Dialogue and Scenes – Making Them Great – Quick Writing Tips

Great dialogue makes for great scenes In last week’s post, I focused on tips for writing great scenes–scenes and summary are the building blocks of fiction and memoir. A friend who blogs and writes essays read the post and reminded me that scenes and partial scenes also lend energy and veracity to nonfiction. So true! C’mon, make a scene! First of all, a vital reminder: a scene is a piece of story action, played out moment-by-moment on page, stage, or screen. Conflict drives every scene. No conflict, no scene. A scene moves, dynamically beginning in one place and ending in …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #20)

I spoke with a client today who is moving from first to second draft on her historical fiction. She is reading one of my novels and she commented on the quick pace and the fact she enjoys reading my scenes. Her question of the day: How do I make my scenes sharp, whole, and compelling. Here are a few quick tips: 1) When possible keep the scenes to 2 or 3 primary characters. 2) Know what each character wants going into the scene. If you’ve ever taken an acting class, you know that each actor has a scene goal — …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #13)

In my work as a coach and consultant, I read manuscripts on a regular basis. Often, I can identify what’s working–or not–within the first 20 pages. Whether you are aiming to sell to a traditional publishing house, or you are going the independent publishing route, your story must hook your reader (agent, editor, or bookstore browser) on page one. Powerful prose is great–as long as you’re using it to tell a story with an engine. I call that “engine” the story equation, and it represents the cohesion and chemistry of the most important story elements: the story catalyst, the event that hooks the reader; the dilemma (sometimes …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #7)

When you’re writing fast, tapping out your shitty first draft, you need to have several markers on your imagination’s roadmap. You want an X on your starting point (this marks your hero’s life at your story’s opening and her “want”). You also need an X for the inciting incident that pulls your hero out of her ordinary life and changes or intensifies her “want” (and at this point that X will also mark your antagonist’s intentions, whether your antagonist is a middle school bully or a mafia assassin). It’s good to have an X in the general vicinity of your …

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#NaNoWriMo2015 — Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #2)

Don’t get stuck believing you must draft your novel by a) rigidly outlining OR b) driving your story through the dark blindly with no gas can and no sense of destination. Writing a novel is not an either/or process. Try creating a loose outline with some idea of beginning, middle, end–and fill in the major turning points as you write. Let your hero’s “want” drive the story. Ditto your antagonist’s “want”. Free-write scenes, be a voyeur and watch your protagonist interact with people who are most important in her life. Those moments are vital even if they do not end up …

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WRITER TO WRITER: 12 Possibly Relevant Tips at Year’s End

Do not take your moods too seriously (exclusions to this rule include clinical depression, bipolar disorder, and the like; if any of these apply, seek expert help and do not skip your meds!) because the dark hole you inhabit today may well presto-change-o to a snowy peak tomorrow, and either way, you still have to face the blank page and write the next paragraph/page/chapter/repeat. Do know what makes your skin crawl, your stomach turn to mush, and your brain freeze because chances are at least some of your characters share your fears and, writers, this is useful knowledge. Do know …

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The Loose Novelist

This advice from Alan Watt’s wise how-two, THE 90-DAY NOVEL: “I didn’t try to figure out the ending, but rather, imagined a sense of my hero at the end of the story. How was he relating differently to his father? What had he come to understand as a result of his journey? How was the dilemma resolved? What was the visual metaphor, the image that captured the essence of my story at the end? As I pondered these questions, ideas came to me, and I realized that they were a goldmine of images for what preceded the ending. Imagining our …

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National Novel Writing Month, November 2011

Ready to join tens of thousands of writers around the world and write a draft of your novel in 30 days? November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and whether you register officially on the website and follow the rules (175-pages/50,000 words) or not, it is a great time to take advantage of collective creative steam. And in order to try, you must truly give yourself permission to work quickly, and messily, through the first draft. Is it a good idea? Yes, if you get the basics of your novel clear first. According to NaNoWriMo rules, you can begin …

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Deep Problems, Big Story

When it comes to creating a great protagonist, the character with the biggest, deepest problem wins. In my last blog entry–Does Your Story’s “Equation” Add Up?– I touched on the terms “story catalyst” and “deep-story problem”. I want to discuss them both in a bit more depth because they are crucial to the creation of a marketable story. A truly effective story catalyst (also referred to as inciting incident) kicks off the narrative, hooks the reader, and sets the protagonist on a journey (dealing with the deep-story problem) that will end in a life-changing crisis and climax. Because they are …

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