Novel Writing

Advice Please: To Plot or Not to Plot?

Are you a panster or an outliner? Do you plan your stories in minute detail or do you let the words take you where they will? Are you a JK Rowling or a Stephen King?

I want to be a pantser, I really do. It’s so romantic. I dream of letting the pen take me where it will and following its call. I tried it. For a while, I would give myself an hour a day and let the word vomit flow.

But it didn’t flow.

I found myself, confused and irritated, sat in front of the blank computer screen with no clue of where to go. Suffering from literary constipation.

When the muses did strike me, I would find I had a string of scenes, so different from each other in style and content that they could have come from separate novels.

I had to face the sad reality that I need an outline. But my disappointment was short lived as I soon found a love for the order and creativity I found in my outline.

 As an administrator with a science degree, it’s not hard to see why I need to organise my writing. I am detail orientated and precise person with a creative flair, so for me, a strong outline is a necessity.

There are a thousand and one posts out there about the for and against’s for outlines which are incredibly varied in advice. My plan is to get a range of opinions from you wonderful writers on the blogosphere and put a collaborative post listing the benefits of pantsing and outlining.

I would love to hear from you in the comments section. I will write a post collating all the comments and linking to your blogs. 

What I’d love to know is –

  • Are you a Pantser or an Outliner?
  • ONE benefit you have found from being a panster/outliner? 

Thank you again for your wonderful advice and wisdom. Last time I did this with sentence starters the information gained was priceless.

 

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Autocrit · Novel Writing

Game Changing Writing Advice: Sentence Starters

A while ago I wrote a post asking you lovely bloggers for advice on how to stop using He, She, Character Name as sentence starters. I am so overwhelmed by the level of guidance and support I received from that post. To check out all the incredibly helpful comments click here

As promised, I’ve collated the information and have put together a brief list of the advice I received. These tips are game changers.

Use Deep POV – Anna Kaling Author

One sure way to avoid using too many pronouns is to write from a deep point of view. Rather than acting as a distant narrator, write as if you are feeling and seeing through the eyes and body of your character. Here is the brilliant example of this used by Anna Kaling in my comments section –

Shallow POV:

Jane listened to Andrew drone on about his day and wondered when she’d stopped loving him. She watched clouds float across her coffee as she stirred it. She hoped she didn’t look as bored as she felt.

Deep POV:

Andrew droned on about his day. When had she stopped loving him? Clouds floated across her coffee as she stirred it. Hopefully, she didn’t look as bored as she felt.

Start with -ing words (but not too often) – John

Another way to avoid starting with your character name or pronoun is to use an -ing word to describe what they are doing. A lot of you gave this as a handy technique, but there seems to be some controversy over this too. Make sure you don’t start with a verb too often because it can annoy the reader.

Cause and Effect – Fab Writings

Here is a brilliantly simple trick. Start with a cause and write the effect it has on your character. Here is the example Fab Writings gives in the comment –

Effect + cause = She sprang from the sofa, upon seeing a cockroach.
Cause + effect = The moment she saw a cockroach, she sprang from the sofa.

Start with an adverb – Brian Bixby

I’m a firm believer that adverbs should be sprinkled throughout your novel with caution and as a last resort. However, when you do choose to use them, why not start with an adverb at the beginning of your sentence and add some variety to your sentence starters?

Do not worry about this in your first draft – Jonah Bergan

Although it is good to be conscious of your common writing pitfalls when writing your first draft, it’s not something you should get bogged down with. Don’t go back and edit during your first draft. Write, write, write and edit later!

Autocrit advice – Robert Batton

Autocrit, which I have reviewed here, is a great tool. They also broach this subject in an article shared with me, VIA Robert. Have a look, it’s helpful.

The root of the problem – Yennaedo Balloo

Hints and guidance are fantastic, but sometimes the most helpful advice is to be shown why you struggle with a particular aspect of writing. If you start with too many pronouns, it is likely that you have a bais towards focusing on your characters and not other aspects of a novel, such as setting, description and action. If you find you are often starting sentences with pronouns, have a look at your work and see if you are neglecting description and setting.

This is the beauty of blogging, collective wisdom is so valuable! I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.

Novel Writing

How to Outline a Scene like a Pro

Hello, lovely people, I hope you are well? You are? Great! I know I am, it’s Friday after all! The last few days I have been outlining my scenes so that I am ready for Camp NaNoWriMo in July.

I’m reading an amazing book by CS Lakin called The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction which I have found invaluable. Lakin gives a scene checklist which I recommend you get your hands on.

I have used this to ask myself set questions per scene, and they are helping me so much I thought I would share them with you. Let me know what you think!

​What is the action or revelation that is the high impact crux of this scene?

What new information will this scene tell the reader?

What is the purpose of the scene?

What do I want the reader to know by reading this scene?

What is the protagonist reacting to here?

What added extra sparkle does the scene have?

Where does the scene begin?

What action is taking place when the scene starts?

How is it different to the opening of the scene before?

What is the POV?

How will I show this POV in the first few sentences?

How will I show the passing of time from the last scene?

What is my hook that grabs the reader at the start of the scene?

Imagine I’m in the scene, note down the first five things my senses notice.

List all the conflict that will take place in the scene.

How will the high moment stand out?

What juicy revelations that come further along in the book do I hint to?

How will I end in a way that excites the reader?

By the end what has been resolved or left hanging?

What do I want the reader to feel by the end of this scene?

What is the beginning middle and end of this scene?

Do you use a similar list of questions, or are you more of a pantser? As always I’d love your comments and any wisdom you have to share.

Novel Writing

5 Things Killing Your Writing Productivity

This post is a well-timed reminder for me; I hope you find it useful also.

Novelty Revisions

writing

How do you become a more productive writer? That’s a loaded question. Productivity, as you hopefully already know, requires a few major attributes in terms of writing well, often, with purpose. One reason many self-proclaimed aspiring writers can’t get any writing done is because they can’t get past common roadblocks to writing productivity … or rather, they don’t even know what these potential roadblocks are.

There are habits and circumstances killing your writing productivity. Here are the most common ones, and how to extinguish them.


1. Self-editing

Self-editing, while you’re writing, is destructive and time-consuming. It’s tempting; I know. I still do it way more often than I should, too. If you’re always stopping to fix what you just wrote five seconds ago, your piece isn’t going to move forward very quickly, if at all. As tempting as it may be, save editing for later. Always finish writing first…

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Novel Writing

Ten Tips For Creating the Perfect Pace in Your Novel

Here are some great suggestions on how to pace your novel, I hope they help you as much as they helped me!

lmnelsonscorner

marathon_mouse_spot-2Sometimes as writers, it’s hard to create the perfect pace in our stories.  I attended a writing workshop recently and learned a few things about pacing. Here’s what I walked away with.

  1. Impose a deadline. Your characters must have an urgency and a time constraint to accomplish their task. Give them a timeframe.
  2. Up the ante. Make the task harder, danger greater, or stakes higher. Challenge your character, create tension and throw things at them that get in the way.
  3. Create a mystery. Leave open questions. Create doubt and uncertainty. Why was he here? What was he doing with that person?
  4. Swap point of view. Change the voice. Alter from heavy to humorous.
  5. Leave white space. Keep paragraphs short. Vary sentence length. Create chunks.
  6. Create an unsettled feeling. End chapters by leaving readers on edge.  Make them want to know what’s going to happen next.
  7. Interlock episodes. Every scene connects to the…

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Novel Writing

Creative Writing Secrets from Professional Writers

This post is brilliant, funny, knowledgeable and welll worth a read!

15th & Oxford

Any professional author will tell you, there’s no trick to good creative writing but rather a battle between the brain and the soul. Still, that hasn’t stopped many famous writers from sharing a tip or two for the aspiring wordsmith.

Check out some of our favorite writing tips from authors throughout history…

1)


mark_twain“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
-Mark Twain

Mark Twain was clearly not a fan of the word “very,” but for good reason. There’s almost always a better word to use than simply putting very. For example, instead of a very beautiful sunset, perhaps it was a magnificent.

2)


Robert Frost“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
-Robert Frost

The famed poet Robert Frost left us with…

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