Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Launching Into Scenes with Action

All great novels and stories start out with a mere idea. Maybe it’s a large idea that spans centuries and crosses continents, like Patrick Rothfuss’s first book in The Kingkiller Chronicles series, The Name of the Wind; or maybe it’s magic realism manifest into stories, like Aimee Bender’s books. No matter how grand or ordinary, strange or beguiling your idea, you must take it through an alchemical process that transforms it into a story. How do you do that? This is the function of the scene; it is your story maker. Inside each scene, the vivid details, information, and action breathe life into your flat idea and round it out into something in which a reader participates.


Jordan Rosenfeld is the author of the writing guides Make A Scene Revised and Expanded Edition, Writing the Intimate Character, Writing Deep Scenes with Martha Alderson, A Writer’s Guide to Persistence, and Write Free with Rebecca Lawton. She is also the author of suspense novels Women in Red, Forged in Grace, and Night Oracle. Jordan’s articles and essays have been published in such places as The Atlantic, mental_floss, The New York Times, New York Magazine, Pacific Standard, Quartz, Scientific American, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and more. Visit her website or follow her on Twitter.


Any story or novel is, in essence, a series of scenes strung together like beads on a wire, with narrative summary adding texture and color between. A work of fiction will comprise many scenes, the number of which varies for each individual project. And each one of these individual scenes must be built with a structure most easily described as beginning, middle, and end. The beginning of each scene is the focus of this chapter.

The word beginning is a bit confusing, since some scenes pick up in the midst of an action or continue where other actions left off; so I prefer to use the term launch, which more clearly suggests the place where the reader’s attention is engaged anew.

In a manuscript, a new scene is usually signified visually by a break of four lines (called a “soft hiatus”) between the last paragraph of the previous scene and the first paragraph of the next one, or sometimes by a symbol such as an asterisk or a dingbat, to let the reader know that time has passed and a new scene is beginning.

Each new scene is a spoke in the wheel of the plot you started with, and the spoke must be revealed in a way that is vivifying for the reader and provides an experience, not a lecture. Scene launches, therefore, pave the way for all the robust consequences of the idea or plot to unfurl. Each scene launch is a reintroduction to your character and the situation she is embroiled in, capturing your reader’s attention all over again.

You can launch a scene using characters, actions, narrative summary, and setting, but this particular post will focus just on launching a scene with action.

The Action Launch

Many writers believe they must explain every bit of action that is going on right from the start of a scene, but narrative summary defeats action. The sooner you start the action in a scene, the more momentum is available to carry the reader forward. If you find yourself explaining an action, then you’re not demonstrating the action any longer; you’re floating in a distant star system known as Nebulous Intellectulus—more commonly known as your head—and so is the reader.

Keep in mind the key elements of action: time and momentum. It takes time to plan a murder over late-night whispers; for a drunk character to drop a jar at the grocery; to blackmail a betraying spouse; or to kick a wall in anger. These things don’t happen spontaneously; they happen over a period of time. They are sometimes quick, sometimes slow, but once started they unfold until finished.

The key to creating strong momentum is to start an action without explaining anything. A scene from M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts does just that:

When the key turns in the door, she stops counting and opens her eyes. Sergeant comes in with his gun and points it at her. Then two of Sergeant’s people come in and tighten and buckle the straps of the chair around Melanie’s wrists and ankles. There’s also a strap for her neck; they tighten that one last of all, when her hands and feet are fastened up all the way, and they always do it from behind. The strap is designed so they never have to put their hands in front of Melanie’s face. Melanie sometimes says, “I won’t bite.” She says it as a joke, but Sergeant’s people never laugh. Sergeant did once, the first time she said it, but it was a nasty laugh. And then he said, “Like we’d ever give you the chance, sugar plum.”

M.R. Carey plunges his reader into the scene in this novel. For a significant portion of the early scenes, the reader doesn’t know why Melanie, a ten-year-old child, is restrained in this way. The lack of explanation for what is happening forces the reader to press on to learn more. The action here gives the reader clues: Something about Melanie is either threatening or dangerous, though, based on her internal narration, we don’t yet know what. We want to know what grown men, including a Sergeant, no less, would have to fear from a child so much that he would have to strap her into a chair and point a gun at her the whole time. Clearly something more is going to happen in this environment, and judging from the tone of the paragraph, we can probably expect something intense and thrilling. Action launches tend to energize the reader’s physical senses.

Here’s how to create an action launch:

  • Get straight to the action. Don’t drag your feet here. “Jimmy jumped off the cliff”; not “Jimmy stared at the water, imagining how cold it would feel when he jumped.”
  • Hook the reader with big or surprising actions. A big or surprising action—outburst, car crash, violent heart attack, public fight—at the launch of a scene can then be the stage for a bunch of consequences to unfold. One caveat: You’ll be unlikely to pull this off in every scene.
  • Be sure that the action is true to your character. Don’t have a shy character choose to become suddenly uninhibited at the launch of a scene—save that for scene middles. Do have a bossy character belittle another character in a way that creates conflict.
  • Act first, think later. If a character is going to think in your action opening, let the action come first and the thought be a reaction. “Elizabeth slapped the Prince. When his face turned pink, horror filled her. What have I done? she thought.”

Scenes are the building blocks for any work of fiction—the DNA sequence that makes a novel un-put-downable and unforgettable. When writers are able to craft effective, engaging scenes, they
can develop a complete, cohesive story—and a mesmerizing experience for readers. Make a Scene Revised and Expanded Edition takes you step-by-step through the elements of strong scene construction and demonstrates how the essential aspects of a compelling story—including character, plot, and dramatic tension—function within the framework of individual scenes to give momentum to the whole narrative.

 

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from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/excerpts/launching-scenes-action


Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 415

For today’s prompt, write an I Believe You poem. This could be a poem about someone’s vision for the future or someone’s story of the past. It could be a poem about a real person, a fictional character, or even yourself (written in the first person by someone else–or a “staring in the mirror” poem).

*****

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In addition to the listings, there are articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry–so that poets can learn the ins and outs of writing poetry and seeking publication. Plus, it includes a one-year subscription to the poetry-related information on WritersMarket.com. All in all, it’s the best resource for poets looking to secure publication.

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*****

Here’s my attempt at an I Believe You Poem:

“The Incident”

From across the house, I hear it–
the kicking, slapping, and screaming.
Then, I listen to the feet pound
my way with warnings of “Daddy!”

The youngest says, “Daddy! He called
me names!” The name-caller says, “She
hit me real hard, and he punched me,”
referring to the teenager,

who makes his way slow down the stairs
while making little grunts before
laying out his tale of woe, “They both
teamed up on me, and were hitting

“and kicking and assaulting me.”
Then, they all begin lobbying
in unison before breaking
down into punches, kicks, and screams,

before I say, “I believe you
and you and you; I believe you
all, and there’s just one thing to do:
Apologize to who isn’t you.”

*****

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). As the oldest of three brothers, he’s had to say his fair share of apologies on this planet.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

*****

Find more poetic posts here:

The post Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 415 appeared first on WritersDigest.com.

from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-415


IELTS Speaking test in Argentina – October 2017

When J took the IELTS Speaking test in Argentina, he was asked the following questions:

Speaking testIELTS test in Argentina

Interview

– What is your full name?
– Can I see your ID?
– Where are you from?
– Do you work or study?
– What do you think about robots?
– Where are they used?
– Do you think robots will be developed further?
– What do you think about mirrors?
– Do you think people use mirrors a lot? Why?
– What do you think attracts people to buy something?
– Do you think the government should help small shops? Why?

Cue Card

Describe a popular place for swimming in your city. Please say

– What is this place?
– Where is it situated?
– Why is it so popular?

Discussion

– How often do you go there?
– Who do you go there with?
– Why is that?
– What sports do you like?
– Why do you like them?

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from IELTS-Blog http://www.ielts-blog.com/recent-ielts-exams/ielts-speaking-test-in-argentina-october-2017/


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Why I Write Poetry: Marie Elena Good

A few months ago, I posted about “Why I Write Poetry” and encouraged others to share their thoughts, stories, and experiences for future guest posts. I’ve already received so many, and I hope they keep coming in (details on how to contribute below). Thank you!

Today’s “Why I Write Poetry” post comes from Marie Elena Good, who writes, “I just enjoy it.”

Marie Elena Good daily watched her poems accrue, while posting and hosting a blog (or two). But life called, her muse stalled; regretfully she bid adieu. With publications next to nil (and dithering on kid lit, still), her market research does her in – she hardly knows where to begin. Her bio crashed, but still she’s blessed – she gets to poem with poeming’s best!

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*****

Why I Write Poetry: Marie Elena Good

Marie Elena Good

The first poem I wrote was for a second-grade homework assignment. Funny how someone who has a difficult time with memorization can effortlessly recall the final couplet of her first poem, half-a-century after composing it.

“Beauty is a stallion, running free and wild.
Beauty is the crying of a newly born child.”

I spent much of that day mulling ideas in my head, unhappy with every phrase I painstakingly forced on to the paper. I remember believing I would have to take a “zero” for this assignment. I went to bed that night feeling defeated. How would I explain to Sister Josephine that I had tried my best, but had nothing to show for it. I couldn’t sleep. Then I remember the above couplet slipping effortlessly into my restless mind. I knew this was the end of my poem, and that my task was to work in reverse to find the beginning. And so my very first poem was birthed backward, and long after I should have been asleep. (Huh. Self-prophesy, this.)

Though my personality leans self-critical, I was pleased with my poem. I took great pleasure in the marriage of rhythm and rhyme, imagery and emotion. I look back now and see it as a seed poem that remained dormant far too long. It would be nearly four decades before I would write my second, which was in response to a poetry prompt on April 1, 2009 (wink wink). Much to my surprise, I wrote and publicly shared a minimum of one poem every day that month. I continued writing daily for years, thanks to Robert and others willing to artistically splay their hearts.

Still, contemplating why I write gave me pause. Some express a need to write that nearly rivals their need to breathe. Perhaps if this described me, I’d be a better poet. Honestly though, I just enjoy it. I especially relish the short forms, as I delight in expressing much in few words.

In the interest of transparency, I have a confession: Though I enjoy writing, my joy is made complete when a poet, in whose words I find worth, finds worth in mine. (Which is just a nicer way of admitting I am an online, instant-gratification poem junkie.)

Finally, writing poetry led me to discover a deeply rooted feeling:

I may write a truth,
but it isn’t truly mine
until I poem it.

*****

If you’d like to share why you write poetry, please send an e-mail to robert.brewer@fwmedia.com with a 300-500 word personal essay that shares why you write poetry. It can be serious, happy, sad, silly–whatever poetry means for you. And be sure to include your preferred bio (50-100 words) and head shot. If I like what you send, I’ll include it as a future guest post on the blog.

*****

Find more poetic posts here:

The post Why I Write Poetry: Marie Elena Good appeared first on WritersDigest.com.

from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/write-poetry-marie-elena-good


5-Minute Memoir: Feeling the Words You Write

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Writer’s Digest


image from Getty

BY JAMES C. MAGRUDER

It’s 10 o’clock on Tuesday morning. Most people are hard at work trying to earn a living. I’m interviewing Katie, mother of three, who’s doing her best just to keep living. Katie is dying of ovarian cancer. She’s 27. She has three months left. Three months to agonize over what life might be like if her health care provider had approved appropriate chemotherapy treatment in a timely fashion. Katie’s goal now is to live till tomorrow.

For me, tomorrow is just another day—Wednesday. I’ll be writing a brochure for an architectural firm. On Thursday, I’ll write an ad for a Fortune 500 company. And on Friday, I’ll draft a speech for an executive. I’ve been hired by a local health care facility to write the story explaining how it helped prolong Katie’s life aft er a competing health care system failed her.

My tape recorder is running and as Katie answers my questions, her 4-year-old son, David, climbs into my lap and gives me a hug. Suddenly, I don’t feel like a writer. I feel as though I’m part of a similar story. My mind shoots back to a balmy June aft ernoon in 1965. My father just returned from the hospital. He calls his six children, ages 4 to 14, into his bedroom.

“Your mother passed away today,” he says. Panic seizes our hearts. My mother died aft er a short battle with cancer. She was 45. I was 11. I feel the eerie irony of David’s childhood colliding with mine. Tears well in my eyes as I know soon he will no longer enjoy the security of his mother’s embrace, the warmth of her touch, the power of her encouragement, even the fragrance of her perfume.

Back at my home office I write a lede for the story.

Cancer. Next to heart disease, it’s the leading cause of death in America. All of us know or love someone who has fallen prey to this impartial killer. If Katie Miller didn’t have to fight her former health care provider for an accurate diagnosis, she might not have to fight cancer today. Now, she’s not only fighting for her health, she’s fighting for time. This is her story.

This lede feels cold. Sterile. Empty. As I replay the interview, I sense I’m writing Katie’s story like one of my business articles—with my head. No heart.

I hammer out another lede, then another. Still sterile, unfeeling. Finally, I tap this out:

For Katie Miller, life is short. At 27, she’s just seen her last Christmas, her last wedding anniversary and her final birthday. She knows she will never see Jenny, her 6-year-old, finish the first grade. She knows she won’t be there when David, 4, loses his baby teeth. And she grieves knowing Joanna, 3, will never remember her.

Katie is dying of ovarian cancer. She has three months to live. But the real tragedy is it didn’t have to be this way.

I finish the article a few days later and send it to my client so Katie’s story can appear in a local publication.

Writing is a cerebral profession. Yet to tell Katie’s story, I needed to feel the words I wrote.

Perhaps Hemingway said it best: “A writer’s problem does not change. It’s always how to write truly and having found what is true, to project it in such a way that it becomes a part of the experience of the person who reads it.”

I suppose I could’ve learned how to feel the words I write from Hemingway—but Katie taught me first.

James C. Magruder is a writer living in Wisconsin. He is at work on his second novel, and he blogs about the writing life at thewritersrefuge.wordpress.com.


CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Submit your own 600-word essay refl ection on the writing life by emailing it to wdsubmissions@fwmedia.com with “5-Minute Memoir” in the subject line.


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from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/5-minute-memoir-feeling-the-words-you-write


Marketing & Sales Perspectives for Indie Authors

I’ve considered myself a professional writer for a little over three years now, and I’ve learned a great deal about the publishing industry in that time. Much of how I think and what I do as an independently published author parallels the experiences of my traditionally published friends, but there are also significant things that set this path apart.

A wise friend in the business gave me some good advice early on. She said, “For an indie author, publishing a book is more like a marathon than a sprint.” Now, a few years and a few projects in, I have a better understanding of what she meant.

The sales model is different for indies. Indies shouldn’t focus on brick and mortar bookstore sales because there’s no mechanism to access that market. Publishing houses have the distribution channels and sales teams that indies don’t. Instead, indies market and sell directly to readers, bypassing bookstores in favor of online or in-person sales. It’s important to use this information to our advantage, and to understand the implications of it in our planning.


This guest post is by Tabitha Lord. Lord lives in Rhode Island, a few towns away from where she grew up. She is married, has four great kids, two spoiled cats, and a lovable black lab. She holds a degree in Classics from College of the Holy Cross and taught Latin for years at the Meadowbrook Waldorf School. She also worked in the admissions office there before turning her attention to full-time writing. You can visit her blog at tabithalordauthor.com where she hosts guest bloggers, and discusses some favorite topics including parenting and her writing journey. She released her first novel, Horizon, in December 2015. It won the Grand Prize for the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards in 2016. The sequel to Horizon, Infinity, released this June.


Here are some big picture suggestions for indies to consider when creating a marketing and sales strategy from pre-launch onward:

Build and maintain a vigorous author platform.

There’s a ton of information out there on building an author platform so I’m not going to cover that here, but I mention it because, for indies especially, it’s necessary. Remember, we market and sell directly to our readers, so our readers have to be able to find and connect with us, and we need a vibrant platform from which to present our work.

By the time I released my first novel, I’d been building my author platform for a full year. I’d established a solid social media presence and tended to my online community with regularity. I had a handle on what my author brand looked like, and I was having fun blogging on my own website and writing for a book review/interview site called Book Club Babble. When my book released, I had the means to connect with my potential readers through the network I’d been creating.

Put energy into pre-orders, but realize this is only the first step in sales.

For traditionally published authors, a book’s success can hinge on early sales. Much attention is given to garnering pre-orders in hopes of pushing a book onto a bestseller list during release week. Strong pre-sales also encourage retailers to order more books, and it certainly builds momentum towards the book’s launch.

For an indie this is important, too. Pre-orders and a strong launch matter, but an indie can and should orchestrate ongoing promotions, and employ a creative, long-lasting marketing strategy, imagining the book’s launch as one among several opportunities.

Having said that, the pre-publication phase should be an active and busy time. Here are some ways to create momentum:

  • Put the book on Net Galley for early reviews.
  • Get the book set up for pre-order on the major outlets and promote it on your author platforms.
  • Consider a cover reveal promotional.
  • Be sure to have the book listed on Goodreads so early reviews can be posted. (Amazon does not allow reviews before the publication date)
  • Consider giving away the first chapter to entice subscribers to your mailing list.

Once my book released, I had a party and celebrated! Then, after taking a few days off to bask in the glow of this accomplishment, I went to work again.


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Plan a book tour. Attend signing events.

For indies, time and money are considerations. After all, no one is going to pay to send us on a cross-country book tour! But meeting people and making in-person connections can be invaluable, and they create career-long relationships with readers. See what opportunities exist in your community.

With my first book, I attended every signing opportunity offered by area libraries and bookstores, and those hosted by my local writers organization. I soon recognized that I needed to be a bit more economical with my time, and focused my attention on select events. As a science fiction writer, I thought my people might hang out at Comic Cons so I bought a table at a few and had excellent success. Find out where your audience is likely to be and focus your time and energy there.

Easier and cheaper than travel, virtual tours promote your book to a wide circle, since obviously the Internet crosses geographical lines! Not all tours are created equal though, so be sure to do your research. Your book should be featured on blogs where readers of that blog enjoy your genre. And do interact with readers who took the time to comment on your work.

You have control over your backlist titles, the timing of releases and promotions, and the price of your book. Think strategically!

When I’m asked why I decided to publish independently, I can answer honestly with one word: control. Not that I wanted to shortcut quality or put a book into the world before it was ready, but I felt empowered when I understood that I was in charge of every aspect of the publication and marketing process. Here are some ways to use the control you have to your best advantage:

  • Use pricing as a marketing tool. You are free to price your books competitively. Research the best selling price point for e-books, print books, and audio books in your genre and set accordingly.
  • Backlists titles are a powerful marketing tool. Keep putting out content. More content creates more momentum. New releases will guide readers toward your backlist. If you feel a backlist title hasn’t reached its market potential, breathe some new life into it. Repackage a series into a box set. Give an older title a shiny new cover.
  • Use discounts in your promotional plans. During the pre-release of my second book, I ran a couple of discounts on the first, using services like E-reader News and The Fussy Librarian to help promote them. Discounting an older title can hook readers onto your work and drive them toward purchasing your newest title. I definitely recommend using discount services, but, as with blog tours, do your research. None will guarantee results, but some are far more effective than others.
  • Think creatively and strategically about timing. For example, while I was away selling and signing at the Big Apple Con in NYC, I ran an e-book promotional. Horizon, my first book, finally hit the Amazon bestseller list a year after publication while I was in NYC.

I haven’t fully tapped my market yet, and I’m learning new strategies all the time, but I know I still have time, and certainly plenty of opportunity. As indies, we don’t have large distribution channels and sales teams at our disposal, but we do have control. We also have creativity, ingenuity, and perseverance. And we have the collective experiences of our community to draw from. Remember it really is a marathon, not a sprint!


If you’re an agent looking to update your information or an author interested in contributing to the GLA blog or the next edition of the book, contact Writer’s Digest Books Managing Editor Cris Freese at cris.freese@fwmedia.com.

 

The post Marketing & Sales Perspectives for Indie Authors appeared first on WritersDigest.com.

from Writing Editor Blogs – WritersDigest.com http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/guest-columns/marketing-sales-perspectives-indie-authors


IELTS test in Russia – October 2017 (Academic Module)

When N took the IELTS exam in Russia, the following questions appeared in the test paper:

Writing testIELTS test in Russia

Writing task 1 (a report)

We were given a bar chart showing gadgets used for playing video games by different age groups in the USA in 2012.

Writing task 2 (an essay)

Nowadays many big cities become overcrowded. Why is it happening, in your opinion? What measures could be taken to prevent it?

Speaking test

Interview

– What is your full name?
– Can I see your ID?
– Where are you from?
– Do you work or study?
– Do you live in an apartment or a house?
– Do you like your apartment? Why?
– Would you like to move to a house in the future? Why?

Cue Card

Describe a couple that is happily married. Please say

– how you know them
– how long they have been married
– what makes them a happy couple

Discussion

– Let’s talk about marriage.
– What are weddings like in your country?
– Do you support the big fancy wedding idea?
– What do you think about celebrities’ weddings that cost a fortune?
– What is the size of a typical family in your country?
– Why is it so?

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from IELTS-Blog http://www.ielts-blog.com/recent-ielts-exams/ielts-test-in-russia-october-2017-academic-module/