Tag Archives: Story

Why Publishers Will Only Read Your First Page!

I have always thought it was unfair that a publisher spends so little looking at people’s novels before sending the rejection letter. But recently I was able to talk with an editor about why that is.

This is the most important thing she told me.

When a READER picks up your book, makes it past the cover and the back of the book blurb, the most they will read is a page. I was in Barnes and Noble for a few hours and picked up a few books based off of their covers. Most nonfiction got flipped to a random page and I read THREE LINES. I picked up few fiction books and read the back. I opened ONE. This is like the publisher reading your summary or Querry letter. They will be able to tell based off of that if they would open your novel.

The single book I opened didn’t even get the whole page read

In this era, we have very short attention spans. If the publisher didn’t get to the ‘best stuff’ then neither will your reader. Put your best work at the very beginning. But have hope. That one book I picked up came home with me because when I read the first half a page I decided I loved it. So when a publisher picks up your book they will read very little.

They will be able to see how much thought and editing you put in. They will see if you know how to write engaging work and know how to start a story. And most importantly they will be able to see if it’s the type of book they have been waiting for.

This summer I will be editing three novels I have been writing since 2014 and I hope to give you advice on getting published and making your book be one that people fall in love with. I hope this information was as eye-opening to you as it was to me.

Writing in Character Voice; Tips and Tricks

Maintaining character voice is one of the trickiest things in writing but I feel creating a distinct character voice could be trickier. Overall, character voice is often neglected in the writing community. Lots of people write all their character all in the same voice, that’s what I’m here to remedy today.

Font

Yes, font! You might think this is an odd way to write in different character voices and it is. One of the first things I do when opening a blank document is find a font that matches the was I think the character handwriting would look. This is a visual reminder that I should be writing in their voice. When I switch to a different story I’ll remember my style based on that font.

Length of Sentences

Some people ramble, some people don’t have much to say. I pause a lot to think about what I’m going to say, some of my friends don’t have any kind of filter. Try to picture the wheels turning in that person’s head, are they well greased or slowly falling apart?  How long it takes someone to express and idea is very indicative of character.

Word Choice and Dialect

This is a pretty common one. Some characters grew up educated, others are children, some speak English as a second language. Even just having a character from the south with one from Chicago will show you some very different results. Think through your characters past, where they were raised, who the hung out with, and what they know. Some characters will drop a ‘g’ off of ‘ing’ others won’t. These are the little differences that make characters distinct.

Mixed Speech Styles

Many great books use high class, ten cent words, but the funniest ones mix in character defining words.

“I can’t remember why the gods cast me down to Earth but I have continued to believe that they had a reason despite my recent fuck ups.”

I bet one art of that stands out to you. It really gives a sense of the character despite only hearing one sentence of narration from them.  I believe using mixed dictation makes characters seem more alive.

Now Pay Attention

As you go around day to day, listen to all the different people you meet and how they choose to organize their words. Even very similar people will phrase things differently. Try to learn from real life rather than films as those are often inaccurate. People often forget that a very simple writing tool is to listen.

I hope this helped you in some way. I think these are some of my best tips for making character distinct and interesting! Have a great day.

What Does ‘Write What you Want to Read’ Really Mean?

I always heard the advice ‘write what you want to read’ whenever I scoured the internet for inspiration. It wasn’t until recently that I really understood what that meant. I was at a writers conference talking with a creative writing teacher and I brought up this idea to him. When I think of writing what I want to read it stressed me out because it would need to be really well done and extraordinarily interesting (I’m quite a picky reader). I could never combine all the things I like into one book. Then he told me the meaning behind that statement.

If You Don’t Write What You Want to Read You Won’t Write Well

Thus the book you write doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to combine your interests. I have tried to write about things I don’t like before and those parts always end up uninteresting, short, or unfinished. So for that reason, I will write what I find most interesting in this world and I there are others out there who are also looking to read it. Knowing this took a lot of stress off my shoulders when developing ideas and I hope it helps you too!

Books on Marketing your Writing and Building Your Platform

I’m currently reading two books about how to market your novel. These both mostly focus on building your platform. “Sell Your Book Like WildFire” and “Your First 1000 Copies” both have similar content but their approach is entirely different.

Your First 1000 Copies is a very fun seemingly up to date book for having been written in 2013. This focuses on taking down your fears about marketing and making connections with people.

Sell Your Book Like WildFire has a very step by step approach to keep you moving forward. To me, it seemed less up to date but was written in 2012.

Both of these books motivate me greatly and I would recommend them. I personally like ‘Your First 1000 Copies’ more because of his writing style but I can see either beeing more useful depending on the style you like the most.

If you want to see more of my book recommendations or judge me based off of my childish style find my on GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/55094969-sparren-fayne

Do I Recommend Lynda.com to Writers?

We’ve all seen the ads for lynda.com where you learn skills for a small fee but I recently had the opportunity to try it out for free. My main goal when reading on there was to learn writing skills. When I went on there for the first time…

I was Initially Disappointed

When I saw the writing classes most of them appeared to be for nonfiction, like for resumes, speeches, and business. Now the ones I have gotten all the way through were very useful!

The Quality of the Videos is Great

There are a lot of good quality editing tips and a few story videos that particularly helped me. But because of the length of the series, I found it hard for me to get through them and often had to do it in more than one sitting. That isn’t the way I learn but…

I DO Recommend Lynda But Not for the Reason You Think

When I was searching for other writing videos I found tons of other resources which I think will help the other aspects of my career such as blogging courses and google analytics tutorials that I wouldn’t have know to seek out if it weren’t for that site. So if you are looking to expand your horizons when it comes to selling your work, then yes I would check out at least the 10-day free trial. If you are going there for the writing specifically, though, I wouldn’t hand over any money.

But That’s Just My Opinion

I am in no way sponsored Lynda.com and made this because I always wondered if I should sign up for the classes. I hope this helped you. Have a great day!

How I Force Perfect Conditions for Writing

As a writer, it is my dream to sit in a warm, sunny spot, surrounded by plants and my cat where it is very quiet. I would sit there and be undisturbed for a whole day, having food be delivered every four hours so I don’t have to move. If I ever become a bestseller then maybe I will get to have writing days like this, but until then I have to sacrifice some things.

To get settled I have to get into a semi-public space, like my living room, when no one else is around so I don’t get distracted by the many wonders of the internet. I can’t go to a super public place, like a coffee shop because that’s too distracting and traveling there feels like a waste of time. I sit in a big chair that already has a soft blanket in it and sit at the table with all of my plants and my fish. I would have my cat but she’s not allowed in my building.

The next thing I do is put on white noise. I used to listen to music but found lyrics would seep into my writing or the beat would change the pace of the story. So anything I listen to either can’t have talking or has to be in another language, this usually blocks out the rest of the world. If it’s cloudy outside, though, I won’t be inspired to do anything and will often time just crawl back into bed. If this is the case, I have to write at night with all the lights on. I’ll also need a sweatshirt nearby so I can regulate my temperature instead of standing up and messing with the thermostat.

I know that the more I move in between writing sentences, the more likely I am to stop writing. So before I start I get all my notebooks and some pencils and a sketchbook, the charger for my laptop, some CDs, a whole pot of tea, and some cookies or other snacks. That way I won’t ever have to stop and grab something.

So now I have my writing station all set up, it seems to be the perfect conditions for writing, but then I have to go on the quest for inspiration. This starts long before I actually write my novel, during the pre-production stage so to speak. When developing the idea I find three or four songs that really fit what I’m going for and save those to a folder. If I need to get in the mood, I listen to those. I also gather pictures of what my characters look like and paste them at the to of the document as well as any world building pictures or props I might forget. My goal with this is to have a strong mental image of what I want to convey and what my characters are doing.

I also need my plot written out in as much detail as I can to be paste at the bottom of the page so I can reference it constantly. I always need to be moving towards the next plot point or be inspired to get to what is next. This will let me get in the flow as opposed to jumping around documents trying to find inspiration. I need to write really quickly so I don’t loose my steam so I’ll either turn off spell check or just not bother with it. I might even turn on text to speech.

That’s everything I do to make the perfect conditions around me, it leaves little to the outside world except for one thing. I always seem to be busy with something else and need to get other work done, or submit something, or read something. Life just gets in the way and sometimes you can’t ignore it. I heard once that writers should wake up earlier or go to bed later than their problems so they can write when they don’t have anything else to do. When I did that it just opened the gates for me to procrastinate on real work until later in the night. I hear some people scheduled time but that has just never worked for me. The only thing I can do is make writing my priority, either by setting a due date or challenging myself. Nanowrimo is very useful for this purpose, it will get me writing 3000 words a day or more. Sometimes I can’t write and I accept that, but I always try to make writing at least a sentence every day a priority of mine.

I hope you can stop waiting for your perfect writing conditions and do your best to force them like I do. Even if what you need isn’t the same as what I need I’m sure you can figure out a hack way to do it too.

How to use Character Worksheet to its Full Potential

Last week I uploaded a character sheet but let me show you how I took it one step further. You can find all of the elements in this character background sheet. Writing it up in paragraph form will help you link ideas into a flowing format. Below I have a character bio base off of this post: http://wp.me/p5y43M-dd
I hope you find this helpful.

Milo Maxx never had many friends. In first grade, the kids who she thought were her good friends left her calling her crazy for thinking she could time travel by merely meditating with an orange stone. She never quite recovered from that, feeling outcast her entire life. Her parents were her closest friends being that they were quite young when she was born. Both of her parents were almost like is themselves, with her dad being an archaeologist and her mother a museum curator, every day was a wonderful look at the past. She would run home after school, ignoring the other kids so she could learn new stories from her parents.

Just like them, she wanted to be an anthropologist but there was more to her goal. Though their family lived happily, they were always a little tight on money. This developed a strong work ethic in her at a young age and a creative spirit and knack for entrepreneurial enterprises. Her parents taught her many other things too, like `to take risks, try new things, and most of all, learn from history or you are bound to repeat it. So Milo worked very hard and was able to go to a private school on a full scholarship.

But as with every story when it is going remarkably well, disaster struck. Milo’s mom was killed in a suspicious accident when she was still quite young. To support them, Milo’s father had to take on more jobs and steadily grew distant. As an only child, Milo got used to doing things on her own and took fate into her own hands. She used the stone that took her back in time and killed a dinosaur. Returning to her time, she showed her father exactly where it was so he could excavate it.

This brought in a huge amount of money to the family. She was able to do this over and over again until they moved from there little house at the edge of the city to a huge estate on the hilltops far away. But with each new discovery, her dad had to sacrifice more and more of his time to the dig and spend less of it with Milo. A maid and butler were hired to take care of Milo and the house and things started to settle down again. She had just been accepted to a prestigious school not far from home when her life got turned upside down again.

Now 17 and halfway through her senior year in high school someone in the government got suspicious of her father’s archaeological discoveries and detained him for questioning. Milo was then forced to move in with the only other relatives she had, her aunt, uncle and cousin who currently lived in Japan.

She arrives having never really met these people before and has no idea what is happening to her father.  She moves into the house which is much smaller than the one she had gotten so comfortable in but more than that is upset by the time stone having been taken by the government. Her winter break is a crash course in Japanese so that she can spend the last half of her high school year with her cousin at his school.

As she starts the new school year she feels more excluded than ever and is completely uninterested in her schools. She quickly becomes the ‘quiet kid’ in class and does not have the confidence to speak up and be friendly. Her extended family is a constant reminder of what her family used to be like and suddenly Milo is more lonely than ever.

Cue the start of the story.

Questions to Develop your Characters Background

Here are some questions to think about when creating a new character. This is not an exhaustive list or character sheet, merely something to get you thinking. It’s primarily focused on their past with a little bit of current situation mixed in. I hope you find it helpful!

Name:

Age:

Where they currently live:

What is the greater area around their home: (city, country etc.)

What they do for a living: (year in school also counts)

Previous homes: (or else why have they never moved)

Why did they move: (or where would they like to move)

How are they feeling at this time:

Who is their father: (specify their job)

Who is their mother: (specify their job)

Siblings: (or how being an only child has affected them)

Family relationship:

How was their relationship to their family before:

How old were their parents when they were born:

What was some advice they learned from their parents: (Relationships, work, life etc.)

What was their education:

What kind of college: (or why didn’t they go to one)

What were two defining moments in their life:

When they were little, what did they want to be when they grew up:

Do they have many friends and what is their relationship to them:

 

I hope there was at least one question on here you haven’t thought of before and that it helped you in some way. Good luck!

How I Write Lovable Characters

Here are my experiences and how I write characters I love as well as the mistakes I’ve made. I hope this helps in some way and Happy Valentines Day!

I’ve written many different stories with many different narrators and I know a good narrator will keep me writing. The very first book I tried to write featured a main character who had no faults. I originally thought that this would make the character so much better but as I tried to write it, I started hating the character more and more. It seemed impossible for me to relate to the character and made all the tension dissipate before there was really any action.

        So I abandoned that project and started on another one. This time I was sure to give my character actual human characteristics and flaws. In fact, my main character was enemy number one when it came to the world she lived in but was the hero as far as the book went. This book actually got completed but I kept reworking it. 12 drafts later I was making the character more empathetic and less cold towards everyone. So I learned that even if a character is evil they still have to be likable.

        Not too much later I started writing a character who had lost their memory. This is when I first noticed that half of a character was just what motivated him. It didn’t even need to be on the page as long as I knew what past thing the character had that was affecting the way he reacted now. That is to say, my character was passive and dull because there was nothing motivating his actions. I ended up not writing the most interesting parts of the story because I couldn’t imagine why the character was doing what was supposed to happen.

        Not long after that, I finally started writing characters who the readers enjoyed and who helped push the plot forward. The secret to these characters was giving them emotion and reason. They were no longer a puppet with one general concept making them up but were dynamic and relatable. Sometimes these characters would change to plot just because they started moving on their own.

From then on I started building my characters from the emotion up. I’d begun a book by thinking of a situation that would cause a highly emotional response and then create the two characters who would react in the most interesting way in response to said stimuli. Before even writing the story I’d come up with past events, fears, things they hated. By fleshing them out in every aspect I could, I could understand them better and relate to them more.

Another thing I found key was to make characters have strong beliefs. If a character wasn’t either super outgoing or super shy then they were boring. But if I worked with a shy character and put them in situations where they had to be outgoing, that was interesting. I listened to what others said about why characters were good or bad and I found some interesting distinctions. Characters who were emotionally not ready to take on the climax often came across as overly dramatic and a scaredy cat. Their counterparts who were held back by past memories were perceived as strong and compelling.

The thing that makes a character seem the most alive to me then, is responding to the plot in consistent ways that are unique to the character. If they respond differently every time then I can’t relate to or understand the character. If they respond the same way as everyone else the fall flat and become boring, unoriginal, and paper thin. It is their responses that keep the plot engaging and moving forward.

5 Writer’s Block Busters

I can distinctly remember one time when I desperately wanted to write but I had such bad writer’s block I couldn’t do anything but google how to get rid of it. This is a list for my past self and I hope it helps you too.

Change your place and state of mind

We have to tracts of mind, scientists say, one it the ‘focus’ mind that we engage when we are learning, listening and processing information. The other one is more of a daydreaming state where ideas flow to you. You’re in this state of mind while showering or driving, the thoughts just flow and you don’t try to censor them. So try to get out and doing something boring so your creative mind will kick into gear.

DELETE

The first time I heard this one I cringed and clicked away. This doesn’t mean get rid of forever, just move the past few sentences to another document and try again. Starting a paragraph back or even just a sentence has always worked for me.

Write about pineapples

If you just read that and thought ‘what the heck?’ then you’re like me. This was the thing that cured my writer’s block that fateful day. Now when I got this tip from who knows where, they meant, open a new page and get the juices flowing. At the time I just had my characters talk about pineapples. It got me into voice and away from the situation I was stuck at.

Write a later scene

This one is dangerous but it works. If you can’t write where you are any more then jump ahead to a scene you want to write. Be careful, though, I’ve had entire books finished with one or two spots and when I went to fill them in, accidentally changed the ending.

Get Busy.

Truth be told, I hate this one but I know it works. I’ve been told that inspiration never finds those who wait. If you do something else like read or draw or play music, anything to get creative, it should get you up and motivated to write!

 

I hope something here caused sparks that got you ready to write. Oh and if you’re here procrastinating on actually working… Get To Work!

Have a nice day!