What is Rhythmic Writing?

By Sue Coletta

Rhythm is one of the most underrated aspects of writing, but readers sense the rhythm in our words, whether they realize it or not. Rhythm attracts readers to certain authors.

Life itself has a rhythm.

Whether it’s our heartbeat or the motion of the sun, moon, and planets, we’re embedded within a rhythmic world. Hence why rhythm has such enormous power. It’s built into who we are.

Have you ever lounged on a blanket outside at night, stargazing? Nature is never silent. Even a quiet evening has a melodic undercurrent — a pulse, if you will.

The same holds true in writing.

Rhythm Defines a Mood

Rhythm forces the reader to either rush through the pages, flipping one after another, or nestle in the comfy chair to quietly enjoy the story. Words dance. The writer who pays attention to story rhythm creates sentences that waltz, jerk, tango, stutter, tap dance, float, and sing.

Good writing ebbs and flows by varying sentences, paragraphs, and chapter length and structure.

Notice the atmosphere Hemingway creates in Farewell to Arms.

In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.

Rhythm Defines Pace

In music, tone length and dramatic pauses define rhythm. When long notes blend without pauses, the music flows like a swan across still water. On the flipside, short notes with clear pauses draw your attention. The music amps you up.

The same principles apply to writing. Rhythmic writing is defined by punctuation and the stress patterns of words. As a general rule, long sentences are more relaxing, while staccato sentences startle the reader. They draw attention. They force the reader to pay attention.

Run. Now.

Tension builds and releases. When a movie reaches its climax, the rhythm increases in pace only to subside as the story resolves. Within the larger rhythmic structure of a story, micro-structures also generate rhythm. Scenes change and plots twist. An interruption in the rhythmic flow transports the reader in a new direction. It knocks them off balance — a gentle slap to ensure they’ll keep flipping pages.  

Sentence Structure

If each sentence follows the same structure and rhythm, the writing becomes boring and predictable. Writers who play with rhythm can create tension in many ways, depending on punctuation and word choice.

In the following example, notice how the intentional repetition of hard -ed verbs create tension in The Killing Song by PJ Parrish

He watched her for the next hour. Watched her playing with the plastic snow globe she had picked up in the souvenir shop. Watched her finish her peach tart, tuck her Fodor’s in her purse and wind the red scarf around her slender white neck.

In the next sentence, the authors slow the pace by varying the sentence structure, adding gerunds, and visceral detail, yet maintain the creepy atmosphere.

In the crowded elevator traveling down from the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower, he stood behind her, closing his eyes as he breathed in the grassy scent of her hair.

In White Fang by Jack London, note where he forces the reader to pause.

A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness.

London also uses repetition but not with a hard -ed verb.

There was a hint in it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness — a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the Sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild.

Does Point-of-View Matter?

Not at all. Using rhythm as a literary device isn’t limited to 1st or 3rd POV, or even past or present tense. Check out the melodic rhythm in Try Darkness by James Scott Bell. The novel is written in 1st POV, but the following excerpt is in 2nd POV to show the protagonist talking to himself.

And then you wonder what makes you go on, what makes you care, because it’s in there somewhere, the caring, even if you don’t know why, even if you don’t know any reason for it. It’s just there and that’s why you don’t sleep.

You look out at the dark, you walk around in it, you think maybe there’ll be a big insight, a sudden realization. And then everything will add up. That’s the hope part, the part the absurdists call a fool’s game.

Are you just a fool like everybody else?

You think of the girl and you think of her being scared and you can’t stand it, and caring becomes torture.

If God was in the room right now you’d scream at him.

That’s what you think about when you can’t sleep.

Next time you read a novel, pay attention to its story rhythm. Where does the author let you pause? How does the author vary long and short sentences? How does the writing ebb and flow? Do you notice a similar rhythm in the writing of your favorite authors?

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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The One Popular Myth Writers Believe About Writer’s Block

By Colleen M. Story

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block!”

No doubt you’ve heard this myth before.

Worse, you may have believed it.

And that’s rarely a good thing, as it tends to keep you where you are—in that stuck place you dare not call writer’s block.

Myth: There’s No Such Thing as Writer’s Block

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block,” says writer Leigh Shulman. “It’s an excuse.  Your way of telling yourself you have a reason for not writing.”

You’ll find a wide variety of writers echoing this same sentiment. Whenever I heard it, I worried. I didn’t want to be one of “those” writers.

“The secret about writer’s block is that it’s an indulgence,” writes Amy Alkon for Psychology Today. “…The way you end so-called ‘writer’s block’ is simply by sitting down to write—’blackening pages,’ as Leonard Cohen called it.”

Lazy! Undisciplined! We hear it again and again. Stop coddling yourself. Sit down and write!

I vowed to do just that. I wouldn’t be weak. I would be a strong, productive writer.

No writer’s block here.

Then along came my third novel, The Beached Ones. And it humbled me in a hurry.

My Novel Taught Me All About Writer’s Block

Draft after draft, I came up against a wall. No matter how hard I tried or how many hours I put in, I could not figure out how to get past the midpoint of that novel.

Now understand: I was no newbie to the mid-novel struggle. I had gone through it with my other two published novels, but never to this extent.

I bought books. I went to conferences. I talked to award-winning writers. I sketched out the plot. I outlined the chapters. I examined each of the character’s inner and outer motivations.

I did everything you should do when experiencing writer’s block—things that before had led to a breakthrough—and nothing helped.

It was frustrating, to say the least.

I looked writer’s block squarely in the eye and withered. So much for strength and discipline. They weren’t helping me at all.

My Cure for Writer’s Block

I finally had to admit that I was suffering a bad case of writer’s block.

Oh, the shame!

I’ve since learned that other writers—much as they may lecture about there being no such thing as writer’s block—just have a slightly different definition of it.

Says Schulman: “Here’s the thing: Every writer who has ever existed feels stuck at some point. That’s why I say there’s no such thing as writer’s block because it’s part of the writing process.”

Oh. So it is writer’s block. You’re just calling it something else.

And that something else is comforting, isn’t it? Shulman is assuring us that everyone experiences being stuck now and then. Relax. It’s normal.

But I couldn’t relax. The story sat in the back of my mind bugging me day in and day out.

So I kept trying. And now, looking back, I can say that is my solution to writer’s block that I want to share with you: keep trying.

It is the key to finally breaking through.

The Key to Ending Writer’s Block

What does it mean to keep trying?

Don’t Give Up

First of all, don’t give up on your story. I thought about it many times, but looking back, I’m really glad I didn’t. (The book is releasing soon, after all!)

Keep the Story In Mind

Second, keep the story in mind.

Personally, I didn’t have any choice. The story wouldn’t leave me alone. It may be the same for you. But it also helps to find other ways to keep it at the forefront of your thoughts.

Everything I did along the way—starting over, reading books, attending workshops, outlining, researching, sketching, etc.—helped keep the story in my brain. My brain, in turn, continued to work on a creative solution to my writer’s block.

You don’t want to forget what was happening in your story. Even if you’re not writing new scenes and chapters, it’s important to keep the characters alive in your head in some way that you continue to “live” with them in their world.

Find a Way to Think Outside the Box

This is what finally led to a breakthrough for me.

It was as simple as going to a movie.

I went to see Girl on a Train starring Emily Blunt. (Love her!) I was fascinated by how the story was told.

For much of the movie, the main character didn’t know what had happened to put her into her current situation.

It was something I had never explored before: what if my hero was in the dark as to what had happened?

Voila! Breakthrough.

That single idea was enough to send me back to the keyboard. And telling the story from that point of view solved my problem.

No more writer’s block. I sailed through to the end, put the book through several more rewrites, submitted it, and landed a publisher on—get this—April Fool’s Day, 2020.

For you, it’s likely to be something else (besides a movie) that allows you to break through your writer’s block. Maybe it’s an image you see, something you hear, or something someone says.

Here’s a tip: Usually, breakthroughs happen when we step away from our usual routines. Do something different, put yourself in a new environment, and allow your creative brain to play. That’s the best way to inspire it to come up with a solution.

See Writer’s Block as a Gift

Looking back, I can see that writer’s block gave me a gift—it forced me to come up with a more creative way to tell the story. It also taught me that you can be seriously blocked and still succeed in telling a good story if you’re willing to stick with it.

Shulman agrees that sometimes, being blocked can be a blessing:

“When you’re stuck, it’s often because you’re doing something you’ve never done before. That means you’re stretching yourself as a writer. You’re improving, and soon enough you will breakthrough to a new level. You’ll be a stronger, more agile, better writer.”

Writer’s block? It’s no myth, but if it’s plaguing you, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Instead, celebrate. Welcome your confusion. Allow your frustration. Bang your head against the wall and keep going.

If the story matters, you’ll find a way.

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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Book Writing Software (2022): Top 10 Pieces of Software for Writers

Writing a book is hard. I’ve written fifteen books and at some point during each one I had the thought, “There has to be a tool, a piece of book writing software, that would make it easier to reach my writing goals.”

Bad news/good news: writing a book will always be hard, and the best piece of writing software in the world won’t write your book for you. Some may even require a steep learning curve. Others are easier.

The good news is there is book writing software that can make the writing process and meeting your daily goals easier!

In this article, we will cover the ten best pieces of software for writing a book and look at the pros and cons of each.

Click the links below to get our review on the best writing software.

Best Writing Software: Contents

  1. Scrivener
  2. Google Docs
  3. Google Sheets OR Microsoft Excel
  4. Vellum
  5. ProWritingAid
  6. Publisher Rocket
  7. Evernote OR Ulysses
  8. Freedom
  9. Microsoft Word
  10. Hemingway App
  11. Bonus: Google Drive OR Dropbox

Worst Pieces of Software for Writing a Book

Before we discuss writing software that will help you write a beautiful book, it’s important to understand (and eliminate) what will hurt your writing progress.

At least while you’re writing a book:

  1. Video Games. Especially World of Warcraft (always, always, always!) but also Solitaire, Sudoku, Angry Birds, and, for me right now, Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes.
No World of Warcraft for Writers

Pin

  1. Facebook, TikTok, and Other Social Media Software. Do I really need to say more? Fortunately there’s a piece of book writing software for avoiding this very distracting software (see Freedom below). You can’t write a book if you spend you writing time publishing social media posts.
  2. Other Productive Software Not Directly Associated With Your Writing. Yes, it’s good to reconcile your bank account on Quickbooks or make sure you’re up to date on your calendar app, but responsible, well-meaning work can easily be an excuse for a quick distraction that turns into a major distraction from writing your book.

Set aside time for your writing every day and then stay focused.

If you need a game, make writing your daily word count your game.

If you want more “likes” on social media, imagine how great getting five-star reviews on your book will be.

If you need to check your bank balance several times a day, think about what your bank balance will be when you stop checking it constantly, finish your book, and become a successful author.

By Joe Bunting

Source: thewritepractice.com

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How to Solve Writer’s Block: 5 Simple Steps to Get Back to Your Book

It’s practically inevitable. You’re rockin’ and rollin’ through your writing process, you let the creative juices flow, and then you reach a sudden halt: You’re blocked. And you have no idea how to solve writer’s block.

The words won’t come. It seems like there’s nothing more, and yet you’ve got things to do. Deadlines to meet. A writing schedule to stick to.

t can seem impossible to write another word when you experience a creative block. The good news is that with a handful of steps, you can readjust your writing routine and reenergize your creative flow.

it can be done.

Here’s how to write a book when you’ve got writer’s block.

Want to learn how to write a book from start to finish? Check out How to Write a Book: The Complete Guide.

What is Writer’s Block?

This seems obvious: Writer’s block is a writer’s inability to write. When in this position, writers can find themselves sitting at their desk for hours—and no amount of inspiring writing quotes can clear their writer’s block.

Instead, writer’s block is the result of several problems, like low self-confidence and poor planning. And to fully address this complicated situation, it’s important to take a number of steps that will restore the writer’s confidence and plan a course for success.

This is the only way you can save your writing day and make progress on your book when you’ve got writer’s block.

How to Write a Book When You’ve Got Writer’s Block: The 5-Step Plan

Ready to overcome your block and revitalize your writing? Here’s your recovery plan:

Step 1: Take a Step Back

Some coaches out there will encourage you to plow onward no matter what.

That may be good advice for a determined few, but for the rest of us it’s just plain impossible. It might even unintentionally make you a bad writer—or a discouraged one.

In some situations, the words simply won’t come. And when we force them out, they’re terrible and we hate them and we hate ourselves for writing them.

What do you do then?

Simple: Stop.

Stop writing and take a step back.

It’s important to understand that writer’s block is caused by specific knots in your story, not general ones. In other words, it’s not you—it’s your protagonist. Or your setting. Or your point of view.

Something specific to the story isn’t working as you’ve been approaching it, so you need to stop and back up, if just for awhile.

Writing a book is a lot like navigating a maze. Consider how complicated each character’s journey is. When you write the story, you’re finding your way through the labyrinth without a map.

Reaching a dead-end is the same as writer’s block. You have to stop moving forward, step back, and find your way to love creative writing again.

Crashing into the same wall isn’t going to solve your problems.

Remember: The block is specific, not general. You don’t suck. This moment in your storytelling life is what sucks, so you need to step away and gain some perspective.

Writing a book is like navigating a maze. If you hit a dead end, turn around, retrace your steps, and find a new way forward.

Step 2: Emancipate Yourself

One of the reasons you’re blocked might be an imaginary rule.

What is an imaginary rule? It’s a rule that you have created for yourself that you’re unwilling to break, and it’s killing your writing.

Have you created a self-imposed deadline for yourself? As in, “I have to have this done by July”?

Or have you read a bunch of great literature, only to demand that your first draft look and sound just like The Great Gatsby or Beloved?

Another rule I tend to create for myself is a story rule. These look like this:

  • The story has to take place entirely in one room.
  • The story has to be in the first-person point of view.
  • This character has to die.

And so on. We make these rules for ourselves because we want to achieve greatness, or reach a particular writing goal.

But more often than not, they tend to trap us in prisons of our own making. When we can’t meet our own impossible demands, we submit to the feeling of failure and throw in the towel.

You have to emancipate yourself from these imaginary rules. Free yourself from the bondage of perfectionism.

Identify the imaginary rule you’ve created that is holding you prisoner. Write it down in a way that frees you: “The story can take place in any room. It can be in any point of view.”

Whatever you need to free yourself from this false bondage and get back to creating with freedom.

The secret to overcoming writer’s block: let go of perfectionism. Your book doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be written.

Step 3: Unplug

To fully recover from the frustration of your writer’s block, you need a break.

Take a short sabbatical from your labors. Unplug from the world of your writing and enjoy the things that refresh your body and spirit. Visit nature. Play with your children. Make other kinds of art. Watch your favorite movies or a season of your favorite show.

Part of the reason you need to unplug is to separate your humanity from this project. The frustration becomes personal. The rules and expectations that have been driving you become unforgiving taskmasters.

Unplugging is the physical action you must take to redefine your writing life.

Also, you may not be able to fully emancipate yourself from your imaginary rules until you’ve unplugged. Steps two and three go hand-in-hand. Rediscovering your humanity works side-by-side with reframing your independence as a writer.

Make sure to keep your sabbatical brief, though. Give it a deadline since it can threaten your long-term productivity, and hold to it.

But let yourself live a little and reconnect with the things in life that inspire you to create in the first place, free from crushing expectations and the feeling of failure.

Step 4: Strategize

When your retreat ends, it’s time to get back to work. But if you simply start banging your head into the same wall in the labyrinth, you’ll just end up back where you were.

Instead, plan ahead before your jump back in.

A book is a large undertaking with numerous parts. Certainly there are parts where you aren’t blocked, right? What does your daily writing habit look like on that day?

Here are five ways you can strategically continue to write a book when you’ve had writer’s block:

  1. Back up and start a scene from a different time and/or place
  2. Let a character fail during a scene
  3. In a scene between two characters, add a third character for triangulation
  4. Move the scene to a new, more resistant setting (location)
  5. Craft the scene from a different character’s point of view, or a third-person point of view

Once you’ve made a choice, try it. But be prepared for it to possibly fail. Be ready with another idea or two in your pocket.

Strategy isn’t just about the story itself; it’s about readying yourself for a variety of outcomes, successful or not, so you don’t end up blocked again.

Step 5: Return and Write With Freedom

The final step to overcoming writer’s block when writing a book is to return and write with freedom.

You’ve stepped back and freed yourself from the shackles of impossible expectations and faulty rules.

You’ve take a restorative sabbatical and come out of it energized, filled with ideas about new strategic approaches to your storytelling problems.

The last thing to do, then, is to write.

The Secret to Overcoming Writer’s Block

See, overcoming writer’s block isn’t just about the story. It’s about the storyteller.

When done right, taking these steps builds muscle memory. Every time you conquer writer’s block you get better at doing it. In fact, if you beat writer’s block enough, you’ll hardly ever feel truly “blocked,” but see the momentary hiccup in your process as just that: a minor nuisance that you’re an expert at dealing with.

No one is ever truly, eternally afflicted with writer’s block. The power is in your hands.

You can do it. You can write a book when you’ve got writer’s block, just like every professional writer out there.

You just have to know how.

What strategies do you use to overcome writer’s block? Let us know in the comments.

By David Safford

Source: thewritepractice.com

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Realistic Dialogue: 16 Observations Writers Should Know About Real Life Talk

Dialogue can make your story. In fact, as Shakespeare knew, you can tell a whole story just through authentic, realistic dialogue. You’re probably thinking: “Easier said than done.”

Good stories are about real people, and people in real life love to talk to each other. We are biologically disposed to receive pleasure from conversation.

If you want to write good stories, learn how to write effective dialogue. In this article, you can learn sixteen  dialogue tips that will help you take everyday conversations and turn them into stretches of dialogue that benefit your story.

Dialogue is a Skill

Writers can learn how to take bad writing riddled with unnecessary dialogue in their manuscripts and write ordinary conversations in their manuscripts that grab readers and significantly impact the plot.

When I first started working seriously on my writing, I would go into coffee shops, eavesdrop on a real life conversation, and write down everything people said. This helped me begin to understand how normal speech worked—but it wasn’t enough.

Before I could write lines of dialogue well, I had to ask WHY casual conversations mattered.

Realistic Dialogue in Everyday Life

Why did this person say this thing? Why did that person reply like that? How did they get on this subject in the first place?

I eavesdropped on conversations for months. It was actually a little creepy. But it taught me so much about how real dialogue works, and how I can take a conversation to inspire natural dialogue and nuanced conversations in my creative writing.

Here are sixteen writing tips I learned about realistic speech patterns, and how to use these to write great dialogue:

1. Real People Say Random Things

As writers, we want our characters to talk about things central to our plot, but humans are weird. Tin real conversations, people don’t talk about important things. More often than not, they talk about mundane things like the weather.

To write realistically random dialogue without losing track of your plot, have your characters begin a conversation about something random, and then circle around to the important parts of your plot.

2. Real People Bicker

I’m sure some people manage to be nice to each other all the time, but in my experience, the closer you are to someone, the more you bicker.

In fact, bickering can become part of an everyday conversation—as unfortunate as that is.

Bickering rarely turns into full arguments. It’s more like a constant buzz of tension.

And while bickering can add tension to your scenes, make sure characters don’t bicker just because. Use these conversations in your story to impact the plot or develop a character trait.

3. Real People Don’t Have Long Monologues

I know you want to show off your exquisite writing skills with a long speech, but in normal situations, real people don’t like making speeches. They feel uncomfortable when they’re the only one talking for a long time.

If you want to write a speech, you need to create some kind of excuse for your character to give the speech. Perhaps they just won an award or their about to go on a long trip or they are dying and want to share their last words.

And if you do need a long speech, make sure you don’t just write dialogue alone. While long speeches might work in movies, especially if they’re written by a dialogue genius like Aaron Sorkin, books do better to break up long speeches with action.

4. Real People Don’t Always Hear You

Real people are hard of hearing. Real people have lawnmowers go by them in the middle of their conversations. Real people say, “What’s that? Huh? What did you say? Come again? Sorry, what?”

In your stories, could you create tension by having certain characters ask questions—and maybe even leaving them with unanswered questions.

Dialogue through subtext can be just as powerful as actual dialogue—and getting a character to ask a question can draw a reader’s attention to the importance of information.

5. Real People Refuse to Repeat Themselves

Sometimes, when the other person can’t hear and says, “Huh? What did you say?” Real people don’t repeat themselves. They say, “Nothing. It’s not important. Never mind. I’ll tell you later. Forget it.”

Sometimes, this leads to bickering.

This technique is especially effective if a character has just said something vulnerable. People will rarely repeat something embarrassing or hurtful or vulgar. You can draw attention to their vulnerability by having them refuse to repeat themselves.

6. Real People Don’t Always Reply

Sometimes, someone will say something like, “Man, it’s a beautiful day,” and then wait for the other person to respond. Usually, the other person says, “Yeah, gorgeous, right?” But sometimes the other person doesn’t say anything. They just grunt or roll their eyes or stare out the window.

People learn how to do this as teenagers, and it’s a good way to show underlying tension.

7. Real People Use Nicknames

No one calls you by your first, middle, and last name. So don’t use whole names in your dialogue.

Maybe you want to introduce a character by their first and last name early in the book with description, but after that, trust that the reader knows who they are. Especially since other characters won’t address them by their formal name unless it’s a specific character trait that speaks to the kind of person they are.

8. Real People Cuss

Some people are very sensitive to curse words, and I get it. But real people pepper curse words throughout their speech, and if you want to write realistically, you need to think seriously about interjecting an occasional D-word in your dialogue.

9. Real People Speak in Tangents

A paper needs proper grammar, but it’s not uncommon for incomplete sentences to occur in everyday speech. Let the grammar rules go when you’re writing dialogue. Seriously.

10. Real People Lose Track of Time and Their Surroundings When They Talk

Don’t intersperse your dialogue wit a lot of description or action. Your characters aren’t noticing what they’re doing or what they’re seeing. They’re paying attention to the conversation. If you’re using any kind of deep viewpoint (i.e. third-person limited), your narration should be paying attention to the conversation, too.

11. Real People Exaggerate

Real people don’t tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They don’t exactly lie either. They just leave things out and exaggerate to make themselves look better. It might be morally questionable, but it’s very human. (And you’re writing about humans, aren’t you?)

12. Real People Tell Stories

The only time you can write long speeches is when your character is telling a story. People love to tell stories, especially stories about themselves. Sometimes, people will even listen to them.

William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, the author of Arabian Nights, and many others have exploited this with the literary technique of the Story within a StoryHeart of Darkness is basically one long monologue about an experience a sailor had on his travels (in fact, it’s a monologue about a monologue). T

he majority of Arabian Nights is a woman telling stories to her murderous husband. Often, in these situations, the author allows us to forget we are actually reading dialogue. All the speaker tags would get really old.

Every once in a while, though, another character will make an interjection and remind us.

13. Real People Have Accents

But remember, writing in an accent can be extremely annoying to read, not to mention distracting.

Feel free to experiment with accents, but don’t be surprised if your readers don’t appreciate it.

14. Real People Talk When No One is Listening

Even when people don’t reply, real people keep talking anyway. This is a great way to show annoyance, if your character’s lecturing someone, or insecurity, if they can’t stand the sound of silence, or even social awkwardness, if they can’t pick up on social cues.

15. Real People Don’t Talk at All

Sometimes, real people are too mad or too nervous or too sullen or too much of a teenager to talk. Don’t make your characters talk if they don’t want it.

16. Real People Say Less Than They Feel

In the end, natural dialogue isn’t the best tool for developing a plot because real people are unpredictable. They rarely speak about the things closest to them. They rarely speak about their vulnerabilities.  They often talk about the most superficial, irrelevant subjects.

Real people talk lessl, which makes it very difficult to get emotion, sentiment, and transformation across through dialogue.

The key is to get your characters into a situation where they’re so broken, so destitute, so screwed up that they’ll say anything. And perhaps that’s why we read fiction anyway, to hear people say exactly what’s on their mind.

Write Realistic Dialogue…But Not Too Realistic

Writers need to include realistic dialogue in their stories if they want to make their characters feel real. However, this comes with a small caveat.

If the dialogue becomes too real, it might drag and be filled with conversational content that doesn’t do much for the story—other than slow it down.

So when you’re writing, make your dialogue sound realistic but not so realistic that it takes away from other story essentials, like character, plot, and pacing.

Overall, include dialogue that benefits the story. Don’t include every bit of real life talk just because it sounds like real life. Instead, strip the dull parts from the conversations while preserving what makes the dialogue sound real.

What are your favorite observations about realistic dialogue? Let us know in the comments.

By Joe Bunting

Source: thewritepractice.com

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Fear Thesaurus Entry: Growing Old

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental illness, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life. 

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc. Please note that this isn’t a self-diagnosis tool. Fears are common in the real world, and while we may at times share similar tendencies as characters, the entry below is for fiction writing purposes only.

Fear of Growing Old

Notes
While growing old is a natural part of life, it’s not always an easy process. Someone who has always looked young, whose identity is tied to their attractiveness, or whose occupation relies on their mobility and independence can develop a fear in this area. Whether they’re triggered by their changing looks, a potential mental decline, a physical weakening of the body, or death itself, someone with this fear may become driven to do everything in their power to keep the inevitable at bay.

What It Looks Like
Incessantly working out
Eating healthy
Following a strict and involved skin care regimen
Investing in multiple cosmetic surgeries
Wearing a lot of makeup to cover signs of age
Staying out of the sun
Seeing doctors often for preventative and corrective measures
Avoiding doctors altogether (being in denial about growing old)
The character hanging out with people younger than them
Adopting youthful practices, speech, and activities
Needing constant reassurance about their appearance
Being obsessed about staying physically and mentally active
Avoiding reminders of old age, such as nursing homes or a retirement party
The character constantly testing their mental or physical acuity to see if it has deteriorated
The character avoiding having their picture taken
Taking many supplements that support memory and improved neurological functions
The character comparing themselves to others their age
Remaining stubbornly autonomous; turning down help or refusing to admit that an activity is beyond the character’s ability
The character refusing to change their ways—e.g., continuing to drive even when it’s dangerous for them to do so
Heightened awareness of mental and physical changes over time causing the character to hide or compensate for them

Common Internal Struggles
The character obsessing over changes in their appearance or mental capabilities
Worrying that others also notice the changes
Seeing deficiencies where there are none
Constantly wanting to look in mirrors but being afraid of what will show up there
The character comparing themselves to others and finding themselves lacking
Becoming deeply insecure about their appearance
Knowing that aging is a normal (and unavoidable) process but feeling compelled to fight it anyway
Being in denial about changes that are happening

Flaws That May Emerge
Childish, Compulsive, Defensive, Frivolous, Inflexible, Insecure, Irrational, Morbid, Nagging, Needy, Nervous, Obsessive, Oversensitive, Perfectionist, Pushy, Rebellious, Reckless, Stubborn, Vain, Worrywart

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
The character spending too much money to maintain their appearance, purchase supplements, etc.
Frequent surgeries and recoveries stealing the character’s free time
The character spending so much time on the activities that will keep them young that they pass up other opportunities
Difficulty relating to people their own age
Being exhausted by the effort to always prove themselves and their capabilities to others

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
A friend or associate passing away
Seeing a drastic change in an older friend’s appearance
The character experiencing a physical change associated with aging, such as gray hair, age spots, or a drop in metabolism or libido
Hitting a milestone birthday (40, 50, 60, etc.)
The character having memory problems that aren’t caused by their age (a side effect of medication, not getting enough sleep, etc.)
The character having trouble doing something they’ve always excelled at
The character being rejected or discriminated against and believing it’s due to their age

By BECCA PUGLISI

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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Using Vocal Cues to Show Hidden Emotion

By Becca Puglisi

Any Tolkien fans in the house? I remember, as a teen, readingThe Hobbitby the fire on a rare cold evening in Florida. It became a favorite that I would re-read until my copy literally fell to pieces.

One of my favorite scenes comes right at the beginning: the Unexpected Party. There are a lot of reasons it works so well—one of which is everything Bilbo is not saying. When the dwarves arrive (and keep arriving), he wants to know what they’re doing there, but instead of asking, he puts on his Happy Homemaker face and gets to work being hospitable. As it gets late, he doesn’t show them the door. He refrains from telling Thorin to get off his high horse and show some gratitude for Bilbo funding his little reunion, though you know that’s what he’s thinking.

The interactions between Bilbo and the dwarves ring true precisely because of all the subtext—the contrast between what the character says and what he’s really feeling or thinking. This subtext is a normal part of most real-life conversations; for this reason alone, it should be included in our characters’ conversations. But it’s also useful because whenever a character is hiding something, there’s inherent emotion involved. Emotion is good for our stories because well-written, clearly conveyed character feelings will often engage the reader’s emotions, pulling them deeper into what’s happening. So subtext is good on a number of levels.

But writing hidden emotion is challenging. Authors have to show the character portraying one emotion to the cast (pleasure, in Bilbo’s case) while showing his true feelings to the reader (confusion, frustration, and indignance). It’s a tall order, but this is where vocal cues can come in handy.

Vocal cues are shifts in the voice that happen when someone is feeling emotional.While we may be able to hide our feelings by masking our facial expressions and minimizing certain body language giveaways, the voice is harder to control. In a written scene, these vocal fluctuations act like signposts, leading the reader to the conclusions you want them to draw about the character’s true emotional state.

So when you need to show that a character is hiding their feelings from others, consider the following vocal cues.

Pitch

Does the voice get high and shrill or go low and rumbly?

Volume

Does the character move from a moderated level to almost yelling? Does the voice drop to a near whisper? Is it clear that they’re struggling to maintain a reasonable volume?

Tone

Does a clear tone turn breathy or husky when someone is aroused? When the character is close to tears, does the voice become brittle or cracked? Does it lose all expression and become flat when anger hits?

Speech Patterns

Does your verbose character suddenly clam up? Does her timid, verbally stumbling counterpart start running at the mouth? Might poor grammar appear in a well-educated character’s dialogue? Does a stammer or lisp announce itself?

Word Choice

What words might slip into a character’s vernacular when they’re feeling emotional that they wouldn’t normally use? Profanity and slurs? Words and phrases from their first language? Pat clichés?

Nonspeech Interruptions

What sounds begin to pepper your character’s dialogue? Um, Hmm, Uhhh, throat clearing, and coughing can be signs that the character is uncomfortable and needs time to pull him or herself together.

For your character, consider which of these cues might be a possibility, then write it into the story when their emotion changes. Used consistently, they’ll signal the reader that the character is hiding something or that a certain emotion is in play.

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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Short Story Tips: 3 Successful Strategies to Write a Short Story

A novel has hundreds of pages to get you involved in the characters’ lives and to transform you to another world, all to leave you with a great ending that you’re thinking about weeks—maybe even years—later.

In a short story, you have to do all that in a few pages. It’s no wonder most of the “new” writers I know would rather write novels. Short stories may be small, but they are mighty. (Not to mention they are a great way to keep up a writing habit.)

Chances are your favorite author started their writing career by writing short stories. Big names and favorite writers like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, Shirley Jackson, Louisa May Alcott, and Sylvia Plath are all short story writers.

I’ve talked about coming up with ideas, plotting, and some key elements of short stories. Now it’s time to stop dilly-dallying and get to writing. This article covers three successful short story tips and strategies to write a short story.

Evolving My Short Story Writing Process

I’m going to be honest: I do not use the same writing process for every story I write. And I really don’t think my fellow short story writers do either.

Each story feels different. There is a different inspiration. There are different life circumstances. There are different writerly moods.

In the introduction to American Gods, Neil Gaiman quotes Gene Wolfe, who told him,

“You never learn how to write a novel. You only learn to write the novel you’re on.”

This goes double for short stories, I think. I’ve never written two the same way. Sometimes I outline, sometimes I don’t, and sometimes I fall somewhere in between. Sometimes I don’t have anything but a first line; sometimes nothing but a character.

That said, there are three basic strategies to get those words on the paper. Over time, you’ll develop your favorites, mash up different strategies, and probably invent your own. Everyone’s creative writing process is different.

Whether you’re new to writing short stories, or are a veteran and just want to mix it up, here are three ways to get you started writing a short story:

Not every short story writer’s process will be the same. Here are three writing strategies to help you write a short story.

For Pantsers: Write the Story in One Sitting

Writers who consider themselves “pantsters” vs. plotters don’t know much about the direction of their story before they start writing. They like to write by the “seat of their pants” and follow their characters where they go.

Sit down. Write the story. Do not stop writing the story. Do not do research. Do not take a break. Write the story from beginning to end, as fast as you can.

This method seems the easiest, but it can take some work later down the line. This is the most likely to end up lacking structure. It’s also the most likely to make the writer feel like their muse is riding along with them.

When I write this way, it’s because of a random idea that pops into my head, not because of writing prompts or anything like that. These stories are never written during my blocked-out writing time. They’re highly inconvenient little beasts, but oh, so satisfying. This is why pantsers pants—for this feeling.

If you write this way, be prepared for heavy edits. But don’t worry too much if this is your preferred way to write.

Story structure comes more naturally the more you practice it and the editing won’t be as daunting after you’ve got a couple of dozen stories under your belt.

For Plotters: A Mixture of Snowflake and Structure

Plotters know everything that happens in their story before they start the writing process. They have an extensive outline.

The snowflake method is how I was taught to write short stories. It’s a bit of a mix of two different methodologies: the snowflake method and Joe Bunting’s The Write Structure.

The basic idea is to write a few sentences telling the whole story. (Six sentences to be exact, though you could start with eighteen if you wanted to have two sentences for each step.) These six sentences are essentially the story outline. Then you expand those sentences into paragraphs, and then those paragraphs into pages.

There’s a formula for this that will help you identify a series of events that drives the plot:

  • Sentence 1: The setup. Give the reader a single character and a setting.
  • Sentence 2: Things get weird. Something happens to the character that’s out of the norm.
  • Sentence 3: Things get worse. The situation escalates.
  • Sentence 4: Things get even worse. The situation gets even worse.
  • Sentences 5: The climax. Your character changes their approach and solves the problem.
  • Sentence 6: The wrapup. Shows the reader the new “normal” for the character.

Want to see this in action?

  • Sentence 1: On Christmas Eve in London, an aging miser goes home to an empty house.
  • Sentence 2: His dead business partner shows up and tells him he will be visited by three ghosts.
  • Sentence 3: The first ghost shows him his happy past and how his happiness was ruined by selfishness.
  • Sentence 4: The second ghost shows him the present, and he softens slightly but doesn’t think there’s anything he can do about it.
  • Sentence 5: The third ghost shows him the future, and he realizes he has to change his ways or he will die alone.
  • Sentence 6: He wakes up on Christmas Day a changed man, determined to help those around him.

I’m sure you figured out this is Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, which is a little long (around 30,000 words, I think) to be considered a short story, but it works anyway.

Why? Because these six sentences are the six elements of plot and the basic elements of story structure. You could do this for every type of writing, every book, and every short story (and I encourage you to try it).

The basics are here. The next step is to expand on these sentences and make them into six paragraphs and then six pages.

With each iteration, more information, backstory, description, and dialogue are added until it is a complete story.

Note: If you are looking to be a flash fiction writer, this method, in my experience works best. Since flash is so short, you don’t have much room at all to add anything. Getting that six-sentence outline and expanding it into about six paragraphs will get you a tight piece of flash fiction with all the elements of story in there.

For Plansters: The What If Question

Plantsers are people who do a little outlining, but mainly like to write by the seat of their pants.

I talked extensively about the value of using the “What if?” question when writing in a previous article.

The What If question is my all-time favorite way of producing short stories. It’s got the spontaneity of pantsing, but gives a bit of structure to the writing process so editing isn’t such a mess.

In summary, this method employs a question-and-answer session to solve the story’s problems. What if X happened to this character? Then A would happen. And then B would happen. And ultimately C would happen.

In the case of old Scrooge, it would go something like this:

  • X: What if a ghost visited this old miser and said he was going to be visited by a whole group of other ghosts to teach him a lesson?
  • A: He wouldn’t listen to what the first ghost was trying to teach him.
  • B: He would kind of get the point with the second ghost, but still think he’s not at fault.
  • C: He would realize he’d better be nicer to people or literally no one is going to care when he dies.

There’s an inciting incident here, progressive complications, the dilemma, and the climax. This method gives you a basic outline, just to get you started in the right direction.

Writing Tips to Keep in Mind as You Write

This section is meant as a refresher. For more in-depth discussion for each of these essential elements of story, and more essential elements, see this post in this blog series.

But if you’re already familiar with story structure, write away with these principles in mind:

  • Your character must have a goal. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “A character must want something, even if it’s just a glass of water.” This goal is what drives your story forward.
  • Your character must make choices. Don’t let them sit around watching what’s happening like they’re binging TV. This is their story; make sure they’re part of it.
  • There must be a change. There must be a “new world order” at the end of the story; otherwise, nothing happened at all.

Don’t Forget Feedback!

I’ve listed three short story tips to go about the process of physically writing a short story, but one of the most important parts of the process of writing any type of story is to get feedback in writing communities.

As you develop your creative writing skills, you’ll write more compelling stories (and maybe even get some published!). But you can’t develop your skills in a vacuum; you need fellow writers to help you along by giving you feedback and support.

Successful authors rely on writing communities, and you should too.

Find Your Short Story Writing Process

These are just three of the countless ways you can write a short story. Not only is each writer different, but each story is different.

I can guarantee that as you move through your writing career, you’ll hone your own process. And probably come across times where your own process just doesn’t work and you have to develop some other way of doing the same thing.

Short stories are a great way to experiment with the writing process, as well as experiment with structure, voice, style, tone, pretty much anything that goes into writing.

If you have no idea what your writing process is as of yet, I encourage you to try one (or all three!) of the above methods. Let’s get writing!

What short story tips help you write short stories? Let us know in the comments.

By Sarah Gribble

Source: thewritepractice.com

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Setting Description Mistakes that Weaken a Story

When you think about the key elements of storytelling, characters and plot immediately come to mind, but what about the setting? Do you view it as 1) a vital story component, or 2) just the place where story events happen?

If you picked 1, nice job. If you picked 2, no worries. Go here, scroll down, and buckle in. Reading through these setting articles will transform the way you view the setting.

The setting tied to each scene carries a lot of storytelling weight because it had the power to touch and amplify anything to do with characters, events, and emotion. Used correctly, a location can characterize the story’s cast, steer the plot, evoke emotions and mood, create windows to allow for active backstory sharing, provide conflict and challenges, and act as a mirror for what the protagonist needs most, reinforcing his motivation at every step.

When it comes down to it, the setting is storytelling magic. What other element can do so much to enhance a story?

Here are five mistakes with settings that can drain power from your story.

1) Treating The Setting Like Stage Dressing

Each setting holds great power, deepening the action as it unfolds and characterizing the story’s cast during the scene. If we only use a few words to summarize the location, it can really impact the reader’s ability to connect with the characters and what’s happening. Vivid, concrete details not only help readers feel like they’re right there, planting specific description and symbolism within the setting also adds layers to the story itself.

2) Focusing On Only One Sense

Another common struggle for writers is choosing to describe through a single sense, specifically sight. While we rely heavily on this sense in real life, our world is multisensory, and our job as writers is to make our fictional landscape as rich and realistic as the real thing.

We want to make each scene come alive for readers so they feel like they are right there next to the protagonist, experiencing the moment as he or she does. This means including sounds which add realism, smells which trigger the reader’s emotional memories and help create “shared experiences,” tastes that allow for unique exploration, and textures that will shed light on what’s important to the character through their emotional state.

Textures are especially critical to include, as a point of view character must directly interact with the setting to bring it about, and every action in the story should have purpose. What they touch should have a “why” attached to it, revealing the POV character’s mindset, and showing, rather than telling, readers what’s really important in the scene.

3) Over-Describing Or Describing The Wrong Things

Sometimes in our enthusiasm to draw readers into the scene, we go a little crazy when it comes to describing. Trying to convey every feature, every angle, every facet of the setting will not only smash the pace flat, it will likely cause the reader to skim. And, if they skim, they are missing all that great description you’ve worked so hard to include. So, to avoid over-describing or focusing on the wrong details, try to make each bit of description earn the right to be included.

It isn’t just about showing the scene—the weather, the lighting, the colors and shapes—it’s also about offering detail that does double duty somehow. Ask yourself, is the detail I want to include doing something more than showing the reader where the characters are? Is it also characterizing, evoking mood, reminding the POV character of his goal and why he wants it so bad? Is this detail creating a challenge in some way, standing between the character and his goal? Is it helping to convey his emotional state, or does it symbolize something important within the context of the story?

Setting description should always be adding to the scene, revealing more about the characters as it helps to push the story forward.

4) Not taking Advantage of POV & Emotion Filters

Another area that can water down the effect of setting description is a very distanced narrative where every detail is explained, rather than shown through the emotional filter of the POV character. A character who is anxious is going to view the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of any given setting differently than a character who is excited, or disappointed, or even filled with gratitude.

Being able to filter the character’s world through their senses and emotions helps to pull the reader close to the character, and creates a deeper understanding of who they are, laying the groundwork for empathy.

5) Choosing A Setting That Is Convenient Rather Than Meaningful

Because the setting can steer the story, evoke emotion, remind the hero or heroine of missing needs and create a window into past pain, we need to get specific when we choose a location. Three questions to ask ourselves as we hunt for the perfect place is 1) what is the outcome of this scene, 2) how can I use the setting to generate conflict and tension (good or bad) to really amp up what is about to take place, and 3), how can I create an emotional value in this setting?

Emotional values—settings which mean something to one or more characters– are especially important. For example, imagine a character who is about to be interviewed for an important job. He’s confident because he’s got the skills they need, and the experience this company covets. His potential employer decides on an informal lunch interview, and our character is eager to impress. A restaurant setting makes sense…but why would we choose just any old restaurant for this scene to take place? Instead, let’s pick the very same restaurant where our character proposed to his girlfriend two years earlier and was rejected. By having this interview take place in this particular restaurant, we have created an emotional value—it represents something to the character: rejection.

Choosing this restaurant will put our character off balance, and the echoes of his past failure will be with him during the interview. This will almost certainly affect his behavior, creating tension and conflict. Will he get the job? Will he blow the interview? The outcome is now uncertain. Take the time to choose the best location for each scene, because the storytelling currency will be well worth the effort!

The setting is a powerful component to storytelling, but only if we fully activate it. So when you choose a setting, consider carefully how the right location can amp up the tension and point the reader’s attention to the very things you want them to notice, be it a symbol in your setting, your character’s behavior because the setting is activating their emotions somehow, or a danger or obstacle tied to the setting that’s about to challenge your character and disrupt their progress to their goal.

By ANGELA ACKERMAN

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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What to Do After Writing a Book: The Do’s and Dont’s

If you’ve finished writing a first draft, you’ve accomplished something huge. You’ve brought your book idea to life and should be proud of yourself! But once the celebration dies down, you might experience a moment of silence as you look at your finished manuscript. You wonder: What comes next?

Maybe you’re not sure what you should do next, or maybe you have an idea of all the things that could follow and feel disorganized and paralyzed by all the possibilities.

The fact is, a lot of budding writers don’t think beyond the “finishing the book” part of writing.

So what is next? This article teaches you what to do after writing a book. 

My FIRST First Draft

I finished my very first first draft in 2011. It was too long (about 145K) and poorly plotted (back in the days before I learned what good writing was), though not a totally pathetic attempt for a first novel.

I sat on this book for several months, then decided to send it off to a proofreader and self publish it.

Not surprisingly, it sunk like a stone into the corners of the internet, never to be heard from again.

My SECOND First Draft

My second first draft was a bit more complicated.

I had participated and completed several NaNoWriMos, during which I wrote several short novels in the 50K-60K word range. Several of them had similar themes.

After my first book didn’t go anywhere, I took out a few of these, compile them into one, slapped a title on it, and called it a book.

As you probably guessed by now, I never rewrote any of these stories. I simply dumped them together into the semblance of a book.

This book never saw the light of day. After throwing it together, I never even bothered paying for the editing and publishing that I did for the first book. This book sat on my computer for a number of years, until the computer crashed and I lost the manuscript completely.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not especially sad about it. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t up to snuff.

My THIRD First Draft

It wasn’t until my third first draft, Headspace, that I finally humbled myself enough to learn exactly how to treat a first draft. This book is the reason I went on to write my fourth, fifth, and sixth first drafts within the span of two years.

So what changed?

What do you do after you finish writing a book? This article shares the Do’s and Don’ts that can guide any writer.

What NOT to Do After Your First Draft

Before we go into what I learned from my third book, I want to talk about a few things not to do with your first draft.

These are lessons that I learned the hard way and hope that by sharing them, you won’t have to learn them the same way.

Do NOT think of your book as “done”

A first draft is a beginning, not an end.

If you’ve never finished a book before, you may feel like you’ve reached some kind of finish line.

The more appropriate way to think is that you’ve reached the end of your first chapter. It is certainly an accomplishment but there is still plenty of work ahead.

Do NOT be afraid of editing

I was afraid of editing.

I admit it. The thought of editing so many pages seemed incredibly scary and daunting, and this is ultimately the reason I never attempted to edit my first and second book.

Editing a book for the first time can be intimidating indeed, but as I will cover later, all you need is a method and a plan.

Do NOT publish your first draft

Maybe there are some literary geniuses out there who turn out a perfect book on their first try, but realistically, that is not the case for us commoners. The majority of first drafts are not ready for literary agents, a publishing house, or even to see the light of day.

The self-publishing process is easy and available these days with services like Kindle Direct Publishing, but the fact is, ease of access do not always produce successful authors. Publishing my first draft without going through a plot editing process was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made as a writer. A first draft is a starting point, not a finished book.

Remember, writing a book doesn’t make it good, rewriting it does.

What to Do After Your First Draft

I am all about making plans. The truth is, having a plan makes me feel a lot less anxious when I have too many options or too many things to do.

If you’re anything like I used to be, lost and confused after you finish your book, trying following the steps below:

1. Take a break (but not for too long)

You’ve probably heard the advice of walking away from your book to rest your mind. This is important, but I want to add something to that—rest with purpose.

This break should not be too long because being away from the world of your story for too long may cause you to lose the momentum needed to properly edit the book. I recommend no more than two weeks.

During this time, you will find your mind wandering back to the story periodically.

You should not actively try to solve the problems within your book during this time, but there’s no way to fully keep your mind off your newly completed novel.

If something comes up, write it down and set it aside. Let your mind drift in and out of the story world without restriction. You might be surprised at what pops up.

Your goal during this period is to try to not try too hard after staying focused for so long to write your first draft.

2. Read a book

Read a book during your break. I recommend either a book on writing that preferably pertains to something you’re trying to work on in your own story—dialogue, setting, development, something else—or a book in the same genre by someone established. You can even take this time to read up on book marketing and learn how a successful book reaches its target audience.

The first gets your mind into a fixing mode, and the later helps inspire new ideas and connections. There are plenty of resources out there for whatever brain boost you might need.

Which will help relax your brain, and find new energy to tackle your story when you return to it?

3. Perform a plot treatment

I’ve gone into detail about how to create a plot treatment on the blog before. The plot treatment is very helpful to fiction writers (and may be adapted for nonfiction as well). Essentially, it is a detailed synopsis of each chapter and what you intended to happen in it. It incorporates notes from the revision list if you kept one.

As you write the plot treatment, try to keep an open mind. Be willing to make big changes and “kill your darlings,” as some say. If you have access to a developmental editor or someone who can help with structural edit, this is a good time to consult with them.

This is a space to experiment and rearrange. Keep in mind that making changes here will be a lot easier than making changes in a later draft, and having the plot treatment as a guide will make the revision process much easier.

4. Rewrite (not tweak) you story

A major mistake I made with my very first book was that I had a fundamentally wrong idea of what “editing” meant in the early stages of writing a book. I thought I had to write the entire book then tweak and fix this book a little at a time until it was perfect.

Have you tried “tweaking” a 400 page book into perfection? It doesn’t work.

At least not after the first draft. The first draft is messy and flawed, as it should be.

The first draft of a book is messy and flawed. The biggest favor you can do for your book is rewrite it.

The biggest favor you can do for your book is to rewrite it.

Start a new document, consult your plot treatment, and rewrite it fresh. This not only gives you far greater control over the story, but frees you from the constraints of what was written in the first draft.

What if you encounter a segment in the first draft that doesn’t need much fixing? Simple, copy it over to draft two.

I do this all the time. Between the plot treatment, the revision list, and being able to recycle parts of the first draft, you will find that your second draft is much smoother, easier, and less of a headache to write.

Take Your Time

I’m a firm believer in the speedy first draft. Get it down, get it out, as fast as you can before it runs away from you.

But the second draft is different. This is where you get to slow down and savor the story, really think about themes, details, and the philosophies, if any, you want to convey to your readers.

You have this luxury because your first draft and plot treatment have already provided you with a solid foundation for your entire story and laid out where the anchors for major events. No matter how messy your first draft is, your story is more grounded than before you started it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should let your second draft go on forever. I previously recommended six weeks for a first draft. For the second draft, I recommend double that time—twelve weeks, or three months.

This should allow you ample time to think, play, and really enjoy the world you created. Better, it will keep you motivated to bring your book from its first and second drafts into any future drafts, until it’s ready to publish.

What do you do after writing the first draft? Let us know in the comments.

By J. D. Edwin

Source: thewritepractice.com

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