Sunday, September 23, 2012

How to get started

A friend's daughter (junior high) recently asked me this via FB: I am writing a book in third person and wondering what are the best ways to start.

My answer is below. Take it or leave it, but I think I did a bang-up job of summarizing some very large topics.

How to get started writing your book

Wow, that's a big question. I like 3rd person POV (Point-of-View) the best. It gives you a lot of options you don't have in 1st person.

Next you need to decide on TENSE. Will you use past or present? For instance, past tense is like this: "He walked to the store."

Present tense is this: "He walks to the store."

I use past, but lots of young adult (YA) books use the present tense. I think the Hunger Games series uses present tense, I could be wrong.

After tense, you need to decide on TONE. Will it be a fun tone, serious, or something in-between? Think about tv shows, how some are comedies, some are dramas, some are action, and so on. That's the tone, and you need to decide what tone to use. Pick one, and STICK TO IT for the whole book.

Now that you have the POV (Point-of-View, 3rd person), TENSE, and TONE, you need to develop a quick one or two sentence TOPIC of the book. What is it about? Hunger Games could be like this: "In a futuristic world governed by wealthy aristocrats, young citizens are forced to fight to the death."

It needs to be quick and dirty, and you need to put it at the top of your first page. Read that sentence every time you sit down to write.

Repeat: Read that sentence EVERY TIME you sit to write. It is all you focus on.

It may just be a title. For instance, "Hunger Games" says a lot about the book, and would be a great hook to reference.

The hook, or TOPIC, gives you as the author something to hook into each time you sit to write, and it keeps you consistent. Anything that is ~not~ related to the TOPIC gets deleted.

That's how you start. Some people will draft an outline, others will just start writing. Me, I just start writing. You may like to plot, and then write.

So long as you honor your POV, TENSE, TONE, and TOPIC, and stay consistent on every paragraph of every page, you'll produce something spectacular.

You may choose a target length for the book. 100pp is a good start, which would put you at about 25,000 words (there should be about 250 words per page on your draft). Set up your Word document for double-space text, 12pt Courier New. Use one space to separate sentences, and use a paragraph format that automatically indents the first line of each paragraph. Do not double-space between paragraphs like you do in emails (and like I do here). That is standard format for a manuscript.

A target daily word count goal is ONE page no matter what, and as many as you can get after that. Finish the book first, and then edit it afterwards. What I mean is this: After you write a page, go onto the next page. Don't get too hung up on fixing problems, because you will get that during revision and edit later.

Wishing you luck, and let me know if you need anything else. Always glad to help.

- Eric

What did I miss?

Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novel Out of the Great Black Nothing. He is currently represented by Debrin Case at Open Heart Publishing. See more of Eric's work here: Publications


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Do you feel LUCKY?

This is a post on LUCK and how it applies to writing.

Let me start with the famous quote from Mr. Eastwood:

I know what you’re thinking: "Did he fire six shots, or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well do ya, Punk?

Ask yourself that question: Do you feel LUCKY?

As a writer, much of our success is determined by luck. I don't have the numbers, but I bet luck makes up better than 70% of whether we are published at all, and the number goes up from there as you chase larger and larger publishers.

If you don't believe luck plays a huge role, then you have not been paying attention. King is famous for his ~wife~ submitting his breakout novel Carrie, in a unique manner, to someone who just happened to read it and appreciate it. How lucky is that!

Well, this post is about creating your own luck.


There are two ingredients to luck. The first is Persistence. Every time you try, you play the odds that you might get lucky (and land that publisher!). As you try less and less, your luck approaches zero, until at last you quit, and the chance of you being lucky is now an absolute zilch.

So Persist! Keep trying! My goal with writing is not to get published. My goal is to write until I die, or no longer have the mental and physical capacity to write. I hope at some point I will be picked up by a large publishing house, but I cannot control that event. All I can do is keep trying, keep trying, keep trying.

Which I will.

The second ingredient to luck is Intelligence! If all you do is Persist in the same way, over and over, you will never increase your luck chances. Instead, Persist in a SMARTER way each time.

If your book is not getting picked up, write another book. Make it better. Invest in some How-To books on writing, publishing, editing, and so forth. You are an expert on any topic if you read at least 5 books on that topic.

Are you an expert on writing? I am, a couple times over. Most published authors are.

Persist with Intelligence.

If you question that these are the two ingredients of luck, I want you to watch The World Series of Poker sometime.

These gamblers Persist by coming back to the table over and over, win or lose. They also are Intelligent about their craft.

Nobody argues that Poker requires luck, but as every Poker player will tell you: It isn't "gambling" if you know what you're doing.

The point is this: If you Persist Intelligently, luck will find you! You ~can~ beat the odds.

For my current novel, which I am querying, I plan to collect 30 rejections. Maybe one or two will result in a full-read, and maybe one will land a contract. This is Persistence.

I am also researching not only agents and publishers, but also studying for my next novel, and polishing up my editing skills (as always, keep the axe sharp!). This is Intelligence.

If you Persist Intelligently, if you are Intelligently Persistent, you ~will~ eventually find that luck that so many have missed.

Keep the faith.

Do you Persist Intelligently? Name a success of yours, a time when you earned a Blue Ribbon 1st Place, and tell me you didn't get there with Persistent Intelligence. I dare ya, Punk.

Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novel Out of the Great Black Nothing. He is currently represented by Debrin Case at Open Heart Publishing. See more of Eric's work here: Publications