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Writing Talk Podcast
60 minutes | Oct 16, 2020
How to Develop an Idea into a Great Book with Guest Andrew Hastie
Having a good idea for a novel is the first step, but how do you develop your concept into a great book? Here’s the full podcast Episode Notes This was a wide-ranging discussion, but here are some of the main points: Research genres before you begin, and try to find out where your book would fit. If you don’t do this, marketing will be an uphill battle. Find a niche that is identifiable and matches the kind of Write a series so that you can earn money via read-through, otherwise it’s hard to make profit. Write a first draft in one go – don’t keep going back and editing. To get into the flow of writing, avoid distractions and use sprints for say 45 minutes. Don’t stop for research, just mark the place with a symbol and then you’ll be able to find it later on and revise and research as necessary. Rewriting is key. Develop all characters, not just the main ones. Maintain and control the pace of your stories to keep readers turning the pages. Links Claim a free book and learn more on Andrew Hastie’s website at: infinityengines.com Find Andrew’s books on Amazon – USA or Amazon UK Writers’ toolbox Vellum for formating ebooks and paperbacks on mac. I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please share it with your friends. You can also support the show by subscribing and leave a review and a rating: Your ratings and reviews will enable the podcast to continue and to improve – thank you. Please Consider Supporting The Podcast on Patreon Become a Patron
49 minutes | Jun 28, 2020
Should You Start an Author Podcast?
Getting started with podcasting as an author Here’s the full podcast Episode Notes The main resource you’ll need is time – figure on two or three hours (or more) to put each episode together – be realistic! Will your podcast be aimed at readers or other writers – decide this early. Does your idea have legs? Can you jot down 20 ideas for episodes? How easy is it to come up with ideas for future shows? What’s the value that you’ll be bringing to your audience? What’s the rationale for your show? Will it have a theme or an objective that will tie all the episodes together? How will you benefit from the time that you invest in the show? Will you have a co-host to share ideas with? Will you have informative guests? How good are you at reaching out to people? You will need this skill if you want guests. Podcasting Equipment for Beginners Links below are affiliate links so using them will support the podcast – they don’t cost you anything, but amazon rewards me for each sale. You will need a microphone, and most people start with a USB microphone – I’m not an expert on this but I have tried a few. I settled for a cardioid condenser microphone and this works well for me – I live in a quiet area and I have a home office that makes a decent place to record. Your choice will depend on several factors so I suggest you do some research – see below. Entry-level microphone for podcasters: Blue Snowball: https://amzn.to/2YDiiN0 A better USB microphone for podcasters: Blue Yeti: https://amzn.to/2VoUwm8 I haven’t tried this one, but it’s worth checking it out – the Neat Beecaster professional microphone: https://amzn.to/3g0Flaq In the UK try this microphone for podcasting For quite a while, I used the Auna 900 USB and I like it a lot: https://amzn.to/3eHUtcv An excellent microphone setup for podcasters: NEAT King Bee Cardioid Solid State Condenser Microphone with Pop Filter and Shockmount- this is my latest and was used for this podcast https://amzn.to/31r6Dmb You’ll also need a USB audio interface. I use the Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd gen https://amzn.to/2Zl8syD And to complete this microphone setup, you’ll need a couple of extra items – an XLR cable https://amzn.to/2BOARoq and a stand such as the Samson MK10 which I find to be sturdy and reliable https://amzn.to/2Vt6yuB Software for Podcasters You will need audio recording and editing software (often referred to as a DAW – a digital audio workstation). Free: Audacity https://www.audacityteam.org/ Mid-price: Reaper http://reaper.fm/ Premium: Adobe Audition https://www.adobe.com/products/audition.html Headphones are optional but will be useful. Pick a comfortable pair of over-ear headphones that enclose your ear so that sound doesn’t leak out to your microphone. https://amzn.to/3dD96g5 Podcast hosting You will be investing time and energy into your show, so invest in proper hosting. Plans vary widely – for a recommended podcast host and discount coupon, see below: I use and recommend Pinecast. Please use this coupon code to get 40% off for 4 months: r-9929b4 You save money and I get a small reward if you use this coupon code. Here’s the link: https://pinecast.com/ Writers’ toolbox Podcastage on youtube Booth Junkie: The Audacity to Podcast podcast is an excellent source of info: theaudacitytopodcast.com If using Reaper, there are a lot of tutorials online: I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please share it with your friends. You can also support the show by subscribing and leave a review and a rating: Your ratings and reviews will enable the podcast to continue and to improve – thank you. Please Consider Supporting The Podcast on Patreon Become a Patron
31 minutes | Jun 17, 2020
How Do We Address the Issues of Inclusion, Equality and Diversity in Writing Fiction?
Here’s the full podcast Episode Notes We need to do a lot more to address the issues of inclusion, equality and diversity. Too many voices are under-represented. We need to make sure our characters represent the real world and include people from a diverse range of backgrounds. We want to avoice tokenism, stereotypes and cliches. All our characters must have agency, and they must be richly drawn and fully fleshed out. Can we encourage, support, mentor and promote writers and other professionals from under-represented groups? Writers’ toolbox Libre Office – an ideal tool for knocking out an outline in an open file format. I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please share it with your friends. You can also support the show by subscribing and leave a review and a rating: Your ratings and reviews will enable the podcast to continue and to improve – thank you. Please Consider Supporting The Podcast on Patreon Become a Patron
31 minutes | Jun 9, 2020
Episode 38 – How Can We Improve our Amazon Product Descriptions (blurbs)?
Here’s the full podcast Episode Notes Publishing your book – How can we make your book description work? Today we’re looking at the perennial problem of writing product descriptions (sometimes called blurbs) for our books on Amazon and other stores. Let’s take a step back and think in terms of strategies. Product descriptions are sales copy so we need to become better copy-writers We achieve this through the regular and frequent application of our craft. Every tweet, Facebook post, email, blog post, newsletter and so on, can be copy-written. We need to become copy-aware. Use white space. Every word must pack a punch. Be economical! Be precise – you only have a few sentences – you don’t want them to be misread. Questions can work, but pseudo-questions can be irritating. Formulaic descriptions might get you started, but innovate! Be aware that words carry inference – we don’t want to encourage negative emotions. Each sentence must grab attention AND lead the reader to the next. We are not trying to explain or describe a book – we are trying to entice the reader. Does your copy intrigue us? Does it make us want to read on? Evoke an emotional response. Who are your readers? What re they looking for? What cues will they recognise? Encourage the reader to empathise with your characters or situation. Walk them into the showroom of your imagination. Introduce them to your world. Compell them to stay! Match the tone of your description with the genre. Write several variations then walk away and look again. Get peer feedback from writers IN YOUR GENRE. Use ads on Facebook or Amazon to test copy. Writers’ toolbox Reedsy marketplace – find professionals to help with your book projects. Mastering Amazon Descriptions by Brian Meeks – find it online edited: I no longer recommend Plottr to plan your novel as I found it had stability issues. The writing resources page on this site. I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please share it with your friends. You can also support the show by subscribing and leave a review and a rating: Your ratings and reviews will enable the podcast to continue and to improve – thank you. Please Consider Supporting The Podcast on Patreon Become a Patron
42 minutes | Jun 1, 2020
Episode 37 – Publishing your book – Should You Go Wide or into Kindle Unlimited (KU)
Here’s the full podcast Episode Notes Publishing your book – Should You Go Wide or into Kindle Unlimited (KU)? Today we’re looking at the pros and cons of putting your book into KDP select (often referred to as Kindle Unlimited or KU since this is what it’s called for participating readers) and comparing it to wide distribution on all retailers (going wide). Both are long-term strategies. Kindle Unlimited (KU) gives you: simplicity – ease of distribution, admin and record-keeping – effective use of time Free days – 5 per term of 90 days – but is this valuable at the moment? Kindle countdown deals (often known as KCD) – can be useful but only in the UK and USA so can lead to disappointed readers Exclusivity – this is an iron-clad restriction To some extent, you’ll be governed by Amazon – this may be acceptable Huge market share Amazon working hard to draw in users to KU Page read income can be significant and alters the economics of advertising Are KU readers going to be the ones you want? Going Wide gives you: Unrestricted freedom Ultimate control Access to a very wide global market The other retailers aren’t sitting still – they want a share of the ebook market Can be more work but Draft2digital simplifies this immensely You’ll get flexibility and the ability to change direction and adapt to new opportunities on other retailers You’ll be focusing on building a readership of people who’ll pay for your books You might sleep better having spread the risk You’ll lose page read income Some advertising strategies may be uneconomic but Bookbub ads become more useful. It’s up to you to decide between KU and going wide Make a decision based on your long-term goals Your career may last decades – build towards a sustainable future Don’t be swayed by hearsay Don’t try to copy someone who is in a different league or a different genre. Stay positive and stick to your guns – there are millions of readers out there, some of them may be waiting for your book! Writers’ toolbox Book: Going Wide Unboxed by Patty Jansen – free on Kobo and non-amazon stores: find it here David Gaughran’s informative post: A Tale of Two Marketing Systems Draft2Digital – my recommended distributor I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please share it with your friends. You can also support the show by subscribing and leave a review and a rating: Your ratings and reviews will enable the podcast to continue and to improve – thank you. Please Consider Supporting The Podcast on Patreon Become a Patron
29 minutes | May 24, 2020
Episode 36 – Write the first draft of your novel (in lockdown or not)
Here’s the full podcast Episode Notes Write the first draft of your lockdown novel So at long last, we’re digging into your draft and thinking about how you can best get going with it. By now you should have a place for notes and some form of plan, however simple it may be. You should also have put some thought into the nature of your project and why you are undertaking it at the moment. You can always go back and listen to the last few episodes for a refresher if you wish, and there are comprehensive notes and links on the site at writingtalkpodcast.com As well as those bits of groundwork, it’s worth setting your stall out in a few other ways. You’ll need some blocks of time set aside, preferably daily, and you’ll need somewhere where you can work uninterrupted. These are ideals, and real-world events can sometimes work against us, but all we can do is try our best and see how it goes. If things don’t work out, then whatever you do, don’t just throw your hands in the air and give up. Instead, see if there is one small change can make to improve things, and then start again. Maybe that means sacrificing a TV show that you usually watch, or getting up half an hour earlier, but there is time and space to be found if we look for it. Once you get going, there are a few principles worth bearing in mind, and we’ll run through them here. Firstly, we are trying to achieve momentum, and that’s partly what the daily writing practice is all about. But it’s hard enough keeping your project on the rails at the best of times, so once you are writing, or more accurately drafting, try not to do anything else at all. That means phones might have to be on aeroplane mode or out of the room. Internet browsers need to be shut. And things that may have become habits, such as the compulsive checking of emails or social media feeds, must be squashed. In the show notes, I’ll add links to a few resources that can help you with that. I use Facebook to communicate in certain groups and I have Facebook pages set up for as an author and for other affiliated sites I have, but on my computer, my laptop, and my phone, I do not have a Facebook feed, so I don’t get distracted by all that stuff that Facebook hurls at us every minute of every day. Because it only takes a second of reading something unpleasant to spoil my day. So I don’t have a Facebook feed, I don’t have social media apps, and I’ll mention in the writers’ toolbox a few tools that can help. Other distractions that rea going to derail your draft are things like research. You may think that you need to look up the exact make and model of some item you’re going to refer to, but actually, that kind of thinking is the enemy of your drafting process. I get trapped by this all the time, because sometimes when you’re describing something you want to see a picture of it. For example, in my current work in progress, which is a mystery, there are several references to vintage typewriters, and as you can imagine they vary in shape size and colour and so on and I wanted to be sure that I was referencing something real. So, like a fool, I started searching for information online, and time slipped away faster than I could grab onto it. There are many sites dedicated to typewriters, and many places where you can drool over handsome machines that would look just darling on your sideboard, but during that time I lost valuable momentum. My recommendation to you is that if you find something you’re going to need to research later, you use some kind of shorthand to remind you to go back to it after your first draft is done. I tend to use the #, although in the US it is used, it’s not really used for anything in the UK, so when I see that mark I know that it’s something that needs dealing with. Invent your own shorthand, something that you can use to denote a place that needs further work, and then perhaps if you have an odd moment at the end of the day and realistically you can’t possibly get any more drafting done, you can go back to hose points. You might be sitting on the sofa watching TV or something, and at the same time, you could be idly flipping through a few references, storing them on your phone or tablet or laptop for later. I use pocket for that, and there’s more on that in the writers’ toolbox. The same goes for those obscure words that you know are on the tip of your tongue but you can’t quite find. You could spend time in a thesaurus, and that is something that is not too time-consuming, but it can hurt your momentum. I tend to use the one from Collins which has an online dictionary and thesaurus, but I try to only use it in the editing stage, and that would be my recommendation to you. Anything that stops you from adding new words to your manuscript is going to slow you down. Also, when writing dialogue, you could try drafting without any punctuation. Just hit the return key to get a new line and won’t be too bad to fix afterwards. It really is fast, and you’ll get a decent amount done in a few minutes. Another principle, and one that I believe I got from the writer Chuck Wendig (who blogs about all kinds of things but has sometimes in the past put pieces up that are useful to other writers), and that is the idea that you shouldn’t cheat on your manuscript with various side projects might seem appealing at the time. Remain true to your WIP. If you become one of those people who is a serial beginner of manuscripts then you’re also going to become someone who never finishes one. So I would recommend that you don’t do any other fiction writing whilst you have a project on the go. That doesn’t mean to say you can’t write in a different format, for example, a blog can be a nice way of winding down with a different form of work. But don’t start getting into short stories or, God forbid, other novels. If you have an idea for something, jot down a note and stash it away in your system, whatever that may be. As you get more and more words down on the page, you will become faster at rejecting your first ideas in favour of your best ideas. This is the process whereby we go from our first fledgeling ideas to more elaborate prose with more interesting language that provides extra information about situations, characters, relationships, themes and so on. To keep in the flow, you might use the most direct verbs you can think, but as you improve, you’ll notice that while you’re typing one word, you think of a better one. And you might delete the original one and replace it with a word that fits and does the job better. This can feel slow and frustrating but stick at it. This is you improving as a writer. It means that you’re noticing things like repetition, noticing the crutch phrases that are creeping into your work, and you’re spotting the filler words like ‘just’ and ‘really’. And I’ll add lazy and vague verbs to that list of horrors, e.g. ‘get’. You don’t get a cold, you suffer from a cold, or you catch a cold. You don’t get a library book, you borrow it. Those things creep into my work, and it’s good to have a little part of your mind paying attention to those aspects, because as you practice and you get faster and faster, you’ll catch yourself coming up with those words as the sentence forms in your mind, and your rough version will never actually make it as far as your fingers, because you will have corrected it in time. You’ll put in better words, cut out unnecessary words, or replace incorrect words with better ones. That process of improvement happening as you write comes with practice, and the more words you put down, the faster that becomes, in the same way that if you’ve been driving a car for 10 years, you don’t have to think about changing the gear, but when you’re learning to drive, you have to go through the steps in your mind, drilling them home until they become second nature. That will happen as you write, and soon you’ll be able to do all kinds of fancy manoeuvres without having to take your hands off the wheel, so to speak. Your fingers will remain on the keyboard, and you’ll just be in that wonderful state we call being in the flow. Writers’ toolbox I use and recommend cold turkey blocker which you can use to block distractions. Set up a schedule. On my main computer and my laptop, I cannot access various sites on a list I’ve compiled. It comes with a list already but you can add to it, and there must be about 70 things in there. I set a schedule, and the cold turkey program won’t let me access anything on that list at any point between 8 o’clock and four in the afternoon. Cold turkey blocker cold turkey micromanager The pocket app allows you to store easily readable versions of webpages and also links back to the original site so you can check your sources. It also allows you to tag each item with a reference. So I tend to tag all my items as ‘research’. All I have to do is start typing, and when I hit the R in the tag box, the word research pops up and I hit enter. I have the pocket extension on Firefox, and I think there are extensions for all major browsers but you have to check that. At the end of the process, before publishing the book, I open up all those items tagged research, copy down the links, and I list those sources on my website so that people who want to look up my sources of information can find all those in one place. I just put a link in the back of the book, and it’s done. It’s a bit like the old DVD extras, and it gives me some bonus material that I can share with people. pocket Also mentioned: Collins thesaurus Facebook feed blocker for firefox And search the chrome store for: Facebook feed eradicator Questions What tools do you use? What topics would you like me to discuss? I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please share
24 minutes | May 16, 2020
Episode 35 – How to Write a Great Story – Writing Your Novel (in lockdown or not)
Here’s the full podcast Episode Notes How to write a novel with a great story In this episode, it would be very tempting to talk about getting cracking with your draft. However, I want to hold back a little bit because I want to do one more bit of thinking before we dive headfirst into getting that draft underway. I want to start by asking a simple question: what is the point? And by that, I mean what is the point of your story? If I were sitting next to you, I would say what is this story about? Then when you answered, I would look you in the eye and say, no, what is it really about? What I’m getting at here could be described as theme and metaphor, but all we are really doing is trying to delve a little deeper into the reason that you are starting this project in the first place. You can frame it any way you wish, but what I can say with some confidence, is that if your novel is simply a series of events, then no matter how interesting characters may be, it won’t satisfy you or your readers. I’d like you to take a moment and ask yourself why you are really going to write this novel. It’s not enough to say that you’ve always wanted to write. You need to have a story to tell. People often say that at some fundamental level we all know what a good story is, but the word story is used to cover a multitude of sins. If someone tells you the story of what they did at work that day, it probably won’t have much significance to anyone but them and possibly you. Similarly, we might describe two neighbours who are gossiping over local events as telling a story to each other. But again, it’s not something that would bear retelling, and almost certainly isn’t worth writing about. When I was rereading Share Your Work by Austin Kleon, I found a great quote from John LeCarre Macari. Apparently, LeCarre said that The cat sat on the mat is not a story, but the cat sat on the dog’s mat is a story. And really what he’s trying to imply in a humorous way is that events need to have some significance beyond the scope of what has actually occurred. People who are cat owners and dog owners would relate to his example in an immediate way. It would elicit an emotional response in them. “Oh yes,” they’d say. “I know how that’s going to turn out.” This is we’re looking for in your story. Not just events, but emotional responses that go beyond what is actually set down on the page. We’re looking for a story that resonates with people. Try and bake these questions into your process as you go: what is the point? As you’re working on your plans or your early drafts, ask yourself over and over again. Is it intriguing, will it pique our interest, will it make us laugh or cry your tug at our heartstrings? This is not to imply that the events in your story must all be earthshattering. A seemingly mundane action can speak volumes. We’ve all seen or read stories where a person has laid a place at the dinner table for someone who is no longer there. We can use small actions to reveal aspects of your characters’ lives and in so doing elicit emotional responses from the reader. If we bear that principle in mind, we can see that themes and metaphors will emerge as we answer those questions. It’s also true that we will be able to produce those scenes more effectively and with more impact if we have some idea of what those themes and metaphors are before we begin. But don’t get hung up on the decision. You may be worried that you will pick a theme or metaphor incorrectly for your story or that your choice of theme will tie you down in some way. But I urge you to remember that we are still in the planning phase here. These ideas are not set in stone and they cannot be wrong. It is absolutely fine at any point to modify or delete them or replace them entirely. But we need this step in the process because it isn’t just about crafting a more meaningful story, it also feeds into the motivation you need to keep going through the whole process. I can still remember the dread horror of the kind of writing tasks that I was set at primary school. My imagination wanted to run free, but what the teacher asked for was an elongated diary entry called What I did at the weekend or What I did over the summer. Sound familiar? I had no real interest in recounting these events, and though they could be made interesting perhaps by a skilled diarist, to me they were dull and repetitive tasks that I trudged my way through with little enthusiasm. You cannot afford to bog down your novel writing process in the same way. So ask yourself, what is this story really about? The themes don’t have to be ideas that will be recognised by scholars of ancient literature, nor do they have to be earthshattering. They just have to exist. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few examples of universal human experiences we can all aspire to talk about. Loss is one that we can always explore because we all experience it in some way at some point. The loss of a loved one, a relative, a friend, or even a beloved pet. Another rich seam is the relationships within families. I often find fathers and sons coming into my work, perhaps because I lost my dad quite a few years ago. Another evergreen theme is the coming-of-age story. It may have been used many times in ways that are quite clichéd, but it can also be toyed with in other ways. We all go through the stage of becoming an adult. Then again there are other ways in which we could be said to come of age, e.g. settling into new modes of life, leaving home, leaving a hometown, getting married or remarried, changing careers, coming to terms with life’s obstacles, overcoming troubles. These are all variants of the coming-of-age to my mind. Whatever your theme, think back to the previous episode, and remember that what we’re interested in is change. When characters undergo significant changes, the story moves forward. Writers’ Toolbox The Reedsy marketplace has all you need to assemble a team and produce a great book Find Reedsy here I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please share it with your friends. You can also support the show by subscribing and leave a review and a rating: Your ratings and reviews will enable the podcast to continue and to improve – thank you. Please Consider Supporting The Podcast on Patreon Become a Patron
28 minutes | May 9, 2020
Episode 34 – How to Outline Your Novel – A Simple Method (in lockdown or not)
Here’s the full podcast Episode Notes How do I outline my novel in lockdown? In the previous episode, we talked about the basic setup that will get you going with your lockdown novel. If you haven’t tried episode yet, you might want to go back and check it out. I talked about having a basic text editor or word processor and setting up three documents: one for notes in which you blast ideas down, another for plans, and a third one for your first draft. In this episode we’re going to concentrate on that planning document. Now I ike to call it a plan rather than an outline, but you can call it what you want. You could spend the next three months reading books on how to outline a novel, or we could just get on and begin it. I know which I prefer. So let’s get cracking! I mentioned that a section with a timeline is useful and just to elaborate on that a little more, it’s worth considering whether you should jot down a simple sequence of events in the order they happen. Some types of work benefit from detailed plotting, for example, in a mystery novel, you’d be well advised to note things like dates and times of day for many of the events in your story. This will help you later on when your sleuth is putting together the clues and piecing together what happened. The same would go for a police detective in a crime novel. In all kinds of novels, it can be very useful to know who was where at each point, for example, in a romance, you might need to know where everyone is located as you build towards the meeting of your romantic couple. In a thriller, this level of detail is useful in helping you to take the reader on an exciting journey, building suspense and elements of intrigue as you go. But as well as these mechanics, which are starting to sound dangerously like admin, we want our plan to enhance our work. So let’s take a step back and decide what we are actually trying to achieve. To my mind, we are trying to establish a workable system that will help and guide you as you construct your novel. People will sometimes argue that writing some kind of outline will stifle your creativity, and there are times when I’ve thought that myself. But I don’t really buy that argument. This objection seems to be based on the idea that having a plan will make you wedded to it, and I just don’t think that’s the way it has to be. You should regard your plan as rough and ready, and only put into it those things that will help. If your planning is getting in the way, then maybe your going about in the wrong way. Your approach should be personal and tailored to build on your strengths and address your weaknesses. Some people like to have everything laid out before the begin, just as many cooks or home bakers like to follow a detailed recipe. I think that even those keen cooks will, over time, adapt those recipes, substituting one ingredient for another or adding something extra for a bit of variety stop. I’d encourage you to take the same kind of approach with your plans. Your planning progress is in itself a work in progress. So let’s look at the aims of your plan. One of the things that were trying to avoid is a long, rambling narrative doesn’t go anywhere, because that will bore you to tears and leave your readers frustrated. We want to write something that has some kind of sense of drive, partly to engage your readers, but partly to keep you excited and engaged as you you write it. It’s going to take quite a while, to put this novel together, so you need to keep that motivation going. If we stacked all the unfinished novels in the world on top of each other, how far would they reach? To the moon and back? Further? So how will we bake that sense of narrative drive into our first draft? Let’s start by breaking the novel down into its constituent parts. Starting at the top level, we could break our story into acts if we wish. Personally, that’s not something I do, but if it helps you, then go ahead. After that, we are all familiar with chapters. At the chapter level, we can start to note down the dominant point of view, and other information such as location and time. Each chapter may consist of one or more scenes. And the scene level is where a lot of our planning needs to take place. To make our draft work, we need each scene to have some kind of significance. Some people say the scene has to ‘turn’, others like to talk about the shifts in polarity that occurs within that scene, e.g. a negative situation is altered and becomes a positive one or vice versa. In putting this podcast together, it occurred to me that what most people are interested in is change. We’ve evolved to take notice of the new, the unusual, the suddenly absent. Give people a sense of change in each scene, and they’ll keep coming back for more. Those changes may be in terms of character development, for example, something significant can be revealed about a character. Or the change can be expressed in terms of action, or it could be a significant change in the emotional impact of the situation, your characters find themselves in. For example, it might be a heightening of tension, a deepening of emotion, or a more relaxing interlude following a tense scene. By planning for these changes, we can give the reader a pleasantly varied experience. Action is great, but if it’s relentless it can become dull. Sometimes, a gentler scene can be useful in that they allow characters to regroup and the reaffirm their aims. For example, we often see action heroes hiding away for a while, tending to their wounds and swearing vengeance, so that their reemergence is all the more spectacular. Sleuths tend to get stumped and retreat to get their heads together. Hardened detectives pop home so that their neglected partners can scold them for working too hard. We’re planning these changes to make sure we get them into our story, but we can also use the planning stage to eliminate boring scenes. Sean Coyne, in his book Story Grid, refers to what he calls shoe leather scenes, and I find that phrase useful to bear in mind. The shoe leather scene is one in which characters simply go from place to place. It’s easy to put these sho leather scenes in by mistake because we’re keen to tell the reader everything that happens, but unless something significant happens on the way, leave them out. A shoe leather scene might creep into your first draft, but that doesn’t mean it has to make it to the second one. You might well find you can curtail these scenes by starting a new chapter and simply having your characters arriving at the place they need to be. If you think about Harry Potter, and yes, I know it’s a bit tiresome that everybody uses these books as examples, but they are widely read, and even if you haven’t read one of them, you are probably aware that each novel takes place over an entire academic year. If we had every lesson and every homework assignment spelled out in detail, the books would totally lose their pace. How much you record in your plan for each scene is a personal choice. It can be as simple as one sentence, e.g. it might say Jim fights the dragon. But many people find that a thumbnail sketch in the present tense helps them to visualise the scene. This is a trick borrowed from screenplays, and they’re often called beats. For example: It’s lunchtime in the coffee shop. We see Brian sitting alone at a table. He’s moody on account of his argument with Deb. Sally comes in and cheers him up. They get on well and she invites him to dinner and he accepts. That took me a few seconds to record, yet it could make a scene of around 2000 words, because if I wrote it, I’d have lots of dialogue, thoughts, description and detail. Importantly though, even though this was off the top of my head, as I wrote it, I was beginning to see the characters and the coffee shop, and I’m starting to wonder whether Sally hasn’t always had designs on Brian. The schemer! And what about poor Deb? Once she’s had time to cool down, how will she react when she finds out about Brian’s dinner date? In other words, the act of writing that little paragraph sparked my creative process. It’s fun, it’s playing with ideas, and if you can make your planning into that kind of imaginative game, you’ll enjoy it, you’ll come up with all kinds of great ideas, and you’ll be more productive. And while you’re at it, you’ll be getting an insight into the beating heart of your story. What will make it work? What will make it better? What will make it great? These are the questions we’re dealing with, and tackling them will help your work to shine. Writers’ Toolbox Keep Going by Austin Kleon Find it on: The ebook on all stores The paperback on Amazon.com (recommended) I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please share it with your friends. You can also support the show by subscribing and leave a review and a rating: Your ratings and reviews will enable the podcast to continue and to improve – thank you. Please Consider Supporting The Podcast on Patreon Become a Patron
29 minutes | May 3, 2020
Episode 33 – How Can I Write a Novel During The Lockdown?
Here’s the full podcast Episode Notes We won’t call this a relaunch but a new beginning. Can you write a novel during lockdown? People often think that period of isolation would be the ideal environment for finally getting down to writing or completing that novel. But the truth is that writing anything much longer than a short story requires discipline and routine, and with the lockdown comes a breakdown in many of our normal routines. This can give us a feeling of becoming unmoored from our daily lives, and I for one, am having trouble remembering what day it is. If you want to get cracking and actually complete even a short novel, you are going to have to establish some clear and manageable routines. There’s a very good reason that many people recommend writing every day, that is, that it works. Daily practice of almost anything will lead to inevitable improvement, but gaps in that regular practice can set you back more than you might imagine. If you’re thinking that you simply don’t have time to write every day, then let me reframe it a little bit and say that you need to put in some effort toward completing your task on as many days as you can possibly imagine. That needn’t mean sitting down at a desk and typing, or writing longhand. It could be that you have a time when you walk the dog or perform some task that doesn’t need much concentration, and you could be jotting down some notes. And just to be clear, I don’t think that simply thinking about your story will help. You should be doing that anyway. And if your story is any good, it will probably be occupying your mind for a lot of the time to some extent, for example, you might be thinking about it when you wake up or, while you’re have a shower. But the reason I say that just thinking about your story isn’t enough, is that this you need to be getting this material out of your head and into some permanent form, because only then will it begin to take shape. So it could be scribbled notes or Post-it notes stuck on the fridge, or it could be a speech recording made into your phone. I am recording the notes for this podcast on a simple speech recording app on my phone as I walk the dog. And I know full well that if I hadn’t pulled out my phone begun this recording, I would have set off with the best intentions, thinking about how I was going to put the podcast together, but five minutes into the walk, I would have forgotten all about it. Just by simple act of taking my phone out and beginning the recording, I’m getting something done and that’s making me feel less frustrated about the process. It also means I have to keep stopping to throw a ball for the dog but that’s okay. So every day, if you possibly can, start putting something down. It will build, and you’ll start to see progress. Let’s compile a list of things you’re going to need, and you’ll be glad to see that these are very few. You can get by with pencil and paper, and that’s great for notes and plans, but getting to grips with a word processor or text editor on your computer will pay dividends. It need not be dedicated writing software, in fact, many of thos apps will have too many features for you, especially if this is your first novel. If you want to splash out, Scrivener is a reasonably priced piece of software available for all platforms except Android, and it’s used by many people. But there are many text editors that will do the job just as well. If you’re going to work from several places, you might benefit from an account on a cloud storage service such as Dropbox or Google Drive. In fact, you could write a whole novel on Google Docs. Even if you’re using a cloud service, though, I would recommend that you take regular backups of your work and dedicated backup software is a good idea. I can’t go into a to long investigation into backup software here, but a trawl through some of the computer magazine and review sites will help you to decide if there is a solution there that will work for you. Whatever you choose, it needs to be simple to set up, and it needs to be automated, so that you can set it up in a few minutes and leave it running without having to fuss over it. Otherwise, your technical troubles will become a displacement activity that will prevent you from finishing your project. Having set up some kind of basic word processor or text editor, I suggest you create several documents: one for your first draft, one for your plans, and one for notes. In the notes document, you should feel free to blast down ideas whenever you feel like it. This would be an ideal place for those thoughts you had while you were in the shower, walking the dog or whatever. Scribble down your plans, forgetting about the spelling and punctuation. Just blast your thoughts down. You might want to call that document ‘blast’ or something, just to remind yourself what to do when you have it in front of you. Don’t get hung up on it. Don’t spend too long on it. The second document is for your plans. I’m hesitating to call it an outline because that seems to imbue it with too much significance. You will need to do some planning in all likelihood, but I’d suggest that you leave this as free-form as possible, and that approach will remind you that the whole thing is open to negotiation and can be changed at any moment. It’s not something you’re wedded to, it is just what it says is, your plans. I would suggest that you put a few headings in your plans, for example, characters would be a great heading to organise some notes under. Locations would be another. Other headings depend on the genre partly, but if you are writing a mystery, you might want headings for clues and suspects. Whatever editor you’re using, apply a heading level 1 to each heading, and then leave all your notes underneath it in normal, paragraph text. This will allow you to navigate quickly from one section to another. These things are meant to be quick reference points. They are not an end in themselves, and we want to establish that right from the beginning. Your plans should include some kind of timeline. It’s very helpful to keep track of the chronological order of events in your story. You need to know what happens in what order, and you need to know who was where. It’s also a good idea to keep track of who knows what. The timeline could be very simple: a list of dates and times with jotted notes underneath. And again, don’t worry about all the spelling and punctuation. Let’s tackle the draft itself. It’s a good idea to have a little target to hit every day. This could be in terms of time spent writing, or it could be in terms of word count. Word counts can be dispiriting when you’re beginning, and you may find it difficult if you set it too high. Give yourself a low hurdle at first. Better to start low and build up. You might want to set it at 500 words, say, and if that’s easy and you can always increase the target for the next day, depending on how you get on. But bear in mind that, as in most pursuits, you’ll have good days and bad days. So don’t get downhearted if one day 2000 word is easy, and on the next day, 500 words feels like having your fingernails pulled out. That’s just the way it can go sometimes. It depends on how you’re getting on with your story. A lack of progress is sometimes an indication that there’s something wrong with your story. Maybe you need to do some alterations to your plans to fix the structure so it’s more satisfying. As a general rule, I’d suggest that if you get stuck, go back to your characters and think about them. Have you changed your mind about a character? Has their motivation altered? Did you start out thinking they were a villain and then realise you were going to redeem them as you went on? Sometimes, it can feel hard to shift the course of your story. You know it isn’t right, and it makes you hesitant to carry on. Take a step back, have a think. Are you on the right? Is there something you can do to put your story back on the rails. Have set off in the wrong direction? All is not lost. It’s only typing. You can change it. You can delete it. And anyway, remember that a story can turn on a single sentence. What can you add to make it right? Don’t afraid to try things out, but don’t tinker indefinitely. Make only those changes that are beneficial to the story. Blast down a paragraph, and if it makes the story work better, keep it in. Otherwise, delete it and have another go. Writers’ Toolbox Scrivener A jack-of-all-trades for the writer, although some find the number of tools and options unfriendly. This is an affiliate link – it doesn’t cost you anything, but I get a small reward if you buy it using this link. Typora A distraction-free text editor Focuswriter A good tool for daily writing although the lack of auto-save is a concern. Zoho Writer A cloud document word processor, similar to google docs. It also has a desktop version. I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please share it with your friends. You can also support the show by subscribing and leave a review and a rating: Your ratings and reviews will enable the podcast to continue and to improve – thank you. Please Consider Supporting The Podcast on Patreon Become a Patron
25 minutes | May 5, 2019
Episode 32 – How Do I Stay Motivated to Write?
Here’s the full podcast Episode Notes In this episode, we’re how to maintain the motivation you need to finish your writing projects. There are three prongs of attack! Pairing Match an activity that you enjoy with your writing, e.g. listening to a favourite soundtrack. It’s important that the enjoyable activity is one that you are prepared to do only while writing. You could also pair an enjoyable reward with each writing session, e.g. a special blend of coffee or a special treat. Just remember that you can only have the treat while or after writing. Breaking Down the barriers Breaking down the processes needed for each writing session into tiny steps, as small as you can possibly imagine, e.g. switching on your laptop might be one of the steps. Visualise the steps as fully as you can. What could get in the way of each step? How could each barrier be overcome? Write it all down! Be thorough, be honest, picture each step in your mind. Imagine yourself overcoming each obstacle. Mentally rehearse the process as fully as you can manage. Visualise Success Finally, picturing success can help to keep you motivated. Imagine in detail what success will feel like. Focus on the details and use your senses. What will your finished paperback smell like? What sound will the pages make as they turn? Writers’ Toolbox The Steal LIke an Artist Journal by Austin Kleon On Amazon USA On Amazon UK Show Your Work by Austin Kleon On Amazon USA On Amazon UK The FITZ App Fitz is a simple chatbot helping you achieve positive changes in life. It uses an approach called Functional Imagery Training (FIT). FIT is a unique approach to behaviour change that uses mental imagery to motivate change. FIT teaches people new ways of thinking about their immediate future to help them stay motivated as they achieve each small step towards their goal. Find this app on the google play store I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please share it with your friends. You can also support the show by subscribing and leave a review and a rating: Your ratings and reviews will enable the podcast to continue and to improve – thank you. Please Consider Supporting The Podcast on Patreon Become a Patron
35 minutes | Apr 22, 2019
Episode 31 – How Do We Show Instead of Telling?
Episode Notes In this episode, we’re discussing the difference between showing and telling in our writing. Why is it important and what can we do about it? It’s a commonly touted piece of advice that we should show rather than tell in our writing but it only goes so far. Advice shouldn’t be followed slavishly […]
38 minutes | Apr 15, 2019
Episode 30 – How do we write convincing endings for each chapter?
Episode Notes Today we’re looking at the craft of writing convincing endings for each chapter of our novels and stories. This podcast was written in response to a listener question in the Writing Talk Podcast Facebook group. If you have questions or issues that you’d like me to discuss, commenting in the group is a […]
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