writing for dummies (as internet talks about)
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writing for dummies (as internet talks about)
Notes, tips, tricks, ... whatever intrigues me about writing techniques
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Article of The Month

Article of The Month | writing for dummies (as internet talks about) | Scoop.it

This is a quick exercise designed to sketch out the major events of your novel. It only gives you a map-- you have to make the drive yourself!

Get a kitchen timer or set your alarm. You're going to free-write for three minutes on several questions. (If you want to cheat and write for five minutes on each, go ahead. Just be warned the exercise might take you an hour then.) In free-writing, you put your fingers to keyboard or pen to paper and write, without regard to grammar, spelling, sense, or organization, for a specified period of time. The trick is-- you can't stop till the bell rings. If you can't think of anything to say, you just write your last word over and over. Pretty quick you'll get bored and think of something else to write. But remember, turn off the editor. This is exploration, not real writing.


Type or write the question, then set the clock, read the question allowed, and go.

1. At the start of your book, what distinguishes your protagonist from other people? What central strength does he/she have? How does this strength get him/her into trouble?
Strength: Sue's really good at problem solving. Trouble: She's always being brought in at the last minute to clean up other people's messes.

2. When the novel opens, what is s/he on the brink of doing? Why does he/she say she's going to do this? What does this action represent for the protagonist?
She's just moved into a new town and has volunteered to do the stage managing for the community theater. She says that theater work is fun, and she'll get to make new friends. This represents her attempt to become part of the new community.

3. What external situation will require the protagonist's participation throughout the course of the book? How does this connect with #2? Does it help or interfere? Can you build in a deadline for extra tension
The community theater's director absconds with all their money. If they don't somehow pull off an economical but successful Hamlet performance in a week, the community theater will go bankrupt.

4. What is the protagonist's goal for the time the book covers? How does this connect with the external situation? Or does the external situation divert the protagonist from his/her goal? Why does the protagonist SAY he/she wants the goal? Is there a deeper motivation as yet unknown to him/her?
She wants to participate in a successful theater presentation. She says it's because it will be good for the community. A deeper motivation is that she needs to be part of a cohesive group or she'll be lonely and lost. All the problems in the external situation will be obstacles to participating in a successful presentation.

5. What problem (external conflict) does the external situation present? How can the protagonist eventually resolve that conflict?
She is dragooned into taking over direction of the community theater's performance of Hamlet one week before the first show, and she's never directed a play before. She's a good problem-solver, and she will use these skills to tackle all the theater's problems.

6. List at least three obstacles in the way of her resolving this conflict. Make one an internal obstacle/conflict.

There's not enough money for costumes.
None of the other actors think Sue can replace the gifted Stockinsky, the former director.
The actor playing Hamlet is a drunk.
Five days before the performance, her mother announces she hates her nursing home and wants to move in with Sue.
The theater's roof is leaking and rain is predicted for performance night.
Internal-- Sue's need to be part of a group and be loved makes it hard for her to take charge and say no.

7. How will the protagonist grow because of confronting these obstacles?
When she has to fire the drunken Hamlet and replace him with a young inexperienced understudy, she learns to trust her judgment, assert her authority, and risk alienating her fellows. That is, she becomes a leader.

8. What do you want to happen at the end of the book?
I want the production to be successful despite some last-minute problems, and I want her to accept her position as leader.

9. What will have to happen to the protagonist against his/her will to make your ending come about?
Sue will have to get the courage to fire the popular Hamlet actor and still use her people skills to rally the shocked cast. She'll also have to inspire the understudy to a great performance.

(As you can see, this will outline a plot driven by the protagonist's motivation and interaction with the world. Please note, not all books rely so heavily on the protagonist's personality. This works best with popular genre novels or novels with a "quest" structure. But the answers to these questions can help you determine where you're going and how you're going to get there.)

Okay, half hour's up. Now how do you make a story out of this? Think of the answers to Questions 1 and 2 as your starting point. The answer to Question 8 is your ending point (all subject to change, of course!); everything else is landmarks along the way.

Use 2 to craft an opening scene that involves the reader right away. A character on the brink of some action provides a lot of forward momentum. Consider, for example, Sue's desire to join the community theater group as stage manager. That action can involve the reader in the external situation described in 3 (the former director absconding with the funds), and/or be in pursuit of the goal you defined in 4. If it happens, what unforeseen consequences does it have? (For example, she might start as stage manager and realize the director is a fraud.)

If it doesn't happen, what has prevented it? (Maybe she wants to be stage manager, but arrives just after the director scarpers, and because she has some theater experience, they make her director instead of stage manager.) Now what is the protagonist going to do?

Answer 4 gives the protagonist's intended destination. Consider why the protagonist wants to achieve this goal, and how pursuit of it will involve him/her further in the external situation described in 3. (She wants a successful production enough to agree to be director.) How is the goal related to answer 1, whatever sets this person apart from everyone else? (Her reputation as a "hands-on problem-solver" has been established in her job as a trouble-shooter for a local software company, so she knows she can be a good stage-manager.)

The goal can be related to the external situation, but probably include some internal component too (she wants to become part of the community quickly so she won't feel lonely and lost). The obstacles too might arise from the external situation as well as from within.

# 6 lists obstacles to the resolution of the conflict. Which are external (the drunken actor, mom's sudden and disruptive arrival)? Which are internal (her inability to say no, her guilt over mom)? How do these relate to the external situation?

Sketch at least one scene around each of these -- or toss a couple out and have a single obstacle repeatedly plague the protagonist. Show the protagonist encountering each obstacle, taking stock, and acting or reacting. Probably the obstacle will win at least once. See if you can make these ascend in order of emotional risk– that is, make taking on the first obstacle (no money for costumes) less of an emotional gamble than the next (having to ask the carpenter she kind of has a crush on to fix the roof for free). The last obstacle should require her to make a huge emotional gamble, one she couldn't have made at the beginning of the story but must do now that she has so much invested (she risks alienating the entire cast and the community by firing the popular actor).

Then what? The special quality you defined in 1 should come into play here (problem-solving skills)-- and the issue/problem you have noted in this character (overwhelming desire to be liked). What will cause self-doubt and failure? What will bring back confidence? Can you show a gradually ascending level of achievement, as small defeats are overcome to bring on small victories? What's important is to make the interaction with the obstacles individual to this character, and the success or failure have some effect on him/her-- the growth (positive or negative) you described in 7.

Will the external conflict be resolved? Either way, the attempts to resolve the conflict can be the climb up to the climax. The special quality and motivation of the protagonist, the most difficult obstacle, an important event in the external situation, and the goal, can all meet and explode in the climax (she fires Hamlet and brings on the young understudy, whom she has secretly coached, and faces down the cast mutiny).

In the resolution, however, your own ending takes over. The resolution of the conflict can be fulfilling or empty– she can have a great production and go home to an empty house. (Or one with a petulant mom in it.) Or she can use her new-found "just-say-no" ability to gently guide mother to another, more appealing nursing home, and her old "just-say-yes" ability to start a new relationship with the generous carpenter.

Just remember, your ending is going to help determine the message your reader will retain after closing the book, so make it fit your theme. (In this case, maybe, "Successful leadership sometimes depends on making the appropriate but unpopular decision.")

And keep in mind, this is only an exercise, not a set of rules. Use what is illuminating, discard everything else. Your novel should find its own path. But knowing where you're going and some of the landmarks you'll pass can make the journey a little less daunting.


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7 Point Novel Structure

7 Point Novel Structure | writing for dummies (as internet talks about) | Scoop.it

I ran across the 7 Point Structure the other day and found it to be really helpful for a high-level outline:
The Seven-Point System
0. Cold open, prologue
1. Hook (story’s promise)
2. Plot Turn 1 (call to action)
3. Pinch 1 (what goes wrong? an attack; peace fails; new villain; forced to action)
4. Midpoint (move from reaction to action)
5. Pinch 2 (jaws of defeat; loss of mentor, everything)
6. Plot Turn 2 (snatch victory from jaws of defeat)
7. Resolution (start here)
Outlining order: 7, 1, 4, 2 + 6, 3 + 5, 0

Basically, you start by determining the end of your story and the beginning, and fill in from there. Since I have problems seeing "The Big Picture" and often lose steam halfway through a story, I intend to use this method to start.

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5 Day Course: How To Publish Your Novel - Day 4

5 Day Course: How To Publish Your Novel - Day 4 | writing for dummies (as internet talks about) | Scoop.it
A 5-day course on how to publish a book, by award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson.

The problem is that you can have marvelous Content and incredible Craft, but if you don't have any Connections -- an editor who wants to buy your novel -- then your book is going to languish in anguish.

These days, it's very difficult to sell your novel to an editor on your own. Editors are just too swamped to look at every piece of junk that somebody sends them. Most publishing houses, in fact, will SEND YOUR NOVEL BACK UNOPENED if they don't know who you are.

That means, in practice, that you probably need an agent. An agent's job is to have tons of Connections with editors. It's all too tempting for the beginning writer to think that having an agent will solve all their problems. "If only I had a first-class agent, I could sell this great idea and then I'd have time to write my novel."

Yeah, right. You know what? It takes more than a great agent. The best agent in the world can't help if your idea is lame or your writing is crappy. That's just a fact. If you don't believe me, ask any agent or any editor or any published novelist. They'll all tell you the same thing.

That puts you in a tough spot. Because the great agents of the world won't give you the time of day if your Content sucks OR if your Craft is second-rate. Why should they waste time trying to sell a manuscript that can't be sold? Agents are in business to make money, not to bang their head against the wall.

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5 Day Course: How To Publish Your Novel - Day 2

5 Day Course: How To Publish Your Novel - Day 2 | writing for dummies (as internet talks about) | Scoop.it
A 5-day course on how to publish a book, by award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson.

Today, we'll talk about #1 on the list in more detail -- Content.

Let's remember what Content is. Content is more than just the facts you know. Facts are facts. Content is the spin you put on those facts. It's how you interpret those facts. It's your vision for life. It's what you've learned in life that helps you deal with the cold, hard facts.

In a very real sense, Content is you! It's the magic "stuff" you bring to a book that nobody else in the world can bring. That's very cool. It's also a little scary, because . . . what if nobody likes your Content?

That's simple -- get more Content! You do that in a variety of ways, but they boil down to two. You get more Content by:

Living life and learning from itLearning from others

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Writing The Perfect Scene

Writing The Perfect Scene | writing for dummies (as internet talks about) | Scoop.it
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson teaches the secrets of creating the fundamental unit of fiction -- the scene. It is possible to write a perfectly structured scene and Dr. Ingermanson shows you how.

A Scene has the following three-part pattern:




A Sequel has the following three-part pattern:




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yWriter5 - Free writing software designed by an author, not a salesman

yWriter5 - Free writing software designed by an author, not a salesman | writing for dummies (as internet talks about) | Scoop.it
Free writing software designed by the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series. yWriter5 helps you write a book by organising chapters, scenes, characters and locations in an easy-to-use interface.

What is yWriter?

yWriter is a word processor which breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, helping you keep track of your work while leaving your mind free to create. It will not write your novel for you, suggest plot ideas or perform creative tasks of any kind. yWriter was designed by an author, not a salesman!


If you're just embarking on your first novel a program like yWriter may seem like overkill. I mean, all you have to do is type everything into a word processor! Sure, but wait until you hit 20,000 words, with missing scenes and chapters, notes all over your desk, characters and locations and plot points you've just added and which need to be referenced earlier ... it becomes a real struggle. Now imagine that same novel at 40,000 or 80,000 words! No wonder most first-time writers give up.

(Although yWriter was designed for novels, enterprising users have created their own translation files to customise the program to work with plays, non-fiction and even sermons.)

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Another way to outline a novel

Another way to outline a novel | writing for dummies (as internet talks about) | Scoop.it

Here are my quick notes on how I outline, which is kind of a mixture between Alicia Rasley's plot your novel in thirty minutes worksheet, James Scott Bell's LOCK method, Snowflake method, Phase outline method, and I've also incorporated the midpoint from Dan Well's 7-poimt system in with the LOCK system, esentially turning LOCK into a pseudo-5 act structure.


The Premise is the theoretical/emotional problem that your story is trying to illustrate and answer. It’s the glue that holds your story together.
The Concept of your story is how you intend to illustrate your premise; it’s the story your wrap around your problem.
So to understand what your premise is you have to ask yourself some questions: Why do you have to write this story? What ideas/problems/lessons do you have to share that keep you up at night dreaming about how this story works them out? What makes you want to stand on the rooftops and shout across a crowded city until everyone turns to look at you just so you can get them to read this story?


• Create high human worth. Why do we need to care about this character and how do we make them care about her? In what ways do her individual problems speak to a wide audience? In other words, creating a character we can all root for will glue us to the story.
• Personal Stakes: What matters to your character? The character’s stakes will only seem strong as long as the character is sympathetic. So always ask the question: why should I care about the character and about what matters to the\at character? When you can answer both questions, you’ve got solid personal stakes. Deep personal stakes show us who we are.
• Public Stakes: Basically, what would the world loose (or the societal group that is trying to stay out of ). If the character doesn’t achieve the goal, will the world blow up? If werewolves/vampires are discovered, will they be hunted to extinction? These questions answer the public stakes. These are the big picture conflicts that must be taken into account. For example, in most vampire stories, their existence is only assured by it being kept secret, otherwise they would be hunted down and killed out of fear.
o Make your characters suffer. “Kill your darlings,” as Stephen King likes to quote. Always ask: How can things get worse?


The Lock Method:

Lead = This is the main, focal character or characters of your plot: who they are, their back-story, their personality, inner conflicts, beliefs, emotions, everything the bring to the story in the beginning.


Objective = This is what the character ultimately wants in the story. Either it’s something he/she wants to get or accomplish, or it’s what the main character wants to lose or get away from. It is the most important and most crucial desire that needs to be fulfilled to ensure the well-being of the lead character. This includes their personal stakes.


Conflict = These are the obstacles in your Lead’s way. They can take the form of the antagonists, villains, obstacles/puzzles to overcome to arrive at the destination, anything that must be overcome to reach the objective. How can your character have two personal objectives that conflict with each other? How can the public stakes conflict with the character’s personal objectives? This will up the stakes.


Knockout = The End. This is the climax, and/or resolution, of the story: seeing the character succeed or fail at achieving their goal (depending on whether you’re writing a happy or sad ending). The climax scene needs to be the most intense scene of the novel. It’s the scene the rest of the book has been leading up to. This also includes the post climax wrap-up, bringing all the different plots and subplots to a successful conclusion (think of the post climactic one-on-one’s between Dumbledore and Harry in the first five books).


Disturbance = This is an event, and it can be very small, that interrupts the main characters blissful life. This can happen anywhere in the story, or even before the story begins.


1st Doorway = This is the event that pushes the character out of the comfortable space at the beginning of the novel and commits him/her to the facing the conflict of the novel. This is the point of no return where the lead cannot go back to his/her ordinary world again without seeing the story through to its resolution.


Midpoint* = The midpoint is actually taken from Dan Wells’ 7-point plot system and wasn’t originally a part of Bell’s LOCK method. The midpoint is where the character stops merely reacting to what’s happening in the story and begins taking proactive steps to counter the opposition.


2nd Doorway = This is the event that sets the Lead unavoidably on the path to the climax and resolution of the story.


Three-Act Structure:


Act I (The Beginning) – Introduces the character and the overall story problem and creates the bond between the character and the reader. The sooner that bond is created the better. This is also where the writer presents the story world, establishes the tone and pace of the story, introduces the opposition, and gives the reader a reason to read the story. The beginning ends when the character passes through the first doorway.

Act II (The Middle) – This is the meat of the novel where the confrontation takes place, subplots play out, and plot twists tickle the funny bones of the reader and keep the reader motivated and engaged in the story (caring about the characters), all building to the final showdown/climax in part three. The middle ends when the character passes through the second doorway.

Act III (The End) – The resolution of the story. This is where the final climax of the story takes place and the reader gets to see if the character realizes his/her goal or not, and how it affects the character and his/her world. This is where the loose ends need to be tied up.


*Note on 5-Act Structure: 5-Act Structure is merely, as far as I’ve been able to tell, just the Three-Act Structure split in the middle at the midpoint. The first and last act remain the same, while the second act is split into three parts: the second act contains the events leading up to the midpoint; the third act is the scene or scenes directly around the midpoint itself; and the fourth act is the action after the midpoint that leads into the second doorway.

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5 Day Course: How To Publish Your Novel - Day 5

5 Day Course: How To Publish Your Novel - Day 5 | writing for dummies (as internet talks about) | Scoop.it
A 5-day course on how to publish a book, by award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson.

Wrap.Up & marketing ;)

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5 Day Course: How To Publish Your Novel - Day 3

5 Day Course: How To Publish Your Novel - Day 3 | writing for dummies (as internet talks about) | Scoop.it
A 5-day course on how to publish a book, by award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson.

What goes into the Craft of fiction? It's not hard to make a list of the main components. I like to call them the Four Pillars of Fiction:


That's all -- just 4 of them. In order to write great fiction, you need to master all 4 of these. Let's talk about each of them in turn, very briefly.

StoryWorld is the setting for your novel. It may be a boat, a building, a baseball league. It may be a village, a city, a country, a world, a galaxy. Whatever your StoryWorld is, you need to know it inside out and you need to be able to show it to your readers without making your novel feel like a travelogue. And that's tricky, no?

Characters are the players in your novel. Usually, they're humans, but they can be dogs, or vampires, or robots, or any other sentient life form. The key thing is that the Character must be capable of either rational thought or feelings. Preferably both. Again, you need to know your Characters better than you know your mother or your spouse or your kids or your cat. Then you need to be able to put your reader inside the skin of those Characters. And that's magic.

Plot is the actual storyline of your novel. It's what happens when your Characters come into conflict within the confines of your StoryWorld. You may have heard that there is only 1 Plot. Or 3. Or 7. Or 492. I really could care less how many Plots there are. What's more important is whether you can put your Characters into a unique and exciting Plot that will keep your reader up till 5 AM because she can't put your book down!

Theme is the deep meaning of your story. This one is tricky, because all too many novelists want to make sure their readers don't miss the Theme. So they roll it up into a big, unchewable glob and try to ram it down the reader's throat. Gack! There is a technique to writing a great Theme with a light touch.

Those are the Four Pillars of Fiction. Truth be told, 99% of the Craft of fiction falls into one of those four categories. And here's a dirty little secret -- nobody ever masters any of them! That's right, no matter how much you learn about any of them, there'll always be more to learn. Nobody can teach you all there is to know about them, because nobody knows it all.

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5 Day Course: How To Publish Your Novel - Day 1

5 Day Course: How To Publish Your Novel - Day 1 | writing for dummies (as internet talks about) | Scoop.it
A 5-day course on how to publish a book, by award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson.

When I first started writing, the publishing world seemed vast and mysterious and uncrackable. How in the world was an ordinary guy supposed to break in to this world?

That was almost 20 years ago. In that time, I've published six novels and one nonfiction book, won about a dozen awards and honors, rubbed elbows with hundreds of writers, editors, and agents, and taught at many writing conferences across the country.

You know what? The publishing world still seems vast and mysterious. But I've learned that it's not impossible to crack into it. I broke in. And I've watched a zillion novice writers develop their skills and get published.

The publishing world is completely fair and democratic. You don't need to slip anybody a big wad of cash to break in. You don't need to threaten anybody with a kneecapping. You don't need to perform any lewd acts.

All you need are 3 things. Here they are:


That's all! This course is about how to get each of those things and what to do with them once you've got them

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How to plot your novel - a free article by Simon Haynes, author of the Hal Spacejock series.

How to plot your novel - a free article by Simon Haynes, author of the Hal Spacejock series. | writing for dummies (as internet talks about) | Scoop.it
How to plot a novel, from initial ideas to complete outline. Now includes the complete plot outline for a bestselling novel so you can compare the early ideas to the published book.
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How to write a novel

How to write a novel | writing for dummies (as internet talks about) | Scoop.it
How to write a novel, finishing that first draft, motivating yourself to the end. Free article.

Skills - First things first. Wanting to write a publishable book is no different to wanting to play an instrument in a top symphony orchestra. You need thousands of hours of practice and familiarity with the tools of the trade. In their case, music and instruments. In ours, language and words.

Fortunately writers don't have to pay for our education. No expensive lessons required ... all you have to do is read books. If you want to write fiction, read fiction. The more you read, the more the tricks of the trade will seep in. So, if you suspect your writing isn't up to scratch, haunt the local library.

Practice - I once considered retelling a favourite book just to get an idea of the level of detail needed. I planned to duplicate the characters and plot exactly, rewriting the entire book scene by scene in my own words. I never did it, but I still think it could be a very useful technique. After all, you don't have to worry about plot or characterisation ... that's already been done! (Of course, you couldn't submit the result to a publisher. This would strictly be for your own consumption.)

Consistency - try and write something every day, no matter how little. I jot down half a dozen sentences, each of which describe a scene I think I'll have to write soon. When I review them, one of them often fires my imagination and that's what I start writing about.

Plotting - some people plot out every twist and turn beforehand, and some people just write. Although I've always been a 'write first and think later' kind of author, I'm slowly coming to appreciate having a detailed outline to work from. One reason is because I now write to deadlines, not just when there's nothing on TV and the wind is in the right direction. Writing to a plot keeps me on track.

Coming up with a plot is a topic big enough for an article of its own, and you'll find my take on the whole process here.

Characters - I generally don't have 'good' and 'evil' characters in my novels, just people with opposite goals. The conflict this generates is more than enough to escalate things to a satisfactory climax and conclusion. I don't spend too much time developing bit players, unless they become more important during the writing. If someone's only going to appear in your book for one paragraph, treat them like a piece of furniture. Also, try and limit the number of characters - sometimes you can combine two moronic henchmen into one - and if your book makes it into film, the casting people will thank you for saving them money. (Hey, it worked for Sleuth.)
Want to get on with it? See my speed writing tips. Includes progress forms for hourly and daily word counts to keep you right on track.

As a general rule your protag should be sympathetic - someone the reader can identify with. I realise that's difficult if you're writing about a serial killer, but in those cases the 'less is best' rule applies. As in, the less we see inside this monster's head, the more we fear them. If your killer is familiar and the reader starts to identify with them you've destroyed all the tension. That's why whodunits are called whodunits and not weknowwhodunnits. (Someone asked me this, so ... protag = protagonist, the major character.)

Scenes are the story units, and there are one or more of these per chapter. You'll find a good article on writing the perfect scene here.

Revisions - Don't bother! Okay, what I mean is... finish writing the book. You will have plenty of time for improvements later, and it's easy to kill a book by being too critical during the writing process. You're not trying to produce finished work at this stage - remember, by the time a major publisher releases a book it's been through several drafts and has also had input from a professional editor and a proof reader. Think of your first draft as a block of raw material, from which you will chip your finished work. Throw everything into it! Don't worry about inconsistencies and dead ends, they can be trimmed out afterwards. I can't emphasise this enough: finish the book, then revise!

More on revisions - Someone emailed to say they're 100 pages into their novel and they know they have to change some fairly major plot points near the beginning ... should they go back and change it now, or soldier on? My response? Keep moving ahead. It's better to finish the first draft than to tinker. If you know you're going to change something just put a note in brackets right in the text you're writing now and continue as if the change has already been made.

Example: Halfway through your novel you decide it should be set in Paris instead of London. Rather than going back to do a rewrite, you'd just put (tk: Change everything to Paris) in the text and continue as if it WERE Paris.

You see, the problem with going back again and again to change things is that you might come up with an even better idea four chapters on. E.g. you decide to set the book in Madrid instead. All those cumulative rewrites just bog you down, and as long as you're bogged down you're joining the ranks of people who never finish their books. Which, apparently, is over ninety percent.

'tk' stands for 'to come', and because it's a unique letter combination it's easy to seek them out later when rewriting.

Okay, the first draft is done. Have a drink, pat yourself on the back, and get ready for the best part. Revisions. This is where you mould your lump of clay into a vaguely novel-shaped sculpture, but remember it's still a draft so don't expect the Venus de Milo. (Actually, perhaps you should, given the missing arms.)

When you do get on to revisions, here are a couple of tips: First, when faced with a complex scene with a lot going on, it's best to break it down into the smallest possible fragments with a clear idea of what is going to happen in each. For example, imagine you're writing a scene where the hero arrives for dinner, chats with the guests, then accuses the host of murder, and then explains why and how he did it. Break that into the arrival, the chit chat, the accusation and the explanation, and work on each little piece separately. (yWriter is good for that.) They don't have to go into the finished book as separate pieces, because you can join them up long before then.

Grammar, spelling, language usage - This is a tough one. When you've been writing a while you can go back and read some of your early work and fall about laughing (or crying) at how bad it is. Well, I know I do. I've been writing fiction for over 20 years, and thankfully I can still see improvement from one year to the next. I think it's important to be natural and let your voice come through in your writing, especially at draft stage. Concentrate on getting the mood, scene, ideas onto the page and worry about polishing later.

Researchitis - Instead of describing a gun as a gun, some authors will describe the thing as a 9.6mm Wess and Smithon HeadHoler 2000... every single time the hero or antagonist pulls one from the hand-tooled leather holster with six (not five, not seven) silver studs. They will refer to cars by brand, model and engine capacity when it matters not. They will befuddle you with detail because, dammit, they had to research this stuff and they're NOT going to waste all that effort. Meanwhile, back at the plot...

Keep writing! Don't get too attached to a particular story or to your very first novel. Trust me, however good it is your writing will continue to improve the more you produce. They reckon you have to write a million words of fiction before all the pieces fall into place. How much have you done?

yWriter runs on Windows PCs, and is free to download and use.

Staying Organised - I use my own software to write books: yWriter. It's a project manager for novelists - you store your text in scenes and organise them into chapters.

Enjoy yourself - I don't write to become famous, get rich or impress friends and family with the size of my ego. I write because of an itch, because of an overwhelming desire to tell a story, to entertain with my words. I write because I can't not write.

Buy Scrivener 2.x for Mac OS X (Regular Licence)

It does get easier - My first novel took roughly 5 years to write, with lots of inactive periods. My second novel took about 18 months and the third less than 12. Like many things in life, writing novels does get easier with practice.

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