Category Archives: books

How to Craft A Book Proposal in 6 Steps

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Let’s start with what is a book proposal. A book proposal is a condensed down presentation of the actual content of your book. What the purpose of a book proposal is to convince an agent to represent your work by submitting the proposal, possibly polished up a smidge more, to the editors/publishers of your book’s genre. I am going to show you how to do this in six parts.

The Overview:  In one to five pages you explain the concept of the book. Start out with a hook. You have just a few sentences to pitch your book in an exciting and necessary manner. You want to convince the agent right from the beginning of your proposal that your book matters

1.              The opening paragraphs grab their attention and the rest fills in the                                    picture    which supports the claims made in the beginning. You flesh out                             the keynote with a longer hook.  You might address why you are the right                             person to write the project. You might tell them you wrote a successful                                   cooking blog or you’re an expert who wants to share your groundbreaking                           findings.

If there is a lot of competition in your genre show how your book is important to                show them how your book is different. Don’t leave out critical selling points, such             as the 500000 subscribers of your online newsletter.  If important, briefly mention             the organization or specific content such as format, number of craft projects or                   original artwork, or that the book is a sequel to a previous publication.

2.     The about the author section.  A factual one-page introduction written in the third                person, an author profile needs to convince an agent and publisher to take an                     interest in your work.  Think of it as your biography that highlights your relevant               expertise, achievements, and qualifications to write the work.  Select details of                     your education, hobby, career, publications, prizes and awards, media exposure,                 research or personal experience that spotlight your strengths in authoring your                 book.

3.     The about-the-market section.  Agents and publishers take on projects that they                   believe have a ready market of buyers.  They want to feel confident knowing                       where the book belongs on the bookstore shelf and that it will make money.  This              is one of the most important parts of the proposal; your writing might be brilliant             and your idea solid, but without a clear market, your project could be a                                 nonstarter.

In three to five pages, demonstrate that you’ve done your homework, you know                  your audience, why they will want your book, and how your book stands out in the            marketplace.  Research your target markets, and if available, use relevant statistics            and facts to boost your case.  List key stats of your primary market to prove there is          a target audience, and follow up with an evaluation of your secondary market.  That          is, identify and evaluate competitive works that are currently available in your                 category, with a critical but fair eye.  Point out how your work fits into, and how it is         distinguished from the comparisons.

4.   The author platform section.  Here you prove you are qualified to write the book and demonstrate that you can reach your audience and that readers will buy the book.  In one to two pages present your media experience and contacts, email lists, Twitter followers, Facebook relationships (only as relevant to your topic) details of previous successes and related opportunities for promotion.

Be sure to offer details of each of your platform’s six planks which include:

  •    Media experience, such as TV and radio appearances and print interviews or features.
  • Social media marketing which shows online exposure via your blog, website, e-newsletter, podcasts and dedicated YouTube site.  The larger the online audience, the better it looks for book sales.
  • Previous publications, or books and/or articles you’ve published in the subject area that relate to your new book concept.
  • Speaking engagements, including- large national or prestigious groups you addressed in your topic area.  List how often you speak to groups and the size of your audiences, because  “back of the room” book signings after presentations make good sales opportunities.  If you work with a speakers bureau, mention that.
  • Product tie-ins, which include your own products or endorsed products. These relationships could offer another marketing stream for your book.
  • Continuous exposure, or your ability to generate constant, ongoing and multifaceted media interest.  Agents and publishers don’t want a one hit wonder with one feature article in a regional magazine, for example.

5. The expanded table of contents.  This section, two to six pages, outlines the core structure and organization of the book, enabling an agent/publisher to envision in summary, the entire concept. Start with a skeletal structure and then fill it out.  Use appealing chapter and section titles, and within each craft a few choice sentences of a paragraph or two that describes the content you’ll cover.  Identify any important elements such as photographs.  Illustrations, sidebars, recipes, and so on.  This feature helps codify the entire book demonstrating the book worthiness of the concept and your ability to envision the entire work, including all its pieces.  In this section, be sure to identify which chapter or excerpt you are including as your writing sample.

6. The writing sample.  Every proposal must include a writing sample of up to three chapters of the work you propose to write.  This is the last section of your proposal and can make or break your opportunity.  It must demonstrate your writing ability, style and voice as well as generate interest in your topic and the desire to read more.  Make your selection carefully to offer strong content, intriguing elements of the book, and your obvious knowledge and passion for the subject.

Now you know why in mine and others opinion why writing is the easiest part of publishing a book if you go by the traditional route.

I have finished my first draft of Thomas Gomal Learns about Bullying. I’ve had help from my writing friends on FanBox. I appreciate their guidance so much. Until next time have a blessed week and happy writing.     Shirley

 

Five Rules to Write By

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writing instructionHello everyone, I do hope all have had a great writing experience since my last blog. Today I am going to give you advice by Monte Schultz who taught at the Santa Barbara Writing Conference a few years ago. So here goes:

1. Use the English Language?  Earnest Hemmingway’s relative minimalism is not the last word on style. Some writers may preach that less is more, but that’s simply personal preference.  Elmore Leonard is not a better writer or stylist than James Lee Burke, nor is Hemingway better than Faulkner.  There just different.

2.  If you’re writing literary fiction, make something happen.  Interior conflict only goes so far in carrying a story forward.  On the other hand, genre writers ought to avoid characters that behave like robots.  Plot-driven fiction does not preclude interior reflection or character development.

3. Avoid characters who converse in a white space with nothing but their voices on the page.  Setting matters.  Don’t go overboard, but let your reader see where your characters are interacting.

4. Find first readers who care about your work and understand what you’re trying to accomplish.  Fewer readers are better than many.  If possible, have people read for different reasons.  For instance, I’ve always tried to find readers specifically interested in story, style, grammar or pacing.  Workshops can be helpful if you trust the readers, but beware of “art by committee.” The blizzard of comments and suggestions can be confusing and counterproductive, so trust in your own opinion best of all.

5.  make writing your life, not just a passing fancy.  Don’t imagine that publishing a novel will make you rich and famous.  Maybe it will, but probably it won’t. Don’t see writing as a career change.  Don’t give yourself six months, a year or two years to make it as a writer.  Think instead that once you put words on a page, you are a writer, and this is something that will fascinate, frustrate and fulfill you for the rest of your life.

Obtaining Writing Agent Attention

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agentGood morning, I thought today I would give just a few pointers on how to get a Writing Agents attention.  I know not everyone uses an agent but just in case you want on here on a few tips:

  1. Be authentic, show your true self, be energetic and sincere
  2. Build your platform now. Don’t wait until your book is published to start working to sell your book.
  3. Be knowledgeable and honest enough about yourself to showcase your best skills.
  4. Be Prepared with chapters to show, outline, your ideas for shaping your book.
  5. Be original, open minds, and “capture a fundamental sentiment that we hadn’t been able to articulate on our own” stated agent Rita Rosenkranz.

 

The following is an article posted by Rachelle Gardner in The Writer Magazine on why writers need agents. I hope you enjoy.

Many times I’ve answered the question of why you, a writer (singular), might need an agent (also singular). I addressed it in posts such as 10 Things to Expect from an Agent and Earning Our Keep. Agent Nathan Bransford gave a terrific rundown on what agents do, here and my client Jody Hedlund gave the perspective of a contracted, newly agented author here.

But today I want to answer a slightly different question. Why do authors, collectively, need agents (plural)? How does the existence of agents in this business help all authors?

You, as an individual author, may or may not require the services of an individual agent. But whether or not you realize it, whenever you deal with a publisher, you’re benefitting from the collective work of agents over the years.

For the last few decades, agents have been on the front lines when it comes to advocating for authors in their relationships with publishers. It’s interesting to speculate on the state of publishing contracts if agents had never been involved and authors had to fend for themselves or just take whatever the publisher was offering.

The economics of publishing are tough, and like in any business, publishers are always trying to figure ways to save money – or a least keep their money longer. Naturally, they come up with brilliant money-saving ideas that involve paying authors less. They try to lower royalty rates; they try to bump up the royalty breaks (i.e. raise the number of copies you must sell before bumping to a higher royalty rate); they may want to extend the length of time over which they pay out the author’s advance (a huge bone of contention right now between agents and a couple of the largest publishers); and of course, they sometimes try to pay lower advances.

Those are the simple things. The last couple of years have seen publishers and agents battling it out over e-book royalty rates and numerous other areas related to new digital technologies. And besides the money, there are other contract points that agents constantly work to keep fair for their clients—everything from option clauses to author copies to author buy-back rates and more. It’s complicated and tricky trying to negotiate all these points in such a rapidly changing publishing environment.

But over all the years and all the changes in publishing, agents collectively have had the knowledge and the clout to duke it out with publishers on a contract-by-contract basis, holding as much ground for authors as possible. For example, if you sign a contract on your own with a small independent publisher, and they offer you a 25% royalty on e-book sales, you have agents to thank for that, because at first, many publishers were trying to fold e-book sales into their regular royalty schedule, meaning you’d only be making 10% to 15% royalty. But agents have, for the most part, changed that.

An interesting nod to the importance of agents in the publishing process happened last month when Random House CEO Markus Dohle sent a detailed letter explaining the company’s new policy involving e-rights (which quickly became known as RH’s “retroactive rights grab”). To whom did Mr. Dohle send the letter? Literary agents.

As we continue into the confusing new world of digital publishing, authors are going to need advocates more than ever. You are going to have your hands full, trying to work your full-time job plus write your books plus market them. You won’t have time to become an expert on publishing contracts, too.

Just remember, if you choose to sign with a royalty publisher and stay agent-less, you may be missing out on the latest knowledge and expertise that will protect the value of your intellectual property; but you’ll probably also benefit from the work agents have already done in the last few decades.

Your agent doesn’t just work for you. Each agent is, in their own small way, protecting the rights of all authors. So love ’em or hate ’em, it doesn’t matter because if you’re an author, agents are your friends.

P.S. I imagine some of you will argue that it’s really the other way around—that agents need authors. Well, of course, that’s true. We need authors if we want this job. But if authors didn’t need agents, none of us would have this agenting job in the first place, so it’s kind of a moot point. When authors stop needing agents, agents will cease to play a part in the publishing industry.

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New Book Coming on Bullying

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Here I am again, the lady that disappeared for a while. I did find out I couldn’t stay away from my writing even though I didn’t blog as I should have. I have been working on a new book that is for children above 10 and parents to learn about bullying. It’s called Thomas Gomel Learns About Bullying. What I’m doing is writing a fictional story using a 12-year-oldThomas Gomel FRONT.jpg boy and his family to teach children how to handle bullies as well as the parent dealing with a child that is being bullied. What do you think of my cover? Does it give a message to you when you see it?

Let”s talk about our bullying experiences if you had any. I have actually heard from some who did not have any problems. How wonderful for them.  I wasn’t one of those people. I was a new kid in a small school that moved from California to Oklahoma. I didn’t look right, I didn’t talk right. I just wasn’t right for about six years.  I had two very dear friends that helped me survive School.  I am almost 70 now and that trauma is not forgotten. I forgave and made some friends of those school chums, but the trauma I went through really never left my mind.

Young Adult Book Clubs Can be a Tough Crowd.

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kariong-library-book-clubI love reading young adult stories even though I’m almost 68 years old. I can’t tell you why I like it, but I do. In fact, the last book I wrote, “Princess Adele’s Dragon,” was a young adult fantasy. The one thing I found out when trying to tell my story about Princess Adele was I had to get and keep my audience attention. How does a geriatric woman get their attention?  I can’t dance because I’m to stiff.  I don’t know where to start when it comes to doing a rap. I can certainly read the story with a little acting taking place, at least using my arms. Then I have the problem of the kids thinking I’m going to throw the book at them with my arm gyrations.

I read where Henry Winkler (The Fonz) and his co-writer Lin Oliver do a kid-friendly presentation of Hank Zipzer. It’s dynamic, with lots of visuals on the screen. The trick is to get the audience involved. Besides haveing visuals you can come up with a hands-on activity.  I think I might bring play dough and let them make me a dragon just to see what their minds come up with.

Young readers are perceptive and the middle school grades are trying to put their world together along with their identity. If they can really get into a book they identify with the characters. Book clubs is a safe place for that type of exploration to go on. Henry and Lin actually go to the Young Adult Book Clubs to give their presentation. Some are at school and others are after school or on Saturdays.

If you have a middle school age child you might think about getting them involved with a book club. That might solve a problem with keeping them occupied.

 

 

 

Different Strokes for Different Folks

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Different Strokes for Different Folks

Hello, everyone. I hope all of you experienced a great week. Today I’m giving you a blog that discusses how you can broaden your story and your readership from an article by Bharti Kirchner. This was originally published in the Writer magazine.

Why venture into unaccustomed territory when it comes to characters? In a globalized world, re regularly meet people.e very different from us in race, class, ethnicity, religion, politics or ideology.  Modern novels and memoirs, as mirrors of a society, increasingly depict this heterogeneity.

In addition to expanding our readership, a diverse character, whether the protagonist or a secondary character brings a broader voice to a story. In the case of the novel Tulip Season, protagonist Mitra meets a mysterious German man, and the contrast between the two adds an element of tension.  With dissimilar actions, attitudes and world views, backgrounds and upbringings, their interactions spark a great exploration of Mitra’s world.

Creating Authenticity: How do you get started writing about a person foreign to you? By immersing yourself in that particular culture of community through direct contact and by building relationships.  Armchair travel can also help, as can books, videos, movies, art, and the Web. Remember, in the end, it’s your story and it’s fiction.  You’re facing challenges no matter what.  “If you’re going to write fiction, you’re going to write about people who aren’t you,” says David Guterson, author of 10 books, including Snow Falling on Cedars.  “You should feel some healthy trepidation about that.”

Respect, openness, and empathy are keys to depicting an unfamiliar culture or perspective.  Here are additional tips and techniques.

First Impressions: What a reader first notices is how the character looks, dresses, sounds and behaves.  Bring the character alive with physical descriptions, but not too much and not all at once.  Allow readers to use their imagination to fill in the blanks.  Pay special attention to the rhythm of the spoken language.  A foreign born person might speak with an accent and fall back on native words as necessary.

A Character from Inside Out: You’re writing about individuals, and the methods you usually employ to develop a character of any kind still applies. Remember that all cultures have hopes, fears, and dreams, and it’s your job to portray that.

Does a diverse character have to be sympathetic?  Peter Mountford, the author of two novels, including A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism, says no.  “Actually, I’m not sure he is very sympathetic because of the choices he makes,” Mountford says of Gabriel do Boys, the 26-year-old, biracial protagonist in his novel.  “He builds a lucrative career instead of abandoning it for love.  I feel for him, definitely, but a lot of readers struggle with him, and I suppose that is the key to writing “the other,” for me.”

Beliefs and Conflicts: Every culture or community holds common beliefs about marriage, family, money, status and friendship.  A character is likely to suffer moth internal and external conflicts when going against these beliefs and sometimes even when conforming to them.

Showing Universality: By wrestling with choices and obstacles, a diverse character, like any other, grows and changes.  In the process, he or she displays common human characteristics as fear, anger, joy and love.  Although I’m different, I’d feel much the same in the same situation, the reader realizes, and perhaps gets more involved in the book.

You can make a character accessible in other ways.  Show how he or she relates to friends.  Let him or her grapple with everyday issues like traffic.  An element of humor can also help.  We gravitate toward people who lighten our days with a joke or a funny situation.  It is in those moments that we let go of our differences and embrace our common humanity.

 

I hope this article helps to make your writing this week easier. The more knowledge we have the better writers we are.  Blessings to all.

Eight Steps to Become Noticed

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Hello everyone, I have been away from my blog for what seems like forever and I have missed it and my online friends.  Today I want to share with you an article I read by Pete Croatto, on how to get noticed by the editors. If you want an editor it will take some work to get noticed.

  1.  Take Initiative:  In an ideal world, our talent would be a siren song for editors far and wide.  In a world of tight budgets and staff meetings, editors need story ideas and good ones.  That means writing a pitch letter that shows you know the publication and what it wants. “What gets me to notice someone is I can notice immediately if they have a familiarity with the magazine,” says Mark Rotella, senior editor at Publishers Weekly.  “They might have mentioned an article they had read or a review that they read.  Usually, people are pretty specific about what section of the magazine they want to write for.  Basically, if they’re pitching me about the magazine, I want to see that they’ve read it.”
  2. Make the job Easier:  Sara Benincasa, author of Real Artists Have Day Jobs ( And Other Awesome Things They Don’t Teach You in School), says it’s key to do as much work for the editor as possible without overstepping.  “Don’t expect that your editor has a comprehensive knowledge of the television show or trend or book or political issue that you would like to discuss in your writing,” she says.  “Provide links, easy explanations.  Provide assistance without the legwork to show your editor that your pitch is for a story that will bring in views, and readers attention in a positive way.”
  3.  Follow Up:  This isn’t tennis.  The ball keeps moving only if you keep hitting it.  If you haven’t heard back after a week or two, politely inquire so you can either start writing or send your idea elsewhere.  Rotella, who has written for the New York Times and American Heritage, says the delay worked or the pitch came at the wrong time.
  4. Try, Try Again: An editor’s disinterest or silence should not be taken as an affront.  That even applies to repeat clients. “I follow up and pitch more stuff without being annoying and contacting the editor too much,” Benincasa says.  “If they liked my work the first time, they will respond.  If they did not like my work they will not respond.  I do a pitch, I follow up once and if I don’t hear anything, I move on.”  In other words, our confidence in your idea should drive you.
  5. Look Beyond Big Names:  Chances are you’re not going to make it into The New Yorker and not every profile will land in GQ. (But don’t be afraid to try.) Get published, get paid and use the clips as a down payment for more desirable venues.  Write Always.  That’s the only way you get better and pay your bills.
  6. Proofread A Lot:  Once you get an assignment, it’s easy to get noticed for the wrong reasons.  Rotella has an aversion to writers who can’t meet deadlines or follow directions, but says, “Nothing is worse, for me than if I have to spend too much time editing because of sloppiness.  That is a real discouragement.” Be professional. Proofread, fact-check and make yourself available to address any concerns your editor has.
  7. Play Nice with Others:  Veteran freelance journalist Jen A. Miller got a big assignment from a new publication when a fact-checker there remembered Miller’s work at another publication.  “Sometimes that can be an incredibly tedious process,” she says. “You’re already done with a story, you don’t want to deal with it anymore, you don’t want to deal with the fact-checker, but you don’t know where that fact-checker is going to end up.”
  8. Finally, Be Easy to Find:  That comes courtesy Miller, author of Running: A Love Story and a regular contributor to The New York times and Runner’s World.  She believes every writer must have a website. “It sets you up as a professional,” she says.

I do hope this article was helpful and it gave you some incite on what you need to do to snag that elusive editor.  Have a blessed week.

Who Is That Character?

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Ninja_Vector_Character_Preview

I’ve been told you must know your characters.  Your main characters desires should be known.  If you want your character to gather the sympathy from your readers, then give the character a strong desire.  What is being strived for, a new job, romance, riches, and knowledge?  If your character doesn’t have a need, do you think your readers will find excitement in your book? How do you say “boring?”You have to make your character multidimensional, and not leave him flat.  What creates the most vivid picture, 3D or regular television?   It is a matter of contrast in your characters.  As humans, we are very complicated, and you have to show that complication in your characters also. That way your reader can get interested in your character.

Your contrasts should be worked into your story, so they do not become roadblocks for the reader.  You want your story to keep moving forward.  You can have your character step out from the usual character portrayed as long as the tendency has been shown before.  That way it is not a stopping point.

Gotham’s “Writing Fiction” states,” your characters should have the ability to change, and the reader should know it.  Change is particularly important for a story’s main character.  Just as the desire of the main character drives the story, the character’s change is often the story’s culmination.”

This doesn’t mean your main character has to change, but the reader should always know change is possible.  Predictability is created if you do not give the character the potential to change.

I have covered a few ways to help you create a character that your reader can get to know.  The video today on creating characters.

PS this video gives lots of good information, but there is cafe noise in the background.

6 Steps for Writing a book Synopsis

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snopsisSince Princess Adele’s Dragon has now been published I have to write a synopsis of the story.  I decided to look for some help and found this blog by Marissa Meyer. It broke the synopsis down into easy to handle pieces. I hope you find it helpful.  Shirley    http://amzn.to/25lUOYM
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Confession: I enjoy writing query letters. I know that most writers loathe them, but I always thought the query letter was a fun challenge. The challenge of trying to distil your novel down to its essence, giving just enough information to draw the agent or editor into the story, but without giving away so much that the manuscript loses all sense of mystery.

However, I feel quite differently about the second-most dreaded item of many submission packages: the Synopsis.

The book synopsis is that three- or four-page snapshot of the book, that essentially tells your story from beginning to end while seemingly stripping it of any intrigue, humor, or emotional resonance. To me, writing a synopsis that could leave a reader still wanting to read the actual manuscript always seemed like a much bigger challenge than the query letter.

Unfortunately, it turns out that getting published does not necessarily mean we don’t ever have to write a synopsis again.

Last January, when it came time to my agent and me to start talking with my publisher about My Next Book (which was the Super Secret Project I wrote during NaNoWriMo last November), the submission package we pulled together was remarkably similar to the package we’d used to sell the Lunar Chronicles:

– A pitch letter (similar to a query), illustrating the concept and major conflict of the book.

– The first 50 pages, edited and polished to a glowy sheen.

– The synopsis of the book (although some plot points are subject to change).

So rather than whine and complain about how much I hate writing synopses, I decided to take the opportunity to embrace the synopsis writing challenge, and figure out a process for writing the synopsis that didn’t seem quite so painful and intimidating and, in the end, left me with something I was pleased to show my editor.

I’m not allowed to really talk about my new project,* so I’m going to use examples from the synopsis I wrote for CINDER way back when.

Step 0: Write the book!

If the book isn’t written yet, I feel like you’re writing an outline, not a synopsis, and I’ve talked about outline writing at length in previous blog posts. For the purpose of this synopsis-specific guide, let’s assume you have the book drafted out, or even completed.

Step 1: Skim through the manuscript, noting the important events of each chapter.

Try to boil every chapter down to just one or two sentences. What is the point of this chapter? What is the most important thing that happens?

Some chapters will be significantly longer than a sentence or two, particularly the opening chapters (as they tend to introduce a lot of information about the world and the main characters) and the climax (which could revolve around lots of complicated reveals and twists).

And yes, include the ending! From who wins the final battle to whether or not the protagonist hooks up with the love interest in the end. One of the main purposes of a synopsis is to show the full arcs of your plot and subplots, so don’t leave out those all-important resolutions.

Step 2. Embellish the beginning.

Just because you can’t use pages and pages to set up the world and protagonist’s character in the synopsis doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give the reader a little bit of foundation to stand on. The first paragraph of the synopsis should give the same basic information you convey through the book’s first chapter: where and when does this story take place, who is the protagonist, and what problem are they facing right off the bat?

xample: LINH CINDER is a cyborg, considered little more than a technological mistake by most of the society and a burden by her stepmother, ADRI. But her brain-machine interface has given her a unique skill with mechanics, making her, at sixteen, the best mechanic in New Beijing.

Step 3: String your short chapter summaries together, using standard synopsis formatting.

Here, it will begin to look like a story, but an incredibly sparse and drab one. Don’t worry about that. Just focus on getting all the technical formatting stuff figured out, so you don’t have to re-write it all at the end.

Standard Synopsis Formatting

– Written in third person, present tense, regardless of what POV or tense the book is written in.

– The first mention of each character’s name is put in all-caps (so that they can be easily spotted).

Example: When she arrives home, she discovers her two stepsisters—arrogant PEARL and vivacious PEONY—being fitted in ball gowns.

Step 4: Read through, with a focus on plot.

Distilling each chapter down into just a sentence or two can lead to lots of apparent plot holes and lost information. Read through what you’ve written and check that every event in the story naturally leads into the next. Imagine beginning each sentence with a Because / Then structure, and insert further explanation or character motivations as necessary.

Example: Cinder is worried that if she doesn’t fix the hover, Adri will sell off IKO to pay for the repairs herself. That night, Cinder goes to the junkyard to find replacement parts…

(Could be read as: Because Cinder is worried . . . then she goes to the junkyard…)

Step 5. Read through, with a focus on character arc.

Now that the plot makes sense from beginning to end check that you’re adequately showing how your protagonist evolves as a result of the events in the story. Do readers get a sense of who they are at the beginning and how they’ve changed by the end? Look for those Big Moments in the story that change your protagonist’s attitudes and goals. Indicate how those moments effect the protagonist emotionally, and show how their goals and motivations change as a result.

 

Example: Without Iko and Peony keeping her tied to Adri, Cinder vows to fix up the abandoned car she saw in the junkyard and run away.

 

Step 6. Trim and edit.

Now that you have all the necessary information read through a few more times and trim it up as much as you can. Be ruthless when it comes to removing excess words and phrases that don’t help you tell the story. Choose your descriptive words carefully, ensuring that you’re using words that carry a lot of weight. My book synopses for CINDER and New Secret Project both came in around the 1,500-2,000 word range, and that’s not a lot of room to work with! So edit, edit, edit.

7 Tools For Pacing A Novel

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PACEPacing is a crucial component of fiction writing. After all, it’s important to keep your readers “hooked” throughout your story. Whether you are just getting started in writing or looking to break into fiction writing, you’ll need to know the basics of how to pace a novel. Read today’s tip of the day from Crafting Novels & Short Stories. In this excerpt written by Jessica Page Morrell, she explains what pacing is and seven ways to keep your story moving at the right pace.

What is Pacing in Fiction?

Pacing is a tool that controls the speed and rhythm at which a story is told, and the readers are pulled through the events. It refers to how fast or slow events in a piece unfold and how much time elapses in a scene or story. Pacing can also be used to show characters aging and the effects of time on story events.

Pacing differs with the specific needs of a story. A far-reaching epic will often be told at a leisurely pace though it will speed up from time to time during the most intense events. A short story or adventure novel might quickly jump into action and deliver drama.

Pacing is part structural choices and part word choices and uses a variety of devices to control how fast the story unfolds. When driving a manual transmission car, you choose the most effective gear needed for driving uphill, maneuvering city streets, or cruising down a freeway. Similarly, when pacing your story, you need to choose the devices that move each scene along at the right speed.

Seven Literary Devices for Pacing Your Story

You need speed in the opening, middle, and climax of your story. Sure, you’ll slowdown from time to time, especially to pause for significance and to express characters’ emotions, but those times will usually appear just before or after a joyride of skin-tightening speed.

There are lots of tools to hasten your story. Some are better suited for micropacing—that is, line by line—and some are better suited for macropacing—pacing the story as a whole. Let’s take a closer look at each device.

ACTION. Action scenes are where you “show” what happens in a story, and, when written in short- and medium-length sentences, they move the story along. Action scenes contain few distractions, little description, and limited transitions. Omit or limit character thoughts, especially in the midst of danger or crisis, since during a crisis people focus solely on survival. To create poignancy, forgo long, descriptive passages and choose a few details that serve as emotionally charged props instead.

CLIFF HANGERS. When the outcome of a scene or chapter is left hanging, the pace naturally picks up because the reader will turn the page to find out what happens next. Readers both love and hate uncertainty, and your job is to deliver plenty of unfinished actions, unfilled needs, and interruptions. Remember, cliffhangers don’t necessarily mean that you’re literally dangling your character from a rooftop as the scene ends. If your characters are in the midst of a conversation, end the scene with a revelation, threat, or challenge.

DIALOGUE. Rapid-fire dialogue with little or no extraneous information is swift and captivating, and will invigorate any scene. The best dialogue for velocity is pared down, an abbreviated copy of a real-life conversation that snaps and crackles with tension. It is more like the volleying of Ping-Pong or tennis than a long-winded discussion. Reactions, descriptions, and attributions are minimal. Don’t create dialogue exchanges where your characters discuss or ponder. Instead, allow them to argue, confront, or engage in a power struggle.

PROLONGED OUTCOMES. Suspense and, by extension, forward movement are created when you prolong outcomes. While it may seem that prolonging an event would slow down a story, this technique actually increases the speed, because the reader wants to know if your character is rescued from the mountainside, if the vaccine will arrive before the outbreak decimates the village, or if the detective will solve the case before the killer strikes again.

SCENE CUTS. Also called a jump cut, a scene cut moves the story to a new location and assumes the reader can follow without an explanation of the location change. The purpose is to accelerate the story, and the characters in the new scene don’t necessarily need to be the characters in the previous scene.

A SERIES OF INCIDENTS IN RAPID SUCCESSION. Another means of speeding up your story is to create events that happen immediately one after another. Such events are presented with minimal or no transitions, leaping via scene cuts from scene to scene and place to place.

SHORT CHAPTERS AND SCENES. Short segments are easily digested and end quickly. Since they portray a complete action, the reader passes through them quickly, as opposed to being bogged down by complex actions and descriptions.

SUMMARY. Instead of a play-by-play approach, tell readers what has already happened. Because scenes are immediate and sensory, they require many words to depict. Summary is a way of trimming your word count and reserving scenes for the major events. You can also summarize whole eras, descriptions, and backstory. Summaries work well when time passes, but there is little to report, when an action is repeated or when a significant amount of time has passed.

WORD CHOICE AND SENTENCE STRUCTURE. The language itself is the subtlest means of pacing. Think concrete words (like Prodigy and iceberg), active voice (with potent verbs like zigzag and plunder), and sensory information that’s artfully embedded. If you write long, involved paragraphs, try breaking them up.

Fragments, spare sentences, and short paragraphs quicken the pace. Crisp, punchy verbs, especially those with onomatopoeia (crash, lunge, sweep, scatter, ram, scavenge) also add to a quick pace. Invest in suggestive verbs to enliven descriptions, build action scenes and milk suspense.

Harsh consonant sounds such as those in words like claws, crash, kill, quake, and nag can push the reader ahead. Words with unpleasant associations can also ratchet up the speed: hiss, grunt, slither, smarmy, venomous, slaver, and wince. Energetic, active language is especially appropriate for building action scenes and suspense, and for setting up drama and conflict.

A fast pace means trimming every sentence of unnecessary words. Eliminate prepositional phrases where you don’t need them: For example, “the walls of the cathedral” can be written as “the cathedral’s walls.” Finally, search your story for passive linking verbs and trade them in for active ones.

By: Courtney Carpenter

Writer’s Digest