Saturday, 23 July 2016

Description - How to Share the Workload with Your Reader

Whatever genre or form you’re writing in, getting the level of description right can be tricky. Too much and your reader might get bored, too little and they might not be interested. 

But you don’t have to do all of the work yourself. One of the things I love about writing is that the reader brings so much of the story-telling process with them.  They look at our squiggles on the page and transform them into worlds and characters in their minds. 

Monday, 13 June 2016

How to Create Characters Your Readers Will Care About

Character creation is a very involved and varied process.

Each writer has their preferred methods, and each story has its own requirements.

Sometimes stories begin with the idea for a character and the writer has to work to create the right plot for them, other times an idea for a plot will present itself and the writer will have to populate it with the right characters.

But how do you make your readers care?

First, you have to care about your characters.

There is no point writing a story about a character you aren’t interested in. For starters, why would you want to? No matter how disciplined you are, if you don’t care what happens to your protagonist, you simply aren’t going to finish writing the story. If there even is one.

But, more importantly, your reader will notice that you don’t care and they’ll stop reading. Readers are annoyingly observant. They’ll notice the scene you found boring to write, because it will be boring to read. They’ll spot the setting you didn’t bother to think about, because your descriptions will be vague or absent. And they’ll know which of your characters you care about and which you don’t. And they will lose faith in you as a writer.

After all, if you don’t care about your characters, why should they?

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Understanding Point of View - Limited Vs Omniscient

In my last post, we talked about first and third person Points of View (PoVs).

Now, we need to consider whether the viewpoint for your story is:

Limited: This is where we can only write about things our viewpoint character knows or observes.
Omniscient: This is where we can write about anything and everything. It is often used when a writer wants to ‘head-hop’ between characters.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Understanding Point of View - First Person Vs Third Person

One of the things most writers struggle with, once they stop to think about it, (which they have to if they want to get it right) is Point of View (PoV). This term is used to describe whose eyes the story is told through.

Today, I want to talk about first person and third person PoVs.

First Person: This is where the character is telling their own story.
I got out of bed and rubbed my eyes.
Third Person: This is where a narrator is telling a story about someone else.
She got out of bed and rubbed her eyes.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Nurturing Creativity - How to Keep the Muses Talking

I’ve written before about 'gathering inspiration' but there’s so much more to creativity than the ideas we have.

Your creativity is your desire to create. It’s your drive, your motivation. It’s the unique combination of influences that you bring to your work. And when it’s flowing, you feel unstoppable. But when it isn’t… that’s when the self-doubt and the uncertainty set in. So how can we keep the creativity flowing? Gathering inspiration is important, but as the wonderful Douglas Adams said:
“An idea is only an idea. An actual script, on the other hand, is hundreds of ideas bashed around, screwed up, thrown into the trash can, fished out of the trash can an hour later and folded up into thick wads and put under the leg of a table to stop it from wobbling. And then the same again for the next line, and the next and so on, until you have a whole page or the table finally keels over.”
If you don’t have the creativity and motivation to persevere with your ideas, even when they’re being difficult and you don’t want to,  you aren’t going to get very far as a writer.

So, how can we nurture our creativity? How can we develop the drive to turn our ideas into finished stories and poems?

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Resolutions for Writers

2016. Time to make some resolutions… and keep them.

The first year I actually kept a new year’s resolution was 2000.  In previous years, I’d intended to write a diary every day or to learn a new skill and, each time, I’d failed within weeks. But not that in 2000. I was eleven and had decided to give up eating meat. And I succeeded.   

I succeeded because I cared. I was committed to being vegetarian. I didn’t even slip up the following year when, on a French Exchange trip, I had to live on grated carrots for two weeks. (The French did not quite understand vegetarianism at the time…  although, I believe things have improved since.)

I’m not saying you can’t keep a resolution without caring about it, but I’m not sure how much you’d actually gain like that. Particularly in relation to writing. The most dangerous thing a budding writer can do is  to see writing as a chore.

Your writing should be something you do because you love it. Yes, discipline is important, but so is passion. Never let anyone steal your enthusiasm for writing – especially not yourself.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Active Reading for Writers

Active ReadingWARNING: Once acquired, this skill can be difficult to get rid of. You will notice writing techniques everywhere.

Active Reading means becoming more than the average consumer of literature. It means abandoning the comfort of passive reading.

If you’re a driver, you might remember how your perspective changed when started learning to drive. Before, you simply got in the car, fastened your seat-belt and that was it. That was your active engagement with the driving process. You allowed yourself to be transported, swaying with the twists and turns, becoming alarmed at any sudden stops or unexpected movements.

But, once you started learning to drive, you became a more active passenger. Hopefully you’re not an annoying backseat driver who can’t stop commenting, but now, when someone else is driving, you are probably more aware of what they are doing. You notice at least some of the hazards on the road ahead and anticipate some of the bends and the sudden stops.

Active Reading does a similar thing. You have to train your mind to notice things you wouldn’t usually notice as a reader.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

How To Write When You Aren’t In The Mood (or Why I Don’t Believe in Writer’s Block)

You know that feeling when you just can’t be bothered? You stare at your laptop and you sigh.  You’re a third of the way into NaNoWriMo, several thousand words behind, and your novel is starting to feel like work. Your mind drifts off in search of new ideas or looking for some excuse not to write anything today. Don’t give in. Not now. Even Productive Procrastination will do you no favours during NaNoWriMo. Your goal is to generate a messy first draft and no form of procrastination is going to get the words on the page.

Be wary of calling this feeling ‘Writer’s Block’. Writer’s Block is not some magical affliction that strikes down promising young novelists. It's an excuse. It’s just easier to say ‘I have Writer's Block’ than it is to admit, even to yourself, that you don’t care enough about your writing to stay dedicated. And all fiction writers should be able to agree that the easy option is rarely the right one. You wouldn’t let your characters give up, would you? They persevere through the hard times – if they didn’t, you wouldn’t have much of a story to tell. So, if you won’t let them get away with it, why should you? You want to finish your story, don’t you? If so, the answer is simple, stop believing in the curse of Writer’s Block and accept that your disinterest in the story is probably something you can solve.

So what can you do?

There are a few tricks we can use to get ourselves out of these slumps.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Five Top Tips for NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing MonthNational Novel Writing Month, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, is a worldwide event, in which writers attempt to write 50,000 words during November. It’s supposed to be a fun challenge but, for many writers, it turns into a nightmare.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo four times and won three, so I’ve experienced my share of panicked overnight writing sessions as November draws to an end.  But, I’m hoping to avoid that stress this year, so here are five of the most important things I’ve learnt about keeping it fun:

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Gathering Inspiration

We often think of inspiration as something that simply comes to us… there’s that image of the writer being struck by a ‘bolt of lightning’. But that isn’t how it works. At least, I’ve never been struck by this mysterious lightning bolt of ideas - and I think waiting for it is probably a waste of time.

How often have you sat in front of your computer, only to stare at a word document for a few minutes and then open facebook? Or taken up your notebook, only to sigh and put it down again because you don’t know what to write. You aren't feeling it. You aren’t motivated. You just want a cup of coffee and maybe a nap… You aren’t inspired and nothing gets done.

So, even if you want to keep faith in the lightning bolt, I encourage you to find your own inspiration in the meantime.

Minstrel Sophia of Apostrophe
Have you ever played The Sims Medieval? It's one of my favourite ways to procrastinate - The Kingdom of Apostrophe (I'm a writing geek, okay?) flourishes whenever I'm trying to put something off.

Anyway, one of the playable characters  is ‘the bard’ of the kingdom and, guess what? They don't let a lack of ideas stop them.

Playing as the bard, one of the tasks you have to complete is to spend a certain amount of time ‘gathering inspiration’. This is something that many of us forget to do in the real world.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we should stand around on the beach all day, holding a quill and looking pensively at a scroll... but I do think we ought to be actively gathering inspiration from the world around us.