10 Quotes For When You Feel Like Giving Up On Your Novel

10 Quotes For When You Feel Like Giving Up On Your Novel

Earlier today I finished writing my third book (I’m still not quite sure how, exactly). It’s in a magnificent need of an edit, but it’s complete at around 70K and I’m sure some of you can relate (or will soon relate) to the satisfaction of closing your story with a great ending. For those of you like me who struggle with procrastination when writing, here are ten brilliant quotes to motivate you to finish that story!

  1. “If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.” — Anne Tyler
  2. “The only writer to whom you should compare yourself is the writer you were yesterday.” — David Schlosser
  3. “The professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” — Richard Bach
  4. “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” — Octavia Butler
  5. “You might not write well every day but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” — Jodi Picoult
  6. “You only fail if you stop writing.” — Ray Bradbury
  7. “If I waited for perfection I would never write a word.” — Margaret Atwood
  8. “If a story is in you, it has got to come out.” — William Faulkner
  9. “Every writer I know has trouble writing.” — Joseph Heller
  10. “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.” — Martin Luther

(#10 is my personal favourite!)

Hopefully you will feel inspired, and if not, what are you waiting for? Go and work on your next story, or finish that edit, or pick up that book!

And also have a lovely Easter.

Six Easy Ways to Get Inspired

Six Easy Ways to Get Inspired

Everybody struggles with a lack of inspiration now and again, or a crippling sense of writer’s block that makes you want to tear up every page (or delete every word of the manuscript file). Hopefully these six ideas might help you feel more inspired in your writing journey when you feel like the empty white page is going to swallow you up whole.

1. Nature. Yes it’s cliche, and no, I won’t preach to you about the wonder of the sublime, but a simple walk through a field or a forest is one of the best places to arouse mental stimulation. Walking is also a good exercise!

2. Other modes of creativity. Do you like art? Head down to a local gallery, or try image-sharing sites such as Weheartit or Tumblr. You could even take some photography of your own. Or, you could check out some half-finished novels on your shelf, or pop in a DVD and let your mind be filled with creative stimulation.

3. Take a break. Sometimes you just need to let your mind clear a little, so that the next time you take a seat with your story, you’ll be able to think more clearly about where you want to go next in your story. Meditate, do some yoga.

4. Talk to people. Friends, family, or even just eavesdrop in other people’s conversations. You never know what inspiration you might draw from snippets of dialogue and observation – who knew that one of your friends has an uncle that used to be a spy?

5. Read some inspiring writing quotes. Relate with other writers about how difficult the process is. You could check out some great books on writing or memoirs by successful authors about how they also tackle a lack of inspiration.

6. Like #3, go and do something else completely different. Tidy your room, do some homework, head out for a run, bake a cake. Do something completely different so that by the time you return to your work-in-progress you’ll be itching to get stuck right back in with a fresh mindset.

If it’s a problem with a specific scene, you could also skip past that particular scene and draft a later one. Write the climax of the story, or the ending, so that you’ll have a better sense of direction that might help inspire you for the scene you’re struggling on.

Best of luck folks!

Do you agree with these points? Let me know how you guys cope with finding inspiration when you’re struggling with your writing.

How To Start Your Book

How To Start Your Book

This week’s post comes from a desperate plea deep inside of me, born from the struggles of a conflicted reader who is simply tired and frustrated of starting a new book that simply doesn’t begin in the right place.

They say you have only a few seconds to make a good impression on the reader, providing they like your book’s genre, cover and description enough to make it to the first page. With such a short space of time to grab your reader’s attention, why would you even bother to waste time or risk deviating your reader’s interest through the opening pages?

To start your book is simple, start your book where the story begins, where an event directly impacts the life of the protagonist, hopefully in an active way.

Do not, I repeat, do not start the book before the story begins. This is simply irrelevant and any backstory can be blended in throughout the rest of the novel. I don’t want to read backstory, I want to read actions.

For example, in my story Anon, the first chapter begins when Ashley goes to see Mrs Morris, her latest therapist. This is important for several reasons:

  1. It introduces Ashley’s relationship with her Mother (a character who appears later)
  2. It introduces Ashley’s relationship with Mrs Morris (a character who appears later)
  3. It introduces a dark stranger that follows her there (who becomes a major character)
  4. It reveals Ashley’s powers, which are an important element of the plot
  5. It’s an interesting way of revealing things about Ashley in an active way, that still gives a substantial amount of exposition
  6. And most importantly of all, it kick-starts the plot. If Ashley didn’t go there, she wouldn’t have noticed the stranger or the light, which is important because… You get the idea.

The opening must start the story, whether this is through dialogue, narration, a new discovery. I can’t emphasise this enough. The reader doesn’t have the patience to skim through the backstory of a character they don’t care about, they want to get into the action.This is a common reason why most prologues are simply unnecessary.


Worst ways to start your book:

  1. Character wakes up to the sound of an alarm clock. I know, I can feel you rolling your eyes at the screen. Enough said, unless you’re going to take a new spin on it and an alarm clock isn’t an alarm clock at all, but some kind of warning – something or someone is attacking, a deadly force that has the potential to destroy the world…
  2. Character looks in the mirror and laments upon his/her appearance. The readers don’t care about Rochelle’s beautiful long hair or Max’s fine suit as they prepare for their mundane activities. Unless of course there’s a twist: Max is checking out his reflection to check that there’s none of Rochelle’s blood on his freshly pressed shirt.
  3. A description of the character’s mundane life: Rochelle wakes up, Rochelle goes to school, Rochelle goes home. Why would anybody care about that? Readers don’t need to read a book to experience anything mundane, that’s why books are supposed to brilliantly absorb the reader’s attention.
  4. Character goes through a brilliant, enticing scene only for them to wake up and realise that it’s all been a dream.
  5. Character introduces himself with his name, age, ethnicity, backstory, as if they are telling the reader their entire database. Please, don’t do this. The only time I’ve ever seen this done well is in Malorie Blackman’s Checkmate, where Callie introduces her name and age, and then confesses those are the only things she knows to be true.

These are just some examples, but I’m sure you’ll have read some weak opening scenes as well. Please read ahead for some better examples that succeed in introducing the story in an enticing way, that grips the reader as well as kick-starts the plot.

Excellent opening examples that pull the reader straight into the story:


All the Bright Places // Jennifer Niven

“Is today a good day to die?
 
This is something I ask myself in the morning when I wake up. In third period when I’m trying to keep my eyes open while Mr. Schroeder drones on and on. At the supper table as I’m passing the green beans. At night when I’m lying awake because my brain won’t shut off due to all there is to think about.
 
Is today the day?
And if not today – when?
 
I am asking myself this now as I stand on a narrow ledge six stories above the ground.”
This opening is simply brilliant. It hooks the reader straight into the story with the premise; the elements of teenage mental health are drawn out from the first line. And very quickly they link to now, to Finch standing on the ledge and getting us right into the story. He’s presented as an active character.
Note: If you like reading contemporary YA, All the Bright Places book is a must.

The Graveyard Book // Neil Gaiman
“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.”
How much better can an opening scene, and line, be?  Gaiman pulls us right into the action and the story, showing an immediate danger. What’s not interesting about a knife in the darkness? Everything the reader needs to know is established in just a few words, setting the tone of the story and plunging the reader into the plot.

Lolita // Vladimir Nabokov
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”
Straight away we are introduced to the main subject of the story, and then to the present narrative of Humbert’s conditions to which the reader can immediately question why he’s there in the first place – for what crime? With such an emotively obsessive first line, already it’s easy to suggest that Lolita does not have a reliable narrator.

That’s all for this week, folks! I hope that you found this post informative. Please let me know your thoughts about books you’ve read. What are your favourite opening lines or scenes? What are your least favourite?

The Importance of Taking a Break

The Importance of Taking a Break

Hello lovelies!

This week I want to talk to you about the importance of taking a break from your current work-in-progress once you’ve finished your first draft – and why this is vital when you get stuck back in for editing.

Maybe it’s already happened, maybe the moment has yet to come, but once you finish your current book there will be a whirlwind of emotions. Hopefully, they include satisfaction, fulfilment, longing, and the end of an experience of pure hard work, focus and determination. Writing a book is no easy feat, if it was, many more people would do it.

When I finished my first book, I couldn’t even believe it. Writing Anon took up my entire life, it seemed, and now that the journey was over, it all felt so surreal. A couple of days later I began rewriting, realising how much editing it needed, and then a year later I have a rewritten version with nearly half of the original word count (the original stood at above  160K). I thought the rewrite was much better, much cleaner, and a pretty decent book overall. But even now that I have finished, I am still finding typos, still finding inconsistencies, and some elements that make me want to tear my hair out.

That is why, once you have finished your manuscript, you must take a break. No matter how excited and satisfied you are, your first or second draft will not be the best it can be. You need to sit back, have a break  (with or without a KitKat), because it’s only when you look at your manuscript with fresh eyes that you can really work on polishing your work.

This does sound frustrating, but keep reminding yourself of how far you’ve come. Only a small number of the small margin of people that are crazy enough to write a novel actually finish it. While you’re on your break, work on something new. Engross yourself again with the joy and excitement of a new project.

That break will really take your mind away from the original novel, and you can read it more objectively when you get back to it a couple of months later. You can realise that you never actually fully explained that important point about the antagonist’s job description, or find out that you’ve accidentally given your blue-eyed character brown eyes halfway through.

Wherever you are on the writing journey, keep going! And if editing is something that you like to leave to the end or something you like to conduct as you go along, remember the importance of taking a break from your current work so that you can look upon your creation with fresh eyes and make it as perfect as you imagine it to be.

Good luck!

How to Write

How to Write

I’ll keep this post short and sweet because that’s how simple the answer is. If you want to write a book, even if you’re unmotivated, the only way to do that is to write anyway. Even if you have to force yourself to write something… Anything is better than nothing.

They say there’s no such thing as good writing, only good editing, which is 100% true. More often than not, the reason for a writing block is simply because you feel bored with the story. If that happens, jazz things up a little, take a break, watch a movie or listen to a great soundtrack.

If the problem isn’t the story but your inability to write anything, take a break, take a walk, come back and force yourself to write solidly for ten minutes. Your head will be clear and there will be no excuse. Pick up the pen or open up your document, then write.

Don’t stop. Don’t even think about what you’re doing. Force yourself to write and don’t stop, don’t edit, no matter how awful your eyes burn. And by the end, you’ll have something. A start, a character, an idea. Whether you use it later or let it collect dust and never see the light of day again, you have something which proves that you can write.

Stop procrastinating and start writing.

Record your word count daily, set small goals for yourself. My goal this year is to write a minimum of 500 words a day and I have kept that goal successfully. There have been days when I don’t want to write, or I’m tired, or busy, and the 500 words I write are just a short idea, or part of a chapter later on in the story, but it’s something – and the little somethings all add up to help later.

Now, I’ve written a total of 32,932 words this month so far. Breaking things down, setting yourself small goals, and forcing yourself to just write non-stop for a small amount of time really does get you adjusted into writing regularly. And once you’ve made writing a habit, it’s easier to get started the next time you pick up a pen, or open up that manuscript draft.

We’ve all been there, we all know what it’s like when you sit down and you simply have no idea where your story is going, what you want to write, whether you should give up all future attempts of writing, but you can get through it. You have to remember, it’s all in your mind.

Your body is only waiting for your permission to start writing.

Ten Brilliant Writing Quotes to Kick-start 2017

Ten Brilliant Writing Quotes to Kick-start 2017

Happy 2017! I hope this new year brings you great success and happiness.

I certainly plan to make this year the best year yet! I want to start this year by sharing a dose of inspiration for all writing endeavours. Without further ado, here are ten motivational writing quotes to get you started this year.

  1. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
    — Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  2. “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
    — Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
  3. “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”
    — Saul  Bellow
  4. “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
    — Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing
  5. “If writing didn’t require thinking then we’d all be doing it.”
    — Jeremiah Laabs
  6. “I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.”
    William Carlos Williams 
  7.  “The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes.”
    Andre Gide 
  8.  “Writing is a struggle against silence.”
    — 
    Carlos Fuentes
  9.  “Anyone who says writing is easy isn’t doing it right.”
    — Amy Joy

And my personal favourite…

10. “Every word I write is like a drop of my blood. If it’s flowed passionately and long, I need time to recover from the emotion spent before I begin a new story. My characters are aspects of my life. I have to respectfully and carefully move between them.”
Red Haircrow

Thank you for reading!

I hope that you like these quotes, do you have any favourite writing quotes of your own?

Showing Vs Telling

Showing Vs Telling

The balance between showing and telling is one of the most important aspects of writing, and can be just as irritating as overused adverbs or consistent grammatical errors. If the scale is tipped to one side more than another, the result can really impact on the reader.

Consider this example of telling:

“What’s that?” Chelsea asked curiously, and her parents looked back her with fear shining in their eyes. 

“It’s the end of the world …” said a dark figure in the doorway. The family turned to the creature, terrified

“Please don’t hurt us,” her mother begged, pleading for mercy

Some of the emphasised words above are the ones that aren’t needed, and really clog down the overall flow of the piece, they are directly telling the reader what is happening, emotively. We know that the girl is curious because she is asking a question – something she would not do if she wasn’t interested or curious in the first place.

Similarly, other words of the piece are poor ways to describe the situation. For example, the family being terrified – does that make you as a reader feel terrified? Since we are being told, rather than shown, the reader simply cannot feel emotionally invested in the situation. A much better way to conquer this example is by showing the terror, showing the effects on the senses of the characters and highlighting what is at stake.

Consider this alteration which has more showing, rather than telling:

“What’s that?” said Chelsea, staring at the darkness on the other side of the room. Her parents swallowed, the dim moonlight from the broken window caught the feverish layer of sweat on their skin.

“It’s the end of the world …” growled a creature from the doorway, the sound causing Chelsea’s blood to turn cold. She shivered as the creature stepped into the room, the darkness concealing its body like a coat. Its bloody scent poisoned her nostrils, made her stomach churn and bile rise up the sides of her throat. Human blood on his fur, most likely, and it might very well be their blood splashed there soon too.

“Please don’t hurt us …” said Chelsea’s mother, stepping in front of her family, her hands shaking as she held her palms towards the creature. 

Hardly impressive, but a massively improved version with a reduced amount of telling the reader directly what the characters are feeling. Instead, their emotions are shown by their senses (the scent of blood, the lack of visibility in the darkness, the shivering), and by what is at stake (their lives). It adds a great more amount of tension and suspense than the former example, and yet never is the reader explicitly told that the characters are terrified or fearful – they are shown it.

Of course, there is definitely some amount of telling that needs to be done. After all, it can get very overwhelming and flowery if constantly applied Some parts of a story might be difficult to focus strictly on showing, especially those with many characters and sub-plots; or at the beginning of the story; or when a character is shifting psychological states, or simply to show a difference in point of view.

Too much showing can slow the pace, and too much telling becomes robotic and impersonal. Blending together showing and telling can still be effective by telling information the reader needs to know, and still showing something about the character. For example:

The year was 2059, all terminal illnesses were a thing of the past, the average life expectancy was 150, and yet Brandon still had to wait two hours to see his GP for a flu shot. He couldn’t stand the floor disinfectant’s harsh scent that clogged up his nostrils, or the constant opening and closing of the elevator doors past the lobby. He glanced at his iWatch K5 and promised himself that if he had to wait another ten minutes, he would storm straight outside and never come back, even if it meant taking another week off work sneezing up his guts.

Even though we are told why Brandon doesn’t like the surgery, the extent of his irritability is shown by the fact that he looks at his watch, and considers leaving. Through focusing on Brandon’s thoughts, information about the society can also be inferred, but not told independently with little link to Brandon’s character or the plot.

Try it yourself! In 100 words, write an extract and underline in different colours where you have shown, and where you have told. Note the balance for each side and see where showing or telling would be more effective to use.