Monday, June 3, 2013

The First Scene: Trouble in River City

Today we start our novel.
What will we write about? There can be only one answer.

"There are eight million stories in the naked city, and they are all about the same thing--trouble. Your novel will be about trouble. We're not interested in reading about anything else." - John Dufresne, Is Life Like This? A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months

So, when should the trouble start? By the first plot point? Ten pages in? Five? Here's another tip from Dufresne (my most trusted advisor, the writer whose guides I turn to over and over again for writing wisdom, motivation, and more than occasional confidence boosts) :

By the end of the first scene "we ought to know what the trouble is, what our central character wants and why, and we should have an indication of what his struggle will be. And we should have a reason for caring about him. You have to make us want to read the next chapter, the next scene."

So here we go. Let's begin. Get out your laptop, your notebook, your napkin--choose your weapon--Let's write the first scene of our novels.

John Dufresne: The Lie That Tells A Truth
John Dufresne: Is Life Like This? A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I've been meaning to post something on revision for a long, long time, and now that I'm in the throes of it myself (revising the first draft of a short story that's taking way too long!), I thought I'd share some nuggets of wisdom from the masters:

Today's Revision Nugget: Yearning

I've blogged about this one before, but it's so important to every story, so critical, that I wanted to bring it to your attention again, this time in the context of revision.  Seems important to get this one thing right --really right-- before the rest of the story can fall into place the way it should:

Here's Robert Olen Butler (From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction):

REVISION TASK #1: Find the moment in your story or novel "in which the deepest yearning of your main character shines forth," surround it with sensual, authenticating detail, and make it sing! Force the reader to respond "in a deep, visceral way to that first epiphany." 

A 19th Century Condition in a 21st Century World

Yikes, I think I've got Monomania. Maybe you've got a case of it too.

In case you missed Benjamin Nugent's delightful NYTimes post on his time writing and living "like an unprosperous gentleman-landowner of 19th century Russia," here's the link: Upside of Distraction