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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.

Songs to Write to!

Written by
Lauren Mayhew

I know everyone is different when they write and some people like to work in complete silence, whilst others have to have music playing. I personally, cannot write in silence, but if I play familiar songs, I find myself singing along to them and not doing any writing.

I do find a lot of inspiration in music though – I don’t steal people’s lyrics, if that’s what you’re thinking. I simply mean that certain songs evoke emotions that make me want to write certain things.

Below are a few certain scene types in all books and a few songs that I think are great to write to and get you in the mood to create something epic! I’m trying not to be too obvious with this, so no Titanic theme tune here! (The names of the songs also have links to their YouTube videos!)

Romance/ Love Scene:

Over and Over Again by Nathan Sykes
Always by Bon Jovi
AND every Adele song ever written…

Battle/ Fight Scene:
Ash and Smoke from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Soundtrack (Actual Battle Scene)
Call the Police by James Morrison (More of an argument song)

Comedy/ Light Hearted Scene:
Little Joanna by McFly
The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars

Death Scene:
Hi & Low by The Wanted
Close Your Eyes by RHODES

Uplifting Scene OR if you, as a writer, need some motivation:
Wings by Little Mix
I’ll Be Your Strength by The Wanted

I know there are many more generic scenes than this in a book, but I thought I’d pick out a few that are used most often. I’d love to know what you listen to when writing!

What YA Readers Really Want In Their Strong Female Leads

Blog image10.255
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.

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.

Inspiration: A Writers Tale

inspirationblogWritten by
Korey L. Ward

“Inspiration is what gives a writer his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”—
Obi-Wan Kenobi paraphrased.

As a writer, I’m often asked the mysterious and sometimes dreaded question of what inspires me to write, to create new worlds, and come up with memorable characters. I’m not the first to be asked this question, and I most certainly won’t be the last.

But why is it so dreaded? It’s not only us writers, but painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, and any artists really, that needs inspiration to create. I think the answer is simpler than we might think. It’s unexplainable.  That’s it. I said it. It’s unexplainable, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Much like the “Force” In the beloved movie franchise: Star Wars, inspiration is power. It’s a power that we all possess, and uniquely so. Humans, as far as we know, are the only living creatures on earth to possess such power, but why? And where does it come from.

I believe we need to look to the greatest creator of all; our creator. He may have many names in many different religions, but for arguments sake, I call him, God. I also believe that at some point in time this omnipotent being had an instantaneous thought, an idea of wondrous proportions. It was inspiration. It was us. He is the author of the book of life and though he didn’t write it directly, he inspired his disciples to write a book of many tales and parables. It was the bible.

The being I call God, also says that he created us in his own image, and I believe that the part of him that was handed down to us was inspiration of imagination. I don’t want to go on about religious beliefs, but it’s the only thing that makes since to me. We as human beings have the ability to do wondrous things. We too can have joy from being the creators of our own universes through the stories and art we create, and as readers we have the privilege of obtaining joy and pleasure from others creations.

Inspiration can come at us strong and powerful, but can also be fleeting, like trying to catch a beautiful butterfly in a tornado. Some believe that we do not come up with the ideas on our own, but they instead, come to us, and it’s our job to pluck them out of their dimension and bring them into our world by writing them down. Stephen King has been caught saying things similar.

One quote that comes to mind is Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.” ― Stephen King

Nikola Tesla has said that his inspiration came from aliens—“My brain is only a receiver, in the Universe there is a core from which “We” obtain knowledge, strength and inspiration. I have not penetrated into the secrets of this core, but I know it exists.” – Nikola Tesla

Inspiration is simple and complex. It is everything and nothing. It comes from the darkest parts of our minds and the brightest rainbow in the sky. Whatever you believe, whether it be aliens, supernatural forces, or divine intervention, inspiration is real and it is up to you and me to take full advantage of its power, and create something wonderful for ourselves and others.

 

What’s in a Name?

Written by
Lauren Mayhew

Whenever I start to write something new, I get really excited about choosing names for my characters. The only problem is, I’m VERY picky and it can take me days – literally days – to find a name that fits my characters perfectly.

Usually, when I start writing, my female main character is called Lucy. I have no reason for this, it’s just the name that pops into my head first. I don’t dislike the name, it just always reminds me of the Chronicles of Narnia and I want my characters to stand out for their own reasons.

I’m not one to think a name is cool and then just use it in my book. I like names to have special meanings for my characters, so I put a lot of time and effort into it. Here’s a few from my book ‘Reality is in a Dream‘ and the names that they were called originally!

Liliana used to be called Lucy. Liliana means: Lily, a symbol of beauty and purity.

Samson used to be called Emanuel. Samson means: Bright as the sun. Also, Samson’s power is super strength. I didn’t purposely name him after Samson in The Old Testament!

Justin used to be called Greg. Justin means: Just or true.

Asher means: Blessed or happy.

Duana means: Little dark one.

Howard (Liliana’s father) means: Guardian of the home.

Mina (Liliana’s mother) means: Love or protector.

Carey and Melanie were based on people that I went to school with, so I won’t mention their original names! I once had a reviewer tell me that the characters both felt very unreal and they didn’t understand why Liliana didn’t just ditch them. The simple answer – I didn’t. I stuck with them for the pure reason that I’m very shy when meeting new people. It was easier to stick with them than feel uncomfortable around new people.

Carey’s Irish meaning: Of the dark ones.

Melanie means: Blackness or dark.

Even if no-one else does the research when reading my book, at least I know that there are certain meanings to my character’s names. In book two ‘Mourning Memories’ I have continued to research my names so that they match their character traits for example, Geoffrey – Peaceful ruler. I honestly don’t think I could write any other way!

I wrote this post on my own personal blog a little while ago.
It can be found here: https://laurenmayhewwriter.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/whats-in-a-name/

 

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