Robert Pimm

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Writing fiction: 7 ways to deal with rejection

You click open your e-mails.  Your heart leaps.

The agent to whom you sent your cherished work in progress has replied to your pitch letter.

Could it be that she liked your work?  With trepidation, you click on the e-mail.

She has rejected you.

Many authors long to see their book in a bookshop

What should you do next?

Here is my seven-stage plan for dealing with rejection.

First up, I know a lot about rejection.  Every writer does.  Stephen King had a lot of rejections.  So did J K Rowling.  How do they – and I – stay motivated when things are looking bleak?  Here is my seven stage plan. (more…)

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Robert Pimm reads “Seven Hotel Stories” at Cafe Korb

I recently did a reading from my book Seven Hotel Stories at Cafe Korb in Vienna.

It was a wonderful evening. The hosts were the fine Vienna Storytelling Collective: you can read about the event at their Facebook site.  If you are interested in writing, reading, or listening to new talent and live in Vienna, I encourage you to join them.

I started off talking about this blog (NB for some reason the videos are previewed sideways before you click on them; but they appear the right way up when you click “play”).

The free Hotel Story to which I refer in the video, “The Two Rooms”, is here (links in bold italics are to other posts on this blog). (more…)

How to write a novel: plan in advance, or not?

What is the best way to write a novel?  Let’s explore two common methods.  I’ve tried both.  Each can work well: which is best for you will depend on how you write and what you are writing.

Before we look at that, let me cite the US fantasy author Stephen R Donaldson, who was once asked by an admirer how to achieve success in writing.  “Start today,” Donaldson said.

Donaldson’s advice is great.  If you want to start writing fiction, don’t wait until the conditions are perfect and all the stars are aligned (“I’m waiting until the kids grow up”; “I have to get some new writing software”; “I’m too busy right now”).  Set aside some time tonight, this afternoon or even this morning; get out a pen and paper;  and start writing.

How do you begin?

How to begin?  There are different ways of writing a novel

The first method is taught in writing courses and top universities across the world.  You should plan your story around a standard structure.  This structure is set out in a thousand primers – try googling “narrative structure” or “three act structure”.

This plan goes back to the ancient Greeks.  That’s no bad thing: it has stood the test of time.  In brief:

  • the first part (or “act”) of your story introduces your main characters and describes their situation, usually including a problem or conflict;
  • the second part involves an “inciting act” (eg: a letter in the post; discovery of a body; a glance across a crowded room) leading to, or highlighting, a conflict or problem.  This then escalates, perhaps via a series of mini-crises, to become a crisis;
  • the third part sees the main character or characters developing and changing (“digging deeper than ever before”) to a climax where they overcome the crisis, often preceded by a section where it seems that “all is lost”.  This leads on to the end of the story, with the main character in a new equilibrium.

(more…)

How to write a novel: edit as you go along, or not? (“How to edit your novel, part 1”)

I once visited a wonderful friend who was a successful writer (DF – it was you!).

At the time, I was struggling to complete my first novel.

When she suggested we go for brunch at her local cafe to read the New York Times and the Washington Post, I was delighted.  As I waited to go out, I glanced at her writing desk, filled with admiration for her hard work and achievement.

On the desk was a book about writing technique.  Intrigued that she, a well-known author, should need such advice, I leafed through it.  A sentence leapt out at me.

You can see the results of all this in my Berlin thriller Blood Summit

“Don’t keep writing and re-writing the same chapter or the opening to your book,” the guide said.  “Doing that risks preventing you from completing the task.  You must keep moving forward.”

At that point my friend was ready and we went out for a terrific brunch in Alexandria.

But I never forgot that sentence.  I have found it invaluable in helping me to complete many novels.

“Wait!” I hear you cry.  “Surely I shouldn’t write (more…)

How to write gripping fiction: scenes, sequels and cliff-hangers

An experienced commissioning editor told me recently that one of two main reasons she rejected manuscripts was “no story”.  The other was “overwritten” – I’ll write about that another day.

How can you make sure your fiction has a strong story, that people will want to read?

To put it another way, how can you make sure your fiction has bite?

I recommend a simple technique, developed by an American writer, Dwight V Swain, using two elements called scenes and sequels.  Each is divided into two sub-elements.

‘How the hell do I apply these techniques to my writing?’

Swain said that to have a cracking good story you should start with a scene in which someone is trying to achieve a goal.  The sub-elements are:

(i) goalthe character is trying to achieve something;

(ii) conflictsomething prevents the character achieving that goal;

(iii) disasterthe quest to achieve the goal ends in catastrophe. (more…)

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