Tag Archives: writing advice

Foreshadowing

Hello everyone!

Have you ever read a novel or short story and when you came to the end of it realized that the author had been hinting at the ending all along? This is effective foreshadowing.

foreshadowing-power-point-1-6-638As I have been editing my novel, The Four Crystals, I have been trying to sprinkle foreshadowing throughout the story without making the ending too obvious. It’s hard!

Below are three articles about foreshadowing and how to correctly incorporate it into your own writing.

For a quick overview of how to foreshadow, read “Narrative Elements: Foreshadowing” on Author’s Craft.

For some suggestions and examples of how to foreshadow, read  “Nine Examples of Foreshadowing in Fiction” by Harvey Chapman.

For a longer explanation of what foreshadowing is, a list of common literary methods used to foreshadow, and an exercise to help you spot bad foreshadowing (referred to in the post as “telegraphing,” but what I like to call “oversharing”), read “Foreshadowing – The Guide To Hooking Readers” by Mladen Reljanović.

photo(1)The main thing to remember about foreshadowing is that it should be subtle, like the aroma of food preparing you for a big meal. Two pitfalls to avoid are oversharing and not following through on foreshadowing (this does not apply to deliberate red herrings). Oversharing is like shoving food down someone’s throat. They don’t enjoy it. Equally bad is foreshadowing something and then not following through. This is like seeing a restaurant, smelling the food cooking, and then being told the restaurant is closed for the day. You leave the restaurant dissatisfied and angry.

Happy writing and good luck foreshadowing!

Katie

 

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Writer’s Conferences

Hello everyone!

Back in June, I attended the 2017 New Jersey Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators Annual Conference.  I learned a lot and got to meet many interesting writers, illustrators, agents, and editors.

In her blog post, “How to Prepare for a Writer’s Conference,” Julia Yong offers a writer’s conference packing list and tips for how to get the most out of a writer’s conference while there.

Although Julia’s packing list is very thorough, I would like to add four more items to it.

  1. Tissues – You never know when you or someone else will need one.
  2. Hand sanitizer or baby wipes – You’ll be meeting a lot of people.  If you or one of them are sick, you’ll want to be able to clean your hands.  Getting into a bathroom can be difficult at conferences.
  3. Band-Aids – Like tissues, you never know when you or someone else will need one.
  4. Dental floss – If you have a pitch session after a meal, you’ll want to make sure the agent isn’t distracted by something stuck in your teeth.

I hope you find “How to Prepare for a Writer’s Conference” helpful when preparing for your next writer’s conference!

Happy writing!

Katie

Recommended Reading for Writers

Hello everyone and happy Father’s Day!

Due to additional job responsibilities, summer plans, and writing deadlines, I will be posting two times per month for the rest of the summer.

The more I write, the more I discover how truly essential reading is to developing one’s craft. There are two books which I believe every writer seeking publication should read and a reading strategy which, in my opinion, all writers should employ.

Book Recommendations

The Essential GuideThe first book is The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing: How to Write, Work, & Thrive on Your Own Terms by Zachary Petit. In his book, Petit offers advice on how to break into the freelance market, build a platform, write a professional query letter, conduct interviews, and more. Although his book’s target audience is freelance writers, much of his advice is valuable for those who do not wish to become a freelancer. In addition to being informative, Petit’s voice is very conversational and often humorous, causing the book to read more like a novella than a “how to” book. I highly recommend The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing to anyone who wants to write professionally.

Writer_s Market Deluxe Edition 2017Another valuable resource is the Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition 2017 (aka the writer’s Bible). It contains:

  • Writing Related Advice (i.e. how to write a good query letter, how to build a platform, etc.)
  • Lists of:
    • Literary Agents
    • Book Publishers
    • Consumer Magazines
    • Trade Journals
    • Contests and Awards

Other books which are similar in content, but geared towards specific genres are Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market 2017, Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2017, Poet’s Market 2017, and Guide to Literary Agents 2017.

Reading Strategy

Read in your genre. If you want to write poetry, read poetry. If your passion is science fiction, read all the science fiction you can get your hands on. Do you want to write short stories? Read short stories, especially ones printed in the publications you plan on querying.

The young adult novel I am currently editing, The Four Crystals, is an allegorical fantasy. Obvious books to read for this genre are The Chronicles of Narnia, Eragon, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I hope you find these book recommendations and the reading strategy helpful.

Happy writing!

Katie

Responses to Stress: Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Hello everyone! Happy Memorial Day!

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz

Everyone reaches a moment in their life where they face a situation (physical, financial, emotional, relational, etc.) which feels too overwhelming to handle. There are three basic responses to these situations:thS1LJR4YA

  1. Fight – Work to resolve the problem
  2. Flight – Remove oneself from the situation
  3. Freeze – Avoid or ignore the issue

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to come up with a potentially crippling situation and write a short story about how the protagonist handles it. The issue can be internal (a health issue or mental disorder) or external (a difficult relationship, financial troubles, a sick loved one, etc.). You must have a goal for the protagonist to either succeed at or fail to achieve.

1. Beginning: Introduce your high stress situation and decide how your character will respond to it (fight, flight, or freeze).

Things for You to Consider as the Writer:

  • What is the protagonist’s attitude towards the situation?
  • Will that attitude change over time?

2. Middle: Come up with three ways that your protagonist will try to accomplish his/her goal and a minimum of one consequence for each action taken. I strongly recommend that the first two attempts fail or that they are only partially successful. The results of the first two attempts should add to your protagonist’s stress in some way. The protagonist’s third attempt should be your climax.

Tension 4Example Responses to Stressful Situations:

  • confiding in and/or depending on someone (e.g. God, family members, a friend, a therapist, etc.)
  • trying to manage stress through:
    • a healthy diet and/or exercise
    • impulse shopping
    • excessive eating
    • using a controlled substance (e.g. drugs, alcohol, etc.)
  • becoming depressed
  • responding irritably to people
  • making a major life change
  • etc.

3. Conclusion: Does your protagonist succeed or fail?

Happy writing!

Katie

Strong, Clear, Concise Writing

Hello everyone!

It is easy to recognize bad writing and to identify why it is bad.  However, it is harder to explain why a piece of writing is good.

Below is an article and an infographic which helped me to identify weaknesses in my own writing.  I also included some of the strategies I applied to correct these shortcomings.

Active VerbsIn writing, it is always better to show than tell.  “Don’t Use Adverbs and Adjectives to Prettify Your Prose” by William Noble explains when and how to use adverbs and adjectives.

Laurie Wallmark directed me to 5 Basic Rules of English Writing That Everyone Should Know (Infographic)” by Jennifer Frost.  After reading the infographic, I found that I am guilty of regularly breaking rules three and four.

Rule #3 – “Do not use words whose meanings you are not sure of.”

When I’m writing, I will sometimes use a word that I am 90% sure means one thing.  Before I started blogging, I liked my chances of having used the correct word.  Now, I either look up the word before using it or change it’s color in the rough draft, so I will remember to confirm it’s meaning later.  I’m glad I started doing this.  Sometimes, the word means exactly what I thought it did and other times the meaning is vastly different.

Rule #4 – “Use concrete rather than vague language.”

thV903596HI tend to be sparse in my descriptions of cities and scenery during travel sequences.  For example, I might write “While walking through the forest, a tree branch whacked him in the face.”  What type of forest was he in: coniferous, deciduous, or rainforest?  Is it dark or is there lots of sunlight?  Was the tree branch leafy, flimsy, spiky, thick, dry, etc.?  (Remember Noble’s advice concerning adjectives.)  Since I am more drawn to witty dialogue and dynamic characters than descriptions, it can be difficult for me to recognize this lack of specificity.

After acknowledging this tendency, I began training myself to watch out for bland descriptions in my writing.  First, I reread portions of The Hunger Games, Eragon, The Maze Runner, and Divergent to get a sense for how some successful Dystopian Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors described their worlds.  I also re-watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy, paying special attention to the different looks of elven homes (Rivendell vs. Lothlórien), human cities (Edoras vs. Minas Tirith), and the changing landscapes.  My brother, who studied film, recommended that I look at photos of whatever biome my characters are traveling through.  I could then assign the locations in my world specific photos and consult them before writing the descriptions.  I am hoping that these exercises will help me to eliminate vague language from my writing.

My challenge to you is to read “5 Basic Rules of English Writing That Everyone Should Know (Infographic)” and then look at your own writing.  Which rules do you regularly break?  After identifying them, take the necessary steps to reform.  Your writing will be stronger if you do.

Happy writing!

Katie

How to Create a Successful Blog

Hello everyone!

While preparing for the 2017 NJ SCBWI Conference, I thought back to September 2015 when I became serious about getting published. I researched how to make a living as a children’s author (FYI – The answer is to publish a lot of books or get insanely lucky.). Then, I explored how to make myself appealing to agents and editors.

One term I kept seeing and hearing was “platform.” Somehow, I didn’t think they were referring to a wooden plane. Eventually, I figured out that a writer’s platform is his/her following – the people who will read the author’s newest book just because he/she wrote it. I concluded that I needed to grow an online presence.

In January 2016, I decided to create a writer’s Facebook page, website, and blog. My friends joined my Facebook page, but my blog was a graveyard. It was so disheartening to post weekly and not have anyone read my work. I wanted to delete my blog, but knew that was not a good marketing strategy. So, I stuck with it.

In early 2017, I discovered the magic of using tags and other bloggers started to find my posts. I also started using more photos to increase the visual appeal of my blog. After almost a year and a half of blogging, I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of it, and I still have room for improvement and adaptation. Isn’t that the majority of the writing process?

Below are some articles I wish I’d read before I created my blog. I hope you also find them helpful.

The Author’s Dilemma: To Blog or Not to Blog” by Claire E. White

How to Craft a Blog Post – 10 Crucial Points to Pause” by Darren Rowse

How to Use Tags on Your Blog or Website” by Michael Gray

Traffic 1Happy writing and may you get lots of blog traffic!

Katie

Truer Love

Hello everyone and happy Easter!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NIV)

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to write a story involving a minimum of two characters who have some sort of love relationship. Remember, love does not have to be romantic.

A few potential character pairings are:

  1. Two friends
  2. A parent and child
  3. Siblings
  4. A romantic couple

Something to consider: Both characters do not need to have the same depth of feeling.

Sometimes in relationships, one person feels more strongly for the other and/or invests more in the relationship. One of the characters could be ambivalent or even hostile towards the other’s love.

Important: You must have a strong plot.

Having a good relationship dynamic is not the same thing as having a good story. Choose a conflict or issue which your protagonist must resolve. His/Her relationship with the other character can be the conflict, but your story will probably be more interesting if the conflict is something else. Use the relationship to add pressure or to interfere with the resolution of the conflict.

As an additional challenge, do not use the word “love” in your story. Focus on showing the reader the relationship between the two characters through their actions, body language, facial expressions, and the way they talk to each other.

Happy writing!

Katie