I don’t outline in much detail. I lay out my story in three phases: the beginning, the middle, and the end. I estimate how many chapters are needed in each section; three or four, and include 3-4 facts for each chapter. Generally, I know my chapters are about fifteen pages. The number various according to the complexity of my story.
My introduction phase, chapters one, two, and three introduces the characters: who has a conflict, or problem, around which the story revolves. I call this my foreshadowing phase. It hints on what is to come.
The middle chapters are longer, or there are more of them; perhaps five. The middle gives more detail to what was foreshadowed in the introduction. This section is the guts of the story. If I mention in the introduction that someone from the police department left a message on the answering machine, as I do in my next book Daughters of the West Mesa, I give it more detail in the middle. The middle is longer. Here I write about the extent of the conflict: I elaborate on the who made the telephone call, what they wanted, when they want to meet my main character, where they meet, and add how the conflict/problem evolved to this point. In this section I bring the conflict/problem to it’s peak.
In the last phase I resolve the conflict for the main characters. Each character needs to want something, and this thing comes to completion in the last phase. These chapters are shorter.
If I outline, I keep my outline simple, and keep referring to it. It is the road map through the joinery of my story. Basically, I tell my story in three stages: (1) the introduction, (2) the expanding on the introduction, and (3) the solving, or closure section. Think of your book as needing a beginning, middle, and an end.
BEGINNING: Chapter one introduces all the characters and who has a problem. If the character does not enter the story until later on in the book, I make reference to him or her in chapter one. For example, in my next novel, Daughters of the West Mesa, I introduce such a character in the first chapter by noting my lead character has a message for him on the telephone answering machine. She ignores the message and does not call him until chapter three. Chapters two, three, four expends on the problem or needs of the characters. All the characters need something.
MIDDLE: Chapters five, six, and seven hint at how the characters try to solve their problem or need.
END: In the ending chapters seven, eight, and nine, each character meets their need and/or solves their problem. I call this the-killing-off-of-characters section. The last chapter, the end, places closure on the entire book. I then review my outline making sure I included the main points.
All writing begins with a first draft. For some this is the hardest part. Have no fear. This is a private matter between you and your computer. No one has to see it if you want it that way. Yes, I assume you have a computer. It makes producing a finished product manifest much faster. If you write pen, or pencil, to paper that also works well. Nevertheless, the objective is to write. Some writers need an outline. I’ll discuss this later. For now, write; especially if you know your story. Simply, write. Do not bother checking spelling. Write as fast as you can. There will be time enough to return to your work and rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit.
If you have finished work, I encourage you to consider entering a contest. Browse the Internet for local and national competitions. Some have applications fees, some do not. If you are an experienced writer, contact your city officials, ask if they have a Poet Laureate Program. Ask when will the next Poet Laureate selection guidelines will be released, then apply. You will find this useful experience. Do not worry about winning. Applying is a major success.
The passive voice can be summed up as anything you write that stops the action in your story. There are lists on the Internet of words that we can examine in order to omit slowing down the action. Here are two of my most useful writing excessive when it comes to passive voice: I Search my manuscript for the word had or the phrase had been. I read it and decide how to re-write the sentence omitting them. Example: Margaret had been trying to fix the table. I also try to get rid of as many ing ending words as possible. Thus, I wrote Margaret tried to fix the table. This technique also works when talking. If you want to sound self-assured omit had and had been and ing ending words.
Fellow writers and bloggers, I am delighted to network with you, for we have similar interests. How have you introduced yourself lately? I propose we take ownership of what we do and say proudly to others, “I am a writer.” “I am an author.” “I am a poet.” “I am a novelist.” “I write nonfiction.” “I am a writer managing a blog.” These are powerful words for they establish ownership of what we do. It also establishes an element of one’s identity in the mind of our audience, and in the person speaking. Relax, most of the public likes writers. For the person not yet comfortable identifying themselves as a writer, it eases the journey toward this goal; and it creates confidence. Share your experience on this subject with me and with others.
In order to write better dialogue, listen to how and when people talk. Take notes. When writing Poor People’s Flowers I researched German accents while speaking English on the Internet. It helped me create a better profile the priest. Below, I share with you a post from the Writers to Writers FB page.
We may, or may not, receive the Nobel Prize for Literature (see the attached link below). However, we can read and learn from the work of those who win, and submit our work to various contests. Some require a fee, some don’t. Some render us feedback on our work. The goal it to get our writing before the eyes of those in positions to make us better writers.
Submit your work at every opportunity that is a good venue for your writing. For example, the Denver Quarterly is now accepting submissions. Unsolicited manuscripts of fiction, essays, interviews, reviews, and poetry are welcomed, except during the summer months; manuscripts submitted between May 15 and September 15 regretfully will be returned unread. Poetry submissions should be comprised of 3-5 poems; fiction and non-fiction manuscripts should generally consist of no more than 15 pages. Accompany each manuscript with a self-addressed stamped envelope for reply, and mail it to:
DENVER QUARTERLY, UNIVERSITY OF DENVER, DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH, 2000 E ASBURY, DENVER, CO 80208