The value of a Writers Circle

Beta Readers are a great source for discovering faults in a draft manuscript, but a Writers Circle can add real value by providing advice on improving the impact of your novel on readers, and for giving encouragement from an author’s perspective. Writers value input from other writers. I recently asked a fellow writer to be part of my Beta Reader group. His input was especially helpful for identifying weaknesses in my plot. He also validated his impressions of my novel from his perspective as a writer. Now, I have the privilege of doing the same for his new novel and we have discovered the joy of forming a small Writers Circle. In conclusion, I have discovered that Beta Readers, and the added value of a Writers Circle, are key elements in helping take my writing to a new level. I appreciate their input – it is like gold to me as an author.

What is the probability of finding an agent?

The best book agents can get as many as 1,500 queries per month, and they sometimes only offer to represent approximately 6 new clients per year. Of those 6 new clients, 3 will most likely have been published elsewhere already. So, in a calendar year, a top agent may receive as many as 18,000 queries and represent as few as 3 unpublished authors from that pile! Others are more optimistic, saying that an unpublished author has a 1 in 500 chance of finding representation.” [source: here] . If you do the Mathematics, that is as likely as if you are standing in a crowd of 6,000 people at a concert and you get picked from that group to come on stage. In other words, 99.97% of submissions are rejected. Ouch!

Conclusion 1. It’s incredibly difficult to gain an agent’s interest, and 2. It’s incredibly difficult to get published in the traditional way.

Prepositions expanded

A preposition is a word or group of words used before a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, time, place, location, spatial relationships, or to introduce an object. Some examples of prepositions are words like “in,” “at,” “on,” “of,” and “to.”

Prepositions in English are highly idiomatic. Although there are some rules for usage, much preposition usage is dictated by fixed expressions. Used wisely, with effective placement, prepositions:

  • Create dramatic effect or flourish.
  • Enable the writer to finish scenes/chapters by making a statement of intent.
  • Help heighten atmosphere with a sense of immediacy.
  • Make a direct point.
  • Ask rhetorical questions.

Example 1: He wasn’t sure who they were or where they were going; the human misery cooped up in the foul, stained wooden train. But he was determined to find out.

The placement of the preposition of ‘But’ creates directness, a blunt atmosphere for the scene, and it also becomes an effective way to finish the scene within a determined statement of intent, thus informing the reader of what is yet to come.

Example 2: He stepped back from her, unwilling to engage. She couldn’t find the words…Since when did John start carrying a knife?

Here’s a much better definition:

 

Successful Authors

“Successful authors are those who know just how difficult it is to write a book.” Stephen Fry

“A man who is not born with the novel-writing gift has a troublesome time of it when he tries to build a novel. He has no clear idea of his story. In fact, he has no story.” Mark Twain

It starts with the fear of writing your first essay in English and submitting papers at college. When I look back on my time as a student, not one teacher was able or willing to give lessons on writing a novel or novella. At college, I was taught by professors who had published works, but they were mainly collections of poetry or scientific works. However, most of my teachers were willing to correct mistakes in my writing. If only they had taken the time to inspire writing? Our heroes were sporting stars and famous politicians or engineers, etc. Except for one, and he was significant—so much so, that I just have to tell you about him in the next post!

Great and Terrible Writing Tips

I enjoyed this short video on writing tips (both good and bad) from Jericho Writers. This one stood out for me:
Why did this tip seem such a good one? It’s simple. Your writing should include YOU—your experiences, your heart and soul; the beat of your own drum. When I was editing my second novel, this became so important that it caused me to rewrite my characters to include the leadership conflict I had experienced in my own career. And, as a result, the book gained more power and a sense of poignancy that made it real. At least, I hope it did! So, take Franz Kafka’s words of wisdom to heart and write from your heart.

Beware the Writer’s Trap Door!

The Writer’s Trap Door. You never see it coming, then “Swoosh”—you are down in the writing dungeon and your words are lost forever.

“Right?”
“Oh, so very right!”
“Well, hurry up and give it to me!”
“What? the lost words?”
“No, stupid, the trap door! What is the trap door?”

It is…hmm, should I really be telling you this? OK, it is falling into the trap of showing, rather than telling.

First, a definition: “Show, don’t tell is one of the most frequently given pieces of advice among writers. But just like “write what you know” and “write every day,” it can be difficult to follow — especially if you don’t really know what it means! Luckily, we’re here to show you exactly what this involves. We’ll explain the various benefits of “showing” in writing, and provide plenty of helpful examples.

Show, don’t tell is a writing technique in which story and characters are related through sensory details and actions rather than exposition. It fosters a style of writing that’s more immersive for the reader, allowing them to “be in the room” with the characters.

In his most commonly repeated quoted, Chekhov said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

In short: showing illustrates, while telling merely states. Here’s a quick example of showing versus telling:

Showing: As his mother switched off the light and left the room, Michael tensed. He huddled under the covers, gripped the sheets, and held his breath as the wind brushed past the curtain.

Telling: Michael was terribly afraid of the dark.” [from the reedsy blog here]

But, why am I telling you this? Because, even though I have written two full novels, I still have to watch out for the “showing, not telling” trap! No writer is immune and, after many rounds of editing and beta reader feedback, I still missed un important chapter ending that…you guessed it…fell down the trap door! I am ashamed to share it here, but you can work out which is better:

A. There was a disturbance among the ranks and Boreas went pale.. He rose from his makeshift throne and thrust out his trident, defending himself.
“Sailor, you can’t do that!” he yelled. But it was no use.

vs

B. What happened next shocked them all.

Yes, A is a better “showing” than the “telling” example in B! I hope you don’t mind me telling you all this?

Characters make your book, but only if the readers are invested in them!

What makes for a good thriller?

Author Brad Taylor says, “Without a doubt, characters. Characters, characters, characters. One could write a scene where a car bomb is placed in an empty parking lot, set to go off in two minutes. The buildup is intense, with a “Day of the Jackal” feel of finding components and creating the device, but at the end of the day, do readers care about the empty parking lot? No. They only care if that bomb is going to harm someone they’ve invested emotional energy in — and that is the character of the story. Setting, pace and trajectory are important, but they’re irrelevant without the reader’s emotional investment, and that is driven by characters.” Read more on thrillers from the NY times, here.

Characters in Search of an Author

Six Characters in Search of an Author, is a play in three acts by Luigi Pirandello, using the device of the “theatre within the theatre,” the play explores various levels of illusion and reality.

I saw this play once and it began with workers putting final touches to the theatre set. They were in a panic to get it ready for the play and asked the audience for some help. The audience soon discovered that they were part of the play.

Pirandello’s device is very clever and it has a lesson for authors—you need to introduce your characters from the get—go! My first manuscript for book #2 fell into this trap. While focusing on a setting builder in Chapter 1, I had left out the main characters until Chapter 2. This left the reader guessing where the protagonist, antagonist were. This begs the question—do all successful books require the main characters to appear in the opening chapter? 

The bible is regarded as one of the most read and most important books of all time. In it, the first chapter—Genesis—describes the main actors (God, Adam and Eve, etc. appearing on the stage (the earth). So, take it from the top; don’t forget to put your main character(s) in the first chapter!

Great Feedback from Overseas Readers

It was great to have this feedback from a John, an overseas reader: “Have just finished your book Spy Chase. Was a great read and had me on the edge of my seat. Rosie read it before me. She loved it too.Great suspense and story line. In 2019 Rosie and I did a cruise from Barcelona to Rome so we could picture the setting of your book. Great places to visit on the Meditteranean.”

When to Introduce Your Main Characters?

A good question. When is the best time to introduce your main characters in your novel? I made a big mistake on this in my second novel—the draft did not feature the main character (the protagonist) and antagonist until later in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3. When I reworked the script to have these characters appear in Chapter 1, along with a strong hint of the conflict between them, it produced better tension and moved the plot along with more pace.
Definitions (from here):

PROTAGONISTS

The definition of a protagonist is basically “the main character”. Here is the Wikipedia definition:

“A protagonist (from Ancient Greek πρωταγωνιστής (protagonistes), meaning “player of the first part, chief actor”) is the main character in any story, such as a literary work or drama. The protagonist is at the center of the story, makes the key decisions, and experiences the consequences of those decisions.”

ANTAGONISTS

The Wikipedia definition of antagonist is the following:

An antagonist is a character whose motivations, goals, desires or opinions are opposed to those of the protagonist.

The important aspect in this alternative definition is the lack of hostility. Remember, I am in favor of tension to drive a story, but not in favor of (instant) trouble. Hope this helps your writing; it sure helped mine!

 

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