Posts Tagged writing tips

#AuthorToolboxBlogHop 02: First Impressions

Last week, in the 17th installation of my Writing Chronicles, I discussed the various ways to “Punish Your Protagonist“. I thought this week, I would make up for it by talking about how to Save the First Chapter.

Wherever you look, literary agents and editors impart a few golden rules: research the agent/editor before you submit your query, provide an economic-yet-comprehensive synopsis of your story in the cover letter, and make sure your manuscript is ready when you send in those first three chapters. In other words, try not to waste this rare opportunity to be read by a professional. Your book’s opening will decide if your story gets picked or tossed.

Getting the first chapter wrong is a piece of cake. We’re writers – an absentminded-yet-observant breed riddled with insecurities throughout our creative process and beyond. Even when we get the story right, we know it could have been better. It can always be better. But with a few simple precautions, that first chapter can be GOOD. What is better than good?

Here’s my two-cents’ worth to a workable first chapter:  Read the rest of this entry »

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WRITING CHRONICLE #17: Nine Ways to Punish Your Protagonist

Via: Daily Prompt – Exposed

 

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Image: Wikimedia

My life is perfect. Said no one ever. If they did, they’re lying. Human beings aren’t happy until they are bogged down by burdens and bellyaching about it something awful. Be it loud as a hungry cat or as passive-aggressive as my mother. [Hey! I love my mother but she gives me plenty of reasons to complain.]

See? We are never entirely happy and without troubles and flaws. This includes a writer with all expenses covered and the only task to accomplish is finish composing novels to publish and sell. So if the author’s life isn’t perfect, and the readers’ lives aren’t perfect, why should the hero and heroine have it easy?

No one wants to read about people who have it made. Stories are driven by characters and their challenges. Having too much sympathy for your heroes and heroines is equivalent to tying the proverbial noose around the shelf life of your book. You were too kind to your protagonist while writing? Well, get ready to have your readers write off your protagonist.

The solution? Make it hurt and make it count. In other words, make your characters believable and garner enough sympathy – even for that evil douchebag – to make them memorable. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find causes for their miseries – after all, we humans manage to complain about even the best of gift horses.

Easiest is making life difficult for the protagonist. Heroes and heroines tend to hold very deep-seated values, even the anti-heroes/heroines. Ego and integrity raise the stakes for them. Here are some great ways to drive that stake deep enough to leave your character with a gaping wound (by the way, gender-neutral usage of the terminology ‘hero’ henceforth):  Read the rest of this entry »

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WRITING CHRONICLES #16: Finding Focus

Via: Daily Prompt – Root & Blanket

I have decided that procrastination might be the primary vice of my writing career. I used to think I was too preoccupied with my corporate responsibilities but. now that I have switched to writing full-time, I realize the problem is that I can find ways to become preoccupied with just about anything. The burning question is how can a person who loves writing as much as I do be so out of sorts with the writing itself.

Well, I know how. Fear is at the root of my problem. I keep stalling because becoming a novelist is something I always wanted to excel in. Even with my multiple fallback plans, I have stored all my eggs in this basket. Honestly? I don’t want to have to resort to those fallback plans. The pressure is real. Hence, even though I can, in theory, believe in my writing capabilities, living by that faith is a whole other ballgame. Even when what I write seems to satisfy me, I keep wondering what if it’s not good enough.

Resulting in all the bottlenecking of my creative endeavors.

There are some ground rules I try to follow to jar me out of my whack. Mostly, it is to keep me from lulling myself into the fear sinkhole. They work too. Often enough to share the list of precautions with my fellow writers:

Read the rest of this entry »

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State Your Price

Via: Daily Prompt – Conquer

 

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Image: Flick, CC

 

When I left my career to pursue writing fictions, I knew the day will come when I start freelancing. After all, unless you become an instant best-selling author, you must find some other means to pay the bills. And regardless of how sternly you saved your income to one day pursue your lifelong dream of becoming a novelist, the fund will deplete sooner or later if you do not keep replenishing it.

As news got out that I had truly left my last workplace for self-employment, I was approached by more than a handful organizations to take over their marketing departments. I took to thanking them and the Almighty for the appreciation and vote of confidence but, of course, declined. It is difficult for people to fathom that given the workaholic I demonstrated myself to be for over a decade, I could trade in the euphoria of corporate stress for the more relaxed self-paced lifestyle of a struggling novelist. If you noticed the irony in that statement or are pursuing to become published, you would understand that writing a novel is no idle profession.

After volleying offers for six months, people are finally coming around to accepting that I’m not looking to peddle myself as a corporate monkey. So now the work offers have started to arrive in the form of developing contents for brochures, websites and the like on the basis of independent contracts. Very good. It sounds much more maintainable. I will not be obligated to maintain any fixed hours and can accept or reject work as per time suitable to my novel writing needs. In fact, I feel writing other materials will be a good way to de-stress from constantly working on my book. Novel writing as a career with freelance writing as a hobby sounds the right deal.

But now the problem is I have to state my price. I have to figure out what my talent is worth on the basis of the value I add to my clients’ projects. I have never been very good at asking for money. Sure, in the corporate arena, I know the structure in each industry for each position, so salary negotiation is a fair affair between each party. But I now realize that pricing strategy for a freelancer is a totally different ballgame. When discussing the work that needs to be done, I feel the excitement but the moment the topic of discussing the price of my work, I lose my place in the discussion.It is just so embarrassing. Especially, because the queries I have been receiving are mostly from people I have built a close bond with during my career. And frankly, I think most creative people seek appreciation more than money. Hell, I have done plenty of complimentary work in my life just because someone appreciated my talent.

It is just so embarrassing. Especially, because the queries I have been receiving are mostly from people I have built a close bond with during my career. And frankly, I think most creative people seek appreciation more than money. Hell, I have done plenty of complimentary work in my life just because someone appreciated my talent.

Upon discussing the problem with a few friends, I finally have realized what I must do. I must research freelance work rates in the market and draw up a table of standards for myself. Then if someone approaches me with work, just send them this rate chart. Like RFP-ing agencies. It’s just a matter of a little-bold application, that’s all.

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WRITING CHRONICLES #11: Character Independence

Via: Daily Prompt – Abstract & Pattern

I recently came to learn that most of my fellow writers pick characters off real life. They sit around in coffee shops and roadside bistros, watching their neighbors and making up stories about them. This practice is, apparently, more common than when you watch TV on mute and try to feed dialogues to the people on the screen. Mind blowing, right? I always wondered how writers felt so comfortable tapping away at the keyboard in coffee shops. Turns out, they are really just describing their surroundings. Not a bad writing tip, I thought. Should speed up the process of character creation some.

My characters come completely out of my head – just as my stories come to me when a real life situation strikes me as though it didn’t pan out the way they should have. So I try to “fix” things, albeit in fiction, where my muddled heroes and heroines stumble around until they learn “the right way” of living. I’m a big fan of justice, and when justice is not to be found in the real world, I make up worlds of my own. I’m really a very balanced person.

The problem is if my characters come right out of my head, how do I allow them to become independent of who I am? When I already know the way I want my characters to behave at the end (to serve the moral I wish to convey), how do I let their journey become independent of mine? Also, it would be a terrible bore if every character turned out to be an extension of me.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Just Add Salt

Via: Daily Prompt – Nuance

There’s a loaded word. I always felt that nuances exist on the precipice of stereotypes. You take the expectations cultural dogmas have conditioned in you and add a little something-something. Voila! You have nuanced characters for your stories. Personally, I use the following template to guide me when creating my characters. This should help a few writers.

 

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Image: Someone on Tumblr

 

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WRITING CHRONICLES #08: The Writing Voice

Via: Daily Prompt – Translate

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Image: Wikimedia

The changing larynx is not a burden only for the pubescent teenager to bear; from time to time, the writer may have to deal with it too. I know I have been feeling a transformation in my writing voice ever since I began the fiction writing course in January.

When I started writing my first novel, I believe I was greatly mimicking the voice of Sandra Brown, whose romance novels were the first I ever read in the genre and was inspired by. Over time, as I began reading the works of other romance novelists, ranging from contemporary to historic to even paranormal, my voice began to blend and develop its own personality. A cross between somber and sarcastic, furthered by my ornate sentence structures.

But before I move on to explaining my latest writing dilemma, let me try defining what the writing voice is. It is the unique blend of attitude, tone, and style that showcases your personality when you write [or use any medium of creativity, really]. It also reflects your beliefs, emotions, and values, usually with an attempt to present them in a way you find acceptable, or rather, in the way you think readers will be able to relate. Sounds pretty complicated, right? It isn’t once you get into the throes of your creative passion but it can be lost in the translation. But the following may help to break it down:  Read the rest of this entry »

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WRITING CHRONICLES #06: Drowning In Data

Via: Daily Prompt – Craft

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Image: Wikimedia

I started writing my first novel while waiting for my ‘O’ level results. The four-month leisure period was ample time for story ideas to formulate in my head so I picked one and ran with it. I had nothing to guide me back then apart from the novels I was reading. This was a time before blogs were popular and MOOCs even existed. Unlike today, there were no resources available – without registering into a paid course – to train me for the craft I loved so much. I was winging it all the way through. Halfway into my prologue, I realized I had a plot but needed backstories for my main characters. Their sizes and shapes were clear but who they were as individuals still obscure. Hence, the research began.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Read or Write? (05 min read)

Via: Daily Prompt – Overwhelming

 

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Image: Zaireen Lupa

 

Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” And who better to listen to than this king of the craft, right? But even before coming across that particular pearl of wisdom, I had discovered the benefits of reading for the profession of writing. First and foremost, reading good literature (ranging from classics to simple feel-good entertainments) was what turned me towards the need to create literature of my own. I would read an especially eloquent phrase or passage and marvel at the world of meaning behind the selection of each word. I would be inspired to create in that all-consuming awe-inspiring manner and sometimes envy the range of skills, this depth of knowledge possessed by the authors I read – that they got there before I did – even as I devoted myself to their praise. To me, good writing has always been akin to godliness and the fact that I am able to partake of that godliness is an honor.

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Image: Pexels

So when I started roaming the WP blogosphere at the end of January and started perusing the reading lists of many book lovers and reviewers, I felt ashamed of falling so far behind. I read only one complete novel in the month of January 2017! I am that person in all of my groups who is defined by her reading habit. It is not uncommon for people to introduce me first as a reader and writer in social engagements. The summer I turned 12 years old, I consistently read 25 books every week and at the end was given a token reward by the Queens Library in Main St., NY, NY from where all these books came. As usual, I broke my reading challenge goal on Goodreads last year and I keep increasing the number every year because, to me, reading avidly is an accomplishment. So to have only one book read in an entire month? Stunning. Castigating.

It’s not that I didn’t see it coming. Every week, as the time came around for me to work on my WEDNESDAY REFLECTIONS, I would panic and pick up a book. But I just couldn’t push myself to finish any. What happened? I started writing. Those of you who have been following my blog the past month would know I’m taking part in this online fiction writing course. Well, there are multiple assignments every week that require us to come up with new characters and stories. We also get into a lot of group discussions on the forum based on our observations of the course materials provided. Then there is this blog itself. Apart from starting my two weekly articles to record my writing experiences and books/movies I am coming across, I have also been responding to these damn Daily Prompts. Why? Because the writing course is doing its job and has turned on the faucet in my head. I constantly write. Grammarly reported to me this week that I wrote 29,088 words between January 23-29. That’s just online. Never mind all that I’m composing on MS Word or my notebooks. Meanwhile, Goodreads sent me an e-mail prompt that I haven’t updated my Currently Reading section in a while. Well, slap me silly and call me a delinquent!

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Image: Pexels

The first three-quarters of last year, I hardly got any writing done because I was enjoying reading so much. This year, I have hardly read anything. Between writing like a maniac, I mostly shower, eat, and rest. On random occasions, I watch a movie; once or twice, I leave the house to see the world. A few times, I tried reading before bed but I conk out before I finish a single chapter because writing relaxes me these days as much as it depletes me of my energy. It’s such a high, it’s overwhelming – and I don’t want it to stop.

Meanwhile, so many promising books came out in the past few months and a lifetime before that, which I haven’t gotten to. And so many are lined up for the coming year. My reading list continues to grow and I haven’t stopped filling up my devices with e-books and my shelves with hard covers and paperbacks. And there’s the fact that Stephen King also said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Easy for you to say, Mr. King!

 

 

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