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.

100 Days to Be Happy: Writing

writers manifesto

I suppose you’d think this would turn up earlier in my countdown, but strangely it wasn’t the first thing that I thought of when I thought about things that make me happy.

Possibly because at the moment, my writing is causing me a little stress.

Yes, I understand that you’re shocked at such an occurrence, but between having to manage with the new baby, the financial pressure the family is currently under and our lack of space issues, the word flow has been dammed. It has slowed to a minute trickle, where I am unlikely to write any more than 200 words on whatever it is I am working on that day.

There’s also the sales thing.

That isn’t going so well. Possibly because I don’t really have the energy to write much, let alone market it all…

Anyway, let’s look at the positive side of my writing. Here’s five things that I love about writing:

1) Since I started writing, I’ve met some wonderful people on the Internet.

Some of them I’ve even talked to on the phone or  in person. And they’re all writers, readers, cover designers, artists, musicians, photographers – they’re all creative people with whom I share an interest in.

2) Writing has taken me places I never thought I’d go.

I’ve travelled to the darkest recesses of my mind writing horror stories and I’ve created whole new worlds for stories to take place in. My YA stories have explored regions of emotions that I thought left behind in my childhood / teenage years. The whole experience is one of wonder.

3) Publishing my own work has been an enlightening experience.

Before I started writing, when I was just a reader, I never realised quite how much work goes into producing an actual print book. It’s not as easy as it seems and really is one of the most satisfying things I have ever done.

4) When I was a kid, I never thought I would ever be an author.

I was told it wasn’t a good career choice, its was a pipe dream and that I should look for something to target my learning toward that would bring in a steady income.
Yet here I am. I ended up being a Teacher but I have also published eleven books so far.

5) Its expanded my mind: I never realised how many types and styles  of writing there actually are!

As a Reader, you don’t tend to think about point of view, genre  or form. It’s a story and you’re reading it.
As a Writer you have to think about these things in order to get across the story in the way you want it to be read. You don’t tend to think about it too much – unless something goes wrong and you have to change something. That’s an exciting prospect – you are completely in control of the story… well as long as your characters cooperate!

There are pros and cons to being a writer – the long hours and insufficient remuneration are definite cons, but I went into this intending to learn my craft and over the last five years, I have learned and experienced so much more than just the downside. I’ve found happiness and peace doing something I really love to do.

* * *
Breaking News

Season 5 of Choose or Die is upon us.

For those of you who don’t understand what CoD is, have you ever read a “Choose your own Adventure” book? You know, those books where you read a chapter, then have to make a decision, turn to the page number the decision tells you and find out what happens next? There’s usually more than one story involved in them…

Well Choose or Die is a bit like that. You read a chapter, then you vote for the direction the story is going to take. The winning choice becomes the next chapter, the other two take great delight in killing the character in the most inventive way possible.

So to get involved, pop over to the Choose or Die website (link below) and pick the story we writers are going to tell. You, the reader have the control of the story at last… or do you?

I dare you to come and find out.

http://chooseordie.blogspot.co.uk/

100 days to be Happy…

I thought I’d have a go at this one. I’ve seen other people do it, but I’ve never really considered doing it myself… until the other day when I had a sudden Pit of Despair open up under me like a sink-hole in mining country.

Anyway, I decided that I needed to remind myself of all the good things I have in my life, so doing the 100 day Happiness Challenge would be a good idea.

So my very first thing to be happy about is… MY CHILDREN

The Kids

The Kids

This is the latest (and best picture) I have of my three.

Number One Son is 13 and has an odd knack of hiding when the camera is around; it’s very difficult to get him to stay still for a picture, let alone look happy and natural at the same time!

Princess Talkative by contrast, is too easy to photograph – there’s a girl who knows how to get into the limelight! She’s 9 and currently trying to persuade me to pay for Stage School lessons.

Princess Wriggles is the youngest. She’s six months old and is one of the smiliest babies I’ve ever come across… she’s also the screechiest and wriggliest.

Between them, they’ve given me some heart stopping scares – NOS walked out of school because he didn’t like the teacher and came home… when he was 8!
They’ve given me loads of flushed cheeks – most notably when PT told me she’d bruised her bottom and pulled her skirt up on the playground to show me.
They’ve made me angry for various reasons, too numerous to count and they’ve made me sad when I’ve realised how fast they’ve grown up and how little time I have left with them as children.

Most of all, they have made me happy. They’ve made me laugh and wonder and enjoy life anew almost every day. So today I’m celebrating them and the happiness and magic they give me.