Category: Writing About Writing

Tips for Page One–The Scene Profile–Part Three of Three

This is part three of a three part series on editing, rewriting, and scene performance ©2013 by Robert J. Ray Page One is a big deal. That’s where you grab the reader. If you’re writing a mystery, you open with a corpse. If you’re writing a thriller, you open with your agent in trouble. But what if you’re writing a book about life’s little ironies? A book like Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam. A quick look at Amsterdam: it’s short, around 200 pages. The story has no overt violence, no murder scenes, no car chases ,no hitmen, no automatic weapons fired by crazy people. It’s an adult book,  no major characters under forty. The cast is adult, educated people with solid footholds in society. The dialogue is crisp, the characters subtle and snide. Amsterdam is a satire – a good model if you have a yen to write ironic – and its opening—Page One and After—gives every would-be novelist a lesson Page One of Amsterdam opens outside a London mausoleum, where two ex-lovers, Clive and Vernon, are sparring over the memories of a woman named Molly Lane. She’s the character inside the mausoleum. If you turn the page, you meet more ex-lovers (one of them a Cabinet minister) and the husband, George Lane. The story of Amsterdam is the husband’s Revenge Quest on his dead wife’s lovers. Your task is building...

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Rewriting, Editing, Scene Performance: Part One

This is Part One of a Three Part Series on Rewriting, Editing, Scene Performance ©2013 by Robert J. Ray Feedback  Congratulations. Your rewrite is done and you feel good about the manuscript. The story is solid, the subplots writhe like snakes under the surface, which is glassy-smooth. Now you’re smelling money, you’re tasting the tang of writerly fame. You want action. So you print the manuscript, find a literary agent on Google Search, and then you mail the manuscript off. Admonition: Before you send off your pages, get some feedback. The writing business is crazy. The worst mistake you can make is sending off a half-baked product. Definition Feedback comes when you hand your work to someone else and say, Can you please give me some feedback? When you ask for feedback, you give up control. Time to relax, pull out your trusty ballpoint, and take notes. Feedback opens up the manuscript, rips holes in the fabric of your prose. Better to sew up the holes now, before you send off the manuscript to an agent. There are four ways to get feedback: 1. Scene Performance. For feedback on a scene, recruit a group of friends – actors are better at scene performance than writers – and assign roles. Assign one reader for each character; assign one reader to read the narration (action and description). Keep yourself out of...

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The Life of Objects in Gabriela and The Widow

This essay first appeared on Andrea Buginsky’s andisrealm as part of the blog tour organized by Virginia Grenier of World of Ink to promote Gabriela and The Widow. The link to the original posting is this url: Objects and Sentiment in Gabriela and The Widow  Objects in Gabriela and The Widow To write Gabriela and The Widow I started with the idea that one character, Gabriela, was thin, while the other, The Widow, was thick. What I would like to lay out is a study of the way I use “objects” in this novel to build both emotional attachments between characters and to push the story line along to its conclusion.  This is a preliminary working of the topic which developed more in the course of writing the novel. By focusing on the objects in a story and their relationship to character, you can go deeper into the emotional reality associated with objects. In this, fictional characters share an aspect of the sentimental life of people and that helps to make them whole. Step One: Emotional Attachment to objects. The main object in Gabriela and The Widow is the List that Gabriela has to keep for La Viuda. Boxes: carved, painted, decorated, engraved, different kinds of wood, metal. Each box comes and goes in the story: some days, La Viuda wants to examine the painted box with photos, other...

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Who Do You Listen To?

Who Do You Listen To? After I came across a very brave and unique novel titled: Taliban Escape by Aabra  which was reviewed in The Dark Phantom Review, I remembered an exchange I had with a fellow writer and former student. I want to post it here for anyone visiting this blog as a reminder of why we write: Writer: I’m trying hard to maintain the last bit of writing advice you provided, “write what you want, the way you want.” That’s hard, especially with two friends criticizing it. Right now, if I take them seriously, I need to go back and almost start over with my work-in-progress.” JR: Yes, that’s a tough one. One short answer is to listen but choose what to change if anything. The way I see it, we have this ideal story in our heads. It’s endless, but when you write, the readers plug in what you write and if it doesn’t connect somewhere to the universal story, they get this disjunction and their pencils move. What that gives us then is the issue of who’s doing the writing. But even deeper is the question of vision–-readers want you to tell them the story they want to hear. It’s your job to tell them a story they’ve never heard. If you can’t get past the universal, then you add nothing to the inventory of...

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20 Steps to Starting Your Novel

When I finished Murdock #6—Murdock Tackles Taos—I dozed, I dreamt of Fame, that elusive imposter, and then I launched into Murdock #7, and felt a bone-chilling loss of momentum, because the work on the Taos book was wrap-up writing, little fixes, edits, careful knitting up, joyful polishing—but the writing on the new book was clumsy, dull, opaque, fitful, maddening.

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©2010-2017 Jack Remick, Robert J. Ray. All rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including text and images, without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Short excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jack Remick and Robert J. Ray and "Bob and Jacks Writing Blog" with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.