Monday, February 27, 2012

Read More to Write Better


Sure we read fiction to escape reality or to be entertained. We read nonfiction to learn or to be inspired. We read for various reasons. However, did you know to be a better writer you have to read? Not just read, but read analytically.

Reading often and with an analytical eye will help you do the following:

Understand the three-act structure of storytelling

This one's fairly easy and something that does not necessarily have to be taught to you if you read fiction regularly.  The more you read the more you absorb the three-act structure of storytelling. I wouldn't be surprised to know a four year old could tell an adequate story in less than five sentences just by having someone read him a bedtime story every night.




The dinosaur lost his blanket. He travels the land for days in search of the blanket and spots it near the top of a volcano. He climbs up the mountainside, fighting lava monsters until he finally makes it to the blanket and takes it back. He safely returns to his mommy and daddy, and lives happily ever after.


As dull as that story is, it's still a complete story that contains the three act structure with Setup, Confrontation and Resolution. We understand this structure early and easily in stories just by reading and reading often.

Helps to study the market

Compare your books to other books by reading similar books in your genre with similar themes. It allows you to see how popular or appealing that genre and theme is, how your story compares to it in terms of uniqueness, and helps you discover overdone plots and overused characters and other clich├ęs.

With that information you can write a book that stands out from the competition and produces buzz. You can also see the commonalities of your genre and understand why readers gravitate (or not) to those types of books so you can better provide reader satisfaction.


Helps to find your voice

When reading stories with similar themes as your own you  can analyze how other authors tell their stories and why you think their voice worked or didn't work for that book. Is it too dark? Fast paced with choppy sentences? Does it lack tone or emotion?

Finding out how the narrative voice fits with the book or not will help you see which style is best for your own story.


Helps to broaden your vocabulary and improve your grammar

We read many words while reading some of our favorite books and some are words we're not familiar with. We learn and memorize those words and add them to our vocabulary. With every story we read our vocabulary grows. The more words you know, the easier it is to write and be more descriptive.

We can be our own teachers at times and improve our grammar just by reading regularly. Seeing a word spelled a certain way, or with an apostrophe here or there becomes second nature to mimic that in our own writing.

Plus, more people should easily understand the difference between the words then and than if they read those words in a few sentences often. (A tiny peeve of mine).

Bad excuses NOT to read as a writer

  • Afraid of stealing ideas from another book or author.
This is a poor excuse, in my opinion. True, there are few original ideas left (if any) but there are limitless ways of telling a story. You have a unique voice, style and creativity that it's nearly impossible for two people with the same idea to tell the exact same story.
  • It takes away writing time.
If you're on a deadline, sure writing time is few.  However, plenty writers benefit when they read almost as much (if not more) than they write, for reasons stated above. 



So continue to write but remember to read and read often for entertainment, inspiration or whatever the reason, but especially if you want to improve as a writer.
Do you agree with my points? Do you have something to add that I may have missed?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Embracing Rejection Instead of Fearing It

All writers experience publisher/editor/agent rejection at one point in their writing careers, but serious writers learn to embrace that rejection and use it to improve their writing.

Here's how:

Don't let it hinder you

Just like that cutie in high school who never knew you existed. If only you could've built the courage to plop your food tray down on his table, slide in beside him and say, "Hi," things might've been different. Instead, fear held you down at the table in the corner with the rest of the unpopulars as you watched big busted Kyla sit down beside him and start up a giggle-laden conversation. What, just me?

Fear keeps you from trying because you're uncertain of the results. And the ultimate fear for writers is … what if they don't like my writing. And instead of finishing the novel, you put it on the backburner because if you finish it then you'll want to share it. And what if they think it sucks?

You want to get it published, but you're afraid of submitting it because you're writing sucks compared to other writers.  What if publishers think you have no business writing, even grocery lists?

They accepted and published your novel, but you're afraid to market it because reviewers and readers could be harsher than any editor. What if they hate your book so bad the only sales you get are from readers who buy your book for the satisfaction of watching the book burn ritualistic style and in your backyard, nonetheless?

Own up to the fact that you will be rejected one way or another, sooner or later, and make sure every time you ...

Learn from it

A (sort of) nice thing to take away from being rejected by a publisher, editor or agent is that sometimes you get a valued piece of written inscription known as a personalized rejection letter. Sometimes the editor will explain why the manuscript was rejected and sometimes will even give you pointers on how to improve it. Leaving you with the decision to fix it and move on (or resubmit) or move on to another publisher without making any changes at all. Whichever you choose, the point is … you're moving on (or revising and resubmitting) and trying again.

You may get rejection after rejection and no explanation for it. Which isn't unusual but if your work is continually getting rejected it's time to change your tactics.

  • Rewrite the query letter. Sometimes tweaking the query letter is all it takes. Since the query is the first hint of your writing skills the editor encounters, it's important that it's just as polished as your manuscript.

  • Have someone else look over the query letter and manuscript. Sometimes it's difficult for you to see your own mistakes and typos, or if something needs clarification.

  • Double check and follow the submission guidelines. Make sure the publisher publishes similar books in your genre, are open for submissions, accepts from author or agent, etc.

  • Be professional. No emoticons, text-like abbreviations or usage of slang in your query letter or any written correspondence between you and publisher/editor/agent.

  • If all else fails … focus on writing your next novel. Don't spend too much time rewriting and submitting the same manuscript. Move on to your next novel which should be written better your last. You should keep learning your craft and improving.

Know it's not the end

Serious writers understand it's not the end of your writing career or the end of rejection. There will be more rejection letters just as long as you keep writing and submitting manuscripts. Rejection is a huge part of being a serious writer.

Imagine plopping your food tray down next to that cutie in high school and he turns to you with a look of disgust on his face. Your worst fear, right? Hey, you knew it could happen, at least you can say you tried and that you learned to never go that route again. (Next time you'll catch him at his locker after school.)

So embrace rejection instead of fearing it and use it to improve your writing.




Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Reasons Writing What You Love Works


As I write this, I have about a dozen books with my name on them and I love them all. I love some more than others. The titles I like most are the ones with subjects I enjoy writing about. The stories with an underlying theme or issue that's close to my heart. And I found I get thoughtful, more positive responses from readers when I write what I love. Below are some reasons why writing what you love can create better, more fulfilling writing.


1. It's easier to write what you're passionate about.

If you're passionate about marriage equality, if you have something to say about single parenting, or perhaps you're an animal activist and enjoy writing stories about similar characters, chances are you'll be able to easily get your story onto paper or screen.

Ways to incorporate your passion into your story are:

  • Through conflict: Making your passion a critical part of the story (major conflict), a character's decision or battle (inner conflict), a character's past (backstory), etc.
  • Dialogue: Several characters can debate about the subject.
  • A character's belief on the subject: The subject is a major part of the character's upbringing or backstory that he's forced to explore and by the end has transformed.  

2. You're knowledgeable about the subject or are more willing to learn about the subject.

When you write what you love, you tend to know plenty about the subject and therefore are a sort of expert in that regard. Your knowledge will come in handy for crafting a true to life story and believable characters. If you aren't an expert on the subject, your love for that subject will persuade you to learn more about it. Or at least make research fun instead of daunting!

3. You put more effort into your project.

I find when I believe in the overall message of my story I spend an insane amount of time perfecting it. Enough is never enough when it comes to a project you really care about. You put your heart into creating the absolute best. You agonize over every minute detail.  You have to get it right.

4. You convey your passion and/or message to readers better.

You immerse yourself in your passion, it seems fitting to eagerly share what you've learned, and your desire shines through effortlessly. Almost like telling someone about the first time you rode a roller coaster or witnessed something truly amazing, you're delivery is engaging. When you write what you love, what you're passionate about, the reader could tell too. You help them understand why the subject is important to the writer, the characters, the plot, etc. Plus, you have fun writing it!

As a writer, are there other reasons you think writing what you love works? As a reader, do you think a writer's passion for a specific content, subject, or theme makes for better reading?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Complicated Story Ending


The ending of your story should be just as engaging as the beginning hook. It should be emotionally satisfying, and tie up most if not all loose ends. If the book is part of a series, it still needs to stand on its own, and answer all major story questions.

Sound familiar?

These are the (unofficial) rules about story endings that all writers know or should know. We follow these rules to ensure a great ending to our story in the hopes that readers will stick around for the next book in the series, come back to read our next standalone title, or even pick up one of our backlisted ones.

Why Endings are Important.

The end of any book is important. The end is the last impression the reader has of our stories. It's the part of the story that is the freshest in their mind and which they rate and judge the book as a whole. A great ending is hard to write but necessary to attempt.

Although I know what makes a great ending I still struggle to execute it at times. I obsess over it, trying to perfect it.

Makings of a Great Story Ending:

  • Twists and surprise endings: Surprising the reader with a revelation that was foreshadowed throughout the story. i.e. It was right under their noses the whole time.
  • Theme: Tying in the overall theme or message of the book into the ending to add extra significance.
  • Answer the major story question: Will they fall in love? Will they find the murderer? Will they ever learn to trust one another?
  • Character change and growth: The main characters must begin the story a certain person and by the end of the story the character is a changed man or woman. The events in the story, the obstacles, the triumphs and failures all mold the character into a different person by the end.
  • End at the end: Once the major story questions are answered and the character achieves the story goal then the story is over. Ending the story before questions are answered and characters change or long after can disappoint the reader.

Currently I attempt to rewrite the ending of my latest WIP and hope it all falls into place. Knowing how to write the perfect ending to your story doesn't make it any less complicated, in my opinion. However, my motto is: If it's too easy, you ain't doing it right.

Friday, February 3, 2012

What I've Learned that May Help You and Your Writing



Over the past few months I've been soaking in a lot of creative writing information as part of building and improving my writing skills. I recently challenged myself to write the best book I've ever written, and to attempt that personal feat required many hours of reading, analyzing, researching and (of course) writing.

I've had some epiphanies during the course of writing my post-apocalyptic novel (Before the Darkness) that I would like to share. These are things that I already knew about creative writing (I'm an author. Of course, I knew :/) but only really understood when reading these books or blogs.



What I've learned

Source





Metaphors and allegories can help strengthen a story and provide an engaging writing/reading experience.

Major plot twists or twist ending should tie into the overall mood and/or theme of the story for a greater emotional impact.

The sci-fi novella Wool by Hugh Howey

Incorporating universal human emotion into every facet of your writing builds strong characterization and helps the reader relate to the characters, conflicts and particular circumstances.

The erotic romance novel Destiny for Three by Lilly Hale

All reviews, be they positive or negative, ranting or raving, short or long, are still beneficial to the author. A reader may show interest in the very thing another reader finds unappealing in a book. It's all subjective. At least the book provoked some kind of emotional response to push readers into discussing it.

Readers' comments about Ranting authors over negative reviews from book reviewers

To easily find areas in your book that are telling instead of showing search for the word WAS. Using was in a sentence usually indicates the lack of effectively describing something or someone in your writing.

Noble Romance Blog

Write what you love and the rest will come to you.

Instead of focusing on getting to the end of your story, make small goals and complete those first.

It's never too early to start talking about your work.

From various creative writing books, blogs and magazines:





These are just of few of the things I've grown to really understand over the past few months just by reading books, blogs, readers' comments on blogs and magazine. Have you had an epiphany lately?