Writing questions

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by BrentMc, Nov 11, 2013.

  1. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2014
  2. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  3. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  4. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    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.
     
  5. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2014
  6. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    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) :)
     
  7. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    What are you writing?
     
  8. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    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.
     
  9. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    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.)
     
  10. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    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?
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    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.
     
  12. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    That was what I figured. Luckily with modern tech you have to worry about how far away from you they are.
     
  13. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Commodore

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    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.
     
  14. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    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! :)
     
  15. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Thanks for the info guys! Much appreciated.
     
  16. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    I've just left a period of some difficulty with my attempted novel. This last chapter has been a slug to get through, and it's been largely responsible for the slip in my writing schedule and discipline. Prior to this, I was pleased enough with the pacing, but this, I worry, slows what was deliberately a slow-but-steady unfolding into something that drags. I would just cut the chapter, or rework some of the important parts into other scenes, but I don't think I can lose this without having to rewrite a few earlier scenes that I think work very well at moving characters along as they currently stand. Perhaps I should just continue and then tackle this bit again later, smooth it out and find a way to conclude what's so far unfolded reasonably well (I think...) without it prompting that unpleasant feeling that I've crossed a line I should have avoided.

    I'm moving the story forward now - new location, quicker pace, established characters on the move and reacting to new things, and I think I'm getting back into the flow of it. I still feel uneasy about it, though. (I should note that the basic frame of the book is complete, it's just being fleshed out, filled in and occasionally rearranged based on what happens as I go). I think I've found a good balance between giving certain supporting characters enough "screentime" that they feel as significant as I'm intending, but without getting too bogged down in them - I just hope I didn't land in "okay, this is getting boring now". :eek:
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2014
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The usual advice -- though I don't always follow it myself -- is that it's okay for first drafts to be bad, because it's the revisions that solve the problems. So if you're not happy with a given chapter, it's okay to just keep going forward and fix it later. Maybe you'll happen upon a better way of conveying the necessary stuff from that chapter.
     
  18. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Well, that's rather a relief. :) Very well then, on I go. I'll be back for you later, chapter-that-drags.
     
  19. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Blocking is a good thing as well, like a painting. Start rough and quick, get all your ideas on paper as fluidly as possible, and then refine.
     
  20. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Exactly. The first time through is just to figure out how to get from Point A to B. You can spruce things up later.
     

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