Things you should know before you begin your debut novel

Just a fun post for today, based on what I have learnt during my writing journey. It’s been three years since I started my current WIP, and although I’m not deterred by the length of time it’s taken me to reach this point, there are a few things that would have sped up the process a little, had I known them before I launched in. But alas, it’s too late for me, but perhaps they may be of some help to you…!

1) You are not going to complete your finished manuscript within 6 months

Yep, Naive Heather did actually believe she could have a polished, completed and awesome novel within 6 months. Don’t get me wrong, you could easily finish your first draft in that time but your manuscript will be nowhere near as good as it could and should be. But why? This question leads us nicely on to point two…

2) You will improve with time

And with practice. Even if you think you know enough, you will never know everything, hence there’s always room for improvement. If you write consistently, you will be constantly improving. This is a good thing for your novel but a bad thing for your deadline. Please bear in mind that as you learn and improve…

3) You will likely stray from your outline

Even if you’ve spent months outlining, chances are, as you’re writing (and hopefully getting better at it), you will encounter flashes of inspiration that you didn’t have when you were planning. That plot device you loved? It doesn’t fit your character as well as you thought it might. That character you thought was necessary? She’s dead weight. But remember, straying from your outline isn’t a bad thing, as long as you bear in mind that…

4) Story structure is important

Don’t worry, structure won’t inhibit your creativity. Like it or not, satisfying stories follow certain structures – beginning, middle, and end, with rising tension, conflict, climax and resolution. For this reason, it’s vital to understand structure before you begin, so it’s wise to read widely on the subject. But don’t just stick to reading about structure…

5) Find out as much as you can about how to write a good novel

There are so many awesome websites and books on the subject so just Google it and get going! As stated before, you can’t possibly know everything before you begin, but it’s good to get a solid handle on the basics: POV, structure, character, tense, genre etc. I have beta-read for several writers before, some of whom didn’t even know how to use full-stops (there were none in the entire novel…!), let alone understand what POV was and why it was important. I wish I was joking…

6) Bonus point: no matter how ‘finished’ you think your book is, you will pick it up several weeks later and realise that long-standing scene you love is actually rubbish

To be honest, it’s pretty blindsiding. You’ve been sure about said scene since day one, so why is it only now, on day 700, that you realise it doesn’t actually make sense/is written terribly/doesn’t fit with the rest of your tweaked manuscript. It feels a bit like having the rug pulled out from under you – I mean, you were practically finished, and now you have some major restructuring to do?! It is scary but it is normal. So don’t worry, you got this!

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Using a Kindle to help you edit

Hi guys,

This is going to be a fairly short blog post, but I really wanted to share something with you that I’m finding super useful during my editing process. I participated in Camp Nanowrimo during July, which was awesome. Having dragged my third draft out for well over a year, nano forced me to write consistently every day (which I rarely do) and I’m now left with a finished story. 66,000 words later, it’s now time to edit, alter, expand, cut and tweak my draft until I’m happy it’s the best it can possibly be. No sweat, right?

Having used the notecard outline method previously, I’m happy with the actual plot of my story, hence my editing from now on will focus mainly on subplots, characterisation, foreshadowing and dialogue. Although I know roughly what I intend to achieve during this draft, when editing, it can be hard to know exactly where to start and what to do. Personally, I like to write and edit chronologically as I see no point in writing and polishing a later chapter, only to find out it no longer fits with the rest of the novel. I therefore know I want to start editing from the beginning of the novel, but how exactly should I get started?

Well, there are many ways I could attack this draft. I could simply read it chronologically on screen and alter as I go or I could print it off. Although I do intend to print off my novel, I will not be reading it from the A4 printed sheets.

So, what will I be doing instead?

I have sent the Word document to my Kindle, and I’m reading it as I would read any other eBook.

And honestly, I can’t believe the difference it’s making to the reading process. For some reason, reading it in said format makes it so much easier to spot the elements that need changing. The problems seem so much more obvious when reading on this device.

Once you’ve spotted the issues, you can make notes one of three ways. You can:

  • edit as you go, I.E, have the word document open at the same time and alter as you read.
  • edit directly on your Kindle using the ‘note’ feature and then refer back to these later when editing the Word document.
  • handwrite any changes on a printed hard copy after first making them in the Kindle version.

I tend to use a mixture of the second and third option. The second option is good for when you’re on the go, and the third is perfect if you prefer hand-written scribbles to on-screen notes.

How do I get my document onto my Kindle?

This is the easy bit. Simply download the Send to Kindle App, set it up using the instructions and click and drag your document into the window. It will then appear on your Kindle. Easy as pie. I recommend sending it as a Word document as although you can send PDF’s, they appear in a fixed format on your device, so won’t look like proper eBooks, more like smaller versions of the A4 PDF (not ideal). If you work in Pages (Mac) like me, simply export your Pages doc as a Word doc using the export function (RTF may also work). I also fiddle about with making each new chapter start on a new page before I send to Kindle, to make it look even more like a real book, although this is more procrastination than anything else. (Note: If you want each of your chapters to start on a new page and your original document is in Pages, export it to Word before you play with the chapters, as your Word doc will look different to your Pages doc).

Once it appears on your Kindle you can then treat it like any other book – you can even adjust the text size and font as you would normally. All that’s left to do is read! Try to look at your novel with fresh eyes (hard, I know) and, as you go along, any bits of stilted dialogue, typos or bits that don’t make sense should jump out at you. When you find these areas to improve, note them down somewhere (as discussed earlier) and then apply your notes to your original document later. To use the Kindle note function, all you need do is press and hold down on the word and ‘note’ will pop up. You then use the Qwerty keypad to type your comments. You can even view all your notes at the end and export them into a document (see this link for more info).

And that’s it! Even if you don’t end up using this method to do your editing, it can just be nice to see your novel ‘in context’ as if it were a real, published book.

How do you usually edit? Comment below!

 

 


Where to find free and cheap eBooks – fiction and non-fiction

Free. Everyone likes that word. Free coffee. Free pizza. Free cinema tickets. Free eBooks.

If the latter phrase gets you hot under the collar then you are in the right place.

This blog post will explore three ways you can add to your eBook library cheaply or for free. The below methods can be used to discover both fiction and non-fiction books of all genres and topics. I personally like to download mainly non-fiction books about the craft of writing and fiction books of all genres, but you can tailor the methods to suit your needs.

Before we get started,  I feel the need to address the elephant in the room. As a writer, surely I should be supporting other writers by buying their books for a decent price, right? Of course! I’m not suggesting that from now on, you should exclusively read free and cheap Ebooks. You absolutely should not. Given a choice between a paperback and an Ebook, I’ll buy the former almost every time. BUT. There’s nothing wrong with expanding and adding to your collection by subsidising it with free Ebooks, especially as the authors themselves are the ones who are offering them to you. Therefore, all of the below methods are 100% legal, 100% ethical and 100% awesome.

Now that’s cleared up, let’s begin!

Bookbub /  Book Cave

As I reside in the UK, I’ll be discussing Bookbub, as opposed to Book Cave (which I think is the US equivalent?), although both websites do the same thing.

Bookbub is hands-down the reason I became obsessed with Ebooks. This is how it works.

You sign up to the website.

You put in your genre preferences.

Bookbub accumulates a list of free and heavily discounted books which you can purchase across a number of different platforms – Kindle, IBooks Kobo, Google etc.

You download the book through the vendor for free or cheap as you would a normal Ebook.

Voila. Easy.

Bookbub will also send you a daily email of the books it thinks you will like (the list has about 7 or 8 titles depending on how many genres you have ticked). I personally look forward to my Bookbub email and I almost always find one or two titles that I like and download. Although you may not have heard of a lot of the titles, that doesn’t stop them from being decent novels (although I have had a couple which were absolutely terrible). Bestsellers appear on the list fairly regularly, slashed from about £8.99 to about £1.99 give or take.

 

Subscribe to author websites and blogs for fiction

Anyone who spends enough time on the internet will realise just how easy it is to ‘accidentally’ gather free Ebooks from bloggers, website owners, authors and writers who are keen to expand their readership or get subscribers. They generally offer the Ebook in exchange for your email address (fair swap IMO). Below are two of my favourite authors and bloggers, both of whom are currently offering free Ebooks and amazing website content. Honestly, every writer should visit these websites, free Ebooks aside!

Joanna Penn 

KM Weiland

 

Amazon

Simply go to the Kindle store on a computer, type in your keyword or phrase (example: novel writing, blogging, how to start a business) and search. Then sort the search results by price, low to high. BAM. The free ones will come up first, followed by the cheap ones. If you’re not sure about a key-word, just write free. This also works on fiction. Simply select the genre instead of typing a keyword.

 

Below is what happens when you type Free into the kindle search bar. TADA.

 

 

Netgalley

For all of us ‘book bloggers’, the Netgalley website offers the exciting opportunity to download and read Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) of new and just-published books, delivered straight to your chosen E-reader in exchange for a review. You need to ‘request’ some of the books (meaning you won’t necessarily be eligible to receive all of your chosen ones), but there are many which you can download straight off the bat. You even get to call yourself a professional reader which, let’s be honest, is amazing!

 

And that’s it for now. Go forth and enjoy your eBooks!

 

 

 


Editing and re-drafting – a checklist, part two

Thanks so much for all your lovely comments RE part one of this blog post, it’s great to hear that my posts help not only me but others too, and I hope part two is as helpful and insightful as part one. Without further ado, let’s begin…

Overworked descriptions and cliche metaphors

I realise that overworked and cliche are two different things but keep an eye out for both, as they risk making your work look like the uninteresting ramblings of an amateur writer. To clarify:

Overworked description

“Hannah clumsily grabbed her red, ceramic, heavy mug and filled it to the brim with scalding, hot, brown coffee. It burnt her calloused, dry hands.”

Although this sentence is not horrendous, it’s a little too descriptive. One or two adjectives would have sufficed. See below.

“Hannah grabbed her mug and filled it to the brim with scalding coffee. It burnt her calloused hands.”

Much better!

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Cliche metaphors

This one is self-explanatory but some examples of a cliche metaphor are:
– His eyes shone like diamonds
– Her rosy, red cheeks
– His deep, blue eyes

Accidental or thinly veiled racism/sexism/homophobia etc.

Sadly this is more common in novels than you may think. Of course, most of the time the author does not intend to offend, but it does happen. I have read a few reviews of a current popular novel where the readers felt that the only POC in the novel was represented badly (she was bitchy and homophobic with apparently no redeeming characteristics), so when creating characters, please be aware of the above.

Representation

Of course, only you, the writer, know your story world and its inhabitants, but it may be wise to consider whether or not your cast is representative of both ethnicity and gender, especially if it’s set in today’s modern world.

Watch out for outlandish developments

Every plot point and development needs to be a logical step up from what has happened before it. Even shocking plot twists or action scenes have a build up and have been ‘set up’ to some degree. Everything needs to be linked, or the result of something that precedes it, so try not to add in outlandish plot points just to ‘spice up’ your novel. I was recently reading (and enjoying) a novel where there was no mention of cannibals, until all of a sudden, just for a little bit of conflict, the protagonist was abducted and almost spit-roasted for dinner. It struck me as out of place, awfully random and to be honest, a bit stupid. All events in your novel are stitched together, so keep your eyes peeled for any random scenes or pointless developments.

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Make sure your MC is actually participating in conversations

This may sound stupid but keep an eye out for this, especially if there are lots of characters. It’s all too easy to allow your protagonist to take a back seat and merely observe events and interactions. Make sure your MC is a driving force in the conversations – it’s easy (especially in first-person) to have the narrator pass thought or judgement on a situation in their head when it may be best if they were to make their judgment out loud to the other characters.

Is your main character somewhat likeable?

Don’t get me wrong, flawed protagonists are great, but your readers must want to root for them, so they have to have something going for them, even if that thing is pure grit or ruthlessness in gaining the story goal. They don’t need to be perfect or even nice, but at a basic level check that they aren’t (unless intentional), any of the following: racist, sexist, unnecessarily bitchy, unfairly jealous, whiny or homophobic).

Watch your use of nonsensical sentences

Of course, creatively writing is part of the fun, so go forth and use your imagination but read every sentence to make sure it does actually make sense. There’s no point trying too hard to be literary or whimsical if the meaning behind the sentence is lost to the reader.

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Watch out for deep yet pointless conversations

A deep conversation is all well and good but if it randomly appears in your novel and doesn’t contribute to the overall goal or theme then cut it – it’s just fluff.

Don’t make your antagonist flat

No one is 100% evil, not even your villain. Evil for the sake of evil is something that comes up in a lot of negative book reviews, so make sure your book isn’t one of them. As well as this, don’t make your protagonist 100% good. No one likes a Mary Sue.

Consistency throughout

Another obvious point that is all too easy to overlook. Ensure consistency throughout. Some examples of things to look out for:

  • The weather – if it’s snowing one minute, chances are it’s not going to be boiling hot the next.
  • Character hair, eye colour, clothing or jewellery.
  • Where your characters are in relation to one another as well as if they are sitting or standing. Also, which characters are actually in the scene.
  • Time of day
  • Spelling of names, places, and made up things.

The above is just the start. There are so many things (most of which will be unique to your novel) which you will need to keep a check on. For example, in a scene in my novel, my characters are wearing masks that cover their mouths. It would, therefore, be a bit stupid if I forgot this and described a character’s smile (because how the heck would you know if he was smiling or not?!). FYI this totally happened. Oops.

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Do your research

If you’re representing a culture or a movement (think BDSM in 50 Shades) do your research so as not to offend those who are part of it. 50 Shades often has those involved in the BDSM movement complaining that it’s not accurate and is sexist etc. This also applies to different cultures – you don’t want to cause offense.

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Checking mechanics

Your protagonist is hot-wiring a car? Check that the methods used are viable and correct (but don’t put your new-found knowledge to use!).

Do you have too much inner monologue?

This boils down to the whole show-don’t-tell thing (see part 1). If the protagonist is talking to himself and summarising what’s happening, would it be better and more engrossing to the reader if it was changed to action or dialogue? The answer may be no but it’s worth checking just to be sure.

Have you started in the correct place?

If your novel only picks up pace in the last 75% (like several books I’ve read recently) then consider starting the novel later. You don’t want your readers to give up before the good bit, so why not move the good bit forward.

Are your characters cardboard cut out or cliche?

Is your novel populated with dumb blondes, geeky redheads who look gorgeous when they take off their glasses, handsome square-jawed football players or brooding dark-haired Byronic heroes? If yes, consider changing it up a bit. As well as this, make sure your characters are multi-faceted. Why not give your star football player an interest in sewing, or make the seemingly dumb blonde an owner of a multi-million dollar company? Use your imagination and inject some uniqueness and life into your world.

And that’s it for now! Let me know what you think of the above in the comments!


Editing and re-drafting – a checklist, part one

Hi guys,

This week I thought I’d write a blog post detailing some of the things to look out for when re-drafting and editing your novel. I’m currently at this stage in my own novel writing journey and it’s arguably the hardest stage so far – perhaps even worse than the dreaded first draft. I will be referring to this list continuously myself as I draft, re-draft and hone my novel and I hope it will be just as useful to you. I have split this post into two parts as it would have been a little bit too long to be one. Part two is now live and can be found here

 

Dialogue tags

When writing dialogue, keep fancy dialogue tags to a minimum. There is nothing wrong with plain old ‘said’. Changing it up every now and then to add variation and drama is fine, but if your novel reads like:

She sniffs
He snorts
I retort
He screams
She yells

dialogue tags Source

 

Fix it, because it does get annoying. I recently stopped reading a novel 3 pages in because I just couldn’t get past the annoying use of tags.

Show don’t tell

Sorry to bring up the obvious – and you will have heard this numerous times – but it’s important, hence why it keeps cropping up. Show the reader your protagonist is distraught through body language, don’t tell them straight up that your protagonist is ‘sad’. Telling instead of showing distances the reader and this is the last thing you want to do.

Even worse than telling is over telling. If you’ve dedicated a whole paragraph to describing how your MC’s (main charactrer’s) love interest is sad, think about it – could this have been portrayed by describing her drooping shoulders or a flicker in her eyes?

Typos

Another obvious yet important point. Even the most well-crafted sentence or most beautifully-designed story world can be completely undermined by a single typo. It’s a sure-fire way to ensure both readers and agents stop reading immediately.

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Repetition

Keep an eye out for repetitive dialogue, imagery or word use. Also, check that you aren’t repeating something in dialogue that’s already been said via inner monologue and vice versa. As well as this, watch out that you don’t mention something unimportant more than once, as you risk bringing too much attention to it. The dad character is too busy on his mobile phone to pay attention to your protagonist? Great, mention the phone once and then leave it, don’t keep referring to it after every mention of the father.

Realistic dialogue

Dialogue should be interesting and believable. Are your characters saying hello every time they meet? Cut it. Are they discussing something in unnecessary detail, purely for the sake of the reader? Cut it.

Example: If your MC and his mother are talking about that time when MC’s sister tried to kill herself, they wouldn’t discuss it like this, as they both already know the details of what happened.

“Mother, I don’t want to leave her because she tried to kill herself seven months ago by taking 20 packets of pain-killers.”

This exchange is being used purely to relay backstory to the reader and it shows. There’s no subtlety or intrigue and it’s just plain amateur. There has to be a better way to get the information across.

Also, make sure there is a point to every piece of dialogue included. Don’t include a rambling conversation between your protagonist and their next-door neighbour purely to set the scene, unless of course, the neighbour is an important element of the storyline.

The mirror scene

Ah, the good old ‘using a mirror to describe the appearance of the first-person protagonist’ trick. There is nothing inherently wrong with a mirror scene, but think carefully about having one and if you do, make sure it is interesting. I have one in my novel at the moment and I’m debating getting rid of it entirely. It’s a good device to use to describe your protagonist, but it’s done so often that it’s becoming a ‘trope’.

Cut lectures and long, preachy paragraphs

A well-written novel will have substance and morals, but these will be weaved subtly throughout and won’t be force-fed down the reader’s throat. Avoid sounding preachy by cutting down (or even cutting out completely) long paragraphs used purely to relay your opinions on certain divisive topics.

Cut the exclamation marks unless absolutely necessary

Self-explanatory.

Pretentious, annoying names

Keep an eye out for these. Unique names are great, ridiculous ones are off-putting.

Do all your novel elements make sense together?

At risk of sounding mean and crass, if you’ve just dumped every interesting thought you’ve ever had into your novel, then chances are, it’s not structured or well thought out, and will only be interesting to you, and you alone. If you’ve got a load of cool but vaguely (if at all) stitched-together ideas, then perhaps you need to seriously think about your story structure. If you’re serious about publishing your novel once it’s done, perhaps take one of the interesting elements and play with that and cut anything that doesn’t fit with it.

hyperbolememe.jpg

Believable relationships

Insta love – it’s a word that appears on Goodreads a lot. Some readers love it but most hate it. People don’t just fall in love in seconds or even days. Lust perhaps, but love, no. Build up the relationship believably before you plunge in with the L word.

Infodumping

Do you have too much backstory or exposition in one paragraph or even in one chapter? If so, consider drip feeding it instead. Also while you’re at it, think – do you really need a whole paragraph to describe something when in fact a single sentence would do just fine?

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Are you giving things away too quickly?

I read a novel that did this quite recently. Basically, the novel was about a present-day female protagonist who was brought back in time to marry a lord in medieval Scotland. Sounds great, right? Wrong! Instead of joining the protagonist as she wakes up in medieval Scotland with no idea what had just happened to her, the readers are told within the first chapter what is about to happen to her via several paragraphs of clunky backstory. What could have been an intriguing, drip-fed premise had been laid bare in a single paragraph and explained in painful detail. Why should I read on when I already know what is going to happen?!

Characters referring to each other by name all the time

That’s not how we talk. Period.

Too much lengthy description about unimportant things

Yes, scene-setting is great but please don’t discuss your MC’s handbag through three paragraphs of detailed description if it’s not relevant to the plot.

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Foreshadowing

If your twist comes out of nowhere, then you may need to go back and add in little hints as to what’s to come. Yes, it needs to be a surprise (it’s a twist after all) but it needs to also be believable. If all of a sudden your MC turns into a frog because of a curse you need to at some point discuss said curse beforehand, even if it’s just briefly.

And that’s it for part one. Now on to part two.


Novel writing inspiration

Hi guys,

This blog post is a little bit different to usual and aims to inspire those of you who are on the lookout for new and interesting ideas for storylines. As we all know, it can be hard and frustrating to find inspiration especially if you are actively searching for it, so I’ve come up with a list of internet articles I’ve read recently that I believe would make fabulous starting points for those of you who are stuck.

I’ll keep it brief as it’s relatively easy to find said inspiration when you know where to look, and what to look for! The majority of these articles have come from the ‘BBC Futures’ website which I cannot recommend highly enough – its articles are full of thought-provoking ideas and questions which could form the basis of extremely unique storylines. I find the below links so interesting, that it took me a while to decide whether or not to share them on here, or keep them to myself (selfish, I know…).

Have fun exploring, and let me know any other articles you find in the comment box below…

1. An article about a tribe in Thailand, where the children can see underwater almost perfectly.

Ko Surin, Thailand. 11th Oct, 2013. Danong, an indigenous Moken man, hunts for fish using a traditional bamboo spear near his village in Ko Surin National Park, Thailand. Often called sea nomads or sea gypsies, the Moken are a seafaring people who for cen Source

“When the tide came in, these kids started swimming. But not like I had seen before. They were more underwater than above water, they had their eyes wide open – they were like little dolphins.” – Quote from article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160229-the-sea-nomad-children-who-see-like-dolphins

2. An article discussing the pros and cons of ‘designer babies’.

desisisi1 Source

“The colloquial term “designer baby” refers to a baby whose genetic makeup has been artificially selected by genetic engineering combined with in vitro fertilization to ensure the presence or absence of particular genes or characteristics.” – wikipedia

http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/10/designer-babies/

3. An article exploring the notion of death, how we define it, and the fate of people whose brains have died but whose bodies continue to live

p04f1zxd.jpg Source

“Their hearts are still beating. They urinate. Their bodies don’t decompose and they are warm to the touch; their stomachs rumble, their wounds heal and their guts can digest food. They can have heart attacks, catch a fever and suffer from bedsores. They can blush and sweat – they can even have babies. 

And yet, according to most legal definitions and the vast majority of doctors these patients are thoroughly, indisputably deceased.” – Quote from article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20161103-the-macabre-fate-of-beating-heart-corpses

4. A theoretical discussion about what might happen if everyone in the world starting eating as a vegetarian

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“Eliminating meat from our diets would bring a bounty of benefits to both our own health and the planet’s – but it could also harm millions of people.” – Quote from article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160926-what-would-happen-if-the-world-suddenly-went-vegetarian

5. An article about a woman who is allergic to water

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“Rachel’s rare condition means that a bath is agony; even her own tears will scorch her face. How can the human body reject life’s most basic necessity?” – Quote from Article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160915-the-woman-who-is-allergic-to-water

6. Doppelgangers

“It’s on your passport. It’s how criminals are identified in a line-up. It’s how you’re recognised by old friends on the street, even after years apart. Your face: it’s so tangled up with your identity, soon it may be all you need to unlock your smartphone, access your office or buy a house.” – Quote from article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160712-you-are-surprisingly-likely-to-have-a-living-doppelganger

7. An article about a man whose brain create false memories

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“Due to an unusual illness, Matthew creates false memories that seem as vivid as the real thing. He’s had to learn to live with a past that is as uncertain as the future.” – Quote from article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160428-this-is-how-it-feels-to-learn-your-memories-are-fiction

8. An article exploring how people ‘live on’ after death through social media

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“At some point, there will be more dead Facebook users than living ones – and for those left behind, it is transforming how we experience the death of those around us.” – Quote from article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160313-the-unstoppable-rise-of-the-facebook-dead

9. And finally, an article discussing “individualism” and “collectivism” in society

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“Psychologists are uncovering the surprising influence of geography on our reasoning, behaviour, and sense of self.” – Quote from article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170118-how-east-and-west-think-in-profoundly-different-ways

 

And that’s all for now! Let me know if you come across anything of interest!

Happy creating!

Heather

 

 


Things to avoid when writing your novel: how not to annoy your reader

Hi guys,

So I just want to start this new post off with an apology, as I haven’t posted for ages. I have no excuse other than that I’ve have been slacking, along with the fact that I had my birthday and Christmas in quick succession. My new year’s resolution will definitely be to post on a more regular basis!

Anyway, moving on, today’s post details a few things to avoid when writing your novel, many of which are based on errors I’ve found when reading books. The list has been compiled based on what I, as a reader, dislike, but I imagine that my points accurately reflect many other peoples’ opinions. A lot of these aren’t new or ground-breaking, but I feel they may be useful to bring to the attention of you writers out there.

Contrived character arc

A character arc which feels contrived is a MASSIVE turn off. Yes, arcs are necessary components of well-written and well-rounded books, but they should be subtle, not in-your-face and not written as exposition.

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To further explain this using an example –

Assume your character starts as shy and unable to trust people, but learns how to trust throughout your novel. By the end, she has overcome her fear, thus has transitioned from one to the other. This is her ‘arc’. To show this arc, you should gradually show her behaviour and mindset changing (generally as a result of outside influences and events). The key word here is SHOW, and you can show this transition through her actions and dialogue. Yes, you can also use her inner thoughts, but do so carefully and sparingly, and don’t just end up explaining things. If you start to use inner monologue as a gateway to highlighting the character arc, it will end up feeling insincere. See the below as an example of this, taken from my review of FLAWED by Cecelia Ahern.

This monologue, instead of subtly characterising her and developing the story line, is in fact just used to painstakingly explain and warrant her random and seemingly unfounded behaviour, thus justify the entire plot. It felt contrived and like Ahern was using the inner monologue just to highlight over and over again that she had attempted a character arc.

Celestine is a ‘logical’ person, which we are told numerous times within the first few chapters. Her inner monologue and character arc had a lot of this:

“I’m such a logical person, which is why I’ve just made this entirely logical decision to act in this logical way. This is why this logical thing has happened.”

Sudden character change – introduce it gradually

Characters generally change throughout a novel, and this change should not only be subtle, but should also be gradual. Try to:

  • avoid having a flat character throughout the novel, and then suddenly having them change at the end based on one event.
  • avoid having the character ‘arc’ within the first few chapters and then stay flat for the remainder of the novel
  • introduce the change gradually and believably.
  • ensure the character is reacting in a way that makes sense and is realistic.
  • ensure that you aren’t trying to force a character arc in a way that is unnatural and doesn’t fit with the story.

characterarc.png Source

Creating a story world which doesn’t make sense

Thinking through the exact mechanics of your story world is a must! There’s nothing more annoying than reading a novel, and then coming across an element of the story world which doesn’t make sense. It can be very hard to spot flaws, as you know your story well, so everything makes sense to you – the best thing to do is to ask a trusted friend for feedback. They will be able to point out problems and areas of confusion that you won’t have noticed yourself.

Ensure that the rules in your world are consistent and make sense (even if they only make sense in the context of your world). If the world is inconsistent, you risk other elements of your novel not making sense – your character’s behaviour as an example. Inconsistencies may also annoy your reader as it may look like you’re altering the story world to ‘fit’ your story, as opposed to having a believable story that is set in your world, if that makes sense!

writing-meme.jpg Source

Don’t explain everything

This is a fairly standard rule. Don’t feel the need to explain all aspects of your characters’ thoughts and actions. Sometimes, less is more and it’s better to infer what is happening as opposed to explaining it. Only use inner monologue and explanation if it is necessary to the storyline, otherwise you risk boring your readers, and making your characters seem shallow and your narrative seem amateur.

Bonus point:

Don’t constantly have your characters address one another using their names.
For example:

“Hi, Heather how are you?”

“I’m great thanks, Rebecca, what are you up to today?”

“Nothing really, Heather.”

“That’s great, Rebecca!”

dialogue.jpg  Source

 

This point is self-explanatory.

And that’s a wrap on this week’s blog post. Is there anything we missed out that you hate as a reader? Let me know in the comments.

Heather