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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.

5 Things Every Bookworm Loves to Hate

5 Things Bookworms Love to Hate

Written by Kelly St. Clare

1. The E-reader

How many times have you heard the phrase “There’s nothing like holding a book in your hands.”? As e-readers take over the world faster than Taylor Swift’s latest tweet, it is all we bookworms can do to hold on to the traditional form of a story.

But you have to admit…

Taking your entire library with you to Hawaii is oddly convenient. And reading a romance book without having to flash the mandatory hot guy on the cover to everyone on the train is a nice change. Then there’s the fact that books are cheaper…

But whatever. Print is better. So e-readers will remain something I love to hate and hate to love.

2. The Merciless Author

Dear JK Rowling,

Why do you kill everyone I love? And why do I still love you? You are the serial killer of the book world and seemingly hold no remorse for your actions. You made unicorns cry when you killed Snape. And Fred. And Dobby. Even Harry for a little bit, somewhere in there.

You cold soul.

P.S. Please keep writing books.

Twilight Love Triangle3. The Love Triangle

I estimate around 50% of people will hate that I have this here #sorrynotsorry. And I agree the ol’ LT sucks…except when it doesn’t. There is nothing like a love triangle that is served cold with a slice of lemon. When you genuinely cannot guess who the main character will end up with. But you need the Author to pick the person you’ve fallen in love with. They have to! Because if they don’t….you will have one serious grudge toward the writer. Forever. And you may not tell them. But hell if they won’t be able to feel your glare from across the world.

Conclusion: I hate them. But I love them.

book hangover4. The Book Hangover

Definition: The aftermath of an uncontrollable urge to continue reading past your bedtime, occassionally days long. Often associated with extreme emotion and/or lack of hygiene and sudden ravenous hunger.

You are so tired! So emotionally wrung out. That last book is haunting you, to the extent you feel unable to start another! You sludge through school or work. It’s horrible. But would you change it? Would you rewind life, stop on the second-to-last chapter and put that book down? Not for a second! A true bookworm has their priorities straight. Book Hangovers are a burden every reader must bear.

cliffhanger5. The Cliffhanger

[DISCLAIMER: I have a 100 percent cliff-hanger ending rate. I apologise to Bookworms world-wide. Don’t hate me.]

For the most part, I don’t believe the majority of Bookworms mind them. I know I know, a lot of authors do them and it’s refreshing to read the occasional stand-alone. And really, if I think about it, hanging off the side of cliff must be quite unpleasant. Especially if you have to dangle there for a year until the release of the sequel.

But then…

…there’s that brain frenzy after a good cliffhanger! It’s addictive, teasing, frustrating! What’s going to happen next? Bookworms need to know the character’s problems will be resolved! In this day and age of instant gratification, the suspense is like sleeping with sunburn.

The relationship is bittersweet. The plight is real.

There you have it. My top five reading annoyances that I love to hate and hate to love.

But here is my question to you, fellow Bookworm: Out of the five things listed above, which do you love to hate?

YA Books to Movie/TV a Thing of the Past?

Written by
Melissa Craven

No way, right? Well, about a year ago, I read an article answering this very question. The author claimed the big boom in Young Adult genres was finally dwindling down and likely not to see such massive interest again.

I respectfully disagreed. But as a YA author myself, a little piece of me trembled in fear at the very idea and I felt a sense of urgency to get my nearly finished work in progress published asap! The article ended with one last glimmer of hope—stating that although nothing significant was rising up to follow in Divergent’s footsteps, maybe the next big thing in YA was being written at that very moment. To which I immediately responded with a cocky, “you bet your sweet…er…” well anyway, I went right back to perfecting my masterpiece and told myself the article was totes wrong.

And it was. Lots of great things are on the horizon for YA in 2016 and I can’t wait to see my beloved genre on the big screen. With The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey hitting theaters soon, we’ll be off to a great start in 2016.

I personally cannot wait for J.K. Rowling’s, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, arriving in theaters later in the year.

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With another Narnia movie in development, and Allegiant: Part 1 due out this spring, as well as Fallen, by Lauren Kate and Significance by Shelly Crane, YA will be out in full force in 2016. And countless other titles (one metric-bazillion to be more exact) are in the works, rumored or scheduled for 2017.

But what about the small screen? Young Adult series are starting to crop up increasingly on television. The 100, by Kass Morgan will be back for a third season in January. Pretty Little Liars, by Sara Shepard is in it’s fifth season and The Vampire Diaries, by L. J Smith is still going strong.  

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2016 will see The Mortal Instrument series by Cassandra Clare become The Shadowhunters on abc Family this January (seriously cannot wait for this!). Considering the failure of the movie, I am extremely excited to see how the show compares. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi is also rumored to hit the 2016 Fall lineup.

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The YA book to movie trend is clearly here to stay, which makes the fangirl/author in me extremely excited for 2016.

From Bookworm to Social Butterfly

wwywtryWritten by
Julie Tuovi

The eReader was a great invention for YA fiction-addicted adults everywhere—for those who dared read that awful Twilight gender swap book without getting flack from coworkers! In PRE eReader days, there was no hiding your reading preferences from the lunchroom crowd: your cover was right there for the world to see!

(YOU know what I’m talking about, you book addict, you. I know I’m not the only one who got odd looks for reading Harry Potter during my law school downtime, instead of catching up on Wills and Trusts…)

But the eReader era brought a breath of relief, didn’t it? Thousands of books at your fingertips, and no one is any the wiser as to whether you’re reading Hunger Games or an age-appropriate, snooze-worthy biography on the subway. Because hey, all eReaders look essentially the same from the back, don’t they?

But good news! Socially outcast bookworms everywhere now have reason to rejoice! There’s no reason to hide that copy of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer behind your Chemistry textbook anymore. Contrary to what the popular “antisocial bookworm” stigmas might have you believe, recent studies have shown that reading fiction actually helps you understand social cues better than your rather boring coworker who “only reads the New York Times, thanks.”

As Scientific American put it:

“… stories are simulations of a kind that can help readers understand not just the characters in books, but human character in general… The seemingly solitary act of holing up with a book… is actually an exercise in human interaction… it can hone your social brain, so that when you put your book down, you may be better prepared for camaraderie, collaboration, even love.”

BOOYA, HATERS!!

According to the smarty pants scientists running these studies, reading fiction actually STRENGTHENS my social ties and INCREASES my empathy towards others. How’doya like that, Professor?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this fiction reading simulation thing also applies to any future zombie apocalypse that may or may not take place in the near future. Look, all I’m saying is that if reading fiction is a simulation for real life, I’ve got this zombie thing under control.

Just saying.

But, if you really wanna get nit picky about genres, literary fiction is your best bet for understanding emotional intelligence. In a study published by the journal, Science, researches found that:

“… after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence—skills that come in handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.”

Apparently this is because literary fiction leaves more to the imagination than, say, fantasy does. (Um… okay? Not sure I agree with that…) But in turn, this “encourages readers to be more sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.”

This “fiction-induced empathy” is serious business, you guys. Through a series of MRIs, Scientific American proved that while reading fiction, a person’s emotions mirror that of the protagonists. (So basically, it’s okay that you cried when Dumbledore died—it’s just science!) And it is exactly these fictional, empathetic feelings that prepare us for handling emotions in real life.

So DOWN with the antisocial bookworm stigma! Books aren’t just an escape from the “real world” anymore… they’re a vehicle to understanding human emotion. Bring it on Wallflowers. It’s your time to shine!

What YA Readers Really Want In Their Strong Female Leads

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Written By
Melissa A. Craven 
Author of the Emerge Series

What kind of main characters do YA readers really want to see in the books they read? What makes a “strong young woman” strong?

There’s all sorts of talk about this subject, especially with the recent addition to the Twilight series, Life and Death, Twilight Reimagined, involving a reversal in gender roles. Meyer wanted to show the world that Bella’s portrayal of the “damsel in distress” was situational, and had she been a boy surrounded by supes, he would have been in distress as well. While that is a very plausible argument, creating a strong-willed female lead is a careful balancing act that is not easily accomplished.  

In my own series, Emerge, my main motivation for writing the book was to create a true, realistic example of that young woman of strength. (And I like to think I achieved that with Allie.) I knew Allie needed to have an inner fire and a firm resolve to do what was necessary. She needed to face adversity head on and succeed. All qualities that most female leads possess. But here’s where YA has failed me as a reader in recent years. The heroine should not be all of these things to the detriment of her male counterpart! We as writers who influence younger minds, should not set the tone of tearing men down in order to raise women up. A successful female lead should be the epitome of strength, but her love interest should be the one at her side fighting the good fight with her, knowing that she can take care of herself. They should be a team. They each need to have a vulnerable side, with flaws and room to grow as individuals. They are young, so they also need to make mistakes and struggle with confidence. She’s going to have her moments of drama and he’s going to act like a douche sometimes, but at their cores, they should represent equality and have respect for one another. This generation of readers are passionate about equality and they want to see heroines and heroes they can admire.

The best example I’ve seen recently (other than my own series, Emerge, did I mention that yet? You can get it here) is the Defiance trilogy by C.J. Redwine. Rachael has backbone and determination, and the men in her life (father, grandfather and love interest) haven’t coddled her. They teach her how to fight and survive using her own skills and wit. Logan has his moments when he’s completely exasperated with her, but he knows Rachel doesn’t need him to hold her hand. Defiance is a remarkable example of gender equality in YA. See my review of Defiance, and check out Redwine’s upcoming Fairytale retelling, The Shadow Queen due out early next year.

If you’re a reader who loves books with strong girls and the amazing guys who stand beside them, check out my wall of #strong girls on my website to discover new books by authors like Kayla Howarth and her series The Institute.

The Reader’s Perspective

Vertical stack of eight straw hats in a variety of shapes, textures, colors, and sizes, trimmed with ribbons, feathers, and raffia. Isolated on white background, vertical format.

Written by 
Elizabeth Woodrum

I have considered myself to be an author since I independently published the first book in my children’s mystery series, The Maisy Files, in 2013.  But, I have been a teacher for thirteen years.  During that time, I’ve taught reading and writing skills to students of a variety of ages.

I’m also an avid reader.  I simply cannot be without a book.  But, I often find myself wearing a variety of hats while reading.  I have my regular reader hat, my teacher hat, and my author hat.  It’s not uncommon for me to be piled high with imaginary headwear.

There are some books that I am able to get swept away in and simply enjoy as a reader.  But, often, inspiration strikes and I have to pause to jot down some notes for a future story.  Sometimes, the educator in me jumps up and down and screams something along the lines of, “This would be great for teaching metaphors!” or “This is a great text for introducing plot structure!” I have to pause for her, too. She’s a little bossy.

Though it is a bit tedious to manage my unintentional interrupting of my own reading, I have come to appreciate the different perspectives I have when it comes to reading great literature. I think it helps me to fully immerse myself in a story and identify with the characters.  But, I think everyone has different hats to wear while reading.  Each of us brings something different to our interpretation of a story based on our experiences.   Before I became a teacher and an author, I still appreciated and enjoyed a character-driven story.  I still do.  But, now I recognize learning opportunities and have a deeper respect for a perfectly constructed conflict.

So, the bossy teacher in me would like to assign you all a task.  The next time you find a great book, purposefully pause and consider it with a perspective that is uniquely yours, one that doesn’t often make its way into your reading time.  You may find a deeper meaning or even a little levity.  Share your thoughts with another person.  Find a teachable opportunity and bring out your inner teacher.  In other words, identify your own reader hats and wear them proudly.

Reading like a Writer

keep-calm-and-read-a-book-books-quotesWritten by
Marley Boldra

We all have our favorite books that are worn and dog-eared from reading over and over again and we have those books that we can’t even make it halfway through. Have you ever wondered why you didn’t like that particular story? In order to avoid making those mistakes, we must read books with a writer’s mind.

To read like a writer, we need to differentiate why we are drawn to a story and what turns us away. Here are some tips to keep in mind the next time you’re reading a book.

Keep a Journal
I find that it helps to makes notes to yourself on thoughts you’ve had during the day, or an idea that sparked while reading a story. Make observations to yourself on whether you liked or disliked a theme or element of the story you’re reading. Write about what you would do differently.

It helps for you to understand why you like a certain piece of writing, or why you don’t. Write those ideas down and you will be able to reference them at a later date.

Critique a Story
What do you like about the story? Is it fast paced with relevant details? Are the character so life-like that you have no problem following their story? What do you dislike?

Reread your favorite book and find out what elements draw you in. Mark or copy down any passages or descriptions that you really liked, then explain why you enjoyed them. The purpose of critiquing a story is to identify what techniques appealed to you and what turned you away.

Question everything! The author has included or excluded a pieces of information for a reason, rereading the story will help you to identify why that information was presented in that fashion. Making extensive remarks in your journal will help you understand which techniques you prefer.

Practice plotting by drawing out a diagram of books you’re reading. It will help you to see how the author pulled together their elements.

Keep Reading
Lastly, don’t stop reading! Expanding your reading base will give you insight to improvements that you can make to your own writing. You may discover a brand new technique that will work perfectly with your style. If you’re stuck on your current novel, pick up a book. Something in the text may spark your imagination and start your creative juices flowing.

Enhancing Writing Through Conflict

Written by
Beth Rodgers

Conflict sells. Whether you are reading a book, watching TV, or viewing a movie, if everything is happy-go-lucky all the time, there isn’t much reason to keep reading or watching as you probably aren’t wondering what will happen next. People thrive off of twists and turns. They want mystery, suspense, and indecision. They desire friction, as it escalates plotlines, enhances character development, and reinforces the age-old quest for sheer entertainment. We live in an “entertainment culture,” if I do say so myself. People seek entertainment because it stimulates their senses. It excites their emotions, and it offers something in place of predictability.

Despite the wish for a happy ending – and believe me, I ooh and aah with the best of them for one of those – trials, tribulations, and all those annoying adversaries must come out of the woodwork to make that happy ending all the more magical. If you’re a writer, spice up your stories with it. Make a young girl the object of ridicule and rejection, only to make her all the more deserving of being crowned homecoming queen. Capture the angst of a restaurant owner who can’t seem to drum up any business until a famous celebrity eats there one day and publicizes the homemade apple pie as the best he’s ever tasted. Every story you’ve read, movie you’ve seen, or TV show you’ve watched, if it is any good, has some sort of conflict in it. Even if you don’t notice it at first glance, look again – it is there. Someone may have a problem with someone else. It may be a squabble at the cash register about the price of cereal. A fight may break out as a result. There are so many options. Use them as a guide to crafting your own.

Writers seek involvement with the subject matter they are reading. So too should readers. It is important that readers know how to pinpoint what the conflict is, when it started, where it escalated, and how it ended. This will make the reading journey all that much more enjoyable and profound so that when you move on to other works, you can appreciate them all the more for the conflict that interests and fuels your reading desire.

My novel, ‘Freshman Fourteen,’ incorporates a lot of conflict early on especially, as I felt it quite necessary to make main character Margot’s journey through freshman year as difficult as possible at the start. In my mind, that would make her that much more worthy of going through the journey to get past all of the troubles she had. They serve to make her a stronger, more purposeful character.

Anything can be construed as conflict. Even writer’s block (or reader’s block, when you don’t know what to pick as your next read) is a conflict. Use the examples above to resolve this and master your own writing and reading techniques.

 

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