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Posts Tagged ‘Nail Your Novel’

Welcome to Toolbox Saturday where you’ll find tools for various things from writing to whatever.

Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris, available at Amazon.com

I’ve picked up a lot of great writing tips from Roz Morris’ blog and absolutely love her book Nail Your Novel. The following is one of the many useful posts she’s written.

I rewrote my novel through a critique group but I’ve lost my way

by Roz Morris

Critique groups are a great way to develop a critical sense and to experiment with what works. And to meet other people who are as dedicated to writing as you are. But too many cooks…

I’ve had this email from Vanessa, which is a fairly common problem.

During the past 12 months, I rewrote my novel 8 times as part of a critique group, and now I’m wondering if I should just go back to my first draft and start over. My book is different now, in some ways better, in some ways worse. I’m not even sure I can work with it in its present, 8th incarnation. I’m feeling a bit discouraged and don’t know how to recapture the original freshness. I think there are some good changes in the revisions, but also a lot of bad direction. How will I sort through it?

Discounting the fact that some of the advice might be misguided, inept or even destructive, even the most accomplished critiquers will offer different approaches when they spot a problem. You get a lot of input and you don’t know which to ignore. You try to knit them into a coherent whole and then realise you’re lost. And the idea is worn to shreds.

Read the rest.
This blog, The Road to Writing, will be discontinued Dec. 31, 2011. If you would like to continue receiving great tips and inspirational posts please remember to subscribe to my new blog by RSS or email for LOL Mondays, Spirit Wednesdays and Toolbox Saturdays.

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As I continue wrestling with my WIP, Apprentice Cat, using Larry BrooksStory Engineering strategies, I’ve suddenly realized it’s not just the writing I’ll need to edit.

Pantsers know (or should know) that they’ll be writing draft after draft in order to get the story just right. Plotters, on the other hand, use different methods to plan out what they’ll write before setting fingers to keyboard. For me, it’s several excel worksheets that include characterization, concepts and, of course, the actual plot.

What plotters may not realize…

As I’ve developed my scenes and placed them in their slots on the plotting worksheet, I’ve done my best to make things move smoothly from one idea to the next. I’m over 2/3rds finished and it just dawned on me: once I’ve filled in every slot, I’ll need to go over it again to make sure it all makes sense.

You would think I could do that as I go along, but sometimes I come up with brilliant scenes and slot them in without considering all the scenes that came before. Therefore, sometimes there are missing pieces. If I want readers to enjoy the story without being jarred out of it, I have to include the information they need when they need it. I can’t just throw a surprise into the work without foreshadowing it.

Enter the pre-writing, post-plotting editing phase…

Now that I know I’m going to have to go back over my plotting worksheet looking for missing details, it makes coming up with good scenes both easier and more difficult.

I’m a perfectionist, so I want to get it right the first time. This makes plotting difficult because, as Roz Morris reminds us in her book Nail Your Novel, the initial phase of plotting is to use broad strokes. These are just the basic ideas and shouldn’t be too detailed.

However, knowing I’ll be going back to put those details in before I write another word, also makes plotting easier. If I don’t get those details in right away, I know I’ll be able to do it before I get half-way through writing the book (unlike what I’ve done thus far :P).

I know I’m not the only one who has gone through multiple stages to develop a good book, so I’m very curious what you do? How do you plan your story?

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On another note…

If you’ve been following The Road to Writing long, you probably know I have another blog called One Servant’s Heart on my web site. After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve decided to begin merging the two blogs. I’ll be posting snippets to TRTW with a link to the full post on my web site for a while longer (probably the rest of 2011) before letting this blog go entirely. If you’ve subscribed to this feed, please go ahead and subscribe to One Servant’s Heart so you won’t miss anything.

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I’ve been writing most of my life, but that doesn’t mean I’ve got it down cold. If anything, I’ve learned I have a lot to learn. For example, although my first novel may spend the rest of eternity tucked safely in the darkest corner of the deepest drawer away from anything living it might otherwise harm, I would have to say I did a much better job of delivering back story in it than I’m doing with my current WIP. Of course, that begs the question: why?

Because my first novel was conceived and drafted under the tutelage of a wonderful high school English teacher (Thank You, Ms. Patti Jo Peterson!) who understood the need to plan the entire thing out before jumping in. This one I began as a total pantser. ‘Nuff said.

So what’s the big deal? I’ve always been a pantser.

That’s true, but I’m discovering that being a pantser can really cause problems later on. After reading posts like How do you know what to cut? Tune into the rhythm of your story by Roz Morris and 7 Deadly Sins of Prologues–Great Novel Beginnings Part 2 by Kristen Lamb, I’m seeing that what I thought were awesome scenes were really just a cheap way of dumping information. Not a great way to win readers over.

Fortunately there are ways to get that important information to your reader without slowing the story down. Roni Loren suggests 5 ways to include back story in her post How to Dish Out Backstory in Digestible Bites.

  1. Dialogue: Just beware of making this tool a hammer when you really need a screwdriver. It needs to happen naturally and in a way that doesn’t make your characters sound as if they are reciting a history lesson to your reader.

  2. Flashback: Most experienced writers strongly caution against using these. From my own experience I know using flashbacks can be tantalizing, but as Kristen Lamb says, “Flashbacks, used too often, give the reader the feel of being trapped with a sixteen-year-old learning to drive a stick-shift. Just get going forward, then the car (story) dies and rolls backward.

  3. Memory: I think this one is trickier because you can easily fall into creating a flashback. Roni uses this example — “Ex.) He smiled at her, and for a moment, she was reminded of the boy he used to be, the one she used to love.  (See, that tells us they had a previous relationship and that something changed along the way.  Just enough to whet the reader’s appetite.)

  4. Thoughts: This is my favorite both in writing and reading. It’s a great way to let readers into the characters internal world and have a glimpse of what their past has made them into. Unfortunately, it’s easy to abuse this one, too. Beware of pages of italicized text. They’re probably hiding an info dump.

  5. Action: Current action in a story can detail past events. Roni uses this example — “i.e.  A news story comes on TV talking about a cold case murder that relates to your MC.

Roni’s parting suggestion is probably the best piece of advice a writer can tuck away in her toolbox: “The easiest way for me to figure out how to put in backstory is to think like a screenwriter.  They cannot tell you things in a movie, they have to show it all.  So how would I convey this information if it were a movie?

As I continue to work and re-work my WIP I know I’ll run into the need to include back story, but with all the great resources available, like Kristen Lamb’s blog Warrior Writers, Roz Morris’s Nail Your Novel, and Roni Loren’s Fiction Groupie, finding an answer on how to include that important past information in ways that don’t slow down the story won’t be so difficult.

What about you? How do you include back story without killing your novel’s pace or choking your reader?

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