Friday, January 28, 2005

STORYCRAFT - by Lynne Connolly

-----Original Message-----
"...I like to write in an organic sort of way but I'm thinking I should put more energy into creating a conflict of some sort to drive my tales even though they are short. The problem is, when I think too much, it gets contrived and I hate that.

"I am looking for the way other people think about this issue rather than advice. How do you keep things moving? Do your conflicts and points of tension emerge naturally out of your stories or do you really think hard about what they will be? Can just painting a picture of something beautiful be as worthy of reading as a full blown plot arc?"
(from Ms. Connolly) - Are you writing purely for your own pleasure, or are you writing to sell your work to a publisher or magazine?

If you're writing for yourself, the only person you have to please is yourself. You don't have to finish anything you get bored with, you don't have to worry about tension and conflict.

Writing to sell, or even to encourage other people to read your work, you have to take other matters into consideration. Your first customer is your publisher, so you have to study what is popular, what is selling, and what is not.

Know What the Publisher will Publish.
Publishing is a business like any other and if you want to sell you have to live by (the individual publisher's) rules. That's just the way it is. It's only courteous not to waste (a publisher's) time by, for instance, by sending an erotic story to a Christian publishing house.

In a recent WIP, (Work in Progress) I wrote a serial killer. I wanted to ratchet up the tension by making him a child killer, but my publisher doesn't allow child killing, so I redrafted and rewrote.

In the field of erotica, you have to take note of taboos. Most mainstream erotica publishers ban; 'real' rape, bestiality, pedophilia and sex involving bodily waste. There are some rules I choose to break, and some publishing houses that will not accept them. But I know what I'm doing.

Fill your Writer's Toolbox...

In order for any publisher to take your work seriously, ie that your manuscript is sellable, you have to take note of certain conventions. Lets not get into what (writing) rules you can break and what you can't. A lot of that depends on the story you want to tell, and your skill. All writers have things they are good at, and things they need to work at.

Learn your strengths and weaknesses.

Read books on plot, characterisation, pov and the rest, attend classes, online or off. It is important that you know the rules before you decide to break them.

For story arcs, try reading Vogler, Campbell and Evan Marshall. All great discussions, and very well illlustrated. Watch "Star Wars" because Lucas admitted he followed Campbell's model very carefully when he made the film. It's a start, and it might give you the 'spark moment' you need.

Suggested Books on Writing
  • 'The Writer's Journey' by Christopher Vogler
  • 'The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing' by Evan Marshall
  • 'The Screenwriter's Workbook' by Syd Field

Tension and Conflict.

Tension and Conflict are vital to a publishable novel, and to many short stories. When you set up your characters, set them goals, and make sure those goals conflict in some way with someone else's. With a romance, it should ideally be the Hero and Heroine who are in conflict. That's why I've moved from romance to romantic suspense. Very often my conflicts come from outside the central relationship. I really don't like my central couple fighting all the time.

Go to: Motivation and Conflict, an article by Patricia Kay

Before I start to write...  

...I've (already) been through a process that takes from a week to a month. I know my characters, (Character sheets) and I have a chapter by chapter outline to work from. (Also known as BLOCKING.) This method might not work for you, but I've tried other methods and this is the one I'm comfortable with. Obviously the pantser method (writing by the seat of your pants) is only working so far for you, so you may need to develop your prewriting technique.

Go To: Assorted PreWriting Exercises by Vickie Kryston

Lynne Connolly
GSOLFOT, Author of urban Gothic romance

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