Two Authors Share Insights on Writing, Agents, Outlining, Etc.

If you aren't quite sure how to outline your novel or if you despise outlining to begin with, try a new approach: Outline your novel backwards.

That's what Ken Follett does.  Follett, author of thrillers such as Eye of the Needle, Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, was interviewed along with David Morrell (whose most famous character, John Rambo, debuted in Morrell's 1972 novel First Blood) by Writer's Digest.  Both authors share a wealth of insights into the writing process, the value of agents, and other topics.

Some quotes:

Be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of another writer.

                                                                               Morrell

Every character must have a thrust, something he or she is yearning for, trying to achieve.  Otherwise, no matter how interesting the character is, there's no story, no forward momentum.

                                                                               Follett

I have a lot of reasons to think that reality is not a friendly neighborhood.  And the stories that I tell distract me, and if I do the job right they distract people from the things that are happening to them that they wish had never happened.

                                                                               Morrell

It’s the ability to make you think again about what you’ve already written that is so useful. Somebody who can say, this scene lacks something, or this character.

                                                                              Follett, on what to look for in an agent

Even if you don't write thrillers, the advice Morrell and Follett offer is invaluable.  The entire interview is long, but well worth your time.

Comments

Dave Whitaker said…
The second quotation about every character having a thrust especially resonated for me. It relates to an article from Create Space which I just posted on Facebook. My comment about that article is that it detailed what really is another way of focusing one's book on what the conflict is or what drives the main character. I think of it in terms of summing up one's book in one sentence - what is going to happen to this character in this book that makes it interesting enough for the reader to want to go on the journey?

http://www.facebook.com/notes/createspace/your-storys-inciting-incident/10150344819011508
I agree completely about the importance of an inciting incident. The classic example of an inciting incident is in the movie "The Wizard of Oz": If the tornado doesn't disrupt Dorothy's normal life, then the rest of the story doesn't happen.

But what is Dorothy's thrust? What is she yearning for? To get back home. If she's perfectly happy and content in the land of the Munchkins, the story would have no momentum. So, inciting incident and thrust go hand in hand.

Thanks for sharing the link, Dave. Good article.

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