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Writing Books/Novel Question....


Hi Tabitha,
I have a great idea and a great structure for a science fiction novel.  When I say structure, I am an engineer by trait, so I love outlines and that kind of thing, so I have bout all of my chapters defined and what they are about ... kind of, I i am sure they will develop and change.  I have written a couple of Paragraphs defining each character at the beginning, just so I can stay consistent.  My question really involves the mechanics I guess - I like writing, I really want to do this I think it will sell millions of copies.  I have written portions then stopped, several times over several years so it is very disjointed and I just want to start crunching through some detailed content about he said and she said.... but I hate redundant work so I am trying to figure out the best way to get re-motivated and move through the development of the novel and content creation.... I hope you understand this rambling, because I could really use some feedback!  Thanks, Dave

Hi, David!

I'm not Tabitha, but I saw your question in the question pool, so I thought I'd offer some advice.

It sounds like you're the type of writer called a "plotter." So am I. This type of writer does all of the background work in advance---comes up with all the reasons why things work and the backgrounds of the characters and such before a single word gets put on paper.


But then it's time to actually put the idea on paper. That's trickier. The mechanics of writing are such that you're going to have to jump in and just do it. What helps me is to look at the timeline that I've created and try to pick a point that's an action scene of the book. "Action" doesn't have to mean running from a killer or racing toward a goal . . . although that's pretty common in science fiction. But it DOES mean that the event of the first chapter is interesting enough to make the reader turn to chapter two to find out what happens. Know now that it'll be hard to step outside of the timeline that you've created unless you accept that before the book opens, a thousand years of history happened, and after it ends, a thousand more will occur. So, the point in time you pick to open the book might not be the beginning of the timeline you created.

Take, for example, Star Wars. Did it HAVE to start on board the cruiser with Darth Vader attacking the ship? No, but if the first chapter ended (or a commercial was inserted, in the case of a made-for-television movie) at the moment when the guards were waiting for the ship's hull to be breached---well, you'd probably turn the page.

If, however, you started the same story with Leah leaving Alderon and having a mostly boring diplomatic voyage, would you turn to chapter two? Probably not.

Getting reenergized after the outline is something that all of us plotters have to struggle a bit with. But it might help to imagine scenes in your head to see if they "fit" the point that you need to start the book at. Some of it might come in flashbacks, or just in a few key sentences that tell the reader SOMETHING important happened, like: "You served my father during the clone wars." For the first three movies, the viewer (reader) had no idea what the clone wars were, but you knew they were important. Same with a book. Not everything that's important needs to be addressed. Some things just "are."

I hope that makes sense. Good luck with the book!


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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