Hello hello, and welcome to my handy manual for the earnest-at-heart and the short-attention-spanned. I opted against posting it in chapters, because 10-chapter-instruction manuals are, quite frankly, terrifying. However, for those of you looking for something specific, I've included a table of contents. *woot*
DISCLAIMER: The following is not, nor do I claim it to be, the only way to go about writing a book. It is merely a route which has been proven to work for a helluva lot of people, including myself. That said, read on, o brave one, and guard your sanity closely.
How to Successfully Complete a Successful Story!
Table of Contents:
- Section 1: Potentially Amusing Introduction
- Section 2: From Musing Idea to Plot
- Section 3: See the Finish Line: Basic Planning
- Section 4: Character Development (Quirks, anyone?)
- Section 5: Chapter-by-Chapter Planning and the What If game
- Section 6: Writing Tips
o The Two vs. One Word Rule
o Sentence Structure
o Internal Monologue
o Active vs. Passive Voice
- Section 7: Revisions Make the World Go Round
- Section 8: Writer's Block
- Section 9: Summary Skills
- Section 10: Conclusion
Section 1: Potentially Amusing Introduction
Ah yes, haven't we all been there? Reading a fabulous story that all of a sudden…dies. Writing a fabulous story that all of a sudden flies off into spectacular plot angles until we have no idea where on earth we started and are forced to sheepishly break it off…whilst trying to dodge furious hisses and flying carrots. Well my friend, I have been on both ends and I am neither fond of the fury nor the guilt that goes along with each respective situation.
However, I'm one of those lucky people who learns from her mistakes (well, generally speaking *cough*), and that's where this is coming from. You see, I hate carrots – flying ones in particular – and am determined not only to prevent them from being thrown at me, but also to prevent myself from having to throw them at you. Yes, o inconstant, writer's-block-plagued, meandering-plot-destined author, never again shall you have to cower in fear from furious vegetable throwers! Read on, and let the carrot-less-ness guide you.
Section 2: From Musing Idea to Plot
Once upon a time there was an aspiring FictionPress author named Suzy. Suzy was watching a TV commercial one day when she was struck with an epiphany: wouldn't it be cool to write about a bubble-gum world? The streets could be paved with silver wrappers, and people could float from place to place in floating bubbles! Very excited, Suzy sat down and furiously typed out a description of her bubble gum world, throwing in a couple main characters – Bob and Jane – who she'd deal with later. She posted the chapter and got a decent reaction ~ several people thought it was a unique idea and were interested to read more. Encouraged, Suzy sat down to write the next chapter. But then it hit her: there was nothing for Bob and Jane to do in the bubble gum world. Well, no matter, she'd just send them somewhere else. To that end, a monster invaded bubble gum world and kidnapped Bob and Jane, toting them off to his evil, non bubble-gummy lair, from which they promptly escaped…which was all well and good except now they didn't have anything to do again. Suzy's reviewers were a little put out that her story entitled Bubble Gum World was no longer taking place in a bubble gum world…but they decided to stick it out anyway and see where she went with it. Tragically, Suzy was at a loss. There really wasn't anything else for Bill (or was it Bob?) and Jane to do. She contracted writer's block and, seven months later, posted an apologetic author's note to say she'd lost her inspiration for the story – but please read her new story, about Tea Bag World! Needless to say, Suzy's reviewers were highly displeased. Suzy met with an unfortunate end, pelted to death by carrots from behind as she sat unawares at her computer, writing the second sentence of Tea Bag World.
Now children, the central moral of this story is: HAVE A PLOT. Before you do anything, before you write a single blasted word of the actual fic, know what you're going to be writing about. Even if you're a character-based writer who doesn't go for elaborate plots, you need one of these. It doesn't have to be detailed yet, but it needs to have a clear beginning, climax, and end. Compare the following bad and good examples.
Bad Example: Bubble Gum World: A story about Bob and Jane in bubble gum world.
Good Example: Bubble Gum World: Bob and Jane are scientists who realize that global warming is going to destroy bubble gum world in seven weeks or less. They work together, racing against time, to create a formula that will preserve bubble gum world before the event takes place. It works, though barely, and Bob and Jane are hailed as bubble gum world's saviors…and their faces are put on the currency in celebration.
Notice that in the Bad Example, Bob and Jane have nothing specific to do. They are merely destined to exist. Existing is boring. Boringness is to be avoided. In the Good Example, however, they have a purpose (however melodramatic and corny). That is the entire point of setting out your basic plot: to discover the purpose of the story. Without something to work toward, you'll end up like Suzy, lost and inspiration-less, and eventually pelted to death by carrots.
Avoid the carrots, reader dearest. Always avoid the carrots.
Section 3: See the Finish Line: Basic Planning
So now you have your two-to-three sentence plot. Now you have your purpose. Now you need to add a few muscles to the bare bones. Fleshing it out fully will come later. Your basic planning should be one to two pages long, depending on how long your story is going to be. This is where you put in the most important obstacles and events – the turning points and major developments. For example, in the ever-so-cheesy bubble gum world story, the basic events that keep the story going would include Bob's and Jane's discovery that global warming is about to destroy BGW (yes, I grow tired of typing out 'bubble gum world' every three sentences, forgive me), followed by their decision to seek help, followed by the refusal of anyone to take them seriously, followed by their decision to take matters into their own hands, etc. etc. The only one who has to understand what you're writing at this point is you, which is always fun ~ it can be as crappily written as you please. Mine are always full of endless run-on sentences. I shall demonstrate:
Jane is conducting an experiment on global warming when the light she's using to simulate the effect [of global warming] has the uncalculated effect of melting the bubble gum tray she's using, which surprises her and then alarms her as she realizes what this means. She immediately sets off to find Bob, who is skeptical but, upon seeing her proof, joins her cause and they set out to gather help and support to fight the impending crisis.
I won't torture you any further, but you get the idea: outline the basic decisions that move the plot along. No descriptions, no inflections, no details whatsoever. The most important thing is that you get all the way to the end. Do not assume that once you have three quarters of this written, you'll be able to start writing the book and finish the planning later. Also, don't start it and then skip to the very end, reasoning that the stuff in the middle will fill itself in, because it doesn't. Plenty of authors have made that mistake and regretted it. This is the first step to avoiding writer's block: ALWAYS PLAN FIRST. Always. Remember people, 98.4% of non-planners eat carrots.
Section 4: Character Development (Quirks Anyone?)
And so we arrive at my favorite part of pre-story planning: character development. Yes, just like the plot, you have to plan them out. No, you cannot declare the lead male's name to be Bob, give him brown hair and green eyes, and pretend to have created a character. He's not a yahoo personals ad, he's a person. You want him to be as realistic as possible, and real people, you see, have personalities and histories and…quirks. Embrace the quirks! Quirks are what make characters come to life, what set them apart from all the other characters in literature. One of the best ways to discover your characters' quirks is to put them in a situation that has absolutely nothing to do with the story you intend to write, and have them talk to each other. So, an example. Because I'm feeling somewhat evil right now, I'm going to have Bob and Jane thrown into a Lichtenstein prison cell by accident. They have thirteen long hours ahead of them before their relatives can fly over from America to bail them out. Let us see what comes of it.
Jane: I'm starving.
Bob: Then eat.
Jane: Eat what? The mold-covered gruel they slipped under the door?
Bob: It wasn't that bad.
Jane: I can't believe you actually ate it.
Jane: Because this place is filthy! I mean we're practically breathing in germs here. And they took away my little bottle of sanitizer, too. As if I could really use it to escape. Bastards.
Bob: Well if we're breathing in germs anyway, then you might as well eat. It's better than starving to death and if you – Bob suddenly jumps up AAAAH!
Jane: jumping up as well What?
Bob: crossing to Jane's side of the cell and squinting malevolently at the spot where he was sitting Spider.
Jane: Spider. You give me a bloody heart attack because you think you felt a spider?
Bob: defensive I hate spiders.
Jane: Spiders are the least of our worries right now, Bob!
Bob: muttering Speak for yourself.
So yes, normally this would go on longer – which would inevitably lead to their pasts – but even this little bit has been enough to reveal some of their personalities and a quirk or two. Jane is more strict and is an anti-bacterial freak who totes around mini bottles of sanitizer. Bob is more easy going, will eat anything, and has arachnophobia. This exercise will also help you figure out exactly what kind of relationship the characters have with one another – which you can, of course, tamper with and develop further later, but it's always good to start with the natural chemistry.
Now, on the subject of character history: do not underdo it. There is absolutely no way for you to write too much of your character's history. Consider for a moment that you want your character to be as real as possible. Then consider what constitutes a real person; specifically, let's look at you. Every single detail of your life, from getting caught biting your nails when you were three to missing question 17 on the math's exam, is part of your history. It may not be exciting, it may not be interesting, it may not even appear to be relevant, but hey, let's face it: most of us have rather boring, mundane lives. (Just thought I should say it, in case those of you suffering from excessive teenage angst haven't had your daily dose of depression yet today, lol. *ehem* Right, moving on…) You don't need to write their whole detailed history into your story, but you need to know it yourself: what's Bob's favorite ice cream flavor, who was Jane's favorite grade school teacher, when are their birthdays, what are/were their hobbies, what were their recurring childhood nightmares, etc.? The more time you spend on this, the more three-dimensional your characters will become to you, and the easier it will be to write about them as unique individuals rather than cookie-cutter Mary-Sues. And the more realistic they are, the more your readers will be able to find common ground with them, sympathize with them, and bring them to life in their own minds. Your plot is what will keep your story going, but your characters are what will keep your reader interested. For any Chicago fans, as Billy Flynn told Roxie: "They're not gonna give a damn what your defense is unless they care about you."
Section 5: Chapter-by-Chapter Planning and the What If game
Hokay peeps, you've made it this far and you're in good shape. I've got some gooda news and some badda news: ze good news is that if you can you get through this step, you're virtually guaranteed to finish your story successfully. Ze bad news is that this is the part where you force your lazy-ass muse to deal with all the dirty work and dive headlong into the mud a-la-Shakira, grunge-worthy hair and all. Yes ma'am (or sir, as the case may be), we have officially reached the realm of Chapter by Chapter Planning, and yes, it's going to take a bit of dedication to get it done. To put it in perspective, for a 150 page book I usually end up with around 30 pages of the chapter-by-chapter stuff. Granted, it is a fifth of the book's mass, but in the end it will be worth all your sweat and drudgery BECAUSE it will virtually eliminate the ever-impending threat of writer's block. Before you've typed out the first word of chapter one you shall have the utter confidence and appropriate smugness that innately comes with being an all-knowing god(dess) in complete control of his/her characters' fates! You shall once and for all know (to quote a famous ranter) Who did put the What in the Where now, and writer's block shall shrivel and perish before your triumphant gaze!
*insert moment of impressive silence here*
…Sounds like fun, don't it? ;)
Yes well, now you have something to look forward to. Time to get started, then. Obtain an Indiana Jones whip and place it in the hands of your smaller sibling (preferably a brother) with instructions to smack you with it every time you start to doze off, dawdle, or otherwise daydream (you should have no trouble convincing him to comply with this request). Make sure you have a few good hours to really get into it without being interrupted. Then go drag out the basic planning that you did in step three. Cut it into pieces where you think there should be chapter breaks. Proceed to take each piece and write a fairly detailed account of what exactly is going to happen. The good news: it doesn't have to be well-written, and you don't have to worry about physical details (i.e.- the bubble gum car they jump into doesn't have to be red yet). The bad news: you're not allowed to skip actions. Let's look at the bubble gum snippet from before, right after Jane discovers that BGW is on the brink of extermination:
Jane immediately sets off to find Bob, who is skeptical but, upon seeing her proof, joins her cause and they set out to gather help and support to fight the impending crisis.
In the chapter-by-chapter version, that snippet should look something like this:
Mortified, Jane leaves everything on the table and storms out of the room. She fast-walks through the corridor, looking for someone to relate her findings to, and desperately needing a second opinion on what to do about this. Because it's so late at night, the only person left in the building is Bob, who is working on an experiment himself involving a new filter to more thoroughly purify the water supply. Jane interrupts him, to his initial annoyance, and spills the news so fast he can't make out what she's saying; he has to ask her to repeat it. She does. Bob is skeptical. Even when she explains it to him, he doesn't understand (his specialty is water, after all). In frustration Jane drags him into the library, pulls out a book on the basic concepts of global warming, and shows him that she's right based on a series of diagrams and chemical imbalance situations. Finally understanding, Bob acknowledges the gravity of the situation and asks her what she thinks they should do. She doesn't know where to start; that's why she went looking for a second opinion. Bob considers things for a moment, and then points out that whatever they do, they're going to need help. Jane agrees, and they simultaneously decide to contact the head of the research branch, Mr. Gumme, despite the fact that he's probably asleep. There's a storm raging outside which must've put down the phone line, because they can't get through to him that way. Still, this can't wait until morning, it's a national crisis, and they decide to drive to his house. Jane's keys are in her purse back in the lab and she doesn't want to waste time getting them, so Bob offers his car, and they set out, leaving all the lights on in the building in their rush.
Much longer, yes? Much more tedious, yes? Much more painful, yes? (And not just from all the times your little brother thought you were slacking off.) Yes, yes, yes, it does get ugly, and it can become a bit droning after a while. That's where the What-If game comes in; after all, it's much easier to play than work, right? ;)
The What If game should be played at every decision, every turning point, every action your characters carry out, and it can be a lot of fun. It opens your mind to ideas you never would have considered before. Furthermore, it's really very easy to play: all you have to do is contradict yourself on everything – even the stuff you know for a fact you want to happen. There are three steps:
Step 1: The initial idea: Jane and Bob appeal to Mr. Gumme for help. He sees their point and consents immediately, giving them access to whatever they need.
Step 2: Play the game: What if Mr. Gumme didn't believe them?
Step 3: Visualize the Consequences: If Mr. Gumme didn't believe them, they'd be left to find a way to stop global warming from melting BGW on their own.
…Voila, things just got a lot more interesting. You never want to be too easy on your characters, as giving them something to really struggle toward is the essence of the book.
Now, the What If game is not only to be used in plausible situations like the one above. Use it even when you know for a fact that you want something to happen, too, because it can give you ideas you never would have approached before. Example:
Step 1: Jane and Bob save BGW just in time.
Step 2: What if Jane and Bob didn't save the world?
Step 3: Then BGW would melt, and all its inhabitants would die and be buried alive in the smushy gooey remnants of the buildings.
Aspiring fictionpress author Suzy (who shall be temporarily resurrected for the sake of this example) would never dream of ending her story so horribly; she'd much rather Bob and Jane get married and go play in the park with the fuzzy pink bunnies. However, the question gets her thinking…what if global warming didn't hit the entire BGW at once? What if there was one really tall skyscraper landmark high above everything else that would doubtlessly be hit first? What if there were innocent BGW citizens visiting the top of it, five minutes before global warming would strike? What if this suddenly occurred to Jane, who knew that there was no way to stop global warming in time to prevent that particular monument from melting? She can't very well just let those people die, can she? Suzy rather likes this complication, as it makes her story even more interesting. She decides to use it.
*End example. Suzy is once again sacrificed to the carrot pelters*
By the time you're done, your story will probably surprise even you. And if it surprises the author, it's bound to go over well with the readers, eh? ;)
Section 6: Writing Tips (AKA: Things They Teach You in College That They Should Have Taught You in Junior High…Stupid Fools.)
Yes, the alternate title for this section is amazingly appropriate, methinks. Of course, it could just be that I've had crappy teachers my entire pre-university career, in which case, this is for those of you in the same boat. Which is probably quite a few of you, considering the miserable wages they give teachers. I mean, why would anybody who was actually good at the subject want to go into teaching for such a pathetic amount of money if they're only going to end up suffering through screeching, annoying kids and stupid, annoying parents, and – *Death's Counterfeit steps in and slaps glitterjewele for the general good/sanity of the readers* Ehem. Okay then, moving right along.
~The Two vs. One Word Rule: This was literally the first thing my first writing professor said to us on the first day of class. Never use two words when one will work. It slows down the piece and puts your readers to sleep. The example she used was, "The door slammed loudly behind her," vs. "The door slammed behind her." Obviously the door's going to slam loudly, it isn't exactly possible to have a door slam quietly now, is it? Usually it's the "ly" words that'll get you – keep an eye out for those sneaky bastards.
~Sentence Structure: Not nearly as scary as it sounds. There are basically just two things to watch for. First, make sure to weave long sentences and short sentences together. If all your sentences are long, the book starts to sound droning. If they're all short, it sounds choppy. Try consciously alternating them for a while, and soon you'll just start doing it automatically. Second, try not to start all your sentences the same way. For example:
Bob was confused. He didn't understand how global warming could melt BGW. He tried to make sense of what Jane was saying, but to no avail. He was lost. He told her so.
In the above snippet, every single sentence starts with a noun or pronoun (Bob, he, she, it, they, we, etc.). Also, you may have noticed, all the sentences are pretty short and choppy. Let's see if we can fix it, shall we?
Confused, Bob stared at Jane. How was it possible for global warming to melt BGW in only seven weeks? It just didn't add up to him. With renewed concentration, he tried to make sense of what Jane was saying, but to no avail: he was lost. A little reluctantly, he told her so.
The second time around, Bob sounds more complex and real. And all because of a few alterations in sentence structure. Pretty cool, eh?
~Dialogue: Alright, very important topic here. You can't write a book with no dialogue. Well, you can, but it'll more than likely be excruciatingly boring. If anyone's ever read Heart of Darkness (by Joseph Conrad), or Virginia Woolf's 'A Room of One's Own', you'll know what I'm talking about. Dialogue is the spice of the fajita: don't underdo it, don't overdo it, and make sure you're using the right kind. Be careful if you want to write a long scene composed of mostly dialogue. It can be done, but remember to add tags into it so that people don't get confused as to who's talking. You can put them in the conversation itself, or next to the line. i.e.- "Put the damned filter away, Bob, this is important." Or, 'Jane impatiently shut off Bob's experiment, snapping, "Put the damned filter away, this is important."' Either way, we're clear as to who's talking. Still, it's better not to have long streams of mainly dialogue. The right blend of dialogue and description will keep your story moving at a steady, comprehensible pace.
The other thing to look at when considering dialogue is character voice. Would your character be likely to phrase a sentiment the way you would yourself? Let's look at the elderly Mr. Gumme, when he's turning down Jane's and Bob's request for help.
Correct: Wha'? The world, ending in seven weeks? Yer both of ya off yer rockers!
Incorrect: Like, psh, whatever girlfriend. There's like no way that'll ever happen.
~Internal Monologue: The cool thing about reading a book vs. watching a movie is that we get to look into the character's mind as well as watch her actions. Dialogue is a really cool tool to use when creating a personality, but internal monologue is crucial to bringing your character to life. Why? Because real people do, on occasion, think as well as speak. ;) Behold how much more we can learn about Jane from example 2 than we can from example 1, just by adding a little internal monologue.
*Example 1: Bob's face was covered in barbecue sauce as he chomped through the chicken leg.
"Would you like a napkin?" Jane asked.
"Naw," Bob said, talking with his mouth full.
Jane rolled her eyes and called for the check.
*Example 2: Bob's face was covered in barbecue sauce as he chomped through the chicken leg.
Jane watched him in amazement and barely concealed disgust. Unless she was badly mistaken, he hadn't even bothered to wash his hands before falling face first into that repulsive, fattening plate of animal flesh. Vaguely, she wondered if he knew that there was a fork right next to his plate or (even less likely) whether he knew how to use one. Somewhat embarrassed, she noticed that more than a few faces in the diner were turned toward them in speculation. Clearing her throat, she said in what she hoped was a meaningful voice, "Would you like a napkin?"
"Naw," Bob said, talking with his mouth full.
Rolling her eyes and sucking in a calming breath, Jane called for the check as unobtrusively as possible.
Internal monologue is how people will get to know your characters. And the sooner they care about the characters, the sooner they'll be hooked on the story. That's always a good thing, right? ;)
~Active vs. Passive Voice: PASSIVE VOICE IS THE DEVIL IN DISGUISE. *ehem* Yes, and now that I've got that out of my system…Use active voice whenever you possibly can. It makes a much bigger impact. Watch:
Passive Voice: The door was slammed in their faces by Mr. Gumme.
Active Voice: Mr. Gumme slammed the door in their faces.
Don't let things happen. Make them happen. You have divine powers, remember? ;)
~Pacing: I've already talked about this in the previous aspects, so I'll just touch on the one point I haven't covered yet. Avoid describing things flat out. Long, elaborate descriptions of pretty fields are poetic…and nothing short of lethal to the movement of your story. If you really want to describe something, try blending it in with the action. For example, rather than flat out describing the field, describe Jane running through it: Jane sprinted through the knee-length blades of dry grass, too preoccupied to notices all the tiny purple flowers bobbing their heads at her in the wind.
Section 7: Revisions Make the World Go 'Round
A bit of good news: most of you probably don't need a beta reader. It's really incredible how many of your own mistakes you can catch simply by rereading what you've written. The trick is: don't reread it right away. Once you've written the chapter, go through it again and make sure you're as happy with it as you can be. Then put it away for a few hours (or better yet, a whole day) and come back to it. The more times you do this, the better your chapter will get. You'll be able to hear things that sound awkward, and catch little typos, once you've forgotten the way you meant it to sound. Sometimes reading it aloud can be useful, too, because you're making yourself hear it differently. I like to revise most of the things I post four times before I put them up; twice is my minimum requirement. Do whatever works for you, but always revise your work.
Section 8: Writer's Block
Ah, it seems we have reached the $64,000 dollar question: How to deal with writer's block? Now, the thing is, writer's block is like a virus: the best thing to do is to avoid contracting it at all by getting immunized. In the writing world, planning out what you're going to do beforehand is the best immunization out there, as we've already discussed.
For those of you who already have a story started and would really like to finish it, but can't because of writer's block…it can probably be done, though perhaps not as well as if you'd planned it from the start. Regardless, I shall do my best to save you from the carrot throwers. The first thing to do is reread what you've already written. Then picture the ending. You probably know where you want to get, but are unsure of how to get there. To get yourself thinking of ideas, play the What If game (see Section 5). If you can't think of a plausible question to start with, ask yourself an implausible one. Even though you'll be surrounding yourself with crazy and unworkable ideas at first, if you play the game long enough your brain will start working again, and eventually you'll come up with an idea you like. Once you have that idea, do not get all excited and write the next chapter, because then you'll get stuck again. Plan the entire rest of the story out before you continue writing. That way you'll be sure that the next chapter won't take you to another dead end. (Note: If you don't like your story or your characters anymore, this is a lot less likely to work. People who are passionate about their characters and/or their story have more success defeating writer's block than those who are simply writing to get the damn thing done.)
Now, if you're suffering from the particular brand of writer's block that leeches your inspiration, there are ways to deal with that, too. Not all of them work for everybody, so try different things until you find one that's your kind of vodka.
~*~Don't let the story sit, waiting for inspiration to return. The longer you stay away from your story, the less you become attached to it. The less you become attached to it, the less inspiration you'll get. You see, it's a vicious cycle. If you don't feel like writing for a day, or even two, that's alright, go ahead and put it aside. But if it doesn't come back on its own, you have to call it back. Sit yourself down for a good forty-five minutes, reread the last scene, and force yourself to write – even if you only get a word out every five minutes. Usually, by the end of the forty-five minutes you'll be interested in what's happening again; you'll probably even want to keep writing.
~*~Build a routine. If you set aside two hours for yourself to write the story every day, you'll keep your imagination alive when it comes to the characters and the plotline, etc.
~*~Skip a scene. Sometimes it's possible to get snagged on a particularly difficult scene, which can frustrate you and drain your enthusiasm. If this happens to you, try skipping the scene and writing the next one, then coming back to the tough scene once you've been 'revitalized'.
~*~Role-play. Ever seen 'Who's Line is it Anyway?' If your story is starting to bore you, take your characters out of it and have some fun with them! Put them in weird situations, see what they do. Fall in love with them all over again; they'll be inspirational.
~*~The What If game. Seriously, playing the What If game is the universal solution to all things fictional. You can use it for things like conversation, too. Whenever you can't think of a character's response to something, it can be a really helpful and entertaining tool. Jane tells Bob that he's a piggy eater, and Suzy had no idea what Bob should say back. So she plays the game. What if Bob told Jane that she looked fat in that anti-global-warming suit? Would he die in three seconds or in four?
~*~PRE-WRITE BEFORE YOU POST. Sadly, there is the occasional case where writer's block cannot be cured. Either the author didn't invest enough time in her characters to really develop an attachment to them, she suddenly realized that she hated the storyline, or she renounced the art of writing altogether in favor of something less palatable, like microbiology. Whatever the case, the story is left hanging after the fourth or fifth chapter, to the disappointment of her readers, etc. The way to avoid this scenario is to pre-write the first eight to ten chapters of your story BEFORE you start posting it. This is a good move for many reasons. First, by the time you hit chapter ten you're virtually guaranteed to have developed a strong attachment to your characters and your story, hence you won't be very likely to let them die. Second, you're guaranteed to update at a fairly constant rate for at least the first ten weeks; if you suddenly get swamped with eleven huge school exams, you'll be able to set writing aside for a week or two without being nagged to death about updating. Third, your revising will be more effective since you'll be able to set aside what you've written for longer periods of time. Fourth, if you do lose your inspiration somewhere around chapter five, the only person you'll be disappointing is yourself, rather than a hoard of carrot-throwing readers. And finally, you'll be under less pressure to write fast; hence you'll be able to concentrate more on taking your time and turning out a quality piece of work. Bask in the benefits, people. PRE-WRITE, PRE-WRITE, PRE-WRITE!
Section 9: Summary Skills
This is probably the section that I feel least qualified to write, but I'll do what I can. It's one of the great injustices in life that you can write the most amazing novel on earth, and if you don't have a good summary, people will never read it. I hate summaries. They're evil. How are you supposed to sum up 150 pages of hard work and elaborate happenings into a mere sentence or two? 'Tisn't an easy task, my friend. I've found it helps to write the summary before I get really involved in the story, because that way I don't feel compelled to hint at all the intriguing little aspects I create later on. One thing's for sure: you need to make it catchy. It has to snatch the short attention span of a passer-by enough to make him click on the story and read your oh-so-enchanting first sentence. Here are some of the things I've noticed about good summaries, along with appropriate real-life examples:
**They're funny. Nothing snags a potential reader like a laugh. Ex: Alex: being shipped off to boarding school where her brothers and arch nemesis reside. Damien: the arch nemesis. Conflict arises in this battle between two former friends, but unbeknownst to Alex, Damien just happens to be madly in love with her. (Adversary Extraordinaire by precocious)
**They're explosive. Useful when you're going for this kind of reaction: 'Whoa. *click*' Ex: Samantha is a normal college student, until her apartment falls victim to a bomb, and she's kidnapped by a very mysterious, very handsome stranger, whose intentions aren't all that clear. (Samantha by Mystified)
**They defy convention. Everyone hates clichés. Defy them! Ex: You know those stories where the preppy girl gets coincidentally paired with the bad ass. Then over a 2-week period they share many adventures, and eventually by the end they fall madly in love? Well this is not one of those stories. (The Partner by VintageWhiteGloves)
**They introduce interesting characters. Especially appropriate for character-based stories (go figure that one, huh? ;P) Ex: Meet Charisse, an obsessed prep, in love with Oz. - Meet Oz, a goth/punk who hasn't noticed Charisse yet. - Meet Stine, Oz's best friend, who currently loathes everything about Charisse and has no idea why she falls for him instead of Oz. (He Punks Me Not by Give Me The Gun)
**They introduce a strange situation. Again, because it's just o-so-quotable…Who put the What in the Where now?? Ex: Angel hated the monotony of her new job… until her space cruiser crashes, she meets a beautiful stowaway and the 3 most wanted criminals in the universe... (H2O by elizabeth-margaret)
**They capture a memorable moment. How the hell did that happen? One way to find out… Ex: After a drunken night, Lira finds herself in bed with Jude, an old childhood nemesis. It gets worse when they find that they're married. But when an opportunity too good to pass up presents itself, what will happen when they decide to stay married? (Hello Kitty by Endless Dark)
**They have personality. Sometimes you can just see the author's entertaining attitude shining through, which is always appealing… Ex: Sam Westlane is the new kid in the famous all boys Crestan High School for the rich and the spoiled . . . there's only one problem: Sam is a girl . . . (False Facades by Maeven)
(Sidenote: I haven't actually read all the stories listed here, so in the unlikely event that you're one of the mentioned authors, and I haven't reviewed you…that would be why. Nice summary though! Hehe, heh, hm.)
Section 10: Conclusion
Whoadang that took a long time. Hahaha, well it shall be worth it if it helps you. Apologies if I've left anything out; naturally, you're more than welcome to e-mail me. Otherwise, g'head and get writing! And may the anti-carrot force be with you. ;) *Jane and Bob wave goodbye* *Suzy groans from under the mound of carrots that is her shallow grave, a warning to all who dare to walk her unfortunate path* Have a nice day, reader dearest. *le wink*