When you first started writing, what form did you use–short stories, poetry, memoir, or a novel?
In middle school, I chose short stories and I still like to write them. Next I wrote a few novels, and then poetry. In the afternoon writing class I teach, we are writing a Haiku twice a month based on a photo members take turns bringing to class.
My preferences for short stories and poetry affect my novel writing. The shorter forms make it necessary to be aware of exactly the right words to use and to eliminate too much detail. I’ve discovered that when building character in a novel, choosing the right words is more complicated. One has to think about interspersing physical description, feelings, thoughts, and how to show a deeper, rather than a superficial character.
In my novel, Norman in the Painting, I think I’ve created minor characters that have more personality than the protagonist. I’ve written a post-a-note to remind myself to deepen Jill. She’s the center of the action, readers learn about her values by her dialogue and by the decisions she makes. However I sense she’s hiding something or resisting a close relationship with the reader. I’ll have to figure out why.
What is your favorite form to write?
A Good Day’s Work — Grandma Moses
I look back on my life like a good day’s work, it was done and I feel satisfied with it. I was happy and contented, I knew nothing better and made the best out of what life offered. And life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.
Thanks to Ann Winfred for posting this quote on her blog: http://comingofagecroneicles.com/voices/
And for giving me permission to post it too.
A reader, editor, or agent often gives a first page three or four seconds before closing the book or tossing the submitted page onto the notorious slush pile. What do we have to squeeze into those few seconds?
- We have to grab the reader’s interest immediately, usually with writing something active not passive.
- Ground the reader in the setting, i.e. when and where the story is taking place preferably with specific sensory details. Brief and succinct, not too many details regardless how well-written–remember we only have a few seconds and we have to cover more than setting.
- An interesting character who makes the reader care about him or her is necessary. Show the character’s public and personal persona. Let the reader learn about him/her by the character’s actions, thoughts, or feelings.
- Show the promise of the story. Is there a puzzle or mystery to solve? Is there a love interest that is blocked? What does the character want? What is preventing him or her from getting it?
- No backstory on the first page until much later. Donald Maass, in Writing the Breakout Novel, suggests saving a flashback or important snippet of backstory until after page 100.
The first couple pages and the ending will make or break your chances for acceptance by an editor or agent. Feedback from a critique group or fellow writer can clarify what’s working and what isn’t.
The following link has several first lines of published fiction. How many make you want to read the book?
Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
I know Eisenhower was referring to preparing for battle, but to me, it works for writing as well.
For plotters his quote could be interpreted as the plot that was planned might be useless, i.,e. doesn’t work, but the planning was important to know what will work and what won’t. Planning can be similar to a trial run that opens up new ideas leading to an outstanding piece of work.
For pantzers, we writers who don’t plot but sit down and write what comes to us, in other words, we write by the seat of our pants, I have found Eisenhower’s quote works for me as well. Writing out a plot is useless, discouraging, and leaves me with a feeling the story is already written so I give up and go on to some other story idea. However, in my recent WIP, Norman in the Painting, I sit down and write, but I’ve planned a brief idea of what the action will be in that chapter. No outline, no note cards, nothing in writing, just a brief sentence in mind such as Arctarius tells Jill how Norman travels from his world to hers. I had to research multidimensions, parallel universes, and other details in order to have the correct terminology for Arctarius but after that, the chapter was up to him. I maintained the ability for surprises to occur, and they did, he didn’t let me down.
What is your process?