Friday, November 22, 2013

Write A Damn Good Story, Not Just A Damn Good Scene

It is a certainty that, if you attend a writing conference, during the editor and agent panels, someone in the audience will ask the standard question, "What do you want to see in a submission." And, as always, the same question is answered with the same answer. "We are looking for a great story with great characters and a great message." In other words, we want a damn good book. But here is the problem. Writers here this but I honestly question whether or not they are thinking this when they look at their completed work.

How do I know this? Listen to the authors talk to one another about the books. The majority of the time, what you hear them talking about is not the book as a complete package; instead, you hear them talking about a scene they wrote or a character they loved. In other words, they have spent a great deal of time crafting this smaller element, but forgotten the big picture of things.

I was looking at one of the recent editions of Romantic Times this morning and looking through the reviews and I saw again, another example of just this problem. Many of the stories that earned poor reviews had similar comments. The characters in this book were great but the plot (or insert any other single element) didn't work and brought the whole story down.

Now don't get me wrong. We love those individual scenes you have crafted. We love those secondary characters that really make a scene worthwhile, but, as a writer, it is crucial that you examine the whole package as well.
I should note that to really do this well requires a bit of planning. Just sitting down and cranking out a novel, AND THEN, attempting to fix all of this is nightmarish if not impossible. But, if writers were to take a little bit of time BEFORE starting those stories and think through all of these elements, they might find their outcome a little more positive. In fact, if you examine the definition of THE WRITING PROCESS which is a proven model for writing, that early phase, the PRE-WRITING PHASE, encourages a reader to do that early thinking to make sure when the time comes to write, the outcome is what you wanted. By the way, remember the prefix PRE means before writing (Hint!).

I do have to admit that there are a lot of stories that I pass on because all of the elements are not in alignment. I also want to say that I pass on these because the over-haul would be too extensive. 

I know there are good writers out there. I see it in your scenes that you write, but remember - a novel is more than a single scene or a single character!

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