It’s Day 4 of NaNoWriMo. I am (for once) well ahead of my word count. But I know some are just starting, or falling behind (and that’s okay too, there’s still 4 weekends between here and the 30th! Don’t panic!).
Some call it cheating, some call it intelligence if you find a way around it. I don’t really know what to call it, but if you’re falling behind on your NaNoWriMo word count, here are my three tips for getting it up.
Don’t use conjunctions. These are things like ‘don’t’, ‘shouldn’t’, ‘I’m’ etc. If you use ‘don’t’, it’s one word. If you use ‘do not’, it’s two. Sneaky, yes. But it works.
Description is your best buddy – especially if you’re stuck. Picture the scene (heheh). You know where you’re starting from. You know where you want to go. But… you don’t know how to get there. If you’re stuck on the route from A to B, try adding in some description. If it’s unnecessary, it doesn’t matter – you can cut it later. If it adds to the novel, wow, you’ve discovered something you never had before!
Add in a subplot – however small. Maybe the character makes friends with a lizard who lives on their windowsill. Or maybe they discover their mother isn’t actually their birth mother. It can be as big or as small as you like.
A subplot is a plot that runs alongside the main one, but isn’t the main one. For example, Harry and Ginny’s relationship in Harry Potter. Use these to your advantage – I have at least three in my plan, and it’s really boosted a) my chapter count, b) the interest in the novel and c) my interest in the novel – subplots can also really help if you’re getting bored already!
I hope your NaNoWriMo is going swimmingly. If you have any questions, comments or thoughts, shoot! 😀
PS – if you are doing NaNoWriMo, what’s your word count? Mine currently stands at 7743!
Ugh, I hate it when you’re avoiding doing what you want to be doing. Right?
First of all, procrastination makes no sense. Sure, if it’s something you don’t want to be doing, I understand. But I want to be writing; I want to tell my character’s stories. So why can’t I – and why can’t you?
Can’t be arsed. Basically, what it says on the tin. When you’ve had a long day, and you just don’t want to.
Written yourself into a plot hole. Those little plot bunnies burrow their way into your work and then undermine all your lovely plans. They’re terrible, I know.
Something else is distracting you. A looming deadline, screaming kids, the moon being too bright. The usual.
You don’t want to do it. Is it an article that you’ve been putting off because the subject makes you yawn?
The deadline is looming. Funnily enough, I work brilliantly under pressure – just ask my GCSE grades. But some people – most people, probably – don’t. Like, at all. And when a deadline is coming up, especially if you know this could make or break your career, it just seems to oddly give you more of a reason to avoid it.
Procrastination affects most people in their lives. Be it for a college application, picking the kids up from school (writing, kids, writing, kids…) or even going to bed, it’s there.
So, what can you do about procrastination?
Make yourself be bothered. I normally devise a punishment for myself if I don’t do it. I want to lose weight this year, and if I don’t hit my goal, I’m having a cold shower. May I remind you that by this time it will be December and our house freezes.
Look back over stuff you’ve written, and see if you can figure yourself out of what ever hole you’ve written yourself into. Maybe you forgot something and it made you take a completely different path to the one you had thought out. Sure, it may mean you have a rewrite a lot of it, but it’s better than finishing and your manuscript being a mess.
Get rid of distractions. Some people tidy their rooms if their procrastinating. Tidy them before you try to start work. Hell, lock yourself in a box (without WiFi, phones or a book) and make yourself write.
If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it (NOTE: this doesn’t apply to homework). Also note that this applies only if you don’t need the money… That article you don’t want to do? Don’t do it! If you have to, then yes, by all means, do it. But if you really really don’t want to do it, it’s making you miserable and you just can’t even bare thinking about it…don’t do it.
If you can, move the deadline to a later period. If you can’t, get your butt into gear. Sometimes, you just have to give up and do it. I want to start writing in 10 minutes, working on my novella – hence, I’ve got my butt into gear and written this article!
Remember, writing is supposed to be fun. Have fun with doing it. If it’s making you unhappy, get yourself another hobby (if it’s your job, find a new job!).
But just because I’ve said that doesn’t mean that some days you just don’t want to write. And that’s okay.
Procrastination is basically just an annoying kitten that won’t leave you alone. Sometimes you just have to give it some attention and play along before it goes off to sleep.
Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀
PS Sorry this post may be a bit scattered. I’m tired, all right?! 😛
I didn’t know what to write about today. So, I Googled ‘writing advice’, and a quote from Jack London came up:
Many people – not just writers; artists, even teachers looking for entertaining ways to teach their urchins – suffer from severe case of what I like to call inspirenza.
Are you a sufferer? There’s some ways to tell:
When you sit down to write/draw/teach your mind goes blank and you have no idea what to say.
You catch yourself browsing social media for ideas. Yes…even Twitter.
The outside is scarily looking welcoming.
You think you’d rather have a job where you know what you’re doing and it requires little-to-no work for your brain.
So if you’ve caught inspirenza, what can you do about it? Well, let me tell you now, antibiotics aren’t an option and plagarisation will get you sued. You’re on your own (well, apart from the entirety of the writing community willing to help you out).
As Jack London said, you have to go after your inspiration with a club. IE: you have to drive out that inspirenza yourself. So. Cures.
Google. Google is life, everyone knows that. Google random words, prompts, whatever. Have fun.
Walkies! Take the dog, or if you don’t have a dog, the cat, turtle, even the goldfish (ok maybe not the goldfish) and have a walk. Don’t listen to music – instead, listen to the sounds of the outdoors. Eavesdrop carefully and steal conversations. Look at the flowers and the trees, the people, interactions, buildings.
If the hint of an idea comes to you WRITE IT DOWN. The thing with inspirenza is that it can take an instant to recover from, but you can relapse just as easily. Don’t let those ideas get away from you!
Ask friends and family. Scary idea, but they can really help. Bounce ideas around (unless you’re JKR who says that that kills them for her). Ask if they have any ideas.
If all else fails, grab a club and go caveman style. I don’t mean killing buffalo and going after your PE teacher (as hard as it is to differentiate, they’re not a Neanderthal). I mean just think of something. Just get some words, any words, your thoughts on the page. Set the timer for a minute, 5 minutes. Write. Just write.
Inspirenza is curable. Honest. If it can take a hold of you, you can shake it off. It may seem dark and dreary when it’s hovering over your shoulders like a mouldy blanket you can’t bear to wash, but as soon as you scrub it clean things will be better on the other side.
If you want a real life example, look at me right now: I had no idea what to write about, and I’ve just invented a new word. Anything is possible.
Everybody has days when inspirenza strikes. Sometimes you just have a mind blank. And then you have to fight it off. Go on, try it now! Otherwise this guy will be after you and he looks pretty frickin’ angry.
What do all of these things have in common? Well, yes, they’re all words; but, more importantly, they’re ways to start your story! And we all love starting stories…
When readers start reading, you have about 3-5 seconds to capture their attention. I’ve just read a page of something and discovered that when I read normally, 3-5 seconds is about 20-30 words. Some sources say you have 10 seconds, which is what I actually did – and that was 59 words.
As you can see, you don’t have a long time, maybe one or two sentences. So how do you keep those readers reading?
The first line (I’m keeping this with a story, but if it’s a film or play, say about the first few minutes, even seconds. If it’s a poem, unless it’s like the Odyssey, they’re bound to keep reading cause it’s short) is crucially important. Most readers will try and at least make it to the last line of the first page before the put the book down and pick up another, or click the ‘back’ button on the top of the screen, but it’d be a lot easier for you if they were hooked from the beginning. Of course, you have to do your job and keep them reading beyond that, but that’s for another article next week.
I have in front of me 3 books (they were just lying around, but they’re quite different and I hope at least one appeals to you). Here are their first lines:
‘Renowned curator Jacques Sauniere staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery.’ – The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
‘I suppose a lot of teenage girls feel invisible sometimes, like they just disappear.’ – I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
‘Sam Horwitz had never felt so excited.’ – The Forgotten Army by Brian Minchin (Doctor Who book)
So, the question is, what is it about these first lines that keep readers reading?
Well, The Da Vinci Code intrigues us with the words ‘renowned’, ‘staggered’ and introducing a character. We’re wondering why they’re staggering, and how they are renowned. Curious? Yes. (I’d just like to point out now that I haven’t read The Da Vinci Code, so no spoilers please. It is on my to-read list though, promise!)
Ally Carter’s book (come on, that title is way too long to type out) pulls us in by wondering why this narrator (we’re assuming a teenage girl, but can’t be sure) is talking about teenage girls and why they’re disappearing. It’s relatable, too, ’cause we’ve all felt like it (I’m assuming). And we want to know why the narrator is talking about feeling invisible – maybe they’re actually invisible? We don’t know, but we want to find out.
Finally, The Forgotten Army grabs our attention by introducing a character and making him excited. We’re wondering why he’s excited, what it is he’s looking at. We’re wondering who this Sam is, as well, and that keeps us reading too.
Now we’ve seen how the professionals do it. But how can we apply this to ourselves?
There are many things you can do (note: not all of these apply to the first line, but definitely the first page):
DO give them something interesting, eg humour or action, preferably in the first line. People want need something to keep them continue reading.You are the writer, you have to do that for them. SO DO IT.
DO ensure spelling, grammar and punctuation are the best they can be (this puts so many people off. Make sure the first page is typo-free, at least).
DO introduce a character that the readers are interested in. (The Da Vinci Code)
DO introduce a setting that the readers are interested in. (I don’t have one with setting at the moment, but I’m sure you know what I mean – crumbling walls and what-not)
DO introduce a scenario the readers are interested in. (The other two)
The first line has to snap up the readers’ attention. Throw them your best language, most fabulous description. Think about what made you read this article (hopefully it’s ’cause you were curious about the first three words. If not, that’s gone horribly wrong).
In anything, the first line has to get your readers asking six questions that keep them going: who, what, when, where, why and how. These questions may pop up later in the first paragraph, but by the end of the page, your readers should be thinking ‘come on, I want to know!’
And this, my friend, is what keeps them going. And another important thing is not to drivel on in your first chapter, as I am doing now (I’ll stop soon, promise).
I think it’d be easier right now to write about what not to do when starting. Here:
DO NOT start with describing the weather. The only time this is acceptable is when the character is about to get struck by lightening, or it is huge to your plot. If your character is sitting in the garden, start with something different other than they’re basking in the sun.
DO NOT start with something that doesn’t come to play in the rest of the book (eg the WEATHER). In The Forgotten Army, Sam is excited about a new exhibit, but it all goes horribly wrong – his excitement helps to create a plot twist.
DO NOT start with character or setting (eg, ‘It was 1949 and the beach was golden…’) description. At least give us some action first, otherwise the readers are gonna put your story down ’cause they’ll assume it’s all boring drivel. I originally got you reading with excitement and curiosity, and here you are now – reading my boring drivel.
Basically, don’t start with anything you wouldn’t want to read yourself. There, that’s easy, isn’t it?
I hope I’ve given you some food for thought about how to start your next piece, or, indeed, update existing ones. And if you’ve read this far have a cookie, cause this has been quite a long article. Sorry about that. Quite a lot to say on the subject to be honest.
Here’s a task for you: find a book you loved and a book you hated/didn’t finish and look at their first lines. What dragged you into the one you liked, and made you put down the one you didn’t?
Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀
Ps sorry it was so long, I got a little carried away…
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!
So, shall we see how skillfully I can slip in some stupendous, superb (s)alliteration?
Or, let’s not.
But alliteration is a brilliant device to use in writing. But, what is it, first of all – well, according to Google, the definition is:
“The occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.”
So, basically, the first letter is the same of each word or words that are close to each other start with the same letter – such as my first sentence of this article.
Alliteration is useful to change tone to your story, especially as it makes it more vivid. Furthermore, it gives a more poetic style and ‘mimics the natural rhythm of the rain’. People read it more fluently, and it also makes a greater impact on the the reader’s memory – this means that they are more likely to remember your story if you have good alliteration! Also, alliteration gives dramatic effect – so, for example, if there is a huge action scene, or a scene where your character meets your true love, the alliteration makes the reader feel more for the story and the characters; exactly what you want.
However, you can’t over use alliteration. It gets too repetitive, and it makes the reader almost choke on the words. The readers are likely to stop reading, because they wouldn’t be able to get the words out in their head, either, so they won’t be able to do it if they’re reading aloud especially – exactly what you don’t want.
But you know something that’s perfect for alliteration?
Titles are superb for alliteration. For example, one of the best known classics is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – which uses two ‘p’s – alliteration. Another one is John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men – two ‘m’s. It helps the reader remember them, and it can be shortened easily, without hopefully making it look bad – for example, Pride and Prejudice can become P&P (…although that can also stand for post and packaging…).
So yeah, I hope I reminded you about the awesomeness of alliteration. Challenge of the week: put some into your writing!
Any topics wanted for next time? Questions, tips? Shoot! 🙂
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?
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:
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!
Well, according to Urban Dictionary, headcanons are:
“An idea, belief, or aspect of a story that is not mentioned in the media itself, but is accepted by either the reader themselves or the fandom in general. If it is confirmed by the author of the story, it becomes canon.”
So, basically, a headcanon is a little thing that fans make up.
“But, why are you making a post about this?” Because, my friend, of the deadly disease of the writer: writer’s block.
If you’re suffering from writer’s block, why not write a few headcanons? They aren’t long enough to make a story, but they aren’t short enough to make them impossible. Furthermore, if they’re about your own characters, then guess what: you can make them canon!
I often say that you should try and write something every single damn day – so, if you don’t want to add a bit more to your story because you’re so tired, or you can’t bear to start a new one/start editing just yet, then why not make up a few little headcanons?
“But how do you write a headcanon?”
Well, have a look around you. Think up something completely random! Maybe it’s something like “____ loves the colour blue.” Really, it can be about anything! It doesn’t have to be perfect, remember – not all headcanons are. They just add in extra information about the book or thing you’re writing about.
Does that persuade you to write a headcanon/inform you about it? I hope so! Any questions? Shoot!
Oh, and also: ‘headcanon’ can be abbreviated to ‘HC’ – just something to watch out for!