Keep It Simple

Keeping it simple, imagine that. I find it funny that when we teach writing in schools, we do everything but this. We give kids lists of alternative, flowery words and phrases to use, we provide them with other words for ‘said’, and teach them the proper use of adverbs. Yet in the real writing world, the world of editors and agents and publication companies, all of this is frowned upon.

This article sums up “keep it simple” quite nicely. Enjoy!

Writing your first novel-Things you should know

fewer-wordsWhenever you write, you should aim for maximum simplicity. You want tight writing with no redundancies, flowery language, or longer than necessary words. Shun pretentious writing. It exposes your inexperience.

I borrowed the following example from a class I am taking through Udemy. It does a great job of showing what I am trying to explain. If you haven’t checked Udemy out, I would highly recommend their classes. They are informative, interesting, and very easy to follow, and are a fraction of the cost of most sites I’ve visited. Now back to my blog and the example 🙂

The specific point I am trying to make is that the colors red and gray go well together.

The point I am trying to make is that the colors red and gray go well together.

My point is that the colors red and gray go well together.

The colors red and gray…

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Ideas to Help Write Better Characters

Great tips on character development and a bit of info on an upcoming writing contest.

Fiction by Rachael Ritchey

In honor of the upcoming Adventure Writing Contest that starts the end of February (click here for more info) I want to help writers by offering info and websites that will hopefully help us all be better writers.

That’s the goal.

Today we’re going to look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (click here for more detailed information from simplypsychology.org). Maslow originally published this motivational theory back in 1943, then I believe it was updated in 1954. This is a psychological look at what motivates humans from our most basic needs up.

But maybe you’re wondering what this has to do with writing fiction? A lot actually, and it could go a long way to helping write better, more believable characters whose behaviors are directly related to their motivations and deepest needs.

Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs By User: Factoryjoe (Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs.svg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The chart…

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Stop Procrastinating and Get that Story Finished

The first week of 2018 started off with a bang (literally and figuratively speaking). I finally finished my latest project, which is now in publication stage. Launching a new book is always exciting, and when you finally see it in print, nothing compares to holding a physical copy of your book in your hands. That feeling never subsides, no matter how many books you write.

But before you can celebrate the release of a new book, you have to finish writing it.

make-time

I read posts in writing forums all the time from writers who have difficulty finishing the book they’re writing. They have so many ideas and start a ton of projects, but have a hard time finishing any of them. It takes discipline and pushing your internal editor aside to get it done.

An informational meeting I attended recently focused on that exact topic. During this meeting, I jotted down a list of rules to follow that I think will help struggling writers finish their first draft. If this is you, I hope you will find this information useful.

  1. Ditch the negativity. You can’t go into writing with the attitude that you won’t finish or it’s too hard or no one will like your work. Ignore your inner demons and write.
  2. Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft. Start by getting your ideas on paper. Anne Lamott said, “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.” Your first draft is supposed to be messy. Just get it written. first-draft
  3. Send your internal editor on vacation. I know it’s tempting to edit your work as you go. Believe me, I do it too. But if your goal is finish the manuscript, stop worrying about it being perfect and get the words on paper. You can leave a sticky note or a quick sentence to remind yourself where you left off, but NO EDITING ALLOWED! Go back and fine tune it later.
  4. Lock yourself in your room and put a do not disturb sign on the door. I don’t mean this literally. I simply mean to tell your family and friends that you love them then give yourself that alone time to write without distractions. Get off social media and turn off the TV. Absorb yourself in your ideas.
  5. Pre-plan. Have your story map, outline, character sketches, etc…ready before you start.
  6. Believe in the magic. Go in with the idea that your plan will work. Stick to the rules and stay positive (see rule number 1).
  7. Recruit a cheering squad. Set up a support system and make yourself accountable to other people. Only choose people who will motivate you.
  8. Create a great writing space. Clear the clutter, get comfortable, and have everything you need accessible.
  9. Feed your brain. Eat protein and high energy food. Stock up on those protein bars and have them handy.
  10. Take a break. Stop and stretch every 45 minutes. Get the blood pumping. Take a quick bathroom break, walk a few laps around the room, or stretch for a minute or two. Then go right back to writing.
  11. Set yourself up for success. Everytime you push yourself, you create new neurological pathways in your brain. When you constantly stay in your story, you will get better and faster, and your story will become tighter. Set daily writing goals and stick to them, then reward yourself.
  12. It’s ok to get stuck. If you do get stuck, move away from the computer for a minute (see rule number 10). Concentrate on a scene with a particular character. Write a placeholder and move on to the next scene or chapter. Leave headers for each chapter then add details. Make notes of what you’d like to see happen. Time yourself – give yourself 20 minutes of hands on the keyboard. You’ll soon find yourself writing for much longer than that. Refer back to your map, outline, or other pre-writing notes. If all else fails, ask a friend to help brainstorm.
  13. Celebrate success. Yay! You did it! Now crack open that bottle of wine and celebrate. You worked hard, and you deserve it.

Now that your draft is finished, walk away from the keyboard for a few days before you go in to clean up the mess. Cleaning up the mess is an entirely different blog post.

You can do this! Just keep writing.

5 Ways to Find “The Zone” When Writing.

Here’s a great article on how to get in the writing zone.

The Nerdy Lion

Do you know that feeling when everything clicks? When the words flow like endless pools of serene water? When you stop thinking about writing and just…write?
It feels good, doesn’t it? And lord knows when you read it back you think, “Damn, I’m good, like I’m really good. Jesus, this is the best thing I have ever read.” Then you stop for a second and wrinkle your brow. “Wait, did I write this?”

I know what you’re thinking, “Is there a magical pill for this?” A drug you would kindly pay for? Probably, but I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to mention drugs online so I can’t back anything publicly.

Do not fret my fellow Lions and Lionettes, for I have discovered the secrets to unlimited access to, “the zone!” Or not, maybe I’m just a crazy lion waiting for Mufasa to come back……NYLAAHH!

Disclaimer: There may or may not be…

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Writing a Stellar Book Blurb

write a poetry book blurb

I don’t know about you, but writing the novel is the easy part, compared to writing the book blurb. How do you take a 100+ page novel and condense it to fit on the back cover of a book? And how do you make it intriguing enough to get people to want to read it? Writing a book blurb has always been challenging for me, but I recently took several classes on this topic and learned a few things that you might find helpful.

The blurb on the back of your book is all about the journey.  Who is your protagonist? What is his or her goal? What problems are they up against? Readers want to discover this journey on their own.  Give them a glimpse inside your book that draws them into the character’s world.

There are three main elements to a good book blurb.

  1. The setup. This is the underlying theme of the book, the problem. For example, “She was kidnapped not once, but twice, and now someone wants her dead.”
  2. The capture. This is the backstory, the kickstart, the conflict. The capture tells the reader about the hurdles the character has to get over to meet their goal.
  3. The intrigue. Leave the reader with a question. Will the character succeed or fail?

When writing a book blurb, always remember to include the name of the protagonist, Image result for book blurbwhat the protagonist wants, and how the protagonist got in this situation. What is the connection between the protagonist and the antagonist? What are the main events that kickstart the story? What is the first main event that stops the protagonist from moving forward? Also, make sure the tone of the blurb matches the tone of the book. If the book is dark, emotional, mysterious, then the blurb needs to be too.

Be careful though, because a book blurb is not a synopsis or a summary of your book. Blurbs should be around 200 words and should focus on the struggle. A blurb is not a detailed description. A book blurb is also not an endorsement. Testimonials should not be included in your blurb. If you want to include them before or after the blurb, that’s fine, but they should not be present in the blurb itself.

For more information on this topic, visit the following sites:

Writing Blurbs for Novels

How to Write Back Blurb for Your Book

How to Write an Effective Book Blurb

How to Write a Fiction Book Blurb

A Simple Outline for Writing a Killer Book Blurb

7 Tips For Writing a Book Blurb

How to Write a Great Book Blurb

What’s the Difference Between a Book Blurb and a Synopsis?

How to Write a Killer Book Blurb

Ten Question Cheat Sheet for Writing a Compelling Book Blurb

Examples of Book Blurbs

Character Archetypes – How to Create Dynamic Characters

With the current chaos going on in my life right now (new job in a new grade level in a new school, getting a new AC unit installed in my house, going solar powered, working on new WIP, etc…), I haven’t written a new post in a while.  My brain has been going 100 miles an hour lately, and I haven’t been able to put anything comprehensive down on paper in weeks. Let’s see if we can fix that today.

Although I’m not a traditional romance writer, about a year ago, I became a member of my local chapter of RWA. This fabulous group of people consists of all walks of life, and not all members are romance writers, myself included. Men and women, both published and non-published, make up this group: Indie authors, traditionally published authors, screenwriters, teachers, students, former attorneys and active military members, technology gurus, mothers, fathers, real-estate agents, and even a woman who writes for Harlequin and had one of her books turned into a movie. Needless to say, the writing expertise within this group is pretty well-rounded.

I originally joined this group for the insights they offer about the craft of writing. Regardless of genre, the information obtained from the many seminars I’ve attended through this group have helped me become a better writer.

The last seminar I attended focused on archetypes. For those of you who don’t know what that is, an archetype is a pattern of behavior that is universally present in characters in classic storytelling. It can be better summarized as the universal personality traits of a character. These personality traits are pretty standard, regardless of whether it is a character in a movie, book, or play or a person in real life.  As I review each one, you’ll probably get images in your head of people you know or literary/ movie characters you’ve seen or read about who portray these characteristics.  Let’s get started, shall we?

There are female archetypes and male archetypes, some of which are interchangeable. Every archetype has positive and negative personality traits, but the best characters do not fall under one specific archetype. They are made up of a combination of these traits.

I’ll go over the female archetypes first.  There are 8 main ones.

  1. The Boss. This girl is a real go-getter. She climbs the ladder of success. Queen Elizabeth is a good example.
  2. The Seductress. She’s an enchantress. She charms those around her to get her way. Scarlett O’Hara is a classic seductress.
  3. The Spunky Kid. This is a woman who is gutsy and true. She’s a loyal friend to the end. Pretty much every character Meg Ryan has ever played can be classified as a spunky kid.
  4. The Free Spirit. This is a person who is an eternal optimist. She dances to her own tune. Phoebe from the TV show Friends nails this archetype.
  5. The Waif. She is the damsel in distress. Sleeping Beauty, Bella from Twilight, and Audrey Hepburn to name a few.
  6. The Librarian. She is controlled and clever. She doesn’t have to be a bookwork or a scholar though. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter and Belle from Beauty and the Beast are librarians.
  7. The Crusader. She is a dedicated fighter. She has a cause and fights for the greater good. Katniss from the Hunger Games and Wonder Woman are crusaders. Go girls!
  8. The Nurturer. She is serene and capable. These are people who nurture the spirit of others (can be animals and plants too).  One person comes to mind with this one: Julie Andrews. She played a nurturer in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music.

Let’s move on to the male archetypes now.  Again, there are 8 main ones, and you’ll find that some are similar to their female counterparts.

  1. The Chief. He is a dynamic leader and wants to be in charge. He is goal oriented and has time for nothing but work.  Michael Douglas in Wall Street or Captain Picard from Star Trek exemplify this archetype.
  2. The Bad Boy. He’s dangerous to know simply because he walks on the wild side. Danny in Grease or Prince Harry would be considered bad boys.
  3. The Best Friend. He’s sweet and safe and never lets anyone down. Patrick Dempsey in Enchanted and any Tom Hanks character.
  4. The Lost Soul. This man is a tormented being.  He’s a recluse and lives in solitude. The Beast in Beauty and the Beast, Shrek, and Wolverine are lost souls.
  5. The Charmer. He’s a smooth talker. The fairy tale Prince Charming. George Clooney plays these characters. Jack from Titanic was also a charmer.
  6. The Professor. This guy knows all the answers. The Professor from Gilligan’s Island, Frasier, and Sherlock Holmes are considered professors.
  7. The Swashbuckler. This is Mister Excitement. He’s an adventurer and often breaks the rules. Indiana Jones and Han Solo are swashbucklers. (Hmmm, Harrison Ford seems to play these characters a lot). Maverick from Top Gun is also a swashbuckler. I would say Will Turner from Pirates of the Caribbean is too.
  8. The Warrior. He is a noble fighter who acts with valor. Superman and To Kill a Mockingbird‘s Atticus Finch are warriors.

You’ll notice that some of the female/ male archetypes are similar. And there are some male characters who fit into the female archetypes and vice versa, like nurturer. Newt Scamander from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Mrs. Doubtfire, played by Robin Williams, are both nurturers although they are male characters.  The best characters are dynamic and complex. They don’t fit into one generic mold. They are a combination of one or more of these archetypes, just like each one of us is.

This is a guideline only. Not every character you write will fit perfectly into a specific archetype, but neither do we. As writers, we are observers of life. Use the people around you as inspiration.

Creating Your Own Frankenstein

“It’s alive! Alive!” These are the famous words from a classic science fiction movie and an 80’s movie theme song. Though it meant the creation of both a terrifying monster and a geek’s wet dream, the word we’re looking for here is “creation”. Creating characters within a story is a detailed process for writers. You […]

via Building characters in a story is like creating your own Frankenstein — Mark Piggott | Author of the “Forever Avalon” Series