Writing Tip: Tips to Developing A Plot

wtotwThis week’s tip was a suggestion. If there’s a topic you want me to cover, please let me know. Not only does it help you, but it also helps me decide on what to write about.

A plot is the main events of a play, novel, movie, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence. Below are some simple tips to keep in mind while developing yours.

1. Create a hook.

To get readers interested in your book, first you have to lure them into wanting to continue reading past the beginning. The best way to typically grab your reader’s attention is to start your book with an action scene or some other type of conflict. Make them care about what’s going on and wonder how your character(s) got themselves in such a situation.

Picture Source: tomthefanboy.deviantart.com
Picture Source: tomthefanboy.deviantart.com

2. Keep your characters interesting.

If you want to keep your reader after your beginning hook. the next best way to do so is to make sure your characters are interesting. Make them likable. Make them human. Make them into people that you would want to read about. If your reader likes your character(s), they’ll be more likely to keep reading because they care enough to see what happens next.

3. Conflict.

Once you have characters that your reader can care about, you’ll want to create some kind of conflict to keep the story interesting. Conflicts can be external or internal or a mix of both. You can have as many conflicts as you like, but I would recommend not having too many as it can become confusing. Only keep enough for the story to be interesting and that your reader can handle without becoming confused.

Picture Source: www.byrdseed.com
Picture Source: http://www.byrdseed.com

4. Sub-Plots.

Conflicts tend to be big. Sub-plots are smaller and can fall within major conflicts. Sub-plots are good for making your story seem more natural, like real life. Say your main character’s conflict is against an enemy. A sub-plot could be your character’s on and off relationship with their romantic partner or family member. You could even find a way to tie in the sub-plot with the bigger conflict. Like conflicts, I wouldn’t recommend having too many sub-plots as they can become confusing and take away from the main conflicts.

5. The Climax.

Eventually your sub-plots and conflicts should work toward the climax. The climax is the major turning point of the story and it’s important for it to be strong since it’s been building up over the course of your novel. An example of a climax would be a showdown between good and evil forces or a character discovering something vital. Make sure that your climax features the best possible outcome for the story.

Picture Source: www.downwindersatrisk.org
Picture Source: http://www.downwindersatrisk.org

6. Wrapping it Up.

After the climax, it’s time to begin wrapping up your novel. Make sure conflicts get resolved in one way or another and that there aren’t any loose ends that will make your reader wonder (unless of course you are writing a series and these things will be explained later). Wrapping up your story helps your readers find closure after the climax. While it doesn’t have to be a happy ending, your reader will want to know what happened after the big conflict became resolved. Readers wouldn’t have been happy if J.K. Rowling hadn’t wrapped things up after Harry Potter and Voldemort have their final battle in the Harry Potter series, would they?

Picture Source: nadajo.com
Picture Source: nadajo.com

I hope you found these tips helpful. If you need more information, this is a really great site on plots with tons of resources that go even more in depth.

Don’t forget to enter my Book Giveaway for 2014!

jncname

Writing Tip: Re-writes

wtotw

Since I finished re-writing my novel, Whispertown, for NaNoWriMo, I thought I would share my tips for having a successful one. Here’s what helped me:

1. Before you begin the re-write, read your original draft and make notes on what you want to change or add.

I’ve found this to be super helpful before I begin. If you’re not sure what to change or add, find some beta readers to give you some ideas on how to make your novel stronger and incorporate them into your re-write.

2. Keep your original draft open when you begin your re-write.

Having the original draft open for me to refer to while re-writing was a lifesaver for me. While I only kept maybe 10-20% of the original writing, it helped keep me on track as well as show me how better the changes were working in the re-write.

3. Save your re-write separately.

It should be common sense for you to save your re-write as a different file, but I’ve actually talked to someone who saved over their original. If you save over your original, it will be harder to compare it to your re-written version. Plus, wouldn’t you always want to hold onto your original or is that just me?

4. If something isn’t working, change it!

If there’s a part in your novel that just isn’t working, it’s probably best to change it until it does work.

5. When you finish, let it sit for a while before giving it another edit.

It’s best to take a break from your work before attempting to edit it again right after. This will make it easier for you to spot errors and maybe even change or add something else to the finished work. You could send the re-write to beta readers in the meantime. It’s easier to catch errors if you have multiple readers and if they read the original draft, they can tell you whether or not the re-write was successful and if anything needs work.

 

Have you ever re-written one of your works? If so, did you feel it was successful? What tips would you give someone who was starting their own re-write? Anything different from what I’ve suggested? I’d love to hear from you. And if you have any suggestions for future writing tips, post them!

 

Don’t forget to enter my Book Giveaway for 2014!

 

jncname

Writing Do’s and Don’ts: Flashbacks

wdd

Writing Flashbacks

Picture Source: cartoonsy.com
Picture Source: cartoonsy.com

Flashbacks can be a helpful tool for telling a story. Here are some tip if you are considering using one for yours.

DO:

1. Determine if you really need a flashback.

Many people consider flashbacks to be a cliche. So if you are certain that your story needs a flashback, you’re going to have to do it in a creative manner to make it stand out from the rest.

2. Determine how the flashback will be used.

There are several options to using a flashback. It can be a brief memory, it can be a full scene, it can be a dream. It could even be journal/diary/blog entries from the past.

3. Let your reader get settled into the story before going back into the past.

There are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part it’s best to wait a bit until you take your reader into a flashback. Let your reader get to know your character(s).

DON’T:

1. Don’t use a flashback if you are unsure if it serves the story.

If you are writing a flashback that has little to no purpose in your story, readers may be puzzled and waiting for a greater meaning. Only use a flashback if you think it is absolutely necessary.

2. Overuse flashbacks.

Obviously there are exceptions (perhaps if your character is actively trying to recover a partial memory vital to the storyline), but for the most part, I wouldn’t use too many flashbacks. Too many can take away from your story or confuse your readers, especially if most or all of them don’t even serve a real purpose in the story.

3. Start your book with a flashback.

Again, there are exceptions, but as a general rule, this is considered cliche. Especially if you use a dream to convey it. If you are adamant about starting your book with a flashback, make sure it is creative and fits a purpose.

 

jncahill_name

Writing Do’s and Don’ts: Settings

wdd

Writing Setting

Original Art by Thomas Kinkade
Original Art by Thomas Kinkade

Setting is a very important aspect in a novel. A well-described setting can bring your story to life. Here’s some tips to writing a great setting for your book:

DO:

1. Learn your setting.

The first thing that you have to do before writing your setting is to imagine your setting. Is your setting realistic? Futuristic? Magical? What kinds of wildlife lives there? What is it like there? Try using your senses (sight/sound/smell/feel/etc) to describe certain aspects. Make sure it fits with the book’s genre and story. Jot down some ideas of what your setting looks like. Make yourself as familiar as your setting as you can–that way it will feel more natural to write in.

2. Show More, Tell Less.

Telling your reader about a setting in length can become boring. Try to show your surroundings. It will not only sound better but will also better engage your reader(s). Some telling is fine and even appropriate, but use it in moderation.

Telling: It felt cool outside.
Showing: A cool breeze rippled through my hair.

3. Get reader opinions.

If you are uncertain if your setting is working, have someone you trust read it over. Ask them to point out the strengths and weaknesses in your setting descriptions as well as if the setting works for the story’s content.

DON’T:

1. Write an unrealistic setting unless your goal is to make it unrealistic.

For example, if you are writing a historical novel, don’t include modern technology in the description.

2. “Tell” too much.

While it’s fine to tell some of your setting to your reader, don’t just tell or it’s likely that your description will become boring and tedious. I would recommend showing and telling in ways that only strengthen your descriptions and overall story.

3. Start your book with a ton of setting description.

While setting “sets” the scene of your book, don’t overdo it. If your first few novel pages are only filled with setting descriptions, you’re going to bore your reader.

jncahill_name

Writing Do’s and Don’ts: All About Voice

wdd

All About Voice

Voice can be a confusing aspect of writing to explain. Some of you may be wondering what “voice” means when it comes to writing. According to Grammar Girl, voice is “the distinct personality, style, or point of view of a piece of writing or any other creative work.” Basically, voice is how an author makes a story theirs through the way they write. Think of music and how the same song sounds different when another artist does a cover of it.

Voice is important for many reasons, but the biggest is attracting and keeping your readers. After all, if a reader doesn’t like your writing style, they probably won’t want to keep reading your book.
For more tips about voice, check out Grammar Girl’s post on it here. I’m going to highlight the key points on the Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to using your writing voice:

Picture Source: sodahead.com
Picture Source: sodahead.com

DO:

1. Decide which voice you want to write in. You can use active or passive voice.

Active voice indicates that the subject is acting on the verb. Most writers prefer active voice because it’s more direct (and typically easier to write).

Active: The cat jumped onto the windowsill.

Passive voice is basically the opposite of active–the subject is being acted upon. Passive writing can be useful if you want to create a sense of mystery in your writing.

Passive: The windowsill was jumped onto by the cat.

2. Decide how you want your writing and your main character(s) to be perceived.

Do you want your writing to come off as humorous? Snarky? Bubbly? In many cases you will have to consider your main character(s) and their personality. Make sure it fits them, otherwise your writing will seem off.

3. Decide on your target audience.

While writing, you also need to keep your target audience in mind. If you are writing for teens, you need to make it sound like something a teenager would read. The best way to do this is to talk and befriend some teenagers, watch teen-themed shows and movies, and read popular teenage books. The same goes for if you want your audience to be adults. If your writing doesn’t match your target audience, you will have a hard time drawing a particular group in.

DON’T:

1. Write outside of your target audience.

If you don’t write toward your target audience throughout your story, you will probably lose the readers you attracted to begin with.

2. If you have different character POVS, don’t let them all sound the same.

There’s nothing more boring than characters who sound the same. Try some of the below sites for tips on making your character’s voices stand out.

http://www.superheronation.com/2011/08/31/writing-distinct-character-voices/

http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/2012/04/how-to-create-distinctive-character.html

 

jncahill_name

Writing Do’s and Don’ts: Third Person POV–Limited & Omniscient

wdd

Writing from Third Person Point-of-View (POV) Limited & Omniscient

128813734764393810

Third person point-of-view is also favored by many writers. I don’t typically write in third often, but there are times where I think it works better than first. If you’re not used to writing in third person, it can be a challenge.  Here’s some tips to keep in mind if you want to write your story in third person limited and omniscient POV.

DO:

1. Decide whether you want to use third person limited or omniscient.

Limited: The narrator can only write from the mind of a single character. It’s similar to first person, except it is told from a narrator’s POV instead of from the main character’s.

Lena peered at her best friend, Maria, and wondered what she was thinking.

Omniscient: The narrator can write from multiple character POVs.

Lena peered at her best friend, Maria, and wondered what she was thinking. Maria couldn’t believe that Lena had just said that.

2. Instead of using “I”, “we”, and “our” like you do in first person, use pronouns such as “he”, “she”, “they”, etc.

The exception is dialogue, when a character may use first person pronouns.

3. Make sure your character(s) have a unique voice.

Sometimes it can be a challenge to make your main character(s) shine. This is especially important if you go with omniscient and have many characters to portray. Make sure they stand out from one another, rather than all seeming to be the same.

DON’T:

1. Get trapped into “telling” too much.

The “show, don’t tell” rule still applies. Don’t bore your readers with lengthy paragraphs of telling.

2. Overuse “she/he”.

Just like writers can overuse “I” in first person POV, they can also overuse “he/she” in a similar way. Here’s a example:

Carly woke up starving the next morning so she got up quickly and went downstairs to fix some breakfast. She made some scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast. Then she poured herself a glass of OJ and she piled her plate with food before plopping down in front of the TV. She munched on a piece of toast as she turned on the TV and changed the channel.

Now, here’s an example replacing some of the she’s:

As soon as Carly’s eyes opened the next morning, her stomach began to angrily grumble for food. She hurried downstairs and made herself a breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast. After piling her plate with food, Carly poured a glass of OJ and plopped down in front of the TV. Munching on a piece of toast, she turned on the TV and changed the channel.

See how much better that sounds?

What are your thoughts concerning third person? Do you like reading and/or writing in it?

jncahill_name

Writing Do’s and Don’ts: The First Chapter

Writing Do’s and Don’ts:

The First Chapter

The first chapter is probably the most crucial of your chapters. After all, if your reader doesn’t like your first chapter, what will make them want to read on? Here’s some Do’s and Don’ts concerning your Chapter One:

DO:

1. Hook them with your first sentence.

Your first sentence is very important. It’s basically the first impression that you will make on your readers. Here’s some good tips from Miss Literati on ways that you can write a great first sentence. I especially love her Harry Potter example.

2. More action, less back story.

Your first instinct might be to delve immediately into the back story. I’ve been guilty of this in the past (V.C. Andrews books did not help), but some lovely critiquers helped me to understand why starting your first chapter with a ton of back story is a bad idea. One, it slows down the chapter. That may cause your reader to become pretty bored. Two, your reader may begin to suffer from information overload. Never good. And three, as the great Stephen King says, “Good books don’t give up their secrets all at once.”

It’s best to sprinkle in your back story as your plot unfolds. Reveal bits at a time when its relevant. You can include some back story in the beginning, but try to keep it a minimum. Your readers should be able to piece together the back story if you do a good job.

3. Try to keep characters to a minimum.

One mistake some authors make is introducing too many characters all at once. If you introduce a lot of characters, you might confuse your reader. Introduce characters slowly, otherwise some will be overlooked or confused with others. This also helps your reader to be able to relate better to your main character. It might be hard to relate with so many characters in the same room.

4. Make your main character interesting, relate-able, or likable.
Even though your reader and main character are just meeting, it’s important that they hit it off. If your reader doesn’t care for your main character, they may end up giving up on your book. Even if the character is a villain, they should at least be interesting to read about.

5. Having a cliffhanger at the end of the chapter is always a good way to keep readers reading.
This isn’t a “must”, but cliffhangers are never a bad idea in my book. They keep those pages turning. And that’s exactly what you want to accomplish with your first chapter.

Picture Source: www.literaturereviewhq.com
Picture Source: http://www.literaturereviewhq.com

DON’T:

1. Start your first sentence with something boring like the weather.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the cliche’ opening, “It was a dark a stormy night.” That’s an example of a first sentence not to use. I’d also suggest that you don’t start with a really long or confusing sentence, either. Use a sentence that will catch your reader’s interest.

2. Switch from first person to third, or vice-versa.

You really shouldn’t do this at all, but especially don’t in the first chapter. It will only cause confusion.

3. Have too many character point-of-views going on.

If you have too many characters sharing from their point of view, this may either confuse your reader or make them unsure of who they are supposed to be relating to. It’s okay to have more than one main character, but I would suggest just picking one POV to share from until the next chapter. Gone by Micheal Grant does this and his series have tons of characters. I’ve never once been confused.

4. Make your first chapter too long.

While there isn’t a certain length that is acceptable or unacceptable for chapters, keep your audience in mind. If you are writing a children’s or young-adult book, you’ll probably want to keep the first chapter shorter than for an adult novel. If it’s really long (over a few thousand words), I suggest having chapter breaks so your reader can pause if the chapter is getting too long for their taste. The point of a chapter is to get what needs to happen written and then move onto the next chapter. So once you’ve accomplished that, end that chapter. That’s what they are for.

What are your suggestions when it comes to first chapters? If I didn’t cover it, I would love to hear about it!

jncahill_name