Tag Archives: tips

The Message

2 Apr

Every novel has a message. No matter what it is about, there is always something that the writer wants to say. That is what makes a story even more interesting to read, and as a writer, it makes the story even more interesting to write.

I highly recommend thinking about what you want to say before you grace the page with even a single word. Only because it saves time when editing. With the regular visits of new characters, saved time is a good thing.

The main thing you should ask yourself is: what do I want people to think about once they’ve put down my book? Then it’s just a matter of contemplating what events and characters you want to use to make people think about that. So the coming up with a message is actually the easy part. However, it is a lot easier now that you know what you’re working towards. And it’s also easier for your characters. Considering how we torture them already, it’s only the kind thing to do.

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Meet A Writer: Cassandra Newbould

27 Jul

Dear readers,

Please allow me to introduce to you: writer Cassandra Newbould. If you like what you hear feel free to drink virtual coffee with her on Twitter: @elusi0n

Question Time: 

#1. When did you start writing and why?

Well, I guess after I became pregnant at 21. Once my daughter was born I would make up stories when I was nursing her or putting her to sleep. As she got older, she, along with my other two, convinced me to start writing them down. almost 16 years later, I sorta feel like a writer, finally.

#2. What do you write? And why that genre?

I love writing young adult: fantasy and contemporary. When I write I want it to be something my kids can enjoy, whether it’s the make believe of fantasy, or something that really hits home in contemporary.

#3. What is your writing process?

I just open up a blank screen and let my thoughts have free rein. I’ve tried outlining or mapping stuff out, and for me, it never works. Usually I start at the start and just continue on till I reach the end. Once I’m done that, the fun part is over, and the editing begins. Wheeee! 🙂

#4. What is your favourite character that you’ve written? And why?

It would be a toss up between Haley and Coda from Signal Against Noise. I wrote Haley to be all of the things I want my daughter to look up to. Tough, strong, caring. Someone who can take charge and not be afraid to say what’s in her head. Someone who can love, but doesn’t depend on a partner to “fix” things for her. I wrote Coda as Haley’s companion. It’s a tribute to my own Coda; a 13 yr old white German Shepherd who’s been my protector and my best friend. He’s getting to be an old man, and I wanted his legacy to live on once he’s gone.

#5. What are you most proud of regarding your writing? My novel, The Monster Ate My Clubhouse. It’s a story about a family who lives with the constant struggle of their dad being bipolar. And how, even through the bad times, and man, are there some bad times, they still remain a family. They love each other for their good and bad, and find a way to get by day after day. It really was cathartic when I wrote this because I co-wrote it with my daughter. My husband/her dad is bipolar and I felt a weight lift off me once I put it down on paper. Plus, to share that experience with my daughter is something I will never forget.

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#6. What is your biggest struggle when it comes to writing?

COMMAS! If literature could kill me, I swear it would be by a misplaced comma, straight through the heart.

#7. What are you working on right now?

A female version of a take on Treasure Island. Not that Treasure Island isn’t awesome enough as it is, but I wanted one where a girl gets to go on the adventures. She’s an internet pirate who finds a treasure map online that leads her to a real life pirate ship and that’s when the fun really begins. It’s been a blast writing it so far.

#8. Are you agent hunting? What are your future plans?

Slowly. I’m about to start querying The Monster Ate My Clubhouse sometime in the fall, after PitchWars probably. It’s really nerve-wracking to think about it being out there for all eyes to see but I feel it’s a story that needs to be told, absorbed. Something to give other families struggling with bipolar some hope. Future plans? Just keep trucking I guess. Hope my daydreams and imagination never run out.

#9. Any tips for other writers?

Never give up, never give in, and never think you’re not good enough. If you’ve a story to tell, somewhere in this universe, or perhaps the next, there’s a listener out there, somewhere, just waiting to read it. You just have to stay strong until you find them.

#10. Final question: tea or coffee when writing?

My English husband, and his very English family would insist upon tea, however, I prefer coffee when writing, in an IV drip, straight to my bloodstream. Or, wine. Lots and lots of lovely, free flowing, beautiful wine.

Say What Now?

25 Jan

Dialogue is something a lot of writers fear. The thought of it makes them crawl up the wall or hide in a closet with a mop as a weapon of choice. Why? Because a lot of writers find it difficult and dialogue is a very important part of a story.
I myself don’t have any trouble with it. In fact, I think it’s the one aspect that comes most naturally to me. So, in order to give advice I’ve been questioning my brain as to what would help someone write better dialogues in case that is a weak point of theirs.

The main thing I’ve come up with is this: KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS. I have never filled in a list with all the facts of my character. I don’t need to know what their favourite kind of shoes are or what vegetable they hate. I kind of feel what I need to know, if that makes sense. I catch their vibe like the string of a balloon and let it take me to where it wants to go. Perhaps this is why I’m a good wing-it writer. It could be that this doesn’t work for plotting writers, but either way the point is that you get to know your characters so well that when you write them, you become them. Then it’s just a matter of responding. So if you’re a plotter, fill in that sheet if you want! Fill in as much as you want up until the point that you feel you’re in the character’s head.

Once you’re in your character’s head you put it to the test. Start with a random scene where your character responds to a situation. Then write a scene where your character responds to words from a friend, stranger, or enemy. But my favourite one is the SHRINK SESSION. This can also be done before you get a feel for your character or when you find it difficult to get into your character’s head. YOU are the shrink and your character sits opposite to you. Start by taking note of body language and then start asking him or her questions. Start at the beginning or ask about what’s going on recently in his or her life. Put them in the hot seat or handle them with care…or both! And see what happens. This is a fun and creative way to get the ball of words rolling. Try it and let me know if it helps.

Then it’s just a matter of writing and getting to know your characters through your story. Because even then your characters will still surprise you. Sometimes you think you know someone…Damn those characters. It’s like they’re real people sometimes. 😉

Meh-Ness of the Creative Mind

28 Feb

Those days where you want to change the world with your words, whether it’s with your social media or a new story idea. Whatever it is, it gets you all excited and you think about what it will be like when you’ve build up this legacy and quite possibly also have a butler. Or three. Those moments are good because they inspire. They inspire you to be the best and kick some ass.

Or at least, that’s what they’re supposed to do. I mean, they do inspire me, but also they make me feel guilty for when I don’t end up changing the world in one afternoon. Because most of the time it’s daunting to think of all that you want to achieve and to know that it will take long. Not to mention that it takes a lot of effort and luck. It can be paralysing. Which is why I usually end up building a virtual village or raising Sim babies.
When you’re writing just for fun it’s easier because there is no pressure. However, pressure can also be good, so how do you make it so that pressure becomes the same as motivation?

The goals are still important and it would be good to consider those goals every once in a while. Ask yourself what you really want to achieve with your writing and before you write, meditate on those images. If you’re a realist, you might think that it will never happen, and I suppose it’s good not to get your hopes up, but also add that you can eat least TRY. Because the trying part is probably more fun than the actual achievement. If we do achieve our dreams, don’t we want to look back and know we’ve EARNED it? I know I do.

On the other hand it also helps me to just turn on some music, daydream about my story and get excited about it again. It depends on my mood, but sometimes I don’t need to think about the future, I just need to be in the moment and write for my story. After all, I like my characters so I want to do my best for them. The story deserves it, so do its inhabitants.

Which means that my advice today is a bit contradictory. It depends on who you are and what your current mood is, but both result in motivation. But here is one more tip. There’s a difference between the lack of motivation or simply having dust in your creative mind. If the Jar of Words is empty, my advice is simple: READ A DAMN BOOK. I hate to be all cliché, but books make for the best inspiration in the first place.

Hopefully my scattered ramblings all over this post help you, because right now my brain feels all dusty. I am going to refill my Jar with Haruki Murakami and then I’ll play with my characters. After all, I have an agent interested in my work, and if that isn’t a good kind of pressure, I don’t know what is.

 
GOOD LUCK, WRITERS!

 

weird writer

Notebook Shenanigans

15 Jan

As per my resolutions, I am scribbling fiercely in my notebooks. I know, even my pet dragons are surprised. Since I am thoroughly enjoying those moments and proudly told someone about my notebooks and handed out advice about what to write in them, I figured, why not share with you, loyal reader writers.

So here we go, based on my notebook shenanigans: WHAT TO WRITE IN YOUR NOTEBOOKS…

 

  1. You need at least one notebook that must be called Book of Wordiness. This is the notebook that you’ll fill with….well, words. Not just any words, though. See, what makes writing an art is when you use the ‘write’ words. Fill this notebook with words you find beautiful and fill it with the synonyms of everyday and/or simple words. Like walking, smiling or looking. There are many words for the same thing. Use them. Diversity is good. Fancy words are also good, as long as you use them sparingly. Also fill this notebooks with metaphors or similes that you come up with. Or perhaps any interesting descriptions or other sentences that pop into your head. Beautiful crap, basically. 😉
  2. One notebook needs to be filled with writing tips. Just writing tips.
  3. One for outlining stuff and structure. So, drawings of the three-act structure and the character arc. Things like that. You can adapt those to any story you write and add brief outlines or frameworks for your stories.
  4. One for short stories and writing prompts. Fill it with post its and put a mini sticky note after each writing prompt or short story to separate them, but write the name of whatever is on that page on top of the sticky note so that when you need to find a writing prompt or short story, you can immediately find it.
  5. One for your novels. Plot outline, characters, scene descriptions, excerpts. Anything to do with the Big Works.

 

And that’s about it. Depending on what you write, you can also get a notebook for each genre, but hey, I like any excuse to buy MORE notebooks. Basically I could manage with five different notebooks, but I have like ten. Why, you ask? Because notebooks are AWE…wait for it….EPIC!

If you don’t have a notebook, get five. And if you do, tell me what you write in them. I’d like to know about your writerly shenanigans.

 

Happy scribbling.

 

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Plot It Like A Bunny

20 Nov

Funnily enough this post isn’t about how to plot or about bunnies. It is however, about the Plot ingredient which should always be in the Story Cauldron. I write character-driven stories because life is about people and books are about life, but this doesn’t mean I’m not big on plot. Even though the emphasis of a story might be on characters, that doesn’t mean that the amount of effort put into the plot should be any less than the effort put into characterisation.

– A plot should always move towards the climax and its subsequent resolution. That is to say, keep the goal in mind. You should also be able to summarise your plot in one sentence.
– There should also be a subplot, which you should also be able to summarise in one sentence. People who get stuck have usually lost sight of their plot and/or subplot. If that happens easily, it might be a good idea to make an outline before you start writing. That makes it easier for you to begin and stick to it once you’re halfway through that beast of a story.
– The one-sentence summary should contain the goal. Every plot should have a goal because that’s how you know what obstacles you’ll add into the Cauldron. Here it is also interesting to create tension by giving the character traits that already don’t match with the goal. Characters make interesting obstacles.
– There should be a set of mini-achievements for a character in order to reach the goal, they are usually reactions to the obstacles. This is especially clear in mystery, for instance. The goal is to solve a murder, they have a suspect, but then new information arrives and shows the suspect is not the killer. They have to use that new information to get closer to a new suspect and every time they uncover something, whether it sets them back or not, it all adds up to the eventual truth; everything leads to their goal. Cause and effect.
– It should always be clear in which direction you’re moving, but you should still throw a few curve-balls at your readers to keep them on their toes. Subtlety is key here. Hint by sliding it past them, not by throwing the hint in their face. Also feel free to lay out false clues, but only one or two or your readers might feel tricked, in a bad way.

Keep moving closer to the goal, even a setback for your character is still a motion. Move gradually, not like a bullet, but like a leaf in the wind. Never ever stop, because like a shark, your plot will die.

plotting bunny

TIP: The elements of a good plot are pretty straightforward and you can discover them easily by thinking of what you expect of a novel with a good plot, as a reader. Thinking like a reader will help you when writing. (Note: don’t think like a reader WHILE writing, only before or after.)

Metaphors and stuff…

29 Aug

To paint our words with brighter colours a writer has some amazing tools in his or her tool basket. Probably the most important one, is METAPHORS.  They are great figures of speech and blow life into the words we write. They sprinkle them with extra spirit, depth and originality. They say that good metaphors are a sign of genius. Which means that mastering the skill that is writing metaphors is a very good thing if you want to be a good writer.

Just to remind you what metaphors are:
A metaphor is a figure of speech that uses symbolism. It compares two things that are NOT similar and show that they actually do share a similarity. There is an additional meaning to a word, which means it includes symbolism.

Now, what is more powerful? He was overcome with sadness. OR: He was drowning in a sea of sorrow. Exactly…metaphors are your friend. An entire story can be a metaphor, but then it is called an ALLEGORY. Stories like that will show symbolism throughout the entire story.

There are more tools in the tool basket of a writer. There is also this thing called a SIMILE. This is when you compare two things and you use either ‘like’ or ‘as’.
Examples: He was cold as a stone. She laughed like a wounded animal.
I’m a big fan of this tool, they have great impact on the minds of the readers and are easier to write than metaphors. They can also be used more often than metaphors. They differ from a metaphor, because a metaphor compares two unlikely things by saying that the one thing IS the other thing. With similes it’s clear that they’re being compared and are only similar. If you keep mentioning that things are in fact other things, it might take away the power (of the metaphor). With similes that isn’t the case although I would suggest not to use them in every sentence, but at least regularly.

HYPERBOLE, which is an exaggerated statement to give power to what you’re saying. For instance when you’re tired or hungry and you say: I could sleep for an eternity or I could eat a horse.

And two others that should be mentioned are ANTITHESIS and OXYMORON. An antithesis is a figure of speech that brings out contrast in the ideas by an obvious opposition in the words or (parts of) the sentence within a parallel grammatical structure.

So: Many are called, but few are chosen. When one man speaks, another man listens. When you’re single, you want to be in a relationship and when you’re in a relationship, you want to be single.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which contradictions are combined. Like: a deafening silence. A silent scream. Turn up missing. Old news. Alone together.

There you have it, a couple of tools you might find handy to liven up the words you carefully display on the pages of your story. Good luck and may the force (of Words) be with you.

 

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