Mmmmm, first chapter.

It makes or breaks you, my friend.

Have you ever picked up a book, loved the cover, loved the back cover and opened it to the first chapter only to put it back after the first paragraph?

Why did you put it down?

I bet I know why. It didn’t grab you by the junk and scream “Read me!”

If your first paragraph is weak, readers will assume all your work is. Bring your A-game, boys and girls, and make that first chapter sing.

Ask yourself, am I starting too early?

Are my bases covered?

How is that all-important first line?

Do you have a good, solid critique partner/group that will rip it to shreds and offer mind blowing advice?

There are many elements that help engross a reader, and not everything works for every person. The better that opening is, the more people you will appeal to. After all, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, so set your trap wisely, my friend.

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To plot or not to plot?

Plot or wing it?

Now, usually you’ll hear me spout some nonsense “Write it how it needs to be written” or “what works for me won’t work for you”. However, in this one instance, I believe that one side produces better written work. (No, this is not aimed at anyone, I’m not calling anyone out.)

Without plot, stories fall flat. Most people don’t have the vision to hold an entire plot map in their heads. I mean, that is a lot of information, especially when you have subplots.

Now, how you plot, that is the real question.

I’m a fan of the eight point plot arc. It really helps me. Will it help you? Who knows? Try it.

I can hear you now. “Don’t tell me what to do– that eight point plot arc looks cool!”

I’m not telling you what to do, or that your way is wrong, just that, as writers we need to learn and grow all the time. Try new things, branch out, surprise yourself.

By failing to plan, you’re planning to fail. 

Even if your plan is a fistful of notes in crayon on a bar napkin, you’re still ahead of the guy who says “Ima write a novel now.”

 

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Said bookisms

Let’s have some fun.

Said bookisms.

Yep. I’m going there.

I’ve heard hundreds of arguments about this. Hundreds. I’m not kidding.

Here is what I’ve come down to. If you are looking for a traditional publisher, nix ‘em. Traditional editors will rant, rave, scream and cry over your bookisms.

I found a couple reasons why:

-In the “show don’t tell” rule, you are expected to convey the manner of speaking without telling us someone laughed, cried or shouted.

-My personal favorite; you can’t “laugh” words. You speak, you talk, you say.

I can hear your jaw drop as your protest rises. “But… but… but I can laugh out words!”

Unless you are some kind of freak with an unheard of speaking impediment, no. No you can’t. You can laugh while talking, yes. But the noise of laughter cannot physically form words. It is impossible.

That is the difference. You can hiss while speaking. You cannot hiss words. “Ssssssssssss” Can never sounds like “Sssssssome word” because as soon as the “s” sound is over, it is no longer a hiss. When it is no longer a hiss, you are back to saying the word.

Just sayin’.

Here is an interesting side-by-side comparison of work with and without saidisms.

 Now, things get tricky when we move from dialogue tags to action tags.

This sums it up nicely.

So, should you kill all dialogue tags with fire?

No.

Balance is key. To everything.

Oh, and writing a good book. Writing a good book is rule one.

Rule two? Everything in moderation.

“Good night, all!” he yelled. 

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Indie pub or traditional pub?

Let’s start things off with a bang.

Indie pub or traditional pub? (And don’t ask me my thoughts about vanity press.)

Well, let’s break stuff down.

Janet Reid raises some interesting points about wanting to go from self-pub to traditional pub. “Your odds of winning the lottery twice are better than your self-pubbed book being picked up by a mainstream publisher.” Ouch. 

We’ll, she’d know what she’s talking about. However, a lot of indies I know swear off trade publishers altogether, and let’s face it, “the man” is foundering, sinking. Don’t believe me? Well the “Big six” is now the “Big five”, and anyone who knows anyone in the library knows there has been talk about cutting out the physical books in favor of computers and ebooks.

Libraries. Not carrying physical books. 

Scared? I sure as hell am.

So… moving on…

On self-published authors ruining publishing.

Now, before you get your hackles up, remember, posts like this are often intended to create, well, drama. Want to get people talking? Behave badly and people will flock in in droves. 

As for me, I’m neutral.

I watch both sides with interest, and change is something I personally love. I am not published, at all. But this article really makes me mad.

Sure, some indie books suck. 

But do I even need to link this abomination with the proud Simon and Schuster label?

Don’t tell me all indie books are poorly edited then rave about Snookie’s “book” (Let’s use that term lightly.)

And this is why, as someone who dabbles in writing, I warn against sweeping statements. Are there more “Bad indie” books than terrible traditional books? Well, it’s all subjective. I mean, after all, 50 shades of Grey breaks 90% of the “rules” we are taught about “good” writing, yet somehow it’s huge. If something “poorly written” and “unedited” can outsell any number of countless well-written books, well, it goes to show that a lot of readers obviously don’t care all that much about editing.

Which is better? Who knows? Who cares? Write your book. Polish it. (or don’t.)  But make sure, above all else, the story is good, engaging, and perhaps you’ll get lucky.

So tell me; are you feeling lucky, punk?

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