jadewritesbooks · On Writing

Writing Is Hard And Other Obvious Things

When I first say to people that I want to be a writer, it’s met with one of two reactions –

“Oh, cool!”

or

“Nice, you know my friend/my boyfriend/someone I met randomly on the tube one time wrote a book, it’s 270k words but it keeps getting rejected, publishing doesn’t recognize genius”.

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Granted there’s a few “I couldn’t write a book” responses or “I’ve always wanted to write a book” thrown in there, but it’s more the first two options that I experience.

(FYI If you want to be a nice, supportive person, go with the top option. “Oh, cool!” is a safe response to most writers, but if followed by the scariest question of all time — “What’s your book about?” — be prepared for the author to shrivel up and cry rather than actually be able to tell you cohesively what they are writing about.)

The second option is one that many writers get, and it’s often soul-destroying. It insinuates that writing a book is something many people are doing, and doing well, and clearly because they have not got ahead in publishing us poor souls must be wasting our time.

Second Option Responders rarely recognize the sheer amount of hard work that actually goes into a book. The amount of tweets that are out there with the up and down cycle of falling in and then out of love with what you’re writing multiply by the minute. There are gifs, painfully accurate in their portrayal of a writer’s suffering, because if writing books were easy —

* EVERYONE would write one.
* The market would NOT be as competitive as it is today
* We would have way more whinging observations about how Life Is Hard for straight white males with money
* There would be no need for contests like PitchWars or mentoring systems

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I’ve struggled with writing my 4th MS for the past year. I can’t remember when I first started writing it — probably around the time President Grump was inaugurated – but I’m only just finishing the first draft. During this first draft I was finishing up my 3rd MS, entering PitchWars 2017, being mentored in the contest, doing extensive edits, querying, going at it tooth and nail and forcing all thoughts of 4th Book out of my head until finally, around March of this year, I decided to go for it.

It wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped. Even with an outline I struggled to get past scenes I wasn’t interested in writing, or figuring out why I didn’t like this scene here, or switching chapters, or just making my writing not suck. I read books on craft, I watched YouTube videos, I shoved so many nuggets of information into my head I looked like a 20 box at McDonald’s.

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Life got in the way as life often does, with money issues, illnesses, and the pesky inconvenience of having to keep the house in a functioning condition. Distractions were at every turn, a devil when I was actually 100% committed to my writing hour.

I had writing sprints with my darling CP, I focused on getting a word count goal for the day, and then finally – FINALLY – today I reached my 70k word count. I may not be finished, but it is book-shaped, and it has enough words to be considered a novel.

The finish line is in sight – I can see it – and I’m striving towards it. But next time someone tells you writing isn’t hard, or they want to write a book in their spare time, when you’ve buried the instinct of throwing water in their face please ask them why they haven’t written one.

Their answer may be because they haven’t had an idea, but I bet you it’s because “they haven’t found the time”.

Books aren’t made overnight. Books take care, and time, and graft, and sweat, and their fair share of tears. Writing is not easy.

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Be proud of every word you write, because each one is one more than those who’ve never written that book in their head have managed to do, and it’s a step closer towards your goals ❤

 


 

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!

editing · Personal · Random Musings

It’s been a while!

Wow. Well.

It’s been a while since I blogged here, but I have an excuse! Several, in fact.

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The main thing is that I have been Adulting, which means trying to organise bills, get money to pay bills, and generally working hard. I’ve been working on my WIP, handling my new diet (I turned Vegan and oh my god I didn’t realise how lactose intolerant I was before this) and health regime.

It’s been a struggle over the last two months, but generally I feel a lot more positive and stronger because of the hard amount of work I’ve done. I’ve had good news, some bad news, but overall it’s been worth it.

The bad news is mostly my reading slump – starting new books only to get brain-drained and end up wanting to do nothing but sleep before bed, rather than read. But since re-reading Vicious (on the last 30%!) I’m hopeful my slump will recover and I can review more books.

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I recently finished Final Draft, of which I should review for you all. And I’m still going strong on my editing services! I now provide proofreading, so if anyone would like proofreading or developmental edits let me know.

The website where most of the information is at is here – https://jadewritesbooks.wixsite.com/mysite-1

Doesn’t it look pretty?! I love the background.

Thanks for bearing with me, all, and I look forward to discussing books and writing with you all again!

PitchWars · Writing Advice

#PitchWars Homework & Resources

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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!

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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

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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 · 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

 

aspiring authors · Writing Advice · Writing Method · writing process

On Writing: Vulnerable or “Quiet” POV

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The best piece of writing advice I got when first starting off in switching up Points of View was to imagine a pair of glasses, – my book’s world would be viewed through those glasses, and POV was basically as though one character had taken those glasses and put them on.

What would you see through those glasses? What would they take in first? How would they feel? Probably not the same as all the others.

If there’s one huge importance in books with Multiple POV, it’s the fact each POV has to  bring something distinctive to the table.

If every single POV is going to be the same type of thought – the same personality, the same opinion on everything, then the reader will get muddled up. The temptation, then, is to make every single character’s POV absolutely larger than life or very much stark contrasts to each other, which in theory can work. But most books benefit from the vulnerable, or ‘quiet’ POV, where the character may not be the most talkative or the boldest, but rather offering a unique perspective.

POV is all about highlighting the nuances of what makes that character valuable to the story and different to the others.

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If you have a major cast with distinct personalities then switching up POV will work absolute wonders. In my recent YA Fantasy I have three POV. The only reason I went with three for mine and not two, was that I knew each of them would bring a totally different opinion and nuance / arc to the major plot.

There’s one who has magic, but doesn’t know how / why, initially quiet after living a sheltered life and very sensitive.

There’s one who knows how to use her magic, a determined force of nature, steel of heart and sarcastic.

And then there’s one who has no magic at all, breaks tension with humour, and is braver than he believes.

Their individual arcs and development shines through each POV – all of them start at one particular part of their personality and end at a totally different, or evolved state of their beliefs.

But what of the quiet POV? The first one, who’s very naive in some ways, contemplative and shrewd, who isn’t aware of the wider world and is a sensitive soul. They see a different part of the world when it’s revealed to them than the others who’ve walked the paths before. Their own view is in contrast to the others – their goal is also naturally different by default, from their position as a quieter person.

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“But quiet characters are boring!” Not so. Rather, they can be the epitome of “it’s the quiet ones you’ve got to watch out for”. There’s a reason strong silent types draw in mystery, and you can have fun with them. What they can witness  while being a strong silent type, or even a nervous silent type, can bring a deeper sense of the situation, things unseen or unnoticed by the brasher characters, which gives the reader even more depth of space in your world.

I really appreciate a sensitive or quiet POV, because when everything is blowing up and you have characters screaming at the sidelines, sometimes you need a port in the storm to catch your breath. A quiet POV can bring that balance, and more importantly that deeper sense of self, which enriches the story you’re trying to create.

So, celebrate the tiny voice! Celebrate the person who prefers to text than talk, or speaks only when they have something to say, rather than to fill a silence. They’ll be someone’s favourite, I guarantee it.

Personal · positive posts

Productivity Positivity! Week 30th Jan 17

OK! So this is the bullet list of what I achieved this week to give me some hope that I wasn’t entirely useless.

WRITERLY THINGS

  • Visited WriteOnCon! It was fantastic. Amazing agents responded to questions I had, I watched lots of good information and read a few great blog posts. Shame the site went down for the first day, but I’ll definitely check it out again next year.
  • On the same con’s forums, I had some handy feedback to snip up my query and get it done to a standard I was happy with.
  • Of course, I’m still not happy with it but I don’t think I ever will be 100%
  • Actually sent out some queries – even though it took me about half an hour to build up the courage to press send like it was a red button for destruction.
  • Read AMAZING BOOKS. Raven Boys ❤ Stole my heart. I also started reading ONE OF US IS LYING by Karen McManus and THE BLAZING STAR by Imani Josey.
  • Wrote some reviews of the awesome books I read
  • Finished reading chapters for one of my amazing CPs.
  • Drew little bits of character inspiration for my non-hero idea

NON WRITERLY THINGS

  • Went to the Doctor’s and had a blood test.
  • Made some AWESOME SOUP seriously it was delicious
  • Made cake!
  • Watched The Monuments Men, London Has Fallen and Midnight Special. None particularly wowed me though Midnight Special had so much potential and I think all the budget went on the last 10 minutes.
Book Things · Friends · PitchWars · Random Musings · Writing Advice

On Community & Writer Friends

Let me begin by saying we should all have friends outside of our writing group. It’s healthy to have people from different walks of life and people who know nothing about the struggle you went through when deciding what to call your main character.

But it helps – dear Lord it helps – to have someone on your side who knows precisely what it takes to sit your butt in that chair for hours on end, screaming with joy or rage (sometimes both) at the computer screen, loving and despairing of your work in progress. That the times you are not writing, you’re still working. You’re still thinking about what scene goes where, the progression of your characters, and whether you should put a comma there after all.

Continue reading “On Community & Writer Friends”

Agents · jadewritesbooks · Random Musings · Writing Advice · Writing Method

On Ideas, Agents and Time

I sat down to write yesterday, and brought out my ideas book. I have approximately 27 ideas I’ve physically written down and maybe four or five more locked in the ‘come back later’ vault of my creative mind. I started thinking – and most importantly, writing – my thoughts on having so many ideas. Imaginary questions presented themselves, and below is the result of this stream of consciousness-turned writing advice and support.

  1. Which idea do I write?

All of them.

It may sound a cop-out answer but honestly, you should give every single idea you have a go. You were blessed with the excitement of a eureka moment. Note it down and use it!

Continue reading “On Ideas, Agents and Time”