Monthly Archives: April 2014

Pulling Readers Into Your Chapters

There are too many chapters that start with the same thing. Names. Person doing something.

Every time I open up Critique Circle, I’m looking through the list and seeing the first sentence of each story that I could potentially leave feedback for. They all start like this:

  • LUCY and Melinda promenaded onto the dance floor, a high paced song was on and they started doing the Charleston, the latest dance craze.”
  • ” “It’s Mrs. Douglas. She’s in the hospital.” Anita wiped her eyes and whispered. “They don’t know what’s wrong.” “
  • “Released from the hospital on Sunday, seven days after she entered, Betty Jane’s life returned to normal. She was back at work on Tuesday, tired, but glad to see her coworkers.”

To be clear, these aren’t first chapters. This is how people start their second, third, fourth, and every chapter after that.. which is disappointing.

I get excited when I know my chapters are written well. I believe people put their separate chapters on the internet when they know they could do better. Sometimes, I read chapters that talk about what a character felt when something was happening, not what they’re feeling as it’s happening. Look at your fifth chapter. The beginning is like: A few weeks later, everything was back to normal. This happened, and this happened. These are the concepts that hold true to me, which is why it happened. But anyway, now.. ..Memoirs are fun, but done wrong can be boring.

To fix this, ask yourself, are you telling like it’s happening, or like it already happened? (It doesn’t matter if it DID happen in the past. How are you TELLING it?)

Does the chapter start with an immediate thing: how you’re feeling physically or what you’re seeing at that moment? Ex: It was cold on the bus, and the trees flew by the window. New paragraph. I was on a school trip heading to

Always speak in immediacy of what’s happening when starting a chapter.

People aren’t treating their chapters like wonderful, beautiful things. An exception to this is the book’s first chapter. If every chapter was treated like it was the first, the book would be more successful. You know for a fact that your editor might cut a few chapters out and a different chapter might end up as your first anyway, so why not save yourself the trouble? If someone started reading your book from the first paragraph of chapter five, would they continue reading.

Unsuccessful books have too many chapters that start with people doing stuff. One single sentence of a tiny bit of world building would be preferred. Switch it up. If your chapter will eventually describe a beautiful atmosphere, (after you talk about what the people are doing, right?) why not just skip over the people for a paragraph and start with a little hint of what that atmosphere is, if that’s the best part of the chapter. Give us a gripping image to pressure us to read on. You can go in depth on the imagery later.

So, my best advice to give is to pick the most enjoyable paragraph that you wrote in the chapter (it doesn’t have to be the most exciting or involving plot. Describing the forest was the most enjoyable, so make a reference to the forest. Remember, if you’re feeling the writing, the readers are feeling the reading.) Place a common image related to it at the beginning of the chapter. A location or image will do. I’m not saying to use foreshadow or anything like that to predict an outcome. Do that as you please. Finally, ask yourself the questions highlighted above that are related to immediacy. These sort of questions get your brain moving and can get you unstuck in the most stickiest brainfarts.

Thanks for reading,

WritingMime

 

Where you can find my books: http://www.amazon.com/Brista-Drake/e/B00YZGC792/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/writingmime

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WritingMime

Tumblr: http://writingmime.tumblr.com/

Other Blog: http://writingmime.blogspot.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/22704883-writingmime

 

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Writing Programs (Camp NaNoWriMo Inspired)

In the spirit of Camp NaNoWriMo this April, I’ve decided to conduct a study over the different programs that writers used throughout the month.

I personally love to use WordPad because it does not alert me when I made a mistake, which is vital during the month of NaNo. It shuts off my inner editor and lets me write in peace. Even the word count is hidden, so I have to use wordcounter.net to check my status after a long day’s work. It’s an app that comes with computers nowadays, a simplified version of Microsoft Word. Check your computer before you settle for NotePad, because most likely you will have a form of it.

Obviously you could pay for Microsoft Word if you prefer that. You can highlight the part of the book you’ve written that day and see the word count at the bottom. You can turn off spell check while you’re writing and then at the end of the day, with your daily work goal done, check through the mistakes.

Another common program used is Scrivener. It’s an auto-save writing pad, chapter organizer, and sticky note combined. I like to use it whenever I’m writing outlines. It has a “pin board” where you can move index cards around until they fit perfectly in order; wonderful for taking notes, as well. This program does cost money; however, for the first month, everyone gets a 30-day free trial. So, I like to download it right before NaNoWriMo.

StoryMill can be downloaded for free and looks almost exactly like Scrivener. It’s geared specifically to story building and has sections for your characters, settings, scenes to be place along with other neat features.

Yarny is free and is an online site that auto saves every few words, so you don’t lose anything. You can have multiple novels, set word count goals, and not to mention separate your chapters for easy viewing/sharing. On the right side of the screen, there are three sections: people, places, and things. You make “snippets,” which help organize your ideas and character profiles. Although this seems complicated, it is very similar to the features available in the program Scrivener, but it’s free and online! I like it because I have everything in one place and don’t have to worry about losing anything since it’s not on my hard drive. Plus, you’re able to share with friends easily; just send them a link!

 

One final program I’d like to mention is something called Write or Die 2 (the older brother of Write or Die). It’s not very conventional if you take long spans of time to write out a single sentence, but those of us doing NaNoWriMo find it much more useful. Basically, if you stop writing, your words slowly delete themselves. You can set the sensibility to high, where not writing for just a few seconds will result in a lot of work lost. But on a low setting, it’s just enough motivation to keep you writing without giving yourself a mild heart attack before finishing your word goal.

I hope you guys found this article useful and check out a few of the links. They’re some of my favorite to use during NaNo.

Keep writing,

WritingMime

Where you can find my books: http://www.amazon.com/Brista-Drake/e/B00YZGC792/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/writingmime

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WritingMime

Tumblr: http://writingmime.tumblr.com/

Other Blog: http://writingmime.blogspot.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/22704883-writingmime

Writing Tools: Foreshadow and Creative Recap

Lately, I’ve been studying the ends and beginnings of novel chapters. To begin a study session, I first must be inspired by something I like, and then notice what I dislike in comparison. I formulate a generic do’s and don’ts list from there, and then I proceed to write about it. This week, I really, really want to point out how authors flow from one chapter to the next.

For starters, I’ll begin with a literary tool called foreshadowing. By definition, the verb foreshadow means to signal that something is going to happen. When used as a writing tool, the author is either using it to progress the plot or to creating anticipation. Quite literally, foreshadowing can be stating that something is going to happen in the next chapter, without hinting to what that is. For example, the end of a chapter can say, “But Billy could not have been prepared for what was coming next.” If the author did not tell us the readers what is coming, then we are just as clueless as Billy. This is exactly a signal that something is going to happen, or a promise that the plot is going to be moving in the next chapter. Total cluelessness can get the heart thumping, for those who love writing suspense novels (hint hint).

Less literally, the author could say, “But Billy could never have guessed what he’d find in the closet.” This is a signal that something is going to happen, but it also hints to what that is, which in this case is Billy opening the closet and then reacting to what he finds. This gets the brain moving, and depending on the circumstance, can also get the heart racing. But usually the reader is, or trying to, deduct what is in the closet, adding their own emotions besides suspense caused by what they think is going to happen, such as fright, sadness, excitement; it’s like a reader’s DIY emotional roller coaster.

Foreshadowing always comes before something in which the reader does not know yet. If the book jumps back and forth between times, one cannot use foreshadowing to speak of a future, when in the previous chapter the event already happened and the reader is all-knowing, the characters are not. You’re explains in a foreshadow way what the reader already knows. That’s a form of creative recap, but we’ll get back to that later.

Mostly, foreshadowing is placed before something happens. It could be seconds before, or years before the event. Foreshadowing chapter-wise, the event it’s referring to could be placed directly at the start of the next chapter, which would be considered a fast-paced novel, or it could be put aside until later chapters, letting readers either forget about it or pick up pieces in the meanwhile.

A book doesn’t need heavy foreshadowing if the book is written for a day-to-day, contemporary premise. It’s not meant to be suspenseful. Creative recap, however, is necessary.

Creative recap is reconditioning/rewriting an event in past tense for repetitive emphasis. The importance of repeating yourself, reminding the reader who did what and what happened when, is like playing with flashcards, allowing the readers quick and easy assess to the past when you want them to remember something. Repeating names at the beginning of novels so they start to stick is an example. Though, we do it in a creative way that the reader will enjoy instead of just saying it. Hence why we call it creative recap. Another plus is that it helps connect the chapters through reference, and a general understanding of why each chapter is there builds over time.

An example of creative recap: “While that was happening, this was happening here,” or, “Only five years after this happened, this was happening here.” A simple statement of relationship in the first sentence of each chapter will fill in those holes. As a result, the readers won’t need to think too hard about the distance and time between them. Even if the chapters are almost completely unrelated to one another, it’s still easier for the readers with that connection.

When I mentioned before about some books going out of order, you cannot foreshadow if the reader already knows what’s going to happen. In this situation, “But Billy could never have guessed what he’d find in the closet,” turns into recap since nothing is hidden from the reader anymore. It’s there to repeat the knowledge, for emphasis. For the readers, it’s an instruction to start feeling a certain way, reminding them of what they already felt. It’s creative, because you’re not outwardly saying, “Remember this?” It’s more of a reference, a nudge-nudge, inside joke sort of thing.

Whenever you catch yourself thinking, “How can I make sure the reader picks this detail up,” or, “I haven’t mentioned this in a while, so how should I mention it again,” you’re probably using creative recap. You don’t want to outwardly say it, but you’re thinking hard about a creative way to do it. What ever you wrote as a solution is your prime example of creative recap.

There are many ways to go about creating creative recap, and there are just as many for foreshadowing. Both can be used to your advantage when it comes to repetition, repetition being the key to success. Because both are references technically, using either one will act as a second mentioning besides the actual telling of what will or what has happened. Use them as tools to improve your writing. In particular, use them to help your reader understand what’s going on in your book, unlike the metaphors and detail outfit descriptions in which build the pretty of your novel.

(P.S. Did you see what I did there with the colors? That’s a creative way of reminding you what I was referring to earlier, connecting the paragraphs, and making it easier to follow what I wanted to explain. c; I love creative recap.)

Thanks for reading,

WritingMime

Where you can find my books: http://www.amazon.com/Brista-Drake/e/B00YZGC792/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/writingmime

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WritingMime

Tumblr: http://writingmime.tumblr.com/

Other Blog: http://writingmime.blogspot.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/22704883-writingmime