Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Building your writer's circle

I promised I'd add in some posts here and there until I could get things leveled off on my end. With operations up coming, a new editorial job, the script due out at the end of the year after a bit of a delay, and all sorts of other fun stuff, there has been a little less air to breathe than normal!

So, as I always do when I want to say hi again, first I'll get my horse to do it! (That way you'll smile, and will forgive me for my hiatus! Sneaky, huh?). Well, Roger can do that...






   

Now come on, even if you're not a horsey person, you can't say that didn't make you smile, can you?

Alright, but to the point. I wanted to make a quick post on how to build your writer's circle. First off, you should visit places like https://www.critiquecircle.com/ or go on the #amwriting or #amediting tags on Twitter, or talk to your local librarian. Find an online writing group and ask to join (or a local one). Check out writing contests (sometimes you can buddy up with people there). Give something to the writing community (like help organize a blog tour, or offer a critique to someone without asking for something in return) and you'll be surprised how many people will want to get to know you.

But I wanted to cover another aspect, also. Don't be scared to reach out to people who are a step above you on the ladder. As a new writer, I was terrified of talking to published authors, or an agent, or an editor, or a writer who seemed to be doing so much better than me. Now, obviously, don't bulldoze your way into their life, but don't be afraid to reach out. Maybe ask a question on #askagent, or ask a published author a question on their craft, or chat to them about something you might have in common. God, you should have seen how shy I was to approach someone just to say "Hey, I saw you tweeted this and I thought it was really helpful/funny/etc." However, you need to make sure it's organic. Don't just approach someone for the sake of climbing the ladder (it actually won't help you, at all).

I've actually ended up talking to some of my writing heroes (like Tabitha Suzuma - if you haven't read her books, then you should make sure you do that soon) just by commenting on something I genuinely found interesting on their FB or Twitter and leaving a post. I talked to authors who were already published before me, just because we connected on Facebook or Twitter, or met at a writing group.

Also, something that's really important is to be respectful, be kind, sincere, helpful...not just in it for yourself. It's a friendship you're looking for, not a resource (even though some of my friends are agents, editors, and authors, it's not why we got to know each other). Don't go in asking for something like "can you put me in touch with your agent" or "can you read my work".

My overall point is this: don't  be afraid to reach out to people in a polite, respectful way. You'll soon know if they don't want to be approached (they'll tell you or simply not answer), but they won't blackball you because you were trying to be nice. But more often than not? They'll be more than happy to engage with you. After all, they're human, writing, and creating just like you.

As for me? You might be way ahead of me in the process, or on the first steps, but it doesn't matter to me. If you want to strike up a genuine friendship, I'm always here. So go forth, be brave, be nice, be genuine, and don't be afraid to say hi!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Hiatus

Hey all!

I just wanted to let you know that the YA Bookcase blog is going to be on hiatus for a while! I really appreciate everyone who reads and keeps up with the blog. However, health problems have dictated that I need to cut back on certain activities until I'm on a more even keel. I know you guys will all understand (because, let's face it, you're awesome).

In the meantime, I will still be posting once a month on the 10th over here: YATopia. Another good blog to check out is: Writing with the Mentors. I'll be making guest posts there now and again, too.

You can still contact me via my contact and editorial pages on the webpage here.

Keep in touch!

Fiona

Friday, 17 February 2017

Writing - stuck for ideas?

Sometimes you want to write, to really write, but the ideas just aren't coming. You hop from one WiP to another, you draft out part of an outline, write down a concept, scratch together some character profiles, make notes, scribble on notepads...you name it, you do it. Sometimes though, the idea you're searching for just doesn't come, and nothing else seems to stick. So what do you do about it?

Straight off the bat I'd say that sometimes a book just isn't ready to come out yet. Yes, I do like the maxim "write every day", and I believe that can hold true once you start writing your book. However, you can't force an idea to come out. You need to let your ideas percolate without thinking about them too hard. And I don't mean think of an idea and forget about it. I mean forget about thinking about an idea. Give your brain time to breathe. Sometimes, I believe, if we pressure ourselves too much then we end up writing things we don't enjoy, pushing out words that have no passion, using half-hearted concepts, and not enjoying what we do.

Certainly, there are deadlines to meet (especially those under contract, but any good writer should have set their own deadlines, in my opinion). However, it's easier to edit a book that is written with compelling passion and with a clear goal. Otherwise, you can end up with a book that doesn't say anything in particular. If you don't care about your plot and characters enough, why should your reader?

So my one piece of advice is to sit back, close your mind off from writing, and live for a while. Personally, I take a week or two off from reading, as other books can cloud my head, too, as I'm always thinking about craft when I read. It also really helps to get offline when you can. Stop bombarding your brain and just let it be. You might be surprised what your subconscious comes up with.

I hope this idea helps you, and if not, then, as usual, just take it out of your writing toolbox and replace it with something else instead. Writing is such a fluid, personal, mutating art that there's no one way - there's just advice from one person's point of view to another, and everything's worth a try at least once.

Happy writing, and I hope those ideas keep flowing!

Friday, 3 February 2017

A privileged writer - how your fiction can help fight the good fight

We all know these are turbulent times. Whether it's in the States or elsewhere, things are in disarray. Those of us who write know that now is the time to rise up and fight for what we believe in. We all have different areas we want to fight for - equality for women's rights, minority equality, LGBTQIA rights...the list goes on, and so it should.

I, for one, support and will continue to fight for every area. Some may be selective. That selectiveness raises conflict. However, in the grand scheme, we need to realize (or at least in my opinion), that any effort to fight for equality in any area is a person moving in the right direction on something. Yes, we all want to have them fight for all equality, but we need to take every little bit we can get.

Anyway, that all said (and I welcome every opinion, as long as it's respectfully said), I wanted to talk about what privileged writers can do with their writing to help the cause. Granted, we can't take up the mantle of #ownvoices as our own voice, but what we can do is support it in our fiction. Be inclusive of all the wonderful races, religions, sexual orientations, lifestyles, and beliefs in our beautiful world. I would recommend highly getting a sensitivity reader to make sure you have this done with the most considerate hands.

But what if I don't have a multi-cultural/diverse book? I wrote it and it just wasn't there. No problem. There're are more things you can do. Go out and buy books from minority authors. Right reviews on their work. Share it. Heck, if you're published, buddy up with an #ownvoices author and go to a book launch and promote their work as much as you do your own. Consider donating part of your royalties or advance to a chosen charity to help raise funds to fight the good fight. Like one of my amazing friends did. Keely Hutton wrote an amazing book (SOLDIER BOY, available on pre-order), hand-in-hand with a man (Ricky), who lived as a child solider through the LRA in Uganda. She took on his story for him, and donated part of her advance to those suppressed and forgotten child soldiers who Ricky helps rehabilitate. She is helping their cause. Fighting for their equality and human rights.

Anything else you can do? Write about empowered characters. Write about empowering themes. Show the best can come from fighting through the worst. Show that oppression can be overcome - whether in contemporary, fantasy, thriller, or any other genre. Just do what you can.

You could even write a blog post.






Saturday, 28 January 2017

Love not Hate

This week is going to be a short & sweet post for my fellow writers, readers, and creative friends. We all know this is a tough time of year, and that many people feel frightened, lied to, unsettled, and at unrest. However, as much as we are all hurting, the real change starts at the grassroots level. Make sure you spread love and kindness every day.

I don't mean just think loving thoughts - I mean do loving things. Help the person needing help. Listen to the other person's views, even if you don't agree with them. It will teach you how to understand, and understanding is one of the first steps towards change.

I urge creative people to make art using their words, hands, hearts, and minds to show the wonderful diversity of our world. Yes, show the anger, the frustrations, and the suppression. But don't forget to show the love, the compassion, the fight of the human spirit. Be the person, every day, that a child will look up to and aspire to be. We may not all have the chance to do as much as we want, but we all have the choice to do what we can.

Be the person that you wish you could be. Be the person that you looked up to. We do not always have to fight with fire - though sometimes we need to - but we can all fight with love, compassion, and grace.

So my fellow artists, go and be the light our world so desperately needs. No good act is ever too small.

With love from my family to all of yours x.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Filling in plot holes

Let's face it, they happen to everyone. Wide chasms that yawn into the dark beyond in our books. Unless you are the most fastidious outliner (and sometimes even if you are), you're bound to get hit by a plot hole sooner or later. They can instill a feeling of dread: How am I going to fix this? Oh no, my story is ruined. Do I have to pick everything apart? Is there a quick fix? Should I just leave it and hope no one notices?

Pretty much most people have these feelings, and it can be oh so tempting to try and ignore that they're there. But it's much better to face them head on, as hard and daunting as that may seem.

So what to do about them?

My process might be different from someone else's, but this is what works for me: Firstly, I make a bullet point list of what happens in each chapter, scene by scene. Here, I'm looking for whether the character motivation leads to the right reaction, or if the new plot element installed makes logical sense. If the first scene is in order, then I move onto the next, and so on. It's likely it's the set up of the event and not the troublesome scene that's the issue, and fixing that could resolve your problems. Usually, I find this fixes most plot holes. Is it long and somewhat gruelling work? Sometimes. Is it worth it? Always.

If that hasn't quite done it, then I zoom out to my macro plot. I take the plot to one side, and identify the main issue (usually pretty clear when it comes to macro plot evaluation). Then comes the creative bit. I don't look for what the answers are; I look at what isn't the answer. For me, it can become quite daunting having to think up the right answer (kind of like brain freeze on a game show). I find it easier to rule out what won't work. Beginning with the outlandish and whittling it down to the "realistic but doesn't quite work" options helps me to come to a point where I can see what will work. For me, this process helps take the pressure off when it comes to getting the right answer.

Well what if that doesn't work? What then? This is a good question, and I don't think there is any one definite answer. Books are as different as fingerprints, and so are their plot holes. However, there is some advice I can offer from my own experiences: seek help. Ask your critique partners for suggestions. Yes, they aren't there to think up your solution for you, but they might ignite an idea that does suit your book. You could also think about researching more about your craft. There are tons of books out there that cover every topic from prose to plot holes. Yes. they won't have a specific solution directly written for your book, but they will open your mind to different avenues of thought and different ways of thinking. This can make all the difference when it comes to looking at your plot holes. A new perspective can do wonders. I also believe that setting your book aside for a week or two and getting some distance is a tried and true way of letting the mind steep. Go and fill your creative well. Let your subconscious do the work. When you get back to your book, the answer might well be there.

Hopefully, some of these suggestions will help you on your way to fixing your plot hole issues. As always, each book and each writer is different. Don't be afraid to try new things, but don't hold on too tight to those things that don't work for you. Best of luck with fixing your plot holes, and here's to complete stories with no bumps in the road!

Friday, 13 January 2017

How to analyze your book successfully

Looking at your book critically is tough, and knowing whether you're doing it correctly is even harder, even with the advice of your critique partners. Sometimes you have so much differing advice that you can't see the woods for the trees. Sometimes you have so little feedback you don't have a clue what to even consider. So what do you do when you want to analyze and edit your book successfully? While I can't read everyone's individual book to give my opinion, I do have a few techniques that help my book improve through each editing round.

One of the most important things to me is the emotion that comes through from your character. Pull your character out of the story. I mean really look at what your character would be like if they didn't have a plot to follow. Who are they? If you met them on the street and you didn't know them, in which way would they reveal their personality? No one gives away everything about themselves the minute they meet another person. Things come out gradually. You get to know each other. Trust each other before you divulge more. Look at a real life situation of the last person you met. How did that go? What made you connect with them the moment you met? What took your attention? Why did you eventually trust them? Pinpoint those moments as best you can. Then compare that to your character and apply the same process. Once you've done that, you've taken your first step.

Next, I look at the plot and draw up a list of bullet points of everything that's happened. I can now look at my character and take that information I just learned and see where and when they would reveal themselves. I can see which plot elements would affect their emotions and I can see how they would react. Where they would clam up like a shell. Where they would trust the reader to give away a little bit more of themselves. A reader/character relationship is about trust. The reader must trust the character, but the character must equally trust the reader. While most characters don't realize there is a reader (unless you use certain narrative devices), you still have a two-way relationship going on. That's what shows why and where the character feels/does/reacts to the plot in the way they do. In this way it becomes authentic and real.

There are a lot of other elements to look at when analyzing your novel, but, for me at least, this one is the most important. Your character, emotions, and plot create the core of the story. This is what your readers care about most, and they are inextricable from each other.

I hope this has helped, but as always, take what works for you, and junk what doesn't. Don't follow every piece of advice blindly. This is my view, and if it resonates with you, I am all the more glad.

Happy revising my loyal readers, and I'm rooting for your continued success!



Friday, 6 January 2017

2017 - The Writing Year

The bells have rung, the holidays have whizzed by, and we're all back at work (well, most of us anyway). We're fired up, feeling motivated, some of us wrote for Nanowrimo, some of us have made promises to get that novel finished, or get that novel written. New beginnings abound, and positivity fills the air. This will be our Writing Year.

We all know that New Year's resolutions can be hard to keep though. Some of us are great at it; some of us not so much. So how, exactly, do we keep ourselves chugging (or charging forward)? What will inspire, motivate, and push us to keep writing throughout the coming year? For me, there are many things.

1) Keeping a note of why you love what you do. Not just your story or your book right now. Remind yourself, write it on the wall if you need to, but remember...why do you love writing? Why does it burn a fire in your soul?

2) Remember why you love the novel you're writing. What did you fall in love with first? Was it your characters? Your plot? Your setting? Your concept? It can be any element. It isn't about what you think you should like. It's about what you do like. Use this to keep your current story growing.

3) Accountability. If you want to write a book, you have to finish it. If you want a good book, you have to edit it. If you want an agent, you need to submit to them. And so the list goes on. Your goals can be big or small; it doesn't matter. What matters is that you hold yourself accountable. Some people do this publically in a YouTube video, others on a word counter on their blog, some tell their writing friends, and others use their pride. Whatever works for you, that's what you should do.

4) Give yourself a break now and again. Writing is joy and passion. It's also a lot of hard work. Sometimes you need a little bit of a holiday. And why not? Refresh your muse. Focus your mind. Let new ideas enter it. Stop obsessing. I know, that last one is hard, but you need more in your life than just writing a book. It's a passion, but it's not an obsession, it's not a definition of who you are. Do other things in your life, too, and it will fill your writing with zing and zest.

5) Have fun. Experiment. Go wild,. Do something new. Try something old. Keep yourself guessing. Try a competition. Try freehand writing. Try painting your characters. Just try something.

6) Don't do everything you're told to do if you don't want to. This includes this list. Do what feels right for you. Always.


I wish you all a happy, successful, and prosperous New Year, and I can't wait to see what happens with each and every member of my blog. I'm inspired by you following and reading, and I hope for your great success in 2017!