THE FIRST CHAPTER

This is what sells your novel to the editor, then to the public. It is the first impression of your talent – and you never get a second chance to make a first impression!

If the first chapter is important, how much more so the first page. You must intrigue the reader from the outset.

Open the novel at the point where a crisis or a catalyst is about to happen. There must be some form of conflict, dilemma to be solved or drama to be unfolded.  It must take the reader straight into the drama, so that he/she knows the personality and something of the background of the characters.  The opening must give the reader the necessary information and hooks to capture their interest, making them empathise with the hero’s problems.

Don’t introduce too many characters, and don’t use names of those not actually appearing in a scene. It is only when characters appear physically on the page that they become memorable.

Tell when the story is set; where the action is taking place; what is the crisis or problem  and who is involved.

You must inform when the story starts (past or future), if it is contemporary.  Use flashbacks sparingly. Get the tense right. When possible, write scenes chronologically. In the first scene, describe the setting where the drama is being acted out. Don’t start a story too slowly.  In a good opening, the information should be given in a need to know basis.  Intrigue the reader with hooks to approaching crisis that the hero must overcome to draw them into the story.   If you can, end the chapter with a cliff-hanger. If the reader is kept in suspense, he will want to read on.

You need a balance of narrative, description, introspection and dialogue to start at a good pace.

The first chapter may be the most difficult to write, but once you’re on your way,  it gets easier.

Happy writing.  Am always glad to hear your comments and to help you with any writing problems.   Several of my novels are on sale at discount if you contact me direct at dwaysman@gmail. com

Advertisements
Standard

FINDING A DYNAMIC PROBLEM FOR YOUR STORY

You need to be inventive enough to develop complications that will keep at least one problem alive from the first chapter on.  Don’t keep a problem important to the main character offstage, even though you know action is coming later.  There are two ways to do this. The novel’s central problem can be gradually revealed through lesser problems until you are well into the story, but before all is made clear to the reader. The second method is to disclose it at once – sometimes in the first scene.

Here are a few life-or-death problems I have come across in successful novels:

The main character’s brother is in jail with threat of a murder charge.  She must prove him innocent.

Heroine is fleeing with her child to escape a brutal husband.

Heroine’s father – from whom she is estranged – is dying. She must go to him, although still unforgiving for past hurts.

Hero tries to save a brain-injured child from being institutionalized.

These problems became more complicated as the stories developed … other characters enter and conflicts arise. Always, the main character must be emotionally involved or you will lose the reader. You must ask what your main character is doing, or planning NOW. The reader won’t wait. If you allow the central character to become passive, there will not be enough suspense.

Not all scenes can carry high action, but there can be strong conflict where characters merely sit in a room talking. Dialogue can be like dueling with words, and tension can sometimes run high even without physical action. Whatever happens, you should stay inside the viewpoint character in each scene. It helps to stay in the viewpoint of one character throughout your book.

A fiction writer must be inventive.  Continue to surprise your readers. The more you use your imagination, the more you reject the obvious and push yourself to create and venture, the more practised you’ll become in providing ingenious twists in the plot.

The same applies to settings. To keep everything dynamic, the background – whether a room or a mountaintop – should be touched on again . Stories don’t happen in a vacuum. Make sure your main problem will be strong enough to carry a whole novel. Think of what the penalties will be if he/she fails; and the rewards if they succeed.  Success won by your main character at the end of a valiant struggle against overwhelming odds will bring reader satisfaction.  Dynamic problems lead to dynamic events that may lift and bring inspiration into the lives of your readers.

Happy writing! You can always contact me at   dwaysman@gmail.com  either for help with a writing problem; or to buy discounted copies of my many novels.  The latest one (no. 14)  is “Searching for Sarah”.

 

 

 

Standard

A WRITER’S LIFE There are two qualities you need to succeed as a writer the first is talent, the second is determination. No, it’s more than determination, it’s compulsion. Writing must be such an integral part of your life that if you are breathing, you are writing. Talent is a gift and you will know if you possess it. It enables you to “share your eyes” so that readers see what you are seeing. More than that, you share your other senses too, enabling them to hear, smell, taste and touch the world you have created for them. If your words speak to them and you can make them feel joy and pain, smile and weep, feel empathy and compassion, then you are a talented writer. But it is no good being talented if your words don’t reach others. That’s where the determination comes in. All writers face rejection, often on a fairly regular basis. Don’t give in to despair and depression, you must search until you find the perfect match – the idea you want to write and the correct medium in which to express it. Writing is only half the job, selling is equally important. Craft magazines such as “The Writer” in U.S.A. or “Writing Magazine” in the U.K and of course “Poets and Writers” are invaluable tools to find markets for your work, as is reading (and studying) as many papers and magazines as you can. You should look for the age group they are aimed at, the income level (their ads. will tell you that) and the problems and special interests of their target audience. If you know, for example, of a problem shared by many in that group, and you have a solution for it, your article will be a sure winner, whether it’s on: “How to make your salary stretch further” or “How to prevent your kids trying drugs.” When I undertake a major project such as a book (I have published fourteen ), I give myself periodic encouragement rewards. The length of time needed to complete a book can be awesome, so during its writing I submit short stories (if I’m writing a novel) or magazine articles (if it’s non-fiction). These are much easier to sell and the temporary triumphs are confidence-boosters that provide the stamina to keep working on the much longer projects. Even with submitting articles, I don’t invest time in writing and researching the whole piece until I’ve sent out a few query letters. Only when an editor, without obligation, indicates that he/she is interested in my idea, do I complete the work. However, I do make my query letters as creative as I can and give the projected article a title as irresistible as I can make it. As a teacher of Creative Writing for 25 years, I tell my students that the only way they will never be rejected is never to submit anything. Then I remind them that every achievement in life begins with the two small words: “I’ll try.” (560 words) _________________ Dvora Waysman is the author of 11 books, including “The Pomegranate Pendant” (Feldheim) & newly-released in paperback by Mazo Publishers and currently being made into a movie; its sequel “Seeds of the Pomegranate”; “Woman of Jerusalem” (poetry – Gefen); “Esther” published by HCI/Florida, and the newly-released “In A Good Pasture” (Mazo). She has published more than 5,000 articles and is syndicated in 27 newspapers worldwide; has won several literary awards and has been teaching Creative Writing in Jerusalem for the past 25 years. You can contact her on ways@netvision.net.il or check her website: www.dvorawaysman.com Dvora Waysman 5 Karmon St. #5, Beit Hakerem, Jerusalem 96308 Israel Tel: 972 2 6513096 e-mail: ways@netvision.net.il website: www.dvorawaysman.com A WRITER’S LIFE by DVORA WAYSMAN There are two qualities you need to succeed as a writer the first is talent, the second is determination. No, it’s more than determination, it’s compulsion. Writing must be such an integral part of your life that if you are breathing, you are writing. Talent is a gift and you will know if you possess it. It enables you to “share your eyes” so that readers see what you are seeing. More than that, you share your other senses too, enabling them to hear, smell, taste and touch the world you have created for them. If your words speak to them and you can make them feel joy and pain, smile and weep, feel empathy and compassion, then you are a talented writer. But it is no good being talented if your words don’t reach others. That’s where the determination comes in. All writers face rejection, often on a fairly regular basis. Don’t give in to despair and depression, you must search until you find the perfect match – the idea you want to write and the correct medium in which to express Writing is only half the job, selling is equally important. Craft magazines such as “The Writer” in U.S.A. or “Writing Magazine” in the U.K and of course “Poets and Writers” are invaluable tools to find markets for your work, as is reading (and studying) as many papers and magazines as you can. You should look for the age group they are aimed at, the income level (their ads. will tell you that) t and the problems and special interests of their target audience. If you know, for example, of a problem shared by many in that group, and you have a solution for it, your article will be a sure winner, whether it’s on: “How to make your salary stretch further” or “How to prevent your kids trying drugs.” When I undertake a major project such as a book (I have published eleven ), I give myself periodic encouragement rewards. The length of time needed to complete a book can be awesome, so during its writing I submit short stories (if I’m writing a novel) or magazine articles (if it’s non-fiction). These are much easier to sell and the temporary triumphs are confidence-boosters that provide the stamina to keep working on the much longer projects. Even with submitting articles, I don’t invest time in writing and researching the whole piece until I’ve sent out a few query letters. Only when an editor, without obligation, indicates that he/she is interested in my idea, do I complete the work. However, I do make my query letters as creative as I can and give the projected article a title as irresistible as I can make it. — As a teacher of Creative Writing for 30 years, I always told my students that the only way they would never be rejected was never to submit anything. Then I reminded them that every achievement in life begins with the two small words: “I’ll try.” _________________

Standard

ARE YOU A WRITER?

 

“A good book is the best of friends, the same today and forever” wrote 19th  century writer Martin Tupper, a sentiment almost universally shared.

 

But what about the author?  Whenever I’ve had a new book published, along with some congratulations, you’d be surprised at some of the comments.  “You’re so lucky” from a fellow-writer, meaning that talent had little to do with it.  Several readers have told me that they have thought about writing a book “but I just don’t have time” as though that’s the only thing needed, and they are far too busy to waste it, as I have obviously been doing. I had one phone call from a lady who gushed: “I was delighted to read that you have a new book out, as I thought you’d died years ago!”

 

Such is fame!  But what about if you seriously want to write your first book.  What are the chances of having it published?  Think positively and remember no-one was a famous author before writing that first novel.  There is always the fear of “will I be good enough?” because writing a book demands an enormous commitment in time and energy, with no guarantee that it will be successful.  You do need an almost demonic compulsiveness to invest perhaps years in such a project.  You should choose a theme which reflects a way of life with which readers can identify.  If a book doesn’t move you, if its characters don’t arouse your compassion and the emotional progress of the story isn’t fascinating, then the writer has failed.

 

This applies to every genre, even to children’s books, where a lack of sincerity is immediately spotted.  Each book, like each life, is unique – the rites of passage of courtship and marriage; the birth of offspring; the onset of old age; personal tragedies and triumphs; the painful losses we accrue, and the people we meet and learn to love.  This doesn’t mean that every book we write is an autobiography, yet in a way it is for every work of creation is a self-portrait.  To be a writer, you must autograph it with excellence.

 

How do you get a book published?  In practical terms, you write it – or a large part of it – and then send it out in the market-place.  If you can’t do it alone, you try to find a literary agent to represent you, although for unknown writers, this can sometimes be more difficult than finding a publisher.  Study successful books of the same genre you are writing, and see who publishes them.  Then you might write to the publishing house, asking for permission to send them a synopsis and three sample chapters (never the whole ms. unless they ask for it).  Don’t send anything without a query letter first – if it just comes across the transom, it will be consigned to the dreaded slush pile.

 

If your letter, which should be very creative, triggers their interest, you may get a reply – especially if you send a stamped-addressed return envelope, or the equivalent postage in International Reply Coupons (obtainable at main post offices).

 

 

With non-fiction, such as popular “How to….” Titles, send a Book Proposal consisting of a cover letter outlining your idea and your personal expertise in the area, plus clippings of anything you’ve had published on the subject.  You should also include a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, with the title of each chapter, plus a brief summary of what it will contain.  Make the Book Proposal as attractive as possible, even using some computer graphics.

 

The bottom line for all publishers is how many copies they anticipate it will sell, for publishing is, after all, a business.  There are publishers, the so-called vanity press, who will publish your book for a price and you must decide if you want to follow this route, which may be the only possibility for a first novel if you are unknown.  However, there are some publishers who will take a risk if they see great potential and talent, or if they believe the author will enhance their prestige (it helps if you are a famous politician, military general or rock star).

 

With fiction, whether in the realm of novel or short story, to be effective you need a compelling plot, a hook opening, a successful and satisfying ending, and a middle that keeps the reader hoping, guessing and involved.   Don’t overlook short stories as a break from your novel. In American and British magazines they pay very well and are a good way to give yourself short term rewards while you’re working on that full-length novel.

 

Very few authors become rich from writing books, unless you’re another John Grisham or can invent a Harry Potter, who is a phenomenon. Usually after your initial triumph, your book will only have a short shelf-life – some of mine disappeared a few months after I finished a book tour across America.  Remember, there are thousands of new books coming out every year that you will have to compete with.

 

That said, being a writer is an exciting life.  You don’t need capital to begin; you can write at your own speed; you can work from home and, as a male colleague once informed me, “you don’t even need to shave every day!”

 

The one quality you need to develop as a writer is the ability to accept rejection, because no writer can escape it.  Insults are also par for the course.  William Faulkner once wrote of Ernest Hemingway: “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary”; while Hemingway replied: “Poor Faulkner.  Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”  But the greatest put-down I’ve ever heard came from someone called Moses Hadas:  “Thank you for sending me a copy of your book;  I’ll waste no time reading it!”

Happy writing!  Several of my books, including my latest novel “Searching for Sarah” are available at discount from me . Write to dwaysman@gmail.com

I am always happy to hear your comments and to help you with any writing problems.

 

 

 

 

____________________

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard

BACKGROUND RESEARCH

The first step when you begin a new writing project, is background research. This is the process of mapping out  a particular subject area to gain an overview and understanding of the subject. It helps you become familiar with the vocabulary relating to the topic and narrow the focus.

Begin by studying materials that are introductory by nature. Different kinds of reference works and textbooks, both in print and online.   Textbooks should probably be your first port of call. They have an educational agenda and help you learn new things.  Different types of reference works can also be helpful. Encyclopaedias  are a good source, and many can be accessed today on-line.

If you are doing historical research, use chronicles and chronologies. They present timelines of events, people and places in specific contexts.  Atlases help you understand your area’s geographical contexts. As well as maps, some include information of the climate, economy, population and even statistics.  You will find textbooks and reference works either in libraries or on the internet.  Wikipedia is very helpful or Infoplease (www.infoplease.com), and there are many others.

As you immerse yourself in research, keep a record of the texts you’ve read and any useful facts you discover.   When I began writing my bestseller “The Pomegranate Pendant” (now a movie “The Golden Pomegranate”) I was completely ignorant of my subject matter which was the first immigration of Yemenite Jews to Israel in the 19th century.  As well as extensive reading, I visited the Israel Museum’s Ethnography Department to study how the Yemenite silversmiths made their beautiful filigree jewellery.  I ate in a Yemenite restaurant called “The Yemenite Step” to study their food, and copied down all the menus;  I listened to records of Yemenite singers; and finally asked friends to introduce me to any Yemenites whom they knew.  I did 6 months’ research until I felt I knew my subject intimately before I wrote my first word.  Of my 14 novels,  this was the first and is still selling well today all over the world, in different languages.  After 6 months of intense research, I felt completely sure of my facts and my characters came alive on the page with no effort.   This was really the only time I undertook a subject I knew almost nothing about, at the request of the publisher, who gave me a generous advance to write it, as it was of special interest to him.  But whenever you write, even if it’s fiction, make sure all your facts are true, your settings authentic, your dialogue the way people spoke at the time.  It is a bonus when your work is not only enjoyable, but also educational.  Happy writing!

I am always glad to hear your comments, and to help you with any writing problems. You can contact me at dwaysman@gmail.com  Some of my books are available direct from me at discount prices, including my latest novel “Searching for Sarah”.

Standard

ANSWERING SOME QUESTIONS

I’ve had a lot of queries from readers of my Blog lately, and would like to share some of them which might be helpful to you also.

“How important is the submission letter?”  It is important to be clear and concise, giving a clear outline of what your work is about.  Clarity, perfect English, brevity and an engaging style are all required. Don’t be cute with emojos .

“What do you think of publishers that ask you to pay some of the costs?”  Look at the publisher’s website and have a look at one of their books.  Publishing is a very expensive business, and if books  are professionally edited and proof-read, you may have to pay for this, also if they supply the cover design.   It can be money well spent if the end product fills you with pride.

“I get writer’s block and it makes me very depressed.”   It’s like any job. If you’re given targets , it’s a case of getting on with it. You would lose any kind of job if you said you couldn’t do it because you had a “block”.  However, when you work in isolation, you have to cope with lack of company, lack of stimulus – factors which decrease energy.   Try a break for a few days – do something you enjoy, and then get back to work.

“If I attend a cookery course abroad, with the intention of writing a feature about it, should I tell them first? Would they give me the course free or at a discount, for the publicity?”  It’s unlikely a cookery school would turn down the publicity. It depends if you are writing for a definite, assigned market. I think you should advise the school of it, since other students will be taking the course. They may be uneasy, knowing there’s a journalist among them. They may offer you the course free or subsidized, or may not. I’d start by trying to get a magazine interested, and go from there. But you can’t write about the course, or the other students, without their agreement.

I hope some of the above queries might be helpful to you too.  You can send queries of your own to me at  dwaysman@gmail.com; or buy my books at discount direct from me. My latest novel (no. 14) is: “Searching for Sarah.”  Happy writing.

Standard