Novel Writing

How Not To Write… A Novel

This is a brilliant post about how to write a novel – I found it very encouraging and I hope you do too.

How Not To Writte

They say everyone has a book inside them (and we don’t mean in the ’embarrassing visit to A&E’ sense). We all have a story to tell, a journey to share or an idea that sounds like it could be worked into a passable novel.

But if you’ve just come up with the best idea ever for a chick lit flicker – featuring the forbidden love between a chocolate company owner and his down-at-heel cleaning lady – how do you get this blockbusting idea out of your head and into 100,000 words or tear-enducing literary prose?

Do:

  • Commit to writing, a LOT, and then some, and then some more, again… and wash, and repeat.
  • Learn the basics of editing skills. You don’t need swish software but you DO need patience and – in our opinion – rewards for getting your edits done. Chocolate works well (Ed: there’s a theme emerging here……

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Novel Writing

5 Tips for New Writers

So, you’ve decided to write a novel. You have your story burning a hole in your chest, and you can’t wait to get it down on paper. Setting the pen to the notepad, or the fingers to the keys, you set off with speed and passion. Before long, however, you find that this isn’t as easy as you thought it would be. Shame fills you as you realise that you aren’t nearly as good as you hoped you would be. Don’t worry, it happened to me, and it happens to us all. 

Here are a few tips I have picked up from my first ten months or so of writing, I hope they help. Keep going, you’ve got this.

Read as much as you can

The chances are, that if you want to write a book, you love to read. The temptation to stop reading when you are writing is immense. You may find yourself comparing yourself to others and feeling inadequate, or you may even analyse technique so much that you lose the magic of getting lost in a story.

Don’t do this! Read for pleasure and forget about writing. You will absorb technique and form subconsciously so don’t stress about analysing things too deeply. Enjoy reading, and keep doing it. N.B. this is a tip which Stephen King gives in his fantastic book “On Writing”.

Experiment

Don’t panic about getting everything right. You will make mistakes. Big ones. Just write, keep writing, and make mistakes as you go. If you wait until you feel you are getting everything right before beginning your first draft you will NEVER begin.

Have some fun, forget about grammar (until you come to edit), forget what’s good and bad practice and just let the words flow. Let the crazy in your mind come out and run with it.

Change things up

If you start something and halfway through you realise that you’ve written it in the wrong tense, or your main character isn’t working, stop. Just stop and restart. There is no shame in leaving a pile of unfinished drafts behind you or rewriting a story ten times before you actually decide how it ends.

You will learn so much in your first few months writing, as I have done. You will find you’ve been making huge mistakes all the way through. Wisdom says to go back and change things.

Let your imagination go wild

Play with your characters, put them in the most dramatic and unlikely scenarios, just for fun. I’m not saying this will make an excellent book, although perhaps it would, but it will spark a passion in you for pushing boundaries. Who knows? Maybe the next great idea for a novel comes out of letting your imagination run free. Be silly, have fun, and enjoy yourself.

Be bold

Don’t be afraid to write what you mean. The best writing is not timid, it is deliberate. Don’t say “James opened the door angrily and shouted” when you could say “James wrenched the door open and bellowed.” Don’t say “He replied sadly” when you could say “His lip started to tremble as he answered, and a tear slid down his cheek.”. When you are bold, you use forceful verbs instead of adverbs, and you describe the physical traits emotion rather than just telling us it is there. This technique makes for excellent prose.

These are my own, humble, opinions, and I’m sure others will have many more tips and advice. I would love to hear from anyone else who would like to impart some wisdom, I am always on the hunt for it!

 

 

 

Novel Writing

Can you really Write your First Draft in Three Months?

Any of you who have read Stephen King’s book “On Writing” will know that he makes some bold statements in this fascinating book. It’s a cross between an autobiography and advice on how to write well, it’s an entertaining read, and I’d recommend it to anyone, aspiring author or not.

One part of the book which left me opened mouthed was his advice on how long it should take to write the first draft. He advises that it should take no more than three months to write.

 

Three months? That’s impossible!

I’ve been working on my first draft since August, so I’m coming up to the ten month mark, nearly three times over the advice that Steven King gives.

Does this make me a failed author before I have even finished my first draft? I thought so when I first read that advice, but since then, I’ve realised it probably doesn’t. A huge proportion of the last ten months has been spent learning how to write. I don’t mean the basic skill of putting pen to paper, but the ability to weave a, hopefully, interesting story out of words.

So, why would Stephen King give this advice? Here are some the reasons I think this could be a brilliant strategy –

  1. You don’t get bogged down by technique.  It’s easy to forget that you are telling a story when your mind is constantly focused on adverbs, or passive voice, or sentence starters. It’s exhausting! So getting stuck up to your elbows in the story and barreling on without regard to technique could be the key to unlocking a cracking story.
  2. It prevents self-reflection. I often find that partway through a writing session a thought will pop into my head telling me I am a rubbish writer and no one will ever want to read what I have to say. If the purpose of your first draft is to get it down on paper in whatever format it comes in, as quickly as possible, then you don’t have time to worry about whether or not you are good enough. You are simply telling the story to yourself, and hopefully loving the process.
  3. If something doesn’t work, it is easier to say goodbye. I am on the last version of my first book idea. I have written it in so many different tenses, points of view, and orders yet I have never finished it because each time I can see it’s not working. If this current POV and tense structure don’t work, I will have to say goodbye and start on a new fresh idea. If I had been working on this for a month, rather than ten, the process of goodbye would be a whole lot easier.
  4. No more boredom. I think most authors get bored of their books at some point. It’s blinking hard work, and pretty repetitive too. This approach will keep the boredom at bay, at least for the first three months.

What are your opinions on this strategy? Have you written a draft in three months before? If so I would love to hear from you in the comments session.

Novel Writing

How often should a new author write?

As a budding author and newbie writer, one of the most pressing and early questions you ask yourself is how often you should write, and if it’s okay to take breaks. Hopefully, this blog will help you to find the right answer for you.

Try out different schedules

Sometimes the best way to work out when to write is to try different times and see what works. Simple huh? When I first started my novel, I decided to write for an hour each evening. This didn’t work so well, mainly because I kept falling asleep… I am not a late night person. Next up I tried to steal a few minutes here and there and write on my phone. My writing became disjointed, and I lost my flow, I found I needed uninterrupted time to write. Next, I tried my lunch break. Again, this didn’t work, phones were still ringing, and I couldn’t focus. New plan. Mornings. This is working far better. For me as a morning person, I can concentrate so much better. Trial and error is a brilliant way to find your writing zone.

Make a commitment

Don’t just write when you feel like it. Writing is hard, so eventually, you will need to push through your feelings and make it a habit. If you don’t commit to a certain amount of time to write, it just won’t happen. Be dedicated and conscientious. Discipline is critical, nobody has achieved anything great without it.

Keep your space sacred

I wrote without a desk for the first six months or so, and my back didn’t thank me. I don’t like being constrained, and I love variety, so I thought this would work. However, I have found that if you find a comfortable and productive space (desks are, it turns out, perfect for this) and return to it each day, your productivity will increase. Is it psychological? It might be, but whatever the reason it works for me.

Be prepared to sacrifice

Whether it’s time at the pub, late night telly, or a few extra hours in bed, you will need to give something up to make time to write. For me, this means waking up at 5.30am. Ouch. But it’s the only time I know I can give my full attention to writing on a regular basis. Nothing worth having comes easy, and writing is no different.

Be kind to yourself

You will not be able to stick to the rules you have set out for yourself one hundred percent of the time. It’s a fact. We are human after all. Progress, however, takes place in the eighty percent of the time when we do hit our targets. That’s when the magic happens. When you fail, be kind to yourself, it’s ok. Just don’t let the fear of failure stop you from even trying because the eighty percent will never happen.

Take breaks sparingly

There will be days when you don’t feel like writing. Resist giving in to the temptation of skipping a day. Quite often the problem isn’t that you need a break, but that you need to push through a difficult patch in your story. If you write anyway, you’ll probably find that you finish your time energised and excited by your progress. Just keep on keeping on.

 

Novel Writing

Writing Update: Four Chapters Done

Many of you know that I Failed NaNoWriMo, I got to 40,000 odd words and then decided my WIP was in need some massive changes. Namely, swapping my Changing Point of View.

So I started the gruelling process of rewriting my entire novel from scratch and I am pleased to say that I have now completed my first four chapters!

For those of you who are signed up with Scribophile the links to the chapters are below –

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Any and all feedback is very much appreciated.

Grammar

Nouns in Fiction

Good morning lovely people! Today we will be looking into the role of nouns in Fiction. Last week we looked at the role of verbs, the action words that add direction and context to your prose.

So, what is a noun? If you’re anything like me, you are trawling through your brain trying to remember lessons learnt when you were ten years old. To save you the trouble here’s a quick definition from the Cambridge Dictionary

a word that refers to a person, place, thing, event, substance, or quality.

Great, so basically without nouns all our action, which we’ve developed by our use of verbs, is floating around in nothingness without relating to anything.

Writing without nouns can be effective in some parts of a novel, especially in a stream of consciousness. For example –

Cold, so cold. Move, keep moving. Walk, run, jump, shiver. Cold, so cold.

It works because it sounds weird so it portrays the confusion and panic of someone who is freezing cold.

This is not the way to write a whole novel! So let’s take a few moments and be grateful for nouns, lovely, specific, grounding nouns.

 

Novel Writing

Scribophile Review – My First Four Weeks

Roll up, roll up, here is my review of my first four weeks of using Scribophile.

Day 1

I’ve just signed up for my Scribophile account, it’s quick and easy, and I can’t quite believe I am already trusted to review other people’s work. I’ve opted for the basic, free option which allows me to review other people’s work and earn “Karma” points through doing so which allow me to upload my own work for critiquing.

I need 5 Karma points to upload my first chapter and to get this I have reviewed two submissions. I absolutely loved the process, I chose to review the work through an “inline critique” where you type within their manuscript your comments, highlight sections and signify where words should be deleted. The two pieces I reviewed were both Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and I loved their stories, it was great fun. I tried to balance out my critique with a good number of positives, no one’s writing is perfect, and as much as we would want to improve, no one wants the bad pointed out without some encouragement!

I’ve just submitted my first chapter, and I am so nervous! My Chapter will stay in the “Spotlight” until it receives three long critiques, and I’m not sure yet what happens when that’s done. The “Spotlight” seems to be where people go to find work to review, you are automatically put into the spotlight as a new member, but after that, I think you need to pay or earn karma points to get back there. I imagine that for the next few days I will be avidly checking for comments. Good bye life…

Day 1 – an hour later

I have my first review! How quick was that? Oh my goodness, the stress I felt reading that first review was immense. The critique was detailed and well thought out, it mainly focused on sentence structure, cliches, and repetition but it also pointed out an area where my character acted out of character, something I hadn’t noticed but is now glaringly obvious!

Day 1 – A bit later on

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Critique number two written and received, this person does not mince his words!

Day 1 – Even later on

I now have my final critique, which was, thankfully much more encouraging than the second one. My work is now out of the new member spotlight and has 3o days before it is locked. Once a piece of work is locked you can’t change it or gain new critiques, but you can read the previous critiques. I’m no longer in a spotlight, so that means people won’t gain many “Karma” points if they critique me, that means I probably won’t gain any more feedback. The next step is to make the changes from my current critiques and then resubmit for it to go in the spotlight. This is a waitlist, and you need to wait until all those ahead of you have gained three reviews while in the spotlight. Complicated!

Day 2

I have received five critiques, each one very helpful in their own way. Some were quite hard to read, people found my first chapter lacked a story and enough detail about my characters. I’ve spent the last few hours completely reorganising my first chapter, tearing it apart in line with the feedback I received. I’ve critiqued another six works, which is really good fun, and I’ve earnt enough “Karma” points to get my chapter back in the “Spotlight”. Apparently, it can take some time to get my work up there are the are a set number of novels in the spotlight and a queue system.

Day 5

I have finally managed to get into the spotlight, and the reviews came in thick and fast. Some were brilliant, and others not so. I really need to make some serious changes.

Day 14

I have now completely rewritten my first chapter. It was such a painful process! At the end of the day, though, critiques are there for a reason and if you don’t listen what’s the point in even putting your work on Scrib. Up Chapter One goes… Let’s see what happens. N.B. I’ve upgraded to the paid version so I have put the chapter on straight away into a “personal spotlight” that only those who follow me can see.

Day 21

It’s taken a long time to get the 6 critiques on my chapter in a personal spotlight. I think this may be because I haven’t got many followers. This isn’t a bad thing, though, I found in the main spotlight some people critique your work to clear the queue, so they don’t enjoy the genre you are writing. In a personal spotlight, I have received some incredibly helpful and spot on advice!

Day 28

I love Scrib. It’s official. My writing has improved so much. Not only have the detailed critiques shown me areas of weakness to work on but also the process of critiquing others work has caused me to become more analytical of my own writing style. I am noticing when I start too many chapters with the word “I”, where I need to flesh out descriptions and when it would be better to use dialogue rather than exposition. All in all, it’s one of the best wrtiting decisions I’ve ever made.

Grammar

Verbs in Fiction – Pow! Whack! Boom!

We have an action packed Grammar BootCamp today, get yourself settled and let’s begin. We’ve previously been looking at clauses and the different types of clauses, main clauses and subordinate clauses. Today, we will look even deeper into the nuts and bolts of writing and study VERBS.

Verbs are words which convey an action or a state of being

Here are a list of common verbs-

1

Imagine your writing without verbs, how boring would that be? All the direction and action would be lost.

Now imagine that you only able to use “boring” verbs how restricted would you feel? Imagine if you could only use the word laugh and not scoff, or giggle, or chuckle, or even titter

A large part of good writing comes from imaginative and emotive verbs. Next time you are writing why not swap out the standard verbs you use and see if you can add more spice to the action of your WIP.

Grammar · Novel Writing

Subordinate Clauses Darling

If you stopped by last week, you’d know we had a delightful time discussing Main Clauses, the cornerstones of complete sentences. Today, we will be focusing on the delights that are subordinate or dependent clauses. 

Subordinate clauses are the peppercorn sauce on your steak, the brandy butter on your Christmas Pudding, and the vanilla syrup in your latte. They are the little extras that bring joy to your taste buds, but just don’t work as a meal in themselves. I’m not ashamed to say that as a twenty-seven-year-old woman I recently ate Fruit Pastilles, Quality Street, and Terry’s Chocolate Orange segments all day long with no “proper” food alongside them. To say I felt unwell would be an understatement, and not because I ate too much but because what I ate had no substance.

Subordinate clauses are like that, they are the added extra that makes writing sparkle, but on their own, they just don’t work.

Here’s an excerpt from my work in progress, I’ll highlight the main and subordinate clauses for you.

The night air tickles my cheeks as we walk home from the hospital, and I turn to look at Annie, wrapped up in the grey, checked winter coat that she loves.

Main Clauses

  • We walk home from the hospital
  • I turn to look at Annie
  • Annie is wrapped up in a coat

Subordinate Clauses

  • Night air tickles
  • The coat is grey with a checked pattern
  • She loves the coat

There is flavour added by the subordinate clauses that would have been lost without them, we know that the night is cold, that Annie is wearing a grey check coat and that she loves it. If we had just used main clauses, we would have lost detail and interest, but if we just used subordinate clauses we wouldn’t care about the temperature or what coat she is wearing because we wouldn’t understand why it is relevant.

It’s the balance of main and subordinate clauses that makes our writing interesting, and many of us do this without even noticing it.

englishgrammarbootcamp

Novel Writing

Writing Two Books at the Same Time

I am bored of writing my first novel. Shock horror, how dare I, I’m obviously not made to be a writer! That’s how I imagined I would feel if I ever became tired of my first story. To me, the thought of having two books simultaneously taking up space in my head was akin to cheating on my husband. Just plain wrong.

At first, I saw my novel as my baby, something I would love and nurture, protect, and devote myself to until it was done and ready to fly the nest. I couldn’t imagine leaving my baby crying in the cot for weeks on end, with no love, no food, no nurturing.

Well, it turns out that my novel is more of an orchid. Sure, it needs sunlight, water, attention, pruning. It doesn’t, however, need constant attention, it likes to be left alone, to grow and to settle, to become beautiful. So I’ve started planting another little “novel orchid” in my head every now and then, plan a main character here, grow a plot point here, sprinkle some intrigue over there. 

It keeps the creative part of my brain happy while the perfectionist, grammar-obsessed part of my brain can tend to the original story. In short, I’m happy, more productive and enjoying writing a whole lot more.

I wonder, does anyone else find novel writing a strange balance of generating fresh ideas and beating old ones into submission? If so I’d love to hear from you, please, comment away!