September 5, 2018- We’ve all heard of brainstorming and I’m confident that as writer’s, we tend to do this to a fault. I say to a fault because of how much time we spend brainstorming instead of writing, which is really what we should be doing instead.
Brainstorming, as we know, is where you start with a blank piece of paper in front of you and you’re supposed to come up with new ideas. There’s a problem with the rigidity of this. We think that we’re just supposed to write down ideas, single words, and we are encouraged to think laterally.
What if I told you there was a better way? Enter Stormwriting! Here’s how to do it:
- Gather writing materials
- Find a cozy place
- Write down your idea at the top of the page
- Write down EVERYTHING that has to do with your idea.
- Use Yes and What if as your guiding questions.
- Keep writing, don’t edit! Just get it on paper.
Let’s do an example from one of my own novels set to launch next year:
My Name is Jessica Westlake (is the title so I put this at the top of the page)
- Her name is Jessica Westlake, why is her name Jessica Westlake? Has this always been her name?
- She is blonde with blue eyes, tall, trim, married, no children, having an affair with her neighbour
- Her husband is a high profile lawyer, he cheats on Jessica with the mistress that works for him
- They are rich in money but poor in morals
- They have a big house, a maid, and nice cars
- Jessica grew up poor, her parents were horrible and they did things to her that are inexplicable
- They live in Boston in a very expensive neighbourhood
- Her husband is abusive and treats her like garbage
- What if the husband catches Jessica and the neighbour? What if he seeks vengeance for what they’ve done?
- What if things were more complicated? What if the neighbour was also cheating with the husband?
See what I mean? It’s pretty easy to go down the rabbit hole on this exercise, isn’t it?
Also, this contains ZERO spoilers for my next novel:) I wouldn’t ruin it for you! Now get stormwriting!
August 15, 2018– We’ve all been in awkward situations when we meet someone or where we’re at an event and the person who corners us, has nothing to say. What do we talk about? Where can I escape to? Where the heck is my husband to rescue me? Usually, talking to people is easy for me because I like to keep informed about a little bit of everything that’s going on in the world, however, there are times where I find myself with nothing to say because the conversation has run its course or perhaps the other person and I have nothing in common.
Guess what? The same holds true for everyone who reads your novels. It happens. There are novels out there with nothing to say, and fiction readers have high expectations of being engaged on a deeper level when they pick up a book.
Here are some interesting facts that you should know before you write your first or next novel.
- All stories have underlying morals. If they didn’t then no one would bother to read them. Morals are the glue that holds us together. For example, in my novel, Obsessed with Her, there are a TON of morals. Some of the questions that the reader must ask themselves while reading my book are pretty dark. What would they do if their child was missing? How far would they go to find out what happened to her? Would they do the same thing if they were in the main character’s shoes? Every novel must possess some kind of moral fork in the road; if it doesn’t, your reader will be disappointed, snap your book closed, and hurl it across the room.
- Readers seek out stories that are on par with their own beliefs. For example, romance readers are largely female, mystery/thriller readers are somewhat conservative with a longing for justice, and techno-thriller readers are most often military personnel. Every reader believes in something, and it’s our job as writers to make them question their beliefs…which leads me to my next point; the number of fiction readers who deliberately seek to have their morals changed are slim to none. This does not mean that they don’t want to be stretched or see the world in a different light, they do! They just don’t want their own beliefs and morals converted.
- Readers are not looking for what is comfortable, familiar, or politically pleasing. Fiction is most interesting and unputdownable when points of view and beliefs are different, engrossing, compelling, and detailed. Take your reader to the edge of what they believe, and you’ll make a long-term connection. Plus, they’ll love your book, hopefully, and become a life-long reader of your work.
The moral of this post? Have a moral in your story. Make it interesting. Push the limits.
Happy writing, X LLB
August 13, 2018- I do a lot of school visits as an author, and someone once asked me the question, “Do author visits make a difference in kids’ lives?” I took a second to think about that. “Yes, they do. And let me prove it to you.” More on this in a second.
I love, love, love going to schools as a visiting author with the opportunity to read my books to young people! It is such a unique and wonderful experience that no two schools are the same. I leave with a sense of gratitude for the young minds that allow me their attention for even a brief time and for the teachers and librarians that welcome me with open arms, into their schools and their spaces. The questions that the children ask are fun, funny, and sometimes very personal! But, enough about what we as authors get out of school visits, what do the children receive?
According to a recent study that was conducted in 2013, by California State University, children receive the following benefits from author school visits:
- Author visits motivate children to read more. Kids passion for reading is ignited before, during, and after an author visit. They get excited about things that they can relate to such as an in-person visit from someone who is real! I often hear them say that they too want to be authors when they grow up.
- Author visits inspire creativity and expression. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a school where the kids have created a comic book for me, complete with illustrations, or how many times they’ve created a poem or handmade card.
- Author visits motivate children to write more. Children often hurry home after an author has visited their school because they’ve suddenly caught the writing bug. They want to write about anything, and everything, plus, author visits can also spark ideas to write about.
It is always beneficial to have an author visit your school! There are so many reasons why you should book a visit for the upcoming school year. Not only is it fun, but it’s also educational and entertaining.
I do in-person school visits, but I also offer live Skype visits and readings with schools that are abroad. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
July 23, 2018- What a beautiful poem about a book and a reader. I wish I could give the poet credit, but I can’t find the writer. Enjoy!
July 20, 2018- The only thing worse than burning books is not reading them. Banned books? Really; are you kidding me? How can any book ever be banned? I don’t care what’s inside and as Oscar Wilde so intelligently said, “The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”
We can all have differences in opinion when it comes to art and art (books) is very subjective. That doesn’t mean that it should be banned. Check out this ASTONISHING list of banned books which I’m very proud to say that I’ve read 3/4 of them and the remaining just landed on my to-read list! I hope you’ll join me in reading these literary wonders. Happy Reading!
July 13, 2018- If I can’t take my book I’m not going! I saw this scrawled across a t-shirt while in Starbucks one afternoon and I chuckled to myself because that’s entirely me.
I bring a book with me wherever I go. I’m not kidding; I’m a fan of paperbacks, which works well most of the time for convenience and portability, but every now and then I will bring my Kindle or read on my phone. I know, nothing beats the feel and experience of a real book in hand, but desperate times…
Last year I was able to read 52 books in a year, that’s one a week, and here’s how I did it. I read during the spaces in between as I like to call them. I read on planes, trains, and in automobiles. I read while waiting at the doctor’s office, while waiting for clients, and I even listen to books if I’m commuting somewhere. There are so many choices for voracious readers that I ask you, what do you choose? Are you a die-hard Kindle user? Do you prefer hardcover books? Do you listen to audiobooks? Do you carry a paperback with you wherever you go? Sound off in the comments below and let me know where and how you choose to read!
July 11, 2018-I am a huge believer in reading to kids, even while they are still in utero; you can never start too early! Reading is a love that can be lost unfortunately and needs to be reignited every now and then. For adults, it’s especially tough because let’s face it, life gets in the way. Between paying bills, working, and carting the kids off to different events and activities, the first things to go are the things that we enjoy, such as taking a break to escape into a book.
Reading is so critical because not only does it allow us to be role models to the little ones watching our every move, but it encourages us to live more than one life. Reading expands our minds and imaginations, and it does the same for our children. Literacy is crucial especially right now in the digital world that we live in; most families don’t make time anymore to read to their kids before bed or take turns reading chapters as a family after dinner. We are in such a hurry for everything that our lives are moving at an alarming pace and we are forgetting what matters. Your kids are going to remember the nights you snuggled up and read with them, they’ll remember the books that they laughed at and cried with, they’ll remember the time you took to read to them, and they will be forever grateful. Reading is not just a past time, but a responsibility that we should not take lightly. So, read. Read as much as you can and read whatever you can get your hands on. And, read to your kids because their future love of books depends on it.
June 15, 2018- Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my editor. I also pray that she’s not reading this! Check out this really cool infographic about writers vs editors…why can’t we all just get along?
April 2, 2018-This is a really cool how-to infographic on creating epic characters. The info below is something that doesn’t need to be told to the reader, but rather, the writer should know these things about their character so that it will naturally bleed into their writing. Pick bits and pieces that you want to share and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination. The more you know about your character, the better and more invested your readers will be!
As fiction writers, we know that there are primarily three points of view (POV) in storytelling. There is an additional point of view that doesn’t usually get a lot of attention. As a publisher, I would be intrigued if an author approached me with a manuscript that used the 4th point of view. Let’s explore them all!
- First Person– a point of view that is told from the protagonist’s perspective in the story through the use of the pronoun, “I.” The character is in the story relating his or her experiences directly.
Example, “I am not pretty.” “I am not beautiful.” “I am as radiant as the sun.”
-The Hunger Games
- Second Person-like first person, second person is told from the protagonist’s perspective, however, using the pronouns “you,” “yours,” and “your.” This POV is common in non-fiction but is not as common in fiction.
Example, “You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood, and self, and purpose.”
-The Night Circus
- Third Person Limited– is told by an unnamed narrator who is not part of the story or plot. When referring to a person, place, idea, or thing, the writer uses he, she, or it. The narrator is outside of the story and relating the experiences of a character.
Example, “What’s that?” he snarled, staring at the envelope Harry was still clutching in his hand.
-Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban
The 3 POV’s above are the most common, but there is another point of view that can also be used! It is:
- Third Person Omniscient-The story is still about “he” or “she,” but the narrator has full access to the thoughts and experiences of all characters in the story. This pov is most associated with 19th-century novels and is told from an “all knowing” perspective.
Example, “Shall you wear them in company?” said Celia, who was watching her with real curiosity as to what she would do.
‘Dorothea glanced quickly at her sister. […] “Perhaps,” she said, rather haughtily. “I cannot tell to what level I may sink.”
So there you have it, all four types of narration, which will you choose for your work?