What To Do With Your Deleted Scenes

About a week ago, I submitted an old post I’d written back in 2013 to BookDaily.com for consideration to be shared with their community of readers. Today I woke up to the wonderful news that my article is being featured in today’s Author Update newsletter. I’ve also been selected as their Featured Author of the Day!

Here is the full article listed on BookDaily.com, originally posted on this site under the title The MultiVerse (The Awesome Power of ‘Save As’).

What To Do With Your Deleted Scenes | BookDaily #AuthorTips

One of the biggest fears many writers have is not getting it right. Often times, this anxiety can be so debilitating that the story grinds to a halt, the author unable to progress because the story’s current status isn’t perfect (perfection is a myth by the way, but that’s a post for another time). The purpose of this post is to assure my fellow writers that there is a way to escape the incapacitating fear of imperfection. I call it ‘the MultiVerse.’

The MultiVerse is the multitude of universes created by alternate versions of the same story. Here’s how it works: any time I feel like something I’m working on is less than perfect crap, I either make a new document where I copy and paste a specific section, or ‘Save As’ and create a whole new draft. Now I’m free to beat, bludgeon, and disembowel the scene I’m working on without fear of harming a single ‘verse’ in the original version. Heaven forbid the new draft ends up worse than the original, I just start over again with another draft in another alternate universe.

I confess it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Like many authors, I frequently get attached to my writing, which makes deleting them especially gut wrenching. Thanks to the MultiVerse, I don’t have to. Whenever I feel the need to carve out or trim down something I really like, I simply make a new file.

In my first novel, Bobby Ether and the Academy, Bobby and Jinx have had dozens of adventures that didn’t make it into the published edition. I had a sixty-page section in which Bobby and his friends explored additional levels of the archives, discovering ancient catacombs, as well as an old headmaster’s crypt.

Due to length (The book was 131k words at the time!), I reworked this section and rewrote it in twelve pages, ditching many scenes I loved dearly. At first I deeply lamented this lost, but later came to accept it. After all, those earlier drafts still exist in the MultiVerse.

The bottom line is that, courtesy of the MultiVerse, nothing is every truly gone. All of those wonderful adventures still exist, like actors frozen in time, ready to resume as soon as their audience returns.

So the next time you’re struggling with what to write next, or afraid to mess up what you’ve already got, take advantage of awesome power of ‘Save As’ and expand your MultiVerse. Then go ahead and explore the possibilities risk-free. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

Where do your deleted scenes go?

About the Author:
R Scott Boyer grew up in Santa Monica, CA and still resides in the Los Angeles area. Graduating from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley in 1996, he started writing the Bobby Ether series with the goal of blending YA fantasy with spiritual fiction. Nowadays, Scott splits his time between managing an insurance brokerage, playing with his Shepherd-mix rescue dog, Patch, and writing. More information about R Scott Boyer, as well as information about his upcoming books can be found on his website at www.RScottBoyer.com

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Four Aspects of Good Storytelling

I really enjoyed this post by Patrick Brown. The only thing I would add is that the quality of the writing matters, which, to me, is not the same thing as style or editing. You can write in a very clear style (humorous, dark, witty, etc.) and be bad at it. Likewise, a story can be well edited and still not read well. Nonetheless, I thought this article was an excellent description of some of the key aspects that go into good storytelling. – R Scott Boyer

Why Readers Just Aren’t That Into Your Book | BookDaily.com #AuthorTips

1213669I had dinner with a friend of mine the other night, and the conversation turned to novels we had recently read. More specifically, we discussed what makes a book a good or interesting read. People like to read fiction for different reasons: some may want to laugh, while others desire a real tear-jerker. Some like action, while others want drama. Some readers may want to think, but others may need to feel. Some may want pieces of all of this. But we all, at the end of the day, want entertainment. Right? So when my pal brought this question up, I thought from both the standpoint of writing my own stuff and reading the work of others. I pinned it down to four main factors and a few minor ones that make a good book good.

CHARACTERS:

This is number one. Good, strong, well-developed characters are a must. We don’t always have to like them, but they should stir some emotion in us from beginning to end. Personally, I prefer at least one likable character – a hero, if you will. Who wants to spend a few days or longer with someone they don’t like or admire? I guess those folks are out there, but I’m not one of them. Strong characters? Lee Child’s protagonist, Jack Reacher, comes to mind as well as Robert Crais’s, Joe Pike. Lawrence Sanders’s, Edward X. Delaney was another terrific guy you’d want on your side. How about Agatha Christie’s, Hercule Poirot? I’ll throw in my guy, Salem Reid, for good measure.

Stephen King may be the master at building solid characters. While less heroic usually, they are often regular folks that we can all relate to as King describes them in his folksy style.

An author can have a great story to tell, but if the characters are not interesting or inspiring, the book will not work.

STORYLINE:

Does it move? Does it flow? Is there action? Important questions. I prefer books that grab my attention in the first chapter. Hooked, I think the term is. Of course, there are other concerns. Is there consistency in the story? Did the girl with green eyes in chapter 4 end up with blue eyes in chapter 25? Not good, but it happens, you know. But my friend and I agreed that one of the most important aspects about a story is this: Does it make you think, feel, or re-assess your opinion or view about something? Did we learn something of value? And finally, the ending. If you’re like me, you’ve read a number of books that were really engaging throughout just to be disappointed at the end of the story because the ending was poor. Maybe it was contrived or unrealistic. Perhaps it didn’t end well for our favorite character, or we were left hanging. So endings are crucial to how we think about the book once we’ve finished. A lame ending to a novel can ruin an otherwise quality effort.

DIALOGUE:

Dialogue is number three for me. Witty, clever, and thoughtful banter between characters makes a book come alive. I’ve heard it said that dialogue drives the story. Joseph Wambaugh creates some great characters in his books. The two surfer cops, Flotsam and Jetsam, who debut in “Hollywood Station”, are hysterical. Their dialogue with each other while cruising the seedy streets of Hollywood is some of the best I’ve encountered.

The four teenage boys in Stephen King’s “The Body” are so real to me because I had those same conversations with my young friends in my youth – it’s the way young guys talk to each other. And it’s timeless; nothing has changed over the years on that score in terms of content.

So slick dialogue moves the book along and keeps us turning pages.

STYLE:

Style is number four for me. A writer that can make you feel that you are “right there” with the characters, involved in the action and setting, is a talented writer indeed. Use of metaphor is the first one that comes to mind, and Gillian Flynn in “Gone Girl” used this tool wonderfully throughout the book.

Humor is my favorite though. I recently read “Casting Shadows Everywhere” by LT Vargus and Tim McBain. I laughed on damn near every page. It was Beavis and Butthead colliding with “Catcher in the Rye”. But despite the humor, the book was pretty dark most of the way through, but these two witty and clever writers pulled it off.

So style points are huge.

It’s worth mentioning that editing has some impact on the overall experience of reading a book too, but unless it is grossly flawed, stumbling through a few errors here and there is mostly tolerable. I want people to tolerate the ones in my novels (and any I make in this blog, please). I’ve yet to see the perfect book, so I think most of us can be a little forgiving in that regard.

So to sum it up, characters, storyline, dialogue, and style are the aspects of writing that will send me back to read an author over and over again, or send me away for good if they can’t pull it off.

What makes a good read to you?

About the Author:
Patrick Brown is a longtime Georgia resident. He currently lives in Northeast Atlanta with his wife and two children. “Varied Traits” is his first work of fiction. He is currently working on his second novel, “Heavy Hour”.

To discover more about Patrick, check him out on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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How to Create Conflict In Your Novel

I wish the following article focused more on how to build conflict in the story at large, rather than just in dialog. I don’t necessarily agree with the sentiment that there should be conflict on every page. Sometimes, you need a transition scene, or a cooling off period in between conflict in order to set something up for later. Despite its limitations, however, this post still serves as a useful reminder that story is conflict, and that nuances in the level of conflict can greatly impact character and plot development. – Scott

Conflict on Every Page

An important aspect of any novel, be it romance, mystery, western, fantasy, whatever, is conflict. There are many who say there should be conflict on every page. But how do you get conflict on every page? Dialog offers a great opportunity.

Example:

“You sound different today.”
“No I don’t.”

There’s conflict, in seven words.

Now, you might say, that’s not much conflict. That’s okay. Every instance of conflict does not have to be an all out war. But, actually, even this seven word conflict can be as much as you want. It can be slight. “No, I’m fine.” Or you can make it much stronger when the second person is hiding something. Whom that affects, and how it affects him or her, can determine the degree of conflict.
Suppose the first person, a woman, has never met the second person, a man. She has only talked to him on the telephone. Now he sounds different. Is it the same man? Or perhaps the second person has been threatened by a vicious thug who made it clear her child would be killed if she let anyone know about his threat. She is still terrified and her voice is not the same. If the first person pushes it, this can become a full-fledged conflict. But we’ve set it up in just seven words of dialog. Powerful stuff, this dialog.

Think about your novel. How many instances of small conflicts can you add through dialog? Of course, you need to make certain that the conflict fits in nicely with the story. Don’t force it. Look at your characters and determine which ones will be willing to disagree at the drop of a hat. You may have a character who is going through a bad time and is generally mad at the world. He may take exception to almost everything that is said to him.

Example:

“That was a great movie.”
“No it wasn’t. It was terrible. I can’t believe you liked it.” (Conflict)
“Oh, I’m sorry you didn’t like it. I didn’t mean to push my opinion off on you.”
“Stop it. Don’t be so wish-washy on everything. You liked it. I didn’t. That’s it.” (Heightened conflict)
“Sorry.”
“Don’t say you’re sorry. There nothing to be sorry about. We disagree.” (Escalating conflict)

They will still remain friends, but we’ve added conflict through dialog. And we’ve enhanced the reader’s understanding of both characters.

It’s me against me!

(I guess grammatically it should be, “It’s I against me.” But, even though correct, it will stop the average reader. Your book has to read smoothly and sometimes, by a conscious choice, you need to violate a grammar rule.)
The conflict can be within one character. In fact, this is often the case. Certainly Hamlet had a pretty good conflict going on inside his own mind. This will most often be expressed for the reader with internal dialog.

Example:

He looked through the wallet he had picked up off the sidewalk. There were credit cards, driver’s license, other cards. And a wad of money. I could keep the money, sort of a finder’s fee. Return the rest. Say I found the wallet but there was no money in it. Who would know? He looked at the stack of fifties. I would know.

Here, conflict exists, not with another person, but within himself. And this conflict will further the plot, and allow the reader to know this character better.

So remember to introduce conflict through dialog and maybe you can get conflict on every page.

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What Exactly Does Being A “Successful” Author Mean?

I love this post by Christina M. Abt. I feel exactly the same way about my Bobby Ether series. All writers should define for themselves what success means to them and not rely solely on the measures of fame and fortune. Never discount the impact that your book can have on someone. Similar to the volunteer work I do with kids, one life touched can also mean one life changed. – Scott Boyer

What Exactly Does Being A “Successful” Author Mean?

A day in the life of an author holds many challenges, the least of which is critical feedback of our work. Recently I received some feedback about my latest book, a work of historical fiction titled, Crown Hill, A Novel of Love, Life and The Afterlife.

This particular feedback came from someone close to me who is a part of the publishing world. He told I was wasting my time trying to promote my book, as it had not sold thousands of copies since its publication six months ago. Further, he stated that no reputable publishing house or agent was ever going to be interested in my work at those sales levels.

I have to admit, this well-intended feedback was tough to take. It also was contrary to my purpose and intent in writing and publishing Crown Hill—the thing that has mattered most throughout my life—storytelling.

I mulled over the feedback through a restless night and well into the next day. To be honest, it cast a pretty dark shadow over my heart and soul, to the point that I questioned my writer’s purpose and ability. From there it was a slippery slope towards a vow to never write again. That’s when I knew I needed to take the necessary step upon which all authors rely— writing.

I began with an email to a friend, outlining my quandary. She replied immediately with an inspiring essay titled, “Reasons to Write”, none of which included multi-book contracts or healthy bank accounts. From there I wrote another email, this one to a co-worker, who replied with a reminder that people across the United States are reading and enjoying Crown Hill, an accomplishment in and of itself.

As the day went on I received unsolicited emails and messages from engaged Crown Hill readers offering help and options to advance my novel to wider audiences. I also discovered some new Crown Hill reviews paying the highest compliment—that they would miss the characters inhabiting my story of love, life and the afterlife.

Finally I sat down and had a little chat with myself, sort of an author one-on-one. Me and myself discussed my writing and the “money” feedback. We agreed that the critique was accurate and held truth, in that I have not yet sold ten thousand or more books. At the same, we decided that it was also one-sided, based on the short, six-month time period since Crown Hill’s publication. From there is was an easy leap to acknowledging best seller status is as much luck as talent and definitely out of any author’s control.

We came to the accord that the measure of a writer’s success varies according to individual standards. And while I aspire to author my way to a healthy bank account and a notch or two on the NY Times Best Seller List, at this moment I am thrilled with continual Crown Hill reviews reflecting a love of my storytelling and a fondness for my characters, which readers describe as, “… missing long after the final page.

So here I am, days later, still working through this “success” critique. The good news is that I have figured out the only true and important definition of Crown Hill success belongs to me. I have also determined that my storytelling purpose has always been to have a voice, engage an audience, make a difference. And that purpose is not focused on selling millions of books/making money, rather it’s a passion for crafting words that touch readers blended with a determination for those words to reach the world.

The question is, can one happen without the other?

About the Author:
Christina Abt is an accomplished author, newspaper columnist and radio broadcaster. Her written work has been featured in national publications including an array of Chicken Soup Books and national equine publications, as well as The Buffalo News, Artvoice, Buffalo Spree, Traffic East and EVE Magazines. Her first book, “Chicken Wing Wisdom: Western New York Stories of Family, Life and Food Shared Around the Table” became a regional best-seller (http://www.chickenwingwisdom.com/ “Crown Hill,” is her first novel.

You can catch her on her website www.christinaabt.com and Twitter.

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Character

Below is an interesting article about Creating Authentic Characters written by Sherman Smith. As with previous articles I’ve reposted in the past, I enjoyed the message and want to offer a few observations of my own a well.

When it comes to creating characters, I was taught not to try too hard to create a deeply unique persona. Doing so, I was told, can strip away a character’s humanity, leaving them alien or cartoonish—difficult for the reader to identify with. Rather than embellish or bloat a character’s persona in an effort to make them more interesting, I was taught to closely observe what might at first appear to be a boring character in order to discover what is special about them.

A character that is allowed to simply be will, over time, reveal the quirks of their personality much as a infant develops personality traits that quickly distinguish them as a  unique and special human being.

The key is to envision your characters fully, see them for who they truly are, rather than thrust ridiculous idiosyncrasies upon them in a heavy-handed attempt to make them more engaging. Ever single person, past, present, or future, has qualities that make them interesting. Your characters are no exception.

With this in mind, the question becomes not, “Can I come up with an authentic character?” but rather, “Can I envision my authentic character clearly enough to portray them to the reader?”

For more on envisioning your characters, as well as your story, check out my prior post on The Pool.

Happy writing. —R Scott Boyer

Creating Authentic Characters | BookDaily #AuthorTips

What is character? A simple definition of character is the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. Bringing this to characters in your writing is what makes them truly memorable. It defines them allowing the reader to like, love, or hate the character that drives your story forward. Think for a moment about the great characters in books such as ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, ‘Finnegans Wake’, ‘The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter’, The Sand Pebbles’ to list a few. Readers can even relate to dark characters as illustrated in ‘Lord Of the Flies’ and ‘Clock Work Orange.’

Character is also generational. “The old man accepted a hand shake as another man’s word of honor.” Today there are few that grasp that. After seventy years of living behind the Iron Curtain some words like ‘Is it the truth’ or ‘Is it fair’ were not translatable in Russian; at least not with meaning. So when you paint your character with CHARACTER make sure it fits the time and the world they are moving through.

Your readers will grow to love or hate the characters you have created because they know that you to feel the same way.

About the Author
Sherman Smith

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Comments on Action Scenes

 I recently read an interesting article about Crafting Killer Action Scenes. Written by Francesca Pelaccia, the article is wonderful but long, with lots of examples to illustrate the author’s points. I might repost the article later, but in the meantime, I’ve decided to offer a summary of some of Ms. Pelaccia’s key points, along with a bit of my own advice on the subject of crafting quality action scenes :

(1) In her article, Ms. Pelaccia discusses the importance of avoiding extraneous descriptions during action scenes. My advice on this point is to set the scene beforehand, thus avoiding the need for description once the action is underway. As my old writing instructor use to tell me, “Nothing happens nowhere.” In other words,  you must first tell the reader where your character(s) are before they start performing actions. To do otherwise is to leave the reader utterly confused as to where the action is taking place. Plus, describing the scene upfront is tremendously helpful later on because it allows you to focus on what’s happening rather than the surroundings when things get moving.

(2) Avoid internalizations during action. Another excellent piece of advice. I was taught to visualize a movie or television camera — when it comes to action, try to stick to what the camera would see (or hear). Focus on the senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, etc.). Once again, clearing the decks ahead of time of any extraneous items such as dialogue or internalizations paves the way for smooth, faster-paced action.

(3) The other tips about using short sentences and short paragraphs are pretty straight-forward. Rather than elaborate on these topics, I will refer you once again to Ms. Pelaccia’s excellent post Crafting Killer Action Scenes| BookDaily #AuthorTips.

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Creating a Feedback Loop

The following article is obviously an solicitation at its core, and yet I found the underlying message quite compelling and informative. In the year and a half since publishing my first book, I’ve discovered that marketing truly is everything when it comes to gaining an audience.

I hope you find this post interesting. Also, for anyone who missed it, I wrote a post a few days ago about Finding Motivation, which can be located here. After a five month absence, I’m ready to wrap up number three and get started on Bobby Ether book number four!

Create a Feedback Loop for Book Marketing

by US Review of Books

For sixty millenniums, civilization has exchanged information by word of mouth. Ideas rise and fall in discussion where messages are repeated again and again with others until a generally held belief is developed. Little has changed, except the method of talk. Whether you are promoting a book or tube of toothpaste, the name and message must be repeated, and if you control a small group of messages about your book, you can build a feedback loop that will drive its popularity.

Any experienced author knows that few members of the media provide original book coverage. For a variety of reasons, reporters digest the media kit and whatever information is available on the newsfeeds and repackage the existing information as a fresh offering for their audience. They are echoing the available feedback and, most specifically, the message your media kit presents. When fresh material appears, you get to choose what to incorporate into your ongoing campaign.

Readers behave this way as well. When they visit the major Internet stopping points for reader-generated book feedback, such as Amazon or GoodReads. they will not only decide to read a favorably reviewed book, but they will likely post similar experiences. This works for negative feedback as well. Whether accurate or not, a negative feedback loop is almost impossible to defeat. Just ask Monica Lewinski. The cycle of negativity launched against her did not occur organically. It was generated for political purposes and has been nurtured for twenty years. Again, the key is to control your own message.

When building talking points for a publicity campaign, first decide if your book is timely or timeless. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, timely books can be attached to current and relevant subjects. Each day, the news media drives people through specific topics and trends. Just saying your book is related will garner media attention. If your book is lucky enough to relate to the topic du jour or you are a topical expert, make the messaging about only that issue until the news cycle burns out.

If your book is a timeless read, identify the genre or subject matter that best identifies your book and highlight the many ways that your book is different or better than what exists on the shelves. As the author, your experience should enter the discussion. Remember, first the reader comes to the author, and then the reader notices the book. Like the book, there should be a singular description about you that helps pique interest and focus the message.

With the recent saturation of Twitter and Facebook promotional pages, publishers admit that social media isn’t what it once was, and they are returning emphasis to the three tier media approach: local, regional, and national, where each level builds on the other until a large feedback loop is underway. This fact likely makes veteran authors chuckle. For years, they’ve worked news clippings within their media kits to focus the discussion regarding their books. These clippings, by the way, are easily reintroduced and reposted on social media platforms. So again, not a lot has changed since the dawn of civilization. A few standout facts, placed in front of an interested audience, will be repeated, and the positive feedback will pile up.

The US Review of Books seeds feedback loops with professional reviews sent to 15,000 monthly subscribers, including additional followers on GoodReads, Facebook, and Twitter.

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