Archive for the ‘#writingprocess’ Tag

The Writing Process: LET’S START AT THE BEGINNING!   Leave a comment

So far I’ve talked about getting ideas, plotting or pantsing and let’s say you’re ready to start writing. You’ve pantsed your way here or plotted until you can’t plot anymore. You type or write: Chapter 1. What’s next?

What you need is a great hook. A first line that will blow your readers/agents/editors out of the water! Most agents will read your first page but if it’s not stellar they won’t read further. What do you need for a great hook/first page?

You need stakes. No, not the pointy ones Buffy uses or the ones you eat. The first page needs to set up a couple of things. It needs to let the readers know your setting/time period. Writing a contemporary adult romance is completely different than writing a young adult science fiction. If you’re writing historical the setting might be easier but if you’re writing a science fiction novel you better mention space, aliens or spaceships (or whatever) in the first page. A horror will not read the same as a fantasy.

Okay, setting/time period, what else do you need? You need to either foreshadow the main character’s conflict or state it. Readers need to know what’s at stake for your main character right away. And don’t forget VOICE. The first page should sing (well, not really sing) with your main character’s voice. You also need some sort of inciting event. Why now? What’s happening to your main character? Avoid backstory or information dumping. Put your main character into the story and show us what’s going on.

Here’s what you need:

A great first line/hook

Mention of main character in first page

Setting/time period to set the tone of the rest of the book

Inciting event-what happened and what’s your character’s motivation?

Conflict/Stakes

Voice

Here’s an example from one of my books (you knew I’d pick one of mine, didn’t you?). This is the first page of my YA book, WITCH HUNTER

http://www.amazon.com/Witch-Hunter-Kathleen-S-Allen-ebook/dp/B0053TGGVK/ref=sr_1_76?ie=UTF8&qid=1433437152&sr=8-76&keywords=witch+hunter

Chapter 1

Molly O’Claire’s foot half skimmed the gravel before the car had stopped. “Here! Stop the car!”

The Atlantic Ocean in all its glory stretched out for miles in all directions. Foam tipped waves washed up onto sun-drenched sand and washed out again to leave imprints of bubbles behind. Blue skies interlaced with cirrus clouds spoke of fair weather in the days ahead. Molly sighed with the sheer beauty of it. She kicked off her shoes and waded into the cold water.

“Isn’t it beautiful, mom?” Molly’s red hair blew wildly about her face. She held it back with one hand as she laughed.

“Come on Molly, Sarah is waiting for us.” Her mom waited impatiently by the jeep.

Molly waved to show she heard her then smiled as she spotted a starfish on the beach. She picked it up and tossed it back in the water.

“Come on, let’s go.” Molly retrieved her shoes from where she had thrown them and walked barefoot up the slight hill to the Jeep. She brushed her sandy feet off before she climbed back into the passenger side.

“That was awesome, “she said as she buckled her seat belt. “I love the ocean. I hope you get the job so we can live on the beach. Maybe I can find a part-time job too, you know babysitting or working in a store.”

“I hope I get it too. I want us to be closer to Sarah, and you know how I feel about you working when you are in school.”

“I know. School is my job right now,” she grinned at her mom. “Hey, can I practice driving?”

“No, not right now. You don’t know these roads.”

“Neither do you,” Molly said under her breath. Her mom glared at her. Molly smiled back. “We haven’t seen Aunt Sarah since she moved back to Salem two years ago,” she said as her mom pulled off the shoulder and back onto the road.

“I do miss her even though I don’t always agree with her choices.”

Now let’s see if it meets all the criteria.

Hook: We can see Molly is excited about something and we are interested to know what.

Mention of Main Character: Yes, first line mentions her.

Setting/Time Period/Tone: It appears to be contemporary and present day.

Inciting Event: It sounds like Molly’s mother is going on a job interview and Molly is staying with her Aunt Sarah in Salem. We’re not sure what’s going to happen but we’re intrigued.

Motivation of Main Character: Since we haven’t gotten the conflict yet (although we know it’s coming) we aren’t sure of her motivation yet.

Conflict/Stakes: We’re not sure but it must have something to do with the visit to Aunt Sarah.

Voice: Yes, the voice of the main character comes through.

So, did it work? Most of it. In retrospect, stating the conflict sooner might’ve been helpful.

I didn’t talk about point-of-view and that’s another post

Tell me how you feel about the beginning of your story in the comments!

Now go forth and write your killer first page!

Posted June 4, 2015 by kathleea in Uncategorized

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Are You a Plotter or a Pantser?   4 comments

Writers typically fall into one of two camps, either they plot out every single detail of their soon-to-be novel, chapter by chapter, scene by scene, making copious notes about characters, interviewing characters, writing backstory on the characters, knowing the beginning, the middle and the end before they write a word. They are called: PLOTTERS.

There is nothing wrong with knowing where your story is going and who’s going along on their journey, many writers thrive with this method. There are plenty of worksheets out there to use, Blake Synder’s SAVE THE CAT

http://www.amazon.com/Save-Last-Book-Screenwriting-Youll/dp/1932907009/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433046647&sr=8-1&keywords=save+the+cat

is a great resource for novelists even though it was written for screenwriters. Beatsheets are found on various websites for writer’s to use.

Some writers use a hybrid approach and only plot main points or events.

An interesting approach I’ve used is the Reverse Outline. This is where you write down the ending, what happened right before the ending, what happened right before THAT and so on until you get to the beginning. This approach can also be done after the novel is finished to make sure your scenes work.

Writers can use their laptop with Office Word, a special writing software such as Scrivener or ywriter or many others. You can write using apps like Evernote on your tablet or iPad, you can write with a pen and paper in your Moleskin or journal. You can write on napkins in your favorite coffee shop. There are many ways to get your words out into the real or virtual world. Plotters can write scenes out of order. They may write a beginning scene or one at the end or several in the middle and later in the editing phase they’ll put them together in a form that makes sense.

I am not a plotter. Oh, I’ve tried. Believe me. Many times. I’ve done the writing software stuff, the outline, the scene by scene even writing on index cards or on a virtual index card a list of my scenes. It took me a while to figure out all I need to start a story is an idea, a character or a situation. I usually know the beginning of the novel, maybe I know the end but not always. Sometimes I do bullet points on an index card.

I have to face the truth.

I AM A PANTSER.

PANTSERS write by the seat of their pants–hence the term: Pants-er meaning they don’t always know the character’s arc or storyline until they are in the midst of the story and sometimes not even then.

In order to pants it properly (say that three times fast) you need to have your idea/plot/story/character and you start writing. It’s okay to not know but I have to warn you, this leads to many, many editing/revisions down the road.

For example, in the latest book I entered into The Writer’s Voice contest (THE HEARTSEASE DETECTIVE AGENCY) it’s a fantasy detective noir. I had the idea to write a cozy mystery but I wanted it to be different. So I came up with a human male detective who is in love with a female faerie who happens to be a lounge singer in a sleezy club downtown. In this world Fae are accepted as “real” and are subject to human laws. All right, I had the idea then I had to figure out the characters. I based both the detective and the lounge singer on Bogie and Bacall in the 1940s even though this is present day. I knew I wanted the opening to start with Ree (the main character) singing in the club and I knew there had to be a murder fairly soon. In cozy mysteries they usually happen in the first chapter “off stage”meaning not in front of the amateur sleuth and I knew the detective interviewing Ree would be the love interest. After that….???

I started writing and the story developed as I went along. The hardest part of writing a mystery is coming up with red herrings–suspects the reader thinks might be the killer but isn’t. For a mystery you have to include these in your plot sprinkled throughout the story. Yes, I had to do some plotting.

Once the book was written, I did a reverse outline to make sure all the scenes made sense. I edited it, sent it out to beta readers (readers who will tell you if something is confusing or if there are any plot holes) and edited it again. Rewrote the beginning three times and there you go. I edit as I go which some writers don’t do (NaNoWriMo writers, I’m looking at you!) and just put the words down and edit later. I have to do some light editing as I go. I don’t worry about word count because I’ll add more in the editing part if the word count is low or cut if the word count is too high. I’m also a linear writer meaning I go from the beginning to the end in a straight line. I tried writing out of sequence and couldn’t do it.

I don’t fall squarely into either side so I’m more of a hybrid but I still call myself a Pantser.

No one writing process works for everyone. The important point is to find your own style, own it and use it. Try out many methods until you find one that works for you then BIC (behind in chair) and write until you finish the book. Then comes the fun part. THE EDITING PHASE. More on that in my next post.

So there you have it. Plotting vs Pantsing. Which is your method? Tell me in the comments below and happy writing!

Posted May 31, 2015 by kathleea in Uncategorized

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