How to tackle a writing session (when your project is done)

writing session

All writers have that moment where you’re not technically busy with a big project anymore but you still have the urge to write (after all it’s addictive) or perhaps you simply want to keep the habit of writing regularly from slipping from you.
Whatever your reason is; now you’re sitting there in front of your computer (or notebook) but you have no clue what to write.
So I gathered the ways that I handle these days in the hopes that they help you.

 

First I would like to set some form of goal for myself to work towards for the day. That way I am focused and less likely to abandon my writing in the middle of a session.
There are two ways in which I can set my writing goal.

 

The first is a timed goal.

Back when I was still starting out with my writing and I still typed slowly I would give myself the goal of writing for an hour. This worked because it’s easy enough to just set a timer on my phone and then no matter how badly I write, or how slowly, I will still have given attention to my writing.

 

The second is a word count goal.

These days, whenever I sit down to write I give myself the goal of typing 1500 words which is approximately one scene from a story. These 1500 words can be achieved through any method.
It can be three flash fiction pieces or one long scene. Anything goes as long as I meet my goal.

 

Once I have my goal I need to figure out what I want to write (obviously)

I’ve got three exercises that I prefer to use for this.

Turn a melody into fiction.

When I was little I had an art instructor who would put crayons in front of us and turn on some music. We were then expected to listen to the music and start drawing lines that we feel represented it. A happy song was bright colour and a sad song was cold colours.
So essentially you have to represent the song in a different medium. You still with me?

Now, what you can try is to put on a song (perhaps one without lyrics) and then listen to it. You must pick up on the tone of the music and let it inspire your creativity. If this music was describing a place what place would it be? If it was describing a person how would they look? If this song was a scene from a story what events would take place?
Play around with it and write as much as you can.
This is one of my favourite exercises.

Use a prompt.

They are all over the internet.
My favourite prompts come from the fake red head. Her prompts are a lot more creative and witty than most prompts on the internet. I feel like the prompts honestly set my imagination on fire and that is why they work well for me.
Again just basically pick a prompt and roll with it. Try to get as much words down as possible.

 

Lastly – read through your old scrap writing and see if anything inspires you.

If you don’t already know – I am a big believer in the principle of saving all your old writing because no matter how bad the writing is you never know what a good idea is.
So if you are like me with a bunch of half ideas scribbled down somewhere or pieces of flash fiction saved on your computer then go read through it and see if anything jumps out at you.
Ask yourself if you can continue with this piece or if it connects to something else you’ve written.
Perhaps you had a cool magic system in one piece but the character wasn’t so great; then go right ahead and write a different version with the right character.
Play around with your old ideas because they might just spark some new ones.

 

Those are my favourite exercises and I promise you that I do not recommend anything that I don’t personally think will benefit you.
With that said I suggest that if you have a time sensitive goal you know where your recourses are beforehand so you don’t have to start googling things during your precious writing time. If the internet distracts you too much it’s better to just turn it off and stumble along on your own.

I hope this helped and as always if you liked this post please share it or comment. I would love to hear your favourite method of tackling a writing session.

My top 3 resources for writers.

3 writing resources

The only things a writer truly needs to write is an idea, some basic language skills and something to write on.
Yet if you do some digging you’ll find dozens of resources on the internet designed to make writing easier for us. Some resources are to inspire us while others are to help as plan or write faster.
I figured that since I’ve been writing for a couple of years now I might as well share with you my favourite resources so you can benefit from them as well.

The first one is obvious and you probably already know it exists.

 

Pinterest…

I tell people about the magic of Pinterest all the time and I still stick to it. Pinterest is an image based social media where you can see other people’s ideas, creations, thoughts and more. I use it throughout my writing process.
It has helped me pick names and faces for characters and I’ve even formed entire plots around some of the opinions that are shared on pinterest. So I suggest you open your Pinterest account and start searching. Look for photos and quotes.

 

Bibisco.

This one you probably haven’t heard of yet but it’s one of my favourite things ever.
It’s a computer program that helps you organise your planning. I specifically use it to help me shape my characters because it has built in character questionares (that actually work)
My experience is that it’s easy to use, it helps motivate and it’s just generally well rounded.
You can even write your story on it but I prefer not to because it just doesn’t compare to word’s Spelcheck.
I used this last year when I got stuck with Pink and it helped me slide past the probable very easily.

 

Finally Hemingway.

Hemingway is the ultimate spellchecker site.
You can copy and paste entire pieces of your writing into it and it will tell you which sentences are confusing. Which sentences are written with a passive voice and which words can be replaced.
It helps you trim your work and round off all the edges.

 

I hope that you try at least one of these things because they have helped me as a writer a whole lot and I wish for them to help you as well.
If you like this post and found it helpful please share it or comment.
I want to know what resources you would recommend. (I’m always looking for new stuff)

(Please know I only recommend things that I honestly feel you would benefit from)

The right way to use subplots

subplots

I didn’t really plot the novel, which I’m busy with, before I started writing it. I just sat down and wrote.
This means that every now and then I have to pause in my writing and revaluate what I’ve written and then go figure out what I have to write next. While I wish I had taken a couple of days to just plot before I started writing, the process is working and I’m making great progress.
I mention this because recently I’ve had to stop in my writing again and take a look at my subplots. I had to decide what they are doing in my story and how exactly they will affect the end result.
After doing research and working out my own novel’s problems I’ve decided to share with you all I now know about subplots.

First let’s take a look at what a subplot is.
A subplot is a strand of plot that supports the main plot.
If you consider the plot of your novel to be a braid then a subplot would be a single strand in that braid. It is a sequence of events that is part of the story but stands on its own aside from the main plot.
Now I’d like to underline a word in my definition and that is “supports.”
The thing about a subplot is that it has to somehow be relevant to the main plot. It has to support the main plot and there has to be a reason for the subplot to be in the story.
Whatever you do, don’t just create a subplot to be filler. Instead use your subplots to strengthen your main plot and ending.
There are a whole bunch of different kinds of subplots, so here I want to share with you the most often used half dozen.

1. The romance subplot.
This is by far the most common subplot. It consists of the main character overcoming obstacles to be with the love interest.
2. Character arch.
The character arch can count as a subplot. Often how the character changes affect the end of the story and of course it has obstacles and revelations that lead your character to changing.
3. Proving themselves.
I’m simply calling this category “proving themselves” but it covers both redemption and revenge. This is when your character feels like they need to make up for something that happened in the past.
4. Non romantic relationship subplot.
You can have a subplot for relationships such as child parent relationships or friendly relationships.
5. Side character subplot.
If one of your side characters has their own separate goal from the main character than this can be a subplot as long as there are obstacles to overcome and it helps with the story’s end.
6. Other goal subplot.
I’m using this one for my story. My character’s main goal is to get the villain to stop hunting her. But there is a second goal and that is to help an injured friend.
Your character can have two goals which both lead to strengthening the end.

Now I just want to share with you a little about mixing the subplots.
First, let’s talk about where a subplot begins. The importance of the beginning of a story is to introduce your protagonist, antagonist and the main plot or goal. That means that the best place to introduce a subplot is after you’ve laid the ground for those three things.
But how do you close a subplot?
You might have noticed that I mentioned quite a few times that the subplot should strengthen the end of the novel. Keep in mind what closing each subplot looks like.
The most common and normally best suited place to close a subplot is in the third quarter of your story. Before the main plot closed so it can help give that ending some strength.
There is an exception for the romantic subplot though. For some reason we as readers and watchers of movies like to see the romantic subplot closed last. After the final battle we want to see the main character kiss the love interest. We want that subplot to be resolved at the end.
I’m basically done but one last thing you might want to keep in mind is that too many subplots can crowd your story and make it feel confusing, so unless you are writing a 500 page epic stick to less than four subplots.


I hope this will help you with your writing and that you’ll share this post.
If you are busy with camp NaNoWriMo, then good luck to you from me.

What are your story’s subplots? What do you think is most important to keep in mind about subplots?

You need other writers.

Hey guys! Today I have something a bit different for you: a guest post! I reached out to my good friend, Enette Venter of Enette’s World, to see if she would like to write a post for you lovely people out there. (You know, all twelve of you.) I wrote a post for her blog,…

via Guest Post: Enette Thinks You Should Consider Writing Groups — Ayli’s Offerings

 

So the link you see above is for a guest post I wrote for Ayli from Ayli’s offerings and it’s basically about my writing group and why I think people need their own writing support. I really want you to check out this link because when I wrote it I could tell it was going to be epic and now that it’s published I still stand by that point.

So go read it… right now… enjoy!

What you and I can do to not suck at writing beginnings.

IMG_4076

Today I want to talk about what makes the beginning of a book good and the elements that it should have.

This week’s topic is something that has really caught my attention these past few weeks because I’m editing my novel, Imaginary friends, and well… it’s not going great.
My editing was well on track, I had highlighted exactly what I needed to fix in my story but then just as I started putting in the changes I realized something. The beginning of my story is not in line with the rest of my story. I had opened it wrong and if someone were to read it they might read a line and put it down again because it’s just not gripping. So after I threw a tantrum in my room and ate some chocolate spread right out the jar I got back to work. I went right back to the basics of storytelling and that’s what I want to share with you now.

The beginning of the book is what sells the story, it introduces your character and genre to your reader so it really is important.

What make the beginning of a story interesting?

The basics that your beginning needs.

• Character – the who behind it all
• Setting- the where that is dependent on both place and time.
• Conflict- this is a must in any story.
• Style- understand, your whole story will look like this.

Now those are big things I can nearly write posts for on their own. I’m not planning to do that but hey if you want to know more just ask.

 

Let’s start with character.

Character

I’m going to assume you know your point of view character really well. If you don’t then you should go sit down and invite him or her to talk with you.
You get a lot of different stories but the one thing that normally has people continue reading a story is that they like the character. So in your first paragraph it is best to introduce your main character. Not an unimportant side character because that’s like lying to your readers. You need to show them what the story is about so open with your main character or a similarly interesting and important character that will be with them throughout the entire story. (that’s of course if you don’t kill them at the end of act two.)
When I say introduce though a lot of people might think I mean that they should launch into something that goes…Charles had red hair and blue eyes…
No don’t do that. That’s not interesting and it doesn’t show your readers what they should be expecting from the rest of the story.
Introduce your character as a person beyond how they look and really just make it interesting. Show your reader who your character is from line one.

Extra characters
Extra character that you should introduce in the beginning or first act really depend on what you are writing. Here is the general rating from importance.

  • Villain
  • love interest
  • sidekick

The next big thing your beginning needs to make clear is the setting.

Setting

There is nothing quite as confusing as when someone is on the phone one minute and driving in a carriage the next. I’m sure you can do this just make sure that your reader knows that this is something you will be doing. You want to pull your reader into the story and for that they need to know how the things around them look.
If you love world building like me then I have to warn you however not to overdo it. I have read stories where people push the reader out of the story because they have paragraphs and paragraphs of description for something that isn’t relevant right at that moment. I know you love this creation you had built but please you need your reader hooked before they will truly care.

Show your reader where they are but don’t show them only where they are but also what is happening in this place. Got it?

Conflict.

Conflict is one of those things that work side by side with good characters. If you have good character but there is no conflict your reader likes them but they don’t see why they should be concerned. They won’t keep reading because there is no answer to find out.
But…
Just because you have a big war going on doesn’t mean that it’s interesting either, you need to make your conflict personal to your character so it becomes personal to the reader. For the first scene in the story you might also want to make it a more immediate conflict such as an argument or new information that needs to be acted on now.
You need to grip onto your reader and pull them in. So do that. Pull them as close to the personal side of your story as you can.
The last thing you need to show your reader in a good beginning is style

Style

Style is basically a mix of smaller elements that form how you write. First person or third? Past or present tense? What kind of words do you use? Those are all part of style.
Style isn’t something I can tell you how to do because no two writers have the same style and that’s okay. Writing styles tend to grow with the writer and the characters but it’s still important to establish at the beginning of the story.
I don’t know about you but when I read a book that’s written in third person and it suddenly switches to first it really throw me off. Or if the book is written really funny at first and then by the second act it stops having any humour and goes all serial killer on you, I will stop reading.
I have stopped reading a book specifically for that reason. Not because the dark parts where bad but because that harsh change made me feel like I lost the story. If you promise your reader that your story is going to be a horror then keep it a horror. If it’s a romance in act one keep it a romance in act two.
If you want it to be both then make sure that when the horror comes you don’t stop having a romance thread and better yet show your readers that it will be both from act one.
Before I close this post off I figured that I should show you what my first line is currently settled on.

Charles’s breath came in ragged and his legs were starting to ace. Shouldn’t he be fit from all these years of running away from flesh eating monsters? His burning lungs answered no.
So  what do you think? If you read that first line would you maybe take a look at the rest of it?

I hope you manage to nail your story’s start, if you’ve already got a great start feel free to share your first line. If you’re not happy with your start at the moment tell me why.
What do you think makes a good start for a story?

1st person POV vs 3rd person POV.

IMG_6817

Last week I told you why Point Of View (POV) is essential in good writing and the effects it can have on your story.
Now I want us to delve a little deeper into it and take a look at the difference between 1st, 3rd, and 2nd person POV.

I’m sure we’ve all read books that are written in the way that the narrator is the main character telling you what happened. It generally looks like this.

I wasn’t sure what they planned on doing to me but I knew it was nothing good. I glanced up to meet her seemingly innocent eyes. She grinned at me.
“Well goodbye,” I said launching into a run. She called after me but I didn’t even look back.

This is called first person POV. It is when the story goes, I did this, I did that.
In the more experienced group of writers 3rd person is really popular. It’s when the narrator isn’t a character and the story is told as if simply observing everything. It normally goes like this.

Charles wasn’t sure what they planned on doing to him but he knew it was nothing good. He glanced up to meet Sarah’s seemingly innocent eyes. She grinned at him.
“Well goodbye,” Charles said launching into a run. Sarah called after him but he didn’t even look back.

Third person is all about he did this, she did that.

The last point of view is hardly ever used because really it’s weird. 2nd person POV is when you tell the reader what they did. As if they are a character in the story. Normally a book is only written like this if it’s a multiple choice book.
It looks like this.
You weren’t sure what Sarah planned on doing to you but you knew it was nothing good. You glanced up to meet her seemingly innocent eyes. She grinned at you.
“Well goodbye,” You said launching into a run. Sarah called after you but you didn’t even look back.
As you can see this is a confusing way of writing because you are telling your reader what they did to which they will shake their head and say… No I did not do this.
I still thought it was worth sharing because in truth there are no one way to write and when I was little I had read a book exactly like this.
It told me what I did and at the end of each chapter I got to make a choice. Each decision I made would lead me to a different chapter, a different way for the story to pan out.
So while I can’t share with you all the tips and tricks of writing 2nd person POV there really are people who use this and if you feel like you want to give it a go who am I to stop you?

 

Now I want us to take a closer look at the first two POV’s, 1st and 3rd, and compare them.

Telling and showing.
One of the most shared piece of writing advice out there is show don’t tell and a lot of people take it close to hart. While I do agree that showing is a writing skill every writer should learn I think that to what degree you use it is your choice.
A first person POV is based on a lot of telling while 3rd person POV is based on showing. If you want to work mainly with showing then try 3rd person. If you want to add that little more voice to your story try 1st.

Multiple POV.
This is a rather simple rule in writing. When you write in first person you can only have one POV character while if you write in 3rd you get to have as much as your story needs.
This is because if you write ‘I did this, I did that’ you have chosen your narrator for your story and it get’s confusing when you keep switching between narrators so the best advice I can give you here is stick to 1 POV if you write in 1st. If you write in 3rd you are given more leeway.
Character.
This is where 1st gets a lot of good words because you get to give your reader an easy access to your character. You get to show them how your character thinks. You get to add funny monologue without trouble. 1st person really is the best for getting your reader close to your character.
If you plan to write in 3rd POV though you can still add a lot of your character’s personality to your writing through deep POV which is a topic on its own for a next week.
Secrets.
This is something I like to play with for no better reason than I’m secretly evil.
You can use the limitations of both 1st and 3rd POV to add secrets to your writing.
If you’re writing 1st then it’s easy because you can’t share anything with your readers that your POV character doesn’t know. That way you can hide something in plain sight but make your POV character look straight past this leading to a big surprise for your reader when they find out.

In third it is just as fun because you can torture your readers by giving them only pieces of information. You can warn your readers that bad things will happen by writing from the villain’s POV in one scene so they’ll sit on the edges of their chairs during the next when they helplessly wait for your MC to step into danger. (Evil Laughter!)
This is something you have to be careful with though because if you surprise your readers to much with 1st you might actually hurt their feelings so much they will stop reading. They will stomp their feet and ask why you didn’t warn them who was going to die. When hiding secrets in 1st remember to hint at what’s to come just a little. This way your reader will be mentally prepared for hart brake.
The danger of 3rd person is that you can’t keep showing your reader what the villain is doing. This is a trick that should only be used one in a story. Maybe twice if you’re this generations JK. Rowling and can pull it off. The reason you can’t keep showing your reader this is because it works on their nerves and it makes them angry.
I know the general rule of writing is to toy with your reader’s emotions but you want them to be angry and sad with your MC. The minute the anger is no longer attached to a character the anger becomes directed at you and they’ll put the book down. So remember you want to add suspense using secrets but you also want your reader to keep reading.
Now the last point between 1st and 3rd is…
Difficulty level.
The fact is that 1st is easier than 3rd to pull off.
If you are completely new to this and considering writing for the first time I will suggest to you what was suggested to me when I started… Write in 1st.
It’s really easier than third. It is good way to simply get into the writing swing.
If you are more experienced and you haven’t tried 3rd yet then I really suggest you do. It might be hard and suck at first but it’s worth the practice and a good skill to have even if you don’t plan on ever using it.
So that’s basically the difference between 1st and 3rd. For the record while I had started with 1st I now prefer writing in 3rd person. Having written in both I really suggest you keep practicing both.

Here is a little exercise to go with the post. If you normally write in 1st person then write something in 3rd today and vice versa.

So what do you think? How do you write and do you have any tips? Have you ever read or written something in 2nd POV?

Why POV is essential in good writing.

POV or Point Of View is from who’s perspective a story is told. There are a lot of fine points that go into deciding on how your POV isIMG_6137 written. It’s all about the nature of your story, who your POV character is and how are you going to put this on paper.
In the next few weeks we will take a look at the different aspects of POV.
Things such as who’s your POV character? Will you tell the story in 1st, 3rd or the odd 2nd person? What is deep POV?
For now though I just want to cover the importance of deciding on POV and give you a few basic principles.

When you are in an argument the words ‘point of view’ means someone share with you their perspective on something. They don’t simply share with you what happened, they share what they thought happened, what thoughts followed the action and how they felt about it.
This is what you should do in your writing. Your POV character shouldn’t just show what happened. They should show what they think happened, the thoughts that ran through their head and the feelings that they felt.

I’m going to make up a scenario her to show you what I mean. A man and a woman have an argument. The man insults the woman and she slaps him.

Let’s start with the thoughts your POV character had.
When one character slaps the other, each one will think something different. The man being slapped would be surprised. He would realize he had just crossed some sort of line. His head might rerun what just happened.
The character giving the slap would have different line of thought. It will probably go like this.
To far now buddy. You deserved that. O my what had I just done? It doesn’t matter, he had it coming.

So you see when you put different characters in a situation their personality’s means that they won’t be thinking exactly the same thing. In writing you only show what your POV character is thinking which means showing a situation in a certain light for your readers.

If we move on to how characters ‘feel’ in the same situation, then again they won’t match.
The man who receives the slap might start out confidant. Followed by surprise. Followed by shame.

The woman who gives the slap would probably have a little more mixed up set of emotions. They might start out angry. Then slap the person and feel relieved. Then they might feel a little guilty but would shake it off and be angry again.
Now you’re no longer simply showing a situation in a certain light you are pulling at a reader’s emotions.

Now we get to the really fun part of different POV’s. You get to hide things from your reader.
Your POV character only show the reader what they think happened. This is fun because this means you can hide things from your reader simply by hiding it from the POV character.

You see the guy who receives the slap thinks he is confronting the girl about cheating on his friend, based on the fact that he saw her kissing some other guy earlier. He tells her off not expecting her to do anything but then she slaps him.
You tell the story like this, your reader won’t like the woman. They would cheer for the guy, then gasp as the woman slaps him.

Now the thing is she never did cheat on his friend. What he saw was some drunk force a kiss on her. Luckily afore mentioned friend had come to her rescue but as you can imagine she is still pretty shaken. So now she is told that first off, this guy had seen the drunk kissing her but actually thought she was cheating. She feels offended, embarrassed and of course angry so she slaps him.

If you tell the story like this then the man is the one giving a bad impression. The readers will be angry side by side with the woman because they were shown the situation the way she saw it.

Now all of this means that you can throw a situation or a character in a certain light and have the reader think what you want them too, then if you feel like it surprise them later on.
A good example of this is Snape in Harry Potter. Harry was the POV character, we saw everything the same way he saw it, and because of it we all hated Snape. Then in the end we see what had really happened. We see the behind the scenes and we learn that Snape wasn’t so bad after all. (Personally, still not really a fan of Snape but that’s for another day.)
Some well known tips on picking a POV character.

A POV Character doesn’t always have to be only the main character. A lot of stories have multiple POV characters. If you’re new to balancing multiple POV characters then a good limit is under three.
Even if you are experienced than keep it beneath let’s say 9. Readers actually want to spend time getting to know your characters so if you keep jumping from head to head then the readers won’t really have time for that.

When picking your POV characters you should keep in mind who plays the biggest roles in the story. These are the character’s who’s POV you want to writer because your readers want to be right in the middle of what is happening not simply watching from the sidelines.

When you have more than one of you POV character’s in a scene and you need to decide from whose POV to write then ask yourself who can tell this in the most interesting way. Or ask yourself who has the most at stake in the scene? Who will lose the most?

A mistake a lot of new writers make is thinking that each POV character should get the same amount of scenes. This is wrong. Only write a scene if it’s necessary, and tell it from the perspective that is the most interesting. Don’t let the point of your story go because you feel bad leaving character’s out. It doesn’t work like that.

So there you have it, my most random advice on picking a POV character.
I have a little challenge to go with this and it’s a challenge I give on this blog a lot.
Choose two characters completely different from each other. Now put them in a place and circumstance and write a scene for each of them. Each character will notice something different, describe thing different. So pick a scene and simply make them observe it and make sure that each character’s POV is different.

So what do you guys think? What else is important about picking a POV character?