Episode 19

The Best Way to Start Any Story

America's Editor tells you how to start your book or short story.


Music licensed from Storyblocks:

“More Jam Please” by Raighes Factory

"Love you Africa" by Himanshu Katara

"Everything Under The Sun" by Humans Win 

"Afro Summer" by Sleeping Ghost

"Highest Peaks - Drums Only" by William Van De Crommert

Transcript
Rosemi Mederos:

Break time! We’re talking about Turkey, celebrating expanded freelance protection for New York, and starting our stories off the correct way. Yes, there is a correct way. The Writing Break cafe is open, so let’s grab a table and I’ll fill you in on some publishing news.

Congratulations to freelance writers in New York State. The Freelance Isn't Free Act passed statewide last week, meaning the freelance protection previously installed in New York City will now expand to freelancers across the state. Employers will now need to provide written contracts for all freelance workers and pay freelancers by the agreed-upon date or within 30 days of the completion of the work. And if the employers fail to do so? Well, then freelancers can collect double the agreed-upon fee. Nice.

The economic crisis in Turkey is hitting publishers, authors, and readers quite hard. Inflation reached 70 percent in Turkey last month, and the Turkish lira is in a serious slump.

The Statistics Institute of Turkey says the price of paper has increased by a record 168 percent. Electricity prices have also climbed at an alarming rate. All of these things combined means books are too expensive to produce in Turkey right now.

Turkish publishers are postponing many titles or dropping them altogether. Smaller publishers might not survive.

Before this year, Turkey ranked number six in the global publishing rankings, releasing more than 87,000 titles last year alone.

Let’s catch up with the thought police, shall we? In the state of Virginia, a lawsuit was filed last month by Tommy Altman, a congressional candidate, heaven help us. He claims that two bestselling books, whose sales have only increased since he filed this suit, are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.” The books in question this time are Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas.

While this might seem like another unimaginative book banning, this one is giving the trials of Oscar Wilde vibes. The presiding judge has ordered the authors and publishers to defend the books later this month. The judge presiding over the case is a retired judge because every other Virginia Beach judge refused to take the case.

A US court has not declared a book obscene in over 50 years. For a book to be deemed obscene in the United States of America, it has to “lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.” The books on trial have literary value, so what in the Gutenberg Press is going on?

In a jointly signed statement, publishers, booksellers, library groups, and public advocacy groups “strongly urge Virginians–and all Americans–to stand against any attempt to use government action to dictate what we can read and how to think about what we read. Prohibiting the sale and distribution of books is an affront to our democratic values and threatens each person's and each family's individual liberties. It is contrary to our principles of democracy to allow anyone, regardless of their beliefs or political position, to determine what other Americans can read.”

The Virginia state motto is “sic semper tyrannis” meaning “thus always to tyrants.” Let’s get some of that energy going against the tyrannical book banners, everyone.

Links to these articles can be found in the show notes of this episode and on writingbreak.com.

I am overthinking about our future together, so let’s head over to the official Writing Break Overthinking Couch, you know, the comfy one from the podcast cover, and I’ll tell you what’s on my mind.

We are two episodes and one bonus episode away from Season 2 of Writing Break, and I’m busy planning the order of writing tips I’ll be sharing next season. The season will start on July 5th, and we’ll be moving through the entire writing process of a three-act book. If you have any particular questions about the writing process that you would like me to answer next season, this is the time to get in contact with me. You can do so by sending me an email to podcast@writingbreak.com or a DM to writingbreakpodcast on Instagram.

And now, we’re off to an independent bookstore.

Welcome to Vidya Bookstore in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Vidya Bookstore is a no-nonsense bookstore neatly stocked with adult and young adult books in all genres. They also have an extensive supply of children’s books.

Now that we’re here, let’s check out an independent author.

Today we’re looking at LↃgↃligi Locomotion. This is a collection of poetry by Ghanian poet rapper Hondred Percent. LↃgↃligi Locomotion is carried in Vidya Bookstore and in other bookstores across Ghana. It can also be purchased online. Hondred Percent writes with a modern voice that is deeply in touch with global concerns. For example, in his poem “Africa Sent Me a Whatsapp Message” he says, “We download from the Internet more than we download from intellect.”

Let’s take it to the register and then find a soapbox for me to stand on as I deliver today’s writing tip.

I will never yell at you, dear author, but if I were to yell anything from the mountaintops of publishing, it would be this: start your book as late into the story as you can.

You’re no fool. You know not to start your book with a dream or with your protagonist running late or getting ready in the morning. Those are amateur mistakes.

But you’re enamored with your characters. You have to love them in order to spend your nonrefundable time writing their story. So you write too much in the beginning. You write things that don’t advance the plot because you think it will be interesting to readers. But it won’t. They don’t know your characters yet. You haven’t made your readers care yet. Get into the action. Show, show, show, and avoid telling as much as possible.

Please, start as late into the story as you can. You can fill in any missing details as needed. This takes some mastery of the writing craft, and I know you can do it if you try.

Until next week, keep writing every day, and remember, you deserved this break.

If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at podcast@writingbreak.com.

Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.

Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at writingbreak.com or contact us at podcast@writingbreak.com.

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Rosemi Mederos

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Rosemi is the founder of America's Editor, a book editing company.
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