Archive for Writing Tip of the Week

Grammar is a Buzz

When writing fiction it’s often better to ‘show’ the reader what is happening, than ‘tell’ the reader everything. For example, you can tell the reader, ‘Ziggy was sweaty’, but I’d rather show the reader with ‘Sweat trickled down Ziggy’s neck.’ Adding sensory detail helps to show what is happening – it helps the reader to picture what a character is experiencing.
One way to make sure you’re not ‘telling’ too much is to use verbs (eg. trickled) rather than adjectives (eg. sweaty). For example I might write, ‘Florian was angry’ (adjective) but ‘Florian smashed (verb) his fist into the wall’ is stronger.  And  Sting is a better title than ‘Sharp thing’. If you have to use adjectives then one adjective per noun is enough; and you don’t need many adverbs either (eg. not needed in: Florian angrily smashed his fist’)

This is my last post. Thank you Zac and the Christchurch libraries, it’s been fun.

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Forces of Writing

There are four forces involved in writing fiction: imagining, writing, editing, and hoping.
1. Imagination is the basis of all writing. This force is centred in your brain which is incredibly powerful at wielding it. The force of imagination has infinite range and you’ll find there’s no shortage of story ideas in the world. Science is a wonderfully bizarre source (I even used it to frame this blog). Photo: story characters are everywhere.

2. Writing is work. It seems to be such a weak force: putting one word after another; sentence by sentence. But if you keep going, the force evolves the words into something remarkable– story.
3. Editing is the refining force in fiction. It’s a strong force that can be applied by cutting needless words and shaking the story up.
4. Hope is vital for a writer. When you feel your story is worthless and you think you can’t write, hope keeps you going. Like gravity, it keeps writers grounded, and like imagination, it has infinite range.

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Get Writing!

Oh dear. My month as Star Author is rapidly drawing to a close. I have really enjoyed spending time, if only virtually, in Christchurch.

As this is one of my last posts, I thought I might stop talking about myself and offer something to you.  If you are reading this, chances are you love reading and/or writing. So I thought you might enjoy some quick writing activities that you can do  to get yourself writing. Grab a pen and paper, and sit yourself down, then choose one of these exercise and just write.

  1. Write a sentence where every word starts with the next letter of the alphabet – a, b, c and so on. (for example A brown cat dropped everything…). Don’t worry if it is silly or even ungrammatical. Just see what comes out.
  2. Write for as long as you can without using the letter ‘e’. Again, don’t worry if it’s a little ungrammatical or silly.
  3. Same as 2, but this time see how long you can write without using the word ‘and’.
  4. Find five random words by opening a book or dictionary and picking the first word you see on five different pages. Or get someone else to give you five random words. Then write a sentence, paragraph or even a story which includes all five words.
  5. Open the book you’re currently reading (you are reading one, aren’t you) at any page, and copy out the first sentence of the second paragraph. Now, close the book and start writing, using that sentence as the first sentence of a completely new piece of writing.

Chances are, none of these exercises will produce an absolute masterpiece. But they will challenge you, might make you laugh, and will help get your creative juices flowing.

Have fun. If you’re brave enough, post one of your efforts here as a comment for the world to see.

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Getting Published

Yesterday I drove up to Mundaring, a little community just outside of Perth, where my friend, artist Frane Lessac, and I spoke to a group of people about how to get published. It was a really fun session, with Frane and me each sharing our journey to publication and then talking about the dos and don’ts of getting published.

When I sat down to blog today I thought it might interest YOU to know just how a book gets published. So, here goes.

First, long before a book is something  I can hold in my hands or tell the whole world about or even read, it is just an idea. My ideas come from all over the place – from things I see, things that have happened to me, things I read about, or silly ideas which just come to me.

When I get an idea and decide to write about it, the next thing I do is plan my story. Usually the plan happens in my head – I spend a lot of time thinking about who my main character will be, and what will happen to him/her, and I work out what the main conflict or problem will be, and how it will be resolved at the end.

Once I have a pretty fair idea of what is going to happen in my new story, I write the first draft. This might take only minutes, if it is a picture book or short piece, or days and months if it is longer, but I do try to get the whole  first draft written as quickly as possible before I get distracted by the next big idea.

Once that first draft is written, I put it away. I don’t reread it it, or share it with anyone for as long as I can stand. This creates distance between me and the story, and means that  when I get it back out a month or more later, I am able to see what needs to be fixed – as well as what works, of course. Then I rewrite and edit and rewrite and edit and tinker until the story is as perfect as I can make it. Sometimes this takes many many months, or even years until I am happy with a story.

But, eventually  my story is ready to submit and I send it off to a publisher. Sometimes, the story comes back to me with a letter saying it won’t be published (there are lots of reasons for this) but other times, thankfully, I get a phonecall or email from the publisher to say they will publish my book.

That’s when the hard works starts, because no matter how good I thought the story was when I submitted it, now I have to work with an editor to make it even better.  And sometimes this can take a lot of phonecalls, emails and, of course, writing sessions. – which can take months.

When the text is finalised, the  publisher chooses an illustrator, who then works on the illustration in consultation with the editor. I don’t tell the illustrator what to draw or how to draw it, though I do get shown initial sketches and have the opportunity to provide feedback.

When the illustrations are finished (which can again take months and months or oven years) , the publisher puts words and pictures together and the book is finally ready to be printed.

Then, at least a year after I had that first idea – but usually two or more years – the postman brings me a parcel, with copies of the new book for me to enjoy, and copies of the book are then available in bookstores and libraries for people to read.

It’s a long process –  Head Hog took six years to finally be published – but when I hold a new book in my hands for the first time I always feel  really proud.

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New Zealand’s ‘devils of the night’ – the giant weta

cristy burne and headsHi! I’m Cristy Burne, author of the Takeshita Demons books and Star Author for July.

July is nearly over, so don’t forget to enter our Make a Monster competition and win a copy of Takeshita Demons! We’ve had some awesome entries so far!

As some of you already know, I love writing about monsters and crazy, spooky things.

Well, some of the craziest, spookiest things are not imagined in books or stories. They’re real!

A great example — and a spooky creature I  love — is New Zealand’s giant weta.

What a weta!

Giant weta have been around for about 190 million years, and they look like it too. The giant weta on Little Barrier Island, off the coast of New Zealand, are known as ‘devils of the night’.

Their Maori name, ‘Wetapunga’, translates to ‘god of ugly things’.

Here are some cool facts about weta:

– Giant weta are orthopteran insects of the family Anostostomatidae. They look like wingless, leggy grasshoppers, and their bodies alone can reach around 8cm in length.

– They can weigh more than 70 grams, or about three times the weight of a house mouse.

– Many giant weta are not really so giant, and smaller species such as the Nelson Alpine Weta tip the scales at a not-very-scary average of 7 grams.

– Wetas are more likely to dine on treetop leaves than small children. They’re too heavy to jump, have no wings, and are slow to get around, making vegetarian cuisine the more affordable menu option.

– In a fight, wetas are sadly ill equipped, with only their spiky back legs and devastating bad looks for defence. Some will even roll over and play dead in an attempt to trick would-be predators.

– New Zealand’s new predators — the rats, cats, stoats and hedgehogs — often find that giant wetas make a decent-sized snack. This means giant weta populations are dwindling, and where Wetapunga were once common in the north of the North Island, they are now found only on Little Barrier Island, off the coast of Auckland.

– One weta species, the Mahoenui, returned from mainland extinction when it was discovered in 1962 hiding out in some gorse bushes in the North Island; the spikes of the introduced gorse had kept hungry hunters at bay. This weta weed patch has since been declared a protected area, and more than 200 endangered weta have been relocated to Mahurangi Island, in the hope of baby wetas on the way.



Aren’t weta awesome?

I find when I am having trouble thinking of something to write about, I can find inspiration in real life and amazing science. There are always strange things happening in the real world.

Where do you get your writing inspiration?

Anyone ever written a story about a giant weta?

If you want extra weta inspiration, you can get more weta-riffic facts from NZ’s Department of Conservation.

Happy writing and reading!

Cristy


Cristy Burne
Author of the Takeshita Demons series

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5 Japanese demons you may know from books and movies – Cristy Burne

cristy burne and headsHi!  Cristy Burne here, author of the Takeshita Demons books and Star Author for July.

I hope you like scary stories, because that’s exactly what I like to write. And believe it or not, the Takeshita Demons books are based on truth.

That’s right! All the Japanese monsters I write about are real…I didn’t make them up! In fact, I was only inspired to write Takeshita Demons after I started studying the history and mythology of Japanese monsters (or yokai in Japanese).

The Filth Licker and more…

Monsters in Takeshita Demons (like the Filth Licker (aka-name), the Snow Woman (yuki-onna) and the  Cut-throat Demon (nuke-kubi)) have been part of Japanese mythology and stories for hundreds of years.  They’re much the same as vampires, werewolves and fairies in Western culture.

Many of Japan’s demons are very unusual, but here are some you may recognise…How many do you know?
Don’t forget to enter our Make-a-monster Competition: invent a demon and win a prize!

5 Japanese demons you may know from books and movies

Hanako of the toilet1) Toire no Hanako-san

‘Toire no Hanako-san’ means Hanako-of-the-toilet. Hanako is the ghost of a young girl and she haunts particular toilet cubicles, usually at school. Remind you of anyone you might remember from a certain school for wizards?

In Japanese legend, Hanako is usually shy…

BUT…if someone is mean to her or teases her, then…watch out!

If you want to meet Hanako, you need to knock three times on the door of her haunted toilet and call out: “Are you there, Hanako?”.

Why don’t you give it a try next time you’re in the school toilets?

2) BentenThe goddess benten

Aha! I bet you thought Benten was a boy with a really cool wrist watch! You did, didn’t you?

Well, think again. Benten is actually a woman with eight arms and a whole bunch of dragons as friends. In Japanese mythology, Benten is one of the 7 lucky gods, and she’s around 1500 years older than the Benten you might know.

Still, the goddess Benten is a good person to befriend: she can help make you rich and give you good grades at school (she’s also the goddess of wisdom and prosperity).

yagyo-san3)  The headless horse

You’ve heard of the headless horseman, right? He’s a famous legend that grew from a character in a story published in America nearly 100 years ago.

But…have you heard of the headless horse?

The headless horse is the favourite method of transport for a Japanese ogre called Mr Yagyo, or Yagyo-san.

Yagyo-san has been around for hundreds of years, coming out only once a year to wreak havoc on the human population. On this one day — the day before Japan celebrates Setsubun, the beginning of spring — Yagyo-san roams the streets tossing spiked soybeans at people.

According to Japanese stories, the only way to escape is to lie face-down on the ground with a pair of sandals on your head.

ningyo_japanese_mermaid4) Mermaids

When I say ‘mermaids’, do you think of beautiful half-fish, half-woman creatures with long golden hair and perfect skin?

Well…that’s not the only kind of mermaid in the sea!

Japanese mermaids are called ningyo and although they are half-fish, half-woman, they’re not exactly what I would call beautiful.

I’m researching ningyo now as part of the next Takeshita Demons book… Apparently, eating the flesh of a Japanese mermaid can make you immortal, and even just seeing one can add three years to your life. Pretty cool, huh.

(Japanese mermaids also have some unfriendly friends, like the sazae-oni, a poisonous demon formed when a very old sea snail mutates into an ogre.)

tengu5) Tengu (or the tengu’s invisibility cloak, at least)

Tengu are a half-bird, half-humanoid Japanese demon that live in the mountains. You often see tengu masks in Japan and they feature in traditional Japanese stories and theatre.

But, you probably know the tengu’s cloak more than the tengu.

Tengu have many special powers and own many magical objects, not least of which is the invisibility cloak.  This is a cloak that makes you totally invisible when you wear it. Ring any bells?

There is another story of a tengu who owns a magical fan that can make your nose grow. In the story, the tengu accidentally fans himself… Maybe that’s why he looks how he looks!

So what’s my point?

My point is that you don’t always have to invent everything when you’re writing a fantasy or horror story.

Some of the craziest things you can imagine happen in real life (just read the newspaper sometime!). Some of the most unbelieveable things ever are actually true (700 million people around the world have blood-sucking hookworms in their guts). And some of the best writers and books use little bits of history and science and real-life-fact to inspire their incredible stories.

So, when you’re writing your own stories and books, take some time to research some real-life topics that might be relevant. The Christchurch library has a huge non-fiction section filled with heaps of fascinating facts and stories…. Check it out and you will be amazed!

How many of the demons did you know?
Any fascinating facts you’d like to share?
Drop us a comment!

And don’t forget to enter our Make-a-monster Competition: invent a demon and win a prize!

Happy writing and reading!

Cristy


Cristy Burne
Author of the Takeshita Demons series

Follow me on Twitter
Check out my blog
Like The Filth Licker on Facebook!

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Writing Tip of the Week – Jackie French

This week’s writing tip comes from Jackie French, author of Diary of a Wombat, Hitler’s Daughter, A Rose for the ANZAC Boys, and Oracle.

“I think the most important thing about writing is having confidence – because if you think you can write well you write in your own voice, not copying ideas and expressions and characters from other people.”

 

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