big_City_%28novel%29) I do agree that it’s a viewpoint that gets tiring relatively quickly.

If you would like to follow either (or both would be lovely) of my Twitter profiles, the direct links are http://twitter.com/morgenwriteruk and http://twitter.com/sentencestarts respectively. The new posts from this blog appear as shortcuts in morgenwriteruk (and on my Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001560589385) and I post new sets of beginnings at sentencestarts on a semi-regular basis.