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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old April 16 2014, 06:55 PM   #121
Greg Cox
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Re: Writing questions

JarodRussell wrote: View Post
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I still remember a cover letter that was attached to a submission years ago, explaining that the book started slowly, but got really good around Chapter Five. To which my response was, "Well, if you know the first four chapters aren't very interesting, why didn't you fix that before submitting the manuscript? Or maybe just start with Chapter Five?"
Hm, but does "slowly" really mean "not very interesting"?
Well, the fact that the author was apologetic about it was not a good sign. "Bear with me until I get to the good parts."

To be clear, you don't have to blow up a bomb or fire a gun on the first page of every book. But you have to do something to hook the reader's interest. The reader does not owe the author a couple of chapters to get warmed up . . ..

This applies to expository material in general. Even if the primary purpose of a scene is to move the plot from Point A to B, or introduce a bit of information that will turn out to be Very Important further down the road, you want the scene to be interesting in its own right.

Don't get we wrong. That doesn't mean that every chapter has to have a car chase or gunfight. But, ideally, even the set-up scenes need to have something going on: conflict, humor, sexual tension, a colorful setting, punchy dialogue, stylish prose, clever turns of phrase, or all of the above.

Ideally, you should be able to open a book randomly, at page 142, and get caught up in the scene within a few pages or so . . . even if you don't know what the overall context is. Any scene that exists solely to advance the plot is a scene that needs work. And, to get back OT, any opening that's just about telling the reader what they Need to Know before the actual story starts has a problem. People need a reason to keep turning the pages from Page One.

Easier said than done, I know, but that's the goal to aspire to.
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Old April 16 2014, 08:21 PM   #122
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Re: Writing questions

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
This applies to expository material in general. Even if the primary purpose of a scene is to move the plot from Point A to B, or introduce a bit of information that will turn out to be Very Important further down the road, you want the scene to be interesting in its own right.
My favorite example of this is Peter F. Hamilton, who will often take 100 pages to get around to the first major plot event, but those first 100 pages are always totally fascinating in the mean time. Pandora's Star starts by introducing a couple important characters more than 100 years before the rest of the novel, the kind of prologue you could in theory cut, but that first chapter is a hilarious and completely unexpected little story on its own.
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Old April 16 2014, 11:46 PM   #123
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Re: Writing questions

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Often it's not a good idea to put an introduction at the beginning. It can be good to throw the reader in at the deep end and give them bits and pieces of information as they go. If you can make them curious, raise questions that they want to know the answers to, then that's a good hook, because they'll want to keep reading.

THis is kind of what I ended up doing with my story. I start with a woman being chased on horseback through a forest with something, and as the scene goes on I reveal who she is, what she has, and why she's being chased.
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Old April 16 2014, 11:49 PM   #124
Greg Cox
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Re: Writing questions

JD wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
Often it's not a good idea to put an introduction at the beginning. It can be good to throw the reader in at the deep end and give them bits and pieces of information as they go. If you can make them curious, raise questions that they want to know the answers to, then that's a good hook, because they'll want to keep reading.

THis is kind of what I ended up doing with my story. I start with a woman being chased on horseback through a forest with something, and as the scene goes on I reveal who she is, what she has, and why she's being chased.
Sounds good.

Generally, you want to enter a scene as late as possible and leave as early as possible. Cut to the chase and don't dawdle.
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Old April 16 2014, 11:56 PM   #125
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Re: Writing questions

Well, I said horseback there, but next time I work on the story she's going to be on foot. The first scene of the main story has a, hopefully, funny scene where the main character (who's never even been near a horse) and the love interest have to escape the bad guys on horseback. I'm thinking having two chase scenes like that back to back would be too repetitive. The prologue is a fairly new addition, while the other one was one of the first scenes I came up with for the whole story, so if something is being changed, it's the prologue.

EDIT: Didn't see Greg's comment. The whole opening prologue is just the chase, and pretty much just ends with her getting away. Everything that happened in the 20 years between that and the main story is established slowly over flashbacks throughout the book. I'm a big fan of the non-linear flashback used in shows like Lost and Revolution, so I'm trying to kind of do the same thing here.

Sorry Brent, I hope you don't mind sharing the thread.
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Old April 17 2014, 10:09 AM   #126
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Re: Writing questions

JD, I'd love to discuss our respective efforts with you in more detail. I need to get back to working on my book (these last few weeks I've been a bit lax)
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Old April 20 2014, 07:22 AM   #127
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Re: Writing questions

What are you writing?
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Old April 20 2014, 10:08 AM   #128
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Re: Writing questions

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What are you writing?
A sci-fi novel (more "soft" sci-fi than hard; a number of fantasy elements). Writing is a lot of fun, but I'm not always good at keeping to my schedule.
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Old April 21 2014, 02:06 AM   #129
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Re: Writing questions

I know what you mean. I've been at it for over a year with mine, but I I've gone months without working on it. I tend to kind of work in bursts, where I get an idea or two but them down and then move on. I have most of this week off, so I'll probably work on it some more sometime this week.
I know if I do decide to try to get it published, and actually succeed I won't be able to work like this.
(Unless I end up another George R.R. Martin and there is like a 0.0001% percent chance of that happening.)
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Old May 4 2014, 03:31 AM   #130
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Re: Writing questions

When it comes to getting an agent, would be better to find someone local, who you can meet in person regularly if necessary or someone in one of the bigger publishing cities like New York, or LA who is likely to have closer ties to the publishers?
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Old May 4 2014, 03:52 AM   #131
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Re: Writing questions

JD wrote: View Post
When it comes to getting an agent, would be better to find someone local, who you can meet in person regularly if necessary or someone in one of the bigger publishing cities like New York, or LA who is likely to have closer ties to the publishers?
I gather that the agent's proximity to the editors and publishers is more important, since an agent's job is to use his or her connections with those people on your behalf.
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Old May 4 2014, 04:23 AM   #132
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Re: Writing questions

That was what I figured. Luckily with modern tech you have to worry about how far away from you they are.
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Old May 4 2014, 06:10 PM   #133
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Re: Writing questions

In the electronic age, your agent can be based anywhere. The thing to look at is what other authors are represented by an agency, and by its respective agents, and to find one that handles work similar to that which you hope to sell.
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Old May 4 2014, 08:38 PM   #134
Greg Cox
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Re: Writing questions

David Mack wrote: View Post
In the electronic age, your agent can be based anywhere. The thing to look at is what other authors are represented by an agency, and by its respective agents, and to find one that handles work similar to that which you hope to sell.
Nicely put. In olden days, you probably wanted an agent based in NYC, but today maybe not so much. Although I suspect that even those who now have the luxury of operating from Florida or Seattle or wherever probably started out in NYC at some point, in order to make their reputation and connections. Once they're established, however, an agent can work from anywhere.

But David is right. Look at who an agent represents and how well their authors are doing. That matters more than the ability to have lunch with them. (I think I've had lunch with my agent exactly twice in nearly twenty years. But we communicate by phone and email all the time.)

On the flip side, I still remember the "agent" whose letterhead proudly proclaimed something like "Serving the new and unpublished author since 1975!"

Um, I'd rather have an agent who brags about all the successful, bestselling authors he or she represents!
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Old May 6 2014, 01:55 AM   #135
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Re: Writing questions

Thanks for the info guys! Much appreciated.
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