Tag Archives: writing

NaNoWriMo

NaNo 2011It’s November therefore it’s NaNo, or NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Well, it is for me and for a few other members here and for thousands of writers around the world. So it really should be International now.

But what is it?

It’s a challenge. You’re asked to write 50,000 words in 30 days. If you succeed you get no prizes, just the glow of your own novel. Oh, there’s a certificate you can print and fill in yourself, and a coupon for a free copy of your book in print from Createspace – but you still have to pay shipping. There’s a shop, where you can buy yourself a prize if you want – there are mugs, pens, t-shirts, all sorts of stuff.

But that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about chaining up your inner editor who makes you agonise over the words you choose. Wrap duct tape round their face and refuse to listen to their griping about apostrophes and adverbs.

It’s about running round to get errands done in super fast time so you can skid into your chair and write a few hundred words before it’s time to fetch the kids from school. It’s about trying to stay ahead of your best friend and cross that 50,000 word line before she does. I haven’t actually achieved that part yet, and it’s my seventh year of taking part, alongside the same writing buddy.

It’s a way of increasing pace and just vomiting forth those 50,000 words, or more, into a document and cracking the back of that novel you just know is lurking inside you. By the first of December you could have the core of that novel, the bones of something wonderful.

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"Take my hand."

Is it time for another writing prompt?

I’m sure you know the rules by now, but here’s a reminder.

  • Use the phrase below as a starting point for your piece.
  • Stay within the word limit – there are constraints to make you focus!
  • Feel free to post your response on your own blog, website, or any other place you share work but please link back to this post if you do so.
  • Please keep your response Work Place Friendly – no swearing, no sex, no erotica, no racism, no nasty. I’m sure you get the idea.

Your phrase, your starting point:

Take my hand.

“Take my hand.”

Take my hand. That’s your starting point, that’s your focus. No more than 250 words please.

Thank you,

Isobel.

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Reader Interview Results: Tensing

As I’m finishing my first book and a number of supplemental stories, I’m hearing a lot about this. Some readers can’t get passed the first page because it is written in present tense, while others have been draw in to the point of distraction. Obviously this has had me reflecting on the books I’ve read as well. It’s left me with the question: What tense do most find appealing? To resolve this curiosity, I conducted informal interviews with many avid readers about the topic. I’ve included information from 3 of the lengthier conversations I had.

Continue reading

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Make Anything Interesting?

My co-writer, Maren Kaye, and I were discussing one of the possible ideas for our next book. I am a mystery/thriller kind of person but this new idea didn’t really fit either category. I told her I was nervous about our ability to make the subject interesting and, more importantly, thrilling. But I could feel her excitement for the subject and the story so I started thinking about it more seriously.
And then it occurred to me, couldn’t a really good writer make any story exciting? Which then led me to think of Micheal Crichton, who I miss dearly. I love his books. All of them. And just look at the spread of his stories, The Great Train Robbery, Jurassic Park, Prey. Think of it, from a simple train robbery set in the 1800’s to futuristic nanotechnology.
That man could write.
And he could make anything interesting. Airframe is the perfect example. In case you haven’t read it I won’t give anything away, but the whole book is pretty much about the investigation of a really rough plane ride. I mean, the plane didn’t even crash (don’t worry that’s the start of the book) and I remember that I could not put that book down. There’s no murder, no real bad guy, no big chase scenes. Just an investigation. And yet, I just had to know what happened. I even went back and reread it, just to refresh my memory. Sure enough, even knowing the outcome, I still devoured that book. Again. Amazing.
That really helped my confidence when it came to deciding on our next book. In the end, we did decide to wait on that particular idea because we wanted to put out something a little faster and the story development was going to take some time. But the fuse was lit. When we came up with the next idea, I squelched all my doubts and just allowed myself to get excited.
So, what is your opinion? Should a writer stick with what they know or can they make any topic exciting?

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On Editing

The book in question is an urban fantasy paperback, traditionally published by Harper Collins, under their Eos imprint. It has close to 400 pages and I’ve read 125, getting more and more annoyed as I read further.

Is the story not that great then? Not at all. It’s an OK concept, decent characters, written in the 1st person – which I don’t usually enjoy, unless it’s Robin Hobb, she does 1st person very very well. But it’s OK. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but it should be a good story. It has fights, vampires, lycanthropes, other monsters, a decent plot and some interesting side plots and diversions and plenty going for it – and it’s part of a nice long series. I love a good long series, they can keep me reading for book after book and I’ll read every single book in a series if I can get my hands on them.

But there’s something wrong, and that has me annoyed.

Here’s why. Continue reading

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Sympathy For The Devil

Everyone loves the hero, including the writer. We spend so much time in the heads of our leads that they’re like family to us. We know our hero’s favorite foods, that time that they skinned their knee when they were six, all their little loves and hates. All those little bits might not make it into the book – but they do help us to flesh out our protagonist in a way that makes them seem to leap off the page breathing and ready to slay dragons.

On the other hand our antagonist, the villain, only exists to stick their foot out at the right time and trip up our hero. It’s easy enough to tell yourself and your reader that the reason that the villain is such a douche is simply because they’re evil – except that breaks the cardinal rule to show and not tell. That’s why it helps, while you’re gathering together you’re notes for your new book, to ask the same questions of your villain that you ask of your hero.

The questions can be bane or profound, it’s more important to ask them and record the answers, than what the original question was. The answers will help to frame the villain less as just evil and more as a person with hopes, desires and goals that are no less valid than the hero’s though they are at complete odds with the hero’s. Which leads to a richer more textured book – something both writers and readers will appreciate.

An example of this wonderful little tool at work? When I asked one of my villains, who was their first love, I not only discovered their wife – a woman my villain loved with such all consuming passion it would have destroyed them both if she hadn’t been a wonderful person herself – but to revelations about how he was raised. He was born heir to a very rich old family, raised by a series of tutors and minders, never given open affection nor given any long term companions to foster even the tiniest of relationships with. He’s intelligent, wealthy, ruthless and relentlessly fierce with his affections which leads him to more and more desperate, even insane acts as first his beloved wife dies and then his son becomes fatally ill.

None of that is likely to make it into the book but it does color the way I’ll write this character, making him more human and, hopefully, more interesting. Give it a try on you’re next writing project, ask your villain a few pointed questions and see if they don’t rise to the challenge of showing you their human side. So don’t be afraid to ask you’re bad boys and girls some heavy questions!

You can read more writing tips and general blather from Y.K. Greene at Blargle Splect.

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What's in the box?

While this is a writing exercise, I’d like to think that anyone can join in. So, if you want to have a go then please do. I hope there will be exercises such as this one posted up here from time to time, from various of our members, and I hope you’ll all play along and have some fun.

Rules:

  • The poster sets word count limits and any other conditions.
  • Supportive and constructive comments only if you feel the need to comment on another’s contribution.
  • There are no prizes.
  • Your words are your own, the Independent Writers’ Association holds no right to anything you post on our site.
  • Have fun!

I’ll start you off and ask you a question, you carry on the piece in 250 words or less and post your response in the comments here. If you wish to share your response, or this exercise then please link back to this post from wherever you’re sharing.

Lit by candles, the table stood in the centre of the room. Its smooth surface the result of years of use and the pressure of many hands across its wooden planes. Three pale wax candles rested on a metal plate to one side, flames casting a flickering light on the box.

The box was a perfect cube, gleaming steel with no apparent opening. But contained inside…..

Your task: What’s in the box?

You have 250 words to explore the room, the table and discover what’s in the box.

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When to Shut the #$*% Up!

Swear words or profanities are used in almost all pieces of literature today. My question is about the usage of them. Sometimes you might read or write a piece of work where the main character’s bad language becomes somewhat prolific.  General advice has always been to stay clear of using such words but to avoid them might not be true to the characters. And here lies my dilemma.

‘Well *@%~ me, Bill! What can I say?’

This depends on who your readers are. I’ve used swear words/profanities, at some points in both of my novels, but I’d never dream of using them if I was writing a children’s book or a book of religion.

Times and trends change, but I still believe the mainstream market doesn’t like lots of swearing – it’s all depends on whether it’s appropriate to the tale. I think the market plays a huge part here in dictating what type of characters you create. This being so, the problem should solve itself. Some characters won’t ring true unless they swear and the market will then accept the swearing in this case.

But you still run the risk of offending someone as you cannot always be sure just who is going to read your piece! My mother was very proud and pleased when I handed her a paperback copy of The Assassins’ Village, but she did admit that the bad language employed by my heroine when she was under duress made it difficult for her to read.

There are ways round this. I wouldn’t substitute a harsh swear word for something  banal like “oh darn it”, I’d be more inclined to say , “she swore violently”. There again you could show the character’s anger by their action or thoughts –or by simple omission – describing a look or a body action.

It comes down to genre, potential readership and the setting and era of your storyline, using realism as the key and being aware that readers can be turned off by bad language, especially if it’s too gratuitous.

I believe I’m a moderate profanity user. I occasionally use the F word, different assorted B words but never the C word, which is the one word most readers find offensive. And hopefully I’m always within the context of my dialogue.  Remember less is often more.

Yes I curse when I drop something heavy on my foot, or I miss the last train home, but it is tedious to read a constant F word throughout a book.

So research your market! What do you think?

Good reading to you all and thank you for your interest.

Faith Mortimer

Faith will be a regular contributor to the Independent Writers Association.

You can also read other blog posts by Faith on her website http://www.faithmortimersauthor.com

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