Advice for new authors
First of all I am going to pass on the obvious:
- Read a lot
- Write a lot
Then there is the advice Mark Coker gives in one of the manuals he makes available for free (in Smashwords.com):
- Study the work of authors in the same field you want to write
Another suggestion I found useful is to give the manuscript to a friend-author and search her/his advice; this doesn’t mean that you have to follow what she/he says; only that you have to ponder the criticism thrown at you. Your friend may have found an error (thank and correct right away). In the case she/he wants to change your story, your plot or the reactions of your personas…be careful. You, the author, is the one in charge: it is your story!
- Submit your novel to competitions; the judges are quite competent and often offer free comments. I list some of the best: NIEA (National Indie Excellence Award), Global Ebook Awards, Five Star Dragonfly Book Awards
- Competent reviewing is also very useful: Midwest Book Review does it for free and has an excellent reputation.
Analysis of a bestseller
A few years ago I offered a successful seminar, called “Learn from the Masters” in which I analyze in graphics from, the essential components of bestsellers. An example is the anatomy of Rick Mofina’s “Six Seconds”: Several stories run in parallel, often interlacing.
Mountie Daniel Graham risks his job to solve a murder that hit close to home…the next blog offers a graphic representation of my analysis.
In fiction, we distinguish three essential blocks: the beginning, the major event and the ending. Of course, the start has to ignite the reader’s interest, so at times is referred to as the dynamite stick; its function, however must have a prolonged effect. Figuratively speaking, its conflagration had to leave some burning embers; you can resort to them if or when the story suffers a sudden stop. Example: did you use a killing as your dynamite stick? If yes, introduce an unwanted witness, somebody who should not be there but who, unexpectedly has lingered around the premises. He may come handy, later on…
In the middle, you should place the extraordinary event that leaves dramatic consequences.
The ending, naturally, should answer all the questions that you have raised at the beginning.
Here is what happens in Six Seconds in big blocks (I would not hint at the ending, of course)
The beginning consists of two major concurrent events (the dynamite sticks):
• A woman plots a sophisticated terrorist attack
• A mother spares no efforts to find his kidnapped nine-year-old son
The middle: The pope’s imminent visit.
Children of a school choir who have been chosen to sing for the pope; they will receive a rosary from the hands of the Holy Father. (Time: six seconds)
Due to personal reasons Mountie Daniel Graham doesn’t care much about his job and this allows him to challenge his superior’s orders beyond normal police procedures
Relevant fact: The US National Security Agency, with its advanced technology in signal intelligence keeps the skies under constant surveillance
Another relevant fact: Special fabric incorporating explosive and micro-receptors are woven and shaped into fancy clothing—thus constituting a potential, above-suspicion and hardly-detectable weapon that can be ignited from any point of the earth.
THE BIG CONFLICT: the explosive is ignited
The end is a kaleidoscope of actions that keeps the reader glued to his seat.
By analyzing closely a successful novel, one can appreciate (and maybe absorb) some of its structure and style.