When I started writing (years ago) I really didn’t have a clue. I was painfully naïve. I thought I could do a first draft (of a short story or a novel) that would be ok’ ‘good’ even, ‘almost there’ and not need that much work. HAHAHA, Oh how silly I was. If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you will know I have a little obsession with the writing process. I read about it, think about it and write about it all the time.
I don’t think I am alone in obsessing over reading blogs about writing, but all it does it confuse me. I mean, how much attention do we really pay to understanding our own writing process?
Until recently, when I had an epiphany, I’d spent a long time thinking there was a right way… a right writing process I should be following. There isn’t. I decided to sit down and really give my process some thought, because if I can understand my own process, then I can shape it and tweak it to maximize my effectiveness. I hope this post helps you do the same. (more…)
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.
Hope you all had an amazing Christmas Day, filled with over indulgence, gifts and quality time with your family.
I decided some time ago to do a writing course. I had wanted to be a writer for a long time, it just took me a while to figure it out. When I did, I decided I still had motivation issues. I am a planner to my core, so much so I can find it difficult to actually get on with the business of writing.
I searched for a long time for the right course, a course comprehensive enough that I could learn skills for all kinds of writing, from radio scripts to novel writing, short stories and readers letters. But also a course that represented value for money, I do like a bargain!
I can’t recommend enough the benefits of doing a writing course. It has forced me to write, but more importantly to submit my writing to competitions and magazines. The exact thing every writer needs.
As part of the course you get a tutor, mine is Esther Newton, a fabulous tutor with an uncanny eye for grammar and detail (exactly what I need) and a brilliant writer in her own right. She tirelessly answers my questions and provides detailed feedback. Part of the reason I think the course is so beneficial, and why I am recommending it.
If you’re one of those people who wants to be a writer, but hasn’t quite found the motivation – try this course, it might just work.
I wrote about killing off characters a few weeks ago here. I unashamedly ranted about Veronica Roth and her blatant distasteful murdering (still bitter) of her main character, Tris. I continued to rant about how you shouldn’t flippantly kill off characters and definitely not main characters. But, after some thought I decided to revise my conclusions. Whilst I stand by my point that you shouldn’t casually kill a character that your readers have spent a 1000 pages getting to know and love, I also think that in order to have some credibility you need to kill some characters off.
The lesson I learnt recently is:
Torture is good!
Torturing your characters at any rate. Make them, no, force them to feel emotions, feel something. Push your characters to their limits and see what happens. That’s what makes an interesting read. It gives your characters depth, and makes for an interesting story. If you can’t kill them off, then make it difficult for your characters at every possible turn, take away that tool, instrument or person they need most, make the situation look as though its impossible to come back from, then at the last minute something unique about them means they can save the day (or whatever).
Do it. Just torture them, even if you don’t want to. In fact, if you don’t, thats even more reason why you should do it. Because if you’re afraid to write it, then it must be good!
Here’s the thing, NaNoWriMo was great. It really was, I finally after about two years of claiming to have a dream of writing but not actually putting any words down on the paper other than planning related words (that kept changing) I actually stopped procrastinating and stuck fingers to keys and tapped some 50,000 words in 26 days.
Writing novel length stories is so, so very different to what I had been doing though. As part of my writing course I had been writing short stories. Stories of not more than a couple of thousand words. Whereas NaNo, was all about the long game. A strategically different game all together, different everything. The problem is, after submersing myself in the story, and forgetting any writing skills I might have learnt in order to just bash words out to complete the challenge, I completely forgot how to write a short story.
When it came to trying to sit down and write my next assignment of just 4000 words, I couldn’t do it. I’d forgotten everything. I was trying to tell too much of the story, I had forgotten how to be concise and how to weave a storyline into hardly any words.
My tutor gave me a great piece of advice, to go back and reread some of my short stories I had already written. Which I did, and it helped a bit. But I still felt stuck on how to write a story in so few words. Consequently anything I have written since, I’ve hated! I can’t get it right!
I guess writing is like any other muscle – it needs constant use, and practice, or it forgets how to do what it needs to. My writing certainly forgot at any rate!
So whats the tip?
If you’re intending on writing short stories but want to write a novel – don’t forget to practice the other type of writing in the mean time.
Killing off characters…
Whilst I might not be an accomplished published writer… yet and therefore not necessarily have the right to say what I am about to, I am a prolific bibliophile, which does give me the right as I may well read your work one day too! Just as a caveat, this isn’t meant as a slur on anyones work, just a lowly readers opinion.
So, killing off characters….. lots of people do it, in fact most authors kill off a character or two… Sometimes it helps to shimmy your plot along… Great, do it… but what about when you kill off a main character…?
George RR Martin does it all the time you say, well if game of thrones can do it then so can I.
No. No you can’t.
I mean, you could. But word of cautionary warning… don’t just kill off main characters without a irrefutable reason. I will give you an example.
Spoiler alert: Veronica Roth & Divergent
If you intend to read Divergent then skip to another post!
You spend three long books getting to know, investing in and falling in love with her main character Tris. Then she offs her a few chapters from the last book. Fatal mistake. I know I am not alone in thinking this either. Most of my friends who have read her are equally as pissed off. Heres why:
1. She spent three books making us fall in love with her character, ‘feel’ for her character, get to know her inside out, as well as we know ourselves.
2. We were invested in her
3. It came out of the blue – I had to re-read the page in which she killed her off three times before I understood that she had in fact killed her off, at which point I genuinely said out loud “Are you fucking kidding me?”
4. Three books close to a thousand pages of reading about a character and then the last couple of chapters end without her in it.
5. Secretly most people want a happy ending for the characters they love, unless the whole book has lead you to a different ending, which this didn’t.
6. She wrote the first two books from the main characters point of view, in the first person, and then split the last book chapter by chapter to two different characters POV – annoying. Do it the whole way through or not at all.
7. She tricked us, into thinking she was going to have a happy ending with ‘four’ her boyfriend and live happily ever after.
This all adds up to being NOT ok. It’s sloppy writing, in fact it is down right lazy writing. I feel like she couldn’t be bothered to work out an ending so she just offed her main character. Who does that???
Another point to note is POV. Veronica Roth writes in the first person. *SLAPS FOREHEAD* you simply can’t write three books in the first person and then kill your character off. I mean obviously thats why she split the last book to write from two characters view points, but still wrote in the first person. It was tough going and annoying. But explains why she was able to kill off her main character.
She made me invest in a character and then tricked her readers (me) out of the ending we had been expecting and wanting. It’s not ok to do that. Whilst Veronica Roth wrote an outstanding first book, which has clearly made her millions, and an ok second book, she utterly massacred the last one, with an ending thats pissed off every reader I know. It has certainly put me off reading any of her future work. What it does show, is that she can certainly make her audience talk about her work, and feel emotional about her work, I mean, if angry counts? Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t meant as a character assassination on Veronica Roth or the Divergent series. I am just trying to show you how not to really irritate your readers.
DON’T CHEAT US OUT OF AN ENDING YOU LED US TO.
Obviously, if you have led us down the road of knowing the main character is going to die, then fine. But if you haven’t, then please be careful, think about what your readers would want and expect, and hope for, for your characters ending.
The one thing I do have to thank her for, is she inspired me to get off my arse, and write a better story, with a better ending. I’m not saying I am a better writer than her, I’m clearly an unpublished nobody. But, she made me want to write a story with a better ending. I was that annoyed! and here I am in the midst of NaNoWriMo, several thousand words deep in my book…. 🙂
I am a real proponent of Myers Briggs (MB) at the best of times, I have done the test twice, and come out with the same profile. When I first learnt about MB it kinda blew my mind. If you do the official test you get all kinds of information from it, like – how you react under stress, how others perceive you, and what your weaknesses are likely to be. I know I’ve said it, but it really did blow my mind! It was how others perceive me that had the greatest impact on me. My point – is that it got me thinking about how my characters might be seen by each other, or by the readers, or by anyone really other than me. The MB types kind of give you key personality types and I really like working out which types my characters are. Above should be a picture explaining the key characteristics of each type, and a quick google of Myers Briggs will give you countless websites where there are free tests – you could even do the test in character to give you their profile, and obviously google will give you lots of info about the types.
Let me know if you think this is helpful