Sunday, June 18, 2017

The ABCs of Book Writing: INTERMISSION

Blog series intermission till July
The series "The ABCs of Book Writing" is half done, with A to M completed last week. The series will resume in July as "Book Writing ABCs, with "N is for NEW." During this intermission period, go to for announcements and other posts on book writing and publishing.

For an overview of infographics and other visuals illustrating book writing from A to M, go to:

Pinterest Overview of A to M

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The ABCs of Book Writing: M is for MOMENTUM . . .

Infographic for Weekly Blog Series on Book Writing and Publishing
View larger image: Right click;
then left click "Open link in new
window." Zoom to 200% or
preferred size.

. . . and MOVING the story forward.

Every book needs sustained forward momentum. Like a radio or TV show that suddenly has dead air, a book in which momentum halts sends a clear signal: something is wrong.

Momentum in fiction and creative nonfiction

To hold the reader’s interest, all novels must create and maintain a sense of the plot going forward. In a thriller, this momentum is typically very fast. In other kinds of novels the pace may be slower, more like real life. But the forward momentum must be there nonetheless, or the reader feels no need to read on. Creative nonfiction must similarly establish and maintain momentum in order to attract and keep the reader's attention.

Sustaining momentum in fiction and creative nonfiction

For novels, novellas, and stories:

—Cultivate conflict and problems. Stories are propelled by the conflicts and problems that characters encounter and resolve. Remove all conflict and you have no plot; fail to sustain conflict and you get a plot that stops and starts. Instead, constantly thrust the character into scenes where the character must confront conflicts, take action, and solve problems—thus changing, growing, furthering the plot, and always moving the story forward.

—Keep explanatory description of settings, people's physical appearance, and emotions to a necessary minimum. Never lecture. Show, don't tell.

—Avoid long flashbacks. Integrate flashback information bit by bit into the main action of the story.

—Avoid detailed backstory. As with flashbacks, integrate the necessary background information into the main action.

For memoirs, biographies, popular histories, and true crime:

Use any or all of the strategies noted above to ensure that your readers stay engaged. Creative nonfiction typically employs many, if not all, of the narrative techniques of fiction. What I have said with respect to fiction writing therefore applies to your work of creative nonfiction. While you may be able to take greater liberties with description, flashbacks, and backstory than you would with fiction writing, the need to sustain forward momentum always remains.

Momentum in expository nonfiction

Expository nonfiction does not have a story in the same way as fiction or creative nonfiction. But books specifically designed to explain and instruct must still convey to the reader a sense of forward thrust, of constantly moving toward any or all of the following:

-conclusion of an argument
-solution to a problem
-benefit for the reader
-specific action the reader can take
-fresh insight
-new skill or knowledge

If the nonfiction book appears to lack such momentum and direction, readers will disengage in the same way that they would from a novel that grinds to a halt.

Sustaining momentum in expository nonfiction

For how-to, self-help, and motivational books; textbooks; and academic and technical works:

Remember the reader
Making a habit of putting reader understanding before a
display of your own knowledge will automatically help
sustain forward momentum.
—Stay focused on the book's ultimate objective. Avoid digressing.

—Be concise. Avoid lecturing.

—Be clear. Don't obfuscate by writing in circles around the subject.

—Remember the reader. Always prioritize reader understanding over showing off your own expertise or erudition.

Keep moving, keep readers

Forward momentum equals reader engagement
Daisy, the Helping You Get Published mascot, demonstrates
forward momentum and reader engagement.
All readers know the power of those books that compel us to keep turning the pages to find out what comes next. Momentum is the source of this power. Without sustained momentum, you not only lose writing power but you lose readers. Forward momentum is at the heart of reader engagement. Successful writing is that simple—and that challenging.

INTERMISSION: The ABCs of Book Writing will resume in October
with “N is for NEW.” Announcements at:

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The ABCs of Book Writing: L is for LECTURING . . .

Infographic for Weekly Blog Series on Book Writing and Publishing
View larger image: Right click;
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preferred size.
. . . and avoiding it—a LITTLE goes a LONG way.

What do you mean by lecturing when writing a book?

By lecturing, I mean dumping large quantities of dry facts or long-winded background information into your fiction or nonfiction with little regard for engaging the reader. The adverse effects of lecturing include:

- detracting from the interest of the main points or argument in nonfiction;
- halting the forward action of fiction; and, in all cases,
- boring or confusing the reader.

Is lecturing in a book ever OK?

Certainly—if you're a professor writing a guide called something like 25 Winning Lectures, then lecturing is not only OK, but a positive must. For most other kinds of books, instead of lapsing into lecture mode, try to find briefer and more readable ways to convey information.

Avoiding lecturing in nonfiction writing

In the writing of both creative and expository nonfiction, there are times when explanations or background information are necessary in order for the reader to understand what is going on. It is up to you as the author to ensure that your readers are suitably oriented and informed. But lecturing is by no means the only or most engaging way to do your job.

Tips for conveying information in nonfiction

—Be concise.

—Moderate your tone; don't harangue.

—Focus on the main points; don't digress.

—Don't quote at length from other books. This is boring and may violate fair use guidelines.

—Convey information through anecdotes, colorful examples, vignettes, or even recalled or imagined conversation.

—Keep paragraphs short: five or six sentences on average, interspersed with one- or two-sentence paragraphs for variety and emphasis.

—Where appropriate, introduce numbered or bulleted points.

—Use subheadings to break up lengthy topics into readable sections.

 Avoiding lecturing in fiction writing

Effective fiction is all about story and character. A novel or shorter fiction should never be a platform for the author to show off his or her erudition, voice opinions, or dish out copious amounts of explanations and background—however relevant such information might seem. Similarly, do not let your characters lecture either—whether they're expressing your views or their own.

Tips for writing fiction without lecturing the reader

—Do not overuse the omniscient author point of view—in other words, do not intrude yourself into the story. Develop strong character viewpoints and stay with them.

—Write character dialogue, not monologue.

—Keep all dialogue speech brief; do not let characters ramble on for two or more paragraphs.

—If conveying a lot of information through dialogue is necessary, then break up each speech into short, digestible chunks. Use "beats"—gestures, facial expressions, or short passages of action—to make the dialogue seem natural and to keep the story going forward.

—Resist the urge to explain. Let necessary information come out bit by bit as the story moves forward; reveal what the reader needs to know through the characters' actions and understanding.

The need to explain in fiction and nonfiction

Shakespeare on conciseness in writing
Shakespeare was to the point on brevity: watch
the video below . . .

There is a difference between the need to explain and the urge. More often than not, you may feel the latter, because explaining is less creatively taxing than devising more engaging ways to get your point across. In certain instances, however, a no-frills explanation may be the only option. This is the need to explain.

In both fiction and nonfiction, the need to explain something does not call for a full-blown lecture. Use your own feelings as a barometer. If you're boring yourself as you write, then the odds are that you're lecturing—and boring the reader too. Explain what and when you must, but never fail to practice lecture avoidance:

Be clear about the point you need to make. Get straight to it. Be brief.

Coming next week . . . "M is for MOMENTUM"