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Wednesday, 7 August 2013


‘…the rest of these tips apply to every genre of fiction, which makes this one of the best How-to books I've come across in a long time.’

This is an extract from a review I received from my publisher, John Hunt. It’s by Jennifer Stewart (The Write Way/Write 101 - and she has sent it out to her thousands of subscribers.

Jennifer writes:
…The Western is an excellent genre for a first novel because it offers such scope for the Battle between Good and Evil, which is the mainstay of every good adventure story. You can have your hero on a quest (to right a wrong, avenge a lost loved one, prove himself etc) and already you have a structure for your story.

Nik Morton offers plenty of great tips to help write a Western (and promises you can do it in just 30 days -- if you work hard!)

His chapter on plot, "The Plot Thickens," outlines the various stages in plotting your story, from deciding on the emotions you want to arouse in your readers (do you want them to admire, love or fear your hero?) to choosing the theme that will run through your book and tie it all together (some he suggests are Justice Wins, Taming the Land, Death Isn't Particular).

You must also make sure your central character's "major emotional trait is essential to the theme and the desired emotional effect." No point in building a serious mood for your story and then painting your hero as a selfish buffoon.

And equally important is to "Give the protagonist a specific purpose -- one clearly arising from his major emotional trait; it must be of the utmost importance to him and must fit the theme."

Once you have your character up the tree, comes the fun part -- throwing stones at him! Every memorable tale involves conflict and clashes that test the resolve and courage of your character, so choose lots of different tests and dramatic high spots that push your hero to the limits.

Finally, you must present the climactic Black Moment -- this is the last crisis, the one where you "...demonstrate how the protagonist resolves the situation, possibly at great personal cost."

In a similar vein, this book explains how to create believable characters readers will care about, how to name your characters so they fit right into their setting (Luigi MacDuff is the wrong name for a cowboy for so-o-o many reasons!) Likewise how to dress them, what they eat, drink and how they sound.

All characters need to communicate, and there's a whole chapter on using dialogue not just to advance your story, but also to "foreshadow coming conflict, reveal character and indicate the setting."

He reminds us that "a book is a movie inside a reader's head," and as such each scene must be clearly depicted. The only way to do this is through the words you choose to describe the various settings, and the best way to describe any scene is to "... use all the senses when possible -- sight, touch, smell, sound and taste (because) ... People don't exist in a vacuum - they're standing, lounging and walking in a solid world of your making. Let the readers see it - but let them see it through your characters' eyes."

Then there's a whole chapter on a workable schedule to get your book written in 30 days!

You'll find some genre-specific information about where and how to research the Wild West, places that publish Westerns, and how to send off an appropriate synopsis and query letter, but the rest of these tips apply to every genre of fiction, which makes this one of the best How-to books I've come across in a long time. See why here:

If you have an unlimited data plan, you can watch all these Westerns online (I don't, so I can't vouch for the programs):

A list of the world's best-selling authors (note the writers of Westerns are right up there with the big sellers):

Thank you, Jennifer, for this endorsement!

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