Monday, October 29, 2007

Advice from the Pros

I met Stephanie Bond this weekend. Yes, the Stephanie Bond, the highly successful, prolific, and wonderful novelist. She is the epitome of Southern gentility, very soft-spoken, and gracious.

She gave a one-day workshop at the Nebraska Romance Writer's 5th Annual Conference and although I no longer belong to NRW or RWA, and even though I have been experiencing writer-burn-out, I still went. I wasn't quite sure if I wanted to go, but I'm so glad I did. Not only did I glean some great writing advice and wisdom, but I also feel energized. Two of my friends and I are forming a critique group and we've already set a deadline for ourselves to get started. This has given me focus, and I'm suddenly rarin' to go.

There's just something about being with other writers - face to face - that is, well, essential. I haven't had that lately, and I miss it. Internet communication can only take you so far.

Here's a few tidbits of advice from Stephanie:

--Stephanie always writes a synopsis before she starts the book. Always. Does she sometimes deviate from it? Yes. But what's important is that she has a roadmap of her book. And here is the second important thing she does - she gives that synopsis to her critique partner. That way if there are any holes in the story, her critique partner can point them out before Stephanie even starts writing. This is exactly what my friends and I are going to do - we each have to have a synopsis of our story to each other in two weeks. Here's the crucial part - do not discuss the book with your critique partners before you send them the synopsis. That way they act just like an editor - they know nothing about your book and cannot fill in the holes of the story with the information you've already given them.

--Your story begins on the day your character changes. Simple enough. But this will help you get rid of all that gunky backstory.

--Use definitive sentences in your novel. What are definitive sentences? Think of the most often-quoted movie lines. For example, "This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship." or "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Those lines are memorable and can reflect a turning point for your character, and can set apart the beginning of your book, a chapter, or even a paragraph. Make a conscious effort to include these types of sentences.

--If you're writing a tragic story or it doesn't end in a "happily-ever-after", then above all, do one thing: Leave the reader with hope.

And on the business side of things, if you're struggling to find time to write, remember this: We take as much time as we give ourselves. You're the CEO of your own business - your writing business. Write a business plan to help you keep on track and know where you're going.


  1. Excellent advice! I really like the idea of giving your CP the synopsis before the story and as CEO, delegating the time to write.

    Thanks for sharing, Melissa!

  2. Oooh, Stephanie Bond! I adored her Temptations (she, Nancy Warren and Jill Shalvis were the standout authors of the line for me).

    Very good advice about the roadmap and beginning at a point of change (especially for category). That's how I work, too (but then again, my view on "how to write" techniques is try it, and if it works for you, great; if it doesn't, don't beat yourself up because we don't all work the same way).

    Glad you're feeling energised and raring to go.

  3. Sounds like great advice - I'm glad you went to the session!

  4. Hey, where'd my comment go? I left one yesterday. Stupid blogger.

    I said something like "Wise words indeed! Thanks for sharing :)"


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