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Offline Scrasamax

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Writing Tips
« on: June 14, 2012, 09:13:52 AM »
So there is some sort of glitch in my computer that wont let me paste text into Word (instantly goes into fix mode, Word freezes, then crashes) So I made a thread for my copy pasta. Links will be provided at the end of each plate of pasta.

Five Tips to Writing a Synopsis

1. Reveal everything that happens in a book, including the ending. Heck, revealing the story’s ending is a synopsis’s defining unique characteristic. You shouldn’t find a story’s ending in a query or in-person pitch, but it does leak out in a synopsis. On this note, know that a synopsis is designed to explain everything that happens, not to tease — so avoid language such as “Krista walks around a corner into a big surprise.” Don’t say “surprise,” but rather just tell us what happens.

2. Make your synopsis two pages, double-spaced. There is always some disagreement on length. This stems from the fact that synopses used to trend longer (six, eight, or even 12 pages!). But over the last five years, agents have requested shorter and shorter synopses — with most agents finally settling on 1-2 pages, total. If you write yours as one page, single-spaced, it’s the same length as two pages, double-spaced — and either are acceptable. There will be the occasional agent who requests something strange, such as a “5-page synopsis on lime green paper that smells of cinnamon!” But trust me, if you turn in a solid 1-2 page work, you’ll be just fine across the board.

3. Take more care and time if you’re writing genre fiction. Synopses are especially difficult to compose if you’re writing character-driven (i.e., literary) fiction, because they may not be a whole lot of plot in the book. Agents and editors understand this, and put little (or no) weight into a synopsis for literary or character-driven stories. However, if you’re writing genre fiction — specifically categories like romance, fantasy, thriller, mystery, horror or science fiction — agents will quickly want to look over your characters and plot points to make sure your book has a clear beginning, middle and end, as well as some unique aspects they haven’t seen before in a story. So if you’re getting ready to submit a genre story, don’t blow through your synopsis; it’s important.

4. Feel free to be dry, but don’t step out of the narrative. When you write your prose (and even the pitch in your query letter), there is importance in using style and voice in the writing. A synopsis, thankfully, not only can be dry, but probably should be dry. The synopsis has to explain everything that happens in a very small amount of space. So if you find yourself using short, dry sentences like “John shoots Bill and sits down to contemplate suicide,” don’t worry. This is normal. Lean, clean language is great. And lastly, do not step out of the narrative. Agents do not want to read things such as “And at the climax of the story,” “In a rousing scene,” or “In a flashback.”

5. Capitalize character names when characters are introduced. Whenever a new character is introduced, make sure to CAPITALIZE them in the first mention and then use normal text throughout. On this subject, avoid naming too many characters (confusing) and try to set a limit of five, with no more than six total. I know this may sound tough, but it’s doable. It forces you to excise smaller characters and subplots from your summary — actually strengthening your synopsis along the way.

http://writerunboxed.com/2012/02/27/untitled-2-27/


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Offline Scrasamax

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2012, 09:18:33 AM »
1. Writing requires equal parts inspiration and endurance. (Perhaps even more of the latter.) Novels are hard work (a lot harder than cookbooks) and part of that hard work is keeping yourself in a chair long enough to crank out the 300, 500, or 1000 pages that will eventually become your story. It’s supposed to be hard work. If it were easy, everyone would write a novel instead of talking about it.

2. Your first draft won’t be your last. You just might not realize it at the moment. (So savor your “whew” moment because it won’t last,) When I finished the first version of Island Apart, I firmly believed I had written the proverbial great American novel. Seven figure advance offers would soon clog my in-box. I wrote and scrapped an additional 500 pages in the nine revisions that followed to end up with the 288 page that comprise the bound book.

3. The first chapter—or even the first 200 pages you write—may not be the beginning of your ultimate story. My first draft of Island Apart opened with a trip from New York City to Martha’s Vineyard. I wanted to take the reader on the same journey I’ve made so often—queuing up with all the other cars at Steamship Authority Ferry Terminal in Woods Hole; driving up the rickety ramp onto the boat; feeling the sea breeze in your hair crossing Vineyard Sound; and finally, the surreal calm you experience on arriving on Chappaquiddick. There was just one problem: The guy whose journey I chronicled was one of my secondary characters and I wasted sixty pages to get to my protagonist and the real story. Once I cut the first two chapters, the book took off.

4. Your working title may not wind up on the cover. Initially, I called my book The Hermit of Chappaquiddick (the name of my male protagonist). I thought it was a brilliant title: the mysterious qualities of “hermit”; the political controversy surrounding the Kennedy tragedy at Chappaquiddick’s Dyke Bridge; the sense of loneliness and melancholy when you put the two together. To which my veteran editor, Bob Gleason, replied that this was the worst title he had heard in forty years of publishing. After much back and forth, we settled on “Island Apart,” which is what “Chappaquiddick” means in the language of the island’s first settlers, the Wampanoags. Seventy-five million baby boomers may have strong associations with Chappaquiddick, but an equal number of Gen-Xers, Millennials, and other young people give you a blank look when you mention it. Much as I hate to admit it, Island Apart works better.

5. Don’t worry too much about fleshing out or outlining the plot. When I started Island Apart, I knew how the story would begin and how it would end. I had no idea how to get through the middle. Fortunately, I had good guides: The characters themselves showed me what had to happen.

6. Write in the active voice. In my first draft I used a lot of passive constructions—“it must be said,” for example, or “if the truth be told” or “the Hermit was seen walking down Litchfield Road.” Rewriting the story in the active voice gave the novel a lot more energy and power. Similarly, in real life, people may declare, opine, state, explain, cry, laugh, or chortle. Characters say or ask. Anything more than “he said” or “she asked” is distracting.

7. Be extra nice to your spouse or significant other. The deeper you get into the story, the more you’ll withdraw from everyday life. Your spouse will miss you and complain that you seem absent—even when you’re sitting together the dinner table. Your significant other may get jealous. When you write a novel, you need all the help and support you can get from your loved ones. Make sure you love them back.

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/june-5-ready-7-things-ive-learned-so-far-by-steven-raichlen


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Offline Scrasamax

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2012, 09:19:24 AM »
Just to reiterate this is not my own work, just a catacomb I'm filling with stuff I want to keep 


Stout Lagerale of the Dwarven Guild
STR: 4 | END: 4 | CON: 4 | DEX: 2 | CHA: 2 | INT: 4

Tentacle Tentacle Sanity Schmanity

Offline Scrasamax

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2012, 09:22:19 AM »
1. I only write if have at least 2 hours in front of me. Most days, it takes me at least 45 minutes to calm down my mind and get ready to write. It’s a horrible 45 minutes, during which time the temptation to check emails and answer phone messages is nearly unbearable. But if I can wait it out, I will eventually find my way into the core of my own creativity.

Now, if I do all that suffering and finally get there and the words start to flow and then all of a sudden I have to stop because, say, it’s time to pick my kids up from school, or I have a dentist appointment, or I have to go have lunch with some dearly beloved friend – it makes me want to gouge my heart out.

That’s why I leave myself at least two hours to write – preferably four or even six.

2. I write five days a week. When I am working on a novel, if I do not give it a certain amount of my bandwidth, I lose momentum. I think of it this way: I’ve asked a group of characters to come and hang around me while I tell a story about what is happening to them. I owe them my attention. It’s sort of like inviting guests to a party – if I don’t pay attention to them, they get bored and wander off.

Now, this is not to say that I write 5 days a week every week! No, I have to take weeks off at a time when I need to prepare for a book launch or a play reading.

But if I’m focusing on writing a novel, I try to clear my schedule as best I can so that I can not only write 5 days a week, but also:

3. I write at the same time each day. That way the party guests know when to show up! I used to know a comedy improviser who did eight shows a week in a big Off-Broadway improv company. He said that at 7:55 every night, whether he was working or not, he’d start to get an adrenaline rush and mind would suddenly sharpen up. You can train yourself to work that way too. Come 9 a.m., your ideas will start flowing, if you’ve started writing every weekday at 9 am for a month.

I happen to like writing in the morning. That’s when I have the most juice. I try not to do “office work” like answering emails or, ahem, writing blog posts in the morning. But I don’t want to spend my best stuff on emails and witty FB messages!

4. I don’t judge until it is time to edit. When I was working as an actor, I used to reserve a chair for my inner Critic. (Yeah, with a capital C.) I would rehearse the scene and then I’d sit down in the chair and review the scene as the critic, “Wow, you’re never going to get this part! You’re too old for it and why are you making your voice all dopey like that? They’d be crazy to hire you and your pants are horrible.” Then I’d stand up and turn and face the Critic chair and defend myself. “Screw you!” I’d shout. “I could totally book this and my voice sounds great and I’m only 28 and these pants are awesome!”

Then I’d go change my pants and ace the audition.

I don’t let that creepy Critic sit down with me when I start to write. My desk chair just isn’t big enough for the two of us.

5. I eat three meals a day with protein. Writing is hard. It takes brain power! A salad or a slice of pizza just ain’t gonna do it.

6. I don’t watch shows with “Real” or “Housewife” in the title. Because they make me sad and because I have better things to do. Like making soup. Or reading novels in my genre. Or giving myself paper-cuts. I’m being snarky, but the truth is that we tend to think of TV as something that entertains us – and gives us something, but I think it takes more than it gives. That wired, drained feeling I get after watching TV for a couple hours – I don’t like it. Plus, there’s so much reading to do!

7. I woolgather. Sometimes I’m too hard on myself. This is a trait I suspect I share with everyone on the planet. And today, with email and Facebook and so much media at our disposal every second of the day, I think we don’t allow ourselves the vague, do-nothing, star-gazing time that human beings need. So I walk.

Walking satisfies that part of my personality that always wants to be engaged and active and productive, but it’s a trick. The part of my brain I’m feeding is the dreaming part. The woolgathering part. When I think of woolgathering, I imagine a little Shepard girl wandering the mountains and plucking tufts of wool off bushes and brambles. That’s the kind of walking I love the best and I always find bits of wool along my way, if I keep my focus soft. Bits of dialogue. Phrases to describe scenery. Actions my characters are destined to perform. That’s my favorite – suddenly my characters come to tell me things they’re going to do that shock and surprise me, yet seem totally inevitable.

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/june-5-ready-7-things-ive-learned-so-far-by-emmy-laybourne


Stout Lagerale of the Dwarven Guild
STR: 4 | END: 4 | CON: 4 | DEX: 2 | CHA: 2 | INT: 4

Tentacle Tentacle Sanity Schmanity

Offline Scrasamax

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2012, 09:25:54 AM »
Overactive or Inactive Supporting Characters

If in the second act you find your novel veering off course either because a minor character has come in and tried to run the place, or because your minor characters seem to be doing nothing but sitting on your couch, eating your food, not really contributing, you should put them to the test: determine why they’re there, if they can be brought in line somehow, or, if not, how you might excise them from the novel.

Minor characters who become personal “darlings” for the author can be very hard to kill, and often a writer will find some way to justify keeping around an inactive but favorite minor character based on very thin reasoning, such as saying that the character adds comic relief (yes, but comic relief to your depressing post-apocalyptic Gothic revenge story?) or that the character adds a romantic element (yes, but does your chainsaw-murderer bipolar anti-hero really need a love interest?) or, or …

If an inactive supporting character does indeed seem to fulfill some function like this—but is otherwise inert—you might see if another and better-established supporting character might fulfill that role just as easily. Or you might consider streamlining several supporting characters into just one who does the trick.

Ultimately what stays and goes is not up to you as the author but up to your story. When in doubt, try to listen to what the story is telling you to do and follow that advice; it’s almost always going to be right. As for overactive secondary characters—those who seem intent on making their story the novel’s big one—see the section on overactive or inactive subplots [below] for tips on getting them under control.
Overactive or Inactive Subplots

Subplots exist to tell us something about your protagonist and his quest. They’re like a side mirror, offering a quick, new (and helpful) perspective and allowing the readers to keep moving forward unimpeded. Thus a subplot becomes problematic when that function breaks down, when it becomes either overactive—trying to take over the main plot and tell its own story instead—or inactive, meaning that it has no clear, compelling connection to the protagonist and the main arc; it’s simply there.

An overactive subplot behaves almost like a virus. Its ultimate goal is that it wants to live, like everything else on earth, but in order to do this it invades something healthy–your main plot–and tries to take it over. It might be that the subplot is auditioning for its own novel—it isn’t unheard of that a subplot becomes so alive that the author eventually decides to tell that story on its own—but it can’t be allowed to take over this one (unless, of course, you come to the realization that the subplot is the plot you actually wanted to explore all along, in which case, well, it’s back to the drawing board).

An inactive subplot isn’t nearly as aggressive; it’s not doing anything to take over your novel, or much to advance it, either. In fact it’s not doing much except taking up pages and keeping the reader from following the main arc. Most times an inactive subplot exists because the author likes the character of the subplot and has a soft spot for it (even though she probably realizes that there’s no reason at all for the subplot to exist). You should ask yourself what the subplot might do in the story, why you included it to begin with. If the subplot could have some bearing on the character or main arc, then it might be rehabilitated, making it clear what that relationship is. But if you come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really have a bearing on the main action, you have two options: “absorb” it into a preexisting subplot, one that does have a reason to be there, or get rid of the subplot altogether.

Again, your subplots are there to further the reader’s understanding of the main plot, character, and  conflict. But if the relationship between plot and subplot becomes imbalanced, you’ve got to reestablish the relationship or excise the subplot, as the direction (and fate) of your novel is at stake.

http://www.writersdigest.com/tip-of-the-day/what-to-avoid-when-writing-a-novel-overactive-or-inactive-characters-subplots


Stout Lagerale of the Dwarven Guild
STR: 4 | END: 4 | CON: 4 | DEX: 2 | CHA: 2 | INT: 4

Tentacle Tentacle Sanity Schmanity