With non-fiction books then the learning and expressing the subject of your manuscript would be essential. A fiction book is more or less the same. Wheather it’s in present-day or a few hundred years ago or in the future, then you need to be aware of currency, eating and drinking material. Off-world Sci-fi or fantasy also needs to be checked as you don’t want characters in a fictional world going for a chicken evening meal and paying for it in Dollars. You must spend time reading outside of your comfort zone, reading the work of authors you admire and the novels of authors you detest.
You must take notes, write down and learn to arrange your ideas before you start your book. I was asked on a writing course to study poetry. My first thoughts were, “Yuck, I hate poetry and will never write any.” But, I considered Shakespeare and looked into his work and discovered he was the Iambic Pentameter master (which is poetry and sonnet material), and that may be a reason his work is still loved 400 years after his death.
If you fail to feed your mind, then don’t expect it to serve you quality ideas when you next sit down in front of the blank page.
1. It’s so Easy to Talk About Writing a Book, But…
When I was at University, I used to read a lot of Raymond Chandler and Tom Clancy books about Philip Marlowe and Jack Ryan. I even went to see The Hunt for Red October at the cinema. I recently read Andy Weir’s The Martian and saw the movie, but the novel can set you in reality, and the film can only show you things that the filmmakers can provide. The one-third gravity being an example. I then saw Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit at the movies and thought as that was Jack Ryan I’m sure Tom Clancy wrote a novel. He didn’t as he died before that story had begun.
I started with an undercover agent in Russia, who was about to get instructions on a case. I did not plan or outline anything. The thought just occurred to me, so I began the novel, as I was Pantsing it. I finished the opening scene and then thought, “What happens now?” There is more to creating a story that imagination can give you in one moment, and it stopped there. What followed was a year and a half of deciding which type of outline and which sub-genre of crime fiction in which to write.
1. Writing Should Be Learned
I’m not, or ever have been, an insatiable reader. In my youth, I loved James Clavell’s Shogun. Our family had little capital, though, to spend on books, and I infrequently thought about using the school library for entertainment reading. The library was only a place to inquire, copy out of encyclopedias.
I’ve been a storyteller my entire life, though, so when someone proposed I write a book, I thought, Why not? (in the words of Jeremy Clarkson) How hard can it be?
Um, it’s kinda hard, and it surprised me) to learn that you don’t just sit down and fluidly pen a story. There’s a craft to it, something a practised reader knows intuitively from the many hours spent with a book in their hands.
2. Writing Does Take a Lot of Time.
Pick up a book and look at the page. See those words? Yeah, they made it into the final novel. For every one of those words, there were lots of others that didn’t make it into the book. Someone wrote all of them. That took time, the one thing a lot of writers lack.
You have to scrape time out of the day to do it. You may have a day job or a family. This time devotion can be problematic to find the time. You might need to lose sleep, lunch hours. Eventually, your loved ones will complain, and you’ll need to figure out how to balance your real life with your dream. When you do, email me your secret. My husband is starting to complain about the scant fare at our establishment.
In a novel, plot holes are gaps or logical inconsistencies in the narrative that disrupt the logical progression established by the novel’s plot. Events or statements that contradict earlier facts or comments in a story fall under this category of a plot hole.
For example, in sci-fi involving time travel, the protagonist can’t go backwards in time to prevent an antagonist from being born. The earlier removal of the rascal would negate any need for future time travel in the first place (a classic time travel inconsistency).
Famous examples of plot holes in fiction involve a little-known error in the first UK edition of Harry Potter: the Philosopher’s Stone: J.K. Rowling. On page 56, a witch (an insignificant character) complains about the value of an item being ’seventeen Sickles’, yet in the financial system of Rowling’s world, there are seventeen Sickles to a Galleon. So, the witch likely says ‘one Galleon’. Although this is a minor oversight, the inconsistency was changed for subsequent editions.
To avoid creating plot holes in your story:
* Get feedback from critiquing partners and an editor who can see your arcs as a whole in your story
* Remember to keep a document of ‘true’ facts for each of your characters, mythical creatures or item of invented technology. When you bring said elements into a scene, you can browse through facts and result from key points and impossibilities
* Keep your novel’s plot as transparent as possible. The more conceptual or technical your ideas become, the higher the risk of plot holes
I submitted a short story and have now got feeback on why I did not win:-
- I’m always impressed when writers create a whole new world. Nice work. This story was interesting, but did not connect to the contest thing of fall/autumn, etc. However, you’re clearly talented. Keep writing.
- This is an imaginative alternative universe, one peopled with characters I can relate to. Although there is love (and betrayal) in this story, I didn’t see the connection with the other part of the contest’s theme, fall–but I hope this writer continues to hone their craft.
- This is a fantastic premise: a couple go on holiday to one of Jupiter’s moons, flying out on a budget spacecraft. She’s called away briefly on a work emergency, but a solar flare damages the craft and they have to fight for survival on an abandoned moon. What a ride!
- A few problems prevented this story from moving further along in the contest. The climax of this story is Skena and Max’s liftoff and escape from Amalthea. That scene happens quickly and easily, though, so we don’t get to experience the full tension and excitement of their death-defying escape. In just three paragraphs, all the conflict in the story is resolved and wiped away:
Max was becoming unconscious but managed to say, “Look, sit in the pilot seat, and I’ll try to show you how to fly the shuttle. Bu-but, if the thruster stops working at any point, w-we will continue moving on that trajectory for ever more. Then run out of oxygen and die.”
The shuttle lifted off the moon, and Skena got them back to Europa. The shuttle lost the last thruster, and it splashed deep into the water. Max was now unconscious, but they were close to a ship with people who saw the crash.
The people on the ship rescued both of them and took Max to a hospital. They had spent a long time together helping each other to survive.
- If it were that easy for Skena to fly the broken ship away even when Max was unconscious, why didn’t they try this earlier? And the perfectly-timed ship full of rescuers feels rather d eus ex machina —a convenient fix that saves us writers from having to wrestle through the real problems our characters are facing. Take your time in this scene to describe the moments where it looks like things will go wrong. In addition, the story reports more than it shows , so it feels like we’re hearing about things that happen rather than experiencing them ourselves. Because of that, I didn’t connect strongly with the characters or feel their love for each other. For example: S kena and Culbert talk about what happened, and Skena finds out Culbert had slept with Deidra. Skena said, “Oh, I’ve fallen out of love with you and in love with Max.” That’s a pretty understated and composed response to Culbert’s unfaithfulness. What did Skena do when she heard? Did she gasp? Or cry? Or do we now see that she never cared about him, because she’s callously glad he was unfaithful to her? Little details like that will help us see what’s happening and get invested in the characters and experience of the story. As my fellow judges mentioned, this didn’t connect to the season of Fall. However, you clearly have a fantastic imagination, and as you write more stories and practice your craft, you’ll gather a following of readers who love the amazing worlds you create. Thank you for sharing this one with us, and keep writing!
1. WHAT NEEDS TO BE IN A SYNOPSIS?
You only need four things in your synopsis: your working title, the genre of the book, the word count and your extended pitch.
The genre should merely be several words, using a publisher’s language, i.e. rural romance, modern women’s fiction, historical fiction. If you’re not sure precisely how to describe your genre, go to a few publishers’ websites and then look up titles within your type of heading. In the description on the site for each of the books, there will be a statement of the genre.
2. WHAT IS AN EXTENDED PITCH?
It’s a review of the story. It’s commonly around 200-300 words. Bear in mind; your synopsis shouldn’t be more than a page.
The key here is the word “story”. A synopsis isn’t a summary of the themes of the novel; a publisher should be able to work that out if you’ve explained the story well enough. People don’t read for topics; they understand the story. Your plot is what will catch the attention of the publisher. A synopsis shouldn’t tell the publisher how to read the book either. It’s just about the story.
3. SO HOW DO I REVIEW THE STORY IN 200-300 WORDS?
Good question! Apparently, you will have to leave a lot out. That’s the point that most people find the hardest to do. You want to concentrate on the main plot and maybe one or two subplots.
4. THE SIX SENTENCE METHOD
I find the six-sentence method helpful. Try to review your story in six sentences, then expand a little on those six phrases in the synopsis.
The six sentences that should be in focus are:
* what life is like for my protagonist character at the beginning of the novel
* what is the characteristic that sets the protagonist off on their journey and that is the inciting incident, described compellingly
* what is the mission or the intention of your character and why is it so necessary to them
* what is a couple of obstructions that get in their way
* what is the most significant barrier of all (doesn’t need to be fully described if it gives away too far, but the drama needs a hint)
* end with a question/hook
Then, in my synopsis, my first two paragraphs will be about points 1-3 above. The next two articles will tackle a couple of the obstacles. The final section will be the significant obstacle, and the question/hook.