Welcome to the book blog of writer and creative writing tutor, Diane Paul.

Thanks to the publishers and kind PR people who send me books and releases about their clients' books for review. Press releases and review copies of fiction and non-fiction are always welcome. (No sci-fi, fantasy or erotica please.)

Due to the barrage of requests from self-published authors for reviews, I'm unable to deal with them all, although I'm sometimes drawn to non-fiction for the subject matter. And because I love print books, the smell, the touch of the paper and the sight of the words, I don't have an electronic reader or review e-books.

E-mail to: bookblogforbookworms@keywordeditorial.com for the postal address.

My writing website: http://www.keywordeditorial.com/

Saturday, 6 November 2010

How to write a book in a month

Stuck in The Garret this week trying to develop an idea for a new book with a musical flavour that is supposed to be funny but isn't (yet). Humour is the hardest genre to work in and is so subjective. Kate has a piano lesson and when she's finished struggling through a Rag that has terrified the life out of her ('I'll never play that!) she turns to me and waits...and waits. 'Well?' she says, wanting approbation. When I don't reply she says 'Great, I can go to work tomorrow and tell everyone I sent my piano tutor into a coma.'

During this hiatus, I am engrossed in trying to work out a plot to insert into the theme of the interior world of piano teaching and the interractions between students and tutors. I have loads of material. By Monday afternoon, I have received six piano cancellations for a variety of reasons and I'm certain some grandpas have died twice. Paul has taken a month off as he's taken on too many things (I could have told him that); Elizabeth is going off to South America and will return in January; Isabella takes two weeks off just before her first exam and I give up a free afternoon to take her mock exam and scrape off the rust.

Write a book a month (BAM)

Someone sends me a slim book by Cyn Mobley called BAM or Book a Month. I wish! I'm already struggling with requests from two publishers for non-fiction ideas and I'm not in the mood for writing about blood pressure knowing the research will push mine up higher than it already is. I like following instructions so I look at BAM and it's basically a breakdown of the sort of preparation I would do anyway and how I learnt to develop a script at uni (although in truth this only fell into place when I read an out of print American book on their reading list called Film Scriptwriting - A Practical Manual by Dwight V Swain, which explained everything I needed to know that wasn't happening in lectures). Most of those were taken up by the tutor moaning about his lack of writing commissions.

BAM splits up the development into deadlines, a bit like having a life coach dividing up your tasks to success.
  • Finding the story and creating the logline (precis)
  • Looking for conflict
  • Developing the three act structure
  • Fly-to points (plot points or turning points)
  • Chapters divided up into acts and scenes and
  • Rewrites

Why development first is a good idea

Some writers prefer to begin with a blank screen and invent a character out of whose development a plot emerges; it then takes them over, as do the characters and they allow themselves to be transported into another world, usually to get lost halfway through; or they have three endings and don't know which to choose. Some well-known authors write that way. If I were going on a journey, I would want to know my destination before I set out or I would probably find three possible turnings and not know which to go down. A lot of writers have unfinished manuscripts in their desk drawers from losing control to their characters and not knowing where they are heading but as Cyn Mobley has over 40 books in print, I'm with her. However, as far as the deadlines for each action go, with the best intentions I have far too much going on in my life to reach them. I've never missed a publisher's deadline yet and the fastest I wrote a book was in three months but setting a deadline for myself is another thing. I've never taken much notice of myself.

The Snowflake Process

A few years ago, I remember reading something called The 'Snowflake' Process for Designing Novels by software architect Randy Ingermanson. He believes that good fiction is designed before it's written. He also follows the Three Act Structure technique. One idea sparks off another and since then, I've noticed a plethora of 'writing by number books' coming onto the market, so choose with care. I can recommend these two, which I think were the forerunners.

Randy's article can be downloaded free from his writing site at  http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/ and BAM can be obtained through http://www.amazon.com/ or direct from Cyn Mobley http://www.cynmobley.com/ (don't be put off by the greyhounds; they're her passion).

And about humour, when I did my MA in scriptwriting, a fellow student was asked why she had left three blank spaces on every page of her script. 'Those are for the laughs,' she said. 'I'm going to fill them in later.' We had been told that for comedy, we needed to have three laughs to a page.

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