I’m just about halfway through THE ICING ON THE CAKE. Before doing today’s writing, I’ve got 148 pages, and 31,666 words. The first act is pretty much finished and polished, and I have chapters written in both the second and third acts. Yes, I write in acts. For me it makes sense to plot out a commercial novel in a screenplay format, with a clear beginning, middle and end. I have a spreadsheet in Google Docs with the events in my couple’s romantic story, and I’ve laid them out for best dramatic impact. At a glance I can see if I’ve balanced the action, or if the story is weighted on one end or the other. This keeps the pacing even, keeps the middle from sagging. (The bit of my spreadsheet on the right (click for details) shows how I also use the Hero’s Journey.) Anyhow, I’m finding it easier these days to start my writing around noon. The sun’s on the patio then, though the big backyard tree’s leaves are thick enough now to toss mottled shade all over my Alphasmart. As I was telling a friend the other day, I rarely write fresh text on my computer. I use my computer for editing, fleshing out, revising. Writing outdoors on the Alphasmart is pure creative heaven for me, and I have to take advantage now because in two months’ time it’s going to be too hot to even breath outside, much less write! Speaking of writing . . .
You’ll see if you enlarge the side section of my spreadsheet (the one that does NOT reveal plot points!) that I don’t start with the inciting incident. Never have. Learned where to place it when taking Jo Leigh’s fabulous class on plotting. In fact, the husband and I are so attuned to the Hero’s Journey, that we’ll lean over in the movie theater and whisper, “Inciting incident,” when we see it happen on film! Kait Nolan mentions this in her column on Bad Writing Advice.
And then along comes Larry Brooks and Storyfix and his fabulous explanation of why the advice of starting with the inciting incident is a load of crap. Because essentially you’re leaving off a quarter of the book. The entire set up. The part where you show the reader why s/he should give a flip about your hero/ine. All the stuff I was trying to do in the first place.
There’s more here on compellng openings, with a really great example of what is and isn’t significant action.
I still think my advice is dead on, and that agents/editors aren’t looking for action-oriented scenes as much as a compelling and interesting opening. But action does not automatically equal compelling and interesting.
I believe the author of this blog post is talking about writing articles, but what she says can easily be applied to fiction writing.
I am driven when it comes to deadlines. As long as I know when something is due and I know that there is a set time to get something completed by, I can make the deadline; however, I have noticed that if I don’t slow down enough, I tend to make a ton of mistakes. This has not only shown up in my personal life and at work but in my writing as well.
Author Elizabeth Craig (who tweets links to a lot of writing articles) talks about how she breaks up chapters. Like Tess Gerritsen, she writes through and only when she’s done does she put in chapters breaks. (Though, I’m not sure what writing program she uses that she doesn’t just use the word counter to see how many she has! I’m totally dependent on Word’s counter, and in the Office 2007 version, the number of words in the document is always displayed on the bottom taskbar.)
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I write the text straight through and then put the chapter breaks in later. Although this isn’t a technique that works for everybody, it helps keep me from worrying about the formatting of the novel until I’m done being creative.
Here are some links on concise writing. I really like this one: Are Vampire Words Sucking the Life out of Your Writing? The author does a great job SHOWING what words are necessary, and which ones MOST DEFINITELY are not. ;)
We writers are constantly challenged to find the right words–to be descriptive, but not verbose. To make our language leap from the page, but at the same time, control our word choice. One of the easiest ways to clean up your writing is to omit unnecessary words.