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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Scenes. Click HERE for powerful, visual presentations that help you to bring your writing to life.
Photo credit: Tony Webster via Visualhunt.com / CC BY
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.
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
Want to read a good murder mystery?
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
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.
Learn why characters might kill HERE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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:
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.
The advice given to new writers is often to carve out a niche area and stick to it and they are right…. to a degree. But I remember when I took my first serious steps towards writing, I didn’t know what niche area to focus on – freelance writing or creative writing, frankly, I wanted to do it all. I was brimming over with ideas and just loved the experience of writing and learning. I tried to focus on just one project, but it was impossible.
I tried writing poetry and won some writing competitions so that was exciting and I loved writing fiction, managing to have some of my stories published, I enjoyed plotting and planning novels but, I also enjoyed the research aspect of non-fiction and the analytic approach. So, dilemma.
I couldn’t narrow the remit because I enjoyed it all. I found I had to work on several different projects at a time because it kept my motivation and enthusiasm sharp. It did dilute my ability to quickly complete projects but I was able to enjoy my writing, to learn lots of techniques and to make sense of the whole creative writing process. I believe that working in this way played to my strengths, I was good at organising and juggling my workload on a daily basis anyway and this sort of frantic pace prevented me from getting bored.
Years later, I still work this way. Admittedly, I write full-time so it’s much easier but I have lots of different writing projects through clients as well as my Creative Competitor work, but this is how I work best. I do work feverishly on some of my own writing projects in between others, but I can dip in and out of these niches to suit my needs. Freelance writing gives me the variety I need because I can be working on any number of projects – from articles, books and even scripts and then when I get some downtime, I try to indulge in creative writing because it’s pleasurable and relaxing.
So, from this, you can see it is possible to cultivate a career in both freelance writing and creative writing. I do both professionally and I love it. The variety keeps my brain stimulated, my experiences in life fuel my writing in a creative sense and I get to live where I want in the world. I’m chained to a very portable desk.
You do have to be determined and dedicated to the craft of writing to make this work for you and not against you, but it’s possible. I work very long hours, I’m single, my daughter is grown up, so I don’t have to do set hours and devote time to family needs but I work to suit how I feel. If I feel like taking time off, I schedule it. For me though, writing is more than a career, it’s an aboslute passion. I care about the end result and give 100% to each area of my career. I do think that you have to work to your strengths in life. You may like to focus on one project and learn everything about it you can, that’s great, other people will dip in and out of different niche areas and gradually learn and many will change their focus in time. I just choose to absorb myself in the projects to hand (I often cherry-pick the freelance writing projects so I enjoy them) and dip in and out of the required mind-set.
In short, you can enjoy freelance writing and creative writing if that’s what you want, but whichever writing endeavours you choose, commit to it and give it everything you have. It will mean juggling your writing time if you have lots of projects, but you will learn to be efficient and you’ll learn what suits you. That’s the real secret.
It’s all too easy to give up on your dreams in life – whatever they may be. Achieving any desired goal is…well, hard work and it takes dedication. In creative writing terms, the road to publication may seem a long and arduous one filled with little traps to keep you from succeeding. You can be forgiven for having self-doubts and wondering if you will ever learn all of the essential elements necessary to write well. Each technique after all needs to be effortless and it has to be fluid.
But although it can be difficult, achieving your creative writing goals is possible. It’s about tackling each technique, understanding it and then using it regularly. Little by little you will add these techniques, all polished up, into your writing toolkit and suddenly, your dreams will not seem unrealistic.
Writing can be frustrating – true. It can seem impossible to bring characters to life or to create a completely unique story – true. But, it can happen providing you harden your resolve and remain focused.
When writing is hard, remember why you do it. After all, don’t you just love the written word? When the words start to flow or you have battled with a difficult paragraph, isn’t it the most satisfying thing to have shaped it into a powerful fictional scene?
The more you write, the easier it gets…providing you learn the relevant lessons as you go. There is no point continuing to write if you don’t learn and use all of the techniques. It’s about extending your skill-set and stretching your abilities. Spending time on the more difficult aspects of writing will improve your confidence and help you to realise that writing professionally means absorbing new skills and having fun using them. Think about the skills learned within the work-place. At one time any aspect of your job might have seemed difficult, until you learned how to do it properly. Creative writing is no different.
When you polish up your technique, you give your creativity free rein. Each day will bring new creative challenges, new skills to learn, but you’ll enjoy being able to pick and choose when you want to write, to be able to decide what to write and what techniques to use. Creative writing may be frustrating at times, but it’s also richly rewarding. Own your dreams, don’t give up on them.
by Annette Young
Creative writing can be a wonderfully relaxing pastime but more than that, it can be therapeutic too and used to enrich your writing in ways than you cannot imagine unless you connect with your buried emotions. We all have moments of sadness and emotional pain – whether through grief, relationship breakdowns or simply moments when life frustratingly goes wrong. Trapped emotions can be damaging – we can remain stagnant if not careful.Life throws a myriad of obstacles and often unwarranted events in our way and this pain can intensify and remain trapped within.
If you want to use creative writing as a type of therapy, then pour your heart out, get every emotion and frustration out of your system. Don’t worry about the result, it doesn’t have to read well and it shouldn’t. You are capturing every ounce of feeling, releasing the injustices, the pain, regret and anger. The moment may be intense, it might be painful, but afterwards comes exhausted release whether your emotions are newly raw or, have been contained for years.
When you are finally done, read back over your writing and try to make sense of it. Note the words used, any disjointed sentences, the purity of feeling – good or bad. Not only will you feel a sense of release, you will have every aspect of your inner turmoil captured on paper. It may not make for comfortable reading, but believe me, it is better out than in. Place the paper to one side, hide it away and leave it for a few weeks or months until you feel ready to review it. When my mother died some years ago now, it was the single most wounding moment of my life. She’d battled for years against illness after illness, but I was convinced she was invincible. When she went into hospital for something minor, (or so we’d thought) and never came out again, the shock was overwhelming. I remained in a blocked state for at least 6 months. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t feel, I simply went through the motions of life. I had been her carer for a long time so the bonds were strong. Suddenly, I had so much time on my hands yet I was trapped in a bubble of disbelief.
Friends told me to not write, they said I would always relate my writing with the pain of that time, but, I had to.It was the only release I had and something that I could tap into easily. Initially, it enabled me to block out the feelings even more, I went back to work, I took on new writing projects – it was my job, but my emotions were carefully shut away. I wrote with the confidence of one who could do a job without giving too much of myself. I got by. One day , suddenly, out of the blue, I felt ready and then the words came tumbling out, they flowed for page after page. I felt the anger release and the healing begin. So you see, I strongly believe that by capturing pure emotion in its rawest form, it is so beneficial to our health, well-being and sanity, but more, by being able to feel so deeply, it makes us able to write with heart.
Creative writing when done well, can bring tears of sadness or joy to the readers’ minds. Beautifully crafted words written with sincerity evoke deep feeling in others, I don’t think I have ever written so well following the release of my emotions. Now when I write emotional scenes, I give myself up to it, so each word carries a little bit of me with it. It’s the only way to write with conviction.
Whether creative writing is a hobby or you would like it to become a career one day, you need to allow your experiences, painful or joyous, to come out – never keep feelings trapped inside. Not only can writing be your therapeutic friend, your emotions will enable you to connect with your readers on such an intrinsic level that they will never forget your words.
Picture the scene, your imagination is burning bright, ideas are cascading into your conscious mind one after another and the words rush in thick and fast….isn’t that just the greatest feeling? The moment when you are in the zone and your story and characters behave.
No-one enjoys having to wrestle with a stray word or a stilted sentence, we’d all give anything to have the creative floodgates open on a single command, but of course, it doesn’t always work that way. So what’s the best way to keep the creative writing ball rolling?
Really, it’s quite simple. When the writing processes are oiled and operating at optimal levels, don’t stop, even when you have finished with any current project, get started immediately on another, capitalise on that creative energy. It could be that you start planning the next day’s writing project, or, you create the opening paragraph of a new story, there’s nothing worse than blank page syndrome when creativity has packed up and left. Use the creative flow to fuel new projects so that it saves that ‘pulling hair out’ sense of frustration.
Equally, the more that you write and train your brain to respond to your simple commands, ‘stop procrastinating and write,’ the easier you will find it to slip into that imaginative state more regularly. Dragging those reluctant words out from your brain and capturing them onto paper becomes a little more effortless each time.
There will always be days when writing is tough,but sometimes it’s worth working through the pain, because the results can be far better than you can imagine. So keeping the creative writing ball rolling means optimising your potential while creativity is fluid or, assuming a dogged determination and working through it on those days when inspiration is nowhere to be seen.
I always think that sending your writing out into the world for professional assessment is akin to sending your child out to school for the first time. You worry about that moment of arrival, whether the manuscript looks good and if the assessment will be kind and if your work will hold its own among all those other manuscripts.
Letting go of a manuscript after you have been toiling away on it for a long time is hard. You form an attachment to it, you want to protect it and you have to keep pandering to it. But at some point, you have to say that’s it. Package it up and send it out.
So, now that we’ve established the deep connection between the writer and any written material, think about your own feelings towards the novel or book that you may have been working on forever, what’s your instinct about sending it out? Is your manuscript ready? Do you feel ready? This is an emotional hurdle that you have to overcome if you really want to succeed in your writing goals. How will you know how good your writing is unless you take that leap of faith?
Fear of rejection is much stronger than actually being rejected. The reality is never pleasant but if you use it as a tool to get beyond it, you can achieve far more than you have ever imagined. Take it from me, sometimes that all-important first step turns into a huge leap and bound and you suddenly become more confident about your writing. It’s good to nurture, to care for and to put everything into your writing but at some point, you have to take a step back and view it dispassionately and then make the decision to let others read your work.
If you would like a professional opinion on your manuscript, take a look here.
by Annette Young
Last night I killed a man and then today, I breathed life back into his fictional bones. No, I’m not kidding, I committed the cardinal sin of taking a life –albeit someone that I had made up, sometimes the prospect of being ruthless is just too strong to deny.
But then, the power of the writer is extraordinarily strong; in fact, let’s be honest, it’s one of the perks of writing, having fun with your characters, making them living, breathing entities, watching them fall in love, then dashing their romantic dreams in an instant. You can make them beautiful, vibrant or just plain nasty, you are in control after all. You can even wield an imaginary sword and in one swipe of the ultra sharpened blade…the character’s head will be rolling across the floor.
But should you really kill off your characters? Only you can answer that. Think about your story and those characters that you have painstakingly created, do you want to keep them all or is there someone that you just dislike? What do your characters add to the story? There may be many reasons why you feel it is necessary to eradicate one, but here are some reasons that spring to mind:
Killing a character can be quite satisfying, I’ll admit it. You can plan the character’s demise in a multitude of ways and it’s easy to imagine that final moment as the character gasps his last. Whether the act is sad, emotional or a sheer relief, a death can actually breathe new life into a plot and perk up the remaining characters.
Fortunately, it’s easy to resurrect a character if you suddenly develop a pang of conscience about this tragic act, or if you realize that you have made a mistake and really, your novel is so much better with this character playing an active role. Don’t kill off a character just to incite a shock reaction or to cause drama for the sake of it, each character has to be believable – whether good or bad, the character should add something to the plot.
If your story is really weak and you need a sudden surge of fictional excitement, re-work the story –something has gone horribly wrong. If you are bored writing the story, then again, you have a problem. Re-write the story or start again. If your character is insignificant and adds nothing to the story-line, then by all means, give him ….or her the chop.
Every character plays an important part in a novel, if they are not pulling their weight, then you know what to do.
Image courtesy of [Boians Cho Joo Young] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
by Annette Young
When I was a child, I was always told no. Oh, how I hated that word. I saw it as a continuous effort to scupper my plans to explore and to redefine my boundaries. I may have only been four or five years old at the time, but when you have a determined nature and an adventurous streak, the word no becomes the worst word in the world.
In reality, it meant that throughout my childhood I was held back from escaping out beyond the front gate and unable to experience potentially wonderful adventures with friends and, for my waywardness of trying to sneak out, I was continuously threatened to be sent to my room. This was in my early years and then, subsequently, I learned the meaning of being, ‘grounded’ in my teenage years. As a six year old, I could escape past the newly placed side gate however high my father made it or, irrespective of the number of locks he insisted on adding to it. I was able to clamber over it and to escape. Ah, freedom. It may have beckoned but I never seemed to make it far before being hauled back in.
In my vocabulary, the word no translated to, ‘well, there’s a small chance it’s worth the punishment’. Perhaps climbing out of the bedroom window when I was 15 and running off to meet a boyfriend was over-stepping the mark a little bit, especially since I got caught trying to climb back up onto the front porch in a bid to sneak back into my room. Game over – grounded for two months.
I was a determined child irrespective of my parent’s plans to keep me safe and, in my eyes, tethered to the home base, but worse than their over-protectiveness, was my increasing awareness that there would be things that apparently I couldn’t do. This extended into my creativity.
From an early age, I was constantly writing and drawing. When exciting ventures such as rampaging around the neighbourhood has been stopped, you have to find other fun things to do. So, I would create cartoons and make comic book strips and my creative efforts would be passed around to my friends so they could read with great delight, (sorry if I bullied anyone into reading them) but when you love what you do, you are prepared to go all out and get it and this meant, needing an audience, even if I only wanted an appreciative one. Importantly, I learned that I had a talent for writing and drawing and even more importantly, I loved it.
Most children dream of having adventurous jobs, and I wanted to be both an artist and a writer. My imagination soared with the potential life I could have, but, I can remember categorically being told that to be either required an extraordinary amount of luck and it just didn’t happen for most people. This infuriated me beyond belief – as you can imagine.
I would sit for hours writing and drawing and I knew it was something that I could do. I didn’t want to hear all of the reasons why I shouldn’t do it or, why it wouldn’t get me anywhere. Like most parents, mine wanted me to have a secure future and the messages were clear, study hard – and only view creative pastimes as hobbies. Hmm. That wasn’t going to happen. My dreams of sneaking off to London to go to Art School were firmly squashed however as were my plans to escape to Edinburgh at the age of 16 and become an artist. There were always reasons to say no. Even the best laid plans and creative ventures were too risky.
Now, I know as an adult that my parents were merely trying to protect me from the knock-backs in life. Of course, no-one welcomes rejection and traditional publishing threw a few of those slips my way in my teenage years. But surely, to achieve anything in life you have to work towards it and realise that the greatest achievements are unlikely to come gift-wrapped? Although I was determined to get my work published and the need to do so only increased throughout my late twenties, I often wonder if the concerns of my parents made me afraid to take risks and become a little reluctant to send my work out there.
If we live in fear of something, we ruin our chances of succeeding. I certainly became more aware of the possibility of failure and this unfortunately continued in a creative sense once I indulged in romantic liaisons. Partner’s at that time thought I was mad to even try, in other words, who was I to think I could be a professional writer? Later partner’s saw my determination to ‘make it’ as a writer only as a threat to the relationship.
The rejection letters I received certainly knocked me for six. I do remember crying – and my dreams shattering all around me. But, then I also remember giving myself a talking to and carefully piecing my dreams back together bit by bit and vowing to make it to publication whatever it took. Sweat, blood and tears, I was prepared to go all the way. Now, I have always been a fairly determined character, luckily, but many people may not have the same determination or, stubborn strength of character. If people are continuously told no throughout life, no wonder they give up. If people have a dream, they should go for it. If they fail through their own efforts, or a lack of skill, well, maybe lesson learned, or, perhaps they dig deep, they grit their teeth and they try again and again until they break through that barrier called no.
When you are told that you are just one person out of millions who have similar talents and the chances of succeeding are limited, it’s not conducive to encouraging that person to strive forward. It doesn’t matter that parents are merely trying to protect their children from potential hurts and failures, if you don’t try, you don’t get.
That’s always been my motto.
I say this to every creative individual out there, if you want it, work for it and do your utmost to achieve it. Other people should not limit your potential, however well-meaning. So what if you fail in one area? Take your talents all the way. You’ve achieved far more experience and skills through trying than if you listen to people telling you that you need to be satisfied with your lot. What’s the worst that can happen? You get to dine out and regale your exciting journey through life – mishaps, highlights and all and you can laugh at your own tenacity.
Next time you hear the words no you can’t, stomp on them.
I have long since considered that to be a success in any field, you have to find that inner motivation and dedicate yourself to the cause. It’s all about setting your sights on the end goal and then making it happen. This means identifying your passions, identifying the route you need to take and learning how you can keep that motivation strong. If you are considering writing as a career or yearn to get your books published, then consider just how far you will go to make your dreams come true.
Inspiration comes in many shapes and forms. For me, touching base with nature is a natural boost to any flagging creativity. I work for a great many clients, on a great many (sometimes obscure) writing projects as well as on my own and sometimes I need to re-ignite that creative spark. Living in the Pyrenees Mountains and watching soaring birds of prey overhead is enough to revitalise my creative energies and despite the biting cold temperatures here, looking out over the snow-capped mountains makes me pinch myself and say, ‘hey, I am living the dream!’
Last night having finished my work for the day, I snuggled down under two duvets, (yes, it was that cold) to watch Snow Wolf Family and Me. Noting the enthusiasm and passion of Gordon Buchanan, a renowned wildlife cameraman who seems totally dedicated to his art and who spends many months apart from his family, isolated and in extreme conditions while recording incredible footage for television, it reminded me how dedicated some people are and the rewards they get for being so committed. There’s no doubt about his passion for nature and you simply can’t fake enthusiasm like that – especially in those freezing temperatures. He may have been lucky getting his big break, (sometimes it’s who you know) but, you don’t grow within your profession unless you are prepared to work your socks off and to be single-minded.
To be successful, you have to be self-motivated, dedicated and determined, you also have to drive forward bowling over any obstacles that litter the way so that you can reach that finishing line marked success. Believe me when I say I have bent over backwards to be in the position I am in now and at times, it’s been a risky adventure. My journey meant making many sacrifices, leaving my old life behind and setting out for foreign pastures so that I could be a full-time writer and carve out my niche in life. I won’t say it’s been easy, there’s been a few bitter disappointments and set-backs en-route but overall, it has been exciting.
Last night I gained great inspiration from watching that program, it reminded me of all that is important in the world and our place within it. Today, standing on my terrace watching the birds at the feeder with my breath frosted on the air, I viewed my surroundings and it was sensation overload. Who could not be inspired by the green rolling hills, surrounded by hardened mountain peaks, sentry-like and dominating the landscape? I realised that uprooting my life from good ol’ England was the right one. If I hadn’t made the decision to change my life, I might have still been in my home town of Salisbury, (which I still hold dear) but I don’t think I would have progressed in the way that I was meant to. Sometimes you have to shake your life up and take risks. I loved the work that I did and the people I worked and socialised with but I knew I needed to write full-time and my driving passion was to escape to the South of France and to write my novel and, I did. Since then, I have written 14 books and every word has been a pleasure matched only by the satisfaction that I am living my life my way.
I guess it’s all about ascertaining what you really want in life. If you only have a vague idea, it’s probably not likely to drop in your lap gift-wrapped. You need to create the dream, visualise it, feel it and then express it. Don’t stop there though, work it. Put yourself on the line, let others give you feedback, learn from it, absorb it and then improve it – consistently. You don’t have to endure freezing temperatures and terrifying yet exhilarating situations for your art form like all those amazing wildlife professionals (unless you want to) but you do have to stand head and shoulders above everyone else in your creative guise and you must never rest on your laurels.
I have my inspiration but you simply have to find yours. Don’t just watch life on the sidelines – get out there and live it. Believe me, it will enrich your writing beyond belief and make your journey towards success that much more interesting.
Now think again, how far will you go to pursue your passion?
If you are interested in improving your writing techniques, an online writing course has often provided a simple solution. Instead of struggling to make a college class, it meant you could study at home and take time with learning.
Due to changes in legislation coming into play from January 2015, it means sadly that we will be discontinuing our writing course service as it would mean a substantial price increase if we kept this service open and we do not wish to do that.
Instead, we are going out with a bang and providing massively discounted writing courses with seriously crazy prices and the offer for all courses will close on December 31st 2014. We will be providing full support and feedback still however long it takes for you to complete the course. We will just be unable to sell courses from January 1st 2015.
With this in mind, do take a look at our list of courses and if you wish to take advantage of our closing down sale, why not buy now and start later at a time to suit you? Or, if you would like to purchase a course as a gift for someone, just let us know.
From 2015, we will be promoting our coaching service instead where you can have one-to-one tuition on any aspect of writing whether by Skype or, if you prefer we can arrange the course via email.
If you have any questions, just shout.
Fiction may be dreamed up and coaxed out of your imagination, but there are still vital ingredients that can serve to bring your story to life. Think about the characters, would you like them to be larger than life? Would you like to create 3 dimensional beings that incite dedicated followers? I am sure that the answer is a resounding yes, after all, what author doesn’t want to hook the readers with characters who seem living, breathing entities? To do so, it’s good to create a back story for your characters – especially for the protagonist. We all have a history, some of us have a more vibrantly coloured past than others but the great thing is, you get to play God with your characters and you can make their histories as naughty, fun or painful as you like.
I always advocate the creation of profiles for each of the main characters. I believe it helps writers remember what’s happened to a character in the past and why that character might act in a certain way in the present, but it does something else too, it enables the writer to fully connect with the characters on a deeper level and this equates to writing with confidence. Believe me; your readers will love you for it.
You won’t be able to capture (or think of ) all of their histories at once but, your profile should be a work in progress because you can add to it, amend it, delete sections or add interesting snippets capturing elements to look out for in the future. Once you have an idea of your character, just commit to writing it all down, or do as I do now and dictate using Dragon Software. It was a little odd hearing myself initially but after a while, it became much easier to capture all my thoughts or notions and even though I am a very fast typist, I can capture verbal words a lot quicker than thinking and typing.
Don’t worry about spelling or any grammatical errors; you can go back over it afterwards. Let’s be honest, if the words are flowing, just get them down.
Think about your character’s early years:
These are just random examples of course but you can do a lot from this starting point and are likely to be more thorough if starting at the creation of life, rather than looking back. Once your imagination kicks in, you may find you end up with a lot of waffle and if so, just delete it. For example:
This is unlikely to be that important to the story unless you know you will be writing a scene where cheesecake plays an important part, so instead consider something like this:
From this you can see that a simple and seemingly irrelevant act could lead to the character becoming slightly eccentric or, over-the-top in his behaviour later in life. This could even spill over into his relationships if he married someone who was similar to his mother- even divorce, accidental death or murder if he suddenly snapped at his wife’s careless and inconsiderate washing habits. Extreme? Well, yes but who knew odd socks could be so powerful a trigger?
What happens in the past really will reflect on the present and indeed the future. Other things to consider:
The more you know about your characters, the more persuasive your writing will become. You don’t have to dish out every bit of information in your novel, sometimes less is more, but you know why you are writing a scene and will be able to portray it convincingly when you have the benefit of history. Writing a novel or any long work of fiction requires an intimate knowledge of your key players so by adding in their histories, you will be adding a sense of richness to the story-line.
Do you enjoy a riveting read? Do you love settling down with a good book and whiling away a few hours? If so, do you know just how important it is to write a book review once you have finished reading? Whether you loved it, hated it, or, are just plain indifferent, your views count. If you are not a writer, then you won’t have a full appreciation of the energy, dedication and drive that goes into writing a novel or, a non-fiction book. The author has to be totally committed to the end project, it’s a tough job even if the writers who go on to achieving their dreams of publication, love the written word.
In this digital age, there are now millions more books out there. That’s great from a reader’s perspective but it makes it tough for a good writer to progress up the rankings of those publishers such as Amazon or Smashwords. Many people think that a good book will always do well, but, it’s not the case. Even the most dedicated of readers cannot hope to trawl through the thousands of books in any particular genre. People always tend to look at the top of the list, and let’s be honest, how far do you think about scrolling down? You may be happy to read a book from an unknown author, but you may be more confident investing in a book by someone who is well-known and who has manged to transcend the ranks. The books that are lower down the rankings may be absolute gems, but it’s possible and likely, that the author doesn’t know how to market their book, doesn’t have the time to do so, or, does not have the funds for a professional marketing campaign.
This is where the book review comes in. Your opinion counts. It doesn’t matter if you are reading the book and really struggling to get into it, nor does it matter if you couldn’t care less if you ever see that author’s name again, you are entitled to explain your views and to help others make an informed decision about buying the book or not. The number of reviews are so important, they help the author to sell more books, they enable the author to promote their books more on certain sites because some won’t accept books with minimal or no reviews. Hence the importance of an honest book review by you.
I would always recommend an honest but not cutting review. You may have seen some highly personal and derogatory comments by readers about an author’s books or worse, comments made directly about the author, there’s no need for that. If anything, it shows the reviewer up as being particularly unpleasant. But analysing why you liked or disliked a book can be useful for the author too. Let’s say you read a book by a new author and enjoyed it, but, you noticed there were numerous spelling or grammatical mistakes, you can mention that in the review. For example; ‘ Great book but I did notice quite a few spelling mistakes which became a little distracting.’ If the writer has any professional pride, they will very quickly make some serious edits to the book before uploading it again ready for republishing. Perhaps you found the characters were not very realistic or the story-line just dragged on and on, you can make your point. It’s your opinion.
I hate giving bad reviews myself but I am always honest. I understand the hard work that has gone into writing a book so my reviews are never about making the author feel bad. I may say:
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel a connection with other writers. I know how tough it is to work so hard on a project and then to have a review that is more than a little upsetting. When I had my first books published, I lived in fear of a bad book review. My first ‘less than glowing review’ was extremely upsetting, I couldn’t believe how the reader could have failed to notice that I sweated blood and tears while writing it, but when I have compared that review to those received by other authors, I realised I got away lightly. Some people sadly enjoy the power of giving poor reviews, but honest ones would be welcomed by most authors.
You may think that most readers will leave reviews but I had a conversation with a friend recently who is an avid reader and she told me that she never comments on books if she doesn’t like them. I was horrified by this. A writer – whether the book was well-received or not – deserves to have some feedback. Out of courtesy, the book review should also be written in an honest but not unkind manner. A well-written book review is really useful for the author and as much as we all want readers to sing our praises and say we are the best writer in the world (or something like that) we know that writing is a craft and we never stop learning, so sometimes, a less than glowing review can be useful.
The main thing to remember is this:
But do not, under any circumstances think it’s acceptable to vent a personal attack on the author.
A book review really is so important and it can make a huge difference to the book becoming popular and being found or, languishing way down at the bottom of the rankings. So you can see that your opinion really does count.
Nothing pulls at the heart strings of a reader more than well-written, emotional angst. When you are next writing fiction, try to build in an emotional scene that makes you dig deep into your own experiences so that you can use your personal memories and emotions to fuel your writing.
Characterisation is all-important. If you don’t create engaging and convincing characters why would your readers care if you steered one towards a cliff edge or placed them bang, smack in the middle of a busy motorway? If you haven’t built in that integral connection between the reader, the story-line and the character’s development, you’ve wasted your time.
When I was writing my first novel, I purposely wanted it to be emotional. I was focussing on the deep emotion that I would feel if my best friend suddenly died and I was plunged into a dangerous situation, I am pretty certain I would have real tears. I am also pretty sure it would take me a long time to come to terms with her loss. This brings me to the point that as the writer, you have to be able to feel it if you want to portray it. Blubbering helplessly while typing is OK, even if it does make the mascara run or make you feel miserable for a short while.
I did smile when I read one review which said that she had no idea that a character could weep so much and it’s true, there’s a lot of heartbreak in the story, but isn’t that the point? When writing fiction, you need to encapsulate real life, the good and the bad. My story is about a murder, it’s not going to be sugar coated, it’s raw, emotional and poignant and believe me when I say I felt every word of it. I’ve also had feed back from readers to say they cried too. At that point I wanted to whoop with joy, I had created a deep connection and pulled the reader into the story. In essence they were hooked. Will everyone feel the same way? No, of course not. Those who prefer a different style of writing and less emotion are unlikely to have the same connection. But that’s all about personal taste in reading matter.
Growing up, I would say I’ve never been particularly an emotional person, but following the sudden death of my mother some years ago now, I have to admit, it was like turning on a tap with a faulty valve, the slightest thing would cause my resolve to wobble and I’d feel real tears welling up. Aside from feeling an emotional wimp, it’s been an absolute bonus in my writing and now when writing fiction, I really get the importance of putting my heart and soul into every word. I feel it, I live it and at times a story-line can threaten to overwhelm. Sometimes when writing, you can find yourself in a dark place. The story can take you into the depths of misery and it can impact your mood, even if you know that at some point, you will emerge and start writing that happy ending.
I’m not a sugar coated fan. I like to create a fictional world that mirrors the light and the shade of real life, I want to pull my readers into that place too and let them experience a multicoloured and multidimensional world that holds them tight and keeps them turning the pages. Knowing what you want to achieve when writing fiction can lead the way to a much more gripping fictional outcome and even better if you are prepared to share your experiences and shed a few tears along the way.
If you want to see examples of emotional writing or learn more, here’s a couple of books to start you off:
By Annette Young
Cast your mind back over the year and to any resolutions or goals that you may have set earlier (yes, even if that now seems like eons ago). How did you do? Did you achieve all that you wanted to achieve? The chances are there are things that you still desire in life and maybe there are some niggling doubts or feelings of disappointment that you didn’t push yourself a little more. If so, don’t worry, here’s how to get what you want:
1. Release the fear.
It’s true, sometimes fear holds us back so what if you could just have absolutely anything in life? What would you chose? If there was no risk of failure, would you go all out for it? As a writer, I was initially terrified of sending my work out to be assessed the first few times. No-one wants to hear bad things or to face rejection, but the joy of success well and truly overcomes the fear of failure. If I hadn’t started sending out my manuscripts, I wouldn’t be a full-time writer today.
2. Embrace your passion.
If you really want to achieve something, you will invest your time and energy in it. If you really enjoy writing and want to take it to the next step, you have to let your passion consume you. Surprisingly, it’s not all about the word count although writing regularly is important. The thinking process is crucial to your writing efforts and success. Think it, live it and do it.
If you have doubts about how good you are, stop. Your doubts will just chip away at the confidence levels that you have. Instead of thinking negatively or worrying, why not just congratulate yourself on the fact that you have goals, you write and you have the desire to improve. These are the magic ingredients for success. Sometimes all it takes is a little self-belief and a lot of re-writes. You are not alone, even the most successful writers struggle at times.
4. Visualise the outcome.
The more that you can visualise your creative goals, the easier it will be to manifest them. When I go to bed at night, I think about what I want to achieve and how good it will be to succeed. I picture myself writing the last word, posting a manuscript or receiving a nice letter and cheque confirming publication. You get the idea. I am very target specific. I visualise myself achieving and I believe in my abilities to do so. I find using affirmations a powerful resource at this point. Tell yourself that you WILL achieve your goals and ALL will go well.
I have learned over the years that life doesn’t hand you anything on a silver platter. You have to know how to get what you want in life and to follow the trail determinedly, the harder the goal, the greater the reward. If you really, really want to get published, learn the relevant skills, write as much as you can, fire up those creative juices and keep the imagination burning bright. The desire to achieve comes from you, the hard work comes from you and the self-belief too. Sometimes it will feel like an uphill battle and fear will raise its ugly head, but, don’t give up on your goals, instead, harden your resolve.
I am the first to admit it’s not always easy to plan your creative writing pursuits and to fit them into a busy schedule but with creative writing, you have to be able to keep the techniques fresh in your mind and to allow the words to free up and flow regularly. It doesn’t matter if it’s only ten minutes a day or a couple of hours a week, if you don’t write on a consistent basis, you will stop improving and your skills will plateau out. It may be tough finding enough time in the day to blink let alone to write, but seriously, to enjoy creative writing and to improve your skills, it really is a case of use it or lose it.
Here’s some quick tips to keep your desire to write strong:
1. If you don’t have much time spare, make the most of your time by thinking about your creative ideas during those moments when it is impossible to indulge creatively. Turn that walk to the shops into an idea generating one or, if you are sitting on the bus or on the train, take a sneaky look at some of your fellow passengers and imagine what their day will be like or, where they are going. If you are called into a long and boring meeting at work, imagine something funny – perhaps a slap-stick moment and try to picture the scene. If nothing else, it will make you smile at the thought.
2. Turn your lunch hour into a timed fiction fest. Give yourself 10 minutes of fast writing on a single idea and just let the words pour out onto the page. The end result may be excellent or, you may want to scrunch the paper up into a ball and throw it in the waste paper basket, but it doesn’t matter. You’ve opened up the creative channels.
3. If you have trouble sleeping, think of one key word – or a sentence and try to create fictional scenarios around it. If you take your mind off trying to sleep and bring your creativity to the fore, you will soon start drifting off but not before you have created some lovely ideas. If you get any really imaginative ideas, write them down quickly.
4. If you are struggling to find something to write about, invest in a copy of Challenging Creative Writing Projects (shameless plug) and you will be able to dip in and out of it at will while your brain starts pulsating with fantastic new ideas.
5. When your time is really limited, you might need an extra push to make you sit in front of a blank screen, so consider entering one of our writing competitions – here’s the latest list for you to download and peruse and spend a few minutes each day crafting an imaginative entry. Who knows, you could find that your spare hour turns into a productive and lucrative session.
6. Set yourself a serious challenge. Devise a specific word count per day or per week and make yourself sit down and write – start with 500 words a day which can be easily done in a lunch hour or before or after work. This keeps your brain oiled creatively speaking and you can increase the word count if you find that you are enjoying these sessions. Or, join our Write, Learn and Publish membership and set yourself a challenge to learn new skills and, enter as many competitions as you like without worrying about numerous entry fees.
Creative writing is meant to be enjoyed, it’s a great stress reliever, it can be fun for all the family and is great for children to be able to utilise their imaginations, and even when time is of a premium, if you set your mind to it, you will find that it is still possible to embark upon a creative activity and subsequently, you will feel the pleasure of your writing skills growing ever stronger.
If you are looking for the secrets to writing good fiction, it’s all about expanding the mind and utilising the experiences within. Fiction has to be based in realism even if the fabrics of the story are borne from your imagination. Sometimes, it’s about breaking the rules and letting your imagination take over, it’s about taking risks, learning and anticipating the techniques that work and those that don’t.
I knew that I wanted to be a writer from the time that I could pick up a book. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write and my brain was constantly overflowing with ideas. During my younger years, I wasn’t thinking that each piece of writing would be published, I knew I had to bring my words to life and I was never satisfied with the work completed.
As I grew older, I learned the joys of research, settling into a comfy chair and curling up with a never ending stream of good books. I began to analyse what worked and what didn’t. I learned a lot. We all have our preferences when it comes to reading or writing and for me, nothing beats a good murder mystery or an intense psychological thriller, (blame my counselling background for the latter) but it’s a good idea to step outside of your chosen niche sometimes and to dissect and inwardly digest a variety of techniques.
When I seriously began writing, I tried to put all my knowledge into a practical application and then realised, you just can’t or shouldn’t, emulate someone else’s voice, it’s theirs alone, yet you can still learn from other published authors, using their ideas, their words and techniques as a springboard. Developing your own voice is essential. Once this falls into place, writing becomes even more enjoyable, it becomes a gift.
I have always been a people-watcher. We are all so fascinating and the fact that people are inherently flawed, this is a wonderful resource to the fiction writer and I absolutely revelled in creating characters that are so deep they are almost unfathomable.
There is no doubt that real life provides a never-ending source of inspiration. From the nosy, curtain twitching neighbour to the desperate for attention woman or the quiet, surly individual that lurks on the edge of society and who never reveals much, yet deep inside, there are murky, secretive depths to them all.
In fiction, you have to understand the human condition and embrace it, utilising it throughout. Characters can drive a story forward by their actions and desires and snippets of information should be revealed little by little but it’s important to never give too much away.
Writing fiction is akin to playing God. You create, you tease, you explore possibilities, you design events, tragedies, mysteries, drama, chance meetings, love and passion and then, can whisk it all away in a whim. It’s good to make your characters suffer, let them experience the highs and lows of reality, use your own experiences as a starting point and then let the fictional senses take over. It’s important that the reader gleans much through the actions of those characters rather than you laying it all on the line.
There are many secrets to writing good fiction, but enjoyment of the writing process is paramount. Think about it, do you give a piece of yourself every time you write? You should. If the character cries, feels alone and desperate, you need to share those emotions as deeply. Feel it, live it, write it.
The world doesn’t stand still and neither does your story. Your characters must evolve as the plot develops and changes. This fluidity can be appealing, a reader can recognise confident writing and mastery of the written word. Build tension, suspicion and doubts, make the reader think, wrap up your story in an evocative guise, allow the readers to be enveloped in the richness of glorious multi-coloured content, then let in darkness and shade when you need the reader to feel the starkness of your words and the futility of the characters plight. Evoke the senses of all who read your words and provide pure escapism irrespective of genre.
These are some of my secrets to fiction excellence. Over the years they have become an integral part of me and I keep these techniques firmly at the fore, ready for when I need to tap into them. When you understand people, when you are not afraid to dig deep and to lay your own emotions bare and when you write for the sheer love of it, the power of the written word becomes a tangible force.