Writing Tips

Hello Again

Posted on Updated on

It’s been over two years since I last posted.  So here’s a little recap.

For a while, I took a break from writing.  No inspiration was coming and I was struggling with some learning problems and writing was too taxing on my brain for the moment.

Then, I started outlining an novel idea I’d been having for about a year and wrote the first 50 pages of that story.  In December, I send those first 50 pages to Ellen Brock, an editor (who I really recommend). She told me it had promise but needed some major structurally overhauls.

Basically, this was the problem:

My main character was pretty pathetic and most of her ‘conflicts’ she created for herself and there was no clear motivation behind her actions.  

My antagonist wasn’t antagonistic enough.

This created a story without conflict and story without conflict is no good. 

So, I was discouraged for a bit.  Then I decided to revamp my story, but keep some of elements I liked most about my original story.  I forced myself not to write anything for at least 9 weeks as a I outlined and ironed out all my plot problems and figured out why my characters were doing what they were.   I cut some scenes, I changed some scenes.  I made some of the main characters more minor and took some away completely.  I also decided to write in third person limited with two POV characters instead of first person.

So it’s been about 7 weeks now, and I have a pretty good plot plotted out.  I have a list of scenes that follow the goal, conflict, consequence pattern.  My main character, Rebecca, has more personality and a definite reason for her actions.   It’s really amazing what focused time each day can do for a writing project!

So my next goal is to write my the first 50 pages of this story and send it to the editor again.  I’m hoping she sees improvement.  After that, I will continue writing (or re-plot if she feels that’s necessary). Of course I’ll be discouraged if she still sees flaws in my story, but I want my debut novel to be as good as it can be because you only have one chance to be a new author in the industry.  I want to make an impression.

Advertisements

My Writing Binder ~ Part 1

Posted on

I find it very helpful to keep a writing binder for each of my story ideas.  This keeps all my papers and notes from getting lost or wrinkled.  I divide my three ring binder into different sections ex. characters, plot, setting, research with page dividers.  I always have a regular lined notebook to write down random ideas or to brainstorm with my binder.

Here are the things that are in my ‘character’ tab:

colored betsy
This is an example of a character inspiration picture. This one was originally black and white, but I printed it out and colored her how I wanted her.
  • Each of my main and supporting character’s sketches.
  • Each of my main and supporting character’s inspiration picture so I can envision them more clearly.
  • K.M Weiland’s blog post on character archetypes.
  • Any other helpful blog posts on creating or developing characters.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you what’s in my ‘plot’ tab!

 

 

Flashbacks in your Writing

Posted on

Flashbacks can be a valuable technique in writing, if placed strategically.  I’ve found that books without them typically have less depth and are less interesting.  The Divergent series is an example of this.  These books don’t have flashbacks and I thought the characters were not very developed as they could have been. I’m currently reading a book that has many flashbacks and the characters are more human and I am able to understand their motives better.

 

Here are some benefits of having flashbacks in your writing:flashback image

  • Helps your readers sympathize with your character more.
  • A flashback can be gripping way to show some life-changing event in your character’s life.
  • Can show readers what formed your character and why he believes what he does.
  • Can help the reader understand the current conflict better.

 

When not to add a flashback:

  • If the flashback doesn’t add anything interesting to the story.
  • The event in the flashback wasn’t significant or life-changing.
  • If the flashback doesn’t strengthen the current conflict.

 

 Do you like using flashbacks in your writing?

Practicing Perspective

Posted on

Writers should always be practicing their writing skills.  In Building Fiction, by Jesse Lee Kercheval, there is an interesting writing exercise.  It is to write a scene from a few different perspectives. I think this is a good exercise, especially if you are writing a book with multiple point of view characters.

When I do this exercise, I don’t worry about revising; I just let the writing flow, and focus only on the perspective.

Here is an example I wrote:

Calliope held the phone in her hand.  She thought of calling her sister, Bec.  Bec was thirteen years older than her, and they always had a somewhat distant relationship.

She dialed her number quickly.  The phone rang three times, and Calliope thought of hanging up.

“Hello” a perky voice on the other line said.

“Uh, hi.  This is Callie. How are you?”

“Oh! Callie, my little sister! I’m so glad you called!  We haven’t talked in forever!”

“Um, yeah we should catch up.”

“By the way, why didn’t you come to my wedding? It was so magical!  The bridesmaids looked so pretty, in that deep purple. And the food was so good.  We had a barbeque.  I know that’s not common wedding food, but it was really fun.” Bec said cheerily.

Callie was silent for a minute.  “Oh, I wish I could have come!”  she said pretending that she really wanted to go.

But in reality, she had chosen not to go, because prom was on the same day as her sister’s wedding.  Bec lived in another state, and there was no way she could be in both places at once.  Calliope had been asked to go by a cute guy, who she had liked since her freshmen year of high school.  She was a senior, now and wouldn’t have another opportunity to go to a prom again.   She knew this decision was very selfish, but she really, really wanted to go!

“Oh, well, Johnny and I are so happy!  You should visit us sometime; we have the cutest little country home!  I just love it!” Becca said enthusiastically.

“Yes, I want too.” Calliope said, this time sincerely.

“So, how’s school?” Becca said in her older sister way.

“It’s good.  I really love my history teacher. He’s so great.  I think I’m one of his favorite students” she said proudly.

“Well, I’m so glad…. Sorry,  I have to go.  Johnny and I are going somewhere tonight. Goodbye! I’ll call you soon!” Bec said quickly.

“Bye” Calliope hung up the phone. Becca’s cheerful sweetness made her feel guilty for not coming to her wedding.

She looked at her vibrant red prom dress, which somehow didn’t look so pretty anymore, and sighed.  Somehow I’ll make it up to her, she thought.

Then, I wrote the same scene from Bec’s point of view:

Bec was working on her editing jobs. She started working from home after she married her husband a few months ago.  The phone rang loudly and she ran to the kitchen to get it.  She felt a pang of sadness when she saw her sister’s name on the phone. She remembered how sad she was when she realized Calliope wasn’t at her wedding.  They were 13 years apart and they had a somewhat distant relationship, despite Bec’s attempts to be friendly to her little sister.

“Hello” Bec said perkily.

“Uh, hi.  This is Callie. How are you?”

“Oh! Callie, my little sister! I’m so glad you called!  We haven’t talked in forever!” her voice became happier. I wonder if she’ll explain why she didn’t come to my wedding.

“Um, yeah we should catch up.”

“By the way, why didn’t you come to my wedding? It was so magical!  The bridesmaids looked so pretty, in that deep purple. And the food was so good.  We had a barbeque.  I know that’s not common wedding food, but it was really fun.” Bec said cheerily, hoping her sister would catch the happiness in her voice and chat more openly.

Callie was silent for a minute.  “Oh, I wish I could have come!” she said wistfully. She’s hiding something, Bec thought.

“Oh, well, Johnny and I are so happy!  You should visit us sometime; we have the cutest little country home!  I just love it!” Bec said enthusiastically.

“Yes, I want too.” Calliope said sincerely. Well, at least she wants to visit me.

“So, how’s school?” Bec said in her older sister way.

“It’s good.  I really love my history teacher. He’s so great.  I think I’m one of his favorite students” she said proudly.

“Well, I’m so glad” Then the door opened and Johnny stood in the doorway. Bec smiled sweetly at him. “Sorry Callie, I have to go.  Johnny and I are going somewhere tonight.  Goodbye! I’ll call you soon!” She finished quickly.

“Bye” Calliope said.

 

Here are some writing prompts for writing a scene from different perspectives:

Write the scene from the point of view of an insane person.

Write the scene from the point of view of a child.

Write the scene from the point of view of a man.

Write the scene from the point of view of a woman.

Write the scene from the point of view of an inanimate object (Ex. a chair or a table) or an animal or plant.

Top Ten Writing Blogs

Posted on

Write to Done, a popular writing blog, had a contest recently. They asked writers to nominate their favorite blog to be one of the top ten blogs for writers.  I’m so excited because my favorite writing ‘mentor’, K.M Weiland, won third place!

 Here is the list of the writing blogs.  Each blog has a different focus and teaches different skills, which is helpful for becoming a more varied author or writer.

I hope these blogs help you in your own writing journey!

Pre-outlining

Posted on Updated on

I’ve been working on my book steadily for the last few weeks.  I’m doing something called pre-outlining, now. Pre-outlining is the step before outlining your story for real.  You build your characters, choose your setting, and find symbolism and your story’s theme.

In K.M Wieland’s book, Outlining your Novel, she suggests taking an enneagram personality test for your protagonist and a few of the other significant characters.

enneagram with words

At first, I thought this was very excessive. I was thinking, “Come on, they’re not even real people!”  But, because her advice is always good, I decided to trust her and take the personality test for my protagonist.  And I’m so happy that I did it!

These are the benefits that I’ve found from taking the personality test for my characters:

  • It helps clarify your character’s complete personality and how they would act or react  in different situations.
  • Shows their biggest flaw and how it affects them and the people that they love.
  • Helps clarify for the author how to make a well-rounded and realistic character.

If I hadn’t taken this test for my characters I would have missed out on all the insight that I gained from it.  I  am learning that it is always good to follow the advice from your writing teacher or how-to write book, even when it seems dumb or unnecessary.

Don’t Pick Favorites

Posted on Updated on

I’ve been developing my novel writing skills by reading K.M Weiland’s blog, Helping Writers Become Authors, and her how-to write books.   I learned a valuable lesson this week from her advice.

simon
This is my inspiration picture for my protagonist. You can see why I’m a bit in love with him:-)

She believes that authors can’t have a favorite character when they are writing a book, and she tells you why in this blog post.  She says that it really affects your writing and I’ve found that this is true.  A few days ago, I was reading parts of my rough draft of my book and realized that it’s very obvious that my protagonist is my favorite character.  It’s also obvious that I’m not very interested in any of the other characters.  All my moments of brilliance in dialogue or plot came when I was writing about my protagonist.  The scenes without him are very elementary and boring.

I’ve learned that these things help you love all of your characters:

1. Give every character a back story. This really helps you understand why they act a certain way or make the choices they do.

2.  Spend the same amount of time and effort on all of your characters.

3. Decide to be interested in all of their lives. I try to find something interesting or endearing about all of my characters now, even the ones that don’t excite me.

Loving, or at least being interested in all of your character’s lives really does make your writing better and it will also make your story more interesting. I hope to develop this skill as an author.

Do you struggle with having a favorite character in your own novels?