I don’t know you, but I have recently been attending many webinars, on different topics. Recently (22nd October) I attended a free webinar organised by Jane Friedman that had Jerry Jenkins (21 times New York Times best selling author) as guest, on the Secrets of Storytelling.
I’ve read, listened to, and attended courses, lectures and seminars, on writing. And like all advice, some will resonate more with some people than others. Although the seminar seemed geared towards people who were trying to find their confidence writing (if there ever comes such a time) rather than seasoned scribblers, I enjoyed the personal wisdom and Jerry’s style of delivery, and I thought I’d try and bring you some nuggets from it, especially as I know that quite a few people are going for NaNoWriMo. I decided to try and make it less boring with images, but we shall see if it works…
Although most are self-explanatory, I thought I’d give a few pointers on some.
- Jerry Jenkins said that formulas don’t really work, as they make the story seem… well, formulaic, I guess. He referred to Dean Koontz How to Write Best Selling Fiction when talking about the classic structure. His brief summary was: Plunge your character into a terrible situation; everything he tries to do makes the situation worse; things look hopeless, and hero saves the day (by doing what he’s learned on the way).
- In reference to his previous point, he said that although you have to put your characters in extreme situations, it’s best not to start the novel at that point, because it’s better to build up the character so that the reader gets to care for him or her (or them).
- I think it’s self-explanatory. Don’t hit the readers in the head with a hammer, although for him, there’s always a message, otherwise there’s no novel.
- There isn’t always romance in all novels (or movies, it might depend on genre) but it’s very common. He gave many examples of not very original ways of introducing the love interest (although referring to movies, characters bumping into each other, blind date…), but it all depends on how it’s done.
- His advice, that I’ve seen in many places, is that it’s best to get the story down once you get writing, and not try to edit at the same time. He said that he’d edit first thing the next day what he’d written the previous day. In the case of NaNoWriMo, unless your brain goes completely blank and can’t remember what you’ve written, it’s probably best to keep going…
- Nothing to add (unless it’s a peculiarity of a character).
- I couldn’t find a colour that would show well, so I’m transcribing: Writers are readers. Read in your genre, but also read about the craft of writing. He mentioned quite a few of his favourite books, but the world (or the library) is your oyster.
- In discussing point of view of the character he reminded the audience that it’s like the camera we see the action through. He mentioned the most common (first person narrated in past tense, or third person limited), and noted that perhaps for somebody starting to write, first person might be easier. He talked about his own experience of struggling with one of his stories and how he heard a particular character talking in the first person in his head, and that was it.
- This is a very personal take on the matter, but he observed that sometimes other characters in the story might take over and run with it.
- He didn’t seem to be a big lover of flashbacks explaining the background story, as he felt they slowed down the action. In real life we get to know people gradually.
- This one sounds a bit zen, but he referred to himself as a pantser, and said that sometimes you might get to a certain ending through writing the story, and that’s a perfect way to make sure that it’s surprising to the reader, because it’s a surprise to you too.
- If you’re worried, you’re on the right track. He referred to this as the ‘Exponential multiplication of emotions’ equation. If you feel sad at some point in your story, the reader will feel the same but magnified. And if you feel bored… well, you get the gist.
- You’re not alone. His message was that if you get stuck, there are many places where you can get help, be it virtual or real writers’ groups (his comments were invaluable but…), coaches, books, other writers…
You can check Jerry Jenkins’s page here
He offers courses, including one he was promoting, later in October, but you can check his page and that of Jane for more information if you’re an interested (I have no connection with them other than attending the webinar, that was free).
Thanks to Jane Friedman and Jerry Jenkins for the the webinar and thanks to you all for reading. Do take care, and good writing.
Olga Núñez Miret