5 Ways to Start Your Story With a Bang!
If you’re doing NaNoWriMo or just want to improve the chances of your story starting with a bang and drawing readers in, check out my Top Five Tips to get things off on the right foot:
1. Create a High Concept Hook
Can you summarise the premise of your story in a short sentence? Does this sentence clearly state what the book is about? If not, you might need to work on either clarifying what the heart and soul of your premise actually is, or reworking your idea to be more ‘high concept’ and unique.
Try to incorporate character, goal, and conflict. Who is your character, what do they want, and what’s going to make it difficult for them to get it?
The main thing to remember is to be specific, not vague, and make it memorable.
For example, here’s the one sentence pitch I used for my novel, Fast Forward:
Aspiring supermodel, Kelli Crawford seems destined to marry her hotshot boyfriend, but on her twenty-fifth birthday she wakes in the future as a fifty-year-old suburban housewife married to the now middle-aged high school nerd.
From this we can tell who the character is (Kelli, a model), what she wants (her boyfriend to propose), and what her conflict is (she wakes up 50 and married to someone else).
A less memorable way of writing this could have been:
A young woman wakes up on her birthday to find that she’s middle-aged and married to someone else.
It still has some merit, but it’s not specific enough. To turn it into the high concept premise mentioned earlier, instead of just saying ‘young woman’ we point out her name, her occupation, and her age. Instead of saying ‘middle-aged’ we say fifty years old, in the future, and a housewife. And instead of saying she ‘married someone else’ we make it known that her husband is the nerd from high school who is now middle-aged. See how being specific makes a huge difference?
>>What can you do to your premise/hook to make it more specific and interesting?
2. Start Your Story at the Inciting Incident
Your story could start in several different ways, so make sure you choose the way that best showcases your story’s premise and kick-starts the plot. By the end of the first chapter your high concept hook/one line pitch should make sense, and the reader should be motivated to read on and see what happens. Don’t start with backstory and then only begin the real story in chapter three, start the story where the story starts.
Have a think about what sets off your story, what is the key action that puts your character into the situation that propels the story forward, and start there. Action and dialogue are key to starting the story with a bang. Avoid excessive narration and description.
For example, in Fast Forward, the story starts with the main character, Kelli, on the eve of her twenty-fifth birthday. We first see her enjoying everything that’s great about her life, and then she gets a rude shock when she wakes up in the future and finds that she’s doubled in age. By the end of chapter one, the story premise has begun and the conflict is unfolding.
>>What is the best, most interesting place to start your story? What action is needed to kick-start the plot?
3. Have a Punchy First Line
Not only do you need to start your story off right, you need to start with a line that shows something about the character, the goal, or the conflict. Or something that immediately sets the tone or voice of the story, catapults the character into the action, or poses a question that the reader will want to have answered.
Using the example of Fast Forward again for the sake of consistency, the first line is:
I can’t help that I’m beautiful. There, I’ve said it.
Immediately we know that Kelli is beautiful and she knows it, and is probably a bit conceited, though she sees it as just being honest. Of course, this type of character may turn some people off (and I was totally prepared for that!), but the idea is that it will be more fun when we see her get her comeuppance in the future when she’s no longer young and beautiful, and we can have a bit of a laugh at her expense. I also wanted it to contrast with the last line in the book (which I won’t reveal but has to do with beauty) to show how far she has grown as a person by the end of the story and what she has learned about what’s really important in life.
>>Write down some possible first lines for your story… how can you first introduce the character, goal, or conflict? Also, try to end the chapter with a punchy line as well so the reader wants to read on to find out what happens next. Take a look at some first lines from your book collection to get some ideas.
4. Minimise Backstory
You might feel that you have to tell the reader a whole heap of stuff about your characters and their past so they can ‘get to know them’, but you don’t. Character is mostly shown through action, behaviour, and dialogue. Backstory can be filtered in here and there in a subtle way that adds to the story rather than dragging it down.
Going overboard with backstory will slow the pace and become boring. The best thing to do is immerse your reader into the action of the story first (and by action I don’t mean shoot-outs and car chases, unless that is the type of story you are writing!). The type of action can vary depending on genre. It can be a heated conversation, a meeting between two people, an unfolding dilemma, or a funny or embarrassing situation the character finds themselves in. Focusing on some sort of action will reduce the need for backstory.
This doesn’t mean you can’t include any backstory in the beginning, just be subtle and don’t lump it in all in one go. Fast Forward begins with an argument between Kelli and her sister on the eve of her birthday. I included a small amount of backstory in the fourth paragraph to add context to their argument, but then the action resumes quickly. If you include backstory, make sure it serves a purpose that enhances the scene, and not just as a way to ‘tell’ the reader something.
>>To reduce backstory in the beginning, have a think about the absolute minimum amount and type of information needed to make the scene work. Anything extra – get rid of it, and filter in gradually as the story progresses.
5. Show Don’t Tell
Showing means using character behaviour, dialogue, and action to tell the story, as opposed to narration and description.
This doesn’t mean there can’t be any ‘telling’ in your story, some is needed here and there to balance things out and get vital information across, but showing should predominate. Showing helps the reader visualise the scene more clearly and have a more immersive experience alongside the character.
You can improve your showing versus telling by thinking visually, and also by searching for unnecessary words in your manuscript including: starting, started to, began, was, were, almost, saw, heard, and felt. These are filter words, they filter your reader’s experience rather than immersing them in it. They can still be used, but sparingly, and only when necessary.
Here is an example of telling:
I stood in front of the mirror and couldn’t believe what I saw. My belly was loose and flabby, and my breasts were droopy.
And here’s how it can be changed to better ‘show’ what’s happening (from a scene in Fast Forward):
I finally stood again at the mirror, my mouth gaping. I lowered my hands to my abdomen, lifting and prodding clumps of loose skin that felt like a bag of jelly.
What in the name of Dior happened to my flat stomach? Not only did I have a freaking jelly belly, my breasts drooped so far south they were practically residents of Antarctica.
Instead of telling the reader that the character ‘couldn’t believe it’, show them, eg: ‘my mouth gaping.’ And instead of telling the reader that her belly was loose and flabby, put some action into it, eg: ‘lifting and prodding loose clumps of skin’.
Keep these filter words handy and catch yourself out when you use them to see if there’s a better way of writing the scene. Until you get used to minimising these words, you can also just leave it until the editing process and then change them, by using the ‘find’ function on your word document.
Keep these 5 tips in mind and you’ll be well on your way to starting your story with a bang! Good luck to those doing NaNoWriMo 🙂
Like this post? Tweet it by copying & pasting any of the following into a tweet:
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Examples in this article taken from the book, FAST FORWARD, available from all online ebook retailers.
Editing Tip: 10 Words to Search For in Your Manuscript
When I’m editing, and before I do a final read through and tweaking of my manuscript, I use Microsoft Word’s ‘find’ feature to search for the following ten words. These words can usually be deleted in order to tighten up the writing and focus on ‘showing vs telling’.
Sometimes ‘almost’ can work but often it’s not needed. Eg: With his sunken eyes and pallor he
almost looked like a ghost. An example where it may work could be: She almost slammed the door in his face. Or instead of that, it could be changed to: She resisted the urge to slam the door in his face.
Usually there is a stronger word available to replace the need for ‘very’, or the phrase can be changed completely to something else. Eg: ‘very sad’ could become ‘despondent’. Eg: It was very sunny. Better: It was sunny. Even better: She squinted as the sun’s glare rebounded off the pavement and hit her eyes.
When this is used alongside ‘to’, as in ‘started to’, it’s probably not needed. Eg: She started to get dressed. Better: She got dressed. Even better: She zipped her jeans and put on a t-shirt.
This is similar to ‘started’. Eg: It began to rain. Better: Droplets of rain dampened her hair, or: He flicked on the windscreen wipers as rain blurred the road ahead.
5. stood up
Remove the word ‘up’. If someone stood, it’s obviously up.
6. sat down
Remove the word ‘down’. If someone is going from a standing position to a sitting position it is obviously ‘down’. Except if the person is lying down and then changes to a sitting position.
Removing ‘heard’ or ‘hear’ gives the reader a more vivid experience. Eg: She heard someone call her name. Better: A voice called her name. Eg: I could hear the rain pelting against the window. Better: rain pelted against the window.
Same as with ‘heard’. Eg: She saw his face through the window. Better: His eyes glared at her through the window. Eg: I could see him coming towards me. Better: He came towards me.
Telling a reader what a character felt is not as powerful as showing them. Eg: She felt relaxed and happy. Better: She leaned back in the chair and a smile eased onto her face.
Eg: If she could
just find a way to get through to him, he might understand. Eg: “The shop is just around the corner.”
There are more suggestions of words to search for at this very useful site.
Have a search of your manuscript and see how many of these words you can find and change to improve your book.
Are there words that you often overuse in your writing?
P.S. – Interested in learning Juliet’s RAPID EDITING SYSTEM? Express your interest in her upcoming online course, “Editing Mojo”, starting in the first half of 2019! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: Editing Mojo – notify me!
Top Ten Things I’ve Learned About Writing A Novel
I’m over at the Life In A Pink Fibro blog today talking about how to write a romance novel and the ten things I’ve learned on my journey to publication. It was interesting to look back on where I was a few years ago to where I am now. I hope you’ll get a lot out of this post!
And if you haven’t visited my blog for a while, here are some other recent posts you might like to check out:
– I took the plunge like Jenn J McLeod did and interviewed myself! Past Present Future with…me!
– Annie Seaton shares her Promotional Tips for Authors.
– Sandra Antonelli and I discuss the issue of ‘older’ women in fiction at the Escape Blog.
I’m also thrilled to have received some great reviews for Fast Forward recently, over at Novel Escapes, YA Novelties, and Chick Lit Club! A BIG thank you to the reviewers for taking time to read the book and write the reviews. 🙂
Coming up soon on the blog, an interview with Natalie Charles, a guest post by Ros Baxter, and a post on Twitter Basics for Authors. Stay tuned!
Novellas: The Writer’s Quick-Fix
Writers often slave over their manuscripts for months, sometimes missing out on sleep, and the writing is only half of it. Then comes editing, revising, editing, and so on. But because we love our craft we keep going – book after book after book. There is nothing like the reward of a finished book and a story well told.
Another option for those who need a writing ‘fix’ is to try your hand at writing a novella. Longer than a short story but shorter than a novel, novellas allow us to tell a story in a shorter amount of time but with that same thrill of creating characters and scenes that will take us (and the reader) on an emotional journey.
Shorter doesn’t necessarily mean easier though – you have been warned! You still need to work on characterisation, goal, motivation, and conflict, and be able to show enough character growth through the shorter word count. But they are usually much quicker to write and edit, and because of the advance of e-publishing and self-publishing, novellas seem to be more widely available nowadays.
Novellas can be produced more quickly, you can explore certain ideas that may not be sustainable through an entire novel, they are good for seasonal stories (eg: Christmas), and they can also be used as prequels or sequels to longer works of fiction. For the reader, they are a bite sized read that can be devoured in one go during a lunch break or before bed, but often still providing that same sense of emotional satisfaction that comes from reading a novel. They are a good way to discover new authors too, without committing to a full length book.
I recently wrote my first novella, STARSTRUCK IN SEATTLE; the first in a series of novellas linked by a quirky character named Lulu. It took me about three weeks to write the first draft. And when I say three weeks, I don’t mean three full-on weeks, I mean snippets of writing time here and there around motherhood and other duties! So if I didn’t have much else to do, I could probably have written it in about a week (says the optimistic part of me 😉 )
How did I come up with the idea for my novella? Sleepless in Seattle was on television and because I am a sucker for stories of ‘fate’ and romance that is ‘just like magic’, an idea about an online matchmaker and Love Coach came to me. But in this case, the matchmaker has a little secret. Here’s the blurb for the story…
Actress Anna Hilford has a major crush, but not on just any guy – Karl Drake, the leading actor in the television drama on which she works as an extra. Sick of being loveless and second best in the shadow of her famous sister, Anna seeks the help of Lulu from LuluTheLoveAngel.com to give her the courage and determination to follow what she believes is her destiny and transform from ‘extra’ to ‘leading lady’ in both life and love. What she doesn’t realize however, is that Lulu really is an angel and destiny has other ideas.
I found writing this novella fun and rewarding, though still a bit of hard work here and there! And in case you’re wondering, Lulu’s website does exist, though she told me she’s having a little vacation on Cloud Nine and will hopefully be back soon 😉
~ Have you written a novella? Feel free to give yours a plug in the comments.
~ Do you read novellas? What are some that you’ve enjoyed reading recently?
Writing a Synopsis: Some Things I’ve Learned
We all know about four-letter dirty words, but only writers know about the eight-letter dirty word – SYNOPSIS.
A synopsis is a summary of a novel’s main plot points and characters, from the beginning right through to the end. Most agents and editors like to see one when assessing your manuscript for possible publication, so it’s something almost all writers have to do at some point. I’ve noticed many publishing professionals request a ‘brief synopsis’, which I take to mean about one or two pages at the most. Others may ask for a more detailed five or six page synopsis. But this is something many writer’s struggle with, me included.
How can you possibly take a 300-400 page story and explain it in only one or two pages?
I don’t claim to be an expert on this (far from it, although I do my best!), but here are some things I’ve learned while writing my own synopses. I’ve called it ‘The Russian Doll Method’!
Open your manuscript and summarise all the main plot points, as though you’re giving someone a running commentary on a TV show or movie they can’t see. Use present tense. Don’t worry about length at first, just get the main plot points down (big Russian doll), and add in a taste of your voice, so if it’s humorous, show some of the humour, if it’s suspenseful, add that element to the synopsis too, as long as you don’t leave any questions unanswered. A synopsis’ purpose is to tell a potential agent or editor/publisher what the book is about and what happens throughout the story, including the ending.
Once you’ve written the summary, go through and highlight the most important events affecting the main character/s in yellow. Then highlight the slightly less important events, but still a required part of the story, in another colour such as grey (just one shade, not fifty. Sorry, couldn’t resist;)). You might find that some events can be left out of the synopsis, for the sake of brevity.
Now start again, writing the synopsis focusing on the highlighted parts, and tightening up the sentences (smaller Russian doll). Check the length to see if you need to cut further, and if so, go through the highlighting process again (even smaller Russian doll). Also, see if some plot events can be combined into one sentence as an overall summary of the situation, so rather than:
John arrives at his grandma’s house and notices the door is unlocked. He searches all the rooms in the house, but finds them empty, so he walks out the back door and through the overgrown garden. She isn’t there either. He goes back inside and stands in the kitchen, scratching his head, then notices a half-eaten toasted sandwich resting on the table. He picks it up and finds it is still warm. Thinking his grandma might have been abducted only moments ago, John immediately calls the police. (forgive the crappy writing, this is just an example!)
Using the highlighted parts (which I’ve underlined instead because I don’t know how to highlight on this blog!), the paragraph could be changed as follows:
When John arrives at his grandma’s house it is empty, and her half eaten lunch is still warm. Terrified something bad has happened to her only moments before his arrival, John calls the police.
And if you had to cut it even further it could be changed to:
John calls the police on finding his grandma’s house empty.
Sometimes it’s easier to work this way, starting with a long synopsis and gradually breaking it down. If you end up trying this process, I’d love to hear how it goes for you – let me know!
How do you go about writing a synopsis, are there any valuable tips you’ve learned through the process?
How To Bake A Novel – a recipe of words
I got to thinking recently that writing a novel is a lot like cooking, so I thought I’d create a little recipe for all those writers out there…
Preparation time: Varies, from months to years.
Serves: Potentially millions (if you’re lucky)
- One working computer, word processor, or large notepad and pen
- One committed writer
- *optional but highly recommended: truckloads of beverages and snacks
- One main plot
- A handful of sub-plots
- One to a few main characters
- Several minor characters
- At least one setting, add more to taste
- One large cup of emotion
- A splash of humour
- A teaspoon of mystery (or more depending on genre of the recipe, er… novel)
- One or two cups of cold-pressed extra virgin (or not) organic dialogue
- One or two goals
- One heaped tablespoon of motivation
- Two cups of conflict
- One cup of resolution mixed with a happy ending (depending on genre)
- A sprinkling of hooks and cliffhangers
- *optional but highly recommended: a twist of sexual tension and a dollop of romance
1. Prepare by opening a new word document or a new page on your notepad, and give it a title, eg: ‘Best Novel Ever’, or ‘I’ll Think Of A Title Later’.
2. Write the opening sentence, or the last sentence, or any words you can think of so you can officially say, “I’ve started writing my novel.”
3. Consume beverages and snacks.
4. Introduce one main character, a goal, and splash in some conflict (save the rest for later).
5. Sprinkle a hook or cliffhanger at the end of chapter one to entice further devouring of the story.
6. Add some of the other characters and sub-plots, and stir in some emotion and mystery.
7. Consume more beverages and snacks.
8. Splash in some humour and keep drizzling in the organic dialogue throughout the whole baking/writing process.
9. Combine the motivation with some more of the conflict for a spicy mixture.
10. If adding the optional ingredient of sexual tension, squeeze a little in now.
11. Continue stirring the plot and the sub-plots together so they combine well, making sure to keep topping up the emotion.
12. Consume beverages and snacks.
13. Add in the remaining conflict, sexual tension, mystery, and hooks.
14. Finish by placing the cup of resolution and happy endings on top, and decorate with a dollop of romance.
15. Bake in a closed drawer or backed-up file on your computer, and leave completely alone for at least a couple of weeks, or more if you’ve forgotten to attend to necessary tasks such as showering, cleaning, feeding the family and pets, seeing real live people, checking the mail…etc.
16. Open the file and give it a taste test. Read through it and make any obvious changes and improvements, adding more of the ingredients as needed.
17. For best results, get a trusted friend to taste test it too.
18. Make further improvements.
19. Bake it for a little longer if necessary.
20. Pull bits of it apart and throw them out. But just in case, wrap them up and store them safely away for future reference.
21. Remove the excess words and overused ingredients.
22. Repeat steps 11 and 13.
23. Add extra sweetness to the dollop of romance if required.
24. Decorate and plate-up the finished piece with all the pizazz you can find.
25. Hand it over to a professional, who’ll probably get you to start over at step 20 again.
26. Repeat steps until it tastes just right, or a deadline forces you to serve it up.
27. Consume beverages and snacks to reward yourself for all the hard work.
28. Attend to the necessary tasks that you’ve once again neglected.
29. Smile politely at people who say, “The novel was great, I read it in one day. Hurry up and write the next one!”
30. Begin at step 1 all over again.
*Note: Results may vary between people. Recipe not suitable for freezing.
Thanks for reading! And remember, all comments left on blog posts during May will go into the draw for some tasty prizes! Click on the ‘mouthwatering may’ tag below to see all may blog posts, or click on the category on the right side menu. Also, make sure you subscribe to the blog to be eligible 😉
It was a dark and stormy night… (First Sentences)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. That is how Jane Austen started her book, Pride and Prejudice in 1813, and made it into the top 100 best first lines from novels according to the American Book Review.
A knockout first sentence can immediately draw a reader in, and helps set the tone of the story, so I think it’s important to create the best first line possible. Having said that, a good first line means nothing if the rest of the book is terrible! So of course the second sentence, and the third, and right up till the end all matters too.
When I’m in a bookstore choosing a book, not only do I go by cover design, author name, and the blurb on the book jacket, I always read the first sentence, and often the whole first page to see if it grabs my interest. If a writer can come up with the goods on the first page I know they’re more likely to keep me interested throughout the whole book.
As a reader, how important is the first sentence to you? As a writer, how easy or difficult do you find it to come up with a winner of a first line?
I love writing first sentences. I usually write them first before working out a detailed plot, because I find if I just let the words flow it’s easier to get a feel for the story idea and the protagonist.
Here are a few of my first sentences from completed stories, short stories, and works in progress…
Some first sentences are short:
Birthdays suck. (The Big Four-O, short story)
And some first sentences are long:
For most people, the worst time to get an attack of the hiccups would be at the dentist just as the drill is approaching your mouth, or on a date, just as he leans in for The Kiss, but for me, the unfortunate diaphragmatic spasm came when Channel Four news crossed to my live broadcast at the Sydney Travel Show. (February or Forever, work-in-progress)
And others are somewhere in between:
Damn you Barbie! You and your size four figure, all over tan, and legs to the moon! (The Life Makeover Club)
Dr. Sylvia Greene had never done anything like this before in her life. (The January Wish)
‘Oops’ is not the word you ever want to hear from your hairdresser; scissors in one hand, a large section of hair in the other. (Untitled, work-in-progress)
And here are some great first sentences I’ve found from other authors:
If a road could look welcoming, then Summer Street had both arms out and the kettle boiling. (Past Secrets, Cathy Kelly)
Under normal circumstances, Faith and I should not be home when my mother calls and invites us to come see her brand-new coffin. (Keeping Faith, Jodi Picoult)
What would you do if you thought you were about to die? (Heaven Can Wait, Cally Taylor)
Of all the crap, crap, crappy nights I’ve ever had in the whole of my crap life. (Remember Me, Sophie Kinsella)
Why not comment and share a favourite first sentence or two, or maybe you’d like to share the first sentence of one of your novels, or a work-in-progress? I’d love to hear some more 🙂
My poem made from book titles!
As an avid reader, writer, and creative person in general, (with a slight, okay… a fierce competitive streak), when I saw a contest for making a poem out of book titles I just had to enter!
Thanks to my writer buddy (and collage poet) Diane for sharing the link to the contest, and to Janet Reid for organising it and reading through all the entries.
I had a lot of fun pulling books from my neatly organised shelves and playing around with the titles until I came up with the final result; a romantic comedy complete with a black moment and happy ending 🙂
I didn’t expect to make the top four finalists, so that was a nice surprise!! You can see the results and the winning poem here.
Here is my poem:
So why not give this a go yourself? C’mon, have some fun and show me what you end up with!
From Here To Eternity – RWA 20th Anniversary Conference
I was one of the lucky 350 attendees of the Romance Writers of Australia’s conference, held in Melbourne on 12th-14th August. The organisers did a fantastic job, and everything ran smoothly and professionally, allowing us writers to sit back and enjoy the event.
This was my first writer’s conference, yet I felt like part of a family, and was never without an interesting person to talk to. It was great to meet many of my online writing friends face to face, and I’m sure they were surprised to see that I am in fact a real person and not the cartoon avatar they’ve seen online!
I’m incredibly grateful to have met many wonderful authors, and the support and encouragement they gave me was amazing. There was no ‘us and them’, or ‘published and unpublished’, we were all united as writers, no matter what stage of the journey we’re at.
The venue (Hilton on the park, Melbourne) was lovely, and simply being child-free for four days without having to think about housework or real life in general was absolute bliss! I always love the feeling of arriving home, but I also love being able to think solely about writing and publishing for a few days without the distractions of daily life. Is it too early to book for next year’s conference?? 😉
I took as many notes as possible. Some information was new to me, some reinforced things I’d already learned but needed to be reminded of. Most importantly, I left feeling inspired, empowered, and dedicated to this path I’ve chosen.
The speakers were all fantastic, and I enjoyed listening and learning from Bob Mayer, Susan Wiggs, Lisa Heidke, Nikki Logan, Jane Porter, Christine Stinson, and all the authors, agents, and editors who enlightened, informed, and entertained.
Here are some of the key learnings I got from various speakers at the conference:
- Writing is an entertainment business – emotion & numbers
- Always stay one book ahead of your contract
- Have SOP’s – standard operating procedures, for organising your writing time, social media, emails…etc
- Write about what scares you most – the emotion will show through
- Write what you WANT to know
- Get ideas by thinking, ‘What if?’, ‘What if something is not what it appears to be?’
- Dissect plots in movies by looking at ‘scene selection’ and scene titles on DVD’s
- Show a character’s true nature through crisis
- Find time for writing by tracking how you spend your time over one week – where can you cut back on time wasters and devote that time to writing?
- Use twitter hashtags to attract target market, eg: ‘If you like #nameofsimilarbookormovie, you’ll like #nameofyourbook
- Characterisation: Consciously communicate subconscious behaviour that the reader will subconsciously get
- A book series can be unified by concept, theme, characters, setting
- Sell a few .99c ebooks as ‘hooks’ to introduce readers to your other books
- Women’s fiction for the 40+ age group is a hot market
- Self help books can be useful for researching character issues and how they overcome them
- Children in books – must bring something out in the characters
- Technique for endings – try mirroring the opening of the book, unites beginning to end
- Don’t wait until publication to think about a ‘brand’, do it now
- A brand is a promise, a symbol, and triggers an emotional response and recognition
- Can brand yourself as an author, or your books, or a character
- When stuck with the writing process, do something else within the story – research setting, visual prompts, write a letter from your character to an old friend in first person
- Content is king, promotion is queen
- And much more!
Apart from the conference sessions, the social part was memorable too. The 1920’s themed cocktail party was a lot of fun, as was the awards dinner (congratulations to all the award winners!), and I was happy to do my bit for the fundraising for the Otis Foundation, a charity I hadn’t heard of until now, who plays an extremely valuable role in providing retreats for women and men going through breast cancer.
Thanks to the RWA team, my fellow writers, the speakers, agents, editors, sponsors, and hotel staff for making it a conference to remember.
I’m looking forward to a successful lifelong writing career – from here… to eternity.
Don’t Just Write What You Know, Write What You Care About
This is one of my favourite bits of writing advice, and as soon as I read those simple words in Donald Maass’ book, ‘Writing the Breakout Novel’, I grabbed my trusty pink highlighter and slid it across the page. Mostly because I liked the advice, and partly because I love highlighting things! (I love the smooth feel as they glide along the page, and the colours you can get these days are gorgeous! But I’ll save that discussion for some other self-indulgent blog post, perhaps about stationary addiction).
It is SO important to write what you care about, because as Donald says, ‘If you don’t care, why should anyone else?’
Don’t write something just because you think it’s popular, or there’s a gap in the market. You have to like and care about what you’re writing in order to enjoy it and do it for the long haul.
This advice got me thinking about what I care about, and why I have written about certain topics. In my novel, The Life Makeover Club, I’ve written about women getting a chance to create the life they always wanted. I care about people being able to enjoy their lives and do the things they’re passionate about, rather than feeling like they’re stuck in a rut, or trapped in a life that isn’t what they want. Too many people settle for second best, or say ‘this is just my lot in life’, without thinking or taking action towards making their life better. Sure, there are some things that can’t be changed, but a lot can be, and probably one of the most important things you can change is your attitude.
My novel also explores motherhood, and how to be a good mother while still keeping your own identity – something I know many mothers struggle with. I’ve also highlighted (there I go again!) the humourous side to motherhood, as daily parenting can bring with it both challenging and funny moments, and sometimes you just have to laugh!
Another thing I care about creating awareness of is the often silent ‘emotional abuse’ in some relationships. Domestic violence gets a lot of press, and rightly so, but those suffering in an emotionally abusive relationship often suffer in silence because it is not seen, and the affected partner can feel like they are making a big deal out of nothing, or that maybe they are just too sensitive. I wanted to show a character going through this and finding the strength to come through it; to say ‘I don’t have to put up with this.’
Other themes, issues, and topics I care about, and are writing or plan to write about in future are:
– reconnecting with family
– personal empowerment
– trusting your intuition
– the reality of autism and the gifts it can provide
– the importance of being proactive with your health
– remembering and celebrating life’s little pleasures
– the need for a ‘place to call home’
– the valued role of grandparents
– thinking outside the box – ‘What if?’
– accepting people as individuals
– the valuable role of ‘the arts’ in our lives
– second chances, persistence, never giving up
What about you?
What do you care about?
What are you inspired to write or read about?