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Write Fiction And Make It Delicious: Ice The Cake

Write Fiction And Make It Delicious: Ice The Cake

You write fiction. You’re providing emotional experiences for your readers. If you do that well, your readers will find you and your fiction will sell. And sell.

I’m fond of telling my students that writing a novel’s a lot like baking a cake. You choose your ingredients, you mix them, and bake them. When you want to make your cake truly delicious you frost it — and not with icing you bought at the supermarket either.

OK, enough with the analogy, I’m getting hungry. 🙂

When you edit your fiction, ice the cake

What’s your fictional cake’s “icing”? It’s yummy bits of business, or even entire scenes which you add to your novel or novella just for the emotional charge these elements give to readers.

The specific elements of your icing depend on the genre in which you’re writing. Do some brainstorming about what readers expect from your genre.

Examples:

  • Romance readers expect a Happily Ever After (HEA), a heroine with whom they can empathize, a hero with whom they could fall in love etc…
  • Mystery readers expect a mystery (of course), a crime, intriguing characters etc…

Beyond the common, expected elements, bestselling and loved novels in your genre have something extra. Go back to your favorite novels in your genre, and make a list of what you loved. Example: I’m on a Jill Mansell kick at the moment. What I love about her novels: laugh-out-loud moments, interesting occupations for her heroines, and a wide cast of characters.

To ice the cake of my current novel, I could include a couple of the elements I adore from Mansell’s novels. I could add a couple of characters to my novel, and could add some humor.

See how it’s done?

Try it yourself… what could you add to ice the cake of your current novel?

Let’s look at some tips to help you with the “icing”.

1. Write your novel first, ice it later

You need to bake your cake before you ice it. (Yes, I’m sticking with the analogy… :-))

So write the first draft of your novel. Then do a quick revision — DELETE. Delete is your friend, if you write fast — and you should. Finish the novel! (If you have trouble with finishing, put your butt in your chair, and write as fast as you can.)

2. Icing your novel’s cake: brainstorm

Next, brainstorm some ideas for your icing. You may decide that you need to add a character, or add humor, or use more settings.

Choose ONE, if you’re writing your first or second novel. If you’re not used to keeping a lot of novel-related stuff in your head, adding too many elements gets confusing.

3. Ice away: add sentences, scenes and characters

This is the tricky bit. You’ve written your novel. You don’t want to upset the novel’s balance, so ice judiciously. Not too much — you don’t want to end up with more icing than cake. 🙂

4. Edit your novel again: smooth on the icing

Start at the beginning, and edit, to ensure that the icing becomes part of your novel’s cake. You may need to do a lot of this, or just a little.

For example, if you’ve added more settings for your scenes, keep an eye on the timeline. Your characters will need travel time to move between the locations you’ve chosen.

If you’ve added humor, you’ll need to make adjustments in your characters, right throughout the novel. You can’t have a straitlaced character suddenly making humorous quips.

5. What if your icing is too much?

Sometimes the icing you’ve chosen doesn’t suit your novel. That’s 100% fine. Don’t sweat it. If you can see that it’s not working, stop. Choose another form of icing — you’ll find that once you start tinkering in this way, more ideas will occur to you. One or two of them will be perfect for your book.

That’s the beauty of icing your novel’s cake. Your novel becomes better, no matter how much or how little you do… and that’s your ultimate goal, right?

What to do next…

Reread your favorite novels. Highlight the prose you love, and ask yourself what emotional reaction you experienced. Make notes, to increase the likelihood that you will remember your reaction.

As we’ve said, when you write fiction, you’re providing emotional experiences for your readers. The more you think about your reactions to fiction, the more you’ll focus on writing emotionally-charged stories your readers will love. It happens naturally, so be relaxed about it. 🙂

Go ahead… put some icing on the cake of your novel. Have fun with it, and your readers will have fun too — and you’ll sell more novels.

Ideas? Thoughts?

Share them in the comments, or on social media.

I’d love to know your thoughts.

How to write fiction - and get readers
How to write fiction – and get readers

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Writing Success Secrets: How To Conquer Self Doubt, And Achieve Your Writing Goals, Starting Today

Writing Success Secrets: How To Conquer Self Doubt, And Achieve Your Writing Goals, Starting Today

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Genre: Writing

Today, the opportunities for writers have never been greater. Back in the day a writer who was making six-figures a year seemed a creature of myth. These days, highly successful writers are making six figures a month.

More info →
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Updated: January 30, 2017

Write a Book: It’s Supposed to Suck

Write a Book: It's Supposed to Suck

You decided to write a book. A few weeks into the process, you decide you hate it.

Iona, one of my students, always wanted to  write a book. She’s  a teacher, so one summer she told everyone she was going away, but she stayed home.  She didn’t want any interruptions. She’d decided to spend the time alone, finally sitting down to write her book.

“Thirty pages,” she told me. “That’s all I managed to write, in five weeks. Everything I wrote was awful. Why did I ever think that I could write?”

I commiserated. Ioan hadn’t heard about shitty first drafts. If she had, she could have written 300 pages, rather than just 30. The 300 pages would be “awful”. but they’d be a starting point.

The trouble with writing books is that we all read books, and fail to realize (or remember, if we’re writers), that the writing process is always messy.

I’m writing a novel. I’m 12,000 words in, out of a proposed 80,000 words, and it SUCKS. It’s truly horrible… I’m telling, rather than showing, and the characters, while they have their moments, are less than memorable. I don’t even want to think about the woeful “plot”…

Sigh… At this point, if this were my first rodeo, I’m trudge away, convinced that I CAN’T WRITE. I’m hopeless. I will never be able to write. Maybe it’s not too late to become a lawyer, the way my parents always wanted… Another sigh…

Thank heavens I know better.

When you write a book, it may suck. It’s supposed to.

It’s hard to convince yourself that your novel is taking shape, word by word, no matter how horrible you’re convinced it is at the moment.

Think about what happens when someone builds a house. There are several homes going up in our little town. I stroll past the building sites on my daily walk. These sites are messy. They start off with a big hole in the ground, then stuff gets put into the hole. Eventually the framework goes up… weeks or months later, there’s a house, or several townhouses.

Writing your novel is much like building a house. You write and write, and what you’re writing isn’t much. It doesn’t read like a book, does it? You read your favorite writers, and the mess you’ve got can drive you to despair.

Take courage. Your ugly duckling will become a swan. Your mess will grow into a novel. Every word you write is important, even if you delete the word or the scene or the chapter a month from now, because it’s only framework, and you don’t need it.

How to live with the horror of writing your novel

Here are some tips to help you to get over the sheer “suckness” of your novel as you’re writing:

  • Keep writing. Every day. No matter what. Your novel is growing. It may be ugly, but that’s just a stage;
  • Keep learning. Learn what makes a scene. Do you have conflict on every page? Are you bored? Spark it up;
  • Keep reading. Read great novels. Read junk. Just read, every day. You’ll learn a lot via osmosis;
  • Get some exercise. Writing is stressful. Exercise gets rid of the stress hormones which can damage your health;
  • Tell yourself you’ll do whatever it takes to finish your novel and get it published;
  • Do your best today. And tomorrow. That’s all you need to do.

Before you know it, your novel will be written. You’ll feel GREAT. Writing a book is a little like childbirth. Once you’re holding your child, you’ll forget all the drama that got you there. And your novel, once it’s completed, won’t suck at all.

Serial Fiction Bonanza returns…

Serial Fiction Bonanza: Get Readers, Get Fans — Make A Solid Income From Your Fiction FAST

We’re thrilled that Serial Fiction Bonanza is available again. If serial fiction intrigues you, it’s a good investment in your writing.

Learn more here, and enroll now; you’ll download the entire class immediately, and you’ll work at your own pace.

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99

Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.

More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Writing Success Secrets: How To Conquer Self Doubt, And Achieve Your Writing Goals, Starting Today

Writing Success Secrets: How To Conquer Self Doubt, And Achieve Your Writing Goals, Starting Today

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Genre: Writing

Today, the opportunities for writers have never been greater. Back in the day a writer who was making six-figures a year seemed a creature of myth. These days, highly successful writers are making six figures a month.

More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

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Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

Write Your Novel: The Big Rewrite

You’ve written a first draft of your novel. Kudos to you! That’s a real accomplishment… and now the FUN starts. 🙂

I adore rewriting. I’ve got the story down, so things can only get better. However, I know that some writers who haven’t done it before get nervous about revision. Believe me, it’s not a big deal. You’ve now got the chance to remold and rework your material.

I wrote about revision in the 30 Day Challenge. Here it is again, if you missed it.

When you write your first draft, you’re creating the raw material for your novel.

Once you have the raw material, you can begin to shape it into your book. That’s the reason I encouraged you to keep moving forward with your first draft, without editing. What’s the point of tinkering with text which you may cut when it’s time to revise?

The more books you write, the better you’ll get at editing your own work. If you ever get the chance to work with a good editor, you’ll learn a great deal about how to shape a book. There’s a lot you can do on your own. However, before you publish, I strongly suggest that you get some beta readers, and hire a professional editor.

First Steps in Revision

Remember the story question? Keep that in mind as you edit. Everything which doesn’t move the text towards an answer to the story question is unnecessary.

Here’s the editing process.

Before you start editing, read the novel straight through once. You’re aiming to get a sense of the book as it is now. Some writers put the book away for a few weeks. They want to clear their mind of it as much as possible, so that they can read the way a reader would.

At some stage, it’s also helpful to read at least six novels in your genre, so you can get a sense of how they’re structured. Your readers have expectations for their favorite genre. They want you to meet those expectations.

Then:

1. Create an outline of all the scenes. Just a couple of sentences per scene.

2. Once you’ve done that, look at the overall structure. The first three chapters of the book are the setup. You’re introducing your characters, and the basics of the story. Then the action of your story rises, until the climax.

All this sounds very esoteric, I know. I’ve found Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheets very useful in thinking about novel structure. Any of Snyder’s Save the Cat books will help you with creating a good structure, without what’s termed “the sagging middle”. You need to keep your readers’ interest through every page of your book(s).

Here are a couple of useful links which discuss using Blake Snyder’s Beats in a novel, rather than a screenplay:

* http://www.blakesnyder.com/2012/04/27/the-hunger-games-bookmovie-beat-sheet-comparison/

* http://jamigold.com/2012/02/how-to-use-the-save-the-cat-beat-sheet/

3. You’ll find that as you’re working on the structure, you’ll be deleting scenes, and creating new scenes. That’s how it works. 🙂 Do what’s necessary.

Once you have the structure, it’s time to work on your characters. This shouldn’t take much work. If you get the structure right, your characters will fall into line — action defines character. Smooth over any rough edges.

4. Revising your plot. Again, since the structure is the framework of your novel, your plot should be fine. However, at this stage, your novel may feel unfinished — skimpy. Consider adding characters, and another plot arc or two — sub-plots.

Enlist a couple of beta readers if you can. These readers should be interested in the genre you’re writing in. Don’t ask a reader who loves romances to read your horror novel.

5. Whether you’ve added sub-plots or not, once you’ve completed all the major revisions, it’s time for some layering, which we discussed yesterday.

6. Get beta readers, if you haven’t done so already. Ask them to read for story, and character. Are they intrigued with the story? Where do they stumble? Get bored? What seems “off”? Are the characters believable? What was their favorite part of the book?

7. Editing.

There are three kinds of editors:

* Book editors — they edit for structure, plot, and character.

* Line editors (also known as copy editors) — they check facts, your timeline, and query your word use and sentence structure. If you’ve made spelling and grammar errors, they’ll query those.

* Proof readers. A proof reader will pick up grammatical and spelling errors, as well as typos.

If you can afford it, you can hire editors for all three forms of editing. Alternatively, swap these chores with another writer.