Writing Advice · writing process

On Writing: 5 Things You Need When Starting A Chapter

I recently ran a poll on Twitter and asked what day people might like the writing advice posted – “Just post them please!” won the vote, closely followed by Thurs and Friday, so – here I am posting! The first thing I want to discuss in this craft series is starting chapters. But I must say, writing and craft advice is not uniquely mine. There are plenty of resources, posts, and books which might crossover with the advice I give.

The difference is… it’s my point of view, and my way of putting things. Who knows, maybe I’ll pick up on something else? XD If you want to learn what I’ve learned from writing my own books and editing others’, keep reading!

So imagine your blurb interested a reader or an agent, they picked up your book, and now they’re going to devour it. Last thing you want is for them to be confused as they read through and end up throwing it at the wall.

The more manuscripts I’ve read, the more I’ve realised there are 5 things readers expect when starting a new chapter:

  1. POV.
  2. Space.
  3. Mood.
  4. Time.
  5. Wants.

It may seem obvious that’s the case. But over the last year or two of editing both indie and potentially-traditionally published novels, I’ve come across multiple manuscripts which don’t set-up their chapters with all, sometimes any, of the above. There’s literally nothing apart from someone walking into an office, or reflecting on information they received in the last scene, with no perspective on what we as a reader are supposed to be experiencing right now until Annie comes in with a coffee on page 5.

It can take only a few words to a sentence to help ground your readers and push the story along, but it’s obvious when these things are omitted. My personal mantra is that readers love asking “what’s going to happen next?!” rather than “what tf is going on?”.

You don’t want to unintentionally frustrate your audience. It could cause them to stop reading for a while, or simply DNF and pick up something else entirely.

So it might be handy to have a checklist, or just to run through when you’re revising, that you’ve covered all if not most of these when  you’re beginning a new chapter (or even a scene, tbh, but let’s go with chapter for now!)

1. Whose POV are we in?

There have been several instances where I’ve gone into a client’s chapter and had about 3 pages of description, events and history, without knowing whose perspective we’re in til they talk to someone.

If you have named headers this isn’t too much of a problem, but whether you’re in first person or third, the voice should still include something either distinctive or personal to ground us in your character’s perspective, and allow us to experience this portion of the story squarely through their eyes.

It would be incredibly jarring to think we’re still in Jonathan’s head only to realise we’re in Catherine’s later on.

2. Where are we?

Readers need to know where they are in a story, or else it can be disorientating. For example, if we were in a bell tower at the end of the last chapter, and the next continues as though nothing’s changed with no description of the place (white room issues, but I might touch on that in future), then readers could presume we’re still in the bell tower, until suddenly Catherine stops in front of a cafe on the blinding streets of Paris.

Describing the look of a place adds to feeling, the POV, and the mood. It can also allude to how much time’s passed, so you can encompass a LOT just by grounding the chapter in a location.

Does describing place have to be pages long? Nope. Does it sometimes suck to spend hours thinking of a prettier word for “blue”? Yes. But if you create that grounding sense of ‘in the hotel room’, ‘in her car’, or ‘in front of the seven gates of hell’, we’ll at least have something to go off.

3. What’s the atmosphere? How are readers supposed to feel?

Reading should create a feeling. Whether that’s intentional frustration, shock, absolute cute-and-fluffies for the characters, it’s all up to you. But discovering the mood through action or dialogue of the characters will heighten this. For instance, you’ve established place, setting and POV – Catherine’s POV in the press office of her job at noon the next day, for example.

“This is horseshit.” Gerry threw the newspaper on to the oak desk in front of him. A dozen pairs of eyes glanced between each other, as if daring someone to speak. Catherine kept her hands on her lap, fingers curled into the hem of her shirt.

Hopefully, from this very quick example, you get the fact that not only is Gerry someone they fear, but there’s anxiety there – anticipation of what he might do next. Concern, even, that speaking out of turn will get them shot down.

You can do it with anything — romance, horror, comedy, but as long as we know the surrounding atmosphere and how the character’s reacting to it, it’ll spark an emotion from the reader and hopefully invite them to carry on.

4. How much time has passed since the last chapter? 

This not only serves to progress the plot, but also orient readers again. Some chapters may have one continuous action, from ending on a “Behind you!” and starting the next chapter with the big reveal,  to leaving the ending on a poignant moment and starting when the character’s had time to reflect, or rest, or travel to that important place.

We need to know if the character has had time to come to terms with what’s just happened to them or what they’ve learned or whether they’re still in the thick of the action. If you have a time limit, as well, such as “Must stop bomb before it goes off in 24 hours”, it’s handy to know just how close our characters are to the wire.

It’s also helpful if you’re doing some sort of travelling fantasy, where they have to walk a long time to get to the next plot poi… I mean, the next big adventure. Or if you have a non-linear timeline, or a historical and modern switching scenes. Timing is good.

5. What does the character want? 

This easily ties in with point 3 on atmosphere, but it’s basically what the character is wanting, and what they’re doing at the start which might accomplish that want. Writing a letter to someone? Coming home soaking wet after a long day? Looking at their watch cause their date hasn’t turned up yet?

Wants can change through the course of the chaptre, sure. But all the above really boils down to this – we have a good idea of where we’re heading if we see the character doing something, or what their intention is. Are they off to meet someone fresh and fancy, are they struggling to function at work after drinking a liquor store the night before?

Using the example in point 3, it could be that Catherine wants to talk to her boss about an article she wants to write, but he’s in such a bad mood she’s terrified to do it in this seriously bad, very-not-ideal moment. And on seeing him in a temper, she decides to delay her question — or even go ahead and complete the article without his green light.

Establishing a want can take up to a page sometimes, that’s fine. You can spend more time on your character. But when readers don’t really know the point of a character’s actions, they’ll likely be confused, or worse; Just… not care.

 

With all this in mind, it might seem overwhelming or a daunting task to fulfil them all, but I’d encourage you to go and read some of your favourite books. See how they incorporate those five elements over the course of the first or second pages of that chapter. Do you recognise which elements have been fulfilled? Did they combine some into a single sentence, even?

Sometimes a few, and not all, are necessary to start a chapter but you’ll be on much better footing if you can incorporate most of them.

I also want to say, this advice isn’t something I’ve read in a book and it’s NOT a rule! It’s a very soft guideline that you are welcome to follow if you want some grounding for how to start chapters in your writing day. Because let’s be honest – starting is the hardest part.


 

Have a manuscript you’d like editing? Find out more about my services at Cover to Cover Edits

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authors · On Writing · Random Musings · Reviews · Writing Advice

Tagging Authors In Reviews

Thanks to Angie Thomas, a much-needed and celebrated voice in contemporary YA fiction, the subject of tagging authors in readers’ reviews has exploded over the last few days.

Why is it such a big deal? Well, there’s a lot of back and forth between those for and those against tagging authors in reviews, especially when it comes to sharing negative ones.

Those for argue that they want to help an author they enjoyed, and expect the author to show gratitude that they’re spreading the word about their work. Consensus also seems to be that even negative reviews have a place in being brought to the author’s attention.

Those against argue that as soon as the book’s published, it’s no longer the author’s, really – it’s the reader’s. And any review the reader wants to share should stay amongst those it’s actually meant for.

As for my side of the fence, I am AGAINST tagging authors in negative reviews. With positive reviews I can see both sides, I understand why someone might want to show the author how much they squealed over that person’s work and how much it meant to them.

But in my eyes, nobody needs to be going about their day, only to get the “ding!” notification and see that they’ve been dragged about something in a novel they spent years working on.

I’ll try and explain why tagging an author in a bad review is not only in bad taste on the reviewer’s half but also unproductive.

Number one is that there’s only so many people’s feedback an author can listen to and implement in their work. For example, here I took “Planet of the Apes”:

Reviewer #1: Loved the romance but wish there were less monkeys.

Author: Right…. romance but less monkeys… got it.

Reviewer #2: LOVED THE MONKEYS. All the monkeys. Maybe include lemurs next time? Less of the romance, though.

Author: Oh….. so more… monkeys?

Reviewer #3: EVERYTHING WAS PERFECT AND I ADORED IT. WOULDN’T CHANGE A THING!

Author: …….. so don’t change the monkeys?

Reviewer #4: This was a garbage fire, DNF’d at 20%.

Author: *grabs bottle of wine*

Authors cannot possibly please every single reader. While one reader might have an issue with the writing, another won’t even notice it and simply enjoy the story.  While one might love the protagonist, another might hate them with a passion.

It’s understandable, then, that authors primarily write for themselves (or they should, because it’s damn hard to write for people whose reaction you can’t predict), and hope it resonates with their audience. Since the book is published, there’s a good chance it already resonated with an agent, an editor, their aquisitions team, and more editors who then worked to get it to the best possible version of itself before it hits shelves.

Authors write with the understanding nobody reads the same book. That’s why readers have different favourite characters, or favourite scenes in novels, it’s why some didn’t gel with the plot, or writing, or concept, where others might not be able to get enough of it all. It’s totally fine to have a different opinion, and to discuss it or post it on platforms other readers can see and make judgement calls for themselves.

With all this in mind — why would a singular reader believe tagging an author in their 1* or 2* negatively aspected review, think it is justifed? That the author must read it, and understand that their opinion should be included amongst the editors, agents, and publishers who helped get the book out?

I’ve seen it reasoned that the tagging-reviewer wants to help the author – that in some way their review might assist the author in understanding where they could do better in future. That they only want to help, and so they want the author to read the criticisms they had personally with the novel.

In some cases criticism is justified – harmful represenation, problematic plot, glorification of things which shouldn’t be glorified – this is 100%  necessary to voice because it could have a bigger impact than the readership. Books influence society, because they’re a form of art. Society consumes art. And I believe all art forms should not only be accessible and enjoyed, but critiqued so that we can learn from it.

Though… let’s say there’s nothing serious to point out about a book, such as a harmful racial stereotype or glorifying an abusive relationship, and that the tagging-reviewer simply disagrees with a plot point or character arc. Again, it’s not really clear why the reviewer would find it necessary to inform the author of their opinion where there is **nothing the author can do about it**. The book is out. In the world. In people’s hands. And if the author enjoys writing dystopias about primates taking over the planet, as long as there’s an audience who wants it, they will continue to write it.

It’s likely the publishers, agents, editors, will pick up on anything consistently pointed out in reviews and feed it back to the author to improve on in future. We all make mistakes, it’s how we learn. Authors want to get better at their craft.

But believing a singular opinion needs to be given directly to the author – who at the point of seeing the tag might be having a bad day, may be struggling, wondering if this is the career for them, even if they’ve had 15 books already published because **anxiety and imposter syndrome is a thing** – is not considerate. It’s entitled.

Do you want the author to notice your (negative) opinion? Ask yourself why.  If it isn’t to engage in a discussion about something harmful, why do you want to tell the author you didn’t like their book? Chances are if you didn’t like it, you’re simply not the audience for it. I’m personally not a fan of Justin Bieber’s back catalogue but I wouldn’t tag him in my 1* review of how “Baby” got stuck in my head too many times.

Plus, the whole thing is just plain tacky, I mean… come on. You wouldn’t like it if you posted some artwork online, or simply did your day job, and someone came along with a huge red ‘F’ and stuck it on your forehead, declaring to the world that they, a person, did not like The Thing You Created.

So before there’s any more debate about why it’s justified, I would like people to think why they feel the author should be grateful they took the time to include them in their distribution of a bad review.

They should be grateful the author wrote the book at all. Art is necessary, now more than ever. And we should be showing our support and kindness for creating in a world of destruction.


Editing services:Cover to Cover Edits

Twitter: @jadewritesbooks

 

 

PitchWars · Writing Advice

So. You wanna enter PitchWars, do ya?

(title is best imagined as me with one of those candy sticks as a fake cigarette in my mouth and a Columbo-esque brogue)

Pitch Wars logo

PitchWars is one of the biggest writing contests on Twitter. I first read about it in 2015, since there were so many excited tweets, and I was lucky enough to be a mentee last year, but the contest is only a middle step for many of the writers picked to be mentees–and for those who aren’t.

For those of you gearing up to enter PitchWars 2018 this post will hopefully give you a glimpse into the whole kit and kaboodle and prepare you for what is to come, whether you’re picked or not.

MY PERSONAL PW TIMELINE: 

In 2015 I applied with the Adult Fantasy I’d written and finally completed after 10 years. I didn’t get in (and rightfully so).

2016, I applied with my YA sci-fi. I was picked as an unofficial mentee by M.K. England (her book is coming out in December!) and Jamie Pacton. Their advice was absolutely amazing, and while I got some agent interest with the MS I nevertheless didn’t get an offer. I took their advice on board when writing my next book.

2017, I applied with my third completed MS, a YA fantasy. I WAS PICKED! I was an official mentee, mentored by the wonderful Cat Scully. I was part of a grand community of talented and kind mentees, all going through the same thing. After intense revisions, I entered the agent round full of hope. I got 2 requests, but when querying it turned into rejections. I revised again, and sent out more queries, but it still wasn’t to be.

2018 – I’ve written my 4th MS – a YA speculative – and I’ve noticed how much easier it’s been to tackle this book with the knowledge I gained from the contest and, yes, the rejections I received. I am not planning on entering PitchWars this year (though don’t hold me to that, because it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of it) but I am getting involved with #PWPoePrompts and engaging on the feeds again!

With the recent shake up in the PW community I’ve watched / discussed the new format  which I LOVE. Yes, the contest might have fewer mentors this year, but it will not provide any less knowledge or gravitas when it comes to drawing in writers who want that mentorship. The #menteeshelpingmentees contest drew in over 700 entries — holy crap — for 200 critique places.

When you see it from that scale, the odds may seem stacked against you. But to be honest – that’s publishing. The key to rising out of the slush and getting an agent is hard work, and PitchWars will teach you the merits of that and more. But first–you want to get into the competition, right?

HANDY HINT FOR PITCHWARS PREP –  STEP 1

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The key to surviving the PitchWars experience (not to mention your entire writing career) is the community  you build. One of my dearest CP’s and I met during PW about 2 years ago, and she’s one of my best friends now. Even when I didn’t get in to PW those first few tries, I still managed to find and enjoy talking to a whole bunch of authors who connected on a very spiritual level (read: crying over words).

You MUST reach out to connect with other writers if you want to stay balanced on this journey. As the mentor bloghop comes around, then the windows open, and then the agonising wait happens, and THEN the mentees are picked – it can be exhausting on top of every other emotion you feel.

Writing is an isolating business before, and sometimes even after, you’re agented so it’s always best to get fellow potential PW contestants on the same path to talk to in order to survive the sheer volume of this competition!

HANDY HINT FOR PITCHWARS PREP – STEP 2

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RESEARCH. QUERIES.

Until recently I didn’t think I could write a query to save my life. I could edit one, the same as I could edit others’ stories, but my own novels were not able to be put in query format. All the “How to write a perfect query” posts I read didn’t seem to make sense until last month, when I sat down, wrote out the heart of my story, and had it critiqued by an incredibly-supportive agent who had only one note to give me (not gonna lie I almost fainted).

All of the research I’d done culminated in that one query, so it might have taken a while to sink in but researching WORKS. As I critique queries myself, I notice there’s always a few who omit their bios or word counts (both are important but word counts are essential), or just talk about the themes of the book rather than what it’s actually about or go into so much detail the truth of the story gets lost.

On average, agents can get over 300 queries every week. 300 people, per WEEK, asking an agent to love their book. You need it to be concise, effective and true to you and your story.

Query Shark is a notable source of querying nuggets, CPs should be able to tell you what works, you have various sites and YouTube videos giving tips on how to create an amazing query.

HANDY HINT FOR PITCHWARS PREP STEP 3

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Revise those open pages, darlings.

Your writing is the best way to snare both mentor and agent alike–they want to sip at the glorious cup of your carefully crafted words and enjoy the story you’re about to tell. The first chapter should be the insight into your book–character, tone, hints of themes, plot, motivation, and worldbuilding all have to be in some sort of evidence in that first chapter, if not even the first page.

I would say the first line, but that’s sometimes too much like a mountain to climb, so we’ll go safe with the first page.

If you can set the tone for the rest of your novel in that first page, and draw the reader in to want to stay there, you have it. But as before, first chapters can be tough. Share them with CPs, read them aloud to yourself (seriously!) or get a thing like naturalreaders.com to test how it sounds out loud.

HANDY HINT FOR PITCHWARS PREP STEP 4

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BE. KIND.

PitchWars is VERY PUBLIC. If you’re entering and you have Twitter, don’t be one of the hopefuls who complain or moan about how long it takes, or that you haven’t had requests–or, come to think of it, boasting that you HAVE. That shit is to discuss in private with your writer friends, who will understand what you’re going through and support you along the way.

Airing out your dirty laundry on social media isn’t a good look. Help those who need help, show support, be humble, stay calm, and be sure to take breaks to help keep your head in this experience.

You might think you have better writing than someone who you swapped chapters with–fine! Maybe they’re not at the same level as you. That doesn’t give you a reason to gloat about it or feed your ego.

You might think the contest is too unfairly stacked against you, since you must be the only one without requests: I promise you, you’re not, and it’s nothing personal against you. Do what you need to get your head sorted, walk away, and return with more experience when you feel ready.

Ever hear about being nice to people on the way up just in case you meet them on the way down? Yeah. That.

Be kind to yourself and to others. It’ll take you a LONG way.

————-

WITH ALL THAT BEING SAID – Still want to enter? You should!!! It’s an intense time but it gets you out there, connecting, excited about writing and engaging in a community full of heart.

The full list of mentors is live HERE!

If you want to know more about PitchWars, their website with full deets is here – but if you have any questions about my experience, leave them below! I’ll be happy to answer them.

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Preparing your query or just have an MS you need editing? I can help! I have spots open all summer for developmental edits, query critiques and proofreading. Email me – jadewritesbooks@gmail.com – or visit Cover to Cover Edits for more information on how to reserve your place!

 

 

PitchWars · Writing Advice

#PitchWars Homework & Resources

Pitchwarslogomentee

I’m not going to lie, being a part of PitchWars 2017 is a freaking amazing experience so far. The camaraderie, the unison, the fact it’s a dedicated hub of writers on the same stage as you… it’s incredible for resourcing, vibing off others, and generally making invaluable friends.

PitchWars is definitely *not* just about making a book shiny before you go in front of agents.

PitchWars is about learning another side to writing – refining your craft and increasing your discipline so you can cope with whatever future editors (or agents) throw at you in a short space of time. It hones your skills of timekeeping, organising, and yes – even stressing.

There are plenty of hints and tips passed around the writing community but it all depends on what works for you – here’s a list of things which could be a good start to search for if you’re struggling with revisions, either in or out of PitchWars;

SAVE THE CAT beat sheet (plus various others)

This is a basic layout of story structure – according to your word count, it advises what beats are hit at numerous points the story and an approximate idea of when to time them. The structure of it is detailed and fits many stories out there, but it’s a great start to see how many stages your MS meets and within what context – whether it’s all in the first 25% (bit bad) or whether you leave it all til the last 10% (also bad)

THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION by Donald Maas

This is a good resource to use if you’re wondering the benefits of showing vs telling and also want some handy examples from literary greats along the way. It poses the opinion that we, as readers, will not care about the characters or feel emotional about them if emotion isn’t evoked during pauses and other devices explained here. Good read!

TIP! – Read the beginning pages of cross-genre category novels

Something I’m doing as part of my homework is to read the first few pages of YA novels, cross-genre so not just Fantasy. See what parts work for me, which ones don’t grab me, and analyse why. It doesn’t have to be fancy but definitely put some thought behind it.

OUTLINE SPREADSHEETS – word counts, chapter-by-chapter, plot points

There’s plenty of resources out there for spreadsheets, and in the mentree group we’re sharing around our own to be of use to various stages. The first stage I’d recommend doing is a play-by-play outline of your novel. You can do it in excel or other, but this is a good tip I found worked for me.

First column, put in your chapter number.

Next column, sum up each chapter in a sentence or two, no need to go into detail.

In the next column write in which POV your chapter is in.

In the next column, write in your word count for that chapter.

This is optional, but effective if you’re using the Save the Cat sheet which calculates your hit-points based on words and chapter. In a fifth column, make a sum (eg =SUM(D5;E4) ) which will total up your word count from all previous chapters.

Here’s an example below!

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These are just a very few, basic things to consider if you’re going through your own revisions and need some guidance to help. I’ll be updating more about PitchWars the more the edits go on!

x

Random Musings · Writing Advice · writing process

Query Breakfast – A (weird) Analogy

I was making my breakfast this morning when – either out of hunger or sleepiness – I likened queries to cereal.

By the time I sat eating I’d gone off on a completely new train of thought to do with queries, but all about food (I was REALLY hungry).

So here is a (probably weird) post about queries, what’s needed within them, and what you can do to make sure yours stands out.

CEREAL

Image result for soggy cereal

As if you don’t know what cereal looks like. I mean.

You don’t want to give someone a cereal query. This is where it’s just the grains of your story and nothing else. Even if it’s something fun with a free toy (ok I might be going a little overboard with this analogy…) the grains of story doesn’t give whoever is reading your query a strong idea of what your book is about. If you just throw in the basics, chances are it won’t be the most interesting cereal query in the world. For example –

“17 year old Jessica Lisa Eisenstein wants to win a talent show. If she wins the talent show, she’ll get a crown and £100. A boy, Marcus Orelio, thinks Jessica is too much competition so he ruins her dress. To get her revenge Jessica thinks up a huge plot to ruin him – publicly – in front of everyone.

We know the characters, but it sounds pretty boring – it doesn’t really GRAB people’s attention and say READ ME (unless you want to read about Jessica’s revenge). WHY is the talent show important to Jessica? Why does Marcus want to win so much and think Jessica is competition? What happens if Jessica fulfils her revenge?

STAKES, PEOPLE.

Ooo, Steak.

TOAST

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This is the play-by-play, read my book, I’m doing this but I don’t think I have a shot query. You can dress it with marmalade or chocolate all you want but it’s still burnt bread – dry and without flavour. If you’re not inspired when writing your query, they won’t be inspired reading it. Where there’s no personal lilt to a query, it can come across as bland as toast.

THE BEST BREAKFAST / QUERY

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In my view, the best thing you can give to me as a query-breakfast is the staple hotel morning welcome;

ORANGE JUICE /  CROISSANT /  CEREAL.

I would have put bacon etc on here but I’ve turned vegetarian so my piggy friends will leave it off this list.

ORANGE JUICE – the refresher

Orange juice is a wonderful, refreshing taste which just zings up your mouth and gives your tongue a little dance. This is what you want your query to do – zing with the tang of your story, your voice and your style to whet the appetite.

CROISSANT – the thing which makes your book UNIQUE

If you think of a croissant chances are you will associate it with France. It’s one of the most uniquely identifying things of France around the world bar the Eiffel Tower. That’s what you want for your book – something which will identify your premise as UNIQUE, what makes it new?! Exciting, bold? Is it the characters, is it the layering of plots? SHOW US YOUR CROISSANT.

…. there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

CEREAL – GRAINS ARE STILL NEEDED, PEOPLE

You can dress up your query with Croissants and OJ but you need to also have the basis of your story, except in this case – with the help of the above – your cereal is like little bits of bread, creating a little trail for query-readers to follow while you ensnare us with your writerly-wiles.

So there you have it – my thoughts on how to write a query based on breakfast foods.

 

 

On Writing · Writing Advice

#VoicesofYA Book Tag

I was tagged by the gorgeous Hetal Avanee to answer these questions! Be aware I may be rambly at times but I’ll try to inject it with as much concise info as possible 🙂

ABOUT THE WRITERS:

 What draws you to YA?

I had a reading slump for about 7 years. I barely lasted through the books I read, apart from Neil Gaiman’s works, because the adult arena of SFF and fantasy had lost its luster. I wanted more. More diversity, more variety, more risk taking in stories. I wanted to be punched in the gut with emotion (oh boy do I regret that now!).

YA provides all of that for me. It seems to take more risks in themes, stories, voices, etc. where adult is still stumbling along with it a little bit. I love the fact that I can see strong teenagers coming through – because to be honest, even at 29, I still don’t have my shit figured out, so I feel more in tune with the YA characters than I do with adult most of the time!

Also Sci fi and fantasy? YA is KILLING it, AND with the female characters.

jessica

Describe your writing process. Do you like outlines and structure, or seeing where the story takes you?

Both, but to be honest it varies from story to story. Not sure whether it’s just me, and the fact I’m growing with every novel I write, but this tends to be my process:

IDEA! WOW! Ok let’s write this out… brainstorm it… I see these scenes, ok, write those down, tidbits of characters, awesome, great.

*writes out brief plan of novel*

*writes the first 7 chapters faithfully, sticking to the road*

OOoooo look! Shiny new path!

*wanders off entirely and writes self into a corner even though this stuff is half fantastic and half complete drivel*

*cries for about 3 weeks because I can’t bridge between this barren land the path I should ACTUALLY be on*

*figures it out and then writes some more*

WOOHOO writing!

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I also actually write queries first now, to give myself an outline of it. It seems to really help me keep on track for the heart of the story.

How long have you been writing? Where are you in your journey?

Image result for it's been 84 years gifSince I was teeny tiny I have been writing stories. I just never knew what to do with them. I lived in a time before internet (I KNOW) and my outlet was books, but without the internet I never really thought about the publishing process.

My teacher, when I was young, told me to promise her to always keep writing stories, no matter what else I did. So I kept that promise.

After writing stories about fantasy and other stuff (based on other books I was reading at the time) I started my first proper book. My first novel took me 10 years to complete, my second novel took me a year, and I think it’ll be the same for my third.

 What do you need to write? Coffee? Music?

I often listen to music, I have playlists GALORE but I can easily write in the quiet of night (when my ear isn’t ringing and annoying me lately, which is rare). But yeah my playlists help. And I always need a drink of some kind, mostly tea or water.

If you could offer one piece of advice to another writer (OTHER THAN “don’t give up”), what would it be?

Know your characters. It doesn’t matter if the plot works or not just yet, if you don’t know your characters or don’t focus on making them the heart and utter backbone of the story, nobody will care whether their world ends.

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ABOUT THE BOOKS:

What book still has you reeling from its plot twist? (*no spoilers please*)

You know, I don’t think I’m reeling from a plot twist. A lot of them I either knew already from people talking about it or it was like “oh ok”. I think, though, the way Maggie Stiefvater ended the search for the King was REALLY unexpected. I loved that.

What books are you most anticipating for this year?

I need more August!! I adore him.Image result for our dark duet

This sounds fantastic.  And LOOK AT THE COVER. I need the US version.

Daughter of the Burning City

And this one….

Royal Bastards

AND THIS ONE

In your opinion, which YA book/series has the most unique premise?

GOSH. I’m not sure. Actually I would say the Monsters duology by Victoria Schwab because I haven’t actually read a story about a warring city full of monsters created from bad things happening, so I’d put that.

What is your all-time favorite quote from YA lit?

“I will have you without armour, Kaz Brekker, or I will not have you at all.”

QUEEN INEJ, DUDE. QUEEN. INEJ.

What book do you most hope will have a movie adaption?

Movies are hit and miss. They don’t cram as much intricate information in them and they’re only so long. I’d MUCH rather have a TV series, and since Raven Boys is already happening, I will say SIX OF CROWS.  I need to see Scheming Face in real life!

 

On Writing · Writing Advice · Writing Method · writing process

On Writing: Authentic Dialogue

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Because, Barney. Because.

I admit it. I’m a bit of a dialogue snob. I am so nitpicky when it comes to what feels authentic and what doesn’t. And the truth is – dialogue is HARD.

There’s a fine line, of course, about what feels authentic in a book – anything from cultural background, personal inflections, and regional dialogue can make a difference when phrasing.

But – and it’s a big butt (I’m sorry) – there are some tips to make your characters sing rather than sound stilted and one-dimensional.

For instance, whenever I can, I try and do a long stretch of conversations without questions. When I observed conversations, both mine and other peoples’, I realised that we don’t usually ask a lot of questions between ourselves. Sure, you’d have like the odd “How was the party?” but then you wouldn’t get many obvious questions after that.

This is what a lot of stories fall down on. In order to expose plot through dialogue there are questions on top of questions. A brief (and somewhat awkward) example below:

“Where are you going? Are you trying to avoid me?”
“Why, are you jealous?”
“I’m worried about you, can’t you tell? Ever since Dorothy, my grandmother died in that fire in 1997 and the dreams I’ve had plaguing me ever since…”

STOP. Ok so this example went into a bit of trope territory that I’ll get into in a second, but —

You’re missing an opportunity to show character AND advance the story arc on a personal level. We very rarely talk so openly in real life (unfortunately) but also rarely as stilted.

Maybe try this?

“Every time I see you, you’re off out somewhere. One might think you’re trying to avoid me.”
One might think you’re jealous.”
“I’m just saying. You know what I’m like about things like this.” –

Something like that. Forgive the potential English slang.

But by removing the questions, it moves much smoother and more naturally as well as setting more of a mood of possible tension between the characters.

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Now before I mentioned something about tropes, and it’s the “explain backstory in dialogue” trope I can’t stand. You see it a lot more in TV series these days resulting in an instant eye roll from me but it goes thus:

*Book begins. Exposition. Something about the character. First dialogue appears.*
“I’m going out, Mom.”
“Jason, you know your father and I talked about this. The woods aren’t safe since Mitzy Kougar got taken by the jellybean man last fall. You know the school’s been looking for her since, and the curfews are in place to help you. Sheriff Dunwoody is not going to want to add another case file since his wife died last June, and since I had my hip replacement I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to you…”

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Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh

Ok so that example wasn’t perfect, but really, I try not to write like that in any case so I’m kinda glad I DON’T know how to write stuff like that. But – the example doesn’t sound like a real human being to me. It sounds like a person giving a local status report or the summary of the last episode so they can do a subtle nod to the reader like – “you following this?” before they get along to the actual plot.

It’s an alternative but still obvious way of Telling so the reader knows where they are and what they need to pay attention to, rather than making an effort for atmosphere and world by other methods.

Going over information is critical at some points in novels but. Please. Not like that. I’d rather you just leave me guessing for a good five pages and reveal slowly than have me slip into a reading slump wishing I could read something else.

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These aren’t meant to be rules, either. They’re more like guidelines to help things flow smoother. If you have a few of the things listed above included in your prose, that’s not going to ruin your book unless it’s choc full of it.

When asking questions make sure they either have meaning, motive or both.

When delivering backstory through dialogue, please don’t just info dump it all at once. See what you can create through other people’s stories, their viewpoints.

Like everything in writing it gets better and easier with practice. So keep going!

If you’d like me to take a look and edit your query, MS or synopsis, see this post HERE