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Posts tagged with: Autumn Jordon

Quick. What’s Your Story About?

With Nationals only ten weeks away, I thought I might address the subject of loglines and blurbs. (Ten week is not long. Trust me, especially during summer and when the kids are out of school.) Now is the time to think about them, so you can brand the log lines in your thoughts. You can even practice with checkout people while you shop for your conference essentials.

Recently, I worked on the blurb for my next book, releasing this summer, and for days I detested every line I’d written. I walked the floors, the dog, the mountain trails, trying to pen the right words. I took showers until my skin looked beyond a hundred and two years old. I pounded my head against the keyboard which caused some issues that required me to reboot. My failure to come up with the perfect words that would make a reader hit the buy button made me question the entire manuscript. And that sucked.

In order to keep from going insane, I stepped back, took a deep breath, and remembered the day the spark of an idea landed in the dry wheat field of my brain. It’s that flash and the excitement over meeting my sexy hero and sassy heroine and had me writing and laughing and sighing for months, that I needed to relive those moments. You only need to convey what will intrigue the reader, nothing more and nothing less, is what I reminded myself.

Then I sent it to friends (Thanks, Hope, Rita and Anne) along with permission to rip it apart. I found I wrote more of a one page synopsis than a blurb. (Have I mentioned I’ve written over a dozen blurbs for myself for other works? It’s not easy. It’s work.) So with their suggestions, I took what seemed to really work for my story and let the rest go bye bye.

It was after I finally wrote an exciting back-cover blurb, that I thought about my elevator line; a.k.a. elevator pitch, logline, ad copy, hook, etc. It’s the one or two lines I would recite if ever asked, “What is your new book about?” From past experience, I knew I would need to have this line, so why not whittle away now. So I did and came up with this paragraph.

In Perfect Play, when baseball’s superstar is named the sexiest sport’s man of the year, pressures become too great for him and he escapes to a small Vermont town where he meets a no nonsense woman who urges him to handle life and not let life handle him. Does he follow her advice, because she doesn’t seem to be handling her own life too well? (WC 62)

Now, I didn’t really care for two elements of this logline; using the title and ending with a question. Titles change, so including it is not necessary, IMHO. Some writers might disagree. And second, I think ending with a question is more of a back blurb element where the author has already answered questions and ends by asking the ultimate question. So with this in mind, some more whittling occurred.

When baseball’s superstar is named the sexiest man of the year, pressures become too great for him and he hides out in a small Vermont town where he meets a no nonsense woman who challenges him to handle life and not let life handle him. (WC 45)

The question I asked of myself now was, could I remember to say all of this while riding an elevator? Probably not. It would be better to cut the line down to the bones and use words that would lead to questions. And, to me, the lines sounded like many other lines I’ve heard before. My hero was really much different and more complex than the sexiest sports hero I portrayed here. So again, back to the keyboard.

I found I wanted to say more again, and then Rita Henuber called me for a chat of “Hey! What you doing?” and we got out our knives. (HINT: Never call a writer friend and ask that question unless you’re willing to brainstorm. Thanks, Rita.)

Our first attempt as we each picked out words from the prior pitch line.

Pressures become too great for a baseball star and he hides out in a small Vermont town where he meets a no nonsense woman who challenges him to handle life and not let life handle him. (WC 36)

And again changes. Why? It didn’t tell what kind of pressure my hero was under. I felt it was important to do so because I wanted to get away from the sexiest man theme. Also ‘too great’ and ‘hides out’ made him seem cowardly.  And Rita felt the ending was preachy. So she pushed me to dig into my heroine. Also does it really matter the small town is in Vermont? No.

Next attempt: Feeling career pressure, a baseball star disappears and holes up in a small town where he falls for a woman bent on saving everything but herself. (WC 26)

I liked that we used the word disappears. The word paints a better picture, but the question rose from whom did he disappear? Adding ‘the world’ in the next example tells us who and also puts my hero at conflict with my heroine, because her everything refers to her world.

Next attempt: Feeling career pressure a baseball idol escapes the world in a mountain village and falls for a self-sacrificing woman bent on saving everything but herself.  (WC 25)

There, we have it! We know who the hero and heroine are and we have GMC. But can we go shorter? Sure.

A baseball idol hiding from the world and encounters a woman bent on saving everything but herself. (WC 17)

I’m very happy to use either one of the last two lines. They’re both concise and written with colorful words that paint a picture and filled with facts that will prompt questions.

And if I’m asked to tell my book in six words, I’m ready. Baseball idol encounters die-heart world advocate.

Here are a few rules, I use when coming up with my loglines.

  1. A logline is the one or two sentence description of your story. It conveys your hero & heroine’s architype using a strong multi-faucet adjective. It shows the hero’s primal goal and it must cause our minds to run wild with potential and questions.
  2.  A logline is more than just content. There needs to be cadence and voice. It has to be short and snappy.
  3. In loglines, names are not important. Strong descriptive words are what you’re aiming for.

Keep in mind, if your logline is clear, concise and provocative, this will tell the agent or editor that your writing is also so. If it’s ambiguous, rambling and voiceless, the person you’re pitching to will only assume your writing is more of the same.

I hoped this helped someone, and if anyone has any other suggestions please share.

Autumn Jordon is an award-winning, sneaker wearing Ruby. She writes romantic suspense, romantic mystery, thrillers and romantic comedy.  Visit her www.autumnjordon.com and join her newsletter.

Spring Holiday

Today and this weekend, The Rubies are renewing ourselves with our loved ones.  We’ll see you next week, but in the meantime check out the great blogs posted recently.

Have a blessed Easter or Passover. 

Are Blogs History?

Recently, behind the red curtain, the question ‘if blogs are history’ came up and a great discussion followed.   It’s hard for us to know the correct answer, because our brick counter tells us we have between 650 – 1000 reads a day, which is pretty awesome. And some days, only sisters comment while on others the world speaks up. This same question arose at my local writers meeting this past weekend.  

Promotion is a big topic for writers, whether you’re traditionally pubbed or self-pubbed. Blog tours are still on the list of things an author must do, but should they be?

So the questions today are:

Are blogs like the Ruby Sisterhood helpful to the writing community? (Do you love the Rubies?)

Do writers see a ROI on doing blog tours?

Do readers really read blogs?

Please chime in. And if you have blogs that helped with promotion of your work, please share.

What I Learned From Michael Hauge Part 2

Last week, I shared my notes on Michael’s opening comments and his insight into the Hero’s inner Journey during his Master Class. Today I’m sharing my notes on his six-stage Plot Structure and at which point the hero’s Transformation occurs.

 

If you’ve visit Mr. Hauge’s website, you can see his Six-Stage Plot Structure chart.

It’s broken down into Set-up, New situation, Progress, Complications & Higher Stakes, Final Push and Aftermath. In between each he’s labeled 10% Opportunity, 25% change of Plans, 50% Point of No Return, 75% Major Setback and 90-99% Climax.


Setup-Stage One:

We introduce are hero in his everyday life, the life he has lead for years. He is stuck.

During the intro we need to create empathy for the character and this must be done before any character flaws are revealed. The reader must like or sympathize with the character before flaws are shown.

The character must be put into jeopardy. Not necessarily life threatening, but in danger of losing something of importance to character

Character must be likeable. Good hearted toward others.

Or, there should be humor. Character has the courage to say what we would not.

Also, we need to show that hero has the skills to overcome what will stand in his way.

 At 10% mark: Hero is stuck in his identity.

Opportunity happens (1st turning point) and creates an immediate desire to enter new situation and a need to react. This is not the main goal for the character. It is a primarily goal that sets him on a path. It can be either a curse or a blessing.  

New Situation-Stage Two: opportunity forces character to react while keeping in his identity. However, in reacting he gets a glimpse of his essence. He could get a glimpse of his essence from the point of view of a secondary character.  (Hero reacts and secondary character states, “Man that was so cool. I can’t believe you just did that.”)

 At 25% mark: Change of Plans

Your hero starts his journey, believing he will remain in his identity, which actually forces him toward his essence. This is where the outer motivation begins. The Hero defines his success.  In Braveheart, it’s the moment his bride is killed.

Stage Three: Process

Our hero starts to take on elements of essence. He defines a plan to accomplish goal. During this stage he wavers between identity and essence. He feels vulnerable in essence and retreats to identity.

At 50% mark: Point of No Return

Something must happen to make our hero totally commit. At this point, they let go of their identity and accept the change and move forward. Example in romance, their declaration of love.

In Pride and Prejudice, it when Mr. Darcy reveals his love for Elizabeth. In Hunt For Red October, it’s when Jack Ryan jumps out of the helicopter and into the sea, determined to save the world from a nuclear war.

Stage Four: Complications & Higher Stakes

Our hero steadily evolves toward essence. He makes a promise to someone or vows to himself. “As God as my witness. I will never go hungry again.” Scarlett in Gone With The Wind.

The ticking clock gets louder. Obstacles get bigger. Pace quickens. More conflict is add.

At 75%: Major Setback

Something has to happen that makes the hero stop dead in his tracks. He retreats to old life/identity and discovers that you can never go home again. The truth he’s been searching for comes out.

During this section of the story a secondary character will come to the hero and say “Why are you not acting like you?” In Notting Hill, it’s the scene where Will is sitting with his friends and has told them about Anna baring her soul to him and Spike enters and states, “You draft prick!” It the wake up moment for Will.

Stage Five: Final Push

Your hero must pull up his bootstraps and go for the goal. No holding back.

In Independence Day, Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum get on the alien ship and take off to destroy the mother ship.

Depending on your story, between 90% and 99% the Climax will occur.

The main goal will be resolved. He wins the girl. He defeats the villain. In You’ve Got Mail, It’s the moment when Kathleen and Joe meet in the park and she realizes her on-line friend has been Joe the whole time.

Stage Six: Aftermath

We see our hero in his essence enjoying his new life. Again using Notting Hill, it the end of the movie where we see Will participating in Anna’s world and both of them comfortable in their new roles.


And there you have my notes. I hope I’ve helped you in understanding story structure.

 

His Witness To Evil

Autumn Jordon is the award-winning author of romantic suspense-mystery-thrillers such as her Golden Heart Finalist and Golden Leaf winner His Witness To Evil. After her family business was comprised by The Russian Mafia and the FBI investigated, she grabbed her note pad and pen and went on to interview the agents. Join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com and be privy to upcoming releases, sales, and events. Also, you’ll receive free reads and be entered into her monthly contest for great prizes

What I Learned From Michael Hauge – PART 1

If you’ve read my blog on February 27, you know I believe in a writer’s continued education. Last weekend, The Greater Lehigh Valley Writer’s Group of the ABE area in Pennsylvania hosted the renowned Michael Hauge. Mr. Hauge is known for his Story Mastery concept of screen-writing. Over the years, while attending RWA conferences, I tried to get into his sessions, but they were always filled to capacity and now I know why. The man breaks down story telling in a way that makes complete sense. So when this opportunity came up, I jumped to learn from him. I jumped on the opportunity to learn from him.

Because of the volume of notes I took during the class, I’m going to break this blog topic up into two sessions. Today, I’ll convey Mr. Hauge’s opening comments and then I’ll concentrate on his information for a character’s inner journey. On April 3, next Monday, I’ll share what I learned about his Six-Stage Plot Structure. Again, I want credit Mr. Hauge and state again these are my notes.


Mr. Hauge started the day with this statement: A writer’s job is to create emotion in the reader. Character, desire and conflict are your story’s core.

How great is that statement? In two lines, he conveyed the essence of story-telling.

Hauge made us work, filling in templates based on our stories. The three words that he repeated throughout the day and especially as he listened to participates who read from their templates was “KEEP IT SIMPLE”. Don’t over think or make it more complicated than it needs to be was his message. Describe the elements in as few words as possible.

He then went on to describe the outer journey as the story of accomplishment and he listed five outer motivations which create conflict.

  1. To win something. In romance, it’s to win the love of another character.

     2. To stop something bad from happening.

     3. To escape; to get out of a bad situation.

     4. To deliver something of value from point A to point B.

     5. To retrieve a value object.

 

The inner journey he said is the transformation of character from living in fear to living courageously.

Structure he described as where the story takes place. He also stated to move the scenes to where they have the most impact. When he said this, I recalled how my editor for His Witness To Evil had me move a scene to later in the book because of this reason. Often we’re too close to our own work that we don’t see how we can improve it and that is why editors are important.

 

The Hero’s Inner Journey: The transformation. The Character’s Arc.

Mr. Hauge stated you need to answer these questions for each of your characters.

What does the character want? A longing is something he will express (outer desire). A need is something he will not (internal hidden desire).

What is their wound? A wound is the unhealed source from the past. No one gets out of adolescence unscarred. The character feels that they’ve moved on, but it still affects their actions.

What is their belief? We form a belief of why an event happened. Beliefs grow out of the wound. They’re always logical but never true!

What is their fear? This should be a move or change that goes against character’s belief.

 

He then gave us two terms; Identity and Essence.

“A character’s identity is a false-self she presents to the world to protect her fear that grew from the belief that grew out of the wound long ago.” It’s her emotional armor. It is who they believe themselves to be and all they can be. They feel safe in their identity.

While in the identity they can have what they want but to get what they need their identity must die and they must move into their essence.

The essence is the character’s true self. It’s who they really are. It’s who they can be, if they find the courage.

The Character’s Arc is the journey from the false-self to the true self without losing their admirable traits. In other words, the character will let go of the past wounds, fearlessly grow in their strengths and become someone they never imagine they could be.

Your character can NEVER achieve outer goal while in his identity. To achieve the goal he must be in his essence. Either they can feel safe and be unfilled, or you can be scarred and gain what you need.


Okay, I think I’ve given you enough to think about today. Work on your characters and next week I’ll share my notes on the Six Stage Plot Structure and how your character’s arc fits in.

 

 

His Witness To Evil

Autumn Jordon is the award-winning author of romantic suspense-mystery-thrillers such as her Golden Heart Finalist and Golden Leaf winner His Witness To Evil. After her family business was comprised by The Russian Mafia and the FBI investigated, she grabbed her note pad and pen and went on to interview the agents. Join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com and be privy to upcoming releases, sales, and events. Also, you’ll receive free reads and be entered into her monthly contest for great prizes

Always

I’m a firm believer that you should never stop learning. On my last day walking this earth, I intend to learn something about this world, or the world I’m about to enter, or myself.

I wince when I hear people say they don’t need to know this or that. Why won’t you want to know something about everything?

Since this is a blog for writers and we focus mainly on the craft of writing and publishing industry and elements related to both, I’ll speak to the authors reading this. Never stop studying the craft. Never turn a deaf ear to information that relates to your small business. Never stop learning about humanity and the world, because they feed your creative well.

No moment in time has offered us so many venues in which we can expand our minds. We have the ability to fly to the other side of the world in a day and experience cultures our forefathers never heard of. We can open a window to the worldwide web and learn about every uncover stone in history, and steps that will change our world today, tomorrow, in years to come.

We are friends to people all over the globe and share our daily lives, hopes and dreams, having never met them face to face.

Since the majority of information shared is through written word, we have a responsibility to humanity to never stop educating ourselves and share what we’ve learned, be it through poetry, screenplays, non-fiction or fiction, but the majority of us, on government income tables, qualify as starving artist. So how can we continue to learn, to improve ourselves as artists?

There are so many avenues that cost little or nothing. Here are ten ways.

  • Blogs like the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, where experienced writers who published, both traditionally and independently, and are willing to share their journeys and help guide others.
  • Many authors have writer related archives on their websites where they share articles on craft.
  • Local or National writing organizations. There is nothing like being in a room with other writers, even if the group is small.
  • On-line writers groups. Check RWA for info on on-line chapters.
  • Craft books. Buy used if on a budget, or trade off with other writers.
  • Industry related magazines. Check for on-line magazines also. Many are free.
  • Conferences or workshops. Many conferences are breaking down their venues and offering the purchased of one day, two day or entire conference packages, making attending more affordable to some.
  • Conference workshop recordings. If you can’t attend the event, this is the next best thing.
  • On-line classes. I, and several other Ruby Sisters, love Margie Lawson classes (margielawson.com). Intense, but worth the time and money! And I’ve taken Master classes from James Patterson and Arron Sorken through masterclass.com. I review classes constantly. Michael Hauge also offers a lot of information on his website, storymastery.com.
  • Reading. You can learn about the craft just by studying your favorite authors’ works. Whether you write every day or not,  reading, learning, every day should be a priority.

 

There are more venues to help you on your journey and I know some of the sisters will jump in and offer them up, but if something has helped you, please share in the comments below.

 

Autumn Jordon is the award-winning author of romantic suspense-mystery-thrillers such as her Golden Heart Finalist and Golden Leaf winner His Witness To Evil. After her family business was comprised by The Russian Mafia and the FBI investigated, she grabbed her note pad and pen and went on to interview the agents. Join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com and be privy to upcoming releases, sales, and events. Also, you’ll receive free reads and be entered into her monthly contest for great prizes.

 

 

 

Is Short The New Long?

Writing a great short story used to be the training ground for writers. Hemingway started his career by writing them, as did Stephen King, and many renown others.

For many years, the appetite for short stories, nearly disappeared, cutting the number of magazines that included them substantially, and leaving only classic short stories on the book shelves. However, I believe the tide is changing among today’s readers. Their time is limited and there are times when they just want something worthy and short while they’re waiting in a doctor’s office or school parking lot.

Also, many are now reading on their phones, and reading a short story is more feasible on the small device.

This month, I dove into the short market with a novelette titled Perfect Moments. It released on February first. I was nervous about writing it because shorts have a totally different writing style than a full length novel. It was a learning experience, but after receiving emails from readers requesting to know whether Elizabeth and Bob Kincaid (from Perfect) made it home from their overseas duty, I decided to give Elizabeth and Bob their story. Their short.

Another reason I decided to try my hand at writing a short story was because today’s reader wants more product from an author, and quicker. I’m comfortable writing a full length novel in a year, sometimes nine months. But to write quicker, I know the quality of my work would decline. I want to continue to improve my craft, not hinder it. So to feed my fans cravings, writing short stories might be the way to go.

 

I asked my Ruby Sisters their thoughts on writing short stories.

 

Rita Henuber said she wrote her short stories because, “I have many stories bumping around inside my skull. Characters screaming at me to tell their story. Some are absolutely not full length novel material. All but one in my collection of short stories began with an experience of mine. I had to write them.”

And Jeannie Lyn said, I actually LOVE shorts and think they’re a great way to pack a punch in a short amount of space as well as introduce writers to your voice. The last short story that I wrote was meant to be an introduction to my steampunk world for new readers and a little bonus for existing readers.”

Ruby sister Ava Blackstone stated she wrote a short after reading an article in her RWA chapter’s newsletter about writing for Woman’s World. “I decided to give it a try. I found that short stories were great palate cleansers when I was sick of my main WIP. I also liked the freedom to experiment with different writing styles without worrying that I was wasting months on something that might not work.”

And Vivi Andrews stated, “I’ve always written short stories for anthologies, usually with open submission calls that provided the opportunity to get my writing in front of more readers.  My little gateway stories to lure readers into my world. 🙂  This spring I’ll be participating in the 2nd RWA Anthology.”

I then asked the sisters if they found writing shorts difficult? I know I found it challenging not to add more conflict, more points of view, more of everything.

Vivi said, “Actually, I don’t find them difficult at all.  I was nervous initially about stepping out of my comfort zone, but I wound up loving the opportunity to tell more compact romances.”

 

Rita stated, “Not at all. I enjoyed writing the shorts and the side benefit of stopping those people in my head screaming. I view shorts as a moment in time. A snapshot event giving the reader something to ponder.”

 

Jeannie started writing shorts before she wrote novels. “I have a totally different mindset when I switch back to writing shorts. They’re not just shorter novel storylines — the way I plot and present a short story is entirely different than what I do in a novel.”

 

Ava said, Writing that first short story definitely required a paradigm shift. I had to come up with a much smaller-scale conflict than I was used to writing so that I could wrap things up realistically in 800 words. It helped me to think about it as though I was writing a scene instead of a novel. So then it was just a matter of coming up with a compelling scene that could stand on its own.”

 

 

 

 

So why write shorts? I’d heard shorts help with sales on other books, especially if their part of a series. Perfect Moments just released, so I don’t have a track record to share, so again I questioned my sisters who had published short stories.

 

 

Jeannie stated, I actually have found it helpful bringing in new readers with shorts. Since my settings and worlds are not so mainstream, I think readers find shorts an easy way to get a feel for me without having to commit to a novel. Short stories with direct tie-ins and characters from other series are the best way to go in terms of hooking readership. Teaming up with other authors in anthologies is a also a great strategy for getting that first look.”

Ava had a different use for her short story. I give it away to readers who sign up for my mailing list, and it has worked great as an incentive to drive signups. I’m planning to write another short to go along with my next Ava Blackstone book.”

 

 

 

 

If you’re considering writing a short story, I have some advice.

  • Read short stories. There are many; The International Thriller Writers have released collections titled Face Off. And, I know the Mystery Writers also release an annual collection. Then you have classics like William Faulkner’s That Evening Sun.
  • Pick your story’s moment or moments that really matter and write about them.
  • Stay with one main character.
  • No subplots.
  • Write more words than you need and then pick the words that show don’t tell, show character’s change, and that moves the story forward.
  • Go through the same editing steps as you would for a novel.

 

 My sisters also offered advice or suggestions?

Rita said, “I go by what I love to read. IMO a short story is for a reader’s experience. I will also say I think there is a difference between what is considered a short story to a novella. With a novella, because of its larger word count, I expect story structure, GMC, story resolution, the whole enchilada. Shorter stories can certainly have all that good stuff but I think of them as a bite of the enchilada not the whole thing.

Vivi offered this advice, “I didn’t take any online courses or read any books on the subject.  I will strongly recommend that anyone looking to write short consider the kind of conflicts that can be resolved quickly.  If you give your characters more than they can reasonably solve in a short format, you’re going to have some very grumpy readers.”

Jeannie recommended, Rather than craft books (which I normally love), the best way to learn for shorts is to read how others do it. I think there’s MORE of an art to writing short than writing a novel. The good thing is that they’re short. 🙂

Some authors I love:  Ray Bradbury (for voice, tone, memorable setup and hook). If you can find it, read “A Laurel and Hardy Love Affair”.  Edgar Allen Poe (check out his word choice and how effective his opening lines are)

For romance, these authors’ shorts are actually novellas,  but they establish character and emotional stakes in a relatively short amount of time. Courtney Milan – The depth of characterization is amazing. They feel as emotionally complete as full novels. And Ruthie Knox – She sets up emotional tension wonderfully between hero and heroine

Thank you, sisters for sharing your experiences in the short story market. 

Please ask any questions that you might have and we’ll try to answer them for you.

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Autumn Jordon is an award-winning author of romantic suspense/thrillers and contemporary romance.  Join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com. And don’t forget to check out Perfect Moments.

Ava Blackstone is a winner and two-time finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart® contest and has five short romance stories published in Woman’s World magazine. She is currently hard at work on the next contemporary romance in her Voretti Family series. You can find her on the web at: http://avablackstone.com  PRETTY IN INK

Jeannie Lin is known for writing groundbreaking historical romances set in Tang Dynasty China starting with her Golden Heart award-winning debut, Butterfly Swords. Her Chinese historicals have received multiple awards and starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. SILK, SWORDS, AND SURRENDAR

Rita Henuber; I’ve always had stories in me and now I’m sharing them. I married a Marine, a man I’d known since I was fourteen. I’m fortunate to have lived many places and traveled to the states and countries I didn’t live. I moved back to the barrier island in Florida where I grew up and now spend time writing, weaving my experiences into my stories. My first books have heroes and heroines in the military or government service. But, I’ve started on a new series of books with collections of short stories. LET ME TELL YOU A STORY

Vivi Andrews is a Golden Heart winner & 2-Time RITA finalist. As Lizzie Shane she writes contemporary romance with a pop culture twist, and as Vivi Andrews she writes paranormal romance. ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North Star Or Shooting Star. It Begins.

Next week, during the Ruby Winter Writing Fest, we begin the quest to bring our imaginary friends to life.

Reading that line, I’ll bet some of you immediately had this mental picture of yourself sitting at your favorite work spot, downing carafes of coffee or tea (or in my case, Diet Coke) while drilling the key board, writing an entire novel, and within six weeks, finishing it with ‘the end’. Good for you. You have a goal.

Yet, I’m sure some of you froze at the word begin because the choices you have to start your story are limitless. The question where do I begin? haunts you. Which one start should I pick? Is it the right place?  Fear not, I have some advice for you.  

Every writer knows the importance of the first line, the first paragraph, the first page, the first chapter. Failure to immediately gain a reader’s interest is the vilest death to your story. Your work is like a shooting star that speeds across the sky and disappears without a big bang. The dreams and hopes pinned to such a star are gone in one quick moment. It’s far better to be that twinkling North Star.  So today, we prepare to start our masterpieces.

     #1 Great beginnings are the hard work. Rarely do they come easily and quickly and without dozens of rewrites. Sometimes they appear freely in later paragraphs or even chapters. We only need to recognize them when they do. Know that fact. Owned it.

     #2 First impressions are the most lasting; Proverbs.

A magnificent first line must be lean, powerful, and provide the reader with a question or promise. Here are some examples of great lean and powerful lines.

It was a pleasure to burn.  ‘451 Fahrenheit’ Ray Bradbury

All children but one grow up. ‘Peter and Wendy’  J.M. Barrie

There was a bloody man walking down the road. ‘Discovering You’ Brenda Novak

 Brilliant. Each of those lines not only asks questions but they also laid the foundation of book’s theme or its characters’ persona.  Knowing your story’s theme is important. Try outlining ahead of starting your story to learn the theme, but if you finding outlining is not your thing, don’t sweat it. The theme will come to you.

     #3 Ground your readers as quickly as possible in time and place. However, settings should be shown in small bits and either add to the conflict or become a character itself. Examples:

On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff’s edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross.  ‘The Light Between Oceans’ M. L. Stedman

It was a cold, bright day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. 1984 George Orwell

ONE HOT AUGUST Thursday afternoon, Maddie Faraday reached under the front seat of her husband’s Cadillac and pulled out a pair of black lace underpants. They weren’t hers. ‘Tell Me Lies’ Jennifer Cruise

 

     #4 Write the first chapter as if it were the entire story, with its own escalation of action and conflict. And let it end with mystery and unanswered questions. Mystery demands answers. It propels readers to read on. Do not tell all. Exposition kills drama and backstory is boring.

     #5 Write tight. Write fast. Let your voice ring true. Voice is what is truly unique about your story.

      #6 All the boom, boom action or fast paced dialogue will not keep readers flipping pages unless they care about the characters. A great story is an emotional ride. A reader must connect with the characters and care what happens to them immediately. They don’t necessarily need to like them (leads to character growth) but they must understand the character’s actions and feel for them as a human being. Establish your hero/villain goal, give him/her a familiar quality, and then add a ticking bomb. 

     #7 Dialogue is action. It’s fast paced (quickly drawing a reader farther into the story) and it’s an excellent way to show character and conflict. Here are a few great examples.

“Your title gives your claim to the throne of our country, but men don’t follow thrones. They follow courage.”

William Wallace in Braveheart.

“It’s not the broken dreams that break us. It’s the ones we don’t dare to dream.”

Will Schuester in Glee

“The problem is not the problem. It’s your attitude about the problem that is the problem.”

Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean

“Get busy living or get busy dying.”

Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption   

Wow! Wow! Just wow!

     #8 Big or little, internal or external, conflict is a reader’s addiction. Add it where ever and whenever you can. You hear me. Big or little. Internal or external. Pile it on!

     #9 In order to understand a character fully, we need to know the world he came from. Show the character in his or her world in an interesting way, but make that world change quickly. He can be making toast, but why not have make toast over the gas stove. His method of making toast is interesting and says something about his character, doesn’t it? 

     #10  The most important bit of advice on making your first pages awesome I saved for last. Have faith in yourself that the story ahead will be adventurous and fulfilling and go for it!

 

Anyone else have advice on producing great starts? 

 

Autumn Jordon, one of the sneaker Rubies, is an award-winning author who writes Romantic Suspense, Thrillers, and Contemporary Romance under the same pen name. Join her newsletter at Autumn Jordon.com

There Is No Use Denying Who You Are

This is a republished blog posted here on the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood as Closet Writers that was felt by many of our readers. I hope it will connect with a few more as we go into a new year.

Closet writers break my heart. Any reason a writer keeps their writing a secret is just wrong, unless the writing is extremely personal and not meant for other’s eyes. I was a closet writer.

There are many reasons why writers remain in the closet and the Rubies have had discussions concerning them. At some time or another, many of us have faced the road-blocks that kept us from being us.

Some writers think they haven’t read enough books to be considered a writing expert. In their minds, if people find out they write, they must’ve read every single book ever published. I’m here to tell you that I’ve never read Huck Finn, War and Peace, Fifty Shades Of Gray or a zillion other classic or best-selling books. Does that confession make me less of a writer? I think not.

Being shy, it can take years for some people to join a writer’s group. A long, long time ago, when the internet was young and a thing called dial-up was used to connect to it, writers actually went to public meetings to connect with those of like minds. Walking into a meeting can be daunting to a wall flower. I know because I’m an introvert. The internet and the ambiguity it provides, has made it easier for some writers to connect to others, but not all. They remain in the background, unsure of themselves. To them, I say, “it’s always the quiet ones who make the biggest impression when they’re ready.” Rest assured most writers are genuinely nice and more than willing to help other writers in any way they can. You only need to be serious about the craft to be considered a writer by them.

A closet writer might feel they don’t know enough about the craft and until they know all there is to know they remain in seclusion. I’m not sure if there is anyone out there who knows it all. Well, maybe King, Patterson or Nora. Only they can answer that question. The point being, the majority of writers will openly admit that they don’t know everything and that they learn something new all the time. Join the club that strives to be better at their craft.

My writing sucks. It very well could, but are you the best judge? You’ve read and studied and wrote and edited. Now it’s time to trust yourself and share your work. If a critique offers constructive advice, weigh it, and then accept it or not. In the end, it’s your story. There is no greater joy for a writer than when a reader enjoys your work. The only way to know that joy is to share your gift.

There are those who really, really want to be a writer but struggle to do the work required. Writing is hard work and takes a huge amount of time. Completing a work is possible a word at a time. Commit to the work, or perhaps another hobby would be better for you.

I’m fortunate. I’m a writer who has had the support of family and friends for many years, but that wasn’t always the case. I once was a closet writer. I was told that my dreams of becoming a published writer were stupid and thus I hid my passion. Now, when I read the notebooks I filled during that time, I cringe at the darkness that shadowed my life.

One day, I finally broke and said to myself, “This is my life and I don’t want to look back and wonder what if I’d taken one step. Would my dreams have come true?” That was a year of change for me on many levels. It was a hard trial but through it I learned I had the support of many family members. I read craft books. I joined a writer’s group. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I attended conferences and workshops.  I found more support through my writer friends. I met the man of my dreams and he became my biggest supporter. I will love him forever for letting me be me.

Life doesn’t give us do-overs, but it does give us second chances. Take the step toward being you.

 

Autumn Jordon is the award-winning author of Perfect and Perfect Hearts.  She enjoys writing  contemporary romance, romantic suspense and thrillers/mysteries.  Subscribe to her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com and be entered into members only contests. perfect-box-basic-2

Make It Real

Our readers do not want to close their eyes. They want them wide open and still feel like they’re stepping onto the pages of our stories. If you read my blog on November 18th, you know we draw our readers into our stories with an emotional connection to our character. But to really make them feel like they’re taking a wild ride on a snowmobile, or walking onto a reality T.V. set, or running through a hot, steamy jungle, or even stepping back into a time past, or feeling something totally overwhelming, like despair or true love, we need to insert senses onto our pages. Not just what they see, hear or feel, but what they taste and smell.

To me, the most stimulating sense is smell. When a familiar waft strikes, I’m immediately transported back to a moment in time and the emotions I felt then come rushing back at me. Again, emotions are how we connect to our readers.

Adding a scent is a powerful tool. Let me give you a personal example of how influential they can be.

Many years ago, while driving home from a farmer’s market late evening, my husband and I came upon an accident involving two vehicles, where the car was in flames. Two little girls were trapped inside, between the cushions of the back seat as the other vehicle had actually mounted the car from the rear. The father of the girls tried desperately to put out the fire while his wife clutched another daughter, who was badly hurt. It became the mission of my husband and others who stopped to help the father, while I was charged with the duty to hold the mother back. She was burnt herself and the leather jacket she wore was seared. I destroyed all my clothes later because of the smell. Every time since that night, if I get a whiff of burn leather or flesh, I’m transported back. As I’m writing this, my chest is constricted, my throat burns, tears blur my eyes and my fingers are trembling. I’m immobilized by a sense of helplessness and an overwhelming sense of grief washes through me.

Powerful?

There is no denying it.

The world is filled with scents and this season doesn’t take a backseat to summer. Take a few moments throughout your days and jot down in a notebook the scents of this holiday season and the emotions it has caused.

Use scents not just to set the setting. Use them to evoke emotion and connect with your reader on a higher level.

 

perfect-box-basic-2Autumn Jordon is an award-winning Ruby, with seven novels published. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense and mystery/thrillers. Join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com and receive a free read and be entered into member contests.

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The Latest Comments

  • Emily Sullivan: Thank you Jennifer!
  • Emily Sullivan: Thanks Melonie! Great advice! Looking forward to meeting you!
  • Jennifer Henderson: Emily, What you said about being open to criticism but not necessarily agreeing with every...
  • Melonie: Hello Rebelle sister! Your story sounds fabulous 🙂 I love making lists – so my tip is to make lists!...
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