Posts from — September 2008
As you may have read in this blog, I am working on a novel, more specifically, a mystery. Mastering scenes is especially important, given the way mysteries are structured and the pace at which they move.
As should be a given, The Scene Book offers lots of practical advice and scores of examples from well- and lesser-known books. Sandra Scofield also refers readers to movies, which I find helpful, especially when I am familiar with the films. Because I know what they are about, I can view them more objectively and ponder the choices directors make: Why, for example, do they choose a close-up of a city street or a corpse? How, literally, do their characters’ paths cross? How do they use lighting, music and dialogue to propel a storyline?
Thinking about my book in movie terms has given me a better, more intuitive sense of how scenes work, how each exists independently and as part of something larger.
I’ve been reading and rereading this book with a highlighter in hand. Here are some of observations (among many) that Scofield makes and which resonate with me:
• A scene is action, “passages in a narrative when we slow down and focus on an event in the story so that we are ‘in the moment’ with characters in action.” Something happens that makes “this moment” different from past moments.
• Well-written scenes have an event and emotion. Something happens and characters react and then act in meaningful ways. Such interactions have consequences, unleashing a chain of events.
• Tension in a scene is the “taut stretch of something pulled toward, away, from, or through something, like the stretch of a rope in a game of tug-of-war.” Tension is heightened when uncertainty is raised in the minds of readers. It’s critical, however, to remember “the balance the inevitability and surprise, the pleasure we get when we arrive at insight at the same time a character does. … Surprise that comes out of gratuitous coincidence or shock isn’t good storytelling. Real surprise, the alleviation of true tension, is earned.”
• Although conflict is good, even required, it doesn’t have to be direct. Fiction is a process of change, and change between and among characters can be negotiated. “In many instances, what we see is negotiation, an exchange of character desires and denials and relenting, until some sort of peace is caved out, or else the whole interaction falls apart.”
I could go on and on, but you get the sense of why I like this book. If you know of others on scene writing, let me know and I’ll pass the word along. In the meantime, I’ll keep highlighting.
September 25, 2008 2 Comments
Pestimists are those pesty, pessimistic voices that make us question our actions and dreams. They play in the background of our lives, like Muzak — barely noticeable yet incredibly potent. The messages they deliver vary from person to person; however, the words they use often go something like this:
• “You can’t write.”
• “No one cares about what you have to say.”
• “You have to be an expert to write a book.”
• “You’re wasting your time on a pipe dream.”
1. Identify the one to three Pestimists that are the most persistent for you. What are the specific messages they deliver?
2. Turn those messages into questions. If, for example, your Pestimist keeps repeating “You can’t write,” phrase it instead as “What makes you think you can write?” Why? Because just as nature abhors a vacuum, questions abhor not having answers. The trick then is to come up with your own answers, ones you feel comfortable with.
Here’s how the progression works:
Message: “You can’t write.”
Question: “What makes you think you can write?”
Response: “Maybe I can, maybe I can’t. But if you really want me to answer, I’ve got to at least try. That’s the only way I’ll find out.”
The beauty of such Q&As is that they compel you to articulate what you want, and once you hear it, it’s more difficult to ignore. And that’s a good thing.
September 23, 2008 No Comments
Books are a great way to build and market your business and products or services, and to position yourself as an expert.
Before you scurry to the keyboard, however, decide which publishing route you will take.
#1 — The traditional route
The vast majority of books are published by publishing companies. While some companies appeal to a mass audience, others are specialized and may publish books only on topics like law, medicine, business, etc.
Ninety percent of traditionally published books are agented. Agents evaluate a book’s potential and send the most promising ones to the publishers they believe will be most receptive.
Although this process sounds straightforward, it isn’t necessarily quick or easy. It takes time to find the right agent, and time for an agent to find the right publisher. Add to that the time it takes to write a proposal and the book itself, and a good year or two may have passed.
#2 — The self-publishing route
As a self-publisher, you wear several hats: writer, publisher, graphic designer, sales rep and publicist. Each of these roles requires different skills. Fortunately, you can hire other professionals to do some or all of the work for you. The more you farm out, the more your book will cost. The upside: whatever profits you make, you keep.
Printing your book may be one of your least expensive costs. Today’s print-on-demand (POD) technology, allows you to publish as few or as many copies as you need, when you need them. You pay as you go and carry no inventory.
#3 — E-publishing
Most businesses today have Web sites; these, in turn, can serve as “on-line” bookstores. Downloadable books can be published via PDF files (among other options) and made available immediately. Costs are low because there are no printing, stocking or shipping fees.
“Books” need not be book-length, however. Based on your needs, abilities and audience, you may choose instead to offer booklets, worksheets, etc. Your books can also be sold via Amazon and other sites.
#4 — Freebies
Your book need not be a best-seller to be successful. In fact, you may be more successful giving your book away.
Remember, books are a marketing tool, not unlike brochures, calendars and tote bags. At $2 to $5 each, they may be more cost-effective, useful and memorable.
Related full-length articles:
September 17, 2008 No Comments
Remember, we don’t get what we deserve, we get what we expect.
— Sam Horn
What do you expect to come from your writing? And what do you expect from others in terms of their support, goodwill and acceptance? Could it be your expectations are interfering with what you and your writing deserve?
September 12, 2008 No Comments
I guess it depends on what you mean by disciplined: The amount of time I spend at my keyboard? The number of words I produce daily? The ability to move beyond self-doubt? All of these things require a toughness of sorts.
But discipline is tough to impose. Sometimes I’m a lean, mean, writing machine. Other times, I am a total wimp who’s distracted (often thankfully) by demands real and imagined. I find these frustrating times and often it seems that there is nothing I can do except sit things out.
What about you?
September 8, 2008 No Comments