Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

beginnings July 23, 2012

Filed under: Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 3:15 pm
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I met with my editor last weekend.  She was feeling a little grumpy.  There are so many new characters, both mythic and modern, in Grace Awakening Myth, she was trying to find something to grab at the beginning of the story to put them into context of Dreams, and she hadn’t.  She offered some suggestions.  Essentially, I needed to go back and start the book a little earlier than it does in the parallel story (Grace Awakening Dreams). I came home and wrote the prescribed scenes thinking ‘I need to more clearly establish the main conflict’ for the reader and ‘I need to grab the reader right away.’

I wrote a couple scenes and sent them off to her, wondering if I needed something with more action at the very start, and pondering how I was going to put it in there.  I hadn’t come to a decision yet.

What I call the “James Bond Method” of starting a work, is the leap into the action, immediately.  It’s common way to start action films or spy novels.  Sometimes this is an intense prologue of a scene that will be explained at the end of the book.  I had in mind that I had to somehow make that fit the beginning of Grace Awakening Myth, but I couldn’t figure out how I was going to make it work.

This morning I was reading through Tweets by agent Victoria Marini and she had posted a link to a blog by agent Kristin Nelson on this very issue.  Nelson argues that while the beginning has to grab the reader, it doesn’t have to be by ACTION, though the scene must still be ACTIVE.  Good stuff here, including clear examples.  The ‘active’ one seems definitely superior.    Check it out action vs active here.

Whew.  I’m on the right track, after all. 🙂


3 levels of story: Donald Maass workshop June 7, 2012

I am beyond excited to be going to Surrey International Writers’ Conference next fall (in 133 days!).   I attended SIWC in 2009 after I’d written Grace Awakening, and successfully pitched it there.  I was a walk in registration on the Saturday that year.  This year,  I registered and paid on the first day I could for the full conference.  As a result, I have appointments with agent Victoria Marini and with Diana Gabaldon!  I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.

In the midst of my excitement, I’m feeling the pressure to be finishing up book 3, Grace Awakening Myth, and getting back to work on Grace Beguiling.  Beguiling is the book I was in France to research in 2011, and it has already had some help from Diana Gabaldon, as she responded to some historical questions about Roman Catholic practice that I’d posted on the Compuserve Writers’ Forum.   I was poking around the Forum today, looking for some interesting conversations and tips, and I came across links to this blog post that is the notes that L. S. Taylor  took at SIWC in a masters’ class by agent Donald Maass in 2011.    Maass handles some serious talent, and I’ve heard him speak before.  This workshop is so full of fantastic stuff that I thought I’d direct you to the link.   I’m going to be chewing on this for a while.  Taylor records, “Fiction that keeps us enthralled works on three different levels at once: the macroplot, the scene structure, and the line-by-line tension. A throbbing beat that keeps us dancing/reading, enthralled.”

Click here to read Taylor’s notes from Maass’s Master Class: Impossible to Put Down: Mastering the Three Levels of Story.  Thanks Laura for taking these great notes and posting them on your blog for us all!


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