Thursday, 21 November 2019

More on writing about yourself


Some advantages of using relationships

  To tell our own stories we need to tell the stories of those around us.

  We have colourful characters on tap.

  We are the gap between the interactions of those amongst us.

  Our psychology depends on the psychology of others.

Some ethical issues

  We are stealing the stories of others.

  How would you feel if you were used in somebody else’s story?

  You could be charged with slander, libel, defamation of character if you are not careful.

  What right do we have to make judgements about others?

  Note the difference between writing biography and autobiography from writing fiction, though you can use the same techniques that you use in writing fiction.  Indeed, if you do, your text may be more engaging to the reader.     

Slices of life

You can indeed enliven your text with:
  A competent handling of time and space
  Making sure that all that you write shows place, personality or action


Write about a scene from your life that includes a colourful character. Can you write it in such a way that there would be no chance of this character charging you with slander, libel, or defamation of character?  Use some techniques you might apply to fiction to enliven your text: have a good narrative balance of dialogue, action, description, inner monologue and very little exposition.  Show, don’t tell.   

Tuesday, 5 November 2019



S. Hermann & F. Richter via Pixabay

When we read we get a sense of time and place when the writer tells us about specific localities.  We get more vivid impressions when they mention places we know. Perhaps they also present topics of national importance – these days if you’re in the UK that might be about politics, our trains systems and our relationship with Europe. The may allude to international matters such as migration, international conflicts and climate change. In memoir or autobiography the writers also tell us about themselves. They will set the external matters to the appropriate times and places.    

What things come to mind when you think about your life on:
         A local level?
         A national level?
         An international level?
         Also, what are your interests? What do they reveal about the larger culture?

Use these in a balanced way to produce a piece of autobiography or memoir.  

Friday, 18 October 2019

Editing your novel

Image by Anne Karakash from Pixabay

So, the first draft of your novel is finished.  Now the editing starts.  I personally do one edit at a time. Perhaps this really proves that writing is mainly rewriting.

The three (+) stages of editing 

      The structural edit
      Writers’ techniques  / skills edit / technical edit
      The words
      The proof read
      Creative editing 

The structural edit

         Is the structure sound?
         Is the resolution satisfying?     
         Does the overall time-scale work? (You may have already planned a time structure into your novel but it is still worth checking that it is right.)
         Is this actually a young adult novel?
         Are characters consistent and rounded? Do they grow?
         Is there cause and effect?
         Is there tension and pace?   

Writers’ techniques

         Is the dialogue working correctly?
         Is there a narrative balance?
         Is the balance of showing and telling right?
         Are points of view consistent?
         Are the style and the voice consistent?    

The words

         Kill off your darlings
     Are they too good for the rest of you text?
     Can you match them?
     If all of the text is like this will it become too rich.   
         Get rid of  clichés
     Note clichés work – but you can say it even better
         Do a thorough copy edit
     Check every single word. Do you mean what you say and say what you mean? 
         Read out loud.
     You spot mistakes more easily
     You can test overall flow   

Proof read

         Normally this happens when the book is about to go off to the printer.
         Three people proof read:  the author, the editor and a professional proof-reader. 
         It saves your publisher a lot of time and money if you do this yourself before you send in your scrip.  Be warned though: they’ll still spot something.
         Professional proof readers use a special mark-up language. It’s useful to learn this.
         Many also now use track Changes in Microsoft Word. You should get used to this.    

Creative editing

         Look at one aspect at a time.
         Maybe change the font for each edit. (Don’t forget to change it back later.) 
         Start at a different point for each edit. (Some maths involved here.)
         Be aware of your own particular faults and look for those also.       

Getting help from critique groups

         You must be selective.
         Find one that specialises in what you write.  
         Will the group’s style suit you? Are they too laid back or too strict?
         Remember, you can learn as much by looking at other people’s work as by looking at your own.
         Works often sent out in advance so that you read it and prepare your comments before the meeting.  
         Be aware of developing a “house style”. Your group may have particular preferences.     
         Consider also an online group. 

Beta readers

  • This name comes from IT.
  • They meet the completed text only – gets away from house styles / over familiarity of group.
  • They might be other writers, target readers, or experts on your  theme or setting.
  • Six is perhaps a good number.
  • Allow them to comment on any aspect of your work regardless of why you have selected them.  
  • You could print a proof copy of your book to make it easier to read or you could turn it into a mobi-file so that your beat readers can read it on their Kindle.        

Paid editing

  • You pay someone to edit your work.  This can be very expensive.  
  • New editing companies and freelancers arrive all the time.  On the whole you get what you pay for. Some are very good. Some are less good. Always get references / endorsements.
  • They may be worth it if you keep getting rejections but critique groups and beta readers like your work.
  • They are probably essential if you want to self-publish.
  • Two further thoughts:
    • Is this a career path for you? Could you also become an editor?
    • Could you form a cooperative?  Writers edit each other’s’ work.     

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Recipe for Writing a Novel with particualr reference to the YA novel

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

You may find this a useful checklist to work with after  you have finished your novel.   

Specific to YA novels

  1. Make sure that your novel is actually a Bildungsroman and that the protagonist has changed by the end of it.
  2. Make sure that your protagonist and any of his / her friends or peers look like a young adult. Consider also reading abilities and be very clear whether you are writing for a person with near-adult reading skills or for a person who has poorer reading skills but emotionally, physically and mentally is near-adult.   
  3. Make sure the pace is fast.
  4. Make sure that the reader can engage in the emotions of the characters.
  5. Consider whether you want to push boundaries or play it safe and go for something which is “chicklet-lit” or something which resembles children’s or adult fiction.
  6. Leave some of the decisions about what is happening to the reader. The ending should be open but upbeat without being unrealistic. No “happily ever afters”.  
  7. As your novel is primarily a Bildungsroman, it is likely to borrow from several other genres and have several adolescent themes in it.  Real life novels tend to be just about real life.  Your main character will probably be grappling with one major issue but will be facing all the other issues that young people face.   

Novels generally

1.      Make sure your story arc works. In particular, watch that the resolution is satisfying. 
2.      Set in a distinct time and place so that your reader can experience the story with your protagonist.
3.      Remember that voice comes from you speaking consistently to a defined reader.  
4.      Show, don’t tell.
5.      Write with the senses to produce good writing but don’t overindulge yourself.
6.      Make sure your characters are rounded and believable. Know everything about them but see note 7.
7.       Do your research – about your characters, about your setting, about anything else, and then write with that knowledge. Don’t try to cram everything you know into the text. Remember the Character Magic exercise. It works for setting and other things too. 
8.       Think about all the different types of narrative you might include.
9.       Remember the place of dialogue. It must always push the story forward or show more plot. It is best if it does both at once. It must be believable and in character but it also shouldn’t be too natural.
10.  Remember the difference between a novel and an epic.    

Any Writing

Writing is mainly hard work with a bit of inspiration. Writing is mainly rewriting.