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.
There’s a lot of things that can stop you writing. Sometimes it’s real life, which can’t usually be helped; if the dog wants your laptop as a toy and your screen’s now decorated with bite marks, that does put a crimp in your ability to type. But sometimes the show-stoppers are either in your head, or in your writing. Here’s five more things that might be stopping your story in its tracks, and some suggestions to overcome them. I’ve got a blank page… You don’t know how to start. You don’t know what the first line should be. You don’t even know if the idea’s worth writing. Flash fiction! Write a story in six words. A hundred words. Three hundred words. Write a paragraph about an image, something you spotted in the street, the eighth line from the book nearest you. Prompts – as a starting point, try Reddit’s r/writingprompts. There’s a whole archive of them, even if you don’t want to put anything on the site. Start in the middle. Write that one scene that set the idea off; write that one snippet of conversation; tell us something about your character. Write the fifth chapter. Write the ending. Get something on the page and then go back to the beginning. My plot is wonky Distill it down to the basics: Get Ring, Take Ring To Mordor, Save The World. You can then expand a little – how are they doing all of those things? What’s stopping them, what’s helping them, what’s the outcome? This can sometimes help to focus on what the actual problem is, and shows where the holes are. Get an outside perspective. It often really helps to get someone else’s ideas; they’ll come up with things you haven’t even considered, and even if you don’t use… read more →
When you send a submission, different publishers ask for different things. However, it will usually be at least the first 10,000 words, which should be your first 3-5 chapters. This is what the editor will read and what they will use to decide if your book is any good, and then decide if they want to read the rest of it. And it’s not just the editor; later on, the reader will do exactly the same thing. Ever flicked through the first chapter in a bookshop or read it on Amazon? What made you want to continue and buy the book? What made you put it down and move on? It’d be your impression from the first chapter or two. Basically, the start of your book is pretty freakin’ important for giving a first impression. Have a think about the first five chapters of your book. Have a think about any critique you’ve received. And if you’ve ever uttered any of these phrases or you think they might apply to you, please take a long, hard look at your work… “It gets better later…” I can and will stop reading. If you haven’t hooked my attention in the first five chapters, then you’ve lost me. The same goes with the longer view; if you don’t grab me with the first book, why am I going to read until Book 5 of your series when the ‘real’ action starts? You need to get me interested now. “This is just the prologue…” So why are you starting here? Start with the action! Start with the story! Tell me the parts you find fascinating! When you become a millionaire best-seller you can always do a “pre-story” novel or novella or something, but for now – get to the interesting bits. “Oh, you’ve got… read more →
There’s a lot of things that can stop you writing. Sometimes it’s real life, which can’t usually be helped; if the cat decides to spill a glass of water on your laptop, that does put a crimp in your ability to type. But sometimes the show-stoppers are either in your head, or in your writing. Here’s five things that your head might be telling you, and some suggestions to overcome them. I’m not good enough. That brilliant writer that you want to be like? The one with best-selling novels? Or even just the last piece you read on Tumblr, the snippet of something on Facebook? You’re thinking that you’re not as good as them, you can’t do it, what’s the point of trying… Stop for a moment, and consider how long they’ve likely been writing. How long have they had to practise, and to hone their craft? Writing is a skill like any other; it can be learned and it can be improved. How many drafts and tears and moments of doubt has that best-selling novel gone through? How many edits and revisions? You aren’t that good. Not yet. But you won’t ever be that good unless you start practising. Try. Experiment. Play. And practise, practise, practise. Everyone’s going to hate it Ugh, the invisible audience. I think this is possibly the voice that I hate most; the feeling that whatever you do, someone is going to criticise – and it’s usually yourself! I’ve got a couple of ways round this. Write for yourself. Yell back at the voices; pretend no-one else will ever see it, that it’s only for you. Or, if you’re the most critical, write for a friend who’ll forgive the errors and just wants to read your story. Things like #2BitTues and #1LineWed on Twitter; they’re… read more →
Destruction of the world as we know it. There’s just something about it, isn’t there? It shouldn’t be so satisfying to read and yet it is. Almost like picking a scab off a half-healed wound. It has inspired countless books and short stories of every type, from children’s books to adult fiction and everything in between. My own personal journey with dystopian fiction began in my final year at school when I was required to write an essay on a topic of my choice. Somehow I managed to gravitate towards the topic of dystopic fiction through Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Margaret Attwood’s Oryx and Crake. I followed the Oryx and Crake series, and incidentally, had the opportunity to attend the Edinburgh Book Festival in 2013 where Attwood launched the last of the series, Maddaddam. More recently there has been a boom in the number of dystopian fiction novels produced, particularly in the Young Adult section of publishing. This is perhaps thanks to the success of the Hunger Games book series and film tie-ins. Oddly enough, research done at the start of this year shows that those purchasing Young Adult styled novels are actually more likely to be over the age of 20, with 79% of the market being over the age of 18. Is this due to a lack of adult dystopic fiction? Perhaps it is. Yet the genre has been around for so long that it is impossible not to find something worth reading. Perhaps they just want to read something new and shiny. Perhaps the films are just what make it appealing and therefore are more widely marketed and so people know what to look for? Whatever it may be, it’s safe to say that the genre is on the rise. But it is strange that… read more →
Over the past few years, there has been a real surge in how the internet and technological advances have affected the world of writing. The publishing industry is constantly changing and the way we purchase and read books isn’t as straightforward as it used to be. If you are a writer, it’s important that you keep up to date on these developments and use them to your advantage. As we all know, writing itself can be totally time consuming, but add in the need for online promotion and website maintenance and you’d be surprised if you had time to do anything else! The internet has unleashed so many tools for us as writers, but at the same time, it can often feel as if we are the tiniest little fish in a gigantic ocean of other tiny fish, all fighting to be noticed! How can we get others to pay attention to us? We don’t have the powers of the big publishers who could get our book to the front display in Waterstones. It’s all on us to get as much promotion as possible! I personally find it liberating, but at the same time, totally intimidating! I love the new ‘do-it-yourself’ aspect of self publishing. I have complete control and I enjoy the challenge. At the moment, I’m yet to fully dive into that world again, as I am still working on streamlining my book into something I am totally proud of, but I look forward to it. I think that if you are a self-published writer, then rather than allowing the process to overwhelm you, you should step up to the mark, research all the different ways of promoting yourself, really get creative and see what you can come up with. There are a lot of writing forums out… read more →