Reasons to Enter Writing Competitions
So I had a rough day today and did a crit for Unicorn Bell, and this was the result. I’m posting it here too, since it dovetails nicely into a topic I’m currently enjoying a lot: Genre Trends I Wish Would Die.
However, I would love if you were epically awesome and here instead. And please feel free to look around while you’re at it. It really is a worthwhile blog to visit for info on both indie and trade publishing and writing.
Okay. To the post….
Well that didn’t work out to plan. See the point here is for someone to send me something to critique, and if there was an interesting thing to point out, I focus on that, especially if I had to crit a chapter, since chapters plus my crit would probably run too long.
However, I just finished reading a short story someone sent me to critique and… well… there wasn’t much wrong. I had one suggestion to improve the big reveal (it’s a locked-room mystery), but then, even as it is now, the reveal has a surprising (although it makes perfect sense) twist that makes the reveal worth-while, even if it could have been a bit more of a surprise.
Would you like to read the chapter? Sure you do. Here’s the link.
Ooh. I actually do have an interesting point to raise coming from this crit. Plot twists and how they work. (Sorry if this is rambly. I had a 13 hour day thanks to a wedding where I have to arrange flowers. But I’ll try to remain lucid enough to get the point across.)
Right. So everyone loves plot twists. They make readers scream, squee, cry, laugh with glee…. They take readers from one emotional extreme to another, making the reading experience feel like a roller coaster the reader wants to take again.
The thing is, plot twists have been exploited so many times that they do lose some of their effect. Especially the “It’s a twist because you didn’t get to see the main character doing something incredibly important to the plot. Get it?”
No… No I don’t.
Mmm… I’m probably saying this because exhaustion lowers my inhibitions, but hey, it’s my opinion, so here it is:
Those aren’t plot twists. They’re cop-outs.
And they kept being used again and again. Oh sure, they do take the reader’s from extreme to extreme. But instead of: “OMG. OMG! OMG!! OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ah AWESOME!!!!!” or even better: “OMG. OMG! OMG!! OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OH SHIT!!!!!”
These “twists” are more of an: “OMG!!!………………. Oh.”
Horrid, horrid use of exclamations, I know. Guess they’re all escaping while my inner editor sleeps. Point is, taking readers to high stakes and massive tension and then dropping them on their asses is just lame. Really.
Sadly a lot of your run-of-the-mill bestselling thriller writers employ this tactic. I think people get dazed and dazzled by the adrenaline high followed by the crash after. Maybe it’s like eating candy. After a sugar crash you crave more sugar, don’t you?
Plot twists done correctly elevate stories to other realms entirely. It’s like 80% dark chocolate compared to a cheapy milk chocolate (I.E. fake twists).
Sadder than the fact that these fake twists get abused is the fact that with a tiny bit more effort, a much more effective twist could be achieved.
All it takes is leaving breadcrumbs of information, leading readers right where they think they’re headed, except you as the writer would be leading them somewhere else entirely.
Simply put, people are used to all sorts of information creeping into a story. So if you put all the building blocks to your big twist out for them to see, in a way that makes them seem unrelated or unimportant, the reader will only see the whole picture when you reveal the twist, which basically acts as a way to put all the pieces together. And if that twist has mind-blowing effects on the characters/story/stakes… even better.
And truly brilliant writers can do this without hiding anything from the reader. A plot twist should be a moment of clarity when the reader sees everything they missed before, and is shocked because 1) s/he missed the clues and 2) at the MASSIVE repercussions those clues actually have.
So yes, PJ, if you’re reading this: I called you a brilliant writer.
Hey there, new kid. You know that feeling when you’re about to start a new story?
That sense that you’re not prepared. That you’re never going to get the right story down and that the sentences will be all clunky and that your verbs will be weak and that there’s absolutely NO WAY that you’re going to make this story work.
Yeah. That feeling. The one that assails you the moment you face your first blank page.
Well… It never goes away. I’ve written for almost thirteen years now. I’ve finished… Two books to publishing standards, and five more rough drafts as well as four rewrites.
I’ve made all of those stories work except for one, and I’m working on it as soon as I put up this blog, because I now know what’s wrong with it.
But last night, I started working on my mystery project and… I spent about fourteen hours playing games, two watching t.v. one and a half sleeping… Yeah. You get the idea. The amount of time I actually spent writing was about an hour.
All because every time I wanted to start, that feeling hit me. And me, choosing terrible moments to be undyingly optimistic about my writing, assumed I could start when the feeling went away.
Needless to say, it didn’t. So by about 7 p.m. last night, I thought back to my previous drafts. With Doorways (the two publish quality books), I was all out terrified! I delayed starting by six months. SIX MONTHS. Because the thought of writing a story so epic and complex paralyzed me. ES, the book I’m writing yet again, has given me this feeling three times. Every time I tried to write it. With last year’s NaNo, I got such terrible cold feet on October 31st that I almost gave up before I started.
But you know what? Whether something takes me a day, a week, months or even years, I always start an idea I have. Because if I didn’t, nothing I ever wanted to write would get written, and my life would have been emptier for it.
So if you’re about to start a new story and that feeling hits you, just chill. But do work through it. Because the only way to make the feeling fade for long enough to finish a story is to actually start writing it. Any you know what? Most of the time, those fears are unfounded anyway.
What was the worst time you got hit by this feeling? How long did it take you to start writing?
By the way, I posted more details on my query, synopsis, first chapter critique at Unicorn Bell. So if you need a fresh pair of eyes, please do check it out. 🙂
Hey all! Today, I’m welcoming Elizabeth Seckman to my blog. She’s going to tell us what Kevin Bacon taught her about plotting.
Take it away, Elizabeth. 🙂
Thanks for having me over Misha! I feel a little like a kindergartener coming to the high school to share knowledge, but I will try to sound like I know what I’m talking about.
The most critical part of a good tale is the plot. The plot is the bones everything else in the story hangs on. No bones, no book.
And everything I learned about plotting, I got from Kevin Bacon.
|Applaud me, Kevin. I am brilliant.|
Yes, Kevin Bacon, the actor.
Ever heard of the game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon?
Here’s the game, in a nutshell: Link any actor to Kevin Bacon within six connections.
Okay, so here is how it works. Let’s take Madonna. How is she connected to Kevin Bacon? She was married to Sean Penn, who starred with Kevin in Mystic River. So, that’s a quick two degree separation. And the legend is you can link almost anyone in Hollywood to Kevin within six degrees.
Yeah, yeah…fun little party game, but what’s it got to do with plotting?
I say plots MUST also be that tight. Let’s pretend the plot is Kevin Bacon. Everything that happens in that story must, within six degrees, have something to do with the main plot. No tangents. No meandering. No superfluous characters to bog down the reader’s memory. Every conversation and every action move the story along.
For example: let’s say it’s a romance. A single dad and his son. Dad needs a love interest. Now, pick the kid’s sub plot…let’s say he’s learning disabled. Voila! Dad dates the teacher. Need some more conflict? Bring on dad’s ex-wife. Now you have an antagonist who is bringing back story. See? Subplots + Plot are connected.
Keep it tight. Keep it moving. Kevin will applaud you too.
Fate Intended is the third book in the Coulter Men Series. Trip is the last of the Coulter sons to find
love. He’s a handsome man with all the skills a young spy needs to succeed. But when it comes to love, he misses the target. Jane is a sweet beauty who may or may not be wanted for murder. She’s hiding out as a cleaning lady when chance brings her and Trip together. It looks like a happily ever after is in the cross hairs until reality tries to destroy what fate has intended.
Recently, I’ve started to read a book. By all estimations, I should have loved it. The synopsis was awesome. The cover was beautiful. And I believe the person who wrote the book is talented.
A lot of people take time off from writing during the Christmas season. If they’re anything like me, it means that getting back into writing mode can be a bit tricky. So I thought I’d share some of the more efficient ways I use to get my writing groove back.