Monday, 20 March 2017

Essex Author Day!

On Saturday, I was lucky enough to be invited to be a part of Essex Author Day as part of the Essex Book Festival. And what better way to spend a Saturday than to be surrounded by other writers?

It's incredible to be in a room full of like-minded people. In this case, book lovers! There were loads of different workshops, talks, and readings for people to go to, as well as stands to visit. It was great to see so many book people!

I signed books, had a reading, and spoke to many, many people about the ZA and ZA! Gotta get people ZA ready somehow.

Thanks for having me! Sending out so much love and luck to my fellow Essex Authors! Hope we can do it again next year!

Molly Looby
Author / Editor in Chief at Molten Publishing / Freelance Editor / Writing Coach / Reviewer / Blogger / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready

Monday, 13 March 2017

Pace = Climbing Mountains and Jumping Off Them

Pace can be a tricky skill to learn and reign in. Every writer I know has struggled with it in one capacity or another. Either your work feels like it's dragging and nothing's happening, or everything's happening too fast and you need to slow it down. Pace isn't something you learn overnight. It's a difficult beast to wrestle, but you will defeat it.

I'm one of those writers who writes so fast I almost always have to slow my writing down in the editing stages. You can't have your reader breathless all the time. It's exhausting. But deciding what to add is sometimes trickier than the first draft! Everything you include in a novel has to mean something. Anything that doesn't add something needs to go. So what do you add? Character building is always a great thing to include. Do your characters know each other as well as they should? A heartfelt conversation can add warmth and also give your reader time to catch their breath after some action.

If you find your writing is slow, you might have to read with a careful eye and cut out some of your darlings. Yes, the conversation is beautiful, but is it slowing things down? Do you need it in this moment? Can it be moved elsewhere? Do you need it at all?

Pay attention to every chapter and the way the tension is rising and falling. If it falls too much in one place, something probably needs cutting. If you're too breathless and running away with yourself, add something to slow it down (unless that was the intention or it's the climax).

Looking at the length of your chapters and sentences and paragraphs can work a treat. If your chapters have been the same length the whole way through the novel, wouldn't throwing in a long or short one ramp up the tension in the reader? The same goes for paragraphs and sentences, but this isn't so subtle. Please don't pepper your manuscripts with too many short sentences and paragraphs. (I'm so guilty of this!) If you have too many short sentences and paragraphs, when you add one for effect, it might get lost.

If you've looked at all the things I've said, and the pace still isn't perfect, maybe you should add some build-up. Build-up is almost as important as the action itself. If the action comes out of nowhere, your reader might not react in the right way. It might be too much of a shock to take in. A great writer can have you leaning closer and closer to the page and gripping the book tighter and tighter as you read. This effect is almost always in the build-up.

So whatever it is you need to do to improve your pace, make sure you listen to what you've written and pay close attention. The hardest thing with pacing is deciding what to change.

Author / Editor in Chief at Molten Publishing / Freelance Editor / Writing Coach / Reviewer / Blogger / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Awesome Female Protagonists Written by Women! IWD 2017

As I've been doing these blogs for a few years, I was stuck for something to list. I love a list, don't you? I've already listed my favourite female characters and authors. But I realised I haven't listed my favourite books with strong female protagonists written by women. So that's what I'm doing!

I decided to do a top ten just to make it more difficult! So here they are (alphabetical by author):

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
The Hunger Games trilogy - Suzanne Collins
Unearthly trilogy - Cynthia Hand
Maybe One Day - Melissa Kantor
Divergent trilogy - Veronica Roth
The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy - Carrie Ryan
Daughter of Deep Silence - Carrie Ryan
The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy - Maggie Stiefvater
Rephaim series - Paula Weston
Dustlands trilogy - Moira Young

What are your favourites?

Author / Editor in Chief at Molten Publishing / Freelance Editor / Writing Coach / Reviewer / Blogger / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready

Monday, 6 March 2017

Genre: Mountain Trolls or Victorian Maidens?

Picking a genre isn't so much you thinking about genres and deciding what you want to write. Most of the time, the genre picks you. To butcher Harry Potter, the genre chooses the writer. Usually, you end up writing what you most read, because that's what you most love, and also, without realising it, you've already put thousands of hours of research in just by reading that genre.

I'm not here to tell you which genre to write in. The beauty of genre is that there's no right or wrong. Just write whatever you love to write.

When you've picked your genre, you have to pay attention to who your readers are. If you write crime for example, your readers are likely to be different from those who read romance. Once you know who your readers are, learn what they do and don't like about the books they read. Goodreads is a great place to discover this. If your readers aren't fans of swearing, don't swear. If they love an action scene, make sure to include some great action along the way. If they're all about dialogue, don't bore them with two pages of description.

With each genre there are certain expectations. We need to find out who did it; the two main characters have to end up together; the aliens must be conquered; we must learn something. What's expected of you depends on your genre. And once you know what your readers expect, you'll know which rules you can break. Breaking the rules and giving your readers something they don't expect can leave you with a book everyone's talking about. However, break the wrong rules and people will be dissatisfied. 

Now, if you're looking for a challenge and want to grow as a writer, I suggest writing in a genre totally new to you. Don't worry, you don't have to show anyone! Changing genre every once in a while can really keep you on your toes as a writer. If you throw yourself into a challenge like this, your writing will improve in this new genre, as well as in your trusty favourite genre. You get to a point in your writing where you feel like you've stopped improving, and this is when you need to do some scary experiments to keep your skill growing. It's the same with anything. Once it gets easy, make yourself work harder!

Genre is personal and nobody can tell you what to write. However, switching it up every once in a while will help you push your writing to the next level.

Author / Editor in Chief at Molten Publishing / Freelance Editor / Writing Coach / Reviewer / Blogger / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Top 10 Stand-Alone YA Novels for World Book Day!

Last year I made a list of my top ten favourite book series. This year I'm celebrating the stand-alone novel!

Here are my top 10 stand-alone YAs (alphabetical by author):

Beautiful Broken Things - Sara Barnard
The Reapers are the Angels - Alden Bell
Before I Die  - Jenny Downham
Paper Towns - John Green
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
The Rest of Us Just Live Here - Patrick Ness
Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
Daughter of Deep Silence - Carrie Ryan
The Art of Being Normal - Lisa Williamson
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

What are your favourite stand alone novels?

Author / Editor in Chief at Molten Publishing / Freelance Editor / Writing Coach / Reviewer / Blogger / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready

Monday, 27 February 2017

The Art of Description

Description really is the bulk of a story, and a lot of people try and sidestep it as much as they can. I must admit, I used to be one of those people. Description would take me much longer to write, and I'd have to really think about it, so I'd tend to whizz past where I could. I'm a type, type, type and never stop kind of person. But it really makes a difference when you slow down and take a look.

The perfect balance with description can sometimes be hard to find. Too much and the reader will get bored and start skimming (guilty). Too little and the reader won't be able to picture what's going on. You want your reader to live in your story, but you don't want them to drown there. There is no strict rule about what's too much or too little. Personally, a full A5 page is too much for me. If a book's got a whole page of description, I'm afraid I will skim over it. I want action, action, action! Sorry, Bram Stoker, but you kept describing trees over and over, and all I wanted to know about was the scary vampire!

To make sure you've got the basics covered, check you've described at least a little bit of your character's appearance, their surroundings, and any events that are taking place. Also, make sure you're 'showing' the reader and not 'telling' them. If you were showing a friend around your new house you wouldn't point to your grandmother's china plates and say, "they're old". I'm sure they can work that out for themselves. Your friends aren't stupid and neither are your readers.

This mostly irritates me when people are trying (and failing) at writing emotion. Never state an emotion! Especially in your main character. Don't say, "I am so frustrated about people stating emotions", say, "the idea that some people still state emotions in their writing makes my skin crawl". Don't say, "I am overjoyed when people describe emotions", say, "when people describe emotions, a ball of light comes to life in my chest, and I can't help the smile on my face". See? You will achieve so much more this way. The reader will be living in the world with you instead of jumping up on their tiptoes, desperate to press their faces against the window.

And no clichés. No. None. Don't use them. They're so lazy. Show your reader you're a skilled writer. Please never say something was as "quiet as a mouse". When I read that--or any other cliché--nothing happens in my brain. It doesn't even register in my head. You need your readers to take notice. Plus, there are hundreds of things that are quieter than mice.

Description isn't as hard as you think it is, as long as you put in the time and effort to get it right.

Author / Editor in Chief at Molten Publishing / Freelance Editor / Writing Coach / Reviewer / Blogger / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready

Monday, 20 February 2017

Dialogue and Chatter

Dialogue shouldn't be the pain in the butt some people think it is. After all, we hear people talking all day every day, and we know our spoken language better than anyone. Once you know your characters and your voice for narration, dialogue should be a doddle.

The thing most writers struggle with is making dialogue sound natural. I must confess, dialogue was the first thing I truly nailed when I first started writing, but I think that's because I write in a very casual sort of way. If you can spin the most detailed and beautiful description, I'm guessing dialogue was more difficult to grasp. Something I've realised over the years is that people who 'get' description first struggle with dialogue and vice versa. They're two entirely different skills.

In your first draft, you should just go for it. Type your dialogue as fast as you can and have the characters' conversations out loud so you can hear them. I find that if something's not quite working, I'll never pick it out reading in my head. You must read dialogue out loud to understand it. When you read aloud, you notice that no one says can not anymore. Everyone says can't. In my novels, I go as far as wanna instead of want to with some characters.

It may make you cringe, but some characters won't use words correctly, and they won't speak in perfect sentences. Depending on where you're from, people say all sorts of things that don't make sense in the literary world. Ain't is common where I live, and we all know that isn't really a word.

I'm not saying to pepper your dialogue with slang, but a few choice words here and there will make the dialogue feel so much more natural. Whatever you do, don't feel the need to be technically correct. Your characters can say things that would make you cringe if you were to write them in any other way. People are expressive and excitable. We humans ask so many questions in a row and tend to not wait for the answers. We exclaim a lot too. (Though exclamation marks embarrass some people - me included to be honest. I only ever use them in dialogue.)

Once you've played around a bit, you can make each character's 'voice' distinctive. Some will be sarcastic. Some talk a lot and always want the last word. Some only speak when they have something important to say. Some will exclaim a lot and be more excitable than others. It's so useful to write dialogue in such a way that the reader immediately knows who's speaking. It can take away the pain of having to type 'said' all the time.

Before you get too carried away, make sure all your dialogue has a point. Sometimes I go off and have a fantastic conversation between some of my characters, only to come back and cut the entire thing because it didn't go anywhere. Chatting in real life doesn't usually go anywhere, but in your story, it must have some sort of reason to be present.

Dialogue is so important. It plunges your reader into your world and also gives you a way into secondary characters' heads. The things they say and how they say them are so important for getting to know them better. If you're lacking dialogue, you're also lacking heart.

The only other tip I have is to listen. Whenever you're having a conversation, listen to its flow. When you're in a queue, listen to the people chatting around you. Immerse yourself in the art of human conversation and make note of how sometimes (in fact most of the time) it's not what people are saying, it's how they're saying it, and how they're standing/looking at you. Sometimes a picture really does paint a thousand words.

So go, newly inspired chatterboxes! Go and irritate everyone in your search for perfect natural dialogue.

Author / Editor in Chief at Molten Publishing / Freelance Editor / Writing Coach / Reviewer / Blogger / Wrimo / Movellian / ZA Ready