Write True

Write True

When I write, I usually have all sorts of sticky notes pasted around my desk and screen. Some of them are thoughts I don’t want to forget about the story I’m working on, but some of them are general writing advice to myself. Things like “Resist the urge to explain” and, most importantly, “Write true.” All good stories are true Truth matters. People instinctively recognize falsity even if they don’t articulate that recognition other than in the trivial way of…

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Fight scenes

Fight scenes

I’m just going to say it. Most fight scenes in books are boring. Large scale battles or one-to-one combat, they’re boring. At least in movie fight scenes, the audience gets spectacle. In books, you don’t even have that. Instead, in a book, story is happening. Then the story stops for three pages while people hit one another. Then the story starts again. Boring. Battle scenes as process scenes The tedium of most written fight scenes is a subdivision of the…

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Invoking fantasy gods

Invoking fantasy gods

When you set a story in a made-up or secondary world, one of the small but significant problems you run into is giving characters a good way to call on their god(s). They could be cursing, invoking a deity as witness, or maybe asking for a god’s help. This is challenging because in a secondary-world story, the author makes up things like the god(s), the cultural notions of the afterlife, and what kind of supernatural creatures might be around to…

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Turning points

Turning points

As part of revising middle chapters in my current draft, I’m looking at some notes I made on turning points while writing Deep as a Tomb. The typical problem in the middle of a novel is that the story sags. You’re not yet to the climax but are laying in all that has to happen before the climax can happen. That can drag.

How to Deliver Backstory

How to Deliver Backstory

Writing has ruined me as a reader. It used to be that when I stumbled in a book, I thought it was my fault. Now I usually blame the writer. I notice and nitpick things I used to let slide. One of those things is delivering backstory. What Is Backstory? Backstory is whatever happened before the book starts, so all books have backstory. In science fiction and fantasy, backstory sometimes also include information about the world that the character already…

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Writing a Strong Beginning

Writing a Strong Beginning

If a writer wants readers, it’s important to give a novel a strong beginning.  Here’s some of the advice you see scattered around in craft books. Start Where the Story Starts Miss Snark used to critique pages for her blog readers, and one of the things she did most frequently was cross out a few paragraphs or pages and say, “Your story starts here.” Readers need less preparation for the story than writers think they do. Start where something changes….

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Quality in Young Adult and Middle-Grade Fiction

Quality in Young Adult and Middle-Grade Fiction

I recently had some trouble enjoying a middle-grade book, so I went over to Goodreads to see if anyone else reacted the same way. One negative review started off: “This was a book for kids, so it didn’t have to be great literature or anything.” At that point, my blood pressure shot up, and I stomped away to do laundry. Dismissing whole genres Let’s try that sentence out on other kinds of books. It was a mystery, so it didn’t…

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What Keeps Me Reading

What Keeps Me Reading

I toss aside unfinished maybe a quarter of the books I start. Today I was analyzing what keeps me reading. I’ve blogged about what one critic calls the four doors into a book (language, character, plot, and setting). My variation on the ways that draw me in would be theme, character, plot, and setting. Theme I like a book that’s about something, and for me that seems to mean a thematic element. Not a moral, i.e. not advice about how…

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