Tag Archives: Lesson

Lessons Learned #28

When I began writing I ‘told’ the reader about the inner emotions of my characters, instead of ‘showing’ them. I would write ‘I was feeling anxious’ or ‘I was so angry!’ I have learned that this is not the way to go. I am currently going through my first book and trying to pick out those situations where I ‘told’ and try to convert them into ones where I ‘show.’

I found that my vocabulary is rather limited. I use the word ‘look’ a lot. He looked at me, I looked at him, we looked each other in the eye… Eyes are a big thing in my book 🙂 . I realised that I needed to widen my scope and write something more varied to keep my readers (and myself!) happy. So I downloaded lists of alternatives/synonyms from Pinterest. Never would I have thought that Pinterest would come in so handy for a writer…

Although I found a list with about 150 different ways to say ‘look,’ I found that most of them were unusable. Who writes ‘he looked askance’ or ‘my eyes had a gander’ (or however you’re supposed to use this word). Most of the words didn’t portray what I wanted to say, which was ‘look.’ There were a few though, like ‘saw,’ ‘glance,’ and ‘glimpse,’ which are okay, but four words don’t mean variety.

So here I was, stuck in my re-write. I knew what was wrong, but I didn’t know how to fix it. Then the lightbulb appeared above my head. I needed to use more body language! I needed to integrate the whole face, the whole body in the description. Which meant I needed to know what people did, how they changed, when showing certain emotions.

Now I’m not the best emotional expert. I can’t read people like a book and usually people find me very blunt in return. So I needed help, lots of it. I tried to study people when I was out and about, which isn’t very often. Unfortunately my brain doesn’t always cooperate and kept drifting off instead of doing its homework.

Then today, after cursing at my slow internet connection and not getting the websites on body language as fast as my impatient self wanted, I remembered I once bought a book called ‘Body language at work,’ by Peter Clayton. It isn’t the most varied piece of work, but it does the trick for me at the moment. It talks about zones and clusters, about trust and assertiveness, about doubt, disbelief and lies. Even about attraction between the two sexes. All the things that I need for my book!

Frog.jpg

I’m not saying that you need to buy this book. However, if you are like me and a bit of a frog in the ’emotion’ department, buy a book on body language and read it. It is extremely interesting to read about how people conform to standard principles. And most amazing when you see it happening in real life around you! It’s almost as entertaining as reading a book…

Have a Wonderful Writing Weekend!

Lessons Learned #26

Character Planner App

This past week I have made an effort to work on my re-write more than ever. I want it finished (and hence the few ‘extra’ posts)! This doesn’t mean I am completely closed off to the outside world though and I do follow up on any posts if I see something that can enhance me as a writer. One of those things I checked out this week is the Character Planner app, which a fellow author on FARG suggested earlier.

It’s a free app for your mobile and I think I am definitely going to use it when I will be writing my third book. You can fill out many characters, including their backgrounds, but it has many more options. I’ll give you the first three categories as an example.Character Planner App Story.png

Basic:

Name

Nickname

Age

Gender

Date of Birth

Place of Birth

Ethnicity/Species

Occupation/Job

World/Verse

Once Sentence Description

Appearance:

Height

Weight

Skin Tone

Facial Shape

Eye Colour

Distinguish Feature

Other Facial Feature

Hair Style

Body Type

Posture

Dress

Something always carried/Weapon/Tools

Accessories

Other Physical Appearance

Life:

Skills

Incompetence

Strength/Talent

Weakness

Hobbies

Pets

Area of Residence/Environment

Home Description

Neighbourhood

Organization Involved

Income

Job Satisfaction

Health

As you can see it is very detailed. There are also the categories of Attitude, Past, Story, Relation and Custom. If you fill in all of these, you’ll have a very good idea of what your character is like. It may even reveal something about your character that you didn’t realise yet!

What I like about this app is that I can have it handy while I am writing. As it is on my phone I don’t have to sacrifice screen space to see it on my computer, or flick from one document to another. It keeps me on track of what my characters are like and I (will) use the app to make them unique, come alive. I doubt that your characters have the same looks, birthplaces and hobbies as mine, so they’ll all be different.

It can help you in making character arcs as you can jot down short term goals and long term goals. Their habits and character traits will influence on how they achieve these goals and how they cope if it doesn’t go as planned.

In my second book my MC ages ten years and at the end of it many things have happened to her and have changed around her. For my third book I can then make a new character sheet for her with the adjusted details, or just edit them in the ‘old’ file. It’s up to me what I want to do.

Yes, you could make your own document with the information, but why do so if somebody already did it for you? Give it a go, it’s free!

Have a Happy Writing Weekend!

Lessons Learned #25

Director of Orchestra

Character Arcs, Flashbacks and Pacing

Today I want to share with you what I learned about tying character arcs, flashbacks and pacing together. I only recently became aware that there was such a feature as pacing in writing. I know about pacing in music, and I hate it when they get it wrong in movies (flow of the movie). The latest moan about movie flow is the one for Suicide Squad, where the first third of the movie is a drag of background information of the main characters. But I never stood still realising that this was also a part of writing. And it’s important to do it right. Here’s a way to use it.

Character Arcs

200341059-001
Businessman bending over backwards, side view

But lets start with character arcs first. I read about it in a screenwriting lesson a while ago (heavens knows which one). It was describing a couple in bed getting up and dressed. The situation started very amicable, but with every sentence, every action, the relationship deteriorated and became downright hostile by the time  they left the bedroom.  The lesson was that not only do you need your characters to develop over the whole play, they need to develop within every scene too. Quintessential Editor wrote a nice blog about self editing (you can look for it here) (sorry, the page itself wouldn’t copy) and it was point 11 that caught my eye.

Suddenly the quarter dropped as to why one of my readers mentioned she didn’t like one of my main characters, but absolutely loved one of the side-characters. Unknowingly I had developed the side-character throughout my story, but totally did nothing with the main character! He stayed as bland as anything from beginning to end. No wonder she didn’t like him. So make sure all your (important) characters develop (for better or for worse).

Flashbacks

You probably get sick and tired of me saying I’m using flashbacks by now, but it ties in with this week’s lesson. They are a major tie between the character arcs and pacing. As you want your readers to get to know your characters, you give them little snippets of information about them. Flashbacks are just one way to do this. It gives the reader the reason why your character does things, feel, act, react in a certain way.

Pacing

Footsteps

Now, pacing is the most difficult thing to learn in writing (or so I am told). I read this in an article on Flipboard today, called The Art of Pacing (you can also find it under the blog heading here), by Jack Tyler. It reminded me of the article on flashbacks I read yesterday by Neil Whitman (you can find the link to it here). Somewhere else (and I’m so sorry but I just spent thirty minutes trying to find the article in vain) I read the magic words ‘a flashback needs to follow an intense moment to have purpose.’ And this is all to do with pacing. Readers don’t want to get bored with flashbacks left, right and centre so you can inundate them with background information. Flashbacks slow the story down, the action here and now isn’t happening anymore. Flashbacks have to make sense, they need to have a purpose. And the best time to put them in is right after an intense moment. The readers can then take time to process the action and in the mean time get some more information as to why the action has happened.

In my book, for example (spoiler alert!), I talk about Charlie for a chapter or four before there is a bit of a clash about ‘who sleeps in the big bedroom and who sleeps in the tiny room with the bunk beds.’ Charlie is sent packing to the bunk beds ‘as he is better sized for that room.’ There are a few more hints leading up to this statement, but they are minute. The characters go to sleep and in the next chapter a flashback describes my MC spending an evening with Charlie during which it becomes clear that Charlie has achondroplasia (he is a dwarf). This set up has the reader at first wondering what is going on. Why is Charlie sent packing? What is meant with ‘he is better sized’? Then, while the characters are sleeping, the answers are revealed to the readers. Hopefully their minds will then have an ‘aha’ moment when they remember the little comments about Charlie’s size I put in earlier (but that is a topic called foreshadowing).

This is one way to incorporate character arcs, flashbacks and pacing, I bet there are more…

Have A Happy Writing Weekend!

Lessons Learned #24

My first use of ProWritingAid

First of all my excuses for not posting last week. What can I say, life has been hectic. Kids and DH home with holidays and activities for the film group… I haven’t been able to do any writing (for my books), but I had started the week before with ProWritingAid (PWA), so I want to let you know my first impression on it.

It was easy to install and I was surprised that it is actually an ‘add on’ to Word. But very handy to have it there in the top right of the tool bar. The first thing I did was to block a section of my text,  clicked the ‘general’ button of PWA and then the ‘full analysis’ one. Why wouldn’t I want to use it all? It took my computer a while to think about this a bit, but it wasn’t doing nothing. In my intro, which is only one-and-a-half page long, it found one-hundred-and-twenty-three issues. One-hundred-and-twenty-three! My heart sank. Was my writing really so bad? So I planted by butt a bit firmer in my chair and went through the list on the right hand side alongside my text to find out what these issues were.

PWA Issues ListAs per the list you see here (this is the one after I corrected all the issues it found in the first place, with only 82 issues left), they dissect your text big time. I found it more bearable to go through it when you start from the bottom. No idea why, but it seemed less daunting. But to be more clear I will start from the top here.

When you click the Overview Report you get a list of all the things that you did okay (green ticks, yay!) and red crosses, 🙁 ). I consistently get red crosses for sticky sentences and a too low glue index. I tried to work on this, but as my text often has dialogue in it I can’t get around the low glue index. The sticky sentences is also something I try to limit, but sometimes my re-wording just makes it worse.

Overused Words Check gives me ‘were, was and had.’ What do you expect? It’s written in the past tense…

The Writing Style Check I find very handy as it tells you where the passive verbs are. When it finds these I always try to make them active where possible. It also tells you if you have overdone it with the adverbs, a good one to keep in check. It also gives you ‘readability enhancements.’ I’m still not sure if these are good or bad. Anybody who could enlighten me on these?

Sentence Length Check is obvious. I don’t have a problem with these overall. The Clichés & Redundencies Report consistently tells me that using the word ‘sucker’ is cliché. Sorry, it’s about vampires, what can I say…

I have some issues with the Grammar Check. I had high hopes for this one, as English is not my first language. But all it does is tell me I’ve used words that it doesn’t recognises (made up place names, etc.) and that it blocks a complete paragraph purple and tells me there is an issue with it. However, it doesn’t tell me which issue! Very frustrating.

I tend to ignore the Sticky Sentences Check as making them shorter/different consistently means my writing becomes boring. The Dialogue Tags Check is another one I tend to ignore. There is dialogue or there isn’t. I usually use the word ‘said’ to tag dialogue, so they’re happy with it.

The Repeat Words & Phrases is one I highly appraise. I often find when reading indie author books this is one check they should have used. Even when half a book along, I find that using the same phrase is annoying. I hope I can get them all out of mine, but I guess that if they’re spread wide and far the only way to get them out is to read the book from start to finish as I’m not sure if PWA can check a whole book at once.

Corporate Wording Check occasionally says I’ve used the wrong word. Diction Check repeatedly tells me not to use a preposition at the end of the sentence and to not use the word ‘actually.’ Well, actually, my sentence structure holds up, so I’m keeping them in.

Vague & Abstract Words Check comes up with words like ‘all, like, would and (again) actually.’ Sometimes I can replace the words, but usually I can’t.

The Acronym Check lets you know if you are consistent with abbreviations (TV vs. tv). The Transitions Report is one I struggle with on a regular basis. They want you to have more than 25% transitions (a percentage of what I don’t know). I never get there. I even printed out a list with transitions words for me to use, but I just can’t fit them in. I don’t know if that is because of my limited vocabulary or not, but my text doesn’t seem to lend itself for a lot of transitions. And I bet if I could use them that my sentences would become ‘too long and sticky’ 🙂 .

I’m not sure if the Complex Words Check tells you how intelligent you are, but it reports how many words there are with four or five syllables. The NLP Predicates Check lets you know what percentage are visual or auditory-digital words. Apparently I am more of a visual person.

The Homonym Check is great if you have problems with there, their, and they’re. The Pacing Check tells you about the pacing of your text. Great if you are checking large pieces of text, I guess. I have never used the House Style Check as you need to set this one up first with your own style.

The Consistency Check gives you all the spelling, hyphenation and capitalisation consistency numbers. I like the Alliteration Analysis (note; not the Alliteration Check!) as it gives you an idea of the rhetoric index of your text. And who would have thought that the word ‘whatever’ is an alliteration?

Hail the Pronoun Check! With this beauty I found that in one paragraph I started every single sentence with ‘I.’ Big no-no! Never use the Combo Check though, it’s depressing…

So, overall I like PWA. You have to accept that your writing will never be perfect and that you only use PWA to check the issues that you struggle with and to get silly mistakes out. I notice that I’m getting faster and faster using it and it isn’t as daunting now compared to when I first opened the can or worms.

Have a Happy Writing Weekend!

Lessons Learned #22

Editing quote.jpg

Edit, edit, edit!

I started re-writing my first novel last week. Finally. I had postponed it way too long, but now I have the Winterland book fair as a stick behind the door I had to do it. And boy, did I need to…

Time between edits

They always say to take some time between edits. They never say for how long though. Well, that’s not entirely true, they do suggest lengths of time, but they all vary. So that’s no help at all. I wrote my first novel in August 2015, as good as a year ago. For me, at this moment in time, that is a good time between edits. Only because of the fact that during this year I have learned an enormous amount of English! I had a steep learning curve in grammar, in particular the (past) tenses. I learned about rhetoric. I learned about punctuation and formatting. I learned about  the three-act structure and character building. I learned about sub-plots and suspense building. I learned so much. I suppose that the length between edits will become less in time, as I (hopefully) will learn to write better from the start.

Kill your darlings

So what have I been editing so far? As I may have mentioned before, I have let go of the chronological timeline. The first seventy pages of my book were information dumping and setting the scene. I learned that readers don’t like this. They want action, murder on the first page so to speak. So in the new version I started the story from where things start to happen. Now I had seventy pages of information that I needed to weave into the new structure. Seventy pages of ‘darlings.’ I managed to incorporate some flashbacks as whole chapters. That was the easy way. Half of what was left I managed to put in here and there, also as flashbacks or thoughts, memories, but shorter ones. I still have 2.5K words left over, so still some work to be done as some of those are important information for the story. I can’t ‘kill’ them.

Talk to yourself

Other edits were re-writes of sentences. I haven’t been re-writing scenes as a whole, as I was quite happy with them. Quite a few sentences needed revising though. They didn’t flow well or they didn’t convey the feeling that I wanted them too. Over the past year my vocabulary has grown and I feel that I can express myself now better than before. It’s still no literature, but a shuffle in that direction I suppose. How do I know a sentence doesn’t flow? Because I notice it when I say them out loud, in my head. Gotcha! No, I can’t make myself talk to myself out loud. So I pretend I’m doing it in my head. Works for me. I pretend to have another person’s voice, like that of David Attenborough, and read as if I was reading for an audio book, full of emotion and ups and downs of my voice. You should try it, its fun 🙂 !

Grammar, Punctuation and Formatting

I’ve got ProWritingAid to help me with the grammar, which will help me pick out those odd sentences, re-usage of words in a paragraph and the true grammatical mistakes. I haven’t used it yet, as I still have one last chapter to get through, but this is next on the ‘to do’ list. I will keep you updated on this one.

And there are the punctuation mistakes. Even though I had my work read by a proof reader, I still picked up the odd mistake here and there. We’re only human, so I will throw my work through Grammarly for that. It should be better than any human eye. This will be done after using ProWritingAid. Maybe it’s not necessary after this, but just to make sure (it’s free anyway).

Then I will have to put my text into Word to re-format. I don’t mind doing this. As I suspect I have an OCD streak in me, I like making things ‘smooth.’ I don’t like it when things ‘stick out’ and spoil the overall look. I’m actually looking forward to this part!

Print and Read

After the formatting is done I will print out my work; two pages on one A4 sheet, 1.5 space in between and narrow margins (to save paper). This will show me any formatting errors. I will read my work from front to back, with a red pen in hand to make notes and corrections.

Re-edit

And after I have finished this… I will start all over again!

Have a Happy Writing Weekend!

Lessons Learned #21

A Review of Scrivener

A number of weeks ago I bit the bullet and took a trial month of Scrivener. I had read raving reviews about it and it was going to ‘make a writer’s life a lot easier.’ I did the fast-track intro to it and it all seemed pretty logic to me. At that point I still didn’t see the benefit over using Word in a systematic way though.

I used it first to write my short story for my local writers’ club. I wrote the story and… that was it. Scrivener didn’t give me a word count (as I had to stay under 1000 words), at least I couldn’t find it at the time, and the whole ‘card thing’ was totally unnecessary. I had to copy/paste my work back into Word to do the formatting and to get the word count (which I didn’t surpass to my surprise).

Scrivener Screenwriting

As time was passing by and the end of my trial period got closer I decided I would just go for it and bought it. I wasn’t going to give up so easily. I saw that when I opened a new document, that I could also open a script file. Wonderful! So I used it to write two of my scripts for my filming club. Every time you hit the enter key twice the program gives you the option of what you want to write next; chapter title, dialogue, camera move, etc.(the C you see in the image actually is a ‘Cut T0’ option, but it went as soon as I ‘let go’ with my mouse to take the screen print). When you click on what you want to do it automatically formats your text in the right font and at the right spot on the page. Magic! Made my screenwriter’s life a lot easier indeed. Happy so far.

Scrivener

I then used it to start to re-write my first novel. I copied my novel’s text from Word and chopped it up into the chapters that I had already made (see the grey area on the left-hand side of the above image). As I am re-writing the story, the little cards on the cork board (middle top of the image) are minimal at the moment, as I don’t have the chapters anymore that I had, just the three-act thing. I haven’t been using the right-hand side of the screen at all yet, I still need to dive into what it does. But I like the fact that I can see at a glance on the left-hand-side what chapter I’m at, where I am in the story, and which bits and pieces I still have to put in. As I am re-writing, there is a lot of shuffling around of text and I find Scrivener a great help to keep on top of it all. I haven’t finished the re-writing yet, but again, so far very happy with Scrivener.

My next project will be to write the third novel of the trilogy and this is where I think I will mostly enjoy the program. I will be able to write ‘hybrid style.’ I can draw up a backbone of the story on the corkboard cards and then start writing in the files. I can add files, move them around, delete them, put them on hold, anything. The corkboard can be flipped away when I undo ‘split screen’ and bring them up again to regain my overview and what point I was going to make in that particular chapter. And as I am writing I can change the backbone to go with my creativity, I don’t have to stick with the plan.

Scrivener2

Again, I need to dive into what the right-hand-side of the screen can do for me. I believe it is used for tagging words/situations/emotions in your text. So you know better how to build suspense and the likes. What it also does is show you the label you have given that piece of text. If you look at the image above, you see that you can put the document in ‘outliner mode’ (yellow image at the top) and then add labels and status to the chapters. The status can be set to ‘to do,’ ‘first draft,’ ‘revised draft,’ final draft,’ or ‘title page.’ Again, this would be visible on the right-hand-side of the screen when you are writing, so you keep the overview of it all.

Overall I am happy that I bought Scrivener. When you write more than just a page or two it is definitely worth the money. Oh, and it does do a word count, it’s at the bottom of the page. It even gives you a character count 🙂 .

Have a Happy Writing Weekend!

Empty Promises

Dead Sparrow.jpg

Yesterday I was made happy with a dead sparrow again. I was contacted on Twitter by somebody who asked me if I wanted to write for Channillo. I had no idea what Channillo was, so I had to google it. Apparently it is an online company that distributes stories in serial form, i.e. little bits at a time, like Stephen King did with ‘The Green Mile.’ People can take a subscription and download a number of stories per month.

I thought this was an interesting idea, so I asked for more information. Within a few minutes I received an email back, a very kind email, saying how excited they were that I was interested and providing a link to find more information about the set up. And of course I clicked on it and read the info provided. It appeared that it sort of worked like Amazon; the more people download your stories, the more you earn. It wasn’t mentioned how much you would earn though, only that I would get 80% of the amount paid for my stories, an extremely generous amount in this kind of business. Lightbulbs started flashing. The only thing was that you would get paid once per month and that the minimum amount transferred was $50, a very large sum and for a reason I can’t think of. Next to that it said that before you got paid the processing fees would be deducted. I looked and I looked, but I couldn’t find how much these processing fees were.

So, getting a bit more iffy about the whole set up, I emailed them back, asking how much the processing fees were and how I would know how many people had downloaded my stories. Was there a tally on the site? Did they distribute the company’s monthly earnings? Not to my surprise they weren’t as fast with their reply as their initial contact. In fact, I am still waiting for an answer to my questions. Very bad communication skills. I hate that.

So again the (empty) promise of becoming rich and famous was crushed. It’s for the better though. I am too busy writing my short screenplay at the moment (which I hope to finish today) and I have plenty to do after that (like finally starting to re-write my books and write the third one, which I hope to have out before Halloween), after which I go into promotion mode until the end of the year. Busy, busy, busy!

 

 

Lessons Learned #17

We want action!

Fooled you! I’m not writing about my filming antics, I am talking about writing. There was this article I read in Flipboard a few weeks back that stated that a famous writer was given a manuscript of a driver. After seventy-five pages the writer tossed it back to the driver with the statement “readers want emotion, not information.”

This little sentence made a huge impact on me. Like the driver’s book, the first seventy pages of my first book are full of information only. I am describing my protagonist, her friends, her family, her situation. Nothing exciting is happening. I knew this was a problem as I could see why people would put my book down again, but I couldn’t put my finger on why exactly or how to fix it. I needed to convey this information to understand my protagonist. Then I read this sentence and realised; there is a lot of information and no emotion! People are not moved to be scared, sad or extremely happy whilst reading these first chapters.

I recently read a book by a novice writer, Ruth Ware, called ‘In a dark dark wood.’ I purely bought the book as research as it was advertised as ‘genuinely chilling and totally compulsive’ and ‘a tense, terrifying novel.’ I wanted to know how to write suspense so I thought this was a good way to find out. The story isn’t actually that great (sorry, Ruth, just my personal opinion) as it is very predictable, but it is set up in a way that wants you to keep reading. How? Let me tell you.

Ruth Ware starts the story with the present where things are all very bad, but the reason for this is unknown. Then she flips back to the past, to where it all started. Slowly but surely she weaves the present and past together (in separate chapters, to not get you too confused too much and keep the grammar easy, i.e. all is written in the past simple) until a point 2/3 into the book where everything that has happened in the past is known and the present continues. I didn’t realise it at the time, but it is a very clever set up. Until you know what has happened in the past you want to continue to read to find out why the protagonist acts the way she does. From then on the story must grip the reader to read on and this is where I found it lacking. But then again, I’m a big action-adventure fan, so if this doesn’t happen I’m always a bit disappointed.

It was a big decision, but after that little statement from this unknown writer (I don’t think the name was ever stated in the article) I decided I had to re-write my novel. Definitely the first and perhaps also the second. When I wrote my first novel I realised I was very ‘short’ on dialogue and descriptions (the book is only 55K words long, where standard novels are usually over 70K words long), but I didn’t want to bore my readers. Now I know that I was a bit harsh and need to expand the story. I have also completely thrown the first and second part together, integrating the information bits with the action that happens in the second part. The hard part is, of course, to leave out any text that ‘doesn’t fit’ anymore, to throw away my babies, but I’m hoping that the newly added and integrated text will make it much more ‘readable, interesting and fun!’

Have a Happy (Re-)Writing Weekend!

Lessons Learned #16

WARNING: This blog contains *spoilers* for my second book!

I had marked this quote a while ago, in case I had learned nothing in a week. Which happens to be now 🙂 .

My approach to writing is to avoid writing as if I was lording over my reader, but instead, as if I was walking alongside them.

Avoid patronizing readers, or in any way trying to put yourself above them. They won’t find it endearing, for one thing, and it is yet another barrier you might be introducing in your writing that causes people to not return.

You haven’t arrived as the end all in your area of expertise. Picture yourself on a journey with your readers, writing about what you’re learning, and you’ll get more meaningful conversation back from them. People have conversations on journeys, not in lecture halls.

– Julie Neidlinger –

When I read this I found it so true. Sometimes I struggle with this in my writing as I don’t really know what readers remember from my first books. My second book is a stand alone one, it can be read without having read the first one. But I need to explain a lot as to what happened in the first book. I don’t know, when I’m doing this, if I am lecturing/boring them. I do realise it’s not so much a lecture, more of a repeat. I hope I have written it in a way that is still entertaining.

The lecturing part in the second book is more about the undertone of the whole story. The most controversial subject in this book is abortion. I don’t want to convert people to accept or be against abortion, but at the same time I want people to know that every situation is different and requires all possible viewpoints to make a thoroughly informed decision. Both females in the book get pregnant and have the option to have an abortion. At first one wants one, the other doesn’t. After quite some drama (of course) and some hard thinking they both change their point of view and choose the other option. As I myself have quite a strong opinion on this topic I had to restrain myself not to drive home my viewpoint and let the situations take their course as naturally as possible. What you want is that your readers enjoy your story and hopefully start thinking about the underlying topic afterwards, possibly with an added point of view.

This is actually something that I did learn this week. As a novice writer you only think about your story. You write whatever comes into your head. As you get more experience you start writing with your audience in mind. What would they think? How would they react to this? Would they like it if my characters do this? And of course; if I write it this way would my readers think it’s boring? Now and again you have to switch yourself from being a writer to being a reader. Read your own work from a step back and judge it as if it was someone else’s work. Be harsh, others will be too. And nobody learns from praise alone.

Have a Happy Writing Weekend!

Lessons Learned #14

This week I learned another valuable lesson that I want to share with you. I learned that your writing has to have a reason to be there. It sounds logical, but if you think about it it is harder than you think.

Why should my novel be there? There are so many love stories written, so why should people read mine? I could throw in a lot of sex and I’m sure it will be read. Just go to Amazon and put in the two words ‘vampire’ and ‘romance’ and you’ll be amazed what trash comes up, almost pornography if you ask me. But apparently it sells. I like my books to be a bit better than that. Sure, there are love scenes in it, but they have a purpose in the relationship arc I’m building, they’re not there to turn people on.

So what is it that makes a book a good book? Why should it be there? Because good books tell you more than what is written. Example: Finding Nemo is a story about fishes, no doubt about that, but it is also a story about a father-son relationship. Why did Nemo leave his father? What does his father learn whilst searching for his son? How has their relationship changed from the beginning to the end of the story?  There is a moral to the story. It is not something that is forced upon us. It is not a lesson that the writer wanted to teach us. It sort of happens, in the background. That’s why it’s a good story.

How do you write stories like these? I suppose you have to think about the background picture before you start writing. When I wrote my novels I didn’t think about  these underlying structures at all. Somehow they were there though. In my first novel Kate learns that true love is often found closer than you think and not necessarily in the prettiest person. In my second novel there are two story lines. First the change of mother-daughter relationship and second the husband-wife relationship. The book tells the story of the sacrifices/decisions made and the consequences that they bring and what impact they have on the relationships. Because I didn’t have these underlying stories in mind when I started writing I probably could have written them better, but I am happy that they’re sort of there.

For my third, and last book of the trilogy, I will certainly think more about these underlying story lines. Not only makes it for better reading, it also makes for better writing. If you know the characters and their traits by heart and which direction you want to go with them, it is so much easier to write about them; why they do the things they do and how they do the things they do (the little character traits that make them ‘alive’). I am hoping that with this extra effort put in my story line the book will be better than the first two.

Have a Happy Writing Weekend!