Friday, March 21, 2014

Why Editors Hate Flashbacks

Here's one good rule of thumb for your first chapter: No flashbacks. Why? Did some tired, cranky editor make up an arbitrary rule?

No. In a recent lecture on plot, Carol Lynch Williams gave these reasons why flashbacks should be used rarely.

 If a flashback is needed in the first chapter, it’s a good indication the writer has started in wrong place. A story should begin when something in the character’s life has changed, or is about to change.

A good story is a rising progression of action. Flashbacks almost always slow the movement of the story.wrong way 2
If you have to use a flashback, and Carol said she did find them necessary in her award-winning book, The Chosen One, keep them short and simple. Get in and out of each flashback quickly. Experiment with techniques, such as alternating past and present tense, to let the reader know where they are in time.

So editors have good reasons for asking writers to be wary of flashbacks, especially in the beginning of your book. Use flashbacks sparingly and well. It may be a good way to make sure your editor doesn't end up cranky.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Your Synopsis: Bane or Boon?

Authors complain about synopsis drafting. I once heard somene say it’s easier to write a whole book. Still, writing a synopsis isn’t just necessary torture. To start, it can show:
Plot Holes: Condensing in short format can clarify events which need better 2 For example, changing my synopsis following a plot revision made take another look at a character’s pivotal melt-down scene. My edits had placed it before the crisis-creating reveal. That could have been a really bad oops.
Inconsistencies in Character Motivation or Logic: The synopsis process makes you revisit your storyline with new eyes. In my case, I had to ask myself a lot of why questions. For instance, if the main character left to get help in the first scene, why is he going back alone in the second? Why does he even leave? Writing a one page synopsis gave me over two pages of scribbled questions and ideas to take back to my manuscript.
As Alison Randall said in her Feb. 27 blog post, at www., cutting words encourages concise word use. Similarly, summarizing your story causes you to select and sharpen key story elements.
Write your synopsis. Write it early. Then edit your manuscript and write it again. The unexpected benefits may surprise you.
(Originally posted at

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dear Lucky Agent Contest--Ends Tonight

Writer's Digest is sponsoring this contest in connection with Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog. I just heard about this one. Fortunately, my WIP happens to be contemporary middle grade, and I just whipped it into shape for something else.

 If you happen to have something ready too, the prize is a 10-page critique, plus a year's subscription to Writer's Digest As you know if you've read that blog, I love that magazine.