There are basically two ways you can start a story. You can have all guns blazing action or you can establish the ordinary world of the character before things change.
Both approaches have their pros and cons and a lot of it depends on various factors to do with your story and what you consider to be right for you as a writer. But the problem comes when you show your first chapter to someone else and they don’t react in the way you’d hoped, making you lose confidence in what you had thought to be quite a good scene that set things up nicely.
Questions arise such as maybe the other approach would be better for this story, for this genre, for you as a writer. But the truth is these are the wrong questions. So if the start of your story isn’t attracting the kind of response you want, what are the questions you should be asking yourself?
I’ve written about general writing truths and truths I wish I knew before I began writing. Now here are five hard writing truths, that may not be the most enjoyable to consider, but are true nevertheless (and thus, worth knowing, I think).
Any writer knows that unsolicited advice about their work is easy to come by, but finding inspiration on those days when the words just won’t come is a lot tougher. Here, 15 of history’s most famous names give you the positive words you need to get back to writing.
We always hear editors and agents talking about a fast read. No, they are not necessarily talking about a short book or one with no depth. What they are referring to is the pacing of the book. Talking about a fast read means the pace the author sets for the book keeps it really moving fast, in other words, it is a page turner.
As an author, it is crucial that you know when it is the time to pick up the pace of the book, and when it is time to slow down and linger. This is all done through not just the amount of information you provide to the reader, but also in the structure and length of the sentences, paragraphs and chapters.
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?
I’ve made long lists of “What Not To Do” that I use to help me when I’m writing/rewriting a manuscript. Some items are easy to track down and fix; others take some time and possibly a keen-eyed, critical reader. Here are seven DONT’S that I think are very important.
Think about what makes you interested or drawn to certain people. What qualities of theirs pull you in? Is it a sense of humor? Some interesting hobby or skill? Engaging style of talking or fascinating facial expressions or gestures?
Backstory is a weapon. And just like any weapon, it can end up doing more harm than good to those who wield it without proper experience and care. But in the hands of a writer who knows exactly what it’s capable of and how to wield it to advantage, backstory can take even ordinary stories to extraordinary places.
Description is a way to engage the reader’s imagination. It is a tapestry created with words—it can summon vivid images of place and character, strong emotion and become a thread to move the story forward.
Here are some examples of description at work in a story.
Readers do not want to read books about eternal cowards, characters who avoid problems, and people who never learn to fight back.
As a reader, I am not looking for superman in every character, but I do want characters to find that extraordinary something they never knew they had, or to admit that they will never have it. I want them to make a stand. If they don’t, I feel as if I am watching a tacky reality television show where nothing changes. But how do novelists get characters to make this stand?
If you’re not the type of writer who likes to plot out an entire book before you start writing, but you’re also not the type of writer who can just wing it and have it turn out well, try breaking your novel into story arcs and plotting those one at a time.
Not too long ago, a friend asked me to read his book. He’d written a rough draft and wasn’t sure what to do after that. After reading it, I explained how writing a book involves five different drafts. He was surprised to hear that. Most people are.
You have an interesting and compelling premise for your novel. Your logline is snappy and fetching. Your characters are complex with complex relationships between them. Your plot is lock-step, every thread tied up. Your setting is interesting.
Yet the writing itself isn’t working—it seems drab. A sample of ten to fifty pages will most likely not get past the agent or editor. Great idea, but needs considerable work. Give this thing some flair.
And so now is the time to do some major fine-tuning on the language itself.
I had a busy weekend. What was I doing, you ask? I was combing through the contents of my digital bookshelf looking at the words, especially adverbs, my favorite authors (and others) used and how often they used them. I was curious whether genre authors tended to use adverbs more than their literary brethren.
We know writers have some weird habits and that a sense of place is often one of the most important aspects of a story. Considering these qualities, it seems natural that writers usually yearn for their own private sanctuaries. For the wordsmiths currently drafting their latest and greatest, but with no literary oasis to call home, let these stunning writing studios serve as inspiration to transform your corner of the world into a personal retreat.
Often the reason a scene doesn’t work, or doesn’t seem to have any life to it, is because what’s happening in the scene isn’t very interesting.
People may be doing things, moving around, attempting to reach their goals, but how they’re going about is too straightforward or too easy.
There are various ways to achieve things in life that are reasonable and sensible. You want to be a doctor, you go to medical school and study hard. If you portray that within a story it may feel realistic and true, but it won’t be very gripping.
There is more to a good story than holding a mirror up to life.
The inciting event is probably one of the easier things to write (because it's usually a lot of fun), and also one of the hardest to figure out (because we're not always sure where it is). It's when the story really starts and it's filled with all the promise and excitement of what that story can be. For some writers, it might be the only solid plot point they know going into the novel. It's the moment when things change for the protagonist and she's put onto the path that will become the novel's plot. Without this moment, there would be no novel.