Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Christmas Positives

Christmas is the time to celebrate. It's also the time that a lot of people find difficult (for a variety of reasons). So I thought this was a good opportunity to look at when life hands us lemons and how we can use them to make lemonade. To that effect, I'll use some of my negative experiences, and show you how I turned them into positives. Granted, not everything worked out the way I wanted, but I can at least appreciate the good places they can lead me to. By doing this, I hope you can look deeper into your situation and find the light that guides you to a better Christmas.

Let's take a look at my top fails this year and how they became my positives:

1) My agent stopped representing my age category, so I needed to go on another agent hunt. Yes,. this bites. Hard. However, it also taught me two things: 1) Resilience and persistence. Never get lazy. Know that things can change and that you must keep working hard all the time. 2) I have another chance at seeking out an agent who will gel with me. If I can get one agent, I feel better that I can find another. This is my positive.

2) My epilepsy blipped, and I started having stronger verbal ticks and noises. Now I've had to add a third medication. I have 15 days to try it and see if it's going to work for me. Yes, that sucks. But the positive? I have a neurologist that is on my side, helping me through this. My friends are supportive. My family is right behind me. And my partner is the biggest pillar of support. I am reminded by this blip in my health of the people who matter and the people who care. I realize how blessed I am.

3) I've been diagnosed with a neurogenic bladder (linked to my epilepsy). Now I know why I pee 20 times a night (yes, you probably didn't want that knowledge). However, now I can use my new meds to help fix that and get back to a regular sleeping pattern! Hurrah!

4) I have to go for back surgery, as my spine has gone a bit squiffy. Am I frightened? Like a big baby, I am. Am I positive? Yes. It could solve my walking issues and allow me to live my life freely again.

5) My joy of flying was crushed by a terrible flight. I loved flying. Loved it. Now I am terrified of it. The positive? I've learned that things can change and that it's okay to be vulnerable (a huge issue for me, and it extends to this post. Vulnerable feels weak to me, and this flying thing is beginning to teach me it's not. I'm a work in progress about this bit). However, it's also taught me empathy for those who have the same fears. It's helped me understand just how brave I can be when I do step on a plane. It helps teach me what my spirit can do.


So there you have it. Those are 5 things that might not mean anything to anyone other than me, but they are five things that I am looking back at during the Christmas holidays, thinking "I did this", "I got through that", "I learned", and that, for me, is what celebrating Christmas is about - appreciating what you have been given, good and bad.

Merry Christmas to you all, and may you all find the light in your lives!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Revision tips - Part Three

This post is five days late due to life bumping in the way :-). However, I still want to cover it. When it comes to revising, the next step that I look at is my pacing. Pacing is super important as it can make the difference between you reader turning the pages eagerly, and your reader putting the book down and going out instead.

Pacing is what controls the speed and rhythm of your story, and you must be in charge of when and where to speed things up, slow them down, or suddenly spike. These things really shouldn't be left to chance if you can help it.

When I focus on looking at my pacing, I divide it into two separate categories: structural, and word choice/sentence construction. Let's look at structural first.

STRUCTURAL PACING

This is the overall scene pacing and how they connect together throughout the book. You need to look and see whether your action scenes balance out your slower scene. Are you all action all the time? Your reader might get a bit tired with all that rushing about (though this sometimes works well in a thriller). However, the most likely case is that your pacing might sag in the middle. This is where you've got caught up in the story, showing lots of things, but forgetting to keep momentum. Personally, I make a list of my scenes and see whether they are action packed or not. Then I look to see how I can balance one against the other.

Another technique you can use is a cliffhanger. Or a prolonged answer. This leaves the reader desperate to know more, and will speed up sloppy pacing. However, should you be rushing ahead too fast, don't forget to get inside your character's head a little more and explore your novel a little deeper. For speeding up, you can also use short summaries occasionally instead of full blown scenes, cut any unnecessary scenes, or have a few big things happen all at once.


SENTENCE LEVEL PACING

Which words you choose and how you use them can have a big impact on your pacing. If you want to slow it down, then you'd be looking to use longer sentences, softer paragraphs, more descriptions or internal thought, for example. You can even get into more world building, theme ideas, and subplots (which are a fantastic way to flesh out a book, too).

If picking up the speed is your goal, then using fragments, shorter sentences, punchier verbs, active phrasing, and zippy dialogue can make or break it for you. A rapid fire, tense dialogue section will get things ramping up, full of power and tension. Just as a more relaxed conversation talking about the complexities of life would slow it down.


You need to combine both structural and sentence level pacing in order to have full mastery over your writing and pacing. If not, then it might just be left to fate to decide for you, and it's usually much better if you do the choosing!

Thanks for stopping by the blog this week! As the holiday season is upon us, I might be a little patchy with blog posts until the New Year is over. Don't worry, I've not forgotten you!

Friday, 2 December 2016

Revision tips: Part Two


Right, we’re getting into the thick of editing. You’ve checked that your character motivations (logic) and plot logic are in place. It’s all looking like it makes sense. Your plot holes are no more, your character a shining beacon of themselves. Is that all? Not really.

So, here’s the next step I take when looking at my revisions:

TENSION

This is a huge one for me. It’s so important that the reader wants to keep turning the pages. However, I’ll caveat by saying this: At this stage, I only look for the major overall tension on this edit. The micro-tension I save for later. This is the way I tackle it, and perhaps my process might help yours, so here we go:

I look at my biggest plot points and ask the question “What could make things worse?’ For example: Annie has just found out she’s pregnant, but doesn’t know who the father is. What could make this worse? Maybe her parents are highly religious and will be appalled at her choices. Maybe her husband realizes he couldn’t be the father because he was out of town at the time. Perhaps her sister walks in on her and says she'll tell everyone? As you can see, there are any multitude of ideas to use, but what you want to do is make things worse.

However, here’s a caveat: personally, I tend to keep a slight cap on this. By this, I mean I keep it tense and I up the ante with the “What could make this worse” question, but as soon as it diverges too far from my original plot, or becomes a little too outlandish, I put the brakes on it. It’s all about balance – lots of tension vs realism and authenticity.

Okay, so after I've looked at my major plot points, I look at my overall chapters. How is my tension? What could make things worse in this chapter? What else could go wrong? Is it an emotional bump on the road, or a physical one that makes things worse? Can I take something away from my character that they need? There are a lot of options, so you’re going to want to keep searching out those possibilities until you find the one that best meets your story’s needs.

And then, you got it, scenes. Rinse and repeat. From scene, to chapter, to plot points, to whole book, you’ve got to give your character something to struggle against, and you can’t make it easy for them!

It’s also worth bearing in mind that tension can come in the form of not telling the reader something. It’s not always about adding a hurricane or a secret spy. Sometimes it’s the reader knowing something the main character doesn’t (but needs to) . Or the looming dread of a situation.


For me, tension is a biggie, and it ties into so many other areas, such as pacing, but this is the name of the game in writing…it’s a domino effect. You can't change one thing, without it affecting another. So, if you worked on character motivations and plot logic, it will have altered your story. Then you edit for tension and you've altered your story even further…all to the benefit of your book!

You might have noticed that I do revisions in rounds, which is just to keep my head clear. Some people are more than able to do everything at once, but this is just my process. I hope something helps you here! Next week, I’ll go into more again!