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Posts Tagged ‘opening scene’

As I’ve been creating mystery #3, taking place in mid-December New England, I discovered I was mixing up Colonial timelines and character names with the later Victorian architecture.

I had to make a decision so I could write the opening scene in the appropriate location.

Victorian period would allow the story to unfold in a beautifully appointed bed & breakfast, converted from a generations-old family home.

Colonial architecture would age the bed & breakfast, allowing centuries-old family history to filter into the story.

Earlier this week, my husband and I visited the Daniel Webster Estate in Marshfield, MA, to help narrow my choice. And yesterday, I stopped by the Society of Mayflower Descendants in Plymouth, MA, for a nice chat with the two women behind the desk and a man sitting at a research table.

In the end, because my fictional Harbor Falls series is located on the coast of Massachusetts, I settled on a Colonial backstory. Connections to the Mayflower pilgrims, a sad eighteenth century ghost, and parallels to current times will round out the main mystery plot with ghostly connections to my amateur sleuth’s personal subplot.

Such fun!

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Hollihock headerNext weekend, I’ll be attending the second annual Hollihock Writers Conference in New Bedford, MA. They are offering multitudes of classes, panels, and speakers throughout the 3-days.

This is a new conference as you can tell by the title. I found out about it this past spring at a Writers Retreat on Cape Cod. One of the other writers… Diana Grady from Buzzards Bay Writing Project… mentioned this conference because she thought I’d be interested. Diana will be leading one of the workshops.

Learning new tips and tricks about the process of creating fiction is not only a pleasure, but keeps my retired brain active and alert. There is always something to be gleaned from every class, every speaker, every panel participant.

If you live in southern New England, and haven’t yet signed up, the ‘REGISTER HERE’ button on their website still appears to be active, so what are you waiting for?

http://www.hollihock.org/

 

 

 

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hands on keyboardThis past weekend, I attended Crime Bake in Dedham, MA. Sponsored by Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, this conference is always inspiring, but not without its disappointments to a budding author.

First, there was the ‘First Page Critique’ session after lunch on Saturday. When my first page was read, only one agent defended my efforts because she has seen my progress. But neither she nor the other four agents raised a hand to indicate they would read further.

Second, my pitch to an agent, hoping to hook her into asking for my first three chapters, fell on deaf ears. This could be my fault, because I decided to change my genre from mystery to romantic suspense after the pitch practice session on Friday night. I’m going back to mystery genre.

Third time was a charm! My manuscript evaluation was provided by Ray Daniel, a Boston author. He pointed out that although my writing is good, and my verbs are strong, I’m asking my reader to hang in with me for a third of the novel before we find out that there is a body. Over the months, I’ve changed my opening scene too many times to count, but Ray’s words made sense to me. I finally got it!

So I flew out of bed early on Sunday morning, rushed to my computer and opened a new file. I pulled Chapter 12 forward, did a bit of tweeking and printed off a new page one. When I arrived at the Dedham Hilton for the final day of the conference, I bumped into Ray within minutes and asked what he thought of the new first page. He gave it a thumbs up…yea!

My writing days will now include not only regular revision, but a re-sequencing of my chapters to move my suspects into the middle.

But, oh,  how exciting this is!

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imagesWell, today was the deadline to submit 15 pages for a manuscript evaluation at the upcoming Crime Bake Conference, sponsored by Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

After several revisions, I managed to condense the first 13 pages of my story to end with Chapter 2 where the initial hook hopefully sinks in. The first page was a cover sheet, and the second a one-page synopsis. How difficult was that to write??? All the broad strokes on one page!

My submission will be assigned to an agent, an editor, or a published mystery writer for evaluation. I’ll find out who when I register on November 8.

The two of us will find a quiet corner in the Hilton Hotel and spend fifteen minutes together. She will tell me what she thinks of my story and my writing. It will be a nerve-wracking experience, but a necessary evil. After sending my story through two separate writing groups, eliminating my original opening chapters and many unnecessary scenes, plus rewriting the first page a gazillion times, I can only hope that my evaluator thinks my story is in pretty good shape.

During this conference, I will also pitch my book to the attending agents. Maybe I’ll finally get a bite!

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group discussion2This week heralded the 51st Anniversary of the Cape Cod Writers Center Conference. Previously hosted in the quaint village of Craigville, last year the conference organizers found it necessary to move to the larger and more attendee-friendly Resort and  Conference Center of Hyannis, Massachusetts. With the growing number of attendees, the need for additional parking and WiFi access became crucial.

The classes offered were top-notch, with instructors from around the country. One of my classes was titled, “Five Pillars of Promotion”, and detailed the actions necessary ahead of publication, along with a timeline to insure that a newly printed book is well received.

Another class was called, “Pitches, Queries, and Proposals”. This workshop was taught by a husband-wife team who entertained us with their friendly disagreements.

My third and final session was named, “Conference Idol”, and was perhaps the most valuable hour I spent this past week. Three agents sat at the front of the room. Each attendee submitted their first page, identified only by title and genre. As the page was read, each agent lifted her hand when she heard something that would cause her to stop reading. When two hands went up, the reader halted her recitation, and the agents explained why they would go no further if this story was submitted to them for consideration. Whether they were commenting on my first page or someone else’s, the insight garnered from the perspective of the agents was invaluable.

As a bonus, one of those agents offered to sit down with me and review my first page word by word. I readily accepted, and she suggested several improvements, among them moving a strong sentence halfway down the page to be the first sentence. What a difference that made! I must have rewritten that first page more than twenty… or more!…times, but I now think it’s finally beginning in the most provocative part of the story.

I’m looking forward to my next conference, held in November, called “CrimeBake’, sponsored by the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime. This conference is devoted to mysteries, and will no doubt be as equally valuable.

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sketch of question personOK… so I’ve been wrestling with my opening chapter for what seems like forever. I’ve read many writing craft books. One craft book says the author can’t mess with normal until your reader knows what normal is.

And so I’ve arrived at a quandary… how do I hook my reader [and my first reader is an agent] with the inciting incident and show my main character’s normal life at the same time?

A while ago, I attended an event at a local library called Author Idol, where the 25 authors sitting in the audience had each submitted their anonymous first three pages. The four agents up on stage raised one hand when the reader came to a place where the agent would reject the manuscript. Two agents’ hands in the air signaled the reader to stop. Would it surprise you to hear that most of us didn’t get past the first two paragraphs???

How scary is that???

How perfect does that opening have to be???

What happened to editors???

If an agent is not willing to read at least the first three pages, what hope do I have of ever getting published?

So it’s back to the drawing board. On Saturday, I’ll submit to my writing group yet another attempt at my opening. My fingers are crossed that I’m at least getting closer.

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…to send it out!!!

After many, many revisions, my story finally begins in the right place…I think.

My stronger protagonist encounters the “inciting incident” by the end of page seven.

I’ve moved evil back story into future chapters.

I’ve eliminated narrative that interrupts the plot.

I’ve eliminated duplications and replaced weak verbs with stronger ones.

I’ve been mindful that my internal and external character arc mesh and mingle.

I’m hopeful that readers will be hooked and not put it down until page 309…The End.

So why am I petrified to enter it into a contest for first time novelists!

Where do I find the nerve to JUST DO IT? …no idea.

My calendar is marked with a deadline of mid-October… will I push the button? Stay tuned.

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