Monday, 30 January 2017

Build Your World Brick By Boring Brick

World building is similar to creating characters but more complex. If you're anything like me, this means it takes a while longer to create a believable world than it does to create a believable character. The more you work at this world, the more detail you can go into. The more detail you go into, the more people will want to live there. And that's exactly what you want. You think Harry Potter would've been so successful if JK Rowling didn't know the wizarding world inside out?

You need to think of everything, but here are a few things that are essential: What's different from our world? What's the same? What's important to the people who live there? What do they hate? What do they love? How is society run? How is the class system set up? What are the cultural norms? What is the collective aim? What sort of education do the people have? What sort of jobs do they do? What are the roles of the family?

The structure of your world is the basic form you can work off to create everything else.

The details will likely come to you in rushes and drips, impossible to predict. In order to speed up, you can live in your world. Immerse yourself everywhere you go, and the details will start flowing. Whenever I'm bored, I do this. I'm usually walking somewhere or in the car.

Basing things off the real world is fine too. While I was writing the beginning of Fire and Ice, I was on holiday, and I used the complex we were staying on to shape the world of Shards and Flares. The very basic structure of the buildings let me breathe life to the Training Centre. Sometimes starting with a blank page is too scary. Letting your real world influence you is a powerful thing.

Once you're in and you know your world inside out, you need to be aware that the reader doesn't need to know everything you do. They need to know the basics and what's important to your story, but don't bombard them with detail. 

World building takes time and patience, but you'll be infinitely glad that you took the time once everyone's wishing to be a part of your world. *cue The Little Mermaid music*

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

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Monday, 23 January 2017

You Can Do This! Let's Talk About Writing Motivation

Writing isn't difficult. Wait, come back! I didn't mean it like that. Of course writing is difficult, but it's also easy. Sometimes you can look up and be three-thousand words up. Sometimes it's just three.

What's equally bi-polar is the little voice inside your head. This is amazing. This is terrible. Everyone will want to read this. No one will want to read this. This is what truly holds me back, and I know others are the same.

This is why being a writer is such a crazy thing. That and all the people walking around in your head.

Sometimes that voice is your inner editor trying to make something perfect. But what it can't come to grips with is that nothing is perfect. That's when it becomes your inner demon and tries whatever it can to put you down.

I'm here to tell you to almost never listen to your inner demon.

But how do you slay that particular dragon? How do you carry on when you've had eight awful days in a row battling through every word?

There are many ways to do this, but the two I've found most helpful in my writing career so far are to just keep on going, powering through like a mad person, and finding solace in others.

I know that 'just keep on going' might not be the most helpful thing I've ever said, but I stand by it. If you write every day, you get better at writing every day. All of a sudden, it's easy to reach that word count. All at once you feel like you're doing it. You're actually doing it. You're a superhero!

That's how you should feel all the time. You're a writer, and that's incredible.

If you finish your project and stop writing, it'll be harder and harder to write every day once you start something up again. Write every day. Believe me, I know how difficult this is, and I would be lying if I said I'd mastered writing every single day of the year, but all us writers should. Write blog posts and short stories and flash fiction. It doesn't matter how terrible, these things are flexing your writing muscles. You'll thank yourself for it later.

My favourite thing to do is take a character from one of my novels and write something from their perspective. I tend to show no one these pieces of writing and sometimes they're all over the shop, but it doesn't matter. Whatever keeps me writing keeps me happy.

Just as important, is finding solace in others. Writers, you are not alone. Whether you like it or not, there are thousands of us out there, and we all suffer from the same issues. Instead of struggling on and letting doubt weave itself into your head, go and find some like-minded people. Writing websites are a terrific, beautiful places that have made me feel infinitely better about my work. Facebook has loads of groups. Twitter has so many authors to confide in. NaNoWriMo gets hundreds of thousands of writers together every November. And of course, Movellas, my writing home, has made me confident and more of the writer I want to be.

Go check these things out. There's so much out there, and you should use what you can to motivate yourself.

Who am I to motivate you? I only know how it works for me.

So I implore you to go in search of your muse, and when you find it, grab hold and never let go.

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

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Monday, 16 January 2017

Characters Are Your Best Friends

When I say characters are your best friends, I really mean it. They will annoy you, make you cry, make you laugh, frustrate you, and drive you crazy just like a real friend would. And they should. They should be as real and as annoying as you or me.

Your characters--if you're a character-driven person like me--are the most important part of your story. Because after all, it's their story you're telling. We're reading for them. We want to know how it turns out because we're rooting for them. We're not rooting for the author writing a great book, we forget you exist! (But please do write us a good one.)

In short, we're in it for them.

Many people are plot-driven, and that's okay, but that's just not the way I work. The one time I tried to write and care about the plot more than the characters, I crashed and burned. And I know many people are like me. You want to follow this fantastic person through to the end of their story, whatever the story is. You want to laugh with them, cry with them, and live their life--however awful that could be! 

This is the reason I start with characters once I've got a basic idea. Sometimes all I have is a key word. When I was writing my Immorality of Immorality trilogy, all I had was 'vampire' before I moved on to craft Felix, the protagonist. The same went for ZA. I picked up the word 'zombie' and ran with it, crafting Zane before I planned anything out. After all, how the story goes really depends on what your characters would do.

You might be thinking, this is all very self-indulgent, Molly. We don't care what you do. What do we do? Tell us your secrets!

Well, okay then.

To craft the greatest character you can think of, all you have to focus on is making them real. Make the person in your head have thoughts and feelings outside of your own. Give them strengths and weaknesses. Give them fears and dreams.

First, I flesh out a name and a basic description of what they're like as a person. For example, Felix is shy and anxious. Zane is athletic and loving. Once you've got that you can move on to bigger questions. Who do they live with? Who are their friends? What do they like about themselves? What do they hate about themselves? What do they love most? What do they hate most? What drives them onwards in times of struggle?

After these bigger world types of questions, you can move onto the trickier ones. My favourite question of all time is what's their deepest, darkest secret? This secret doesn't have to have any effect on the story, or it can run the story entirely. Either way, you have to know the answer. Until you know everything about your protagonist, you aren't ready to write. What are their weird hobbies and mannerisms? How do they speak, walk, behave among peers, among 'superiors'? What do they wear? How do they style their hair?

And of course . . . What do they look like?

Then we can move onto the less important but fun questions. Favourite colour, book, TV show, film, food, sport, holiday destination. If you're like me, you'll also want to sort your characters into Hogwarts houses and Divergent factions.

Do questionnaires or personality quizzes on their behalf. I have a 'master questions' document that's five pages long that I fill out for all my characters before I get writing. When you get to the end of the questions document, wow, let me tell you, you certainly know more than you thought you would at the start.

Once you've got all this, live and breathe them. Every situation you come across, think about how they would react. See through their eyes until you don't have to ask yourself that question any more. Once you just know, you're ready.

Oh man, you are so ready.

Some may say you're crazy. Some may think there are people living in your head and now there are. Some may look at you with this bizarre I-think-what-you-can-do-is-amazing-but-it-kinda-scares-me look. If you get that, you know you're doing something right. 

So go out there and write them something phenomenal. You've made them the best, so go and show the world! But most importantly, have the most fun in the universe doing it!

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

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Monday, 9 January 2017

Book Reviews: October-December

Here are the book reviews from October to the end of 2016. I was so busy I only managed three, but there are more coming soon!

The Owl Service - Alan Garner 5/10 (Fangs, Claws, and Wings)

Red Queen - Victoria Aveyard 2/5 (Movellas)

Beautiful Broken Things - Sara Barnard 5/5 (Movellas)

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

Visit me on Facebook / Twitter LinkedIn / Movellas NaNoWriMo

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

New Year! Same Goals!

My resolutions are always habits I want to keep up. Too many resolutions fizzle into nothing, when really what you want to do is create a habit. One year I told myself I wasn't going to drink more than two cups of tea in one day for the whole year, and I didn't. But as soon as January 1st came around, I went back to normal. 365 days should set a habit, but don't count on it. So that's why my goals are always the same, or similar. I'm not letting these habits drop.

                                             Read 30 books.
Nothing's changed here. I don't want to push too hard as I know I've got a busy year. But saying that, I don't want to drop my total down, so the goal is to maintain the steady 30-ish books I've managed to read each year for the past three or four years.

Write at least once every week.
I know I tell people to write every day, but in this resolution I specifically mean part of a novel, short story, or blog post. I write every day if you count emails and tweets, but this is a little more specific. Last year I spent a good while not writing anything when I was between projects, and I'm not going to fall into that trap again. It makes starting the next project so much harder.

Write 52 blogs.
Again, this is the same as every year. Even though writing my blog feels like shouting into the void, I want to keep doing it because it keeps me focused. It makes me think about what I'm reading so I can review it. It makes me write about things I've done and notice achievements. And I can't let myself let it go.

Write 2 books and re-write 1 book.
This one is my stretched goal. I usually write two books, and if I'm doing a re-write, I only write one new one. This year I want to write both two new books and re-write an old one. It's going to be tough, but based on the summer of 2016 when I didn't write anything at all, I can do it.

I think the mistake people make with their goals is that they make them too difficult. I'm using this as a way to focus on what I want to achieve in my day-to-day life, and there's nothing on here I can't handle. I don't want to be stressed by my goals, I want to be excited by them. I think we authors put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Don't let it take over your life. It's your life, and they're your stories.

My 2017 is going to be run by me and me alone. And I will smile as I go and read and write and re-write (and edit).

I don't know about you, but I feel good about 2017. Amazing even.

Let's see what's in store :)

Have any writing resolutions? Let me know in the comments!

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

Visit me on Facebook / Twitter LinkedIn / Movellas NaNoWriMo