Monday, 15 September 2014 19:14
on September 15th, 2014 at 9:10 PM
by Kellee Kranendonk
From Rick: This post is an excellent follow-up to Kellee’s post last week on crafting a marketable story. Here, Kellee gives you some ideas on how to categorize the story you’ve just written. This can be important both when trying to sell your story to a publisher/magazine or if you self-publish. Putting your story in the right category or categories will help potential readers to find your work. So, it’s a part of good marketing and promotion.
FAIR WARNING: This post might have your head spinning halfway through it.
Monday, 08 September 2014 19:23
on September 8th, 2014 at 8:44 PM
by Kellee Kranendonk
While reviewing Kellee’s articles that previous appeared in Silver Blade, I found this one for a perfect follow-up to my “From Idea to Story” series because writing the story is only half the battle. Assuming you didn’t write the story purely for the fun of it, your next step is to attempt to sell your story to a magazine. Kellee is the editor for Youth Imagination magazine. Her article will give you some tips for crafting a good story as well as marketable one.
You might want to look at her points to see if you think “Jury Duty” measures up. I won’t be hurt if you don’t think it does. It was just an example. I may or may not ever submit it for publication.
NOTE: Kellee is Canadian, so those spaced hyphens in place of dashes and commas outside the quote marks are Canadian/UK punctuation style and not the result of poor editing on her part or mine.
Anyone can write a story. But not everyone can write a good story, a marketable story. So what makes a story good enough to be marketable? That depends a lot on the person reading it. People have different tastes. You might be a baseball fan and not have a clue what hockey’s all about. Me, I’m all about hockey and couldn’t care less about baseball. It’s like that with stories as well. What one editor rejects, another will like. Most stories are rejected time and again before being accepted. Although possible (and it’s happened to me), a story is not often accepted on its first time out. The important thing is that you create a marketable story.
POINTS FOR WRITING A GOOD STORY
(1) Your beginning needs to draw the readers in. You shouldn’t start with a history lesson or details. Those things can be included in later parts of your story. You need to start as close as you can to the time when everything changes or the problem begins for your main character.
(2) Your main character needs a challenge. Nobody wants to sit around watching hair grow, unless it’s rapid-growing, day-glo hair. And the challenge is how to make it stop. If you’ve written an exciting beginning, chances are you’ve already created that challenge.
(3) Your story needs to be believable. This doesn’t mean every world needs to be a cardboard cut-out of Earth. But every world has rules, even if the only rule is that there are no rules. Whatever situation/problem you’ve created for your character, it needs to be dealt with in a believable way. An alien with no tear ducts can’t cry so don’t have her crying in chapter 2. If your character is a human from good old Earth, make sure that if his car gets smashed, you don’t have him walking away saying “Oh well.”
(4) Every scene needs to move the story forward, even flashbacks. While flashbacks take place in the past, our pasts affect our futures. You know the saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun”, and you know how kids hate to leave the playground for supper? That’s the kind of story you want to write. If you got out of bed, had ice cream for breakfast, then watched TV all day long, it might feel like the day was dragging on and on and on. But, if you got out of bed, scrambled some eggs for breakfast, then went to meet a friend you haven’t seen in years, the day would be over before you knew it. It’s the same with your story. You want your readers to feel like that kid on the playground, and they won’t if nothing is happening there.
(5) Long passages need to be broken up to give your story balance. A story needs a blend of speech, thought, description, and action. Water, vegetables, meat, and seasonings all make soup, but not on their own. Break up a long conversation with your character’s thoughts. Add an action to your tag line. Use description to move your story along: Whitecaps splashed against the side of Bart’s ship as the sun beat down on his balding head. The wind billowed his black sails, pushing the vessel along.
(6) Your story needs to offer something new to readers. I know you’ve probably heard it before — there are no new ideas. But there are new twists. A lot has been done with old ideas — people rewrite fairy tales or classic stories to update them, suit the times — but no one can write the exact same story as you. What if Snow White had met ogres or painters instead of dwarves? What if Alice had painted the roses black instead of red? What if Huck Finn had a little sister? But remember you can’t steal anyone else’s characters, claim them as your own. You can create your own unique versions of characters like vampires, fairies, or dragons. There used to be a TV show about a vampire who could walk in broad daylight. Vampires are old characters, but the new twist was one who could walk in the sun.
(7) All loose ends need to be tied up, all questions answered. Whatever problem you gave your character needs to be solved, and your character needs to have learned from it. This change doesn’t necessarily need to be rainbows and butterflies. Maybe your character has learned that he can’t make a living by stealing as he’s hauled off to spend a few years in jail. Remember that vampire in the previous paragraph? Although I don’t recall the reason he was able to walk in the sun, it was explained. And you need to explain your twist as well. It can be as simple as: On planet Aileron, dragons don’t have wings. Most readers will be able to accept that you’ve created a wingless dragon as long as the world you’ve put her in is suitable. Or you can make it a little more complex (but don’t make it so complicated that you lose the reader): Thousands of years ago, Aileron was covered in water and dragons had wings. But as the water receded and dry land appeared, dragons needed their wings less and less. Eventually the dragons adapted and evolved into creatures with no wings.
In short you need to create a problem, solve a problem, and in between make every exciting word count in a believable way. Now you have a marketable story.
Monday, 01 September 2014 15:30
on September 1st, 2014 at 4:57 PM
Punctuation is a topic of concern for most writers, and I get questions about it all the time from various places. Those who have followed our blog for a while will notice that this is also one topic we’ve not covered very much. There’s a good reason for that, aside from the fact that it’s a BIG subject and one worthy of an entire book.
The primary reason is that Scott and I are working on a book that deals with punctuation specifically geared to fiction writers. And we’ve been working on this for three years or so. We figured it was going to be an easy project, something we could crank out in a few months. Yeah, right.
Monday, 25 August 2014 19:13
on August 25th, 2014 at 8:50 PM
In part 6, I promised to wrap up this series with some pointers on how to select, hopefully, the best point of view (POV) for your story. Along with those, I’m going to discuss choosing the right verb tense for the story as well.
Viewpoint in fiction writing really encompasses two concepts. The first involves which character is telling the story, and the second determines how that character’s perspective is portrayed.
Let’s deal with choosing the POV character first. In “Jury Duty” we really had only one choice since the story had only one main character: the one summoned for jury duty. Such will often be the case in most short stories. When the writer comes up with his story idea, he usually knows who his main/viewpoint character will be.
Monday, 18 August 2014 19:15
I was trying to decide what aspect of fingerprints I should cover as the next part of my continuing series of crime scene blogs when Rick reminded me that I had promised some information about the study of blood spatter patterns. So without further ado, let’s dive right in.
In many violent crimes where blood spatter patterns are present, there aren’t any living witnesses to the crime who can tell us about the sequence of events. It falls to the investigator to study the signs and determine exactly what happened. Much like Aragorn in Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings, a trained investigator can take a series of signs and use them to reconstruct the crime.
Monday, 11 August 2014 19:48
on August 11th, 2014 at 9:05 PM
Last time we completed the first draft of “Jury Duty.” Now, it’s time to look at some revisions. The original version was about 2100 words, a reasonable length for a short story.
We can approach our revision from a number of directions, but it’s often best to start with the opening. I had already decided to cast this in first person, and it seems to work well in that point of view. We’ll look at other options in Part 7.
The first thing I’m going to do is remove the date. It there because that’s when I wrote the story, but if I were to try to submit it for publication today, that date would serve no purpose. In fact, dates in stories should be left out unless they’re directly relevant to the story.
Monday, 04 August 2014 18:30
on August 4th, 2014 at 8:12 PM
This week I’m going to finish the rough draft “Jury Duty,” but I’ll do it in two stages. Let me explain. A story needs five elements: setting, character, plot, conflict, resolution. The first two are easy to understand. “Plot” is sometimes vague thing to some people, but a good definition is “the main events of a presented as an interrelated sequence.” Plot isn’t what the story is about, some believe. Plot is merely what happens in the story.
“Conflict” is often defined as what prevents the character from achieving his or her goal in the story. Conflict can be external or internal. Many stories have both. Which type does David Blayne have in “Jury Duty?”
Monday, 28 July 2014 20:34
on July 28th, 2014 at 9:44 PM
Guest post by Sherri Ellerman
Sherri Ellerman has been a very active member of Silver Pen since she joined several months ago. Aside from her activities and work at Silver Pen, she recently became the flash fiction editor for Liquid Imagination magazine.
When I saw her post on the Silver Pen forum about elements in a romance novel, I knew we should have it here at Write Well, Write To Sell. I asked Sherri to expand her ideas. Further, since I had recently decided to do a series on how to write a story, I thought it would be good to include her piece there.
Because romance is a very popular–and often profitable–genre to write in and there are so many out there, many new writers seem to feel that they must be really easy to write. Further, they think that because they’ve read a ton of them, they can write one, too. And maybe throw in some hot sex for good measure.
Unfortunately, it’s much easier to write a bad novel than a good one. Even though romance novels proliferate, very few of them stand the test of time. Sherri gives some excellent advice for writing a good romance, and she uses examples of some very memorable ones.
It’s an interesting exercise to look at what makes some romance stories stand out from the myriad others and to become popular and bestsellers.
On that note, here’s Sherri–
Monday, 21 July 2014 18:29
on July 21st, 2014 at 7:51 PM
This week I’m going to pick up where I left off two weeks ago. In that post, I began with an idea, showed how I developed it into an initial and potentially workable story concept, and created the main character. I also picked the viewpoint (third person) and the tense (past).
I’m sure that some of you who read the opening probably yawned at it or at least said “This isn’t very good.” And you’re right to have done so. It’s not the most engaging of openings.
Tuesday, 15 July 2014 07:53
on July 14th, 2014 at 8:08 PM
Guest post by Annette Taylor
This week’s post comes from writer Annette Taylor who originally submitted this as an article to Fabula Argentea magazine. It was an excellent article, but FA only publishes stories. It gave me an idea for a series of articles for the blog, so I contracted Annette about letting us use her article as the opening for that series, which I’m calling “From Idea to Story.”
I recall from a workshop many years ago the instructor saying that she could teach craft from could not teach imagination. We may not be able to teach imagination, but we can certainly stimulate it with ideas for stories. Annette gives excellent advice on where to find ideas along with suggestions on how to turn those into stories.