Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lynn Viehl's The-Novel-Notebook

At this year’s Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference, I attended a breakout session by Shawntelle Madison, author of Coveted, one in a series of urban fantasy/paranormal romance books from Ballantine Books featuring a New Jersey werewolf with hilarious hoarding tendencies. Her session focused on creating a synopsis that can help sell a story to an agent or publisher. I’ll write more on that later, but for today, I want to focus on an online source she mentioned called The-Novel-Notebook, by Lynn Viehl (you can Google it). This terrific aid can assist anyone who writes fiction.  

I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that I use outlines of all sorts and sizes. The-Novel-Notebook is like an extensive outlining tool that helps writers plan their stories, visualize settings and bring characters to life. The 48-page Novel-Notebook features a series of worksheets for anyone who wants to keep track of everything that happens in his or her book or story. I’ve always found that answering specific questions and filling out worksheets is easier than trying to keep everything in my head.
Some of the topics included in The-Novel-Notebook include writing about the premise of the novel, and asks writers to describe the story in a short paragraph, and challenges them to reduce that to 25 words, then 15, then 10 (think elevator pitch).

Another section covers setting, which includes space to write about climate/season, population, government and landmarks. Individual character worksheets keep track of names, physical descriptions, birthdates, families and personality traits. Time-period sheets prompt the writer to include specific details about culture, entertainment, transportation and clothing pertinent to the era.
Following the pdf sheets available for downloading, Viehl shows us how she used them in her own work, which gives writers insight into how she created the worlds featured in her books. Thanks, Lynn Viehl, for sharing this valuable tool with other writers, and thanks, Shawntelle Madison, for telling us about it!

Write soon,                 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


The suspension of disbelief is called “verisimilitude.” Besides being a great word, it’s an important aspect for writers to consider.
Many years ago David Duchovney was a guest on a talk show, and he mentioned a movie he had starred in titled Return to Me (2000) about a man whose wife was killed in a car accident, and whose heart was transplanted into another woman. The plot revolved around Duchovney’s heartache, and subsequent love for the woman who received his wife’s heart.
He said he heard from many people who told him that the story was not believable, and that it could never happen. The funniest part of the interview was that he said not one person had ever said that to him during his years of filming “The X-Files,” the series about finding extraterrestrials.
Readers or viewers won’t buy into a story if they don’t believe the premise, the plot or the characters. Why did viewers believe the plots about aliens, but not about a man loving two women with the same heart?
Genre can also play into the suspension of disbelief. Martial artists and action heroes may be able to  perform feats beyond the realm of possibility, but the same is not true for the “best friend” in a romantic comedy.
Suspension of disbelief is the ability to create a world that is believable, and accept the premise as being real for the duration the story. The story must be consistent within the premise, however extreme. The magic in Harry Potter isn’t possible in this world, but the magical wizardry is consistent within its own world, which makes it believable. Readers and viewers went along for the ride as the wonders of his world were revealed to him. His discoveries were our discoveries. We soon learned, as did Harry, that anything was possible.
Be consistent when creating worlds for your characters to inhabit. They can be unusual, but they have to be consistently unusual!
Write soon,

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Department of Redundancy Department

Do you repeat yourself? Do you say the same thing over and over again? Tautological phrases repeat what has already been said using different words (which defines the second sentence of this paragraph). Eliminating tautological phrases can strengthen your writing.

According to Wikipedia, tautology is considered a fault of style and was defined by Henry Watson Fowler (1858-1933) in A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926), a style guide to British English usage, pronunciation and writing.

Delete the following phrases to strengthen your writing:

Free gift
Planning ahead
ATM machine (the M stands for machine, so if we write ATM machine, we are actually writing Automatic Teller Machine machine)
Unsolved mystery
Honest truth
Complete opposite
6 a.m. in the morning
End result
True fact
Fall down
Unconfirmed rumor
Short summary
New Innovation

What tautological phrases do you use in your writing, or see in the writings of others?

Write soon,

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Reader’s Digest recommends, a site that allows you to send an email to your future self. More than 1.8 million people have sent emails that will arrive tomorrow, fifty years from now, or any time in between.

So what will you say to your future writer self? Congratulations on the Pulitzer? Or maybe you can send yourself a slice of life essay about what’s going on in your life now, or a letter of encouragement, or goals you will have accomplished by the time you read the email. Doesn’t matter, because it can be whatever you want. You can read other letters on the site to get some ideas. While you’re there, tell your future self I said hello!

Write soon,