Plot Triggers

Plot triggers 2

Time for our monthly chat about writing, with fellow Penguin author Kathryn Ledson, and mentor extraordinaire Sydney Smith. This month we discuss plot triggers and try to define them.

cross blogWhat is a plot trigger?

Kath: A plot trigger (or inciting incident) launches the story. It’s the protagonist’s call to action – the thing that sets the story in motion and gives our protagonist a problem to solve. Anything before the plot trigger is scene setting, characterisation, back story, etc. A plot trigger can come in many forms. The discovery of a body, a letter in the mail, a desperate plea on the telephone, perhaps even a conversation or epiphany. For example, a husband suggests to his wife that they start a family. She realises in that moment that the last thing she wants is to be married with children! She packs her bags and leaves, and starts her search for the meaning of life.

Jennifer: A plot trigger is something beyond the control of the main character, which sparks off the story. A hurricane carries Dorothy’s house to the Land of Oz. Lucy discovers the wardrobe that leads to Narnia. A mysterious letter arrives at Harry Potter’s house. It changes the course of the hero’s everyday life and, as Kathryn says, usually results in some sort of a quest. It’s the reason why the author chose to begin the story on that particular day in the hero’s life.

Pride and Prejudice 3Sydney: Sorry, Jenny, but we have to be really careful to distinguish between a plot trigger (an event that hands the protagonist a problem they have to solve during the course of the story, and which also activates an antagonist) and the event or situation that opens the story. The two can be the same thing – but aren’t always. The event that opens Pride and Prejudice is the news that a rich young bachelor has entered the neighbourhood. ‘What a fine thing for our girls!’ cries Mrs Bennet, starting her goal. Now she sets out to snare him for one of her penniless, unmarried daughters. But what is Elizabeth’s? It’s best to think of it coming in two parts. The first part is the realisation that her sister Jane is sincerely attached to Mr Bingley and vice versa, that their attraction is real and deep, and that she wants more than anything to see the pair married. This happens in Chapter 18, at the Netherfield ball. What is Mr Darcy’s plot trigger? It’s the appalling realisation, courtesy of Mrs Bennet’s boasting, that his friend Bingley has fallen for Jane, a nice girl in herself but a member of a shockingly vulgar family. He wants more than anything to prevent the match, thus keeping him free of lowly connections. That happens in Chapter 18, too, and constitutes the second part of the plot trigger. A plot trigger activates the antagonist as well as the protagonist who now has a goal to pursue. Mrs Bennet’s antagonist is circumstance – she has to plot and scheme to bring Jane and Bingley together. Hence the infamous episode where she sends her daughter on horseback to spend the day with the Bingley sisters. Jane is drenched to the skin, falls sick and must spend five days there. Elizabeth’s antagonist is Mr Darcy and she is his. Their opposition has been activated at the same time. He does everything he can to prevent the match while she does everything she can to promote it. Each creates an obstacle for the other; each stands in the way of the other as they seek to get what they want. This is a plot trigger. Or rather, it’s two plot triggers, those of Elizabeth and Darcy. They are vitally connected.

Why is it necessary?

Plot trigger 1Kath: Most novels are about a protagonist’s quest to get somewhere, find or achieve something. If it weren’t for the plot trigger, the quest would never come about. There would be no story. The recent animated film Frozen is about a girl’s mission to save her sister from herself. If the sister had stayed in her room and never exposed to the world her special yet dangerous magic talent, she wouldn’t have run away and the sister wouldn’t have had to go after her. In other words, we wouldn’t have a story.

Jennifer: Stories are about solving problems. A trigger is necessary to jump-start the plot and change the status quo. Without the arrival of a fairy godmother, Cinderella would still be sweeping the fireplace. If Jack wasn’t paid in beans instead of coins, he’d still be poor and living with his mother. Without that letter, Harry would never get to Hogwarts school for wizards.

Sydney: A plot trigger gives a narrative its aim and “point”. This is what the story is about. When a plot trigger doesn’t happen, or comes in too late, as is often the case in unpublished manuscripts, the reader feels confused and disconnected from the story. They don’t know what it’s about. They’re also bored because there’s no tension of a directed nature. This idea of directed tension is essential. A story can have loads of tension, but if it isn’t directed, the tension is wasted on the reader. A plot trigger focuses the protagonist and therefore the story and gives them purpose.

Do all novels have plot triggers?

Kath: I’m still thinking about it. Meantime …

Jennifer: They have to, don’t they? Something has to happen to set off a chain of events. Simply put, the protagonist then tries to solve a problem, and the antagonist tries to prevent him/her from succeeding. Every story I can think of works this way. Except maybe for stream of consciousness novels like Ulysses by James Joyce. It may have a plot trigger, but I was too confused while reading it to tell

Sydney: Yes, a novel must have a plot trigger to kick off the action. Even stream of consciousness narratives will have an external event that kicks off the internal journey – Mrs Dalloway plans to hold a party, for example. But since the journey here is of the consciousness, the plot trigger might not be dramatic – that is, bring two characters together on opposing sides of a problem. In stream of consciousness, the antagonist is part of the internal life of the character.
Kath, while we were discussing plot triggers before we started writing the blog, you wondered whether literary fiction uses plot triggers. I said they do. Jenny is on the button when she says why. But while genre fiction often has to stick to a convention in this regard, literary fiction can play fast and loose with its plot triggers. In crime fiction, the body has to appear in the first chapter, for example. In a romance, the hero and heroine have to meet in the first or second chapter. Science fiction has to do something sci-fi in its opening chapter, or feature sci-fi things like transponders or teleporters. Fantasy fiction must have fantastical features in its first chapter, like dragons or magical orbs or characters coping with a winter that is already ten years old. I call this stuff décor. Décor tells the reader what kind of story they are reading. Even though they have started reading it because the blurb has assured them it’s their kind of story, they want the reinforcement that décor provides.
Literary fiction has décor, too, but is harder to pin down because it’s doing other things. Likewise, literary fiction can play fast and loose with plot triggers, what they look like and where they happen. I talked about Elizabeth’s plot trigger in Pride and Prejudice, which happens a long way into the action, relatively speaking. There is a very good reason for that. If Jane Austen had set Elizabeth’s plot trigger in Chapter 1, she would have had a problem: how can she convince the reader that Jane is sincerely attached to Mr Bingley and vice versa? She’s got another problem: how can she convince the reader that Elizabeth’s hostility to Mr Darcy is real and believable, not merely a plot convention or device? Elizabeth’s hostility to Darcy is essential to the tension between them, and the tension surrounding their views on a match between her sister and his friend. If Jane Austen had put their plot triggers in Chapter 1, she would have lost the reader, who wouldn’t believe it. So she set up Mrs Bennet’s plot trigger to kick off the story and give it energy and focus until it was time for Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s to kick in. Notice that Mrs Bennet’s Machiavellian schemes re Jane and Bingley tail off after that. They are no longer necessary to keep the narrative ship on course. Jane Austen has to do a number of other things, too, before Elizabeth and Darcy can have their plot triggers, like bringing in Mr Wickham, whose plot trigger happens when he sees Darcy in Meryton and sets out to ruin his life socially in that neighbourhood. Everything Jane Austen puts in place before Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s plot triggers is essential to the machinery, if you like, of the novel, to make sure it all runs smoothly.
LolitaIn Lolita, Humbert’s plot trigger happens when he sees the child he calls Lolita. This happens at the end of chapter 10, forty pages into the novel. Why didn’t Nabokov place it in the first chapter? Because without Humbert’s history of paedophilia and his justification for it, the plot trigger would have been meaningless. And yet the story needs to keep the reader interested before the plot trigger is pulled. And it has to be done in such a way that the plot trigger makes sense. So, Humbert describes his pursuit of sex with little girls, and his ignominious defeats, until he walks into a house in Middle America and sees Dolly Haze, the girl he plans to trample over like the Nazis trampling over Poland.

Kath: How clever of me to handball that to Sydney!

Sydney: Where would I be without your cleverness, Kath? Groping for something to say, that’s where!

Where are the plot triggers in your novels?

Kath: In my first novel, Rough Diamond, the plot trigger happens on the first page – the protagonist Erica Jewell arrives home to find a man bleeding to death in her front garden. There was a potential problem in starting this way because we didn’t yet know Erica well enough to understand her actions in this situation. Most readers were ok with it – my publisher certainly was – but if I were to do it again, I’d probably show Erica in her ordinary world first. That said, a high-octane scene to open is certainly a great hook for the reader.
In Monkey Business, we’re about 13,000 words into the story before the plot trigger (a telephone call) sends Erica on her mission to find Jack, who is missing in action. Because this is part of a series, and yet the novel must still be able to stand on its own, scene-setting and back story were important.
Likewise in Grand Slam (working title for no. 3 in the series). Again we’re over 10,000 words into the story before the trigger (an explosion on an oil rig). There are several sub-plots and it’s important to set those up before the action starts.

Jennifer: I believe in inserting plot triggers right up front, to capture the reader’s interest quickly. In my first novel, Wasp Season, the plot trigger occurs in the first paragraph with Zenandra, the European wasp queen, choosing a nesting site in Beth’s fallen tree. That’s when all the trouble begins.
In Brumby’s Run it’s in the prologue, when we learn that Mary had to give up one of her newborn twins for adoption.
In Currawong Creek it’s in the first chapter, when a four year old boy is left behind in Clare’s office.
In Billabong Bend it’s in the second chapter (late for me) when Nina meets a mysterious stranger at a masquerade ball. No, maybe it’s earlier. In the first chapter, when we learn that the rare wetlands along the Bunyip River are in danger, and that Nina is determined to protect them.
And in my current novel, Turtle Reef, it’s at the end of the first chapter, when Zoe gets a phone call offering her a job as a marine researcher.

Sydney: A plot trigger, if it’s to qualify as such, has to offer the protagonist a problem that gets in the way of their goal. After all, a plot is created by the protagonist working to solve a problem. That problem is embodied in the antagonist, or a group of antagonists. Elizabeth wants to see Jane married to Mr Bingley, but she must work on the problem created by Caroline Bingley and Darcy, who oppose the match. Humbert wants to get his hands on Dolly Haze, but must work against the problem caused by Charlotte, Dolly’s mother, who keeps edging herself between Humbert and the child. He also must work against the law: sex between adult and child is illegal.
If a plot trigger is to work, it must not only begin with an event, it must involve an antagonist. If those two things are not there, the event is not a plot trigger. It’s something else, which can also be important but is not the plot trigger. A standard example is a crime novel, which opens with a dead body. The corpse brings together the detective AND the killer, each of whom is working on opposing sides of a problem. The detective wants to find the killer, the killer wants to avoid detection. Thus, discovery of the body is a plot trigger. It isn’t a plot trigger if it doesn’t involve an antagonist.

Jennifer: I thought a plot trigger (an event) was different to an inciting incident ( the call to action that engages the hero). Although as you point out, Sydney, they are sometimes one and the same. Maybe I’ve got my definitions wrong.

Sydney: The term “inciting incident” comes from writing screenplays. There’s nothing wrong with borrowing terms from another form, as long as you keep in mind that it IS another form. In movies, the plot trigger comes in between eighteen and twenty-five minutes into the film. You can time it. Viewers come to expect this. It’s a convention of movies across the board, from genre to arthouse, from Hollywood to independent to European to Asian. Plot triggers in fiction are not so convention-bound, outside certain kinds of genre novels.

Kathryn Ledson is the author of Rough Diamond and Monkey Business (Penguin), part of the Erica Jewell series of romantic adventures. You can visit her website and find her blog at www.kathrynledson.com
Sydney Smith is a writing mentor, teacher and author of short stories, essays, and The Lost Woman, a memoir of survival. She is currently writing The Architecture of Narrative, a book about how to plot and structure fiction. She offers writing tips at www.threekookaburras.com. If you have a question on any aspect of writing, feel free to visit her at The Story Whisperer.

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The Writing Process Blog Hop: Writers Reveal Their Process

Writing process 1It’s great to be taking part in this blog hop on The Writing Process. Thanks to the lovely Pamela Cook for tagging me. If you missed Pamela’s post last week you can find it here. Pamela is the author of Blackwattle Lake and Essie’s Way, published by Hachette. Apart from writing, Pamela is a teacher and mother of three gorgeous daughters. She also manages a menagerie of dogs, rabbits, birds, fish and horses and her favourite pastime (after writing) is riding her handsome quarter horse, Morocco.

Essie's Way coverPamela lives in the southern suburbs of Sydney and spends as much time as possible at her “other” home in Milton on the south coast of NSW. Being a country girl at heart and spending so much of her time around horses enticed Pamela to “write what you know” and she’s more than happy to now be a writer of Rural Fiction. Connect with Pamela via her Website, Twitter or Facebook.

And now for my own responses to The Writing Process questions:
1)   What am I working on?
I’m finishing copyedits for Billabong Bend, a star-crossed love story set in the riverlands. It will be released by Penguin in May of this year. My current work-in-progress is a novel set in cane country, near the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. See my early attempt at a blurb below.

cane fieldsUnlucky-in-love zoologist Zoe King has given up on men. Moving from Sydney to the small sugar town of Kiawa means a fresh start and she is charmed by the region’s beauty – by its rivers and rainforests. By its vast cane fields, sweeping from the foothills down to the rocky coral coast.  And by its people – its farmers and fishermen, unhurried and down to earth, proud of their traditions.

Her work at the Sea-Life Centre provides all the passion she needs and Zoe finds a friend in Bridget, the centre’s director. So the last thing she expects is to fall for her boss’s boyfriend, sugar cane king Quinn Cooper. When animals on the reef begin to sicken and die, Zoe’s personal and professional worlds collide. She faces a terrible choice. To protect the reef must she betray the man she loves?

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Like Pamela Cook I write rural fiction, currently a very popular genre. The main point of difference with my novels is a passion for the plants, animals and birds of the bush. This shines through in authentic stories set in Australia’s magnificent wild places, with various environmental themes at their heart.

3)   Why do I write what I do?
I’ve always enjoyed a deep affinity with nature, and I channel my passion for the environment into my books. The natural world is full of drama, risk and exquisite beauty – perfect fodder for a novelist! I also enjoy an old-fashioned love story. For me, a good romance is not just about two people falling for each other. The original, medieval concept of a romance always involved a quest, and I think a modern one should too – it is the heroine’s search for herself. For until a character discovers her authentic core, she can’t genuinely connect with another person. So I like to show a woman coming into her strength and fullness as a human being.

4Save the Cat 2)   How does my writing process work?
I’ve written six novels now, and am beginning my seventh. My first manuscript took more than two years to write. Of course you don’t know quite what you’re doing with a first novel, but you learn a lot about the craft along the way. Once I was published I had to be more practical about my process in order to meet deadlines. Although I’m a pantster at heart, I now plan a lot more, using a loose, three act structure. This plan is flexible however, and doesn’t prevent the story from evolving organically. With my new novel I plan to write 1,000 words a day, five days a week. Let’s see how I go!

Next week three wonderful writers share their thoughts on the writing process:

Kate Belle is a multi-published author who writes dark, sensual contemporary women’s fiction. She lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter and a menagerie of neurotic pets. Her first book, The Yearning, was released in 2013 to rave reviews. Her second, Being Jade is due for release in June 2014 (Simon & Schuster Australia). She blogs regularly at The Ecstasy Files and as a guest to whoever will have her.
Blog/website: http://www.ecstasyfiles.com
Facebook:      http://www.facebook.com/katebelle.x
Twitter:  @ecstasyfiles https://twitter.com/ecstasyfiles
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6572571.Kate_Belle
The Reading Room: http://www.thereadingroom.com/kate-belle/ap/2394119

Kathryn Ledson has worked as a PA in the corporate world, for Hayman Island’s PR team, and as Peter Ustinov’s PA during his Australian tour. She has also been on the road with rock bands Dire Straits and AC/DC. She now works as a freelance editor, but her passion is writing popular fiction for Penguin. She is the author of Rough Diamond and the newly released Monkey Business. Connect with Kathryn via her Website , Facebook or Twitter

A.C. Flory is an Australian indie science fiction writer who is a master of world building. The questions she asks most are why and why not? I love that her writing is not human-centric. In her first published novel Vokhtah, the characters are entirely alien, deeply observed and intriguing. It is the first book of a trilogy and I look forward to the rest of the series. She has also published a fabulous collection of short stories set at the end of the 21st century called The Vintage Egg (Postcards From Tomorrow). Connect with A.C. Flory via her website, Facebook or Twitter.

Congratulations to Karen Stalker for winning a signed copy of Currawong Creek in the Australia Day prize draw, and thanks to everybody else for entering! Karen, I’ll send you an email shortly.

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Pantsters and Pitches

I’ve finished the edits for Billabong Bend, and am having a break from writing. Instead I’m riding my horse, pulling up ragwort in the paddocks and generally enjoying the beauty on offer here at Pilyara. Writing is never very far from my thoughts though, for a new novel is brewing.

pantster 1I’m a pantster at heart. My stories evolve organically. I’d get bored if I already knew everything that was going to happen – and it seems I’m in good company!

“Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort, and the dullard’s first choice.”  ~Stephen King in On Writing

“Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. Plot is observed after the fact rather than before. It cannot precede action. It is the chart that remains when an action is through.”  ~Ray Bradbury

pantster 2Ha, take that plotters! 🙂 However the realities of commercial publishing make a degree of planning essential, especially when you’re pitching an unwritten book as I’m doing for the first time. Writing an outline is always tricky, but what if you don’t know precisely what happens yourself? I like to start with a short synopsis, 120 words or so. This can be lengthened or abbreviated as needed. The most useful pitch advice I ever received was a simple formula. This is a story about …….. who wants more than anything to ……… but can’t because ………. ‘If your story doesn’t fit into this template, you don’t have one.’  And my teacher was right. This breaks the narrative down to its bare bones – character, goal and conflict. Take The Wizard Of Oz for example. It’s a story about a little girl named Dorothy, who wants more than anything to go home, but can’t because she’s stuck in a strange land. I used this formula when I pitched my first novel Brumby’s Run to Penguin. ‘It’s a story about a spoilt city girl named Samantha, who wants more than anything to build a fresh future in Victoria’s beautiful high country, but can’t because it means stealing her sister’s life.’ Worked like a charm

panster 3So now I need a pitch for my new novel.
– I’m not too worried that I don’t know how it ends yet. Pitches for me have always worked best when they don’t tell the full story, but finish instead with a hook, an intriguing question.
– I’ll concentrate on character and conflict, and never mention theme. As novelist Sophie Masson says, ‘Themes belong in English studies, not in novel outlines.’
– It will be my very best writing.

Merry Christmas to all my readers, and a heartfelt thank you for your support during the year. Here’s to a wonderful 2014!!!

christmas in the bush

Knowing When You’re Done …

editing 3I’m in the middle of final edits for next year’s release, Billabong Bend. One of the most difficult things for writers, published or unpublished, is knowing when the book is done. It’s easier, of course, with a book under contract. You have a deadline, and an editor who has her own wise opinions. But it can still be a fraught question, and not just for writers. I’ve heard of painters who see their work on exhibition, and want to whip out the paint brush then and there, and of composers who want to change chords in published pieces. Countless changes will spring to mind on the final read. Here are the main things I think about.

editing 11. Check the writing – Spelling? Grammar?  Overuse of adverbs or filler phrases? Tautologies or unnecessary dialogue tags? In this latest draft of Billabong Bend, characters were shaking and nodding their heads all the time, and driving my editor mad! These stage directions can aid a first draft when the writer is telling themselves the story. Like um or ah when speaking, they allow thinking time. But they do not belong in a final draft. Do a search for words you might have overused. Remove them.

2. Dialogue – By now you should know what your characters sound like. Read dialogue aloud, assessing vocabulary, sentence length, use of contractions, etc. Make sure the word choices you’ve made add up to a  consistent and unique voice. You don’t want your characters all sounding the same.

editing 23 Follow each thread to its logical conclusion – It might be the progress of your protagonist from weak and unsure to strong and certain, or the relationship arc between two characters in a love story. It could be the trail of clues in a mystery. Have you added or deleted scenes during rewrites, or changed their order?  If a character is introduced in chapter 3, and not again till chapter 30, do they really need to be there? If they do, they must be mentioned a few times so the reader won’t forget about them. Have you played with the timeline? Does the story still make sense?

4. Don’t edit your writing to death – I’ve seen some unfortunate examples of writers revising the heart out of their work. Retain the vigour and imaginative breadth of your original vision. Nothing’s ever perfect. I’ll finish with a piece by American novelist Harry Crews.

“Graham Greene [said] “The writer is doomed to live in an atmosphere of perpetual failure.” There it is … every writer writes with the knowledge that nothing he writes is as good as it could be. Paul Valery said, “A poem’s never finished, only abandoned.” The same thing with a novel. It’s never finished, only abandoned. I’ve had any number of novels where I’ve just at some point said to myself, well, unless you’re going to make a career out of this book – spend the rest of your goddamn life chewing on it – you might as well just package it up and send it to New York.”

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Phillip Island

???????????????????????????????Well, my next round of edits for Billabong Bend have arrived, and with a short deadline, it’s time to get stuck in. Pilyara’s peaceful mountains are very conducive to writing. However for a change, I sometimes spend time down at the coast – at my brother’s lovely, large house at Phillip Island, just one street from the ocean.

Penguins 2My brother Rod is a keen photographer and bird watcher. He lives in the right place, because Phillip Island and the Bass Coast are home to more than two hundred bird species. Local wetlands support a variety of migratory birds including Bar-tailed godwits, Curlew sandpipers, Whimbrels and Red-necked stints. The southern and western coasts of the island lie within the Phillip Island Important Bird Area, so proclaimed by BirdLife International because of its importance in supporting significant populations of Little Penguins (aka Fairy Penguins), Short-tailed Shearwaters (aka Muttonbirds) and Pacific Gulls.

SealThe island also has a Koala Conservation Centre, and hosts the largest colony of fur seals in Australia (up to 16,000) But you don’t have to take a boat to Seal Rocks to see them. Here’s a photo of one cruising round the local jetty, just metres from my brother’s house. How lucky am I to have the best of both worlds on my doorstep – Pilyara’s tall-timbered mountains, and Phillip Island not much more than an hour away. What a beautiful country to live in …

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It’s Time To Start A New Book When …

I’m between books. The second round of Billabong Bend edits aren’t back yet, and I’m on a self-imposed writing break. It’s necessary for writers to take a holiday sometimes. To read, to play, to fill up the creative well – and to do all those chores that get neglected when a manuscript is in full swing. I’m not a naturally tidy person, not by a long shot, but right now the house and garden are neat. The feed and tack rooms are spick and span. I’m doing that nesting thing pregnant women do before giving birth – getting the environment in order so I can devote myself to my new baby/story. So I’ve made a listIt’s time to start writing a new story when:

Kitchen garden1. You go to water the pots and wind up weeding, repotting and fertilising every one.

2. You go to  the wardrobe to get a shirt and wind up organising all your clothes by colour.

3. Your usually messy office is spotless.
Home Office

 

 

 

 

 

Bonfire4. You start raking up sticks around the house and end up with a massive bonfire pile.

 
5. You have defragged your computer, scanned for errors, and backed up files.

 

Shoes6. Shoes that are usually piled higgledy-piggledy in a box are placed neatly on shelves.

 

7. You have oiled the saddles and bridles.

 
8. You have discovered the random article button on WikiHow

Coloured pencils9. You look for a coloured pencil and wind up sorting and sharpening them all.

10. You start checking out different social media networks like Pinterest,  Vimeo, Tumbler, StumbleUpon, FourSquare, Reddit, Wattpad, Flickr, DeviantArt, Delicious, and BookLikes. You begin to create any accounts you don’t yet have.

Teddy 111. The dogs are bathed and groomed.

12. The new story is calling out to be written.

Okay, I’ve ticked them all off my list. New book, here I come …

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Don’t Be A Writer …

Don't be a writerI’m deep into structural edits for my new novel, Billabong Bend, due out next year. The deadline is next week. I’m too busy to blog (already missed last week’s post) so my brother Rod Scoullar has sprung to my rescue. He writes terrific young adult fantasy as a hobby,  and has written a guest post. ‘It can be about anything,’ I said. This is what he came up with … (Love ya Rod x)

“Don’t be a writer.

A writer’s life is hard.  Oh it’s not hard to write – putting words on paper is easy.  It isn’t even that hard to put well written words on paper, words in well structured sentences, words that flow, words that evoke mood or place or situation.  I can do that.  You must do that if you are to be a writer.

Words are not enough though, even well written words.  The reader will weary of the sweetest prose if the plot is inadequate.  Poor characterisation will undermine any story regardless of the beauty of the writing.  Those are areas in which I fall down.  I’m not destined to be a writer; yet it isn’t for that reason.

I see how hard Jenny works.  I see the notebooks, constantly added to, dozens of them, full of words and ideas that might be useful, someday.  I see the effort that goes into the research.  I see the discipline that requires so many words must be written before day’s end.  I see the redrafting, the effort to fashion a scene just so.  I see the frustration when things don’t come together.

Then, when the manuscript is complete, as best it can be given the timeframe – professional writers have to work to deadlines – and sent to the publisher, back come the edits.  “Character X needs greater development early in the manuscript; the relationship between Y and Z should build more slowly; the resolution of the conflict in chapter seven seems contrived, etc.”  Those aren’t comments relating to Jennifer’s current manuscript in case you’re wondering.  Oh, and don’t self-publish without a professional edit.  Professional editors know what they’re about.  Ignore them and their advice at your peril.

I’m not prepared to put in the effort required to be published.  Writing something is easy.  Writing something worthwhile may be possible, but writing and rewriting and rewriting again is too much for me.  I don’t want to be a writer, not desperately.  It might be fun to try but, well, for me it’s all too much.  If you want to be a writer, want it because you can’t imagine yourself as anything else, then go for it; but understand – a writer’s life is hard.”

 

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