Writing Fiction For Dummies

Writing Fiction For Dummies

by Randy Ingermanson, Peter Economy
Writing Fiction For Dummies

Writing Fiction For Dummies

by Randy Ingermanson, Peter Economy


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A complete guide to writing and selling your novel

So you want to write a novel? Great! That’s a worthy goal, no matter what your reason. But don’t settle for just writing a novel. Aim high. Write a novel that you intend to sell to a publisher. Writing Fiction for Dummies is a complete guide designed to coach you every step along the path from beginning writer to royalty-earning author. Here are some things you’ll learn in Writing Fiction for Dummies:

  • Strategic Planning: Pinpoint where you are on the roadmap to publication; discover what every reader desperately wants from a story; home in on a marketable category; choose from among the four most common creative styles; and learn the self-management methods of professional writers.
  • Writing Powerful Fiction: Construct a story world that rings true; create believable, unpredictable characters; build a strong plot with all six layers of complexity of a modern novel; and infuse it all with a strong theme.
  • Self-Editing Your Novel: Psychoanalyze your characters to bring them fully to life; edit your story structure from the top down; fix broken scenes; and polish your action and dialogue.
  • Finding An Agent and Getting Published: Write a query letter, a synopsis, and a proposal; pitch your work to agents and editors without fear.

Writing Fiction For Dummies takes you from being a writer to being an author. It can happen—if you have the talent and persistence to do what you need to do.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780470530702
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 12/02/2009
Series: For Dummies Books
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 174,028
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Randy Ingermanson is the award-winning author of six novels. He is known around the world as "the Snowflake Guy," thanks to his Web site article on the Snowflake method, which has been viewed more than a million times. Before venturing into fiction, Randy earned a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of California at Berkeley. Randy has taught fiction at numerous writing conferences and sits on the advisory board of American Christian Fiction Writers. He also publishes the world’s largest e-zine on how to write fiction, The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine. Randy’s first two novels won Christy awards, and his second novel Oxygen, coauthored with John B. Olson, earned a spot on the New York Public Library’s Books for the Teen Age list. Visit Randy’s personal Web site at www.ingermanson.com and his Web site for fiction writers at www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

Peter Economy of La Jolla, California, is a bestselling author with 11 For Dummies titles under his belt, including two second editions and one third edition. Peter is coauthor of Writing Children’s Books For Dummies, Home-Based Business For Dummies, Consulting For Dummies, Why Aren’t You Your Own Boss?, The Management Bible, and many more books. Peter also serves as Associate Editor of Leader to Leader, the Apex Award-winning journal of the Leader to Leader Institute. Check out Peter’s Web site at www.petereconomy.com.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

About This Book 1

Conventions Used In This Book 2

What You’re Not to Read 2

Foolish Assumptions 3

How This Book is Organized 3

Part I: Getting Ready to Write Fiction 4

Part II: Creating Compelling Fiction 4

Part III: Editing and Polishing Your Story and Characters 4

Part IV: Getting Published 4

Part V: The Part of Tens 5

Icons Used in This Book 5

Where to Go from Here 5

Part I: Getting Ready to Write Fiction 7

Chapter 1: Fiction Writing Basics 9

Setting Your Ultimate Goal as a Writer 11

Pinpointing Where You are as a Writer 13

Freshmen: Concentrating on craft 13

Sophomores: Tackling the proposal 14

Juniors: Perfecting their pitches 15

Seniors: Preparing to become authors 16

Getting Yourself Organized 17

Mastering Characterization, Plotting, and Other Skills 18

Editing Your Fiction 18

Chapter 2: What Makes a Great Story? 21

Choosing What to Give Your Readers 22

Creating a powerful emotional experience: What your readers desperately want 22

Educating your reader 23

Practicing the gentle art of persuasion 24

Making Life Hard on Your Characters: Conflict Plus Change Equals Story 25

The Five Pillars of Fiction 26

Setting the stage: Your story world 27

Creating characters 28

Constructing the plot 28

Formulating a theme 30

Expressing your style 31

Seven Ways to Deliver the Goods 31

The here and now: Action 32

Giving your characters a voice: Dialogue 33

Revealing thoughts: Interior monologue 33

Feeling with your character: Interior emotion 34

Seeing what your character sees: Description 34

Taking a trip to the past: Flashback 35

Supplying narrative summary 35

Chapter 3: Finding Your Audience and Category 37

Identifying Your Ideal Novel 38

Looking at what you love to read 38

Thinking about what you love to write 39

Defining Your Ideal Reader 40

Considering worldview and interests 41

Looking at gender 42

Writing for readers of a certain age 43

Defining your niche 43

Understanding Your Category 43

Genres: Surveying categories based on content 45

Understanding audience-based categories 50

Picking your category and subcategory 52

Finding Your Category’s Requirements 53

Targeting your word count 54

Accounting for major characters 54

Determining levels of action, romance, and all that 55

Identifying your story’s emotional driver 58

Chapter 4: Four Ways to Write a Great Novel 59

Giving Yourself Permission to Write Badly 59

Creative Paradigms: Investigating Various Writing Methods 61

Writing without planning or editing 61

Editing as you go 62

Planning a little, writing a little 63

Outlining before you write 64

Finding a Creative Paradigm that Works for You 65

Understanding why method matters 66

Developing your creative paradigm 67

Using Your Creative Paradigm to Find Your Story Structure 69

Chapter 5: Managing Your Time and Yourself 71

Finding Time to Write 71

Establishing and sticking to a writing goal — for this week and this year 72

Organizing your time 74

Setting Up Your Ideal Writing Space 75

Securing the best writing surface 76

Finding the right chair 76

Choosing a computer (if you want to use one) 77

Putting everything in place 78

Dealing with Distractions 79

Looking at Money Matters 80

Budgeting money for writing 81

Making your living as a writer: Don’t expect this to be your day job (yet) 82

Part II: Creating Compelling Fiction 85

Chapter 6: Building Your Story World: The Setting for Your Story 87

Identifying the Parts of a Story World 88

Creating a Sense of Place 89

Making description do double duty 90

Fitting description in the story 91

Weaving emotive force into your descriptions 92

Deciding What Drives Your Cultural Groups 93

Revealing cultural drivers with immediate scene 93

Exposition: Explaining cultural drivers through narrative summary 94

Combining various elements to show cultural drivers 95

Choosing the Backdrop for Conflict 95

Defining your backdrop 95

Defining your story question 98

Story World Examples from Four Well-Known Novels 98

Pride and Prejudice 98

The Pillars of the Earth 99

Patriot Games 100

Ender’s Game101

Researching Your Story World 102

Identifying what you need to know about your story world 102

Knowing how much research is enough 104

Being Able to Explain Your Story World to Sell Your Book 106

Chapter 7: Creating Compelling Characters 107

Defining Roles: Deciding Who Goes in Your Novel 107

Backstory: Giving Each Character a Past 109

Understanding why backstory matters 109

Creating your character’s backstory 110

Avoiding stereotypes 111

Motivation: Looking to Your Character’s Future 112

Values: Core truths for your character 113

Ambitions: Getting abstract, or why Miss America wants “world peace” 115

Story goals: Your story’s ultimate driver 115

Establishing your character’s motivation 117

Point of View (POV): Getting Some Perspective on Character 121

First-person POV 122

Third-person POV 124

Objective third-person POV 125

Head-hopping POV.126

Omniscient POV 127

Second-person POV 128

Choosing between Past and Present Tense 129

Revealing Your Characters to the Reader 131

Chapter 8: Storyline and Three-Act Structure: The Top Layers of Your Plot 135

Giving the Big Picture of Story Structure: Your Storyline 135

Understanding the value of a storyline 136

Writing a great storyline 137

Examples: Looking at storylines for 20 best-selling novels 140

Three-Act Structure: Setting Up Three Disasters 145

Looking at the value of a three-act structure 145

Timing the acts and disasters 147

Introducing a great beginning 148

The end of the beginning: Getting commitment with the first disaster 148

Supporting the middle with a second major disaster 149

Leading to the end: Tackling the third disaster 150

Wrapping up: Why endings work — or don’t 151

Summarizing Your Three-Act Structure for Interested Parties 153

Examples: Summarizing the Matarese Circle and Pride and Prejudice 153

Describing your own three-act structure 155

Chapter 9: Synopsis, Scene List, and Scene: Your Middle Layers of Plot 157

Deciding Which Order to Work In 157

Writing the Synopsis 158

Taking it from the top: Fleshing out your three-act structure 159

Bottoms up! Building around sequences of scenes 160

Knowing how much detail you need 161

Example: A synopsis of Ender’s Game 161

Developing Your Scene List 163

Top-down: Fleshing out your synopsis 163

Bottom-up: Summarizing your manuscript 164

Example: A scene list of Ender’s Game 165

Extending your scene list 167

Setting Up the Structure of Individual Scenes 167

Setting the proactive scene 168

Following up with the reactive scene 170

Coming full circle with your scenes 173

Scene structure in Gone with the Wind 173

Scene structure in Patriot Games 174

Chapter 10: Action, Dialogue, and More: The Lowest Layer of Your Plot 177

Using Seven Core Tools for Showing and Telling 178

Action 179

Dialogue 180

Interior emotion 183

Interior monologue 184

Description 186

Flashback 189

Narrative summary and other forms of telling 192

The Secret of Showing 194

Sorting it all out 194

Understanding the two kinds of clips 196

Writing public clips 197

Writing private clips 197

Putting cause and effect together 199

Chapter 11: Thinking Through Your Theme 203

Understanding Why Your Theme Matters 203

Looking at why writers include themes in their novels 204

Examining the features of a theme 205

Example themes for 20 novels 205

Deciding When to Identify Your Theme 209

Finding Your Theme 210

Faking it till you make it 210

Reading your own novel for the first time 211

Listening to your characters 212

Using test readers 212

Must you have a theme? 212

Refining Your Theme 213

Part III: Editing and Polishing Your Story and Characters 215

Chapter 12: Analyzing Your Characters 217

The High-Level Read-Through: Preparing Yourself to Edit 218

Developing a Bible for Each Character 219

Physical traits 221

Emotional and family life 221

Intellectual and work life.222

Backstory and motivation.222

Psychoanalyzing Your Characters 223

Are values in conflict? 223

Do the values make sense from the backstory? 224

Does ambition follow from values? 226

Will the story goal satisfy the ambition? 227

The Narrator: Fine-Tuning Point-of-View and Voice 228

Does your POV strategy work? 228

Have you chosen the right POV character? 232

Is your POV consistent? 233

Does your character have a unique voice? 233

Fixing Broken Characters 234

Boring characters 234

Shallow characters 234

Unbelievable characters 235

Unlikeable characters 236

Chapter 13: Scrutinizing Your Story Structure 239

Editing Your Storyline 240

Removing all unnecessary weight 240

Keeping your characters anonymous 241

Staying focused 241

Cutting down some example storylines 241

Testing Your Three-Act Structure 244

What are your three disasters? 246

Are your acts balanced in length? 247

The beginning: Does it accelerate the story? 248

The first disaster: Is the call to action clear? 249

The second disaster: Does it support the long middle? 250

The third disaster: Does it force the ending? 252

The ending: Does it leave your reader wanting to tell others? 253

Scene List: Analyzing the Flow of Scenes 255

Rearranging your scenes 255

Foreshadowing: Planting clues to prepare readers 256

Putting it all together as a second draft 257

Chapter 14: Editing Your Scenes for Structure 259

Triage: Deciding Whether to Fix, Kill, or Leave a Scene Alone 260

Identifying ailing scenes 260

Evaluating a scene’s chances of recovery 261

Fixing Proactive Scenes 262

Imagining a proactive scene: The Day of the Jackal 262

Checking for change 263

Choosing a powerful goal 263

Stretching out the conflict 264

Desperately seeking setbacks 265

Examining the final result 266

Fixing Reactive Scenes 267

Imagining a reactive scene: Outlander 267

Checking for change (again) 268

Fitting the reaction to the setback 268

Working through the dilemma 269

Coming to a decision 270

Coming to the final result 270

Killing an Incurable Scene 271

Chapter 15: Editing Your Scenes for Content 273

Deciding Whether to Show or Tell 274

Knowing when clips, flashbacks, or telling techniques are most appropriate 274

Following an example of decision-making 275

A Good Show: Editing Clips 277

Guidelines for editing clips 278

Fixing mixed clips 279

Fixing unintentional head-hopping 280

Fixing out-of-body experiences 282

Fixing cause-effect problems 283

Fixing time-scale problems 284

Getting In and Out of Flashbacks 286

Editing Telling 287

Tightening text and adding color 288

Knowing when to kill a segment of telling 289

Part IV: Getting Published 291

Chapter 16: Getting Ready to Sell Your Book: Polishing and Submitting 293

Polishing Your Manuscript 294

Teaming with critique buddies 294

Joining critique groups 295

Working with freelance editors 296

Hiring freelance proofreaders 297

Looking at Three Common Legal Questions 298

Deciding between Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing 299

Understanding how traditional publishers work 299

Understanding how self-publishing works 301

Beware the vanity publishers! 302

Our recommendation 303

First Contact: Writing a Query Letter 303

Piecing Together a Proposal 306

Deciding what to include 306

Your cover letter: Reminding the agent who you are 307

Your title page 307

The executive summary page 308

Market analysis: Analyzing your competition 309

Your author bio 309

Character sketches 310

The dreaded synopsis 311

Your marketing plan 311

Your writing, including sample chapters (or whole manuscripts!) 312

Chapter 17: Approaching Agents and Editors 315

Defining the Roles of Agents and Editors 315

Finding the Best Agent for You 316

Deciding whether you need an agent 316

Doing your homework on agents first 317

Contacting agents to pitch your work 320

Editors, the Center of Your Writing Universe 322

Targeting a publishing house 323

Choosing which editor to contact 324

Contacting editors directly 324

Part V: The Part of Tens 327

Chapter 18: Ten Steps to Analyzing Your Story 329

Step 1: Write Your Storyline 330

Step 2: Write Your Three-Act Structure 330

Step 3: Define Your Characters 331

Step 4: Write a Short Synopsis 332

Step 5: Write Character Sketches 332

Step 6: Write a Long Synopsis 332

Step 7: Create Your Character Bible 333

Step 8: Make Your Scene List 333

Step 9: Analyze Your Scenes 334

Step 10: Write and Edit Your Story 335

Chapter 19: Ten Reasons Novels are Rejected 337

The Category is Wrong 338

Bad Mechanics and Lackluster Writing 339

The Target Reader Isn’t Defined 339

The Story World is Boring 340

The Storyline is Weak 340

The Characters Aren’t Unique and Interesting 341

The Author Lacks a Strong Voice 341

The Plot is Predictable 342

The Theme is Overbearing 343

The Book Fails to Deliver a Powerful Emotional Experience 343

Index 345

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