Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wednesday Writers Tips... Cause and Effect in story structure

While riffling through one of my many writers craft books (and if you've been following my blog you know I have a lot) I found this interesting discussion on Cause and Effect from Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron.

The Logic of If, Then, Therefore 
As we know, both life and story are driven by emotion, but what they’re ordered by is logic. Logic is the yang to emotion’s yin. It’s no surprise that our memories – how we make sense of the world – are logically interrelated. According to [Antonio] Damasio, the brain tends to organize the profusion of input and memories, “much like a film editor would, by giving it some kind of coherent narrative structure in which certain actions are said to cause certain effects.” 
Since the brain analyzes everything in terms of cause and effect, when a story doesn’t follow a clear cause-and-effect trajectory, the brain doesn’t know what to make of it – which can trigger a sensation of physical distress, not to mention the desire to pitch the book out the window. The good news is, when it comes to keeping your story on track, it boils down to the mantra if, then, therefore. If I put my hand in the fire (action), then I’ll get burned (reaction). Therefore, I’d better not put my hand in the fire (decision). 
Action, reaction, decision – it’s what drives a story forward. From beginning to end, a story must follow a cause-and-effect trajectory so when your protagonist finally tackles her ultimate goal, the path that led her there not only is clear, but in hindsight, reveals exactly why this confrontation was inevitable from the very start. Note the critical words in hindsight. Everything in a story should indeed be utterly predictable, but only from the satisfying perspective of “the end.” 
This is not to say that a story has to be linear or that the cause-and-effect route it takes must be chronological — quite the contrary. It can take death-defying leaps in time and location and even be told backward.

Each chapter in Wired starts with a "Cognitive Secret",  how we perceive the world around us and how we can use that to write a more compelling story, then how it translates to the "Story Secret". 

For example, in Chapter 8: Cause and Effect, where the quote is taken from, the Cognitive Secret is: From birth, our brain's primary goal is to make casual connections -- if this, then that. The Story Secret is: A story follows a cause-and-effect trajectory from start to finish.

Other chapters include: How to Hook the Reader, How to Zero In on Your Point, What Does Your Protagonist Really Want? and Courting Conflict, the Agent of Change. Those are just a few of the story-building topics covered.

Check out my Writers Craft Bookshelf.

Have you read this book? What was your favorite topic?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wednesday Writers Tips... After you publish your Indie book, what comes next?

There are a slew of How-To Books about Indie Publishing out there. I came across one focused specifically on what to do after you publish your book. It is targeted to the "...unknown self publisher with their first or second indie book." It takes you step-by-step through actions you can take to promote your book.

The First Ten Steps by M.R. Mathias.
(available in eBook and Paper Back)

The first two steps are actually reminders of what you should do before you publish: Step One / A Good Book, discusses writing the best book you can.

"If you want to succeed as an author without big money publishing behind you, laying the foundation for yourself and your first book is one of the most important things you can do. Lay the ground work properly, and you can build a rock solid platform."

Step Two / Look at your Book Cover, discusses the importance of a good cover. "...the cover doesn't have to be great, just a good, traditional looking book cover."

Step Three / My good book, with its good cover is uploaded. What do I do now? This starts the section with lots of tips and info for building your platform.

There's one tip in Step Three that is worth more than the cost of this book, though at this time it's listed for only $2.99 (for the ebook on Amazon). Back to the tip:

First, you make a text or word file called "Link File". Copy and paste the links to your books "sell pages" in there. This will be a handy reference when making tweets and posting about your book. 

I've taken this tip several steps further. I call the file My Links. Besides listing my buy links I also list my social network links, QR codes, links to interviews (author and character) as a guest on other's blogs, links to my YouTube Trailer, links to author pages, ISPNs & ASINs, links to free reads and sample chapters. I also have several versions of my author bio (different sites have different character lengths that you are allowed), several versions of my book descriptions (as with the bio, different sites have different character length requirement). Now that I have three books published I'm thinking I'll have to divide my document. One with social media and general links, then one for each of my books. That's another To Do.

In MSWord I give each section a 'headline style', then turn on the 'document map', which makes it easier to find what I'm looking for.

I'm not sure how to attach a doc to this blog, but if you go to my website you can download a FREE template in Word 97-2004+ which you can fill in with your links. FREE DOWNLOAD.

Back to The First Ten Steps, Mathias goes on to list social media and what you can do with it, how to find readers, how to grow your followers, how to use hashtags (#) effectively. He discusses giveaways, contests, and blog advertising. He also discusses what he's tried that hasn't worked for him.

Lot's of helpful info in this little book.

For more helpful writers craft books visit my bookshelf.

~ Christy

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wednesday Writers Tips... Those who can, do. Those who can't, learn.

You remember the old saying: Those who can, do. Those who can't teach. 

Maybe that works in some arenas but in the great community of writers at our fingertips, it's not true at all. There are so many writers out there paying it forward, sharing what they've learned by experience and from other writers.

There's no excuse for not learning how to be a better writer. If you really want to improve your skills,  go looking for the 'teachers' out there.

There are several blogs I follow. In no particular order here are some to explore.

Are you struggling with one manuscript? Can't let it go? But want to move on?
 Why My First 5 Novels Are Locked in a Closet by Jody Hedlund discusses how those first novels are often "practice" and how a writer grows with each new novel.

Looking for a one-stop site with articles about the novel process from Idea to Sell? 
The Other Side of the Story by Janice Hardy has over 500 articles on writing fiction. Pick one that addresses your current concerns. For instance Premise & Theme, Point of View, Critiques & Feedback.

Looking to connect with other authors and their process? There are any number of sites where members and guests share. 
Creating Your Fictitious Town by Kim Watters not only gives advice on creating your fictitious town/world, but also gives a chatty glance into her world as a writer.

Looking for help fleshing out your characters and settings? 
The Bookshelf Muse has been collecting and publishing comprehensive descriptions for Emotions, Physical Attributes, Character Traits, Weather and Earthly Phenomena, Colors Textures and Shapes. See the top of the side bar for the collections published as ebooks or paperback. Below them, in the side bar are links to descriptions not yet collected into books. You can download Emotion Amplifiers for free.

Looking for a place where writers help writers?
The Bookshelf Muse is now an archived static site (still worth bookmarking as a reference site) and the members have moved to a new site with an appropriate name: Writers Helping Writers, where they will have more room to grow. I'm looking forward to exploring the new site.

These are just of few of the sites I've found in my search to learn more about the craft of writing.

But beware! You don't want to spend all your time reading about writing instead of writing!

Do you have favorite GO TO blogs or web sites that you return to again and again while crafting your novel writing skills?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wednesday Writers Tips… T‘N’T

When I was young, around eight or ten, I participated in a program called the Character Research Project. Each day – I don’t remember for how long, it seemed like all summer, but it was probably just a week or two – we did a different lesson designed to teach us life skills. I don’t remember much about the lessons except for one. T‘N’T. That one made an impression on me that has helped me in my creative endeavors ever since.

So, what exactly is T‘N’T? It stands for Time and Talent. The theory goes that if you have a lot of talent, you don’t need much time to be successful. However, if you have less talent, with time you can still be successful. Whether it’s learning to knit a lace stitch, completing a watercolor painting without muddy colors, or writing a book, with the right amount of Time and Talent you can accomplish your goals.

The thing is, most people have more time than they have talent. You may find yourself in the position where you’re more talented than your peers, but not as talented as those who shoot to the top seemingly overnight.

Next time you read about an instant star and wish you could have instant success, too, remember T‘N’T. Give yourself enough time to balance the scales in your favor. Use your time to learn, explore, and practice. Have patience. You may not rise to the top as soon as you wish, but you’ll go farther than if you just sat back and wished you had more talent.

~ Christy