Monday, June 05, 2023

Why No One Is Reading Past Your First Chapter

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

A lackluster first chapter can turn readers off and make them abandon the book before they've given it a fair chance.

I’m a brutal reader. If the first page of a novel doesn’t pique my interest, I rarely give it a try unless the premise is one I’m super interested in. Even when I do keep reading, the book has until the end of the first chapter to hook me or not. If it doesn’t, I don’t buy that book—even if I love the premise.

I can’t tell you how many book samples I’ve downloaded that never won my dollar vote. Some of them just “weren’t for me” books, but often, they aren’t doing enough to make me want to keep reading. I make it to the end of the sample in about half the books I read, and probably buy about half of those. That’s a lot of books that don’t make the cut.

You might think those poor rejected books were just badly written, but most of them were “good books.” The writing was strong, the characters were well-drawn, and the text flowed smoothly. 

But each made a fatal mistake.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

How Point of View Can Solve Your Writing Troubles

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Point of view is one of the strongest tools writers have for crafting stories readers just can’t put down.

Before I dive in today…my workshop for the Writing Success Series is coming up, and there’s still time to register. 

7:15 PM ET - 9:45 PM ET on Zoom

Point of view is the single-best tool writers have in their toolkit. With it, you can create immersive scenes and deepen the emotional layers of your story. A strong point of view helps you determine what details and to share, understand how a character will react in any situation, and even helps you develop character voices. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to see your story from the eyes of your characters (no matter which point of view you use) and how that unique perspective can make your novel stronger. 
  • Cost: $39. Ten percent of webinar proceeds to benefit World Central Kitchen.
  • Recordings will be sent to all participants within twenty-four hours of the webinar.
  • Registrations will be accepted up to twenty-four hours in advance of each workshop.
Now, on to the article and some reasons why you might want to take my workshop and how it can help you…

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Choose the Setting for Your Short Story: Location, Weather, Atmosphere

By Rayne Hall, @RayneHall

Part of the Focus on Short Fiction Series

JH: With a short story, you don't have a lot of time or space to develop your setting. Rayne Hall shares tips and exercises on how to get the most out of your short fiction setting.

Where does your story take place?

Consider giving your story an unusual, quirky setting. This will make the piece memorable and vivid. What’s the weirdest possible place where the events could plausibly happen?

If this is a romantic story about a first date, how about these two people don't go to a predictable meal in a restaurant, walk in a park or movie in a cinema, but a Ferris wheel ride at the funfair, rollerblading in a deserted car park, or picnicking on a mountain top?

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Grow Up Already: Creating Character Arcs

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

A strong character arc will weave its way through the turning points of the plot.

A character arc is the internal struggle and progress a character goes through over the course of a novel that changes them in some way. It's usually connected to the internal conflict so that what they do (the plot) forces changes in who they are (the character arc). It can sometimes be confused with character motivations (a character worries over something so they act to prevent that something) but why a character acts is different from how they change because of their actions. Motivation drives the actions. Growth is the result of the actions.

But should the writer know where the character is heading/motives before the first draft? Is it bad if you don’t?" Heck no.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Internal Medicine: How Much Internalization is Too Much?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Readers want to know what's going on in a character's head, but they don't need to know every last thought.

Internalization is the glue that holds a story together. It's where the readers learn why those awesome descriptions matter, who those great characters we create really are, and shows why those cool conflicts hurt so badly. 

But good internalization requires a balance. Too much and the character in too in their head and slows the story, too little and the reader can't connect to the character enough to care about the story.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, internalization is what's going on in your point of view (POV) character's head. It's how they see the world and how they choose to tell the reader about it. It's the filtering process that makes everything in the story have meaning, and conveys the opinions and judgment of the POV character.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Getting Your Short Story Published: What You Need to Know About Submission, Rights and Payments

By Rayne Hall, @RayneHall

Part of the Focus on Short Fiction Series

JH: Writers are on their own when it comes to the business side of short stories. Rayne Hall explains what you need to know when submitting and publishing your short fiction.

We’re in a ‘golden age’ for short stories, with more opportunities for short story authors than ever before. This doesn’t mean that getting your tales published is easy, or a way to earn riches fast.

You need to be sure that your stories are good, and you need to submit them to the right markets.

Where To Submit Your Story

If your story falls under a category (a ‘genre’), focus on markets specializing in that genre, because there your chances of acceptance are greatest.

Monday, May 08, 2023

The Power of Small Problems: Elevate Your Plot with Little Conflicts

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy
Little problems can be just as devastating to your characters' plans as full-blown issues.

I'm prone to migraines and when one hits, I'm pretty much down for the day (or longer if it's bad). As you can imagine, that puts a bit of a crimp in my day. It's hard to get much writing done when you can't stare at a screen without pain. Annoying little issues are things we deal with every day, so why not make sure our characters also have to deal with them?

When you're creating your characters and their lives, don't forget to add in the little things that can cause them trouble, even if it's not earth-shattering trouble. 

Think about the bad days you've had, where nothing went right, and how that escalated into you snapping and yelling at someone who didn't deserve it. Or caused you to do something you wouldn't have ordinarily done had you not already been stressed by stupid little things.
In other words, pile on the problems.

Monday, April 24, 2023

The Difference Between a Writing Problem, and a “Not for Me” Issue

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Sometimes the problem is with the reviewer, not the book.

Not every book is for every reader. Readers have topics they dislike no matter how well written a book is, and nothing you do is going to change that. Sometimes, the problem with a book isn't the quality—it's just a "not for me" issue. 

This is an important distinction in writing. I’ve read many a novel that was a “good novel,” even if it did things I don’t particularly care for as a reader. I didn’t like it, but I could see that others would. 

For example, I’m not fond of distant narrators. It’s nearly impossible for me to connect with a distance third-person omniscient narrator, because I never feel like I’m in the protagonist’s head. I just can’t lose myself in the story.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Living in My Head: Crafting Natural-Sounding Internal Thoughts

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

How to write tight, third-person internalization that feels natural to the character.

Getting inside a character's head is a key element to getting the reader to care about that character—love them, hate them, fear them, whatever the emotion you want to evoke. 

In first person this is easy, because you're already so close to their perspective the thoughts roll naturally into the story. With third person it can be more challenging, because there's an extra layer between the character and the reader. The narrative distance often determines how your internalization will sound.

A close narrative distance will make the internalization feel similar to first person (without the "I" of course). A more distant one will include tags such as he thought. Some will use italics, others will make it part of the narrative. The style is up to you.

((Here's more with Where Do You Want Me? Choosing Narrative Distance in Multiple Third Person).)

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Give Your Story Meaning with Inner Conflict and Theme

By Rayne Hall, @RayneHall

Part of the Focus on Short Fiction Series

JH: No matter the size of your story, a theme can deepen it and make it stronger. Rayne Hall shares tips on finding and developing your story’s theme.

Do you want your story to be meaningful and memorable? Then give it a theme.

Although there are many ways of creating and exploring a theme, here's the one I find the easiest as well as the most powerful.

'One Purpose/Ideal/Value' versus 'Another Purpose/Ideal/Value'.

For example:
  • Love versus Safety
  • Patriotism versus Friendship
  • Faith versus Integrity
  • Honesty versus Compassion