- Everyone who wants to write a book should.
- Everyone who writes a book has the right to sell it, if they want.
- Everyone who buys a book deserves the best quality book the author can create. (There’s more. Lots more.)
I’m gathering resources to create some kind of structure checklist for my writing and wanted to share 3 useful lists and concepts I’ve encountered the past week.
In her blog today author Lia London tells a harrowing tale of lies, betrayal, fraud — that wasn’t her latest book, it was her previous publishing efforts.
In a Facebook group I’m part of, someone asked for recommendations for a web designer. I dropped my name on the list, already 100 posts long.
The “where should I host my site?” question is asked often, garnering the same list of responses each time: “GoDaddy!” “Anywhere but GoDaddy!” “HostThingy” “ThingHost” “HostHost” “Hostess Cupcakes” “Charlottezweb” (because I’ll never skip an opportunity to promote Jason’s marvelous hosting, even if it gets lost in the crowd.)
We’re re-watching Longmire from the beginning, hoping the long-awaited 4th season will start the night after we finish the cliffhanger of season 3. In last night’s episode Walt tells Henry the reason he’s pulling fingerprints from a car’s steering wheel instead of having one of his deputies do it: “If you want something done right, you do it yourself.”
Rather than debate the debatable truth of the statement, let’s talk about why we believe that.
The most popular posts here at Someday Box are my deep dive into story structure called Your Story in 12 Sentences.
We love lists. We love step-by-step instructions. We love knowing exactly the right moment to do precisely the right thing so it all comes out right.
Mix the right amounts of flour, sugar, egg, milk, and whatnot and put it in the oven at this temperature for that long, and it’s a cake, every single time. (Okay, maybe not every single time, but almost.)
Authors are people, and as people, we want checklists and step-by-step instructions, too.
Especially for marketing.
In the past few years I have started, but not finished:
- A coming of age story with a strong musical element
- The first mystery in a new series with a rather artistic protagonist
- The first mystery in a new series with a female protagonist
- A Jeeves & Wooster/P. G. Wodehouse-inspired light comedy with a mysterious twist.
They are unfinished, not because they aren’t good, but because I didn’t know how to make the last 1/3 (or 1/2 or 2/3) as good as what was already written.
Not because I don’t know how to use words. Never been a problem. I was reading at college level when I started Kindergarten back in the Jurassic Era.
What I didn’t know was, once you start building a bridge of story from over here and it spans half the chasm, how do you keep it from collapsing into the ravine until you can make it land over there?
In other words, what is the structure of a story?
When you’ve made a dumb mistake and someone points it out, is that helpful?
I am reminded of of a scene from John Cleese’s brilliant Fawlty Towers where Basil Fawlty reacts to his wife Sybils’ comments: “Perhaps we can get you on Mastermind; next contestant, Sybil Fawlty from Torquay, special category, The Bleedin’ Obvious!”
When you find yourself wondering why a character in a book or on screen is taking certain action, sometimes the problem is nature.
Nature conserves energy, physical and mental. We don’t take actions which we don’t believe are the minimum conservative necessary action. Our wiring makes us look for the easy solution to whatever comes our way. And if it’s something we can ignore, inaction is the ultimate conservation. We do nothing. Lots of it.
Making our characters do something because it’s good for the story is weak writing. Readers will sense something’s amiss because they instinctively grasp nature’s imperative.
I’m highly unlikely to walk out to the frozen edge of the lake and look around, just so some storyteller can make me find a body and let them get on writing their mystery.
Much that is popular doesn’t pass muster with me. Music, books, food, travel, clothing: if it’s trendy, I’m probably not there. Not because I dislike being trendy; far from it. I love being the center of attention, being one of the cool kids, as much as (or more than) most. My tastes don’t seem to line up with popular. Probably plays a role in why I’m not.
What’s popular in all those categories is what sells. In each, there are lessons I can learn. We can eschew the package and order a la carte.
Over at the Writer’s Village, writer and coach John Yeoman hosted Anthony Metivier’s article 13 Reasons Why I Love James Patterson – And You Should Too. Metivier comes at Patterson from all angles. Number eight is a writing lesson I’ve been seeing without learning for ages.
Someone described the method of steering a sailboat called “tacking” as first sailing in a direction to the left of where you want to go, and then sailing in a direction to the right of where you want to go. The process of shifting from left to right is called “coming about.”
Get on a sailboat and everyplace you want to go is against the wind. Forces external to the boat, such as wind and currents and other boats, cause you to adjust your heading, even if you haven’t changed your destination. That’s also a possibility: discovering that the beach you’re heading for is crowded, but over that way is an open spot you’d prefer.
Same with any business venture.
The oak tree keeps its dead leaves through winter, dropping them in spring. Its dark trunk slides through the bronze leaves, gilded by the sunset over the frozen snow-covered lake.
The healing burn on my hand looks horrific now, but at its most painful it simply looked like a large blister.
When I look through the glass of the patio door at this angle, it is so wavy from age that objects beyond it, trees, mostly, seem to move as I adjust position in my office chair.
There’s almost no difference between the ATV tracks in the snow and those you’d see in sand.
As the sun sets, shining slightly in my eyes, the house looks darker by contrast, when in fact it is lighter than at any other time of day.
The knots holding the dining room chair cushions in place are never even; one always off to the side or listing somewhat to port.