Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel - Advice from Literary Agents

Here's some interesting advice from literary agents on the opening pages of your novel, compiled by Chuck Samuchino, of Writer's Digest:

 The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents

August 6, 2013 by Chuck Sambuchino

This column is excerpted from Guide to Literary Agents, from Writer’s Digest Books.

No one reads more prospective novel beginnings than literary agents.

They’re the ones on the front lines, sifting through inboxes and slush piles. And they’re the ones who can tell us which Chapter One approaches are overused and cliché, as well as which techniques just plain don’t work.

Below find a smattering of feedback from experienced literary agents on what they hate to see the first pages of a writer’s submission. Avoid these problems and tighten your submission!

 False beginnings

“I don’t like it when the main character dies at the end of Chapter One. Why did I just spend all this time with this character? I feel cheated.”

- Cricket Freeman, The August Agency

“I dislike opening scenes that you think are real, then the protagonist wakes up. It makes me feel cheated.”

- Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary

 In science fiction

“A sci-fi novel that spends the first two pages describing the strange landscape.”

- Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary

 Prologues

“I’m not a fan of prologues, preferring to find myself in the midst of a moving plot on page one rather than being kept outside of it, or eased into it.”

- Michelle Andelman, Regal Literary

“Most agents hate prologues. Just make the first chapter relevant and well written.”

- Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

“Prologues are usually a lazy way to give back-story chunks to the reader and can be handled with more finesse throughout the story. Damn the prologue, full speed ahead!”

- Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary

 Exposition and description

“Perhaps my biggest pet peeve with an opening chapter is when an author features too much exposition – when they go beyond what is necessary for simply ‘setting the scene.’ I want to feel as if I’m in the hands of a master storyteller, and starting a story with long, flowery, overly-descriptive sentences (kind of like this one) makes the writer seem amateurish and the story contrived. Of course, an equally jarring beginning can be nearly as off-putting, and I hesitate to read on if I’m feeling disoriented by the fifth page. I enjoy when writers can find a good balance between exposition and mystery. Too much accounting always ruins the mystery of a novel, and the unknown is what propels us to read further.”

- Peter Miller, PMA Literary and Film Management

“The [adjective] [adjective] sun rose in the [adjective] [adjective] sky, shedding its [adjective] light across the [adjective] [adjective] [adjective] land.”

- Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary

“I dislike endless ‘laundry list’ character descriptions. For example: ‘She had eyes the color of a summer sky and long blonde hair that fell in ringlets past her shoulders. Her petite nose was the perfect size for her heart-shaped face. Her azure dress — with the empire waist and long, tight sleeves — sported tiny pearl buttons down the bodice. Ivory lace peeked out of the hem in front, blah, blah.’ Who cares! Work it into the story.”

- Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary

... and lots more! For more advice on your opening, click HERE:

Check out these links with concrete tips for writing an opening that grabs both readers and agents:

12 Do’s and Don’ts for an Amazing First Page
Those Critical First Five Pages

Set up Your Story in the First Paragraphs

Open Your Novel in Your Protagonist’s Head

Write a Killer Thriller Opening

Also, links to some first-page critiques.

Some First-Page Critiques

by Jodie Renner, editor, author, speaker

As you know, your first page is so critical for hooking readers in and compelling them to keep turning the pages of your novel.

I've been critiquing first paragraphs and first pages for Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi this week over at Writers Helping Writers.

Today, Oct. 24, 2013, I'm critiquing the first page of a novel over at The Kill Zone, one of my group blogs. My first-page critique there is on a novel called The Pink Motorcycle.

See down for links to more first-page critiques I offered here earlier this year.

Some articles with tips for creating a gripping opening to your novel:

Those Critical First Five Pages

Set up Your Story in the First Paragraphs

Open Your Novel in Your Protagonist’s Head

12 Do’s and Don’ts for an Amazing First Page

Write a Killer Thriller Opening

Here are some links to other first-page critiques I've done of novels:

MYSTERY THRILLER:

Resources for Writers: First-Page Critique - Mystery-Thriller

HISTORICAL FICTION:

Resources for Writers: Critique of First Page - Historical Fiction 

WESTERN:

Resources for Writers: Critique of First Page - Western

HISTORICAL THRILLER:

Resources for Writers: First-Page Critique - Historical Thriller

MAINSTREAM:

Resources for Writers: Critique of first page of a novel
 
FIRST 5 PAGES for Greater Fort Worth Writers:


 
Jodie Renner, a freelance fiction editor specializing in thrillers and other fast-paced fiction, has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: WRITING A KILLER THRILLER and STYLE THAT SIZZLES & PACING FOR POWER (Silver Medalist in the FAPA Book Awards, 2013). Both titles are available in e-book and paperback. For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.
 
To subscribe to Jodie’s Resources for Writers newsletter (published about 4-10 times a year), please click on this link: http://eepurl.com/C9dKD

 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Silver Medal Award, and also Giveaway


STYLE THAT SIZZLES IS AN AWARD-WINNING GUIDE FOR WRITERS!

Style Sizzles Cover w Medal_Large

I’m very pleased to announce that my editor’s guide to writing compelling fiction, Style That Sizzles & Pacing for Power, has won a Silver Medal award in the Florida Authors & Publishers President’s Book Awards.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Giveaway_Sizzles_South. Wr. Mag

Also, Southern Writers Magazine is sponsoring a contest where you can win a signed copy of this book.


Enter this draw at

www.SouthernWritersMagazine.com/renner-style

Good luck!
 
 
Jodie Renner, a freelance fiction editor specializing in thrillers and other fast-paced fiction, has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: WRITING A KILLER THRILLER and STYLE THAT SIZZLES & PACING FOR POWER (Silver Medalist in the FAPA Book Awards, 2013). Both titles are available in e-book and paperback.
For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.
 
To subscribe to Jodie’s Resources for Writers newsletter, click here:  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Two of my articles in Suspense Magazine

Available on Amazon in e-book or print
by Jodie Renner, editor, author, speaker

I'm pleased to share that Suspense Magazine has published two of my articles to date on various techniques for increasing the tension, suspense, and intrigue in your novel.

Here is the first third of an article of mine published in the August 2013 issue:

Adding Suspense, Tension and Intrigue to Your Story
by Jodie Renner
All genres of fiction, not just thrillers and action-adventures, need tension, suspense, and intrigue to keep readers eagerly turning the pages. And of course, you’ll need to ratchet up the tension and suspense a lot more if you’re writing a fast-paced, nail-biting page-turner.
Some “Big-Picture” Techniques for Adding Suspense:
~ First, make your readers care about your protagonist by creating a likeable, appealing, strong, smart and resourceful but vulnerable character, with some inner conflict. If readers haven’t bonded with your main character, they won’t care what happens to him or her.
~ Create a cunning, frightening villain. Your villain needs to be as clever, determined and resourceful as your protagonist – or even more so. Make him a serious force to be reckoned with!
~ Threaten your protagonist. Now that your readers care about your main character, insert a major threat or dilemma within the first chapter that won’t be resolved until the end. Create an over-riding sentence about this to keep in mind as you’re writing your story: Will (name) survive/stop/find/overcome (difficulty/threat)?
~ Establish a sense of urgency, a tense mood, and generally fast pacing. Unlike cozy mysteries and other more leisurely genres, thrillers and other suspense fiction generally need a tense mood and fast pacing throughout most of the novel, with short “breathers” in between the tensest scenes.
~ Show, don’t tell. Show all your critical scenes in real time, with action, reaction, and dialogue. Show your character’s inner feelings and physical and emotional reactions. Don’t have one character tell another about an important event or scene.
~ Use multiple viewpoints, especially that of the villain. For increased anxiety and suspense, get us into the head of your antagonist from time to time. This way the readers find out critical information the heroine doesn’t know, things we want to warn her about!
~ Keep the story momentum moving forward. Don’t get bogged down in backstory or exposition. Keep the action moving ahead, especially in the first chapter. Then work in background details and other info little by little, on an “as-needed” basis only, through dialogue or flashbacks.
~ Create a mood of unease by showing the main character feeling apprehensive about something or someone or by showing some of the bad guy’s thoughts and intentions.
~ Add in tough choices and moral dilemmas. Devise ongoing difficult decisions and inner conflict for your lead character. Besides making your plot more suspenseful, this will also make your protagonist more complex, vulnerable, and interesting.
... for the rest of this article, go to www.SuspenseMagazine.com and purchase the August 2013 issue, which is full of excellent articles, many by bestselling authors! They also have some free issues available.
 
 
 
 
And here's about 1/3 to 1/2 of the second article of mine, published in the Sept./Oct. 2013 issue of Suspense Magazine. This one's on foreshadowing to create intrigue.
 
Amp up the Tension, Suspense, and Intrigue with Foreshadowing
by Jodie Renner
As you’re writing your thriller or other suspense novel, you want to be constantly thinking of ways to provoke reader curiosity and apprehension, so they keep anxiously turning the pages.
Foreshadowing is an excellent technique for adding suspense, especially for the first half of your novel, but it’s one that requires some planning (or backtracking later) and a bit of expertise to really be effective.
What is foreshadowing?
Foreshadowing is about dropping little clues about possible secrets, revelations, complications, and trouble to come. To pique the reader’s interest and keep her reading, hint at dangers lurking ahead. Foreshadowing incites curiosity, anticipation, and worry in the readers, and also prepares them somewhat for the possibility of later occurrences, so lends some credibility when the hinted-at event does occur.
For example, in the opening of The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy’s still in Kansas, the transformation of Miss Gulch into a witch on a broomstick foreshadows her reappearance as Dorothy’s enemy in Oz.
Weave little hints in as you go along, but be subtle about it, and don’t give away the ending. If you make it obvious, it takes away the suspense and intrigue, along with the reader’s pleasure at trying to figure everything out.
Why is foreshadowing important?
Foreshadowing is a way of alerting readers to the possibility of upcoming critical events, of telling them to keep reading because some exciting developments are ahead.
Foreshadowing creates suspense. According to the dictionary, suspense is “a quality in a work of fiction that arouses excited expectation about what may happen.”
If you don’t foreshadow events and developments to come, readers will have no expectations, so no anticipation or worry. Foreshadowing stimulates curiosity and provides intrigue, increasing tension and suspense.
Also, if events and changes are foreshadowed, when they do occur, they seem more credible, not just a random act or something you suddenly decided to stick in there, especially if they’re unexpected. ...
...
How to use foreshadowing:
Use foreshadowing to lay the groundwork for future tension, to tantalize readers about upcoming critical scenes, confrontations or developments, major changes or reversals, character transformations, or secrets to be revealed.
Foreshadowing to add worry and increase reader engagement
...
Some ideas for foreshadowing:
Here are some of the ways you can foreshadow events or revelations in your story:
Show a pre-scene or mini-example of what happens in a big way later. The roads are icy and the car starts to skid but the driver manages to get it under control and continues driving, a little shaken and nervous. This initial near-miss plants worry in the reader’s mind. Then later a truck comes barreling toward him and... (or the icy road causes some other kind of accident).
The protagonist overhears snippets of conversation or gossip and tries to piece it all together, but it doesn’t all make sense until later.
Hint at shameful secrets or bad memories your protagonist has been hiding, trying to forget about.
For the rest of this article and many more top-notch articles, go to www.SuspenseMagazine.com and subscribe to the Sept./Oct. 2013 issue.
For more tips on amping up the tension, suspense, and intrigue in your novel, see Jodie's book, Writing a Killer Thriller - An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction.
Jodie Renner, a freelance fiction editor specializing in thrillers and other fast-paced fiction, has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: WRITING A KILLER THRILLER and STYLE THAT SIZZLES & PACING FOR POWER (Silver Medalist in the FAPA Book Awards, 2013). Both titles are available in e-book and paperback.
For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bring Your Characters to Life by Showing Their Reactions

by Jodie Renner, editor, author, speaker

I'm back at The Kill Zone blog again today, with concrete advice on bringing your characters and
story to life on the page by showing their perceptions, reactions and feelings.

Here's the beginning of the blog post, and a link to the rest of it:

A novel won’t draw me in unless I start caring about the protagonist and worrying about what’s going to happen to her – in other words, until I get emotionally engaged in the story. And it’s the same for most readers, I think. For me to warm up to the protagonist, he has to have some warmth and vulnerability and determination, some hopes and insecurities and fears.

As readers, to identify with and bond with the protagonist – and other characters – we need to see and feel their emotions and reactions to people and events around them. When the character feels and reacts, then they come alive for us and we get emotionally invested and start to worry about them and cheer for their small victories. Once you have your readers fretting about your hero and rooting for him, they’re hooked.

As the late, great Jack M. Bickham said, “Fiction characters who only think are dead. It is in their feelings that the readers will understand them, sympathize with them, and care about their plight.”

Show those feelings.

So bring your characters to life by showing their deepest fears, worries, frustrations, hopes and jubilations. If readers see your hero pumped, scared, angry, or worried, they’ll feel that way, too. And a reader who is feeling strong emotions is a reader who is turning the pages.

For more, including specific tips on achieving this, click HERE:


Jodie Renner, a freelance fiction editor specializing in thrillers and other fast-paced fiction, has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: WRITING A KILLER THRILLER and STYLE THAT SIZZLES & PACING FOR POWER (which recently won a Silver Medal in the FAPA Book Awards). Both titles are available in e-book and trade paperback.
For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.
To subscribe to Jodie’s Resources for Writers newsletter (published about 4-10 times a year), please click on this link and fill out the form. Your privacy is completely assured, you won’t receive any spam, ever, and you can unsubscribe at any time.