Monthly Archives: October 2013
1. Create a High Concept Hook
Can you summarise the premise of your story in a short sentence? Does this sentence clearly state what the book is about? If not, you might need to work on either clarifying what the heart and soul of your premise actually is, or reworking your idea to be more ‘high concept’ and unique.
Try to incorporate character, goal, and conflict. Who is your character, what do they want, and what’s going to make it difficult for them to get it?
The main thing to remember is to be specific, not vague, and make it memorable.
For example, here’s the one sentence pitch I used for my novel, Fast Forward:
Aspiring supermodel, Kelli Crawford seems destined to marry her hotshot boyfriend, but on her twenty-fifth birthday she wakes in the future as a fifty-year-old suburban housewife married to the now middle-aged high school nerd.
From this we can tell who the character is (Kelli, a model), what she wants (her boyfriend to propose), and what her conflict is (she wakes up 50 and married to someone else).
A less memorable way of writing this could have been:
A young woman wakes up on her birthday to find that she’s middle-aged and married to someone else.
It still has some merit, but it’s not specific enough. To turn it into the high concept premise mentioned earlier, instead of just saying ‘young woman’ we point out her name, her occupation, and her age. Instead of saying ‘middle-aged’ we say fifty years old, in the future, and a housewife. And instead of saying she ‘married someone else’ we make it known that her husband is the nerd from high school who is now middle-aged. See how being specific makes a huge difference?
>>What can you do to your premise/hook to make it more specific and interesting?
2. Start Your Story at the Inciting Incident
Your story could start in several different ways, so make sure you choose the way that best showcases your story’s premise and kick-starts the plot. By the end of the first chapter your high concept hook/one line pitch should make sense, and the reader should be motivated to read on and see what happens. Don’t start with backstory and then only begin the real story in chapter three, start the story where the story starts.
Have a think about what sets off your story, what is the key action that puts your character into the situation that propels the story forward, and start there. Action and dialogue are key to starting the story with a bang. Avoid excessive narration and description.
For example, in Fast Forward, the story starts with the main character, Kelli, on the eve of her twenty-fifth birthday. We first see her enjoying everything that’s great about her life, and then she gets a rude shock when she wakes up in the future and finds that she’s doubled in age. By the end of chapter one, the story premise has begun and the conflict is unfolding.
>>What is the best, most interesting place to start your story? What action is needed to kick-start the plot?
3. Have a Punchy First Line
Not only do you need to start your story off right, you need to start with a line that shows something about the character, the goal, or the conflict. Or something that immediately sets the tone or voice of the story, catapults the character into the action, or poses a question that the reader will want to have answered.
Using the example of Fast Forward again for the sake of consistency, the first line is:
I can’t help that I’m beautiful. There, I’ve said it.
Immediately we know that Kelli is beautiful and she knows it, and is probably a bit conceited, though she sees it as just being honest. Of course, this type of character may turn some people off (and I was totally prepared for that!), but the idea is that it will be more fun when we see her get her comeuppance in the future when she’s no longer young and beautiful, and we can have a bit of a laugh at her expense. I also wanted it to contrast with the last line in the book (which I won’t reveal but has to do with beauty) to show how far she has grown as a person by the end of the story and what she has learned about what’s really important in life.
>>Write down some possible first lines for your story… how can you first introduce the character, goal, or conflict? Also, try to end the chapter with a punchy line as well so the reader wants to read on to find out what happens next. Take a look at some first lines from your book collection to get some ideas.
4. Minimise Backstory
You might feel that you have to tell the reader a whole heap of stuff about your characters and their past so they can ‘get to know them’, but you don’t. Character is mostly shown through action, behaviour, and dialogue. Backstory can be filtered in here and there in a subtle way that adds to the story rather than dragging it down.
Going overboard with backstory will slow the pace and become boring. The best thing to do is immerse your reader into the action of the story first (and by action I don’t mean shoot-outs and car chases, unless that is the type of story you are writing!). The type of action can vary depending on genre. It can be a heated conversation, a meeting between two people, an unfolding dilemma, or a funny or embarrassing situation the character finds themselves in. Focusing on some sort of action will reduce the need for backstory.
This doesn’t mean you can’t include any backstory in the beginning, just be subtle and don’t lump it in all in one go. Fast Forward begins with an argument between Kelli and her sister on the eve of her birthday. I included a small amount of backstory in the fourth paragraph to add context to their argument, but then the action resumes quickly. If you include backstory, make sure it serves a purpose that enhances the scene, and not just as a way to ‘tell’ the reader something.
>>To reduce backstory in the beginning, have a think about the absolute minimum amount and type of information needed to make the scene work. Anything extra – get rid of it, and filter in gradually as the story progresses.
5. Show Don’t Tell
Showing means using character behaviour, dialogue, and action to tell the story, as opposed to narration and description.
This doesn’t mean there can’t be any ‘telling’ in your story, some is needed here and there to balance things out and get vital information across, but showing should predominate. Showing helps the reader visualise the scene more clearly and have a more immersive experience alongside the character.
You can improve your showing versus telling by thinking visually, and also by searching for unnecessary words in your manuscript including: starting, started to, began, was, were, almost, saw, heard, and felt. These are filter words, they filter your reader’s experience rather than immersing them in it. They can still be used, but sparingly, and only when necessary.
Here is an example of telling:
I stood in front of the mirror and couldn’t believe what I saw. My belly was loose and flabby, and my breasts were droopy.
And here’s how it can be changed to better ‘show’ what’s happening (from a scene in Fast Forward):
I finally stood again at the mirror, my mouth gaping. I lowered my hands to my abdomen, lifting and prodding clumps of loose skin that felt like a bag of jelly.
What in the name of Dior happened to my flat stomach? Not only did I have a freaking jelly belly, my breasts drooped so far south they were practically residents of Antarctica.
Instead of telling the reader that the character ‘couldn’t believe it’, show them, eg: ‘my mouth gaping.’ And instead of telling the reader that her belly was loose and flabby, put some action into it, eg: ‘lifting and prodding loose clumps of skin’.
Keep these filter words handy and catch yourself out when you use them to see if there’s a better way of writing the scene. Until you get used to minimising these words, you can also just leave it until the editing process and then change them, by using the ‘find’ function on your word document.
Keep these 5 tips in mind and you’ll be well on your way to starting your story with a bang! Good luck to those doing NaNoWriMo 🙂
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Writing Tips for #NaNoWriMo from author @Juliet_Madison http://bit.ly/Hd7ASB
Examples in this article taken from the book, FAST FORWARD, available from all online ebook retailers.
I’m excited to announce that I’ve signed a contract for my novel FEBRUARY OR FOREVER, and it will be released by Escape Publishing on 1st February (how appropriate) in 2014!
You may know that I have another novel releasing on 1st January, called The January Wish, and February or Forever will follow on from that as part of a linked series of books set in the same small town of Tarrin’s Bay. Both are stand-alone stories, you can read them both in any order you choose (I wrote February or Forever without any spoilers for The January Wish), but some characters do reappear. I hope you will fall in love with the beautiful small Australian coastal town I’ve created that is based on the town I live in on the south coast of NSW, and of course, the characters!
I absolutely loved writing February or Forever, and it was the fastest book I’ve ever written (I’ll do another blog post at a later stage about how I wrote 84k in 27 days!). Hmm, it may even be my favourite. But that could have something to do with the awesome character of Drew Williams. 😉
February or Forever is a small town coastal romance with a women’s fiction bent. There are some rural elements also. Here’s the blurb:
What if your favourite celebrity fell in love with YOU?
Yoga teacher and single mother, Chrissie Burns has a plan: Move into the rundown beach house left to her by her deceased aunt, renovate it, sell it, and move on. As the scene of a terrible accident years ago, the sooner Chrissie can get rid of the house the better. But what she didn’t plan for during her time in Tarrin’s Bay was to be given the role of private yoga instructor to Drew Williams, Australia’s top singer/songwriter who is staying at the Serendipity Retreat during February for some R&R. Nor did she plan for her favourite celebrity crush to fall head over heels for her. As Chrissie deals with haunting memories, an intoxicating yet forbidden attraction to Drew, and the need to create a better life for her son, she’s put in the most challenging position she’s ever faced.
Did you get the pun in the last line? ‘position’ … ‘yoga’ … hehe. Puns play a bit of a role in the book too 😉
I can’t wait to hear what readers think of my Tarrin’s Bay series, and I’m so glad the first two books are releasing back-to-back at the start of 2014. So I better get a move on and write the ‘March’ book, eh?
Stay tuned for more details about the series (book cover for The January Wish should be ready by around mid-November), and subscribe to the blog if you don’t want to miss anything. For now, here’s a link to my Pinterest board with some pictorial inspiration for FEBRUARY OR FOREVER…
AND… stay tuned also for some more good news I’ll be announcing very soon!! 😉
Just a quick post to let you know my debut novel, FAST FORWARD is a finalist in the Book Junkies Choice Awards in the Women’s Fiction category (yay! Thanks to those who nominated it)! I’m thrilled to be alongside some great authors!
But I need your votes….
If you would like to give my little book baby, my first published novel, a chance at getting some great recognition and exposure, all you have to do is vote via the quick and easy form on the site.
You only need to enter your email address, and then select Fast Forward from the list, and voila! Your vote will be cast. You will receive an email confirmation of your vote, and you can only vote once.
Voting is open until the 25th October, so get those votes in now, and THANK YOU! 🙂
If you haven’t yet read Fast Forward, here is a link to the details of the book and where it can be purchased from.
What’s a calliversary? Well, you may (or may not) have heard authors talk about getting The Call, as in an offer of publication from a publishing house (or from an agent who wants to offer representation or tell you of a publishing offer). On this day last year, 5th October, I got what’s referred to as The Call, even though it was an email (Emailiversary just doesn’t sound right though, so let’s stick with call) 😉
You can read about my Call in the blog post I wrote about it last year, here. But basically, this is what happened…
I went outside to have a bit of relaxation on the balcony, and just as I lay down on my deck chair, my email pinged (yes I was holding my phone, I’m surgically attached to it). Let’s just say my relaxation lasted all of five seconds. The email said:
Thank you for submitting Fast Forward. I am delighted to accept it for publication (and lots of other stuff, but that’s all I could read in that moment of excitement, relief, and general overwhelming emotion).
So here I am today, one year later, and that book has been published and available for over eight months now. Not only that, I signed three more contracts within this last year, all with Escape Publishing. Fast Forward, my debut novel, was published in February, I Dream of Johnny was published in September, Starstruck in Seattle was published in October (as in just recently), and The January Wish will be published in January 2014. So it’s quadruple the fun for me on this calliversary!
How time flies! It’s been one hell of a fun ride, and let me tell you, being published is only the beginning of this journey. It doesn’t end there. If anything, I have more goals, am more focused on my writing, and more committed to making a success of my writing career.
Now, back to Fast Forward and some milestones that have occurred over the past year…
I was over the moon when I got my first cover, it was like seeing my baby for the first time, and didn’t the designers do an awesome job?! I’m also grateful to everyone who’s left a review, and really pleased that the majority have been extremely positive. It’s such a great feeling to know that people have enjoyed my book.
Earlier this year I got to participate in my first online book club, thanks to Harlequin Junkie who chose Fast Forward as their book club pick of the month. I had a ball chatting to readers and they asked me some great questions.
And just the other day I got a huge surprise when I was told Fast Forward was featured in the Big W catalogue that gets delivered to many houses around Australia! (For those not in Aus, Big W is a big (well, of course) discount department store, and a huge seller of books). My book was used to help promote their new ebook section. And they have it available for free for a limited time, so if you’re in Australia you can download it here. If not, you can buy it from all good ebook retailers, the links to which are here.
If that’s not exciting enough, the book is a finalist in the Book Junkies Choice Awards in the women’s fiction category! Voting starts on the 14th October so keep an eye out and get voting! 😉
…I can’t believe a year has already gone by since I sat down to relax that day, not knowing an important email was about to hit my inbox. And I can’t wait to see how things are this time next year!
Thanks Escape Publishing for publishing my books, and thanks readers for buying and reading them. And now, I’m off to celebrate my Calliversary! J
In the spirit of my debut novel, Fast Forward, I’m doing a series of interviews with authors about their past, present & future. Today, please welcome author of humorous women’s fiction, Jami Deise!
A doctor. But I never had any aptitude for math and science.
2. What did you do before you became a writer?
My only non-writing jobs were before graduating college with a journalism degree. I worked at McDonald’s. I was an RA in my dorm at the University of Maryland. I babysat.
3. What is one of your most treasured memories from the past?
I won a poetry contest in the 5th grade. That was pretty cool.
Right now I’m plugging “Keeping Score,” which is humorous women’s fiction about a divorced mom, her 9-year-old son, and his first summer playing travel baseball.
5. What’s a typical day like for you? (If there is such a thing!)
Walk the dog, go the gym, spend the afternoon writing. Make dinner for my son. Spend the evening reading or watching TV. Most of my days are typical!
6. Name three things you are grateful for in your life right now:
That my son is living with my husband and me and is doing well. That we haven’t been affected by economic turbulence or Congressional shut-downs. That my parents are healthy.
66. My son will be 40. I want to know how his life is going to turn out.
8. If you could have any new technology or invention in the future that would make your life a whole lot easier (or more fun), what would it be?
A robot to make dinner and do dishes.
9. What are your hopes & dreams for the future?
To be able to support myself as a writer or with a job in the publishing industry, and that my son is successful in a job that he loves.
Thanks for taking part, Jami!
>WIN! Jami is also giving away 2 ebook copies of Keeping score… to enter, simply leave a comment below! Winners will be drawn on 11th October and contacted via email and notified in the comments.
When her 9-year-old son wanted to play summer travel baseball, Shannon had no idea the toughest competition was off the field….
When her son Sam asks to try out for a travel baseball team, divorced mom Shannon Stevens thinks it’ll be a fun and active way to spend the summer. Boy, is she wrong! From the very first practice, Shannon and Sam get sucked into a mad world of rigged try-outs, professional coaches, and personal hitting instructors. But it’s the crazy, competitive parents who really make Shannon’s life miserable. Their sons are all the second coming of Babe Ruth, and Sam isn’t fit to fetch their foul balls. Even worse, Shannon’s best friend Jennifer catches the baseball fever. She schemes behind the scenes to get her son Matthew on the town’s best baseball team, the Saints. As for Sam? Sorry, there’s no room for him! Sam winds up on the worst team in town, and every week they find new and humiliating ways to lose to the Saints.
And the action off the field is just as hot. Shannon finds herself falling for the Saints’ coach, Kevin. But how can she date a man who didn’t think her son was good enough for his team … especially when the whole baseball world is gossiping about them? Even Shannon’s ex-husband David gets pulled into the mess when a randy baseball mom goes after him. As Sam works to make friends, win games and become a better baseball player, Shannon struggles not to become one of those crazy baseball parents herself. In this world, it’s not about whether you win, lose, or how you play the game… it’s all about KEEPING SCORE.
I’m so excited for this one as it was written quite a while ago, and is my first story not set in Australia, so it’s good to see it finally out in the world. And if enough readers like it, I’ll write more in the series, each with a new stand-alone story set in different cities but linked by the reappearance of the quirky and loveable character of Lulu and her dog, Spark (see pic below). Lulu has a very important job in bringing soulmates together, so the story possibilities are endless.
Here’s the blurb:
Aspiring actress Anna Hilford might only have a small role in a leading television drama, but she longs to be dreamboat Karl Drake’s leading lady. Sick of being loveless and overlooked, Anna seeks the help of intuitive love coach, Lulu, from LuluTheLoveAngel.com to give her the courage and determination to follow her destiny. But fate has different ideas, Lulu has undisclosed power, and Anna is about to realise that life happens while you’re busy making plans…
I got the idea for this story when Sleepless in Seattle was on TV. I thought, instead of a call-in-radio show where people ask for advice, what if there was a website that specialised in helping people anonymously with their love dilemmas (and there might be, I just haven’t looked!). So I thought up the idea for a Love Coach, but as I like to do in many of my stories, I decided to give it a slight magical twist. That’s right, Lulu, known as Lulu the Love Angel, might just have more power than people know. 😉
This story is slightly different from my previous two books, in that it’s a bit more ‘romancey’ and not as much of a giggle-fest, though it does have some humorous moments.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading about Anna’s search for love and how, unknowingly, Lulu helps her along the way.
BUY NOW: >> STARSTRUCK IN SEATTLE is available worldwide and you can buy it from all ebook retailers, including:
GIVEAWAY: >> And now, I have a fantastic giveaway for you all! You could win four Escape Publishing ebook packs, using the rafflecopter links below and following the instructions. Competition closes midnight on 10th October and is open worldwide.
Here’s what you could win. Enter one or all of them!
#1 Fun, Fast, & Fabulous novella pack:
Christmas Wishes, New year’s Kisses, and Valentine’s Dates by Rhian Cahill; I Dream of Johnny by Juliet Madison; The Virginity Mission by Cate Ellink; and Bonjour Cherie by Robin Thomas.
Enter prize #1 here >> a Rafflecopter giveaway
#2 Escape from Reality pack:
Fast Forward by Juliet Madison; Red Moon by M.A. Grant; Fish Out of Water by Ros Baxter; King Hall by Scarlett Dawn.
Enter prize #2 here >> a Rafflecopter giveaway
#3 Out and About pack:
Matilda’s Freedom by Téa Cooper; Getting Wild by Sarah Barrie; Swift Runs The Heart by Mary Brock Jones; Riding on Air by Maggie Gilbert; Dark Oil by Nora James.
Enter prize #3 here >> a Rafflecopter giveaway
#4 Emotional Rollercoaster pack:
Forget Me Not by Nina Blake; Bound By Her Ring by Nicole Flockton; Her Man from Shilo by Robyn Richards; Finding Home by Lauren McKellar; Under The Hood by Juanita Kees.
Enter prize #4 here >> a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck, and happy reading! 🙂
Click here to visit the STARSTRUCK IN SEATTLE page at Escape Publishing.
Click here to add STARSTRUCK IN SEATTLE to your Goodreads shelf.