Month: January 2015

Writespiration #21

21

Like the last writespiration, I thought the post would work just as well thinking about your antagonist.

What would happen if you actually met your main characters nemesis? Would you get on? Would you love them, or hate them? Would you sit in a bar and catch up like old friends? Are you so similar you would argue? Or would you be so intrigued to meet them you would have to drill them with 20 questions?

Take half an hour and write about what would happen if you met your antagonist, it might just help you get to know your character better!

The Reading Like a Writer Series #3

Read like a writer #3

We’re not quite at the nitty gritty of what to do to read like a writer yet, I wanted to cover ‘when’ to read first. Everything I’ve ever read about how to write, says to read your genre. Read DEEP into your genre, read everything you can get your hands on. For lots of reasons.

1. Know your market – you need to know what is typical and atypical for your chosen genre, you need to know whats popular, and what works. But more importantly, what wouldn’t work.

2. Know your audience – reading your genre gives you a sense of what your audience are looking for, the types of plots, pace of genre, style of story they would like.

3. Know what’s been done – so that you can be unique.

But here’s the thing. For me, when I am in writing mode, I stop reading, almost completely. At least, I stop reading my genre.For me its dangerous to continue to read my genre when I’m are working on my WIP. But why?

When we write, everything we do/see/participate in during the day affects our writing, it seeps into our subconscious and buries itself somewhere ready to pop up when we least expect it. What you don’t want is for it to seep into your own writing. You don’t want to end up sounding similar or worse plagiarising published authors in your field. Now I know this is probably unlikely. But mimicry can be subtle, you might not even realise your doing it.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that you give up reading all together. In fact the complete opposite. But when you are in writing mode, I advocate reading completely different genres. If you write mystery novels, read fantasy or a romcom. Avoid other mysteries like the plague. Read non fiction, read about writing, read anything but other mysteries.

Another reason for avoiding your genre when in writing mode is because you don’t want to focus on someone else’s work when you are still developing and building your own. Just focus on your own WIP, your own characters and your project, save for getting disillusioned with others.

Thanks to Dylan Hearn author of Second Chance and Absent Souls for the comment below, which I am now adding to the list. Don’t read anything other than your preferred and currently writing POV, incase you end up with whole chunks of paragraphs and pages to rewrite.

What do you do when in writing mode? Do you still read your genre? Do you read another style of story?

The 50 Best Writing Blogs

best blogs 2015

Bryan Hutchinson – Author and Blogger, has released a list of the 50 best writing blogs / websites (according to him, I think)

I thought it would be particularly useful. I personally subscribe to a few.

Bestseller Labs

Awesome post: 10 Key Questions That Can Determine Your Success As A Writer

Goins Writer

Awesome post: “Write Drunk, Edit Sober” Is Bad Advice

Jon Acuff

Awesome post: The writing lesson an emotionally unstable rat in a garage forced me to learn

The Write Practice

Awesome post: 10 Questions to Find Your Unique Writing Voice

Boost Blog Traffic

Awesome post: Why Most Writing Tips Are Useless (and How to Really Up Your Game)

Helping Writers Become Authors

Awesome post: Now! Learn How to Conquer Your Writer’s Block and Summon Inspiration

Live Write Thrive

Awesome post: The Forest for the Trees: How to Cure Overwriting 

The Wicked Writing Blog

Awesome post: A Clever New Way To Bring Your Characters Alive

Michael Hyatt

Awesome post: Is Your Goal Challenging or Just Crazy? Here’s How to Tell the Difference

Make a Living Writing

Awesome post: The Secret Behind Every Successful Writer

Brain Pickings

Awesome post: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome Through the Pleasure of Practicing: A Classical Musician’s Assuring Account of Creative Homecoming

Susan Dennard

Awesome post: The Writing Is All That Really Matters

Write to Done

Awesome post: How to Write Better: 3 Secrets of Transmitting Naked Emotions

Jody Hedlund

Awesome post: 15 Ways to Find Writing Inspiration in 2015

The Creative Penn

Awesome post: Write Books You Love. Think Global. Consider Multiple Streams Of Income

A Newbie’s Guide to Self-Publishing (Joe Konrath)

Awesome post: Don’t Pay to Self-Publish

Writers In The Storm

Awesome post:  Diving Deep into Deep Point of View

Be a Freelance Blogger

Awesome post: How to Turn Every Rejection Into a New Opportunity

Men with Pens

Awesome post: How to Find Your Muse – and Fire Her

Tara Lazar

Awesome post: Three Acting Tips for Writing with Emotion

Writer Unboxed

Awesome post: Six Things Every Writer Needs to Succeed (Psst: MFA is not on this list.)

Writers Write

Awesome post: Five Incredibly Simple Ways to Help Writers Show and Not Tell

Terrible Minds

Awesome post: Five Ways To Respond To A Negative Review: A Helpful Guide!

Better Novel Project

Awesome post: The Golden Age & Other Writing Delusions

Dani Shapiro

Awesome post: On the Right Book at the Right Time

Jane Friedman

Awesome post: Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Successful Author?

The Write Life

Awesome post: Self-Editing Basics: 10 Simple Ways to Edit Your Own Book

Lauren Sapala

Awesome post: The One Mistake Writers Make that Can Ruin their Characters

The Writers Alley

Awesome post: Make BELIEVE in Once Upon A Time (and your story!) 

The Renegade Writer

Awesome post: My 4 Worst Screw-Ups As A Freelance Writer

Inky Girl

Awesome post: In the end, it comes down to having a good story. No amount of promo/networking can substitute.

Kidlit 411

Awesome post: Writing Challenges

Pen and Prosper

Awesome post: How to Overcome Your Envy of Other Writers!

A Writer’s Bucket List

Awesome post: Live the Life You’re Passionate About

The Procrastiwriter

Awesome post: How a Great Speech Took a Movie from Simple Summer Blockbuster to Cinema Classic

The Write Conversation

Awesome post: Life Hacks that Every Successful Writer Needs to Know

The Kill Zone

Awesome post: Make Next Year the Best of Your Writing Life

Grammar Girl (tried to sign up to this one three times unsuccessfully)

Awesome post: Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Writers and Authors

Awesome post: Tips for Gaining Attention in the World of Fiction

Writer’s Digest

Awesome post: What is a Denouement?

The Word’s Greatest Book

Awesome post: Commatose: the Oxford Comma, or Serial Comma

Romance University

Awesome post: Finding an Agent with Diana Cosby

 The Book Designer

Awesome post: 20 Ways to Become a More Productive Writer

Writers Helping Writers

Awesome post: 10 Reasons Why Your Hero Needs Flaws

Kristen Lamb’s Blog

Awesome post: Here’s to Breaking Writing Rules—Rebels With a Cause or Rebels Without a Clue?

David Gaughran

Awesome post: Self-Publishers Aren’t Killing The Industry, They’re Saving It

Kristen Eckstein

Awesome post: Four Secrets to Market Your Book to the Locals

Books & Such

Awesome post: Four Elements That Make a Book a High Concept

Go Teen Writers

Awesome Post: Two Ways to Make Effective Writing Goals

LittleZotz Writing

Awesome post: What to Do When Writing Keeps You from Writing

– See more at: http://positivewriter.com/best-writing-blogs/#sthash.lmX2hQ5e.dpuf

Writespiration #20

20

Whatever your writing now, whether it is a short story, novel, play or anything else, what would happen if you actually met your main character? Would you get on? Would you love them, or hate them? Would you sit in a bar and catch up like old friends? Are you so similar you would argue? Or would you be so intrigued to meet them you would have to drill them with 20 questions?

Take half an hour and write about what would happen if you met your protagonist, it might just help you get to know your character better.

The Crafting Characters Series #1

Red hardcover book with flipping pages

The Crafting Characters Series #1

This brings the start of another series to this blog. All about crafting characters. Creating believable fully rounded characters with the depth necessary to make your readers keep turning those pages is really difficult. I am still learning how to do it. It’s one of the things, as I start to edit the first half of my WIP that I am going to focus on. I thought I would share some of the things I learn, the tips I find and any advice I’m given as I craft my characters. I thought it would be helpful to share the struggles, successes and lessons I learn along the way.

The first thing I wanted to share was some books that I find absolutely invaluable.

emotion thesarus

The Emotion Thesaurus  by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

The blurb says: One of the biggest problem areas for writers is conveying a character’s emotions to the reader in a unique, compelling way. This book comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each. Using its easy-to-navigate list format, readers can draw inspiration from character cues that range in intensity to match any emotional moment. The Emotion Thesaurus also tackles common emotion-related writing problems and provides methods to overcome them. This writing tool encourages writers to show, not tell emotion and is a creative brainstorming resource for any fiction project.

This book is like my own personal bible. It’s one of my key books in my reference collection for writing. If I am getting my laptop out to write, then that book comes out with it. It’s scruffy, battered, covered in coffee stains and has food crumbled in between the pages, but it really is one of the best books I own for writing. It takes an emotion – say ‘confidence’ and it gives you a definition, an entire page of physical signs of confidence – what a person who was confident would do with their body, how they express confidence and the reactions they have, they describe the internal sensations and mental responses. What long term confidence can lead to and what suppressed confidence might look like. And they do this for every emotion – of which there are a LOT in the book. I recommend this book whole heartedly when at the beginning of creating and crafting any new character.

I hope this has helped, let me know what you thought, and what you might like to see in this series.

A Short Story – ‘Lala’

Lala

If you are ever at a loose end, and you want some inspiration to write, then my tutor Esther Newton, has weekly writing challenges. You can write as much or as little as you like, and it needn’t take long. Her challenge last week, was to write a ‘Dark Tale’. This is my very quick scramble at a dark tale, let me know what you think.

Lala

She ran into my room complaining about the smell again.

“Mummy, Mummy, the bad doggy came again,” she said bouncing up and down on tippy toes clutching her tatty rabbit’s ear.

“It was under the bed this time.”

“Honey, I told you, we don’t have a dog.”

She jutted her bottom lip out and frowned at me with her crystal blue eyes. I bundled her up on to the bed snuggling into her tummy and blew raspberries.

“Eek, stop it, stop it!”

Several locks of her shiny black hair fell on my face. The stench of dog sellotaped itself to my skin. I coughed letting her go and sat bolt upright.

“What’s wrong?” Lala asked smiling and flashing her tummy at me.

“Nothing honey.”

But a growing unease had started to settle deep inside me. I had to admit, there had been a lingering smell of wet dog I’d been unable to get rid of for three days, and the cat had been behaving even stranger than normal.

Sometime in the afternoon Sarah bought Tommy over for a play date. The kids screeched playfully chasing each other around the livingroom, whilst Sarah and I sipped at coffees in the kitchen and gossiped.

“Thing is, Sar, it’s been three days, and she keeps saying it,” I slurped at the warm coffee, and rubbed my temple, “do you think I need to take her to a psychologist or something?”

“God, no. She’s a kid. Kids make shit up, Tommy’s best mate is an invisible Asian elf called Gertrude. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

I nodded politely.

“I guess.”

Three short sharp shrieks ricocheted into the kitchen, followed by a silence no parent wants to hear. Sarah dropped her coffee cup and ran.

“Tommy,” she yelped.

I watched the cup fall to the tiled floor and splinter, spilling brown liquid.

I took a slow measured breath, unsure if I wanted to see what was in the livingroom.

“It was the bad doggy,Mummy,” Lala said tears in her eyes.

She was smeared with blood, and her clothes ripped. Tommy lay semi conscious on the floor, chunks of fleshy skin hanging awkwardly off his leg.

“Jesus Christ,” I whispered, “I’ll call a ambulance.”

I ran back to the kitchen and picked up the phone. I noticed the cat shaking in the corner of the room, every inch of her fur standing to attention, rippling in time with her shakes.

What the hell is going on?

When I put Lala to bed that evening she was subdued, and clinging to her bunny.

“I’m sorry, Mummy, I didn’t mean to,”

“Mean to what?” I said tucking the covers under her chin, and kissing her forehead.

She shook her head and rolled over. I knew she was talking about Tommy. But I didn’t know why. It wasn’t possible for a toddler to do that kind of damage to a child’s leg.

The unease I’d felt early in the day felt like an anchor of worry. My whole body ached for an answer. Exhausted I climbed into bed and passed out clinging to the baby monitor.

Scratch. Scratch. Tap.

Scratch. Scratch. Tap.

I woke to an overwhelming stink of putrid wet dog clinging to the air.

Scratch. Scratch. Tap.

The sound of claws scratching across wooden floor boards rattled around my head.

Lala.

My heart hammered. Fingers tingled. And a heavy knot clung to my throat.

I snuck as quickly and silently as I could to Lala’s room. My breath heavy. Fear throbbed through my limbs.

The door creaked as I pushed it open, breaking the oppressive silence.

Lala’s bed was empty.

Covers strewn across the mattress.

My chest felt tight. I couldn’t breathe. I desperately searched the room flitting my eyes to every corner.

I took a step into the room.

My toes squelched into something warm, furry and wet.

I screamed.

“Lala, come here now.”

A shuffle and scratch of claws came from under her bed.

Reluctantly I shifted my foot and peered at the furry heap on the floor.

I drew a sharp intake of air.

“Oh. My. God. The cat.”

I tore my eyes away, tears streaming down my face.

“Honey, its ok, just come out now.”

Another scratch and scuffle.

I puffed my breath out, and wiped the tears away. I knelt down next to the bed, every muscle screaming at me not to look underneath it.

I had to.

I needed to know.

I pulled the cover up.

The smell of dog was so overpowering I felt sick. The sound of heavy panting and the slathering of jowls filled my ears. Terror prickled at my chest.

It was definitely under there.

Slowly, I peered under the mattress.

It was looking back at me. The only part of her that was recognizable were her crystal blue eyes.

Writespiration #19

19

Why is she (or he) ready to die at such a young age? Do they want to go to war? Enact revenge? Or are they just sick and tired of the fight?

Writing Tips #14 Where is your ‘have read’ list?

writing tips 14

I am constantly trying (and failing) to keep a list of all the books I am reading. I lose the scraps of paper, tissue, cardboard – insert anything you can write on- I scribble on. So I figured I would just put it on here. This way I can’t lose it, unless we enter into some kind of apocalyptic internet/bloggisphere destroying armageddon. In which case, we are all stuffed, and I probably won’t care what I read this year anyway!

This isn’t a list of my favourite or recommended books, just a list of what I am reading, which I will keep adding to as I get through things. I was talking to an editor I follow (Jamie Chavez) and she said ‘I read something very recently that said, essentially, good readers should share their personal reading lists publicly—the way Mike Gates does, for example.’

I took it to heart, and given my current ‘Reading like a writer’ series, I thought it was timely to share my list.

What are y’all currently reading?

I intend on adding a couple more pages to my blog over the next few weeks. Including: A list of my favourite/newly found useful words and a list of books in my writing reference section of my bookshelf.

Happy Thursday

Writing Tips #13

Using Synonyms

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my head stuck in the dictionary and thesaurus recently, and I happened to see the episode of friends where Joey writes a letter. It made me chuckle so I had to share it:

Every writers best friend is a thesaurus, but the clip above, reminded me of a lesson I learnt a long time ago about over using the thesaurus. Some of the best writing is simple writing. Simple writing that is descriptive, but not overly flowery. There is a danger in using the thesaurus that we become Joey, and end up not actually saying what we mean, or worse, affecting the flow of our writing. I have done the latter. Affected the flow of my writing because I just couldn’t find the right word, and in the end I had to strip out all the words and resort to re writing chunks of paragraphs.

The synonym finders I tend to use online are:

Thesaurus

Synonym

If anyone has any other useful sites for synonyms let me know 🙂

The Reading Like A Writer Series #2 Most Inspirational Books Ever

Read Like a Writer #2

Everybody has a list. But for a writer, it’s THE list. You might call your list a number of things but essentially, it’s the list of books that made you a writer. For me it’s a list of the most inspirational, favourite and most irritating books I’ve read. This series will cover the technical aspects of ‘how to read like a writer’ but for now, I thought it would be good to start with what you have read that made you a writer.

For me, but in no particular order:

1. Day of The Triffids by John Wyndham

Blurb: When Bill Masen wakes up blindfolded in hospital there is a bitter irony in his situation. Carefully removing his bandages, he realizes that he is the only person who can see: everyone else, doctors and patients alike, have been blinded by a meteor shower. Now, with civilization in chaos, the triffids – huge, venomous, large-rooted plants able to ‘walk’, feeding on human flesh – can have their day.

Reason for being on the list: This is the book that started it all. When I read it, it ignited an obsession with post apocalyptic stories and a burning need to write one.

2. A Disturbed Girl’s Guide to Curing Boredom by James Howell

Blurb: Hannah Harker is bored. Her tedious job as a local newspaper reporter is grinding her soul to dust and she cannot find anything to interest or excite her. Refusing to accept a life of anonymity, she decides to tear up all the rule books and do everything in her power to find a cure for this boredom. Free from the shackles of social convention and morality, she sets off down a dark and dangerous path that will change her forever. A terrible tragedy of her own making sends her spiralling into meltdown and the lives of countless people get dragged into her twisted world. Embarking on a brutal journey through Asia, she befriends arms dealers in Thailand, gangsters in Hong Kong and terrorists in Malaysia, while breaking the hearts of men and women at every turn. As the clock ticks down to a shattering conclusion, the world can only pray that she self-destructs before creating the most staggering news event in history.

Reason for being on the list: This book happens to be the first in a trilogy. It goes down as possibly my favourite story ever. I discovered it when the author had just 500 fans on Facebook, he now stands at 51K plus. I have to warn you, it is not for the faint of heart, and the further you go into the trilogy the more disturbing it becomes. But it truly is fantastic, and just because he named a character after me in the last book (true story, I am a HUGE fan! but it’s my real name not Sacha!) doesn’t mean I’m biased!

3. The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder

Blurb: Twelve-year-old Hans Thomas lives alone with his father, a man who likes to give his son lessons about life and has a penchant for philosophy. Hans Thomas’ mother left when he was four (to `find’ herself) and the story begins when father and son set off on a trip to Greece, where she now lives, to try to persuade her to come home. En route, in Switzerland, Hans Thomas is given a magnifying glass by a dwarf at a petrol station, and the next day he finds a tiny book in his bread roll which can only be read with a magnifying glass. How did the book come to be there? Why does the dwarf keep showing up? It is all very perplexing and Hans Thomas has enough to cope with, with the daunting prospect of seeing his mother. Now his journey has turned into an encounter with the unfathomable…or does it all have a logical explanation?

Reason for being on the list: I can barely remember reading this book, however it is one of the few I read twice. I never read a book more than once. It’s a book I read in my early teens, and it stuck with me. It was the fantasy part of the story that inspired me, I was already long into my journey of writing stories but it opened up the world of fantasy to me, something that has never left me.

4. The Shack By W.M Paul Young

Blurb: Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his great sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.Against his better judgement he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant THE SHACK wrestles with the timeless question, ‘Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?’ The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!

Reason for being on the list: As a self confessed atheist agnostic, I struggle with people who are fervently religious. I have no problem with religion or people being religious. My mother had her confirmation just a couple of years ago, and one of my best friends is a pastors wife. That being said personally I just don’t get it. I need proof. And I love science. That being said, I am also a fan of the truth, and with all the investigations I have been doing of alternative history, my truth might not be the same as yours. Anyway, the book. I adored this book. It made me sob, hysterically. But what I loved, what this guys ability to question his own faith in such a courageous way, and the ending – given that it’s meant to be a true story – is pretty amazing.

5. And This Is True by Emily Mackie

Blurb: Once upon a time there was a boy whose home was a van and whose world was his father. Be warned: this is not a fairytale. Although it does contain love, betrayal, escape, and most important of all, a kiss. But you have to be ready for an unpredictable journey through a realm where nothing is black or white. That, of course, is why you should take the first step. A startling new voice shows us a painful truth: You can’t help who you fall in love with.

Reason for being on the list: This is the first book that ever made me uncomfortable. I don’t just mean a little bit uncomfortable. I mean had to shut the cover, squirm, take a breath, reassess my whole outlook on life, and then continue reading! and for that reason alone it goes on the list. But the other reason is because it made me realise how emotive a book can be, it can change you. I mean really change you. This was the first book that did that to me, and I want to do it for someone else one day too.

6. Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

Blurb – Divergent only: In the world of Divergent, society is divided into five factions and all are forced to choose where they belong. The choice Beatrice Prior makes shocks everyone, including herself. Once decisions are made the new members are forced to undergo extreme initiation tests with devastating consequences. As their experience transforms them, Tris must determine who her friends are – and whether the man who both threatens and protects her is really on her side. Because Tris has a deadly secret. As growing conflict threatens to unravel their seemingly perfect society, this secret might save those Tris loves… or it might destroy her.

 Reason for being on the list: Where do I even start. Divergent is excellent. The world is interesting, comprehensive and the story has great characters. However, Veronica bloody Roth, has to go down as the writer of quite possibly the most dissatisfying ending of a trilogy… ever. I talk moan about this here. This book was the nail in the coffin, the irritation that made me pull my finger out and say NO. I can do better than this! and so began my writing journey ‘proper’.
7. The Dragon Tattoo Series by Stieg Larsson
Blurb: Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder – and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet’s disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves.
 Reason for being on the list: This book is so beautifully complicated. I adored everything about it, the constant mystery, how utterly insane he must have been to be able to keep hold of so many strands in his head. This is the first book I read, reading like a writer. I read utterly amazed at his skill. But what really nailed him to this list, was Lisbeth. His truly wonderful, highly complex main character. She has to go down as one of the best female characters ever written. She will never leave me.
There are of course dozens more books, but they are all ones I just love, like my guilty pleasure the true blood series… ok and the twilight series or Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta novels, or the Davinci Code, or Harry Potter or Shakespeare, dozens of plays I’ve read or a thousand other books I could name. But whilst I love them, they didn’t necessary turn me into the writer I am today. I would say it was the above books that changed me, left me different somehow. I would really love to know what books made you a writer?