Tips from C.S. Lakin on Cinematic Techniques for your Novel

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C.S. Lakin's terrific book, Shoot Your Novel: Cinematic Techniques to Supercharge Your Writing, is the latest addition to my desk. Note, I didn't say bookshelf. Overnight, Lakin's book has become a staple of my process that is quickly growing dog ears. This is no exageration: Every page of Shoot is jam-packed with suggestions for writing or re-writing the scenes in your books to advance the plot, reveal your character, and stir your readers' emotions. In short, Shoot is thorough. It covers so much on what it takes to enhance your novel that it is a great resource for all writers, beginners as well as experienced.

In this post we will touch on Lakin's approach to writing fiction, which is to view your story as a series of scenes as seen through the lense of a camera. For the full scope of what she has to offer, I highly recommend this book to be added to your own personal writer's toolbox. It could save you time and effort and give you a concrete way to reach your reader, ridding you of any guesswork. Sprinkled throughout Lakin's book are numerous passages from books and movies to illustrate her points. A handy list of them is included at the end.

Most important, there is much more to this book than is covered in this post, such as how to combine camera shots for the best outcome, how to use visual motifs and symbols, and more. I hope the post will spark your interest in reading it for yourself and reaping all it has to offer. Lakin has written three other books on writing and many fiction books. Next I want to study her book, Writing the Heart of your Story: A Guide to Crafting an Unforgettable Novel, which details scene construction (and dip a toe in one of her fiction books . . . just for fun, of course). 

Before you begin, you might want to make room in your closet for more hats other than the editor's, illustrator's, writer's, marketer's, etc., hats you already wear. To name a few, you might add chapeaus for cinematographer, production designer, and screenwriter. Save your fanciest topper for you as director, as you will be donning this hat to tell your story in a series of scenes as if it were a movie.

Lakin has handily narrowed down the types of camera shots to two: stationary and moving. Stationary shots are the most common shots in movies and on TV. "These essential shots define our world . . . We are not always moving . . . We see life most often [this way], whether close up . . . or far away."

"Moving shots mimic the way our eyes follow what's happening . . . The right choice of a moving shot will effect pacing and tension . . . Novelists have a wonderful medium in which to translate moving shots into powerful prose."

Lakin's Method
Begin by identifying the high moment of your scene--the moment of greatest impact. You will need to decide which camera shots to use leading up to the high moment, and then the best shots for whatever happens afterwards. Once you know the high moment and how your plot builds to it,
you can work backward and forward. Some basic shots Lakin describes:
  • Establishing Shot (ES): Each time the scene changes the time and place need to be established. In most cases, it is best to keep the ES short--move on to the main part of the scene. Omniscient POV is okay. Give just enough details, then move on.
  • Three Basic Distances:
  • The Close-Up or Two-Shot (CU): The CU is used when you want to zero in on a detail, such as an expression on a character's face or an object that is the point of the scene. The common two-shot shows two people in conversation or relating with one another. CU's tell the reader, "Pay attention here!" You can reveal a clue that is not explained until later to add tension and your reader's curiosity.
  • Full or Medium Shot (MS): Full shots can be full body shots or shots from the waist up, showing body language and facial expressions. MS shots can also show a small group of people, such as a family sitting at the dinner table eating and talking.
  • Long Shot (LS): LS's in novels are effective if showing something that might be coming or what might be happening such as a threatening tornado or hurricane off in the distance, which can add tension. LS's can add tension by drawing out a high moment. The example used is an excerpt from Predator by Terry Blackstock: "[Krista] has to wait (and so does the reader) agonizing moments until the body is pulled out and she can make out the shirt and hair--not the face because she's not close enough--" we've had to wait (and sit on the edge of our seat) for the final moment when she recognizes her sister.
More Helpful Tips
  • Every scene has a purpose in advancing the plot and every camera shot has a purpose.
  • Scenes need to be shown from the POV character's eyes and reveal her frame of mind.
  • Each scene needs to be planned out and the best shots chosen for greatest impact.
  • Scenes are a string of moments leading up to the high moment and may include movements, internal thoughts, gestures and expressions and dialog.
Some of the Ways I Plan to use this Book
  • View my scenes as camera shots and see if I can improve on how to show them.
  • Make a list of the scenes in my WIPs, identify the high moments and make sure I've done what I can to build to the high moment.
  • Consider shortening my ES's.
  • Make sure every scene has a purpose. Right now I can think of at least one part of a scene where I described my character waiting for her friends to sneak out of their house, and the night sounds she listened to. The description popped into my head as a part that could be eliminated unless I assign it a purpose other than simply listening to sleepy crickets crick.
  • Read the books and watch the movies used as illustrations, partly for fun--I'm always looking for good reads and shows, but mostly to take Lakin up on understanding these works' importance as seen through the authors' lenses.

    Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for adults and children and six short stories for children. Recently she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction and picture book courses. She is currently working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on  Facebook.

More Help for New Writers - Patience

Last month we looked at ways for new writers to handle rejection.

Another important topic for discussion is patience. Without it, you will become disappointed and give up. 

I like quick results. When I taught K-4th grade art classes, I chose projects the students could take home later that day (unless we were working with clay or paper mâché). When I was asked to teach a drawing class for high school, I learned about process and the patience it requires.

Building a writing career is a process. There are very few overnight successes. Whether you are freelancing, writing for magazines, or writing a book, there are slow and steady steps which require patience for success.

Step 1 - Starting a blog

In early 2012, the first step I took in my writing career was creating a blog. It helped me be serious about what I wanted to do: build my platform. That means writing to a specific audience on a topic I am passionate about and gain credibility. It's been a slow and steady process, but I have a good following and readers from all over the world.

Once we create our blog, we're pretty proud of it. The layout, colors, font, and photos reflects our personality. It's like welcoming someone into your home and making them feel comfortable.

But after about a week or two, we wonder where our followers are. 

Statistics state, in 2012, there were over 173 million blogs and climbing. Finding you by chance is slim. Dedication takes patience and you need both to gain followers. When you get published, readers will either know who you are through your blog, or you will have a place for readers to land and know more about you.

Step 2 - Educating yourself

Another step is learning all you can. Technology is always changing and it's important to keep current. Learn how to do cover letters, how to get published, how search engines work, and more. You don't need a degree to be a successful writer but it can only help to take some courses. Many online are free or very affordable. 

I realized the value of this as I began writing. Be cautious of thinking you have a gift and can jump right in. You're a small fish in a big pond. Don't let this scare you, just do your homework. 

Step 3 - Waiting, waiting, and more waiting

I think we're all pretty conditioned to be impatient in today's world.  

Ask any writer who submits their work to magazines. It's typical to be told it will take 6+ weeks to be contacted regarding acceptance of your work. Sometimes you are not contacted at all. Many successful authors submitted their manuscript to several publishers before they landed a contract.

The key is not to give up. If you get discouraged easily, it may be because of impatience.  

You've heard it before: slow and steady wins the race. Your goals will be reached when you are patient. Celebrate your small successes along the way until the day you reach the finish line!


After raising and homeschooling her 8 children and teaching art classes for 10 years, Kathy has found time to pursue freelance writing. She enjoys writing magazine articles and more recently had her story, "One of a Kind", published in The Kids' ArkYou can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts

Writing - Think Like a Publisher

Books: photo by zole4 from Free Digital Photos
Dean Wesley Smith is a professional writer, a USA Today best selling author. He has over one hundred novels published and is responsible for many episodes of popular long running TV series.

He also finds time to write helpful blog articles and books to help aspiring authors.

Now updating his best seller Think Like a Publisher for the 2015 edition, he is posting the update chapter by chapter on his blog, www.  The joy of reading the book in this way is that its value is doubled. Not only is it a free way to access great information, but you also have the benefit of the comments section in which he gives practical answers to authors' questions. 

By doing the maths of the writing life, he shows  how it can be  possible to make a living without qualifying for the Amazon bestseller lists and constantly  reminds of the need for patience and hard work. Interestingly, he is not one of the authors with hundreds of five star reviews. He just does the writing and assumably  his work markets itself.

It's a blog well worth investigating and his other bestsellers, Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing, with the second book specifically about Indie Publishing, and the third one on the way, are also available chapter by chapter as blog posts with again the added benefits of the comments.

To  Market or Not ?

I suspect very few of us make a living as professional writers, eking out our income by teaching, full or part-time work or pensions. But it is possible if , like Dean Wesley Smith, we are adaptable, write for hire, ghost write, content write, and correctly price our writing to sell.

It does take planning and dedication and perhaps a bit of luck, though many would say we make our own luck by putting in the work.

It also seems to mean  a minimum of time spent focusing on marketing rather than new writing. 

Check out the writers you admire. How many have hundreds of five star reviews? I looked up a few of the indie publishers I know are making a living. To my amazement, their reviews were in the teens and twenties rather than the hundreds.

Looks like they're writing rather than soliciting reviews. But then they've spent years building their reputations

Anne Duguid
Anne Duguid Knol

A local and national journalist in the U.K., Anne is now a fiction editor for award-winning American and Canadian publishers. As a new author, she shares writing tips and insights at her very new Author Support blog:
Her novella, ShriekWeekis published by The Wild Rose Press.

26 Reasons a Writer Should Blog - Part 2

Do you really need to blog?

We're looking at 26 reasons why the answer to that question is a resounding


There's nothing worse than facing a blank screen with a deadline. 

"The post is due up in one hour's time and I have no idea what to write about!" 

Ever been there? I have. Often. 

Hopefully, never again. I've learned to plan in advance. Let's move on to our next four reasons for writers to blog so you can learn this too. 

4.      D is for Decision

  • Decide on a theme for a series of blog posts. Decide how often you will post. This allows you to plan ahead. This also teaches you to look forward to what comes next in your writing journey. 
  • Decide on ways to make your posts multitaskUse your posts in other ways. For example, are you a devotional writer? I am responsible for the Friday Devotional slot on the International Christian Fiction Writers (ICFW). I also send out a devotional email, Closer Walk with God, to all who sign up for a weekly message of encouragement. After writing the series of 26 posts for the Out of Africa Blogging Challenge, I was able to produce 20 devotional messages from the contents of the blog posts in record time. These are already scheduled for both the above markets. Are you writing a novel? Decide how you can make your blog "work for you" as you explore your locations* or get to know your characters. 
  • Decide on whether you can first explore a topic via a blog. Perhaps you want to write a book or an article on the topic. By first writing a series of blog posts, you will see how much material you have, how well your ideas work out, and what potential the material has for further use.   

5.      E is for Enthusiasm

  • Remember when writing was fun? It can be fun again. I’ll be honest, my blog have been sorely neglected. There is always something more urgent demanding my attention. Do I hear an Amen? Once you have a clear goal in mind and you've decided what you're going to write about, you will find yourself growing in enthusiasm.
  • Let your mind play with ideas. While working on the A to Z theme for of Out of Africa, I found myself constantly thinking over what I could say for the different letters. Should O be about the Ostrich or the Okavango? (Ostrich won!) P? Should that be Penguin or Port Elizabeth? (Port Elizabeth it was.) When you allow your mind to play, your regular posting will rekindle your enthusiasm for writing for the sheer joy of being able to express yourself in words.
  • Let your fingers do the talking! Forget about editing. Ignore grammar rules. Don't worry about spelling. Just get those words down. Be enthusiastic about what you want to say. After you've finished, time to call in the grammar police and the rest of the gang. Edit your work and make it fit for human consumption. 

6.     F is for Free

  • It costs you nothing to blog apart from your time. Various sites offer you free blogging facilities. Writers on the Move is hosted on which is totally free and offers bloggers a wide variety of resources. Not only is blogging free for the writer, it is also free for the reader. 
  • You are free to choose your topic. Thinking of writing a book? Try it out by drafting some chapter summaries, one per post. How about adding some personal anecdotes? Are you planning to start a new novel? How about blogging about your characters? for example, Marion Ueckermann's character, Adam Carter from Helsinki Sunrise, is interviewed by another author, Heidi McCahan on her blog. This offered free promotion to the book to Heidi McCahan's readers*, as well as a link to Marion's own blog. 
  • Readers are free to share their thoughts. End each post with a question that encourages them to respond to what you have written. If you're planning on using the material in some other way, their input may prove invaluable. This also helps them to identify with your material.

7.     G is for Google 

  • Google search engines start to find you when you blog regularly. They will share your material with the world. Your ranking will go up and more people will come and visit. As a writer, your name will become better known, as will your books.
  • Visitors will be drawn into other topics on your blog or website. My blog is built in such a way that every post I publish is also filed under whichever categories I want it to appear. Where blog posts tend to disappear into the archives, mine are always available to readers who look under the relevant topic. If you don't have this facility, you can add links down the side of your blog (see this site as an example).   
  • It’s easy to attract visitors to other articles on your blog through linking to articles in your archives. Use sub-headers and optimization to attract Google. (More on these topics later.) The more readers come across your name, the more interested they will become in you and your work. 

Can you think of ways you can use your blog material in other ways? Share them in a comment below. 


26 Reasons to blog - part 1: A - C
* Read the interview of Adam Carter, hero of Marion Ueckermann's Helsinki Sunrise
* Explore Finland, location of Marion Ueckermann's Helsinki Sunrise, in this blog post written for a blogging challenge.
Write More Often - Blog Faster

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer, has brought encouragement and inspiration to a multitude of friends and contacts across the world.

Visit Shirley through where she encourages writers, or at where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Sign up to receive a short devotional message from Shirley in your inbox once a week. 

Writing Abundance!

So much written about the fact there are only 7 stories or themes for writers to work with.

1. Man against man
2. Man against nature
3. Man against himself
4. Man against God
5. Man against society
6. Man caught in the middle
7. Man and woman
                        Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

While there may only be 7 stories or themes, there is an abundance of ways to tell your story.

1. Characters: Create full-bodied characters. This means that while they may be handsome or pretty they could also have a mean streak. Or perhaps they are plain and have a deep reservoir of knowledge or compassion that makes them beautiful. Are they missing a limb, a moral high ground, or an education?

2. Word Choice: Surprise your reader each page. Work to use a little known or used word. Engage your readers. Word choice is the perfect way in which to do that. I find that reading my work out loud showcases the monotony of words and also the monotony of sounds used. Play with language and create something that stands out among the rest. As Ernest Hemingway said, "Use vigorous English."

3. Setting: Create your setting as you would a character. Give it depth. Give it a major role in the story. Work to incorporate your setting over and over again so that your reader never forgets where they are. Keep them grounded. As with all things in life, we each perceive a setting differently. The Wyoming mountains can be majestic or intimidating. The prairie vast or empty. Let your reader know how your character views their landscape in a way that opens your reader's eyes to a new way of thinking.

4.  Sentence structure: Find ways to use sentence structure to enhance your story. Vary lengths - long and short sentences. Vary paragraph length too. Use sentences in a way that they bind the reader to the story. Short sentences can increase anxiety - showcase action. Long sentences can create deep feelings.

Tell a story so that your reader never wants to leave it. Tell a story that engages, wraps your reader's emotions into a ball, pulls them inside out and makes them feel something - anger, fear, strength, love, hope, or promise.

D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, House of Glass, Book 2 of The Exodus Serieswas written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole, and Perception.The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at

You can also follower her at or on Facebook.

Find the Missing Pieces to Your Freelance Writing Career Puzzle

by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer's Coach

Creating a successful freelance writing career is a lot like putting together a puzzle. Unfortunately, many writers just never figure out all the pieces to that puzzle!

An appropriate business model is one of the BIGGEST pieces to any freelance writing career.

Have you included a specific business model in your career puzzle?

Or are you still trying to create your career by offering to write anything and everything for anyone and everyone?

Without a model to follow, you have no real focus for your business. Plus, you'll never establish yourself as a real expert in any one or two areas. You'll be known as a generalist instead of a specialist. And I don't know about you, but when I need help with something important, I don't look for a generalist. I search for a specialist! I'll bet most publishers and business owners who need writers do, too!

Choosing a Business Model

So how do you choose a business model that's right for you?

Well, first you list the types of writing you really LOVE to do.

Don't decide to follow a model for building a resume writing business, for example, if you just hate writing resumes!

Once you've made a list of the types of writing you love to do, then get some career training in the model that appeals to you.

If you like to blog, for example, find out how you can become a professional blogger!

If you want to use your writing skills to sell affiliate products, then learn how to do that.

If you want to become a children's writer, then take some courses in children's writing.

Include ALL the pieces needed for a successful freelance writing career if you hope to solve the entire puzzle.

Try it!
Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, certified professional life coach and writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter. She has written over two dozen published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications. She coaches people who love to write build freelance writing careers through her Quick Start Freelance Writing program.

May Blogging Prompts

Happy Mother's Day! Whether you are a Mom, Mom-like, or a Dad who plays both roles, kudos to everyone who takes an active role in guiding others.

Speaking of guidance ...

While you may tend toward sharing wisdom from Mothers in May and Fathers in June, advice roundups on your blog can be done anytime of year.  

Just reach out to your favorite people in a profession (writers, marketers, business owners) or category (foodies, sports enthusiasts, entertainment lovers), and ask for a few lines to put in a round-up as an answer to a question. The topic, of course, should relate to your expertise.

For example:

  • What your favorite tip for writers block? 
  • What's the most important marketing platform and why?
  • What tool should all business owners use?
  • What's your favorite food/restaurant/recipe?
  • What's the best sport to watch? To play?
  • What can you learn from a (book/film/tv) series that you can apply to real life?

Once you get the response, choose the best ones to edit and compile into a blog post, along with your intro and conclusion. Be sure to like back to the blogs of the people you quote and tag them when you share on social channels.

What to stick with seasonal content, here are few more things you can blog about in May.


May Holidays: In addition to Mother's Day, May is Date Your Mate Month, National Bike Month and National Photograph Month. May 12 is Limerick Day, May 22 is Buy a Musical Instrument Day, May 25 is Tap Dance Day, May 27 is Sun Screen Day, and May 30 is Water a Flower Day.

May Food Holidays: May is National Barbecue Month, National Hamburger Month, and National Salad Month. May 11 is Eat What You Want Day, May 15 is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, May 19 is World Baking Day, May 25 is National Brown-Bag-It Day, and May 27 is National Grape Popsicle Day.

Bonus: Fiction writers, take your characters out on a picnic. Write a scene where your characters are enjoying a meal, in nature and away from technology, and see what they have to say. Extra points if you write this scene while you are sitting outside ... and having a picnic of your own.


Debra Eckerling is the author of Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. She's a writer, editor and project manager/goal coach, as well as founder of Guided Goals and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. She is an editor at Social Media Examiner. Debra is also a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting and social media.

How Much Emphasis Should We Use?

Isn’t it frustrating, when you’re writing, to figure out how to emphasize a word or a phrase? When you were starting out, did you (like I did) put words in ALL CAPS or in bold or underlined, or maybe all of the above? Oh yes, and let’s not forget the exclamation point!!!! The more, the better, right?

All of these methods are red flags that point to an inexperienced writer. I’ve had editors tell me no more than four exclamation points in the entire manuscript. When you submit a manuscript, agents and publishers do not want to see all caps, bold, or excessive exclamation points.

Here is some sage advice from pros
“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind.” Terry Pratchett

“We only live once, but once is enough if we do it right. Live your life with class, dignity, and style so that an exclamation, rather than a question mark signifies it!Gary Ryan Blair

When can you use an exclamation mark? 
“Fire!” Jane screamed. “Get out!” Fire is a good reason for emphasis, right? Well, maybe this is a little more than needed (two exclamation points plus "screamed.")

It’s better to show emphasis with action and dialogue. “I’ve had just about enough of this.” Maryann narrowed her eyes and turned to leave. (You can tell she’s not happy with the situation without adding any emphasis.)

You can emphasize a word with italics. But, use this method sparingly. Just like with exclamation marks, you don’t want to overload your manuscript. 

It used to be that editors wanted words underlined that were to be type-set in italic, but nowadays with computers, most accept and prefer italicized words. If you are submitting a manuscript, check your agent/publisher guidelines to see if they specify what they want.

So, for emphasis, challenge yourself to “show” the emotion you want to portray and try not to rely on the easy way out.

Anyone have any other ideas for emphasis?

A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, the sequel, Follow the Dream,  won the national WILLA Award, and Dare to Dream rounds out the trilogy. In addition a non-fiction book, Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women has just been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of the Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing, edits, and blogs. 

Active vs. Passive Writing: Energize Your Prose!

 by Suzanne Lieurance Ever feel like your stories and articles are a bit slow-paced and wordy?   If so, that’s probably because you’re using...