Thursday 29 March 2012

Does Everyone Have A Novel In Them?


It seems like everyone wants to be a writer these days, but do they all have a story worth telling? The short answer is yes. I believe that with no doubt whatsoever.

However, it may not be the story they’re actually writing. Many writers shy away from the really interesting stuff they could tell because it’s just too damn uncomfortable for them. And then even when they do pick the perfect tale, they can still screw it up in the telling.

But I believe anyone can come up with something that’s interesting enough to share with the world at large.

Monday 26 March 2012

Putting More Into Your Writing

When you write, whether it’s a short scene or a whole chapter, you usually have a rough idea of what you want to achieve. You may not know exactly how things will play out, but there’s going to be something the scene will be based on, even if it’s only that two characters will get together and chat.

As a reader you don’t need to bother too much about what is immediately apparent in a story and what becomes apparent over time. It will churn around in your mind and your subconscious will make of it what it will. Different people will intepret it in different ways. However, as a writer, you need to be aware of everything going on because you’re the one who has to put it there.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Bad Advice For Writers

Most advice given to writers is generic and basic. This is because most aspiring writers make the same basic mistakes. But then most aspiring writers never finish the story they're writing. And most of the ones that do finish, never get round to doing a rewrite. And if you happen to be one of the few who do manage to persevere and are serious about producing a book worth reading (and buying) then, by definition, you aren’t most people.

When you follow generic advice your writing most likely will become better than it was, but that doesn’t mean it’s as good as it could be. Once you reach a certain level you need specific advice. Specific to your writing. And there aren’t people qualified to give you that advice. 

For example, flowery, repetitious description is annoying and distracting to read, but that’s when it’s done badly. It is very difficult to show someone how to do it better. It’s very easy to tell them not to do it at all. But that may be the kind of writing they love to write. How can you help them then?

Monday 19 March 2012

How To Find Your Writing Muse


If you’re lying awake in bed, and you look over at your sleeping partner with their tongue hanging out, snoring, making odd farty noises, and your heart starts beating faster and you think, “Of course! What a brilliant idea for a horror story,” then congratulations, you have a genuine muse on your hands.

Sadly, that’s not the case for everyone. Having someone who can inspire great ideas and put thoughts in your head that lead to marvellous stories is something we would all love, but the muse as an independent being who feeds out creativity is a rare and unreliable creation.

So where can you go for a refill when your well runs dry?

Thursday 15 March 2012

Writing The Other Scene


In every story there are scenes, maybe whole chapters, where it’s all happening. Action, drama, twists and surprise revelations. Hearts are broken, villains behave in dastardly fashion and a hero triumphs. You love writing it, and you know the reader will love reading it.

And then there are the other scenes.

The scenes that serve a purpose. Necessary. Connecting. Functional. Making those scenes come alive is not so easy. In fact it often feels like the best thing to do is make them as plain and straightforward as possible, so you’re in and out nice and quick. Which is an excellent way to bore the reader. 

So how do you make sure you don't do that?

Monday 12 March 2012

How To Start A Story The Stephen King Way


Carrying on from my last post, (Chaper One: 11/22/63), I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s really important in those first few pages of a novel.

If you didn’t have to worry about what agents and publishers think are the vital elements to a first chapter (and let’s face it, more and more of us are finding other ways to get stories out there), what is it a reader is looking for?

Thursday 8 March 2012

Chapter One: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Usually I use my Chapter One series to look at the opening of stories by debut novelists, with a view to working out how they caught the interest of readers who had never heard of them. This time I thought I would look at a big name author and use his most recent best-seller.

It’s all well and good impressing a readership who already have a good idea of what kind of story/writer they’re dealing with, but when you’re the new kid on the block you need to win people over, and the first chapter is where the battle is fought. Or so the conventional wisdom says. What I discovered with this book was quite eye-opening.

Monday 5 March 2012

Monotone Writing Is Monotonous Writing


Monotonous means boring, so as long as you have interesting stuff going on in your scene it won’t be monotonous, right?

But that’s not what monotonous means. It’s boredom brought on by repetition or lack of variety. Monotone. So even a scene that in itself is fairly interesting, when put in an environment of similar scenes, not only loses its impact, it actually becomes a negative force.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Writers Show Things Worth Showing


The job of a writer is not to describe a story the way you would describe an object to a blind person. If the main character is wearing a blue cardigan and you describe the blue cardigan so the reader now knows exactly what kind of blue cardigan it is, so what? What difference does that make?

The task is not to make sure the reader can see what happens in the story, it’s to make sure they can understand what happens in the story.

To some degree, in order to understand what’s going on you have to be able to see it, but not all things you see add to your unerstandung. Too much description will become overwhelming and be blinding rather than illuminating.
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