How??!!

How do you make your writing unputdownable?
How do you make readers fall in love with your characters or the world they are in?
How do you make the reader want to spend time with the story you have written?
In short, how do you make Readers want to read your books?

As a writer, one of the things that I do is read. I read Non Fiction for interest, research and inspiration. I read The Internet (which is an interesting mix of Fiction and Non fiction) for the same reason.
When I read fiction, it’s for interest & escape (genres in which I have no intention of writing in), to learn how other people write and finally, to try and piece together the answers to the questions that I started with.

I’ve read all sorts of books, all different genres.

The truly great writers all have one thing in common. They have (whether they know it or not) figured out those answers and are making use of them.

When I read a book where the writer has used these answers, I am sucked so deeply into the story that it’s an effort to get out of it. I have to be yanked out by the hair to make dinner or help PW go to the bathroom or go shopping…

I’d love to be able to make my own writing that compelling.
There are times when I read something that I have written and I think I might have it… and usually it all falls apart on me moments later.
So how do I do it?

Well I started by watching the work of some of the best writers in the business… yes, that’s right, I said watching.

When was the last time that you watched an animation? I’m not talking the nonsensical stuff that they put out for the littlest of children; I’m talking properly developed, well thought out animated movies.
Studio Ghibli, Square Enix, Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks – there are many others, but these are the biggest and they have the best writers that they can afford working with their teams.

It’s no secret that I’d love to work with any of them… if I ever had the opportunity.

The films that make billions in box office takings aren’t just because of the quality of the animation or the design of the characters and environments – it’s because the story sucks you into the film itself and you’re not just watching anymore, you’re living it through the eyes of the characters. A lot of that comes from the writing – the compelling stories and the inability to look away because even if it’s cringeworthy or a little scary, you watch from behind your hands… you have to because you want to know what is about to happen.

And when they’re finished, you feel satisfied but a little sad because you’ve had to leave the world.

I love animation because it gives me an escape that live action films rarely manage. The ones that we have bought on Blu Ray are the best ones, they’re ones that will suck me in and keep me watching. They’re the ones that give me that satisfied but sad feeling.
There are live action films that do it; oddly, they’re ones like the Marvel Comic Universe films, Star Wars films, the Potter Universe. Some of the DC Universe films have done it; the Michael Keaton Batman’s and the first two Christian Bale Batman’s, and I think that Wonder Woman might be another (I obviously haven’t seen it yet, but it looks like it might work!)

Obviously films (whether animated or not) are a tricky subject; so many things influence their success, so it clearly isn’t “just” the writing that makes them great. But great writing will produce at worst an “okay” film; at best it produces a “superb” film. The writing has to be there for the actors, directors, producers etc to work with.

So how do books and movies intersect?

Obviously they both need writers, but they also need writers who know their craft.
They need writers who know how to create a believable world, how to design a character that isn’t two dimensional and who can make the reader /watcher connect with the character somehow.
They need a story that draws the reader/watcher into the world and keeps them there with action that ebbs and flows, until the story has concluded and they can sit back and wish they were still in that world.

And how do you get to be that kind of writer? Let’s look at my original questions and answer them one at a time:

1) How do you make your writing unputdownable?
You craft your story carefully and make it draw the reader into your carefully designed world so that they don’t want to leave it.

2) How do you make readers fall in love with your characters or the world they are in?
See above… plus, world design and character design is a whole different blog post… I’ll do that another time.

3) How do you make the reader want to spend time with the story you have written?
I believe I have actually answered this – were you reading carefully though?
*peers at blog reader and frowns thoughtfully*

4) How do you make Readers want to read your books?
See #1…
*winks*

And the Question I finished the post with?

5) How do you get to be that kind of writer?
If you were reading carefully, you’ll see that I answered it… before I posed it. It’s what I have been doing for most of my life and always go back to when I am having a problem with my own writing…

I read. I watch. I study, I practise, I edit.

In Fiction; I read writers who have inspired me, I read writers that are considered classics, I read writers (and stories) that have been around for eons, I read brand new, barely discovered writers.
In Non-Fiction; I read subjects that interest me. I read subjects that are uncomfortable for me, I read new subjects that I haven’t tried, I read subjects that are old friends.

In TV; I watch Documentaries, I watch TV serials of all sorts of genres, I watch Kids TV, I watch Adults TV (yes, porn too), I watch Foreign Language TV (by subtitles).
In Movies; I watch Small Screen, Big Budget, Foreign Language, Animated, Live Action, Independent.

I study Writing; I read How To books, I take modules from Free Online Course Sites, I read the books that the Big Writers have written about how THEY got into writing.

I Practise Writing; I try writing Poetry (Different styles and Meter), I try writing Flash stories (there are different word lengths), I write different Genres (there are so many I can’t list them all), I write different lengths of story (Flash, Short, Long, Novelette, Novella, Novel, Epic), I write for different ages (Child, Young Adult, New Adult, Adult), I write for different audiences, I write inside and outside my comfort zone.

I edit… this one is the hardest of all.

I do a basic grammar and spelling edit, then I get people I trust to read what I have written and they comment on it (these are Alpha Readers). Then I re-read it and consider their suggestions as I go along. I adjust it if I agree, discuss it if I don’t – the discussions always help me to understand what they see – and change it if I can see what they are getting at and agree with them.

Then I get a second round of Reading done (these are the Beta readers) not always by the same people. If they throw up anything that needs adjusting, I re-read and adjust if I agree… if it’s something I didn’t agree with the first time, I take a long careful look at it.

Then I get someone to do a General Line Edit for Typos and plot holes etc. This is always someone who hasn’t seen it before and has Editing Experience. Sometimes they may have been an Alpha/ Beta Reader as well, but they have to have Editing Experience as well.

And no, not every Writer is a good Editor – I’m a prime example of that!

Once it’s Edited, then (and only then) I consider it ready to be published. And bear in mind that until I think it’s ready to be published, it may go back for Beta Reading or Editing again.

That’s how you get to be a Writer.

To be a Great Writer, someone who can write a Book or Movie that will draw the Reader / Watcher in and hold them there until they’ve finished; someone who can leave them with that “Satisfied but Sad” feeling; someone who can bring them back for more of their work, time and again?

That takes Talent.
Do I have Talent?
*shrugs*
I don’t know.

I know “some” people have enjoyed my work because they have told me so personally or they have written reviews on my books that have shown they’ve read them and considered it good enough to leave a comment about it. That has been enough to make me want to keep me writing and publishing.
But is that Talent?
You’d have to ask them or read my books to answer that for yourself; because as it is with every Artform, Art is subjective and personal.

You have to make your own mind up.

The Languages of Tolkien and other communications

While I’m writing, especially in a Quargard story, I need to render a spell from English into a different language. Normally the character I am using is elvish, so I use the languages invented by Papa Tolkien himself to create the spell.

That’s when I’ll go to a site like this – 

alphaDictionary * Free Tolkien Languages Dictionary – Free Tolkien Languages Grammar

Sometimes I might take a leaf out of J K Rowling’s book and write everything backward … Mirror of Erised anyone?

Occasionally, I’ll turn to the Celtic languages for inspiration, so you might find a jumble of Welsh, Irish or Gaelic making an appearance.

I apologise to speakers of those languages for the mangling I put them through… it’s all Google Translate’s fault you know…

And just sometimes I may even combine all three… you never know what I am going to do to make sure the spell sounds particularly mystic…

Wool, Grapefruit and the World…

You do strange things when you’re pregnant.

I just spent three quarters of an hour trying to section a red grapefruit because I was fed up of having to dig the sections out and leaving so much fruit behind… I guess I thought that sectioning it would be easier; peel the fruit, cut out the sections and eat.

Hah!

Anyway, it occurred to me while I was sat eating my hard won grapefruit segments that the actual fruit is made up of all this little bubbles of juice that burst when you bite through them. They’re sweet with a sour after-taste and oddly compelling.

 

Writing is like that. Well actually, Reading is like that, not writing exactly.

I read “Wool” by Hugh Howey yesterday and it is the first SF book that I’ve read that has made me think in terms of the words I was reading. Each word was like a bubble of grapefruit juice, soft and elongated on my tongue and each time I read and understood what he was saying, the taste of grapefruit juice built up; sweet, sour and oddly compelling.

I had “Wait” by Take That playing while I was eating and the song seemed to fit with both what I had observed in the grapefruit and through reading “Wool”.

The lyrics that really stuck were:

 

Free your soul to me,

Words can set us free.

 

It’s true. Words can set us free; we just have to have the courage to say the right ones. They are the ones that hurt, the ones that highlight the problems in our world in such a way that we have to deal with them.

 

Reading “Wool” was a sweet / sour experience. On one hand the story was incredibly compelling and interesting. You wanted to see what happened to the characters next and it was difficult to think about mundane things (like washing up) while you read each chapter.

But about half way through the book something happened. I realise that whether he had intended it or not, Hugh Howey was commenting on what was happening in the world now. And that his vision of what the future could hold was a real possibility.

That’s scary.

Why?

Well think of it this way. It’s 2013. I’ve got two children (one 12, the other 8) and a third one on the way. If I think about what is happening in the world now, there is a very real possibility that their future, the one that I may never see, will be an ugly, regimented world where food and energy are rationed down to what you can afford to buy.
There will be a need to limit the population; whether that’s because of the food shortage, space shortage or whatever, so the joy of being a parent will be limited to those who either can win / buy the right or those who are considered so essential to the running of the world that they have to continue their line.

It will be a world of sacrifices with most people just trying to live in it the best they can with the hope that their children (if they have them) will have a better world in the future.

And that scares me.

It doesn’t matter what the energy companies say, fossil fuels (even shale gas) are finite. They will run out. The population of the world is expanding and instead of helping the Africans to improve their land and grow crops to feed themselves and maybe others, we are helping them to fight each other through the Arms Business.

It’s all so backwards.

 

I don’t care about money. Actually, that’s not quite true… I do care about it, but not in a materialistic way.

I’m forced through circumstance (lack of full time teaching jobs in my area, being unable to drive and a son who needs more than usual maternal attention due to being Aspergers) to remain a stay at home mum. So I write books, publish them myself (as best I can) and volunteer in the community as a Guider.

My partner, having been thrown out of one industry for being Dyslexic and undiagnosed Aspergers, is changing career to one that suits him as a person and looking for work. Unfortunately, it’s one of those careers that (like writing) is very difficult to get into without a lot of experience. Which he doesn’t have, despite being talented at his chosen career.

I care about money because we need it to live; you can’t buy food or energy without it and the prices are getting higher every week as the more materialistic of the human race try to pull as much of the world’s money into their personal accounts.

My writing makes a little bit of money. The rest (because of the aforementioned circumstances) we have to get through the benefits system. Which people higher up the money chain are trying to pull out from under us because they think that we don’t deserve it or that we are taking too much from the country and not giving back at all.

It’s a grapefruit juice bubble existence.

Sooner or later (the latter please!) it is going to be bitten into and who knows what comes next?

 

I’m not sure that I am making any sense at the moment – blame it on Sprog, he/she seems to enjoy making me write oddly – so I will leave you with this:

 

Read “Wool” by Hugh Howey.

Enjoy the words as they burst on your mind, revel in the wonderful story, then think about what he is telling us about our world.

 

And when the next chance comes for you to vote in an election of some sort, consider what the party you are going to vote for would do with the country you live in.

Would they make it better for everyone or just for themselves?