Begin at the beginning, or at least at the start

I’ve been working on a new book. It goes back to my epic fantasy roots and I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve written a synopsis, done a bunch of noodling in the world to figure out how things work, maps, character descriptions and so on. I could probably keep on going forever doing that. But sooner or later I have to start the book.

Now for the big question–where do I start?

Well, that’s a thorny question, don’t you think? Or is it easy? Should be easy. Just begin at the beginning. I mean, that’s obvious, right?

Or maybe not.

That’s the trouble. Sometimes finding the beginning isn’t that easy. I’ll use this WIP as a for instance. I have quite a number of POV characters. So first question–who’s point of view do I want to be in first? What event do I want to start with? There’s a mass […]

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I’m doing a webinar for Writers Digest Books on June 9th at 1 pm on Writing Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal, so, as you can imagine, I’ve done a lot of thinking lately on the subject of writing and on genre in particular. One special challenge you often have with speculative fiction is that at the same time you have to introduce your readers to new characters and situations, you’ve also got to create an entire world in their mind’s eye. This can lead to a lot of info dump at the beginning of novels.

I find that one of the best ways to head this off is to be sure to begin in the right place. If you start the novel too long before the main story so that you can provide set-up and context, you may lose the reader through the lack of immediacy. If you start too […]

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A Few Common Writing Problems

Tomorrow, I’ll be heading out to Calgary, Alberta, for ConVersion, a sf/fantasy convention. The organizers have been kind enough to make me their literary guest of honor, and so I’ll be giving talks, perhaps reading from some of my work, and sitting on various panels. (I’ll also get to meet several actors from the Star Trek universe, including Marina Sirtis, John de Lancie, Ethan Phillips, Chase Masterson, and Robert Picardo.) Before the conference begins, I’ll be leading a two-day writers’ workshop. I’ve spent the last week reading manuscripts for the workshop, and that’s what I want to post about today.

As I’ve read, I’ve noticed some recurring issues. I suppose they’re things that all of us struggle with, whether we’re still trying to publish that first piece or completing our ump-teenth novel. And so, here is a brief primer on a few of the more common problems that crop up […]

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Everyone knows that a good opening can make or break a submission. With busy agents and editors getting literally hundreds of submissions a week, you want to be sure to grab their attention right away and never surrender it. I hear far too often in pitches, “but the story really starts….” In the famous words of Lewis Carroll, “Begin at the beginning and go on until you come to the end, then stop.” It seems so obvious, and yet, beginnings are not always so easy to identify. Do you start with murder or motive? Action or voice? Scene-setting or dialogue?

While there are no hard and fast rules, I’m going to give you some general dos and don’ts. Remember, anything done amazingly well can break the rules. However, it’s much easier for a New York Times bestseller of years and years experience to get away with. All that said, it’s […]

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Redemption and Conflict. And Beginnings.

I am not sure how to start off today. Hopeful, yes. Very. But also…mmm…not worried…curious, maybe…about the future. As a writer, I usually see both sides to an argument, even if I agree with one over the over. So, this morning I see a future both bright and healing, and one that could go awfully into some new conflict, because people are people, and we tend to screw up everything. Which makes a good book – potential grandness, potential terror. A friend’s blog stated it well. “Balanced on the knife edge of the future.” All good beginnings work that way, especially ones built on past conflict.

And that leads us into the current topic. Redemption and Conflict. And beginnings. I have taught seminars in the past, and by far the one most favored is one I […]

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