Monday, 27 January 2014

Where Is Your Story Headed?

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When asked if he knew the ending when he started a story, E. L. Doctorow said of his process:

It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

Taken in isolation that quote can seem very freewheeling and unfettered. The romantic idea of novel writing often has this sort of outlook: just set off and every time you come to a fork in the road just choose whichever path seems most appealing.

Sounds great but this is a somewhat disingenuous view of storytelling that can lead to dead-ends and pointless detours. Even the most improvisational of writers usually know the ending they’re aiming for (even if they’re not always consciously aware of it).

It’s not often you get in your car without having a destination in mind.

But at the same time, just because you know where you want to go doesn’t mean you know what you’re going to find when you get there. What it give you, though, is a framework to help create a cohesive narrative rather than a random sequence of events that might come together through happenstance and good luck.

Monday, 20 January 2014

The Long and Short of Writing the Middle

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For most of us writing the middle of the story is the most difficult part.

The middle is where insecurity tends to rear its ugly head. Is this story going anywhere? Are these characters going to hold anyone’s attention? Is it believable what I’ve got them doing?

Regardless of whether you’ve planned things out meticulously or are winging it, these insecurities usually boil down to one of two concerns:

1) Is it too short?

2) Is it too long?

It may appear that feeling the bulk of the story is rushed or that it is too drawn out are completely separate and opposite problems, but in fact they stem from the same root cause: what you’re writing isn’t holding your interest.

Monday, 13 January 2014

What a Story Needs to Begin

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When it comes to time and place, a story can start anywhere and anywhen.

I know this to be true because I read a lot of books and I’ve read plenty that open at all different points in the tale. From the day a character was born to his last words on his deathbed and everywhere in between. I’ve read books that took their time establishing the world in which they were set, and I’ve read those that have started in the middle of action with no preamble.

Many have been great. Quite a few have been terrible.

What this tells me is that where and when you start isn’t a deciding factor. Of course it makes a difference how well a scene is executed, but that is true of any scene in any part of the book.

So then what are the important things that should be included in the opening pages and why?

Monday, 6 January 2014

Choosing a Title for Your Fiction or Nonfiction Book

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Starting the year with a guest post from one of my favourite bloggers, Nutschell over at The Writing Nut. The writing group she formed, the Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles (CBW-LA), has released a collection of writing exercises and short fiction based on those exercises.  And through January 50 percent of the proceeds will go to help aid in the Philippine Relief Efforts! 

Take it away Nutschell...

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