ADVICE TO WRITERS
Robert J. Firth.
Top rules for writing NON- fiction
In 2005, Robert J. Firth first revealed the advice he’s about to share with you here and the tools he used to create his ground-breaking book, The Battle of Tours, that has so dramatically impacted the western view of Islam and The Enemy Within, which exposes the left's previously hidden and nefarious objectives.
This information is taken from time-tested methodologies used by all political exposés and historical books such as The Battle of Tours which may be turned into a powerful, earth shattering and iconoclastic movie.
Here’s what you need to know:
The object of any book: ( fiction of non-fiction)
To keep the reader on edge – to keep him spellbound at the new information and wondering why he hadn’t known about all this before.
The rules are less clear; there only a few and they are they’re somewhat flexible. The professional writer learns the rules in order to know how and when to follow them and when to break them.
Start with the principal action and detail it later:
This is an extension of Firth’s famous dictum: When things slow down, bring in an army or another indisputable but unknown fact to bolster your thesis.
To encourage the reader to turn to page 2, give him something on page 1: conflict, trouble, fear, violence. The history of war for instance!
Make it tough for your protagonist:
Give him a worthy antagonist such as an army of 60,000 facing your hero’s army of 30,000. Make things look hopeless. Don’t drop convenient solutions in his lap. The tougher the opposition, the more everything is stacked against the protagonist, the better. Tour’s proves this point!
Plant it early; pay it off later:
Don’t bring in new characters or facts at the end to help solve the protagonist’s dilemma – no deus ex machina! Which means, for you dummies, J a common form of leg-pulling or Writer’s cop-out, a Deus ex Machina is a plot element that didn't previously exist and has no logical reason to be introduced.
Give the protagonist the initiative:
In all good dramatic histories of conflict, the best story is usually that in which the protagonist takes active steps to achieve a goal against impossible odds, or to prevent opposing forces from overcoming him or his country or king.
Give the protagonist a personal stake:
No longer is it acceptable for the hero to simply win. The more intimate his involvement in the main conflict of the story, the better. In the case of Tours, the principal character’s life and the lives of all his men were at risk- there is no greater incentive.
He, himself, or his aims, should clearly be in jeopardy. His own life or those of his loyal army should be in danger, or he is the kind of character whose values and principles won’t let him sit by and allow injustice to destroy people around him.
Whatever the conflict is, if he loses, it’s going to cost him horribly; that’s the essence.
Give the protagonist a tight time limit, and then shorten it:
This doesn’t always work because the logic of many stories prohibits it; don’t use it unless you can work it in believably. But, when time is a factor and the short amount of it in which the hero must resolve the conflict is further shortened, you have gone a long way toward heightening the suspense.
Choose your character according to your own capacities, as well as his/hers: research carefully, Don’t change the basic historical facts just to improve the story. Be prepared to do the research and groundwork necessary to create your characters convincingly.
*NOTE: Along with finding your own voice (your own way to tell your stories); doing your homework is absolutely imperative! Research- research- research!
Remember, the only difference between fiction and reality is that if you don’t do your homework, not only will you get a million emails telling you where you screwed up, you’ll also lose all credibility as an author.
Know your destination before you set out:
The prevailing weakness of many suspense stories that are otherwise successful, is the letdown the reader experiences at the end – the illogical and disappointing anticlimax. Thank God, in Tours, the historical main character prevailed.
It isn’t always necessary to tie up all loose ends, but the climax should resolve the principal conflict one way or another. In the case of Tours, the problem persists and the end has not yet been written!
Firth says: “The best key to a good ending is to know what the ending will be before you start writing the book. In the case of history, the ending is always a foregone fact. Whether you write a preliminary outline or not, you should know where the journey will end, and how.”
Mickey Spillane was famous for saying the first chapter sells the book; the last chapter sells the next book!
Don’t rush in where angels fear to tread:
Essentially, observe not only what the pros do, but also what they avoid doing. The best writers do not jump on bandwagons; they build new ones. Captain Firth’s volumes follow this dictum to a fault.
The pro doesn’t write a historical novel about the minimal dusty facts that of little consequence. unless he’s convinced he can write an unusual story with a unique and important twist.
Yet this should not be taken to mean every writer must obey faddish advice, such as “Spy fiction is dead,” or “Historical novels are out this season.”
There is no such thing as a dead genre because the human imagination is limitless, and over the course of human events, there is never a dearth of new ideas, new twists, new talents.
The question is, “Is this idea strong enough and important enough to make the story sufficiently different from its predecessors to merit publication?”
If a story is good enough, it will find a publisher whether it is a hard-boiled detective story, a western, a spy novel, a historical adventure, or a novel about bug-eyed monsters from Mars. Never give up hope and remember, as of last year ebooks sell more than print…
Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to read:
If you like to read westerns, then write a western. But don’t write into a genre for which you have no emotional interest. If you don’t like gothics but insist on writing one, your lack of interest will show; you can’t hide it.
If you thoroughly enjoy historical sea stories – even if you don’t know a thing about nautical life – you’re better off attempting to write a sea story because you’ll go into it with enthusiasm.
It sounds obvious, but what is at stake is high – high for a character, a family, or , very much in the case of Tours, even a whole civilization. The future a major character and his country is usually in peril. But more than that (in this type of book) the individuals at risk often represents not just himself, but a community, a city, or an entire country.
Larger than life characters:
Characters in non-fiction, as in life, are defined by what they do and in big novels characters do extraordinary things. Look at Don Corleone in The Godfather. The Don’s godson wants to get into the movies, but the studio head isn’t cooperating. So the studio head wakes up with his racehorse’s head in his bed. Puzo has created this amazingly powerful figure who operates outside the law and who creates his own independent world where he rules with absolute power.
A clear-cut dramatic question:
The figurative spine upon which the book is built is the ongoing central conflict around which the main characters revolve. In Tours are millions.
Combine high concept with a strong dramatic question, and you have an even better chance of producing a mega-bestseller. High concept is in essence a radical or even outlandish premise. In The battle of Tours the readers are introduced to the idea that the fact they are not speaking Arabic and practicing Islam is entirely due to a battle that took place 1400 years before. Islam is on everyone’s mind today as never before, except in 732.
Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code fits the bill here perfectly. If you haven’t read it and you are seriously contemplating becoming a writer, you ought to consider other work. The book was very well researched and introduces the readers to esoteric insight into the previously hidden secrets of the ancient catholic faith.
The dramatic question in The Da Vinci Code is what? Will Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveau be able to unravel the secret before the shadowy forces and the police chasing them close in. And the high concept? Jesus left heirs… There you go. The success of the novel speaks for itself.
The point here is that big books need to be built on highly dramatic situations – plots that include bizarre and surprising actions and that lead to one powerful confrontation after another. Nothing could be more powerful than the idea that at least a hundred million Muslims today want to slice your head off..
Multiple points of view:
This one is pretty simple, but bears mentioning. You need to draw people in and get them emotionally involved with multiple characters. How can any prescient reader not be deeply invested with the message and knowledge presented in the pages of Tours.
There are very few authors, Nelson DeMille being one of the best in my opinion, who can craft a story in first person and have it be both enjoyable and a huge bestseller. The feelings, thoughts, and emotions of a small group of main characters (good and evil) are the surest way to hook your readers.
Finally we have setting. Readers of popular books enjoy escaping into the minds, hearts and vicissitudes of fictional characters, but they also like to be drawn into new, unfamiliar, and even exotic locations.
International locations or mysterious domestic settings at home are fabulous. Firth recommends staying away from boring historical settings as they have a limited interest to a majority of readers. Tours is the exception today, due to the dangers posed to western civilization from Muslim terrorists.
It doesn’t mean it cannot be done, but remember not to rush in where angels fear to tread. Examine the marketplace and see what’s selling.
So, when writing your non fiction book, you need to ask yourself these questions:
• Is what’s at stake in my novel monumental?
• Is my character (or maybe two) extraordinary in some way and larger-than-life?
• Can the thrust of my story be summarized in a simple but strong dramatic question?
• Is my plot built around a high-concept conflict.
• Am I developing at least one character (and preferably more than one) with whom the reader can become emotionally involved?
• Finally, am I placing my characters in an environment that is in some way unusual or exciting, one that will cause the reader to feel that he or she is entering a largely new world?
Agents & query letters:
One of the best resources for finding an agent and learning how to write a query letter is the Guide to Literary Agents
Agents will tell you to submit to only one agent at a time, i.e. no multiple submissions. I have never agreed with this arbitrary rule set by agents. Let’s say it takes an agent an average of 4 weeks to respond to you and you have to go through 24 submissions before you find your agent. That’s 2 years out of your life. I’m a big believer in the shotgun approach. Send your manuscript out to as many agents as possible and may the best (and fastest responding) agent win.