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The 10 Most Important Questions to Ask about Your Scenes

In my work as a professional freelance copyeditor and critiquer for publishers, literary agents, and authors in six continents, I wade through something like two hundred manuscripts a year.

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I come across certain flaws repeatedly in many—if not most—of the manuscripts I examine. These issues are especially endemic to first novels, and when pointed out to the authors, they seem so obvious. They say, “Why didn’t I notice these problems?”

Because of lack of adequate writing experience, helpful critical feedback, and sufficient skill development and training, writers don’t realize they aren’t showing enough—and especially in a scene’s opening paragraphs—to help readers picture where a character is and when the scene is taking place in the story.

The challenge for writers is in determining how and how much to convey to readers what the writer is seeing in her own mind. Continue Reading…

6 Questions to Get to the Heart of Your Story

Here are some thoughts discussed in my book Writing the Heart of Your Story—important things for novelists to think about when deciding to commit the time and effort toward crafting a novel. May this book be just the guide you need—showing you how to get to the heart of your story so you can touch readers’ hearts.

What would you say was the difference between a good book and a great one? Between a forgettable novel and a classic that lingers long in your memory, maybe even for years? Between a book with a title and plot you’ve forgotten mere days after you read it and one with lines that haunt you for years, and characters that seem so real you find yourself thinking about them over a lifetime and wondering what they would say or do in a given situation?

Some good books provide an entertaining read, much like a good meal will satisfy. But then there are those other books. Continue Reading…

How Theme in Fiction Gets to the Heart of Your Characters

This is a reprint from 10 years ago, looking at one of my absolutely favorite movies. If you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you to do so, watching with a writer’s eye. You will learn a lot about great theme and excellent plot structure.

Okay, got your popcorn? Today we’re going to look at the movie K-Pax. Why do I love this movie so much? Because aside from the fact it tells a great story with heart and has a terrific  and creative plot, it has very rich themes that anchor this movie and make it so very special.

Although the story seems to be about some guy who claims to come from a faraway planet, it is not a sci-fi flick (similar to Signs, which also is really not about aliens at all). Continue Reading…

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