Novel Writing – Too Many Characters?

Characterisation

by Annette Young

As many of you will know, I spend a great deal of my time providing manuscript critiques or editing manuscripts that come in through the Creative Competitor or  Creative1 Publishing and I often see a very common mistake, that of having far too many characters.  Although there’s no hard and fast rule as to the number of characters within a novel, you have to think from the perspective of the reader. Where there are many characters, it is difficult for the reader to truly connect with any or all of them.

It also makes it difficult for the writer.

How much emphasis can you place on each character if you have a great many milling around within the plot? Each character should have a definitive role to play so you need to consider this. It’s true that some books do have a lot of characters and it’s up to the writer to be able to craft and then pull the layers of these creations together to ensure that they add to the storyline rather than to detract from it. In a novel, it is possible to have main characters and secondary characters and those, as I always think of them, who are bit players, these are the characters that are only relevant in certain scenes so the readers do not need to know them that well.

if you are new to creative writing and have the desire to start writing a novel, try to limit the number of characters and make it a little easier on yourself as a starting point. Above all else,  spend time developing these characters so that they feel real as you are writing and so you are able to portray them with confidence. At the core of crafting 3-dimensional characters is your ability to lay the foundations of these beings and to bring them to life slowly by adding essential layers until you truly believe in them. You don’t need lots of  characters to make it interesting for the reader, you simply need a good plot and strong characters that are believable.

If you feel that your characters are weak or that you have too many in your novel, spend some time considering the importance of each one and lose some if you need to. Spend time working on those that are intrinsic to the plot and  you’ll see the difference.  If you can, always try to view your writing through the eyes of any potential reader and assess what they will get from your story, then you’ll keep your writing and intent honest.

Want to learn the art of novel writing? Click here.

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Creative Writing – Hard Work Pays Off

Creative Writing Tuition

by Annette Young

Annette YoungI’ve always expressed the opinion that if someone really wishes to learn the techniques of creative writing and, to write professionally, they can. They just need to  develop the right mind-set. This means they have to  overcome any  creative obstacles that block their way to success i.e. time, patience, family or work demands. It’s not rocket science to think that if they can find a little bit of time each day, this will keep the creative brain cells well-oiled and improvement will follow.

Going back some (many years) now, I used to tell my creative writing students in my college classes that they needed to write little and often. Many took this advice and there was no doubting that their work and their understanding of the techniques began to improve each week. But then, it was a case of seeing them just once a week and leaving them to their own creative pursuits in between sessions.

Nowadays, I provide a lot of online coaching and this works really well. Sometimes, it involves a Skype session and at other times, students wish to work just via email. Just recently, I have been coaching someone after I had provided a professional critique of his book. It was not a bad read, but, the writing lacked depth and it needed some work.

As he wanted to publish it soon, he had a choice.  Hire a professional editor like myself who could work on the structure of the book and bring it to life, or learn the techniques himself and make the edits.  I was delighted that he actually wanted to learn the techniques and, boy, 3 to 4 sessions a week via email  made a huge difference. His writing abilities have accelerated through the roof. Continue reading “Creative Writing – Hard Work Pays Off”

Keep Those Ideas Coming

Annette Youngby Annette Young

I am constantly asked how to keep creative ideas flowing and yes,  this can be difficult if you feel overwhelmed by the day to day problems in life, feel tired or, just low in spirits. The trick I have found at those times is to take myself out of the office and go for a walk. It may not be a high-tech answer but for me, it clears the cobwebs from my brain.

A change of scenery, a cup of strong coffee and a chance to observe life from your chosen spot is often all you need.

It can help if you can train your brain to respond creatively on demand though. The trick here is to force yourself to write even if you don’t want to. Yes, it’s the last thing you will feel like doing but, once you get past the first stages of, ‘I hate this,’ you’ll find your brain starts to respond. The more you do this, the easier it gets to tap into creativity.

Start to think and feel like a writer. I’ve always said that I live and breathe the written word and if you are writer through and through, you’ll do the same. Even when you are not writing, you are observing life and there can be no better way to get ideas by the masses. Fiction and non-fiction requires the experiences and observations of life. I’ve always said, no experience is ever wasted. At the very least, it becomes fodder for your writing.

If you really want to write with heart and with conviction, go and live a little. It will freshen up your ideas and your abilities no end.

 

Creative Interpretation – The Nuts and Bolts of Idea Generation

creative writing

by Annette Young

Author Annette YoungCreative writing demands many skills but interpreting a scene in a unique way is  a necessary talent to have.  This is why many skilled wordsmiths fail to do well in a writing competition or, when sending stories out in the hopes of getting published. To stand out creatively in today’s pool of eager writers, you have to train your imagination to look for more than the obvious. If you can keep this in mind, you will naturally stretch your imagination a little more.

Take the shower scene photo published  here. It has so much potential in terms of stimulating the mind but often, writers jump on the first few story ideas without stretching them out and pushing and pulling the story into a unique shape. What’s the first thing you think of when you look at it? For me, I considered the vulnerability of the woman. I imagined someone breaking into her house and catching her at her most vulnerable. Let’s face it, no-one really wants to be naked in front of a burglar.

Shower scenes lend themselves well to the horror or crime genre because we all know that vision and hearing is limited when the water is running. We also feel vulnerable and writers who work in these genres know this. They take an everyday scene and add tension and suspense. But, if you were given a photo such as this to stimulate your creative writing skills and you had to compete against others, horror or crime may not be unique.

So, what else could you do with this type of scene? Erotica of course, also springs to mind. This is a popular market in which to write and, it’s not a big stretch of the imagination to take this photo and craft an idea worthy of an erotic fiction market. But even so, erotic writing is a market and not a story, so what would make yours different? You have to think about your story and understand how it will make your readers feel.

Let’s run through a few general ideas:

What if this character turned out to be the burglar who had broken into a house?

What if this character was being filmed – with or without her knowledge?

What if this character was being stalked? Private detective or by an unknown admirer?

What if this character had been injured and the shower scene became part of the aftermath of something traumatic?

What if the character was getting ready to go on a hot date?

What if the character slipped and had no way of getting help?

What if someone left an ominous message in the steam on the bathroom window?

These are just very quick ideas but there are a great many options for the savvy creative writer. Just remember, it doesn’t always have to be about the (in this case) shower scene, but the character and the events that unfold. The scene could be a small part of but not necessarily, the central core of the story. Scenes can be used to create intimacy, to instil tension or fear or, to invite the reader to take a step closer to the story.

There has to be a healthy mix between imagination and writing technique. The most wonderful story idea in the world will not get published if the writer’s ability to hold attention and to progress the story is insufficient. In the same way, a truly talented writer will not get far if their imagination is stifled and they are not prepared to commit to their idea generation.

Next time you are looking to use a photo as inspiration, take the time to develop your ideas and stretch your imagination to the full. You may find it really pays off!

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Shower Image: Unsplash – Joe deSousa

Creative Ideas – Think Outside the Box

Idea generation

by Annette Young

Sitting in front of your computer with little idea as to what to write about is no fun. If this happens to you, then you are not alone. Sadly, creative ideas do not always respond to the demand of the blank screen anymore than they did with the blank sheet of paper. Of course, a little planning and preparation before your allocated writing time will pay dividends.

If you are really stuck and your mind is in a complete fog, it can pay to approach idea generation from a different angle. I’ve long said that creative ideas come from all around you. Let’s be realistic, the moment you step outside the door, you are bombarded with potential ideas from all types of sources. A conversation with a neighbour may spark off an idea and act as a trigger for a great idea. Open your eyes and mind as you walk through your local town centre, become aware of what is around you. Look up at the buildings around you. Notice a bricked up window – think about why it might have been done. Or, notice little alleyways or old doorways that incite interest. Go walking in the countryside and become more receptive to the natural scenery which can act like a salve to a fraught mind. Ideas really are there waiting for you to spot them.

But, sometimes, you have to shake it up a bit. If you think outside the box, you can find other ways to increase your creative mojo.

Facebook

Whether you love it or hate it, Facebook is filled with ideas. Not only can you see interactions between family and friends but also, read so many different posts, and then there are the memes and photos which should spark off lots of great ideas.

Online Forums

If you have signed up for any online forums, you’ll know that people don’t always stick to the main subject. Lots of conversations and ideas can develop from just reading about the concerns of others. Often, current issues pop up time and time again, but there’s often a whole lot more too. Even if these do not meet your current needs, write down some topics and you have a collection of potential ideas for later. 

Amazon

I’m including Amazon here as fodder for ideas but it could be any online bookshop. All you need to do is browse through and allow your brain to take any idea to the next level.  You are not copying of course, it’s just a starting point. The more you can develop, tweak and adapt it the better. Once your mind has a grasp of the concept, give it free rein.

There are so many ways in which to create wonderful creative ideas but, if you are really stuck, try the above and see where these ideas take you.

But why wait? You can be actively inspired if you join Write, Learn and Publish.

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The Amateur Sleuth

Amateur sleuth
by Annette Young
As part of our e-learning creative month, I wanted to take look at the art of crafting an amateur sleuth. The murder mystery or mystery genre is seriously popular but although competition is fierce, if you can create an amateur sleuth with all of the required traits, you could be onto a winner. This is an area of writing in which I love to write and, the amateur sleuth requires very specific traits and, must be crafted in a unique way, that’s if you wish to bring your super sleuth to life. 
 
So what makes for a good sleuth? 
 
When I created my first novel Who Killed September Falls? I wasn’t planning to turn the main character Arianne Tawnison into a typical sleuth, but, as a journalist, I wanted her to have a natural curiosity and sense of stubbornness. I also wanted to create a woman who was driven to find out the truth irrespective of the danger she was in herself. My focus through her at the time was solely on the death of her friend and that was the catalyst to make her enter the world of sleuthing and for her to travel from England to France to try to unravel the secrets surrounding her friend’s death. Importantly, I wanted to bring to life the sadness of the murder and of course, the shock factor. But, the more Arianne searched for clues, she discovered the many secrets woven around her best friend. As I wrote the story, I realised that the character Arianne Tawnison was simply too strong to use in just one story and so her journey continues even now. 
 
But if you are looking to create your own amateur detective, it’s good to look at some of the greats. 
 
Miss Marple is a prime example of a nosy old spinster who has a keen eye for the unseen and, who lives and breathes the psychology of those around her. Observation is one key skill as is having an analytical mind.
A sleuth must be able to see beneath the gloss and to dig deep into the crux of the matter. An amateur sleuth has to be strong in personality but importantly, have very unique traits that make the reader buy into the whole story. Your readers need to remember your character once they have finished reading and be oh so keen to read more.
I knew that I had captured the readers’ attention when I received some wonderful feedback about the depth of emotion and the journey that my personal amateur sleuth took. It’s a great feeling to know that you have created a memorable character and there’s something wonderful about crafting characters that  count, even better if you can use these characters again and again. Each time you do, the character becomes more and more familiar and takes on a life all of its own. 
 
If you want to know more about how to create an amateur sleuth, there’s a short but in-depth writing programme available which looks at the nuts and bolts of amateur sleuthing. Start at your own leisure and complete when ready. If you want to create your own Ms Marple or similar, this may be for you. 

Your Way to Creative Writing Success

Writing Success

by Annette Young

When you first start creative writing, it can seem like a mammoth journey to take before you feel comfortable with your writing and can start to believe in your own abilities. It also takes a while to find your ‘voice’ and style. Part of your creative journey is to find out your writing strengths and to build the foundations of your skillset but you need to also accept any weaknesses that may be present currently and to spend time working on those areas which you may not enjoy quite so much. As with anything in life, sometimes we veer away from those tasks or elements which are not quite so appealing.

Let others see your work. This can be scary if you are not confident but it’s part of your progression. There’s a sense of joy and accomplishment when others read and enjoy your work and then you can progress to the next stage of your development by having a professional critique. This will enable you to understand any work that is required before you even think about publication.

It’s also a good idea to meet other writers. Join a writing group if you can or, team up with a like-minded individual and work on some writing projects together. This can help take the isolating factors away from writing. There is always something to learn in creative writing and this is good because it means you will not get bored but continuously strive forward learning new techniques until you can think and feel like a writer.

Never be scared to try out new writing techniques. You may naturally be drawn to one element of writing but in fact, your natural talent lies in another area. When teaching at college level, I found many of my students had fabulous writing skills but they had never even tried those aspects of writing before. When you try out new techniques, you increase your ability to write but you also expand your mind. Most of all, have fun with your writing. Set yourself mini-goals, write to deadlines, enter writing challenges, have a writing party where you have friends and families attending creative sessions.

The more time you can spend creatively, the more instinctive your writing will become. 

Do you need help with your writing? Try our Fiction Masterclass, Novel Writing Blueprint or, any of our Creative Writing Courses.

Conflict in Setting

Conflict

by Annette Young

Last night I ventured into Torrevieja (Spain) and found a peaceful place alongside one of the marinas where in the early evening, the sound of holidaymakers faded into an acceptable distance and the main sound was of water gently moving and boats swaying. It was peaceful to say the least and with a fading blue sky and temperatures slightly dipping, it was easy to let go of the tensions of the day and to just slip into observation mode.

Over the months, it has actually become a favoured spot where I go to recharge the mental batteries and to unwind. There are always people wandering past the bar towards their boats and occasionally, beautiful boats pull out into the deep waters or return to their designated mooring space. Then there are those who like me, find the place an oasis of tranquility – a refuge from the intense heat of the town and away from the throngs of holidaymakers. There are always a few people milling around, but mainly those who have come to stay in one of the apartments situated behind the few bars strategically placed along the waters edge. As night cast its shadow over the scene, the place suddenly came alive with candles aesthetically placed, and flickering light plus lamplight, sparkling, the light rays mirrored in the fluctuating waters, affording the outside space a cosy, shimmering feel. 

Then, out of nowhere, the sound of a singer being strangled or tortured to say the least, fragmented the peace as his booming voice carried across the marina deafening all who were close. Although I have found much of the entertainment in Spain to be a little cheesy, usually I enjoy it regardless, and the atmosphere deepens but last night, it was too loud, too copied, too false and, it was the wrong time and place.

But you may ask, what has this to do with writing?

Simply this, as the tranquility fractured around me, I couldn’t help thinking about the importance of setting within fiction writing and how writers have to be able to conjure up a scene and relay this to the reader so that it comes to life in a believable way and that it feels right. Last night, all I could think was that the singer and the setting were in conflict with each other. They didn’t match, it most certainly didn’t feel right and the people in the outdoor restaurant, were helpless prisoners as their ears were tortured.

While I may exaggerate just a little, the setting and the entertainment were in sharp contrast to each other. There was little thought into how suitable a setting or how suitable the entertainer would be. If a string quartet had been placed alongside the boats, the music would have enhanced the setting, generating a rhythmic atmosphere to maximise the beauty of the waterside scene. If a harpist performed solo or soft, lilting Spanish music was played, a beautiful scene would be transformed further. But this was not the case.

Writers can observe these conflicting settings and use them to add elements to their writing either to accentuate an irritating event or, to avoid creating conflict within a setting to avoid alienating the reader. There’s nothing worse than a reader questing the way a character thinks or acts or, if the scene is less than real to them, it only stops the readers from becoming involved in the story.  

Writing is all about observation and you can create wonderful ideas, develop new characters or even comprehend the complexities of layers just through watching life unfold around you. With your eyes open and having a natural instinct to create, it is possible to breathe new life into your fiction simply through awareness. At the very least, life will spark off new ideas and will warn you of fiction pitfalls.  

Check out the Novel Writing Blueprint and learn the foundations of a successful novel or, take our Fiction Masterclass and bring your stories to life. 

 

 

 

 

Easy Ways to Destroy Your Novel Writing Success

Novel Writing

by Annette Young

Even the most enthusiastic and passionate of writers can murder their chances of being successful in their novel writing efforts if not careful and over the years, I have seen many writers make many mistakes which have scuppered their attempts to have their novel published. As such, I’ve compiled a list and and if any sound worryingly familiar, do your best to avoid them in future.  

Waiting and wondering

Sometimes inspiration is slow to strike. It happens to everyone but yes, it is frustrating. You may have the time, the space and the inclination but the blank page from your new computer is quick to mock you for your inactivity, so what do you do? The worst thing (and most common) mistake for new writers is that they sit and wait for the lightning bolt of inspiration to zig zag out of the sky and to replenish their creativity. Oh, if it were only that easy. Sometimes, you have to give your imagination a jolt the old-fashioned way and just start writing. Each word might be painful and your brain will protest but nail yourself to that chair if you have to.  

The evil inner critic

As writers, we are often so hard on ourselves. We expect the words to tumble like gemstones in a perfectly polished state so that little editing or rewriting is required, sadly, it doesn’t happen this way. The writing process certainly is demanding and if you are one to give yourself a hard time on the occasions when those words do not flow and much of the work has to be rewritten, try to stop those negative thoughts.  Even the most prolific and experienced of writers have to push their inner critic to one side or, better still, banish it from the room.

Oh, the arrogance

While the inner critic demolishes their own chances of success, by contrast, the arrogant writer will blame everyone else for their inability to get published or to make money from their endeavours. The road to writing success is never easy for anyone but being arrogant if and when failure occurs will not help one little bit. I have witnessed the arrogance of would-be writers many times and just having a natural talent with the written word does not automatically ensure success. If a publisher or editor decides to reject your work, they do so for a reason. Perhaps the guidelines were not read and inwardly digested, or perhaps they were read but simply ignored? Sound familiar?

Rushing

With the relative ease of being published these days, some writers are guilty of rushing their work and then, once published, wonder why feedback is far from sweet. Often writers take the kind words of their families or friends as gospel and then publish immediately instead of doing the sensible thing and requesting a manuscript critique where any errors or developmental needs would be highlighted. It’s far better to take an extra week or so and have the book polished and ready to publish than to read numerous negative views. Ouch.

Holding onto the baby  

Some writers refuse to send their creative baby out into the world, they hug these creations, clasping them tightly and refuse to let anyone see them. Their novel may have become the next best-seller but even if not, if hiding creativity away, there’s no chance of progression at all. If a lack of confidence is the issue, improve your fiction writing skills (and your confidence) by signing up for one of our classes, or join a local college writing course. Some writers finish their novels and place them in a drawer and they are never seen again. What a shame.

Calling it a day

Some writers work feverishly for weeks or months and then get completely stuck. Instead of asking for help by the professionals, they decide writing is not for them, it’s too hard. Well, yes, writing is really hard and that is why when success happens, it is so amazing. The joy of being published is simply incredible, yes, whether self-publishing or not, people can read your novel. You become a novelist. Now that sounds good right? So don’t quit unless you really don’t care. After all, you don’t walk into a new job and perform perfectly do you? You have to learn the relevant techniques and processes and this is exactly the same for writing.

If any of these errors sound more than a little familiar, do something about it. That novel idea you have or the half-written novel tucked away in a drawer could be the best thing ever. Don’t hide it.

If you need help with your writing, talk to us. Email: info@creative-competitor.co.uk

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Why Fiction Needs More Than the Humdrum

Bringing fiction to life

by Annette Young

Normal life is filled with all of those deadly dull tasks, you know the ones, house cleaning, shopping, washing or the excitement that is mopping the floor and although fiction emulates real life, the last thing readers’ want is to be reminded of the drudgery that occurs in life. Fiction is about escapism.

Irrespective of the genre, a good story helps the readers’ to forget their own problems. It’s about their sitting back and putting others in the front line and watching them combat the perils of fluctuating emotions, experiencing the dark depths of inner turmoil and overcoming the deadly or dangerous obstacles of your making. Somehow, following a character across war-torn countries, watching them dangle precariously from snow-capped mountains or wrestling alligators in the mosquito-infested swamp is a lot more interesting than reading about a character who is battling boredom while ironing. 

You get the idea. 

Of course, there has to be some mention of real life.There have to be some similarities between the plot, the characters and the reader’s experiences. They have to like or loathe the characters to the point that they are captivated – if they feel indifferent then no doubt the writer has failed. The readers have to witness the scenes around the characters come to life, they should be enthused by the imagery, the colour and the feel of the story as it unfolds. If there is mention of an ironing board, it should be relegated to the corner and not play a main role in the midst of the room unless someone is being bludgeoned to death by it. Draw the readers’ attention to what matters. They needs to be whisked away to a fictional world that  is all-consuming and one that seems real. 

Even the most vibrant and imaginative fantasy story has its roots in reality and each genre should have its foundations in realism. The author has to comprehend which essential components should be included so that the story feels credible and to know the elements of normality that can be discarded. 

Want to learn more about the art of fiction? Check out the Novel Writing Blueprint and the Fiction Masterclass

Writing Fiction – Who Are You Writing For?

Writing Fiction

by Annette Young

When you start writing fiction, you may find that you write only when the creative urge strikes. You are not necessarily planning your writing time and may have little idea as to what you will be writing. As you progress and the writing bug bites, it’s a good idea to sharpen your focus and to really consider what you want to write and who your target audience will be. Even if you are only writing for the sheer fun of it, you’ll improve the outcome and your abilities so it’s a win-win. 

There’s no doubt that knowing who you are writing for will help as it helps you to fix your mind-set before you start and it ensures you remain focused throughout. 

If you want to write short stories, which genre are you focusing on? Is there a particular publication that you love to read and you hope your stories will fit? Do you want to write a novel? Again, have a clear idea as to the genre. What do you like to read? If you love fantasy novels then you may wish to write something similar because you’ll know – on a sub-conscious level at least, the essential components to great fantasy fiction. If you want to write a suspense thriller, you have to consider the characters and how they can avoid or prevent the ‘suspenseful event’ from occurring.

If you are writing romantic fiction, it’s all about the characters, the rising passions and the obstacles that prevent them from getting together. If you want to write for the YA fiction market then the style of writing and language used will change also. Each genre will require different elements.

Who is your target audience? All these things need to be figured out before you start and it will make your creative writing pursuits easier and far more effective. 

If you want to know more about the art of fiction writing, sign up for the Fiction Masterclass at start at your leisure and have fun with fiction. Are you a writing enthusiast? Take a look at our Special Offers Page, there may be something to help you with your writing endeavours. 

Characterisation – Falling Out of Love

Life as a writerby Annette Young

It’s not a great feeling. You prepare to start writing and then you have to face up to the feeling, you have lost belief in your characters and worse, you don’t even really like them that much.  If you feel this way, stop, there’s no point plodding on because the finished result is likely to be that your readers don’t care a jot about your characters either.

 Good characterisation is vital. You really have to care about your characters and be prepared to invest in them in respect of your time, your energy, your experiences and your desire to bring them to life. If you have done all this and yet, still, you feel a little flat, you need to identify what’s wrong with your creations and consider how to make vital changes. 

If you have created character profiles, then take the time to review them. It may be that your character profile is insufficient and your focus has wandered a bit throughout the developmental stage. It may be that your plot has digressed and your characters no longer quite fit with your initial vision. 

It’s easy to make changes, as long as you are honest about your waning interest. Battling on and gritting your teeth determined to finish will always make the end result a little lack-lustre. There’s no cheating the steps towards creating great fiction and characters that do your story proud. Writing fiction can be difficult enough but when it comes to characterisation, you really do need to consider what you want to achieve and go all out to do just this. 

I would always recommend creating character profiles if you are working on a lengthy piece of fiction. It will keep you on track but enables you to really get to know your characters quickly and easily. If you feel that your characters just don’t do it for you, stop, think and then amend some of their traits. Remember, for a character to be believable, they have to have likable traits as well as traits that are irritating. In real life, we are never all good or all bad. We have good and bad habits as will your characters.  Think about how you would like your character to be viewed and add in a few quirky but nice qualities and you’ll soon enjoy writing about your characters once more. 

If you have a clear vision of all that you are trying to achieve, you’ll spot any potential issues sooner than later. 

For more information on fiction and good characterisation, take a look at the Fiction Masterclass

Writing Fiction – Life, Language and Observation

Observation in writingby Annette Young

 

I sometimes cannot believe how fast the time goes by. It seems only minutes since I blinked and was ready to welcome the weekend in and now, it’s come and gone again. It was a productive weekend in terms of writing and planning however but I’ve always said that the whole creative process is much more than actually sitting down and committing words to paper. Sometimes, it’s the silliest of things that can spark off the imagination and make you think about life in a whole new light.

 

Relaxing with a glass of wine at the weekend, I stared out over the surrounding villas with the sun sparkling over the roof tops and the sound of water splashing as children played in a nearby pool. Even though, there was noise, the scene was still tranquil…for a short term before car horns trumpted through the early evening breeze and then a creshendo of voices broke the scene and dissipated. My thoughts turned toward the people who had begun to laugh in their gardens, voices sounding ever nearer as they turned their volume up and was reminded, irrespective of the tranquil scene, just how noisy the Spanish folk around me are. 

 

While I certainly do not mean this to be disrespectful, there is a noted difference between the cultures here and I am surrounded by many – Russian, French, German, Danish, Dutch and Spanish of course. I am endlessly fascinated by the variety of accents and the different tones and…volume. 

 

One moment, I was feeling more than a little relaxed, content to watch life go by and the next minute, I was out of my chair, convinced someone was being murdered as the sound of rapid and somewhat volatile words shattered the tranquility around me.  Half-expecting to see a dramatic scene unfold, instead, I watched as a Spanish couple barked loud comments at each other while walking past my gate and then, as if choreographed, and with perfect timing, fell into each other’s arms. 

 

You may wonder what this has to do with writing but, think about this, when we write fiction, our aim is to conjure up characters that feel real and that are strong enough to connect with the reader. So we have to think about the uniqueness of people, the differences between men and women and of course, the differences of culture too. Sometimes we live parallel lives with others, we may share similar thoughts and feelings, go to work each day, enjoy a drink in the evening to wind down after a day filled with pressure and we may laugh and smile at the same things. Yet under the surface, sometimes that’s where our parallel lives end. 

 

Language is a wonderful thing but, without understanding the words or the pronunciation, we are left with our imagination, with speculation and to try to read the signals from body language. That’s something to consider when you create your next character. Are they easy to read and understand or complex, hot-blooded and feisty? Where does your story take place and can you blend a variety of cultures portraying them in a convincing and yet sensitive way?

 

There’s so much you can do with your characters, you just have to absorb life as it happens around you and each impression can greatly fuel your ability to create 3 dimensional characters. Or…………………….you can simply join us on The Fiction Masterclass….and let us bring the technique of characterisation to life for you.
 

Writing and Publishing – What’s the Rush?

be a successful writer

by Annette Young

We live in a fast-paced society, I think you will all agree but, as a writer, I am starting to believe that collectively, there is a worldwide urge to churn out content as if there is no tomorrow. It’s fine to speed-write, I do it myself but I do spend days meticulously going back through my work and then, I have my wonderful editor/proofreader Maggie Burns who works for the Creative Competitor, cast her steely eyes over much of it.

When I wrote my novel, Who Killed September Falls? I did so in a month – I couldn’t take any more time off from my other client work and I wanted to prove that you could indeed write a full-length work of fiction in a limited time-frame if you really wanted to. With each completed chapter, I emailed my colleague and she edited the words – checking for punctuation errors but, we also discussed my goals as well as queried any discrepancies. This approach ensured speed and efficiency as well as accuracy.  

If you are a writing enthusiast, you’ll know that it’s all too easy to make mistakes. You get so caught up in your plot that you romp ahead without realising that your characters have evolved and the plot has now become more complex and then, with your mindset firmly on your original idea, you trip yourself up with these subtle changes and before you know it, bam, there’s a great big hole of inconsistency running through your plot. 

I blame the roller-coaster entity called digital publishing for this urgency to write and publish. It’s all too easy these days to get work published that somehow, as writers, we have belittled the craftsmanship of the writing process. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the digital publishing options out there. Although as published writers, we all know the flaws of Amazon and other publishing entities, we do know that without these companies, opportunities to carve out a living in the writing arena greatly diminish. In terms of benefits, it does enable good writers who were likely to remain stuck in the slush pile of publishing, to have a good opportunity to succeed. It works and I’ve made money from digital publishing but, and, there is a BIG BUT, I also see published work out there which has blatantly had very little thought going into it. 

I find this difficult to understand.

As an editor, I see a lot of fiction and non-fiction books and I help to bring them to life. I polish those words and I consider the inner message that the writer is trying to convey. I think about the target audience, I think about the consistency and style and whether those words will engage the reader. But these are the lucky books – because they have reached the experienced hands of a professional and, the writers have the commitment and desire to their project to ensure that those words are as good as can possibly be. But there are thousands of books and stories published today that have not had the professional touch. The words may still be ultra raw, a talent in the making, or, the story may have little to no substance and the characters fail to touch the hearts or minds of the readers. 

This will only deter readers from buying unknown names. 

So, this is what happens when we rush a writing project or do not care enough to edit, re-edit and then send it to a professional to give it their seal of approval. I have had some excellent books sent to me but which needed a great deal of help and there’s nothing wrong with that. As editors, we do not judge, we just focus on the task at hand, but as a reader, it is impossible to not judge a published book.

There’s a reason why successful authors the world over have editors and proofreaders. They care. 

I know that it’s difficult to produce a sufficient level of words when you work all hours and have to fit in your writing at odd times and so a lengthy project i.e. a novel, can take up months and years of hard slog but, that’s okay. You must write at your own pace. If you are desperate to get your book written but are seriously struggling, have it ghost-written and sell it in your name. If you have captured a full-length work of fiction or non-fiction to paper but are not sure whether it needs more work, have it professionally critiqued. 

All of these options prove that you care about the end result but for all those who churn out their words and never have it professionally evaluated or edited, you are taking a risk – not just with your own work but you also de-value the face of publishing. Let’s be honest, the publishing industry is filled to over-flowing with books that rarely do much in terms of sales and those that are sold but do not provide an enjoyable read are slated by readers (and rightly so) and this knocks sales dead in their tracks. But it does more than that, it adds an air of amateurism to the whole digital publishing or Indie industry. 

I advocate writing as much as you can when you can. We can’t progress unless we write and learn from our mistakes. Let those words pour from the soul, live and breathe the whole writing process and let your story be told, but don’t think that publishing sub-standard work is alright. To be a real writer, you have to care about your story or your idea, it has to have merit and integrity. To be a successful writer, you must stand by your words and create the best book or work of fiction that you can. I always think that writing is a little part of you, you breathe life into it, you give it soul and you add some of your own experiences and beliefs and maybe, if you truly care, you add a pinch of magic to it too. It’s this extra ingredient that will make your work shine above all others and enable it to rise to the top. The other elements ensure that your book has a right to take its place alongside books from top authors because you have created solid foundations upon which to carve out your writing career. 

So if you suddenly have the temptation to churn out work and publish it immediately, resist that urge. Instead, think about your readers and go for the long haul. This might only mean an extra week or two of polishing but make no mistake, your words will shine and you’ll be proud to be called a writer. 

Need any help with your book? Don’t know who to trust? We can help. Take a look at our list of author services or email any questions to: info@creative-competitor.co.uk

Looking Back Creatively

Writing

by Annette Young

I have long advised writers to cherish all of their writing attempts and to have a file – whether offline or online so that they can dip into those past realms of creativity, to remember the influences of the time and to even cast a smile at those early attempts. But looking back also provides a fantastic way to chart your personal progress. 

I did just this today. 

The Creative Competitor site is absolutely huge. Due to former technical problems, we had to strip back a lot of the content (and by this I mean un-publish) so that we could determine where the core technical problems existed, and so we came across a huge amount of long forgotten content. Even though, the technical problems were resolved, going through all of the old content is a massive job and still a work in progress and today, I dedicated an hour to the task changing categories and sub-categories and eliminating out of date writing techniques and tips so that the content is accurate and easier to find. While  doing so, some of my early articles emerged from the depths of the site and made me smile. 

My early writing style was noticeable and it was all to easy to recall those early influences. Although I rarely have time to blink, let alone look back, it certainly can be satisfying to do so. Not only did I recognise my progress in writing but it was an enticing reminder of those creative moments and I could visualise myself sitting in my old office, typing away on one of my first computers, still learning all the technical aspects as well as trying to write ‘THE ARTICLE’ that would gain me early recognition. I remembered all my hopes and inspirations at that time and it was a wonderful trip down memory lane.  

When I think back to how far my own creative journey has come and, is still continuing to grow, it simply amazes me. Little did I know right in my early days of trying to write professionally just where my creative endeavours would take me. I never imagined years later having a website like The Creative Competitor, I never imagined I would become a professional writing tutor teaching adult learners at college level, I never imagined that I would write full-time for a living, although that was something I yearned for. I think all writers should rummage through their files and recapture those early days, the excitement, the anticipation of publication and the sweat and tears when those annoying rejection slips arrived.

The realms of publishing have changed substantially in the last decade but I bet your writing has done so too. 

When you look back you may be shocked at the changes. You may think that some of your writing lacked a professional touch or that the ideas were weak or that your stories lacked depth but that’s just fine. That’s part of your journey. Re-use ideas by re-writing them. Compare the old with the new and add the wealth of experience to your words too. 

Looking back creatively can really help you to progress and to re-kindle your love of the written word. 

Carve Out A Writing Niche

successful writerby Annette Young

 

I had an in-depth conversation yesterday with a friend who was thinking about writing a book. When I asked her what she wanted to write about, she just shrugged, the desire to write was strong, but the type of book or subject had not been thought through sufficiently. Although this might sound strange, I hear from a great many people who have the urge to write but are vague as to the topic and, without a doubt, the subject matter is a vital component to success. 

 

She had dismissed the idea of writing a novel and wanted in some way to write about a subject that she knew about. As the conversation deepened, I realised that she had little faith in her own abilities. She knew about much in life. She had learned to play the piano and the guitar when young and had helped many people to learn the basics over the years. Five years previously, she’d taken on an allotment and had created a vegetable patch to be proud of. Having never grown anything in her life, she’d turn the allotment into an organic area – so it was managed naturally and without the use of any chemicals or pesticides and it yielded a steady flow of vegetables throughout the year. When I suggested that others would want to know how she had done this, she rejected the idea as being one that would not really impress many. 

 

Personally, I felt that she was wrong but we continued to go through an extensive list of many talents and she now has a shortlist of topics and has to (with much deliberation) choose just one. Her story is really not uncommon. A great many of you probably have extensive knowledge in specific areas of life which may be invaluable to someone else who does not. These days, writing as an expert does not mean you always have to have credentials or qualifications, but you do need experience and you do need to believe in your ability 

 

If you fancy writing a non-fiction book, consider niche topics that may be popular and consider the content carefully. It can help to break down content into potential chapters so you can see how long the book would be and how much research is needed etc.  You may be surprised to realise just how much you do know. 

 

Freelance Writing – Develop A Strong Business Approach

Annette Youngby Annette Young

People think that the freelance writing lifestyle must be wonderful and it is in so many ways, but make no mistake, life as a self-employed individual is not always easy. There may be a great deal of creativity still but, there’s no mistaking the need to be business-like in every aspect of your career. 

Just because you plan to write your next article while relaxing in the sun, it doesn’t mean that your words are not wonderfully sharpened or focused. You must have targeted your client, considered all that you wanted to achieve and more, developed a strategy for success. 

When starting out, you need to pay special attention to your accounts. There’s no point being lazy in this aspect, even if you dread it. You have to feel confident that the work you do is paying your bills and importantly, it is worth your time taking on some projects. I know many writers who have over-looked this element of the freelance writing game, overwhelmed by the buzz of actually making a living from the written word. It’s easy to be carried away. 

It’s also incredibly easy to panic and not to know where the next penny is coming from, especially if you are not so good at planning ahead.

So, even from the moment you decide to set up your freelance writing business, remember this, you must plan meticulously, set goals, consider overheads, consider outgoings and make sure incoming revenue gives you enough to fund your lifestyle. Freelancing is often seen as an attractive prospect as it has very little overheads – the cost of a good laptop and a workspace and you are ready to go, but it can be difficult to get new clients initially and, to be able to rely on them totally. The life of a freelance writer can mean juggling workloads profusely so you must be sure of your time and skill-set to do so.

Some clients will pay you late and others, are wonderful and they pay you exactly on time, returning to use your services over and over if you have provided them with high-quality material. When you start out, you will have to build in time for job applications, vying for those tempting jobs against a great many others. The time it takes to do so, should be added to your costs, it is your time after all. 

As in any type of business, you must prove you are the person for the role. Your writing must be error free, your writing represents you and you must be able to develop excellent rapport with your clients – as with employers the world over, some clients will be difficult to get on with.

Just because you work from home does not mean life is easier. It’s all-too tempting to be distracted, to feel lazy or allow mental tiredness to impact your working day. You may long to pull the duvet cover over your head and go back to sleep, but your clients need their work completed on time. Deadlines must be adhered to and if you have given your word that an article will be delivered at a certain time, then you must follow through or at the very least, have a good reason as to why that is not the case.

Thinking of becoming a freelance writer? Start preparing your business plan now and start your business the right way.  

The Writing Life

 

Life as a writer

by Annette Young

Someone asked me the other day why I write. It’s not a simple answer, it’s complex because it is such an integral part of me. When I tried to explain that I couldn’t halt the sway of characters or ideas that popped into my mind, that I lived and breathed my role as a writer because not only was it my career but I truly loved it and needed it, I could see them mentally calculating my sanity, or, at the very least, wondering how I was able to function in the real world.

But this is both the joy and the plight of the writer.

We are firmly contained within our own thought processes and life outside of our creative imaginings is often not as vibrantly rich or as fulfilling. I’m often guilty of switching off and slipping into my own make-believe zone as a potential whopper of an idea comes to mind. I often return to the present wide-eyed, wondering what I have missed. 

Not everyone can understand what it means to be a writer. Certainly, some people may not be supportive of your creative drive. This is because it is an alien occupation to many. It’s isolating and, time-consuming. You need to slip into the story-line, see it and feel it and become a watcher on the side lines of your own story. For family and friends, your writing passion may be just an annoyance, it takes you away from the family unit, it means you don’t listen to them or notice when those little jobs need doing. Often there’s a disbelief that it is possible to support yourself or to make a living through the written word. But whether you are as yet unpublished or, have started to carve out your niche as a writer, it’s more about the enjoyment of writing and of being able to satisfy those creative urges.

I think this….write because you need to, write because it feels good and write because you cannot imagine ever doing anything else. 



Why As A Writer, I love Teaching

Publishing

Annette Young

When I became a full-time writer…a million  years ago, I never (for a single moment) imagined that my former teaching role (for creative writing and journalism) would catch up with me once more but, I have to admit that I am very pleased that it did. Writing can be incredibly isolating, it’s certainly all-consuming. The hours vanish while lost in make-believe roles and fictional scenarios and scarily, the days begin to merge into one. While my job as a writer is incredibly varied, (I could be writing a course for a client in the morning, and, in the midst of a science fiction scene in the afternoon), it does require my absolute focus. There’s no time for clock-watching or of being bored. It’s just my imagination and the task at hand. In fact, I work far more hours than I ever did when employed. 

I do try to get away from the home office when I can and can often be found with my laptop tucked away in a corner of a local bar. There’s a good reason for this, the noise, the hustle and bustle of holiday-makers and locals alike detract from the quiet of the office where the silence can actually be deafening. Plus, I am drawn toward observing life as scenes play out in front of me. This way, I remain grounded, with one foot in reality, yet with my imagination firing up on all levels. In the same way, teaching also does this for me.

Having recently hosted a Novel Writing Course in the UK, it made me remember that every personal experience, every rejection letter in the early days and, subsequent publishing successes, are all important lessons to pass onto those who have a real desire to learn. The publishing industry is tough, it’s also more than a little fickle. Clarifying what works and what does not can help to save those new writers from months of hardship or failure. 

I am honoured and grateful to be in the position that I am. I love writing, I love helping other writers towards publication and I love teaching generally. How many people get to live the life they dream about? It’s only fair that I give back to other writers and, to all who wish to learn. Teaching is satisfying. I get to meet some wonderful like-minded people and then when it’s all over, I get to take those experiences and the shared memories back with me so I can enrich my own writing.

 

Creative Pulse Training and Events is currently being launched. Watch out for innovative, inspirational courses and events.

Want To Be A Published Writer? Brand Yourself

Websiteby Annette Young

I’ve been in the writing and publishing industry for many, many years and even though the whole industry has been turned on its head in recent years, there’s never been a more important time to begin to brand yourself as a writer – yes, even if you have never been published. So what is branding? Eliminate the thought of branding irons and the word WRITER being stamped on some part of your body, instead, consider it the time when you reach out to the world prepared to show your creative self and, create a public stage upon which to promote your creative collection. Brand yourself in an unique niche or get the word out there that you want to be taken seriously as a writer. 

A website is an absolute must if you want to become a published and credible writer and, build up a dedicated readership in the process.

Even if you are shy about your creative pursuits, it’s never too early or too late to build that visible foundation and to grab yourself some committed followers. In fact, by doing so, you create the opportunity to interact with others and for them to share your journey of creativity. Many writers make the mistake of trying to network with readers and followers after they have published their work and this is the wrong way to do it. While you may wish to portray yourself in a professional light so to reap the benefits of any published work, it really does make sense to carve out a dedicated niche and an interested set of followers before you really need to promote your work.

Whether you are planning to write a fiction or non-fiction book or, just love the idea of having all your short stories published, a website will tell site visitors a lot about you. There are many readers who love to have unique insights into the lives of published writers and so your site must reflect the real you. Publish snippets of your work, get feedback, reveal your personality and humour and engage with those who visit your site.

Importantly, share your trials and tribulations and, all of your successes. Encourage others and they will encourage you.

Setting up a website is not difficult, in fact, there are many ways of doing so, some will limit your possibilities later, so it’s worth getting it right from the word go. If you need  help, CLICK HERE but if you want to have a go on your own, I recommend getting started as soon as you can. You don’t need a huge site, just an easy to navigate site with enough control over it to publish what you want, when you want.

However experienced or inexperienced a writer you are, don’t be afraid to establish a web presence because it’s fun to have your own site and to share your creative writing but, it’s also a great way to start being recognised and to be taken seriously as a writer.

Don’t Fake It. Engage the Death Scene

Scene of death

by Annette Young

I’m forever harping on about bringing scenes to life and really experiencing the moments that take place in your character’s life because only then can a reader engage with your words and feel the impact of any revelation. A death scene is pretty important – whether it is a natural death, a murder or a horrific accident, there has to be a sense of shock for all those who are left behind let alone the fear or panic that the character experiences during those final moments.

I think many writers are afraid to feel these moments, to engage fully with them because guess what? They hurt. I’ve often sat and cried over my laptop as I’ve watched and orchestrated the life going out of my character’s eyes. I learned (the hard way) that to be able to capture a scene in its full intensity, you have to embrace it and feel the ripples of shock, the fear and make the reality vibrantly powerful. Place your characters and, your readers at the death scene. Let them engage with all their senses.

When someone dies…it usually takes a while. Onlookers can literally witness the light going out of the victim’s eyes. It’s a powerful moment. Life and then, nothing. This is when we know that the body is just the shell, the vehicle that we live in throughout life, but the soul, our energy releases. How long it takes that to happen at your death scene is up to you. You have to think what you are trying to achieve. Do you want your characters to experience the long-drawn out moments leading to death? Do you want death to be sudden with shock rippling through all those who are closest to them? Perhaps the only witness is the murderer, engage with this criminal mind and find out what this character is thinking and feeling as death claims a life. It’s only when you know these things that you can craft a scene where the readers are well and truly hooked.

Want to know more about crafting powerful death scenes for your novels? Watch the Writer’s Guide to Death ScenesClick HERE for powerful, visual presentations that help you to bring your writing to life.

A writer's guide to the death scene r

Photo credit: Tony Webster via Visualhunt.com / CC BY

The Bare Bones of Horror Writing

Horror fiction

Horror fiction

by Annette Young

We all have our favourite genres in which to write and if you wish to craft a terrifying horror story, you need to understand the vital components, immersing yourself deep within the plot. By doing so, you begin to feel the suspense and trepidation as if held captive within the moment.  Your story has to be original, take the bare bones of all that makes horror so vital and then add a sense of uniqueness to your story.

Plan it out. Although some writers worry that by planning out a story, it will ruin the creative process, this isn’t true. It will save you time. You’ll avoid careering to a halt when your idea hits the brick wall of writers’ block and if your word count is limited, you’ll avoid writing unnecessarily.

Your characters need to be strong and so compelling that your readers feel their pain, they witness each moment and sensation,and fully experience a tingling that transmits all the way from the page up the spine and into their brains where they try to make sense of the horror before them. Make your readers’ care about the characters’ journey into the most dire and frightening of  situations. While your characters need to be larger than life, they also need to be realistic so that the reader can truly relate to them and care about the outcome.

Read as many published horror stories as you can. Absorb the techniques. It doesn’t always have to be gruesome or gory content but, well-written horror that plays games with the mind, often long after the story is over. If you make your readers think, gasp and experience a shiver of fear, you’ve done a great job. Although the emphasis is on the plot, make sure that you have done any necessary research. The slightest error can bring the reader back to the present in an instant. Pick a subject that personally scares the hell out of you. Our fears are common in the main. A sinister face pressed up against the glass in a menacing way, being trapped in a room filled with huge spiders, a suddenly ghostly apparition or….. being stalked from the shadows. If you can feel the fear, you can bet your readers will too.

Importantly, don’t rush your story. Live it and transform it so that the effect is far-reaching.

Writing the Murder Mystery – Crawl inside the Mind of the Reader

The mind of a reader...

Author Annette J Young

by Annette Young

When writing a murder mystery story, you have to create far more than an engaging story, after all, your aim has to be to ensure that readers keep turning those pages, and to do so, you have to think about what they really need from your creative endeavours. When a potential reader chooses your book, they will be looking for a number of things – good characterisation, drama, a strong storyline and one written convincingly. They also want to be plunged into a mystery that grips them from the opening pages and where the drama escalates in a convincing way, and where the plot deepens through a series of revelations.

You must be able to write with confidence and to do so, you need to understand the plot inside and out, there’s no point trying to write a murder mystery unless you have a fair idea of who the victim will be and who the murderer is and of course, why. A reader will know if you are writing with distraction or if your words lead them on a stroll around the plot rather than to invite them, enticing them into the heart of the story.

You can’t cheat a reader. They have to feel confident that you are taken them on a guided journey that is vibrantly painted with words and one which is 3-dimensional so they can almost become a part of the story as it unfolds. Readers need to feel engaged. They need to care about the outcome but more, they need to care about why the character has died and why the murderer felt a need to end the victim’s life. There has to be a reason, even if it is that the killer is a psychopath who kills when the opportunity arises. While much can be left to the reader’s imagination, you have to reveal vital components to make sense of the storyline and to make the reader care.

It doesn’t matter whether your murder mystery is a psychological drama, a thriller or contains a gory sequence of murders that fills them with fear. The murder could take place in broad daylight or be one where death is claimed in the shadows. The ability to hook the reader’s attention lies with you. The best way to engage the reader is to make them feel, to engage their senses and emotions and immerse them in a story that transcends the human experience.

Enjoy this post? Read more on writing murder mysteries – Writing a Murder Mystery – Get Inside the Mind of the Victim

or….Step Inside the Mind of a Killer

Want to read a good murder mystery?

Murder Mystery Novel

Buy it from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

Writing a Murder Mystery? Get Inside the Mind of the Victim

 

Author Annette J Young

by Annette J Young

A murder mystery story takes many forms. It requires forethought and careful planning to tie all the threads of an in-depth plot together. Each aspect is important. Many people focus on the murderer but what of the victim? You have to understand their importance within the story too. In my own novel, I decided that the victim would die right at the start of the book, my aim was to create impact and drama hooking the reader from the opening pages. Compassion for the victim and for those who were left behind were built into the story so that the reader could share the sense of disbelief and grief. In other novels, the reader follows the victim, sometimes growing to know these characters, unaware of their impending and untimely demise. When they have grown attached to the character, death creates shock and a sense of loss.  

If you are planning to write a murder mystery, then careful planning is required. What do you want the reader to feel at the time of the death? Are you trying to shock them or to make them feel the loss of this character in a deep sense or, perhaps a mixture of the two? They may not feel an attachment to the victim, or, equally, the moment of death replays in their minds over and over. In addition to the reader’s needs, you must also consider how the victim feels before death. Are you weaving suspenseful situations around them? Are they being followed or watched from the shadows? Have you created tension and drama?  If you can create an emotive game of cat and mouse, the reader will be hooked.

To write a good murder mystery, you must slip into the mind of the victim so to create beautifully written passages that evoke tragedy, fear and intensity. Imagine walking down an isolated and poorly lit road late one night. Your senses will be heightened as your eyes search the shadows for movement. Your ears will strain for the sound of someone stealthily creeping nearer and your mouth will become dry and you’ll swallow nervously, muscles tightening as you prepare to run if you need to.

A victim’s fear will grow if you play on the fears that we all experience. Imagine yourself in your house late one night, you are alone and suddenly, the lights are extinguished unexpectedly. As you peer into the darkness, you hear noises that are new and unknown. You can’t decipher them, is it a door opening as an intruder enters your home? Perhaps you hear soft footsteps on the stairs and the creaking of a loose floorboard. If you can imagine yourself in these situations, you’ll tap into the sensation of fear and be able to relay all the tension and suspense to the reader. 

When you write a murder mystery, you need a good understanding of the plot and how the characters all play an integral part. Think of them as actors learning their lines moving across the stage at your direction. You are creating a world in which one or more of your characters experiences an unnatural and even painful death. Don’t just write that they have been murdered, live it, breathe in the tension and feel the fear if you wish the reader to do the same.

 

Do you want to write a murder mystery? Take a look at this blog post: Step Inside the Mind of a Killer

Murder Mystery Novel

Interested in reading a compelling and deeply evocative murder mystery? Buy the book from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Step Inside the Mind of a Killer

Author Annette J Young

by Annette Young

I’ve long been a fan of crime novels enjoying the cat and mouse game of murderer versus crime solving sleuth but as a writer, there are important steps to take if you wish to create a killer with more than a dash of evil. When I write, I strip back the layers of characterisation and then replace them but emphasise those darker, alternate aspects so that my character is capable of committing my chosen crime. So instead of the character having reason, logic and empathy, there may only be a deeply rooted need to murder someone whether for pleasure or for some perverted sense of justice.  I create a clinical sense of logic and reason – relative only to this character’s goals.

So when creating a killer, you add or detract characteristics, mixing them together in a large creative bowl blending until you reach the right level of murderous intent that suits your needs.

But what motivates your killer? This will make a huge difference as to the blend of evil potential. After all, some people kill out of rage or out of deep emotional pain. In real life, murder victims often know their killers, so there is a tangible link between them. Other murders may be more sinister, the one who stalks the victim, hunting them down for prey – whether for sexual purposes or to merely revel in the game of life and death, these are the characters who send shivers down the spines of the readers.

When I wrote my own murder mystery, I had to decide whether to give the killer free rein. Was the character going to be the star of the book or a shady character lurking in the shadows? Would there be more suspense and intrigue than a cold, calculating desire to take a life? Would the readers share empathy for the killer’s purpose? At the very least, I wanted to make my readers understand why.

The killer must have a reason, even if they own only a distorted logic. Your role as a writer is to create and fine-tune that logic so it becomes a tangible reason to create acts that we all fear in real life.

When you step inside the mind of a killer, you must expect the unexpected and discover the sense of darkness that invades the soul of one who could so easily extinguish a life. When you do so, you create a character so terrible that the reader is hooked to the final page.

Read: Step Insider the Mind of a Victim

Murder Mystery Novel

If you fancy reading a deeply compelling murder mystery novel, you can purchase it from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

 

Don’t Be Fooled By Shiny Magic Buttons

buttons

buttons

by Annette Young

We live in a disposable society – do you know that?

People rarely want to work hard and climb the ladder towards the top of their chosen field, it’s all too easy to take shortcuts these days. With the onset of digital publishing, writers are a little like that too. I’m all for the great opportunities that companies such as Amazon have brought to the writing world, but it doesn’t mean that those who wish to jump onto the publishing band wagon should not provide high quality material.  Real writers- who have words running through their veins, have worked exceptionally hard to learn their craft and to earn their publishing stripes. They are proud of the work they produce and they market it with pride – and rightly so. We’ve probably all read some books that really should not have been published and that’s a shame.

But writers are drawn to the shiny magic button that says here’s how to bypass the learning stage. The promises of instant publication and churning out books in a matter of weeks is a nonsense of course. Or at least it is if you don’t have the skills or, the savvy to hire a good writer who can help you through.  What’s wrong with learning the craft? What’s wrong in experiencing the joy of watching your creative talents develop? If you avoid taking the shiny, magic button route, the end product means so much more to you.

I always think of it as the magpie effect – just because it’s shiny and appealing and you have the urge to click that button, doesn’t mean that your creative outpourings are going to be worthy. I’m all for people making the most of their creative skills, I’m all for helping non-writers achieve their publishing dream, but I am absolutely not for those who deep down know they cannot write, and yet, who offer the reader books of little value.

Do you know what that does? It de-values the written word.

If you want to be a writer, do it the good old-fashioned way and learn the craft. Ignore those adverts that say they can turn you into a  best-selling author overnight or, they can help you write your book in a weekend. Ignore those fake publishing companies who promise you all and deliver a big fat zero. It’s all nonsense and deep down you know that too. Ignore the shiny, magic button that promises all and delivers disappointment, either learn the craft fully and embrace the written word, or, if you don’t have time or the dedication, let a professional writer breathe life into your idea.

People used to dream of being a writer of merit, let’s bring that dream back.

Game, Set and Publication

Success at writing

 

Author Annette Young

I’m a huge tennis fan and even though I couldn’t get to Wimbledon this year, I have managed to take a little bit of time off to watch some of my favourite tennis players. Throughout this first week, watching the players embrace what must be a nerve-wracking experience – they reveal their skills, expertise and mistakes all on a public stage.

I found myself thinking that as writers, we are far luckier as we learn our craft, we can make our mistakes in private and the only witness is the sometimes overflowing waste-paper bin that holds captive our written mistakes. But, there is one thing that tennis players at this level of the game do so well, they don’t give in and they always believe that they can win. Nothing is more true than the tennis match of Serena Williams vs. Heather Watson. Steely determination gave Watson a fantastic chance to topple the women’s number one player from her lofty perch.

All credit to Williams for not giving up and for having great belief in her abilities. There’s no doubt they are plagued by doubts, William’s almost looked defeated at one point, but deep inside, these are professionals, they live and breathe tennis, they enhance their shot range, upgrade their skills, but they work on their mental focus too. They believe that they can do it. They visualise that coveted trophy in their hands and even when tested, they give their all.

So this led me to thinking about how much effort we put into achieving our publishing goals. Conviction is all-important and you have to consider whether you truly believe in your writing abilities. Are you determined to see your name on the front cover of a book or to earn your living from the written word? If you don’t believe, then you won’t achieve your true potential. It really is that simple. You have to study the work of great writers, analyse what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes, all it takes is strength of mind to take you beyond being a good writer. You might not be in the public domain as you carve out your career, but your intent should be no less than that of these tennis players.

Every word must count and every written project polished to its maximum potential.

Take a tip from the great achievers of the world – believe in yourself. This can escalate your potential to dizzy new heights. You’ll never win that coveted prize of publication if you don’t do something about it.

The Nomadic Writer

Writer

by Annette Young

I make no secret of the fact that I love to travel and, I suspect, there’s a whole lot more travelling to do in the future, it really is a case of ‘have laptop will travel’. I get to work in the most amazing of places and literally fill my senses with the most glorious of views. When I wake up in the morning, the sun is shining in through the window, the birds are singing and yet there is such a relaxed feel to the air. Life is certainly less frantic in Spain than in my native England, it’s easy to fit into the pace of life here – even for a workaholic like me. But the trick is to absorb life as it unfolds around you and to use it to fuel future writing goals. It’s easy to become distracted by the potential to roam more and work less but I believe that creative inspiration comes from deep within so when you feed the soul, you replenish your ability to write well.

Of course, travelling extensively isn’t for everyone. I won’t deny that the last house and office move was the worst ever and that I have felt mentally exhausted by the endless array of things that managed to go wrong, but, in all the times that I have moved house and searched for pastures new, mostly, the journey has been easy and efficient. But even in those worst moments, it has still been part of the adventure; you have to take the rough with the smooth. My recent move tested my resolve and endurance to the limit, which certainly didn’t help with the subsequent issues of setting up a new house and office space for the business. It does take time of course to settle and to regain that all important equilibrium. You can’t force it; you learn to go with the flow.

My new understanding has paved the way to an increased efficiency for the next move, at least I hope so, but we will see in time.

I thought leaving France would be a wrench, but in actual fact, I have embraced Spanish life quite well. It’s very different, less scenic but there are advantages and it also enables a fresh new perspective on life. I had never traveled much in my teens and in my twenties but from the age of thirty, took the opportunity to travel throughout Europe and then, when I was in my forties, I decide to move house and leave everything behind. This might sound extreme and I guess it is, there have certainly been highs and extensive lows in my journey so far. Moving away from all that is familiar impacts you personally, practically and emotionally, you leave behind good friends and loved ones, but, as a writer, you become more self-sufficient, you stretch yourself creatively, you learn to recognize good opportunities and walk away from bad ones.

Everything in life is a learning curve; it’s only by experimentation that you can progress. This may be a place where I can settle for a while – for how long, who knows? Wanderlust has a way of calling but perhaps I will keep this as a base and then travel more lightly. There are some wonderful places yet to see and each time I follow the urge to seek pastures new, I meet such diverse, interesting people and each adventure fuels the spirit, recharging the creative batteries adding a new depth of maturity to my writing.

This nomadic life isn’t for everyone but it can add a richness to the writing process. I believe it increases confidence and enables you to draw on a multitude of knowledge. It’s easier to understand the human condition and to comprehend behaviours that exist globally while taking a peek into the culture of others. It becomes easier to create rich descriptive passages, to conjure up scenes of beauty from beautiful coastal scenes to mountain ranges and to bring to life the quaintness of a French village against the vibrancy of a Spanish festival in full flow. I now just close my eyes and I am back in the moment, embracing a variety of cultures and breathing new life into my writing.

Whether you can embrace the nomadic life or, if you just wish to travel more, do so, because providing you travel with the eyes of a writer, wide open and ready to witness the colour of life, you will fuel your passion for writing even more.

So You Want to Write a Novel?

Writing

Author Editor Annette Youngby Annette Young

I believe we all yearn to write a novel at some point but now, there are even greater reasons for actually doing so. Writers can now get their novels published easily, self-publishing is acceptable and why not? There’s thousands, no, millions of fantastic novels that get turned down by traditional publishers. When you consider that J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter book was turned down by 12 such publishers, you can see that self-publishing really is a writer’s new best friend. Unlimited opportunities and potential for the creatively minded.

So, if you have plans to one day write a novel, harden your resolve and make it become a reality instead of simply thinking about it. Is it easy to write a novel? No, it’s a test of creativity, imagination, skill and dedication. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely yes.

You may be sitting there toying with the possibilities but then, decide you don’t have time, it would be impossible. However, I know that time restrictions or not, if you really want to write a novel, then you will. That’s the difference between someone who contemplates writing a novel one day and the person who puts their words to good use now. I understand completely that time has a way of sabotaging creative pursuit. Even though I write full-time, it happens to me here. I plan my day, perhaps ready to dedicate time to work on my own writing projects and then something unexpected and frustrating throws a spanner in the creative works.

So even though this happens, I know it’s still possible to create and manage time so you can write a novel and, in less time than you might think. It’s all about organisation and freeing up your time. I used to write before I started work. I wrote in my lunch hours and at every other opportunity and you will be amazed at how quickly the word count starts to pile up if you do so. How many words could you realistically write in a day? If you could write one thousand words a day, the first draft of the novel would be completed in just two months. Now, can you see it is possible to write a novel even if you are busy?

The solution is to calculate how many words you could, on average, write in a day and then build this into your schedule. All it takes is a little planning and commitment and you could add novelist to your list of credentials.

 

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Writing Fiction? Don’t Forget the Building Blocks of Characterisation

foundations of writing

Author Annette Youngby Annette Young

When writing fiction, one of the trickiest elements is being able to create the solid building blocks of good characterisation. Even if you are eager to dip into the writing process, you shouldn’t bypass this stage because you will only end up performing an awful lot of re-writes.

Failure to consider these building blocks will certainly impact your ability to create characters that seem real. If they don’t act naturally, are not compelling or believable, then you will certainly lose that connection with the reader.

I’m a firm believer that you should get to know your characters well before even starting the writing process. This doesn’t mean you have to sit down for hours, furiously scribbling out a back history; you can think and create important character traits while you tackle the mundane chores of everyday life. Alternatively, if you work better by creating an in-depth profile, do so.

You have to know all about your character if you are going to write with authority. Trust me; the words are likely to flow once you know how your character should act and why.  If you are writing a novel and know your plot, it’s easier to create a character that is going to respond to the various traumas and obstacles that you will throw at them, if you don’t, then you may suddenly get inspiration for a plot through creative characterisation. There are no rules as to which way you should work.

When writing fiction, consider the following points for characterisation:

  • What was your character’s life throughout childhood, those teenage years and into adulthood?
  • How does your character make a living? Does the character enjoy this work? Has your character had problems in the work-place, before or currently?
  • What does this character do for relaxation or for enjoyment?
  • Relationships – does your character have a serious relationship already or, are there issues when it comes to dating i.e. bad relationships, serial dater, broken-hearted?
  • What sort of outlook on life does your character have?

When writing fiction and, in particular, novel writing, you have to consider just what makes the character tick. The points included today are only a fraction of the elements needed but it’s a good starting point. You need to understand that former experiences will impact perception in life and will affect how the character thinks and acts. But there are many components that make an individual unique. It’s important to know how to build in the back-story and to create a character that is rich in layers and that has a unique voice.

The next time you are writing fiction, try writing a profile for yourself and consider all the elements that make up a character that almost walks off the page.