For Aspiring Writers

Archive for the category “A Little Advice”

Flash Fiction

Beginning my creative writing journey at age 13, I naively jumped into the project of writing a novel. Bad idea. In previous articles, I’ve stressed that writing a novel is like writing a marathon. If you haven’t practiced, even good luck isn’t good enough. Having learnt this lesson I began writing short stories, and progressively they became shorter and shorter rather than longer and longer. Was this a problem? No.

A piece of writing does not have to be long to be good, or even enjoyable. My new found love in writing has been flash fiction. Much like other lengths of writing, such as novellas and novels, how many words constitute as a piece of flash fiction is debatable, ranging from 300 words to 1500. Essentially, this causes restraints on how fully fleshed out a plot or character is. But this is where the beauty of flash fiction lies – the ambiguity means that many different people can have a very different take on what is going on. Even the writer, as have often been the case in my experience, can see a million different possibilities about where the story could go.

Flash fiction is also great for me because I tend plan a lot before I write, but with this type of writing I can just go with the flow. It has helped me adapt my techniques and loosen my obsession with intense preparation. This has also helped me feel a lot more creative, just thinking on my feet and seeing where my writing instincts take me!

I encourage all writers to experiment not only with flash fiction, but any type of writing they have not yet tried. Things that seem not suited for us are also often things we haven’t tried, but some things can really take you by surprise. Experiment, experiment, experiment!



Becoming an Effective Writer

It’s evident to say writer’s write. But the difference between writing and being a writer is that writer’s produce. They produce finished stories, finished articles, finished poems and so on. They produce and they deliver.

Sometimes it’s hard to get to grips and just focus on a project. So follow these few simple guidelines and see how far you get:

  • Allocate time proportionally…and stick to it – this means spending a fifth of your time doing research, two fifths of your time planning and two fifths of your time writing – not necessarily in those proportions, but what I mean to say is don’t spend more time than you need. It’s easy to get carried away with the fun stuff or with the details, but see the fine line between have to and think you have to
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself – oh my god, look at that list of things you have to do – you still have to find your character’s surname and give their house an address, you need to find a brilliant turning point, you need to do cover art for your book, write a blurb, find a nicer way to describe the weather…calm down. Your first aim is to write a story. Sometimes I write an entire story by calling my character John or Jane Doe. Focus big, then work your way closer and closer to the details – in that order!
  • Goals and aims – this one ties with the previous point. When you set yourself goals and aims, be realistic and don’t give yourself too much pressure. Give yourself one goal a week or one goal a month if that’s what keeps you going. To write chapters 4 and 5 might be your goal for this week. And that will give you space to breath.

Change is for the Best

It can be very hard to see something in one way, love it and nurture, and then to have to tear bits away and fit in new pieces, but when it comes to writing, it really is crucial.

Writing is a largely based around experimentation. There are simply infinite paths to choose and that’s why no two books are the same. There may come a time whilst you write that you’re finding it hard to see where your story goes, or when you read it, you just aren’t getting the flow. There may have been a time that when you started your story, you based it on a blind girl and you imagined her hair, her family life, her friends. But maybe to make the story work, you need to change the protagonist to a male.

Other things you may change to make the story work:

  • genre – this is a big one, but perhaps you had a romantic sub-plot but that’s detracting from the dark tone you want to make
  • point of view – maybe limiting your story to third person limited won’t be as effective as third person omniscient for a little dramatic irony and filling in some gaps
  • age
  • antagonist
  • structure
  • setting

This will give your story a new direction, and perhaps even a better one. Remember that the aim isn’t always to scrap and start all over again, sometimes simply re-writing and changing only elements is what will perfect your scene.

What’s a Book Without Conflict?

As much as you may want to wish better for human nature, your reader will have no interest for your story if it doesn’t have conflict. We need some spice, some gossip, some friction – we need your character to be going down a pretty steep hill.

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Do you have what it takes?

James Scott Bell, author of The Art of War for Writers outlines 10 things you need to be a writer.

  1. Desire – It’s got to be a hunger inside you. You’re going to have to sacrifice time and money and endure frustrations galore. If you don’t have the desire, you won’t last out there on the battlefield.
  2. Discipline – It’s all about production. A quote of words, six days a week.
  3. Commitment to craft – You can’t just dash off a book. Leonard Bishop wrote, ‘Dramatic characters, inventive plotlines, exciting and intense situations are not achieved through accident or ‘good luck.’ The writers of great books zealously learn the craft of their profession so they can release the power and depth of their imagination and experience.’
  4. Patience – It takes time. But you can cut down the time if you have 1, 2 and 3.
  5. Honesty – Be willing to confront your weaknesses as a writer.
  6. Willingness to learn – No chip on your shoulder. Check your ego at the door, or wherever else is convenient.
  7. Business-like attitude – develop business savvy and professionalism
  8. Rhino skin – learn from every rejection and never let any rejection hold you back.
  9. Long-term view – Don’t think “Do I have a book inside me?” Think: “Do I have a writer inside me?” And answer: “Yes!”
  10. Talent – The least important. Everyone has some talent. It’s what you do with it that counts.

Okay now, be honest, how many of these do you possess? I firmly believe that identifying your strengths and weaknesses is one step closer to improving a skill, because you now know what to concentrate on.

Number 2 and 4 are things I’m working on, my biggest weaknesses, but keeping a track of the number of word I’ve done, and keeping realistic targets help.


Reader’s Judge a Book by a Title: Revamp and Infographic

Trying out my new found obsession (infographics) first hand, hope you enjoy!

Readers Judge a Book By Its Title

Sometimes your title may inspire a whole novel, sometimes you could have polished your story for the final time but still be struggling to find a fitting name. Some people enjoy thinking of the title at the beginning, some writers leave this task till last. Whatever it is, the title of a story plays a crucial part in enticing a reader into reading your book. Readers will judge whether to read your book by its title.

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Point of View: Whose Story is it to Tell?

The point of view of the story makes a very big impact on the reader. A lot of the time it does depend on how will the writer executes it, but it also depends on the plot and characters.

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Moving up the Ranks

From ‘The Art or War for Writers’ by James Scott Bell

Finishing a story is hard work – at least, of course, if you’re writing a good one! Writing requires commitment, skill, talent, attention to detail, imagination and passion. But writing is equally a rewarding experience. When I finished my first novel, just writing the words ‘the end’ was such a satisfying experience. I knew then that I could do it, that I can keep writing, keep getting better and perhaps one day, even become published and give a reader an experience that really rocks them (in a good way, of course!)

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On the Art of Sub-Plots

A subplot is a secondary plot strand that is a supporting side story for any story or the main plot. Subplots may connect to main plots, in either time and place or in thematic significance. Subplots often involve supporting characters, those besides the protagonist or antagonist.

Personally, when planning out my story, sub-plots don’t really play on my mind until I’m actually writing – what prompts them is when I write more about my supporting characters, I feel more empathy for them and want to delve a little deeper into their lives. Your readers should feel the same – they should be compelled to your secondary cast, and be intrigued.

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Using Personality Types to Flesh Out Characters

The personality type can provide very useful for a writer. It can provide pages on information, or simply a paragraph to help flesh out your character to a well rounded human being. There is one test in particular, perhaps the most well used of our time, called the Myers Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI). It categorises humans in sixteen personality types based on four temperaments:

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Showing and Telling

You will have most probably have heard the phrase, ‘show, don’t tell’, and whilst this piece of advice is vital for most part of the story, telling in some cases, is also necessary.

You will find many quotes from writers that help exercise ‘show, don’t tell’, my favourite being by Anton Chekhov:

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass

Why is showing a story important?

The biggest reason is that showing a story helps the reader empathise with the character. It is a lot less effective to tell the reader ‘be scared’, than to show them an emerging figure, than then their footsteps racing across the midnight streets, then their own ears failing on them as they try to lower their panting and hear for any sounds, and then that single tap on the shoulder and a heavy breath burning on their chilled neck.  Empathy is absolutely key to gaining reader interest, and by telling a story, you will at most, gain sympathy, which, when provoked repeatedly, can very easily morph into pity, or pure hatred for your protagonist!

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I am a firm believer that writing is an art. Writing is also a very vague term as it is such a broad hobby. Do you write non-fiction, flash fiction, short stories, novellas, novels, epics or poetry? Do you read fantasy sagas, self-help articles or abstract anthologies? We all have our comfort zones, but experimentation is key for a writer. Why? Because by dabbing into another genre, you will acquire so many new skills that even if you do not like the genre itself, you will come back a much more experienced writer.

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Writer’s Frustrations

Writing is a beautiful art. It’s like painting with words, and just imagine that the number of creations can be made is limitless. So what’s stopping you from creating and growing as a writer?

Problem: I’ve lost my confidence

Solution: Any opinions you get about your writing must have a justification, good or bad. If people find the beginning too slow, cut out any dawdling and get stuck into the action. If people find mistakes in your grammar, go and get a book and learn these vital skills. Do not let it affect you. Do what you have to do to be a better writer. If people do not give reasonable justifications, ignore them, for they themselves are being ignorant and you cannot afford to waste time, you have a story to write!

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Making the Reader Care

Your story will tell the journey of at least one important character, and your reader will embark on that journey with them. And although your character does not have the choice of abandoning that journey, your reader does, so you have to ensure that the thought never crosses their mind. So what sort of things do you have to do to ensure your reader always turns the pages?

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