March 30, 2012

Formatting Your Manuscript

As you are typing the beginning of your book, there is one thing you can do to save you time later—start formatting your manuscript for submission. Knowing how to format a manuscript in the beginning will prevent you from having to go back after finishing your book to format each page one-by-one. It’s not that difficult as long as you do it right.

Follow these simple instructions:

* Use a 12-point font. Whether you use Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier New is your judgment call.

* Double-space        
* 1-inch margins

* Indent paragraphs using tab (not an extra line spacing). I like to use .3 for my tabs

* Create a header for the top of each page. Word lets you insert a header that’ll appear automatically on each page and even allows you to insert page numbers. The header should look like this:

Last Name/TITLE/Manuscript                                                Page 1
* When starting a new chapter go about a handful of spaces down the page from the header (3-5 is a good number). This is where you type in all caps:


* After you write the chapter number, go down about 5 line-spaces, indent using tab, and start writing the first paragraph.

* At the end of the manuscript, go a few lines spaces under the last sentence (or half-way between the last line and the bottom of the page) and type in all caps:

                                                   THE END     

March 23, 2012

Writing Chapter One

The mountain of crumpled paper is gone, and gone with it is the fog that had enveloped your brain. The first sentence of your story is shooting fireworks off the page, and excitement is bubbling up inside you as you write the rest of the first paragraph. Your fingers are vigorously tapping the keys on your computer while words practically tumble from your ears.

Good! Because just as important as the first sentence is the content that follows it to create the first chapter.

Don’t skimp on the first chapter if you wrote a prologue. The first chapter is still critical even if content came before it. You don’t want your readers to be fascinated by your prologue but completely bored with Chapter One.

Personally, I absolutely deplore a book that doesn’t cut to the chase and start telling an interesting story right from the first few pages. I like books that are exciting from the first sentence, the first page, the first chapter, and doesn’t let up for a single second.

The worst thing that can happen is for a reader to pick up your book only to it put it down after reading a few pages. Therefore, you must create pages that sparkle to follow that masterpiece of a first sentence.

All of the writing that you do for your book should always be your best, but the first chapter (and prologue) has to be even better in order for you to draw your readers in.

Now what are you waiting for? START WRITING!

QUESTION: Do you like fast-paced books or books that are slower-paced?

March 16, 2012

To Prologue Or Not To Prologue?

A prologue is an event or action that leads to the beginning of a story. For instance, our mothers giving birth to us are the prologues to our lives; it is what happened before we were born and our actual stories begin. 

From the previous blog (The Very First Sentence), the paragraph I wrote about the five-year-old-girl committing murder could easily be a prologue, and chapter one could be set twenty years in the future when her childhood crime catches up to her. Wouldn’t she be an interesting character to follow and get to know?

Whether you write a prologue or not depends on your story. They are not necessary unless you need it to build the story and provide important background information, and some agents dislike them.

An event that happens in the past, for example, can be a made into a prologue. What you don't want to do with a prologue is dump a truckload-worth of information on the readers head. Only provide the information that is pivotal for them to know before you begin the story. Otherwise, try to pepper the background information about the protagonist throughout the first few chapters. Also, a prologue shouldn't be long. About 2-5 pages makes a good prologue.

Now, if you believe your story needs a prologue, then what are you waiting for? They are fun to write. But don’t forget to make that first sentence shine!

QUESTION: Do you like books with prologues?

I do because they always bring something extra to the story.

March 09, 2012

The Very First Sentence

She didn’t think twice when she plunged the knife into his chest. The blade sliced through his heart, and he fell to the ground with a thud. She was cemented to the spot, panting for breath that her fear kept stealing from her lungs. 
When he didn’t move, she realized he was dead, and she wiped the bloody knife on the skirt of her pale blue dress, staining it red. Her tiny hands shook as she hid the knife beneath a loose floorboard. Then she stood over him and felt relief flood through her three-foot-tall body. 
Surely, no one would convict a five-year-old girl of murder...
I will let your mind run wild as you try to figure out whom the little girl killed and why. The main purpose of this teaser is to demonstrate how the first sentence is the most important sentence in a story.

The first sentence is the hook. It has to grab the reader by the throat, brain and sometimes even the heart, and threaten to never let go.

You don’t want to start a story with: "It was a dark and stormy night." (Sorry, Snoopy.)

Instead, you want to start a story with: Fierce wind pitched shards of hail into the windows as a diminishing flash of lightning cast the entire house into total darkness. (Of course, this may not be your style, but I hope you see the difference.)

The moment you finish brainstorming the plot of your novel (or even if you just have the beginning) grab your determination, because you are ready to write! 

Whatever your story is about, and however it begins, make the first sentence engaging. It doesn’t even need to be long. It could consist of just a few words like, “She is dead,” and be equally amazing.

The first sentence of Hurricane Crimes is: She was going to die.

QUESTION: How would you re-write (in one sentence): “It was a dark and stormy night."

March 02, 2012

Don't Give Up!

Are you having trouble figuring out the plot for your story? The good thing about writing your own book is that you can always add or take out events as you write. If you are clueless as to what should happen, just start writing and go with it.

Writing a book is not easy, but don’t let that stop you! I didn’t let it stop me.

I started writing when I was twelve, after I found that rusty screw, but four years and three books later, I stopped writing completely. Did I lose my writing mojo?

Obviously not, but I did lose interest in writing that old series because I had started it as a child and I wanted the series to reflect my adult mind. Therefore, I started the long, grueling task of rewriting my entire series. Was I crazy? Possibly, but I was also determined.

It was a difficult project because I was not working on a new book with a new story line. I was reconstructing an old book and improving an old story line. For months, I got and rejected many ideas. I started several new beginnings only to toss them out. Finally, one fabulous day, an idea came to me that I loved. I wrote and wrote, but when I reached the middle of the book, I suddenly ran headlong into writer’s block.

Weeks went by and I struggled to write. Then a miracle happened. I stumbled upon a rock band, bought their CD, and listened to it repeatedly. Inspired, I finished my book in just two weeks. However, that was not the end of my struggle. Far from it.

After months passed, I suddenly wasn’t happy with my book anymore, so I read my manuscript and revised it. I repeated this process many times, even after I finished the second book, and while I was writing the third. I rewrote the entire beginning more times that I can remember because I kept wanting to make it better and better. In the end, I rewrote the first chapter, changing it so much that it became the prologue. Which is now different and Chapter One again.

Another issue I kept coming to was that I felt like everything happened too quickly in my book. Yes, I write suspenseful stories, but it bothered me. So, I paused working on my third book to revisit the first (yet again), and I revised it again for the umpteenth time, but more importantly, I wrote filling material to go in-between the action to make the story flow better and let readers catch their breath.     

So yes, writing a book can be difficult, but don’t panic! Even if you get stuck or can’t seem to create content that you find worthy enough for your precious story, keep working on it and you’ll end up with something you're happy with.

QUESTION: Who inspires you (not just in writing but in life too)?

The CD that I bought, which inspired me to complete the second half of my book in just two weeks was A Beautiful Lie by 30 Seconds To Mars.