How Writing Poetry Will Help Your Novel

Have you ever tried to convey emotion in your writing, but it just seemed to fall flat?  Maybe you feel as though no human being would ever feel what your characters are feeling or maybe their thoughts seem stilted and you can’t seem to find any breakthroughs.

Well, have you tried writing poetry?

Poetry could be the key that you need to unlock your next leel of writing.
Poetry could be the key that you need to unlock your next level of writing.

“But, I’m not writing poetry; I’m writing a novel,” you say.  And I respectfully disagree.  All prose should be treated as poetry.  Every word that goes into your manuscript should be selected with the same level of care that you would use when crafting an original poem.  After all, if you’re looking to impress readers, editors, and/or agents, the ticket is great prose.  If you don’t believe me, ask yourself the last time any well-written fictional character said or thought exactly what they were feeling at the given moment.  That list of yours will be pretty short, because good authors make their money with those short snippets of poetry that describe their characters’ journeys.

Let’s take an example from the master, William Shakespeare:

“To be, or not to be–that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.”

Now, if Shakespeare had wanted to, he could’ve made Hamlet say, “I wonder if I should kill myself,” and it would’ve served the exact same purpose.  However, the reader would not have been able to realize that Hamlet wished to kill himself because he felt like he was suffering the “slings and arrows” of misfortune as well as “a sea of troubles.”  These are images that readers are familiar with and clue them in to how profoundly defeated Hamlet feels in his famous soliloquy.

Am I saying that we should all write like Shakespeare?  No.  I’m pretty sure that the market for that kind of writing has mostly disappeared.  However, I do suggest that you write poetry.  Does your character have a love interest?  Then write a poem about love from their point of view to get the juices flowing.  Maybe you have a character that suffers from depression.  Write poetry about that.

Currently, I’m starting a series on my 20lines account called the “Emotion Series,” which will be a collection of short poems on various human emotions and feelings.  My first, “Hope,” can be read online at my 20lines homepage, http://en.20lines.com/JDMacGregor, where you may also read some excerpts from my novel, Blood of the Innocents, should you feel so inclined.

Thanks for reading, and if you enjoyed the content, please subscribe!

Creating an Outline for your Mystery Novel

I’m currently in the throes of kicking around ideas for a murder mystery, and I stumbled upon this excellent post by JC Gatlin. Since I have a bit of a hectic weekend, I thought I’d use this as my weekly update. If you enjoy the content, make sure to subscribe to JC’s actual blog at jcgatlin.com.

JC Gatlin - Author

canstockphoto12820650Writing a nail-biting mystery novel begins with putting together a solid outline. Sometimes, though, that’s easier said than done. Right?

Here’s the outline I use when starting one of my murder mysteries. It follows the basic mystery genre formula but asks some questions to get the creative juices flowing. Character motivations, plot direction and the all important ending are established. Obviously, as the story is written, it may veer slightly to the left or right, and develop some unexpected twists and turns. But, that’s the fun part.

Mystery Novel Outline

I. Set-up (Possibly back story)
   A. Main Character has a single goal to accomplish
   B. Murderer has a motive to kill the victim
   C. The victim affected many character’s lives
        – Suspect #1

– Suspect #2
– Suspect #3
D. Supporting characters
E. Romantic or controversial subplot

II. A murder is committed
A. How?

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A little about ThrillerFest and a little about me…

I’m still in the middle of polishing my manuscript before sending them off to the interested agents I spoke with at ThrillerFest.  As a result, I’m sort of copping out on my post today.  I realize that I never bothered to introduce who I am or what I’m about on this blog.  Fortunately, I’ve written a piece about this for my website.  I’ve copied and pasted that article below.  For the loyal few of you who have read this, enjoy this video of puppies playing with kittens.

I have always loved a good story.  Ever since I was a little kid, I would let my imagination run wild, inventing all sorts of characters and adventures.  I could keep myself busy for hours, and the only things I required were an empty room and my imagination.

Not much has changed.  I do significantly less running around (although it’s not uncommon for me to pace), but I haven’t outgrown my imagination or let that part of myself grow up.  However, recently I decided that I should try sharing the labors of my imagination with others.  The natural conclusion was to write a book.

Okay, so I may have left a few parts out.  I’ve been writing for a while, too.  Starting from about 3rd grade going all the way into middle school, I would frequently jot down a few stories here and there.  I can remember one summer night when I was in the 7th grade or so, I spent the entire night behind my computer writing out a story instead of playing outside.  I remember thinking, “Wow, I wasted all that time!”  Only to follow it up with:  “No, this was worth it.”  I suppose I’ve always been a writer a heart.

In high school and college, I took a break from writing.  Oddly enough, it was at about this time that I put “writing a novel” as one of the entries on my bucket list.  I’ve always had the desire to write something, but I convinced myself that I wasn’t ready yet… or that I wasn’t good enough.

But, everything changed when I played a game called Night’s Black Agents, a role playing game by Kenneth Hite.  It was a game where players took on the roles of secret agents that were forced to deal with supernatural threats.  I had the privilege of playing with Ken himself, and after that experience, I was hooked.  I immediately began to come up with my own characters and scenes (sound familiar?) so that I could share this awesome game with my friends.  Unfortunately, very few of my friends were into role playing games, and I was never able to get a game together.

Dejected, I sat in my apartment, looking at the story and characters that no one would ever get to see.  But, I said to myself, “Write it down.”  And, in that moment, everything made perfect sense; I remember thinking that that was a perfectly logical conclusion to my predicament.  So, I did just that.

Over time, I reawakened the writer that has always been a part of me, and I cranked out my first novel, Blood of the Innocents, in about one year, including four rounds of edits.  I am still working on honing my craft in terms of prose, but I firmly believe that storytelling is my strong suit, and I believe that Blood of the Innocents serves as a testament to that.  I am still looking to improve myself, but after one rewrite and too many rounds of edits to count, I believe that my manuscript is ready for publication.

Here are a few other things about me.  I am a freelance writer from Stony Brook, New York, and I’m currently working on a follow-up book to Blood of the Innocents.  A few of my hobbies include kayaking, board games, and music.  I am currently lending my talents to the development of a low budget, independent video game.

Update from ThrillerFest

Hi Everyone,

I had an amazing two days at ThrillerFest, the annual convention for the International Thriller Writers.  I spent the majority of my time at what they call CraftFest, a series of seminars on how to approach various aspects of writing projects.

I sat in on a seminar about Point of View, hosted by best-selling author Steve Berry, who instructed us on the finer points of “psychic distance:”  referring to a character as “he” or “she” rather than “Cato” or “Talia,” and when to do one or the other.  All the while he instructed us, I kept thinking of all of the mistakes present in my own book and how many changes I would have to make later.  Fortunately, I’m about a quarter of the way through my manuscript, and the alterations were not as difficult as I’d imagined.

The most fun seminar by far was “How to go from a great idea to a finished book in three steps,” hosted by best-selling author, Jon Land.  Jon is an incredibly friendly guy, brimming over with enthusiasm about seemingly everything.  During his seminar, he moderated the audience in a crowd-source session, where we outlined the plot of an original novel in under 45 minutes.  I met up with him afterwards, and he was kind enough to sign my copy of his latest novel, Black Scorpion.

Me&JonLand2

Jon Land (left) and myself at one of the ThrillerFest booksignings.

   The most exciting part of my ThrillerFest experience was PitchFest, a three hour event wherein I had the opportunity to pitch my novel to several of the agents at the event.  Out of the 10 agents I talked to, 7 seemed genuinely interested (with 2 requests for a full manuscript), 1 seemed ambivalent, and other 2 declined, because they did not represent urban fantasy.  All in all, the prospects for my book getting picked up look good, provided that my writing and storytelling hold up to scrutiny.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed as I begin to pour over my manuscript, changing last minute errors.  I’m simultaneously excited and nervous, because I know that this story is the best I can do without altering the plot and characters.  This means that it is either heading for success, or bound for failure.  Only time will tell which.

Thank you for your support,

Jon

I’m Going to ThrillerFest

So, it’s been awhile since my last post.  Part of this is because I’ve been preparing myself for ThrillerFest X (that’s the 10th iteration of ThrillerFest, not a ThrillerFest that is trying to make itself sound extreme).  ThrillerFest is a conference for writers of tales of suspense and intrigue, and as such, I thought it would be the perfect place to pitch my novel, Blood of the Innocents.

I’ve been working on this project for the past two years, finishing it twice:  one “final” draft that didn’t work and the rewrite of that draft that I believe does.  I now have what I feel is the best story I can tell with my current plot and cast of characters.  Hopefully, someone in the publishing industry agrees with me.

I’m keeping this post short, but I’m using my time on the train on the way to ThrillerFest to prepare more content for this blog.  I plan to post a summary of my adventures at ThrillerFest on Sunday as part of my “regular” posts, and I also have plans for a movie review column (“The Good, the Bad, and the Crtical”) that will make appearances on this blog.

Wish me luck at ThrillerFest, and thanks for reading!