Monday, 27 March 2017

KEPOW! Action Sequences and Taming Them


Do I have your attention?

Action is something that's becoming more and more important in all genres. You could argue that action is less important in some genres, but I don't think that's true. I think it might just look different. There should always be some kind of tension and action. Whether that action comes in the form of some kind of fistfight really depends where your story is going.

One of the most important things to think about with action is whether or not your reader can follow. You can ask a close friend to help you with this. Sometimes action sequences are so fast that the reader can't keep up and doesn't know who's doing what. If your action sequences are complicated, you need to make them as clear as possible so the reader knows what's going on. Otherwise, they might skim past it and all your hard work will go to waste.

Another thing you have to remember is emotion. There are so many cold, hard, action-packed scenes out there, but with emotion, they become a hundred times stronger. You need to include this in the build-up as well as in the action itself. The reader wants to know what your protagonist is feeling. Are they petrified, over-confident, taken by surprise? We need to live it with them. Too much description will feel dry but don't get too distracted by your characters' emotions or it could slow everything down. It really is about finding the perfect balance and the flow of the scene.

The hardest thing I find with action is scaring myself before I've even got there. How can you improve unless you dive right in? I suggest just going for it. If it's terrible, you can rebuild in editing; that's what it's there for. But you need to write it. And trust me, you can do it. I believe in you. Stephen King said 'the scariest moment is always just before you start', and that is true more than ever with action. But you should write what scares you. It's the greatest way to improve.

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

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