Why a bad protagonist is actually quite good #writing #amwriting

I am a big fan of protagonists with dubious character traits. There is something about a blurry line that adds flavour and depth. In fact, if the protagonist was to stop and consider themselves, they might think they were on the wrong side of that invisible virtuous line.

So in short, I like my protagonists…to be bad.

Why is a less than perfect protagonist good?

If you are the kind of person who goes to the gym 5 days a week, then going 5 days a week is no big thing. BUT, if you struggle to go once a week, then 5 days in a row is pretty impressive! And so with our protagonist. The more reluctant they are, and the more doing something good or heroic chafes, the more interesting it is when they are finally forced to comply.

As a reader, the more confused you are about the protagonists virtue, the more the tension grows. Will they do the right thing? Are they capable of doing the right thing even? Or are they just too damn lazy?

And what about our antagonist? Are they wholly bad? Or do they have redeeming qualities? Do you empathise with them at any point in the book? Perhaps their behaviour has been abhorrent, and then you discover a terrible secret about their past that casts new questions onto everything they have so far done.

There is a certain fascination with a good guy who is not completely good.

And likewise with a bad guy who is not completely bad.

Do the best you can…until you know better #writing #amwriting #writer

One of my favourite things about being a writer (and about writers collectively) is our constant quest for growth. The desire that grips us all to learn and improve our craft.

One of the best ways a writer can grow, learn and improve is by receiving genuine feedback on their writing. While we all love the positive feedback, we learn the most from the constructive kind.  

Sometimes when I look back at my old scribbles from ten years ago, I shake my head and wonder at my writing. Then I stop and realise how far my writing has come, and I look back on those old scribbles just a little bit more fondly. The only benchmark a writer should measure themselves against is their own, and however we improve, whether through beta-reader feedback, taking a course, or by reading about writing style, it can take many weeks, months, or even years for those improvements to show in our work.

So if you have been writing for a long while, or even a little while, go and have a peek back at some of the first things your wrote. You might be surprised by just how much you have improved, but you might also be pleasantly surprised that those old scribbles (while not perfect) are actually quite good.

Happy writing 🙂

7 Tips on writing your first book #amwriting #writing

Many people aspire to write a book, and most have no idea where to start. There are many ways to become a writer, but they all come down to one important activity…

Tip 1: Write stuff…

I am a great believer in not trying to eat the whole elephant. If you want to be a writer, and to write a book, you have to start by writing stuff. Unconstrained, nonsense, and whatever pops into your head. Try different genres and styles. Try for something short, and then try for something long.

After about 20 years of doing this…just kidding! After doing this for a while, which will be different for every writer, you start to get the hang of writing, and something interesting starts to unfold…which is usually a story idea.

Tip 2: When you get a story idea…

Create: Verb. The act of banging your head on the desk until something interesting pops out.

Maybe you have spent a bit of time at Tip 1, playing about with ideas before you find something that might work out into an actual story.

Or maybe you are the sort of person who wants to jump straight in at Tip 2 because you already know a story and you are chomping-at-the-bit to get it down. Let’s PAUSE. If this is your first ever story idea treat it as a bit of fun, and don’t be too disheartened if it becomes nothing more than ‘Tip 1 -stuff’ that ultimately you discard.

However you find yourself at Tip 2, there is no point in holding back. Write it, or plan it then write it, whatever works for you. One of two things will happen at this point:

  • You realise this is a GREAT story idea and that it will pan out into an awesome book
  • You get bored and realise it was FUN but it’s not worth pursuing, or not at this time, because you have just had another story idea that might be better still.

Tip 3: When you get an awesome story idea…

When you get an awesome story idea

Usually you know when an idea for a story is something worthy of pursuit. Now you have to decide whether you need to plan or not. Planning is a matter of personal taste, some people swear by planning, some people loath it with the enthusiasm of a dental appointment.

For planning: People who get the most out of planning are the people who suffer from writers block. If you are the kind of person who finds themselves hemmed in when writing, or not sure what should happen next, planning is GOOD for you. It lets you nut out all the problems upfront so you don’t waste time on something that will go nowhere. Better to tackle all the blocks now than write 30k of words and discover you just don’t have a solution to a key plot point.

Against planning: People who never run out of ideas, who are always chasing the next shiny notion…and could simply write forever! If this is you STOP, and go back to the planning. This may sound harsh, but people with too many ideas suffer from a completely different problem to those who suffer from writers block, and that is what I refer to as ‘Infinite Story Syndrome’ also known as the ’10 book saga’. There is nothing wrong with ten book sagas I love ’em myself. But each book needs a level of conclusion and a little bit of planning, even for the idea masters, goes a long way to getting a good first book.

PS. There is a happy medium..and yes planning will help them too.

Tip 4: Get feedback sooner rather than later…

Writers helping writers

A trusted friend or confidant is what every writer needs. Someone to sanity check your idea to make sure it’s not a complete dud. Once it is drafted look for beta readers. They will be delighted to pick holes in your plot and make it stronger in doing so.

Tip 5: There is nothing wrong with trying…

sleeping writer

I must have a couple of hundred story ideas floating about in bits, scribbled dialog, plot points, and random chapters. All of which were great for my ‘Tip 1-Write Stuff’. I only finished 3 books completely to the draft stage. It was the 3rd one I decided I liked enough to edit, and I am now about to publish. The first 2 drafts—I am going to abandon—and I feel no guilt in that.

I have subsequently finished writing the next 3 books in the series. I spent a lot of time ‘writing stuff’, playing about with ‘story ideas’ and I even drafted a couple of ‘awesome story ideas’ into a full novel, before I found a book I felt worthy of publishing, and I don’t regret any of this time. It helped me to find my writers voice. I had fun. It gave me confidence.

Tip 6: Quality is never a waste of time…

characters for your book

I learnt a massive amount about quality by having my book professionally edited…grammar is definitely not my strong point! A writing course if you can afford it is worth while, but otherwise there is a ton of fantastic free information on the internet, and plenty of great books you can buy to improve your skills that way. No time spent on improving your writing quality is ever wasted time.

Tip 7: Simply read…

The last tip goes without saying…but just in case…when you settle on a genre, read it—a lot.

More more posts on writing…

A simple guide to planning a novel – Part 1

Six secrets to drafting a novel – fast!

How to generate new story ideas

A writer’s guide to social media #writing #amwriting

Four and a half years ago I decided to publish a book. It took me nearly four years to make it happen. One of the first things I did at the beginning of this journey was to start a blog…and so began a separate journey into the delights of social media!

Over the four + years I have learnt an awful lot about social media and I thought I would share my insights in regards to writing. Some of the things I dabbled in have worked and some have not, and some are just no brainers that every writer should do.

My top 4 Social Media essentials for a writer!

  1. A blog or Book website: You don’t need to go crazy or even spend money. You can get a great blog (or book website) set up for free using either WordPress or Blogger. There are a few other freebies out there but these two are the big hitters and I have used both. I started blogging life on Blogger but switched over to WordPress soon after. I just found WordPress easier to use and more elegant in design, but that’s just my personal preference. It really doesn’t matter what you use as long as you start something. Blogging should be reasonably frequent. I used to be far more prolific, but once a week at least is fine. I find blogging a great way to get my creative brain working, and it’s a nice way to write about your thoughts and feelings independent to your book. If you are published, plan to publish, or just enjoy writing, I definitely recommend a blog. If you prefer not to deliver articles then you can  still recommend you have a site of some kind to share and showcase you book or writing. You can easily set up WordPress to have a statice front page (like a website) rather than the typical scrolling blog posts, and there are plenty of other options for free sites such as Wix.com. See: http://www.top10bestwebsitebuilders.com
  2. Twitter: Love it or loathe it, twitter is an awesome social media tool for writers. Whether it is building a following who share your interest, or finding great articles, twitter has it all. I have met some wonderful writers through twitter. On twitter sharing is caring, so don’t be afraid to retweet other posts, comments, and books.
  3. Goodreads: If you are a writer and you don’t know what Goodreads is…you are seriously missing out. I was a member ages ago, but I never made much use of it, and I really wish I had! If you are thinking of publishing my advice would be get active on Goodreads. Start sharing what you read and what you thought of it, and you will soon connect with other people who love the same books and genres. By the time you do come to publish, you have a list of connections who already share a common interest, and so it’s not unreasonable to assume they might just give your book a go. Even if they don’t, Goodreads has a whole heap of forums to find beta readers, ways to share free copies of your book for reviews, and critique groups. Once you are published, you can set up an Author dashboard where you can share your blog posts and connect your books. Goodreads members can flag your book as ‘To read’ and ‘Rate it’ once they are done. Because Goodreads is global, you get reviews from all over the world, unlike Amazon which is related to your particular store. And your friends are free to leave reviews, they just show up as a friend review.
  4. Facebook page: This is the last of my top social media. It’s pretty easy to set up a Facebook page, and you can share your blog posts and book news in one handy place. And everyone loves Facebook!

So, if you are a writer and serious about sharing your work you need to present your book related information in a media that appeals to a wide audience. A blog, Twitter, Goodreads and a Facebook page are a great start. Blogging is a weekly thing for me, but I generally post to Facebook and Twitter most days. And I pop onto Goodreads a couple of times a week to see what books my friends have read and any recommendations.

Top Supplementary media

Facebook groups: If you have not yet discovered Facebook writing and reading groups you are missing out. Facebook groups are like a online forums that conveniently sit inside Facebook. I love Facebook groups! Most groups contain support documents to help, for example the indie author group below has lists of book cover artists, editors, tips etc. Some examples of groups:

  1. Fantasy Writing Fanatics: Some great folks chewing the fat on all things related to fantasy writing
  2. Book Clubs: Folks who just plain love reading and share their favourite books and recommendations. There are hundreds of reader book clubs on Facebook.
  3. Indie Author Group: If you are an indie author and have a question someone here will have the answer. A great place to ask newbie questions about writing, editing, publishing, advertising, and anything else related to writing.
  4. Books go social readers group: There are hundreds of book sharing groups on Facebook for every genre you can imagine. I like this one because it doesn’t over spam as you can only promote your book once a month. For more book sharing groups See http://www.trainingauthors.com/facebook-groups-for-authors/

Other media options and what I thought

  1. Tumblr: I have a tumblr account, and my blog automatically posts to this for me so I still share that way. Tumblr feels a little like picture based blogging and so since I already have wordpress, I prefer to stick to that. There are some absolutely awesome Tumblr writer blogs though, but it’s just not a big or active option for me. If you are looking around for a blog tool it’s worth checking out as an alternative to Blogger or WordPress.
  2. Stumbleupon: I have an account and did dabble for a while. It’s useful to drive traffic to your blog, i.e. you can share your blog posts here. It’s also useful to find good articles. I have probably under utilised this myself and some people swear by it!
  3. Instagram: Is all about pictures so not necessarily the highest priority for a writer…I mostly post pictures of my cats! Not very writerly of me I know 🙂
  4. Pinterest: I quite like Pinterest, and it is a fun picture based way to find writing articles and to share. Not a big social media account for me, but it definitely has a good writing community and you can find some great articles here.

If I have missed a social media account that you love please let me know. Or if you have other recommendations or feedback on the above I would also love to hear.

Want to connect on social media? 

Find me on Goodreads : G.L. Cromarty (Author)

Find me on Facebook: G.L. Cromarty (TheWritingChimp)

Find me on Twitter: @TheLittlebod

Find me on Instagram TheWritingChimp

Sharing is caring! Drop a link to your social media accounts in the comments below!

Realistic writing – It’s all in the suffering #amwriting #writingtips

How many times have you read a book where Mr Average is thrown into an extraordinarily strenuous adventure, and never a moment’s consideration that they may be ‘a wee bit tired’ or ‘suffer a spot of muscle ache’? Perhaps our heroine has to hang onto a windowsill by her finger tips, but she is not a former circus acrobat or the high school gymnastics queen.

tumblr_lzpfb943fv1rplvgso1_400

It happens all too often. It’s as if they forget to feel pain, to ache, or indeed to suffer once their adventure kicks in. Even a regular jogger would be out of puff if they were suddenly expected to engage in a marathon length sprint!

The last thing we want is a whiny protagonist, but I do think it adds realism to our story if we see through their actions and words the suffering they endure.  When I think of a really good example of a hero suffering, I always think of Indiana Jones—the guy spends most of the movie looking half-dead! That doesn’t stop him getting the job done, but you do get a deep sense of the effort involved.

It is often this gap between those natural physical limitations, and what they push themselves to achieve, where the character growth comes in.

More from, You know you’re a writer when…http://youknowyoureawriter.tumblr.com

Divided Serenity out now on all Amazon stores, and free with Kindle Unlimited.

Divided Serenity Book Cover

12 Inspirational Writing Tips From History’s Greatest Authors

1) William Allen White – Journalist/News Editor “Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” Though often mistakenly referenced as a quote by Mark Twain, White knows that adverbs can be dangerous if used overbearingly (see what I did there?). Very and similar words […]

via 12 Inspirational Writing Tips From History’s Greatest Authors — A NOT SO JADED LIFE

Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words. – Mark Twain #amwriting #amediting

Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words. . .

. . .Knowing which words are the wrong words, not so easy.

There is a definite art to editing, as I am constantly reminded when I edit other peoples work. It is so easy to spot problems in their writing, and so hard to spot them in my own.

Succinct word choice, duplicate words or information, reordering sentences, typos and other problems, are all very easy when I am reading someone else’s work. The minute I read my own I become. . .typo blind.

I have adopted a few mitigation strategies to help me to edit my own work. One of my favourites being ‘Text to Speech’ on my computer. This only really helps for small bodies of work. With the best intentions, computer speech sounds like—computer speech—and it can get pretty monotonous if used for too long.

Another favourite, which I use when editing my story, is reading it on my kindle. For some reason putting it in a different format on a different device makes (at least some) of the problems pop out.

Finally, I have a pretty comprehensive checklist that I use to help me find my own personal writing demons.

I am just coming to the pointy end of writing my book, which means the mighty editing process is about to begin. I am always looking for new insights on editing.

So, if you have any tips or techniques I would LOVE to hear from you.

What works for you? What doesn’t work?

If you have written your own blog posts on the topic, or know any good sites PLEASE drop a link below.

All help gratefully received 🙂

 

 

Quick and easy passive voice fix #amwriting

We all know passive voice should be used sparingly if we don’t want to send our reader to sleep. The passive voice often makes sentences unnecessarily wordy, and can distance the reader from the action.

Here is a real quick and easy way to eliminate the passive voice.

Let’s look at a passive example:

The cat was chased by the dog.

There are 3 parts to the sentence:

  • Who or what is performing the action? > the dog.
  • What is the action? This is the verb (or doing word). > was chased
  • Who or what is being acted upon. > the cat

How to eliminate the passive voice? Alway put who or what is performing the action at the start of the sentence.

The cat was chased by the dog…becomes…The dog chased the cat.

The resulting sentence is shorter and clearer.

Tip! 

  • The easiest way to spot this is to search for passive forms of the verb ‘to be’

     (is, are, am, was, were, has been, have been, will be, will have been, being)

  • and then look for the past participle 

     (usually, but not always, verbs with ‘ed’ at the end).

In my example the action part of the sentence – was chased – indicated a passive voice.

More Tips!

  1. I tend to mostly find: is, are, am, and will be/ will have been in dialog so I focus on searching for: waswerehas been, have been, being.
  2. Not every sentence needs fixing or has something to fix. For example Tim is a great painter is not passive, nor does it need fixing. (Passive Voice Myths)
  3. Sometimes you want to be passive. For example if you want to empahsise the thing being acted upon, or the actor (doing the action) is unimportant or unknown.
  4. If you use the passive voice – know you are using it and why.