Sunday, April 13, 2014

N is for a Writer's Notebook

I have ran a creative writing group for many years. I have tried to get writers to keep and orderly writer's notebook, ideally several for each novel.

This way you can still write and make notes when you are not 'writing.'

How you divide your notes is up to the writer, but this is how I put mine into sections. It was recommended to me years ago and I've kept it up since.

Section 1. Plot ideas. 
Section 2. Characters - descriptions, essential information, their past etc
Section 3. Research - how much you do is a person decision and depends on what you are writing about.
Section 4. Plot summaries. I sometimes try to cut and paste the first paragraph of each chapter in here. It helps me focus and make sure the story stays on track.
Section 5 . Questions, about the plot, research I need to do, what would a character need to have done in their past to make sure they are able to survive a forest fire or flood?

The best thing about a good writer's note book is that it makes you feel organised and productive.


M is for Middles

Sometimes the middle of the first draft of a novel can be too long. I've recently had to have a good rewrite of my children's book. Here are a few tips to review the middle of your work.

1. Characters. Do you have more than one character serving the same purpose or are too similiar? If so, can you cut them or combine them? If you have a minor character that isn't adding anything to the storyline, could you use them in another piece of work? Does your lead character have to many characters helping them?
2. Do the same thing with the subplots. Does the subplot add to your novel or distract the reader?
3. Look at the scenes individually. Are they dull? Are they too long? Is there too much dialogue or description? 

Be ruthless. Remember the aim is to get a leaner and meaner final draft!



L is for tying up Loose Ends

When you get to the end of your novel make sure you have tied up all your loose ends. 

First decide whether your loose story lines are major or minor. What happened to a minor characters lost cat is probably not crucial. What he did with the stolen car probably is. 

If the loose end is a major part of the novel you WILL need to create a major scene to deal with it. Yes it may need a rewrite, but that is better than a reader being frustrated at the end of the book. 

With a minor loose end you may be able to filter the information in through your characters dialogue. 
'I see Mrs Patterson's found her cat.'

The real problem writers face is finding the loose ends! This is were a good beta reader is vital. I'm not strong at micro editing, I find it difficult to spot grammatical mistakes. Now when it comes to finding plot holes and loose ends, I'm a master. 

What I would advise is finding readers who are good at micro editing and good macro editors. I have yet to find someone excellent at both.


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Words and Pictures Birthday - SCWBI

I awoke on Saturday with a high temperature, blinding headache and feeling rough. This is a problem that most people forget when you are self employed. There are no sick days. No one else to do the work for you. But there was no way I was missing the birthday celebration of the Words and Pictures online magazine.


So after two paracetamol I put on my glad rags and went over to the party.

I'm pleased to say that the good food and company had me feeling much better. It was wonderful being able to sit and chat with like minded individuals. 

If you are a writer or an illustrator I can't recommend joining SWCBI and following Words and Pictures highly enough!

Here are some useful information and links below.

About Words and Pictures.

Words & Pictures is the online magazine of the British Isles region of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). 
http://www.wordsandpics.org/p/about-words-pictures.html

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators(SCBWI) is the only international professional organization for children's writers and illustrators. Founded in 1971 by a group of Los Angeles-based children's writers, the SCBWI acts as a network for the exchange of knowledge between writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people. It serves as a consolidated voice for professional writers and illustrators the world over.

https://www.scbwi.org



Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for a Knockout Ending

Writers often spend a lot of time rewriting the first three chapters of their novel. It contains the vital opening line, it is the words you send to publishers and agents.  But according to James Scott Bell in Plot and Structure, fiction readers want to see a 'knockout at the end.'

A great ending will leave readers feeling satisfied. 

While blog hopping I have seen many book bloggers ask the question, 'at what point do you give up reading a book with a weak storyline.' I've been surprised at how many readers plod on to the end because they need to know how the story ends. Most rants on review sites and Goodreads are about weak endings.

My advice? Maintain the tension in the story until the last possible. 

Follow Bell's advice for a knockout ending,

'As you near the end, it should look as if the opposition is the one who will win. He has everything going for him. The Lead is up against the ropes. Only when the Lead reaches deep within and makes her move will the knockout blow be thrown.'





Thursday, April 10, 2014

J is for JK Rowling's Editing Advice

I thought I would list some editing tips from J K Rowling, love her or hate her she's managed to buy her castle!

Instead of diving right into line 1, paragraph 1, J.K. Rowling advises taking the time to plan out the world your books will live in. She took five years to create and develop every last detail of the Harry Potter world, right down to how the Wizards and Muggles interacted (and the word Muggles, to begin with!) what the education was like, how magic helped in every day life and how the wizarding world of government worked. She also plotted out all the events of the seven books before she started writing the first.

You would think after five years, J.K. Rowling would just be able to dive right in there and write the whole of the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, without much rewriting. But in fact she rewrote the opening chapter of her first book a total of fifteen times, until it was just right. It’s easy to imagine published authors writing with the greatest of ease, but actually the process is just as difficult for them.

J.K. Rowling openly talks of her struggles to get published – it certainly wasn’t easy for her.  Given that it took around a decade from ‘Harry Potter’s’ inception to being published, being patient is a crucial trait.
It is true that if you have been rejected by every publishing house in the world, it may be time to accept defeat but, equally, consider this.
An unknown Joanne Rowling, an unemployed woman living on state benefits became J.K. Rowling, billionaire author within 5 years.  ‘Harry Potter’ was rejected by numerous publishers for a year.  She waited patiently and it paid off.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I is for identifying with the lead character

Can your reader identify with your characters?

You may have the best story line in the world, but if your characters are two dimensional and unbelievable no one will read your fiction.

Good fiction contains complex and interesting characters complete with quirks. 

So today I'm sharing a, 
can the reader identify with the lead character checklist.

1. Is the lead believable? Can the reader imagine that in the right circumstances and in a similiar situation they may make the same sort of choices?
2. Does the lead appear to be a real human being? Do they struggle with everyday life problems?
3. Have you made sure they are not perfect and have fears?
4. What does your lead character do and think that makes them like real people?

If you are worried that your lead character is simply not right, how can you fix it?

Put your character in jeopardy. 
Give them hardship, think of Clarence in Silence of the Lambs, troubled childhood, desperately trying to prove herself.

Make your lead the underdog. Charlie in Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, the odds of him winning were extreme. Apart from the clue to the reader that things would turn out alright because his name was in the title.

Vulnerability. Lots of Stephen Kings characters are slightly vulnerable people pushed into supernatural circumstances. Look at the children in IT, Danny in The Shining.

Lastly make them likeable by doing likeable things. I think one of the best examples of a flawed likeable lead is the central character Mike, in The Magic Cottage by James Herbert.