What is your novel's theme? Ron and Gina discuss theme and howto "state the theme" early in your story to draw your readerin.
Theme is one of those topics us novelists either spend too much time worrying about or none at all. Those of you who do not plot, who we call "pansters," especially avoid the subject. Plotters often write out our story them and post it over our desk to ensure we never stray from our story core.
Either way is fine. The fact is, your theme will grow out of your story whether you carefully plan it or give no thought to it whatsoever. If you don't claim a theme, your readers certainly will. Whether a plotter or panster, however, I will suggest that you state your theme early in the novel. The plotter can do it upon typing the first draft. The panster will want to come back and insert it later. But, either way, it's a powerful tool that will plant a seed in your reader's mind, one that will have a huge pay off.
Start out by writing down your theme. Again, this can happen before you begin your novel, or after you've completed the first or even second draft. Themes are not complex creatures. They're very vague and can apply to a multitude of story ideas. In fact, some authors use the same theme over and over throughout their careers. And why not? If it works and the readers love it, why change?
Here a few examples of theme:
Okay, those are off the top of my head. You can probably come up with a few of your own. But see? Themes are not specific. They are not your one-sentence summary, idea, or premise. These are a bit more specific (and yes, we will be talking about them again!).
So stop here and jot down a them for a story you're thinking of or one you've written. Go ahead. I'll check my Instagram likes while I wait...
Got it? Good.
Now, I want you to write a short scene for this story. Just a paragraph or two. And I want you--or more specifically, one of your characters--to state the theme. I will use the opening scene from my upper middle-grade historical, SCORPION SUMMER. Eleven year-old Jack and his dad are looking for seashells on the beach in Norfolk, Virgina, in January of 1968. My theme: For one thing to live, another must die.
Dad stares out into the gray forever of the Atlantic, cold water sliding up his bare shins as the waves roll past.
A clump of seaweed looks promising so I give a kick. A half-eaten fish rolls out.
Dad turns and looks at the fish. "Way of the sea!" he shouts over the hiss of the wind and waves. "And nature. Something has to die in order for something else to live and grow."
See how simple that was? You don't have to quote your theme verbatim. I certainly didn't. And I've casted a nice foreshadow for what will follow (yes, Dad will be lost with his sub, the USS Scorpion, America's last sub to be lost at sea).
The absolute best way to state your theme is through dialogue, as I've shown here. If you do it through the narrative, it comes across as author intrusion. So get your hero together with another character, who will state the theme to her. Your hero, of course, will be resistant to this theme, because it's early in the novel and she hasn't changed yet! By the way, the more tension-filled the dialogue, the better.
Besides writing your own short paragraph to state your theme, be on the lookout for this technique in the films you watch or the books you read. It usually comes within the first chapter of a book or first few minutes of a film. You've probably never noticed, which means the writer has done his job well. But a seed was planted in your mind as the story progressed. If done well, a theme stated will have a huge pay off at the end.
Feel free to share! If you have a theme in mind and\or an example paragraph to go with it, We'd love to see it. Leave it in the comments below.
What is writer's voice? Ron and Gina discuss writer's voice, howto find yours and never lose it!
Gina and Ron talk about the editing process and some great online help to take away some of the editing stress.
The scene is the basic building block of your novel. The action-reaction sequence makes up the scene. Make sure you understand the basic elements of the action-reaction sequence, or you'll lose your reader!
In our last NaNoWriMo prep show, we come to the final step in your preparations for a successful NaNo: the scene spreadsheet.
If you know what you're going to write before you sit down each day, cranking out 50,000 words in a month is easy.
Ron and Gina continue with their preparation for NaNoWriMo with expanded summary and plot, two crucial steps to a solid story.
This week Gina and Ron discuss the first steps toward your NaNoWriMo preparations:
1. The one sentence summary
2. Identifying your protagonist
3. Expanding to a one paragraph summary.
4. Your supporting cast
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This week Ron and Gina kick off our NaNoWriMo prep month by discussing Fast Fiction with YA Author Denise Jaden.
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This week Gina and Ron talk to Ben Wolf, founder of Splickety Magazine and novelist.
This week Ron and Gina introduce our new Editing expert, Morgan MacDonald. Morgan offers valuable tips on how to get your book written and how to work with an editor.
Also, for the first time we are hosting and recording the show live on Blab. You can join us next time and participate by going to Blab.im and registering. If you sign up for our newsletter at TeenWritersPublish.com, we'll let you know before each show, so you can join in on the conversation.
This week Ron interviewss Heather Sunseri, author of Mindspeak, a YA dystopian series. Check out Heather's website here:
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This week Ron interviews bestselling author Claire LaZebnik. Claire's recent YA titles include:
You can check out Claire's wesite at http://clairelazebnik.com
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Ron and Gina interview Terry Whalin, who's been involved in the publishing industry for over 25 years.
What is passive writing?
This week Ron and Gina discuss active vs. passive writing. Even if you have a solid plot and great characters, passive writing can kill an otherwise great story. Listen in and find out how to avoid the passive voice trap.
Ron interviews a Wattpad Watty Award winner and Wattpad Ambassador Katherine Ganzel. Katherine talks about what it takes to be successful on Wattpad and how an author can use Wattpad to sell books. She also discusses her Wattpad Watty Award winning book which has over 4 million views.
This week Ron interviews Ani Alexander, fellow podcaster and author. Ani shares her story of growing up in Armania when it was still under Soviet rule, and how difficult it was to be creative in that environment.
For show notes, go to http://teenwriterspublish.com
This week, Gina and Ron discuss building your scenes. A scene is the basic building block of your novel. A scene can be broken up into two basic elements: Scene and Sequel.
You Scene is the action, it's what will move your plot forward.
A Sequel is your character's reaction to the scene. Simple enough?
We've attached a short worksheet on the website to help you with your scene structure.
You can find it here:
As always, thanks for listening!
This week Gina and Ron talk about the different master plots and use movie and book examples to drive them home. This is where a new writer can learn to select a known plot--not a genre--to help them craft their own version of it.
For show notes and other information, vist http://teenwriterspublish.com.
In this episode Ron interviews fantastic indie Science Fiction author Susan Kaye Quinn and, as a special treat, joining us was Susan's 16 year old son and aspiring author Adam Quinn.
Susan and Adam talk about their books--yes, Adam has a trilogy completed and available on his website and Smashwords--and what lies ahead for indie publishing. Susan's new book, FOR LOVE OR MONEY, where she takes indie authors onto the next level of their careers, is set to release this week.
In our Wattpad Page 1 segment, we critiqued a Wattpad book written by BrookRoyale13. Her novel, FORGOTTEN, provided a great introduction to this new segment.
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Gina and Ron discuss story structure, a key element to creating your novel.
In our first episode Ron Estrada and Gina Conroy introduce ourselves and tell you what Teen Writers Publish! is all about. Our mission here at Teen Writers Publish! is to teach teens and young writers to write, publish, and sell your books...all before graduation day. "Older" teens will find valuable information as well. However, any advice we give will be done so with a teen's budget in mind. In other words, dirt cheap or free. Thanks for joining us!
Ron and Gina finish their discussion of Story Structure.
Teen Writers Publish! podcast mission is to encourage teens and young writers to write, publish, and sell their books now. Weekly episodes will cover the topics of writing craft, traditional or indie publishing, and marketing your books.