Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Teen Inklings E-Zine: Volume 5: Setting, Description, and Mood

What’s a book without setting, description, and mood? The answer is simple: A bunch of boring heads talking in outer space. You probably don’t want that for your novel, but the unfortunate truth is that lots of books are like that. There are ways to keep yours from falling into their midst, though, and I’ve laid a few of them out for you below.

Setting
When starting a scene I’d advise that you know what the setting looks like as well as how it smells, how it’d feel if your character touched it, etc. Know as much about the place as you can, but when you write the scene, choose only a few of the strongest senses to convey. It’s easy when you’ve taken the time to know everything about a place to prattle on endlessly about every fine detail.

The solitary blade of grass atop the barren hill stood like an erected tower, defying age and decay—a bugle of hope in a void of sorrow. But it wasn’t an ordinary blade of grass, no, it had a leaflet shaft jutting out of its base, lifting its head beside its older brother like twin blades brandished at the withering noonday sun—the epitome of defiance.

Don’t get carried away. It’s nice to know these things, but when you look at something do you really stop in your tracks and think something like the above paragraph? Probably not. Tolkien was famous for his overwrought description of setting, and as a result he lost a good many readers—a couple of my family members included. The rule of thumb for fiction is this: Immerse your readers in your setting, don’t drown them. Give your reader a few specifics and let their imaginations run with the rest. Donita K. Paul does this well.

Description
It’s necessary to give a paragraph of description for every new setting you come into, preferably on the very first page of that scene. Some writers think you should never do this, that you should avoid the paragraph and trust that the reader will come to their own realization of setting on their own. This creates very irritating, vague writing where random objects can pop up halfway through any given scene. Imagine this as the first scene in a novel:

Megan walked toward Brad. “Hey! I thought you were at college. Why are you here?”
“Yeah… I dropped out. Those classes are confusing—totally not for me.”
“Didn’t your parents pay your tuition?”
“Sure did,” Brad said.
Megan scowled.
Brad returned the gesture and hefted his surfboard under an arm. “Look, I don’t want to talk about this. See you on the waves.”
“Whatever.”


Wait a minute, are Brad and Megan on the beach? When did that happen? Where was that surfboard the whole time? All of those questions should’ve been explained, but they weren’t. Here’s what that would like rewritten:

Megan stole across the scalding sand and wished she’d kept her sandals on. It was like Hades had opened up beneath her and was now attempting to swallow her whole. Should she go back? No. She was already halfway to the drink shack. She listened to the ocean waves crashing on the nearby shore to distract her mind. Halfway there…
“Megan?” The voice was familiar. Brad’s voice.
She spun around and saw her old boyfriend, standing a few feet away, a blue surfboard tucked under a freakishly muscled arm. She feigned a smile. “Hey! I thought you were at college. Why are you here?”
Brad was the same as ever: broad and blond with pearly whites that reflected the bright afternoon sun and nearly blinded her. “Yeah… I dropped out. Those classes are confusing—totally not for me.”
There’s a shocker. Megan scowled. She fought to relax her jaw and winced as stray granules of sand gritted under her molars. “Didn’t your parents pay your tuition?”
“Sure did.”
Megan abandoned all pretense and smirked.
Brad returned the gesture and hefted his surfboard. “Look, I don’t want to talk about this. See you on the waves.” He stood still for a moment—allowing the awkward silence to continue—then managed a twitch that might’ve been a wink and turned away.
“Whatever.” Megan ran the rest of the way to the drink shack, ignoring the blistering sand. Why had her friends insisted she come here? Did they seriously think that putting her on the same beach as her ex would make them get back together? Unbidden tears leapt to her eyes, fueled by her raw emotions. Brad was a loser. She shouldn’t have ever let herself get wrapped up in a relationship with him.


See how much I added? Lots of it was characterization, but go back through it once more with a pen and highlight all the description of setting (and of character, if you want) that I added. You’ll find lots. Another thing I added up there was action beats to tie the reader to the environment. After establishing that Brad has a surfboard, I allow him to “heft” it instead of using a said tag. This is good to do. You need to keep your reader tied to the setting they are in. Jeff Gerke said it best on his Tip of the Week Column: “Like a hot air balloon, conversation needs tie-downs to the setting or they will float away. Every fifth line of dialogue or so you’d better be giving us a note about how the characters are relating to the environment (standing, eating, changing the radio station, etc.) or your reader will lose track of what’s going on.” He speaks truth.

Mood
Bland description is better than no description, but only by a little bit. The words you choose in that paragraph of description we just talked about should convey your POV (Point Of View) characters mood or emotional state.

1. Megan walked across the sand.
2. Megan stole across the sand.

Which of those creates a better understanding of Megan’s mood? The first one is bland and boring—it tells us nothing about Megan. The second one is quite a bit better. “Stole” evokes the feeling that Megan doesn’t want to be there. Weak verbs like “walked” should be weeded out and replaced with stronger ones, unless you’re purposefully trying to make a character boring. Choose your vocabulary carefully.

Another way to convey your viewpoint characters’ mood is to point out different things in their environment. In that paragraph awhile back Megan was dwelling on the scalding sand. This elicited the feeling that she was feeling slightly mutinous, that she wanted to leave. If instead she had dwelled on the bright blue sky or the seashells, she would’ve seemed happy. If you’re walking through a graveyard, do you see the bright flowers placed there by loved ones, or the chalky, unfeeling grave stones? Either one creates a very distinct mood.
Yet another way to set mood is to use Imaginative Comparisons. A well placed Simile can work wonders on your manuscript. Metaphors can do the same, but I tend to use those less. Here’s one Comparison I used above: It was like Hades had opened up beneath her and was now attempting to swallow her whole. These are sometimes called Word Pictures, and by the end of that one I can decipher Megan’s mood easily. Make good use of them in your novel, but be sure not to overuse them. They can get annoying if they’re in every other paragraph.

Check back later for next month's E-Zine

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Teen Inklings E-Zine: Volume 4: DIALOGUE

Dialogue is a very important part of writing. It’s always action, and action is what drives a story. Dialogue is a great way to add personality to your characters. It can be fun, quick, quirky, or even tense and serious. It can also be misused. Tons of writers make mistakes inside—and outside—of their quotation marks, but you can avoid that easily.

Said Tags
We’ve already discussed this at length in Volume 2, but there are a few more things you need to know.

A.
Never, never tell inside of a said tag.
“I love pie!” Katie gushed.
Gushed needs to be changed to “said.” Resist the urge to tell your readers how to interpret things. They like to interpret things for themselves. Same goes for ly words, which are incorrect modifiers placed after the said tag.
“I love pie!” Katie said ecstatically.
The ly word could be cut and the meaning wouldn’t change. Less is more.

B.
If you are writing a long paragraph, get your speaker attributions (said tags) into your dialogue ASAP.

“I find you irresistible. And now I know that you’re the love of my life. I don’t care if you’re a mortal and I’m… not. That doesn’t matter… So what if I want to suck your blood? That’s a small quirk to overcome in the face of true love. I’ll keep you safe and love you until the end of time. No matter what,” Edwardo said.

That’s too late.

“I find you irresistible. And now I know that you’re the love of my life. I don’t care if you’re a mortal and I’m… not. That doesn’t matter,” Edwardo said. “So what if I want to suck your blood? That’s a small quirk to overcome in the face of true love. I’ll keep you safe and love you until the end of time. No matter what.”

Still too late.

“I find you irresistible,” Edwardo said. “And now I know that you’re the love of my life. I don’t care if you’re a mortal and I’m… not. That doesn’t matter… So what if I want to suck your blood? That’s a small quirk to overcome in the face of true love. I’ll keep you safe and love you until the end of time. No matter what.”

Juuuust right. And keep in mind that you only ever need to use a said tag—or an action tag—once in any bit of dialogue.

C.
Resist the urge to use a said tag after every bit of dialogue. That’s just plain annoying. If you were to take away every said tag in a book—which nobody should do—the reader ought to be able to tell who’s saying what and where. More on this later.

Bonus Tip!
Something I used to do when I started writing was invert my said tags.
You’d write: “Pizza!” he said, not, “Pizza!” said he.
Always do the same with names.
“Pizza!” Mark said, is the correct form of, “Pizza!” said Mark.
Lots of authors get this wrong. You shouldn’t.

Show Vs. Tell… Dialogue Edition.

Dialogue can be a great place to convey facts. I mean, who hasn’t seen those CSI type scenes where agent X arrives on the scene and has the whole crime explained to him in detail by agent Z? In writing, tread this ground carefully. Either you’ll get through the field safely or you’ll step on a mine. Most of the time that mine is backstory. Backstory is a very “telling” way of conveying information. Example:

Mark walked up to Jeremy. “Hey, bud! How are you doing?”
“Not so good. Remember when I broke my arm last year?”
“Yup. You fell off your skateboard. Wasn’t that during a competition?”
“Sure was. My arm’s still sore from that fall.”
Mark stared at the lazy clouds drifting above the trees. “You remember when we first met?”
“Uh, no. Could you remind me?”
“Yup. It was in the middle school hallway next to my locker. You remember Bart? The football player who lives with his grandma? Anyway, he was picking on me and you came to my rescue.”
“That’s right!” A grin spread across Jeremy’s face. “We’ve been best friends ever since.”

Ach! Nearly every sentence in that example had something to “tell.” There are much better ways to “show” that Jeremy is a skateboarder, Bart is a bully, and Mark is Jeremy’s best friend. Reading that I feel like I’m floating outside of the characters, listening to their oh so stilted dialogue.

Ways writers use to tell in dialogue: protagonist conveniently overhears key information; characters suddenly forget certain events in their lives; protagonist asks a character to “jog his memory” about something; characters suddenly become narrators and so on and so forth… Please don’t do those things.

This isn’t real life, people!

When you write dialogue, don’t do it realistically. That’s boring. The written word and the spoken word are two very different things. Consider this example:
“Hey, uh, do you know where my keys are? I mean, I’m always… You remember when we were on that carousel? Yeah, that one with the… Man, I’m not feeling so good.”

When a writer tries to make his dialogue “realistic” the outcome is extremely fragmented, convoluted sentences that hop from one line of thought to the next like a bullfrog with ADD. Here’s how that example should look after revision:

“Do you know where my keys are? Man, I’m not feeling so good.”

The difference is clear.

Politely Echo Me, Please

Don’t let your characters become so formal that they start echoing each other. Broken records are boring, and dialogue is all about action. Example:

“Good morning, Dave,” Julia said.
“Yes it is a good morning, isn’t it?”
Julia nodded. “Oh it sure is. How’s your wife?”
“My wife? Oh, she’s fine.”
“Fine? Well that’s good.”
“Thank you for asking.” Jack took a sip of his coffee.
“You’re certainly welcome.”

Boring! Julia and Dave are way too polite. Nothing is being alluded to. Everything is being repeated. The dialogue is stilted. Stilted equals boring. Let the reader figure things out for themselves. If you deprive them of that right, they’re justified in chucking your book at the nearest wall.

Word to Word or Subtext to Subtext?

In the real world, so much is conveyed by body language. In dialogue, so much is conveyed by the subtext of our words. When we talk, it’s from meaning to meaning. Sometimes words are poor conveyors of meaning.

“When’s the last time you checked your wallet?”
“Are you calling my girlfriend a thief?”
“Well, if the shoe fits…”

When your characters allude to things, it creates tension. Let that tension create conflict and, voila! You’ve got action.

Let Dialogue Give Your Characters Personality

The words you choose and the order you put them in can add a great deal of personality to your characters. Giving your character a special word or sentence structure that is totally unique to them can make them memorable. Take these bits of famous dialogue for example:

“My precious.”
“Mmm, the force is strong with this one, it is.”
“Inconceivable!”

Each of those immediately conjures up an image in my mind. That’s the effect giving certain words or ways of talking to your characters can have on a reader. Even punctuation can give your characters personality. You can make a person rude by having them constantly cutting people off by using em dashes. Or you can give somebody a stutter by using hyphens. Maybe one of your characters omits certain letters in words? You can convey that by using apostrophes—though I suggest you use this trick rarely.

Some writers, like J.K. Rowling, attempt to give their characters personality by misspelling words. They think this gives their character an accent, when really it just makes readers stumble over the paragraphs. If you want your character to have an accent, convey that by your word choice. Jill Williamson did this by giving a group of people in her book, the Barthians, the tendency to end lots of words with ing. That created a very cool, alien way for those people to talk that I’ve never once stumbled over.

The last piece of advice I’ve got to tell you is to read your dialogue out loud. There are things that your eyes won’t catch. It’s the job of your voice to point them out. If something sounds awkward or stilted, change it. Better yet, pull your family members together and give them your dialogue to read out loud. Record it and listen to it later, then make your revisions.

Check back next month for December’s E-Zine: Setting

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Teen Inklings: Vol. 3: SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF

A time will come when you’ll be forced to suspend your readers’ disbelief—regardless of your genre. But before I explain that statement, let me define what Suspension of Disbelief is after being boiled down: Creation of Belief.

Let’s imagine a boy sitting down to read The Wizard of Oz. He opens the book and reads for awhile about a girl named Dorothy living a rather bleak life in a remote part of Kansas. All pretty normal stuff, right? So far, the little boy hasn’t been faced with anything to make him think that peculiar or impossible things are about to happen… Then a tornado sucks Dorothy into a magical land filled with Munchkins where she crushes an evil witch under a house. What? That could never happen on earth. Here is where the little boy has to suspend his disbelief and just follow the story along. As writers, it’s our job to make that process easy.

Earlier I said that regardless of your genre, you’re going to be faced with this problem. I stand by that. Whether you’re writing about a fantasy world or the real world, you’ve got to keep things believable enough so that your readers won’t roll their eyes. Even if your book is about a futuristic tribe of cannibalistic Vampires living in the far off realm of A’po’stro’phe’, you’ve got to keep things real. No, I haven’t gone crazy. If perchance you are writing dialogue for your Vampire hero and he says something like “Good gravy, I’m hungry. Too bad there isn’t a McDonald’s around here… Guess I’ll just eat my hand.” I would laugh. And not because of that last sentence. How could the land of A’po’stro’phe have a McDonald’s? Will McDonald’s even be around in the future? Why does he say Good Gravy when that term is so outdated? Are there Leave it to Beaver marathons on Vampire TV? Do they even have TV? And so on and so forth. Those are all questions you’d have to sort out and do a good deal of explaining of in your first chapters. This is why you need to be extra careful with your facts. A misplaced word can sever the rope suspending your readers’ disbelief and bring real life crashing down on your book. Research is a key component in Suspension of Disbelief.

If you are writing a modern day story and you say that the White House is in Kentucky, readers are going to know better. Or if you are writing a medieval novel and your gallant knight wields a ten foot stainless steel sword, you’re not going to get away with it. Stainless steel wasn’t patented until the early 1900’s, and some of your readers are going to know that. Does this mean you can’t twist fact? Not at all. But do it realistically.

One way to do this is to spend time researching, or, if you write speculative fiction (like most teen writers), by being thorough when you create your world. You can do this. I have faith in you. I know of some sci-fi writers who drew out extraterrestrial charts for every planet they created, down to interplanetary movements in the galaxies between their characters’ worlds. The hard thing is doing all that work and not putting it in your book. And you’ll be tempted to do that. Don’t; it’ll bog down your writing and put people to sleep. If you know how things work, and you believe that those things could happen, chances are, your reader is going to as well. So take your time creating a world you don’t have any trouble believing in.

Now I’m going to give you a sample that does an extremely poor job of suspending my disbelief, and then I’m gong to show you why. Sound good? I hope that after reading this you’ll realize just how careful you need to be as a writer. Ready? Here goes.

[The setting is a medieval fiefdom in the fantasy world, Elowell. Our main character is Lydia, a young kitchen girl.]

Lydia tightened her silk apron and turned back to the tower of unwashed dishes protruding from the nearby sink. Plates, forks, knives, cups, all piled one on top of the other as if fighting for her attention. There’d be no way she could set the table in the adjacent dining hall and finish the dishes in time for supper. She needed help.
Hurrying to the back wall, Lydia yelled out the window leading to the Stables. “Brogan!” she yelled, and presently a boys head appeared out of the nearest stall. “I need your help!”
“No prob,” Brogan said, clapping his dusty hands together. “I’m finished here anyway.” He disappeared from sight.
Lydia bustled back to the sink and stared at the dirty saucers before her, as if her mere stare could make them vanish. She waited for what seemed like hours for Brogan to arrive, and was slightly surprised when he finally did.
“What took you so long?” Lydia asked, her voice spiking.
“Ah, nothin’,” Brogan said, grinning. “I had to give Lord Rupert a boost so he could replace a light bulb in the entrance hall.”
Guilt replaced Lydia’s anger like a rug being pulled out from under her. Brogan had only taken so long because he’d had to help someone along the way. “Er, sorry. I didn’t mean to be so angry.”
“Whateva.” Brogan turned to stare at the Mahogany cupboards lining the wall. “Whatchoo need help with?”
“Setting the table,” Lydia said, pointing at the cupboard directly in front of Brogan’s boyish face. “The china’s in there.”
“No prob.”

Stop! I think we’ve got quite enough to work with here. Let’s start from the beginning and work our way to the end. I bet you’ve already caught several of the mistakes in this passage.

Lydia tightened her silk [silk was expensive in medieval times and was reserved for the upper class, not kitchen girls.] apron and turned back to the tower of unwashed dishes protruding from the nearby sink. Plates [plates weren’t used back then. Bread bowls called Trenchers were used], forks[forks weren’t used either. In a medieval banquet you’d cut and eat off of the knife], knives, cups, all piled one on top of the other as if fighting for her attention. There’d be no way she could set the table in the adjacent dining hall and finish the dishes in time for supper.[Something missing here are the cooks making the meal. A medieval kitchen wouldn’t be empty, especially before a meal] She needed help.
Hurrying to the back wall, Lydia yelled out the window leading to the Stables
.[the kitchen and stables wouldn’t have been next to each other… for obvious reasons.] “Brogan!” she yelled, and presently a boys head appeared out of the nearest stall. “I need your help!”
“No prob,” Brogan said, clapping his dusty hands together. “I’m finished here anyway.”
[As a stable boy, Brogan wouldn’t have gone to help in the kitchens. That was largely woman’s work in medieval times.] He disappeared from sight.
Lydia bustled back to the sink and stared at the dirty dishes before her, as if her mere stare could make them vanish. She waited for what seemed like hours for Brogan to arrive, and was slightly surprised when he finally did.
“What took you so long?” Lydia asked, her voice spiking.
“Ah, nothin’,” Brogan said, grinning. “I had to give Lord Rupert a boost
[a dusty handed stable boy wouldn’t be giving a Lord a boost. He probably wouldn’t have even got permission to enter the main kitchens.] so he could replace a light bulb[Thomas Edison didn’t live in medieval times] in the entrance hall.”
Guilt replaced Lydia’s anger like a rug being pulled out from under her. Brogan had only taken so long because he’d had to help someone along the way. “Er, sorry. I didn’t mean to be so angry.”
“Whateva.
[Brogan’s speech is far too modern for his era.]” Brogan turned to stare at the cupboards lining the wall. “Whatchoo need help with?”
“Setting the table,
[Again, a stable boy wouldn’t do this]” Lydia said, pointing at the cupboard directly in front of Brogan’s boyish face. “The china’s[This is a fantasy world, China exists on earth. Even if Elowell was on earth, acquiring china would’ve been quite a feat for a small fiefdom.] in there.”
“No prob.”


And I saw more problems in that passage than what I pointed out. Believe it or not, I have read books where the facts have been that bad. One medieval fantasy book I read had the protagonist musing about how he needed to go take a shower. Yikes.

Now that was quite a bit to digest for one article. If you have any questions about Suspension of Disbelief, feel free to leave them in the comments for this post, or you can e-mail me at this address: ChristianMiles@(at)live.(dot)com.

Check back soon for next month’s E-Zine

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Vol. 2: September 1, 2009: SAID-TAGS AND ADVERBS

This months E-zine is going to focus on two commonly misused functions in the writing world. By following the advice given in this article you can escape or bypass two mistakes novice writers often make.

Said-tags and adverbs are commonly linked together. Take this sentence for example:
“I love you, Ted,” Melissa breathed admiringly.
Did you catch them? “Breathed” is our said-tag and “admiringly” is our adverb. And--guess what--they are both incorrect! If a good agent or editor saw this, they’d probably toss your manuscript in the junk pile. Why? Read on and I’ll explain.

Said-Tags

A said-tag is a dialogue attributor used at the end, middle, or beginning of a piece of dialogue. The only reason a writer uses a said-tag is to let the reader know who is talking. Most reader’s skip over these without noticing that they are there at all. That’s why you should want your said-tags to be invisible. A fancy tag can interrupt the flow of the story by drawing your reader out of it. Which is why you should keep things simple. Above I used the word “breathed” as a said-tag. “Breathed” is an action I used instead of the word “said.” You should never do this. The verb “said” is almost exclusively better than using any other verb.

A writer friend of mine calls these “said-bookisms” and they are evil. Here are a few examples of said-bookisms:
“Hamburgers are my favorite food,” Ella smiled.
“Don’t take me to that asylum,” Billy laughed.
Don’t do this. The only time you should use a verb instead of “said” is if your character is whispering. There is no way to show whispering through dialogue. If your character is yelling something, you’re probably using an exclamation point at the end of your sentence. Having an exclamation point and a said-tag using the word yelled is redundant.

Said-bookisms with redundancies should be weeded out as well. Here are a few examples of those:
“I’m sorry,” she apologized. (Dialogue shows that she’s apologizing)
“I have to go,” he excused himself. (Dialogue shows that he’s excusing himself)
“Your hair is yellow,” she pointed out. (Dialogue shows that she’s pointing that out)
“Where is your mother?” she questioned. (Question mark shows that it’s a question)
All of those said-tags are redundant because the dialogue or punctuation is showing those things already.

Also, you shouldn’t be afraid to simply use the word “said.” And you don’t need to have a said-tag at the end of every bit of dialogue. Readers are smart; they can guess who is talking. Another thing you shouldn’t be afraid to do is mix things up. You can use action-tags instead of said-tags. That is substituting your “said” with action. Here’s an example:
Jimmy walked to the door. “It’s raining outside.”
It’s as simple as that. So mix it up! Keep things fresh and your readers won’t get frustrated… or bored. Now we can move on to topic number two.

Adverbs

Has anyone ever told you that you need to show and not tell? Maybe that reason is because you’re using adverbs incorrectly. For the most part, an adverb is just a verb ending in the suffix ly. Happily and sappily are good examples of this.

Remember that sentence about Melissa way back? “Admiringly” is an adverb that should have been cut. It tells us how to interpret her feelings instead of showing us her admiration. Here is a way to show in that scene:
“I love you,” Melissa said. She stroked the fuzzy chin of her teddy-bear and tucked it under the covers next to her.
Did you see it? I added sensory details in “fuzzy” and described what Melissa is seeing. And I think it really makes a difference. Adverbs aren’t evil, but they certainly aren’t good, either. Now go apply that rule to your writing and see if you can see after showing… (erm.) If you can’t… keep an eye out for a future E-zine, or go read a book. Figure out how your favorite authors describe things. What words do they use? How many senses do they give you?


And that’s it for this article. You should have a pretty good grip now of what those annoying little said-tags and adverbs are all about. So let’s recap really quick…
“I love you, Ted,” Melissa breathed admiringly
should be changed to
“I love you, Ted,” Melissa said. (I promise that rhyme was unintentional.)
And we’re done!

Check back for next months E-zine: Suspension of Disbelief

E-zine copyright Christian Miles, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vol. 1: August 12, 2009: THE THREE STEPS TO GETTING STARTED

There are many methods to starting your novel. Tons and tons of ways to begin--and some may be better than mine. But this one has worked for me. And since, I'm assuming, you're a teen writer as well, you can use this process to get yourself started... just like I did. So, without further ado, let's start the steps!

Step 1: The idea.

Every book started with an idea. All of them. Some ideas are good, and, well, some of them aren't that good. But since I'm guessing your idea is absolutely brilliant, you don't have anything to worry about. What do you do to start step 1? Take your idea and write it out in one sentence.

Ex.
After being rejected from battleschool, a fifteen year old boy becomes the reluctant apprentice of a ranger-Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan

Things NOT to do in your one sentence summery.
1. Don't use names. It's better to say "a fifteen year old boy" than to say "William."
2. Don't let it stretch longer than twenty words. Fifteen is ideal. The shorter, the better.
3. Leave out extraneous plot details. We don't need to know if Will is allergic to garlic or if his Dad was a knight before he was born... Unless that's your idea. Only mention your biggest plot driving conflict.

This one sentence summary is called a sales pitch (or elevator pitch). On Randy Ingermanson's site (Advancedfictionwriting.com) you can find the process he's developed--the snowflake method--to further develop your sentence into a paragraph, your paragraph into a page, and so on and so forth until you have an outline.

Step 2: Learn your Craft, decide your Point Of View (POV), and pick a Tense.

Now, this step is where the most work is done. Learning your craft involves studying the language you intend to write your novel in. Grammar and punctuation fall under this one, as well as many other aspects of writing. The best advice I can give you? Read books. Read how-to books. Analyze your favorite books. There are tons of books I could recommend on the topic of writing, and maybe I will in a future e-zine.

Right about now, you might be asking "What? There's more than ONE point of view?" and here's the simple answer: yes! There are many point of views (called POV from now on because my fingers are getting tired) and all of them have their pros and cons. Here are three of the more popular POV's out there.

Omniscient: By its definition, omniscient means having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight. Thank you Webster! This is like having God as the narrator. The author can hop from one person's head to the next every other paragraph. Which, at least for me, is very annoying. Cornelia Funke uses this POV in Inkheart. A disadvantage of using omniscient is that it makes your characters less intimate for your reader, as you are popping from one person's head to the next.

First Person: This POV reads very much like a diary. "I walked to the door and I tripped across the slippery tile floor" is an example of it. Stephanie Meyer uses this POV in Twilight. But there is a disadvantage. Where first person might work great in a romance novel, it wouldn't be the best/easiest choice for a suspense novel, as it is fairly intimate and hard to use.

Third Person: This POV is the most commonly used of them all. And it's easy to see why. Written in Third Person, the above sentence would read "Bryan walked to the door and he tripped across the slippery tile floor." You can use the word "he" or your POV character's name for your pronouns. A book that uses this POV is Christopher Paolini's Eragon. As for disadvantages... when used properly, there really aren't many! That's why it's used so often.

After you decide what POV you're going to use, pick a tense. There are only two tenses: past tense and present tense. Here's the difference: I walk to the door (present tense), I walked to the door (past tense). Easy, right? After you've learned enough about the craft of writing and have decided your POV and tense, you're ready for step three.

Step 3: Write your book!

This step can be the most fun. You finally get to write your book! Yay! So you're writing along, lost in a white heat of inspiration, and then you hit a lull (otherwise known as writer's block). What do you do? Keep writing. Zip through that first draft and don't worry about how it looks. Unless you haven't taken the time to master the second step, you shouldn't start re-writing your chapters until that first draft is done. No first draft is perfect. And, unless you're a prodigy, your first--and maybe even second, third, and fourth--draft is going to suck, deal with it. Perseverance is the only difference between you and a published author. The sooner you learn that, the better. And remember, the only thing you don't have to finish is a piece of pie. So keep at it! (Oh, and Donita K. Paul gets the credit for the pie advice. lol)

Check back soon for next month’s e-zine: Said-tags and Adverbs

E-zine copyright Christian Miles, 2009