Tag Archives: writing

Advice for writers staring out

I recently received an email from a writer who’s just starting out, and they wanted to know if I could give them any advice. It’s the first time anyone has asked me for writing advice, and I was very flattered.

Since my first full-length work isn’t quite finished, I wasn’t sure how much advice I could offer. Then I thought back on what I’ve found the most difficult thing about writing and what’s helped me.

In my experience, writing a novel is hard. It’s hard, not because of the technical aspects of it, but because of all of the self-doubts that crop up along the way. You’ll probably find yourself thinking things like ‘I’m a cruddy writer’, ’this book is stupid’ and ‘I’m never, ever going to finish’, the sorts of things that totally discouraging you from writing. That’s why you need to be persistent, to keep writing despite the self-doubts, and stubborn, for when persistence fails you.  Continue reading

Blake Synder's Beat Sheet, with template

Cover of Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
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If you want to understand how the beat sheet works, check out this book.

Best for those outling a new work.

What’s awesome about it

  • The word count for each beat

What’s not-so-awesome

  • It’s daunting, especially when your manuscript is half-written
  • No capacity to outline subplots

The awesome

When I first came across Blake Synder’s Beat Sheet (BS2), I was half-way through the manuscript for Hero and the word count for each beat made me to blanch. The idea of trying to shoehorn my (at that point in time) pantsed story into all of those little boxes (opening image, catalyst, black moment) with their prescribed word counts, was more than my brain could take, but when I went back to the BS2, a new story in mind, they appeared as godsends.  Continue reading

A world-building template for when you're on the go

World-building on my iPad
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Just whip out the iPad and get world-building, while you wait for you morning hot chocolate.

Patricia C. Wrede’s Fantasy World-building questions are great, and the World-building Leviathan is equally awesome, but there are times when they just don’t hit the spot. Like, when you’re halfway (or more) into your novel and you need to sort out what a battle mage can do that an illusionist can’t.

Sure, you can jot down a few notes and whack them into a notebook, but if, like me, you can’t stand the thought of not being organised, something a little more structured is in order.

Normally, I’d turn to Scrivener, but, until the iPad version comes out, it doesn’t work so well on-the-go. Yes, you can sync your files to an external folder and edit them on the iPad (which works great for writing), but whatever file structure you’ve created in Scrivener is lost, and when I’m world-building I need folders, and not just any folders, but nested folders and lots of them.

And so, I set out to make myself a template in which I could make random notes, while still being organised, and that I could use just as easily from my laptop as my iPad. Continue reading

Battling personal demons with a notebook

My notebook, where I excise my personal demons, turned to the page that reads 'trust your gut'.
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The battleground, where I wage war against my personal demons.
Determining your writing process isn’t just about brainstorming and planning, it’s also about conquering the personal demons that are holding you back.

For me, writing has been as much about personal growth as it has been about learning the correct use of the semi-colon. It’s hard and scary, but in the long run, it’s more than worth it.

More than with your writing process, you need to find your own way to deal with the things that hold you back. Here’s how I’m dealing with one of mine. Continue reading

Exploring the Snowflake method

The Snowflake method is the brainchild of Randy Ingermanson. Freely available online, it’s one of the first methods/writing processes that I started playing around with. It’s great for plotters, although pantsers might like to give it a pass, since it’s heavy on the planning. There’s also no world-building to speak of, but there’s nothing to stop you slotting in something like the 30 Days of World-building Exercises to suit your needs.  Continue reading

Exploring the writing process

Books on writing processes, including First Draft in 30 Days and What Would Your Charater Do?
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Just some of the writing books in my reading pile.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably spent time trying to figure out the how to write a book. Not just the putting pen to paper bit, but the step-by-step process of planing, outlining and drafting. You’ve probably read books with titles like First Draft in 30 Days and No Plot? No Problem!. You might even have flirted with beat sheets, the Snowflake method, phase drafting and a hundred and one other techniques that promise to make your writing life easier. Continue reading

A writer's notebook for Scrivener

Screenshot of the Writer' class=
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A while ago, I found this writer’s notebook for Scrivener. I prefer to keep my story ideas in separate files, so I haven’t used it yet, but it looks pretty bloody awesome. I particularly like the Writing Helps & Tips section at the top, which includes such goodies as Dan Wells 7-point plot system, “11 tips to increase your productivity” and “How to make stories Rock”.

Unfortunately, the website where I originally found the file is no longer available, but don’t fear, I’ve uploaded it here so that you too can share in the awesomeness.

The goodies

Second draft progress. Whoo!

Second draft in progress
I love my outdoor workspace (except when it’s 30 degrees outside).

For the past month, between work,  karate and finally reading Divergent (excellent book, by the way), I’ve been working on the second draft of Hero. And although I haven’t made as much progress as I would have liked, and I’m busting to get to the second part of the my revision process (editing the prose – why does ‘prose’ always sound so snobbish?), the novel is coming along nicely.

Continue reading

Revising Hero and the Pantser's Beat Sheet

A screenshot of the 7-point plot system
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The revision of Hero, using the 7-point plot system

Just after Christmas, I finished the first draft of Hero and since the New Year I’ve been hard at work on the second draft. Dan Wells’s 7-point plot system (aka the Pantser’s Beat Sheet) has been incredibly helpful during the revision process – particularly the layering process (explained in part 5 of Dan Wells’s lecture, available on YouTube) – and it too has undergone a revision. Continue reading