Saturday, 28 September 2013

Manuscript Presentation

A common and sometimes fatal mistake for beginning writers is a failure to neglect the presentation of their work. We all know you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover as it's what's inside that counts. As Bollo from the Mighty Boosh once wisely said, "It's not the peel but the banana."

But manuscript presentation really counts and is really important. A manuscript needs to be formatted so that it is not only easy to read but also to annotate by your readers who may possibly be competition judges, agents or publishers.
If done correctly your work will stand out immediately before it has been read if it looks professional.
See below for a really useful post on manuscript presentation that features an example of a perfect manuscript presentation. I advise you to print it out and keep for future reference.
Hope it comes in handy :)

Friday, 30 August 2013

How to stay focused when starting out as a new writer

How to stay focused when starting out as a new writer

I've come to the conclusion that the process of writing is even more enduring than a marathon as it never ends! It's a creative process that you pour in all your energy and thoughts and sometimes I wonder whether it's all worth it? I've come too far to stop but yet the end isn't in sight.

So this is why it's so important to stay focused when you're going through a period of doubt. You can do this by reminding yourself why you started in the first place and setting yourself a goal.

If you're serious at giving writing a go it's important to do it for the right reasons, if you're motivated entirely by fame and fortune, you'll probably be very disappointed. I started as although I had been to university and got a good degree I ended up as a secretary. It's not a bad job, I'm proud of how far I've come considering I graduated during a bleak time which so far has turned out to be a triple dip recession. But I can't help imagining that my  sixteen year old self would have been disappointed to learn of what would become of her once promising career.

What motivated me to write was my frustration of my job. I had no outlet to intellectually stimulate myself or show anyone my potential. So I came up with the ambitious idea to write a novel. I believe that everyone has a unique talent, something that they are only good at and I'm hoping that writing is mine. I've been writing since I was little but from time to time I've had to put it aside for practical reasons such as studying and working but now I've decided to give it a good go and see where it takes me.

My goal was simply to write a novel, something that I could be proud of. Obviously it would be amazing to see it published but for now my only aim was to write a novel for fun.

Two years on I have written a very, very rough first draft of a novel, so far I have devised a very ambitious trilogy and am currently on book two.

And then after a panic of doubt, I realised that I've achieved my goal and have successfully created another; Now it's to finish the second book, and after that, the third.

So remember to keep yourself focused, remind yourself why you're doing it and set yourself a goal, you'll be surprised at how much you can achieve if you don't give in.

Friday, 23 August 2013

How to Develop a Basic Story Plot

People often say that inside all of us is a novel waiting to be released onto paper, and if you fancy having a go then here is a quick article designed to get you going.

Hopefully you've already had that amazing moment when an exciting idea for a story suddenly takes hold. Try if you can and imagine it as a tiny seed. Yes, you've got a great idea but you're going to have to do a lot more if you want it to grow. And it starts with mapping out a basic plot. This doesn't have to be set in stone, but you need to have a rough idea of where you're going when you set out on your own voyage of literary discovery.

Carry on reading for my tips on the basic eight point plot. This has been adapted from the utterly amazing book by Nigel Watts - Writing a Novel and Getting Published. This book is essential reading for all writers and it is a book I turn to time and time again.

I will also be illustrating these points with a well known fairy tale; Hansel & Gretal.

1.) Once upon a time........

This is also known as the stasis, the starting point of your story. This sounds like a simple concept but how do you decide what the starting point is? Surely the starting point is technically when your lead character has been born, but I would suggest to introduce the starting point as close as you can to the next plot development.

Example -Once upon a time there was a woodcutter who lived in the woods with his wife and his two children; Hansel and Gretal. Everything at this point is happy and harmonious.

2.) The Big Bang moment....

This is the trigger moment where something unexpected happens to our character, it can be a happy surprise or more often than not something so terrible it plunges our character into a spiral of despair! This is the opportunity to really pull in your readers and grab their full attention. Hopefully they will then want to read the rest of your story to find out how the character resolves their problem.

Example - They were very poor and there wasn't enough food to go round so the wife forced the woodcutter to take his children deep into the woods and leave them there to die. This is the trigger moment for Hansel and Gretal and the reader at this point will care enough to want to read on to find out how they deal with their predicament.

3.)  The Quest....

At this stage your character is now triggered into pursuing a quest as a consequence of the trigger in an attempt to regain the status quo balance.

Example - The children upon realising what has happened try to find their way back home. This is their quest, their only chance of survival. If they didn't go on this quest they would simply die and the story would end.

4.) Surprise!

Similarly to the big bang moment something else unexpected occurs. Again, this can be good or bad, but it must be crucial for the plot to develop further and move the story forwards. This is where you can build up suspense and intrigue especially if the surprise is wholly unexpected.

Example - The children find a cottage made out of sweets and being very hungry to start to eat as much as they can. This is completely unexpected and at first appears to be a very happy surprise as there was no food at home which is why they were left in the woods. It seems all their problems are over.

5.) Dilemma time....

Due to the impact of the surprise moment the lead character now has to make a critical choice which will have far reaching consequences. A really good story will have a very hard dilemma such as going with what the heart wants rather than what is sensible.

Example - The cottage is owned by a witch who invites them in, and the children decide to take up her hospitality. The children decide to enter the house where they are held against their will, if they had refused entry they could have gone home and again the story would be concluded.

6.) Consequence......

At this stage the character has faced a difficult dilemma and they've made a difficult choice. Now it's time to face the consequences of their decisions or actions

Example - But the witch is a wicked witch and traps Hansel and fattens him up so she can eat him, whilst Gretal is forced under the witch's power. Unfortunately their choice to enter the witch's house has landed them in even more trouble, by now the reader will be wondering if and how they might be able to escape or be rescued.

7. Uh oh.......

At this stage your character is close to finishing their quest but just as things are starting to go smoothly, there's a spanner in the works which needs to be resolved.

Example - Soon Hansel has been fattened up by the witch and she starts a fire in which to roast him in. If the witch eats the children then the story will be concluded, it appears all is lost and there is no way the characters will now survive.

8. The grand finale........

This is where the story comes to it's conclusion and a new status quo has been created. Maybe everything is back to normal and the character can resume once more with their normal every day life.

Example - Gretal tricks the witch into the fire and is burned to death, she then rescues her brother Hansel and they find their way home. Their wicked stepmother is dead and there father is overjoyed to have them back and they all live happily ever after. The issue is resolved when the witch dies and every goes back to normal.

I hope this helps! :)

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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Top writing tips for new authors

            As posted in one of my earlier blogs I'm going to give this writing malarkey a proper bash and I've thought up of some good tips that I'm going to live by and see if they help me. I would like to stress that I'm not a published writer so you might think these tips are dreadful, in that case just ignore them.

For really useful tips on writing and getting published it's a good idea to visit author's own websites such as Neil Gaiman or Patrick Rothfuss  one of my favourite writers.

1) Write, write and finish.

An obvious one I know but personally I've lost track of the number of times I've had a good idea for a story and planned it out before losing confidence and motivation to see it through to the end. Writing is a marathon not a sprint and most of the time the finishing line seems impossibly far away.

2) Write everyday ( especially when you don't feel like it.)

It's all too easy to cast a good story aside once the initial excitement has worn off and it's hard to keep the momentum going.  I like to think that all stories start off the same like a big block of rock and we have to keep chipping away until we're left with brilliant sculpture. I think it's vital to keep going even when you've lost all hope, I truly think perseverance pays off.

3) Keep notes on your stories

It's so fustrating when you have a lightbulb moment when suddenly everything becomes clear and you're kickstarted back into writing mode... but you're stuck in a supermarket! I keep a notebook on my smartphone as its always accessible where if I think up of an idea I can jot it down before I forget because trust me no matter how epic your lightbulb moment was you will forget it.

4) Pursue your interests.

Keep yourself inspired.Things that interest you can be used to write with. For example I'm quite interested in the history of how people lived in different ages such as the Victorians or Celts. This interest could be used as a setting for a story and it's important to write about what interests us. You can learn all sorts of things in a variety of different ways such as books, films, television programmes  or museums, and you don't need to spend a lot of time doing so. I think as a writer it's important to keep a childlike curiosity.

5) Get to know your characters.

A good story needs characters that come alive if you don't know or care for your characters then neither will your audience. I keep a file on all my characters by writing extensively about them which helps me to develop the plot. I just love that feeling when one of them comes alive as sometimes they can really change the course of my story.

I can also spend a lot of time on this when I'm not able to write such as being stuck in traffic by thinking up of scenarios and thinking of what would character x do if they were in this situation.

These are the pointers I use for characterisation but it's fun to think of your own depending on what genre you like to write in.

Their likes and dislikes, what they look like, interesting fact/ secret about them, how they see their selves, how others see them, what they most desire, and how are they linked to other characters, who are they friends with, who are they related to who are their mortal enemies.

You can also use elements of your own personality to base characters on and also by using your own life experiences that you can apply to characters.

6) Enter Writing competitions

These are a great way to quantatively measure your ability and progression as a writer and also to build up a writers cv of published work which you can use to impress an agent or potential publisher. There's so many competitions out there and a lot of them are free to enter, plus you can win prizes.

I think they also serve to keep you motivated as if your lucky enough to do well then you know you're a good writer with a chance of getting published

7) Read( a lot)

What's the best to learn about writing? To study people that can through reading their books. Read the ones you love over and over again and read the bad ones too so you can learn how not to write. It's also important to read across genres so you can look at different styles of writing.

8)  Enjoy yourself
 Most importantly have fun, write for yourself, enjoy what you do and hopefully others will.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Diary of a hopeful writer

I'm not really sure why I've decided to do this, surely I'm just setting myself up for a fall but I thought it might be fun to keep a diary of my progress,( or serious lack of!) as a writer.

I've always been a bit of a writer and have always had a very active imagination but I've never really been serious with it. I've always put it aside when I've had other commitments such as studying and University but now in my late twenties that approach hasn't really gotten me anywhere. I've ended up as a secretary and all my previous and future jobs will never progress into that glistening career job we all dream of.

I like to think that each one of us has a unique talent that sets us apart, hopefully mine is in writing and I've decided to give it another go, this time I'm not going to set my hobby aside but treat it like a career.

I'm doing this because I want to show people I can do other things besides answer a phone and type up letters. I'm not expecting to become a literary sensation but it would be good to maybe win a few competitions. I want to write stories that I'll be proud of, something to show the grandkids!

For the last two years I've been working on a fantasy novel, so far I've planned a rough outline for three books and am very nearly finishing the first but haven't even started to edit it. It seems a long way off from finishing so in the meantime I've decided to try my hand with entering short story competitions. All the short stories I've been writing are based on my characters in the novel and set in the world I have created. I thought it would be a good idea to see if anyone out there appreciates my work but mainly it's a bit of fun that allows me to practise my skills. About ten years ago I entered a writing competition and was a runner up so maybe I do have an inkling of skill! If any of them do well maybe I'll post them up here for all to read.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Wow! I read this book cover to cover in a few days despite being a mum to a newborn baby and here’s why.
Fantasy fiction is my favourite genre but bloody hell, there's a lot of terrible novels out there, but this isn’t one of them. I was gripped from the beginning and couldn’t put it down. There’s none of the tired clich├ęs associated with fantasy such as a friendly, wise wizard, a ancient prophecy, an epic journey or quest, and so as the plot twists and turns you really never know what’s going to happen next. I found the character of Jorg really interesting, he’s a really strong fresh character and surprisingly charismatic.
I’m so happy that the sequel is already out so I won’t have to wait long to read it.
This is a really promising debut from a very talented writer.