Creating a Dynamite Four-Sentence Opening Paragraph

opening scene, window with curtains, breeze blowing inI began my writing career in drama, and when I start a new chapter of a novel, the first thing that comes to mind is the dialogue. Bad idea. When you come into the middle of a conversation, you always feel like you’re missing something, and I suspect my readers react the same way. So I went looking for a metaphor that would help me write an effective opening paragraph for every chapter. And to do that, I had to figure out what readers want at the beginning of a chapter.

And then I had a thought; starting a chapter is like entering a new room we have never been in before. What do readers want to know about that unknown room? Continue reading “Creating a Dynamite Four-Sentence Opening Paragraph”

Authors Want to Know: What Is a Chapter?

the chapter size and length train by gordon longWhen the minions sit around the gruel pot chewing the crunchy bits, sometimes we get going on the esoterica of writing, subjects like, “How long is a chapter?” is it all right to use ‘alright’?” Or, more appropriate, given the food intake in this joint, “How do you spell ‘diorhhea’ ‘dihorhea’ ‘diorhea’… ‘the trots?”

When it comes to the length of a chapter, I think that’s a bit of a red herring. It’s not how long the chapter is; it’s what the chapter is there for. We break our writing into sentences, clauses and phrases for specific reasons, usually to do with conveying meaning. Likewise, we break novels into chapters.

Why? Continue reading “Authors Want to Know: What Is a Chapter?”

Drop Caps, Indents, and Other Formatting Tricks in Word

Letter GJoin a discussion with self-published writers and you’ll hear strong opinions on what constitutes proper formatting for both paperbacks and eBooks. One discussion that comes up on various Kindle fora is what, exactly, to do with the first paragraph in a chapter.

There are no hard and fast rules, but there are some strong recommendations. The consensus is that for both eBooks and paperbacks, the first paragraph in a chapter shouldn’t be indented. Because I’m a curious person, I pulled five paperbacks off my shelf to see how Stephen King, Billie Letts, Barbara Kingsolver, John Steinbeck, and Larry McMurtry handled first paragraphs. Okay, not them, but their publishing and formatting teams. None had indented first paragraphs, and four of the five used drop caps. Continue reading “Drop Caps, Indents, and Other Formatting Tricks in Word”

How Do You Write the Chapters of Your Life?

photo property of Jim DevittAre you happy with your life? Do you ever wish that your life were different? Are you where you want to be with your writing, business, love life, or just about anything else?

Most of the people who visit this blog are writers or readers. That pretty much sums up the entire population because if you are not doing one or the other or both, you are probably dead. As readers and writers, we are very familiar with novel structure. It’s a series of chapters. You start with the introduction of a main character who experiences a transformation through a growth process that may involve mystery, romance, action, heartbreak, death, illness or exploration. The concepts are limitless. Continue reading “How Do You Write the Chapters of Your Life?”