10 January 2016, Writing Ideas – New Novel, part 919, Publishing, Still more Great Examples from the Initial Scene
Announcement: Ancient Light is delayed due to the economy. You can read more about it at http://www.ancientlight.com. Ancient Light includes the second edition of Aegypt plus Sister of Light and Sister of Darkness. I’ll keep you updated.
Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel beginning with http://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.
I’m using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I’ll keep you informed along the way.
The four plus one basic rules I employ when writing:
1. Don’t confuse your readers.
2. Entertain your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don’t show (or tell) everything.
5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.
All novels have five discrete parts:
1. The initial scene (the beginning)
2. The rising action
3. The climax
4. The falling action
5. The dénouement
The theme statement of my 26th novel, working title, Shape, proposed title, Essie: Enchantment and the Aos Si, is this: Mrs. Lyons captures a shape-shifting girl in her pantry and rehabilitates her.
I just started writing my 27th novel, working title, Claire, potential title Sorcha: Enchantment and the Trainee. This might need some tweaking. The theme statement is something like this: Claire (Sorcha) Davis accepts Shiggy, the dangerous screw-up, into her Stela branch of the organization and rehabilitates her.
Here is the cover proposal for Essie: Enchantment and the Aos Si. Essie is my 26th novel.
The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I started writing my 28th novel, working title Red Sonja.
I’m an advocate of using the/a scene input/output method to drive the rising action–in fact, to write any novel.
- Scene input (easy)
- Scene output (a little harder)
- Scene setting (basic stuff)
- Creativity (creative elements of the scene)
- Tension (development of creative elements to build excitement)
- Release (climax of creative elements)
How to begin a novel. Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea. I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement. Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement. Here is an initial cut.
Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.
These are the steps I use to write a novel:
- Design the initial scene
- Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
- Research as required
- Develop the initial setting
- Develop the characters
- Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
- Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
- Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
- Write the climax scene
- Write the falling action scene(s)
- Write the dénouement scene
Would you like to write a novel that a publisher will consider? Would you like to write a novel that is published? How about one that sells? The initial paragraphs should set the scene, begin with action, and introduce the protagonist. Let’s look to see how the initial scene is written in the novel. We can do this with my novels and with novels from any internet bookseller. Okay, Gone with the Wind didn’t have a great beginning, but it was at least good. It introduced the protagonist and was filled with description. I wasn’t happy with the omniscient voice in the description, but hey, it was her first and last novel. Stinky how a novelist can get a single work published and become a bestseller without much evident effort. This is my gripe. While most of us authors work for years and years to produce enough writing and works to be considered skilled, some authors produce a single heavily edited work and become bestsellers. This isn’t the crime, the crime is that they then don’t produce any other works at all. If you have the skill but don’t use it something is terribly wrong.
Here is another example of a work by an author who produced only a single (well now a second questionable) work. Let’s look at To Kill a Mockingbird:
When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the
elbow. When it healed, and Jem’s fears of never being able to play football were
assuaged, he was seldom self-conscious about his injury. His left arm was
somewhat shorter than his right; when he stood or walked, the back of his hand
was at right angles to his body, his thumb parallel to his thigh. He couldn’t have
cared less, so long as he could pass and punt.
When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we
sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. I maintain that the Ewells
started it all, but Jem, who was four years my senior, said it started long before
that. He said it began the summer Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea
of making Boo Radley come out.
Would you buy and read this novel based on these first two paragraphs? I wouldn’t. I’m not interested in football, children’s injuries, or why a person had a childhood injury. This work wouldn’t get me to read it at all. Except that you know it is a bestseller and a “famous” novel, would you buy it or read it based on the first two paragraphs? There is literally nothing to recommend this work based on the most important words in the writing. Just as an aside, as an author, would you want your bestseller to be known for these words? How about: It was the best of time and the worst of times—just saying. I might pick up Gone with the Wind based on the first two paragraphs. I would not do the same with To Kill a Mockingbird. By the way, this beginning to To Kill a Mockingbird feels much like a prologue—again a bad beginning for any novel. Remember, protagonist, scene setting, and action. These encourage people to buy and read your novel, and this is what any prospective publisher will be looking for.
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