Tips and Tricks, writing

Quick Tip #2

Is your story one blob of text that looks daunting to the most enthusiastic reader?

Here are the times when you should make a new paragraph:

  1. When someone new is speaking.
  2. After dialogue before action that is not directly related to the speaker.
  3. When a new person arrives
  4. When the setting changes
  5. When you introduce a new idea or thought
  6. When the time changes
  7. When your paragraph is getting lengthy.

Are there any more you would include? Add it in the comments!

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Tips and Tricks, writing

Starting Your Story: Tips For That First Sentence

We’ve all been there. The best novel idea is bouncing around in your head and you’re staring at a blank piece of paper, trying to figure how to break the ice and start putting words to paper. 

Oh, that feeling is rough. It’s like, “C’mon, I’ve got gold in here, I just need that first sentence to really kill it.”

Well, let me tell you. You will rewrite that sentence. Now, I would recommend doing it later instead of six million times before you even start. You’ll lose that golden idea you’ve got before you finally put that last punctuation on your sentence, trust me. So, I’ve come up with some tips to help combat that. These tips are things I’ve used (or learned the hard way that I should have).

 

  1. Write the most cliche thing ever.

You will rewrite this later in your editing phase, so sometimes I start out with something like “Once upon a time” or “It was a dark and stormy night”. It lets my mind move past it but it also sounds kind of right (thanks Disney) so that you won’t keep worrying over it.

  1. Skip the first page all together.

I know, this one sounds a bit strange. But jump right into the middle of a scene. Keep it near the beginning, but craft the scene bouncing around your brain rather than forcing yourself into one that isn’t there yet. Act as if you already have those entry scenes. This gets you into the action fast.

  1. Tell us the ending. 

This only works in some novels, so use it cautiously. But, telling your reader the ending with the very first sentence brings in this tension throughout the whole novel of how we get there. Many novels have done this well, starting with something like “This is the story of how I died” or “This is how I ended up becoming queen.” But remember, it adds suspense throughout which means no big reveal later. Weigh the options. 

  1. Tell someone about it

Things tend to come more naturally when talking so get with someone you don’t mind giving a brief overview of your story. Explain the premise and then ask yourself and answer to them “So, how did all this begin?” See what flows out and tweak that. 

  1. Don’t procrastinate

This is the most generic bit of advice but the most important one. A lot of people, myself included, try to nail that first sentence and never get anywhere else with their story. Put something, anything down and move on. If you start researching or brainstorming and it just begins to take away from your story, you’ve hit the danger zone. Remember, this is a first draft. You can perfect later.

Tips and Tricks, writing

Quick Tip #1

Beware “turning” words, a word or phrase that helps shift your story to go in a new direction usually by telling rather than showing. A heavy reliance on them lends towards less action and less engagement with the reader. 

Turning words to avoid: suddenly; then; out of nowhere; surprisingly; shockingly; seemed

Examples: 

Turning words: Suddenly, Kevin threw a punch at Ben.

Action words: Kevin’s fingers tightened into a ball and took a deep breath. He swung quickly and Ben’s eyes widened as he jerked backwards.

Turning words: It seemed to me like Alicia had no idea he would be here.

Action words: I watched Alicia’s mouth form a tiny ‘o’ and the color slowly started to drain from her cheeks as her eyes locked onto his.

Tips and Tricks, writing

Guest Post: An Edit Vs a Re-Write: My First Draft Problem

By: Jeremy C Kester

In the spaces where I’ve done my research, I’ve found quite a number of other writers who would argue that in every story I do, once I complete my first draft I should crumple it up, throw it out, and start fresh. The idea is predicated on advice to ignore quality (or rather, not to let it get in the way of progress) when attempting to complete the first draft.

I can’t say that I am a fan of that method. It would be a waste to just re-do it all, similar to throwing all that work away.

Though I won’t dare say that the first draft of any of my stories is a work of pristine art, I was more in favor of strategic editing, lopping off chunks or adding where needed to bolster the weak parts of the story. I would argue that there are great stretches in what I write that is worth keeping. Basically, I believe that the above advice to completely re-write the book from scratch \ was more for when one’s first draft was really bad. Like really bad— like where a surgery is more likely to kill the patient than the disease itself.

Still, I never considered it. Even when my first drafts were terrible, I stuck with the strategic editing concept… that is until I have a book with over 170,000 words staring at me with a plot that indeed went awry somewhere in there. It would take so much work that I realized something: they were right the whole time.

There’re a few projects of mine, particularly in the last year, that I plowed through the writing to get the draft done. When I was struggling with plot, I simply ran through. Eventually, when I finished these stories, I found that they were a teeny-bit away from the intentions I had put forward initially. My inadequate planning bit me in the ass. There was too much wrong to fix with simple editing. Yet, I became determined to try.

Gravity 3 was like that. As is Gravity 4, Gravity 5 (note that I am revamping that saga anyway, but this only reinforces that), Of Earth and Ice (a sci-fi epic I am working on), Antlers (a novella that I am not fully ready to say much about yet), and a few others. I learned to write a lot, and write a lot I did; although, I ended up failing at achieving the real goals I wanted to get to with those stories.

Without my planning, without the skills I’ve been working on to better the prep work before I start a project, I would have to become comfortable with the understanding that a crappy first draft would act as a substitute. It would install a rough skeletal structure to hang a re-draft onto, allowing me to take on re-writing I said project with more confidence. The first draft is the rough outline I needed to begin with.

I am throwing a lot of these projects away now (metaphorically speaking). Committing to a re-write just seems… right. Sure, it would be a lot of extra work, but wouldn’t the degree of editing I would have to do to bring a bad manuscript back in line be even more?

 

Today’s guest author is the talented Jeremy C Kester. To read more of his works and support a great writer, check out his site jeremyckester.com.

Jeremy C Kester is an independent writer living with his family in DuPage County, Illinois. He works as an engineer with a polyurethane chemical company while he obsesses about writing. Petting cats is another hobby he would love to have more time for if he wasn’t writing, spending time with family, reading, and drinking coffee.

Tips and Tricks, writing

Ten Tools To Help You Write the Next Bestseller

Every writer wants to write the next bestseller but many lack the tools beyond natural talent. Here are the top ten items I’d recommend to help you create a work of art.

 

  1. A lamp to help your eyes

You most likely spend a large amount of time staring at a computer screen. Take care of your eyes and use a lamp that helps your eyes and makes you feel like you’re in the sunshine. It’ll boost productivity if you’re not fighting a headache from eye strain. This lamp has seven brightness levels, five color modes, and is adjustable so you can make it work exactly how you need it.

https://amzn.to/2HKl4Jj

 

  1. A notebook designed for handling the weather

This notebook is perfect when you are ready to explore and research the nitty gritty, but don’t want nature to destroy your notes. It’s waterproof, resistant to tears, flexible, and dependable. Never worry about losing your story again.

https://amzn.to/2OvyJnO

 

  1. A planner to help you be a great writer but also to help you be a good human

My Brilliant Writing Planner wants you to be a phenomenal writer, but also a phenomenal person. It pairs a regular planner, a writing notebook (full of storyboards, habit trackers, and other useful tools), and a personal tracker (which helps you keep track of career goals, life activities, your spiritual life, and reflections).

https://amzn.to/2OvyZTO

 

  1. A character development journal

The journal will help you plot out a truly fleshed out character. Starting off with basic personal characteristics, it pushes deeper, providing prompts and ideas to create a well-rounded and deeply rooted character.

https://amzn.to/2OuVcBN

 

  1. Pens that are classic and stylish

I know, you may spend all your time typing on a keyboard, but picking one of these up will make you feel like you’ve been turned into one of the great authors of old. Plus, they’re stylish and make your desk look great.

Chris-Wang 5Pcs Creative Lovely Artificial Feather Gel Ink Pens Office Supplies Students Staionery, Black Ink, Fine Point 0.5mm

https://amzn.to/2HKenqq

 

  1. Headphones to keep the noise out and the fun going

As a writer, I tend to spend a lot of time listening to music and one of the worst feelings is jumping up for a cup of coffee and forgetting I’m tethered to my computer. These wireless headphones will block out sound so you can write in a busy coffee shop and still have the mobility to move about your home or office without worrying.

https://amzn.to/2CWPLac

 

  1. A water bottle to stay hydrated and read great quotes

Keeping your body running well is important if you plan to pump out a novel. Staying hydrated will make you feel better, prevent headaches, and make your body work like it’s supposed to. It can be way too easy to forget to drink water, especially if you’re dehydrating yourself with coffee or other caffeinated products. Try this water bottle out which you’ll have a blast trying to read your favorite, redacted stories and will keep you in tip-top shape.

https://amzn.to/2U1dLmX

 

  1. An Emotional Wound Thesaurus to make your characters come to life

One of the most important parts of any story is the emotional experiences behind it. But if you don’t hold a degree in psychology or have gone through something personally, often times that emotional trauma can feel unrealistic or stereotyped when written out. This thesaurus gives you a crash course in the most common emotional wounds and helps you write them accurately. Readers will be able to connect much more deeply to characters that feel real and relatable.

https://amzn.to/2I2dUjQ

 

  1. First Lines of Literature Mug

Whether you are a tea, coffee, or hot chocolate drinker, a mug with the first lines of some of the greatest novels of all time will help kick that writer’s block and inspire you to make your own bestseller.

https://amzn.to/2I3eLQZ

 

  1. Writer’s Market

This is one of the most important tools in a writer’s kit. The Writer’s Market gives you a detailed description of publishing presses, magazines, and literary agents. Each entry provides pricing, what they publish, how to reach out to them (with contact information in some cases), the best way and time to send in your manuscripts, and a short description about them. This will save you an exponential amount of time in your publishing process. On top of that, Writer’s Market has a list of writing contests as well as a section on how to write a query letter and reach out to companies. Whether you are a first-time author or a well-seasoned novelist, this book is gold.

https://amzn.to/2JJjwRB

I hope you love the products I list here! Just so you know, I may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Enjoy!

Tips and Tricks, writing

How To Write a Relationship Your Reader Will Love

You may have heard that the golden rule for writing a relationship is that if they have to kiss for your reader to know they’re in love, you haven’t written a real relationship. But what does that actually look like? How do you write something that your readers will ship? Here are my top five steps to create a love story that your readers will fall in love with.

man and woman holding hands walking on seashore during sunrise
Photo by Ibrahim Asad on Pexels.com

 

  1. Opposites attract but they must have something in common

A really common problem of book relationships is that the two characters are exact opposites. One is quiet, the other is loud. One likes rap, the other likes classical. One likes small towns, the other likes cities. Every single thing (or pretty close to it) is opposite. And while that can cause a spark of attraction initially, that’s it. Now they can have differences, in fact, they should. Just remember that being opposites and having differences are not the same thing. Differences are good and allow them to create a partnership where one is sometimes weak and the other strong and vice versa. But, when they are polar opposites, they are in constant opposition with each other and this is unsustainable for a relationship. Either it will feel completely forced and unrealistic or very toxic where one is constantly sacrificing who they are. Instead, allow them to have commonalities. Create situations where the characters can bond over things they have in common. Let them share a cup of coffee and talk about their love of travel. Have them bump into each other at a local spot that both of them love.

  1. Let them love the same things

Want to build some chemistry fast? Let your character and their love interest love the same things and realize this. My favorite way to do this is to let your protagonist describe something meaningful to them. A book that changed them, a song they listen to on repeat, a spot in town, etc. Then let them explain why they love this thing to someone besides the love interest. Then at some point, let the love interest explain why and how they love this same thing or place to the protagonist (though make sure the reasons aren’t identical. That feels forced.)

  1. Absence makes the heart grow fonder

When the love interest isn’t around, let the protagonist’s thoughts wander. This doesn’t always have to be romantic. “Ben would have already gotten us lost if he were here.” If you aren’t in a perspective that allows thoughts, let us see them talk aloud to someone else about them, especially if the other person isn’t the one who brings them up. “We need some computer expertise.” “Oh, I know someone who would be terrible. Sherry can barely email.” This works very well when the person talking about them either denies or hasn’t yet realized their feelings. It allows the reader to feel like they have figured something out and are knowledgeable about the character. This creates a great connection to the character and adds complexity to their emotions and actions.

  1. Action, actions, actions

Unless you are portraying a toxic relationship, words don’t mean anything if they aren’t backed up. Show your characters doing things for each other, helping with the dishes, braving the parent meetings, shoveling their drive, making them dinner. If the only time we see them acting loving towards each other is when they say I love you or have an intimate scene, you have a bad relationship on your hands.

  1. Don’t make it simple

Readers love a love story that doesn’t come easily. And one person being hesitant isn’t usually enough. Raise the stakes. Is there someone standing between them? An arranged marriage, a parent, etc. Is there a rule? Can’t date a boss or coworker, can’t date a client. Is there a personal issue? Health is taking them away, their families hate each other, they vowed to be single for x years. Make them overcome these challenges. This will have your reader rooting for the relationship. You want your reader to be emotionally invested in these characters. When things do work out, your reader will get a sense of victory, for themselves as the reader and for the characters.

Tips and Tricks, writing

Five Questions to Help Write a Great Villain

Have you started work on your novel, the next bestseller? Have you looked at your villain and stopped, wondering if your villain is cliche, boring, or just not something your readers will have much feeling about?

istockphoto-635766096-170x170

Here are five questions to ask yourself to tell if your villain is the next Moriarty or the next Dr. Dufus

1. Does your villain have motivation? Often times a cliche villain is someone who is evil for evil’s sake. To avoid this, make sure you explain why your character does what they do. And don’t make it a simple ‘I want to rule the world’. Explain why, what that means. Does he want to rule the world because of a twisted sense of purpose, that he can rule it best? Does she want to because she was oppressed as a child and has tasted power and has become greedy for the feeling it brings? Does he want to keep someone he cares about safe?

2. Can the reader relate? This isn’t always a sure-fire indication of a boring villain, but often times a villain who a reader can’t relate to is hard to care about. Do they love someone or something? Do they feel humiliation, shame, embarrassment? Do they make mistakes, stumble over their words, get tired? Having a villain who is just pure evil who never tires, never makes a mistake (except maybe the one the hero uses to stop him in the end) is going to be the villain people don’t care about as much.

3. Does the villain have a relationship with the hero? Again, this is not a black and white issue. Sometimes the villain will have no idea that the protagonist even exists. But most of the time, it is a good idea to show how they interact. These characters are complex and we often take our cues of how to feel about our villain from our protagonist. If we don’t have a deep, complex relationship, we won’t care about the villain nearly as much. This one works both ways. Write how the villain feels but also make sure to highlight this for the protagonist as well. Writing a good villain is often times not just what he does, but how the characters we love perceive him.

4. Does the villain believe in the mission? This one can be cliche either way you answer this so I’m going to try to explain how to avoid that. Your character needs to avoid being wishy-washy. Now they can have doubts about what they do. That can create some great tension. But they need to care greatly. Maybe not about the protagonist or about everything. But certainly, he needs to care. Again, this doesn’t mean he needs to be one hundred percent confident for everything. She can have doubts about her decisions. But make the emotions strong, either way. Because if they don’t believe what their doing is important, how are we supposed to?

5. Does your villain always lose? I can understand wanting your hero to win, but if your villain is constantly failing and never gets one over the protagonist, you’ve probably got a rather boring character. There’s no suspense, no feeling of tension, and no stakes. This is also bad for your protagonist creation. Unless they are having an extreme amount of internal conflict, they are having an easy time of it and that’s just a story that doesn’t have any meat to it. You won’t get a hero that readers love and a villain they love to despise if the villain doesn’t win sometimes.