5 Essential Pieces of Stationary for Writers

shutterstock_301207475This week is National Stationary Week! (Yes, really.) OKay, so this is in America, but I thought I would celebrate nonetheless and write what think are 5 essential pieces of stationary for writers!  Continue reading

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Finding Inspiration for ZINES!

Next week, human beings, I have a post coming for you: Why You Should Write Mini Zines. However, this time around, I am going to be talking about how to find inspiration for them.

“But Hannah,” you cry, “wouldn’t it make sense for this to come after the post about why we should write zines in the first place?” Well, yes. But no. Because once you read on, the idea will (hopefully) be rocking around your head all week and you might even Google it before you read my next blog post! (Shame on you.)  Continue reading

How to Find the One… Notebook for You!

Pretty notebooks

Image from Google

Ha! Betcha thought I’d gone all weird and romance-y on my book blog. Don’t you worry about that: I’m still very much talking about writing.

Notebooks are my love. I have many unwritten in notebooks, notebooks with a few pages here and there, notebooks that have been filled and have had pages ripped out etc. etc. I am always travelling with a notebook, and I would just like to talk about how to find the notebook that will become your new writing companion.

Every writer needs a notebook. That is just a given. If you want to write, you have to have something to write in. Some people like to use their phones and the “notes” app, but that stresses me out nowadays, so I’m only going to be talking about the physical beauties and, yes, giving you some recommendations. Continue reading

The Good And Bad Novel Lists

I am planning my NaNoWriMo novel (*screams*) and I am using the lovely book called No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty (aka NaNoWriMo founder). In it, Chris suggests listing two lists: the Good Novel List and Bad Novel List (or, as he calls it, Magna Carter I and Magna Carter II). On these lists, you’re meant to put things on them that you like/don’t like in a novel. Continue reading

Using Your Phone/Tablet To Your Writing Advantage

phone or tablet in writingAlmost everyone these days has a smartphone and/or a tablet. If you don’t have either, then I really really hope you carry a notebook around with you.

On my Facebook page a while ago I posted about making sure you always have a writing journal (which reminds me, I haven’t written in mine in ages. I think I’m just wayyyy too tired to even think about it!). But I thought I’d post today about using your phone/tablet to your writingly advantage. (Because yes, although people say we’re being “taken over” by technology, don’t you think they’re saying that for a reason? Because the technology is useful?!)

Continue reading

How To Write A Blurb

First of all, what’s the difference between a synopsis and a blurb?

A synopsis covers the entire plot. A blurb catches the reader onto the hook and reels them in. The point is, an author writes a blurb, and the reader a synopsis (well, technically they could anyway). I write blurbs for NaNoWriMo, even though it says synopsis on the site; you can write synopses if you want to, but I don’t know where my plot is going yet, so I am not. 🙂 (Don’t worry: I’ll do a post on synopses after NaNoWriMo).

Writing a blurb is hard, especially when, I have found, you have no idea what the plot actually is. So this is a post for all you pantsers out there (or, indeed, if you’re not). You can’t write what you don’t know – yet.

Here are some of my tips to write a blurb:

  1. Know the plot – the first few chapters at least. Pick up the closest book next to you. Does it tell you the ending? The climax? Even the first climax? No. Because you only need enough to hook the reader. If you’re NaNo-ing and barely know the idea, just make a bit up. If it changes, it’s no biggie.
  2. Either use a question or a brash statement. For example, the blurb of Slated by Teri Terry finishes with: “Who can she trust in her search for the truth?” The blurb of Harry Potter ends in a typical ‘dot dot dot’ (not ‘S’ in Morse code). You can read my July blurb to see how I did it. You just want to hook the readers on, really.
  3. Imagine you don’t know anything. What is the first turn in your story that will make you want to read your book? Use this in your blurb. For July NaNoWriMo, I had James moving down South, and him meeting the ABC group. Alrighty, this is two turns, but moving house doesn’t really explain how you’d get a love story out of it. If your first turn is huge, though, perhaps you could only use that.
  4. Don’t go too heavy on the facts. Sure, the first name of your MC is always good, and maybe the names of a side character or two can help. A key term now and again won’t hurt. But your reader will look at the blurb as an indicator for how the book sounds. If you give them an information overload, guess what? They probably won’t read it!
  5. Give them a piece of the picture. Ever heard the phrase ‘A picture paints a thousand words’? Well, you have about 5% of that amount. Imagine you’re cutting a little square from the bottom of the canvas and giving it to the reader. That little square has to be really good for them to want to see the whole thing.

You have <100 words to write your blurb (yes, that really is less than one hundred). You’ve gotta make it good. Choose your words carefully, my friend. It could be the difference to a reader and a leaver.

Good luck, you’ll do great. Remember, if you don’t think you’d read it, don’t write it!

Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀 

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Write your story’s blurb below! 😀 

We’re History…

Historical fiction has always been around, since…well, since history began! For example, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, although a romance, is also historical fiction! But how do you write a good historical fictional story?

Well, like any story, you need a plot, interesting characters, and a setting. I’ll put up a basic idea to use for the purpose of this post – how about a story about a girl who finds out that she can make the worlds in her mind become real, but there are dark forces trying to stop her (aka the plot of The Amazing Mind of Alice Makin by Alan Shea. Hey, I never said it was my idea!). We’ll start with setting.

This is historical fiction, so you need to write about a historical time: in this case, it about ten year after WWII, so about the mid-1950s. Alice lives in London, so obviously it’s still pretty wrecked from the Blitz – in fact, one of the main settings is an old bomb shelter. Furthermore, the places are put together so well that you can create a map in your head!

But also with the setting, you need to have the ‘setting’ of the time. For example, the clothes of the time, or the slang – Alice and her friends use 50s slang when they talk.

For the setting, you have to do a shed load of research. Get yourself a notebook, and use a variety of sources. For other info on research, check out this post. Use a variety of sources for this one, though – perhaps even speak to a historian?

Next up: PLOT! Now, you can tell a real history story, or you can make up one on your own. Alice’s story is fictional, but it is so well put together it seems real. Whereas, there’s a story called Bucephalus that I read years ago, about Alexander the Great’s horse – it follows his story, so, although it is fictional, it is historically accurate.

If you’re making up your own plot, the same applies as that from setting – do your research. If you write about a real event, then you really have to do your research. You can’t afford to get things wrong with the plot if it’s about a real event. If it is a real event, then also make sure you keep with the settings as accurately as possible, otherwise, even if the plot is realistic, the entire story won’t seem realistic altogether.

Finally, characters! Like with plot, you can go two ways with this – one, you can make up your own main character, such as Alice. Or, you can use a character that really existed, such as Bucephalus. If you’re using a character from your own imagination, then yay for you – free will! Just make sure that they stick with the time. But, if you’re using a character from history’s mitts, then you have to make sure you know that person as well as possible. Research on the internet; look up myths surrounding them; read as many biographies – or autobiographies, if possible – as you can; make sure you know them inside out upside down.

If you want another source for info about history, then try CBBC’s Horrible Histories. If you don’t want to watch it, then you can always read the books!

Questions? Shoot! 😀 And sorry that it was late…

I’m Pretty Sure I’m Real…

Real in the eye of the beholder, that is. This week, I’ve been asked to write a post on how to create 3D characters – so here goes!

When reading a story, characters are either 2D or 3D: They either are not real to the reader, or real to the reader. Ideally, you want your characters to be that 3D person, but sometimes they fall flat (aah, puns). So how to you make them pop up and make your reader feel like they really know them? Here’s a few tips:

  • Give them a solid back story. Everyone you meet, even a newborn baby, will have a back story. Maybe they’re adopted, or they are mainly normal but get abnormally good grades. You can even create a timeline for your characters, from their birth to their death, and fill in what happens in all the years of their life. If you click the link just above, it’ll take you to an example I found that you can use!
  • Make them have flaws – and make these flaws matter. No, not the flaws like ‘stubborn’. Well, I guess you can have those flaws, but make them have more flaws than that! Maybe they’re bad at school subjects? Maybe they act first, think later? What you also need to do with these flaws is make them matter to the story. For example, in the book I’m writing, my MC is terrified to riding – but to save a horse from going to the knackers yard, she has to overcome those fears and ride him in an event (cliche, I know). There’s no point in their flaw being ‘act first, think later’ if everything always works out fine!
  • Make them have quirks. Everyone has quirks. Maybe your character is superstitious and throws salt over their shoulder if they spill any. Maybe they salute magpies. One of my characters, Cal, always bites his lip and Alice tells him off for it. Make these quirks continuous throughout the book, if they’re going to be – or, if they have a dramatic character development, maybe they realise that they have to get rid of these quirks. Maybe they develop as a nervous tick. If you can’t think of any quirks, sit in a busy coffee shop, with a notebook and pen, and just people watch. You’ll be amazed.
  • Make them develop as a character. There’s no point in a book where the MC stays continuous all the way throughout. They change because what’s happening around them means they have to. Make sure that your story flows with these changes, too.
  • Make your descriptions of a character strong enough that the reader can easily paint a picture of them in their minds. Have them toss a strand of brown hair over their shoulder. Maybe they feel sweat on pale palms. They wipe a red, cold nose. They hit their head on the top of the bus, or can’t fit in the bus seats. For your reader to emphasis with someone, they have to have an image of them in their minds – and if you don’t make it, they will, and, to you, what they make might be wrong to how they actually are. For more info, click here!
  • Make their personality differ from others. That’s what makes your character stand out, and, if you look around, you’ll see that real life people have different personalities from their friends, too; their likes, dislikes, etc.
  • Eating, sleeping and pooping. I’m pretty sure I’ve done a post on this before – ah, yes, here it is. Just make sure you keep this one in mind.
  • Don’t rule out religions and other races. For example, a Satanic character. Or a character that is a black male, but isn’t as buff as most stereotypical books say. Don’t be afraid to research stuff like this, or ask about it. If you go to school/college, there’s bound to be an RE teacher that you can ask about religions!
  • Keep their actions human. If they’ve just broken up with someone they love, or someone they love has dumped them for no reason, they’re bound to be upset, for a few hours at the very least. If someone’s died, they are going to mourn. You want your characters to appear human, they have to act human. If they’ve just been sick, they aren’t going to be stuffing their faces in the next minute.
  • Make sure that they have a motive. And no, I’m not just talking about the bad guy here. Sometimes the good guys need a motive – if they think that there’s a high chance of dying shortly, are they really going to go to that war? Do they need someone to give them a push? *Cough*Coulson*Cough*.

I cannot really think of any more. If you need any more tips, look at your friends or family. What makes them seem real (apart from the fact that they are)? Do they try and do a good turn every day? Do they say a prayer each night? Carry around a notebook and jot down anything that you could put with a character to make them seem more real to your readers – because isn’t that just what you want?

Hope that helped!

Questions, hints, thoughts? Shoot. 😀

Whoa, Back Up There!

What’s the most important thing when you write?

Ask that to a variety of people, and you’ll get lots of different answers. You may get keeping the same person (1st, 2nd or 3rd), or keeping up with your spelling and grammar, or making sure you have character development.

And, although that I think that these are valuable skills when writing, amongst others, there is one more that I would strongly, strongly advise: backing up your work.

By backing up, I don’t mean making a mental note of the stories you have. I don’t mean telling someone else about it. I mean backing it up. Let my expand.

Backing up means saving your work somewhere else than your laptop. You know how it is. It can crash. You can spill coffee all over it. Anything can happen. And then all your hard work…poof.

If you write your stuff out longhand, then yay for you – no backing up needed. But if you don’t and your computer is your life, how else can you back it up? Well, here’s a few ideas:

  • Email it to yourself or a friendIf you email it to yourself you can go and find it again. If you email it to your friend, they can always send it back to you if you lose it! Also, they could also proof read it for you. 😉
  • Use Google Docs. Ever heard of it? It’s now called the ‘Google Drive’, but, y’know, I think Google Docs sounds better. Basically, you use your Google account to sign up, and you can create, edit and share documents with other people (they can also edit it if you let them) and then you can access it from any computer, as long as you know your email and password! Great, eh?
  • Obvious: use a memory stick. This little buggers can be picked up from loads of places – online, WHSmith, even Boots probably sell them. You can get a nice one, just for your writing or that particular novel, or one that you put everything on! For example, I have one that looks like a clip you use when climbing that is just for writing. I can clip it to my jeans, too.
  • Print it out. Now, this isn’t really backing up, and if you lose everything it’s a bit of a long process to type it up again, but yay, then you have your work printed out! I wouldn’t recommend it, though, unless it’s just a short story.

So yes, I hope you have some ideas for how to back up your work – now, go and put them into practice! Go, back up, now!

And whilst you do that, I shall back up, too…

(Sorry it was late! Questions? Shoot!) 🙂

Climatic Climax

Your character is just about to find the bad guy/go in for that test/find the hidden key to return to the modern world.

And that thing – the big thing – happens. The Climax.

The climax is one of the biggest parts of the story, so you need to make it good, and is the bit that the entire rest of the book has been leading up to – the build up (obviously), all the little climaxes (or ‘crises’). 

Look at this picture of a story arc below:

story-arc-1

Lovely, isn’t it? Anyway.

Your story needs to build up to the climax steadily (but not too steadily, you want your readers to finish the book eventually!). Have little climaxes all the way throughout, so that your reader doesn’t get bored (see image: the four little bumpy things before the big bumpy thing). Here, I’ll use ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ as an example.

Obviously, the climax in this book is Harry defeating Prof. Quirrell by the Mirror of Erised. However, there are little climaxes leading up to it: for example, as a punishment, Harry is sent into the Forbidden Forest, and sees a) the Voldy/Quirrell combo drinking a unicorn’s blood, and b) a centaur for the first time. Boom: little climax.

Leading up the main climax, you need to do a thing called ‘foreshadowing’ (should I do an extra article on this?). This means dropping little hints all the way throughout, leading up to the climax. For example, your character might talk about death a lot, and end up dying. Don’t do this too much, though, you don’t want to make it too obvious: what you are really aiming for is for the readers to, when they read over your work again afterwards or get to the climax, go ‘Ooooh, now I get it!’ – not ‘Whoa, when did that happen?’, because they didn’t understand how it built up, which leads me on to…

You need to make sure it makes sense in the book. You can’t have a story that’s about something like a murder, and that is what it is about (eg solving it) and then the climax is a huge horse riding competition for the MC. It just doesn’t make sense, and the reader will know that, too. They’ll probably get confused, stop reading, and throw the book at your head.

Finally, after the climax comes the ending of the book, so dropping hints to the end of it and make sure that your book doesn’t end at the climax is a must. You need to be able to wrap up your story fairly rapidly after the climax; oh, but, that’s for another day!

So, to recap:

  • Use the build up and little climaxes to your advantage.
  • Foreshadow like hell.
  • Don’t have a really random climax (as in, out of context in your novel).
  • Make sure that you pave the way for you to finish your book – or, indeed, leave a cliffhanger for the sequel!

Hope that helps with your climaxes! Questions? Shoot!