Original Last Firewall cover.
Cover for The Last Firewall

It’s a very exciting time in the lifecycle of a book.

Here’s a quick peek at the cover for The Last Firewall. We may make a few tweaks, but that’s the general layout.

We’re still targeting a mid-August release. I’m working with my designer, the wonderful Maureen Gately, on the interior pages right now.

I’ll soon start generating the ebook versions for Kindle, Kobo, and other ereaders.

In a few spare moments here and there, I’m reading Ramez Naam’s upcoming Crux, which is great, and will be out on August 27th. I’ll have a full review next month. It’s a sequel to his first novel, Nexus. If you haven’t read Nexus, go get a copy now.

I’m also getting ready to speak at Willamette Writers Convention on August 1st. If you’re attending, check out my session on Friday from 1:30 to 3pm (PDF of schedule).

I was lucky enough to see Melissa Hart speak at Willamette Writers‘s monthly meeting. Here are my notes from the meeting. (Melissa’s a fast speaker, so my notes are spotty, but still worthwhile.) I felt like I learned a ton of useful information even though I currently write fiction.

Melissa Hart
Writing Memoirs
  • “I got started at age 16 writing bad cat poetry. Would you like to hear some?”
  • The Assault of Laughter
  • Gringa
    • In 1979, my mother came out as a lesbian, and (as was common at the time) lost custody of her children as a result.
  • Short memoir in magazines: love this genre.
  • Contrary to what lots of people are saying, memoir is not dying: People want to read about other people’s lives. 
  • Ariel Gore: “A memoir is to journalistic autobiography as a movie based on real-life events is to a documentary”.
  • Memoir has narrative arc: rising action, climax, falling actions.
  • Form: Essay, social or political commentary, slice of life vignettes (look up Orion magazine Brian Doyle: amazing page long memoir that will knock your socks off).
  • It must teach us something. Offer the reader a gift. Examples:
    • 21st century foraging: giving us adventure tales of learning to eat what is outside our house.
    • another way the river has: the gift of traveling down the columbia river in a handmade boat.
    • growing up rich
    • growing up in poverty
    • relationship to candy
  • “90% of the submissions he receives are too personal. it’s too bad your grandmother died, but what are you going to tell the thousands of readers who grandmother’s die every day?” you need to teach the reader something.
  • you must tell readers how to think about a given subject. 
  • a.j. jacobs: immersion journalism. 
    • “my year of living bibically.”
      • his year of living literally as close as possible to the bible
  • natalie goldberg: wrote: old friend from far away.
    • memoir doesn’t have to be a “one time” thing. you can write about your relationship to coffee, or to the men in your life.
  • you don’t have to be old to write a memoir. you have what you need by the time you’re 12.
  • example:
    • candy freak
    • one man’s owl: biologist writes about an owl he adopted that 
  • exercises to do:
    • what’s one thing that makes you unique: (my teen years were something like Lindsay Weir: a mix of math team and stoners.)
    • what’s one thing about which you are passionate about: (freedom to pursue my dreams.) 
  • a glut of memoir right now about: cancer, alzhemiers, moms dying.
  • surprise is what grabs an editor. fill your writing with surprise, whether it is long, short, or just the query letter. 
  • memoir must start in the midst of conflict. you can always flashback. or you can ignore the past.
    • first page, first paragraph, first sentence
  • setting: you must tell us about the session, the tree that fell on the roof, the dust on the wall.
  • the cure for depression: immerse yourself in the sensory details of the present moment: what do I see, what do I smell, what do I feel, what do I hear?
  • this must be in your writing. 
    • make a table with five columns, one for each sense, and one row for each chapter.
    • make sure that each chapter engages every sense of the reader.
  • fun, fun, fun: you must have characters and dialogue.
    • don’t make people up.
    • but you create the people: your mom, your dog, your friend.
    • what are these people like? what is their body language like? what is their way of speaking? what do they do when they get nervous? how do they dress? (this stuff all engages the reader, and it’s fun.)
    • “what my hair style means to me.”
  • dialogue
    • no one wants to read 300 pages of narration.
    • but you can’t remember what your uncle said 40 years ago before he went to vietnam.
    • you have to have dialogue.
    • the dialogue has to be true to the person, as much as possible.
    • dialogue reveals character. and it’s important for moments of revelation.
  • surprise
    • do the following exercise: what’s one surprising thing about your life: (I blew up a car.)
  • give us scenes / anecdotes.
    • give us scenes with character, dialogues, and setting.
    • but it can’t just be scene after scene: then you might as well write fiction.
    • the reflection is what makes it a memoir.
    • and we need theme
      • the theme is usually:
        • my family is crazy and i survived
        • my dog is crazy and i survived
        • sickness is crazy and i survived
      • the theme must be throughout the work
  • simile and metaphor is OK
  • but hyperbole: a little is OK if you are writing humor.
  • there should be narrative arc on every page, in every chapter, and for the book as a whole.
  • writing process
    • free writing
    • shitty first draft (annie lamott)
    • make yourself uncomfortable: wear a too tight dress, and write until your piece is done, being desperate to take it off.
  • after you’ve finished your rough draft, ask yourself:
    • what’s at stake for my narrator and other characters?
    • where is the victim in my work and how can i delete?
      • (no one wants to read about victims. we want to read about empowered people.)
  • how do you get published?
    • for short length: look for submission guidelines. read them. they are what the publisher likes. and exactly how they want you to submit (hardcopy, electronic, etc.)
    • for book length: pitch at writing conference. it could be portland, or you could go anywhere in the world.
    • sha.com: 
    • most editors and agents want to see the full manuscript.
    • look for interview on website about self-publishing
  • questions
    • what are the legal ramifications about writing about living people?
      • they should not be able to be identified. change names, regional information, etc.
      • volunteered from audience “give the character a small penis” – they’ll never own up to it.
    • but won’t your parents be identified?
      • your parents will certainly know. but you don’t want to hate on them, even if estranged. i legally changed my last name so that my father couldn’t be identified.
    • but what about vernacular?
      • use a particular syntax up front a few times to establish them, and then let it go.
      • a choice word here and there.
      • a few sentences up front, and then let it go. otherwise you exhaust readers.

Willamette Writers 
January 3rd, 2012 Meeting

Christina Katz
author of The Writer’s Workout: 366 Tips, Task & Techniques From Your Writing Career Coach
Five Flabby Habits to Lose & Five Healthy Habits to Keep
  • Pitched at the Willamette Writers Conference. Stood up in front of 50 people. The editor from writer’s digest was there. Gave her pitch. Now has three published books. Big advocate for WWCon.
  • There’s never been a better time to be a writer.
  • In the past, things were much more divided. There was something of a gap. As a self-published author, it was difficult and not fun to feel that gap. Conversely, to land the traditional publishing gigs, authors had to work overtime and keep working overtime to land those gigs.
  • Now, things have turned. Every author is a publisher to some extent. And every writer will have a range of publications from traditional publishing to self-published and in between.
  • The longer you work in a niche, the better you are going to get. The more you will know, the better you understand your readers, and the better the connections you will make. 
  • I would like to see more writers thinking about writing as a lifetime pursuit. Than you can build up traction, and successes start to pile up, even if they are small successes. People start to recognize your name.
  • The Writer’s Workout is about finding your momentum. Not anyone else’s. It’s not about imitating anyone else. It’s about finding your unique style, voice, and projects, and allowing yourself time to go for excellence.
  • Excellence takes time – it doesn’t happen overnight.
  • Five Flabby Habits to Lose
    • Is there were 7 deadly sins for writers, these would be them.
    • The talent to be your own publisher is everywhere. There’s copyeditors and proofreaders and cover designers.
    • Why wouldn’t we be publishers, when it’s wide open right now?
    • You can be self-published and traditionally published at the same time
  • #1: Negative Thinking
    • Like colored lenses that makes everything darker than it really is
    • When it interferes with your optimism, then it blocks you from taking any steps.
    • You can debate all day: but what about X? What about Y? But then you never do anything.
    • Maybe you can write a 50 page ebook and get it out there.
    • It might only make you $50/month. But if it makes $50/month every month for the rest of your life, then you can write more ebooks.
  • #2: Perfectionism
    • If you’re only going to do it if you know it will be perfect, and if it isn’t going to be perfect, then you aren’t going to do it – then you’ve killed it before you started.
    • Excellence is not perfection.
    • Excellence allows mistakes. It’s a process. It’s a first draft followed by a second draft followed by writing feedback followed by more work and more research.
    • Excellence invites mistakes and messiness as part of a process.
    • Perfection does not allow mistakes as part of the process.
    • “I’m going to write a crummy ebook until it’s not crummy anymore.”
    • Perfectionism doesn’t allow you to be present in the process because it’s too focused on the outcome. 
  • #3: Ego
    • When our self-esteem isn’t the highest; maybe because we have high self-esteem elsewhere in our life, and we don’t yet have it in writing. 
    • We want to hear “That’s an amazing sentence.”
    • We want to hear people say good things about it.
    • Those first compliments give you a contact high.
    • But as you go along, you eventually realize that it isn’t someone giving you back superlatives, but someone really getting what you wrote… Giving back the intention behind the work.
    • It’s everything to be able to connect with your audience. 
  • #4: Victimization
    • What’s so great about these times is that we’re leaving the “I’m a victim because no publisher wants me”. 
    • Now everyone makes their own success.
    • This is really how it has always been: publishers have always make their own success, and self-published authors have made their own success. 
    • All authors have always championed their own cause, their own career.
    • Am I a victim or am I the champion of my own career?
  • #5: Envy
    • It’s easy to fall into the belief that someone else has everything locked up. No one person can own an entire genre of writing.
    • Every single writer, even very successful writers, are simply hard working people who are working to build success every day. 
    • You build your own success.
    • Envy is representative of your own inability to execute.
  • #6: Distraction
    • Distraction is a big reason she wrote The Writer’s Workout.
    • You can now spend all day online.
    • Instead of going out there, you want to go inside yourself.
    • If you are going inside yourself, and writing every day, and saying the things you really want to say, then excellence will come, and you will not get distracted. In fact, you’ll be annoyed if you have to go online because you’d rather be writing.
    • So the solution is to go deeper inside yourself.
    • Research has shown that spending more time on the Internet makes your thinking shallower. If you want to get deep thoughts, big things, then you have to go deeper inside yourself
  • #7: Starving Artist
    • The focus on the lack: that writing is a path to poverty. 
    • That everything else is the path to money.
    • This will block you from investing in writing.
    • It’s like hearing your grandmother say “you’re doing what with your time?”
    • The focus must be on inner wealth.
    • That we have things of value inside of us.
    • That we write to share that value.
    • Then people pay us to get that value.
    • You can’t have external wealth unless you have internal wealth.
    • Unless you believe you have some of value to offer, then how will you make money?
    • It takes a lot of effort to keep my daughter’s creative spirit alive. Because there is a lot of pressure for kid’s to grow up. We work hard to keep her imagination games alive, to keep her creating.
    • We have to do that for ourselves: we have to honor our creative spirits and nurture them. 
  • There has never been a better time to be a writer
    • The stigma of self-publishing is finally gone. If not now, then certainly by the end of the year.
  • Discussion (This was both people from the audience speaking as well as Christina Katz)
    • Learn what you can do yourself and what you can’t. I can do an ebook cover, I can’t do a print cover.
    • Know your audience. 
    • When writing fiction, your audience is more nebulous. The best sales technique for fiction is to publish more fiction. Because when people buy one thing you’ve written, then they’ll buy more.
    • The more books an author has, the more sales.
    • When/how much do you write?
      • It’s cyclical.
      • I love the period from 4am to 8am. Everything is quiet. Even the pets aren’t moving.
      • I work full-time on my writing, and it’s more than full-time when I’m writing a book. 

I attended my first writers conference this past weekend: the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon.

The conference included workshops on the craft of writing, as well as all aspects of a writers career, from using social media and building an online audience to the art of pitching to agents to the pros and cons of self-publishing.

In addition, a major component of the conference is the ability to pitch directly to agents, either one-on-one (10 minute sessions), group sessions (approximately 2 minutes per person), or ad-hoc in hallways or over lunch.

Prior to the conference, I attended a six hour workshop by Leona Grieve on preparing to pitch to agents. This was invaluable, not only because I learned about numerous mistakes I was making on my query letter, but also because it introduced the concept of the log line, a one sentence summary of your concept.

Here’s an example of my log line:

What if a man, desperate to keep his work project from being cancelled, modified the world’s largest email service to automatically and secretly alter people’s emails to ensure the success of the project, only to find that the software’s manipulations continually escalate?

This isn’t a perfect example, as the ideal log line would be less than 25 words, but it’s a start. Many log lines will start with a “what if” but they should also include a “so what”. My first attempts at a log line didn’t include the “only to find that the software’s manipulations continually escalate”. Some intermediate versions cast the “so what” in terms of the impact to the main character.

I also learned that agents like to have a two to three sentence summary of your book in addition to the log line. In addition, you must make sure to mention the title of the book, genre, length (in words), your name, and your credentials.

All this can seem overwhelming, and I spent weeks whittling down what I had to fit the expectations of agents and editors.

I didn’t really understand start to understand the point of it all until the workshop. Agents and editors expect to see something in a particular format with particular content. With anywhere from 25 to 150 queries a day to process, anything outside of the boundaries of their expectations is simply rejected or disregarded. In many ways, this is similar to what happens to resumes: when looking at 50 to 100 resumes for a position, the easy ones to eliminate are the ones with funny formatting or a lack of the expected content in the resume, or the ones without a cover letter.

At the conference I attended a workshop on pitching that included literary agent Laurie McLean, who completed my understanding. Laurie explained that authors pitch to agents, but agents must then turn around and pitch to editors. Editors turn around and pitch to booksellers. Booksellers pitch to readers, who must buy the book. Unless a book has a succinct and compelling description that will ultimately become backcover copy, none of those steps can happen. An agent needs to be able to phone a editor and figure out in a minute if the idea is good. The publisher has to, with only a few words, convey the story and conflict and would it would be interesting to the reader, who will make a purchase decision based on those few words.

Once I really understood how valuable the pitch is all through the lifecycle of a book, some of my internal resistance to creating a pitch evaporated, and I was able to focus on creating an effective one. Once I had it, I practiced over and over, so that I would feel comfortable delivering it.

My completed pitch is 192 words, and it takes me about 1 minute and 15 seconds to deliver at a comfortable pace. Here’s the whole thing:

My book, Avogadro Corp is a 67,000 word techno-thriller. 

What if a man, desperate to keep his work project from being cancelled, modified the world’s largest email service to automatically and secretly alter emails to ensure the success of his project only to find that the software’s manipulations continually increase? 

David Ryan is the designer of ELOPe, an email language optimization tool, that if successful, will make his career. But when the project may be cancelled, David embeds a directive in the software to filter the company emails for any mention of the project, creating a sense of self-preservation. 

David and his coworkers are thrilled at first when the project is allocated extra servers and programmers. But his initial excitement turns to fear as David realizes that he too is being manipulated. 

David and his team, and soon the whole company, take ever escalating action to contain ELOPe, including bombing their own data centers, only to find that ELOPE is always one step ahead of them. 

Avogadro Corp was inspired by my work on expert systems and social media at Hewlett-Packard, as well as personal experiences with computer hackers.

It’s still not perfect. In particular, I don’t at all capture how ELOPe plays into world politics, or the subplot of how David and Mike’s friendship is strained by differing opinions about how to deal with the project in the beginning, and in how to deal with the AI near the end.

But it’s shorter and smoother than the 240 word that took me two minutes to deliver, and much shorter than the 350 word body of my query letters that failed to include a log line.

I scheduled two agent group sessions. Unfortunately, there were only three agents interested in science fiction or techno thrillers, and one of them was already booked by the time I registered. I showed up for my first group session both excited and nervous. The agent introduced herself, and then said something along the lines of, “To alleviate some of the pressure and nervousness, I’ll be inviting all of you to send me a query.”

It’s true that it does help if you are nervous, which I was, and it does feel good to get to send your material to the agent. But I can’t help feeling that I would want the agent to be slightly more discriminatory, because I’d like to know that if I am invited to submit that I’d have a better chance than if I had just emailed her agent out of the blue.

Later in the day I went to my second group session, and this agent also again invited everyone at the table to send material to her.

From the agents’ perspective, I think they might say that they can really only make a decision based on the writing itself, rather than a pitch.

In the end, I feel that all the preparation that went into getting ready to pitch at the conference was extremely valuable. I’m not sure yet whether the actual pitching at the conference improves a writer’s chances of success, at least in the format of a group session where there is little time for discussion of the work.

How To Build An Online Audience
Elgé Premeau
Willamette Writers Conference, WWCON11
  • Many source materials located here: http://www.emarketingstrategist.com/WW2011/BOA/
  • The days of “build it and they will come” are over on the internet, even if it ever existed.
  • It’s easy to build an audience when you have one, not so easy when you don’t.
  • Get smart
    • Know who you want to meet.
    • Know where to find them.
    • Know why they should help you.
  • Assumptions & Mindset
    • You have a website/blog or are working on one.
    • You will need to create content
    • You are willing to contact people you don’t know.
      • People like the idea of internet marketing because they want to hide out on their couch and avoid people. But in the beginning especially, you really need to reach out to people on an individual basis.
    • You will dedicate time on a weekly basis to do this. You don’t work out once and get rock-hard abs.
  • Online audience: A group of people who look forward to consuming the media you produce.
    • media is any information that gives them what they want.
    • it always comes back to the written word.
  • Your publisher is going to expect you to at least be a partner in marketing and promoting your book. Agents too look for people with an online audience.
  • When you don’t have an audience, you are essentially talking to yourself or half a dozen of your closest friends.
  • Dialogue is the key to building an online audience.
    • You can do this without ever using Facebook or Twitter.
  • How to do it
    • Step 1: Clearly define who you are trying to reach: readers, agents, industry people, influencers such as bloggers and book reviewers.
    • Step 2: Figure out where the people you are trying to reach hang out online.
    • Step 3: Building relationships with people who have larger audiences than you and are willing to promote or review your book.
    • Step 4: Drive traffic back to your home base: website, blog, social networking accounts, mailing list.
      • Have a variety of ways for visitors to keep up with you, so you can stay in front of them: mailing list, twitter, etc.
  • This is not a linear process.
  • Step 1: who are you trying to reach?
    • Readers
      • Who would like to read your book?
      • What other types of books do they like to read?
      • What other hobbies do they have? (You’re not limited to book only websites.)
    • Agents & Publishers
      • Who do you want to work with?
      • What personality types would you be successful working with?
      • Consider having pages specific to your target markets: Should you maybe have a page targeted specific to literary agents?
    • Influencers
  • Biggest Challenge
    • You can’t connect with people when you don’t know where to find them.
  • Step 2: Find out where the people are online.
    • search : http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=list+of+book+blogs
    • sci-fi blogs: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=list+of+sci-fi+blogs
    • Google alerts
      • set up a search term: e.g. “sci-fi blogs”
      • then select frequency…
    • Blog Directories:
      • Technorati
        • Look for blogs, not posts, to find the blogs that on given topics, because you are looking for influencers on a topic, rather than a one-off post.
    • Search example…
      • searched on technorati for “book reviews”
      • find a site called the book smugglers. they list their review policy.
      • news from blogads book network.
      • click on that, it shows a book ads network
      • the network shows a list of all the blogs they use AND their readership level.
      • a good measure of how engaged blog readers are is how many comments they have on their blog.
        • one blogger has 3,000 comments on her post.
        • lots of good bloggers will easily have 200 to 300 posts.
      • research takes her to http://www.themillions.com
        • he links to websites he likes
    • Start making lists of people and websites
      • categorize them.
        • book lovers
        • book reviewers
        • journalists
        • industry experts
  • In PR, the good people have a big network of connections they can use.
    • now a lot of PR seems to consist just of broadcasting information.
  • Twitter
    • Great resource tool:
    • [note to self: @contextual_life/scifi]
  • iGoogle http://www.google.com/ig
  • Bloggers like it when you comment on their blogs.
  • Bookmark on the web with delicious.com
    • Loved it for years.
    • Yahoo just sold them.
    • A little leery…
  • Friends vs. Fans
    • Professional writers should have a fan page.
    • Don’t friend people from your personal account.
    • Use your fan page to post professional stuff
    • Use your individual page to for family stuff.
  • Infrastructure
    • destination
      • blog
      • website
    • things for them to do
      • sign up mailing list (very powerful)
      • follow you on twitter
      • go to linkedin
    • Youtube
      • second largest search engine after google
  • Quality Content
    • What do you put through the pipes?
    • create content people look forward to
    • invest your time in quality content as opposed to more frequent content
  • Blog post I want to comment on…
    • Sometimes that’s a comment on his website.
    • Sometimes that’s a blog post on my website, and then I post it back on his website.

Creating Plots for Page Turners
Robert Dugoni
New York Times Best-selling Author
Willamette Writers Conference, #WWCON11
  • “I am living proof that you can fail miserably and still make a living as a career.”
  • Writing is technical, and it can be learned.
  • Remove as many obstacles as possible… you want to get rejected on your writing, not on your query letter.
  • You can’t be taught how to write, but you can be taught to teach yourself.
  • You have to get the books, and you have to study them.
  • People will say “just write from your heart”. But that’s not true. It’s like the violin. You can’t hand a violin to someone that doesn’t play and say “play from your heart”.
  • Writers without skill are pouring words onto a page, but they are just words. Not a book.
  • All this applies to memoirs: a memoir has to be a good story. just because it is true isn’t enough. it works for horrors, mysteries, thrillers, non-fiction.
  • As novelists, our primary function is to entertain the reader.
  • The protagonist and the characters are the entertainers, not the writer. The writer should be invisible.
    • You have to let your characters perform. In any of the best authors, you don’t hear the author.
  • When our characters perform, we eliminate:
    • long narratives
    • opinions
      • if you want to write a book about abortion, you gotta let the characters take on the roles.
      • the readers will get offended if you as the author are throwing this stuff about them
    • point of view confusion
    • eliminate distance between the reader and character
    • telling
    • info dumps
      • research
      • technical stuff
      • backstory
      • flashbacks: if you have them, they have to be an actual scene. end the previous scene, start a new scene.
  • Anything that stops a story, especially in the first 50 pages, really needs to be eliminated.
  • Flashbacks:
    • do it the right way
    • don’t stop the story
    • put it in the right place
    • put it in as a scene
    • let the characters continue to entertain
  • What is a story?
    • a journey – a quest.
  • Who is on the journey?
    • the characters
  • The term the journey comes from Joseph Campbell.
  • A journey has movement
    • things happen
    • progress
    • secrets are revealed
    • meet people
  • when you put a character in action, they run into people, they react to circumstances.
  • anytime you have long narratives where a character is sitting and thinking, you have a problem. doesn’t matter what kind of book it is.
    • it’s just never as interesting as seeing the character in action.
    • “i’ll just stand up here and think.” — not interesting.
  • characters don’t need to be traveling. but they do need to be moving.
  • two types of journeys
    • physical journey: your plot.
      • what quest you have asked your character to go on.
      • what steps they need to take to do that.
    • inner journey: journey of the heart.
      • character’s motivation
      • it’s why they are going to do the above.
      • most of the time we’re going to ask our characters to do heroic things. that requires strong motivations to extraordinary things.
  • The Lord of the Rings
    • Why does Frodo take on the quest? Any normal person will say no.
      • the ring can’t just be destroyed in the fire place, it has to go to the worst place possible.
    • He does it for love. The love of the shire, the love of his people, his world.
    • The plot for the Wizard of Oz is identical: dorothy must get something from the witch, the worst place possible.
  • Simplify the motivations.
    • love, fear, anger, ambition, hate, revenge, greed, loss, desire.
    • don’t make it a complex thing that happened somewhere in the past.
    • people will do crazy things for the most basic human motivations.
    • All movies or books about five things
      • to win
      • to stop something from happening 
      • to escape from a bad situation (misery)
      • to retrieve something (indiana jones)
      • to destroy something (lord of the rings)
    • don’t kill yourself trying to create some backstory. work with the basic human emotions.
  • [note to self: get Robert Dugoni books, including Bodily Harm]
  • High concept
    • it means raising the stakes for the individual
    • a policeman has to check out a murder. this is his job. no big deal. he gets there, and wait… it’s his niece.
      • we’ve raised the stakes.
      • if he doesn’t solve it, he may never forgive himself, his family may not forgive.
    • other ways…
      • maybe his wife was strangled 6 years earlier, it reminds him of her.
      • maybe it’s an important senators daughter.
      • a woman he had an affair with.
      • he made some kind of terrible error that led to her death.
      • first big chance, last big case.
    • you can raise the stakes without making it artificial.
  • we don’t need to flashback in the scene.
    • he goes to the crime. he sees the face. OMG. end scene. Next scene: “six years earlier…”
    • OR
    • he goes to the crime. his partner says “I don’t think you should take this. She looks like Mary.” “It’s been six years, I can handle it.” “I don’t know if you can.”
  • Good beginning: first 50-75 pages.
    • Establish the tone of your book
      • the reader should be able to pick it up.
    • Introduce your protagonist
      • You want the reader to become grounded in a person.
      • As he’s become a better writer, he has jumped around less
      • Be able to answer:
        • who is your p.
        • what is your p.
        • where is your p.
        • what does your p. want?
        • what stands in the way of them achieving it?
    • Introduce your setting
      • Ground the reader in where the story is taking place.
    • Creating Empathy
      • Make your character empathic, not pathetic.
      • undeserved misfortune…
        • someone took their son
        • someone has taken something from them
      • put your character in jeopardy
        • tom cruise in rain man: total jackass.
          • but in the beginning of the movie, he’s losing his business, he’s undergoing financial collapse
        • someone trying to kill them
        • emotional jeopardy: “i am divorcing you, and I am taking the kids”
      • make them a nice guy.
        • he saw the cat eating out of the dumpster, and put out a bowl of food. the cat came back the next day. soon it was his cat. what a nice guy.
      • make them funny. we like funny people. they say all the things we wish we could say but don’t.
      • make them powerful.
    • Hooking the reader
      • opening sentence should raise a question.
        • “the camel died at noon.”
          • it raises questions. what camel? why did it die?
        • “father so-and-so put down his hoe and looked at the naked man coming out of the forest.
      • give them a question and hook them, and then give them an interesting person.
      • someone interesting should appear right away.
    • The Middle of the Book
      • develop the implicit promise.
        • we expect something to be happening…
          • a murder investigation to investigate the murder
          • romance to fulfill longing, etc.
      • we should really know exactly who this is about and what their quest is.
    • There is a thru-line in every book
      • examples
        • thrillers: will the bad guys be brought to justice and how?
        • mystery: who did it?
        • winning: will sea biscuit race war admiral and win?
      • But if all we wanted to know is the answer, we would skip to the end.
      • We read for the obstacles in their path, all along the way.
    • Dorothy and Wizard of Oz:
      • obstacle: which way to go?
        • introduce the scarecrow. 
        • she’s compassionate to him
      • obstacle: she’s hungry
        • there’s an apple, but she can’t get it.
        • the scarecrow helps her.
    • The obstacles should build toward the climax, 2/3rds of the way through the book
      • the obstacles should reveal who the character is
      • harry potter:
        • he’s courageous, loyal, sympathetic, etc.
        • all the obstacles reveal this about harry.
        • it’s how he always wins
      • If all the obstacles are the same, it becomes monotonous.
      • the biggest obstacle is the climax.
  • The End
    • The murder should be solved.
    • The romance should have a happy ending.
    • Satisfy the reader.
      • If you cheat the reader, they feel unsatisfied. If you don’t bring the bad guys to justice.
    • But you can have some twists.
      • How many times did that boy say “i see dead people.”
      • Murder One has two big twists in it.
    • No sudden new character.
    • In the end, the actor has to be the protagonist.
      • It has to be Harry who kills Voldemort.
    • No new forces or skills.
      • You can’t just add something because you painted yourself into a corner.
  • Does your character achieve his or her goal?
  • What final obstacle returns to her path to return to the ordinary world?
  • How does it demonstrate how your character has changed?
  • epiloque
    • close up loose ends
    • don’t ever neglect an animal. you can kill thousands of people, but don’t ever neglect an animal. readers will call you and say “you left a cat and dog in a kennel.”
  • Books
    • Saltine’s “On Writing”
    • Writing Genre Fiction – Milhorn. very good.

Say What? Mixing Spoken and Internal Dialogue
Hallie Ephron
Willamette Writers Conference
WWCON11
  • Strong opinions, but you should never take what any one person says as gospel.
    • There are as many ways to write as there are authors
  • Please just just use “said” and “asked”. Reuse them. They are invisible to the reader. Don’t be creative.
  • “Matt”, she said, careful eyes on me, “is eighteen now.”
    • By putting the “careful eyes on me” where it is, it sets up the reader for what follows. It casts a shadow on the dialogue that follows.
    • “careful eyes on me” is the narrator giving information without telling, and gives us insight into the feelings of a character other than the point of view character.
  • em dash vs. ellipsis: em dash is changing the characters thought. the ellipsis is a pause in the characters speech, or trailed off if at the end of dialogue. If there’s an em dash at the end of dialogue, it means something that happened before the dialogue was finished.
    • Then you don’t have to say “he interrupted”, because the em dash told the reader.
  • Usually in a scene it is fun to be in the head of the character who is more off balance.
  • Don’t get in the head of a character who is not a main character.
  • Don’t use cliches like “she threw her hair back”, “her green eye flashed”.
  • Don’t bounce around in people’s heads. Some successful authors get away with it. But not first time writers. And while non-critical readers may not notice it, agents and editors and reviewers will.
  • Avoid redundancy, don’t explain
    • “I hate you,” I said. I was furious.
      • Show, don’t tell.
      • Don’t tell me twice the same thing.
    • “I hate you.” I just wanted him to go away and leave me alone.
      • Now we are excusing something different: she doesn’t hate him, she just said that.
  • Tags other than said and asked:
    • Dialogue
      • “Are you going to go home?”
      • I didn’t answer
      • “Are you going to go home?” she persisted.
    • Don’t do it. it’s redundant.
  • No adverbs with the word said.
    • Adverbs hung on words are tells.
  • Avoid “she saw”, “he saw”. It’s assumed. It distances the reader.
  • Sighing, shrugging, shaking your head. Characters do it, but it’s not the most interesting thing to read, so don’t overuse it.
  • Lots of dialogue is inflected as a question even if doesn’t contain question words.
    • “We’re having meatloaf for dinner again?”
  • You can use italics to give inflection. But a book that is full of italics is hard to read. 
    • You did that?
    • You did that?
    • You did that?
    • All different meanings.
  • If you have five characters in a setting, you need said and ask tags.
  • If you have two characters, you need it at the beginning and once in a while later in the dialogue.
  • Kim scratched her head. “I haven’t any idea what you mean.”
  • If you put the action and the dialogue on the same line, then you don’t need the tags.
  • If you put the action first, it will shadow the dialogue. Usually this is good.
  • Orient the reader first in a scene:
    • Never start a scene with disembodied dialogue, because you never want to confuse the reader. You pull them off the page… “Wait, who is that?”
  • Get rid of “he thought”, “he wondered”. If you have a main character, we should always be in their head.
  • When you have 2 or 3 or 4 characters in dialogue, only one has the viewpoint.
    • they can all have dialogue, actions, expressions.
    • but only one can have thoughts: viewpoint character.
    • so if someone thinks a character is lying, only the viewpoint character can make that explicit.
    • Conversely, the viewpoint character can’t tell you how they themselves look.
  • Example from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, starting with “Ooooh, child”:
    • http://books.google.com/books?id=XQm4JGjuX1gC&lpg=PT113&ots=sQQZUMPtGN&dq=midnight%20in%20the%20garden%20of%20good%20and%20evil%20driving%20a%20heap&pg=PT113#v=onepage&q&f=false
  • Second example from Midnight in Garden of Good and Evil, starting with “The thing I like best about squares”
    • http://books.google.com/books?id=XQm4JGjuX1gC&lpg=PT37&dq=midnight%20in%20the%20garden%20of%20good%20and%20evil%20the%20thing%20i%20like%20best%20about%20squares&pg=PT37#v=onepage&q&f=false
    • Examples of word choice and sentence structure. Pick the words that would be in that characters mouth.
  • Grammar is a powerful tool to convey dialect without using misspellings.
  • Foreign words and jargon:
    • Less is more.
    • You don’t need to translate Bon jour. 
    • You can put the foreign word in italics. (for clarity, so the reader knows it isn’t just mispelled)
    • You don’t need to translate when it is show in context. If visiting a sick character, and someone says something to them, you can guess that it’s “get better” or “how are you?”
  • Writing an unreliable narrator
    • example from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Starting with “I lifted my head off the grass”:
    • http://books.google.com/books?id=loC0vNA1a4IC&lpg=PA7&ots=eT8qNaCXkq&dq=The%20Curious%20Incident%20of%20the%20Dog%20why%20were%20you%20holding%20the%20dog&pg=PA7#v=onepage&q&f=false
    • Dialogue is intentionally unemotional and flat: “The dog is dead.”
    • Characters who have conflict don’t converse with each other, they converse across each other… orthagonal conversation.
      • He came home late. “What’s for dinner?”
      • “Where the hell were you?” she asked.
    • The “I said,”, “he said” tells us something about the character. It’s coming from a character who is obsessed with detail. It can also add edginess to the dialogue.

Win Big at Willamette: 
How Marni Bates and Laurie McLean Saw, Signed, and Sold
Laurie McLean, Marni Bates, Grace Ledding
Willamette Writers Conference
WWCON11
  • Laurie McLean – literary agent. Last year was first time was WWCON.
  • Signed Marni Bates, who was a three time attendee
  • Grace Ledding is trying to get Marni’s book AWKWARD produced as a (movie)
  • Laurie
    • goes to 20 conferences a year
    • always looking for new clients
    • pitches are stressful, and often nothing like the writing or the person.
    • trying to figure out from a 3 sentence pitch whether their 90,000 word book is worthwhile
    • Thursday night: pitch practice. 
      • It’s highly worthwhile.
      • Not only to practice your pitch but to listen to others to see what works.
      • You want to boil it down to 3 sentences, not give a blow by blow of the torture you put your characters through.
    • Last year Marni comes to pitch practice
      • During the practice Laurie says “that’s great, send me 10 pages”
      • Marni goes to the next room over, and practices there, and an agent offers her representation on the spot.
      • Later Laurie sees Marni and Marni says “I would never take representation from someone who hasn’t read my book.”
      • Laurie needed to go above and beyond to compete with NY agents. And also knew that 15 other agents asked to read it.
    • Marni
      • three years
      • first year: came with a novel she wrote in high school. did have some agents interested. and even got an offer of representation. 
        • turned down representation because she felt the agent viewed her as a teen  with potential rather than a true client
      • ended up writing an autobiography, which was published at 20.
      • came to third year, it’s thursday night practice pitches
      • booked both rooms
      • completed botched first pitch. (couldn’t hold mic, moderator looked at watch halfway through)
      • second pitch went perfectly, best pitch she ever did.
      • got an offer of representation on the spot, from an excellent, really smart agent.
      • but felt like it was an offer based on the fact that she she came across well, as opposed to the book itself.
      • but she had paid for the conference… wasn’t going to sign without shopping around.
      • then she met laurie again, and laurie suggested a morning meeting.
      • at the morning meeting, laurie explained what she could do for her.
      • and said…. i can help you if you can write, but if you can’t write, i can’t do anything. that was what she wanted to hear.
      • Laurie read first 50 pages, then asked for more.
      • I didn’t have more edited to my level of satisfaction. So I asked to provide the rest two weeks after the conference.
      • Soon there was a three book deal with Kensington.
      • And she wrote during school. (full time student, and also spent a a semester studying abroad.)
    • Grace Ledding
      • Laurie me the book earlier this year.
      • Book seemed timely but also timeless. Coming of age books are always favorites, but it was timely because now for the first time all of this stuff is online. you’ll always carry your history with you. [referring to how the main character is spotted by a bunch of people, who record with their phones, and upload to youtube, and the video goes viral.]
      • Tricky to do YA books into movies, because sometimes you get Easy A, and sometimes you get [missed it, something meaningful]
      • That it was written by someone younger made it feel more authentic than if it was written by a 50 year old.
    • The thing about high school is that everything is 100% emotion, so it is all so vivid.
  • Questions
    • What you looking for in a pitch?
      • The book has to be similar enough for the reader to know they are going to have a certain kind of experience, but different enough that it won’t be the same exact experience.
      • Fresh and exciting, but something I can sell.
      • Something powerful: keep the pitch the short. If you can tell me in three sentences what it is, then I can pitch it to an editor, and the editor can pitch it to a book seller, etc.
      • When I heard Marni’s pitch: it was funny, it was YA, but it was different because it had this youtube angle.
      • You have to be able to stand behind your idea. 
      • If you go to Amazon, you made a decision based on a one line description. 
      • You can’t talk around your story. You have to be able to tell it. If you talk around it, then maybe you don’t know your own story. 
      • You can’t be a recluse. Maybe Hemmingway could do it, but now you have to be personable. 
      • “this is the main character. this is the internal and external conflict. this is what they go through to deal with that. this is the resolution.” all that in three sentences.
      • Be mindful of all the opportunities: by going to the thursday pitch session, she is pitching to 5 agents at once. by signing up for both rooms, she pitched to ten. then she marketed the hell out of it: Hey Laurie wants it, and so does Paul,”
      • Social media: it’s not enough to write. You have to do social media, you have to market it. Build your author brand. 
      • It may seem safe to eat with your writer friends, but don’t do that. Go sit and eat with an agents.
      • Even if you don’t think you are ready for pitching, do it anywhere. We put this expectation on them that they are the keeper of the keys and will do everything for us. But the sooner we break through that barrier, and realize they are just people, the better.
      • If you are coming to this conference, spend the $20 and pitch.
      • Marni stalked the board where the appointments are, looked for 
      • Structure:
        • Very simple log line
        • main character and what happens.
    • What should you not do?
      • Many, many things.
      • Don’t guarantee anyone anything: “i guarantee that this will win your awards”
      • Don’t say “my mom thinks I am a great writer”.
      • Don’t say something else said anything.
      • Do start with the log line.
      • Go into deeper detail.
      • A girl, whose embarrassing moment goes to youtube, and becomes famous.
      • Don’t short-sell yourself: “this idea isn’t very good.”
    • I’m confused. Some agents say to use names, some don’t. I went to the pitch practice, and I got contradictory advice from the agents. I have a log line.
      • there is no right or wrong answer.
      • Grace and Laurie are on the phone pitching all day long.
      • Just because you have two pitch meetings, doesn’t mean you wait for those. Pitch to the people around you all day long.
      • In a critique group, sometimes you get too many voices bombarding you, and you get contradictory advice. And you have to learn to trust yourself sometimes.
      • Not all the advice you get is good.
      • Some people said don’t bring material to the conference, but then Laurie asked for it on the spot.
      • When you know that you’ve nailed it, then you’ve nailed it.
    • Format
      • Hello, here is my name. I have written genre, x words, and the title.
      • The Hook
      • The Book: explanation about the book. 2 or 3 sentences.
      • The Cook: who you are.
    • Excuse me, do you have a minute, so I could pitch?
      • Laurie: I have take more pitches that are not scheduled, than one that are scheduled.
    • Length:
      • Not automatic disqualifier. Becomes an economic discussion.
      • But in almost every case a first time novelist has too long of a novel it is too wordy and needs to be cut.
    • Group sessions: be short, be memorable.
    • Kristen Lamb http://warriorwriter.wordpress.com writes about social media for authors.
      • writes about twitter, blogging, etc.
      • 1/3 of writings should be about yourself, your writing journey
      • 1/3 should be retweets of other’s work
      • 1/3 should be selling your book
      • A woman named Kate was commenting on Kristen Lamb’s posts, and writing her own posts.
      • Laurie went to Kate’s site, saw that she had a free download, got it and read it.
      • Then bought a 99 cent novella she wrote.
      • Laurie emailed Kate and asked “do you want representation?”
    • If you are unpublished, then what are you selling with that last third?
      • write some short stuff and sell it. dust off that old unpublished material.
    • What if you’ve written a series?
      • Every first book is the first book in a series. So it’s not worth it.
      • I can’t sell a sequel to a first book that I couldn’t sell.
      • You need something else entirely.
      • So if you finish your first book, then write the first book in a different series.
  • Rejection
    • It’s wave after wave of rejection.
    • when you finally get an agent, then the agent shops it around, and then…
    • you get wave after wave of rejection.
    • then you finally get an editor, and then…
    • you get their notes, which feel like wave after wave of rejection.

Details to Make or Break A Character
Hallie Ephron
Willamette Writers Conference 2011
#WWCON11
  • We use details to show the reader who the character is.
  • Instead of saying “she spent a lot of money on her clothes”, we can describe her clothes.
  • But we don’t want to overdo it. A laundry list of details doesn’t help.
  • Details ought to show us something about the character. “she had blue eyes and brown hair” tells us nothing. “he came to the wedding in bare feet” tells us something about that character.
  • Personal spaces are more important:
    • offices
    • bathrooms
    • kitchens
  • It’s easier to cut than it is to layer in, so better to put too much.
  • Details that are emblematic of disequilibrium. 
    • you don’t want a character for whom everything goes swimmingly.
    • sometimes you force the disequilibrium on them in the story.
    • sometimes it’s just how they come into the story: in a state of disequilibrium.
  • Details:
    • show us something about their personality
    • show us something about their goals
    • show us something about their backstory
  • people can lie about their details:
    • “he told everyone the broken nose was from a football accident, but the truth was that his wife had a mean left hook.”
  • the details have to pay off. they can’t just be planted in the book. they have to get resolved. half of a twenty dollar bill in act I, the other half better show up in act III.
  • something that someone gave the character has extra meaning.
  • wearing a wedding ring when you’re not married, and never loosens his tie
    • “he needs a shrink”
    • “he is a shrink”
  • If you lavish detail on a setting, sometimes the setting itself becomes a character.
  • [Note: there was much more in the session, in the handout and via practice exercises, that isn’t captured here.]

Plotting a Page Turner
Hallie Ephron
Willamette Writers Conference 2011
#WWCON11
  • Write novels and non-fiction
  • Several published books: Come and Find Me, Never Tell a Lie (made into a movie)
  • The DiVinci Code is an example of a book that’s hard to stop reading.
  • What is it that makes a page turner?
    • something important at stake
    • a main character the reader cares about
    • a plot with secrets and surprises
  • The others could be there (car chases, explosions, murders, threats to humanity, time pressure, action, premise) or not, but if the ones above are there, it won’t happen.
  • Page Turners: Like porn, you recognize it when you see it, but it’s not so easy to create it.
  • If you don’t stop screaming, no one will hear you. If you just have action, explosions, and chases from page 1 to page 450, the reader will get numb. There has to be an up and down in the book.
  • The three act structure
    • it’s just the way it is.
    • it goes back to aristotle.
    • you might as well ask why humans are bilaterally symmetrical? it’s just the way it is. 
  • 3 act structure… It’s not the only way to write a story. If you do it really well, you can break the rules, including the three act rule.
  • dramatic structure are these three acts
    • it’s about a conflict between the main characters and the world.
    • who wants what: characters have competing goals:
      • dorothy: starts out wanting to leave home. by the end, wants to go home.
    • who or what obstructs them
    • moving back and forth from disequilibrium to equilibrium to escalating disequilibrium. it’s not merely episodic, but escalating.
  • 75,000 to 80,000 words: typical novel or mystery, about 300 pages.
  • First 50-75 pages are Act I.
    • Introduce your protagonist and secondary characters
    • Establish your characters goals
    • Establish your setting
    • (You don’t want to explain your setting when your character is driving off a cliff)
    • You want to introduce your villain. 
    • You don’t want to weight it down with backstory. This is a common mistake, especially for first time writers.
    • You want to establish, establish, establish without being boring, boring, boring.
    • Read like a writer. Pick apart what you are reading. It’s rare and special when a book transports you away. Read that book a second time, picking apart:
      • how did the writer introduce these characters and explain setting while still transporting you away?
  • A page turner starts with a scene that grabs the readers attention.
    • But… you can’t just throw a character off the cliff.
    • You have to develop a character that readers care about, and then throw them off the cliff. All in the first scene.
    • There’s not a lot of telling or setting, but it does get laid in with the action.
  • Great books start with an out-of-whack event. Something happens that throw a main character out of whack. 
    • Example: main character, wealthy man, drives home in his red porsche, it smells kind of funny, kind of like detergent, all of his furniture is missing, and there’s a single red stilleto in the middle of the room.
      • this character is throw out of whack. the reader wants to know what is going to happen.
  • Some writers do it by creating a wonderfully quirky character in a ridiculous settings that grabs the reader.
  • Novels are written in scenes. With viewpoint.
  • Kill the author. Kill the narrator. Write Scenes.
    • when you are telling a story in a novel, you are telling it from the perspective of a character, not the author.
    • you always know which character is telling you the story, and you are getting it from their gut.
    • stories are told in scenes. a scene happens in a particular time and place. when the time or place changes, you are in a new scene.
  • Writing scenes is about “show, don’t tell”
    • You don’t say Maria stole the shows. You show the reader the drama of going into the store and wanting something and stealing it.
  • Act I ends with a reversal
    • the character doesn’t get whatever they are after.
    • In the wizard of oz: they arrive at the emerald city, and the wizard says “you have to kill the witch”.
  • Act II: the middle 150 pages of a 300 pages novel.
    • The mushy middle is long…
    • It’s easy to see what will happen in the early act and the end, but the middle is tough.
    • Usually the middle will have yet another turning point.
      • these are the secrets and surprises.
    • Act II is all about complications: more danger, more at stake, more drama, past comes to haunt them, protagonist tries to solve bigger problems, people are literally moving, not just sitting around. the antoganist obstructs.
    • Act III:
      • the protagonist rebounds.
      • the character finds what they want, even if it is a reversal of what they wanted earlier.
      • confrontation and triumph.
  • Workshop exercise
    • State protagonist
    • Their goal:
    • The obstacles:
    • Stake out your plot
      • Opening:
      • End of Act I:
      • Middle of Act II:
      • End of Act II:
      • Climax of Act III:
      • Resolution of Act III:
  • Ask an editor what they want most, and they say: an original voice.
    • an original voice comes from viewpoint. it’s hard to have strong original voice if you are sliding around viewpoints.
  • thrillers have multiple viewpoints.
    • tension can be built by telling the reader more than the main character can know.
    • the reader can feel tension even though the main character doesn’t. e.g. the reader knows the murderer is lurking around the corner, but the character doesn’t.
    • but you can create a very scary, intense novel by telling it from one viewpoint.
  • Secrets
    • in the wizard of oz, the witches can be melted with water. the slippers she needs have been on her feet all along. the monkeys who are the witches soldiers have been enslaved.
    • shouldn’t all be revealed in the same place.
    • should have lots of secrets: 10, 12, 15 or even more.
  • Scenes
    • Are the building blocks of plot
    • Scenes have shape. It’s not just a flat series of events.
    • Each scene has it’s own story arc and turning point/change.
    • Changes can be emotional:
      • A scene starts with a character feeling safe, and ends feeling endangered.
      • A scene from feeling trust to feeling betrayed.
      • From contentment (happy with life) to yearning.
      • From lust to disgust
    • Change can be in situation:
      • woman comes home, and drops her wedding ring in the garbage disposal.
      • dog runs out the door and jumps into a moving car.
    • If the only thing you did was establish a character, or describe backstory, you have not written a scene.
    • In page turners, in particular, every scene has to earn its way.
    • Something has to change, and when it is a surprising change, even better.
  • Placing chapter breaks
    • Scenes are organic. They behind where they behind and end where it ends.
    • But you can manipulate the chapter break to be where you want.
    • In the reading, the author breaks the scene both because it’s a logical breaking point, but also because it is suspenseful. So the reader goes on to read the next chapter.
    • Put it at a cliffhanger moment, and the reader will keep reading.
    • But don’t do it all the time, or the reader will feel manipulated.
    • You can pump the forward momentum by switching:
      • she is trapped in a cave, and the water is rising.
      • switch
      • he is outside, sees the cave, but doesn’t think she would be in there.
      • switch
      • she is inside, the water is still rising, and now rocks are falling from the ceiling.
      • switch
      • he is outside, he hears rocks falling, decides to investigate
      • switch
      • she is…
    • to speed things up:
      • short punchy sentences, fragments
      • limit extraneous detail
      • don’t explain
      • bring “camera” in close: what does the character smell, see, feel: immediacy of senses. 
      • end scenes with cliffhangers
      • stay in the present
      • minimize internal dialogue
      • staccato phrases
    • to slow things down:
      • longer, complex sentences
      • describe; load in sensory detail
      • establish
      • pull camera away
      • establishing narrative
      • end scenes with resolutions
      • flashbacks, backstory
      • reflection, internal dialogue
  • Questions
    • How do you deal with the effects of technology?
      • you can avoid it – set your book in 1968.
      • but don’t be predictable: suddenly there is no cell reception. people do predictable things with phones.
      • work with it: dna evidence can be manipulated, emails forged.
      • readers love to be surprised.
    • talk about secrets and who knows. should the reader know?
      • sometimes. we have a character who claims he doesn’t know anything about guns. but the police search his apartment, and find NRA magazines.
      • in one book, there was a horrible rape. the victim knows it, the boys know it, but the wife of one of the boys doesn’t know it.
      • people lie because they are embarrassed, to protect themselves or other people.
      • there is evidence of a husband having an affair. but it could be evidence of something else, possibly better or worse.
    • when writing in 1st person or 3rd person with one viewpoint, limits what you can convey. sometimes people will fill in some scenes from another point of view.
      • in first person, you don’t use the pronoun he or she. this is great for a thriller, because the villain can be in first person, and we don’t know if they are a woman or a man.
      • you can switch perspective, but you can’t just do a one-off: e.g. you can’t write a single scene from a different perspective. same for viewpoint: you can’t have one scene from one characters viewpoint. 
    • if you are writing in two different timelines, one way to do it is to write each timeline consecutively, then shuffle the cards, and see what you come up with.