Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Soggy Middles and Tension Headaches

The middle of a manuscript may be the hardest part to write. If writing yours is giving you a tension headache, here are some ideas.
Like an overly-laden peanut butter sandwich, manuscript middles can get soggy. To keep the reader interested, however, we have to fix this peanut butter jam (sorry) because manuscripts, unlike people, thrive on tension.
I recently analyzed a book with the intent to improve my own plotting. About a third of the way through, my interest slowed. So I outlined the middle chapters, rating the escalation of tension for each.
Events still happened in the story, but the plot seemed to move around instead of up. An article in the January 2011 Writer’s Digest helped me identify why. “The story needs to progress toward more and more conflict, with…deeper tension…Because of that, repetition is the enemy of escalation.” 3 Secrets to Great Storytelling, Steven James, Writers Digest, January 2011, p. 41.
The book had several chapters in which the main characters did almost the same thing, and the antagonist responded in almost exactly the same way. The repeating pattern explains the going-in-circles feeling. But some repetition is necessary, right? We’re familiar with the rule of threes, originally based in comedy. Fiction writers use it as well. As an example, a plot may require a MC to make three attempts before s/he accomplishes a particular goal. So what’s the difference between a useful rule of three and repetitions that bore the reader?
In the WD article, Steven James points out, “Every murder you include decreases the impact that each subsequent murder will have on the reader. Every explosion, prayer, conversion...means less and less to the readers, simply because repetition, by its very nature, serves to work against the escalation your story so desperately needs.” He urges writers to “Strive, instead, to continually make things worse for the protagonist.”
A while back, I did some editing on an old manuscript. In it, the MC experiences verbal abuse. Knowing that abuse typically goes in cycles, I tried to follow that pattern in my book. Now, however, I know I need to go back and make sure these cycles aren’t acting like so much extra sandwich filling.

I’ve come up with some questions to ask myself:
1. Does each chapter have an important purpose that moves the plot forward?
2. When I use repetition, is there a legitimate purpose and necessity for these repeated events?
3. Does each repetition escalate, the plot tension? Or does it detract from it?

Escalating tension can be one remedy for the headache of soggy manuscript middles. And once you've fixed your manuscript, make sure to enter it in the WIFYR's $1000 contest. www.wifyr.com (see my last post.)

Friday, March 9, 2012

1rst Annual WIFYR Writing Contest and Award

This is really exciting--the WIFYR committee is sponsoring a contest to help a talented writer with the needed funds to further his/her work in progress. Here's the link: http://www.wifyr.com/blog/ That $1,000 could buy a lot of printer ink!

Seriously, this will be a great contest. Here's my tip for you--financial need will be a consideration, but it's just as important to have a great, polished manuscript. Unless you're incredible at first drafts, I wouldn't start something new. Take the manuscript (or picture books) you've been working on and polish until you can see your reflection in it.

If you have questions about who you should ask to write your letters of recommendation, please post them below.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Soon to Come: Writing Contest with $$ Prize

Some really great things are happening at www.wifyr.com. Check out the new blog, and sign up for the newsletter. There's a huge contest in the works, designed to help someone with their work in progress novel. Sign up for the newsletter (link on the site) to find out more!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Paranormal Haiku, Part Two

For Crazy Haikus to Cure Writer's Block, please see my post below.
Meanwhile, I'm bringing forward part of my previous post, this time adding two more crazy haiku. Chris Crowe's blog post introduced me to zombie haiku. http://throwingupwords.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/you-want-haiku-i%E2%80%99ll-give-you-haiku/

This is a great way to practice concise word choice and get the creative life-blood flowing (hee.) I had no idea how therapeutic and addictive these can be. When I wrote these, my mind got going, and the patterns wouldn't stop running through my head.

Since I've wasted valuable writing time on these, I'm going to torture you with the results. After you groan over mine, I challenge you to write some better ones.

Paranormal: (vampires, ghosts, werewolves, goblins, fairies, angels, zombies, etc.), haiku: five syllable first line, seven syllable second line, five again for the third. It can be gory, but please keep it clean. Have fun!

Werewolf forest sign:
Stop in woods on snowy night
Strongly encouraged.

Feathered fall from bliss
Caught by sparking hands at dawn
Vampire eats angel

(My apologies to Jane Austen fans:)
Darcy proclaims love
Vampire Lizzy spurns his plea
The Prey is Pre-juiced

Universal truth
Lone man possessing fortune
But lacks possessed bride

Love binds groom in sleep
Red hourglass weaves night’s web
Widow’s prey at dawn

Computer screen breaks
Tech blames virus, but I know
It’s pixielated
[bad pun, sorry.]

Zombie seeks his prey
Stumbles on ribs now picked clean
Werewolves ate heart’s dream

Green breaks through cold earth
Rebirth reaching toward the sky
Dead hands grab my feet

Lady Finger Cake
Wellington, once Duke, now pie
Zombie peasants feast
[does anyone get this last one? Just curious.]