Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Opening Scenes: A Very Good Place to Start

The opening scene can make or break a book, and should always be chosen with great thought and care. (If the first draft opening is giving you too much trouble though, don't stress about it. As long as you have the perfect opening scene in place before submission!) 

I am a firm believer in the rule "In late, out early" (my "Rule #1"), especially in how it pertains to opening scenes. You want to begin your book either right as the actual story begins, right after, or smack in the middle of it. If you begin before the actual story, your reader will usually lose interest before they even get to the good part. Begin with the good part.

When I pick my opening scene, I normally choose from two options:

1. Action -- Always a great place to start because it pulls the reader in right from the get-go. But the catch is to then keep the reader caught up until the very end. If you slow for too long, the reader will become bored. Always be sure to keep the story moving.
2. Main Character Introduction -- If you are going open by introducing your character, be sure to put them in a situation that makes the reader curious (or if you're lucky, desperate) for more. An intro can be very dull if executed poorly, so be sure to pick an interesting situation to throw at your character. (Rule #2: ALWAYS keep it interesting.)
(Combining both 1 & 2 can be good, but the action can sometimes overshadow the character, so just be careful.)

Opening with Description: I tend to avoid opening with Description at all costs. In my own reading, every time I come across a large chunk of description beginning a story ("It was a dark and stormy night" let me describe it for you in great detail), I usually skip over it - or move on to another book. If I don't like this type of opening, I most certainly don't want to put off my own readers with it.

With Project ID, I chose #2. In my opening scene you discover EP's (my main character) living environment, some habits, a taste of her occupation, and how her mind works in a simple visit from a door-to-door salesman. The reader is moved from one curiosity to the next: Why has she only been asleep for two hours and twenty-three minutes? Why are there paperback novels littering the floor? Why in the world is she studying the encyclopedia like that? Unanswered questions will encourage the reader deeper into the story.

Whatever your opening scene, it has to be just like any other scene in your book: getting across as much relevant information as possible while moving the story right along. If it doesn't do both, then it probably shouldn't be there. My first scene leads EP on to her Division HQ, where she has a confrontation with her rival (an important character she has to work with later). Now riled, she goes straight to her Resident Agency, where we meet her partner - and from there her work begins. Everything should be connected, and each scene should flow right into the other. Anything extra that slows the flow should be cut.

So pick your opening scene well - the choice will make or break your novel. Begin late (with the good part) and never let the flow slow until the last sentence. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Ultimate Story

Today was to be spent working on ID, but alas my Muse had other ideas (she does that to me a lot). Instead, my mind is currently lost in the throes of my Ultimate Story.

If you are a writer, I think perhaps you will understand. A writer's Ultimate Story is that story that is constantly forming at the back of their imagination, collecting and forming around all the writer's favorite topics and character traits and the best bits of things they have read. It is a difficult thing to actually write, but it is magnificent to behold and a marvel to wrap your full attention around.

Whenever I try to give my Ultimate Story my full attention, however, it is always just out of reach - like my cat M who desires to be petted, but never wants you to actually touch him. My Ultimate Story may crowd to the front of my imagination for attention, but whenever I stop to ponder it, perhaps even begin to write it, it slips just beyond my reach. I end up in a daze as I mentally chase it around my vast imagination, trying to catch a hold of its tail, but alas after all these years it still eludes me.

If your Ultimate Story has not yet shown its shadow, or you are not [yet] a writer, my best example of an Ultimate Story is Harry Potter. Such characters, such plotting, such a complete and dazzling world! To write something even half as good would be the ultimate accomplishment.

So good luck with your own Ultimate Story - I am off to stare at the wall and chase mine around some more. Perhaps, one day, it will finally let me pet it.

Project ID

So what novel am I working on? We shall call it Project ID, an Adult Suspense/Mystery set in New Jersey. I like to think of it as "Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next meets Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum - in the future." Not to brag, forgiving reader, but I believe it could prove to be a bestseller (and possibly a bestselling series). Fingers crossed!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Introductions are in order.

Greetings, forgiving readers! Please call me Skye. I am an aspiring novelist with grand dreams of becoming a published author. Please look upon me kindly.

I have been writing for over ten years and have completed at least half a dozen 1st draft novels, started well over 50 others, and submitted two short stories for contests (one pending). All together I have written over 350,000 words and counting.

In the past year I have studied and grown much in the craft, and after many false starts I believe I have finally found a story I am truly passionate about writing! So I decided to hold myself to it and started this, my "official author blog," to keep me on track and so my readers can see just how long and hard but fun the process of creating my novel was (and hopefully, possibly, learn a few tips on writing their own novels as well).

So please look upon me kindly, forgiving readers. And on with the journey!