Tag Archives: Character

Are You Ready For NaNoWriMo?

press-start-fa915ffe8a6fb32bb3eabf7f771620b4With only two weeks to go until NaNoWriMo begins for another year, are you prepared? As a previous (multiple) NaNoWriMo ‘winner’ I’m here to help you get ready for November.

STEP 1:

Have you signed up to the official NaNoWriMo site yet? If not, don’t forget to sign up. It’s a great way to keep track of your word count over the month, and to keep track of any friends who are also taking part. Explore the forums and sign up to your local area group to get motivating emails throughout the month.

STEP 2:

Do you have a plan? Although one year I managed to write 50,000 words on a novel by pantsing, I believe having a plan can be a great help. Even just a dot point outline can give you something to refer to when you get stuck so you can remind yourself where you want the story to go. I personally like having a skeleton outline, which you can read more about here.

STEP 3:

Do you know your characters? Getting to know your characters before you start writing can make it easier to get into their heads as you write. Here is a post on various ways you can get to know your characters before NaNo.

STEP 4:

Have some handy writing tools at your fingertips. Here is a list of links to writing tools to help you during NaNo, such as Write or Die (which is GREAT for motivating you to reach your daily word count).

BONUS LINKS

Links to help you with plotting your novel.

Links to help you bolster your word count.

– And don’t forget my master list of links, including links to posts on character, tension/pacing, and much more.

BONUS TIPS

– Keep a notepad and pen with you at all times during NaNo so you can write whenever you get a moment.

– Write whenever you get a free moment. Kids occupied playing outside, sit on the porch and write. On your lunch break at work, break out that notepad and write. Waiting in the doctor’s waiting room… You know the drill. Use those spare moments. Forget Candy Crush, it’s banished for the month. Bookmark that book you’re reading and put it in a drawer. Let your partner/housemates have control of the remote control (or if you have a favourite show you can’t miss, don’t forget to write during the ad breaks).

– Link up with fellow writers, particularly those doing NaNo, and do writing races. Example:

Me (on social media site/forum): Who’s up for a writing race? 30 minutes starting at :15 (use just the minutes to account for people in different time zones, so it could mean 7:15am in Australia AND 4:15pm in New York).

Writing friend: I’m in!

Me: (at 15 minutes past the hour): Go!

*30 minutes pass*

Me: Stop! 868 words.

Writing friend: 934.

– Stock up on chocolate/caffeine/Wiggles DVDs for the kids/whatever it is you need to get through writing when you are stressed/tired/despairing over character arcs. (I’ve picked a really good time to start a new diet, so it will be my first NaNo without a stockpile of chocolate/caffeine to get me through. Eep!)

Share your NaNo tips in the comments below.

HAPPY NANO-ING!

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Writing an Action Scene

Last week I was answering interview questions about my story in the integrated short story collection The Life and Times of Chester Lewis and, since I hadn’t looked at it in quite a while, I gave the story a reread. Like most writers (I would imagine), I couldn’t help but think there were places where I could have written more tightly or hooked the reader in more. As writers I don’t think we ever stop editing our stories in our heads, even after they’ve published. I’m a perfectionist in that way, and I don’t think I can ever feel like my writing is perfect. Good, maybe, but perfect, no.

I did concede to myself, however, that I was quite happy with how the main action scene turned out. There are some main points I keep in mind when writing action scenes that I think make a world of difference:

1. Short, sharp sentences pack a punch.

2. But, it is also important to vary sentence length to keep readers engaged, not bored. Short, sharp sentences lose their impact if you don’t vary them with some longer (but not too long) sentences.

3. Get into your character’s head. Think about his or her reactions.

4. Up the stakes. Just when it looks like the character will be triumphant, just when they’ve got the upper hand, turn the tables. Throw the worst case scenario at him or her. Make it seem as though all hope is lost and there is no way out.

If you want to check out my Chester Lewis story and judge my action scene for yourself, The Life and Times of Chester Lewis is actually on special offer today for its launch. You can grab a copy of the ebook for $0.99 (it’s normally $3.99). This is an especially good opportunity to pick up a copy and get started on you fanfic story (if you’re entering). Remember, it’s $2000 for the winner of the competition and it’s open worldwide. What a great opportunity!

Do you have any tips for writing action scenes? What really hooks you in when you’re reading them? Do you have any favourite action scenes from books you’ve read?

Aussie Author Month – John Marsden

As part of Aussie Author month I’m going to be doing a series of blog posts focusing on some of my favourite Australian authors—authors who have inspired me in my own writing.

For the first post I want to focus on one of my all time favourite authors: John Marsden. I started reading John Marsden as a teenager and he immediately became my favourite teen/YA writer. He also inspired me to really strive for my writing dream; knowing that an Australian could become such a well known author, not just here, but overseas as well, was a big push for me.

Marsden has written a multitude of books over the years, primarily aimed at teens. At one stage I had read every book he’d ever written. In year eight, my English teacher read our class Tomorrow When the War Began (which I’d already read by then)—every student in my class loved it and there was an influx in the library to borrow the next book in the series. Even the boys.

So how is it that Marsden, nearly a decade before the Harry Potter phenomenon, inspired teens, including reluctant male readers, to get reading?

Voice

This would have to be the number one factor in the appeal of Marsden’s books to teens. Marsden has a way of writing teenage voice realistically that draws teens into the story. Teens feel like they’re reading about someone their own age—they can relate to the feelings and thoughts of the character, because it’s how they think and feel. In particular, I find his ability to write in the voice of a teenage girl particularly brilliant (how many grown men could channel the voice of a teenage girl so realistically?).

To be honest, which I swore I’d be, we’d all had those delusions at times. They were only daydreams, to liberate our families, to fix everything, to be heroes… In reality the prospect of doing something like that was so horrifying and frightening that it made me ill to think of it.” (Tomorrow When the War Began, pg. 232)

I was giving your ear an erotic experience and you were giggling and pushing me away. The only thing that stopped me going further was all the people around, and Mr. Rossi. Like, he might be a good bloke, but if he finds two of his students having sex in the middle of an excursion he’s not exactly going to give us a pat on the head and an A in Art.” (Dear Miffy, pg. 75)

Characters

The characters in Marsden’s books come alive from the first page and make you want to know their story. Part of that is their voice, which I mentioned above, but it is also the layers of depth each character possesses. In books like Letters from the Inside and So Much to Tell You, the stories of the main characters unfold layer by layer. From the beginning the reader knows there is more to this character, some secret, and as the story unfolds we get glimpses of the secret, until we find out the whole story. In other stories, such as the Tomorrow series, we see the main character put in tough situations and continually growing as a character through these situations.

I don’t blame you for being scared of me. I don’t like it but I don’t blame you. I’m scared of myself sometimes.” (Letters from the Inside, pg.96)

…I started trembling and sobbing and hugging myself. I leaned against the wall then slid down until I was on the floor. It seemed like something outside me had taken control. It shook me like I was a washing machine. I knew what it was of course. The image of Shannon, lying there naked and tied up, her blood, the death that I saw in her eyes: Where was I supposed to put that?” (While I Live, pg.266)

Description

Part of what makes Marsden’s descriptions so effective is the way they’re written from the character’s perspective. His descriptions give the reader a clear picture, while showing the reader how the character views his/her world. He very rarely alludes to the characters’ physical descriptions, unless it’s relevant.

…Lisa came in, went to her bed and lay on it face down. And after a few moments she began crying! I could hear her. And I could see her shoulders shuddering. Lisa, the strong one, who never cries! It got worse: her crying became louder, uncontrolled, sobbing. From deep, deep down… I fluttered around the dorm wanting to help her.” (So Much to Tell You, pg.39)

… we ran the way rabbits do when they get a sniff of the warren and think they can just make it. We put our ears back, kept close to the ground and went for it… The fence loomed up at me. I dived to go under it. Still like a rabbit. Beside me Fi did the same. As we went down, the first shot wailed above our heads.” (Darkness, Be My Friend, pg. 234)

If you (or your kids) have yet to pick up a book by John Marsden, I highly recommend picking one up.

If you have (or write for) preteen boys, try Staying Alive in Year 5. For teen girls, try So Much to Tell You. For teen boys, try Dear Miffy. And everybody should read Tomorrow When the War Began at least once in their lifetime, it’s a Aussie literature must-read.

A side note in regards to Aussie Author Month:

One of the aims of Aussie Author month is to raise awareness and funds for the Indigenous Literacy Project – a project that aims to raise Literacy levels amongst Inigenous Australians living in rural and remote communities. You can learn more here: http://www.indigenousliteracyproject.org.au/ and you can donate to the project as part of Aussie Author month here: http://www.gofundraise.com.au/page/ausbooks