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Showing posts from February, 2016

A Great Opening

I read a lot of books and for the opening to stick with me as something that needs to be revisited is a rare thing. When I find one, I love going back, line by line, and figuring out how it works and how it functions. This week we're going to take a look at the opening paragraph of Robert Heinlein' Starship Troopers. It does a lot of things really well, but more than anything it demands that you keep reading.

Writing an opening to a book is hard. You need to grab readers with your very first sentence and then the first paragraph as a whole. It will take revision after revision to get it right. Sometimes you'll agonize over what that first sentence will be and realize you've really been writing chapter three. Or you'll agonize over it and realize that the book doesn't start until chapter two and you need to lose this opening anyway.

But looking at incredibly successful openings to books is a good way for us to learn more about what we should do. Or what's p…

Anatomy of a Scene: Raiders of the Lost Ark

I've been meaning to start doing stuff like this and I figured there was no better time to start than now.
There are a lot of scenes in a lot of movies and books that just knock my socks off every time I see them. Talking about them lights a fire under my ass that makes me want to just write and write and write. They're perfectly written, perfectly executed, and just perfect. 
So I wanted to highlight some of them here and try to explain why they give me creative nourishment. 
Many of these will probably come from films. That's where my background is. I do everything I can to steal all the best ideas from the best storytellers in Hollywood and try to bring that sensibility to my writing and this might be a fascinating adventure for you or it could be boring. Either way, you'll get to witness some great scenes from great stories.
The first scene is from Raiders of the Lost Ark. When I think of "great, well-written scene," this is one of the first scenes that …

Nobody Knows Anything

“Nobody knows anything...... Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what's going to work. Every time out it's a guess and, if you're lucky, an educated one.” --William Goldman, Adventures in the Screen Trade In this quote, William Goldman was referring to the motion picture field, but I think the same can be easily said of storytelling in general, of books and movies, of video games and shorts. Anytime someone has a creative idea, a new story to tell, no one has any idea what's going to work or not.

I think this is a prime example of something to keep in mind when you're dealing with people in just about any industry that involves the sale of stories.

This is one of the reasons why I think it's so important to write what you want to see. No one knows for sure what's going to sell and what isn't, so why spend time trying to chase it?

Sure, there are things you can do to make your novel more saleable, but there's no g…

False Starts

False starts are a thing I assume every writer has to deal with.

Sometimes these false starts happen because you merely tried starting the story in the wrong place. Other times, you're trying to get a story out into the world that you haven't completely thought through and you've picked the wrong opening because you didn't really know where you were heading.

And sometimes, you just find that the story just wasn't working the way you hoped, in the same way an experiment might go wrong. You put all the ingredients in the beaker of that first chapter and it blows up in your face instead becoming the concoction that will turn lead into gold.

I'm working on a manuscript right now and spent the last few days crafting a first chapter that I thought was going to work. But the more I lied in bed, mulling over where I was going next and how to make things pop for a reader, I realized my opening was the wrong one. It needed to either be backstory that we don't ever ge…

Always Be Learning

Lawrence Kasdan once said that "being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life." Perhaps some writers don't have to work as hard at learning and studying as I do, or as hard as I strive to, anyway, but it's something I think is important for writers of all skill levels. We can always get better and that's because we can always be learning.
I go out of my way to discover what works for other writers in their process and understanding of the craft so that I may adapt it into my work. I might not take everything they have to say to incorporate into my writing routine, but I definitely take their words and use it to refine and hone my process. That way I can be a better, more effective writer, whose craft gets better on a consistent basis. 
But how do you learn? 
There are many ways to do this. Obviously, there are books of untold quantities on the subject and I've read many of them. Last week I mentioned Robert McKee's Storyand…