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Writing Techniques to Set You on the Right Track

Writing Techniques to Set You on the Right Track - Beth Rodgers

Written by Beth Rodgers

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  So, I’ve picked up some book writing techniques over the years that I have always used to my benefit, and I hope to help you use for your own benefit.

Even as a little girl in elementary school, I wrote journal entries describing the desire I had to be an author.  Journal entries are especially helpful for those writers who are lost in their own writer’s block and need more techniques to get them out of it.

The main issue that I encounter in my own writing is introductions.  I most always end up pleased with my choice of title or opening paragraph, but they give me more trouble than they’re worth.  So, I sometimes come up with or search for story starters and poem starters as a means of helping me think of beginnings.

When I was in middle school and early high school, I was in love with the idea of learning how to write a story (I still am!).  I had fun.  Writing wasn’t a chore; it was a pleasure.  I loved learning how to write a story, an anecdote, and other styles that teachers would provide.  It was also enjoyable to increase my knowledge of literary terms, including learning to define words like “anachronism” and consider how to use those devices within my writing.  It is because of these early experiences that I feel I have garnered some expertise in the matter of book writing.  

When eighth grade rolled around, I parodied the pop culture phenomenon that was Beverly Hills, 90210 and wrote my own version: Lathrup Village, 48076.  

Your writing does not have to be yours to be inspired by you.  You make it what it is.  Find ways to pull the most useful items you have and use them to structure your own writing.

As time went on, young adult stories seemed to fit me to a tee, as I was a young adult myself. Junior year of high school was the year that cemented my desire to be a full-fledged author, as I wrote my first novel that year.  I used tips and techniques that my junior year English teacher provided me with, as well as some of my own that I had garnered from my own writing experience.  One of these tips was to watch for redundancy.  Learning to make sure that you are not becoming overly repetitive with what you have to say is important in any type of writing.

My first novel started out as a short story I had written my sophomore year.  When first assigned, it had to be 3-5 pages, and about anything we wished.  I wrote about the most unpopular boy, a main character named Phillip, who likes the most popular girl, Susie, while dealing with his best friend moving away, and gaining a new best friend while using quick wit and a caring manner.

Little did I know I would continue this young adult novel-in-the-making my junior year and add in new  characters, along with some surprise return character cameos who served to further complicate the never-peaceful teenage lives that the main characters constantly led.  

This just proved all the more that conflict sells.  People enjoy reading about the trials and tribulations of others and possess a desperate desire to see how it all turns out.  

My use of character development, conflicts, twists and turns, and a passion for my subject matter are central pieces of the puzzle that make up the book writing techniques that I use.  

TV and movies serve to delineate this point all the more.  As an avid TV and movie viewer, I am constantly spotting potential book writing techniques and strategies that writers use to keep their audiences at the ready for anything that might possibly occur.

Some TV and movie writers like to start at a season or series finale, or with a particular scene, and work backward to what they feel will be the best starting point.  Others remain mysterious and keep you guessing to see what will happen next.  This is useful in TV writing, but is prevalent in movie scripts, as they have a shorter amount of time in which to tease you with potential scenarios and keep you guessing to find out which will actually come to fruition.  

It’s amazing to look back on shows that have been on for years or have gone off the air already, and realize that the whole plotline, or at least the vast majority of main ideas, have definite ties back to the very first episode of that series.  A great example of this can be found when watching the pilot episode of Friends.  If you have watched most or all of that series, re-watch the pilot and see what I mean.

Going back in time a bit, the astute Ben Matlock and Lieutenant Columbo solidified the power of a few key phrases and wording styles as they investigated their cases and solved them with barely any trouble.

Perspective is very important in writing, especially when writing from a specific point of view.  You have to be able to see what you read, watch, and write as positive, negative, happy, sad, or a gaggle of other emotions in order to truly know that you have tried every angle to make your writing shine.

So always view your writing as a glass half full.  Watch TV and movies to see and hear the masters at work.  Read your favorite authors to investigate for yourself how great minds work.  Write a novel, book, play, or even a doctoral thesis.  Use techniques that you have learned and that you are learning as you are in the process of writing.  Open your mind and see all the possibilities that writing offers.

The ABC’s of Writing: Part 2

abcsofwritingpart2Written by Beth Rodgers

The ABCs of writing continue this month with the rest of the alphabet (see January’s post here).  It’s vital for writers to know their own ABCs so they know what they’re aiming for in writing.

 

Nostalgia.  Use experiences and memories.  Capitalize on the effects of something that happened to you, or causes that got you there.  Feed into nostalgia by remembering how you got a character out of conflict in the past.  It may help you figure out just how to solve a similar problem in a new story you’re writing.  Use nostalgia to your benefit.  Establishing a solid store of connected memories and emotions can make for gripping writing.

 

Opaque.  Don’t be too opaque or transparent.  Don’t make it difficult to understand, or, for that matter, too simple.  Leave room for curiosity.  Don’t give everything away (too transparent), and don’t keep everything a secret until the last chapter (too opaque).  Let readers’ minds wander, but give clues to maintain interest.

 

Purpose.  It may sound cliché, but writing must have purpose.  Know what you’re writing, whom you’re writing for, and why you’re writing.  This helps writers hit home with their purpose.  It’s the driving force behind the greatest writing.

 

Quality.  Quality may seem an overdone characteristic, but it’s absolutely essential.  You may have heard that quality is more important than quantity.  In good writing, this rings true.  Quantity looks good on paper (the more you have, the more work you did, right?), but the truth is that too much of something can be troublesome.  For example, you might find yourself becoming repetitive if you’ve done too much writing.  Season your writing with quality; pepper it with all the ABCs that are staples of your process.

 

Respect.  Have you ever read a book, watched a show, or listened to a song and wondered how in the name of good writing certain lines got uttered?  Maybe you’ve wondered how certain writers keep their jobs or how they continue to publish?  Respect quality writing.  Prove you know what makes good, impressive writing by reading great authors’ works and aspiring to the greatest heights with your own.  Not only should you respect others’ writing, but you should respect your own.  If you don’t respect what you do, how will others?

 

Sportsmanship.  Give your characters competitive edges.  Let them work both for and against one another to make more compelling, animated writing.  You want to keep readers on the edges of their seats by keeping characters on those same edges.  Make characters so vivid that readers are rooting for or against them as they deal with written conflicts and emotions.

 

Tact.  Watch your word choice.  You don’t want to fall into the trap of using too strong or too juvenile of language.  Gauge your intended audience and see what words and phrases best fit.  When writing dialogue, write how a person talks – not necessarily with proper grammar.  Understanding your characters will help your writing become more tactful.

 

Uniformity.  Don’t conform to normal writing approaches.  That isn’t to say that some of those approaches shouldn’t be used, because they should be.  Take into account all approaches that other writers have used to make their writing magical, creative, and interesting.  When you make your writing put on a “uniform,” you aren’t allowing it to bask in its own glory.  Let your writing take its own form.  Let it whisk you off into other worlds and help you understand your own style and approach.

 

Value.  Surely you take a vested interest in your writing.  After all, you’re penning it.  So, value your writing technique.  Trust what you know and what you write, and encourage yourself as you go.  Second, find value in your writing.  See strengths it exhibits.  However, don’t forget to look for areas to improve.  It’s the mark of a great, gifted writer when he or she can see areas that are lacking and in need of refinement.

 

Whimsy.  Make your writing fancy-free and whimsical.  Imagine new worlds.  Reach new heights or depths.  Create characters that only you have the ability to solidify through your unique technique.  Have fun, and as you do, write to your heart’s content!

 

Xylophone.  There aren’t many words that begin with ‘X’ that work.  So, go with me here.  A xylophone produces different sounds depending on the parts hit.  So should it be with writing.  Know how to hit high notes, low notes, and everything in-between.  Xylophones allow you to improvise, so try out different writing styles.  Improve your technique by testing different genres.  See what you can do to make your writing more surprising and impressive.

 

Yet.  If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?  You may not have been published yet.  You may not have perfected your writing technique yet.  You may not even know what you want to write about yet.  Notice what the key word is in all this: yet.  Nothing may have happened yet, but it may be on the verge of happening.  Don’t give up.  Keep trying.  Work harder.  Strive to higher heights; imagine thrilling scenes.  Everything good will come in time, as long as you keep in mind that it might not have happened yet, but it’s working its way there, just as you’re still working your way there.

 

Zest.  One of the most important aspects of the ABCs of writing is to have zest for what you’re doing.  You want to come across as someone who loves his or her craft, and the best way to do this is to prove your love of writing by making it part of your everyday life.  Use zest to engage in symbolism, vocabulary, and other aspects of your own ABCs that make you love what you do.

 

The ABCs of writing don’t stop here.  There are many more words that can be explored to further your craft.  You can learn to write what you like and do it well.

 

Now that you’ve read my ABCs of writing, what are yours?

A Beach in Winter

Written by Lauren Mayhew

The soft sand beneath my feet trembles as I take each leisurely step forwards. Its pale glow hovers above the ground like a dense mist, hiding my toes in its mysteries. A withering sun makes it cold to the touch like a glistening icicle.

I look up. A grey blanket gazes down at me. It stretches across the sky as far as the eye can see. A watery sun, stung by the harshness of the winter months, peeps around the clouds, coyly watching my slow progress to the vast ocean ahead.

Grey. Reaching towards me, the almighty ocean tries with all its might to tow me into its murky depths. Crashing waves shower me with water – minute droplets enter my mouth leaving a salty taste. The water seeps through my clothes making me shiver. A shiver that intensifies with the flourishing wind.

My balance is knocked by a mighty gale. The wolf that it is, runs back with another strong blow: this time it howls. A howl that seems to thwart the monstrous movement of the ocean. A howl that fastens the eye of the sun. A howl that summons the rain…

Splash! Splash! Splash! The sky releases cascading droplets of water that bound off the rocks and settle on the sodden sand. Hammering rain, gambolling onto the ocean’s surface, deafens me, gradually increasing in volume as the ocean fights back.

Water giants tumble onto the shore, leaving trails of white foam behind them. Its salty scent burns my nose with every breath I take.

In. Out. In. Out. A repetitive motion that claws at the sand, dragging it deep under the surface and then transporting it to the beach once again.

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