Writing hints and stuff I learned along the way
© Mary Maki 2018
From where do ideas come? Anywhere – Newspaper/magazine articles, Television/Radio shows, trending social issues, life experiences, and your imagination.
What are you passionate about? What’s your story really about? What’s at stake for each character?
Genre (Where will your book be placed in a bookstore or library?), setting, characters, plot line (s), and timeframe. Will you be a plotter or pantser or both?
Elizabeth George’s book On Writing, states, “Story is Character.” Give them flaws; have them doubt themselves. Let them grow and change by the end of the book. Write a bio for each character. You need to know everything about the characters—physical attributes (hair and eye color, height, weight, age, etc.) mental condition, family background, and occupation. Think of character analysis as physical, psychological and sociological. Once you have created a bio for your main characters you will know how they will respond in different situations. Secondary characters are just as important to develop. They should be strong. Avoid stereotypes. Don’t be surprised when characters take over.
Scenes – Think three-act play – When setting up your story think of it in three parts, beginning when you set up the action, middle when the action peaks, and end when story lines are brought to fruition. Within the acts are the scenes where the action takes place. Every scene has to move the story forward.
Point of View
Point of view is the distance between your characters and your readers.
First Person is the most intimate point of view and will draw readers emotionally into our character’s experience. “I” pronoun is used.
Second Person is even more intimate because readers get into the characters’ thoughts. It is used to draw readers in close. “You” pronoun is used.
Third Person is recognized by the use of “she” or “he.” This point of view is divided into two forms: Omniscient and limited. Third person limited is the most practical as it sticks to one character’s point of view at a time.
** The challenge is to not mix and match point of view so that the readers don’t get confused as to who is talking. One POV per scene.
Dialogue moves the story forward, sets the tone, creates tension, and a sense of time and place. It provides information and action. Dialogue reflects the speaker, their vocabulary, and speech patterns.
“Pacing is the heartbeat of your story. It’s the rhythm that keeps your narrative on track, scene after scene.”
Think of your story as having hills and valleys. As you ramp up the tension with conflicts, you also need to provide readers relief from that stress. [This could be when your subplot comes in.] Paragraphs should be kept short with various sentence lengths. Paragraphs should not bog down in the middle. When forming sentences watch for excess baggage, i.e. information not needed. Look for unnecessary words and phrases, and get rid of them. Make every word work!
Editing – Listen to the Music
Read out loud: That’s where the music comes in. Writing is not only visual. “The words you write make sounds, and when the sounds satisfy the reader’s ear, your writing works.” The combination of correct words and length in a sentence creates a sound that will please a reader’s ear. When reading your manuscript aloud, you will hear the sour notes.
Publishing – Main Stream (Traditional) or Self-Publish – Or don’t publish at all– It’s a personal choice
You will need an agent. Check the library’s edition of The Writer’s Market for agents accepting queries in your genre. Read the instructions carefully. What kind of books does the agency represent? Follow directions to the letter. Learn how to write query letters. (How to Write Attention-grabbing Query & Cover Letters, by John Wood, 808.02 Wo) Be ready to accept rejection and most of all keep trying. When an agent accepts your manuscript, he/she will shop your book to publishing houses. If one of them buys the book, you will then face contract negotiations. You may need to hire a lawyer to protect your interests. Your book will be put in the queue and you may wait a year or more to publication.
Self-Publishing with CreateSpace
CreateSpace is an excellent option for self-publishing. The site offers easy step-by-step instructions for loading the manuscript and cover. It provides excellent customer service, shows the royalty structure, and distribution options. CreateSpace’s internal review process alerts the author to issues that might effect publication. [Set up a separate bank account for royalties to be deposited.] Downside: It is up to you to have a perfect manuscript and cover art. If you don’t have qualified beta readers, hire an editor.
Marketing – That other hat to wear
Whether you mainstream publish or self publish, you will have to do your own marketing. This is where social media is important. Author website, blog, LinkedIn, email contacts of family/friends, guest blogs, book festivals, craft fairs, newspaper articles, library author tables/presentations. Wherever you can get your name and books out to connect with readers.
My Writing Toolbox
Bell, James Scott, Plot and Structure. Writers Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2004.
George, Elizabeth, Write Away. Harper Collins, New York, NY, 2004.
King, Stephen, On Writing; A memoir of the Craft. Scribner, New York, 2000.
Mills, Elizabeth Shown, Evidence Explained; Citing history sources form artifacts to cyberspace.
Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, MD, 2009.
Munier, Paula, Plot Perfect. Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2014.
Munier, Paula, Writing with Quiet Hands. Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2015.
Provost, Gary, Make Your Words Work. Writers Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1990.
Roberts, Gillian, You Can Write a Mystery. Writers Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1999.
Rosenfeld, Jordan, Make a Scene. Writers Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2017.
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