Lit Candle

Lit Candle

I love this exercise. I was first introduced to this great meditative writing practice during an online course run by Ann Linquist. She asked us to light a candle and write one paragraph describing it, avoiding generic terms such as “dancing flame”. I found it a great descriptive exercise to hone my skills and to think outside of the box. It also had the added benefit of calming and focusing my thoughts, and providing a meditation like experience when staring into the lit candle.

The point is to show your readers what thoughts and feelings the burning candle evokes, not tell them. It is a tool to help you tap into your emotions when writing which helps to create a connection with your reader. This is the power of words aIMG_8680nd description. This is what will make your novel and writing stand out and leaves a long lasting impression on your readers.

Below is my very first attempt at this exercise. It is rough, however I have a strong attachment to it and have never been able to throw it away.

“Lighted memories.”

My candle was a gift from Secret Santa at work one year. It is in a thick glass holder, that could do someone serious damage if wielded as a weapon. It smells of Banksia and Bergamot. I stare into the flame for a while, and I start panicking as no ideas would come to me. So I take a deep breath, close my eyes and will my muscles to relax. Once I felt the tension drain away I open my eyes and stare into the flickering candle once more. Then they come to me. Faces skipping through my thoughts, like the twisting flame before me. The faces of my family; my parents, my nana and my siblings. Their features are cast by the orange glow of the campfires and candlelight of many happy memories flashing through my head, too many to describe in one small paragraph. Such strong memories and emotions to be evoked by the flickering of a fragile little flame. I am now very reluctant to blow the candle out, not wanting to lose the image of those smiling faces so far away from me over the Easter weekend. I think I will keep it burning for a bit longer. 

 I would love to see some descriptions of yours. Or if you have any other great exercises like this to help practice descriptive writing I would love to hear about them. I am always on the lookout for new writing tools, techniques and exercises.

Sentence Structure

Sentence Structure

Yesterday we discussed paragraph structure and how important it is to the flow and rhythm of your story. Just as important is sentence structure. This is really getting down to the finer details of your novel, and how it will help create a logical and easy to read story that flows well and draws your reader in.

The most effective way to keep your readers’ attention is to make your writing concise and easy to understand, no matter how elaborate the ideas are that you are trying to convey.  By structuring your sentences appropriately and using correct punctuation and grammar you achieve simple and effective writing. In this particular post we will focus on sentence structure. At a later date I will write some posts on grammar and punctuation. Once again, I found a post by Lucy Mccarraher “How To Write Fiction Without The Fuss: sentence structure and punctuation” a great read, that helps to clarify sentence structure.

Back to Basics.

A sentence can be long or short and it generally has 3 fundamental components.

  • It must start with a capital letter.
  • It has to end with a full stop or other conclusive punctuation, and
  • It contains a subject and a verb.

Types of Sentences.

There are four different types of sentences. See this article on “Sentence Structure” by Elizabeth O’Brien (Grammar Revolution: Grammar the Easy Way) for more in depth explanations that are easy to read and understand on the different types of sentences.

  • Imperative sentences: exclamations, commands and requests. These sentences are the only ones where the subject and verb rule is exempt.
  • Simple sentences: A simple sentence contains only one independent clause. An independent clause is a group of words that expresses a complete thought, with a subject and a verb. For example: I ate chocolate. I is the subject, ate is the verb and it expresses a complete thought. These are ideal for quick action scenes with punchy statements and brisk dialogue.
  • Compound sentences: are where a conjunction joins two related simple sentences together. Conjunctions are “joining words” such as: and, or, but, because. This type of sentence contains at least two independent clauses. For example: She danced and he drank.
  • Complex sentences: these sentences are made up of a dependent clause and a main clause. The main clause can stand-alone. However, dependent clauses will turn into fragments if on their own. For example: I washed the dishes after I cooked dinner. I washed the dishes is the main clause as it is a complete sentence when by itself. After I cooked dinner is a dependent clause as it is not a complete sentence if standing alone.

Then it really gets interesting as you can combine the four main sentence types to create other sentences, like a compound-complex sentence. A compound-complex sentence contains at least two independent clauses, and at least one dependent clause.

Sentence Syntax.

The sentence syntax is essentially sentence structure. It is the way you put your words, grammar and punctuation together to create interesting and easy to read sentences. It is usually broken down into three syntactic slots.

Untitled
Molly (subject) drank (verb) wine (object).

A good rule of thumb is that you can load one or two of these slots with detail, but not all three. If you load all three slots then the sentence becomes harder to read and will slow your reader down. For example:

Filling up one slot:                                                                                                            Molly, drank a bottle of her favourite red wine.

Filling up two slots:
Molly, drank long and deep from a bottle of her favourite red wine.                                                                                                         

Filling up all three slots:                                                                                                  Molly, lonely and single once more, drank long and deep from a bottle of her favourite red wine.

So remember, simplicity is key. Your reader doesn’t want to get bogged down in lengthy and overly detailed sentences. Keep the story moving forward by writing concise but descriptive sentences and adhering to the rules of sentence structure.

That brings us to the conclusion of the Building Your Novel Blog Series. You should now have a more in depth understanding of plotting, story structure, the dramatic elements, paragraph structure and sentence structure. I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. Please feel free to send me an email, comment if you have any questions, or wish to add anything else to these posts.

Paragraph Structure

Paragraph Structure

Yesterday we discussed the dramatic elements that underpin your story. Today we get down to the nitty gritty details of paragraph structure. It sounds boring, and it can be a dry subject. But if you can master how to write interesting and well-structured paragraphs then you will create an easy to read novel, and your readers will want to read more!

Lucy Mccarraher has produced a great, easy to read and understand post on paragraphs “How to write fiction without the fuss: paragraphs”. It is definitely worth a read if you are looking at how to write and structure your paragraphs.

What is a paragraph?

So what is a paragraph? In both fiction, and non-fiction writing the paragraph is considered one of the most basic building blocks. Obviously words and sentences are even more basic, but it is the paragraph that allows you to string your story together. By definition a paragraph is a distinct section of a piece of writing, usually dealing with a single theme and indicated by a new line, indentation, or numbering.”

A paragraph can be as little as one word, and as long as a page. But you need to be careful that it remains easy to read and emphasizes what you are saying. The purpose of a paragraph is to act as a visual break and to help create rhythms in your writing. The visual break helps readers to keep track of where they are up to on the page. Solid text, or very long paragraphs are intimidating and tiring to read. Paragraphs of different lengths help create rhythm within your story, as well as the atmosphere you wish to convey. For example; short paragraphs keep the action moving forward at a fast pace, whereas longer paragraphs tend to have detailed description and complex thought processes, which slow the story down.

Paragraph structure.

In non-fiction the structure of your paragraph generally has to follow a set of rules. In fiction writing, which is what we are focusing on today, these rules are more of a rough guideline. Whilst fiction writing doesn’t have the same rigid constraints of non-fiction writing, each paragraph should still convey an idea that relates to the next paragraph and follows a logical sequence.

Think of a paragraph as a framework that contains a certain amount of information. In non-fiction terms this could be description, dialogue, action or any combination of those components. It can be one word, or many sentences.

Starting a new paragraph.

When should you start a new paragraph? This is often a confusing part of writing, and hopefully the points below will help to clarify this for you:

  • Every time a different character starts to speak, their dialogue should start on a new line and form an individual paragraph. If there is action, internal though or description alternate this with their dialogue and you can keep it all in the same paragraph. However as soon as another character starts to speak or the focus shifts to them, then you should start a new paragraph.
  • Start a new paragraph with every new piece of action, narration or thought process.
  • When the focus of your story changes from one character to another begin a new paragraph.

 Order of paragraphs.

The most important consideration when deciding which paragraph goes where is the logic of your plot. Place related paragraphs together and read through them to see if they progress in a coherent and easy to read manner. Play around with the order, see how this changes your story and the effect and atmosphere you wish to create. It can take time and lots of revising to make your paragraph structure flow from one to the next.

Paragraph structure is a fundamental tool for all writers. Learn to write paragraphs well and you will build scenes and action, develop characters, introduce themes and control the tension and progress of your story in the best and most logical way.

Tomorrow, we will take it down another level to sentence structure. This is getting into the very fine details of writing and structuring. It will be the last post in the Building Your Novel series. But don’t think the learning ends there! There is so much more to writing your novel.

The Dramatic Elements

The Dramatic Elements

So far in the Building Your Novel Blog Series, we have discussed plotting and how to structure your story. Yesterday we touched briefly on the importance of the dramatic elements. Today we will go into more detail about the elements, how to incorporate them into your fictional novel and why they are important to your writing.

The four dramatic elements drive everything in your story. They are the fundamental building blocks that run underneath the outline of the 3-act structure. Each of the elements defines the next element, so that ultimately they combine together to form a powerful force behind your story. The elements are sub-textual, meaning they are not stated explicitly but the reader will feel their emotional force at work. It is what will bring them back to read more of your writing, and will create lasting impressions of your story.

Passion:

Your personal passions are your gateway to writing a memorable and successful novel. This is where all drama begins as an author. The more passionate you feel about something, the better you are able to convey those feelings through your writing to your readers. So what do you feel passionate about? Create a list if it helps, then you can use that to help pick a writing topic.

Theme:

From your passion you can derive a theme. Theme is the message you wish to share through your writing. The most effective themes are those that can be expressed in a few simple words, or a single short sentence. Passion and theme are quite similar, so to differentiate between them think of it like this: passion is your reason for writing your story, and theme is the take home message for your readers.

Theme is an essential tool a writer can use to test ideas for their story. As you develop each plot or story point ask yourself if it is interconnected to your theme. If it does not relate someway, then is it absolutely necessary to your story? If not, delete it!

Theme is most effectively conveyed by showing your readers what you want them to know, as opposed to telling them your message. For example, telling them that illegal drugs are bad is a weak message that your readers will not relate to. However by showing your reader the effect of illegal drugs on a person, their family and their health creates a lasting impression. Not many people enjoy being told what to believe, but this way you can subtly influence your reader and their beliefs.

Character:

It is your main characters’ inner conflict or flaw that drives your story and highlights your theme and passion. This is why when plotting your story it is important to take your time in developing your character.

Your character is a critical dramatic element that your story structure is based around. It is a good idea to develop your main character and their flaw or inner conflict early in your creative process and then base the other dramatic elements around your character flaw.

Generally speaking your main character may have several flaws, but when talking about structuring your story it is easiest to pick one main flaw and focus on that.

Characters are so important to your story. There will be a whole post dedicated to Character Development after the Building Your Novel series.

Premise

You premise combines your main character’s flaw and theme to form a “what if?” situation. It helps to move your story from start to finish.

I found this example a great help:

What if a (main character) set out to (task/journey) in order to (goal) and discovered (inner epiphany).

This helps you to define your main character and their flaw, the journey they take and their epiphany. From here you can flesh your story out, but the premise is a simple short sentence to help define your plot and story.

I hope this has helped to highlight the importance of the dramatic elements and how they help to draw your reader into your story. There is a blank worksheet on the Learning Tools page that you can print out and use to help plan your novel using the four dramatic elements. Tomorrow we will cover paragraph structure. The aim is to improve your writing, and it is also useful to help your write interesting and well-structured paragraphs. The end goal is a story that is easy to read and flows from one paragraph to the next.

Plot and Story Structure Relationship

Plot and Story Relationship

I have spoken a lot about plotting, using the 5 element or the 3 element style, and story structure utilizing the 3-act framework. It can be confusing when trying to come up with your story outline, plot and structure how they all relate to each other. So I decided to add a quick blog to this series that I hope clears up some of the confusion for you. I have designed a graph with all these elements overlapping to show their relationship. There is also a blank worksheet in Learning Tools that incorporates all these points.

GRAPH

Story Structure

Story Structure

Yesterday we explored how to develop the plot of your novel. Today we are going to cover story structure. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I just want to state again that plot is the physical aspects of your novel and story structure is based around emotional and character development.

Traditionally, story structure follows a path of rising action building up to a climax, which is then followed by a catharsis. A catharsis is a release of emotional tension that refreshes the spirit. Or in literary terms, it is a sound resolution to your book that leaves your readers satisfied and content. So how do you follow this guideline of creating tension in the lead up to a climax, followed by a cathartic resolution? This is where plotting and structuring come in handy. And it is not a matter of simply writing it out once, but building upon your idea in several stages until you have a fully developed story outline.

The Dramatic Elements of Story Structure.

There are four dramatic elements that underpin your novel and identifying them is the first step to develop your story structure. The four dramatic elements are passion, theme, character and premise. When these elements are properly defined and utilized they form a cohesive powerful force that pulls the reader in and keeps them interested in your story. The four dramatic elements are:

Passion: The more deeply you feel about your writing subject, the better you are able to convey that passion and emotion to your readers.

Theme: From your passion you will develop your theme. Theme is the message you would like to share with your readers.

Character: The best way to convey your theme is through your characters. Your main character is plagued by an inner conflict that drives your story and highlights your theme.

Premise: Is what propels your story from start to finish. It combines your main characters flaw and the theme of your story to create a single short question: “what if…..?”

Tomorrow we will discuss The Dramatic Elements in more detail.

Story Outline.

The next stage in developing your story structure is to construct a brief story outline. The easiest way to do this is to use the 3-act structure. Initially it is best to keep the first draft of your outline as short as possible; one sentence per checkpoint is a great place to start.

So what is the 3-act structure? It is exactly what it sounds like, a breakdown of your story into 3 acts! Each act then contains 3 checkpoints, which aim to incorporate all your important plot and story points into a logical outline. This breakdown into 3-acts, or 9 checkpoints, help you to design a story outline that follows the path of building tension until you reach a climax and then a resolution to your novel.

ACT 1

Hook: An interesting event that draws in your reader and opens your story.

Backstory: This is where the main character and setting is established.

Trigger: This is usually an intense event that pushes your main character into a crisis.

ACT 2

Crisis: Can be emotional or physical crisis that is based around your character’s flaw.

Struggle: More obstacles your main character must overcome to resolve the dilemma.

Epiphany: This is where your main character realizes what is holding them back from a resolution.

ACT 3:

Plan: Your main character devises a plan to overcome the dilemma.

Climax: The final confrontation.

Ending: The dilemma is resolved.

You can find a blank 3-act worksheet in Learning Tools that you can print off and use to help you develop your story. I have also written out an example of the 3-act structure using The Wizard of Oz as inspiration.

Story Form.

Now that you have plotted each of the nine checkpoints you can begin to flesh out the rest of your story into a short story form. This is the third stage in building your story and bringing your novel to life. To do this, you incorporate all your nine checkpoints from the 3-act structure into a few paragraphs that essentially describes your story in more detail. You can also add in the points from your 5 or 3 element plot structure. This way you are incorporating the physical and emotional aspects of your story. You add in more characters, sub-plots and key details. Keep in mind, that this is all in short form so that you can still fix flaws in your story or chop and change without having to re-write huge parts of your novel. It can also be helpful to give some one else this short story form so they can provide you with feedback and constructive criticism. It is a scary thought to give someone your story before you have actually written it, however it can help having a fresh pair of eyes look over your plot and structure. They may see inconsistencies or weak parts to your story that you missed. It will help you to build a strong, emotive story that will stay in your readers mind long after they have finished reading your book.

Helpful links for Story Structure.

I have found the following sites offer great tips and advice on story structure.

http://storyfix.com/blank-beat-sheet-form

http://lauralee1.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/story-structure-plot-points.html

http://www.savethecat.com/todays-blog/how-the-beats-helped-a-writer-self-publish-an-amazon-hit

https://timstout.wordpress.com/story-structure/blake-snyders-beat-sheet/

All of this plotting and planning may feel like it hinders your creativity, if that’s the case then you do not need to follow this structured way of writing. But once you have finished all this planning, you can go on to write from your heart and finish your novel.

That concludes the second post in the Build Your Novel Blog Series. Please come back and check out tomorrow’s post on The Dramatic Elements. It provides more detail on each element and how to incorporate them into your novel.

 

Plotting!

Plotting

Are you flying by the seat of your pants when writing your novel? Are you a rebel who doesn’t sit down to plot before writing your story? Instead of just writing whatever pops into your head and seeing where it leads you, have you thought about plotting first? I am not saying that you should not let your creativity take you wherever you want to go, but following some plan and structure can help take your novel to the next level. By following a rough road map for your story you ensure it follows a logical course of action, and it really does help to develop the emotional and physical aspects of your novel. It gives it more depth then just wallowing along.

I used to have an idea for a story and just sit down and write. Now I spend the time creating a rough plot, structure and developing characters. It sounds time consuming, but I find it so helpful. My writing has improved tremendously and my novels are now multi-dimensional instead of rather simplistic. Please don’t think I am accusing anyone who doesn’t plot of writing trash. If that works for you and you create great writing then fantastic! I envy you. My problem with not having a plot to guide me is I tend to get lost in my writing and waffle. If you find the same, then keep reading.

I have developed the following tips and knowledge about plotting from research, writing courses and experimenting with various methods. Like I have said many times before, writing is a very individual process and you need to find what works for you. Borrow tips and advice from the web, fellow writers and books until you develop a method that works for you.

What is Plot?

First of all, make sure you know the difference between plot and story structure. They are terms that can often be used interchangeably, however they are very different. They are both vital to the telling of your story and it is important if you want to sketch out your novel before writing it, that you know the difference between them.

Fundamentally plot is the “what” and “why” of your story, and structure is how you tell your reader about it. Structure can be changed to suit the way you would like to tell the story, whereas plot tends to be linear. Plot is a roadmap from point A to point B that helps to organize the events and information of your novel in a logical manner; essentially it is the sequence of your story. Plot is what you use to draw the reader into your story and the character’s lives; it is the mechanism for drawing the readers’ interest.

The Elements of Plot.

Traditionally a plot contains 5 elements. This part is a bit dry and clinical, but is important to understand if you would like help to develop a great plot that is logical and makes sense to your reader. The 5 elements:

  1. Exposition: or introduction. This is the beginning of your story where you establish characters and the setting. Traditionally this is also where you first introduce the conflict or main problem that is central to your novel.
  2. Rising action: This is the part of your novel where a series of events lead up to the conflict or climax. This is the main part of the story where you build upon the readers’ emotions using excitement, tension, fear and all those other emotions.
  3. Climax: The climax is the main point of the plot; it is the turning point of the story.
  4. Falling action: This is where you wind up the story. There is resolution for the main characters of your story.
  5. Denouement: The end of the novel, either happy or tragic.

5plotelements

If you find the traditional 5 plot elements hard to use, or too restrictive, then don’t worry. You can reduce your plot down to 3 simple elements and base your story around that:

  1. An initial problem (beginning).
  2. Added complication (middle).
  3. A resolution (end).

I tend to use the 3 elements as I find it less dry and restrictive. You will find worksheets for the 5 elements and the 3 elements plotting styles on the Learning Tools page. They are blank worksheets you can print out in order to help with plotting.

How Do You Design An Interesting Plot?

So, you now know the elements of plotting but how do you design a good and interesting plot? A good plot draws your reader in, maintains their interest, and creates long-lasting impressions and memories of your book. I have found that there are 3 basic ways to help create a good plot:

  1. You can use a traditional story or anecdote from real life, whether yours or someone else’s.
  2. You can start with the initial situation, or conflict, and work forward.
  3. You can pick your climax and work back from there.

So you can see from this, that plot sketching is usually event orientated.

Useful Links:

A Writer’s Cheat Sheet to Plot and Structure

Learn the Elements of a Novel: Structure and Plot.

Plot vs Structure

That concludes the first blog post in the Build Your Novel Blog Series. Tomorrow we will cover story structure, which tends to be more emotional and character orientated. This is the next step in plotting and outlining your best selling novel!

Building Your Novel Blog Series

BuildingYourNovel

Over the next week I will be posting a blog series on structuring your fiction novel and how to make it interesting. It will also include tips and rules for paragraph and sentence structuring.

Through each of the posts in this series you will learn how to plot, structure and outline your novel. Each post will build upon the one before, so that you will flesh out your ideas, weed out any that don’t work, and form a cohesive and emotional story that readers will find easy to follow and relate too.

At the end of the series, you will have a great arsenal of tools to help with your novel writing. I have said it before, and I will say it again, writing is very personal. You can choose to use these tools, or not. It is your creative process, and how you develop your story is up to you.

Building Your Novel Blog Series:

Plotting.

Story structure.

The Dramatic Elements.

Paragraph Structure.

Sentence Structure.

Procrastination

Procrastination

We are all guilty of procrastinating at one time or another. Most of us struggle with it every single day. So what leads us to procrastinate? Lack of motivation? Fear? Poor habits? Let’s explore what can lead to procrastination.

When you are reading through this, be honest with yourself. Question yourself constantly to find what drives you to procrastinate. Once you identify what it is, then you can address it and overcome the battle every procrastinator faces!

If you are looking to procrastinate some more, then read on for tips on overcoming procrastination or click the links to the articles I found useful and memorable.

Overcoming Procrastination – MindTools.

Tim Urban “Why Procastinators Procrastinate” has created a great article on procrastination, complete with cartoon drawings to demonstrate!

Barriers to overcoming procrastination:

Motivation:

If you aren’t excited or inspired by your project, then you will find any excuse not to write. Motivation and procrastination seem to go hand in hand most of the time.

Fear of success:

It sounds silly and counterintuitive, but this is one of the most common fears people suffer from. Why? Isn’t the whole reason we write and create and put our work out there to become a success? But then the pressure is on to maintain that success and keep producing the goods. If you find yourself constantly trying to get your life in order rather then focusing on the important tasks and projects you need to complete then perhaps you are suffering from a fear of success. Do you put roadblocks, problems and challenges in your own way because of an internal fear? Are you afraid of change in your life that will be bought about by success? Then perhaps this is why you find yourself stuck in the rut of procrastination!

Fear of Failure:

No one likes to fail; it is never a nice feeling no matter the circumstances. When you fear failure it can lead to procrastination by indulging in un-resourceful and unnecessary perfectionism. You may struggle with feelings of inadequacy and negativity, which lead to reluctance to work or submit your work.

Fear of Judgment:

Do you constantly worry about what other people may think of your work? Sometimes we worry about this so much it can stop us from undertaking the task at hand.

Perfectionism:

I believe that we need to have some level of perfectionism to create a great solid piece of writing, however we have to rein it in before it rules our lives! Otherwise you may find yourself redoing the same piece of work over and over again in an attempt to create the perfect piece of writing but never submitting it.

Over Planning:

I am so very guilty of this! I write lists, plans, timelines and plans for plans. I break every little project down into even smaller projects and before I realize it I have wasted days just planning without actually writing or progressing on my novel. Planning is of course incredibly important when writing, however there comes a time when you have to take action, stop planning on how to do things and just do them!

Overwhelmed:

It is easy to feel intimidated and overwhelmed by a big project, or by lots of little projects. This is where planning comes in handy (remembering not to over plan). If you feel you are facing an impossible task then you will put off starting or continuing the project.

Frustration:

Stricken down by writers block? Story not turning out how you wanted or thought it would? Your characters are not behaving? These are all very frustrating and annoying, which makes it even harder to relax and write. If you are frustrated every time you sit down to write, then you will dither around and put off working on your writing project.

Social Media:

In this day and age we are connected to the Internet and outside world wherever we go. It is important when selling your work to have an online presence, but it can be distracting and time consuming.

Strategies to conquer procrastination

To become motivated you must understand what is stopping you from feeling inspired and creative. See  Creating Motivation and Motivation for further advice and information.

Fear of success, failure and judgment are hard to overcome. You will have to find your inner strength to battle these fears. A good support network made up of family, friends and other writers can be a great resource. Many people suffer these same fears. Reach out on forums, social networks, writers’ conferences and many other places. I guarantee you will find at least one other person who feels the same as you. I know I do. The only advice I can give is to focus on why you write, what you would like to gain from it, and the pride you will have when you finish your writing piece. Try to focus on the positives of your work, and what you achieve. Keep shoving that fear aside until it disappears. It’s like the old adage “fake it till you make it”.

Perfectionism is a very subjective and personal concept. How many times is too many to proofread and edit? 10? 20? 100? How long can you spend developing the perfect story line? There comes a time where you just have to bite the bullet and write or submit your work. I always have someone else read over my rough draft, and then later when I have proofread and edited about as much as I could stand I get him or her to read what I hope is the final copy. I always pick someone who I know will be honest and brutal. If they deem my work ok then off it goes! It is hard to identify if you are being overzealous in your work. It is a matter of tapping into your intuition and knowledge to recognize when you have finished.

To stop over planning in its tracks I set a time limit for how long I can spend writing lists and timelines. I allow myself a day to “plan” my writing project if it’s relatively big! If I find myself re-writing to-do lists, lists for lists or plans for plans, then I stop and ask myself “why am I procrastinating”? I give myself a stern talking to, take a quick 15-minute break, and then start writing.

Feeling overwhelmed is a relatively easy block to overcome. This is where you put those valuable planning skills to use. Look at your whole project, break it down into smaller tasks and get cracking! If this doesn’t work, then allow yourself to step away for a break. Go for a walk, or out for a coffee. Remove yourself from your writing space and clear your head. Hopefully when you return to your work you are relaxed and ready to tackle your project again.

The frustration of writers block, or stories and character’s not behaving as you wish them too makes for a great reason to procrastinate. This is where writing exercises, or warm-ups come in handy, putting you in the right frame of mind to create and write. Sometimes it is a matter of taking a break from that particular writing project for a few days, start something new, and then come back to it.

There are different schools of thought about social media, Internet and email usage during your writing time. Personally, I believe allocating a short space of time each day before you start on your own project is useful. It maintains your online presence, and gets it out of the way so you are not distracted when settling down to write. I usually set a time limit of how long I will browse the social media sites, answer emails and update my own sites before going on to do a few warm ups and then finally working on my own project. I am strict on not connecting to the Internet at all, unless for research, when working on my current project.

Procrastination breeds inactivity and sets you up for failing. If you learn to identify how, why and when you procrastinate you can overcome it. You just need to be honest with yourself, and nip it in the bud!

Motivation

Motivation

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.

            -Jim Rohn

How to become motivated? How to stay motivated? What motivates you? For every person, the answer to these questions will be different. People find diverse ways to become motivated, and maintain it. What motivates each individual is also very subjective, and depends on whether they rely on extrinsic or intrinsic sources.

I find motivation is always hard to find, and none so hard then in the silly season. You become so busy with Christmas parties and preparation, last minute gift shopping, wrapping, cooking and cleaning! The list seems endless. Then after it all dies down you are just so tired. You just want to curl up on the couch with a good book and rest for weeks! The silly season is a good reason to rest for a while, take a break from writing, recharge your batteries and come back to it with a fresher mind and different perspective. This can actually inspire you and help make good progress when you sit down to write again. However, what about the rest of the time? The struggle to become motivated, and maintain it, is a big one. I know I labour with it, and that is what inspired this blog.

Basically we need to think to plan, but we need to feel to act. So, once you have the thinking and planning out of the way, how do you build up those emotions so you can get things done? Personally, I focus on what I imagine the finished product will be; the sense of pride I get from seeing a project through; and hopefully all the positive feedback I will receive! It seems I rely on a mix of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Take a moment to think about what makes you feel good about your writing? Why do you write? The answer to these questions will help you ascertain what motivates you. Use these to help keep up your motivation.

Lack of motivation can also hit when the writing project in front of you seems insurmountable. The sheer size and extent of the venture before you can be daunting and overwhelming. In this case, I break the overall big project down into smaller assignments that I can tackle one by one. Each time I tick of a task, it sends a little thrill of achievement and pride through me. This is what helps maintain my motivation and complete the bigger project.

You can create a “motivation board”. Like a mood board, use it to pin up all those things that motivate and inspire you. Keep it somewhere close to where you usually write. Then each time you feel yourself lagging, look up at that board and let it inspire and motivate you to keep writing!

How to Motivate Yourself at Anytime by Jane Genovese has some great ideas on motivation. It is well worth a read for more tips and ideas.

Motivation is a personal thing. You simply need to find what motivates you and use it to the best of your ability to keep going. The more you write, the easier it will become.

 

 

Point of View

Point of View-2

One of the most important decisions you will make when planning your writing piece is what point of view you will write in. Your choices for point of view are many and powerful. It provides the means for how the readers enter your story and can change the depth and emotion of that story depending on how close the reader is to the action.

What is your point of view? Where are you standing when you write your sentence, your paragraph, and your story? Whose eyes are you looking out of? The characteristics of the person telling your story, and how close that teller is to the action can change your story completely. Consider the various points of view you can use carefully when planning your writing project in order to create the biggest impact.

These sites are a great resource for defining and explaining the different points of view available for your use when writing your project.

Literature – Exploring Point of View.

Understanding Point of View in Literature.

Different Types of Point of View – The Beginning Writer.

Consider their various advantages and disadvantages carefully when picking which point of view you would like to tell your story from.

First Person POV: This viewpoint is limited to your chosen narrator’s point of view. Your story is told from their perspective, therefore your written words must sound like them, what their character would think or feel or do. Typically the narrator writes using “I” when applying this point of view. The advantage of this viewpoint is the reader is close to the action, emotionally and physically. It will draw them in close to your narrator’s story and help build a solid rapport with the narrator. The disadvantage of this POV is you are limited to only what the narrator knows, senses and feels. You are stuck to one person’s perspective.

Third Person Limited POV: This viewpoint is similar to first person POV, however the character’s name, or third person pronouns such as he, she, they or them are used instead of I. The narrator is you, the writer. You tell the story from the characters POV. The advantages and disadvantages of this POV are the same for first person POV.

Third Person Multiple POV: This viewpoint allows you to write from several different characters points of view. The advantages of this is the reader will have knowledge of most aspects of the story, as opposed to being limited to only one person’s perspective, they will be able to see all parts of the story unfold. However, the disadvantage is it can create confusion in your readers if not handled carefully. You must ensure the transition from one character to another is distinct.

Omniscient POV: A “god-like” point of view. You write the story as if you are all-knowing and all-seeing. The advantages of this are the narrator knows the past, present, and future and can share with the reader at any time. The disadvantages of this are the reader is removed from the main character and may not be able to relate to the characters as well.

When you choose which point of view you would like to tell your story from, you typically need to stick to that viewpoint. If you chop and change it can be jarring and doesn’t make for nice reading. To keep your readers interested and invested in your story you must be consistent.

If you are finding it hard to choose there is a point of view exercise that can help you ascertain what viewpoint will be the best to tell your story from.

POINT OF VIEW EXERCISE

Form and Genre.

Form and Genre

It is important to have your form and genre clearly defined in your mind before beginning your writing project. People often use these terms interchangeably, however form should not be confused with genre.

Form is what gives your piece of writing structure and an identifiable shape. It is the container that holds all your ideas, but isn’t the writing itself. For example if a particular piece of writing is said to be a novel, we only know something about the length or size of it. Think of it like a human skeleton. The skeleton gives you an indication of the height and build of a person, but doesn’t really tell us much about what makes this person them. This is the form of your writing.

Genre, on the other hand, is the essence of your writing. It is what defines your writing. Genre is all the details that let us know what the person is really like, giving substance to the skeleton. For instance, if we are handed a mystery novel to read, then we should know what that particular novel would entail. A mystery, of course! This is the genre of your writing.

Writing can take a great number of forms and each one has its own set of guidelines and importance in the world of the written word. The following is a list of common literary forms, but is by no means the only forms used.

  • Essay.
  • Novel.
  • Novella.
  • Poetry.
  • Short story.
  • Play.
  • Screenplay.

The list of genres is even more extensive, and can be defined into broad categories: Fiction, Non-fiction, Creative Non-fiction, Plays and Poetry.

Fiction: is any form that describes imaginary events and people. It can be broken down into even more descriptive terms.

  • Adventure: a story full of action and daring.
  • Children’s story or novel: aimed at children.
  • Detective: story of a detective who solves crime.
  • Installment fiction: A novel published one episode at a time.
  • Fable: A story that teaches a lesson.
  • Fairy tale: a story about magical creatures, or a false story designed to trick people.
  • Folk tale: is a story typically passed on by word of mouth with origins in popular culture.
  • Tall tale, yarn: A piece of writing with unbelievable elements related as if it were true, usually an exaggeration of true events.
  • Fantasy: A story that has supernatural elements.
  • Historical fiction: A story based on known historical events but freely makes up dialogue and additional events.
  • Horror: A story to thrill and frighten readers.
  • Humor: A story to make readers laugh.
  • Mystery: A story based around a puzzle or crime.
  • Myth and legend: Typically a story based on superhuman beings or events of ancient times.
  • Romance: A story based on love, usually with a happy ending.
  • Parody: A comic imitation of a piece of writing or person.
  • Satire: A story that employs humor in the form of irony, innuendo, or derision to expose the folly and wickedness of human nature.
  • Science fiction: A story based around a world that is currently unknown and unachievable.
  • Spy story: A story about international espionage.
  • Thriller: A story that produces an atmosphere of extreme suspense or excitement.
  • Young adult: Stories aimed at 12-17 years old.

Non-Fiction: writing that is informative or factual rather then fictional. Includes the following:

  • Biography/Autobiography: A true narrative of a real person’s life.
  • Essay: A short literary composition on a subject that typically presents the personal view of the author.
  • Speech: public address or discourse.
  • Textbook: instructive book for use in studying a particular subject.
  • Self-help book: designed to instruct readers on personal problems and how to overcome them.

Creative non-fiction: True stories written using the techniques typically utilized in fiction; like scene setting, dialogue and detailed description, to make them more interesting and personal.

  • Biography/autobiography: A true narrative of a real person’s life.
  • Memoir: An autobiography dealing with specific events or people.
  • Diary/journal: personal record of events and musings.
  • Travel Writing: A record of the people, events, sights and feelings from the writers’ point of view whilst touring a foreign place.
  • Food Writing: works of writing around the topic of food.
  • Blog: A personal web log or journal that can contain anything from do it yourself blogs to political viewpoints.
  • Literary journalism: factual reporting combines with narrative techniques and styles that are traditionally associated with works of fiction.
Plays:
  • Comedy: Designed to make the audience laugh
  • Serious drama: A play that deals with serious issues, but doesn’t delve into the realm of tragedy.
  • Musical: A play with songs and dancing.
  • Screenplay: A play written specifically for a movie.
  • Tragedy: A play showing a character’s heroic and moral struggle that ends in defeat.
Poetry:
  • Epic poem: a long narrative poem centered on a hero and his adventures.
  • Haiku: A Japanese form of poetry 17 syllables in length. It can be written in 3 lines arranged in a pattern of 5, 7, 5, or in one long line.
  • Limerick: A poem with rhyming pattern aabba
  • Lyric poem: A short poem conveying powerful emotion
  • Free verse or open form poetry: poetry without structure, this form relies on content, sound, image, and format.
  • Sonnet: a structured rhyme of 14 lines with rhymes in a pattern of abab cdcd efef gg
  • Nursery rhyme: rhyming poems for children

These lists of genres could go on and on. There are so many more out there, including the intriguing possibilities of writing cross-genres. The important thing is to remember there is a difference between form and genre, and both need to be clearly formulated in your mind before you begin.

Useful Links:

I found these pages helpful to clarify and further enhance my knowledge and understanding of form and genre:

Form and Genre – Tameri Guide For Writers

What is Genre vs Form in Literature – KMW

Understanding Literary Form – Exploring the Arts Foundation.