“Write from the heart.” ~~B. Lynn Goodwin (and many others, I’m sure)
A Smorgasbord of Writing Advice
EDITOR’S NOTE: Respected San Francisco literary agent Michael Larsen is one of the judges in this year’s writing contest run by Women’s National Book Association. Submissions closed recently. Since I am the administrator I recently sent Michael our fiction submissions. He sent the article below to me and I immediately asked for permission to share it here. He offers wonderful advice, and I strongly recommend that you use it.
If you’d like to know how an agent might respond to your opening, take a look at Writer Advice’s Current Contest (deadline 12/02/21). Just go back to the home page to find it.
Thank you, Michael Larsen for sharing this with Writer Advice. It’s taken from Writing Success Guaranteed: How to Build a Career as an Author (in progress) by Michael Larsen, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.michaellarsenauthorcoaching.com.
The S Theory of Storytelling: How to Compel Your Readers to Turn the Page
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” –Plato
“For fiction consumers, the most influential factors are in-store display, word of mouth, and page one.” –agent Don Maass
“The first page sells the book. The last page sells the next book.” –Mickey Spillane
“The first page of a chapter sells the chapter; the last page sells the next chapter.” –Larsen’s addendum to Spillane’s Law
“The author-editor [and agent] relationship begins on the first page. The first sentence.
The first paragraph.” –Betsy Lerner in What Editors Do
“A novel begins when I can’t put it down.” –Elizabeth Pomada
Carrie Fisher said that the trouble with instant gratification is that it takes too long. Writers have told me that they go into a bookstore, pick up a novel, and read the first line. If it doesn’t excite them, they put it back. If you’re writing to entertain, start on page one.
Agents, editors, and book buyers only read far enough to make a decision. Readers of literary work are more patient. But if your primary goal is to entertain, start as late as possible in the scene and the story, establish the time and place, introduce the protagonist, and rivet readers with the inciting incident that drives the story and forces them to keep reading. Create enough tension, conflict, and curiosity on the first page, and your readers will keep reading.
This challenge inspired “The S Theory of Storytelling:”
Style (or Voice)
or Something else
on the first page of a novel or memoir must compel readers turn the page.
Every word you write is an audition for the next word.
Every line you write must convince your readers to read the next line.
Every page you write must compel readers to keep reading.
The last page must make readers eager to buy your next book
and tell everyone they know to read your work.
One day when I felt stuck, I went searching for new advice. I sought something that would raise my writing to the next level. Here are 3 good articles I found
There’s all kinds of advice in Writer’s Digest. Pick what you want, what applies today, or what’s useful for you.
Jerry Jenkins shares his best writing advice at https://jerryjenkins.com/how-to-become-a-better-writer/
Are you an editor or author with tips to share?
Please let us know.
As you probably know, there is no one-way to tell a story. If you’re looking for fresh ideas, here are a few from me. I have a lot of writing out in the world, have three books published and a fourth under contract, and sometimes I still get stuck, so I’m sharing a few tips that have helped me.
A Dozen Tips for Getting Unstuck
- Write from the heart.
- Write the story that only you can tell.
- When you get stuck, journal about what is wrong or let your characters tell you what they want, what they can do to get it, and what is in their way. They can do that in your journal.
- As Anne Lamott said, “Give yourself permission to do a shitty first draft.”
- Write for at least five days a week and for at least 20 minutes a day.
- Use a pre-planned plot or discover it as you go. Different minds work different ways, so try all kinds of methods as you search for the one that works for you.
- Still stuck? Start with a sensory image, like the way the light filters through an oak tree, casting shadows on the sidewalk. It often clears the mind and gets the juices flowing, though they may come from a new place.
- When you resolve a conflict, introduce another one immediately.
- Write the kind of story you want to read and/or the story your characters want to tell.
- You can stop midsentence and use that as your starting place the next day.
- When you’re drafting, there are no mistakes–only new material. Keep a positive attitude and send your negativity gremlins away.
- On the other hand, rewrites and editing are also your friends once you’ve finished the first draft. There are many skilled editors out there, including Writer Advice’s Manuscript Consultation Service,
Questions? Please ask us using the Contact Button on the home page.