The Puritan co-founders hand over editorial management to new directorial team

In a letter on The Puritan‘s website, they write, “It’s been a rewarding experience to found and run a magazine, watch it grow and evolve, but The Puritan has achieved a momentum of its own, and we feel that it will continue to function and flourish without our direct involvement.” The journal will now be collectively led by its current staff of 13, with Gordon and Willis acting as advisers when necessary. Spencer Gordon and Tyler Willis, co-founders and editors of The Puritan, are stepping down from the Toronto-based literary journal they founded in 2006.

Great Gift for Writers! Meraki Writers Subscription Box

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The box comes with a stylish gold ribbon (which I didn’t get a picture of, since I was too eager to get into it). Our boxes are designed to encourage and inspire literary artists. What Is a Meraki Box? Assorted literary goodies included an adhesive library pocket, a magnetic bookmark, and “desktop essentials.”
A stylish writing pendant. According to the website,   ​
Meraki   means to do something with soul, with creativity; to put something of yourself into your work. Cute pencil and fun notebook. I love subscription boxes. Pumpkin spice coffee (mug and spoon not included—those are mine). There could not be a better description of what writers, authors, and editors do. It’s a fun and very nicely priced item (just $10-$15 per box) that would make a great gift for writers on your list, as well as a bright spot in your own month. And now for the best part of any subscription box: opening and discovering what you’ve got! What do you think makes an inexpensive great gift for writers? That’s why I was excited to have the opportunity to review the Meraki Box from Alicia Jones, who curates this customizable, affordable, and highly giftable subscription box for writers. Tell me in the comments! What Was in My Meraki Box? Every Meraki box comes with four to five literary items, with the option of adding specialized items of chocolate, coffee, or tea.  

Sign Up Today Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Mine included:
Here’s a look at all the goodies I found inside my Meraki box. Every word is written with love, with passion, with hope. Check it out right here! They come in the mail once a month, full of fun little goodies you might never have even heard of otherwise, much less purchased for yourself.
Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. Helping Writers Become AuthorsHow to Outline Your Novel
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Cleaver Award shortlist honours 2016’s best picture-book illustrations

Groundwood Books dominates this year’s list of finalists for the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award, which honours illustrations that demonstrate the “synergy between art and text, visual storytelling, artistic originality, and design.”
The five finalists are:

Isabelle Arsenault, Louis parmi les spectres, written by Fanny Britt (Éditions de la Pastèque)
Eric Fan and Terry Fan, The Darkest Dark, written by Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion (Tundra Books)
Kellen Hatanaka, Tokyo Digs a Garden, written by Jon-Erik Lappano (Groundwood Books)
Matt James, The Stone Thrower, written by Jael Ealey Richardson (Groundwood)
Jan Thornhill, The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk (Groundwood)

The winner will be announced at IBBY Canada’s Annual Meeting of Members on March 4.

Book Links: Obamas’s farewell speeches coming in book form; U.S. and Canadian theatres to screen 1984

(The Telegraph)
Hoping these seven fictional planets are the ones NASA discovered yesterday. (Publishing Perspectives)
What ever happened to “Netflix for ebooks”? (Good E-Reader)
A literary guide to this year’s Academy Awards. (The Guardian)
U.K.-based author Zen Cho launches campaign with Lancôme. (LitHub)
Celebrities other than Tom Hanks who have [attempted] to make their foray into fiction writing. Melville House to publish the Obamas’s farewell speeches in book form. (TorBooks)
U.K. (LitHub)
Amazon establishes its second German-language book imprint. (Tech.co)
An argument against readability. authors now eligible for public lending right payments for audiobooks and ebooks. (The Bookseller)
Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs translated in new ebook from Penguin Classics. (The Millions) (Publishers Weekly)
Toronto’s The Royal among theatres screening 1984 film adaptation to protest Trump.

Roxane Gay’s Toronto Public Library talk sells out immediately; “will try to set up a second event”

Tickets for Roxane Gay’s free Toronto Public Library talk sold out in seconds, but the author has promised on Twitter that she “will try to set up a second event for that week.”
Gay is scheduled to appear March 16 at the Toronto Reference Library’s Bram & Bluma Appel Salon – which accommodates 575 people – for an interview with radio broadcaster Garvia Harvey titled “Feminism and Difficult Women.”
A small number of rush tickets will be available at 6 p.m. on the day of the event.  
 

Koyama Press donates original cartoon collection to Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Koyama says in a press release that Billy Ireland was chosen “because of its focus on preserving and openly sharing the history of comics.”
  One of the collection’s pieces, by Tim Hensley
Koyama Press publisher Annie Koyama has donated more than 250 pieces of original artwork to the Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in honour of the Toronto indie press’s 10th anniversary. The library will host an exhibition of the collection – which includes works by Lisa Hanawalt, Eleanor Davis, Dustin Harbin, Tim Hensley, and Kevin Huizenga – from May 6–Oct. 21, 2018, to coincide with the fourth annual Cartoon Crossroads Columbus festival.

Greg Marquis’s Oland-murder book and Annette Verschuren’s Bet on Me make National Business Book Award longlist

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Goose Lane moves up release of book on Oland case to coincide with appeal
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A jury, chaired by CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge and comprising Hydro One chair David Denison, adjudicator Deirdre McMurdy, author and publisher Anna Porter, and Senator Pamela Wallin, selected the following list:

Frank Appleton, Brewing Revolution: Pioneering the Craft Beer Movement (Harbour Publishing)
Charles Bronfman with Howard Green, Distilled: A Memoir of Family, Seagram, Baseball, and Philanthropy (HarperCollins)
Daniel J. The longlist for this year’s National Business Book Award, presented to an outstanding non-fiction title on Canadian business published the previous year, has been announced. Levitin, A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age (Allen Lane Canada)
Greg Marquis, Truth and Honour: The Death of Richard Oland and the Trial of Dennis Oland (Nimbus Publishing)
Richard Saillant, A Tale of Two Countries: How the Great Demographic Imbalance is Pulling Canada Apart (Nimbus)
Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin is Changing Money, Business and the World (Portfolio Canada)
Annette Verschuren with Eleanor Beaton, Bet On Me: Leading and Succeeding in Business and in Life (HarperCollins)

The winner, who receives $30,000, will be named at an event in Toronto on April 24, hosted by PwC Canada and BMO Financial Group. Halifax’s Nimbus Publishing has two titles on the list, as does HarperCollins.

Personal Essay: The potential of digital technology offers a chance at entirely new immersive literary experiences, writes Merilyn Simonds

In the late 1950s, J.G. “How do you write?” is a question every writer is asked. Tablets continue to mimic the codices developed in the first century: they’ve built rustling sounds and visual page-turning into a display technology that, in fact, has more in common with ancient scrolls than paper books. They offer a few bells and whistles – search functions, the ability to track changes – but digital applications like Word are scant improvement over the way Shakespeare wrote, or Virginia Woolf. Not paper books packed with postcards and notes and drawings. But the attic hatch has been thrown open. They are collaborations, like opera or theatre: multimedia creations that change the way a person looks at the world – my personal benchmark for art. Assume that represents a long attention span. Digital technology is not destroying literature; it is facilitating fantastic new artistic visions. For more than a decade, literary pundits have bemoaned the shortening of reader attention spans. Digital media have made us jumpy, they say, no longer able to concentrate on doorstoppers like War and Peace. Take The Silent History, by Eli Horowitz, one of the first novels written for an iOS app in which “testimonials” and “field reports” are GPS-linked to action that flows across continents. The first draft of a work – what some call the puke draft, and what I prefer to call the donné draft, the gift – was laid down on paper, then input into a computer file. Not Twitter fiction or Wattpad serials or Instagram stories. Let’s be honest: at heart, word-processing programs are little more than pixelated scribblers. But take an exercise band and stretch it out. This is what digital offers, and this is what I want. I will never give up writing bound books or reading novels on my iPad. A pen and paper?” I used to reply with a puff of pride: “I write with a pencil, sometimes a pen, but always longhand, on paper.”
For a long time, that was the way it went. Canadian novelist Kate Pullinger has been experimenting with interactive, multimodal fiction for many years. All of these are intermediary to a truly new literary genre. Ballard conceived of a novel that would be posted in fragments on advertising billboards. The book is now available in paper from Farrar, Straus & Giroux, but it is still best experienced on an iPhone or iPad. At the same time, I worked with my sons, a visual artist and a musician, to create a digital version with audio excerpts. Technology is now blasting open such limited, static thrusts toward new literary forms. (The sixth volume has just been released.)
Note that I say “experienced,” not “read.” These stories aren’t built solely of words. But imagine if inventors threw off all pretense and offered their work to us in its unvarnished state, as an endless stream of text unencumbered by the artificial breaks of page-turns and chapter openings. New publishing formats are unlocking writers from their solitary attics: we are expected now to be collaborators in bringing our stories to readers. Not choose-your-own-adventure interactive novels where the reader determines the outcome of the plot. Five years ago, I helped develop a collection of my flash fiction as a letterpress book, working with a book artist who printed on a 19th-century press. Not enhanced novels that augment digital text with cursorily relevant links. The experience upended my writerly assumptions and sent me trolling through the past and future of reading, writing, and publishing, an exploration that led to my new non-fiction work, Gutenberg’s Fingerprint: Paper, Pixels, and the Lasting Impression of Books. For me, there is no going back. The rabbit has plunged down the rabbit hole, burrowing deep into my creative psyche. The enquiry is entirely practical: “I mean, do you use a computer? In 2008, she collaborated with digital artist Chris Joseph to develop the first instalment of Inanimate Alice, which uses text, sound, and imagery to produce an astonishing and astonishingly rich world. Gutenberg’s Fingerprint is published by ECW Press. In the 1990s, I collaborated with a sculpture by Ian Carr-Harris as part of an art gallery exhibit. After that, my writing process became an unruly mash-up of scrawling over printouts and endless tweaking of onscreen text, hacking away at what my first agent referred to as “flab.”
But I am increasingly frustrated with the two-dimensionality of words, whether written on paper or onscreen. I’m already reading books like that, and I want to write them, too.  

Merilyn Simonds is the founding artistic director of Kingston WritersFest. As a reader, I’ve been seduced by digital manufacturers into thinking my e-ink screen is every bit as good as paper. Now bring the two ends close and see how the band remains intact and elastic, but loops in an entirely different direction.

Book Links: Atwood among artists petitioning Trump’s travel ban; Kobo joins unlimited ebook subscription game

(Good E-Reader)
Boston’s 161-year-old foreign bookstore to shutter. (Electric Literature)
Arkansas to tax ebooks and audiobooks. (Kobo)
Will Milo Yiannopoulos’s book still get published? (Open Culture)
“America’s Wall,” a Japanese short story from 1977, re-published in light of current politics. (Harper’s) (Los Angeles Times)
Mall of America hosts writer-in-residence program for its 25th anniversary. (Publishing Perspectives)
U.S. (MashReads)
The problem with writing manuals. Bureau of Labor Statistics gets inspired by the Hunger Games series. (PEN)
Kobo introduces its first unlimited ebook subscription program, Kobo Plus, in Netherlands and Belgium. Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood among 65 authors and artists behind open letter against Trump’s immigration ban. (Publishers Weekly)
Digital archive collects rare recordings of Bukowski, Ginsberg, and more.

Literary event listings: Feb. 20–26, 2017

Events must be received by noon Thursday for the following week’s listings. E. Royal Gate S.W., Calgary. Another Story Bookshop, 315 Roncesvalles Ave., Toronto. 7 p.m. Flying Pone Café, 1481 Gerrard St. Leacock Theatre, Mount Royal University, 4825 Mt. 8 p.m. 7 p.m. Free
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 26
Draft Reading Series: With Eufemia Fantetti, 
 Clem Martini, 
 Jijo Quayson, and 
 Djanet Sears. Free Times Café, 320 College St., Toronto. Free
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23
Atwater Poetry Project: With Gwen Benaway and Adebe DeRango-Adem. Q&Q is happy to list general information for literary festivals, but cannot list individual sessions. 7 p.m. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21
Art Bar Reading   Series:   Black History Month edition, with Canisia Lubrin, Cara Lyn Morgan, and Clifton Joseph. 3 p.m. Free
Kevin Donovan: Discussing his book The Jian Ghomeshi Investigation. Perfect Books, 258A Elgin Street, Ottawa. Please include within the body of your email: name of event/featured author, a brief description, venue, street address, city, start time, cost of admission, and contact phone number or website. Danielle Younge-Ullman: Launching the book Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined. 4 p.m. Atwater Library and Computer Centre, 1200 Atwater Ave., 2nd floor, Montreal. $5. artbar.org
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22
Dennis McConaghy: Launching his book Dysfunction. Free anotherstory.ca
Send listings for any Canadian literary events to   events@quillandquire.com.

Book Links: S&S cancels Yiannopoulos deal; new books from Neil Gaiman, Tom Hanks, and … Walt Whitman?

(Good e-Reader)
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America announce nominees for 2016 Nebula Awards. (Tor.com)
Knopf to publish Tom Hanks’s debut short-story collection. (Mirror) (Entertainment Weekly)
Lost Walt Whitman book rediscovered. man locks himself inside bookstore. (Entertainment Weekly)
Books promoting “treatments” for autism found for on sale by Amazon, Waterstones. (BuzzFeed)
Some interesting facts about libraries. (The Guardian)
You can now listen to audiobooks on your Apple watches and Android wear. (The New York Times)
Cooperative Children’s Book Center finds only 22 per cent of kids’ books are about people of colour. (NPR)
Neil Gaiman is   writing a sequel to   1996 novel Neverwhere. (BBC)
U.K. Simon & Schuster cancels Milo Yiannopoulos book over pedophilia comments (Good e-Reader)
Roxane Gay, who withdrew her forthcoming book from S&S   over its affiliation with Milo Yiannopoulos, responds to cancellation.

Learn How to Pace Your Story (and Mind-Control Your Readers) in Just 8 Steps

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Focus on Descriptive Details
Truly fast-paced novels don’t often stop to smell the roses, much less describe them. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. Skip too many of them and you’ll end up with a headlong novel that doesn’t develop characters and very possibly doesn’t make any sense. Just as importantly, the sequel is a tremendously important integer in pacing your novel. And, yes, it’s certainly not something you want to try at home without your helmet and safety goggles. (*cue fingers to your temples*)
Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! 3. You can occasionally remove one or use only a very short transition sentence or paragraph to bridge the gap between action scenes, allowing you to keep the story’s pace racing along. Mastering narrative, dialogue, and description are all stepping stones on the way to mastering pacing. Seriously, think about it. Let’s suppose (quite erroneously, of course) that this sequel scene just wasn’t working. Swift pacing allows you to inject a sense of urgency into your character’s actions. If you cut too many, leaving only reactionary sequels, you’ll end up with the literary equivalent of a spineless sloth (with apologies to Sid). But you’re right to be cautious. 4 Ways to Slow Your Story’s Pacing
That all sounds pretty good. However, that doesn’t mean you’re chained to every single sequel. The more characters you must keep track of in any given scene, the bigger, longer, and slower your book is going to be. If you’re one of those authors who starts getting a scared, sick feeling whenever people talk about how novels these days need to be fast, fast, fast—then this especially good for you. (*cue more hysterical horror*)
If chopping sequels seemed blasphemous, certainly this sacrilege is all the more so. Get them hooked on it and they’ll come back for more, even when it means another sleepless night. Make the story go slower. 2. 4. 3. This isn’t a particularly fast-paced story, but it keeps the tension high and the viewers focused via the Beast’s wilting rose. Even when the story’s interior pacing isn’t extremely fast, the   readers’ pacing will be, as they race toward the end to find out what happens. Raise the Stakes
What do the stakes have to do with pacing? Then, in the sequel, Jo sits around crying and trying to figure out where she can go to escape for a while. After all, your scenes   are your story. Isn’t that another technique entirely? 1. Here’s another mind-control secret: adrenaline is addictive! 2. Writers who are in control of their pacing are writers who are in control of their stories. (*cue gasps of horror*)
Surely not, though? But that means this is also where you get the chance to really practice your wordcraft. (At which point, all genre writers stop reading.)
True enough, that’s the basics of pacing. Here are four approaches you absolutely must know how to use to slow your pacing. Consider even a story so simple as   Beauty and the Beast. Add More Internal Narrative
The vast majority of a story’s interiority and narrative will be found in the sequel scenes. It works here both because the story is short and because the author knew exactly what she was trying to achieve. We get to sit in our favorite characters’ heads and just   marinate. At first glance, the whole subject of figuring out how to learn how to pace your story seems to be about just two things:
1. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited. Minimize Sequel Scenes
When structuring scenes, you will want to divide each one into two parts: scene (action) and sequel (reaction). Even better, add a “ticking clock”—a deadline your character must reach in order to avoid dreadful consequences. In her article “Power Tools,” in the January 2016   Writer’s Digest, Elizabeth Sims suggested:
If your pace, overall, feels too slow, try eliminating your least important character (or maybe even a few of them). But the benefits go far beyond   just speeding up and slowing down your story. You put words on paper, and if you do it right, you suddenly have the ability to control how people respond to what you’ve written. Readers love it. Once you get readers to invest their emotions that deeply, you will be able to   pull them toward your story’s finish. Make the story go faster. But if you feel like your story is needing a breather, an easy pacing trick is to slow down enough to thoroughly ground readers in the details of the setting. And writers who are in control of their stories are writers who are in control of their readers (*cue eerie   Twilight Zone music here*). 2. That’s the action—new stuff happening, characters opposing each other, and the relationship dynamic changing. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. After all that, why in heaven’s name would you want to   slow your story’s pacing? So how can you learn to pace your story in a slightly speedier way? By creating a clear goal line for the story’s finale, you allow readers to subconsciously estimate how close they’re getting to the finish—and the closer they get, the faster the pacing will seem. Add a “Ticking Clock”
One of the easiest ways to amp your story’s pacing is simply to shorten the timeline. Sign Up Today Short, rapid-fire sentences lend themselves to a speedy pace—like the rat-a-tat of a machine gun or the increasing heart rate of characters and readers alike. Nothing wrong with that. (At which point, all literary writers stop reading). http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/kmweiland.com/podcast/learn-how-to-pace-your-story-in-8-steps.mp3
Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in iTunes). In the hands of a skilled author, fast pacing can even have a physiological effect on readers, speeding up their heats and tapping their adrenaline. Whaaaat?! It’s where the characters slow down and think about things. Writing is really all about mind control. Chop it. That said, you may occasionally find a scene you can abbreviate or delete, allowing you to simply summarize its events in the subsequent sequel. By itself, however, fast pacing isn’t enough to create a good story or even to properly grip readers. ***
In truth, just about every narrative trick you’ve ever heard of will play a role in helping you learn to pace your story. Complicate Your Sentence Structure
One of the easiest way to control your pacing—either fast or slow—is to purposefully manipulate your sentence length and structure. It was slowing everything down and gumming up the works. If he can’t earn Belle’s love before the last petal falls, all is doomed. Tell me in the comments! Throw those beautiful phrases onto the page, play with them, dance with your characters, dig deep into their souls. So, with the best of intentions, they use the above techniques and do indeed end up with a fast-paced whirlwind of a novel. Yes, it’s a technique in its own right. 4. 1. To truly control your readers’ experience of your story in a way that pulls them in and invests them mentally and emotionally, you must be able to deftly balance both swift and slow pacing—sometimes all in the same chapter—in order to create exactly the right rhythm of tension and exploration within your story. But used with care (and beautiful prose, of course), the occasional lush description can be just the trick for easing the story into a steadier rhythm, while also pulling the double duty of providing sensual details to the readers’ imaginations. Assuming your prose is so brilliant readers don’t care   what your characters do, you may be able to get away with this for short periods, in which you can hunker down in the shelter of your words, slow the pace to create gravitas, and really focus on exploring your characters. Here are four technically sound approaches. There are certain scenes in certain books I can read over and over again—and my heart rate kicks up every single time. Of course, “doing it right” is the whole challenge of writing, and when it comes to this mind-control gig, the one thing you must do is learn how to pace your story. Conversely, if you wish to slow your pacing, you can lengthen sentences, adding clauses to create a leisurely or dreamy literary landscape. Actually, you can. What should you do? All of those great character-driven scenes we love so much in books such as   Ender’s Game and   A Handmaid’s Tale and   The Book Thief are the result of their author’s mastery of character-driven narrative. It’s hammered into writers’ heads that they better never let the story slow down or they’ll lose readers. It ensures something interesting is happening on every page and that the dead weight must be cut. Instead of allowing your story to take place over a leisurely six months, why not cut it to a fast six weeks—or even six days? In understanding how to use these eight important pacing tricks to get you started, you can begin your new career as a mind-control master. Reduce the Number of Characters
A big cast has the ability to add complexity and depth to every facet of your story, but it will also inevitably bulk it up and slow it down. The steady rhythm of sentences—short, long, short, long—keeps the prose interesting and varied, while still creating a slowly haunting build-up of tension. Even more useful, however, is the psychological effect fast pacing has on your readers. Authors are often warned   not to describe every little detail. What do you think is the most important thing to keep in mind as you   learn how to pace your story? So it only makes sense that beefing up your narrative is a great technique, in itself, for slowing your pacing. But if you’re looking for a way to speed things up, consider your cast, both as a whole and in any particularly problematic scenes. To keep from boring readers with a lack of dimension or consequence, every word must still be chosen with purpose and care. But it is also a tremendous aid when you’re trying to learn how to pace your story. It doesn’t take a quantum physicist to figure out that the sequel is the slower half. Skew the Scene:Sequel Ratio Toward Sequel
Just as chopping sequels from your scene structure allows you to speed up your pacing, you can achieve the opposite affect by chopping scenes. Surely, you can’t just go around   eliminating a vital part of scene structure like the sequel?! Scene structure works for a reason: because the reaction segment acts as a counterpoint to the action, creating realism in the chain of cause and effect. This doesn’t mean these scenes don’t advance the story. Kathryn Magendie’s short story “Girls on Fire” uses this technique almost exclusively, creating a dreamy effect that purposefully   distances readers from the narrative. Can you cut or combine characters to streamline things? You can then add to this the technique of deliberately   complicating even simple sentences, which forces readers to slow down ever so slightly and think about them. Good question, particularly since modern writing advice focuses almost exclusively on how to speed pacing. This will force you to cobble together and condense action and other characters, and will provide an added benefit: The remaining characters will stand out all the more. Even just the simple pacing trick of shortening your chapters or scenes   can be enough to suck readers into reading “just one more”—and before they know it, they’re blearily finishing the final chapter only a couple hours before they have to get up for work (*cue evil chuckle here*). Readers were getting bored and trying to skip ahead to get to Professor Bhaer. Consider the famous opening of Daphne du Maurier’s   Rebecca:
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. The higher the stakes, the more readers will care about what happens to your characters if they fail to reach their goals. Yes and no. For example, this lyric from Bright Eyes’s “Lua”:
What is simple in the moonlight by morning never is. Consider the classic scene in   Little Women, in which Jo refuses Laurie’s proposal. What you’ll get are long, introspective scenes in which the characters do little other than wander around and think. 4 Ways to Speed Up Your Story’s Pacing
As most modern genre writers know, fast pacing is an important factor in grabbing readers’ wandering attention, sucking them into the story, and keeping them racing through the pages to find out   what’s gonna happen. Remember, however, that these scenes   do slow the pace and must be used in harmony with other techniques.
She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. Related Posts8 Ways to Troubleshoot a Scene–and 5 Ways Make It FabulousHow to Write a Story Without a Plot (and Why You Shouldn’t)How to Outline a Series of Bestselling BooksA New Way to Think About Scene Structure About K.M. WEILAND’S ELETTER AND RECEIVE A FREE EBOOK Speak Your Mind Cancel reply
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Weiland: a fighter, a writer, a child of God. I’m the award-winning and internationally published author of the bestselling Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. I write historical and speculative fiction and mentor authors. Read More Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple | Smashwords | My Store

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How to Outline a Series of Bestselling Books

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Another question I frequently hear is: “How can I keep the main conflict going in my series without making the individual books feel incomplete?”
This is an   excellent question, because there’s little readers detest more than stories that cliffhang them for no good reason. The whole point of outlining, whether you’re working on a standalone or a series, is that you discover the story’s end, so you can then appropriately set up the beginning. However, just as structure is surprisingly flexible within the overarching story of a series, so are character arcs and theme. Why did they spend six hours reading this crazy book if they don’t get to find out what happens? So there should be an overarching character arc. Each book within the series will, of course, maintain its own proper adherence to the pacing of the main structural beats. The protagonist will have reached his mini-goal for this episode, but his big plot goal is still out there beckoning—the main antagonist is still out there leering in the darkness. Keep track of the big moments you discover, which may turn into your major plot points in later books. Obviously, my approach to the   Dreamlander trilogy has been   a little wonky, since I wrote and published the first book with no intention of following it up. This is probably the most common question I receive about how to outline a series. What’s important is   making sure your character’s ultimate end in the final book is foreshadowed in the beginning. Aside from the fact that series are fun and offer the opportunity to return to beloved characters and settings, they’re also a smart marketing decision. Easily the most frequent follow-up question I’ve gotten over the years to my book   Outlining Your Novel is: “How to outline a series?” I’ve hedged and hawed on that, offering a few logical suggestions here and there. You can then use that book’s Resolution to tie off the loose ends remaining from this individual plot line. Rowling knew how the story would end right from the beginning. Have you figured out how to outline a series of your own? http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/kmweiland.com/podcast/how-to-outline-a-series-of-bestselling-books.mp3
Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in iTunes). As useful as outlining is when writing a standalone book, it becomes vastly more so in creating a cohesive and powerful series that grabs reader from installment to installment and resonates deeply in its final resolution. Last year, I began my first-ever series when my originally standalone portal fantasy   Dreamlander turned into a trilogy on me. The middle book should feature an obvious Midpoint that signals a shift into the full-on conflict of the second half (as we see, for example, in   Goblet of Fire). As I touched on briefly in the second   section in this post, one of the keys to a solid series is making sure each book is a solid episode within that series. This is even more important within a series that does   not feature a prominent overarching plot. Here’s another question I hear: “Can your protagonist follow more than one character arc over the course of a series?” Originally, I thought,   Naw. Otherwise, you risk reader frustration. If you’re of the mindset (as I am) that a problem as complicated as the novel is best approached from the big-picture view of an outline, then it only makes sense that the even greater complexities of serial fiction will benefit even more when their authors understand how to outline a series. Because you can no longer rely so heavily on the easy timing equations of a single-book structure, you must step beyond the facts and into the theory of structure, using your own story instincts   to determine how best to control the emotional flow of the overall series. This is arguably even more true of a series, in which the big-picture resonance of the overall plot and theme will be even more hotly anticipated by patient readers, who sometimes wait   years for the payoff in the end. These days, books run in packs. However, that is still going to leave hanging the loose ends from the   main overarching plot. Book 2   is a descent into the darkness of the conflict—in which the protagonist is often temporarily overcome, facing a dark moment of defeat. Hook readers with one book, and they’re likely to return for the rest of the series. Figuring out the real-time steps of how to outline a series has exploded several of my preconceptions about the process and taught me much more about both outlining and storycraft in general. As I dug into character arcs for my sequel   Dreambreaker, I realized one of the characters would be demonstrating a different arc in each of the three books. The last thing you want is for your character’s redemption or fall to come out of the blue. I wanted this character to ultimately follow a Positive Change Arc, but along the way, this character first had to follow two different types of Negative Change Arcs: a Disillusionment Arc in Book 1 and a Corruption Arc in Book 2, before finally being able to enter a Positive Arc in Book 3. However, this does not mean you need to write a   complete outline for each book in your series right at the start. Your Game Plan for How to Outline a Series #1:
As you’re working your way through your story’s plot holes, figuring out where events are going and   what your   character’s transformation will be in the end, you should end up with an overall picture of your series’ arc. Especially if you’re like me and your outlining process is in-depth and detail-oriented, it may actually be counter-productive to hammer down   all the details of your later stories until you’ve written the earlier ones. Even within a series that features a focused overall plot,   each episode within that series must be complete unto itself. Your Game Plan for How to Outline a Series #5:
Your individual book’s Climactic Moment will have answered its individual dramatic question. For example, in a trilogy, you’re usually   going to find the following:

Book 1   functions as set-up, an origins story of sorts—in which the protagonist first encounters the main conflict and probably experiences an early victory. In a trilogy, the second book will often end with the low moment of the overall story’s Third Plot Point (but remember, of course, that the third and final book will still feature its own complete structure with its own individual Third Plot Point). Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Sign Up Today But up until now, it isn’t a subject I’ve felt qualified to write about since… I’d never written a series. The secret of tremendously powerful and popular series is that the ending is always present in the beginning. Go ahead and finish this book’s outline and first draft. Authors such as J.K. (For example, in a trilogy or a quartet, each book can, essentially, function as either one of the acts or one of the quarters of the overall structure.) While this approach isn’t   wrong, I’m learning it’s pretty simplistic. An outline, however thorough, is never the final story. If too many of those changed details pile up, you may find the original outline you wrote for Book 3 or Book 4 suddenly doesn’t work. How Should You Plan to Connect Each Book in the Series? That may be true, but it’s not quite as simplistic as it looks on the surface. Every good series has to start somewhere. Should You Outline the Whole Series or One Book at Time? Your Game Plan for How to Outline a Series #4:
Just as your series will have an overarching dramatic premise to guide its plot, it will also have an overarching thematic premise to guide its theme and your characters’ arcs. The approach I’m finding works best is basically the one I’ve been recommending all along: outline the overarching story upfront, but not all the books. Many important details will inevitably change during the writing of the first draft. What aspect of the main conflict will be most pressing in the next book? What will be the individual main conflict in the next book? The protagonist’s main goal within the plot and main Lie within the theme will not be resolved until the Climax of the   last book within the series. After that, you’ll have a solid foundation for the books to follow, and you can dive into their individual outlines one by one. And I’m glad I waited. I’ve written previously about how you can simply divide the number of books in your series into the overall structure to figure out where to place your major structural moments. His presence there doesn’t affect the resolution of that individual story’s plot questions, but it   does raise a whole slew of questions for the next story. How Should You Plot Each Book in a Series? Each book, however, features its own dramatic premise, centered around a specific plot goal, which the characters either definitively succeed or fail in reaching. There’s plenty of unfinished business. It needs to be a steady progression of everything that’s happened to him. Ready to find out how to outline a series of books you’ll be proud of and readers will love? Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series is a standalone series, in which each book presents its own independent adventure, even as the story’s overarching goal of “defeat Napoleon” continues from book to book. Tell me in the comments! Are you up to the challenge? Book 3 then signals the climactic period—in which the character rises from his defeat into his final heroic pose. The protagonist will not reach his main plot goal until the end of the series, but she   will definitely gain or lose the individual plot goals she is seeking within each story. But what about the larger story? In my exclusive Wordplayers group on Facebook (which you can find out how to join here), Vickie Owens asked me,
How should you   connect book one and book two in a series? Let’s get started! It’s an overarching story, right? Each book feels complete unto itself, even as the overall story keeps on trucking. How Should You Structure Your Series? For example, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin’s overall goal in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series is to “defeat Napoleon.” The series goes into the double digits without them accomplishing this. Why or why not? Pay attention to what feels right and allow your characters to follow logical paths of light and darkness on their way to their final Climactic encounter. Your Game Plan for How to Outline a Series #3:
What I discovered was that figuring out how to outline a series is where a solid understanding of structure becomes even more useful. Each book’s individual plot and its loose ends must be tied off within itself. As I’m discovering, figuring out how to outline a series is a tremendously exciting and fun challenge that takes the principles of storytelling up to a whole new level. Your Game Plan for How to Outline a Series #2:
Your overarching series will have a dramatic premise of its own. That’s what you use to hook readers into your   next book. It’s good if you have an idea of at least the   shape of each of the three acts in your planned follow-up books. That said, you   definitely still want to make sure your major structural moments are obvious within the overall flow of the story. Another character, however, clearly followed an overarching Positive Arc over the course of all three books—while still overcoming individual Lies/Truths in each book. What Role Should Character Arcs Play in Your Series? This is where I had to challenge some of my preconceptions about outlining a series. I outlined the first book with no idea there would be sequels, and now that I   am outlining the sequels, the first book in the trilogy is already set in stone and I only have to worry about the remaining two. The vast majority of authors are writing sequels and series. The timing will depend entirely on how many books you’re featuring—which is yet another reason outlining your   overall story idea in the beginning is incredibly helpful. In a series that is more episodic in nature (such as some romance and mystery series), each story essentially functions as a standalone, even though a few subplots may continue from book to book to tie it all together. Outlining the follow-up books has been an entirely different, multi-faceted, and incredibly rewarding experience. Or do you prefer to skip the prep stage? How can you structure that over the course of multiple books? Fortunately, in a series, you have all kinds of space in which to explore and develop this inner journey. What you get to do then   is to, in essence,   raise the next book’s dramatic question. These are both questions you can use to create a hook of uncertainty that will grab readers’ curiosity and pull them right into the next adventure. After resolving its main conflict with the Dark Elves,   Thor: The Dark World then teases the series continuing conflict with antagonist Loki. However, each book within the series must also have its own “mini” dramatic premise. I’m looking for how to end the first book in the last chapter (create a hook or something) and start the first chapter in the second book. Beyond that, you only need to explore future books insofar as you have   questions about them that affect your current book. The overall story structure will usually not line up quite so neatly, book by book, in a big, complicated series that features multiple turning points, perhaps multiple character arcs (see next section), and possibly an uncooperatively uneven number of books. Now, it’s important to differentiate between a cliffhanger that   hooks readers into the next book (see the final section in this post) and a cliffhanger that simply leaves all the book’s conflict questions unanswered. Consider how   Thor: The Dark World   ends with the antagonist Loki on the throne of Asgard. You need to know right from Book 1 where your characters will end up in Book Z and what Truth their end will be proving.

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I’m K.M. Weiland: a fighter, a writer, a child of God. I write historical and speculative fiction and mentor authors. Read More
Albina says:

January 16, 2017 at 9:56 am

K.M., Do you always know the ending of your books before you write it? Ms. Reply

K.M. Reply

K.M. Reply

Greg says:

January 16, 2017 at 7:50 pm

This is timely. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 19, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Good for you! Albina says:

January 19, 2017 at 9:31 am

Okay, Thank you. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 22, 2017 at 3:43 pm

I believe so. Comments

Hope Ann says:

January 16, 2017 at 5:50 am

Thank you so much for this article. How well I execute is another story, but my approach had a lot in common with this. Outline single “expanded universe” novels, for example, or plan sequel and prequel trilogies. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 27, 2017 at 5:03 pm

I agree about foreshadowing. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 17, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Coincidentally, I also listen to the podcast (to make sure no errors remain after editing it) while folding the laundry. Leilani, the goddess of the serene waters has gotten to be a powerful telepath on her planet but if she hears all of their voices in her head then she goes buserk. Reply

Jeffrey Barlow says:

January 22, 2017 at 11:44 am

If you saw the outline of my 8-volume graphic novel, you would be happy to know that what you’re trying to do is fine, so long as you set it up properly. Mainly, instead of ending it with a cheap suspense hook like, “he opened the door and then-” instead have a hook which both resolves the current mystery/conflict and also blows readers minds with a new reveal, “he opened the door and there was his mother and her captor, but they were sitting down and enjoying tea together.”

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K.M. I will definately be back for more inspiration. I’ve read all of Creating Character Arcs, and I’ve reread Structuring Your Novel, and I was wondering where in the outline you’d advise me to start to consciously apply the lessons from those books. Mmmhmmm.” I especially liked that you came back to clarify (from your own experience now!) that spreading a character’s arc across multiple books is far from simplistic. On planet Avanaria is only magic and no techology what so ever. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 19, 2017 at 4:27 pm

The question about the most embarrassing thing to ever happen to your character has to do with something he’s ashamed of, such as, say, forgetting his lines in a school play when he was a kid. I fully outlined Dreamlander–no sign of a sequel in sight. K.M. Albina says:

January 16, 2017 at 8:25 pm

Okay, my lotus book 1 has 23 characters and 20 chapter so. Albina says:

January 17, 2017 at 10:07 am

Liberty,
How long have you mean with splashdown books? It’s an 8-volume work, so this article is, if anything, confirmation that I am on the right track. Or is that a question for yet another post? Reply

K.M. I mean in your squeal book to Dreamlander. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. Ms. Is that important to book in writing the skin color of the character? You’re not ending with a blank, so much as a space that is suddenly *full* of potential reactions and consequences. I’ve got to say, the knowledge I’ve gained from this blog has been a huge help in this project. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 16, 2017 at 1:38 pm

I’ll see what I can do as I get farther into outlining my own series! Susan May Warren’s Noble Legacy series comes to mind. Of course, had I outlined prior to all of this, maybe I would have figured out that my story is a a lot bigger than what can be contained in a single book! 😀 ). Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 18, 2017 at 7:41 pm

Yes, although I would use similar terminology in describing all skin colors, including white. Related Posts8 Ways to Troubleshoot a Scene–and 5 Ways Make It FabulousHow to Write a Story Without a Plot (and Why You Shouldn’t)A New Way to Think About Scene StructureHow to Write a Scene Outline You Can Use (How to Outline for NaNoWriMo, Pt. The more evil the work of this antagonist, the bigger reason you need to allow forgiveness. I’ve read a large amount of books with sequels and series. I’m currently reading your book on Character Arcs (it has been very helpful, even if it is making my mind spin at times because there is simply so much there. Even a loose outline is crucial when spreading the story across multiple books. I found myself nodding while reading this, mentally ticking off things I’d done with outlining the Abraham Frost series. Albina says:

January 20, 2017 at 9:29 am

Okay, thank you. “Ethnic background” is their racial and cultural heritage–for example, I’m of mostly German ethnicity. Reply

K.M. I know what the deliverables will be, and the main components that each phase will deliver, but the overall plan is pretty high-level, with the detail in each phase more fleshed out as I approach that phase. I’ve since moved on to Evernote, because I do my outlining longhand, but being able to take notes on the go on my phone, and have everything there, is really useful. With an outline. I had to giggle a bit when I realized that you are the author of the books that my teenaged daughter (who is intent on becoming an author) have had me order on Amazon and express delivered to Norway. 2. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 19, 2017 at 4:24 pm

J.M., you may want to check out Scrivener one of these days. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 19, 2017 at 4:23 pm

Yours and other emails were the inspiration for this post! I’m currently working on a trilogy, so this info really has helped me make some decisions. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 16, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Not sure what you’re asking in that last sentence. And now I’m just not sure. Good for you! The longer the series, the more grist for the mill. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 17, 2017 at 10:00 am

Uh-oh. The outlining for this graphic novel is already about 2/5ths done. Reply

K.M. Thanks for your insight and feedback! I know the end (and it leads up to the Trilogy). It gets boring to read about the characters’ life history repeated over and over in the other books that follow. Reply

Alan Horne says:

January 16, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Outlining has proved invaluable to most writers. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 18, 2017 at 10:17 am

I don’t use chapter titles myself, just numbers. Reply

K.M. I was already figuring out my “Episode I” to show my antagonist’s epic backstory. Low battery warning! 😉
The series is on hold for now while I tackle another book that foiled me, too. The protagonist doesn’t always have to *defeat* the antagonist; she just has to resolve the conflict. :p

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Jeffrey Barlow says:

January 22, 2017 at 11:29 am

It certainly answers the most important queetions:
– Know the ending, unless you want it to be episodic. However, it’s also possible to feature an overarching antagonist who isn’t truly confronted until the third book, if the previous books’ antagonists are essentially proxies (such as Darth Vader is essentially a proxy for the Emperor in Star Wars, until the final movie). – Outline the current book in the series, rough out the others, because things change in the writing process (this is a big on for me, because outlining is so fun I can’t stop doing it)
– The overarching structure isn’t as strict, but should be applied for some of the major points. Reply

A.P. Reply

Kate Flournoy says:

January 27, 2017 at 3:06 pm

Hello, Katie… long time no see. 😀

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Martin says:

January 17, 2017 at 10:09 pm

I truly enjoy your blog. Have fun! I want to get a few one-offs under my belt first, but I do have a couple series in mind I’d love to write some day: one along the lines of Guardians of the Galaxy about a interdimensional trucker trying to get home and another with some Narnia flare about people who have special abilities when they travel from our world to the other which explores main Biblical themes and how the special world itself changes through the passage of time and technological developments. Ps. Ms. Secondly, I always usually know how my story is going to begin( the invitation) and how it will end( the gift bag). Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 16, 2017 at 3:57 pm

You’re welcome! Reply

Ms. Then in book 3, she faces the largest more terrifying antagonist, who had been the ultimate opposing force all along in books 1-2, but behind the scenes. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 17, 2017 at 6:30 pm

Haha. 😉 And, yes, totally out of the blue it morphed into a much bigger story than I suspected all those years ago. Very timely for me as my stand-alone book just expanded into what I thought was a series…until I read this. I tend to think of everything in stand-alone terms, either a stand-alone novel or trilogy. I started a MG adventure that was initially going to be a stand-alone, but as I wrapped up the second draft, all signs pointed to a sequel… But I’ve never used Evernote myself, so can’t say for sure. Or should I treat each book as a stand-alone? 🙂

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K.M. Glad your daughter is enjoying the books, and I welcome you to the writing party as well! K.M. Reply

K.M. Albina says:

January 16, 2017 at 8:53 am

I liked your article. 🙂

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K.M. But I’ve put it on hold (want to step back from the world, and jump back in for a fresh look) to work on a Graphic Novel on its own (less complicated) world. But when it was all said and done, and I was thinking back over it (and previous episodes), glaring issues appeared one after the other. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 18, 2017 at 10:16 am

Hah. how any sentence so do you describe the planet where the characters are? It’s a small world. Buy maybe be careful with those prequel trilogies. K.M. Reply

K.M. You don’t want to look back at already published volumes and realize that you missed an important beat two books back. Or one you’ve previously addressed. But I also have a plan for a series, which the content in this article directly applies to. Great post, thanks for sharing 🙂

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K.M. 🙂 Dream-something, though, of course. Reply

Amy LeTourneur says:

February 2, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Thanks for the post, Katie! My characters do most of the them. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 17, 2017 at 9:59 am

Ah, this is great: “It’s like driving down a set of elongated steps really fast on a motorcycle, the bumps are noticeable going down, but not bad enough to make you stop. Reply

Kate Johnston says:

January 16, 2017 at 5:28 pm

Great article and thoughtfully laid out! I have a summarized outline for Book 1, most of book 2, and I know the plots for books 3 and 4 and I think 5 as well. In the daughter series there is a fire at a village on the island that she is in right on at the moment. Thank you K.M. 😉
I’ve been finishing up my NaNoWriMo novel, and out of the blue one of my “what if?” brainstorming sessions opened a door in my mind and BOOM – there was a second book dancing around in there. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 16, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Yes, your series is a good example of a “episodic” series that uses its relationship subplot to create the effect of an overarching story. After the MC vanquishes the antagonist in book 1, her goal changes and she faces a different antagonist in book 2. However, my dilemma is two-fold. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. Those were the key points for me. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 2, 2017 at 1:46 pm

Technically, it would be a standalone book within a series. I am writing about a village fire that happens in the book and something else. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 16, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Oh, darn. WEILAND’S ELETTER AND RECEIVE A FREE EBOOK Even though each story is written as a stand alone. Reply

K.M. Reply

K.M. I’m finding many of those insights to be true as well in my own experience. By the time my MC confronts the true antagonist in book 3, I would like the MC to have evolved so much that the MC realizes the need to ally with the antagonist. Reply

K.M. I hadn’t planned on a series, but after reading your post on starting with the antagonist, it blowing up my nice neat little flow chart, I had to expand and expand and expand…
The writers of Sherlock are veteran writers and if they’ll blow passed glaring continuity issues, leave cliff-hangers/hooks for the next installment standing at the roadside unresolved/unused, simply because they found a different road to take… or discovered the track they were currently on wouldn’t get them to the conclusion/end point/destination that popped into their head halfway through shooting… well, it made the task seem all the more daunting. This is a popular approach, particularly in romance series. I think the switch should be foreshadowed, possibly necessary to the plot, and applicable to the theme. Reply

K.M. You don’t notice how bad it is until you’re done watching it. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 26, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Treat the events of previous books the same way you would standard backstory: only reiterate it if it is important and only as it becomes important to the current plot. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 20, 2017 at 6:34 pm

Don’t have a title yet. It depends entirely on how the story is set up. K.M. J.M Barlow says:

January 18, 2017 at 11:15 pm

You may remember a number of emails I sent you asking about this exact topic, and our discussions brought me to this exact conclusion. Could it make sense for each book to have a different antagonist? Unfortunately it came too late to save me a long mental battle over my own series, but it was great confirmation that I’m on the right track. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 17, 2017 at 10:00 am

No, only for the primary POV characters and antagonists. In my 8-Volume graphic novel, there are several antagonists, and one main one:
V.1 – Antag A (lackey of Antag OVA (OVERALL)
V.2 – Antag B (OVA contagonist/false enemy)
V.3 – Antag OVA & Antag A (they win in this one)
V.4 – Situation is antagonist.. I think some of my biggest weaknesses lies in the thematic areas, mostly because a lot of it is- instinctual, so trying to put it into actual words is harder for me, if that makes sense. I have a Trilogy planned and partially outlined. Each episode is a working unit (kinda like an atom), while still being part of something much bigger. Notify me of new posts by email. I’ve also organized my files on Evernote so that it is almost the same as yWriter (the way I was using it), but for multiple projects… which my monstrosity seems to necessitate. Those who attempt a series without one may find themselves lost in the wilderness, which is one reason why I cannot appreciate any of Stephen King’s writing advice, because he is adamantly against outlining of any kind (which is a shame for him, since one of his biggest weaknesses is the inability to make satisfying endings). I would love to get your opinion about some issues related to the opposing force in books 1-3. I was on publishing my Pearls of Avanaria novella but I do not know if you need to send them a query letter or not. I am no author, but I have this story (idea) that I, in my mind, have been playing with. But I never use those titles in the narrative. 9) About K.M. Her parents are immortals and she has two siblings a brother and a sister. :p

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Benjamin Thomas says:

January 16, 2017 at 8:37 pm

Cool! When is your character arc workbook going to be published this year? I loved your insight into the first book being more of an origin story and the second really diving deep into the murk of the conflict. Yikes. Reply

K.M. The plot twist, in a way, is that the antagonist was striving for the same thing that the MC was all along. Will be back to tomorrow in a more caffeinated state. The second book is set in the same town with most of the same characters (including Book 1’s MC) and it expands on a theme introduced in the first book, but this story focuses on a new MC. If you know where each book ends, you know the most important pieces of the puzzle. Albina says:

January 17, 2017 at 9:34 am

One question on the character interview you have places traveled and ethnic back ground? So would this be considered a series and need to be outlined as such (overarching theme, structure, etc., across all books)? I also have a slew of other stories (short as well as full novel size) planned that fill the gaps between the series and the trilogy. Reply

K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 16, 2017 at 1:37 pm

I don’t always know the ending when I start outlining, but thanks to the outline, I always know the ending before I start the first draft. Anyway. I may do that. That being said, this article is going to be very helpful when I dive more into the trilogy I want to write. Concerning hooks, I remember some good advice from the folks at Writing Excuses. That analogy about the need for complete scene structure within a book is great. 😀
But here’s the problem: the MC of Book 1 is NOT the MC of Book 2. (But don’t tell that to the pantser in me!)

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K.M. I am sure I’ll be putting your info here to good use when it’s time for me to go back to the series–and I’ll be starting from scratch. If it helps, both books are new adult coming-of-age novels with a romance angle. It is more of a single epic, broken into three parts – think Lord of the Rings. Like, Difficult-To-Stress-Just-How-Incredibly-Important-Important. I have a huge amount of research already stored for the complicated plot, which involves quite a large cast of both good and extremely evil characters. Reply

Ms. Happy times. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 22, 2017 at 9:59 am

Oh, wait, I forgot! Reply

Ms. Do you call your character s by title like your highness delphino or mylady or goddess so and so. Reply

Ms. Albina says:

January 16, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Is there an outline for a book series for my books to use or did you put it in the the outline book. For leilani I think maybe goddess of the seas would be a good title. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 17, 2017 at 10:01 am

To put it in extremely simplistic terms: just think of what your character “learns” by the end of the story. For Dylan, Lotus’s twin brother it was he forgot or writing runes in his not best hand writing. Reply

Jeffrey Barlow says:

January 22, 2017 at 11:19 am

Does it have actual links between the two within the software? But you still want everything, however disparate, to end up reflecting upon the main theme that will be finally proven in the climax of the series’ final book. I am confused on this: Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to him or her:
Does your princess or queen in the Dreamland second book have powers? It has been very exciting delving into research for the secret world of this group of protagonists who have already begun causing strife around the would with their plans. I’m having a total blast with the outline Book 2–more fun than ever before, dare I say? Subscribe to Blog Updates:

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SIGN UP FOR K.M. Ms. Can readers ever accept it? Reply

K.M. Thank you for the lovely post. The third? Reply

Ms. I did tentatively title it: Dreambringer. I think it’s turned out all right, but definitely not as smooth as if I’d intended the sequels from the start. I still don’t know exactly how many books, but I know it will probably have to be more than a trilogy because all the events wouldn’t be able to fit in 3 books. Reply

K.M. Thank you so much. Hahaha. 😉

Reply

Max Woldhek says:

January 17, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Currently I’m thinking of going the Terry Pratchett’s Discworld route with my books (if I ever manage to make them good enough for publication, ho ho ho). 🙂

Reply

K.M. Reply

Hannah Killian says:

January 20, 2017 at 5:51 pm

I meant one more book because I was already looking forward to Dreambreaker and Wayfarer.. My characters live on a fictional planet. Reply

K.M. My books are about fantasy with merfolk, elves, fairies, shape shifters, and gods who are god and evil and also dwarfts too. Albina says:

January 19, 2017 at 8:56 am

I am describing not just dark skinned mer-folk but white or cream colored. Reply

K.M. Book 1 is done, Book 2 (which I’m writing now) has a very detailed outline, Book 3 less so, Book 4 less again, and so on. And as a former player and coach, I do like the football gameplan analogy. It lets the author jump anywhere and the story still makes sense. When you get into a full series beyond a single trilogy, there is so much more you can do. 😉
Life got crazy there for a bit. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 17, 2017 at 9:57 am

Yes! Do they also publish book triologies too? Weiland | @KMWeilandK.M. Foreshadowing has to be in place, continuity has to be maintained, character arcs need to be mapped out and believable. and then a full-blown series. Figured I’d better just write it, so I’d have somewhere to send people when they asked about series. Leilani and Zane is a book series of three books total and so is Lotus. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 19, 2017 at 4:28 pm

I’m hoping to have the character arc workbook out by late summer or early fall. One of the things I’ve realized more and more as I went through planning for my series (eleven books is a tad trickier than three 😛 ) is that foreshadowing really is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT. Reply

K.M. I follow you on your stream of consciousness as it relates to outlining a trilogy. Can one character arc be split over multiple books, with each book pulling them further along, or should there be smaller personal arcs and goals for the characters to resolve in each book while they work towards the main transformation? I may have to ask her to lend me her books 🙂
Thank you very much for sharing your skill and knowledge. Albina says:

January 18, 2017 at 8:52 am

Okay, I just wanted to know if you also put chapter headings in your writing. Reply

M.L. My PC, at one stage, was shut down repeatedly as l went hunting for certain murky elements. But Dreamkeeper was actually one I was considering. It’ll be nice to see what your trilogy or series looks like. I also have a four books series and a duology planned. All in one setting, sometimes featuring the protagonists of a previous book, but with an stand-alone story for every book. Liberty says:

January 16, 2017 at 9:30 am

For me, I have an idea of where I’m headed in the next 2-3 books for my Darby Shaw Chronicles in my head. Reply

Aly says:

January 17, 2017 at 11:34 am

Wonderful post with lots of good insights! Reply

K.M. Seriously, they help me crawl my way out of writing slumps and show me a path when I’m lost in the wilderness of ideas and inexperience. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 16, 2017 at 1:40 pm

That is great advice! Thanks for reading. It’s a big world. It’s like driving down a set of elongated steps really fast on a motorcycle, the bumps are noticeable going down, but not bad enough to make you stop. .which btw, what is the title for Dreamlander’s third book? Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 17, 2017 at 10:03 am

“Travel” is about places the character has been in his life–particularly places that have impacted him as a person. I think it is going to end up be a flat arc, a disillusionment arc, then a positive arc but I haven’t quite settled on if that is best route to go or not. Thank you! Helping Writers Become AuthorsHow to Outline Your Novel
How to Structure Your Story
How to Write Character Arcs
How to Structure Scenes
Most Common Writing Mistakes
Storytelling According to Marvel

Now Available! Lambert says:

January 16, 2017 at 12:40 pm

A series, now THAT is a big bite to take. My series is a bit odd in that most of the books are literally stand-alones (quite literally— completely different casts and everything) but overall they tell the story of a world’s creation, fall, redemption, rejection, and finally repentance, and though each book stands more or less by itself the threads of the overall picture still need to be there— running through and setting up the end from the very first book. All of the mer-folk in Leilani’s family has visions and her son Dylan has the gift of prophecy. The cases she encounters may or may not figure directly into the overall series, but the subplots surely do. Is it ever possible for the protagonist to make peace with the antagonist? Bull says:

January 17, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Thanks for this post. Are any of your characters as in the main character going to get married? 🙂

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Jen Freeman says:

January 19, 2017 at 3:12 am

Hi, l am about to write the ending of my first in a thriller trilogy. K.M. Lotus book 1 has20 chapters total. That was one thing sorely missing from yWriter. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 22, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Them’s the ones. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 23, 2017 at 10:07 am

Authors are supposed to be dramatic. It might make a good post about how to NOT write your antagonist’s backstory. That’s your theme in a nutshell. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 16, 2017 at 2:21 pm

*shudder*

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Hannah Killian says:

January 16, 2017 at 3:28 pm

DREAMLANDER TURNED INTO A TRILOGY?! I know, after reading Character Arcs, that theme and the character arcs go hand in hand, but it still leaves me feeling a little dazed at times when I try to think of it. I’m outlining a second book in a trilogy right now, actually, so this post was also very timely. Reply

Shewolf13 says:

January 16, 2017 at 11:30 pm

Heh, I seem incapable of writing a standalone story… it always seems to cascade into more XD This article was very helpful because I tend to be a little– chaotic in outlining. Tony Findora says:

January 16, 2017 at 11:49 am

I definitely needed this article! Just remember, we got Jar Jar Binks from a prequel trilogy. As I mention in the article, you don’t want to cliffhang the main details of a book’s plot, but it’s fine to use loose ends from the series’ overarching story to pull readers into the next book. I listen to the Monday podcast while folding laundry and I kept nodding and going “Mhm. Truth revealed…
V.5 – Antag A (lackey)
V.6 – Antag B (contagonist)
V.7 – Antag C (a faction that A, OVA, MC, and an ally belong to)
V.8 – Antag OVA

Reply

Shahzoda says:

January 23, 2017 at 5:15 am

Thank you so much for all these posts! Reply

Ms. I made it through a quarter of this post until losing precious brain power. Reply

Lori Nishimoto says:

January 20, 2017 at 11:27 am

Thanks for this fantastic and timely post! Reply

Hannah Killian says:

January 21, 2017 at 9:25 pm

Dreamkeeper? Reply

Andrewiswriting says:

January 16, 2017 at 7:11 pm

“Each book feels complete unto itself, even as the overall story keeps on trucking”
This to me is the key. The princess in Dreamlander has a psychic link with the “Gifted” who are able to cross between worlds. But I have to agree on the notion that his stories could be *better* with a stronger focus on structural plotting upfront. Do you mean where the character comes from because I am confused on that. This article is helpful as I am trying to figure out the character arc of a MC in a trilogy. Reply

K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 16, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Although you want to demonstrate a cohesive overarching theme, in which the character is ultimately fueled through all the books by a single great Lie/Truth, you will inevitably end up exploring *many* related thematic questions. K.M. When you turn around and look back on it, however… more noticeable, more jarring. Albina says:

January 16, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Okay, my lotus book will be a trilogy of three books and so is leilani and Zane. 😉

Reply

Jason Bougger says:

January 17, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Ha. Reply

K.M. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website. :p

Reply

Joseph McGarry says:

January 16, 2017 at 1:59 pm

I agree. Is there any precedent for such a switch? Finished watching the series finale of Sherlock and noticed how the pace of the show (as well as the staging) helped smooth over some major issues in its story. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 17, 2017 at 6:29 pm

Lots of successful series take this approach. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 20, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Yes, definitely possible for each book to feature a different antagonist, but be aware that if the antagonists are totally unconnected, the stories will necessarily become basically episodic standalones. I came upon your blog by coincidence as I watched your video on the yWriter software that I just downloaded. 😉

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Saja says:

January 25, 2017 at 11:12 pm

Good stuff! Do you think it is good to end with a cliff hanger at the end of a book for the reader to be guessing what happens next? Sometimes they can be real stinkers. So, again, timely article appreciate you passing along your experience/insights. Reply

K.M. Are they a good publisher? These themes and sub-themes will (and should) twine and intertwine throughout the books, creating layers of complexity. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 16, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Two more, actually. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 16, 2017 at 6:36 pm

You never know! Reply

Ms. It sounds a little intimidating for me, but also exciting (maybe for the same reasons). in all books for characters do you do the character interview. That was one of my concerns about turning Dreamlander into an unintended trilogy–since I didn’t cosnciously sow anything that foreshadows later books. K.M. Your ultimate goal is to give readers a satisfying experience, so if they’re going to be more satisfied by a union than a confrontation, that’s no problem. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 16, 2017 at 6:35 pm

Other characters call other characters by titles, where appropriate. It’s why I call it a saga. This one will be outlined completely, and written in drafts 1-2-3. As for the protagonist coming to peace with the antagonist, that’s a little trickier. 1. Some people consider it a sort of discrimination when authors describe *only* dark skin colors, as if that’s the only thing that matters about those characters. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 16, 2017 at 2:21 pm

No, every outline will be unique to every book. Can that be avoided? Great minds… 😉

Carly says:

January 16, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Thanks for the tips, K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 17, 2017 at 1:26 pm

I think we could sum that up with a sweeping generalization: DON’T. Rock on. Reply

K.M. The planning of the individual endings of the three books came naturally, thank goodness. Thanks for sharing this post— extremely helpful. I believe the last on was the on on caracter arcs. Reply

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Notify me of follow-up comments by email. I’m glad it’s all been summed up well in an article. I am structuring a first draft with the intention of making two more books to round out a trilogy. Albina says:

January 18, 2017 at 10:20 am

Okay, My characters are Avanarian all with different skin colors. When you turn around and look back on it, however… more noticeable, more jarring.”
I’ve watched many a movie that’s made me feel this way. Otherwise, readers don’t need to be reminded. I was looking for an actually useful writing software. What critical elements of an outline(not just a trilogy) should I stress regarding the middle(the party)to keep the reader excited to read to the end. The structure, however, will be the same as for a standalone book. Now I have one more book to look forward to! Reply

Amanda says:

January 17, 2017 at 5:15 pm

2016 brought me OUTLINE NIRVANA — 3 books ahead, I can clearly see, and now I can finally read these posts without feeling insanely jealous hahah 😉
Awesome as always! Ms. How would you say if a character had the power of prophecy? Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 16, 2017 at 1:39 pm

Steven King is brilliant. I think of my series outline as a project plan, with each book as a phase of the project. Example: A mermaid who had cream bronze, or mocha colored skin. I am still writing and hopefull to get my novella published this year and revising it. Wish me luck with my journey into the dark side…l will probably need it 😳

Reply

K.M. My intentions is to have each book in my series be a standalone too. Reply

K.M. How much story line from the first book should be included in the second story. It’s a step up from yWriter and integrates beautifully (so I’ve been told) with Evernote. 🙂

Reply

J.M Barlow says:

January 18, 2017 at 11:18 pm

That yWriter video is how I discovered this blog as well! Maybe you could do a “series outlining worksheet” of sorts? But the ending just wouldn’t leave me alone and then, boom, two years later, a sequel! Reply

K.M. Reply

Jason Bougger says:

January 16, 2017 at 1:26 pm

This is pretty good advice. It sounds like it would be a great tag along with the outline workbook. I wonder whether the relationship between scenes (with their own goals and resolutions) and books is analogous to the relationship between books and the series as a whole? Currently I’m leaning towards the extended outline, since I’ve got the feeling that if I already start structuring at the general sketches stage, it’ll kill some of my creativity, but I’m not sure. Dramatic, I know, but there’s no other way of putting it 🙂

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K.M.
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The Most Common Manuscript Malfunctions (and How to Avoid Them)

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Sarah Juckes says:

January 23, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Very pleased to hear it’s been of use! I write about mer-folk. If an editor says “no attachments” and you send an attachment, you can guess the result. Thanks for sharing. Reply

Faith Chapman says:

January 21, 2017 at 7:52 am

#5 is the hardest in my opinion…especially after you’ve written the story. 🙂

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Sarah Juckes says:

January 22, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Thanks Kate! Straight to trash, do not pass “go.”

Reply

Sarah Juckes says:

January 21, 2017 at 2:31 am

Very true – it varies a lot from agent to agent. Just hearing it outside of my own head helps me get a different perspective on it, and I can usually catch what is going wrong–or right! Dialogue is arguably the most difficult thing to get right. Reply

A.P. Reply

Sarah Juckes says:

January 21, 2017 at 2:29 am

Very good point, Alan! Reply

Liz Coward says:

February 15, 2017 at 2:57 am

Hi Sarah, Thanks for your concise article. But I’ve had several people tell me that it’s fairly original! Good luck! Thanks! I definitely struggle most with #1. Reply

Sarah Juckes says:

January 20, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Thanks for reading! Have you tried asking other people to pitch your book to you? Thanks for sharing, Jason. Every publisher has different preferences, and you’re going to want to treat those preferences as if they were LAW. Reply

Jason Bougger says:

January 20, 2017 at 9:25 pm

Great post. Reply

Sarah Juckes says:

January 20, 2017 at 2:59 pm

Thanks for having me! Your post reminded me so much about things we have to keep in mind when we are writing. XD (cries). Reply

Carly says:

January 21, 2017 at 2:17 pm

I forgot that you wrote this, Sarah. I’m a writer and I find that reading my work aloud is tremendously useful. I’ve yet to discover, therefore I can’t really pitch it. I read a good tip today about writing from a prolific writer, (Sorry, I don’t remember the name) he stated “if it sounds like writing, rewrite”. Oh, and I’d venture that cornflowers are cliche now as well. Notify me of new posts by email. *sheepish grin* My main problem, though, is that I can never figure out what is original about my books. Subscribe to Blog Updates:

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January 23, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Supremely insightful and instantly applicable (too many adjectives?)
It’s always nice to get a hard and fast list like this to check over when working on various parts of a story. Maybe don’t use cornflower? I see them everywhere. I’d add that formatting problems and ignoring submission guidelines should be added to the list. Good luck with the novella! Reply

K.M. That’s super cliché! For more information on how honest feedback can improve your writing, see The Writer’s Workshop advice pages. Thank for commenting 🙂

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Saja says:

January 25, 2017 at 10:05 pm

Sarah, I appreciate you for taking the time to advise us! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 20, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Sarah! Cornflower eyes, cornflower dress, cornflower sky…and to make matters worse, I only recently realized cornflower is blue. Yes, me too. Reply

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Alan Horne says:

January 20, 2017 at 6:32 pm

The BIGGEST mistake you can make with your manuscript is not adhering (or even reading) the manuscript guidelines that each publisher freely displays on their website. I am hoping to publish my novella this year. Reply

Kate Johnston says:

January 22, 2017 at 10:02 am

Great tips, Sarah, thank you! Reply

Sarah Juckes says:

January 22, 2017 at 3:25 pm

Thanks Carly 🙂 hope they help. Anytime I’m unsure if something is working in my stories, I read aloud to myself. Good tips, though. For instance, one of the my novels is about a young girl searching for her father. Related PostsMost Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. Chopping and changing between long and short can keep the reader’s interest. Reply

Sarah Juckes says:

January 21, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Luckily an editor or agent can help with #5! how do make dialogue and descriptions more interesting? But why? Thank you. Comments

Ms. 🙂

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Kellyn Roth says:

January 20, 2017 at 2:17 pm

I’m pretty sure I do all of those. Thanks again. Sometimes a different perspective can be super helpful. Albina says:

January 20, 2017 at 5:41 pm

Okay, thank you. Reply

Carly says:

January 24, 2017 at 12:56 pm

same here. If only my voice could last through the whole novel..! I used to think it was yellow. This is frequently caused by the length of the sentences. Mermaids and mermen. Your advice accentuates this point exactly! Reply

Ms. They should vary. Doing so reveals the rhythm of the piece and highlights clumsiness. WEILAND’S ELETTER AND RECEIVE A FREE EBOOK Reply

Carly says:

January 20, 2017 at 6:31 pm

Thanks for the tips, K.M! It was helpful. Albina says:

January 20, 2017 at 8:38 am

I liked the article. Helping Writers Become AuthorsHow to Outline Your Novel
How to Structure Your Story
How to Write Character Arcs
How to Structure Scenes
Most Common Writing Mistakes
Storytelling According to Marvel

Now Available! 56: Unfulfilled Foreshadowing5 Steps to a Thorough Book EditHow to Find the Right Critique Partner: The 6-Step ChecklistHow to Use Scrivener to Edit Your Novels About Sarah Juckes | @sarahannjuckesSarah Juckes works with The Writer’s Workshop, one of the largest editorial consultancies in the UK, and Agent Hunter, a comprehensive online database of literary agents. (But that’s just me being horrible with colors.)
So yeah. You know things are bad when your example of a non-cliche is a cliche 😉
Thanks for reading! There’s some good tips here though: http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/Dialogue.html – hope they help. 😛

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Sarah Juckes says:

January 20, 2017 at 3:01 pm

These things are so easy to do!
Way too many adjectives in this sentence. This might be an unusual narrator (like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), a unique concept (like in The Time Traveler’s Wife), or even a contentious subject (The Slap). Or, even better still, turn your adjective into a verb for an extra punch:
He sat on the frozen ground; the grass spiked through his gloves. Don’t dilute your existing adjectives by adding still more. Almost all of them   fall down on the same points. Printing your manuscript is a great way to gain a new perspective and makes spotting this kind of malfunction easier. If you think you might’ve read them somewhere before, change it up. Even removing just one from each pair makes it easier to read:
He sat on the frozen ground and felt spikes of grass poke through his leather gloves. Better, right? The darkness wrapped itself around her neck, forcing its way into her lungs. You can find   an in-depth look at the pitfalls of dialogue and how to fix them, here. Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Manuscript Malfunction #3: Double Adjectives
With great adjectives come great responsibility. Now try this much shorter version. Right. Tell me in the comments! Make it too real, and your scene will get bogged down with “um’s” and “er’s” that don’t add anything to the scene. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most common reasons for a book being rejected by a publisher. You   use clichés every day without realizing it, whether you’re describing “falling head over heels” in love with someone or asking your kids if they think you’re “made of money.” Unfortunately, clichés can turn even the most exciting scene into dull prose. If it isn’t clear,   you might want to rethink your concept. Manuscript Malfunction #5: No Unique Selling Point
This is a big one, as it refers to the book as a whole, rather than things easily remedied by a copy edit. Editors see hundreds of manuscripts every year, from new and veteran writers alike. If you’ve already written your book, but aren’t sure what your “hook” is—give it to a friend to read and then ask her   to tell you what it’s about. How to Avoid This Manuscript Malfunction
Some writers work best on paper. By making these edits yourself, you can save a lot of time and money later down the line when you come to hiring an editor or agent. Which one? She hurried into the forest. Good luck! Manuscript Malfunction #2: Overwriting
Why say something in fifty words when you could say it in ten? Have you ever had to deal with any of these common manuscript malfunctions in your story? As she ran, she choked. As she ran, she choked on it. How to Avoid This Manuscript Malfunction
Clichés are most often found in your descriptions. To help you avoid the common pitfalls of fiction writing, here are the manuscript malfunctions editors   see most often, with tips on how you can   avoid them! Try reading your work out loud, then taking out a red pen and deleting all the unnecessary words. How to Avoid This Manuscript Malfunction
Use a mixture of speech and indirect action to get your point across. The darkness cast by the trees immediately swallowed her, and seemed to wrap itself around her neck, force its way into her lungs. Fortunately, everything in this list is easily fixed (yes, even #5!). When copy editing your work,   take a close look at your similes, metaphors and adverbs. And—just like in the points above—if it doesn’t need to be there, cut it out. Go the other way however, and your characters become wooden. Sign Up Today Your book might be well-written, warm, and even exciting, but if it doesn’t offer   anything unusual a publisher can   use to “hook” readers, then it’s going to struggle to find a place. Manuscript Malfunction #1: Clichés
Clichés are at top of the list because they’re the easiest manuscript malfunction to commit. Manuscript Malfunction #4: Soggy Speech
Dialogue is difficult to get right. Turn “eyes as blue as the sky” into “eyes the color of crushed cornflowers.” Not only does this make your writing more interesting, it also creates a vivid picture for your reader. For example:
He sat on the hard frozen ground and felt sharp spikes of grass poke through his black leather gloves. What’s the first thing she   says? How to Avoid This Manuscript Malfunction
In the first instance, write a book that’s unusual. Brevity increases clarity, as well as quickening pace and make startling images “pop.”
How to Avoid This Manuscript Malfunction
Read this out loud:
She looked left and right down the path, but as she saw no one coming, she hurried quickly into the forest.

6 Bits of Common Writing Advice You’re Misusing

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If you’re looking   just at the headers, then what you’re seeing   is good advice. Write a Likable Character
You hear it all the time. When we take these so-called “rules” and try to apply them   across the board, with no understanding of how to massage them to fit specific circumstances in the story, we often end up with a clunky presentation that alienates readers. You want to accomplish all of these things in your stories. A good setting has the ability to be almost a character unto itself—but not if readers can’t see it, smell it, touch it, and   experience it, via well-chosen description. That’s certainly true as far as it goes. Chautona commented about one book in particular:
It’s like the author took every ‘rule’ about writing and applied them in all the wrong ways. What This Bit of Writing Advice Really Means:
Forget the idea that readers want a completely unexpected ending. At worst, readers will be just as bored as if the characters really were doing nothing. What This Bit of Writing Advice Really Means:
It’s not enough to throw in a random argument to spice things up. If he makes a mistake, if he speaks in anger, if he’s selfish, if he sins—readers will instantly judge him, hate him, and drop him. If they can see a clichéd ending coming, they’ll have no reason to turn another page. Which means authors must exercise their innovation and ingenuity all the way through the book and nowhere more so than in the ending. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. Early on when Gregory Peck’s reporter unknowingly stumbles upon Audrey Hepburn’s passed-out princess, he tries to fob her off on an Italian cab driver. What Writers Sometimes Think This Means:
Every character is the hero of his own story, right? One sign of a great writer is the ability to spark the readers’ visual imagination with a modicum of information. Sure. 9. What Writers Sometimes Think This Means:
The problem is that writers sometimes think this means they must write a character who is an utter saint. What This Bit of Writing Advice Really Means:
As with so many of these rules of writing advice, what’s really meant is “do   this, but do it   well.” Do use action tags, but don’t just casually throw them into your dialogue hither and yon. Too often, writers feel their story is lagging (particularly in the Second Act), so they throw in a random argument between allies—or the neighborhood bully attacks—or there’s a car wreck—or who knows what else. What Writers Sometimes Think This Means:
In their determination to include the magic story elixir of conflict, writers sometimes end up   manufacturing it. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without the solid writing advice I’ve received from the writers who have gone before me—and neither would you. And don’t you love them the more for those flaws? Common writing advice says your story’s ending should be unpredictable, but what this really means is that your foreshadowed ending must be original. Description is a vital part of storytelling. As Chautona said to me:
Dick and Jane styled action beats. If something isn’t   happening to push the conflict forward, then chances are high that scene can and should be trimmed from the story. When you end up telling a minor character’s entire life story just to “flesh him out,” you know you’ve gone too far. 6. Suspense in a story is largely fueled by readers’ curiosity. Every bit of conflict in every scene must function as part of the   overall plot, creating a seamless line of scene dominoes—one knocking into the next—that progresses your story from beginning to end. But. After all, you’re just trying to do what the rules say, right? A great example is from William Wyler’s classic film   Roman Holiday. Recently, I found myself   reminiscing about some of the early books on writing advice that transformed and molded my understanding of storytelling and writing. If you don’t create characters readers like—and especially a protagonist readers like—why would they ever want to read your story? If you introduce your walk-on taxi driver with a lengthy conversation about his large family, you’re telling readers this man and his family are important—to the plot, to the protagonist’s development, or to the thematic premise. What Writers Sometimes Think This Means:
Instead of using their action beats to actually   add something to the scene, writers sometimes just scatter them in randomly for no other reason than to indicate the speakers. Nine times out of ten, you can ditch the dialogue tags altogether and let your action beats carry the weight of your characters’ conversation. In fact, even just sharing a single detail about this character   if it is not pertinent to the story is a bridge too far. Rather, learn to describe the right details. But “safe writing” is nowhere near the same thing as “good writing.”
Today, let’s take a look at 6 common bits of writing advice I see abused far too often by good-intentioned authors. They don’t   know what’s going to happen, so they keep reading to find out. What’s most important is that you’re being true to the story and you’re saying interesting things in new ways. Add Conflict to Every Scene
Here’s one you hear a lot these days: conflict, conflict, conflict. http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/kmweiland.com/podcast/6-ways-you-are-misusing-common-writing-advice.mp3
Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in iTunes). But here’s the thing. And readers are more likely to write you passionate hate letters than applaud your imagination. Do it in a way that creates irony and subtext—and most importantly moves the plot forward. What they want is ending that   fulfills their expectations (via foreshadowing) without being   clichéd. What This Bit of Writing Advice Really Means:
Because we often equate other people’s ability to like   us   with our ability to avoid of messing up, we think the same must apply to our characters. But don’t confuse likability with perfection. What you   don’t need are long, flowery, overly detailed descriptions that tell readers a bunch of stuff they don’t need to know in a way that is anything but interesting. What Writers Sometimes Think This Means:
Too often, writers hear this well-meaning writing advice, telling them to surprise readers with their endings—and they take it to mean the ending should be   completely unforeseen. And yet, writers often feel bound to the rules and guilty when we break them. 4. In short: you need description. (Note: This is my friend Chautona’s book, not the not-so-good book we were referencing in our email conversation.)
A few months ago, I had an email conversation with fellow author Chautona Havig about how sometimes even an excellent story can be derailed by an inexperienced author’s well-meaning but misguided attempts to adhere to common writing advice. “I thought it had to be.”
“Well, it’s not.” He flicked   the ash tray [which appeared out of nowhere and is never seen again] across the table. Action beats carry twice the weight as a dialogue tag. So they pull an unforeshadowed plot twist out of left field, smack the readers upside the head with it, and then expect readers to be delighted because   they didn’t see that coming! If characters aren’t fighting, struggling, overcoming in every single scene, the forward momentum of the plot will founder, and readers will grow bored and give up on the book. Here’s an example based on the book Chautona and I were discussing in the email exchange that prompted this post:
Jane smiled. What Writers Sometimes Think This Means:
Now raise your hand if you’ve ever read a (probably unpublished) book in which the characters walked around having conversations in a complete blur. Use Action Beats Instead of Dialogue Tags
This one goes in hand in hand with another of Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules: “Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue.” In the same spirit, why not just ditch dialogue tags (“said,” “exclaimed,” “questioned”) altogether in favor of action beats (“he looked up”)? You had zero idea what the characters looked like, what the setting looked like, or where the characters were situated within it. If your minor characters are boring, flat, and clichéd, your entire story will suffer. Without it, you have no plot and no story. So we double down and obsessively apply the rules everywhere they seem   possibly applicable. 5. 6 Snippets of Writing Advice You Must Use–But Never Abuse
Before we get started, I want you to take a gander down the 10 bits of writing advice in this section. Action beats such as these add zero to the story. Just as importantly, every bit of this conflict must pertinently impact your character’s arc and your story’s theme. The mistakes I’ve outlined in this post may seem ridiculously intuitive. The mark of a good story is one that engages readers time after time, long after any surprise has worn off. The only thing they do is clunk up your prose. Instead, learn to give readers the details they need   when they need them, in a way they will enjoy rather than skip. Common writing advice says you should punctuate your dialogue with more action beats than speaker tags. But (aside from the fact this is an utterly false paradigm) consider some of your favorite characters. Common writing advice says you must flesh out even your minor characters—and you should! If it misfires on any of these three levels—plot, character, or theme—it risks irrelevance and must be reexamined to strengthen it into something with the ability to truly power your story. I call this “White-Wall Syndrome.”
As far as readers know, the characters exist in a vacuum, since the author has refused to provide any physical context to flesh out the scene. Jane’s shoulders sagged. Common writing advice says you should avoid descriptions, but this doesn’t mean you should avoid descriptions altogether. But the only good action tag is one that does double or triple duty in defining your characters and their story. The entire art of writing a story is all about balance. Write Unpredictable Endings
This is a question I’m often asked: If I foreshadow my ending, won’t readers see it coming and be bored? But there then comes a point when you understand both the context and subtext of common writing advice and can rise above to   master   them: you control them, not the other way around. Sign Up Today And that’s exactly what some writers seem bent on doing: writing an entire story for every minor character, however insignificant they actually are within the plot. Indeed, description is one of the four pieces that make up written fiction (along with action, dialogue, and internal narrative). ARGH. They tell readers who’s speaking while also providing context for the setting, the character’s body language, and the emotional subtext. ***
Sometimes learning the “writing rules” can seem like an exercise in learning how to use them but not use them   too much. But here’s the thing: pulling a completely unforeshadowed plot twist out of left field is cheating. And it really is a good story. This means you must lavish just as much attention on the little people as you do your shakers and movers. What is the most confusing bit of common writing advice you’ve ever heard? No, really!”
What This Bit of Writing Advice Really Means:
By all means, bring your minor characters to life. It HURTS. If that ash tray isn’t going to either advance the action in this scene (e.g., Jane grabs it and throws it at John’s head)   or symbolize the characters’ inner states (e.g., John is distracted from Jane’s problem because he’s desperately trying to stop smoking), then you need to dig deeper for an action beat that offers more than   just visual clues to the characters’ surroundings. But you must do it artfully, using only story-pertinent details. Honestly, that’s not too far off the mark. Yup, cheating. That’s an utter falsehood. Half the time, they’re not even going to be necessary to indicate the speakers after the start of the conversation. When taken out of context or used without wise moderation, even the best writing advice can sometimes accidentally point you in completely the wrong direction. Turns out, conflict all by itself is not a surefire indicator of a scene’s plot-progressing necessity. 3. “Do you think that is the right answer?”
“Why, no, I don’t.” John touched the ash tray before him. Even your smallest of walk-on characters   need to strike readers with just as much realism and charisma as your larger-than-life protagonist. Readers love flawed characters. Instead, craft them just as carefully as you do the dialogue itself to provide pertinent context that uses contrast and irony to avoid being on-the-nose. You must be able to approach even the best writing advice with common sense, an understanding of the essence of the advice more than its explicit definition, and, most importantly, an awareness of your story’s big picture and its requirements. But if you can learn to move past what the rules say to what they   mean you’ve taken a huge step down that road to mastery. The result is random conflict—arguments, obstacles, and even physical altercations that actually do nothing to move the plot. In short, every minor-character detail you include had better be doing double or triple duty, rather than simply serving to tell readers, “See, look, this guy is a real human being! Don’t go into great detail describing places and things. They opened my eyes, honed my craft, and changed my life. Tell me in the comments! The result is not only confusing to readers, it’s also boring. Stories are made or broken on the strength of their characters, which means you   must get readers invested in your main character right from go. Instead of creating a realistically flawed (and interesting) human being, these writers end up with either a
a) a self-righteous goody-goody
b) a self-flagellating goody-goody
The irony here is that “perfect” characters are hardly ever   likable characters. Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! More than that, conflict is directly related to the pertinence of any scene within your story. Common writing advice says you must include conflict in every scene—and you should! Common writing advice says your protagonist must be likable. When this man (whom we never see again) protests by trying to communicate that he needs to get home to his large family of “bambino” who “mwhaaa!”, he is instantly characterized as a very real person—with a modicum of details, zero exposition, and in a way that is directly pertinent to the plot. The result is, at best, melodrama. That’s safer than trying to judge for ourselves when certain rules are applicable and when they’re not, right? But do it deftly. All writers must serve a term of apprenticeship, in which they are governed by the rules. Been there, done that, right? Once you can do that, you can proclaim yourself a black-belt master of every single one of these “rules.”
1. Avoid Detailed Descriptions
No less than the late great Elmore Leonard backs this one up in his “10 Rules for Good Writing“:
8. Without it, what you get is, at best, a highly avant-garde experiment. But you must make sure it is story-driving conflict, rather than random arguments. Experienced readers need only one or two   right details to get the picture; anything more is overkill. When you’re told to “write a likable character,” what you’re really be told is to “write a realistic, compelling, relatable,   interesting character.” So give him a relatable motivation and pile on the sins, because readers have a high capacity for forgiveness. 2. What This Bit of Writing Advice Really Means:
Do not—repeat:   do not—throw all your descriptions out the window right alongside the baby and the bathwater. Flesh Out Your Minor Characters
Your protagonist may make or break the show, but the supporting cast is just as important to the success of his story. But it’s a balancing act worth pursuing. I’m willing to bet most of them are egregiously flawed.
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Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 23, 2017 at 3:37 pm

Utterly true. 4. I liked doing detail descriptions of the character. Even if it’s a major supporting character, we don’t necessarily need to know his or her favourite pastime, unless it somehow affects the plot. I also have a part where a character’s “squeaky tenor voice tickled the room.” I’m trying to do a James Joyce thing that’s probably better left alone, how he would emphasize sounds. I think that is an excellent description! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 25, 2017 at 10:30 am

Speculative fiction–it’s an umbrella term for any story that isn’t strictly realistic, such as fantasy and science fiction. And at times like those, quiet, reflective scenes, something like, “Grimm poured tea into both cups,” or, “He handed Abe a long-handled teaspoon and indicated the scone tray with a glance,” or “Grimm took a sip of his tea,” in-between clusters of dialogue help to slow the pace of the scene, in addition to breaking up the said/replied pattern. :p

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Ben Stoddard says:

January 25, 2017 at 6:10 pm

5. Helping Writers Become AuthorsHow to Outline Your Novel
How to Structure Your Story
How to Write Character Arcs
How to Structure Scenes
Most Common Writing Mistakes
Storytelling According to Marvel

Now Available! I can’t imagine anything worse than having to write it. It’s a wonder I’m not bald from pulling my hair out. Reply

Mike Crowl says:

January 27, 2017 at 5:57 pm

This is some of the best advice ever. Reply

Alan Horne says:

January 23, 2017 at 6:01 pm

I suppose the only real rule that can never be overused is this: be interesting. I’ve been trying to figure out what it is about certain writing styles that I love and then apply it to my own writing, and I have found that one thing I don’t overly love is dialogue tags that go out of their way to not use “said”. I’ve never had a problem with too much description. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 28, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Which is a very Kirkian thing to say. Carly says:

January 24, 2017 at 8:07 pm

What is spec fiction? I would rather read a fitting and predictable conclusion any day over an unpredictable end that doesn’t answer the emotional question raised by the story. 5. So, sometimes I go back to writing “said”. Each new story and scene provides opportunities for us to prove if we’ve learned from our previous foibles. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 28, 2017 at 1:19 pm

*hums Jeopardy*

Greg says:

January 29, 2017 at 12:49 am

hahaha! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 29, 2017 at 10:26 am

Make sure you’re following proper scene structure with the main character pursing a goal and being met by an obstacle that creates conflict. Reply

Ms. Can’t do that. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 25, 2017 at 7:42 pm

Never hurts to give it a shot and see what happens! But every character, no matter how minor, was described down to the clothes he or she was wearing. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. Usually it’s the other way around. Reply

A.P. But if we also want people to read and enjoy our books, we certainly have to be considerate of them. Like in the first draft of my first book, where I couldn’t even really nail down who the protagonist was (a common hazard if you’ve grown up on Robert Jordan novels). Reply

D. As with so much of writing, it’s all about a balance. K.M. Albina says:

January 25, 2017 at 8:47 am

Thank you. 🙂 Always be aware of your goals and priorities, so you understand when making a change is worth it and when it isn’t. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 26, 2017 at 4:42 pm

Yeah, that’s one of my pet peeves. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 24, 2017 at 11:24 am

Eh, she probably wouldn’t have liked him either. “Dunh-da-dun-daaaaa!”

Jazzi Kelley says:

January 24, 2017 at 7:25 am

Your advice in point two is spot on. Reply

K.M. As in “Why are they in an art gallery?” I feel like answering , because all action has to have a setting and this is the one I chose. I think I’m on top of this, though that could of course be the Dunning-Kruger effect talking. (Yes, I know a lot of people enjoy it, and that’s great. Either way, it still comes down to what you just said about writing what we love, what motivates us, what fulfills and interests us. I love music, so I might one day write a story with a musician as the main character- but it won’t be my own experiences recycled as theirs. That’s what takes so many years of practice and writing to get! as you’re clearly not going to make this easy for me 😉

K.M. Pride and Prejudice has a fairly predictable ending. Notify me of new posts by email. Subscribe to Blog Updates:

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SIGN UP FOR K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 25, 2017 at 10:35 am

No need to include both an action beat and a dialogue tag. 😉 The 9th concludes with Ode to Joy which seems more suitable for the above stated goal… a result to aim for. Reply

Greg says:

January 25, 2017 at 6:11 pm

You raise a good point. And it’s not just him, but so many others George Lucas constantly (and detrimentally) tinkering with Star Wars post release. Reply

Garrett says:

January 25, 2017 at 10:46 pm

Yes, I like how you summed it up at the end by noting, what things *mean* is really the most important thing. Reply

K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 23, 2017 at 6:54 pm

Yeah, “on the nose” is exactly the right way to describe that. And when there’s a meaty conversation between a group of four or five characters, it’s on the nose to have:
Jack said
said Abe
Jerry replied
Caitlin answered
This is when I try to insert some action beats just to get away from what can read as a sing-song pattern on the page. Another mistake I used to make a lot in my early writing, usually with conflicts that didn’t only not add to the plot, but in some cases, they were conflicts that didn’t even make any sense. Of course, to know Dramatica is to misunderstand it. Reply

K.M. 😀 (need. Reply

Mason says:

January 25, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Action beats and dialogue tags… I try to feel my way around that one, but I use a lot of different tags, I think. It’s really easy with the Internet to learn most everything I need to know without leaving my office. There are endless ways for us to respond, and it affects our personal outputs directly. Reply

Naomi says:

February 14, 2017 at 2:08 am

My problem with that is how painful it is to chop and change my novel from my original ideas (which may not be very good, but at least they’re mine!) to some decent ones that suit other people…

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K.M. K.M. People love good surprises, but not left-field random things that make no sense. I’d say they’re more interested in fantasy/sci-fi action/adventure and romance or Dystopia or superheroes. Thank you K.M. But I have zero interest in purposefully writing about my life. Reply

K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 27, 2017 at 1:17 pm

I much prefer action beats myself. 🙂

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K.M. Weiland | @KMWeilandK.M. Reply

K.M. 😉

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Sonia says:

January 27, 2017 at 3:46 am

About endings: Shawn Coyne of the Storygrid Podcast says that endings should be “surprising but inevitable”. It doesn’t mean the advice is necessarily wrong, but it probably does mean there’s something you’re not fully assimilating. Reply

K.M. And, the thrill of the unpredictable twist, as fun as it can be, lasts only through the first reading. It’s also important to note that movies can get away with “opening chapter gimmicks” in a way that books can’t. They say you should dance as if no one is watching, but I don’t believe we can really write as if no one is reading. 🙂 You’re always great at catching these kinds of things. I personally find it distracting. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 24, 2017 at 1:17 pm

I don’t read enough YA to say for sure, but spec fic definitely seems to be hot right now. It really depends on the rhythm and pacing of the dialogue and the relative needs of keeping readers grounded in the setting. How many details do you want for the character? Reply

Ms. I’ve lived that already. Ask my critique partners. Writing advice and rules exist to help hone a craft, but sometimes their true meaning, intention, or application lies somewhere a little beneath the surface. Especially in fantasy novels, I run across a lot of too-perfect endings. Reply

Carly says:

January 24, 2017 at 12:50 pm

True, and how popular is mystery for teens/young adults? But writing is so great in that just seeing that progress… personally for me, is enough to continue on with the craft. They have so much more to offer, although the simplicity and invisibility of a little dialogue tag is still going to be the right choice in certain situations. Sometimes the issue is how the message is communicated. Reply

K.M. For some reason, I adore “what not to do” writing advice. (well… you know… not immediately) 🙂

K.M. I can pick up the tone of the dialogue from the dialogue, so being told over and over what I already know can be jarring. Your post accentuates an aesthetic to maintain while doing so. Greg says:

January 29, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Hahaha! Comments

Saurabh Dashora says:

January 23, 2017 at 6:38 am

Hi,
I really liked the advice about using action tags rather than the word ‘said’. Time is different on where my characters live. To me, this was a sure sign of a first-time novelist. In my early work (that I really don’t like to look at anymore), all of my endings were either completely predictable or completely out of nowhere. Reply

K.M. The strongest stories are those that bring the reader in a full circle. Reply

K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 23, 2017 at 3:36 pm

Hah. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 24, 2017 at 10:15 am

Hmm, I’m not sure what’s going on there. Reply

K.M. Both have given me examples of fantastic protagonists who are deeply flawed. PS KM: For a week or so now I’m no longer seeing the check box to subscribe to replies to a post. I have a suspicion that, no matter how often it’s technically been done, no ending which truly fits a story will come across as cliche because it will feel natural and necessary. 😉

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Jenna says:

January 28, 2017 at 11:27 am

About action beats: when a character is giving a lengthy speech (fatherly advice, for example), is it appropriate to include several action beats interspersed within the dialogue all in one paragraph? I can’t actually back that up. All in all, the end result should be a story ‘well played’ or in our case, well written. Reply

K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 25, 2017 at 7:43 pm

They say you know you’re truly dedicated to something if you’d do it even if no one else ever knew about it. 😉

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J.M Barlow says:

January 24, 2017 at 10:18 pm

Honestly, this post (with different content) applies to all fields of life, in my opinion – and I know we’ve had discussions before on how a lot of writing advice, rules, lessons, and experiences have a tendency to apply to real life in many regards. To be fair, yours does deserve some credit as it (he/she?) has served you quite well 🙂

Reply

K.M. I’d like to think that I found a better balance now. I can’t think of anything worse than hunkering down for days with a book that is meeting my every expectation only to come to an ending that is unfulfilling. Example:
Lotus brushed her raven streaked hair out of bronze face. It should logically flow from everything that came before but still have something about it that the reader didn’t expect. Andrewiswriting says:

January 23, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Action beats, yeah. Reply

K.M. 😀

Greg says:

January 28, 2017 at 12:04 am

okay… get ready! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 23, 2017 at 2:05 pm

Yeah, it sounds like a term you’d come up with! 3. Don’t tell her that. It is the spirit that should govern our actions.”
Great post, Katie, as all your posts are. more. Especially when the second one asks for information which doesn’t do anything to progress the plot and is asking for unnecessary back story. We probably won’t care. However, I have seen writers use other dialogue tags to great affect, so I suppose like with everything in writing it just takes ballance. I read Marvel comics, so thankfully I’m provided with a lot of examples on how not to do this. 6. I’m thoroughly impressed you could tell the difference just from my “da-dunhs.” :p

Greg says:

January 29, 2017 at 3:34 pm

Yep, having classical on as background white noise to help me concentrate some is bound to seep in. Reply

K.M. You don’t have to follow them all.”

Reply

K.M. Reply

K.M. Reply

K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 24, 2017 at 6:59 pm

Not sure what you’re asking? It’s interesting how whenever an author compromises the story’s balance in one direction or another, he usually ends up creating exactly the effect he was trying to avoid! Reply

Andrea Rhyner says:

January 29, 2017 at 11:24 pm

Thank you for this list! The book was even worse. I would also add that if you hear a piece of advice and feel immediate resistance to it (e.g., “write what you know”), then that feeling is always worth paying attention to. Way too many hero vs. K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 23, 2017 at 10:46 am

I totally agree. 😉

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Chautona says:

January 29, 2017 at 11:21 pm

I always answer that one with, “Why do you think I do so much research… I have to learn so much stuff so I can know what I need to know to write it! Ideas about archetypal characters can become misused advice. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 14, 2017 at 1:55 pm

Nobody says you have to. It’s difficult to find the middle ground in all the rules, and this helps. Related PostsBoba Fett’s Guide to Writing Cool CharactersDeepen Your Story With Character MisdirectionThe #1 Way to Write Intense Story Conflict3 Things to Do if Your Antagonist Is Taking Over Your Story About K.M. If we describe our characters well, I think they’ll know. Lambert says:

January 24, 2017 at 10:07 am

Ha, I suspected as much! Anyhow, it’s so very true how we can fall into the trap of playing by the rules and getting stuck writing (and even living) the letter of the law rather than the spirit of it. My son loved it, and there was so much about the story that I really liked. I love seeing outcasts find homes, and I’m familiar with the feeling of not belonging, so my WIP has several characters searching for a place to belong- but again, it’s not based on my own life. WEILAND’S ELETTER AND RECEIVE A FREE EBOOK Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 26, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Yes, I’ll generally indicate the year if it’s historical at the beginning of the first chapter, just to orient readers. Reply

K.M. As they say, there is only one rule in writing: follow all the rules–unless you can break them brilliantly, then break them. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 27, 2017 at 1:12 pm

I agree. (now granted I may be making the novice writer mistake of missing the essence of these tips…) The reason they’re confusing is because Star Wars (New Hope) opens with action and introduces the antagonist first… and I’ve thought of doing the same (tentatively named ‘Stellar Conflict’)

Reply

K.M. Great post! Reply

Patricia Annalee Kirk says:

January 24, 2017 at 8:50 am

What fun is writing what you know? To this topic, there were multiple times that the entire page was filled with nothing but He said…She said…He said…She said…
That it was released by a major publisher and made into a motion picture featuring lots of people you know gave me hope. All her tags were imaginative. WordPress updated recently, so maybe they removed the option. Sometimes I try to use this to comedic effect. Also what we love will gather more attention, be more likely to be something we either know, or come to know, and be worth championing. It would be more unpredictable if Mr. The info doesn’t have to dumped all at once. As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I’m struggling with making my endings a bit less predictable, but I’ll gladly take that over some Shyamalan-esque “twist out of NOWHERE!” hoo-haa. I’m aiming for that perfect middle ground. I don’t mind the occasional “yelled” or “replied” or “countered”, especially when a character changes volume, but when every single tag is trying desperately to avoid “said” and doesn’t add anything to my understanding of the words being spoken, I get tired of it. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 29, 2017 at 1:27 pm

I agree with him! Enjoyed your application to real-life scenarios as well. If false, does it mean I have to do dystopia? Is that what you meant when you said readers don’t want endings that are cliche? For them.)

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James says:

February 1, 2017 at 8:31 am

And this, Carly, is why we write for ourselves—though only part! Reply

K.M. 2. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 23, 2017 at 6:55 pm

That sounds like a fun setting, Connie! Reply

K.M. It kind of reminds me of a quote from Star Trek Beyond, when Kirk says (I’m sure this is not word-for-word), “Welcome to Star Fleet. […]

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Notify me of follow-up comments by email. I guess some writers don’t see how the action beat can be substituted for the tag, so they feel they have to use both? We’re all rebels at heart. However, having said that, it is sometimes tougher to do than anticipated because you’re essentially trying to create an action for each piece of dialogue. My current novel is set in an alternative 16th century Spain. It provides structure without being stereotypical. Reply

Joe Long says:

January 23, 2017 at 8:22 pm

Last year I read “Men, Women and Children” after seeing the movie. 6. Albina says:

January 24, 2017 at 9:04 am

K.M. I’m doing tons of research to make it realistic. 😀
2. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 25, 2017 at 10:34 am

Heh, regarding Robert Jordan and #4–totally! Reply

Carly says:

January 24, 2017 at 5:18 pm

What is it, really? With that said, there will always be rules and guidelines to follow. That’s certainly how I feel about writing. Reply

K.M. I don’t think readers are so stupid that we have to lead them through our stories by pointing out who spoke what line. Shame on your grandchildren. Something tells me that if Jane Austen had picked that ending, we’d all be following Mark Twain’s advice and digging her up and beating her with her own shin bones. That’s the essence of good writing. It’s only the contrived happily ever after or the out-of-nowhere twist that read as tropes. I often feel the need to add a tag or “said” to every dialogue paragraph, even if it’s already clear who is speaking. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 26, 2017 at 4:38 pm

Bring it. :p I hear you. If you want (I know you are busy, so I sincerely don’t mind if you don’t) you an see some of my thoughts and reactions to your posts here: http://millerbrian.com/stories-n-stuff/writing-and-life-and-the-advice-were-misusing. Ms. But, generally speaking, it’s best not to let go dialogue go on *too* long uninterrupted. Brenna says:

January 23, 2017 at 10:18 am

I think the most easily misunderstood piece of advice is “write what you know,” which so many people interpret as “write only stories closely based on your own life.” I think, rather, that we should write what we love. I think the most confusing advice would be not to start with action and to always introduce the protag first. Thank you! K.M. I’m realizing that unexpected and left-field are two different things. But you want a variety. Your book on structuring your novel was a pivotal mark in my writing. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 29, 2017 at 10:26 am

Dunh-da-dun-da! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 24, 2017 at 10:21 am

Almost always when I run into the type of ending you’re describing, it signals to me that the author did not plan the ending before he started writing the beginning. It comes off as fake to my inner reader. Thank heavens for revisions! K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 25, 2017 at 7:39 pm

Dramatica’s approach to archetypes is definitely my favorite as well. They aren’t there to make society robotic. 😉

Reply

Greg says:

January 23, 2017 at 8:43 pm

“… how sometimes even an excellent story can be derailed by an inexperienced author’s well-meaning but misguided attempts to adhere to common writing advice.”
There’s a frequently used quote I recently saw cycle through on social media from Maya Angelou where she says that there’s “no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” But as I thought about it and watched it circulate, as others people discover it, I found I had to disagree, the greater agony (as the opening quote illustrates) is telling that story wrong. Reply

Hannah says:

January 27, 2017 at 12:55 pm

Oh action beats and dialogue tags. :’-D Um… although that is his 5th … which… is good, start there! To a point it’s paralyzed the process, but to a point it’s helped me to be patient… hoping to get it right. I find your advice extremely applicable and inspiring – so thanks for that! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 30, 2017 at 5:42 pm

Sometimes I find it helpful to avoid all tags when initially writing the dialogue, then going back and evaluating where I *really* need them. Andrewiswriting says:

January 23, 2017 at 4:06 pm

I hate dystopia. I try to break it up – when there are only two characters speaking, as in the tea and scones scene in Grimm’s office in The Cup of Jamshid, then I do my best to carry the dialogue with only a few tags or action beats, once the back-and-forth pattern is established. Thanks for the roadmap. for another great post! Reply

K.M. Reply

Max Woldhek says:

January 25, 2017 at 4:30 am

Right, let’s see. Reply

Chautona says:

January 29, 2017 at 11:34 pm

I remember that conversation! Thanks for the heads-up! The beauty of an ending that truly completes what came before becomes more apparent on rereading (and this applies to the fitting twist, too). Hoag says:

January 23, 2017 at 2:11 pm

I find the duel combo of “Why is this necessary?” and “How did they get to this point?” Usually they are at ends with each other. In the second draft, I try to clean up most of such stuff and replace with a meaningful action tag or a better context. What you said about action beats revealing character was really helpful; I guess I knew that, but at the same time when being stared in the face by a long conversation scene, the temptation to throw random actions in just to keep the characters from seeming like talking statues is huge. Albina says:

January 28, 2017 at 9:06 pm

How do you spruce up the scene for the reader so it is not boring? Not sure whether it’s the right way but it seems to have made it easier for me to imagine scenes better. Thank you. 😉

Reply

A.P. In almost all instances, you’ll only need one or the other. While I don’t want to challenge the norm for the sake of the challenge and end up just being gimmicky; neither do I want to be hindered by a popular axiom/rule (Maya’s quote) and miss something more important behind it. Reply

Ms. Reply

Evelyn says:

January 24, 2017 at 9:25 am

I love it! She already thinks she runs this show. hero fights lately. Reply

K.M. K.M. That probably takes an extra touch of skill though. Thank goodness that Terry Pratchett and Jim Butcher number among my favourite authors. I was so overloaded with these details, I was unable to keep some of the important characters straight. But if I fail? Albina says:

January 29, 2017 at 1:17 pm

Well, I am writing about a fire that happens in a village and about 1/3 parish so the village needs to relocate some where else. This is something that I’ve been trying to experiment a lot recently to make my character conversations edgier and move at a faster pace while reading. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’d rather read a book with a bit too little description than one that takes several pages just to describe this one character’s outfit though. K.M. Reply

Greg says:

January 25, 2017 at 11:08 pm

It would be a delight to surprise even you! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 28, 2017 at 1:21 pm

Let’s say this: it’s not inappropriate. I do agree that action tags are a great alternative and I concentrate on using them properly. I totally get why Charlotte Bronte didn’t like Jane Austen, but not Twain. However, I think that’s somewhat personality-based too. “Mom,” She called. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 30, 2017 at 5:42 pm

I realize not all authors work this way, but I always want to know my ending before I start planning a scene outline. Reply

K.M. “Runs off to nervously comb through the latest draft.”

Reply

K.M. Lambert says:

January 23, 2017 at 6:35 pm

“6 Snippets of Writing Advice You Muse Use–But Never Abuse”
Perhaps a typo: “must” instead of “muse”? Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 23, 2017 at 6:56 pm

Good observation. That made me laugh. Write for yourself before you write for anyone else. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 30, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Heh. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 24, 2017 at 10:21 am

Hah. I needed that piece of advice. Most of my favorite characters are massively flawed. Reply

K.M. Butcher’s Harry Dresden, in particular, would make a psychologist cry. All in three and a half pages, double spaced, it’s a WIP and you know. Reply

K.M. Ms. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 24, 2017 at 10:22 am

Generally, smaller is better to mimic the patterns of real-life speech. It’s just a hunch. It’s not important to the story, but a little part of her character. Reply

Connie Rossini says:

January 23, 2017 at 6:19 pm

I agree. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 23, 2017 at 10:09 am

One other point on action beats (or dialogue tags, for that matter) is that you don’t need to add one to each piece of dialogue. Reply

K.M. I would have thought her playful irony would suit him. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 24, 2017 at 10:16 am

I forget little details like that all the time. The only time you need a speaker attribution is when the speaker would otherwise be unclear and/or when the clarification of an action adds something necessary to the scene. Hmmm… nope. Then no matter what happens next, you’ve fulfilled yourself. The main character in my series has some anger issues as her main flaw. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 26, 2017 at 4:38 pm

As theologians might say, it’s all about the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law. I’m not seeing anything in my settings that would allow me to restore it. Do you put the year in your books as in the story began in the year-1,000? I recently read an interview with the director of The Suicide Squad and how he wished he had a time machine to go back and do it over again… the regret was apparent. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 24, 2017 at 10:19 am

You see stories open with antagonists frequently. What about putting description with the dialogue? Ms. Reply

Andrea Rhyner says:

January 29, 2017 at 11:17 pm

Thank you! I suggested, and he later used, something subtle like “she glared over the top of her glasses…”

Reply

K.M. It’s great when everything can mean something, but sometimes, nope, it just can’t. I’ll read and go. Such a funny quote from Twain, though I’m not sure why he didn’t like Austen. I’ve been running into it a lot lately–even in my own stuff. Obviously, I’ve never lived in the 16th century (or even in Spain) and I’m not an expert on the Renaissance. I once spent a week trying to think of a surprise ending that would give the story a big twist. The “unpredictable endings” one is a great point. 5. Personally, I’m not a fan of the technique, for the simple reason that it does not leverage what is almost always the best possible hook in the beginning: the protagonist. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 29, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Ah, you’re right. We get it, Captain America: Civil War is a well-received movie. I guess because it makes me laugh, but I also get the point. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 24, 2017 at 10:23 am

Hah! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 26, 2017 at 4:38 pm

Of course not! Occasional reminders may also be necessary. If you receive advice and it seems rather simplistic, chances are there’s something beneath the surface that you’re missing. I absolutely dislike using ‘said’ as a tag. Albina says:

January 27, 2017 at 8:31 am

Thank you. Albina says:

January 23, 2017 at 8:46 am

I liked the article. Sometimes it will be appropriate for a character speak for a paragraph or more. Reply

K.M. 4. On dialogue sentences big or small is good yes? Reply

K.M. Or even mentioning some other adjective, especially while writing the first draft. May as well just work a job if that was the case. Reply

K.M. Readers want the ending the story demands, not a story the author made up to be surprising. Reply

Ben Stoddard says:

January 25, 2017 at 6:09 pm

1. 3. 1. Reply

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. A movie’s audience is already captive, so it can take a little more time in setting up the story. (Kinda like, always be yourself–unless you can be Batman, then be Batman. The best speaker tags are always invisible, but when you start rapid-firing them at readers, they become anything but. The ending fulfills the beginning. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 23, 2017 at 10:10 am

Only as many as are necessary to help readers appropriately visualize the character and the scene–which usually is less rather than more. But again, no worries if not. It’s fine to have detailed stories about every minor character in your head and notes. There’s always an audience even if it’s just you. They generally joke around with the protagonist for no apparent reason. There are many people who find great fulfillment in writing about their own experiences–either literally or very figuratively (as J.K. Reply

Brian Miller says:

January 25, 2017 at 8:04 pm

Thank K.M. It’s so easy to lose the forest for the trees when writing. However, if you’re wanting others to enjoy what you’re writing, you also want to be aware of good writing principles and marketing trends. Don’t be afraid to ask – do some digging. Just don’t tell us everything in the main story. Nothing against the author you mentioned who stated that we should only use ‘said’, but I’ve read all of Agatha Christie’s short stories ( over sixty) and she rarely used ‘said’! Reply

Linda Yezak says:

January 23, 2017 at 2:03 pm

“Dick and Jane styled action beats.” That’s a perfect description. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website. Never even thought about this one. Let me see. Yeah, this one I’ve had some issues with. Even then, I doubt any of us really ever feel like we are masters. Thank you. Reply

Cecilia Marie Pulliam says:

January 29, 2017 at 11:09 am

As my husband, a retired police officer, says, “There is the law and then there is the spirit of the law. Ruling out the word “said” and “asked” alone,
began, said with a grin, whined, piped, said drearily, started, continued. Reply

Saja says:

January 25, 2017 at 6:50 pm

Great Post! I’m having a similar discussion with A.P Lambert on his site regarding limitations and guidelines. People will have their opinions, but I was always skeptical of archetypes. But the plot revolves around something I write about all the time in non-fiction, a subject I can’t get enough of. I prefer Dramatica’s take on them, that they are simple, fundamental characters available as a standard and (in many cases) not good for storytelling. Obviously, outlining is an intuitive way to set this up, but you can also make it work in revisions as long as you’re willing to go back and appropriately rewrite the beginning to match whatever ending you discovered. 🙂 Great to hear you’re enjoying the posts and the books! But most of all, if we write for ourselves then we can edit for everybody else! I commented to an author about how I went back to an early chapter to where a character was introduced and didn’t remember that she wore glasses. Reply

K.M. K.M. However, I’m surprised by how often the ending is neither. Sometimes it’s how the message is received. We have a lot of rules. Reply

K.M. I just wanted you to know that your time is not wasted:)
Enjoy the day! I edited a client’s novel recently that employed this technique. Darcy fell off his horse and died before he could propose again, but it wouldn’t be better! Reply

Joe Long says:

January 23, 2017 at 8:27 pm

I also prefer spreading out descriptions. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 24, 2017 at 10:25 am

Ssh. 😉

Reply

Trackbacks

Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 | Nonsense, She Wrote says:

February 15, 2017 at 4:12 pm

[…] If you’ve ever read one of the hundreds of books and blogs and pieces of particularly literary graffiti on how to write a story, you’ll be familiar with this – overly familiar, to the point it’s a little uncomfortable: ‘write something that completely surprises your readers but also feels inevitable, like there’s no other satisfactory way things could have ended‘. Ms. Still, this isn’t to say the technique can’t be used to good effect–just that you first have to understand the reasons it might *not* be the best choice. Reply

Carly says:

January 23, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Is it true that you should write for yourself, or false? Can’t think of anything to add here, except that action beats should probably be used mostly to help reveal character or intensify an already existing conflict. :p)

Reply

Connie Rossini says:

January 23, 2017 at 6:28 pm

I have read (and written) plenty of stories with flat side characters. My book takes place in first century AD, and though my grandchildren may think I was there, it’s all new to me. I want to live something else in my writing! The author clearly didn’t make them up to be shocking, but they don’t fit with the dark and gritty world of the story either. A book is a bargain between reader and writer: the reader agrees to stick around, but only if the writer holds up his end and writes something worth sticking around for! Good living too, really. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 25, 2017 at 10:33 am

Great point about “simplistic” advice. Out of anything in a book, it’s the ending that makes or breaks my experience. Of course my real life influences everything I write–often in ways I’m not even consciously aware of. What we love will be more fun to write, and why write much of anything else? Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 23, 2017 at 6:56 pm

Ah, yes, my Muse was trying to sneak in secret billing. Reply

K.M. Albina says:

January 26, 2017 at 8:47 am

Okay, thank you. Rowling is said to have done). Reply

Kate Johnston says:

January 26, 2017 at 2:33 pm

I always notice when authors include a dialogue tag and an action beat–and every time I see how unnecessary it is. I will do that. So much can be gained through research. How we use them and work within their limits, and apply them the way they were intended – as methods of improvement – is what makes us who we are. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 25, 2017 at 7:40 pm

Totally agree about number one. Sometimes you can even come up with a flaw that makes them more likeable. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 23, 2017 at 6:55 pm

Truth. time.) may I suggest Beethoven’s 9th? I have used ‘said’, but sparingly. They’re more relatable and enjoyable because their larger-than-life virtues are balanced by equally larger-than-life flaws. I have one critique partner in particular who believes EVERYTHING must mean something. If I don’t know how it ends, how will I know how to set it up? 😉

Reply

Evelyn says:

January 24, 2017 at 10:42 am

Haha! On the flip side, I just finished reading the first middle grade novel by a best-selling author of nonfiction.
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7 Essentials for Your Book Launch

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Reply

Steve Mathisen says:

January 27, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Great stuff, Keely! Thanks for sharing! Reply

Lynn Jarrett says:

January 27, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Thank you for a great article!! Reply

Alan Horne says:

January 27, 2017 at 7:47 pm

If you wait until after you publish to set up your website and online presence, then you’re hurting yourself. Reply

Keely Keith says:

January 27, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Thanks, Ella! Keep in mind, however, that becoming an internet celebrity takes so much work that you may not have time for writing, so maybe you don’t want to have THAT MUCH of an online presence. Reply

Keely Keith says:

January 27, 2017 at 12:25 pm

It was my pleasure! Your writing self ought to have an interface with the online public at least a few months before launching your first book. Reply

Keely Keith says:

January 27, 2017 at 12:17 pm

Rebekah, I’m so glad you found this helpful. That’s very exciting! Weiland says:

January 27, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Keely! You’ve helped me so much in my journey to becoming a writer who writes and hopefully one day published. Thanks for the information! Notify me of new posts by email. Reply

Christine Campbell says:

January 27, 2017 at 6:33 am

A very helpful article from a very helpful book. Helpful post! WEILAND’S ELETTER AND RECEIVE A FREE EBOOK A good break from writing but still pertinent to the overall quest! Best of luck with your writing! Reply

Heather Day Gilbert says:

January 27, 2017 at 7:42 am

Excellent tips–I especially like that your site is where people go to find out more about you (ie: no longer is it critical for novel writers to blog multiple times per week, as it was 5 years ago), and I like the advice to plug into various social media sites and see what works best for you. Plus, it’s fun to do *this* kind of housekeeping. Reply

Keely Keith says:

January 27, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Best wishes with your novella, Ms. Keely, her husband, and their daughter live on a hilltop south of Nashville, Tennessee. says:

January 28, 2017 at 10:29 am

Thanks for this valuable information. Furthermore, possessing a strong and popular online presence can make you more noticeable to publishers to begin with. Thank you for the helpful advice! Reply

Bernadette Benda says:

January 27, 2017 at 4:21 pm

I don’t yet have a book ready to be published, but this is fantastic for future reference! It’s the one directing your readers to “websites of a few of the top authors of your genre.” 🙂

Reply

K.M. Keely also creates resources for writers, including The Writer’s Book Launch Guide and The Writer’s Purpose Journal. Reply

Keely Keith says:

January 27, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Thanks, Steve! Subscribe to Blog Updates:

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SIGN UP FOR K.M. This post is very helpful in figuring out what I need and when. Reply

Keith Guernsey says:

January 27, 2017 at 6:50 am

This is great information. Reply

K.T. Reply

Kate Johnston says:

January 30, 2017 at 5:13 pm

Not quite ready to publish, but I like to tinker with all of these things as I go along: updating sites and double-checking links, and freshening content where appropriate. Writing sure seems to be 10% writing / 90% networking & marketing doesn’t it? It works for me now. Helping Writers Become AuthorsHow to Outline Your Novel
How to Structure Your Story
How to Write Character Arcs
How to Structure Scenes
Most Common Writing Mistakes
Storytelling According to Marvel

Now Available! Reply

Keely Keith says:

January 27, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Thanks, Heather! Thank you, Lynn. Reply

Keely Keith says:

January 27, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Excellent! I would not be where I am now without your books and timely advice. I’m hoping to publish one or two of my books this year (I wrote them last year). Reply

Mikhaeyla Kopievsky says:

January 31, 2017 at 6:00 am

I’m launching my debut speculative fiction novel online this weekend! I am hoping to publish a novella this year. Anyone else having trouble with it? When she isn’t writing, Keely enjoys playing bass guitar, preparing homeschool lessons, and collecting antique textbooks. Reply

Keely Keith says:

January 27, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Thanks, Bernadette. About Keely Brooke Keith | @keely_keithKeely Brooke Keith is the author of The Land Uncharted (Edenbrooke Press) and Aboard Providence (CrossRiver Media). […]

Reply

Getting ready for a book launch | The Proof Angel says:

February 7, 2017 at 2:53 am

[…] This post is a useful summary of what to do when you are getting ready for a book launch. Albina! […]

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Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Yep, media kits streamline a lot of the publicity process. I’ll look into the writers book launch journal to get even more ideas 🙂
It’ll also be valuable for new to learn what to do after a launch. Reply

Keely Keith says:

January 27, 2017 at 12:18 pm

My pleasure, Keith! For Writers & Readers 02-02-2017 | The Author Chronicles says:

February 2, 2017 at 11:29 am

[…] Marketing ourselves and our books is never-ending. A moderate showing in the digital realm should suffice. Thank you for having me here today! Now to get the word out and attract some attendees! Reply

Keely Keith says:

January 27, 2017 at 12:17 pm

Thanks, Christine! I am definitely bookmarking this for future reference. Albina says:

January 27, 2017 at 8:35 am

Thank you for the article. Judith Briles looks at creating a sell sheet to help people get to know you and your work, while Keely Brooke Keith lists 7 essentials for your book launch. I will share it with my writers group next month. Thank you. Reply

Melanie D. I’ve been putting off the media kit for a long time, and this was a good reminder to make sure I get it done. says:

January 27, 2017 at 3:43 pm

My biggest trouble will be social media platform/marketing. Congrats on your new books. Reply

K.M. 🙂

Reply

Patricia Annalee Kirk says:

January 28, 2017 at 9:19 am

You and your fellow authors are invaluable to a person who wants the best book possible. It’s okay to stick with what we enjoy 🙂

Reply

Ella Linden says:

January 27, 2017 at 7:50 am

Such helpful tips! Reply

Ms. Reply

Heather S. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 30, 2017 at 5:46 pm

Hmm, that’s weird. Related PostsHow to Find Exactly the Right Story HookSell More Books Webinar Replay Now Available!3 Reasons YOU Are the Most Important Selling Point for Marketing Your BookIs Crowdfunding for Authors a Good Idea? Although I’m nowhere near done with my book I have spent time trying to ready myself for when the time does comes. Holding the event online is a little challenging (I’m using a dedicated wordpress site – https://resistancedividedelementsbooklaunch.wordpress.com/), so my publisher and I have worked hard to develop some great events to interest and engage readers – including a cocktail hour (using a free ‘cocktail companion guide’ to my book) and a behind the scenes look at the design and development of the books cover art. Her novels are known for blending genres in unconventional ways. I like how you laid out the tips here. Reply

Kate Johnston says:

January 30, 2017 at 5:17 pm

Oh I thought you should know one of the links in your article isn’t working. Snitker says:

January 27, 2017 at 7:37 pm

This is great information and very helpful! I neglected a couple of important things in my first book launch, so I’m happy to find any helpful resources on the subject. Comments

Rebekah Martin says:

January 27, 2017 at 6:21 am

Thank you for this! Regards,

Reply

Kyle Robert Shultz says:

January 28, 2017 at 3:07 pm

Awesome article, Keely! Reply

Jason Bougger says:

January 27, 2017 at 10:14 pm

Thanks for the great article. There is more freedom in our marketing than we might realize. Reply

Trackbacks

Top Picks Thursday! Maybe their site was temporarily down. It’s nice to know that in doing some things right and still have goals to add to improve. Good luck with your launch! This is VERY helpful!
Tell me in the comments! Book Launch Step #6: Find Potential Reviewers
Book reviewers can be found in groups on social media, on Amazon by looking at the reviews of comparable titles, and on book sites such as Goodreads. You might not have all of the information available yet, but go ahead and start the document so you can add to it as you go. You accomplished something rare and impressive just by completing your masterpiece, not to mention surviving blood-boiling revisions and the agony of the publishing process. Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Build your dream team by creating a signup form and promoting it online. Notice some of the elements the websites have in common. Book Launch Step #4: Perfect Your Product’s Appearance
If you’re traditionally published, your publisher should ensure your book has been professionally edited and formatted and has an eye-catching, genre-appropriate cover. It might take setting up an account on each major social media site and experimenting to find out what works best for you and where your readers will connect with you. Take a long slow breath and relax into the creative process of promoting your release. What is the greatest challenge you see yourself facing with your next book launch? The promise of an early review copy of your book might be all it takes to get book lovers and bloggers to join your team. If you are an indie author, you will have to write it yourself. If you like the sound of your own voice, consider starting a podcast and interviewing others in the field related to your book. Often local media outlets are more accessible to new authors. While there is no one-size-fits-all promotion plan, there are certain essential tasks that both traditionally published authors and independent authors should do to ensure a fulfilling book launch. Book Launch Step #7: Find Potential Endorsers
Books endorsed by popular authors in the same genre or influencers in a related field tend to sell better than those without endorsements. Your web address should be the simplest form of your author name as possible and should be the link you share more than any other. It should not be a cobweb-covered single page you set up years ago and haven’t touched since. Book Launch Step #1: Ready Your Website
Your author website is the online version of your professional office or storefront. Decide what you like about them. Instead, it’s where they will come to learn more about you. Sign Up Today If you’re independent, it’s up to you. Filled with checklists of essential tasks, an abundance of publicity suggestions, and questions to personalize your promotions, The Writer’s Book Launch Journal will lead you on the journey to a fun and fulfilling book launch. If you’re signed to a traditional publisher, they might write compelling copy for your book. Now, the book launch   date has been set and—surprise!—you have more work to do! Congratulations, it’s a book! Need More Help With Your Book Launch? They might not. Create a signup form for new reviewers. How to Prepare for Your Book Launch in 7 Steps
Following, are a few basics to get you started. Book Launch Step #3: Build Your Media Connections
Many radio and television programs feature authors, as do newspapers and magazines. Book Launch Step #5: Create Your Media Kit
A media kit (also called a press kit) can be as simple as a document file containing your author bio, professional photo, book release information, book cover image, book description, sample Q&A, book excerpt, and endorsements. You can search online for book bloggers in your genre who accept review submissions. Resources such as The Writer’s Book Launch Journal can guide you through the marketing and promotional tasks every author should do to ensure a successful book launch. Book Launch Step #2: Ready Your Social Media
While the social media landscape changes as quickly as highly-caffeinated developers can write code, the purpose and best practices of an author using social media for book promotion remain the same. Before you create (or update) your author website, look at the websites of a few of the top authors in your genre. Either way, take the time to perfect your book description. Unless you’re an avid blogger, the author website won’t be how readers discover you. Promote it on your social media and send it to your email list. Also, consider writing a reader’s guide or book club questions to include in the back of your book. The important thing is that you maintain a consistent, professional presence and, of course, that you choose a platform you enjoy. It could also be your catalog, your bulletin board, or your yearbook. Who might you ask for an endorsement? Orchestrating a book launch sounds daunting, but people need your book. If you don’t know the potential endorsers personally, email them individually. Choose a theme (the layout and look of a website) that reflects your brand.
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How to Find Exactly the Right Story Hook

You can find the list of editors I recommend here. It’s not always enough that I innately know, or have learned something. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 30, 2017 at 5:43 pm

That does sound fun! Trying to make each of the 8 volumes have a “this is why you should care” premise hook may be a bit of a challenge, so hopefully each previous volume helps with that. (I’m actually not kidding… my cabin’s lake is full of them, and when you ice-fish there you don’t even need bait…)
If you want the good stuff, like trout, yeah you better bait up. Bull says:

February 2, 2017 at 4:54 pm

Thank you for this post! Volume 1 must hook with it’s individual hook, AND hold the promise of the overall premise. I get excited every time I hear it. Reply

K.M. Reply

Alex Wilson says:

February 1, 2017 at 2:39 am

So it sounds like I might’ve found my hook?? It’s true that most professionals do refer to his strategy as a “hook”, but shouldn’t it actually be called “bait”? Of course, a lot depends on a person’s writing method. But can they be reconciled and work together? I open the story with a prologue of him making his last drug deal and promising to himself never to sell drugs again. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 30, 2017 at 5:45 pm

The more I learn about writing, the more I’m convinced it’s *all* about balance. …not to mention a series that I plan on beginning at some point after I’ve actually finished a few other things first. It goes the same way with creating the hook. Reply

Wesley Baines says:

February 1, 2017 at 7:22 am

This is one of my favorite posts so far—it was extremely insightful and helpful to me. The Hook is more of a plot issue–it introduces the dramatic question that drives the plot. Lol!! This simple yet profound bit of advice is exactly what I needed to hear today. I actually find the “hooking” process pretty fun. Reply

K.M. Ede Omokhudu says:

January 31, 2017 at 6:33 am

Very good information Katie. Writing has become exciting again! Do you know of any good editors who don’t cost an arm and a leg? Because you want to read it, and it doesn’t exist yet. Reply

K.M. Albina says:

January 31, 2017 at 3:43 pm

I mean the writing program called scrivener. After reading this article, I realize that by beginning the chapter a little further into the story, I deliver the hook sooner to my readers. Thanks! The difference being that the overall pacing of a trilogy spans three separated sections, rather than 8, as in my graphic novel. Reply

Kathleen says:

February 16, 2017 at 10:23 am

I’m really stuck with my opening. I think it’ll live up to the task, though. Why are you writing this story? Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 1, 2017 at 2:42 pm

Glad you enjoyed it. My premise is: A teenage high school dropout and drug dealer who later strives to get his GED. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 2, 2017 at 10:20 am

I honestly think the whole “write the story you want to read” advice is one of the most exciting in all of writing. I’m sure I’ve got my hook in there somewhere, but it’s not easy to unpick my instincts! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 31, 2017 at 6:47 pm

Great point about how the first book in a series must act as a hook both for itself and the series as a whole. http://wp.me/p7S0UT-jf
Have a fantastic night! But that is, of course, easier said than done. The hook is in there, it always was in there, but now I’m wondering if it’s REALLY in there, yanno? Reply

J.M Barlow says:

January 31, 2017 at 6:00 pm

This is a fun article to read when considering my 8-Volume Graphic Novel WIP. Reply

K.M. It dramatizes the theme and puts the character in physical situations that force him to grow into finding the answer to the thematic question. I think my response still stands though doesn’t it? I couldn’t tell of a hook in the premise, because there is none. I really am not sure anymore….. Reply

K.M. Sorry… I’m just fishing for a few laughs here. Then in chapter one he talks with his father about his desire to go back to school and further his education. Looking forward to participating in Mystery Thriller Week on Facebook. They are entirely sequential, but each volume is a step towards the very end. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 31, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Hah. Reply

Saurabh says:

January 31, 2017 at 8:49 am

Hi Katie
Really good advice but always something that I struggle with especially when I am writing the first chapter or the first scene in the first draft. Do you use your program to write your story for you? I mean the list goes on. 🙂 You mentioned the difference between starting when you’re writing for yourself and when you’re writing for others. :p

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Sherrie Marshall Spitz says:

January 30, 2017 at 7:36 pm

Katie, This is so timely for me. K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 31, 2017 at 4:37 pm

The dramatic question comes from the plot, which is the story’s exterior conflict. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 31, 2017 at 1:54 pm

That’s great! It was messy work, but it had to be done. (More on that here: 3 Steps to Find the Heart of Your Story.)
That said, it sounds to me like your opening scene’s exterior conflict *is* providing a great visual metaphor for the interior conflict and theme. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 1, 2017 at 2:43 pm

The going rate for a decent editor is $.03 per word. Reply

Greg says:

January 31, 2017 at 12:08 am

As I was thinking about this, as an analogy, I considered the people who frequent the nature trail I visit regularly. Totally agree with it. I’ve been following your posts for a long time, and almost always find something useful or inspiring in them. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 31, 2017 at 1:59 pm

Thanks for stopping by, Ede! Why read this one? The loneliness is very evident from line one of page one, and things are definitely off-and I know I will illustrate that the Main Character is grieving and lonely and wants friends and love-but we don’t know that this is because the main character’s Dad, who is also lost in his grief, meaning he isn’t giving his Son the love and support HE needs, is kind of preparing his Son to take that revenge on both their behalf. I can use the internal conflict hook quite clearly from page one, spell it out if I really wanted to, but I’d only very vaguely be hinting at the external conflict hook/twist. So how do I explain the hook without ruining the whole story in my opening? Thank you so much! Reply

Becky Fettig says:

January 31, 2017 at 5:15 pm

Great article but I’m unclear on what is the difference between the hook and the premise. Knowing me, I’ve probably talked too much!! And everything you say is right; your hook has to be original and entertaining, as well as give enough feel of what the book is about and who the characters are without using infodumps. Forgot to make such a comment. It starts with one side effect related to the conflict, though not one which necessarily sets the plot itself moving. Instead, look for something concrete you can use to give readers a reason to read on to that point. It’s more like a test, in fact, to see how engaging I can make a story with limited ideas. And along with the quote above changes the perspective and alleviates a lot of pressure. Reply

K.M. Reply

Joe Long says:

January 30, 2017 at 6:42 pm

I was one of those who until recently had confused the hook with the inciting event. There’s common advice to “cut the first chapter” (which certainly can be overkilled), but it exists because that hook is so often buried under a couple pages of “throat clearing.”

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Jason Bougger says:

January 30, 2017 at 5:11 pm

There is so much to digest in this post, and coming up with a good hook has been struggle for me since I first started writing. You could read any high-fantasy (for example) novel. Very important, and it doesn’t get dropped… I just don’t know how to unpick my overall hook from my main theme(s), it’s all quite subtle, and in complete contrast to the way I approach most of the rest of my life, my writing is very instinctual. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. 🙂

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Max Woldhek says:

February 1, 2017 at 11:53 am

Hmm. Although there was this new person attracting his attention, he continued in the tried and failed methods of his normal world. That was a new one.”
Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files has been a huge source of inspiration to me. Balancing priorities. So thank you for the quote and added insight, really helpful and much appreciated! Balance of what you give and what you receive. Are they both the same? Reply

Alex Wilson says:

January 31, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Thank you for response, I’m glad you were able to understand my ramblings! Don’t spend too much time spelling out his loneliness basically? Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 31, 2017 at 2:00 pm

My program? Their contest came to mind immediately when I read your fantastic post about writing the Hook. Comments

Ms. I hope so, because I know that’s the case here. The host was interviewing Judith Ann Krentz (not familiar with the author or the genre: romance suspense) but when asked/talked about character development she said they all started out as ‘stick figures’, very basic, just some minimal information (along the lines of the first several questions in Katie’s character interview section in Outlining) and how, through successive drafts, she develops each. Reply

K.M. My book is my protagonist telling a story of what happened to him 3 years previous so he knows what is going to happen of course. Maybe I should apply a little of that balance awareness to the stairs. Simply walking, or standing on your own two feet. Sherrie

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K.M. (The `what makes your story unique’.) It’s the coming of age story of a young goblinish creature, a war captive, looking for a sense of belonging among his human captors. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 31, 2017 at 1:58 pm

What you’re talking about has more to do with thematic framing–which is also important, but which is more about setting the right tone from the very beginning (which it sounds like you’ve done). So when I try to find something consciously, like the hook, or previously the themes (the book really told me the themes, I wrote it and suddenly realised the theme I’d unconsciously been writing to), I find it very difficult. Really, what we’re doing is hooking ourselves before we hook anyone else. Cheers,
Ty

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K.M. Really got me thinking. Then I have to provide a premise hook for 7 more volumes. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 2, 2017 at 6:33 pm

No, I’m afraid you’ll have to research that yourself. Balancing checkbooks, balancing diet. The Inciting Event is one writing concept that I’ve had dead wrong at least twice in my evolution as a writer. Reply

Greg says:

February 1, 2017 at 12:54 am

Hello random commenter 😉 That’s a very interesting thought and really helpful. Grace Marie says:

January 30, 2017 at 9:30 am

This is a great article. Subscribe to Blog Updates:

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SIGN UP FOR K.M. So I have my hook? Reply

K.M. At that point, his situation changed but he hadn’t started to change yet – so it’s not the inciting event. One sentence. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 31, 2017 at 4:31 pm

I love that quote! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 1, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Not caveats, per se. Helping Writers Become AuthorsHow to Outline Your Novel
How to Structure Your Story
How to Write Character Arcs
How to Structure Scenes
Most Common Writing Mistakes
Storytelling According to Marvel

Now Available! Coincidentally, it was right around that 12% mark that my protagonist had his epiphany (and yes, the voice of God may have been involved.) It wasn’t about physical attraction (which he had routinely experienced) but instead about emotional bonding and commitments (of which he was as brand new as she.)
But he was still to blind to tell if she was also interested. In the first chapter of my forthcoming novel, the main characters, through psychic ability, know a horrid event has occurred. Weiland tells us what a hook is, and how to find exactly the right story hook to capture the […]

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Notify me of follow-up comments by email. K.M. K.M. Which raised the question of audience (podcast #16) and who am I writing for? Coming up with a premise is always enjoyable, and setting it in motion is where it all starts to come alive. At the beginning I was going to have the protagonist introduce himself and the story he is telling. For me, I ended up cutting most of the first 25 pages from the first draft and keeping just a few sentences of it, but I think it worked out well. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 1, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Yep, I’d say so. Reply

K.M. Reply

K.M. K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 30, 2017 at 7:18 pm

Truth! You’ve got a great hook in your opening line, BTW! Movies About K.M. Since it’s your plot boiled down to its essence, it should *include* the hook. I’ll have to ponder this. Sometimes the sub-threads get too full and you have to start a brand-new comment. Reply

K.M. Okay, I’ll stop

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Ernesto San Giacomo says:

January 30, 2017 at 11:58 pm

I like that you mention the character’s normal world should be presented. I know for a fact that the end of Volume 1 of my graphic novel will be a hook for Volume 2, 2 for 3, 3 for 4, 4 for 5… (i’m just going through them in my head right now…) 5 for.. Reply

K.M. Reply

Ms. What I’m pretty sure the hook is for my story, is supposed to be unknown till near the end of the book. Weiland | @KMWeilandK.M. And unique! Ms. It also reminded me of an interview I watched over the weekend on ‘Well Read’. This could be a stereotypical boy meets girl, but my hook is that the boy was a shy and inexperienced nineteen year old college student and the girl was his precocious fourteen year old cousin who he hadn’t seen in five years. Reply

K.M. It’s hard to find that perfect balance between entertaining and informing, but when you find it you know it. Hahahaha!!! Ace the balance and you ace the story. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 30, 2017 at 7:19 pm

You’re certainly not alone. Albina says:

January 30, 2017 at 9:00 am

I liked your article. Their differences in age are instrumental in showing her trying to handle the social life of seventeen to twenty-one year olds while a ninth grader. Until now I’ve mainly thought of the hook as something that tries to pull in the reader as quickly as possible, make them interested in what’s going on on the first page. My story, Matter of the Heart (odd connection there) begins from the very first line with an allusion to the main conflict (lights from a neighboring space station are gone), but doesn’t explain it in full until later (the reason those lights went out). Lol!! …..but it's also a hook. K.M. It seems that I rewrite the Hook no less than 50 times (per draft). The first domino is that the main character sees the gaiwan and tries to understand its usage. As you pointed out, that’s where the mastery comes in—and then, once you’ve hooked the reader (promised great things to come), then to deliver on those promises…
Thanks for the teaching, Katie! Gives you space to develop things while still creating that sense of “something’s wrong” that instantly hooks readers’ curiosity. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 1, 2017 at 2:45 pm

The Hook *is* what you say it is, although there’s a little more to it, as I’ve talked about in this post. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 30, 2017 at 5:44 pm

That’s great! I’ve been mired in false starts and over-complications. Both of these are major components of the theme. Inner conflict can certainly create a wonderful hook for readers. The juxtaposition of the character’s loneliness against his desire for companions–and blocked by the obstacle of the father’s conflicting goals–is a nice bit of irony and contrast that certainly has the potential to hook readers if done well. The only caveat there is that you don’t want to get so lost in the character’s interiority early on that you miss out on grounding readers in the story world or creating a sense of physical progression. I feel like I’m learning more here than I did in 4 years of undergrad creative writing courses. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 1, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Oh, yes, definitely. However, my approach is simply to try to write the kind of story *I* would want to read and therefore for readers out there who share my tastes. Albina says:

February 1, 2017 at 9:48 am

Okay, thank you. With your article as my map, I’m going to make sure I truly understand the definition and function of hook and whether I used it to its best advantage. Like in series such as Harry Potter, I don’t have just one theme, especially as my entire work (which could be a few series linked together very closely), but my main two themes are revenge (whether there’s a place for it, can it lead to a positive end, or only ever end in ruin?) and grief (which produces the desire for revenge. Volume 1 has some heavy lifting to do. And it was especially nice because I realized I could answer the first question! Ms. This whole article goes hand in hand with your common advice of writing what you’d like to read. Just the mere promise that something good is eventually going to happen isn’t enough. Reply

K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 31, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Good analogy. Reply

J.M Barlow says:

January 31, 2017 at 6:52 pm

Yep, I’m pretty sure I’ve had conversations with the both of yous about balance in and around these parts. Hope to see some of my fellow Wordplayers in lights on the final night of awards! You give great advice on writing. You couldn’t comment at all? 🙂

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julie brown says:

January 30, 2017 at 2:06 pm

After receiving feedback from an agent, I revised my first chapter. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 31, 2017 at 6:46 pm

The premise is the basic idea of your story’s plot summed up in one or two sentences. AT LEAST I HOPE SO! Does it sound like I’m hinting at the hook I’ve got going? Here’s the link for anyone who wants to enter. Reply

K.M. Obviously he has to say something interesting or no one would read on. Free e-book formatting and cover art with some other fun items. Reply

A.P. Or “fly” by the seat of your pants. But if you’re writing for yourself, then doesn’t it come down to telling the best story you can and whoever stops, stops? And it’s true – balance applies to everything. 🙂

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Heather Stegelin says:

January 30, 2017 at 11:11 am

This is one of the most helpful articles I’ve read. Sorry for the confusion. By “character’s inferiority…” etc, you mean that I mustn’t get distracted with describing and showing my character’s loneliness, my hook that we’ve discussed-I’m pretty certain we’ve found my hook now, right? The thematic question comes from the character and his arc, which provide the interior conflict. The benefit to writing in series/volumes/whathaveyou is that your previous story can sometimes provide a hook. Therefore I try to improve the story hook in the 2nd draft and it usually seems to work. Can I do that??? For example, the first sentences from the short story I’m currently writing:
“As a seniour vigilator, Urni Vierakson was used to shouting faces. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 31, 2017 at 1:55 pm

I love the Normal World. Reply

Ty Strange says:

February 1, 2017 at 4:22 pm

Thanks. 🙂

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Mason says:

February 2, 2017 at 4:11 pm

The idea behind my current WIP is that it should be as mundane as possible. I had to cut the first half of it completely, which nearly killed me (not really). For Writers & Readers 02-09-2017 | The Author Chronicles says:

February 9, 2017 at 11:02 am

[…] successful, they have to have a hook. I mean, you’re putting out a sequel to Dreamlander and I’m already hooked. I wouldn’t say it’s an aspect that I particularly struggle with, but I still like reading about the detailed nitty-gritty of it. 😀

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K.M. More here: Story Concept and Story Premise: Do You Know the Crucial Difference? Today, you’ve given me a new understanding of the Hook as both 1) the unique selling point of my premise and 2) the scene in the beginning that highlights that uniqueness for the reader. 😀

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Grace Marie says:

January 31, 2017 at 4:14 pm

Thanks. There. I now have a much clearer vision of what my story is at its core, and where it has to start. Reply

Grace Marie says:

January 31, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Random commenter here. (Usually it’s someone older who gets this). She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website. I like to think of the exterior conflict as a “visual metaphor” for the interior conflict. Well, it's an ending…. The normalcy of the city perturbs them further, and wets their appetite for more knowledge. Ms. …
…. Not only do you provide a clear definition of the often misunderstood concept of story hooks, but you also fully explain the functions and importance of a good hook. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 30, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Glad you enjoyed the post! 55: Beginning Your Story Too LateSell More Books Webinar Replay Now Available!5 Important Ways Storytelling Is Different in Books vs. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 1, 2017 at 5:12 pm

That’s weird. And not only does it not have [this], but the entire story changes because of it. Obviously you can’t tell me exactly what my hook should be, but what I’ve found is a workable hook?-and forget to orient the scene in a physical location, and to also move on. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 31, 2017 at 4:31 pm

Scrivener doesn’t write *for* me. fbgrihdfbgvskdjzfx (< —- that's what the inside of my head looks like) yeah all of them. And here: How to Pitch Your Novel: What’s the Difference Between Your Story’s Hook and Your Story’s Heart? Reply

J.M Barlow says:

February 1, 2017 at 9:42 pm

Yeah, exactly. Reply

K.M. I need to know why and how. I do hope it’s still effective in grabbing reader’s interests though. Because what I’ve described is definitely the heart of the series, not just this single book, he struggles with his desire just to have friends to stop his loneliness vs his desire for revenge for the whole series, which the external conflict (which in his past actually causes his internal conflict), makes all the more harder. On top of that, you give us excellent examples and helpful tools for applying your wisdom to our own writing. This was fantastic. All the best! I like that a lot. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 30, 2017 at 5:43 pm

Glad it came in handy. The opening scene is always one of my biggest challenges as well. Thank you so much for this information! In short, eveyrthing’s all very tied up together. If you’re fishing for suckers… all you need is a hook. Would I find the hook somewhere in my theme, then? WEILAND’S ELETTER AND RECEIVE A FREE EBOOK Lambert says:

January 30, 2017 at 6:19 pm

Was just discussing this with someone else. All he wants is friends and family and to be loved, to fill in the whole that is his grief for his mother, but the larger events he’s unwillingly a part of stoke his desire for revenge, and he risks losing himself to revenge. I’m a klutz in real life. Reply

K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 2, 2017 at 6:35 pm

Good for you! So do I just allude to the fact that all was not as it seemed, something like, “I’d find out soon enough that what seemed like a simple case of depression was not at all what it seemed.” ?? I would just start writing it and see what happens. In my case, my protagonist is shown in his normal world when a new person enters, which will begin him down the road that will change him forever. Reply

M.L. Albina says:

January 30, 2017 at 6:02 pm

How would you write about a fire that happens in a village? Reply

Alex Wilson says:

January 31, 2017 at 3:37 am

I know it flies in the face of a lot of what you said in this podcast, but I do believe I have the right hook in the first chapter of my book, and yet can’t really find the “hook”. Reply

K.M. I don’t track chapters per day, although I try to write at least 1,000 words. Shouting faces sticking out of a brick wall, however? Just my view. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 31, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Really, it’s a shame we have to begin our stories with the beginning. The main conflict is that the impact character doesn’t want the main character to break his gaiwan. I’ve recently been participating in the Mystery Thriller Week, and have met a lot of great author and blogger folks putting together a collaborative event. There are hints… or maybe ripples of this fact there from the beginning: the person he’s grieving for is one of these 12 sacrifices, but you’d likely not be able to put this together yourself, it serves as quite a twist. Reply

K.M. I’m getting off topic. And, no, that was a humongous typo on my part. If anything, you have a little more wiggle room in literary fiction, since slower openings are de rigueur. 😕

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Alex Wilson says:

February 1, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Yeah, I think it just got too full, obviously it indents further each post, so it’s to avoid posts being a word-length thin, which is ridiculous and really hard to read, so I’m not too bothered by it happening, like you said, we can always just start a brand new comment! Thick carpets help too. Decisions decisions…
Speaking of which, decision-making is entirely about balance. Fish don’t grab onto a hook because it is a hook. The story I’ve been trying to write is very complicated and doesn’t fit neatly into any sort of traditional story structure I’ve encountered. Reply

K.M. Related Posts7 Essentials for Your Book LaunchMost Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 1, 2017 at 2:36 pm

It *is* fun! And Volume 8's ending. 😀

Ty Strange says:

February 1, 2017 at 12:41 am

Hi K.M.,
Are there caveats with regards to literary fiction given the greater emphasis on character? Saying, “here’s part of the hook, but you only know half of it, so go ahead and read on”? Reply

Danie Botha says:

January 30, 2017 at 8:51 pm

Matching the hook in our premise and in the first chapter is the challenge. And this emphasizes *why* it’s so important to understand your audience. It’s hard work and demands a discerning eye, and rewrites … and more rewrites. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. But those aren’t all that obvious, it’s deliberately subtle, and in fact in the opening my main character has no desire for revenge, as he doesn’t know any of what causes revenge yet. I’m on the right line? It’s the same deal. They are awarding 1st-3rd prizes, and 1st is a doosie! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 16, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Although you certainly want to be able to tease out some mysterious details from beginning to end, if the interesting aspect in question isn’t revealed until the very end, then it’s almost certainly not the hook in either your premise or your first chapter. Do I aim for those who stop and look at nature in all it’s forms as I do, or do I try and grab the attention of those jogging, cycling or simply walking a to b earbuds in oblivious to the treasure they’re passing through trying to open their eye to it all? It’s kinda a look at different ways of grieving). It helped me better understand the concept of the “hook” of a story, and identify what the hooks of my novel actually are for my main plot. At least as certain as we can ever be!! Opening sentences from some of his books:
“It rained toads the day the White Council came to town.”
“The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault.”

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K.M. The cogs and such. There’s no genre, so I can’t say why it’s different from others of its genre. Reply

Greg says:

February 1, 2017 at 1:04 am

Thank you, that’s really helpful! Cheers! Mine is lotus helps the village with delphino and her parents and other s

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K.M. Jason Bougger says:

January 31, 2017 at 7:44 am

Ha! Ultimately, the primary function of a good Hook is simply to present a situation of contrasts in which something is ever so slightly “off,” piquing readers’ curiosity to find out why. Reply

K.M. Being able to distill the premise is so important in grasping the story as a whole. (ep 300)
Without knowing what you’re fishing for, how do you know which bait/lure to use to hook with? 🙂

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Alan Horne says:

January 30, 2017 at 10:02 pm

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the terminology is a bit off. I know I’m rambling now, but I’ve literally just listened to your podcast and am now panicking, because there’s important marketing reasons I need to know this! What I meant to write was your character’s “interiority“–his internal conflict and narrative. There’s saying your point so people know what you’re going on about, and then proving that what you’re going on about is correct – or with purpose. The balance of two people in a relationship (let alone a whole family and whatnot). Reply

K.M. Or just has tangible value. But for me, this is one of your best. That’s been my reading experience as well. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 2, 2017 at 6:34 pm

As long as it’s keeping you interested, it should keep the right readers interested too. Do you also keep how many chapters you write a day? What about writing articles? The deadline is February 12th. But it’s a great representation of what we want to do (in a very non-literal sense). Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 31, 2017 at 1:59 pm

I hear you. The premise has to be realized right away, by concrete foreshadowing if nothing else. The fact that it doesn’t exist yet is because the others don’t have [this]. And that image you used looks so painful! When done well, it’s always one of my favorite parts of a story. Reply

K.M. Because I think that’s the issue I’m trying to figure out here. Using the term you use in your response, the “dramatic question”, I’d say I have that for my character, I’m very certain what he wants, but it’s quite small and intimate, set against larger events that get in the way, these events igniting his desire for revenge, which directly oppose his goals. Be nice to start with something a little easier. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 30, 2017 at 7:18 pm

Sounds like a great opening. I basically have to just avoid carrying on examining his interior conflict too long, I’ve got other things to achieve in the opening chapter besides laying out my hook-which as I said, I’m pretty sure I’ve got now, right? More on topic:
plot / character
education / entertainment
pace / detail
the entire concept of structuring a novel is about balance – but it’s not just about fiction. Reply

K.M. Albina says:

February 2, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Thank you. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 31, 2017 at 1:59 pm

True words. 🙂

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Kate Johnston says:

January 30, 2017 at 5:38 pm

This month, I rewrote the opening chapters to my once-MG/now-YA novel to introduce the character more clearly in his Normal World, as well as to also bring forth his characteristic moment and the Lie (both of which weren’t all that clear in the previous version). Lambert says:

January 30, 2017 at 6:17 pm

Ah hooks, easy to forget about, but so crucial to a story. Without the “I told you so”
There’ll come a time in the very post of mine where I’ll stop listing examples of balance, or even talking about balance, so that I don’t throw the universe (don’t get me started on physics and theory…) out of whack. Reply

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Top Picks Thursday! There are very few things I’ve discovered in which balance, if not the answer, is an important factor. 🙂
Ah right, interiority!! Reply

J.M Barlow says:

January 31, 2017 at 7:09 pm

Well it’s definitely something I constantly am thinking about, what with having put together much of an outline for a trilogy. K.M. In the opening chapter, it looks like the hook could be something to do with loneliness… I know what the character wants, but that is one facet of the larger story. It’s free and only requires 300 words. Does one build onto the other? Everything in writing is easier said than done 🙂 But when it all comes together it’s all worth the hard work. I was going to mention that in another comment but forgot, so I’m glad you brought it up! Reply

K.M. Reply

J.M Barlow says:

January 31, 2017 at 6:58 pm

Depends on the fish. Reply

K.M. A clear vision makes all the different in plotting a story’s big picture. 😉

Reply

TJ Birman says:

January 30, 2017 at 9:14 pm

Thank you. Reply

Becky Fettig says:

February 1, 2017 at 5:30 am

Thank you. Reply

K.M. Notify me of new posts by email. Stupid brain. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 30, 2017 at 7:43 pm

This is great, Sherrie! Reply

Ms. 😉

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A.P. That’s the hook in the story. Gail Carson Levine, in her book `Writing Magic’ pointed out that when you start your story the person you’re trying to hook is yourself (that’s an almost direct quote) then when you have more down and are ready to edit, you can worry about how to hook your readers. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 1, 2017 at 6:57 pm

Yep, I think you’re good to go. But it’s definitely helpful in organizing outline and manuscript notes. I was actually thinking that, right after reading the article. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

January 30, 2017 at 7:17 pm

Honestly, that depends very much on the specifics of the story. Reply

Alex Wilson says:

February 1, 2017 at 4:36 pm

I read your last post, but was unable to reply on that conversation thread… dunno why, but oh well. Do you what editor is the right one for I can offered? ….but then again, hardwood definitely looks the best and cleans the fastest. 🙂

Alex Wilson says:

February 1, 2017 at 2:59 am

Is there a way there can be a hook for the internal conflict, that of his loneliness vs want for revenge, and the external conflict, that the villain must be defeated, but to do so, 12 people must sacrifice themselves first who are close to the main character (which obviously puts his internal goal at great risk, even without his desire for revenge), even though he does not find out this out until a few books in? (I’m so proud.)

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K.M. Reply

K.M. Again, thank you. Thanks for sharing. Their blood relationship forces them to keep their activities a secret from their families. It sounds like it based on what I know of hooks. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 1, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Good points. It’s like getting permission to do give yourself Christmas all day, every day. Sherlock would have commented it was “elementary,” while indeed it’s not. Albina says:

January 31, 2017 at 9:27 am

Okay, thank you. K.M. You’re awesome! He leaned closer. I think I’m struggling to find the difference between the theme of my book (which is a large series, potentially very large!) and the hook. I know it’s hard to answer without more details. :p

J.M Barlow says:

February 1, 2017 at 9:47 pm

That could help.

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Whatever is interesting about your premise needs to either make an appearance or at least be teased right off the bat. If you were to immediately plunge readers up to their necks in the premise’s action, nothing would make sense and the hook would ultimately fail for lack of context. But how do you know it’s the   right hook? Introduce the First Piece That Kicks Off the Premise
Other premises will need to be developed more slowly. If you fail to understand your premise, you will also fail to understand your story. The Two Different Functions of a Story Hook
When writers talk about “the hook,” they might be talking about either of two related but different things. For Example:
Q. But it is the first domino in the line of events that create your story’s seamless narrative weave. Instead, you must create ways to introduce the character’s status quo, while still balancing the promise of the conflict to come. The sooner you can identify and solidify your story hook, the more control you will have over creating your story’s entire narrative. So here they are looking at your first chapter. b)   Convince anyone to read it. If you remove any of the unique elements from the stories above, what’s left? The first eighth of your story is your opportunity for setup. The Hook in the First Chapter
The other manifestation of the story hook is as the all-important structural element in your first chapter. A. It really defines the story itself and creates strong dramatic and emotional scenes. When you’re the ringmaster at the center of the circus—the one on the inside looking out—it can be downright tricky to figure out the best way to lure   people inside the tent to see your fabulous show. But in Hitch’s thirteen years of experience, this was the first time “anything” had meant bodies falling out of the night sky smack in front of his plane. Because the first chapter is arguably one of the most difficult chapters to write in the entire book. And the list goes on and on. 2. Do Your Two Hooks Match Up? Start by asking yourself these two questions:
1. What are they going to find? The characters will have goals and meet obstacles, but neither will fully solidify until the   main story goal and   main conflict arrive in   the First Plot Point at the end of the First Act. As Martell went on to say:
…the hook doesn’t just make the story sound interesting in order to attract an audience. However, if you   can’t find the entry point to your story, it often signals a bigger problem than just marketing trouble. This was the approach I used in my portal fantasy   Dreamlander. Does it resonate with the expectations raised by the story premise? The protagonist Mattie Ross can’t go after the outlaws until she has a reason to: first, her father’s death, then the local law establishment’s refusal/inability to measure up to her ideals. For Example:

Peter Weir opens   Master and Commander: Far Side of the World with an intense naval battle that immediately pays off his historical story’s premise. The detective is a sweet little old lady. This is what screenwriter William C. Why? The trickiest trick of the opening is finding a hook that perfectly symbolizes your premise, grabs readers’ attention—and is   still the first domino in your story’s narrative. Because the first chapter will introduce your protagonist in her Normal World   before she has encountered the story’s main conflict, you will rarely want to open with that conflict in its full-blown state. Either you’ve started with a faulty premise (your story is really about something else), or you’ve chosen the wrong starting place to represent that premise. What makes   The Book Thief different from other World War II stories? Either you have no idea what your hook is, or you have no idea how to describe it. For Example:

The opening battle scene in   Gladiator immediately moves into Emperor Aurelius trying to pass his throne to protagonist Maximus—which leads to the Inciting Event when the emperor’s jealous son murders him. Even if it is clearly a “standalone” episode (as in   Gladiator and my   Behold the Dawn), it must still   lead into the main plot. Martell is talking about in his book   Your Idea Machine when he asks:
If a viewer had a list of 100 indie movie loglines in a TV guide or the onscreen cable guide—just a handful of words to describe each film—why would they select your film? 2 Questions to Double Check You’ve Chosen the Right Opening
After you’ve chosen a gripping and promise-fulfilling opening, double check it against the following questions to make sure you’re balancing the needs of the hook against the cohesion of the rest of the story. Here’s another tricky balancing act of the first chapter: it must begin with the characters in motion, wanting something pertinent to the main story goal, and   doing something that will eventually lead them to a meeting with the main story conflict—and yet, the first chapter   isn’t about the main conflict. They’re linked. Not something most of us would care much about reading, huh? Readers are immediately introduced to the narrator Death (and the promised book thieving). If you’re lucky, it’s what lifts your idea into the rarefied air of the eagerly sought-after “high-concept premise” that makes agents, editors, and producers see green $$$ and start salivating. It’s first and foremost a sign you’re   struggling to find an awareness of and control over your story. 2. The protagonists are both dying. There are two ways to do this. And if it’s   not, then one or the other is wrong and you need to reevaluate your choices. The hook is   not the event that incites the story’s main conflict. How have you represented your premise’s hook in your opening chapter’s hook? Whaaa? Still, I was able to immediately pay off the premise in the first line:

Dreams weren’t supposed to be able to kill you. It presents a characterizing “story”—complete with beginning, middle, and end—that gives readers a glimpse of your main plot in the form of a symbolic microcosm. An interesting way to approach this is to think of your first chapter as a mini-episode all its own. Fortunately, we’re gonna fix that today. Even more importantly, does it   fulfill those expectations? For Example:

True Grit   offers a hook that is more situational than those previously mentioned. But even if you prefer to discover your story   in the narrative drafting stage, you still need to have a firm grasp of your premise in time to let it influence your revisions. Even better—when people (even agents!) ask you what your story is about (which is always code for:   why should I care?), you’ll never have to struggle for an appropriate answer. Above all else, it is a representative of your premise hook. For many authors, the big trouble in finding or creating a story hook   is that it’s sometimes tough to see the forest for the trees. A. The hook is the tiniest of entry points into your vast and fascinating story. P.J. Hogan’s adaptation of   Peter Pan opens with Wendy’s jovial if gruesome telling of her favorite pirate story—about the ruthless, blue-eyed Captain Hook—which both symbolizes and literally foreshadows what is to come. Is Your Opening Scene the First Domino in Your Plot? This is also an approach I was able to use in my historical/dieselpunk adventure   Storming, which promised readers a woman falling out of the sky and gave them that in the very first lines. On the other hand, when you have a firm grasp of your story’s premise, you automatically have a solid understanding of what your story is about. If you can discover and strengthen your story hook at every step in the process, you will have created an incomparable foundation for both your storytelling and, eventually, your marketing. But it’s more than that too. The Hook in the Premise
This is the unique aspect of your story premise. This is yet another reason I love outlines: before I ever begin my first draft, I know my premise and its possibilities inside out. The most challenging balancing act of the opening chapter is remembering it isn’t   just about hooking readers, but also about setting up the story to come. Same deal in   The Book Thief. A. http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/kmweiland.com/podcast/how-to-find-exactly-the-right-hook-for-your-story.mp3
Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in iTunes). If you think of the premise as a promise, then the first chapter is where that promise will initially be either kept or broken. 2. That can be one of the most frustrating questions for any author—for two reasons. Q. The hook in your story premise must   create the structural hook in your story’s opening chapter. How do you leverage your premise to choose a gripping and fulfilling opening scene? Sign Up Today The opening battle scene in   Behold the Dawn leads directly to the protagonist’s confrontation with the “heretic” monk known as the Baptist, who turns out to be an important face from his past, prompting the protagonist’s journey to the Crusade in the Holy Land. It cannot stand by itself. Not yet. But this was one was sure trying its best. What makes Brandon Sanderson’s   Mistborn different from other epic fantasies? Its premise promises the protagonist will enter a parallel fantasy world through the access point of his dreams, but this event doesn’t actually happen until the Inciting Event. However, this doesn’t mean you still can’t open   with a piece of the hook. An author who doesn’t understand his story hook is an author who has no control over his creation. A unique magic system. And when you know what your story is about, you will be able to direct its narrative with confidence in   making the proper choices for its best interest at every step of the process. Just as the opening   chapter itself is the first domino in your plot’s line of events, the structural hook can also be the first domino in a careful buildup to the premise’s full promised power. Show the Premise in Action
In some stories, the premise will need to be developed over the course of many chapters in order to reach fruition (see #2, below), but in others, it can be shown in its full glory right from the start. If you did your job right in creating an interesting and unique story hook in your premise, then you’ve   halfway hooking readers. This means you will rarely want to open your first chapter with the big guns of your main conflict. What makes John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars   different from other YA romances? The most important of those first-chapter tasks is   always, always, always   entertaining readers. Ridley Scott’s   Gladiator opens with what is a (strictly speaking) nonessential battle sequence that functions to introduce the characters and their Normal World—and, just as importantly, to pay off the premise and hook viewers. The premise says, “Here’s what this story’s about, and I promise you’re going to like it.” The opening chapter then says, “Here’s the story! 1. Instead, you must figure out how to set all that up, while still being as fascinating as possible. They match. What is the core element that makes your story idea different than the others? The hook in the first chapter is a direct reflection and/or setup of the hook promised in your premise. Yep, that’s exactly what I’m telling you. There are no new stories, but almost all the truly memorable incarnations feature some unique element—however small—that offers a new slant on the same ol’ tale. They all pull this balance off masterfully,   opening their stories in interesting, sometimes even intense moments, but still leaving room to   build up to the main conflict in the Second Act. The good news is both of these scenarios are quite common. 2. What makes Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple different from other whodunits? Easy. It’s what makes   your story stand out from all the other “different but same” stories in your genre. A. 1. You tellin’ me I don’t know my own story, girl? Are you seeing the parallel here? How to Use Your Story Hook to Create Your Opening Chapter
Your understanding of your story hook will influence every bit of your narrative. But the very first decision it will help you make is in your first chapter. 1. This is the approach I used in my medieval epic   Behold the Dawn, which opens with a (strictly speaking) nonessential battle sequence that introduces the protagonist’s brutal Normal World and leads directly into the actual plot’s first domino. It’s a lens that we view the story through. This won’t work for all stories, but it is a common gambit in some movies. But how do you   do that? The first and most obvious step is simply to make sure your premise is actually   in your opening chapter. One Final Test
So now you’ve got a great hook for your premise   and a great hook for your opening chapter. Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! If you can’t find and identify this tiny beating of your entire story, then chances are excellent your story doesn’t actually have a beating heart. Is Your Opening Scene Focused on the Setup of the Normal World? Authors often mistake the structural hook for the Inciting Event (which occurs halfway through the First Act at approximately the 12% mark and in which the protagonist has his first direct encounter with the main conflict via his Call to Adventure). The result is a mess—and a sure indication of an author who has no control over his creation. A. Or, just as likely, it’s struggling along, like Frankestein’s homunculus, torn between multiple hearts, all fighting each other to be top dog. But the first chapter still neatly introduces its premise hook in its opening line:

People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood…. Can the premise be   represented in microcosm in a cohesive opening episode? What makes   Charles Portis’s   True Grit different from other westerns? There is just   so much an author must get right in order to properly introduce and set up the rest of the story. This always makes me happy. Why You   Must Know Your Story Hook
The hook in your premise will define your entire story. The bad news is they’re both deep doo-doo if you’re hoping to:
a)   Write a book worth reading. Mistborn offers much the same with a prologue (one that actually works!) that sets up the political and social situation, along with an outside view of central character Kelsier, with hints at his exciting abilities and his fervor for the rising cause of revolution. What is your story hook? It’s about a teenage girl bringing outlaws to justice. For Example:

In   Fault in Our Stars, the promised premise is immediately available to readers: the protagonist has cancer, goes to a cancer support group, meets her love interest. A hook is not just a gimmick. Q. Tell me in the comments! It’s everything you wanted it to be, isn’t it?”
2 Ways to Introduce Your Premise in Your First Chapter
Sounds easy enough, right? Is the Premise Present in the First Chapter? It’s narrated by Death. Q. In that sense, it   is the moment that begins everything. Flying a biplane, especially one as rickety as a war-surplus Curtiss JN-4D, meant being ready for anything. For Example:
Read or watch any one of the stories I’ve cited about. This is a carefully chosen scene that serves to introduce the premise hook, grab readers, and pull them into the story. Q.
Read More Weiland: a fighter, a writer, a child of God. I write historical and speculative fiction and mentor authors. I’m the award-winning and internationally published author of the bestselling Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple | Smashwords | My Store

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5 Things I Learned When I Decided to Switch Genres

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I’ve written stories all my life, but I had never before experienced such fear about writing a story. Maybe you are considering writing a different type of book than you have in the past, whether that involves a genre switch, a different type of main character, a theme that makes you feel too vulnerable, or something else. Have Faith in Yourself
Changing genres isn’t always a smart move for a writer, but if you have a story you’re burning to tell, I hope you’ll be encouraged to go for it! I sent her a panicky, “Hey, I don’t know what I’m doing! If you haven’t already done so, follow them on social media. I could throw down a first draft in 6-8 weeks and have edits done in 12. Whenever I got one element of the story fixed, it seemed like it highlighted three more pieces that were wrong. Who is writing the kinds of books you want to write? Of course, the cocoon is necessary and valuable to the process of creating something new, but eventually you have to leave. And research…
After a while, I suspected my research and preparation was becoming a cocoon of sorts, rather than a launching pad. 5. Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Don’t   Linger Too Long   in Preparation
After I pinpointed the specific date and location of my story (Spring of 1924, Chicago, Illinois, the Astor Street district), I started to research. That’ll help guide the rest of the process. I was in the middle of mundane household chores when the idea for   The Lost Girl of Astor Street   struck:   Veronica Mars   meets   Downton Abbey   was my initial thought. 4. Followed quickly by,   But I’ve never written a mystery or a historical! Did the fear mean that I was onto something with this idea? While   The Lost Girl of Astor Street   thankfully found a good home with Blink/HarperCollins, writing the story would have been valuable even if it hadn’t. Maybe you aren’t fortunate enough to have a best friend already doing what you want to be doing, but we live in a lovely generation of shared knowledge. And research. Look through their blog archives. And research.   But then my edits took me a year. They have knowledge that will make your journey easier. Top 5 Things to Know if You Decide to Switch Genres
1. As did the doubts. Much to my disappointment, she was extremely messy. Tell me in the comments! My first draft of   The Lost Girl of Astor Street   took me three months, which I didn’t think was too bad. I kept thinking of Holly Gerth, and her advice to:
Be courageous, and write in a way that scares you a little bit. If so, here are five things I learned when I made my genre switch that I hope will help you along your way. Of course that should be my first step! I was experiencing something akin to   Storyworld Builders Disease, which fantasy and sci-fi authors can go through, and I realized it was time to begin the actual writing. The idea nipped at me all day long. The first thing to do is figure out exactly where and when your book takes place. I don’t even know how to begin researching this!” kind of text. 2. Sign Up Today Get Help From Someone a Few Steps Ahead of You
I’m fortunate to have a best friend who writes historical romance novels. I still had a lot to learn about crafting a strong historical mystery. There’s no way I could write that. Realize the Process Will Take Longer Than Expected
I had gotten pretty fast at writing my YA contemporary novels. Where   Maggie Stiefvater hands out free advice about crafting characters, Stephen King has written an entire book to tell you about his process, and most writers have a “How I got published” story somewhere on the web. Embrace   the Messiness of Telling a New Kind of Story
After lots of starts and stops, I finally hit a good balance of when to write without pausing to research, and when I needed to go look up something. If you’re writing a new kind of book under a deadline, make sure to build in more time than you think you need! When I finished the first draft, I took my standard   six weeks off, and then eagerly reread my creation. Because even if you don’t publish your book, you will learn so much about yourself and storytelling in the process of pushing yourself to try something new. She offered me simple, manageable advice. Writing contemporaries comes with its own unique set of hurdles, but I had years of experience overcoming those. My published titles were all contemporary YA novels, about girls trying to navigate the complicated social life of modern-day high school. After she said it, it seemed obvious. Read interviews they’ve given. If you could switch genres right now, what would you start writing? 3. Did I really think I could handle something as complicated as a historical mystery?
Reply

Carly says:

February 5, 2017 at 5:15 pm

Sure thing, and what genres do you think could go together? I’ve written all mysteries with just a touch of romance in them here and there. I happened to be at a great place in my career to change genres, otherwise I imagine I would have put it off. Reply

Stephanie Morrill says:

February 3, 2017 at 8:30 am

Brenna, I think it’s great to play around with genres, especially before you’re published. Thank you for your suggestions–I’ll be putting them to use! Can’t wait to hear how it goes for you! Reply

Stephanie Morrill says:

February 3, 2017 at 10:18 am

Ooh, that sounds great! Reply

Grace Marie says:

February 3, 2017 at 8:45 am

A lovely article, and congratulations on the book. Reply

Kate Johnston says:

February 3, 2017 at 1:30 pm

This is a timely post for me. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and sign up for monthly updates on her author website. Hopefully at some point I’ll choose one or two genres I like best and stick with them, but for now, it’s nice to finally see a post approving of genre changes rather than condemning them. Thank you again. I’m still pretty early into my writing career though, so we’ll see. I seem to have a mental inability to conceive two story ideas in the same genre. I write sci-fi police procedurals, but am thinking of writing a contemporary romance. I’m one of those authors who can’t stick to one genre, though maybe when I get published that will change. Notify me of new posts by email. Maybe MG novels might be where I belong! I am hoping to be published this year. Reply

Anne Hagan says:

February 3, 2017 at 1:46 pm

I feel you! I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer since I’ve tried out a few different genres, and I bet the same is true for you! Reply

Katie Stanley says:

February 3, 2017 at 9:26 am

Thanks for the great article! That’s what happened with The Lost Girl of Astor Street. 😀 These are some really good tips. And congratulations on the book. I like young adult books and writing about them. I dabble in most genres, it seems, and have published short stories in horror, soft sci-fi, urban fantasy, comedy, and have a paranormal YA book published. Related PostsTop 10 Writing Posts of 20167 Reasons You Need Story Theory6 Tips to Help You Finish Your Book5 Writing Lessons I Learned Ghostwriting for New York Times Bestsellers About Stephanie Morrill | @stephmorrillStephanie Morrill is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery The Lost Girl of Astor Street, which releases in February 2017. 🙂

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Stephanie Morrill says:

February 3, 2017 at 11:15 am

Oh, I love when that happens! Sounds crazy, but it allowed me to write about the genres I found fascinating. That’s so clever. I write Sci-Fi, both adult and YA. I think that could work great! Reply

K.M. It came really easily for me, so who knows? Thanks for sharing! Anyhow, I’ll bookmark this post and read it again in case I do decide to go ahead with a new genre. Weiland says:

February 3, 2017 at 8:58 am

Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Stephanie! Now I’m writing the sequel and it’s proving nearly as hard. Thanks for the article. That would be so stressing of figuring out how it should be done or how you should start. Reply

Carly says:

February 3, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Cool advice, Stephanie. I read mostly mystery stuff so I know the genre pretty well. Reply

Stephanie Morrill says:

February 4, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Isn’t it amazing what a different a genre shift like that can make? Reply

Dayle says:

February 6, 2017 at 11:48 pm

Just imagine switching directly of genres. I like young adult books and writing about them. Albina says:

February 3, 2017 at 9:44 am

I am writing about a fantasy mermaid book/novellas which have mer-folk in them. YA and Historical Romance are out of my comfort zone, but maybe now I will add or at least try those genres to my repertoire. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. I’ve always written Fantasy, but I think it would be fun to write Historical Fiction someday, or maybe Sci-Fi. Reply

Hannah White says:

February 3, 2017 at 8:43 pm

Ahhh I got so excited when I saw you were guest posting here today! Keep having fun with it, and I bet you’ll find yourself gravitating toward a couple favorites. Helping Writers Become AuthorsHow to Outline Your Novel
How to Structure Your Story
How to Write Character Arcs
How to Structure Scenes
Most Common Writing Mistakes
Storytelling According to Marvel

Now Available! I’ve always written YA but I decided to try a MG novel (which is mainly what I read) and it was amazing. 🙂

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Stephanie Morrill says:

February 3, 2017 at 8:33 am

Daeus, that’s funny because I think I was the opposite! From what you’ve described, it sounds like you really enjoy the worldbuilding aspect of fiction. But it’s worth a try especially if you just love to write stories. I bet your pickiness will actually serve you well on your new adventure. Reply

Ms. Reply

Jason Bougger says:

February 3, 2017 at 10:08 pm

Thanks for the helpful post. Mixing in a little romance wasn’t hard so I figured, how hard could writing ‘just romance’ be? It was the hardest book I wrote but I think it turned out pretty well. 🙂 My genre is fantasy. I love the YA most, but find I need to take a break once in a while for something lighter. Talk about fear. 😉 I did recently write for a new target audience, though, and that was a change. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. Good for you for sticking with it! When you can’t just throw in a Death Star or teleporter, you have to push yourself and your characters in other ways. The characters are already starting to nag at me, and I totally have my antagonistic force figured out. Reply

Daeus says:

February 3, 2017 at 6:40 am

Oh, dear. Yet I can’t get this epic fantasy trilogy out of my head. Reply

Stephanie Morrill says:

February 4, 2017 at 12:16 pm

I think epic fantasy would be a really intimidating genre to try, so I understand! Reply

Stephanie Morrill says:

February 3, 2017 at 9:21 am

I’m honored to be a guest on your blog! WEILAND’S ELETTER AND RECEIVE A FREE EBOOK Reply

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February 9, 2017 at 11:03 am

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Liberty Speidel says:

February 3, 2017 at 9:45 am

This came at totally the right moment! It was incredibly difficult! I’d spent a year and a half working on what I thought was a MG Adventure, only to be told by an editor that the voice and somewhat mature storylines point to YA, and I was encouraged to rewrite it. I would like to get better at contemporary, but for me the genre seems too boring. I’ve tied them together with the same theme, romantic plots with a twist. This is so me. But I’m taking the plunge and outlining the rough draft, seeing what of the MG version I can salvage, and what new events I can incorporate to give this book full YA flavor. There might be lots of people out there who think they don’t like YA, but will love your book because you bring something new and fresh to the genre. The story was alive in my mind before I ever put pen to paper, and I just couldn’t resist chasing it. Reply

Saja says:

February 3, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Thank you Stephanie for your timely post and congrats on your new book. Reply

Stephanie Morrill says:

February 4, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Good for you, Kate! Comments

Brenna says:

February 3, 2017 at 6:35 am

This is a really helpful post. What I have trouble with is bouncing between mid-grade and YA. I wasn’t confident I could write a YA novel that I would want to read, much less what typical YA fans would want to read! Now, I’ve read plenty but for every romance I’ve ever read, I’ve read three-four mysteries. I wish you luck with it! I’m terrified to start writing it, because 1) I haven’t read a lot of that type of book and 2) I should probably keep working on things I’m better at. Maybe if you read a few, you’ll be ready when the timing is right. When I write, I like to make my own story world, tech, government, and names

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Stephanie Morrill says:

February 3, 2017 at 10:17 am

I didn’t realize how big of a challenge that was until I wrote my first sci-fi (a dystopian that never made it beyond the first draft). I love the creativity of fantasy/sci-fi, but I also feel like the the restrictions of writing realistic fiction, whether it’s a contemporary or a historical, spur a certain kind of creativity too. The hardest part of contemporary for me is that you have to follow “rules” ie, the hero doesn’t have a Death Star in his basement, or a teleporter in his closet. My first novel was Biblical historical/literary, the one I’m drafting right now is high fantasy, and my ideas for the future include everything from space opera to dystopian. I agree with you though, it’s wonderful stretching yourself with new styles. Reply

Stephanie Morrill says:

February 4, 2017 at 12:14 pm

I love that you found a way to tie them together! Worse, I’m finicky about YA novels that I choose to read. I’ve seen authors write successfully in both middle grade and YA, especially if they all fall under the fantasy category. Good luck with your revisions! Even in you go the indie route, it can be difficult to keep readers if you’re genre hopping all the time, so now is the time to experiment! I’m basically a short story writer so I’ve written a collection of stories with various genres such as Cozy Murder Mystery ( sorry, no recipes or cats ), Sci-fi, Fantasy, Western, Detective, etc. I read your post Stephanie, and was impressed. Subscribe to Blog Updates:

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SIGN UP FOR K.M. I wasn’t sure that I could writing anything except contemporary YA stories. Reply

Dmitry says:

February 4, 2017 at 4:14 am

Awesome article. I’m sure I hyperventilated, as I’d never written YA. Reply

Stephanie Morrill says:

February 4, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Thanks, Carly! Reply

Stephanie Morrill says:

February 3, 2017 at 9:20 am

Thank you, Grace! I just keep chugging away.
Weiland: a fighter, a writer, a child of God. I write historical and speculative fiction and mentor authors. Read More I’m the award-winning and internationally published author of the bestselling Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple | Smashwords | My Store

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Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 56: Unfulfilled Foreshadowing

I write historical and speculative fiction and mentor authors. Read More I’m the award-winning and internationally published author of the bestselling Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple | Smashwords | My Store

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3 Different Types of Unfulfilled Foreshadowing
There are three basic types of foreshadowing you may find yourself accidentally creating as you’re writing your story. Sometimes, however, you may find that removing the early foreshadowing plant   or adding a payoff later on   completely changes the story you ended up writing. A new idea strikes and your plot ends up going in an entirely unforeseen direction. Just be sure you’re always in a position to   pay it off later in the narrative. This can be as small and inconsequential as a single word choice. Truly, it’s the stuff of great writing. You End Up Taking the Plot in a Different Direction
Other times, you may plant your foreshadowing in early chapters with every intention of paying it off in specific ways later on. Some little something you wrote in the early chapters without even thinking about it ends up being a huge clue or bit of symbolism that foreshadows something major later on. You’re Trying to Create Tension in the Story
This is probably the most common. Otherwise, the story will feel decidedly lopsided and readers’ expectations will go unsatisfied. What Should You Do Instead? Their expectations could be a blatant iteration in their conscious (“oh, I see a fistfight coming up”), or even just a niggle in the subconscious (which might not be thought about until the story’s over, but which   will leave a sense of dissatisfaction with the loose ends). But sometimes these new additions can end up creating too many new complications. Can you think of an instance of unfulfilled foreshadowing you need to fix? Worst case scenario: Readers will end up disgusted with the progression of the story because it went   in a completely different direction from the one you   told them it was headed—like maybe Aunt Lou started out knitting you an afghan, then decided halfway in that it should be a muumuu. There you are, up to your elbows in a scene. Be wary of adding interesting elements just for the sake of filling space and time, or even just because   they’re   interesting. There’s a great example of this type of unfulfilled foreshadowing in Howard Hawks’s classic western   Red River when Walter Brennan’s toothless sidekick character watches an impressive display of shooting skills from two young characters who are “pawing at each other, seeing what they’re up against.” At the end of the scene, Brennan pronounces, “Those two are going to tangle for sure.”
Even masters like director Howard Hawks get it wrong sometimes in creating dead-end scenes that lead to unfulfilled foreshadowing. 1. The bank-robber protagonist ends up falling in love with the bank-teller witness who was briefly his hostage. When you create a scene in which a character makes certain choices, readers will expect and desire consequences. As much as you may want the initial drinking scene, it will probably do your story more harm than good if you can’t bookend it appropriately later on. You Want to Include the Gun, but Not the Bullets
The dramatic principle of “Chekhov’s gun” dictates   you must:
Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. The two characters become friends and allies and never tangle at all. Tell me in the comments! 3. But the flip side is that sometimes you’ll accidentally plant things that will   seem important and portentous–only to have them end up as disappointing unfulfilled foreshadowing. What Should You Do Instead? Even the slightest of clues, such as the mysterious red scarf in the upper window at Thornfield Hall, must be paid off in order to avoid being unfulfilled foreshadowing. Otherwise, however great the initial scene, it will fall flat. Blatant Hook Foreshadowing
Another type of foreshadowing you may plant but forget to pay off is a blatant hook. It can be the source of those “magic” bits of foreshadowing you didn’t even know you were sowing. You may even have the whole thing plotted and know exactly where it’s going. This might happen via a character’s internal thought process in the narrative or via dialogue. Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! But… then your story takes over. Otherwise, readers will experience the same effect as in all unfulfilled foreshadowing—and call foul. Tonal Foreshadowing
One of the easiest ways to create subconscious foreshadowing is simply through your manipulation of the story’s tone. Important Event Foreshadowing
You will also create an impression of foreshadowing in readers’ minds by scripting “big” and important events within your story. That’s about as blatant a foreshadowing hook as you’re likely to get—but it’s never paid off. Usually, this is an easy fix. I lingered in the long passage to which this led, separating the front and back rooms of the third story: narrow, low, and dim, with only one little window at the far end, and looking, with its two rows of small black doors all shut, like a corridor in some Bluebeard’s castle. What Should You Do Instead? When these events happen early on, readers will see the obvious importance and expect these events to matter later. What Should You Do Instead? You don’t know how you’re going to reach the end of it until you do and in the meantime you’ve got to give the character something to do or someone to talk to. Here are five. 4. Again, nothing wrong with introducing minor characters who have the ability to take the story in new and interesting directions—as long as that’s the direction   you’re actually wanting to take. Nothing wrong with using your words skillfully to create tonal foreshadowing. Can you imagine the problems that would have resulted had the tone of tension and foreboding in Aliens ended up as unfulfilled foreshadowing? So far, so good. Fairfax stayed behind a moment to fasten the trap-door; I, by drift of groping, found the outlet from the attic, and proceeded to descend the narrow garret staircase. 5 Causes of Unfulfilled Foreshadowing
Now that you understand the three most common ways you can go wrong with unfulfilled foreshadowing, stop and think about some of the reasons you might accidentally be creating it in the first place. Otherwise, you’ll either need to leave it out altogether, or maybe even reexamine why you feel this particular scene needs an   extra bump in tension. A skilled writer can turn even the most mundane passage into one dripping with portent and the undeniable sense that   something is about to happen. Think how unsatisfying the payoff would have been had she never discovered his identity as the bank robber and had he never been forced to deal with the consequences of this major early event. Sometimes just saying a character “looked grim” or had a “sinking feeling” can be enough to pump extra tension into a scene—and lead readers to the wrong conclusion, if it turns out there isn’t a good reason for all that sinking grimness. But sometimes you may find yourself writing a gun into a scene just because you want the   gun   even though you don’t actually have a reason to fire it later. You look back at the story you’ve created and it seems like it came from   beyond you. 3. But if you know what to look for and the reason you might be wandering astray with your story’s foreshadowing, you can catch yourself in the act and smooth out all the lumps. Here’s how to spot it and lick it. Consider the entire first half of Ridley Scott’s   Alien, in which nothing much actually happens, but the tension and the tone is just about enough to strangle you. Your original foreshadowing not only doesn’t work, but you’re also lacking the foreshadowing you actually need for the new ending. What’s the result? But it only works when you end up paying it off. Sometimes writing feels like magic. The result? Just wield your red pen in revisions. You Have to Give the Character Something to Do/Someone to Talk to
Sometimes you just have to feel your way through writing a scene. Best case scenario: Your book feels ever so slightly disjointed and incomplete, like that lumpy afghan Aunt Lou gave you when she was still learning to knit. That way, you’ll be able to hand your readers a gift they’ll appreciate far more than that lumpy knitted muumuu of Aunt Lou’s. Again, this isn’t a fun scenario. 1. It’s also important to note that when you find yourself randomly adding interesting characters and scenarios to your story while   “trying to figure out your scene,” what you might really be doing is clearing your throat. For example, a scene in which a character drinks and then drives is foreshadowing just begging to be paid off with consequences (or at least   irony)   later on. Sometimes tonal foreshadowing ends up being a wonderful thing. But while in the midst of the actual wordplay, as you’re trying to delicately twine sentences to create the right amount of tension and interest for readers—you may end up sticking in a bit of false foreshadowing. You don’t want readers finishing your story and wondering if you even   noticed that gaping plot hole. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. But it’s a straightforward fix: go back and rewrite. Think about the bank robbery at the beginning of   Chuck Hogan’s   The Town. This means you must either ruthlessly pay off the foreshadowing with subsequent consequences, or cut the initial “gun” no matter how desirable   it is in itself. Due to the way in which you’ve presented an event, or chosen your   wording, or even just copped to a familiar genre trope, readers will have certain expectations about where the story is going. Maybe you’d be better off taking your story in this tenser direction after all. This type of unfulfilled foreshadowing is even more egregious than the first, since the more blatant you are, the more conscious readers will be of the discrepancy. What you originally intended as simply a casual, colorful chat between your protagonist and that Mafia hit man may end up seeming like   much more to readers who will expect such a weighty character to show up covered in blood in the middle of the night at the protagonist’s door. This is when you outright tell   readers to be on the watch for a future development. Sign Up Today Every part of a story needs to be there because it advances the plot, the character, the theme—or preferably all three. 2. You can either cancel the early foreshadowing or add an appropriate payoff toward the end. Frame your First and Third Acts, so they are asking and answering the   same questions. You Forget to Pay Off the Foreshadowing Later On
Inevitably, within the sprawling journey of writing an entire novel, you will fail to pay off early foreshadowing seeds simply because you forgot all about planting them in the first place. The problem with unfulfilled foreshadowing is simple: it’s a broken promise to your readers. In a quiet romance, the village vicar might be a better choice for that casual conversation, especially if you can circle back and return him to the story at a meaningful point later on. Whether the required revisions end up being large or small, they’re always worth making. Either way, unfulfilled foreshadowing is not something you want lurking in your story (anymore than anyone wants a lumpy muumuu). ***
Frankly, it’s almost impossible to write a first draft that doesn’t include at least a few instances of unfulfilled foreshadowing. http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/kmweiland.com/podcast/mistake-56.mp3
Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in iTunes). Talk about your subconscious rocking this joint! How about foreshadowing you   did appropriately fulfill? 2. There must be cause and effect; there must be foreshadowing   plant and   payoff. Cohesion is one of the most important elements in a well-written story, and fulfilling your foreshadowing is one of the most important ways to achieve that cohesion. Scary music playing in the background is never cool if there’s not actually anything scary (or at least ironically unscary)   about to pop up around the corner. One of the coolest examples of this is with foreshadowing. In order for the foreshadowing to be properly fulfilled, these events must have proper consequences later on. Or how about this progressively creepy passage from Charlotte Bronte’s   Jane Eyre, in which new governess Jane is being given an innocent tour of her employer’s grand mansion Thornfield Hall:
Mrs. What Should You Do Instead? 5. Big events must end up having equally big consequences. This is always frustrating, since it means rewriting entire scenes or subplots. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.
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Storytelling is a craft and like any other craft there are a lot of elements to keep track of if we want the end product to be of good quality. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 8, 2017 at 1:29 pm

Nope, Third Plot Point is definitely not too late. The Dreamlander sequel I’m working on right now has turned out to have one of the most complex plot mysteries of anything I’ve done so far. 55: Beginning Your Story Too Late5 Steps to a Thorough Book EditThe Right Way and the Wrong Way to Foreshadow a Story About K.M. Related PostsThe Most Common Manuscript Malfunctions (and How to Avoid Them)Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. So then I took on a graphic novel project and turned it into a beast in its own right. Now I know that even small questions left unattended can irk the reader later. Do you think all stories or novels need a flashback? Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 6, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Woohoo! Reply

Jeffrey Barlow says:

February 6, 2017 at 9:05 pm

This is part of the reason I needed to put my trilogy aside. Reply

K.M. So beautiful and so useful! I don’t know if this is just a result of everybody paying attention to different details, or what. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 7, 2017 at 10:15 am

Foreshadowing is really an exercise in conscious storytelling. One thing I find annoying is when an author clearly went back and added something in that doesn’t much fit the rest of the story in order to foreshadow an event. (I’m blushing)

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Steve Mathisen says:

February 6, 2017 at 12:28 pm

A bang on bullseye with this one … 😀

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K.M. Reply

K.M. Reply

K.M. It’s trickier than straight-up foreshadowing, but sometimes more powerful for it. Reply

Alan Horne says:

February 6, 2017 at 6:39 pm

Worst of all is the “Vindow Viper” scenario. I suppose that’s your challenge here. But it’s got to be set up, and it has to be thrilling still. 🙂 Another thing I thought of after I wrote my comment is that my character is only seeing a small part of what is going on. Again, I haven’t seen the movie so I could be wrong, but that’s what I’m getting from your description of what happens. On the reverse, the hard thing is writing something previously unplanned and then realizing I’ve got to figure out a way to naturally foreshadow it. Either I write something “now” and then conceive of a bookend event than can contrast to it later, or first I’ll think of the later event then come up with something earlier that will foreshadow it. That’s a great suggestion. I suppose beta-reading a graphic novel could be a similar process to a text-only one. Everything means something–whether it’s direct foreshadowing or skillful misdirection. 😉

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Grace Marie says:

February 6, 2017 at 9:49 am

Great post. Reply

K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 7, 2017 at 10:13 am

Red herrings are essentially foreshadowing by way of misdirection. Ha! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 7, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Yes, as long as it’s clear in the plant in the First Act that it’s triggering memories for the character (even if you don’t spell them out). 🙂

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J.M Barlow says:

February 7, 2017 at 6:39 pm

This is certainly true. Reply

JS Devivre says:

February 6, 2017 at 8:47 pm

GREAT question, Joseph! 🙂

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K.M. Comments

Sharon Gerdes says:

February 6, 2017 at 6:55 am

I’m definitely guilty of number 4. I think if I can resist the urge to explaining the bigger picture that might help keep the emphasis where I want it. Outlining definitely helps with this problem. 🙂

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A.P. Means you’re always pushing yourself. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. WEILAND’S ELETTER AND RECEIVE A FREE EBOOK Reply

K.M. They’re looking down each others’ barrels. 😀

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Max Woldhek says:

February 6, 2017 at 1:54 pm

“Goes through first draft of second book.” I’ve only skimmed through a third of the draft, and I’ve already found an early confrontation/rivalry that’s never brought up again AND a childhood friend who shows up a few times but otherwise has nothing to do with the greater plot. 😉 Unlike in life, there are no casual pieces in a story. Can’t wait to start a new outline, so I can order another one. Reply

Joe Long says:

February 8, 2017 at 10:45 am

Thanks! 😉

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Joseph McGarry says:

February 6, 2017 at 7:28 pm

What about scenes that are foreshadowed in Book 1, and doesn’t get resolved until Book 2? All those promises. Reply

Grace Marie says:

February 8, 2017 at 8:46 am

What if it was meant to be an ironic misdirection foreshadow? I also find myself making pairs of events. Reply

K.M. My WIP has 8 volumes, and the foreshadowing goes far beyond a volume-by-volume basis. Reply

K.M. (I haven’t seen Red River, either. And that is the cardinal sin. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 6, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Totally agree. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 6, 2017 at 3:54 pm

I would put the emphasis on the politics and the “undercover war” (the spying, sabotaging, etc., that’s already going on). If it is someone’s goal to prevent total war, and they succeed, then you haven’t robbed anybody. Reply

Ms. If neither gun is fired, there ought to be a damn good reason. This is one of the issues that really turned me to outlining in the first place. I put notes down all the time “foreshadow this” or “this is foreshadowing ___________”. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is another example of that. Subscribe to Blog Updates:

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J.M Barlow says:

February 6, 2017 at 11:10 am

I feel like outlining helps a LOT here. Sometimes I’ll focus on how they’re similar, other times how it’s different, or juxtapose a character’s role. Reply

J.M Barlow says:

February 6, 2017 at 11:05 am

All I can really suggest is if you decide to build suspense with the possibility of war, try to make the avoidance of any battles still very climactic. That trilogy is a really good challenge. Lambert says:

February 6, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Agreed, Beta readers are a key here. Reply

K.M. “Cracks knuckles.” I’m going to start with outlining the second draft tomorrow (more like a full rewrite, since I wrote the first draft before I read any of your books), so this was one timely article. I’m just playing devil’s advocate here because I’m like that – and also because I’m curious about the difference between ironic misdirection and unfulfilled foreshadowing, and how you keep one from turning into the other.)

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K.M. Something that will give you a clue as to how the characters will act later on, or when it does happen later the reader will recall the precedent. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 7, 2017 at 6:59 pm

You’re really good at looking at and using the underlying symbolism for foreshadowing and payoff as well. I’m struggling a little with this on my current story. …I wonder how beta-readers for graphic novels works…

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A.P. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. 😉

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Lori Nishimoto says:

February 6, 2017 at 1:38 pm

Great post! Ultimately, it’s the secret to good writing: 10% skill, 90% patience and tenacity. Reply

K.M. An astute reviewer reminded me about the Chekov quote and suggested that my gun had better go off later in the story! I took his advice and the story was much the better for it. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 6, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Interestingly enough, purposeful misdirection is foreshadowing in itself. I’ve used a color-coding system in my outline to try to identify the plants and their payoffs to make sure everything has an appropriate mate. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 6, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Yay for awesome beta readers! I feel as though I need more experience before tackling the beast for reasons such as this. We’re not always right about everything and we assume a lot of things on a daily basis. :p

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Jason Bougger says:

February 6, 2017 at 9:06 pm

Thanks for bringing this to my attention 🙂 I realize I am guilty of all of them. Maybe. Sometimes they are false leads by the writer. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 9, 2017 at 3:24 pm

True! I don’t think there’s any way I could personally identify all the unfulfilled foreshadowing in my story without a few extra eyes and brains on the job. You’re basically asking for an exception to Rule 3 above. Maybe both have a gun. Having to shoehorn foreshadowing into already written scenes is hard. Reply

K.M. Catherine H. I have a gun in Act 1 and it shows up again around the third plot point–is that too late for its appearance? Foreshadowing is my biggest weakness as a writer. But it still has nothing on that trilogy. says:

February 7, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Okay, so I haven’t seen Red River, but this doesn’t seem like foreshadowing to me. But there is a lot that goes in without even realizing it. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 8, 2017 at 9:48 am

Nah, ironic misdirection comes back around in a way that matters. I suppose beta-readers help a whole lot in this regard, as well. As for Red River, I’ve read that the secondary character in question here initially had a larger role in the script. 🙂

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K.M. Kind of like the `worst pirate I ever heard of’ comment in `Curse of the Black Pearl.’

K.M. Reply

Grace Marie says:

February 7, 2017 at 1:20 pm

Thanks! 🙂

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Hannah Killian says:

February 7, 2017 at 2:43 pm

So, could a gun shown in Act 1 be fired in a flashback (that pops up in Act 2) instead? So then I took on a graphic novel project and turned it into a beast in its own right. Sorry, typo. (the story appears at the top of the page linked below)
As always, thanks for the great advice and insights. 😀

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K.M. Great post! That’s when most of your major foreshadowing will need to be fulfilled. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 7, 2017 at 10:16 am

🙂

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Christy says:

February 6, 2017 at 1:20 pm

This usually manifests for me in the form of smaller questions sprinkled throughout that I don’t eventually answer. Reply

K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 8, 2017 at 7:03 pm

Great example! Notify me of new posts by email. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 11:47 am

I agree. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 7, 2017 at 10:14 am

Beasties are good. Are there forums for people who make graphic novels, I bet those would be a good place to start. The great thing for me is looking back and discovering a something in previous accidental foreshadowing I can play off of to create an interesting scene. I think I’ll have to read this post over a couple of more times and try some writing exercises in foreshadowing. Thanks! (BTW, I just got my WriteMind journal in the mail and I LOVE it. Reply

K.M. The Unfulfilled: Certainly something to look for in editing. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 6, 2017 at 7:14 pm

Didn’t see (or read) that one, so I’ll take your word for it. I get that all the time when I watch things “Oh, this is going to happen” only to see that it was a minor detail that didn’t end up meaning anything. That’s human nature. Reply

Jim Crocker says:

February 6, 2017 at 3:47 pm

So glad you put Chekhov’s gun in there, ’cause I was thinking about that right away. I love working out the kinks with it

Joe Long says:

February 7, 2017 at 6:22 pm

Agree on the outlining, or at the least, note taking. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 6, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Thanks for reading, Steve! Could the director have thought that would fulfill the foreshadowning expectation–these two characters did meet again, just not in a shootout? It *could* have with a little more massaging, but it doesn’t. Reply

Kate Johnston says:

February 9, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Your explanation regarding the secondary character and his minimized screen time makes sense. Albina says:

February 7, 2017 at 4:26 pm

Do you foreshadow all of the scenes? Well there is always an exception to the rule. If I think of some subplot or topic that will play out over time, I look to work out the logic from start to finish up front, then writing down some kind of notes so that’s it’s out of my head and into words that I can refer to as I’m working on the main story threads. It always feels forced to me–which is why I like to try to plan as much of it ahead of time as possible. I also had a question about Red River–I’ve never seen it–but would it be possible that the director *thought* he was foreshadowing because as you say, the two characters may not have “tangled” but they did end up becoming friends/allies. But it still has nothing on that trilogy. I may do that also. My take is that this bit of foreshadowing probably *was* fulfilled in the original, but as the character’s screentime got minimized, the foreshadowing payoff went with it. You’re in great company. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 7, 2017 at 10:12 am

That’s fine, although it’s often a good idea to sort of dole the foreshadowing out in a couple scenes in the early book, just to sort of tell readers “I *am* foreshadowing this and I *will* get to it.”

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JS Devivre says:

February 6, 2017 at 8:46 pm

Would love to know how this relates to red herrings as well as assumptions made by the protagonist than end up being incorrect. I ran into this issue when I submitted a story about guns to the NYC Midnight short story challenge. This doesn’t mean all the foreshadowing will be conscious in the first draft, but to really make it work, we have to be aware of it at least after the fact. One example that comes to mind is the extra life coin the protag finds in Ready Player One, it just seemed too convenient of a loophole for the MC. I’m just nuts about mine. And thanks for this super helpful post! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 6, 2017 at 3:58 pm

I agree. It seems like a character made an assumption and it turned out to be wrong. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 7, 2017 at 6:58 pm

Only the major structural beats and any others that involve a mystery. This never does. Of course, that was more than just misplaced foreshadowing—it was an outright lie to the reader. Ha! My hope is that certain things I didn’t even intend to foreshadowing don’t get mistaken as foreshadowing. Someone’s got a gun. If not, then either it was poor misdirection that wasn’t handled well–or the reader just missed the point. Reply

Grace Marie says:

February 6, 2017 at 9:50 am

cold WAR. Paying strict attention to the foreshadowing plant and payoff has been very important. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 7, 2017 at 1:21 pm

When characters make assumptions in stories, that’s foreshadowing. That and this whole website 🙂

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K.M. Reply

Shahzoda says:

February 10, 2017 at 2:14 am

I think the Red River ended the way it did because of the studio-mandated happy ending requirement in Hollywood movies back in the day. Lambert says:

February 6, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Big takeaway here: no lumpy muumuu stories. Great to hear you’re enjoying the WriteMind Planner. They’re simply a more sophisticated and ironic “plant” that still needs to be paid off, if only by proving them wrong. My magical kingdom is in the middle of a cold wa, and I’m not sure how to reveal that without raising the expectation of an outright battle -which is not happening in this story. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 6, 2017 at 3:53 pm

#4 gets us all from time to time. Reply

K.M. Reply

Grace Marie says:

February 8, 2017 at 3:39 pm

That makes sense. Red River is a phenomenal bit of storytelling–right up to the end, which throws over its originally intended dark ending for a deus ex machina happy ending. I feel as though I need more experience before tackling the beast for reasons such as this. Great recommendation.)

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K.M. Just my 2 cents. I think…

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K.M. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website. Weiland | @KMWeilandK.M. Just goes to show us how important it is to make sure the edits we make don’t unduly disrupt other story beats, plotlines, character reveals, and foreshadowing attempts! As for incorrect assumptions, if the author *intended* readers to have those assumptions, then that again falls under the heading of misdirection. I think…

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Jeffrey Barlow says:

February 6, 2017 at 9:05 pm

This is part of the reason I needed to put my trilogy aside. Reply

K.M. Helping Writers Become AuthorsHow to Outline Your Novel
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Kate Johnston says:

February 8, 2017 at 10:29 am

I love playing with foreshadowing, but it can be really hard to execute well! Reply

Catherine H. It’s one of things I absolutely hated about Dan Brown’s Inferno. Some of my characters do have back stories. Instead of using the “cold war” as a setup for “real war,” show that the cold war is, in fact, a war in its own right. says:

February 10, 2017 at 11:07 am

Yeah, you’ve got a point there. So my example isn’t the only instance of a few hiccups in the seamless presentation of its narrative from beginning to end. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 6, 2017 at 3:59 pm

The good news (if you write like me) is that trimming all that will help trim your word count too! Reply

K.M. Reply

J.M Barlow says:

February 6, 2017 at 9:11 pm

Yeah this is the worst for sure. The ending is as dreadful as the rest of the movie is fantastic–and it’s all because they copped to easy and happy.

How to Write a Story Without a Plot (and Why You Shouldn’t)

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4. 6. Every scene must create change that directly affects the characters’ current relation to that goal. Most of the scenes are just about the characters thinking (and maybe talking) about that lovely goal and all the dangers that lie in their way, until of course they reach the obligatory big battle in the end. Please note these are not the stories I’m going to teach you   not to write in this post. But that’s not the same thing as writing a book with a cohesive plot. Consider three different books I read recently:
Book #1:   Too Many Events, Not Enough Plot
A heroic protagonist sets out on a quest (interjected with many other related quests for many other POV characters). Say what? 2. Then a subplot enters, in which a supernatural threat to the locals must be fought off. There’s action. Sometimes quiet irony is just as effective, as in Secondhand Lions. The point is that everything must be an unbroken chain. Every scene must build toward that answer. Ultimately, that depends entirely on your definition of a story. That’s a good story! But, again,   maybe only 25% of the scenes actually involve movement   toward that goal. The stories I’m going to teach you   not to write are the ones that totally, absolutely, 100%   think they have a plot, when really… they don’t. Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! For a series of events to qualify as a plot, they must fulfill all of the following:
1. Stuff’s happening on the page. Oh, and then, we skip ahead a couple years without warning (I had to flip back three times to make sure I hadn’t missed something) to a whole new plotline in which the protagonist is now an adult pursuing goals only distantly related to those any of the original plotlines. Think of how gentle the plot question is in   Anne of Green Gables, which ties its episodes together with the cohesive question, “Will the orphaned Anne find belonging?”
The question driving your story’s plot   can be largely understated for most of the story, such as in   Anne of Green Gables: “Will Anne find belonging?”
Nor does the forward momentum and change in each scene   have to be hugely dramatic. Conclusion: Many different plots do not make one whole plot. Note, this doesn’t mean the plot question must   be blatantly in the readers’ faces in every single scene. Can you write a story without a plot? Conclusion: Talking about plot isn’t actually plot. Easy. Book #2: Too Many Plots
Starts   out about an orphan boy and his relationship with his adopted mentor/master. Peter Pan understood how to make stuff happen in a story. How Can You Recognize a Story Without a Plot? Conclusion: The only part of this book that actually   had a plot was the beginning and the end. Every scene must create forward momentum toward the story goal. What results in these instances are not gorgeous bits of art that break the rules by dint of their impossible brilliance, but rather sloppy, immature, undisciplined attempts that just flat don’t work. When I talk about story, I’m talking about plot. All the characters have a mutual goal they’re pursuing faithfully in every single scene. But then a new subplot about defeating outlaws enters. Have you ever tried to write a story without a plot? And then another subplot about the protagonist being trained as a spy. The beginning of the story must ask a question. But maybe 50% of this stuff could have been cut without bumping the protagonist off his road to that battle. There’s excitement. Every scene in your plot doesn’t have to be hugely dramatic. Sign Up Today The end of the story must answer that same   question. Romance! Plot is about forward movement toward a specific end. Almost all of the random events in the middle could have been pulled like the core of a squash without removing anything vital. And   eventually, it all pulls together in the obligatory big battle at the end. Book #3: More Talking Than Doing
Has a cohesive focus from beginning to end. Fun fantasy creatures and their cultures! Everything matters and everything moves. That’s plot. Just like in Peter Pan’s story, lots of stuff happens. There’s romance. 5. Every scene in between the beginning and the end must build upon that question. So far, so good, since the two subplots can certainly live in harmony. (It’s kinda like the difference between Picasso and what I produce whenever I laugh at one of his paintings that sold for a gazillion dollars and say, “I   could paint that!”)
A story without a plot is sort of like a Picasso painting without the Picasso. 6 Must-Have Factors to Create Meaningful Plot
Are you seeing the common thread here? Sadly, as fun and comparatively easy as that stuff is to write, no, it is not plot. Tell me in the comments! The problem with these books (too many of which do get published) is that their authors often don’t even realize what they’re writing is a story without a plot. How you can you   think you’re writing a plot when really you’re not? Sword fights! Isn’t that a plot? To quote Peter Pan’s abbreviated version of Cinderella:
There was stabbing, slicing, torturing, bleeding… and they lived happily ever after. Why? Think of the scene in   Secondhand Lions in which Walter’s great-uncles buy a lion to hunt—only to have their expectations of an old-time safari thwarted by a tired toothless lion who refuses to even stand up. Here’s the key:   Plot is not a string of random events,   however interesting or exciting they may be. While there   are certainly examples of good stories that get away with little to no plot, the only memorable ones are those that achieve absolute brilliance in other areas of storycraft. 3. Because it’s the most intuitive entry point to a story with the potential to have it all: entertainment, great characters, beautiful writing, and deep themes. There are quite a few people who would argue for plot-less variations, but I’m not one of them.

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Carly says:

February 12, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Would you say the Junie B. Reply

Catherine H. So don’t worry too much about writing the plot in your head. The Arcturian series opens with Jane trying to work out what the seven bells is going on and ends with her getting answers. They’re huge and rambling, but everything ties together with a sense that it’s all happening to drive toward a common goal. I had Homeland Security there, but what would they do? Lambert says:

February 10, 2017 at 4:15 pm

Couldn’t agree more! Even if characters do things, the main importance lies in their motives, methods, evaluations and purposes, which are best revealed through dialogue, monologue and in some cases, nonverbal communication. No beginning, no end, all middle. The story is about Milton Perkin’s relationship with Thomas Wolfe who wrote voluminously but went on to great literary success. That being, if story is seen as an analogy of a human mind trying to solve a problem. I agree about the idea of a story being a “promise.” I tend to think of it, as I’ve mentioned in this post, in terms of question and answer. I’ll sick the art police on you. K.M. Yes, you have to have a plot, and a unifying theme, to reach an audience. I still struggle to get the plot I have in my head onto the paper, so to speak. In “Thirteenth Commandment” Jojo initially kills the man who is attacking her. Do you know what one of my favorite movies is? If I don’t like the mermaid young adult novel book I have read then I don’t finish reading it. When it came to jamming in too many events and subplots, I’d reach a point where I had to ask myself what story I was even trying to tell or write. Reply

Kate Johnston says:

February 11, 2017 at 3:33 am

I’m sure my early stuff had little to no plot, but I feel like one thing I always understood about stories is that the problem had to be solved at the end. Age of Ultron. K.M. There’s one more piece I want to bring up. Reply

Max Woldhek says:

February 11, 2017 at 12:47 am

Reminds me of John Birmingham’s Without Warning (first book in the After America trilogy). Reply

K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 11, 2017 at 1:15 pm

Woohoo! And the next day would be Christmas.”
As I read it this afternoon, I kept thinking of neatly braided hair (a woman’s glory) and how do you find a Christmas gift for your love when you have only coins but you want to give him/her the world. Perhaps in a literary novel or short story the dramatic question is directed towards the human condition rather than a more individualistic direction? 😉

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K.M. 😀

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80smetalman says:

February 10, 2017 at 6:55 am

My thoughts are immediately turned to the 1975 movie “Rollerball.” Many say that the film didn’t have a plot. Reply

K.M. This doesn’t mean you don’t start with a plot structure. 😕 Thanks so much for pointing it out! Thanks for spurring me to further clarifying some things for myself. Reply

Tonya Moore says:

February 11, 2017 at 4:24 pm

While I’ve tried writing by the seat of my pants in the past, I can’t say hat I’ve ever tried writing a story without a plot. Not the first watch-through of the movie, or the second, but the third and those that followed. It was designed to be the opposite of a lot of the mermaid books out there, where being a mermaid was some sort of big secret that had to be protected. At least that’s how I do it. It’s a movie I *don’t* like, for many reasons, but it’s definitely worth giving kudos where kudos is due in regards to a very complicated plot still hanging together (if only by its fingernails) in a cohesive way. I decided to put that in the book. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Pooh, in particular, does fulfill the idea of episodic stories within a story, which still features plot in the strictest sense, just on an abbreviated scale. “There is no situation you can’t get your hero out of. But that can be a good thing because the plot you end up writing may be much better. But looks like you found it. Pfft, bring on the art police! The secret was out now, so there was no way to hide it. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Now, I’m going off on a different tangent here but I think that the film’s protagonist played by James Caan was the antagonist to the corporation’s goal. Reply

K.M. The I would have to scrap the story and start over. This confuses the heck out of me. The reason I love it is because, in every watch-though, I find something new, and the characters’ journeys (minus Bruce Banner’s) become richer. “Age of Ultron”. It made it feel distracted, hard to follow, and hard to get that sense of satisfaction at the end where everything comes together. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Ohmigosh. jguenther5 says:

February 10, 2017 at 11:21 am

“Have you ever tired to write a story without a plot?”
Ignoring for a moment the obvious Freudian slip, the key word is ‘tried.’ Have I ever tried? :p

Sean Ryan says:

February 10, 2017 at 2:14 pm

True, but somewhat vague. There’s always a way.” Totally agree with this. Reply

K.M. Figuring out what works for your plot or not can be hard sometimes! 😉
And thanks for nabbing the typo. I love it! 🙂

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K.M. But because of this article, I can finally change the plot to make it more meaningful while keeping the exact same story. Now pulling it off is the hard part. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 11:53 am

Hey, don’t rip me off. Reply

Catherine H. I’ve read a few books like that. Anonymously, of course, but since there’s only one poet in Zaragoza who can write that well, he might just as well have signed it. I might have written a few stories with terrible plots, but they were never plot-less. Reply

Amanda Tero says:

February 10, 2017 at 11:07 am

Yes!!!! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 3:03 pm

It’s true, most of them follow plot on at least *some* level. You’re talking about “too many subPLOTS” that work. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. Reply

Hailey says:

February 10, 2017 at 1:27 pm

Growing up, the stories I wrote rarely had anything even remotely resembling a plot, and sometimes I still find myself falling into that trap. In an action flick, that’s special. “Rollerball was spawned to show the futility of individual effort” sounds more like in the realm of theme to me. […]

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Notify me of follow-up comments by email. 😉
I’m thinking you didn’t mean for the conclusion of #2 to read: “Many different plots do make one whole plot” but instead to have read “Many different plots do NOT make one whole plot.”
Me? I recently watched the movie Genius. But in contemplating some of the rambly books that have worked for me (such as Rothfuss’s), they key reason they worked, in contrast to the book I mentioned in the first example in the post, was trust. Furthermore, my WIP is a mundane concept regardless of writing ideology and belongs in the Recycle Bin. A question in the beginning and an answer in the end are relatively easy. How much patience an audience has for that kind of thing really depends on the audience, doesn’t it? That’s different from a bunch of random events that *look* like plot but really don’t offer anything except a sense of action in themselves. Everything matters and everything moves.”
In the Dramatica theory of story – and I know you love Dramatica! There is a lack of focus, a lack of plot. Every week, I got the MC out of the trouble I’d put him in the week before. Reply

Jason Bougger says:

February 10, 2017 at 7:43 am

Excellent advice! What I have done is to write for an hour before my weekly workshop, so I’d have something to read there. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 12, 2017 at 10:24 am

There’s no such thing as a perfect story. 😉

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K.M. 🙂

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K.M. 😉

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julie brown says:

February 10, 2017 at 2:53 pm

So I started reading the comment above and thought to myself, that sounds exactly like Jeff’s story of “Tennerax.” Too funny! While I was imagining the events of the story, I felt like it doesn’t have a plot; it’s like a lump of words that doesn’t have any meaning. Then I’d get him into new and different trouble right at the end. It simplifies and helps to streamline the storytelling process. Hi, Jeff. The book starts with my MC on the rack, the result of having sent the local archbishop a vulgar and insulting poem. That was all. Even memoirs have movement, leave out the boring stuff and tie together a central theme. Um, not much. Just start writing and let the plot develop as it may. Lambert says:

February 10, 2017 at 1:57 pm

Hah, I love your faux-casso! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 11, 2017 at 1:17 pm

Yes, honestly, I think you’ve just summed up why many authors find the Second Act so challenging. Reply

K.M. It was more of an experiment to begin with, but I’m done with experiments. Subscribe to Blog Updates:

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K.M. When a story makes a reader mad, it’s inevitably because something was messed up logically within the storyform. But having read a couple of your books, I can say I’m a much bigger fan of “extra stuff” in a story than you appear to be. Reply

Mary Ellen Latela says:

February 12, 2017 at 5:37 pm

KM, here is an excellent instructive essay. Reply

K.M. Reply

R Billing says:

February 10, 2017 at 4:32 am

I agree about asking and answering one question. I rather like the notion of asking then proceeding to answer a single question. It’s the evolution of getting the character from one to the other that can get tricky fast without a proper understanding of how to let structural guides help. Anyway, just some thoughts of the afternoon. Reply

K.M. Reply

K.M. If the overall goal of the story is from the corporations point of view, to eliminate Caan from the game, and I believe it is (it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen it), then you’d be right: the corporation acts as protagonist and Caan effectively, as the antagonist. The painting still has form, focus, and intent, they just aren’t quite the same ones most people are used to, and as a result, they’re hard to imitate. 😉

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Rebekah Martin says:

February 10, 2017 at 6:02 am

I tried writing many plotless stories in college. 😉

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K.M. Reply

K.M. The worse the situation, the more you get to flex your creativity and come up with unexpected and interesting scenarios. But it sounds interesting! I think I’ll write a story wif no plot.” No. It was a great hook, and I thought it would be a great premise. For Writers & Readers 02-16-2017 | The Author Chronicles says:

February 16, 2017 at 11:02 am

[…] Once you have the idea, don’t forget the plot. It would destroy ships, but in a different way than the real kraken. execution.” But if I had a nickle for every story with a great premise, but which then failed that premise through poor execution, well… I’d have a lot of nickles. Still, a gr8 movie for writers. Love the Picasso! People started showing up at the workshop just to find out what had happened to the MC. One author’s deliciously meandering tale is another author’s mess. Reply

K.M. Objectively, if you honor how the mind goes about solving a problem and using all the tools at a writer’s disposal, there’s no doubt we can all write stories that reflect sound plot and story development! I’m a fan of logical solutions (as you’ve probably figured out), but they always have a basis in emotion–and vice versa. My counter to that comment was that the plot was about life in 2018, (God that’s next year), where corporations run the world and everything is done to the good of the corporations and that the game Rollerball was spawned to show the futility of individual effort. Reply

K.M. My teachers kept asking “What is your character’s main goal. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 2:56 pm

Nothing wrong with wandering, as long as it’s off the Tolkien variety. Reply

K.M. I’m trying to think of what I’ve read that lacked in the plot department. Ultron is a good example. Just some tweaks here and there, and voila! I do sometimes enjoy the “wandering journey” story, even without a central plot, possibly because that’s how life can seem at time, like a series of random events, though I do in fact believe there is purpose behind all of it. 🙂

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Sean M Ryan says:

February 11, 2017 at 10:52 am

Good thoughts! From the beginning of the film, we know that the corporate executives want Jonathan E, played by Caan, to retire from the game but we are never led to know why until near the end. Someone tried to reactivate the device. *bangs gavel* Sold! Being aware of the true shape of our stories gives us half the recipe for fixing their problems. On a serious note, KM, what do you think of literary or “slice of life” stories? Structurally, it’s complicated, at best. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 13, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Ask James Joyce. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 11, 2017 at 7:13 pm

As someone above commented, I think very few authors deliberately try to write plot-less stories (and those who do at least have an idea what they’re wanting to accomplish instead). my story will have a TRUE plot. I think you’re spot on with that. I thought that had a plot, didn’t the main character end up just wanting to go home again? Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 1:54 pm

One of the big problems is that sometimes plot isn’t defined well. Anyhow it didn’t take too long for me to understand that I was the one who was wrong. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 6:05 pm

Whoops, just realized I mistakenly responded to this comment in response to Seinfeld addendum above. I got inspired by Shakespeare and threw out all the action and description. Clearly they haven’t been using your resources 😉
I’m sure my first forays into writing produced many plotless or too-many-plot stories. Particularly the How the West Was Won version.)
Book 2: Game of Thrones, anyone? (both in the movie- Cold Mountain) So there’s that too. Reply

K.M. 😉

Reply

Jessica/darkocean says:

February 13, 2017 at 1:26 pm

OOh Ulysses. The problem was, I didn’t have a plot to go with it. Also agree about Ultron, and I’m glad you brought that out. Either your character *does* have a goal, which is being blocked by the conflict, or he is functioning as the obstacle to someone else’s goal–in which case, you will probably want to tweak things to give him a more active role. I have noticed the same thing in many young Indie authors I read. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Take a look at what is causing the conflict. A suspense or action novel has less room for rose-smelling than a novel relying on humor or a sense of dramatic beauty? ;-D) Especially, “the point is that everything must be an unbroken chain. I love your check list. And yet it still possesses the throughline of the characters’ goals and reasons for those goals: survival. At any rate, I’ve been mulling on this throughout the afternoon and realized that I missed a key phrase in your initial comment here. And of course, wouldn’t that relate strongly to genre? Love the painting of you. It seemed like too many balls were in the air, and some were dropped. :p My point was more that authors in the vein of Joyce are interested in experimental forms that often involve avant-garde approaches to plot. Reply

K.M. Related Posts8 Ways to Troubleshoot a Scene–and 5 Ways Make It FabulousHow to Outline a Series of Bestselling BooksTop 10 Ways to Rivet Readers with Plot RevealsThe #1 Way to Write Intense Story Conflict About K.M. Reply

Mason says:

February 12, 2017 at 10:57 am

I like first person when reading and third person when writing. That song was popular when I was in high school. Reply

James Ronnie Green says:

February 11, 2017 at 8:52 am

Good for you, Linley! I’ve been experimenting with literary short stories, and they definitely do not follow the roadmap that begins with a question and ends with an answer. Does anyone like first or third person writing or reading a book? Exploring a character is a promise that gives him a lot of rope, and yes, Rothfuss’s prose and irony are so delicious that we are glad to be led meandering through the darkness. All that outrage reflects our mind’s refusal to accept a work that inappropriately reflects the mind’s problem solving process. More generally, in less structured novels, we do have to trust that a lack of steady progress doesn’t mean the promise won’t be kept. That’s the big arc that I started with. – plot (methodologies), along with character (motivations) theme (evaluations) and genre (purposes) are seen as processes of the storymind. Human growth. Reply

Mason says:

February 12, 2017 at 8:13 am

I have usually tried to structure my stories. Just a tiny silk thread gathering each scene, pulling us gently towards the end, until everything was tight and resolved. The “put your character in a tree” analogy is what convinced me. Your story situation sounds like fun. Yes, light on plot or maybe a light plot? 😉
Great explanation by the way. Reply

K.M. The experience leaves her cold and hard, and she becomes a very cruel criminal. Reply

Garrett says:

February 10, 2017 at 10:25 am

Hey 80smetalman: I’m not sure I agree in terms of what you refer to as plot. I kept thinking of Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain (which I loved) while writing this post and responding to comments. And a lovely intro to O Henry’s surprise ending! I love writing stories of mermaids or mer-folk on fictional planets. Reply

80smetalman says:

February 11, 2017 at 10:29 am

Watch it, I think you’ll see what I mean about your point on stories without a plot. Are they without plot? We’d be drowning in amazing fiction! I will forgive an immense amount of a story that can pull that off. Reply

K.M. Reply

Benjamin Thomas says:

February 10, 2017 at 6:42 am

Mornin Cap,
Great thought provoking post. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 11, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Excellent points. Yes, “The Wheel of Time” was too big and messy, but “The Way of Kings” was told from a dizzying array of perspectives and purposes, including a book-long flashback, and it was gorgeous. Book 1: Moby Dick (The Led Zeppelin song, not the Melville Book which I have yet to read. We don’t need no thought control. What I tend to do is sketch the big arc first. It’s a wonderful thought that if we connect in our storytelling with people’s minds we can also connect (and moreso) with their emotions. They’re still plots; they still have a focus; they’re still related to the main story and driving it forward, however tangentially. 😀

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Jamir Miranda says:

February 10, 2017 at 7:16 pm

I’m having trouble with my story that is still in pre-development stage. But that brings me to Ultron. 😉
Oddly enough, the movie Genius was a little weak on plot, but not in a literary way. It isn’t necessarily meaning itself, but it’s clear path to finding it. Back on point, I can think back to some of my failed attempts to write stories in the past and recognize that the plot was often the problem. Do you know what had too many plots? Ultimately, however, yes, your use of the word “justify” is perfect. Also, that looks like an awesome shirt, especially one to where while I walk in circles utterly confused at a subway station, as I’m prone to do. Same with, say, Patrick Rothfuss’s books. If it’s pointless but entertaining, it will still get a pass. Albina says:

February 12, 2017 at 10:28 am

I am writing mermaid books/novellas. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 11:50 am

It’s true! Reply

K.M. 😉

Reply

A.P. I’m getting better now, but I know my early stuff had a lot of dramatic scenes that really had no bearing on the outcome of the story, or that could be cut in half. Reply

Sean Ryan says:

February 10, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Like a Seinfeld writer, perhaps. Story conflict always results from an obstacle placed between a character and a goal. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 11:48 am

Like my painting enough to buy it for a gazillion dollars? *shrug*

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K.M. There’s always a way. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Who me? Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 5:55 pm

Ooh, mechanical kraken sounds awesome. Reply

Joseph McGarry says:

February 10, 2017 at 5:14 pm

When I started to write my novel, Operation Mermaid: The Project Kraken Incident, I had the idea of having women all over the world suddenly becoming mermaids. As soon as you understand what it actually is, it’s much easier to consciously pursue. Reply

K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 12, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Yeah, I went through an experimental phase too. kdj says:

February 10, 2017 at 12:40 pm

Hi! There is a theme, however: some people can’t stay out of trouble. You know, I actually find it rather amusing to look back on my reactions to other people’s reactions to some of my early stories. It does help me as a writer, because then I analyze them with, “What’s wrong with this picture!” Thanks for the concise tips! What are they doing to get to that goal.” I don’t think I ever knew the answers to those questions, and I certainly didn’t start to actually think of plot in my stories until just recently. Endings always seem easy to me, because I’m a natural seeker of problem solutions anyway, even in real life. Another Brick in the Wall, Pink Floyd. That said, I suppose dialogue or cultural default can symbolize actions so they can be used abundantly. Thinking back to the first drafts of some of my first few short stories, you’d think I hadn’t ever even hear the word “plot.” And, really, I didn’t. I concede that and also that description makes for good pacing, and is abundant in Shakespeare’s dialogue, absent in mine. Reply

Mason says:

February 12, 2017 at 10:55 am

Certainly. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website. No dark sarcasm in the classroom. Reply

Sean Ryan says:

February 10, 2017 at 1:10 pm

Here I beg to differ, just a tad. It’s like drawing the outline of a building, then filling in the details. Each of these created a structure that led to the next phase. Teacher leave them kids alone. There’s a gazillion point of view characters running around, to the point where you don’t have a damn clue who, if anyone, is the protagonist, or which of the plots is the MAIN plot. Me will bookmark precious list and keeps for me self … yessss. Cutting was brutal for Tom and there were many heated discussions. Helping Writers Become AuthorsHow to Outline Your Novel
How to Structure Your Story
How to Write Character Arcs
How to Structure Scenes
Most Common Writing Mistakes
Storytelling According to Marvel

Now Available! I think what trips me up is making sure the story progresses in an interesting way, a page-turning way from beginning to end, so that it fits the plot. I adore sub-plots, and I adore depth, breadth, and color that grows organically out of the world and the characters. Reply

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Top Picks Thursday! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 11:55 am

This goes back to the idea that some authors are better at “ideas vs. It all makes sense now. It just means that the plot will emerge and change as you write. Sometimes there’s no story in those thousand words – it’s just rambling. Those “unbroken chains” and connections that you mention are exactly right. ¿Have I ever sat down at the whatever and said, “Golly-dang! I swear, I’m going to retitle this post: “The Sea of Typos.” That’s the fifth one this morning. I think it’s the symmetry of the Dramatica approach that I like the best. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 1:53 pm

“How much patience an audience has for that kind of thing really depends on the audience, doesn’t it?”
And, I’d argue once again, on the skill of the author. All those times we the audience or we the reader call foul at illegitimate plot developments, or ‘plot holes,’ it makes sense! Rather, I’ve been thinking about older children’s books, like `Winnie the Pooh’ and `The Neverending Story’ and `The Phantom Tollbooth’, where the plots are sometimes a little hard to find. Reply

80smetalman says:

February 11, 2017 at 10:28 am

Wow thanks Garrett. Mary Ellen

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Jessica/darkocean says:

February 13, 2017 at 12:56 pm

How the heck would you make a story (can it be called that?) with out a plot how would anyone have any idea wast to do next? I guess these are Picasso cases. Somehow it ends up with gaps :/ but I’m not giving up! I was essentially writing slice-of-life that went nowhere. We’re all learning and growing with each manuscript we write! You are also spot on with the reason why Rollerball was spawned being more of a theme than a plot. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 5:54 pm

Yeah, but if you’re *really* lost, don’tcha think that might be kinda ironic? Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 11:51 am

Haven’t seen it. I even got a bit angry when someone pointed that out to me, haha. I like what you said about Caan as the antagonist. Reply

Garrett says:

February 10, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Yep, feeling – also interestingly enough, is a dynamic pair with “logic” in the Dramatica structural chart – plays a huge roll! Wow, sounds like you had a grip of not very good stories to read through. But somebody from her past still loves her and through him she finds redemption. If you think about it, almost all of the disparate characters that Ada and Inman meet are representatives of different avenues to survival. Both are great approaches, although first-person is generally a little trickier. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 1:50 pm

Exactly. Reply

A.P. What I learned from this exercise: There is no situation you can’t get your hero out of. Is there a plot? I suppose that’s the reason I switched from writing by the seat of my pants to actually plotting my stories. That gave me the plot. My problem is that I’ve a character with a conflict but I DON’T know what’s the goal. Weiland tells us how to write a story without a plot (and why you shouldn’t). Reply

K.M. Notify me of new posts by email. I liked your points on plot (plot points? WEILAND’S ELETTER AND RECEIVE A FREE EBOOK :p

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Ms. Reply

Meg says:

February 11, 2017 at 1:45 pm

When I read Julie’s comment, I thought of Cold Mountain too! Weiland | @KMWeilandK.M. It begins: “One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That said, it’s the kind of story that would have otherwise been deathly dull if not for the very deft hand of the author in involving readers in the daily lives of these characters and making us care about even tiny inconsequential moments–such as two women braiding their hair. It was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. In each case, though, there’s a string-of-connected-short-stories feel to the books, so every section has a plot (which makes sense since all were written back when reading bedtime stories was more common) and, at least in `Neverending Story’ and `Phantom Tollbooth’ an actual story question is answered by the end. says:

February 10, 2017 at 11:18 am

Nope, never tried to write a story without a plot. Comments

Linley says:

February 10, 2017 at 4:18 am

I like the non-Picasso Picasso painting of you! Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 11, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Hah. There is no scene, and hardly a line of dialogue, that has only one meaning. Then I remembered an idea I had for a mechanical kraken. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 2:59 pm

At the end of the day, the only true qualifier for what works is that readers like it. Then this created three phases, London, Newcastle and Hong Kong. His skill does imply that there is a point to the exercise, and his anecdotes are worthy episodes in their own right. Plot if very often a doorway to helping us discover meaning in a story. But most stories without plot fail to engage the audience. Reply

K.M. Get some rest. Most of the time, we run into the problem of “no plot” simply because we assume we have a cohesive plot when maybe we don’t. Some schools banned it. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 12, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Not familiar with them, so I couldn’t say. I could have just talked about random events in their new lives, but I quickly realized that would get boring. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 11:48 am

Nothing wrong with spending five pages figuring out what to do next–as long as you delete that bit once you reach your conclusion. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. 🙁

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K.M. It’s a mess (whether a good mess or a bad mess), but all that messiness is still focused on answering a common plot question. My character doesn’t know what he want.. Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone! So this was very helpful–thanks! I now have a 104-chapter episodic novel that several people insist I must publish. What I do find is a trap is the “false alternatives” situation where, because I can’t decide what to do next, the characters spend five pages arguing about it. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. 😉 But, honestly, how awesome would it be if more authors were as good at their execution as they were at their initial ideas? Reply

K.M. I treated short stories more like scenes from a larger work, and that’s how they read. But the idea of “promise” is much richer and deeper. 😀

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K.M. You also mentioned above that it’s vague to say the idea of “talent” is the reason that some rambly books work. This helps fuel my understanding of a working plot and how it works. Reply

K.M. In the “Writing Excuses” podcast, writing is often described as making a promise, and then keeping it. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 11:51 am

Hah. It’s a literary novel that is very light on plot, mostly just describing the characters’ daily lives. Jones books have plots in them? The very notion sort of boggles my mind. This is a great teaching story, don’t you agree? Reply

K.M. If he can do it, why shouldn’t I? I thought immediately of my favorite short story, “The Gift of the Magi” by O Henry. Lotus series about Leilani’s eldest daughter will be a three book series. 😉

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K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 11, 2017 at 3:10 pm

My take on Cold Mountain is that it was asking a much more primal question about what humans will do to survive. says:

February 10, 2017 at 11:19 am

P.S. But first, with Perkin’s in the lead, they spent 2 yrs cutting 90,000 words from the manuscript of what would be Wolfe’s first published novel. Could the dramatic question in Cold Mountain be: Should patriotism supplant personal desires or happiness? Reply

robert easterbrook says:

February 10, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Dark sarcasm. Book 3: My WIP. Plot – or as the broad term usually implies – includes an ‘inciting incident’ or something that sparks a motivation to go from point A to point Z. All in all you’re just another brick in the wall. 😉

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Grace Marie says:

February 10, 2017 at 2:05 pm

I’ve been thinking a bit about this very subject -sort of. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 11:49 am

Looking back at my own early writing, I can now see how the ones I inevitably struggled with, knowing “something was wrong,” were the ones that were having trouble finding a plot. 😉

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Joseph McGarry says:

February 10, 2017 at 8:49 pm

We don’t need no education. My head aches just thinking of it. But it’s so interconnected. Also, Jude Law plays Tom Wolfe and Nicole Kidman his lover. In contrast, the book I mentioned lacked that almost from the first page, which didn’t create the necessary glue to make me *care* when the plot started diverging. That’s true enough. Sort of a “picture paints a thousand words” kind of deal. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Maybe I’ll go back to that immortality idea and make an outline. Understanding is one thing; execution another. Would you say then that everything that doesn’t move the main plot has to justify itself in some other way, a connection to something else the reader is almost guaranteed to care deeply enough about that they don’t feel betrayed by the delay of game? Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 10, 2017 at 11:56 am

Yep, as I say, it takes a genius wordsmith to make 300 pages of no-plot entertaining. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 13, 2017 at 6:34 pm

Technically, yeeeesss. Makes me think of Don Quixote, another arguably plot-less novel–although that’s a subject of its own. Three times Della counted it. A talented author’s obvious and immediate skill in crafting the narrative promises me he will be worth following even when he starts going off track. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

February 12, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Most books are either first- or third-person. 😉

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Garrett says:

February 10, 2017 at 10:15 am

I think I’ll blow up that Picasso of you to a 24×36 and sell it for a quadrillion dollars! I’m not sure if that’s true. You need a very clear understanding of what the artist did and why it worked before you try it yourself. A “story” without a plot is just a description, at least in my mind. The plot in your head may not be the plot you actually end up writing. I submit that in some genres, especially those driven by a sense of wonder, structure is less critical to the promise than in others. In the “Name of the Wind”, Rothfuss’s promise is that the reader will learn who the enigmatic Kvothe is, how he came to be a wounded legend, and maybe, what will heal the wound. And what entertains one reader won’t necessarily entertain another, which ties directly into what you’re saying about knowing your genre.
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I’m K.M. I write historical and speculative fiction and mentor authors. Weiland: a fighter, a writer, a child of God. Read More I’m the award-winning and internationally published author of the bestselling Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel.
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