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Writing Fiction for Dummies


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Table of Contents

Introduction 1 About This Book 1 Conventions Used In This Book 2 What You're Not to Read 2 Foolish Assumptions 3 How This Book is Organized 3 Part I: Getting Ready to Write Fiction 4 Part II: Creating Compelling Fiction 4 Part III: Editing and Polishing Your Story and Characters 4 Part IV: Getting Published 4 Part V: The Part of Tens 5 Icons Used in This Book 5 Where to Go from Here 5 Part I: Getting Ready to Write Fiction 7 Chapter 1: Fiction Writing Basics 9 Setting Your Ultimate Goal as a Writer 11 Pinpointing Where You are as a Writer 13 Freshmen: Concentrating on craft 13 Sophomores: Tackling the proposal 14 Juniors: Perfecting their pitches 15 Seniors: Preparing to become authors 16 Getting Yourself Organized 17 Mastering Characterization, Plotting, and Other Skills 18 Editing Your Fiction 18 Chapter 2: What Makes a Great Story? 21 Choosing What to Give Your Readers 22 Creating a powerful emotional experience: What your readers desperately want 22 Educating your reader 23 Practicing the gentle art of persuasion 24 Making Life Hard on Your Characters: Conflict Plus Change Equals Story 25 The Five Pillars of Fiction 26 Setting the stage: Your story world 27 Creating characters 28 Constructing the plot 28 Formulating a theme 30 Expressing your style 31 Seven Ways to Deliver the Goods 31 The here and now: Action 32 Giving your characters a voice: Dialogue 33 Revealing thoughts: Interior monologue 33 Feeling with your character: Interior emotion 34 Seeing what your character sees: Description 34 Taking a trip to the past: Flashback 35 Supplying narrative summary 35 Chapter 3: Finding Your Audience and Category 37 Identifying Your Ideal Novel 38 Looking at what you love to read 38 Thinking about what you love to write 39 Defining Your Ideal Reader 40 Considering worldview and interests 41 Looking at gender 42 Writing for readers of a certain age 43 Defining your niche 43 Understanding Your Category 43 Genres: Surveying categories based on content 45 Understanding audience-based categories 50 Picking your category and subcategory 52 Finding Your Category's Requirements 53 Targeting your word count 54 Accounting for major characters 54 Determining levels of action, romance, and all that 55 Identifying your story's emotional driver 58 Chapter 4: Four Ways to Write a Great Novel 59 Giving Yourself Permission to Write Badly 59 Creative Paradigms: Investigating Various Writing Methods 61 Writing without planning or editing 61 Editing as you go 62 Planning a little, writing a little 63 Outlining before you write 64 Finding a Creative Paradigm that Works for You 65 Understanding why method matters 66 Developing your creative paradigm 67 Using Your Creative Paradigm to Find Your Story Structure 69 Chapter 5: Managing Your Time and Yourself 71 Finding Time to Write 71 Establishing and sticking to a writing goal - for this week and this year 72 Organizing your time 74 Setting Up Your Ideal Writing Space 75 Securing the best writing surface 76 Finding the right chair 76 Choosing a computer (if you want to use one) 77 Putting everything in place 78 Dealing with Distractions 79 Looking at Money Matters 80 Budgeting money for writing 81 Making your living as a writer: Don't expect this to be your day job (yet) 82 Part II: Creating Compelling Fiction 85 Chapter 6: Building Your Story World: The Setting for Your Story 87 Identifying the Parts of a Story World 88 Creating a Sense of Place 89 Making description do double duty 90 Fitting description in the story 91 Weaving emotive force into your descriptions 92 Deciding What Drives Your Cultural Groups 93 Revealing cultural drivers with immediate scene 93 Exposition: Explaining cultural drivers through narrative summary 94 Combining various elements to show cultural drivers 95 Choosing the Backdrop for Conflict 95 Defining your backdrop 95 Defining your story question 98 Story World Examples from Four Well-Known Novels 98 Pride and Prejudice 98 The Pillars of the Earth 99 Patriot Games 100 Ender's Game101 Researching Your Story World 102 Identifying what you need to know about your story world 102 Knowing how much research is enough 104 Being Able to Explain Your Story World to Sell Your Book 106 Chapter 7: Creating Compelling Characters 107 Defining Roles: Deciding Who Goes in Your Novel 107 Backstory: Giving Each Character a Past 109 Understanding why backstory matters 109 Creating your character's backstory 110 Avoiding stereotypes 111 Motivation: Looking to Your Character's Future 112 Values: Core truths for your character 113 Ambitions: Getting abstract, or why Miss America wants "world peace" 115 Story goals: Your story's ultimate driver 115 Establishing your character's motivation 117 Point of View (POV): Getting Some Perspective on Character 121 First-person POV 122 Third-person POV 124 Objective third-person POV 125 Head-hopping POV.126 Omniscient POV 127 Second-person POV 128 Choosing between Past and Present Tense 129 Revealing Your Characters to the Reader 131 Chapter 8: Storyline and Three-Act Structure: The Top Layers of Your Plot 135 Giving the Big Picture of Story Structure: Your Storyline 135 Understanding the value of a storyline 136 Writing a great storyline 137 Examples: Looking at storylines for 20 best-selling novels 140 Three-Act Structure: Setting Up Three Disasters 145 Looking at the value of a three-act structure 145 Timing the acts and disasters 147 Introducing a great beginning 148 The end of the beginning: Getting commitment with the first disaster 148 Supporting the middle with a second major disaster 149 Leading to the end: Tackling the third disaster 150 Wrapping up: Why endings work - or don't 151 Summarizing Your Three-Act Structure for Interested Parties 153 Examples: Summarizing the Matarese Circle and Pride and Prejudice 153 Describing your own three-act structure 155 Chapter 9: Synopsis, Scene List, and Scene: Your Middle Layers of Plot 157 Deciding Which Order to Work In 157 Writing the Synopsis 158 Taking it from the top: Fleshing out your three-act structure 159 Bottoms up! Building around sequences of scenes 160 Knowing how much detail you need 161 Example: A synopsis of Ender's Game 161 Developing Your Scene List 163 Top-down: Fleshing out your synopsis 163 Bottom-up: Summarizing your manuscript 164 Example: A scene list of Ender's Game 165 Extending your scene list 167 Setting Up the Structure of Individual Scenes 167 Setting the proactive scene 168 Following up with the reactive scene 170 Coming full circle with your scenes 173 Scene structure in Gone with the Wind 173 Scene structure in Patriot Games 174 Chapter 10: Action, Dialogue, and More: The Lowest Layer of Your Plot 177 Using Seven Core Tools for Showing and Telling 178 Action 179 Dialogue 180 Interior emotion 183 Interior monologue 184 Description 186 Flashback 189 Narrative summary and other forms of telling 192 The Secret of Showing 194 Sorting it all out 194 Understanding the two kinds of clips 196 Writing public clips 197 Writing private clips 197 Putting cause and effect together 199 Chapter 11: Thinking Through Your Theme 203 Understanding Why Your Theme Matters 203 Looking at why writers include themes in their novels 204 Examining the features of a theme 205 Example themes for 20 novels 205 Deciding When to Identify Your Theme 209 Finding Your Theme 210 Faking it till you make it 210 Reading your own novel for the first time 211 Listening to your characters 212 Using test readers 212 Must you have a theme? 212 Refining Your Theme 213 Part III: Editing and Polishing Your Story and Characters 215 Chapter 12: Analyzing Your Characters 217 The High-Level Read-Through: Preparing Yourself to Edit 218 Developing a Bible for Each Character 219 Physical traits 221 Emotional and family life 221 Intellectual and work life.222 Backstory and motivation.222 Psychoanalyzing Your Characters 223 Are values in conflict? 223 Do the values make sense from the backstory? 224 Does ambition follow from values? 226 Will the story goal satisfy the ambition? 227 The Narrator: Fine-Tuning Point-of-View and Voice 228 Does your POV strategy work? 228 Have you chosen the right POV character? 232 Is your POV consistent? 233 Does your character have a unique voice? 233 Fixing Broken Characters 234 Boring characters 234 Shallow characters 234 Unbelievable characters 235 Unlikeable characters 236 Chapter 13: Scrutinizing Your Story Structure 239 Editing Your Storyline 240 Removing all unnecessary weight 240 Keeping your characters anonymous 241 Staying focused 241 Cutting down some example storylines 241 Testing Your Three-Act Structure 244 What are your three disasters? 246 Are your acts balanced in length? 247 The beginning: Does it accelerate the story? 248 The first disaster: Is the call to action clear? 249 The second disaster: Does it support the long middle? 250 The third disaster: Does it force the ending? 252 The ending: Does it leave your reader wanting to tell others? 253 Scene List: Analyzing the Flow of Scenes 255 Rearranging your scenes 255 Foreshadowing: Planting clues to prepare readers 256 Putting it all together as a second draft 257 Chapter 14: Editing Your Scenes for Structure 259 Triage: Deciding Whether to Fix, Kill, or Leave a Scene Alone 260 Identifying ailing scenes 260 Evaluating a scene's chances of recovery 261 Fixing Proactive Scenes 262 Imagining a proactive scene: The Day of the Jackal 262 Checking for change 263 Choosing a powerful goal 263 Stretching out the conflict 264 Desperately seeking setbacks 265 Examining the final result 266 Fixing Reactive Scenes 267 Imagining a reactive scene: Outlander 267 Checking for change (again) 268 Fitting the reaction to the setback 268 Working through the dilemma 269 Coming to a decision 270 Coming to the final result 270 Killing an Incurable Scene 271 Chapter 15: Editing Your Scenes for Content 273 Deciding Whether to Show or Tell 274 Knowing when clips, flashbacks, or telling techniques are most appropriate 274 Following an example of decision-making 275 A Good Show: Editing Clips 277 Guidelines for editing clips 278 Fixing mixed clips 279 Fixing unintentional head-hopping 280 Fixing out-of-body experiences 282 Fixing cause-effect problems 283 Fixing time-scale problems 284 Getting In and Out of Flashbacks 286 Editing Telling 287 Tightening text and adding color 288 Knowing when to kill a segment of telling 289 Part IV: Getting Published 291 Chapter 16: Getting Ready to Sell Your Book: Polishing and Submitting 293 Polishing Your Manuscript 294 Teaming with critique buddies 294 Joining critique groups 295 Working with freelance editors 296 Hiring freelance proofreaders 297 Looking at Three Common Legal Questions 298 Deciding between Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing 299 Understanding how traditional publishers work 299 Understanding how self-publishing works 301 Beware the vanity publishers! 302 Our recommendation 303 First Contact: Writing a Query Letter 303 Piecing Together a Proposal 306 Deciding what to include 306 Your cover letter: Reminding the agent who you are 307 Your title page 307 The executive summary page 308 Market analysis: Analyzing your competition 309 Your author bio 309 Character sketches 310 The dreaded synopsis 311 Your marketing plan 311 Your writing, including sample chapters (or whole manuscripts!) 312 Chapter 17: Approaching Agents and Editors 315 Defining the Roles of Agents and Editors 315 Finding the Best Agent for You 316 Deciding whether you need an agent 316 Doing your homework on agents first 317 Contacting agents to pitch your work 320 Editors, the Center of Your Writing Universe 322 Targeting a publishing house 323 Choosing which editor to contact 324 Contacting editors directly 324 Part V: The Part of Tens 327 Chapter 18: Ten Steps to Analyzing Your Story 329 Step 1: Write Your Storyline 330 Step 2: Write Your Three-Act Structure 330 Step 3: Define Your Characters 331 Step 4: Write a Short Synopsis 332 Step 5: Write Character Sketches 332 Step 6: Write a Long Synopsis 332 Step 7: Create Your Character Bible 333 Step 8: Make Your Scene List 333 Step 9: Analyze Your Scenes 334 Step 10: Write and Edit Your Story 335 Chapter 19: Ten Reasons Novels are Rejected 337 The Category is Wrong 338 Bad Mechanics and Lackluster Writing 339 The Target Reader Isn't Defined 339 The Story World is Boring 340 The Storyline is Weak 340 The Characters Aren't Unique and Interesting 341 The Author Lacks a Strong Voice 341 The Plot is Predictable 342 The Theme is Overbearing 343 The Book Fails to Deliver a Powerful Emotional Experience 343 Index 345

About the Author

Randy Ingermanson is the award-winning author of six novels. He is known around the world as "the Snowflake Guy," thanks to his Web site article on the Snowflake method, which has been viewed more than a million times. Before venturing into fiction, Randy earned a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of California at Berkeley. Randy has taught fiction at numerous writing conferences and sits on the advisory board of American Christian Fiction Writers. He also publishes the world?s largest e-zine on how to write fiction, The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine. Randy?s first two novels won Christy awards, and his second novel Oxygen, coauthored with John B. Olson, earned a spot on the New York Public Library?s Books for the Teen Age list. Visit Randy?s personal Web site at www.ingermanson.com and his Web site for fiction writers at www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com. Peter Economy of La Jolla, California, is a bestselling author with 11 For Dummies titles under his belt, including two second editions and one third edition. Peter is coauthor of Writing Children?s Books For Dummies, Home-Based Business For Dummies, Consulting For Dummies, Why Aren?t You Your Own Boss?, The Management Bible, and many more books. Peter also serves as Associate Editor of Leader to Leader, the Apex Award-winning journal of the Leader to Leader Institute. Check out Peter?s Web site at www.petereconomy.com.


'...an easy-to-follow guide providing step-by-step instructions...' (Writers Forum, December 2009).

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