Monday, July 29, 2013

Writing Tip 14/100

Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad to hear that a lot of you are enjoying the tips. It's been a good thing for me to get back in the habit of blogging. Jacob asked a great question yesterday. "How do you bridge the gap between a realistic scene and a scene that feels forced?"

There are a couple of ways to approach this. One is to ask yourself if the scene is the right thing to have happen at that point in the story. More than once I've had an editor point out to me that a scene isn't working because I'm trying to force it. When that's the case, I usually go back and rewrite the scene.

However, sometime you need the scene to occur, but it's just not believable. Your protagonist is doing something that's out of character or not justified by their current motivations. That's when you have to look at the force that's keeping them from doing what you want and come up with a stronger force to make them do it.

Want your MC to enter the haunted house? What if she hears someone in danger inside? What if something even scarier forces her into the house? Want your couple to fall in love after they've been arguing like cats and dogs? Is there something they can discover about each other they didn't know? Can they become united against a common evil?

In Zombie Kid, I needed Nick to go into the swamp behind his grandmother's house because that's where he finds the amulet. The problem is that the swamp has alligators in it, his parents have forbidden him to go in, and it's night and the swamp is spooky.

In order to offset those, I had him be mad at his parents, follow the cat, get a note telling him to trust the cat, find a trail with his great aunt's footprints, and tell himself he would only go a little way in. By themselves they might not have been enough. But together and done in the right sequence, they seemed to work.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about forcing emotion.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Writing Tip 13/100

Okay, back on track. This tip is going to seem obvious, but it's one I see a lot.

When you are writing a scene make sure your characters are acting the way real people would and not the way you "want" them to act.

Often, as writers, we create a scene in our heads and write it without giving it the reality test. Recently I was working with a writer who had a great scene where two girls wake up in a locked room with no memory of where they are or how they got there. Because the author knew what was really happening in her head, the girls were fairly calm, exploring the room, opening drawers looking at clothes, comparing notes, etc.

The problem is, that's not how real people would behave. If most people woke up locked in a strange room, they would freak out. They'd be yelling, pounding on the door, trying to break the window. Later, when they discovered what was going on, or when they realized they couldn't get out, they would take stock of the situation. But not at the beginning.

This problem is very common in almost all genres. In romance, your characters fight or smooch because you need them to, not because there are good reasons for it. In thrillers, your character goes into the haunted house because you have to have her attacked--when in reality she would be running at top speed away from that place.

Of course, you can have your characters go in the scary house, smooch, explore the locked room, or not. But you have to give them good reasons.

Also, be careful of the "that really happened" excuse. This is where you have something implausible happen by pointing out that it happened in real life. "I know it seems unlikely that the man and woman would randomly meet on the other side of the world on the very date of their original wedding, but it really happened."

Your job as an author is to create an illusion of reality. This means that it has to be believable to the reader. If it really happened, but it is incredibly unlikely, you have to create a better reason than coincidence or you will lose your readers' faith.    

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Writing Tip 12/100 To Outline or Not

Got off a day with traveling back home from California. So, I'll post two writing tip and catch up.

First, let's start with the age old question: paper or plastic? (The correct answer in the Savage household is, "Neither, I have my own cool Disney-themed bags.")

Okay, that's not the age old question I was talking about. This is a question that seems to separate the writing community down the center. Are you an outliner or a pantser? Outliners create an outline of the book before they start writing. Pansters jump in, writing by the seat of their pants. (Which does sound a little painful and hard on your keyboard.)

Rather than telling you one is better than the other, I'll list the pros and cons of each.

Outlining:

  1. Makes it much easier to sit down and write because you know exactly what you are going to write.
  2. Is usually better for getting a book out quickly or under deadline.
  3. Saves you from having to delete big chunks of your writing that didn't work.
  4. Makes it easier to to use foreshadowing, set up plot twists, etc.
  5. Avoids writer's block.   
Pantsing:
  1. More freedom to let your story go where it wants.
  2. Often feels less restraining.
  3. Gives more room for characters to take off in unexpected directions.
  4. It's often more fun and feels less like work.
  5. Some people can only write this way.
I've done both. Early in my career, I was a total pantser. Over the years, with tighter deadlines and a better idea of what I wanted to write, I've tended to be more of an outliner. I love the feeling of knowing exactly what I am going to write that day and focusing on the prose instead of worrying where things are going to go.

I still give myself the freedom to to change things up as I go--like walking on a trail, but wandering off when I see something interesting in the woods.

The best advice I can give, is try both and find what works the best for you. If you find that your stories die out before you reach the end or that you suffer from long bouts of writer's block, try outlining. If outlining feels too stifling, and you lose your love for the story, try pantsing. You can also start without an outline and create one as you get into the story or start with a general outline and throw it away if needed.   

Friday, July 26, 2013

Writing tip 11/100

Let's jump to dialogue today. There are lots of things we could discuss: tags, pacing, etc. But for now, we'll start with something I like to call ping-ponging. In real life, conversations sound something like this.

""What time is dinner?"
"Six thirty. Did you get the pork chops?"
"No. I forgot. Can we just have meat loaf?"
"I don't have any hamburger."

There is nothing wrong with this conversation, other than being a little boring. But it doesn't pop. Each line is a direct response to the one before it. There's no conflict. No zing. Instead, try seeing if you can carry the conversation forward with having each line not be such a direct answer. Here's an example with the same conversation.

"What time is dinner?"
"Did you get the pork chops?"
"I knew I forgot something. How does meat loaf sound?"
"How does Wong Boy's Chinese sound? I don't have anything in the house--which happens to be why I asked you, not once, but twice, to pick up pork chops on the way home."

It's still a pretty boring conversation. And we need some action. Some response. A tag or two. But add those, and we could have a nice little scene here.

"What time is dinner?" Steve asked the minute he walked through the door.
Dana noticed his empty hands and sighed. "Did you get the pork chops?" she asked, already knowing the answer.
"I knew I forgot something. How does meat loaf sound?"
Dana wanted to scream. Couldn't he just once do what he promised? It was like being married to a three year old. "How does Wong Boy's Chinese sound? I don't have anything in the house--which happens to be why I asked you, not once, but twice, to pick up pork chops on the way home."

See how these moves things along so much better? Look at a couple of conversations you've written recently and check to see how much of you can improve them with a little ping ponging.

Here's an example from my upcoming Making the Team.

Carter pulled off his rat head. His face was sweaty and his bright red hair was matted to his scalp from the rubber of the mask. He pulled the plastic fangs out of his mouth. “I like the owl. It makes the scene more creepy.”

“It makes the scene more lame,” Nick said. He turned to Angelo. “Tell him he sounded like a kid trying to hoot.”

“Maybe we could edit in a real owl,” Angelo suggested. He flipped open his monster notebook and scribbled a reminder to himself.

Carter tugged at the thick gray mittens the boys had changed into rat paws. “Are you sure we have to do the whole giant rat thing? A werewolf or a killer lizard would be so much cooler.”

“And done about a thousand times.” Nick snorted. “Dude, we’ve been over this. It’s a tribute to The Princess Bride.”


“An homage,” Angelo added—never afraid to use big words. “To the Rodents of Unusual Size from the fire swamp.”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Writing Tip 10/100

Yesterday we talked about the fact that readers form most of the images in their head not from the words on the page, but from their own imagination. As an author, you can take advantage of this by giving just enough information to let the reader see what they need to, but not so much that you slow the story down.

Brandon Mull wrote the popular Fablehaven series, which featured a brother and sister. I regularly ask readers if they can see these characters in their head. They all can, despite the fact that fact that Mull never gives a detailed description of their looks.

Instead of telling me your main character has shoulder length, carrot-red hair, a bony build, is 5'7" and has lots of freckles, tell me she is an athletic redhead and move on to her other characteristics. Focus on what you can do best in writing, which is to show us what's inside the character and let the reader form their own image of the outside.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Writing Tip 9/100

One of the things most beginning writers don't understand is that 80% of what a reader sees in their head from a book is not actually on the pages. You hear readers say all the time how the actor or actress playing a part from a book doesn't look the way the reader saw them. That's because the writer doesn't usually give a detailed description of a character or a setting. They give just enough for the reader's brain to fill in the rest.

In a movie, it's almost all visual. You see everything, but it's much harder to show what a character is thinking. In a book, you can do the opposite. It would take hundreds of thousands of pages to describe every little detail. But we can show what's going on inside a character's head very well. The next few tips will play on this fact.

Today let's take setting. Say you want to place your character in a parking garage. You could write exactly what the parking garage looks like.

It was a five story parking garage. Each of the levels was seven feet tall and made of concrete with yellow lines painted an the oily floor. There were neon lights and the air smelled like exhaust and oil. Only about half of the spaces were full because it was a Monday and the mall was going downhill, etc.

Pretty boring.

Instead, take three things that say "parking garage" to you. They might be the smell of exhaust, the sound of tires squealing, and trash in the corners. Great. Now write the scene with just that.

Tim got out of his car, wincing at the air thick with exhaust fumes. Somewhere overhead a car's tires squealed on the oily concrete. He noticed the old newspapers and what looked like a used syringe in the corner of the garage and quickly locked his door.

That's it. Three things. The reader will fill in all the rest and you can move on with the story. Don't overwrite your setting or character descriptions.
 
 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Best Writing Advice--Tip 8/100

I probably should have given this tip first. It's the piece of writing advice I give most, and even though it's short, it may be the most important thing I teach. Ready?

Give yourself permission to make mistakes.

That's it.

This can be taken a lot of ways, depending on how you look at it, but the simplest is that you do your best work when you are trying things you aren't sure you can do. If you only write within your comfort zone, you will never do your best work. Taking a risk means you might fail. But it also means you might accomplish more than you ever thought you could.

So give yourself permission to make mistakes. Because you are also giving yourself permission to discover new abilities. Give yourself permission to write garbage and you give yourself permission to write better than you thought you were capable of. Give yourself permission to fail. In that moment, you are giving yourself permission to soar.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Writing Tip 7/100

Cenendra asked a great question on the last post. What if you have a big reveal you need to make midway through the book? You know it's a lot of information, but it's key to the story and too much info to slip into the normal flow. Here are a couple of ideas:

  1. First, really take a look and decide if it all has to come out at once. Is it possible to start revealing the information and have it interrupted by something else? This makes it not quite as long and also raises the reader's interest. You can do this by having something major stop the scene (an attack, arrival of  someone who shouldn't hear, etc.) You can also have the person providing the information only give part of it, feeling the other person isn't ready for the rest.
  2. Don't have person A just spilling the beans. Get person B involved. Let them ask questions, make guesses and deductions. A long uninterrupted monologue feels infodumpy, but if you do something like this, it doesn't feel quite as long:

    Mike glanced toward the cheese on the table. "Mom didn't die of natural causes."

    Suddenly, it all made sense to Sherry. The journal, the sudden move to a new city, the way her relatives always gave her odd looks when she mentioned rodents of unusual size. "It was rats wasn't it? She was killed by huge rats!"
  3. Have some kind of action going on during the conversation. One of the things you have to be careful of in dialogue is something I will talk about in a future post called "talking heads." This is where you just get line after line of dialog with no descriptions, internal thoughts, actions, etc. One of the best ways to fix this is by having something else going on. That's why so many conversations in books happen over dinner. It let's you do something like:

    Jayson cut of a piece of steak and speared it with his fork. "I'm not who you think I am."

    Jillian watched her brother shove the nearly raw meat into his mouth and rip into it like an animal. "I know exactly who you are."
  4. If there are things the reader already knows, summarize. Mike told her all about his terrible date of the night before.
  5. Do NOT have the characters remind each other of something they both obviously already know to explain it to the reader. "As you know, being twin brothers we both have the same birthday."
  6. And finally, try to avoid the dreaded bad guy spills it all just before he kills the good guy scene.
Hope that helps!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Writing tip 6/100

Okay, anyone who knows me, knew this was coming. The dreaded P word. Prologues.

First let's start with all the cool things about prologues.

Well . . .

Um . . .

And, then there's . . .

Kidding. Kidding! Prologues are cool. They are like extras to the story. You can do them in a different POV. They can take place in a completely different time than the rest of the book. They can tell a part of the story that isn't in the book itself in a cool way. And, heck, avid readers like us LOVE prologues. They are like the really cool appetizer to a great meal.

Prologues are awesome . . . when used the right way. The problem is that 99% of the time I see a prologue in a newer writer's manuscript it is used the wrong way. This includes lots of self-published, small press, and even some bigger press books. So much so, that in general, I tell my writing students to just cut them out completely. Why? Read on.

Let's start by getting this out of the way up front. Even though "we" all read prologues, most people do not. Yep. Fact. About the same number of people read prologues as read footnotes. This is especially true of people browsing a book for the first time--in a store or online. They jump straight to chapter one and give it a page or two to see if they like it. As a writer, you may hate that. As a reader, you made spit upon such a vulgar action. But, IT. IS. TRUE.

So, with that in mind, let's look at some of the reasons people use prologues.
  1. To provide important information that is key to the story. Let's say that the story is about a girl who finds a key in an old chest. We want the reader to know that the key was placed there by her great grandmother just before she was killed by an evil demon who still roams the Earth disguised as a traveling organ-grinder. (The kind who makes music with a dancing monkey. Not the kind who actually grinds your liver up into a tasty pâté, you sicko!) 

    This seems like a great reason. The problem is that, since most people skip the prologue, your readers will never get that key information. Therefore they will not understand the story the way they should. Ouch!
  2. You add a really exciting prologue--say, a guy getting chased through the jungle by a tiger--because chapter one starts out a little slow.

    Again, this seems to make sense. You know that you have to hook the reader early, but your first chapter takes a while to get going. So you write a super exciting prologue, knowing that if the reader can see just how exciting things are going to be, they will be patient with the slow first chapter. Unless, they skip the prologue, go straight to the first chapter, get bored, and move on to something else. Which most of them will. Double ouch!!
  3. There's a whole whole bunch of back story information you need to provide, but you've learned that starting a book with a bunch of infodumpy stuff is bad. So you tuck it all into the prologue.

    Wellllll . . . you could do that. Then the people who read prologues could get bored with your infodump, and the people who skip prologues will be confused because they don't know the back story. Yeah. Not so good.
  4. You have a fun little thing that can be skipped without affecting the rest of the book that doesn't really matter if it's read or not.

    This seems like a no-brainer. If it isn't necessary to the book and doesn't matter, why put it in at all? But the truth is, that a cool (read interesting) prologue that can be skipped without hurting the rest of your book is one of the best prologues there is. If people read it, great! It's exciting and they like it. If they skip it, no big deal. It's like the extra scene after the credits in a movie. (Fun little side note here. I know one author that actually hides a little bit of extra story in his acknowledgements. I've always wanted to do that.)
So, what does an author do with that information, if a prologue is out?

As long as it's gripping and not an infodump or flashback, just rename it chapter 1. Really it's that easy. When I wrote Water Keep, the publisher wanted to start with a chapter in Farworld to show it was a fantasy. Because I wasn't introducing Kyja until later in the book, I wrote what is essentially a prologue that is exciting and fun, but not key to the story and called it chapter 1.

If chapter one starts out boring. Fix it. Period. Make it gripping and get rid of the prologue.

If you have a bunch of back story and extra information, let it come out in the story itself. Not in a big chunk, but being discovered a bit at a time, the same way the character learns it. Let the reader discover who hid the key in the chest along with the main character. This is actually much better writing anyway, because it keeps the reader guessing . . . and reading.

So, is there ever a good time to include a prologue? Certain genres, especially epic fantasy, almost require prologues, because we geeks demand them. So if you are writing epic fantasy, toss it in there. But again, don't make it boring or required for understanding the rest of the book, and make chapter one exciting on its own.

Finally, if, understanding everything I said above, you do throw in a prologue, make it short. Most readers want to get into chapter one where the story starts and a long prologue tends to turn them off.

Did I miss a reason or have any questions about your prologue or one you've read (or skipped?) Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Writing Tip 5/100

Wow, five posts in five days. This might be some kind of record for me. Before I get to the next writing tip, just heard from the amazing Brandon Dorman that he is starting work on the Fire Keep cover. It is going to be epic! Also, if you have writing questions you'd like me to address, just throw them into the comments.

Today we are going to talk about multiple story lines. Think of a story line as something important happening throughout the book. For example, if you are writing a mystery, it might be someone killing people and the police looking for him. If you are writing a fantasy, it might be a girl searching for the magic gems to become the true queen.

Every novel has a story line of some kind. The problem is that story lines rise and fall. There are exciting times and boring times. And by now you know that you can't afford boring times in your books. That's where additional story lines come in.

Let's say that the happy little town of Pleasant View is about to be attacked by flying, steam punk monkeys. (I know, right!) You could start with the monkeys attacking in chapter 1. But the problem is, we (the readers) haven't gotten to know the people or the town, so we might not care all that much when the FSPMs begin ripping antenna balls off cars and flinging them at random pedestrians. (Who are wearing cool steam punk outfits, just because that would look awesome on the cover with the flying monkeys.)

We could start instead with a couple of chapters where we get to see the happy people and their peaceful town, then cue the monkeys in chapter 3. But that's the dreaded B word, which we want to avoid whenever possible.

Instead, what if we created a secondary story line? What if the protagonist is breaking up with her boy friend? At the zoo? In front of the monkey exhibit? We get tension and conflict and foreshadowing. We get to know the MC and her jerk ex-boyfriend. (Who will undoubtedly get killed by a FSPM-thrown antenna ball in chapter four.

And maybe we could have an evil zoo keeper whose crazy shenanigans brought the monkeys in the first place. And a romantic interest. And the MC's parents, who are considering a divorce.

The options are endless. By creating additional story lines we can keep things exciting by raising the tension in one story line while another is in a lull. Story lines can start up later in the book, fizzle out half way through, get solved mid-book. It's like taking a piece of meat and adding potatoes, carrots, baby peas in butter sauce, deviled eggs . . .

Okay, I'm out I've here. I've got to eat. I mean write.    

Friday, July 19, 2013

Writing tip 4/100

You hear it all the time, but it's still one of the mistakes I see most often with beginning writers. "Show don't tell."

What does that mean? I'll start by saying what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean only use action. It doesn't mean you can't use description or internal dialogue. It doesn't mean everything has to be visual. What it does mean is that every time you find yourself telling the reader what is happening, stop and ask yourself if it would be more effective to show the scene to the reader. For example, here's a scene where a football player walks onto the field for the first time.

Steve stepped onto the field and the crowd cheered. He was so nervous he could hardly believe it. It was a sunny afternoon and the players were catching balls and stretching. The coach noticed Steve and told him to throw some balls.

This is 100% telling. Instead of letting the reader see the scene and feel the emotions you have stopped the story to describe what is happening. Notice how this next version feels more like you are in the scene.

The roar of the crowd filled the tunnel before Steve had even reached the entrance to the field. "Fal-cons! Fal-cons! Fal-cons!" How many people were in the stands? Forty thousand? Fifty? Steve took several deep breaths before wiping his palms on the front of his jersey and leaving the tunnel.

Stepping onto the freshly cut grass, he blinked at the afternoon sun filling the stadium with the brightness of a thousand spotlights. This was it. This was the big time. "Nice pass," shouted a wide receiver as he plucked the pigskin out of the air and darted toward the end zone. The wonk of cleat on leather sounded from his right as Jeff Savage booted a football through the uprights.

Coach Wells lifted his sunglasses and spotted Steve. "'Bout time you showed up. Get over there and start throwing some balls."

We still communicate the same information. But instead of feeling like someone is telling us a story around a campfire, we are "seeing" it happen right in front of us.

The reason beginning writers do so much telling is because it's easier than showing. Telling only requires you to say that Steve was nervous. You might even say. something like, "Okay, coach" Steve said nervously. Still telling. Those are the easy way out. Showing is harder. You have to let us see Steve's actions, hear his dialog or his thoughts, and give us the information so we can figure out for ourselves how Steve feels.

Showing is harder than telling, but it's what makes the story come a alive in the reader's head.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Princess Leia Hula Hooping and Writing Tip 3 of 100

In going through my BEA phone pictures, I found this video. How many people can say they have seen Princess Leia Hula hooping? So, yeah, had to share it with you.



Now, back to writing tips. Yesterday, we talked about entering the scene late. The point of this, is keeping the plot moving and pulling your readers in. The same can be said for leaving the scene early.

In my upcoming Case File 13 novel, Making the Team, I have a scene where the kids are looking for a dead body. I want to create a sense of danger, keep the action moving, and hopefully create a "one more chapter" moment for my readers. Here's the way the chapter ends.

“You think maybe we should come back in the morning?” Carter asked. “You know, when we can see better, in case some crazed maniac decides he’d rather have live bodies than dead ones?”

But Angelo wasn’t listening. “I think I’ve got something.” He jogged to the edge of the parking lot, his sensor beeping more and more quickly. “Right here,” he said, stopping at the edge of a field of high, dead grass.

Nick leaned forward and pushed back the grass. There, just where Angelo had led them, was a pile of bones with bits of flesh still clinging to them. 

Obviously there is more to this scene, and even though what what happens next takes place right away, I moved it to a new chapter. By ending here, my readers are sucked into the next scene. This is especially important because the next chapter is a funny one to offset the tension in this chapter. I built up to the "big moment," and then stopped it before the scene could lose energy.

Remember, start where things are exciting and end before the momentum begins to slow down to keep interest high.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Writing tip 2 of 100

Wow, close call! Almost messed up on the second day. But never fear, I beat the midnight deadline.

My second tip is "Enter the scene late and leave it early."

Enter the scene late. What does that mean?

So many times as authors we want to set up the scene we are writing. We have to tell where the scene is taking place, who is there, what the back story is. We want to prepare the reader for what is to come. The problem with that is it's generally pretty boring. Instead, try jumping right into the scene. Of course as a reader I want to be able to visualize what's happening, so I will need some clues pretty quickly. But you can do those in context.

So instead of writing:

Michael, walked into the restaurant, his hat and coat in hand. He had promised to meet Julie at 7:00, and it was now 7:30. If he hadn't had that long work meeting, everything would have been fine. But now he was wet from the rain storm outside and nervous that Julie would have left already. He looked around the room and saw her seated in a small booth with several empty glasses in front of her.

(See how boring that is.)

Try this:

"You're late," Julie said, her words slurred.

Michael, slipped into the both--his hat and coat dripping on the restaurant floor--and noticed the empty glasses on the table. He checked his watch--thirty minutes late.

"I, uh, had this meeting."

This pulls you into the story and gives you much of the same information, without feeling like the authors is hitting the pause button on the plot to fill you in.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about leaving the scene early.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Latest news and 100 writing tips in 100 days

Hey everybody! How's your summer been so far? I started mine off with Book Expo America, where I signed tons of books, and got to meet some amazing authors, booksellers, and readers. I shook hands with Rick Riordan and discovered we must look a little alike, because I was mistaken for him several times.


What do you think? Do we look at all alike? I'm not so sure.

I also got lots of great books that I'll tell you about in the coming days and was nearly shot by a storm trooper.

(It turns out I wasn't the author he was looking for.)

That was followed up by several writing conferences, including Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers, a week long hands-on class where I had such a good time and made more new friends, as well as renewing some old ones.


Great looking group huh?

On the writing front, I just turned in the third Case File 13 book, Evil Twins, and signed a contract for a fourth book in the series. I'm nearing completion on Fire Keep, the fourth book in the Farworld series scheduled to come out in February. I'm also working on a top secret new project that I will tell you about down the road. My next book to come out is Making the Team. This is the cover if you haven't seen it. (Or even if you have)


You might notice Tiffany, Dana, and Angie made the cover in this one. That's because they play a much more prominent role in this book. Kirkus gave it a great review, saying among other things, "The addition of the girls not only broadens the book’s appeal, but adds a humorous layer of boy-girl interaction that preteen readers will get a kick out of. It’s a battle of the sexes as the mystery leads them to an unusual private school with larger-than-life (literally) students and a mad-scientist headmaster with a demonic agenda."

I was pretty excited to have received two really great Kirkus reviews for the first two books in the series since they can be a pretty tough reviewer.

So, yep, great summer so far. Doing all those writing events made me think that it's been a while since I've posted any writing advice. There are a bunch of little things I've learned over the years and I thought it might be fun to share them in one place. If you like to write, they might help. And even if you are more of a reader, it might help you see what works and doesn't work in books. As with all advice, take what works for you and ignore what doesn't. There are very, very few hard and fast rules. But it's good to know what the rule is and why it's there before you break it.

So with that exciting introduction, here goes 100 writing tips in 100 days.

Tip 1 of 100

Try not to start your story with any of the following:


  • Having your character look in the mirror to describe themselves.
  • Waking up.
  • A scene that ends up being a dream.
  • Flowery description of the setting/weather.
  • A flashback.
  • A bunch of back story information.
  • Anything boring.

The key to a good beginning is to pull the reader in. It doesn't need to be an explosion or other shocking event. It can be as simple as interesting dialog, an argument, or a first day at school. But it has to be immediate. It has to make the reader interested enough that they will turn the page.

One great way to start your story is with a conflict that is not the major conflict. If you've never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, go online and watch a couple of old episodes. Notice how often there is a side story going on that ends up tying into the main story and eventually being replaced by the primary conflict.

In Zombie Kid it was the new Halloween  costumes. In Water Keep, it was Marcus getting attached by the bullies at his school. The great thing about a minor conflict is that it grans the reader's attention, but doesn't give away the whole plot. It sets up the main conflict.

Check back tomorrow for another tip.