Novel Writing · NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo – I Can See the Finish Line

How are you, campers? Exhausted? Delirious? Manic?

Whether broken or motivated by NaNoWriMo, I have good news for you! It’s the final stretch of Camp NaNoWriMo July 2017.

Well done us, we are still going, and whether we are set to win or lose, we are all winners. Imagine what your word count would be without this month?

How far have you come? I bet it’s a long way, and even if it’s not it’s some way, and that’s enough.

Keep on striving for the finish line. You can do this!

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.

 

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

The Editing Style Guide

Here are some great tips for those of you who are editing your novels, I hope it helps.

Nerdy & Wordy

Look, editing is hard. I’ve said it many, many times. When you’re starting, it can be incredibly confusing. One person tells you to do this, and another tells you oh God no. Do this. Do that. It’s hard. I can’t tell you what’s right for your story, but as far as I can tell, there are a couple basic things you need to know.

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Novel Writing

One Simple Way to Increase Writing Productivity (but you probably won’t like it)

If I told you there was a magic pill that increased your concentration, sparked the imagine and improved perseverance, would you take it? I bet you’d do it, I certainly would!

What if I told you that exercise could do all those things for you? I can hear your groans, and feel your annoyance. Irritating isn’t it? 

Most of us would rather not need to exercise. We’d rather eat what we want and have the perfect, slender, magazine ready body, without having to slip on our trainers. What a wonderful world that would be. The sad fact is that to keep our bodies healthy we need to exercise. It’s a non-negotiable (trust me I tried to negotiate my way out of it for years).

I never loved exercise, couldn’t catch without shutting my eyes and was hopeless at running. I hid in the shower room during PE. However, after avoiding exercise until the age of twenty-four, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness where the primary treatment was exercise. Every time I stood up the room span, and I almost fainted. The only option for me was to start exercising lying down until I grew strong enough to stand and exercise without fatigue. It was hellish, to begin with, but now I am the fittest I have ever been and have found whole hosts of benefits I would like to share with you. (Also my condition is completely managed, and I can live normally again – Hooray!)

Exercise increases your energy levels – It’s counter-intuitive isn’t it? I previously assumed that since you expend energy during exercise, that you are tired out from it. While that is true in the short-term, in the long run, you are more energetic. Early mornings are easier (potentially late nights for others). Finding time to write gets easier if you have more energy.

Exercise improves your sleep quality – Perhaps one of the reasons you have more energy is that you sleep better. Tiring out the body helps sleep and sleep produces a clearer mind. Hello clarity, nice to meet you, please come and assist me in my writing.

Exercise allows imagination to flow – When you are peddling away on an exercise bike or stomping your way on the treadmill your body is occupied, but your brain can wander. You are a captive audience. You can’t remember that urgent chore and go away and do it. You can’t phone that friend you’ve forgotten to contact. Your mind can soar into the realms of creativity and imagination, and your practical body is occupied – it can’t drag you away.

Exercise gives you confidence – I’m actually not talking about body confidence here, but confidence in your own mental strength. There is something incredibly satisfying in achieving something you never thought you could. It takes dedication, commitment, and, let’s be honest, pain to get physically fit. We need all those things in writing, and the skills learnt in exercise do translate over.

Exercise prevents “Writers Neck” – Is it writers neck or back for you? I get neck pain when I type for too long. Exercise keeps our backs healthy (especially pilates) which is a real bonus for those of us who write for extended periods of time. The pain may be manageable now, but we want to write long-term, don’t we? Exercise is one way to secure our future as writers.

The most important thing I would like to say is that this post is not meant to guilt trip anyone. I would hate for anyone to read this and leave feeling condemned because they don’t want to exercise. You be you, and what works for me may not work for you. There may be some out there, however, who are missing something and may want to give exercise a try. 

I would love to hear from you in the comments section whether you agree or disagree. I love a good discussion!

Novel Writing

How to Create a Consistent Writing Habit

Writing seems so easy when we start out, doesn’t it? When an idea hits you square in the forehead, and you are in awe of your imagination. You picture yourself tucked up in the corner of a cosy cafe, latte steaming, and with pages of magnificent prose on the laptop before you.

I wonder how long it takes the average writer to realise their idealistic views will not materialise? We all reach the point where our coffee sits beside us, stone cold, and we despair at the task ahead.

When this happens, it is so easy to let our motivation wane and to put our writing on the back burner. Stopping when writing gets hard is pure folly. Think of writing like building muscle in the gym. If you were to stop exercising the moment you felt a prickle of sweat, there’s no growth, no improvement, and no point even starting. It’s the same with writing. You will never write a novel if you give up when it’s hard. 

So how can we keep our motivation levels high and build a consistent writing habit?

Set aside dedicated time – If you only write when you fancy it, eventually you will stop altogether. Let’s face it, sometimes an hour watching Netflix is preferable to an hour spent writing. You can generally find something else you’d rather do than write (sleeping in for instance), so you need dedicated time which is devoted to writing and nothing else.

Celebrate mini victories – Celebrate when you hit a word count milestone, or when you’ve written every day in a week. Reward your hard work, and don’t let progress go unnoticed.

Push through the wall – When you sit down to write, and everything you attempt to write seems wrong, keep going. Just write the rubbish that comes to mind and keep going, after all, you can fix things later on. If you push through, most of the time the words will start to flow in earnest.

Ensure you have enough fun in your life – If your whole life is writing it might just kill the joy of it. Personally, I have to ensure I spend time with my friends on a regular basis, because I am an extrovert and writing is quite an introverted activity. For others, it may be running, or painting or computer games. Just make sure that you plan in fun time. Not only does it energise you, but it also gives you more ideas about what to write.

Make yourself Accountable – Find someone who will ask you how your writing is going, and then answer them honestly. This could be a spouse, or a writing coach, perhaps even another blogger. Just make sure that someone is keeping you accountable.

Best of luck fiction writers, I hope that this post has helped you. I would like to leave you with some wise words written in a comment on my blog earlier this week by Stephen R Gann

“Consistency builds connection, which leads to a strong, concise completion.”

Novel Writing

The Importance of Empathy when Writing Fiction

You can’t write a book unless you are empathetic. 

I bet some of you adamantly disagree with that statement. Of course, you can write an instruction manual or perhaps Non-fiction, but can you write fiction without empathy? I don’t think so.

The Oxford English dictionary described empathy as –

The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

What have feelings got to do with writing fiction? Well, if you think about it, quite a lot.

The old saying goes “write what you know”, but as I’m sure you’ll be relieved to find out, most thriller novelists don’t know what it feels like to murdered in an alley. They haven’t been in a high-speed car chase, and they certainly haven’t lived the life of a serial killer. So how are they able to write about these topics?

They have empathy.

Many people think that this is a wishy-washy, bleeding-heart characteristic that isn’t of any real value unless you are a counsellor or a priest. Empathy is actually incredibly useful in many situations, especially in fiction writing. You can imagine and understand how your characters would feel in a situation you have never been in.

So next time you read a novel about violent murders or abuse, don’t panic, you are only reading the result of the writer’s empathy, not psychopathic tendencies. If you are a writer, I would advise one of the best ways to create authentic characters, is to learn to empathise with as many people as you can. It will transform your prose.