Sunday, August 25, 2013

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

Today I finished reading Plot & Structure: Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish by James Scott Bell.

I've resisted reading this how-to book for a long time.  That was a mistake.  I thought that I really understood 3 Act Structure so there was nothing I could gain from this book.

While I probably didn't learn anything new about 3 Act Structure, I didn't waste my time.  I learned many new things.

Back in February I sent my outline for my WIP to two editors for their review of my story.  I was after a development edit.  What I got back from both editors was that my story wasn't ready for prime time.  Editor number one was positive and encouraging while pointing out my weaknesses.  Editor number two was brutally frank.  She commented on only the first act. She said, after you've changed the outline to introduce the protagonist in scene 1 and changed this, and this, and this. (You get the idea.) Then send me your revised outline before we go any further.

I got hung up on her point that my protagonist must appear in the first scene.  I frankly didn't get it.  My big opening scene had my antagonist up to his dirty work.  I had only already revised the opening scene a bajillion times and I liked what I had.   I didn't revise the opening scene or make the other changes.  I was stuck.  I couldn't imagine how to do what she wanted.  The story just had to begin with the antagonist's dirty work.

Then I discovered Bridging Conflict in Plot & Structure.  The answer to my problem.

This book is so much more than just another book on structure.  It has some of the best how-to advice I've read.  Don't miss it.

I give the book 4 stars.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Affair by Lee Child

Today I finished reading The Affair by Lee Child.

This is the 16th Jack Reacher novel and certainly one of the best.

This is the first Reacher novel where Child describes the sexual moments in detail.  All of Reacher's previous encounters were basically of the an embrace, they walk to the bedroom, the door closes variety.

I like a mix of sex and violence.  Recently, my wife asked, "You read more dirty books than I do. What does it meant when . . . ?"  I'm not sure if the quantity is accurate but I do enjoy a 'dirty' book.  So, if I write what I like to read, my WIP will contain both.  However, I've noticed that most thrillers are not very explicit.  And that has cautioned me from being too explicit.

Dean Koontz when writing about how to write a best selling novel advised to include sex.  The question to include sex or not is still unanswered for me.

When considering the market for a thriller the question is will the addition of sex increase the pleasure of reading for more readers than the number of readers who will be turned off.

I may have thought I knew the answer several years ago but in light of  the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon I know I don't know anymore.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Writing the Killer Thriller by Jodi Renner

Today I read Writing the Killer Thriller: An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction by Jodi Renner.

When I started learning about how to write a novel, I began a notebook.  As I learned something new about writing a novel I would add it to the notebook and reference the note back to the source.  By the fifth book on how to write I gave up on my notebook.  I didn't like ditching the notebook idea but I found that process became confusing especially when the authors began disagreeing among themselves.

This book will be a good substitute for my notebook as I attempt to write my thriller.

Ms. Renner's book is a collection of quotes from the authors of how-to-write books paired with her own experience reading and editing best selling thrillers. Authors quoted include James N. Frey, James Scott Bell, Jessica Page Morrell, Hallie Ephron, and Jack M. Bickham.

It was helpful to see these ideas accumulated and referenced particularly toward writing a thriller.  I rate the book 4 stars.

Friday, August 2, 2013

American Sniper by Chris Kyle

Today I finished reading American Sniper by Chris Kyle.

I read it as background for  my work-in-progress.

Christopher Scott "Chris" Kyle (April 8, 1974 – February 2, 2013) was a United States Navy SEAL known as the most lethal sniper in American military history with 160 confirmed kills out of 255 claimed kills, although these statistics have not been released by the Pentagon.
Kyle served four tours in the second Iraqi conflict and was awarded the Bronze and Silver Star medals multiple times. Iraqi insurgents dubbed him the "Devil of Ramadi" and offered a bounty for his head. He was shot twice, and was involved in six IED attacks.
Kyle decided to spend time with his family and was honorably discharged from the US Navy in 2009. He remained in the spotlight after leaving the Navy and wrote a New York Times bestselling autobiography, American Sniper. Kyle was shot and killed at a shooting range by a fellow veteran on February 2, 2013, near Chalk Mountain, Texas. ~ Wkipedia