Back to Basics, part VIII: Opening Lines

Continuing the “Back to Basics” series, I would like to use today’s post to focus on the opening lines of our novels. Yes, I know: I’m not exactly moving in order here; rather, I’m jumping around a bit, talking about research, submissions, writing to a certain length, etc. To be honest, I’m choosing my topics week to week, essentially on a whim. I also realize that opening lines is not exactly a new topic; we’ve touched on this before. And we will again, I’m sure. But today I would like to try talking about book and story openings in a slightly different way. I can never tell if using examples from my own work helps or not, but that’s what I’m going to do here. Hopefully they’ll serve as illustrations for what I’m trying to convey.

Let me begin with a confession: I obsess over the first lines of my […]

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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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The Evolution of the Novel, Part two

Last week, in part one, I discussed the evolution of voice in the work of one of my protégées, Tiff. With her permission, I told her story and how she found a narrator’s voice and a character’s voice that was uniquely hers. But as her story worked its way out on paper (computer files, I know), the character and story and voice began to separate and go their different ways. What she ended up with was the voice and story opening of a Regency Romance. She still had that lovely voice, but something was wrong. That voice no longer matched the story itself which had grown darker, richer, and the character more … violent and powerful.

I read (and reread) the first 30 pages and we talked about the story on the phone. The reason the novel *felt* weird? It was *not* a Regency at all! In fact, the romantic […]

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