NOVEL WRITING WORKSHOP April 21, 2009
Brigham City Library
Dr Victoria Ramirez vramirez@ weber.edu 801 626 6669
*What type of writing do you do?
*Are you working on a novel? Where in the process?
*What are your aspirations for your (long?) fiction?
Overview: Books I find helpful/use for teaching:
How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James Frey
Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg
Writing Great Short Stories by Margaret Lucke
Crafting Fiction by Marvin Diogenes & Clyde Moneyham
On Writing Well by William Zinsser (non-fiction writing)
Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market 2009
“Why Stories Fail” by Ben Nyberg (from Crafting Fiction)
** Stories must have these core attributes: appeal; originality; complexity; honesty; craftsmanship
Pre-story lapses: story not grounded in psychological reality; world of story unclear to author; writer doesn’t know her/his xters; lack of plotting, more of an anecdote
Setting: author failed to create an authentic world in story; action could take place anywhere; description is hasty and perfunctory; there’s annoying and action-crushing overuse of description
Character: lack of honesty or clarity in creating main xters; author hasn’t developed the xter fully—looks like a caricature; xters are not up to the challenge of the plot; xters aren’t people, they’re ideological personifications
Plot: successful stories= xters w/their flaws placed in a situation that tests them; xters drive plot; plot must have “conflict” throughout—in each scene and even in each dialogue, if possible. Conflict isn’t fighting, but contestatory moments, opinions, pov between xters
Theme: avoid overt “messages”—don’t write parables if you aspire to a large/varied readership. DO write stories about humans that other humans can recognize/relate to, regardless of the genre you’re writing in
TIPS FOR DEVELOPING YOUR LONG FICTION (NOVEL)
1 Prewriting/ developing phase: Once you have a story you think you can sustain for over 200 pages or so, bounce the plot off of someone who a) will give you honest, knowledgeable feedback, and b) will not “shut you down” with nit-picking. Questions to ask: Will the plot hold water? Is it too simplistic . . . or needlessly complex? Lacking in meaningful conflict? Flat and boring? Feature xters who seem ill-fitted for the story line? Suggestions?
2 Prewriting/ developing phase: After a chapter or two is written, start thinking structurally about the work. Some authors who just start writing without a plan do get published/write bestsellers. MOST writers will fail at this, especially with a first novel. Length of chapters, and how many you might aim for, may be something you consider early on, but this is not necessary. Just get down as much of the story as you can without censoring.
3 Developing the text: When the text is (nearly/completely) written, start thinking structurally about the novel.
How many chapters? Does each end with a hook? Fix that!
Would the narration benefit from separation into parts/sections? Your options:
--2 parts (beginning, end)
--3 parts (beginning, middle, end)
--4 parts (beginning in 2 parts, end in 2 parts)
--5 parts (beginning, beginning, middle, end, end; beginning, beginning, middle, middle, end, etc.)
4 What’s in my story??? CREATE A STEP-SHEET
A step-sheet=a story board in cinema. It’s a list of every scene in the novel. This can be arrayed visually by creating a table with each chapter, and within each chapter/ grid block you write in all the scenes
5 WHAT’S MY STORY ARC???