A Scene Defined


A Scene Defined

Natalie Bright

The scene is the unit of story, and in a book usually starts with a character arriving and ends when something has changed. A scene propels the story forward.

  1. Scenes in a book are anchored in a certain place and certain time.
  2. A narrative summary can describe the specifics of your scene.
  3. Scenes usually contain some type of visible action, not just internal thinking from the character.
  4. Do not use italics for internal dialogue, or what your character is “thinking”. Once the standard norm, the point of digging deep is writing inside your character’s head.
  5. Keep the scene and action moving. No backstory in the first chapter (maybe two). Hook the reader, and save the backstory for later.
  6. Skillfully weave your backstory into the story, these can be tension filled scenes into itself.
  7. End scenes (chapters) with a hook—a punchy, pithy statement.

Does your scene play like a movie in your head?

Agents of Evil


Agents of Evil

Natalie Bright

Every great story has a villain. A character who drives your main character crazy and prevents him/her from reaching their goal.

A great novel has tension on every page, and the antagonists’ strengths are stronger than the protagonist. There’s no fun in reading a story with a stupid criminal. Ramp up the conflict, create tension in every scene.

Below is a thought-provoking list of the types of antagonists, based on my notes from a writing workshop I attended at the WTAMU Writers Academy several years ago:

Accidental Villian–fatal flaw, does not set out to be bad, bitterly regrets the act of villainy, the evil acts keep snowballing.

Examined Villian–intends to sin, plans crime carefully and meticulously, criminals always have a good reason, criminals rationalize their behavior because what they do makes perfect sense to them.

Surprise Villian– introduced sympathetically and later it is revealed that this person is evil.

Over the Top Villian — untextured bad guy, not realistic as found in the form of comic book characters, their sole purpose is to make things difficult for the good guys, quircky, different, extreme.

Mundane Criminal — not larger than life, but wrong for their own advantage.

Now go write a character profile about a very bad person for your next story.

Cardboard Characters


Cardboard Characters

Natalie Bright

One of the most difficult tasks for a writer is to create fictional characters that seem real and believable to the reader. I love books in which characters seem to jump off the page and ones that remains in my head long after the book is closed.

Much Like Cardboard

Are your characters more like cardboard; stiff, emotionless, without personality? They have names and faces, but they are just on the surface of your story and nothing more. The solution: dig deeper into your character’s motivation.

As an author, you must torture your characters. It is impossible to reveal deep character feelings and personalities without applying deep, intense pressure. The ways in which they react to that pressue reveals their temperament and psyche.

Using Character Profiles

Complete character profiles on both your protagonist and your antagonist. There are many great example forms available online.

Don’t stop at the name. Create a birthdate, a history of where they were born, family description, dominate characteristics, weaknesses, and physical limitations. Create historical events for your character that might have happened in their life such as school’s name, college, children’s names, etc.

Write A Letter

Many of my author friends write a letter in first person POV from their character. Don’t think; just free write. Let them reveal their secrets, desires, fears, self-image.

This trick worked great for me on the story I am working on now. My main characters are a young mule-skinner and a Comanche brave. I am alternating chapters between their points of view. I want to show the contrast between how very different their worlds are, yet they are both sixteen-year-old boys. They each wrote me a letter about their different worlds. One holds a great hatred for his father, and the other resents the physical limitations he has to live with. Now I have something to build upon and add the conflict. At this point, writing is more fun than work.

Keep moving forward and thanks for following WordsmithSix!

 

What Is A Novel?


What Is A Novel?

Natalie Bright

NOVEL Defined:

A novel is a fictional exploration of a universal truth as viewed by the author consisting of narrative prose, a theme, a setting, and a plot.

A novel has a protagonist: readers must relate and care about someone in the story. One character that rises above the frey and accomplishes his or her goal against all odds.

The purpose of your novel: elicit EMOTION in the reader. Escape and entertain. Go for the reader’s heartstrings.

Readers remember images even when they are reading written words. Your job as a writer is to create vivid pictures, or images, in the readers’ mind.

Formatting Your eBook for Publication


Formatting Your eBook for Publication

Natalie Bright

I tried.

With open mind, I tried to learn everything about book formatting, because smart business owners should have an understanding about every component of their operation. Because I kept reading about issues with Microsoft Word conversions, I decided it might be best to make sure my book looks perfect in the format each distributor prefers.

The Scrivener online class was great [learnscrivenerfast.com] and I LOVE how organized my writing projects are, but the power of Scrivener is in the compile feature. I don’t like those 15 space paragraph indentions when my book comes up in the Kindle previewer and I cannot make them go away. Uhggg.

Another online class on Adobe InDesign for my picture books, researching conversion software with reviews out the whazoo (use this one vs. never use it, only use this one…), more instructional videos. And yes, I know there is exceptional software for MACs only. Don’t own one.

Appeals to our 20-something office manager who is supposed to be keeping our other stuff going while I do book stuff. Even she couldn’t help me, and she’s brilliant, so moving on. 1 month, 2 months, 3 months. What did I write during that time, you might wonder? A few blogs and the draft for an easy reader, and we did finish parent taught driver’s education which is HUGE and has nothing to do with my writing career.

Here is a rundown on the different formats to take our book “wide”. In a nutshell, set up an account and submit your properly formatted manuscript:

Amazon Kindle: MOBI

Kobo: refer to their conversion guidelines, but everything is converted to EPUB.

Smashwords: prefers DOC, DOCX which goes through a MeatGrinder, which turns it into an EPUB.

CreateSpace: PDF for print; fonts and pics must be embedded.

Ingram/Lightning Source: refer to the 37 page “File Creation Guide” (yikes! This made my stomach hurt.)

Draft2Digital: Their process creates an EPUB. Good news: you can skip the distributors above, as D2D will do the conversions for free and put it everywhere you want for 10% of your sales.

The Question

So, it boils down to this very important question: would you hire me to do your book formatting?

Absolutely NOT. Are you crazy? You are a savvy Indie Author and a smart business owner to boot. I wouldn’t hire me either, so I fired myself. There is this guy I know who is an absolute whiz and saved me another three months of learning software that I have no desire to understand.

Thank you, Phillip! www.GessertBooks.com

The Next Question

Accounts are set-up, submitted books are approved, tiny prayer for no typos, and then I am moving on to the next question. Who are my readers and where can I find them?

 

WRITE ON!


WRITE ON!

Natalie Bright

 

We had a great discussion at critique group about the myriad of publishing options for today’s writers. One of the reasons I love our critique group, is we each have so many different projects in the works and we write in various genres. Somebody is always coming up with a new story idea. It’s like an inspirational feeding frenzy of words.

This week, one of our members brought the first draft of a children’s book about a rodeo horse based on one of his published magazine articles. What a great idea! Someone pointed out that kids books have a longevity because there are always new generations of readers waiting to discover your book. You just have to keep telling parents about it. I got to thinking that it’s not just children’s literature. With electronic books, our work will stay out there floating around in eBook land long after we’re gone. Will my kids keep tweeting about my backlist? Will Amazon be around in 10 years? 25 years?

Regardless of the opportunities to choose agented traditional publishing or to be an Indie Author, the decision to become a writer and publish your work is for the long haul. You will be talking about your stories and lugging books around for the rest of your life. This is a marathon, just like any passionate career choice. The bad news, there is a new title published on Amazon every five minutes. It’s getting more and more tedious to get the word out and connect with the readers who care. The good news, authors are finding ways to connect directly with their fans and readers like never before. Crafting an engaging story is hard work. Identifying your target market—the people who will love your book—is an even bigger challenge.

“If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For passion will lead you right into your purpose.”

Head-Jump Point of View


 

Head-Jump Point of View

Natalie Bright

I am alternating chapters between two main characters points of view, and in the first draft I used third person for one character and first person for the other. The reason I used first person is the idea of digging deeper into that character who has a lot of inner conflict. He is very complex and I want the reader to understand that. When using first person point of view, it’s harder to “head-jump” from one character to the next, however it is a challenge to find something to replace the repetitive “I” word. And now I’m rethinking the whole thing during the editing process. Perhaps I will rewrite those chapters and keep it all in third person. And then there are the overlapping scenes; the action from one character’s viewpoint and then the same scene interpreted by the other character’s point of view. I like books with that perspective when it is well done. The problem will be to make sure I stay in one character’s head for that one scene and chapter, and not switch.

If you begin the scene in one character’s head and then jump to another character’s head, and then maybe another, your reader will get lost. It is too hard for the reader to stay with your scene. Have you ever been reading and had to go back several pages to figure out where you were and who is talking? I hate when that happens.

The most common situation when writers purposefully “Head-Jump” is in romance scenes, and that is called “turning on a dime”. A common action or item, is that cause of the switch from one character’s head into another. A kiss, for example. When it’s done well, it can be very smooth, but sometimes it can very awkward and disorienting for the reader.

THE END! Now what?


THE END! Now what?

Natalie Bright

We had a great discussion at WordsmithSix meeting about the next step, after you’ve edited and polished your manuscript. You are ready to publish: now what? Several of our members have finished, or are in the home stretch with their manuscripts, and have a very big decision: a) shop their book with agents and editors and pursue a traditional publishing deal, or b) become an Indie Author. We try to keep it real here at Wordsmith Six, so here’s your reality check:

Today’s publishing environment is exhilarating and exhausting. It basically boils down to the following issues, assuming you have a polished and edited book ready for publication.

A. Traditional Publishing

1. Author receives 10% royalty from sales (+/- depending on deal).

2. Author pays 15% from their share to a literary agent, who negotiates the deal.

3. Publication date: years (some smaller presses move faster)

$. Advance: possible, but not guaranteed

6. Sign on the dotted line and give up ALL rights to your novel, characters, cover design, content. You are out of the process, which is a huge relief and appealing to some authors. Go write the next book.

7. Big name publisher assists with promotion (minimal for first-time authors, but invaluable if you are at best seller status). Authors maintain website and social media.

8. Publication Date: Years from now.

9. Validation from a traditional publishing house and the writing community (this is exciting because we all have big dreams).

B. Indie Author

1. Author receives 70% cut of sales (+/- depending on venue)

2. Author learns how, or pays out-of-pocket for professional editor, formatting, cover design, promotion. Most indie authors agree, the work is 50% writing and 50% business owner. You maintain complete control.

3. Go wide as in world wide eBooks and/or Print. You identify the target markets and you design promotion that best connects with your readers.

3.Publication Date: within weeks from this very minute. You decide launch date.

4. Validation from family and local community. Your cousin doesn’t care if the publisher is Me Writer, LLC or Random House, they just want to buy a copy of your book. The local book club is excited to hear your talk.

Have I left anything off of the list that might be significant to newbie authors based on your experience?

This past Saturday, I went to the Texas High Plains Writers workshop by Indie Author Bethany Claire[bethanyclaire.com who has propelled herself and her Scottish time-travel series to best-selling status. She has become successful on her own terms, to the point that she was able to hire her mother as her assistant. They are developing an online class to help other indie authors who are serious about elevating their writing to the next level and who want to build a successful business.

After Saturday’s workshop, I feel better about a recent decision regarding my own work. At the end of last year, I turned down an offer from a small press. For the standard 10% royalty and no advance, I would have signed away an entire page and one-half listing of rights for my inspirational book. Sure, this deal might have propelled it in the market place, but I had to submit a marketing plan as well. Why do publishers want rights they never intend to exploit? That’s not to say traditional publishing deals are something I’d never consider. It depends on the book. For this one, I said no thanks.

Remove your author big-dreams cap for a moment and look at things through clear, sensible eyes. This is business. YOUR business. What process will be optimal for the book in hand, and for your continued success? You have three choices: traditionally published; an Indie AuthorPrenuer all the way; or a ‘hybrid’, which is an author who has published books through both options. It’s all good.

Keep writing, be excellent, and more importantly, get your work out there so I can read it!

Formatting Your eBook for Publication


Formatting Your eBook for Publication

Natalie Bright

I tried.

With open mind, I tried to learn everything about book formatting, because smart business owners should have an understanding about every component of their operation. Because I kept reading about issues with Microsoft Word conversions, I decided it might be best to make sure my book looks perfect in the format each distributor prefers.

The Scrivener online class was great [learnscrivenerfast.com] and I LOVE how organized my writing projects are, but the power of Scrivener is in the compile feature. I don’t like those 15 space paragraph indentions when my book comes up in the Kindle previewer and I cannot make them go away. Uhggg.

Another online class on Adobe InDesign for my picture books, researching conversion software with reviews out the whazoo (use this one vs. never use it, only use this one…), more instructional videos. And yes, I know there is exceptional software for MACs only. Don’t own one.

Appeals to our 20-something office manager who is supposed to be keeping our other stuff going while I do book stuff. Even she couldn’t help me, and she’s brilliant, so moving on. 1 month, 2 months, 3 months. What did I write during that time, you might wonder? A few blogs and the draft for an easy reader, and we did finish parent taught driver’s education which is HUGE and has nothing to do with my writing career.

Here is a rundown on the different formats to take our book “wide”. In a nutshell, set up an account and submit your properly formatted manuscript:

Amazon Kindle: MOBI

Kobo: refer to their conversion guidelines, but everything is converted to EPUB.

Smashwords: prefers DOC, DOCX which goes through a MeatGrinder, which turns it into an EPUB.

CreateSpace: PDF for print; fonts and pics must be embedded.

Ingram/Lightning Source: refer to the 37 page “File Creation Guide” (yikes! This made my stomach hurt.)

Draft2Digital: Their process creates an EPUB. Good news: you can skip the distributors above, as D2D will do the conversions for free and put it everywhere you want for 10% of your sales.

The Question

So, it boils down to this very important question: would you hire me to do your book formatting?

Absolutely NOT. Are you crazy? You are a savvy Indie Author and a smart business owner to boot. I wouldn’t hire me either, so I fired myself. There is this guy I know who is an absolute whiz and saved me another three months of learning software that I have no desire to understand.

Thank you, Phillip! www.GessertBooks.com

The Next Question

Accounts are set-up, submitted books are approved, tiny prayer for no typos, and then I am moving on to the next question. Who are my readers and where can I find them?

 

WORDS WITH POTENTAIL


WORDS WITH POTENTAIL

Natalie Bright

At last week’s critique meeting, we listened to a story that had been written many years ago. Even though this writer has improved greatly, it was solid—very entertaining and horrifying—we loved it! The potential is even greater based on the feedback. Written as a short story, it’s going to be part of an anthology. I think this author is on the right track by compiling several of her strongest short stories together in one publication. ( I can hardly wait to buy that book, Nandy Ekle!)
Whatever your work in progress might be, whatever fire is burning in your gut at this very minute, whatever idea deserves your attention, those words can become something entirely different in the future. Keep your mind open to the opportunities. For heaven’s sake, don’t delete it! Even bad writing has potential. You can’t edit a blank page. (Wish I had all of those stories and poems I wrote in college. I tossed that journal years ago.)
After I found my way back to writing, a story I wrote about a cowboy called Cecil was accepted in an anthology published by TCU Press almost 13 years later. There is no way I could have known that I would meet a ranch hand with the same name! Meeting the real-life, horse-riding cowboy named Cecil just added more depth and color to my short story. It needed work and it needed a critique from WordsmithSix peeps, for sure. The story became better because of my experiences a decade later. With the help of my critique group, that short story became good enough for publication.
You may be at a point in your writing when it seems rejection is a clear message to give up your dreams of becoming a published author. The very first words by David Morrell, creator of Rambo, keeps echoing through my brain after I heard his talk at an Oklahoma conference,

“Don’t question the why.”

I share this because I have spent, actually wasted, too many years questioning the why. And now I’m asking myself, why for different reasons. Why didn’t I finish that book? I’m staring at a stack of sticky notes and marked up articles for blog ideas, so why didn’t I write them? There’s no way that I could have known back in 1999 that I’d need material in 2017 for two blogs and three orgnizational newsletters. I would have never imagined that I’d have a talented critique group who could boost my confidence and my words. The struggle to write never ceases. Now I’m faced with a part-time day job that will probably go back to full-time soon, and I’ll be frustratingly juggling writing time. What crazy life is this? Opps, there I go again—questioning the why.

The story is in us. The story picked us. We can’t possibly know why. I have to keep reminding myself to stop stressing and find joy in the process.

“Every story I’ve written was written because I had to write it. Writing stories is like breathing for me, it is my life.”
RAY BRADBURY

Find Natalie’s blogs and articles here:
Blogging every Monday about writing life at wordsmithsix.com
Blogging every Friday about the Texas Panhandle at “Prairie Purview”. Read her blogs at nataliebright.com or on the Amazon Author page.
Sign up for here for the newsletter: nataliebright.com
Natalie is editor of “The Window”, the official newsletter of one of the oldest writing organizations in the country, Texas High Plains Writers, org. 1920 in Amarillo, Texas. Here’s the link. panhandleprowriters.org.