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Fiction Writing Magic: Outlining And Connecting With Readers

Fiction Writing Magic: Outlining And Connecting With Readers

Readers have asked for more fiction writing tips on what to include when they’re outlining a novel. Here’s a big tip: connect with your plot, and with your characters. Sometimes, when we’re outlining, we focus on the plot so much that we forget why readers read.

Recently I’ve been working with an author who shocked me. She told me that she’s self-published three novels over three years, and has made NO sales at all. When I checked her books’ blurbs on Amazon (she’s published ebooks and paperbacks) I saw the problem immediately.

Plot, plot, and more plot, and no real connection to be found. Your stories need to connect with readers. This connection can be subtle, but as the saying goes, you know it when you see it. 🙂

Readers read for connection — they want to be drawn in to your novel, or short story… that connection MUST be there, in your blurb, and of course, in your outline, and in your books.

All very well, I’m sure you’re thinking… but how do you CONNECT?

Fiction writing tip: your fiction MUST connect with readers

Blurbs (book descriptions) to which readers connect sell books.

For example, the blurb for Nora Roberts’ novel Blue Smoke, begins:

Reena Hale has always understood the destructive power of fire.

Fire burns. We can relate. Just yesterday I burned my hand on a cast iron skillet. Ouch! (We’ll get to the senses and connection in a moment…)

Here’s another example, from the blurb for Joseph Finder’s novel, The Switch:

Michael Tanner is heading home from a business trip when he accidentally picks up the wrong laptop from security.

Have you ever picked up someone else’s bag? I haven’t, but last week I strolled into the supermarket car park, right up my car, and kept pressing the key in my hand in irritation.

Curses — why wasn’t the car unlocking?

Finally I realized. Heh, right color, make and model, but not my car…

We’ve all made similar mistakes. Finder makes a connection with readers, as Roberts does, in the first sentence of the blurb.

Want another example? Just check bestsellers. I defy you to find me a blurb which doesn’t connect with readers in some way. Here’s another example, this one is from David Baldacci’s End Game: A Will Robie Novel 5. And again, we find connection right in the first line of the blurb:

London is on red alert.

We connect with that. We watch the news of terrorist attacks in London, and we feel vulnerable too.

In this article on outlining fiction, I suggested that you start outlining with an image:

… start with an image: an image has built-in emotion – if you choose the right image. Fiction is all about emotion. No emotion? You’ve got nothing. Your idea, no matter how wonderful, will fizzle out. Or you’ll have a bunch of weird emotions tumbling around, which you can’t get a handle on… and the novel or short story fizzles out.

Let’s add to that: start with an image to which you respond.

Then:

  • Think about the emotion the image inspires; and
  • Think about how that connects with readers; and
  • WRITE DOWN that connection in your outline.

1. Outlining: connect via conflict — remember emotions

Fiction is all conflict, all the time. It’s easy to forget the reader connection, and create melodrama.

Let’s say that you’re great with conflict. Everyone’s upset in your novel, and fighting with everyone else.

Good work. Now make an emotional connection with your character, a highly intelligent, 30-year-old, brand new detective. She’s been taken off a case. How does she feel? Add a note about those feelings, right in your outline for the scene.

Add another note: how do you want the reader to feel? If your detective is your primary point of view character, you want your reader to empathize with the character.

2. Look for opportunities for sensory writing in your outlines: connect via the senses

Readers will connect with your fiction if you provide sensory details.

Take a moment, and glance around the room, or around the plane or around the park… You’re somewhere, aren’t you? And as long as you’re awake, you’re aware of your environment, on some level. You’re using your senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch.

Proust’s madeleines (biscuits) are famous, because the sense of taste is linked to memory:

The madeleine anecdote is considered one of the key passages in À La Recherche du Temps Perdu or In Search of Lost Time. It is at the heart of the book’s main theme of involuntary memory…

Readers will connect if you make it easy for them to experience your characters’ environment, via the senses. Don’t describe everything, but do choose sensory details which connect with readers.

From Georgette Heyer’s Frederica:

Wiser counsels had not prevailed with Jane: she had been determined on roses and pink gauze; and as she had inherited her mother’s shrewish disposition, and was capable of sulking for days together, Lady Buxted had allowed her to have them.

If Heyer had written: “Jane sulked until she got a dress with roses and pink gauze,” it wouldn’t have the same impact. Nevertheless the “sulking” makes a connection with readers; we all know people like Jane who want their own way.

3. YOU are your fiction: connect to your characters, and to the events in your plot

You’re your fiction. No one else has your emotional makeup or experiences. You perceive the world differently from everyone else. So, in order to connect with readers, connect with your characters, via your imagination. Then get that connection onto the page. Readers will latch onto your fiction — you helped them to make a connection.

An author’s biggest danger when we create characters and plot, is forgetting to make a connection with our characters, and the disasters we create for them.

Once you begin looking for connections readers might make, you’ll find them in your writing and in others’, and will create them deliberately.

You’ll know that you’re doing it right when you have fun with your fiction. 🙂

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

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I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly. More info →
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Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

eBook: $5.99
You can, when you discover the secrets of writing blurbs (book descriptions) which sell. More info →
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Bestselling Fiction: 5 Tips To Turn A Wonderful Mess Into A Novel

Bestselling Fiction: 5 Tips To Turn A Wonderful Mess Into A Novel

You’ve completed your novel. It’s so horrible that you’re ashamed. What on earth gave you the idea that you could write a novel, much less write bestselling fiction? Calm down. If you’ve got a mess, that’s AMAZING. It’s exactly what you’re supposed to have at the first draft stage.

Seriously. Never, ever worry about your first draft. You’ve got a NOVEL — even in potential, and that’s a huge achievement. Celebrate that.

(Please be aware that your novel may still be at the first draft stage, even if you’ve written several drafts… Many new authors fiddle with sentence structure and word choice, and imagine that they’re writing a draft. You’re not. You’re copyediting.)

All bestselling fiction goes through a chaotic stage

Let’s look at what a “draft” is. Creating a second draft/ rewriting isn’t recreating your novel from the beginning. (That said, it can be, if you feel that you’ve missed the mark completely and want a do-over.) If anything, rewriting is more akin to putting together a jigsaw puzzle, while creating some new pieces to fit.

Let’s look at some tips to help.

1. What are you writing? What’s the genre and story question?

Before you do anything else, reread what you’ve written.

Makes notes on the emotional highpoints — what makes you feel? Fiction is all about emotion, so you need to know what works, and what doesn’t, at this stage.

Then decide on your genre, if you haven’t done it already. Also, check to see whether you have a story question — this is the one essential which turns a mess into a potential bestselling novel.

2. Rewrite your major scenes: these are the BIG scenes in your novel

If you’re not sure about scenes, this article will help, Write Hot Scenes For Bestselling Fiction: 5 Magical Tips:

Scenes are the building blocks of your fiction

In the 21st century, every reader understands drama.

TV and movie stories are delivered in scenes. If you want lots of readers, you need to learn to deliver your stories in scenes too.

Readers are impatient. They just want the story. Deliver. Show, rather than tell. “Showing” means writing in scenes.

You’ll have two or three major scenes. Rewrite these, without focusing on what you’ve written. You know your story, your aim now is to deliver emotion in all your scenes, but most especially in the big scenes of your novel.

3. Check for holes in your plot: create new scenes

All plots have holes. You can ask someone else to find them for you, but try to do it yourself. Read through your novel again, and check the characters’ behavior and thoughts. Do they make sense, logically? If any character’s behavior doesn’t make sense, that’s fine — you’ll need to foreshadow the weird behavior.

While you’re checking, write new scenes where you need them.

4. Characters: introducing a character, and showing character changes

Next, focus on your characters. Check how you introduce your main characters. Your main characters will change in your novel, as they grow from their experiences. Make sure you’re showing the changes.

5. Check (or create) your timeline

Timelines can be tricky. You can have someone’s mother marrying at five years old, and a character in London when he’s supposed to be on a ship somewhere in the Pacific.

And your draft is done… now comes editing. 🙂

Want to write a bestseller? Check out: How To Write In Scenes… The Magical Secret To Writing Well And Selling More

Fiction: How To Write In Scenes
Fiction: How To Write In Scenes

Want to write wonderful stories readers love… fiction which SELLS? Our new program guides you in developing an amazing (and fun) fiction writing career: you’ll write better novels faster. You’ll also win fans who love your novels and are eager to buy them.

Read more.

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Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

$5.99
Want to write short stories? If you answered yes, that's excellent… Here's why. Today, you can make money writing short fiction. More info →
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5 Tips To Help You To Write A Book Despite Your Inner Critic

 5 Tips To Help You To Write A Book Despite Your Inner Critic

You want to write a book, but you gave up after one page, or one chapter. Maybe you’ve written a book, but hate it, so it’s on your hard drive, a symbol of your failure.

Would you believe me if I said that there’s no such thing as failure, and you CAN write your book, starting today? All you need to do is become familiar with your inner critic, and expose him for the illusion that he is.

The big reason you can’t write a book

I work with writers every day. A huge part of that work is separating a writer from his killer “musts” and “shoulds.” These faux strictures and rules stem from the writer’s inner critic, and they’re immensely harmful until the writer recognizes them.

Once you recognize the lies your inner critic is telling you, and recognize the source, you can go ahead and write happily. Unfortunately, this recognition is hard, because the words your inner critic whispers activate your sympathetic nervous system: this is your fight or flight response.

Fight or flight shuts down your thinking processes. The only way to counter this is to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, so that your body calms and you can think again.

You can’t rid yourself of your inner critic, but you can stop giving him attention. Vital: never argue with your inner critic. That way lies disaster. Remember that he’s an illusion, he’s not real. 🙂

Let’s look at some tips which will help you to ignore your inner critic.

1. Practice gratitude daily: list 5 wonderful things

Although you might think that gratitude (of all things!) can’t help you to write a book, guess what — it can. It’s not only free, it’s a way to turbocharge your creativity.

Gratitude floods your body with chemicals from your parasympathetic nervous system. These chemicals are completely natural, they make you feel good, and they put you into a “writing” mind state.

Keep a gratitude journal for a few weeks; it can change your life.

2. Fool your inner critic: “I’m just practicing …” — and smile

Uh-oh… You’re happily writing, and your inner critic chirps in your ear: “how could you write that? You can’t write that…”

Remember: he’s an illusion. You can’t argue with an illusion and win. Mentally say to yourself. “I’m not writing anything serious. I’m just practicing and having fun.”

And smile: just a little Mona Lisa smile. Smile slightly with your eyes and tilt your lips upward at the corners. According to The Atlantic, a full research study,“Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Positive Facial Expression on the Stress Response,” was published in the journal Psychological Science.

Smiling is a psychological thing. Just do it. 🙂

3. Create a routine for your writing: do the same thing, every day

Every writer who writes commercially has a routine. Without a routine, you can’t get anything done. Routine includes:

  • Where you write: desk in your home office, or coffee shop, or…?
  • How you write: computer, iPad, longhand on a legal pad…
  • When you write: early morning, lunchtime at work, on your commute…
  • How long you write (research, outlining, and editing don’t count)…

It takes around four days to establish a routine. Eventually, if you keep following your routine, your inner critic fades. You’ve established a habit, and your inner critic is powerless against habits.

4. Say “thank you” to your inner critic, and write

Remembering that your inner critic is an illusion, when something he says catches your attention, say: “inner critic”, or “thank you”. You’re labelling the thought, rather than engaging it. This prevents you following the thought down a rabbit hole of endless discursive thought.

Mentally label the thought, and start writing immediately.

5. Meditate (breathe) for ten minutes a day

The voices in your head, including your inner critic, are not real. Your biggest challenge in dealing with them is realizing that you’re being baited by an illusion. Meditation can help you to recognize your inner critic as easy-to-ignore background noise.

Eventually, meditation helps you to recognize your thoughts as thoughts. Thoughts are not real. Meditation can’t eliminate thoughts — your mind chatter continues, but meditation slows it down. Meditation also prevents the constant triggering of your sympathetic nervous system’s fight or flight response. You’ll find that on days when you meditate for ten minutes, you’re much calmer — your inner critic is either missing, or if present, is ignored. Not bad for just ten minutes out of your day.

While there are endless ways to meditate, the simplest way is to breathe and count your breaths, because your breath is always with you. 🙂

Your inner critic is a toothless tiger, so write a book

We’ve focused on your inner critic’s role in preventing you from writing a book. However, he appears in many guises in all areas of your life. You’ll discover that when you follow the tips above, your entire life improves. 🙂

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Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →