Backshadowing (foreshadowing in reverse)

Backshadowing (foreshadowing in reverse)

Allow me, if you will be so kind, to coin a new word. As authors, we’re trained to always foreshadow. This means we drop hints to the reader in advance—preferably three or more times—that something is going to happen. Why foreshadow? Mostly, to avoid deus ex machina. Foreshadowing can also strengthen your work because of plot doubling, a trick I use often. Plot doubling is a term I learned from David Farland. It happens when you use the same plot twice, but the second time is stronger than the first. It allows you to amplify situations and create resonance. But foreshadowing can be tricky. If you know every single thing that will happen in the book—in great detail—you should be able to layer in foreshadowing as you go. But most of us don’t know every...

Of words and word counts

Of words and word counts

Words. They are what we writers do, the end result of our efforts, the outpouring of our psyches. The quality of your words and the order in which they appear combine to make your final product, your story, your book. But this post is not about which words you use. This post is about the number of words. Book length When first starting out, would-be novelists are often perplexed to find that manuscripts are not counted in pages. After all, isn’t that what the end product is? Pages? But no, manuscripts are counted in words. Many of our friends become confused when we speak to them in word counts. They ask: “But how many pages is that? Why must you count the words?” The answer, of course, is simple. Trim size (the physical dimensions of the page),...

Skipping the worldbuilding

Skipping the worldbuilding

There are three primary things that go into making a novel: character, setting, and plot. The prewriting process is where you design out all of those things before you begin putting words to paper. Authors are all over the map on how exactly they do this. Brandon Sanderson creates detailed plot outlines and figures out all of his setting details, but discovery writes his characters. Many writers start with a strong character, but discovery write the plot. George R. R. Martin discovery writes everything. I’m somewhat different: I plan my plot and my characters in advance, but I discovery write my setting. This is somewhat uncommon in the writing world, and it can be very dangerous. But if you have the right mentality, it can work for you. Iceberg right ahead...

Breaking the outline

Breaking the outline

Sometimes your characters say or do something you didn’t expect. Every writer falls into a spectrum between “architects” and “gardeners” (also called plotters and pantsers). On the left we have writers who thoroughly outline everything down to the scene (or even paragraph!) level. On the right, authors will come up with just a beginning, or maybe even just one scene or character, and see where things go from there. The distinguishing attribute is usually how you come up with your ending: do you figure out your ending first, or do you intentionally avoid knowing how the story ends? Architects usually start with the ending; gardeners don’t. Most writers are somewhere in the middle. Ryan Lanz has a good post about it where he...

Writer’s block

Writer’s block

I just experienced, and conquered, my first “writer’s block.” Much has been written about the phenomenon, but I thought I could add my own experience and thoughts about it. Some writers will tell you that writer’s block doesn’t exist. This is in fact very good advice, because it encourages writers to stop focusing on the problem, and instead focus on the solution. Writer’s block does, in my opinion, exist, however. But it may not be what you think it is. Many people think writer’s block is this thing where the writer suddenly doesn’t know what to write. They’re stuck. But I’m an outliner. My whole plot has been written–not to a huge amount of detail, but the basics are there. I know what to write, for...