Category Archives: Writing articles

Life, Passion… Deadline

Life, Passion… Deadline

Here is the conclusion of the 8-Part ‘BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE’ Series.
Thanks Holly! Parts I – VII can be found in my blog archives.

Lauren

Love changes everything. tm

 

Life, Passion… Deadline
by Holly Lisle

You’re ready to write the story of your life. You’ve put your heart and soul into it.

• Your themes resonate with you, and they’re the core of the novel.

• You’ve hidden them so well you’ll write a story, not a message.

• You’re willing to write honestly, knowing you can’t please everyone, but you’ll reach the people who will understand YOU.

• You’ve layered your story with subthemes that will make plotting easier, and will make the tale you’re telling richer.

• And you actually KNOW what you’ll be writing about before you start writing.

You’re golden.

Almost.

You have one huge obstacle ahead of you, one you haven’t yet considered. It may not be a factor with your first book, it won’t be a factor for the first book you SELL, but for every book thereafter, your passion, your creativity, and the soul of your story will be written against the background of a ticking clock.

You will face deadlines.

Everyone knows the rules for meeting deadlines. You break your story into daily bites, you write a certain number of words or a certain number of pages per day, you build padding into your schedule so that you can have a few bad days and not come in late, and you stick to your schedule. All great, it works, it’s the way I’ve written a whole lot of books and hit a whole lot of deadlines.

But there’s more to it than that. When the clock is ticking, you know you’ll only have so many times you can fall down, lose your place, and make mistakes before you fall behind. And playing catch-up is hell on creativity–stress, anxiety, and the fear that this time you won’t be able to write to the end of the book come crashing in on you, and make simply finishing an ordeal–never mind finishing on time.

Everyone hits those places sooner or later. But how do you keep from hitting them every time? And how do you hang on to all the richness and power and passion you built into your story when fear and worry make writing feel like rock climbing with no safety gear?

Follow these three steps, and you’ll get through it.

• Believe in the power of your themes.

If you’re writing stories that matter to you, you’ll be able to lose yourself in them even when the pressure is on. I’ve been in some incredibly tight spots, with not just looming deadlines but a dwindling bank account—but because I’d taken the time to build the foundation for a story I wanted and NEEDED to write, once I sat down and put my fingers on the keyboard, I could slip away for a while from the real world and lose myself in my characters and their lives.

If you’re “just cranking one out,” you’re going to have a much, much harder time shaking off the real world and getting your work done. And your quality will suffer, too. If you’re telling a story you need to tell, your characters will drag you to the keyboard on days when you just don’t think you can do it.

• Trust surprises…but not too much.

Be willing to explore story ideas that ADD TO and complement the themes you already have in place. Bringing in new events that can take your characters in different directions but still allow them to get back to the story you’d planned can make getting your daily quota of words or pages exciting—you’re not entirely sure what is going to happen, but you’re pretty sure it’s going to be good.

Make sure, before chasing after a sudden hunch or enchanting new direction, that it DOES work in tandem with your story. Take a few minutes to see if you can daydream your way from the beginning of the tangent all the way through to the place where it connects back in to the big scenes and big events you’ve plotted out.

• Dance with the one who brought you.

Stress and deadlines have a way of shaking your confidence, in making you second-guess everything you planned, in pushing you to look for something that would be easier, simpler, quicker.

Don’t do it.

The problem is, you might have what seems like a great surprise idea pop on you that promises to give you easier, simpler, quicker, but it can be hard to tell the difference between a nice surprise and a betrayal in waiting.

Stop yourself right away if you find yourself altering your story themes or your main direction because of this great new idea. The sure-fire way to kill the story you’re writing is to hare off after what is, in fact, an entirely new story trying to disguise itself as something you can use right now.

If you’re writing about a doctor who has lost faith in his profession and who walks away from medicine, only to discover how much he needs to help people—and you have a great idea to make him an archeologist—hit the brakes.
Let the archeologist idea simmer in the back of your mind while you finish the doctor book. If it’s any good, it’ll still be there when you’re ready to write the next story.

Easier, simpler, quicker is nothing but a mirage when you’re pushing toward a deadline. Faith in the strength of your story, a bit of daring, and focus on what you started with and what you intend to have when you’re done, however, will give you what you need to get through.

You can do this.

And you’ll have the best thing you’ve every written when you’re done; a novel with a pulse, with muscle and sinew, with passion and meaning.

About the Author
Full-time novelist Holly Lisle has published more than thirty novels with major publishers. Her next novel, THE RUBY KEY, (Orchard Books) will be on shelves May 1st. You can receive her free writing newsletter, Holly Lisle’s Writing Updates at http://hollylisle.com/newsletter.html Published At: www.Isnare.com

Cheers, Lauren

Love changes everything. tm

 

Planning A Heart-Stopping Story

Here is part VII of the 8-Part BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE Series by Holly Lisle. Enjoy!

Lauren

Love changes everything. tm

 

Planning A Heart-Stopping Story

Welcome to part VII of the 8-Part BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE Series.

Planning A Heart-Stopping Story
by Holly Lisle

Over the last six lessons, you’ve figured out your theme, and you’ve worked out at least one and possibly several subthemes. You’ve learned how to use blended scenes, intercuts, and cliffhangers to work both themes and subthemes into your work. You have great conflict waiting to happen. What do you do next?

All of our discussion of themes and subthemes comes down to this. It’s time to figure out how your story is going to go.

After more than 17 years of writing novels as my full-time job, I’ve tried every method I could find for getting my stories into order without so overworking them during the outline process that I no longer wanted to write the book. This is the method I currently use, and am still refining. It’s simple, it’s quick, and it’s flexible—all three advantages which make writing more fun, and keep your work fresher for you. This is going to seem like the strangest imaginable way to get a passionate, compelling, suspenseful story on the page…but it completely blows away waiting for your Muse to inspire you in terms of effectiveness.

I am a heavy user of plot cards—3×5 index cards or the software equivalent–upon which I write one single sentence for each scene. That sentence outlines the characters and the conflict that will occur in that scene.

(Don’t understand scenes? The Scene Creation Workshop will help you get the hang of them. http://www.hollylisle.com/fm/Workshops/scene-workshop.html )

To write your novel, you’ll need to know:

• How many plot cards/ scenes you’ll need for your book,
• Which theme or subtheme (or blend) you’ll be dealing with for each scene,
• Which characters will be in each scene,
• Who the POV (Point Of View) character—the person through whose eyes the story is told—will be.

You’ll start with basic arithmetic plus your themes and subthemes to do this to figure out how many scenes you’ll need.
An average first novel in the current market is around 90,000 words long (if you’re writing for the adult, not children’s or YA markets).
• So we’ll start with 90,000 words as our target length.

For this example, we’re going to assume that you have one main theme and two subthemes that you’ve decided will each run the complete length of the book.

• Theme: HEROINE sets out to win a writing contest and prove to her dubious husband that her dream of being a writer is not a waste of time.

• Subtheme #1: HEROINE meets man at work who encourages her writing, and her pursuit of fulfillment, leading her to consider leaving her current relationship.

• Subtheme #2: HUSBAND watches his wife’s life change as she pursues her dreams, and he starts wondering what happened to his own dreams.

Let’s further say that you’ve decided your scenes will average a thousand words each, so you’ll need about ninety of them to get a full-length novel. (In real life, the math is rarely this easy–mine scenes generally average 1500 to 1750 words each, but every book and every scene is different.)

• Target Length of Book ÷ Average Length of Scene = Number Of Scenes

• 90,000 ÷ 1000 = 90 scenes for the book (PLEASE NOTE: This is an APPROXIMATION. Books are not so cut and dried that you’ll end up with exactly ninety scenes, nor will they each be a thousand words long.)

You want to give a lot of the story over to your main theme. We’ll figure 50% because it’s a nice, easy number, but it could just as easily be 60%. Or 73.8%, if you like to make things complicated. Let’s not go there, though.

• 50% for the heroine’s main story.

Then we’ll divvy up the other half of the book between Subtheme #1 and Subtheme #2. Say you decide that you want the heroine to dump her husband for the man at work. You’ll probably want to give #1 more time and space than #2. If you want her current relationship to grow stronger because her pursuit of her own dreams has inspired her husband to pursue his, then you’ll want to put more work into #2. And if you want to keep the reader in suspense about which way she’s going to jump, split them down the middle.

I think the suspense angle is interesting, so I’m going to give:
• Subtheme #1 25% of the book, and
• Subtheme #2 25% of the book.
Multiply 90 (Total Number Of Scenes) by .5 (50%–the percentage your main theme gets). You’ll get 45.

• 90 x .5 = 45 Main Theme Scenes

Now multiply 90 (Total Number Of Scenes) by .25% (the subtheme percentage).
• 90 x .25 = 22.5

You’ll get 22.5, which basically means you round up for one subtheme, and round down for the other one. Or write two short scenes. Or don’t worry about the remainder, because this is just a rough technique to give you a quick picture of how you’re going to break up your story.

I’ll give subtheme #1 22 scenes, and subtheme #2 23 scenes, just because I’ve decided the husband reawakening his own dreams is a better story than the dude at work hitting on someone else’s wife, and at the end of the suspense, I’m going to have the heroine stay with her husband.

• 22 Subtheme #1 Scenes
• 23 Subtheme #2 Scenes

Anyway, I now know I’ll need 90 3×5 index cards on which to write out plot cards, and I’ll have 45 of them for the heroine’s pursuit of her dreams, 22 for her entanglement with the man from work, and 23 for her relationship with her husband.

NOTICE that nowhere in here have I addressed POV (Point Of View)—that is, which scenes are shown through which character’s eyes. The theme and subthemes do not select POV for you. As you write out plot cards, you’ll have to select the best POV based on what is happening in each scene. Let’s do a few now, and I’ll show you what I mean.

• Jenna, cleaning the attic on a rainy Saturday afternoon, discovers one of her journals from her teenage years in which she promised herself that she’d be a famous novelist by the time she was 25, and something stirs in her at the sudden, sharp memory of that dream. [POV-Jenna] (Main Theme)

• Kevin Hobart hears Jenna talking to a co-worker about her crazy desire to write a novel, and does a good job of faking casual as he invites her to a meeting of a writers’ group to which he belongs. [POV-Kevin] (Subtheme #1)

• Mac watches Jenna reading through piles of books about writing, taking notes and writing things down, and tells her she’s going to get her feelings hurt when she does all that work and no one wants what she’s done. [POV could be either Mac or Jenna] (Subtheme #2)

• Jenna meets Kevin at her first meeting, and even though she brought something she wrote to read, is intimidated by the process and refuses to read when her turn comes around. [POV could be either Jenna or Kevin] (Blend of Main Theme and Subtheme #1)

You may not get all 90 scenes when you first start outlining. That’s okay. You may not, in fact, get much beyond the first third of the book. That’s fine, too.

You have a plan, and you can build and change things as you go. The greatest advantage of figuring out and using plot cards is that when you discover a better direction for your story, you can toss a 3×5 index card or two, and replace them with better, rather than tossing several thousand or more already-written words.

I realize it’s unnerving to look at the mechanical processes behind creating edge-of-the-seat fiction. It’s more romantic to imagine typing like a wild thing, writing without a plan, tossing balled-up pages in the wastebasket from across the room…and dressing all in black, and drinking espresso in a coffee house while lamenting being blocked, too. Passion is in what you put on the page, though, not in how artsy you look while you’re doing it.

In the final installment of BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE, “Life, Passion…Deadline,” you’ll learn how to hold on to your story and its heart while working to a deadline.

About the Author
Full-time novelist Holly Lisle has published more than thirty novels with major publishers. Her next novel, THE RUBY KEY, (Orchard Books) will be on shelves May 1st. You can receive her free writing newsletter, Holly Lisle’s Writing Updates at http://hollylisle.com/newsletter.html Published At: www.Isnare.com

Cheers, Lauren

Love changes everything. tm

 

Interweaving Your Novel’s Themes And Subthemes

Interweaving Your Novel’s Themes And Subthemes

Here is part VI of the 8-Part BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE Series by Holly Lisle. Enjoy!

Lauren

Love changes everything. tm

 

Interweaving Your Novel’s Themes And Subthemes
by Holly Lisle

When you’re writing a book, you want every page to drag the reader to the next one, even if she’s late for work, even if it’s two o’clock in the morning and he needs to be up at six, even if the plane has landed and your weary traveller really must get bags in hand and get off the plane. You want what you’re writing to be compelling. Enthralling. Un-put-down-able.

And that’s where the themes and subthemes we’ve been working on come together.

First we’ll put together an example where our main theme of rage against misused power, by now well disguised, becomes the story of a heroine who has been wrongfully accused of murder and must prove her innocence. We’ll have a subtheme of unhappy divorce, wherein the heroine’s two children are being told by her ex what a horrible person she is.

We could do an enormous number of things with these two storylines, and I know dozens of ways to meld themes and subthemes together and use them to play off of each other, but I’ll give you my three favorite techniques here.

THE BLENDED SCENE

Start with the heroine discovering the body of a stranger in her basement. Since she and her husband split up, there hasn’t been anyone down there but her and the two kids, who are five and eight years old. She carries a load of laundry down the stairs, trips over the the body, scatters laundry everywhere, and goes racing up the steps to call the police, just as her ex arrives to pick up the kids for the weekend. She’s frantic, her husband first thinks she’s joking, then thinks she’s hysterical, and finally goes into the basement and comes out as she’s calling the cops. He’s not sympathetic—he wonders what’s going on in that house since he left, what sort of atmosphere she’s raising his kids in, and when the cops arrive, he gives a statement, then hustles the kids out of there fast, wondering aloud if she’s had men in the place while his children were there.

• Locate the characters—other than the main character—who are involved in the theme and those involved in the subtheme. In this case, those characters are the police (theme), and the ex-husband and kids (subtheme).

• Decide how to create ties between theme and subtheme–in this case, the husband ties the police into his vision of his ex-wife as a bad mother by suggesting she’s been entertaining strangers in the house with his kids present. The police, meanwhile, will tie the husband into the story as another suspect.

• Get elements of both theme and subtheme into one scene.

THE INTERCUT

Now we’re going to play with time and space. We’ll write four alternating scenes, two from the point of view (POV) of our heroine, and two from the POV of her ex. In each scene, we’ll work either the theme or the subtheme, but not both.

First, we have the heroine being questioned at the kitchen table, denying any knowledge of the man in the basement or how he got there, honestly describing over and over how she found the body, and then we have a forensics guy telling the cop in the background that the man had a note in his pocket signed by someone with the same name as the woman, and they’re going to need pre-existing handwriting samples.

Next, to the father driving the kids home, who’s asking his kids who comes over to the house when they’re there with mommy, and the kids saying no one, and the father asking if mommy told them to say that.

Third, back to the heroine, who is asked to go to the police station, and who is seated in an interrogation room, where, as soon as she’s left alone, she gets up and starts pacing, trying to work through where the man could have gotten a note from her, who he might have been, how he ended up in her basement, why he was dead, and who was responsible for his death.

And back to the father, who gets the kids to admit that, once they’re in bed, they don’t know if anyone comes over, and yes, mommy does have music on sometimes, and maybe someone could have been there, and while they’re at school, they don’t know what she does. Except for laundry. They’re very firm that she does lots of laundry.

• With intercuts, you want to show facets of who each character is, and how they’re acting toward their own ends, whether those are good or bad.

• You have to create change, but you are only creating change toward the specific theme you’re working on (at least visibly). The police don’t ask the heroine about her ex, they don’t visibly pursue interest in the ex. They want to know about her. Meanwhile, the father doesn’t mention or worry about the police. His focus is on his kids, and on finding out what’s going on over at their mother’s house.

THE CLIFFHANGER

Finally, we’re going to bring both of these themes into play again, as we have a scene involving the forensics folks. They’ve found a picture of both kids and the mother in the dead man’s pocket, and the picture is signed on the back, “Love, Lisa” (the heroine’s name). The signature matches the one on the note that was in his pocket. It’s not proof she was involved with him, but it certainly doesn’t look good for her. They call the police out of the interrogation room and let them know what they’ve found. The police go back into the room and ask her why the dead man had a picture of her and her kids in his pocket, signed by her, and she panics and starts crying, and can’t—or won’t—answer the question.

And that’s where you leave that scene. The reader is forced to consider the possibility that the heroine might have been lying, that she might know the dead man, that she might even have killed him. The reader could also suspect the husband, who could have had possession of notes and pictures signed the way these have been. But if the scene closes with the heroine in deep trouble, panicked, and not talking, the reader will have a strong incentive to keep reading to find out what happens next.

• Use elements of both theme and subtheme in your cliffhanger (the mother and her connection to the dead man, and HIS possible connection to her and her kids)

• Leave either the most important character of the theme OR the subtheme in desperate straits (in this case, the main character of the theme is in trouble…you can save trouble for the ex in a later part of the story).

• Pick up the next scene with a character from one of your subthemes, and gradually work your way back to the character who was dangling over the cliff.
By carefully using blended scenes, intercuts, and cliffhangers, you can weave your theme and subthemes together in ways so exciting and compelling your reader will stay up late, miss his stop, be late for work. Cruel, yes, but it’s the sort of cruelty readers will thank you for.

Next time, in BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE, Part VII, Planning A Heart-Stopping Story, you’ll learn how to outline the bones of your story using theme and subthemes to keep things moving.
Full-time novelist Holly Lisle has published more than thirty novels with major publishers. Article published At: www.Isnare.com

Cheers, Lauren

Love changes everything. tm

 

The Most Inspiring Blog Post About Writing You’ll Ever Read

Today’s post is courtesy of Kate Krake’s blog: The Write Turn

I am hopeful that Kate Krake’s post might introduce you to some fine writing blogs that you may have missed, and that the links and musings about these stand-out (whether you agree with them or not) blog posts about the craft of writing, might encourage and inspire you to continue writing for just a little bit longer today…

Cheers!
Lauren Delaney
Love changes everything. tm

 

The Most Inspiring Blog Post About Writing You’ll Ever Read

by Kate Krake

As a writer who writes and a writer who writes about writing, I read a lot about writing.
Make sense? Writing blog posts, books, email newsletters, books, articles – anything I can get, I’ll read it. Sometimes I’m trawling for ideas for my own articles, other times I’m hungry for inspiration for my work or in need of advice on how to nut out a particular writing problem that’s causing me grief.

Sometimes I find the answer and am completely blown away with inspiration and the way forward is clear and simple. Sometimes it doesn’t work like that at all. Sometimes you’re just not in the right mood to be receptive to certain advice. Other times the advice might suck. Other times it could have something to do with the weather.

It’s that first group I want to focus on today. In this post, I’ve gathered up a selection of 5 of the most inspirational articles on writing I’ve ever found. Some are new, some are old but all of them in some way have given me pause and, I think, helped me become a better writer.

There’s a bit of a variation in these five. You’ll find advice for bloggers, advice for fiction writers, advice for publishing, advice on creativity, advice that just keeps your pen moving to the next word when you feel as though you can’t possible write anything else ever again and would rather give up on the whole game and go work in a grocery store. We’ve all been there.

Write Epic Shit

Corbett Barr. Think Traffic.
Write Epic Shit has become a manifesto for content writers, and can be applied to all kinds of writing and creating and generally everything you do.

The Lesson: Strive to create BIG and IMPORTANT things rather than churning out a bunch of mediocre stuff that’s no different to anything anyone else is doing. That’s the stuff that’s going to matter most to you, to your readers and that’s the stuff that’s going to get your writing noticed.

Expertise vs. Humility – A Writer’s Battle Royale?

Taylor Jacobson. Write to Done.
This post blipped onto my radar recently and after reading it, I couldn’t shake its ideas for a long time. It’s particularly relevant to bloggers and non-fiction writers, asking how do you strike the balance between writing with authority to give advice and help people, and resist coming across like an know it all tosser?

The Lesson: Write from the authority of your own experience and learning and show your own weaknesses and shortcomings.

Make More Art: Interview with Seth Godin

Seth Godin, interviewed by Joe Bunting. The Write Practice.
Seth Godin. That’s about all you need to know to understand that is is going to be a pretty inspiring post on how to get remarkable stuff done and noticed. I could have added just about anything written by Seth Godin to this list and had the same effect, but I went with this one as it’s specifically put together as advice for writers. Anything you write, anything you work on at all this interview is going to inspire you. Get a pen ready.

The Lesson: Make Art. Get over what anyone else thinks and do it. Keep doing it.

How Do I Write What The Audience Wants To Read?

Chuck Wendig. Terrible Minds.
Chuck Wendig is an author and blogger who’s never afraid to mince words and tell it like it is. In this post he talks about why it’s essentially a waste of time to attempt to write your novel aimed at a particular market. It’s funny, it’s irreverent, it’s inspiring. Read it now.

The Lesson:
Forget the market. Writing for a market is not writing for yourself and by the time you’re ready to publish, the market will probably have changed anyway.

Pep Talk by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman. National Novel Writing Month.
I had this printed out and pinned up on my wall for a long time (why did I take it down? I moved house recently and haven’t put it back up yet). Writer and creative extraordinaire, Neil Gaiman tells us a very human story (he is a super human, after all) about the doubt a writer can suffer when working through their manuscript; that feeling you get half way through when it seems like everything is crap and the ever present temptation to chuck it all away and start on something new and fresh and BETTER. More importantly, he tell you how to get over it.

The Lesson: Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I hope you get as much out of these as I did and continue to do. Like any bit of writing advice, feel free to take and use any of these as you need or ignore it as hackneyed nonsense and get on with it.

Got a particularly inspirational article about writing you’d like to share? Link to it here and let’s all get something out of it!

That post was courtesy of Kate Krake’s blog: The Write Turn 

I am hopeful that it might introduce you to some fine writing blogs that you may have missed, and that the links and musings about these stand-out (whether you agree with them or not) blog posts about the craft of writing, might encourage and inspire you to continue writing for just a little bit longer today…

Cheers! Lauren Delaney     

Love changes everything. tm                                        

Burying Your Novel’s Message

Here is part III of the 8-Part BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE Series by Holly Lisle – Burying Your Novel’s Message.

Cheers, Lauren

Love changes everything. tm

 Burying Your Novel’s Message
by Holly Lisle

In the first two articles, we’ve explored how essential it is to have a theme to give your novel direction, and how to find those themes that will resonate with you.
You’d think that once you have a theme, you could just sit down and write your book about that, and you’d bring powerful emotions and passionate storytelling and compelling, page-turning action to your tale—but it just ain’t so.

If you just write your theme, what you’ll have is a harangue. A message book. Something that will have the readers who agree with your precise point of view nodding along—whether it be “Global warming is going to destroy the planet” or “Global warming is a pile of cow-flops”—and readers who hold any other point of view bouncing your book of the nearest wall and never buying anything else by you, ever.

Bad.

So now you bury your theme. You write about something utterly unlike the theme you fought so hard to come up with in the first place.
One of you just went, “Waaaaaait a minute! If I write about something besides my theme, how are people going to get my message? How are they going to know that global warming is evil/ irrelevant/ actually the dawning of a new ice age? How will I convince them that I’m right?”

They won’t know, and you won’t convince them. It’s as simple as that.

The theme is there for YOU. Your job as a novelist is to tell a story that entertains your reader, that makes him think, that haunts him long after he finishes the last page—maybe even that STILL haunts him long after he’s read the whole thing for the fourth or tenth or twentieth time. I get letters and emails from readers who have done that, and it’s great. They frequently tell me what they got out of the book, too, what hidden meanings they found, what they took away from the story.

Funny thing is, they never find what I put in there. That’s okay. They found something that mattered to THEM, that changed the world for THEM. So I did my job.

If you want to send a message, buy an ad.

If you want to create resonance, you work your theme in. If you want to have people love your book and treasure it for what it meant to them, you bury that theme so deeply only you will ever know what it was.

Here’s how.
1) Figure out the key elements of your theme.
I wrote one book the theme of which was “if the Democrats and Republicans don’t recognize each other isn’t the enemy and start working together toward a common cause, real enemies are going to destroy the country while those morons are bickering over pork and entitlements.”
The key elements of that theme were:
* People who had more in common than they knew fighting over trivialities* Enemies disguised as friends bearing gifts

2) Plan your hiding place.
That book was not set in this time, in the US, or even in this world. It was a high fantasy novel set in another world, on an island nation about the size of England and about the location of Australia with the climate of Alaska through the Pacific Northwest of Canada and the US. The cultures were Iron Age plus highly developed magic, with levels of sophistication ranging from 18th-Century France to the nomadic hunter-gatherer-herdsmen of the Mongol Horde.

So figure out YOUR disguise. Your most meaningful themes are always going to be drawn from the here and now, from the events in your life that trouble you and frighten you and elate you—but those themes go into Westerns and SF and fantasy and mysteries and romances and hard-boiled detective tales and mainstream novels set in every possible time and place.

3) Create your metaphors.
In that novel, the Democrats became one nation, the Republicans the other. I made a point of locating the good and the bad in both parties, and giving the two nations those good and bad characteristics. I created the real villains from current events, too, (though not from obvious current events), and worked out a complex metaphor for them, too, creating their culture from elements of a handful of different cultures. My two protagonists were from warring nations, magic was the physics of the world, and the villain was disguised as a good guy for the first half of the novel.

4) Never even hint at what you’re talking about underneath it all.
I didn’t then write a story about how the politics of the warring nations and the outside world clashed. I didn’t give a little nudge, nudge, wink, wink and call my nations Demos and Republis. I spent time developing deep cultures built not around my particular axe to grind, but around the needs of the story. And then I built three characters, one from each of the three cultures.

And the story I wrote was a love story set against the backdrop of war and peace.

I wrote about the characters, I didn’t confine them to my metaphors, I didn’t try to push any points or convince anyone of anything. I let my folks become who they were, good points and bad, and I told the story of their lives in that world, that place, and that time—and because I knew what underlay it, it meant a lot to me. And because SOMETHING underlay it, it meant a lot to a whole lot of readers.

With the possible exception of its sequel, it was the best book I’ve ever written.

That story remains a favorite for my readers, too—even though what they take from it is sometimes the exact opposite of what I put into it. They have found their own meaning in it, have felt the resonance of it being about something bigger than the story on the surface, and have taken it to heart.
And if you’re a novelist, that is what you want them to do. (If you’re still hung up on requiring that they get YOUR meaning from your book, you’re in the wrong line of work.)

In BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE, Part IV, Playing Chicken With Your Story, you’ll learn how to take the personal risks in writing that will keep your readers glued to their seats turning pages.

About the Author
Full-time novelist Holly Lisle has published more than thirty novels with major publishers. Her next novel, THE RUBY KEY, (Orchard Books) will be on shelves May 1st. You can receive her free writing newsletter, Holly Lisle’s Writing Updates at http://hollylisle.com/newsletter.html

Published At: www.Isnare.com

Cheers, Lauren

Love changes everything. tm

 

How To Find Your Novel’s Pulse

How To Find Your Novel’s Pulse

Here is part 2 of the 8-part BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE Series by Holly Lisle.

Thanks Holly!
Enjoy!

Cheers, Lauren     Love changes everything. tm

 

How To Find Your Novel’s Pulse
by Holly Lisle

The best novels you’ve ever read—the ones that stuck in your mind and kept you going back to re-read them, that made you think, that made you feel, maybe that scared your socks off—were not about what they were about.

Sound cryptic? It is, sort of. Novels that change the way you look at the world were written by novelists who had things going on underneath that they were working through on paper. Angry divorces, fights at work, health problems, fears for their kids, rage at politics and injustice, fear of war, loss of loved ones—the whole gamut of human trials and tribulations.

Some of these novelists knew they were burying their struggles in their books, some didn’t. But while they were writing about running into elves in the deep woods or opening a door to find themselves looking down the barrel of a gun, they were telling two stories. The one you read, and the one they lived. While you were reading, you felt the second, hidden story. That’s why you keep going back to the book, and why you can’t get it out of your head. Your gut knows there’s more in that book than meets the eye.

Do you want to write books that keep readers reading, that keep them thinking, that let them look at the world through different eyes? Do you want to find the stories beneath the stories in your own work, and make sure you put them in there on purpose, instead of accidentally hitting one just right, and never again knowing how you got there?

This is doable. It’s not comfortable—few things worth doing ever are. But it is a repeatable process. And here’s where you start. Read each step below, and write down your answers.

STEP ONE:

Plato had it right when he said, “Know thyself.” You don’t get to have a starry-eyed vision of yourself as this nearly-perfect person if you’re going to write meaningful books. You have to dig deep.

* You have to figure out what YOU did wrong in every relationship that went south on you. (Innocent victimhood is worthless as a novel-writing perspective. You end up with passive main characters who do nothing, and books that bore readers to death. So accept the truth that you have been and done wrong in your life, and buy your characters some credibility.)

* You have to admit to moments when you lied, and not make excuses about why you did it.

* You have to recall the people you hurt.

* And admit the things you did that you should not have done.

* And face the things you did not do that you should have.

This is a no-excuses zone. You did what you did, you meant to do it, consequences resulted and those were your fault.

Is this process all negative? No. But you’ll already remember all your greatest moments; saving a life, sacrificing to help someone else, opening doors for old ladies, teaching Seeing Eye dogs for the blind. Those are great. And your readers will believe your characters do those things when, and only when, you have first proved that your characters are human. Humans are not perfect. We all know this about each other, even if we don’t like to admit it about ourselves. But we know a real character when we read one, and this is where you find real characters.

STEP TWO:

You’ve admitted who you are. Now discover who you need to be, what you need to have, and what you dread. Again, skip the Miss America “I want world peace and free healthcare and kittens and puppies for all the children in the world” routine. What do YOU want…for YOU? What do you NEED? Do you need to be loved and admired? Do you need to be rich, powerful, famous? Do you need to be safe? What drives you? What eats at you at night? What haunts your nightmares? When you look in the mirror and see something wrong, what is the first thing you fear? When you hear a bump in the attic, a scrap at the front door, what do you dread?

STEP THREE:

Who you are and what you need and fear are part of why you write. But writing fiction itself is a strange process that involves baring bits of you that you may not even realize you’re baring to complete strangers. It involves creating characters who are the best of what you have in you, and it involves, if you’re doing it right, creating characters who are the worst of what you have in you.

You are, while you’re writing, your characters. You have to believe in them for readers to believe in them, and you have to find it in yourself to make them do evil as well as good—to do the things you would do IF YOU WERE THEM—knowing that if you make your characters real enough, you’ll hit nerves, you’ll hear from the readers you’ve shocked or scared as well as from the ones you’ve moved to joy and tears. So, why do you want to do that? What’s in it for you?

When you’ve answered these questions, if you’ve answered them honestly, you have your themes. The things you had the hardest time admitting to, the hardest time writing down, the hardest time facing—those will be your best themes. Because if you can take characters built from your deepest flaws and your worst fears and bring them to transcendence, then, my friend, you will have written a book with a pulse—and a story that matters.

In BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE Part III: Burying Your Novel’s Message, you’ll learn how to use the themes you’ve discovered without being preachy or obvious, and without writing a Message Book.

About the Author
Full-time novelist Holly Lisle has published more than thirty novels with major publishers. Her next novel, THE RUBY KEY, (Orchard Books) will be on shelves May 1st. You can receive her free writing newsletter, Holly Lisle’s Writing Updates at
http://hollylisle.com/newsletter.html

Published At: www.Isnare.com

Cheers, Lauren

Love changes everything. tm