Tag Archives: editing tips

How to Refine Your Raw Writing Talent – by Jerry B. Jenkins

Discouraging, isn’t it?

You write a few blog posts and friends sing your praises. You dream, Maybe I’ve got what it takes to score a publishing deal.

But then you run your idea and your samples past an agent, an editor, or a published author, and the music screeches to a halt. You interpret their “meh” as a scathing critique and you’re rudely awakened from your dream.

Special Note: This is a guest post by New York Times Bestselling author, Jerry B. Jenkins. Jerry’s one of the most successful authors of our time with over 70 million copies of his books sold. Visit: jerryjenkins.com

Unfortunately, I’ve seen it over and over.

Writers ask me for feedback. I believe they want real input, but when they see my suggested edits, their faces fall.

I know they were dreaming I would say, “Where have you been? How has a major publishing house not found you yet?”

They weren’t really looking for input—they were looking to be discovered.

You might have a boatload of talent—enough to tell compelling stories in fresh ways. But if you can’t accept criticism from those in the business, you’re not going to succeed.

I’ve written and published 195 books, including 21 New York Times bestsellers, yet I still need fresh eyes on my work. And I’ve had to become a ferocious self-editor.

Writing is a craft.

That means you must build your writing muscles and learn the skills.

Writing is a craft. That means you must build your writing muscles and learn the skills.

Regardless how talented you think you are, writing takes work. Many talented athletes never become pros because they believed raw talent alone would carry them.

That doesn’t have to be you, as long as you cultivate your skills.

3 Ways to Hone Your Talent

1. Read, Read, Read

Writers are readers. Good writers are good readers. Great writers are great readers.

Writing in your favorite genre? You should have read at least 200 titles in it. Learn the conventions. Know the rules you plan to break.

You’ll become aware of what works and what doesn’t. And you’ll likely see a vast difference in your writing.

2. Write, Write, Write

Dreamers talk about writing. Writers write.

Don’t expect to grow unless you’re in the chair doing it. 

Write short stuff first. Articles, blogs. Learn to work with an editor. Learn the business. Get a quarter million cliches out of your system.

3. Welcome Brutally Honest Feedback

The fastest way to shave years off your learning curve is to seek real input from someone who knows.

But be prepared. Your ego may take a bruising.

Yes—the red ink hurts. During my early years in the newspaper and magazine business, editors tore my work apart.

But it made me the writer I am today. Without that scrutiny I don’t know where I’d be, but it wouldn’t be on any bestseller lists.

Expect to be heavily edited and learn to aggressively self-edit.

Take advantage of every opportunity to grow. Assume there is always room for improvement.

I am still learning and trying to sharpen my skills, after over 50 years in this game.

By Bryan Hutchinson

Source: positivewriter.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

Book Promotion: Do This, Not That – July 2019

By Amy Collins

So many authors launch their first book (or second) before building a list of readers and fans and THEN start working on attracting readers. They labor under the false idea that they need a book FIRST and then they can start building their readership. I mean, how ELSE do you build a base of fans and readers until you have a book?

Well, Nicole Evelina, the author of The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy did just that. While she was working on her first book she decided to start drawing readers into her online “web.” This self-published author is now so popular with readers that when she has a new book coming out, thousands of rabid fans crash into each other buying her newest release.

So I asked Nicole to share with me:

  • What were some of the early steps that she took and found successful to help draw and attract readers?
  • How did she get started BEFORE she had a book?

What She Did

The first thing she said was that she blogged frequently long before the first book was out.

She is a writer of historical fiction so, like many novelists, had a lot of research from which to draw for her blog. According to Evelina, only about 1% of the research that she does for any type of book actually ends up in the book because she doesn’t want to bore her readers with all the details and stuff that makes up the backstory and fills the characters personality and experiences.

So for her, a blog was a great outlet for that. And to this day, her most trafficked pages on her website are some of those early posts where she wrote about Celtic life. She wrote blogs about the 12 types of Celtic marriage and another about the weaponry that that the Celts would have used. Another blog covered the way the Celts would cook…

That helped attract people to her that who were interested in historical elements and readers. She found that those interested in what they used to call dark ages, now call early medieval history, were often also interested in Arthurian legend because that’s the time period where it’s set.

She also actively encouraged those readers and blog subscribers to join her online in social media. By doing that on twitter and Facebook, she was able to reach out to friends and connections of her current online buddies. Her reach grew a little each day.

What She Does Now

ASK!

Just this week, I saw a post by Nicole where she said (in essence) “Hey folks, who’s got a blog, who’s got a newsletter, who can talk about my new book?” It was brilliant, she just ASKED! I watched a TON of people respond by saying YES.

Her book is now in the top 10 of historical fiction because these fans all jumped in and shared the posts, ads and recommendations she asked them to.

Because she has worked so hard to build a group of fans, she had a great response.

What We Should Do Now

We, too, can develop a team of readers who are willing to help us build our careers. This works for big-name authors and self-published authors alike…the key is ATTRACTION. There is no need to pound people over the head with a newsletter or offers to join a private fan group. It needs to be voluntary from readers. These readers/fans need to care about us and love us enough to want to support us.

Don’t be afraid of working this attraction angle…. I know every author out there has other authors that they love. If your favorite author asked you to read an early copy of their next book…. would you be willing to read it and post a review on, on a publication day or be willing to give it away on your blog, or share it on social media? Of course you would! So would your future fans. But they need to be ASKED.

We need to build our own team of fans and readers… even BEFORE our books are out. The reason this works for Nicole is because she is so genuine and real online. She spends 80% or more of her time online sharing truly personal items or asking folks about THEM. She genuinely wants to get to know people. I see her wishing folks happy birthday or offering condolences when somebody’s pet passes away… that’s a human connection, and it’s the stuff that builds fans. What does not work is pushing your book over and over.

You have heard me say this million times over: “Authors are not your competition. They’re your community.”

Join and build your community. If you do not enjoy social media, you have to figure out a way to build your community without it or learn to love it. And if you DO enjoy social media, you will enjoy a great deal of success. This is what it’s all about. Not hiding behind a typewriter or word processor. It’s about getting out there and being part of your community.

There you have it…. You CAN build your readership and fan base before you have a book. Honest. (And, you should!)

Source: thebookdesigner.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

8 Steps To Analyse A Successful Story

Bang2writers have been asking me how to analyse a story to help their writing. It’s something I recommend, because it gets us into the analytical frame of mind. This in turn helps us think about our own stories and what they need. You can read all my #B2WReviews here. 

But how do we get into this mindset? It’s worth remembering that emotion and anticipation go together. This means, the more you know (or thinkyou know), the more likely you are to be disappointed by a story. It’s just the way it goes.

Disappointment can breed negativity and that’s rarely productive for our writing. Analysing a story is neither about emotion or anticipation. Here’s the dictionary definition:

Analyse (verb): to study or examine something in detail, in order to discover more about it. 

There are some obvious key words there, in bold. Analysing a story is to look at all its parts and make a decision on how successful it is, based on the evidence available to us. Let’s go!

1) Empty Your Mind Of Preconceptions

If you want to analyse a movie, book or TV series effectively, avoid doing lots of research about it beforehand. Try not to watch trailers, or get into lengthy threads about it in advance. Empty your mind of preconceptions. Show up solely for the story and characters.

Obviously in the age of social media this will be more difficult for some stories than others. But don’t forget you can ‘mute’ key words and users. I do this all the time. I must have had about 100 social media accounts and sites muted in the months running up to Avengers Endgame being released!

2) Engage With It Alone The First Time

Lots of writers watch or read stories ‘for work’, then don’t actually do any work.! They let the story wash over them while they’re on the phones, talking, eating etc. They don’t give the story their undivided attention. OI, WRITERS, NO!

But we need to concentrate if we want to analyse. It helps then if you engage alone, at least until you get into the swing of analysing stories. If you really must go to the cinema or stream something with a friend or partner, make sure they know you’re working.

By the way, on social media watch parties, tweet-alongs and book debate threads are a thing. These are fun and the discussion they create can be really useful … IF you have watched/read the story before. Try not to do them the FIRST time, though.

3) Watch/Read In One Sitting

If you’re watching a movie or TV episode, this is obvious. Try and stay ‘in the moment’. That doesn’t mean peeing your pants if you’re desperate, but try not to leave the cinema or pause your Netflix.

The same goes for reading screenplays. Books are more of a challenge. Most need between four and six hours’ reading time, sometimes even more. If you can dedicate that amount of time, great. Do it. If you can’t, that’s obviously okay, but do try and keep your reading bursts close together so you can stay as connected to the story as possible.

4) Make Notes

I don’t mean write in-depth observations, just reminders. Stuff like:

  • Character names and role functions
  • Interesting and impactful scenes or moments
  • Genre or plotting conventions or twists you notice
  • Snippets of dialogue
  • When you feel bored

Whatever you like. The key is not to get carried away, just write ‘notes to self’ for later.

 

5) Initial Thoughts

With the story still fresh in your mind, take another look at your ‘notes to self’ from watching. Now is the time to write down  any strong emotions you feel about the story, positive or negative. I like to do this straight after finishing the movie, TV episode, script or book. Some people like to wait an hour or two. Try not to leave it any longer than this though, so it doesn’t affect the next step.

6) Revisit Those Initial Thoughts

Any strong emotions you felt about the story have probably dissipated by now. You may have changed your mind completely, or you still like or dislike it. You may discover you feel neutral. Ask yourself WHY your feelings may have changed, or stayed the same. Anything that occurs, along with anything else that may seem relevant now.

7) NOW Do Research

Now is the time to do some research on the story you’ve just watched or read. You may want to consider things like …

  • Craft. How does it bring concept, character and plotting together? Is it ‘good writing’? If so/if not, how do you know? What evidence can you provide? Maybe it is ‘bad writing’, yet it is still dramatically compelling or interesting. Maybe it breaks those supposed writing rules, but in a good way. Or maybe it appeals to some kind of universal ‘thing’ people can’t resist. What is it?
  • Who is this for? Perhaps you have watched or read something that is not ‘for’ you. But just because you did not enjoy it, does not mean it has zero value. So consider who it is for, instead. Why would the people in that target audience enjoy it?
  • Thematics & voice. What is the message, theme or point behind this story, do you think? Why o you feel this way? Is the writer well-known for a particular type of story, style or message and if so, why?
  • Production /Writing. Were there any problems in the production or audience reception of this story? If you liked it and others hated it (or vice versa), what were their reasons? Are these reasons backed up with emotion, or analysis? Were there any big changes or constraints that meant writers and filmmakers had to go another way from what they first intended?

8) Make Your Conclusion

Those who have taken B2W’s Breaking Into Script Reading course will know I believe there are two essential questions in script reading. These are ‘What’s working?’ and ‘What needs further development?’ I think this is a useful way of thinking about produced and published content, too.

With the above in mind then, I ask myself:

  • Do we know what this story is supposed to do?
  • Is it successful at what it’s supposed to do?
  • Why / why not?

I then utilise my ‘notes to self’ and initial thoughts and research to make my conclusion.

To Analyse = Evidence over Emotion

Obviously I am not saying you can’t get emotional about storytelling. As writers, we love movies, TV and books. It would be nonsensical to say we have to leave our emotions at the door. They are the lifeblood of all good storytelling.

But good analysis is about reason, not emotion. If you want to analyse a story of any kind, you must resist the urge to get angry or squee all over the place. Instead, you must collect the evidence and make a conclusion based on these things. Only then can you analyse effectively.

Here’s some B2W movie analysis to help you get into the swing of it:

25 Years Of Jurassic Park: What Can Writers Learn?

How Blade Runner 2049 Confuses All Its Critics

6 Important Writing Reminders From The Shape Of Water

How Wonder Woman Proves The Power Of Untold Stories

How IT Demonstrates The Enlightening Power Of Subtext

Why Paddington 2 Is The Best-Written Family Sequel, Ever

Good Luck!

 

By Lucy V Hay

Source: bang2write.com

 

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

The Ultimate Guide to Editing a Book

Congratulations! You’ve finished your first (or second, or fourteenth) draft, and now your baby is ready for those polishing touches that will make it truly shine. It’s time to edit your novel.

Ah, self-editing. Some writers swear by it, some writers swear it will kill them first. Either way, it must be done. Or mustn’t it?

Should I Bother Self-Editing My Book?

If you plan to self-publish, the answer is, absolutely.

If you plan to publish traditionally, the answer is, definitely.

Here’s why.

Self-publishers:
No one can truly edit their own work. Spare yourself the 1-star reviews, and have your novel edited professionally before you publish it. However, self-editing your book first helps cut down on rates. The more you do yourself, the better quote you’ll receive.

Submitters:
Yes, you will likely be assigned an editor before publication. But in order to get there, you have to catch the publisher or agent’s attention. To that end, your manuscript has to be as clean as you can make it on your own.

Before we sit down to work, let’s go over the different types of editing a book might require.

Types of Editing

A lot of work falls under the word “editing” or “revising,” but it all comes down to three types: developmental editing, line editing (also known as copyediting), and proofreading.

It’s important to identify the types of editing your novel needs–and do them in the right order. Developmental editing, for example, will probably make you revise huge blocks of text. There’s no point proofreading before you do that, because all your effort and time will go to waste.

The correct order is as listed above: developmental editing first, then copyediting, and finally proofreading.

If you’re self-publishing, you’ll need all three. If you’re submitting your manuscript, all three should be provided to you at no cost by the publishing house.

Here’s what each of them means.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editors take a deep look at the novel structure. They look for plot holes, character development, pace and suspense, tight scenes, and other story-level details.

Self-editing on this level is almost impossible. It’s the Curse of Knowledge: you’re too close to the narrative, you know the facts too well, and you can’t imagine how new readers would perceive the story. Is it clear enough? Entertaining? Suspenseful? Engaging? You’re the wrong person to answer these questions.

You can find professional, hand-vetted developmental editors over at Reedsy.

If that option for editing your book is a bit too pricey for you, you can find developmental editors on non-vetted platforms such as Guru, Upwork, and Fiverr.

Either way, be careful to interview your candidates and make sure they are masters of your genre.

Developmental editing rates for fiction manuscripts run anywhere from $0.03/word to $0.90/word. Some editors quote by page. The standard page has 250 words, so costs are usually $7.50 to $22.50 per page.

For example, a YA Fantasy manuscript usually runs about 60,000 words. Be prepared to spend at least $1800 on developmental edits.

Pricey? Yes. Worth it? Oh yes. The right developmental editor can make or break your novel.

Line Editing / Copyediting

At this level of editing the manuscript, story is no longer an issue. Language is. But not usage and spelling issues. Copywriters look at your voice, word-choice, paragraph and sentence structure, readability, and so on.

This is something you can and should do on your own! Do it before you send your book to be professionally edited, and all the more before you submit your novel anywhere.

Expect to pay $0.012/word to $0.02/word. Per page, the cost will be $3 to $5.

For a 60,000-word manuscript, that’s about $1,020.

Proofreading

The last but not least editing pass will weed out grammar and spelling errors, typos, inconsistency in names, and the likes. It’s a language-only pass.

Expect to pay about $0.01/word to $0.015/word. That would be $2.50 to $3.75 per page.

The same 60,000-word manuscript would cost about $720.

Some professional editors will lump line editing and proofreading under the same service. This combined service should cost about $0.02/word to $0.03/word. That would be $5 to $7.5 per page.

Getting Ready to Edit a Novel

Four more steps before we tackle the checklists.

  1. Let your manuscript breathe. Put it aside once you finish writing it (Stephen King recommends 6 weeks). This pause will let you come back to it with a clearer view. Instead of remembering what each word should say, you’ll be more able to see what each word actually says. Then you can judge if it works or not.
  2. Arm your vision. Install Grammarly, ProWritingAid, or a similar piece of software to help you catch grammar and spelling issues. They’re not enough, but they’re absolutely a good beginning. (Both Grammarly and ProWritingAid have free versions, but ProWritingAid’s is more limited.)
  3. Arm your ears. Install or bookmark a text-to-speech service to help you catch spelling errors, typos, repetitive sentence structure, overly long sentences, and so on. Natural Reader is a good free choice, for example.
  4. Pace yourself. Don’t attempt to edit huge blocks of text every day. The more tired you are, the more issues you’ll miss. Then you’ll just have to re-edit your work on the next day. Take frequent breaks to stretch, close your eyes, or do some deep breathing. This will boost your efficiency.

Now that you’re ready, let’s get to editing!

Self-Editing Checklist for Line Editing (Copyediting)

  • In every scene, make sure the reader knows who the POV character is, what characters are present, and where the characters are situated in relation to each other. Don’t dump this information in bulk. Instead, sprinkle it over some dialog and action.
  • If you’re writing a limited POV (first person or third-person limited), stop after every sentence and ask yourself: Can my POV character know/hear/think/see these details? For example, a character cannot see the color of its own eyes or the expression on its own face. Edit out whatever your POV character can’t perceive.
  • When you write a description, make sure it plays on all five senses (unless your character can’t sense that way). Go for the unusual details: the smell of dust in the air of a construction site; the cool, dry air of a well-maintained library; the explosive taste of sun sugar tomatoes on a pizza.
  • For limited POV, ask yourself after every description: Would my POV character notice these details? Would my POV character care about these details? Edit out or downplay whatever your POV character won’t bother focusing on. For example, if your POV character is fashion-blind, he probably won’t notice someone’s blazer cut—he might not even know it’s a blazer rather than a jacket.
  • Also for limited POV, make sure you describe objects and places not the way they are, but the way your POV character would perceive them. For example, if someone at a café is working on a new laptop, a poor character wouldn’t describe its model and maker. She’d describe it as a sleek laptop she could never afford herself.
  • Make sure each paragraph has a single key idea. If there’s more than one idea in a paragraph, break it into as many paragraphs as needed.
  • Generally speaking, keep the page “airy” with white space. Huge blocks of text scare away readers. To avoid that, vary your paragraph length, and use large paragraphs sparingly.
  • In dialog, start a new paragraph whenever someone begins speaking. Different speakers should not be in the same paragraph unless they’re talking at the same time, kind of like this: “I know what you did,” Jeremy said at the same moment that Louisa said, “I don’t care.”
  • If your dialog runs long, break it up with action that reconnects the characters with their environment. Otherwise, you’ll get the “floating head” syndrome, where the reader loses all sense of the scene except for the dialog itself. Have your characters interact with objects around them as they talk. We humans rarely remain at complete rest during conversation.
  • Destroy all exclamation points outside of dialog. An exclamation point, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, is like laughing at your own joke.
  • Use varying sentence lengths. Keep most of your sentences short-to-medium, with only the occasional long, winding sentence in between.
  • Use varying grammatical structures. “He verbed” can only get you so far. But steer clear of the “Verbing, he verbed” structure (for example, “Sitting, he looked at…”). For one, it sounds amateurish. For another, if you use it a few times, it sounds conspicuously repetitive.
  • If you do use “Verbing, he verbed,” only do it when the two actions are supposed to happen at the same time. That’s what this structure means. If one action is supposed to take place before the other, use a different structure.
  • In 99% of all cases, use the active voice: “I ate the cookies,” rather than, “the cookies were eaten.” Apply the Zombie Test if you’re not sure—try adding “by zombies!” after the action. If it sounds right (albeit hilarious), that’s the passive voice. Change it to the active.
  • Use a word frequency counter to weed out overused words. Readers will start noticing these after a while, and it will throw them off. You can use a free online counter such as Word Counter.
  • Weed out most adverbs and replace them with stronger verbs. If he talked loudly, he shouted or called out. If she walked quickly, she strode. If he ate fast, he gobbled down the food. In addition to manually catching adverbs, run a search for “ly” and double-check those words.
  • Weed out weak words such as very, almost, nearly, suddenly, started to, began to, really.  They add little to the narrative.
  • Weed out weak sentence structures. Watch out especially for sentences that begin with “There was,” “There is,” “It was,” “It is,” etc. Use them sparingly.
  • Weed out filter words, such as “think,” “see,” “hear,” etc. when they are outside of dialog. Instead of “Johnny heard her scream,” use simply, “She screamed.” The fact that you mention it implies that Johnny is hearing it.
  • Weed out 99% of “that,” “things,” and “stuff.” Use precise words instead, unless you deliberately want to sound vague.
  • Watch out for “Saidism,” the excessive use of “said” synonyms. Use “said” or action tags most of the time. Only when the tone cannot be inferred from the words, consider using a different verb. For example, Nicky can say, “To hell with you!”  There’s no need to shout it, because the exclamation mark is enough of a shout.

Self-Editing Checklist for Proofreading

  • Start by running your manuscript through Grammarly, ProWritingAid, or the like. Don’t automatically accept every suggestion, but do consider every suggestion to see what’s unclear about your phrasing.
  • Next, run your manuscript through the text-to-voice software of your choice. Listen to the narrator closely. If you find it hard to focus on sounds while you read, put away the manuscript and just listen. If there’s anything that sounds even a bit off, pause the narrator and check your manuscript. Keep an ear out for overly long sentences, too.
  • Search for known trouble-makers:
      • Their (belonging to them) / they’re (short for “they are”) / there (that way, in that location)
      • Farther (more distant) / further (more advanced)
      • Affect (a verb meaning “to influence”) / effect (a noun meaning “a result”)
      • Who (like “he”) / whom (like “him”) / whose (like “his”) / who’s (short for “who is”)
      • Its (belonging to it) / it’s (short for “it is”)
      • That (refers to inanimate objects) / who (refers to people)
      • Then (“at that time,” or “next”) / than (used for comparison)
      • Lose (the opposite of “to win”) / loose (the opposite of “tight”)
      • There are no such things as “alot” (it’s “a lot”) and “infact” (it’s “in fact”).
      • There are many more. If you’re unsure about any word in your manuscript, look it up in the context of a sentence example to make sure you get it right.
  • Search and replace all double spaces. They are relics of a publishing world long-gone. In your word-processing software, start a new “Search and Replace.” In the search phrase box, hit the spacebar twice. In the replace phrase box, hit the spacebar once. Select “Replace All.”
  • Print out the manuscript and read it carefully. Highlight errors and typos. Write comments on post-it notes and stick them directly onto the relevant page.
  • Mind how you capitalize and punctuate dialog.
  • Keep your tenses consistent. If you’re writing the story in the past tense, present-tense verbs have no place in it.
  • Scene break? Use an extra empty line, or centered asterisks (* * *), or a single centered pound sign (#).

A Note on Editing a Book

Remember, no one can completely self-edit his or her own manuscript. You’re bound to miss things. That’s okay. Self-editing is not meant to replace professional editing by a fresh set of eyes. Its job is to increase your chances with traditional publishers–or to save money when hiring a professional editor for self-publishing.

And finally, learn to enjoy, or even love, editing. Think of it as a golden opportunity to squeeze the most juice out of every word you use in your novel, or to sharpen the arrow which you will fire into your readers’ hearts. Make the most of it, and it will make the most of your novel.

By Tal Valante

Source: refiction.com

 

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101 Sci-Fi Tropes For Writers

Writers Write is your one-stop writing resource. Writers can use this list of 101 sci-fi tropes to add some Zap! to their writing.

Science Fiction is the computer geek of the fantasy genre. It is also filled with tropes.

What is a trope?

A trope is a commonly used literary device. It can be a cliché and it can be used well.

Sci-fi tropes are everywhere. For example, “beaming” up to the Enterprise in Star Trek is a Trope used by the writer of the show, Gene Roddenberry, to save money on expensive space shuttle sets. It has become iconic and people would miss it if it was taken out of the show.

How is it used?

Tropes are used as shorthand to explain complicated things. For example, Light-Speed is used to explain a complicated way of travelling through space very quickly. If you do this you don’t have to waste words trying to educate your reader when you want to get on with the plot.

101 Sci-Fi Tropes Writers Should Use

These are very common Sci-Fi tropes used in successful books and series. I have taken them from TV shows you may know and 100-year-old books you probably won’t. Regardless, many of these are used every day to make the books and TV we all love to read and watch.

By reading these, you will be inspired to create your own work. You should add a twist to any old idea to make it seem new. But, old tropes die hard and that’s because they are too good to be forgotten.

  1. Faster than light is the bread and butter of all space travel in Sci-Fi. Breaking the rules of physics is often the best way to get your character from planet to planet.
  2. Techno Babble is speaking in high-tech tongues and it solves any problem the crew is currently having. “Reverse the polarity, the Glib-Glops are weak to theta radiation!”
  3. All artificial intelligences are evil. Especially the good ones.
  4. Chekhov’s Egg is like Chekhov’s Gun but directed by Ridley Scott. If you introduce an alien egg to the story it must hatch and eat someone by the third act.
  5. Alternative universes want to invade our own.
  6. Alternative universes contain evil versions of your characters.
  7. Alternative universes warn your universe of a devastating threat.
  8. Travelling to distant stars is very difficult and takes generations.
  9. Travelling to distant stars is very difficult and requires Cryosleep to get there.
  10. Travelling to distant stars is very difficult and is done by AI and robots while the humans sleep.
  11. Someone always wakes up to early from Cryosleep. Asteroids are usually involved.
  12. A ship is found with people who have been in Cryosleep for thousands of years adrift in space. Because they crashed into the asteroid.
  13. A ship is found where people have forgotten how their technology works and must be saved.
  14. The people who wake up are evil, but seem nice at first.
  15. The people who wake up are the last survivors of a once great civilisation and impart wisdom.
  16. The survivors of the once great civilisation die from the common cold before telling anyone the meaning of life.
  17. Space travel is very easy and takes no time at all.
  18. Space travel is very fast, but is very dangerous.
  19. Space travel is dangerous because it passes through an evil realm filled with monsters.
  20. Space travel requires a navigator to have magical powers to plot a course. Possibly, to avoid deadly asteroids.
  21. Space travel requires a navigator to take drugs to see the future. These drugs only come from one planet. Everyone is fighting over them.
  22. Space travel needs a special kind of computer or droid to plot a course and it takes time to calculate.
  23. Ships travel faster than light speed through real/normal space.
  24. Ships travel though hyper-space which is another dimension.
  25. Ships use Warp gates to travel through wormholes.
  26. Warp Gates were created by a long dead civilisation.
  27. Humans discover these gates and have adventures through them.
  28. Aliens are kind, intelligent push-overs and humans are destroying their worlds.
  29. Aliens are evil, brutal godlike beings trying to enslave humans.
  30. Aliens want to eat humans.
  31. Aliens want to lay eggs in humans.
  32. Aliens want humans to help them with a problem they are too “evolved” to solve.
  33. It turns out humans were the aliens all along.
  34. Humans were the aliens all along but they evolved into a different species.
  35. Humans use technology to evolve into a post-human civilisation.
  36. Humans use technology to ascend to a state of pure energy.
  37. Humans use spiritual nonsense to become beings of pure light and love.
  38. Humans use psychic powers to become one godlike over-mind.
  39. Humans once had these great powers, but lost them when the war with the robots/aliens happened.
  40. They now live under a god emperor keeping them from evolving too fast.
  41. The god emperor was an alien all along and the humans must rebel!
  42. The god emperor was a super-computer the humans forgot they made and they must figure out why.
  43. The super-computer had to do whatever the humans wanted it to do all along.
  44. The super-computer was keeping them safe from aliens.
  45. The super-computer was built to keep aliens safe from humans.
  46. Two species of humans evolve and are at war.
  47. They are fighting over ancient crimes.
  48. They are fighting over philosophical points.
  49. One is racist.
  50. One eats the other.
  51. One is technological and the other is super-religious.
  52. Space is empty and humans are the first species.
  53. Space is empty and humans start filling up the galaxy.
  54. Humans make aliens.
  55. They must fight these aliens. Possibly because they didn’t do a good enough job making them.
  56. Space is filled with aliens.
  57. Most are like humans with funny ears.
  58. Most are horrible eldritch monsters humans can’t even begin to understand.
  59. Turns out the humans are the real monsters. The aliens were just trying to save our environment.
  60. Humans and aliens hate each other and do nothing but have never-ending wars. Usually for the god emperor’s glory.
  61. Humans and aliens live together, drink together and have mixed species children. He becomes the captain’s pointy-eared best friend.
  62. Humans are less advanced then other races and are treated like children.
  63. Humans resent aliens for treating them like children and start a galaxy wide genocide using the aliens own technology.
  64. Humans work hard to be as advanced as the other species and become accepted as part of them. Perhaps in some sort of commonwealth?
  65. Space is full of Pirates.
  66. And Smugglers. The Important difference is that smugglers make better anti-heroes.
  67. Space pirates are a plague and the heroes must fight them.
  68. Space pirates are cool and help the rebels fight the evil Empire.
  69. Humans use nano-technology to make very small useful robots that can do anything.
  70. Oh, No! They became sentient.
  71. They want to replicate, consuming all matter they come into contact with.
  72. They want to be more human and build human bodies and start pretending to eat avocado toast.
  73. The humans defeat them using an ancient weapon left by a long dead race.
  74. The humans program them to be nice and become friends.
  75. Humans make copies of their minds.
  76. Humans clone themselves.
  77. Humans put their minds in the clones to live forever.
  78. Something goes wrong. Humans can’t have children anymore because of too much cloning.
  79. They must find non-clone humans to fix this. But that was thousands of years ago.
  80. They need time travel to fix this.
  81. They go through a wormhole/black hole to go back to the past.
  82. They recalibrate the deflector dish to emit tachyons to travel back in time.
  83. They can only send their minds back in time.
  84. Going back in time cannot change the future and they can do whatever they want.
  85. Going back in time means they have to be careful not to change the future.
  86. They change the past and come back to a different future.
  87. They must go back and fix their mistake.
  88. The space senate has blockaded all time travel.
  89. The heroes must get past the blockade in a stolen ship.
  90. The stolen ship turns out to be alive.
  91. It’s also pregnant and needs their help to save its child.
  92. The heroes must argue about the ethics of what they are doing until they are forced to take action.
  93. They turn out to be right and everything works out.
  94. They are wrong and they just helped an evil space wizard start a galactic civil war.
  95. The heroes spend the whole show arguing about ethics and nothing happens.
  96. The heroes decide that other races have different ethics and they should not interfere.
  97. They say ‘Screw their ethics. Ours are better!’ and interfere.
  98. This fixes the problem and the space people are happy with their new American constitution.
  99. The space people start a holy war to kill all humans.
  100. The space people and the humans fight until they have destroyed each other and nobody left alive remembers what happened.
  101. The war between the space people and the humans turned out to be a cold war allegory all along. They eventually make up over some red space wine and a plate of gross space worms.

I hope you had fun reading this list of sci-fi tropes and that it gives you ideas for your books.

By Christopher Dean

Source: writerswrite.co.za

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Limiting the Number of Characters

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig 

This is the second post in a short series about making our lives easier as writers. One thing that I’ve tried to be more conscious of as the years have gone by is limiting the number of characters I introduce in a story or series.

With a cozy mystery series, for example, the field of characters is already going to be pretty crowded. You have a sleuth and a sidekick and around five suspects. And then you have recurring characters: friends and family of the sleuth and  some sort of police presence.

The more characters we add, the harder it is for readers to keep up.  And we run the risk of not having the space to make the characters more than one-dimensional.

One bit of advice is not to name every single character in your book.  The waitress at the diner can just be the waitress.  If we name her, we may be making her role in the story seem more important than it is…and leave readers trying to remember another name.

Another tip is to evaluate the number of characters you’re introducing. For my new series, I took a look to see if it was possible to combine roles.  In one instance I could, which just meant that a character needed to help out with a cat rescue at the beginning of the book.

More reading about combining character roles can be found here:

Clare Langley-Hawthorne’s “A Cast of Thousands

If you do have a large cast of characters even after combining roles, there are ways to help readers keep track of them. It’s a good idea to make characters distinguishable from each other by using quirks, diction, and recurring details about their physical appearance as reminders.

You can also tag supporting characters who haven’t been on stage for a while (Jane’s hairdresser, Sheri, opened the door). Or: Sheri walked in. “Long day at the beauty parlor, y’all. Three customers didn’t show up!”

More information on working with large casts of characters can be found here:

September C. Fawkes’ “Working With a Large Cast of Characters

As a reader, do you ever have trouble keeping up with a lot of characters?  As a writer, how do you try to help readers keep up (I’ve seen some books with a ‘cast of characters’ list at the front)?

Source: elizabethspanncraig.com

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Seven Common Problems Writers Have With Characters

Most writers love creating characters and writing about them – but it can be a struggle to get characters right.

If you’re normally quite plot-focused, you might find yourself creating characters who are lifeless “pegs” that fit into the right-shaped spaces in your plot.

If you’re much more character-focused, you might struggle with the size of your cast (more isn’t always better!) … or you might find it really difficult to let your characters suffer and struggle.

In today’s post, we’re going to look at seven common problems that writers struggle with … and some ways to get past them.

Problem #1: Creating Characters Who Are Three-Dimensional

If you’ve been writing fiction for a while, you’ve probably come across the advice to avoid writing “flat” or “two-dimensional” characters. These are characters who don’t really seem to come alive. They might seem a bit boring, thin, or shallow to the reader: there’s no real depth to them.

This can be a tricky issue to spot in your own writing – but if you’ve been told that your characters seem “flat” or unengaging, or if you suspect that characterisation isn’t your strong point, you might want to:

  • Spend some time really thinking about your characters. Who are they, deep down? What’s happened in their past that’s shaped them? How have the events of your novel impacted them?
  • Let your characters have moments when they act in ways the reader doesn’t expect. Maybe your sweet, nice protagonist gets pushed too far and shouts at someone; maybe your grumpy mentor figure shows their kindly side.
  • Show your character changing throughout your story. Perhaps your protagonist really is shallow and boring at the start of your novel – but the things that happen to them, and their reactions, lead them to grow as a person.

Not all characters need to be well-rounded, of course. Characters who only appear briefly and aren’t important to the plot shouldn’t be too fleshed-out (or your reader will start to think that the taxi driver or waitress or bank manager are more important to the plot than they actually are). In some genres, too, flat characters make sense: comic characters might be known for one or two funny or exaggerated characteristics, and don’t necessarily need to be rounded out.

Further Reading: Three-Dimensional Characters: 3 Ways to Create One, Writes With Tools

Problem #2: Juggling a Cast of Multiple Characters

Some stories have a tight, focused cast of characters – but others are sprawling epics. (Game of Thrones, anyone?)

If you’ve got lots of characters – particularly lots of main or viewpoint characters – then it can get tricky for your reader to keep track of everyone. It can also create problems with the reader’s engagement: perhaps they really enjoy reading about two of your characters, but they’re not very interested in the other six that you keep bringing in.

To thin down your cast a little, it’s worth asking yourself whether you really need so many characters. Do you have to bring in two brothers for your protagonist, or would one be enough? Does that grumpy woman who lives down the hall have any real impact on the plot?

Walk-on parts don’t count here. No-one’s going to be bothered by you having a taxi driver to get your characters from A to B, or a bartender to serve them, or a cashier at the bank to tell them they’re overdrawn. Avoid naming these characters, and readers will assume they won’t recur (and thus won’t need keeping track of).

If you do need to stick with lots of characters, it helps to:

  • Introduce them in small batches. Don’t open your novel with a huge party scene where you introduce all ten of your key characters – the reader’s going to end up confused and overwhelmed.
  • Group them together in some way. It can be easier for readers to remember and keep track of characters if they’re partnered up or in small groups (e.g. perhaps a married couple, a family unit, colleagues, and so on).
  • Give a bit more information when characters reappear than you normally would – e.g. you might need to remind us that Jason is Sarah’s colleague, for instance, or have characters referring back to the incident that was taking place in the last scene in which we saw them.

Further reading: The 10 Rules of Writing Large Casts of Characters, K.M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become Authors

Problem #3: Letting Characters Solve Their Own Problems

This is can be more of a plot issue than a character one, in terms of your writing. If your plot involves your characters being rescued by coincidence, an outside force, or someone who isn’t in your main cast, then your readers will feel frustrated or even cheated.

This is particularly true at the ending of your story. We want characters to earn their happy ending: we don’t want the hero to succeed simply because the (normally competent) villain makes a blindingly stupid mistake.

If your characters are constantly being rescued by other people, or if their successes rely on a change of coincidences, look for ways to let them solve their problems through their own strength or wit.

This problem might be related to the next one, too, if you hate to let your characters struggle.

Further reading: How to correctly use a “Deus-Ex-Machina” and not die trying, Duilio Giordano Faillaci, Medium

Problem #4: Making Bad Things Happen to Your Characters

Without your characters facing problems … there’s not much of a story. Your main characters, particularly your protagonist, need to go through some difficult, sad, or downright painful events.

Depending on your genre, this could mean a lot of different things. The heroine in a romance might not suffer any physical injuries – but she might well be upset or hurt by a love interest, or might be distressed by a broken-off engagement.

In many genres, there’ll be all sorts of bad things that happen to your characters. They might be hunted by a serial killer (crime), they might be haunted by something strange and inexplicable that’s happening to them (mystery), or they might be running for their life or trying to save the world (adventure).

As a writer, it can be difficult to allow anything bad to happen to your characters. Remember, though, that if your characters effortlessly sail through the story without any sort of upset or harm, readers aren’t going to find it particularly engaging.

Let your characters get hurt, let them be miserable, and especially let them face up to the consequences of their actions.

Further reading: Making Bad Things Happen to Good Characters, Ali Luke, Aliventures

Problem #5: Giving Characters Realistic Flaws

I hinted at this in the last section: your characters, even the good ones, should have flaws that cause them to do things that complicate the story for them. This can often be a core part of your character’s growth.

If you have an irritable protagonist with a hair-trigger temper, perhaps they snap at their best friend one too many times … and their friend stops speaking to them.

If you have a character who’s a daring adrenalin-seeker, perhaps something goes wrong with their motorcycle stunt – and they get hurt. (Or worse, someone else does.)

Flaws also make your characters more realistic, and they help us empathise with them. Characters who are too perfect are usually two-dimensional (see #1) and they can be annoying or just hard to engage with.

Further reading: How to Craft Brilliant Flawed Characters (a #StorySocial recap), Kreisten Kieffer, Well-Storied

Problem #6: Allowing Characters to Strive for a Goal

Your characters, particularly your protagonist, should have a goal that they’re trying to achieve. This might be something fairly small – and, if something bad has happened right at the start of the novel, it might simply involve returning to the status quo.

Often, your character’s initial goal isn’t the one they’ll end up striving toward during the rest of your novel. Perhaps they’re chasing a promotion at work, or trying to pass an exam, or preparing for a trip abroad. Their goal might be ditched or superseded by the events of the plot (e.g. the exam suddenly seems much less important when the person they love most falls mysteriously ill, and doctors are at a loss to help).

Make sure your character has something that they want to achieve (or to avoid – e.g. getting fired) right from the start of your story. This helps us to root for them – and encourages us to keep reading to see whether they get the thing they want.

Further reading: Most Common Writing Mistakes: Characters Who Lack Solid Story Goals, K.M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become Authors

Problem #7: Reining Characters In

Finally, this is a problem that some writers can have – particularly those who don’t tend to create an outline. (Not that I’m knocking that: my first drafts are very exploratory and I pretty much never have a full-blown outline in place.)

Some writers feel that their characters “take over” or “come alive” and send scenes spiralling off in unexpected directions. While that can be a fun way to write – and potentially a great way to come up with new ideas or plot twists – it can also end up with your scenes devolving into a bit of a meandering mess.

If you feel that your characters take over in this way, it’s worth drawing a clear distinction between bits of writing you’re doing that are intended to be exploratory, and bits that are part of the plot. Maybe you have a rough draft of a scene where your protagonist goes off in a direction you really didn’t plan – that doesn’t mean you have to stick with it!

If it becomes clear that your original plan wouldn’t be in keeping with your character’s personality, then you might need to look for ways to nudge them back onto the “right” path. This could mean throwing extra complications into the mix – either to prod them toward further action (if your characters mostly like to sit around, drink tea, and have a nice chat) or to rein them in (if your characters tend to do outlandish things that are hard to come back from).

Further reading: When Characters Go Their Own Way, Juliet Marillier, Writer Unboxed

Getting characters right can be really hard – but also very much worthwhile. I’m sure you can think of characters who’ve stuck with you for years after you read about them – characters who you loved like friends.

Source: aliventures.com

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Short Stories as Mini-Trilogies: Can it Work?

By Sarah Dahl, @sarahdahl13

Part of the Focus on Short Fiction Series

JH: Just because they’re short, doesn’t mean they can’t tell a long story. Today in our series “Focus on Short Fiction” Sarah Dahl returns to talk about writing trilogies – in the short form.

Technically, short stories have less time and space for everything: fewer characters, less world building, simpler arcs and subplots. Most times, there are no subplots, of course, and world building has to be spot-on: You need to create a sense of the people and place with just a few strokes of your pen. The drama is usually focused on one plotline and has one climax, very late in the story. Mastering this craft is mastering setup, timing and arcs, characters and resolution within as little space as possible. Writing short means writing without all the fluff and concluding absolutely on point.

But what if you have more to say about a character and his journey than fits into one short story? Can you write short stories that are connected, that carry on? Or let’s say: a mini-series, a trilogy that people can actually enjoy as such?

Giving more room – Do the story justice

To create a connected mini-trilogy or series you need to adhere to the rules of writing short for each individual story: be precise, on point, and conclude satisfactorily each time.

Do you feel a topic or characters you created for one short story only deserve to live on? Could you write a meaningful sequel – or ideally round it all up as a trilogy?

Here’s what happened to me: I only wrote my trilogy about Viking warriors Aldaith and Nyssa as a fun exercise without intention to even publish their first story. And I didn’t ever imagine that story to evolve into a trilogy.

I wrote their first encounter – “The Current – A Battle of Seduction” – after a brainstorming session with my writing buddy, to kill some block and boredom. No pressure of publication, just to keep writing something. I fancied the idea of a steamy game between two bloody, exhausted, adrenaline-pumped warriors: a bold shieldmaiden cornering and seducing a self-assured warrior. I wanted to rediscover the fun in writing sassy characters. And created an irresistible pair.

Two things happened: The exercise became a wonderfully sexy, fast-paced read with an outstanding female character. Nyssa is strong and fierce; she slays men on the battlefield and “in bed” (or in this case: a stream). Likewise, many readers fell for the confident yet vulnerable warrior Aldaith. They loved the dynamic between the pair. Without planning it, I had created an extraordinary couple whose story had only just begun.

Just like my eager readers, I felt there would be more depths to discover with these two, and that the roughly 8,000 words didn’t do them justice. So what I originally imagined to be a mere exercise and stand-alone suddenly needed at least a sequel.

More than just sequels – Planning a trilogy

The second thing that happened was: I edited and published the story I never planned to publish, and with publication the question of “form” became more important. To write just one sequel to “The Current” felt incomplete and random. A rounded-up trilogy with a starting story, middle development story, and ending story would be more enticing. Like throwing spotlights on the characters’ main turning points. Readers who fell for my couple would be able to follow their story further and to a satisfactory conclusion.

It took several inspirational walks in the forest to discover Nyssa and Aldaith’s complete story. In their second story (which I planned to be of a similar length, for balance and focus) I wanted to show proper development, on a much tighter scale. Their story in “The Current” started as a playful game of seduction to release post-battle tension. A hot game with an unexpected ending. Now what next?

Of course they wouldn’t be able to forget. They would fall for each other. They would yearn to be with the other in more ways than just for fun and fighting.

So I wondered: what would be a turning point for them, from fling to true lovers?

For story 2, I had to find the most emotional turning point, to zoom in on the point in their journey that propelled their relationship to something much more, life-changingly more.

What happened then was the story “Bonds”.

Zooming in on milestones and turning points

Nyssa and Aldaith are literally swept away by passion and adrenaline in “The Current”. Their sensual game is an outlet and attempt to reconnect with reality and feel more human again.

Then in “Bonds” I show how that passion changes its form, from loose fling to committed lovers. They discover the depth of their love and how that is a double-edged sword: They find their unbreakable bond – but also are now “bound” to each other in ways that could hinder their warrior lifestyle. For the first time, they know fear. The revelation hits them at the worst time possible: when relentlessly, and seductively, training for an upcoming battle.

Three parts of a trilogy – Make it three acts

So without planning it in advance (but you can do that of course, and I recommend it! ;-)) I laid out my first two stories like this: “The Current” introduces the protagonists, their world and views, and drops them in the middle of some steamy action. Similar to how you would start a novel, but more to the point and faster paced.

“Bonds” now forms what would be the middle section of a book, where the characters grow, make progress, but due to their fears reach a point of no return that complicates things and forces them to choose.

Naturally, story 3 would have to contain a major setback and the final push of my characters to a fulfilling climax and resolution of their journey. What went from fling to lovers needed to become “love of their life”.

Many inspirational walks later I connected dots from the previous two stories, and out came: “Battles”. In this concluding story the warriors face battles on many levels: They stand in the shield wall, but a devastating turning point lets them question everything they knew in life. They battle fear, pain, and unwelcome decisions. In the end, their lives are summarized with the help of modern voices: I inserted intersections of contemporary archaeologists discovering their graves, and with that the secret of what came after the last, life-changing decision the two made.

“The Current – A Battle of Seduction”:

Marked from the latest battle, Viking warrior Aldaith wants to recover by a stream. But instead of finding solitude, he stumbles on the fearless shield maiden Nyssa. The fierce beauty invites Aldaith into the water to engage in a very different kind of battle – one for which his training leaves him unprepared.

“Bonds – Under the Armour”:

Viking warrior Aldaith and his shield maiden Nyssa engage in a heated skirmish to prepare for an imminent battle. But the looming slaughter makes their sensual duel get out of hand in more ways than one …

“Battles – Sacrifices for Love”:

Shoulder to shoulder, in life, love, and the battlefield – that is what Viking warrior Aldaith and his shield maiden Nyssa promised each other. On their way to the battleground he dreams of their very own sensual rewards after the upcoming campaign. But what begins as just another shield wall turns out to be the ultimate test of their bond. This battle might be their last …

Telling more than fits one short story

So in the span of just three shortish stories unfolds what normally would take up a whole book, just without ANY fluff and subplots. Just introduction, middle part, ending. Of course this structure is much simpler and to the point. What normally happens over hundreds of pages has to be shown with the help of spotlights on the major turning points only. But it works, because I loosely applied three acts and an arc that spanned the three stories. Three stories instead of one gives some space for character development and depth that would not fit into one short story or even fit the FORM of shorter stories as such. And still, they can be read individually too, because there are satisfying endings to each.

To plot or to pants – use arcs

All this is a lot to pull off and get right, and to be honest, I didn’t plot it all. I took step by step and crafted the stories in line with the rough idea of having good character arcs: one in each story so that it could stand alone, and one for the trilogy of all three stories. End every short story with a revelation that furthers the entire plotline and leads to the next story. This may sound harder than it was for me, because I didn’t think so much about it (I’m a pantser anyway) but just followed my instinct about what would be most interesting to zoom in on with these two.

The themes for each story now read like this: opening up to someone (making yourself vulnerable) / Falling deep for each other (discovering the fear that comes with love) / Making major sacrifices for each other (overcoming that fear together). Or simply: from fling to lovers to love of their lives.

Over to you: do you write short works, or “shorts”? Would you like to develop one further, into more? Have you thought about writing a mini-series or trilogy with shorts? Would you like to read such a mini-trilogy?

Source: blog.janicehardy.com

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How to Develop Your Best Novel Writing Ideas

Writing a novel is no small task. In fact, it’s a momentous task. Some writers spend years eking out a first draft, followed by years of revisions. And that’s before they even think about the grueling publishing process.

In other words, you’re going to spend a lot of time with your novel. So you better love it. No, wait — loving it is not enough. You have to be in love with it. You have to be obsessed with it. Committed to it.

It’s normal to lose interest when you’re on your tenth revision, but if you’re losing interest in your plot or characters while writing your first or second draft, the problem might not be you or your novel. The problem might be that you tried to commit to something you didn’t love. That’s never a good idea.

For many writers, the trick to sticking with a novel is actually quite simple: find an idea that grips you.

Get in Touch with Your Passions

Before you chase every crazy idea into the ground, stop and take a breath. Think about what moves you: books you couldn’t put down, movies you’ve watched dozens of times, TV shows you couldn’t stop talking about, and songs you played so many times, you’re sure they have bonded with your DNA.

By identifying your passions, you can figure out what makes you tick, and that’s a great start to your quest for novel writing ideas that you can really sink your teeth into.

All your past and present obsessions hold the clues to your future commitment to your own novel. Pay close attention to your preferences for genre, theme, setting, style, character archetypes and above all — emotional sensibility. Make lists of what you love about your favorite stories, and soon you’ll see the shape of your own novel start to emerge.

Generate and Gather Plenty of Novel Writing Ideas

Once you’ve made some general decisions about the novel you’re going to write, it’s time to start generating specific ideas.

Of course, the best novel writing ideas come out of nowhere. You’re on your hands and knees scrubbing the floor and suddenly that big magic bulb over your head lights up. Or maybe you have so many ideas, you don’t know where to start. It’s even possible that you’re aching to write a novel but are fresh out of ideas. Your mind feels like a gaping void.

Actually, story ideas are everywhere. The trick is to collect a variety of ideas, and let them stew while you decide which one is worth your effort. Here are some quick tips for generating ideas:

  • Hit the bookstore or library and jot down some of your favorite plot synopses. Then rework the details to transform these old plots into fresh ideas for new stories. Try combining different elements from your favorite stories. And use movie synopses too!
  • Load up on fiction writing prompts and develop each prompt into a short (one page) summary for a story.
  • Harvest some creative writing ideas from the news.
  • Grab a subplot from your favorite movie or TV show — a story line that wasn’t fully explored — and make it the central story problem.

Create a stash file for your ideas. It can be a folder on your computer or a box you fill with 3×5 index cards. You can also write all these ideas in a notebook. Just make sure you keep them together so you can easily go through them.

Let Your Novel Writing Ideas Marinate

Some ideas are so enticing, you can’t wait to get started. If you’re writing a poem or a piece of flash fiction, then have at it. If things don’t work out, you’ll lose a few hours or maybe a few weeks. But imagine investing months or years in a novel only to realize your heart’s not in it. Try to avoid doing that by letting ideas sit for a while before you dive into them.

The best ideas rise to the top. These are not necessarily the bestselling ideas or the most original ideas. They’re the ideas that are best for you. Those are the ones that will haunt you, keep you up at night, and provoke perpetual daydreams.

These are the ones worth experimenting with.

Experiment to See Which Novel Writing Ideas Can Fly

There’s a reason people test drive cars and lie around on the beds in mattress shops. When you make a big investment, you want to feel right about it. You can’t know how a car will drive until you actually drive it. And you can’t know how a bed will feel until you relax on it for a while. And you definitely can’t know what your relationship with your novel will be like until you experiment with it.

In truth, the experimental phase is when you start writing the novel — just like the test drive is when you start driving the car. But you haven’t committed yet. You’re still open to the idea that this is not for you. This might seem like I’m nitpicking over semantics, but you’ll find that discarding partially written novels wears on you after a while. If you play around with your story with the understanding that you’re experimenting, and if things don’t work out, you can always walk away without feeling guilty or like you gave up. Go back to your idea stash, and start tooling around with the next one.

How do you experiment with novel writing? I’m so glad you asked. There’s a lot you can do. Start by brainstorming. Sketch a few characters. Poke around and see what kind of research this novel might require. Draft a few scenes. Write an outline. If you keep going through these motions and can’t shake your excitement, then you are finally . . .

Writing Your Novel

At this point, you’ve already started writing your novel. But suddenly, you’re not just writing a novel. You’re deeply, passionately, obsessively writing your novel. If a couple of weeks go by and you haven’t had time to write, you miss your characters. When you get stuck on a scene, you simply work on some other part of the story because you’re so obsessed. You have to fight the urge to tell everyone about how the story is coming along. Your trusted buddy, whom you bounce ideas off of, is starting to think you’re taking it all too seriously. “Maybe you should watch some television a couple nights a week,” he says, looking concerned.

This is a story that’s captured your full attention. And that’s a good sign that it will capture the attention of readers. You are ready to commit.

Many (or most) of your novel writing ideas might end up in the trash or in a bottom drawer. But every one of them will be worth it when all of that idea generating, planning, and experimenting finally pays off. Every idea that doesn’t work will pave the path to the idea that will set you on fire.

So no matter what, no matter how many ideas come and go, no matter how many drafts you discard, never give up. Just keep writing!

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

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Curiosity and Creativity for Writers

Today’s post is an excerpt from my book, Ready, Set, Write: A Guide to Creative Writing, which takes you on a tour through the world of creative writing while offering writing ideas and inspiration. This is from chapter thirty-one, “Curiosity and Creativity.” Let’s find out how fostering curiosity can increase your creativity. Enjoy!

Curiosity and Creativity

Even though inspiration abounds all around us, we writers sometimes get stumped. We search for essay topics, plot ideas, and interesting language for our poems. Unfortunately, our searches don’t always yield desirable results.

But by fostering curiosity, we can ensure a constant stream of creativity. Some of the best writing ideas come from asking simple questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

Most writers are curious by nature. We look at the world around us and wonder at it. Who are these people? What are we all doing here? Where are we heading? Why do we do the things we do? How will we move forward?

Remember how curious you were as a child? Everything you encountered spawned a series of questions because you were trying to learn and understand the world around you. Bring that childlike curiosity back, and you’ll always have a full supply of inspiration.

It doesn’t matter what form your writing takes or what genre you’re writing in. By fostering curiosity, you can create a fountain of ideas.

Below are some questions you can use to get inspired. Mix them up, change them around, and come up with your own list of questions:

Who

  • Who is this about?
  • Who can help?
  • Who is standing in the way?
  • Who am I?

What

  • What is the goal?
  • What are the stakes?
  • What is the underlying message?
  • What if…?

Where

  • Where did it all begin?
  • Where have we been?
  • Where should we go?
  • Where does it end?

When

  • When did it start?
  • When did things change?
  • When will things improve?
  • When will it be too late?

Why

  • Why did they do it?
  • Why does it matter?
  • Why take a risk?
  • Why are we here?

How

  • How did this happen?
  • How does this make people feel?
  • How does this sound?
  • How will this get resolved?

If you can keep your curiosity on fire and continue coming up with new questions, you’ll find that you can write your way into answers and constantly discover new writing ideas along the way.

As you work through your writing projects, you can also use questions to help you overcome hurdles that are preventing you from crossing the finish line. Not sure how to move a plot forward? Start asking questions. Don’t know how to begin your next poem? Ask questions. Want to write a piece that is informative and entertaining? Ask away.

Throughout time, many great thinkers have used questions to prompt creative and critical thinking. Sometimes, one question will lead to the next, and you’ll end up with more ideas than you thought possible. As long as you keep your curiosity well oiled and let those questions flow, you’ll never be at a loss for inspiration.

Activity

Open one of your writing projects, and make a list of at least twenty questions that get to the heart of your project. Be sure to include a mix of who, what, where, when, why, and how.

As an alternative, try using any of the questions from this chapter as writing prompts. Simply place a question at the top of a page, and then start writing in response to the question.

Do you have any favorite techniques for developing new writing ideas? Are there any questions you ask to get through a project or to come up with new project ideas? What are you curious about? Share your thoughts and ideas by leaving a comment.

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

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