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Category: Writing

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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Doing Things Right

Doing Things Right

I once heard an editor say that developing writers comes to a point where they stop doing most things wrong but aren’t yet doing enough things right. As a writer improves, learning to write better gets slower. The Pareto Principle I see this as related to the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. That rule says things like 20% of the people make 80% of the problems, or the last 20% of the effort makes 80% of the…

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Surprise vs. Suspense

Surprise vs. Suspense

Prompted by an old episode of the TV show “Castle,” a middle-grade book I’m reading, and a chapter I’m trying to write, I’m still mulling over the comparative value of surprise vs suspense in a story. The difference is illustrated in a bus bomb comparison. If the characters are riding along in a bus and it blows up, that’s surprise. If we see the bomb being placed and the watch the characters ride, that’s suspense. Surprise Last night, my husband…

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Embracing the hard parts of a writing project

Embracing the hard parts of a writing project

Usually I blog about what I’ve learned as a writer, hoping to be useful to someone else. But in this entry, I want to write about two problems, one small and one big, that I’m currently wrestling with. I don’t pretend to know what to do about these problems. I do know that often the problematic parts of a story show you where you can do interesting stuff if you can figure out how.

What makes a good first line?

What makes a good first line?

How important are a book’s first lines? Watch what book buyers do when they pull books out at Barnes and Noble. They most often glance at the front cover, read the blurb on the back or inside flap, and then skim the first page. In Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, a character says she judges a book not by its first lines by its single first line, and the central character then quotes the first line of A Wrinkle…

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Making Time to Write

Making Time to Write

I’ve been reading blogs by writers at various stages of the publication process. They’re anxious because 1) they’re looking for agents, 2) they have an agent but haven’t sold a book yet, 3) they’ve sold a book but the initial sales aren’t what they hoped, 4) their first book(s) sold well but now their agent or editor says they need a big book to keep their career going. And I’m asking myself where’s the happy stop on the writer train?

Four Doors into a Book

Four Doors into a Book

A while back, I read an article suggesting that readers come to a book through four doors: plot, character, setting, and language. Any door can be more or less open, and different readers will prefer different routes. A book that appeals to a lot of readers probably has several door opened more widely.

The Problems of Writing Sequels

The Problems of Writing Sequels

I’m currently writing a sequel to The Wind Reader, the book coming out from Inspired Quill in September, so I’ve been thinking about sequels and wondering what makes a good one. Specifically, two questions arise, one having to do with the outer arc of plot and other with the inner arc of character development.