Cooking Up A Good Story

 

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When I was a child, I had a problem with stretching the truth just a little bit, especially when doing so would help me avoid punishment from my father. When I would finish my “explanation” of events—the defense of my actions—he’d often say, “You sure cooked up a big one this time, didn’t you?”

Maybe storytelling does have some similarities to cooking.

Just this month, for example, my writing involved what one might call three culinary aspects. 

Now that I have written the last page of my next book, I am starting my rewrites. Starting on page one, I checked my list of ingredients, i.e. plot points. Were they all there? Did I add them in the correct order?

Next I trimmed the fat—those phrases, scenes, even chapters–that didn’t really go anywhere and didn’t lend to moving the story forward.

On the next run through, I focused on the spice, the sauce, asking myself if there was just enough to keep the story interesting for the reader.

After that, I closed up my file. I will let the story simmer for awhile. Although I will not actively work on it, I will use this time to let new thoughts/ideas come to the forefront, contemplating things that will improve the story and trashing those that won’t.

A few months from now, I will open the file and begin my second round of rewrites before giving it to my taste testers (beta readers) who will read it and give me their opinions which will be used for the final rewrite.

The next phase is up to the customers. Will they my latest recipe?

They say the “proof is in the pudding.”

 

 

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Leave Them Wanting More

 

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People often find it hard to pick a book to read. If they have already read and enjoyed one book in a series, they are often likely to purchase the second. This is especially true if they like the characters and enjoy the writing style of the author.

Authors who write a successful first novel with promises to continue their characters, already have a readership that will come back for more. In fact, if they keep their writing fresh, they are likely to come back again and again.

Publishers love books that promise a sequel. If a book sells well, then it follows to reason that the sequel is going to sell just as well.

So what makes a successful series? 

Characters. One—preferably more—that the reader can root for.

Study the successful ones, such as Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Long of the Rings, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and see how they do it.

I have enjoyed  A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket—smart and humorous—as well as a number of Amish books in series by Beverly Lewis.

Go to the bookstore and find the section where you want your book to be some day. Research a popular series and ask yourself what makes them good. Then develop your own character you know readers will want to follow.

While you’re writing the first book for your series, keep in mind things you want to save for your second book, and so on.

So, what are the key elements in writing a series that will keep readers interested in reading book after book?

 *Believable, engaging characters.

*A fascinating world or universe. 

*Great writing!

*A plot that has definite direction…not just stretching the story out so you can get another book published.

Reward your audience for sticking with you by giving them new and fresh content—not just more of the same.

And, at the end of the book, or movie, the consumer should feel satisfied and, as my grandfather used to say,

left wanting even more.

Balancing Act

If you’re anything like me, you have a stack of books somewhere in your house that keeps getting taller. It seems like every book you read is replaced by one or two more!

The fact is, writers like to read. Need to read.

I’m not just talking about pleasure reading, which is a “given”. Every writer I have ever met has told me that it was the love of reading that sparked within them the desire to write.

No, I’m talking about reading about writing. The craft. Punctuation and grammar to be sure, but also reading about genres, point-of-view, voice, character development, plot and hundreds of more things we need to consider—need to master—in pursuit of excellence.

Once I started writing, I quickly realized the necessity of erecting two stacks of books. One I dubbed “Pleasure”; the other, simply “About Writing”. I have a rule concerning these books: Read from both stacks, simultaneously, so that I fulfill my need for learning AND for enjoyment.

So, what’s next on my stacks? James Scott Bell’s How to Write Dazzling Dialogue and Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro are on top of the “About Writing” stack. And for pleasure, next up is Chapel Springs Revival by Ane Mulligan.

So, whether you keep an actual physical stack of books, like I do, or simply a list of “Must Reads”, my suggestion is that you try to balance your reading. After all, didn’t you hear this expression as a child? “All work, and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.”

 

Please visit http://www.spiritual snippets.com and http://www.5scribesandtheirstories.com to see what is going on there.