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Mastering the 4 Key Elements to Support Your Novel

Since we’ve been exploring masterful writing over these last few months (and will continue to do so), I want to bring you back to the basics of novel structure. Why? Because all the masterful writing in the world won’t go very far if you don’t nail structure.

As you probably know (if you’ve been following my blog awhile), I write a lot about structure. And that’s because it’s crucial if you want to write a solid story. It’s as simple as that.

Every writing coach with a lick of sense is going to tell you essentially the same things I do. Maybe they use different terminology or describe concept or premise differently. Those are moot points.

What matters is that you understand how important structure is. And where to start.

That’s why I like using the building construction metaphor. You have to have a sturdy foundation for your building that meets established and proven building codes. A novel works on the same principles. Continue Reading…

Masterful Voice in Novels Part 4

Last week I discussed how important it is to have conflict on every page. And I shared the Faulkner quote that author Colum McCann referenced: “The only thing that matters is the human heart in conflict with itself.”

That might not be the only thing that matters when it comes to crafting a masterful voice in your writing, but it’s an important one, to be sure.

I believe literary agent and author Donald Maass is spot-on when he teaches that microtension is the key to writing a terrific novel. Without it, a novel is flat, struggling to keep a reader’s attention.

Microtension is exactly what it sounds like: it comprises all those tiny bits that give a reader pause. Contradictions in words and phrases, unspoken mysteries and clues, incongruities, hints of danger or trouble on some level. Microtension depends on what is not being said, on subtext. It’s like a that tightrope wire McCann wrote about in Let the Great World Spinwhich I shared last week.

Those little bits sprinkled throughout every page remind me of sparking gems scattered across a beach of endless, colorless sand. As a reader, I think I essentially read as if I were a beachcomber, rushing from one glittering gem to the next, gathering them up and making my way down the beach. Continue Reading…

Getting to Know Your Protagonist

 Today’s guest post is by Steven-John Tait.

If you’ve ever struggled to get under the skin of your protagonist, don’t lose hope. This post tells how mine went from a protagonist I couldn’t relate to to someone so real to me that I felt guilty about finishing the novel and therefore his existence.

Here’s my experience from initial inspiration to the creative processes I used, and my eventual breakthrough and tips you can apply to your own work.

On vacation in a town in North Brazil, I was drinking a beer at one of many beachside bars, when I noticed a haggard man walking between the tables and chairs trying to catch anyone’s eye. It was obvious he was looking for someone to take advantage of. Nobody returned his gaze except me.

He sat down across from me and asked the waiter for a beer and a cachaça. The waiter looked to me for approval because we both knew that I’d be the one paying. I couldn’t understand much of what my guest said because my Portuguese hardly gets me from A to B, but he interested me, as did the faded tattoos over his arms and the white lines he’d drawn on himself using acid from cashew nut shells. Continue Reading…

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