Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kicking the Habit--fast!


I'm sure many of you writers have read Donald Maass's book Writing the Breakout Novel. I finally picked myself up a copy with a gift card I won from a blogger.


I haven't put it down since.


But today I read something interesting. He writes, "Certain types of scenes are so reliably low tension that when reading a manuscript, I count them in my notes with hatch marks. They include: mulling things over while driving from one place to another, fixing a cup of tea or coffee. ...When they (category romance writers) complain to me at conferences that they cannot seem to break "out of category, " it is a pretty good bet that their heroines are tea addicts."


Gulp.


Guess where my heroine gets a job? Yes, you guessed it. A tea room. Hmmm.


Also have a car scene where she isn't chasing someone or running from the cops.


I've started my next book and you can be sure no one will drink tea or coffee or sit in their car thinking at all. Nope. Tension on every page.


Are you guilty of any scenes that do nothing? My hand is up.

31 comments:

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

I'm afraid I have to raise both hands as the guilty party in this one!! LOL!

Galen Kindley--Author said...

I have the, “I’m Guilty of This” disease. I’m gulping down how to books by the tea cup. In everyone one, I find rules, policies, procedures, good practices, and other inviolate edicts I’ve, well, violated. So, I’ve learned to take these injunctions with a teaspoon of artificial sweetener and not worry too much about it. If it’s something I think I can easily fix, I’ll dig out my WIP and hack away until I think I’ve fixed the problem…probably creating more havoc in its place. Otherwise, I try to tell myself I’ll do better next time.

As to your question…I specialize in scenes that do nothing. Should anyone need a few extra, I have some to spare. Contact me at…

Best Regards, Galen

Imagineering Fiction Blog

Janna Qualman said...

Yikes. I'm gonna have to pull my copy of Maass' book out again.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I'm definitely guilty of this. It's also something I like to read, so I forget that there's a rule against it!

Jan Cline said...

OK so what do you do if your novel is set in 1800s England and that's all they drink? I guess I should count how many tea scenes I have!!

Jessica said...

LoL! My heroine drinks tea several times in the book whose chapters you read. *cringe*
So yes, I guess I have to raise my hand too!

Analisa said...

LOL too funny my lead character tossed her cookied while hanging out of her car door. Does that count LOL. This is too funny.

I am not sure I would call those things dull, sometimes the reader needs to step in a little and participate in the story. I am not sure if I am expressing this right but I want my reader to add their imagination to the book. I don't want every page filled with big actions. Who lives like that. So if your character is sipping tea and trying to figure out just what Ben meant by his last words to her, I am fine with that. I will wonder along with her.

I love male writers but remember this was a male point of view and most romance writers are women writing for women.

Ok enough from the peanut gallery LOL.

Lazy Writer said...

Oh, yes, I'm definitely guilty. Thank goodness my crit buddies are pointing out those scenes.

Andrea said...

What about those of us who love tea and coffee addicts...just kidding.
Blessings on your journey with the next book.
Andrea

Lily said...

I've got several coffee, tea, and driving moments, but I think they are important to the story. (You'll see why some day.) I will take a close look in my editing process.

Greg C said...

I am guilty of starting a scene that goes nowhere. I start out with a general ending in mind but as I get started I find myself getting further from my desired ending point. It may be the coffee for me. :)

Billy Coffey said...

Guilty. As. Charged. And now I'm going to have to find this book...

Diane said...

There are a couple of shows that I watch that are high tension from start to finish. Sometimes a small de-stressful situation helps me come down a little for when the next shocker hits. :O)

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Oh, man, what a bummer. But here's the thing, I still think you can get micro tension even in those scenes. Give her angst, or a scalding tea burn, or a car accident, and then they aren't boring anymore!!!

Kara said...

Yes!! Darn, and I like sitting down to a nice cup of tea:)

Jeanette Levellie said...

My characters are me and my family, and we drink coffee. Same principle, isn't it?
Thanks for the poke in the ribs to do better with setting and action.
Jen
Audience of ONE

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

i laughed reading your post. d maass definitely tells it like it is. he was so good at the conference that i bought his workbook. can't wait to dig into it.

jeannie
The Character Therapist

Warren Baldwin said...

Are you guilty of any scenes that do nothing?

Ah, how about sermons? Yup.

Nancy said...

Terry - while I love a good page turner, I don't turn pages to see who wins a car chase. If evotional conflict isn't involved, I'd rather take a walk. I think this is one time where you should listen to your heart. I happen to love scenes with tea, that's why I read so many British novels. Go for it.

Heather Sunseri said...

Donald Maass gives us so much to think about, doesn't he?

Angie Ledbetter said...

My FAV writing how-to book. (Get the workbook companion too...but know in advance it's gonna make writing/revising harder.) :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Of course I'm guilty! LOL!

But category writing is an artform in itself. And although Mr. Maas gives some awesome info, I think it should be used with discernment.
If you want your character to drink tea, let her. :)

Jill Kemerer said...

Oh, Terri. My first book featured a scene where the heroine worked out her problems while brushing her teeth! Mr. Maass would be horrified! Have a great weekend!

carolynyalin said...

Thanks for bringing these up. I'm revising my first 4000 words and will have to watch for this. I'm sure I have some of them in there...

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Ah yes, my characters like to make tea and coffee. I use this as background with dialogue. I'd have to read the book to see if the way I use these activities detracts from my manuscript.

Thanks for the tip.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Rose Mary said...

Guilty! But I do think they are able to sit down and have a conversation over coffee or tea as long as there is lots of 'tension' in the conversation.

Or, maybe I just need to read that book:)

MichaƩle said...

Both arms, both feet, 10 fingers, 10 toes and whatever I get successfully raise in the air...guilty guilty guilty! The novel I have been working on for a year opens with a CAR RIDE!!!!!!! AGH!!!!!!!!

Ana - The Writer Today said...

I have read about this book on other blogs, so it must be something worth getting. I have not started on a novel yet, but I think I will get this book before I do. Thank you for sharing.

Amy Tate said...

Oh how funny! You know what else I've found? Characters in and around art museums.

Kathryn Magendie said...

it's all subjective - I love reading about a character doing "mundane" things - as long as it doesn't drag on. I love the character in the kitchen cooking, or making a pot of tea or cup of coffee, or etc etc etc -- some people don't like that - I do! so there you go

remember what I always say: As long as you convince your audience and take them along for the ride, you can do most anything you want!

Texas Playwright Chick said...

Crikey! I better get that book and give it a good read and fast!