"It is human nature to imagine, to put yourself in another's shoes. The past may be another country. But the only passport required is empathy."
"There are so many different kinds of writing and so many ways to work that the only rule is this: do what works. Almost everything has been tried and found to succeed for somebody. The methods, even the ideas of successful writers contradict each other in a most heartening way, and the only element I find common to all successful writers is persistence—an overwhelming determination to succeed."
"But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think."
Announcing Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success!
As those of you who listen to my weekly podcast or follow me on Twitter and Facebook are probably already aware, I've been hard at work this year on the writing craft book Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success which will be released September 26th. Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing excerpts, trailers, and some fantabulous prize drawings. (Read on for more about the goodies.)
Can outlining help you write a better story?
Writers often look upon outlines with fear and trembling. But when properly understood and correctly wielded, the outline is one of the most powerful weapons in a writer's arsenal. Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success will:
Help you choose the right type of outline for you
Guide you in brainstorming plot ideas
Aid you in discovering your characters
Show you how to structure your scenes
Explain how to format your finished outline
Instruct you in how to use your outline
Reveal the benefits:
Ensures cohesion and balance
Prevents dead-end ideas
Offers assurance and motivation
Requires formal formatting
Robs the joy of discovery
Takes too much time
Even if you're sure outlining isn't for you, the book offers all kinds of important tips on plot, structure, and character. (Click for more information.)
The book will launch Monday, September 26, with a week of celebrations, featuring daily giveaways and culminating in our three-tiered Grand Prize giveaway worth over $400, featuring prizes from PosterText, a huge bundle of writing craft books, and a Kindle. In the meantime, stop by the blog every Wednesday for special previews of the book and weekly book prizes!
Featured Novel: Medieval Epic Behold the Dawn
Marcus Annan, a tourneyer famed for his prowess on the battlefield, thought he could keep the secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him find justice for the transgressions of sixteen years ago, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade.
Wounded in battle and hunted by enemies on every side, he rescues an English noblewoman from an infidel prison camp and flees to Constantinople. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn't even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.
Q: Only recently I've begun to write seriously. In fact, I'm working on the story I have been playing around with since I was a teenager (the story has evolved I can assure you!). My question is this: what do you do when your story does not fit neatly into a genre category? I can place this current work into Christian Fiction, Action/Adventure, Mystery, and Coming of Age. Is this bad or too confusing or should I not even worry about this until I have a draft I'm ready for someone objective to read? Thanks for taking the time to consider my question(s).—Linda Connelly
A: Although it's important to be aware of your genre (mostly so you can fulfill important reader expectations and give agents and editors an idea of where your story will fit in a marketing niche), I honestly wouldn't worry too much about genre at this point. Unless you're specifically wanting to fit your book into a particular niche, just write the story you've been given and have fun with it. You might end up creating a whole new genre! All of the genres you mentioned are easily compatible with each other, and I've seen books on the market that could probably be simultaneously classed under all of those headers. When you're finished writing it, you'll be able to identify the primary genre and introduce it to agents and readers under that heading. For example, without knowing anything more about your story, I'd say it's probably a Christian mystery. "Christian" fiction isn't so much a genre as a world view through which fiction of various genres is filtered. Coming of age really isn't a genre either; it's more of a character arc. Of the two that are left, they could both easily fit within a subgenre of the other. You've probably got a mystery with action/adventure elements or an action adventure with mystery elements. Either way, determining your story's genre isn't nearly as important as just writing a killer story to begin with!
Have a writing question you'd like answered? I respond to all emails and will publish one question a month in this e-letter.
The heart of any story is its characters. The more readers care about these people, the more likely they are to care about your book. As authors, we want to create characters so rich and compelling that readers will carry a piece of these characters with them for the rest of their lives. Once we've peopled our pages with vivid personalities, we then want to shove them into the middle of the most gripping and exciting situations we can think of. But no matter how compelling our characters or how gripping our action, we still run the great risk of losing readers if our distant narrative is pulling readers out of the story, instead of pulling them in deeper.
A fantasy I read recently featured some of the most brilliant actions scenes I've ever read—and yet it had me yawning and peeking ahead to the next scene. What went wrong? In these scenes, the author had chosen to employ a distant narrative that skimmed over the entirety of the battle, rather than focusing on the personal involvement of the characters I cared about. Even the most exciting and well-written action scenes grow boring if the reader isn't given a character to root for.
Distant narratives serve their purpose, but they've largely fallen out of favor in recent years, due to this very pitfall. Take a look at your story—particularly your tense, high-emotion scenes—and evaluate them. Are you allowing the reader to experience the scene through the character's reactions and actions? Is the reader able to stick by the character's side every step of the way, gasping when he stumbles, and cheering when he rallies? If not, you may want to consider tightening your narrative. Doing so can not only inject more excitement and interest into your scene, it will also be more likely to have your readers on the edge of their seats.