Writer’s block can happen to anyone but this doesn’t make it easier. There’s nothing pleasant in staring at the blank Word document and trying to think of what to write, especially when you need to write it as soon as possible. Moreover, it can affect all kinds of people: experienced writers working on a book at a slow pace, bloggers who have a certain writing schedule, and students who have a lot of essays to write. If you are a student, it’s not as scary as it seems. You can always ask for help with your research paper or an essay. However, if writing is your job, you need to overcome the block as soon as possible. While writer’s block is definitely an unpleasant thing, it can be overcome with time and effort. What’s important here is to be patient. Don’t punish yourself for not being able to write at the moment, encourage yourself to work on it instead, so you can overcome the block easily and happily. I wish you good luck with that!
You may have heard the terms “Planner” and “Pantser” in relation to how you write. A planner is fairly obvious; you plan the story out before you write it. A pantser simply flies by the seat of their pants; they have no idea what’s going to happen, and they’re making it up as they go along! The two types of writer tend to be fairly opposite, and frankly, it’s quite hard to understand the other type if you fall firmly into one category. I’m a Pantser and for me, planning sucks all the joy out of writing – why would you want to know what happens? How can you keep so much in your head? Doesn’t it get boring? But to Planners, I’m a nightmare – how can you write a book if you don’t know where it’s going? How do you keep a plot on track? Surely it just ends up as an unfinished mess? Well – both methods are valid ways of writing! It’s whatever works for you. How to be a Planner The outline So, to start, you need a beginning, middle, and end: the basic outline of your plot. Where do your characters start from, what happens, and what’s the ending (of this book)? Chapters Next, what are the major events of each of those sections? This is the point you lay out chapters (or large sections), and if you’re using something like Scriviner, use the corkboard. You need a one-sentence description of that chunk: “The chapter where he fights the Big Baddie and discovers who his father is”. Scenes Then drill down further. What scenes would that section or chapter contain? What are the plot points, and how would you get from A to B? Who’s involved? The detail at this point means you can… read more →
When you format a piece of fiction writing, you’re trying to make it as easy as possible for the reader to read. The conventions on formatting are there as shortcuts to allow the reader to see things like the first line of a paragraph, where someone’s speaking, where the action moves or something new happens. The reader wants to focus on the words and the writing, not squinting because the font’s small, or trying to work out who’s speaking when. So, while you can write however you like, the basic formatting guidelines below should be followed before you send it off to anyone else to read. If you don’t follow the conventions, you’ll get an immediate black mark from a submissions reader and while your writing might be amazing, it means it’s much harder for that to shine through. A proofreader may charge more as it will take them much longer to correct everything, and they’d much rather be looking for the bits you won’t necessarily spot (like odd spellings or mixed up names) than fixing basic formatting. And if you publish without following the basic structure, it makes it far harder for the reader to follow the words and focus on your writing. Formatting is a pain to do, but it really is necessary. That said, have a tip: if you train yourself to do these basics as you write then it saves you a lot of time. Trust me, I’ve spent far too much time fixing commas in my work… Lines, font and margins Use a simple and readable font such as Times New Roman, preferably size 11 or 12. While you might prefer to write in single-spaced lines, submissions usually request 1.5 spaced or double spaced – if in doubt go for 1.5 spaced as this makes… read more →
Character agency is basically about giving your characters choices. It’s also tied in to the idea of making relatable, rounded characters – so characters with aims and flaws, who make good and bad decisions. Character agency is the decision-making bit of that; it’s letting the characters drive the events in your stories. Character agency is about how the characters accomplish the plot Ok, so you’ve got your basic plot. Hero rescues Princess from Dragon. Simple, right? But if you pick three different characters, they’ll go about that in three different ways, and you’d end up with three different outcomes. The Dark Lord. Turns up on his own Fearsome Dragon and has them fight while he leans on the wall and has a quick smoke. Hang on…his dragon lost?! Well, depending on your Dark Lord, he can either haul out the Sword Of Doom for a quick bout of hand-to-hand, or produce the cannon he so thoughtfully hauled along…either way, you’re likely to end up with a dead dragon and a suitably rescued princess, who might be rather charmed by a thin moustache and fashionable black armour. The Thoughtful Farm Boy. He brings along a cow, strolls past the dragon while it’s otherwise occupied with that snack, and then talks both Princess and Dragon into leaving with him, because who wants to be stuck in a crumbling old castle? They then all decide that any King who shuts his daughter up in a tower and kills off her suitors probably isn’t a very good King, and go off to rescue the Kingdom as well. Adventure time! The Cynical Assassin. She doesn’t bother fighting the dragon – she scales the back wall, sneaks into the tower and…love at first sight, with a passionate kiss to go with it? Well, why not? What… read more →
An ISBN is an International Book Standard Number. It identifies the book, and it’s usually printed with the barcode on the back and on the book’s title page. If an ISBN was assigned before 2007, it’ll be 10 digits long. If it’s after that, it’ll be 13 digits long. The ISBN records the book’s metadata – so the publisher, the title and the country that it was published in – and is unique to that book. This means it can be easily identified by any bookseller or library.
Everyone knows to “use” social trying to cover all the bases. So where do you begin as an author or small publisher looking to make your mark in a clustered book world? Know what they’re good for. Each platform serves a useful and largely individual purpose in terms of promotion and engaging people with what you do. Here’s a brief, basic run through of some: Twitter: Bitesize updates, good for socialising and interacting directly with people. Facebook: Good for slightly longer statuses and more concentrated discussion. Instagram: Visual. Got a book? Post it in well-crafted pictures. Got a dog? Definitely post pictures of them. Youtube: For videos. Regularity can work well here: weekly, fornightly, monthly updates. With vloggers, you need to make sure these are of a fairly high quality to compete. Blog: WordPress, Blogspot or your website are all great places to write longform pieces about topics that are relevant to or interest you, if you’re going for straight up blogging. Or… Tumblr: Can be used for blogging but also a GIF-kingdom. Full of fandoms, and offers a little more freedom than other blogging platforms, and a readymade community. Pinterest: Where you ‘pin’ images, links and more that you like in collections for people to view and pin again. Perfect for moodboards. Linkedin: CV. It’s good for professional networking and snooping people who work for companies that you’re looking to perhaps get in touch with. Snapchat: Temporary photos and videos sent to followers’ phones. Create stories. Periscope: Live streaming, can be integrated into other platforms like Twitter easily. Reddit: A massive community that covers anything and everything. You share things and comment, upvote and downvote. You need to get to grips with subreddits, though we’d assume you’re looking for /r/write. Emails: It’s often forgotten, but setting up a mailing… read more →
Writing’s often a very lonely and very solitary thing; you’re stuck in your own head, dealing with your own problems…and it can sometimes be very hard to explain what the issue is to someone who doesn’t live in imaginary worlds! While readers and editors can help, it also helps to have a support group of other writers around you who understand the problems. Well, you’re in luck. There are a lot of different writing groups out there, and here’s some suggestions for how to find them. NaNoWriMo National Novel Writing Month takes place in November, and the aim is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. The idea is to encourage writing without editing, worrying or plotting issues – just write, write, write! There are individual regional forums for many areas of the world; they have online boards, and many areas also do real-world meetups during November. You can buddy up with other NaNo writers, and offer support and encouragement – or word count competitions, if pressure is what makes you write. There’s also a number of general forums for writing support during November, and plenty of support including pep talks. Online Forums Reddit’s r/writing. You can ask any writing questions you have, and can get pointers to other support. Genre forums. For fantasy, SFF World and FantasyFaction have good forums; the sites are primarily for lovers of the genres, but have a fair scattering of writers as well as readers! Goodreads is a book-lovers site, there are lots of book-loving groups and you’ll often find many authors. World Literary Cafe – this is good for self-publishing support. Facebook groups: there are plenty of local and general groups, so it’s worth searching for your specific needs – or see what groups your friends (and favourite authors) are part of. Conventions… read more →
There’s two hard parts of being a writer…sitting down to write, and actually writing! How do you find time to ensure that you write? And how do you make sure you use that time effectively? When do you work best? For me, it’s mornings and evenings, with a slump in the afternoon. I know that if I schedule writing time in for an afternoon I’ll most likely end up on Facebook…so I’m much better off accepting that my brain wants an afternoon nap (even if it can’t have one) and scheduling writing time in for a morning or evening when I’m more likely to focus. When do you have time available? Not everyone has the luxury of being able to pick a time. If you’re struggling to carve out time, can you make use of the small spaces between other things? Even half an hour a day is more than nothing, and will slowly build up. Can you wake up an hour earlier? (Horrible, I know, but it does add uninterrupted time to your day). Can you find a spare half-hour at lunch? Can you use a dictaphone on your commute, or take a notepad? How do you work best? I need multiple projects at various stages; if I get stuck on one, I’ll move on and work on another so that I’m never unproductive. But I know authors who focus on one project at a time and push that through to completion before starting another. What’s going to work best for you? Where do you work best? Most authors have a ‘place’ that is only for writing; the idea is that when you’re there, you associate it with writing rather than browsing FB or talking to someone, and it helps you to focus. Potentially you could also do ‘writing… read more →
I was asked recently how to make characters more individual; how to make them unique, colourful and distinctive. How do you get the different quirks of humans into a piece of writing? Major characters Sometimes it feels as if you could have robots as your main characters and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. They all speak and act in the same way, and you could replace them without anyone batting an eyelid. How can you make them individual? List six character traits for each of your major characters, and use these when you’re writing. How would these traits affect their reactions to events? How would they speak? How would they react to other characters? It works particularly well if you’ve got two traits that play off each other; what would happen if you get two stubborn and angry characters disagreeing with each other? Think about their background. Where have they come from? What happened to them? What adventures have they had? What events have made them who they are? List three priorities for that character at various points during the plot. While at the start, their First Priority might be getting back to their family, as time goes on Priority Two: Saving The World may come to the fore, or occasionally be superseded by Priority Three: Get A Good Night’s Sleep. At each plot point, think about what that character’s priority is likely to be at that point, and how it would affect their actions. Even minor priorities get quite big at certain points – if you’ve ever been wet and tired, getting to shelter or sleep is usually more important at that point than whatever your day’s aim was. Minor characters Cardboard cut-outs in the background. How to give these walk-on parts some personality? Give minor characters… read more →
You should write every day. Learn the rules then break them. Variety is the spice of life and you’ll get stuck if you only have one project. You need a routine. Write whenever you feel like it! Write one thing at a time and make sure you finish it. Do 500 words a day and never end on a preposition. There’s so much writing advice out there that it sometimes feels overwhelming. I spent my first ten years as a writer feeling that I was Doing It Wrong. I don’t write every day, or write X number of words. I don’t really plot. I don’t have a routine. I just write as I want to, rather than analysing the language and trying to develop a feel for my themes. I don’t follow genre rules, I play fast and loose with my characters, and I don’t worldbuild before I write. I felt inadequate, amateur, and frankly as if all of my writing failings were stemming from my inability to follow several hundred pieces of contradictory advice. You know what? Screw it. It’s YOUR talent. Try things. See what works. People work in different ways – what works for someone else, even if they’re a best-selling and world-famous author, might not work for you. Experiment. Find your groove and make it work for you. If something isn’t working – if you’re not writing, not finding the time, haven’t got the inspiration, have an idea but don’t finish it, can’t get over that blank page feeling – then that’s the time to be looking at the advice. See if working for an hour in the morning makes you write. See if a routine helps. See if having six simultaneous pieces and working on each of them in turn means you Get Writing Done.… read more →