I’m methodical to a fault. Annoyingly methodical. Nauseatingly methodical. It’s a wonder I ever finish anything (but I do).
I’ve studied quite a few texts on fiction writing and undertaken several courses through the ACT Writers’ Centre. I’ve condensed all of that information into a set of checklists, tables and templates. I will gradually make these structures available on this site—‘gradually’ because it will take me a while since there’s so many of them, and because I want to coerce you into revisiting!
You can access the resources for a specific topic via the menu on the left. But before you do that, please consider the general tips below.
To use the resource tables, you’ll probably want to copy and paste them into a word processor. That might break the links between the various tables, although Microsoft Word can handle such links. You’ll also want to adjust the column widths.
These tables assume a fair amount of familiarity with fiction writing terminology and definitions. Ergo, they may not be entirely comprehensible to those who haven’t studied the trade. For more information on terms used, consult the sources, search the internet, post a question on the Australian Writers’ Forum, or contact me directly.
The risk with templates, checklists, etc, is that they can become straight-jackets leading to formulaic, stereotypical writing. The way to avoid that is to use the templates only for guidance and inspiration (eg, ‘Oh, that’s a good idea; I would never have thought of that.’). When you don’t feel like complying, don’t. I don’t even follow my templates in my own stories. (Whether that’s deemed to be a strength or a weakness remains to be seen.)
Moreover, because the templates are based on very many sources, and because I’ve retained virtually everything I came across, there’s way more in them than you should try to use. Be selective. If you don’t care about a certain issue, skip it. I did. If you try to consider everything listed, you’ll never start to write.
Another consequence of having considered so many sources is that one becomes aware of potential contradictions. Different people like different things, and have different approaches to things. In some cases, I’ve retained the conflicting guidelines, so if you see some things that can’t easily be reconciled, that could be why.
In other cases (especially regarding formatting), I made some decisions about what seems best, based on the prevalence, currency and quality of the information—and somewhat on my personal preferences. Ergo, you’ll find different advice elsewhere (including my own sources!).
Of course, you should follow the requirements of individual agents and publishers when submitting to them (if you didn’t, it would hardly be ‘submitting’, would it? ). This will apply especially to manuscript formatting, query/pitch letters and synopses.Sources
Ballon, R. 2003, Breathing life into your characters: how to give your characters emotional and psychological depth, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati.
Bransford, N. 2009, How to write a synopsis [Online], Available: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/08/how-to-write-synopsis.html [2009, Dec. 29].
Card, S.C. 1988, Characters and viewpoint, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati.
Hardman, E. 2007, Advanced creative writing course, Canberra.
Kilian, C. 1998, Writing science fiction and fantasy, 2nd edn, Self-Counsel Press, Bellingham, USA.
Lamott, A. 1994, Bird by bird: some instructions on writing and life, Pantheon Books, New York.
Lucke, M. 1998, Schaum’s quick guide to writing great short stories, McGraw-Hill, New York.
Marshall, E. 2004, Novel writing: 16 steps to success, 2nd edn, A&C Black, London.
McKee, R. 1999, Story: substance, structure, style and the principles of screenwriting, Methuen, London.
Perlberg, D. 2006, Writing for young adults, Alpha Books, New York.
Sambuchino, S. 2009, Synopsis writing [Online], Available: http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/CategoryView,category,SynopsisWriting.aspx [2009, Dec. 29].
Shunn, W. 2009, Proper manuscript format [Online], Available: http://www.shunn.net/format/story.html [2009, Dec. 29].
Snooks & Co 2002, Style manual for authors, editors and printers, 6th edn, rev. Snooks & Co., John Wiley & Sons, Canberra.
Stein, S. 2000, Solutions for novelists: secrets of a master editor, Souvenir Press, London.
Vera, L. 2007, Introductory creative writing course, Canberra.
…the links page for other writing references.