There are lots to think about before finishing a novel. Anna and I talk about querying agents and indie publishing, as well as, marketing and using social media.
Endings are arguably the most important aspect of a novel as readers are left with an impression and a sense of satisfaction, or not. If you search for information on ending a novel, you will discover lots of valuable advice from authors who have struggled with similar issues before you.
In this episode, Anna and I talk about our experience with endings. I talk about my current struggle, which is to find an end to my current trilogy.
One of the most difficult aspects has been writing an original ending that meets readers expectations, while being original and surprising. I also seem to have picked up too many characters and each of those characters have character arcs that have to be addressed in some form or other in order to satisfy the reader. While it’s true that not everything needs to be tied up in a tidy bow, you do need to leave your readers with a feeling of satisfaction. After committing hours’ time and attention, they want the burning question that has motivated them to read to the end, answering
We talk about how the genre you write determines what elements readers expect in their novel. That’s the easy part. It is much more difficult to do that in an innovative way without making readers feel they’ve read the scene somewhere else.
Get in touch if you want to share any of your own tips for ending a novel or story. We’d love to hear from you,
Lucinda Pebre x
In this week’s episode, Anna and I talk about our experience of writing sex scenes. What works and what doesn’t.
What makes a good sex scene?
We share our opinion on how to write a believable and intriguing sex scene that people want to read. I talk about the importance of detail and seeing the scene from a different point of view.
Anna talks about her favourite scenes in books and reads a passage that conveys meaning.
We discuss the importance of being comfortable with what we are writing and of the necessity of reading lots of books. Choose the ones similar to what you intend to write. It is essential to research, whether in person or through reading and talking to others.
We talk respect and the danger of portraying abuse as a regular part of a relationship.
We identify the importance of building up to the sexual act itself and finding a way of seeing the scene from a unique angle.
Interview with Mariëlle Smith who gave up her university job and life in the Netherlands to move to Cyprus over a year ago. The country called to her creative side.
Along with caring for the stray cats on the beach, she set up her own business. Listen to how she did it and how she writes both fiction and non-fiction.
We talk about writing difference and Mariëlle’s plans for the future.
Visit Mariëlle’s website to find out more.
What is conflict in a story?
Conflict is any obstacle or person that prevents a character from getting what they want. It can be an opposing force in the form of an antagonist or a construct, such as society or religion. It might even be an internal belief or blind spot that prevents a protagonist from getting what they need.
Why do stories need conflict?
Conflict moves a plot forwards. The reader finds out about a character by the way they behave in response to conflict through the choices they make.
What is Internal and External Conflict?
Internal conflict happens in a character’s head, whereas external conflict is an element outside of the character, such as nature or another character.
Stories need different levels and types of conflict. Not every story needs multiple fight scenes or arguments. A story about self-discovery is going to have less external conflict that an action story, which must have plenty of external conflict to fulfil the reader’s expectations. Without a strong antagonist or force that the protagonist has to work against or overcome, the action would be limited.
Other stories can focus almost exclusively on an internal conflict where a protagonist has a false belief about themselves or the world or another character. Although, most stories benefit from some internal conflict where, at the very least, the protagonist learns something about themselves or their own motivation or character.
Many protagonists have a character arc where they move from one emotional or physical state to another. Some have an internal and an external character arc.
Conflict can stem from the difference between what a character wants and what they need?
How do you set up conflict in your stories? Do you start with an idea, character and then develop the plot, or is it some variation on this?
When we talk about love in writing, you might think of romance novels, but there are romantic elements in many genres as a secondary plot or interest.
In Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid, he talks about the need for obligatory scenes, which are those scenes that are necessary if a love story is going to be satisfying to the reader.
- The lovers meet without which there is no story.
- The inciting incident, which kicks off the story and challenges the status quo.
- At least one of the lovers refuses to respond to the other.
- A confession of love scene, where one or both lovers admit to their deepest feelings.
- A first kiss or sex scene.
- The lovers break up or are forced apart by events.
- The all is lost moment where it seems that the lovers will never get together and have a happy ending.
- The proof of love scene where one love it sacrifices for the other without any expectation of the gain.
- The lovers reunite.
- The protagonist receives their reward (commitment or intimacy or desire) for having faith and making a sacrifice.
A secondary story can provide some scope for innovation in the love story as the challenge is to tell a unique story.
The protagonist can act as one of the lovers, while the antagonist can be seen as the other when he or she acts in opposition to the wants and desires of the protagonist.
The way that we see romantic relationships has been affected by previous novels and writing. Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes was a British author and campaigner for eugenics and women’s rights. Her book Married Love changed women’s expectations of sex after marriage.
Love means different things to different people – write down four words that come to mind in connection with love and compare with someone else. Are they very different or are they the same?
Let us know your thoughts on what love means to you in writing.
What is the possible reason for breaking writing rules?
It depends on who makes the rules. Some writers make their own rules that work for them, and while these can be tested, they almost certainly are made to be broken. Then there are well-established rules, such as grammar, which if broken, would put off an agent or reader. There again, in modern writing, some grammar rules are broken for effect, but these should always be done consciously and not by accident.
You might want to embrace your creativity and not be hampered by rules; for example, we are told to avoid clichés. After all, rules are made to be broken! In the podcast, Anna and I talk about when we choose to break the rules of writing.
Break the rules to take a risk as this sometimes leads to innovation.
You might need to break the rules to stay true to your vision.
We discuss writing from a single person’s point of view and avoiding head-hopping, where an author writes in the first or close third point of view but swaps to another character’s point of view partway through a chapter or even a paragraph without warning the reader. Another mistake is to allow a character to have information that is shouldn’t be available to them.
We talk about Story Grid as usual and how that provides structure and rules in the form of Genre, which in turn gives us conventions and obligatory scenes. The argument is that when a reader picks up a book in a particular genre, they are expecting a specific reading experience. It’s essential to meet reader expectation if you want to sell novels. Skill and creativity come from innovating the detail. How can you make a love or fight scene memorable?
There’s a difference between breaking the rules deliberately and breaking the rules through ignorance. An example is when we accidentally overuse a word in a paragraph, whereas a poet might choose to repeat a word for emphasis.
If you want to try a liberating exercise, write for 10 minutes while deliberately breaking at least one writing rule.
Are there any writing rules that you break or would like to break? Let us know in the comments below.
What is Genre?
Genre is one of those words that can mean different things to different people. From a marketing point of view, it allows authors and publishers to categorise their books in a way that let people know what to expect from the content.
Shaun Coyne, the founder of Story Grid, says that determining a novel’s genre is essential for the story to work. Each type has a list of obligatory scenes; without which, a novel will not work.
Shaun also talks about a story’s internal genre, so you might be writing a book that you will market in the Science Fiction genre, but the internal genre is a thriller.
You can find more on Story Grid here.
An extra episode where Anna interviews me about the release of my first novel.
Thank you to Mariëlle S Smith for sending us a copy of her beautiful journal and planner 52 Weeks of Writing and giving us this opportunity.
In this week’s podcast, Anna and I go through the planner for the first week.
My goal for the following week was to complete half of the first round of edits on my novel. To do this, I needed to set aside some time and since there wasn’t any time to work it out on air, I worked on the detail to include here.
In the working version of the novel, there are 30 chapters. Therefore, I need to have the first 15 chapters structurally complete by next Thursday. Some will require more work than others. Immediately, I can see that I have my work cut out.
The final schedule looks like this:
Friday 6-7.30am. The only time I will have available because I have a work’s Christmas do in the evening.
That means that everything hinges on how much work I can get done at the weekend. Saturday we are out in the evening, so I can spend 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon.
Sunday I have a yoga class in the evening, and so I will set aside 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon. No housework or food shopping time!
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I can commit 6-7.30am and 19-21.00pm which is 3.5 hours each day.
I also have a long-overdue blog to write it is long and a newsletter!
That is a total of 22.5 hours, which should be enough if I stay super focused and don’t talk to my husband. Let’s see.
If it works, I am going to aim for the same the following week.
Then onto round 2 of editing. I love writing!
What are your goals for this coming week?