Posts tagged writing tips

How to edit a magazine (part 3)

Writing isn’t part of every editor’s job – but it’s part of mine. For each Wild Things magazine I write an episode of Owl Kids plus at least one article. I also write word puzzles and devise a board game.

Here’s how we make the game:

First, I think of an idea. Then I draw a rough draft and start testing it on my family. I test it over and over, each time making small changes to the rules until it all works. It’s fun at first, but after several days my kids are begging me please not to make them play the game again!

Once the game is devised, there’s still plenty to do. The game wouldn’t be the game without Rob Di Leva, the designer. So when I’ve settled on the final instructions for it and made a draft layout, I send it all to him. At this stage it doesn’t look much fun to play!

This was my draft layout for the September 2013 game:

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Rob spends a lot of time and imagination turning each game into something that people would actually enjoy.

Here’s what he did with the plan above.

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Notice that he’s not just a fantastic designer, but a wonderful illustrator.

In fact, if you think Wild Things looks interesting and fun in general – that’s all thanks to Rob. While I’m writing and editing, he’s spending hour after hour taking care of the visual side. Behind every good-looking magazine (or book) is a great designer!

Okay. Once everything is written, illustrated, edited, and designed, and the whole magazine is almost ready to be printed – one last task begins. Proofreading.

This takes ages, and involves the editor and several others going over and over every part of the magazine to try and make sure it’s absolutely, perfectly, incontrovertibly correct – while the designer fixes all the spotted errors.

Now, let me tell you a secret that all editors know. No matter how well you think you’ve done your proofreading, at least one mistake will somehow creep through and end up in the printed magazine.

You just have to hope it’s nothing serious …

For example, you wouldn’t want a single dot left out of an email address so that everyone sends competition entries to the wrong place, causing great panic and an urgent phone call to tech support, who have to drop everything to get all the emails redirected from the wrong email address to the right one …

You wouldn’t want that.

But that is just an example, of course.

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How to edit a magazine (part 2)

In my last post I talked about planning each issue of Wild Things magazine. That’s fun – but here’s what’s MORE fun:

Deciding who to invite (or beg) to contribute.

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Who are your favourite authors and illustrators?

Imagine you could create a magazine and invite them all to do something for it. Who would you ask to do what?

Who would you ask to design and draw a beautiful maze?

Who would you ask to write an article about your favourite animal?

Who would you ask to write a hilarious skit? And whose illustration might go brilliantly with that skit? You can team them up.

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I can hardly describe how exciting it is to send off emails to writers and illustrators I admire, enquiring if they’d do a particular job for Wild Things, and then waiting for their reply.

Occasionally they’re too busy, but usually they say yes. (Yay!) Then I send them more details about the job, so they can get going. I try not to give  TOO MUCH detail – it’s better if they have loads of freedom. Because what’s the point in asking creative professionals to do a job if they can’t be creative?

Here’s the most brilliant thing of all:

The finished work that they send back is ALWAYS different from how I thought it would be – and way better. I’m in awe of how these people’s imaginations work. New Zealand has many amazing professional writers and illustrators!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter this exciting bit, I have to do boring stuff: make sure the contributors send in invoices so they can get paid, and sometimes ask them to fill in tax forms.

Strange things can happen …

Have you seen the book, Watch Out, Snail!? It’s about Powelliphanta – incredible, rare, giant snails that live only in New Zealand. They’re way more awesome than the common garden snails that eat your precious vegetables.

The book’s illustrator is Margaret Tolland, and for one issue of Wild Things, she made us a beautiful maze where you have to help a Powelliphanta snail find its food.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, I think the common garden snails that keep trying to live in our letterbox must have been jealous, because when she sent me her tax form, they ate it! All they left were a few shreds of holey paper.

I had to email Margaret, apologise profusely, and ask her if she could send another tax form, because snails had eaten the first!

More about editing a magazine soon. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for your favourite NZ authors and illustrators in any Wild Things issues you see. (And beware the letterbox snails.)

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How to edit a magazine (part 1)

Have you ever made a class magazine?

I love working on magazines, so I couldn’t believe my luck when I got a job editing Wild Things. That’s the magazine of KCC – the Kiwi Conservation Club. KCC has members all round the country – kids like you – who get together to have fun and help save the environment.

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So. What does the Wild Things editor do?

I start planning each issue about three months before it has to be printed.

First I talk to four important people:

  • Tiff, the manager of KCC
  • Rob, the graphic designer and art director of Wild Things
  • Marina, who edits the Forest & Bird magazine (the adult’s version of Wild Things), and
  •  Mandy who’s in charge of the KCC website.

These four are always having brilliant ideas, as well as hearing important news, so I have to figure out the best way to fit all their ideas and news into one issue.

I ask myself: What could we make a puzzle or game or skit out of? What should have an article written about it? How long should the article be? What might we have to leave out, or maybe put in a later issue?

I have to remember we have only 24 pages in an issue. Sometimes I wish I could cram in a bazillion and six things – but then the writing would be so tiny you’d barely read it.

After much scribbling and typing and deleting and retyping, I have a plan I’m happy with. Part of it looks like this. See what it shows? (Enlarge it by clicking on it.)

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Yes – you just got a sneak peek at what will be on each page in the next issue.

In publishing jargon, that’s called a ‘flat plan’. I’m not quite sure why, but I suppose it makes sense: it is a plan, and it is flat (usually … unless it’s spent too long in my messy bag, or our cat Smoofie has been sitting on it.)

The next step is to see what Tiff, Rob, Marina, and Mandy think of the flat plan.

Hmmm … I haven’t shown this one to them yet – you’re the first to see it!

I better go show them now. More about how to edit a magazine soon.

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Busy Writing and Touring

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I had good intentions to write a post every couple of days on this blog – but life got in the way. Since I posted last, I’ve been to Christchurch, Wellington twice and Auckland several times. I’ve endured earthquakes (4.5 – 6.6), stormy weather, late nights and a very busy schedule. But when you do something you love – it is a pleasure!

Today I chatted to an e-book club at Christchurch Library. The kids had all read my books and had some great questions for me. I was able to tell them about my new kiwi book ‘Operation Nest Egg Chick’ coming out in Conservation Week at a very kiwi place – Auckland Zoo in the Elephant House (8th September 11am). The techie person from Pixel Book is weaving his magic so that the enhanced digital book can have drop-down boxes, activities, videos, slides and Bruce Potter’s stunning artwork tops it off. The book is about the survival of a kiwi chick raised in the Operation Nest Egg programme. If you want to see a sample of it go this website after 8th September: www.pixelbook.co.nz  At the moment you can see our first digital book ‘The Rock Standing in the Ocean’, which is about the birth of a volcanic island.

I’m also writing for the Girl Guide Association, and reading biographies about famous New Zealand sporting stars for my next book: New Zealand Hall of Fame: 25 Sporting Greats. The famous athletes’ stories are very inspiring. I love reading their biographies and interviewing them by phone. Many of the athletes are overseas so sometimes I Skype them (I was talking to World Aerobic Champion Angela McMillan in Vietnam yesterday). This book won’t be out until August/September next year.

On Monday, I received a contract for my first picture book, which is being released early March. ‘The Last of the Maui’ is about a young Maui dolphin who has to rescue his friends from the grasp of the set nets. Bruce Potter’s underwater scenes are just gorgeous. So do look out for that one.

I’m going to end with some tips to get your writing career started:

1. Read widely – you’ll absorb the different styles, the intricate language and it will inspire you to write your own stories.

2.  Write every day; whether it is emails, a diary, essays or notes. You’ll find that your thoughts, and pen/keyboard will fly when you write that often.

3.  Keep an Ideas Notebook – once you open your mind to the possibility that there are ideas all around you, you’ll want to record them. I get ideas from the TV, radio, people talking, when I go walking or driving, and sometimes I wake up with ideas.

4.  Proof-read your work and replace over-used words like car, tree, pretty, beautiful, walk, etc with vibrant verbs and precise nouns. It’ll help build pictures in the reader’s mind.

5.  Don’t give up on your dreams. I started with determination and worked hard to get my successes. It doesn’t come easy but you’ll find you’ll learn from every mistake and misfortune, and you’ll enjoy the journey along the way. Plus you’ll make great friends!

Ka kite ano!

Maria Gill

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Star Author Lied. Again

I said I wouldn’t give you any writing tips.  I didn’t need the competition. I swore black and blue not to aid you on the path to glory, knowing I’d be the one sweeping up leaves and weeding the cracks.

But I lied.

Tomorrow is my last day on the blog, (and lo, the internet was filled with the sound of weeping) so I thought – hey, I should go out with a bang. But being shot from a cannon while writing a blog seemed extreme, and my insurance won’t cover it.

So, I decided to give REAL tips, instead.

EIGHT TIPS THAT MAY OR MAY NOT BE COMPLETELY USELESS

1. It’s easy to give up. So go on, give up. Please?

Like I said, I don’t need the competition.  If you have even a dash of talent, the ability to take criticism and a ton of determination you WILL get published.  There’s nothing I can do to stop you. Sigh.

By the way, I used to do workshops. There was always someone more talented than me. But I doubt many were more stubborn. Mt writing gets better and better with practise.

(For any kids reading this, yes, I’m joking about not wanting competition.  I had one kid ask me why I made stuff about myself in bios. They said, ‘Do you like telling lies or just disappointing kids!’ Oh dear … as I explained, I prefer writing fiction, even about myself. But I digress.)

2. If you have not heard the term ‘show don’t tell’, google it. You’ll thank me one day.

3. Adverbs are very, very bad;  sort of like viruses that might infect your entire story and cause it to suffer heart failure. You can use a few, but when in doubt – vaccinate.

4. Also beware of words like ‘is’ and ‘was’, sometimes even ‘a’. Can’t really explain why, but it sounds flat. Look at this –

A mouse was looking at a piece of cheese.

OR-

The mouse eyed the piece of cheese.

5. If everyone writes vampire novels you should write one too.

Nothing wrong with a good vampire novel. Of course it won’t sell because there’s a million others out there. Oh, unless you’ve found a unique angle, in which case you’ll be a millionaire.

6. If everyone writes vampire novels you should NOT write one.

So, you read number two, huh? Are you insane? Why would you listen to me? I’ve only written two books, for crying out loud. I don’t know ANYTHING.

Look, if you are genuinely passionate about vampire novels, write one. Sure it will be a hard sell, but stranger things have happened and if you follow tip number one, anything is possible. Especially if you’ve found a new angle. After all, there were stories about wizards before Harry Potter, you know …

7. Have you ever considered, I don’t know … reading?

Um, here’s something I haven’t told anyone.  I read a book that I loved called Millions and then I read and re-read that book. It taught me about voice and I read until the voice slipped inside my head. I literally carried it with me to the library when I was writing.

I didn’t copy, that’s pointless and well, downright illegal. I can’t afford to be sued, unless the plaintive is willing to be paid out in marshmallows. Anyway, the tone of the book helped me a lot.

(I would like to point out l also got my big ‘aha’ moment after reading a book in first person, present tense called Castlecliff and the Pea Princess by Elizabeth Pulford.  The tone stayed with me and I experimented with the voice. It worked! My first piece was accepted shortly after that. Of course this might not be YOUR style, it would be boring if everyone wrote the same way.)

8. A real writer always …

Anyone who uses this phrase in ANY shape or form deserves to be shot out of a cannon, which I just happen to have in the back yard … ‘if you don’t do X, you’re not a real writer.’ You will hear it, in one form or another. I promise. I did, sweeping statements on how real writers thought, plotted and acted, which struck me down with fear. Only one thing is true – there are no absolute rules.

Not even these tips.

Wait – what does that mean? Are these even real tips? Perhaps I’ve gone back to my old tricks. Am I trying to convince you NOT to write books?

You decide. In the meantime, take up needlework. The world needs more embroidered cushions.

No, honest. It really does.

Cheers

Leonie Agnew

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Star Author Refuses To Comment

And then, there was me.

Yep, I’m Leonie Agnew, the next Star Author for June and I’ve nothing to say. I’m not giving you a single writing tip. Not one. Why?

Because you might learn something useful.

I can’t have that. You might write your own book. And when you’re sunning yourself by the pool outside your billion dollar mansion, sipping drinks from diamond studded goblets and snap chatting with J K Rowling … guess what you’ll be? MY COMPETITION!

I will be extra grumpy because I drink out of plastic cups, don’t own a tent, let alone a mansion and well, J K keeps ignoring my tweets. Can’t imagine why.

Anyway, the point is, my lips are sealed. I won’t tell you about the children’s writer’s conference in Christchurch. I certainly won’t mention the workshop on editing with Joanna Orwin. Instead, I will take her tips to my grave, written in microfiche and encased in glass, worn around my wrist and disguised as a friendship bead. Why should I tell anyone about the importance of editing and taking out adverbs, even if it does avoid unnecessary description and make your writing sharp?

She also told me something so top-secret, I’m thinking of writing it down with heat sensitive ink. That way, when historians dig up my body and find the bead (and they will, mark my words), the warmth from their breath will make the words evaporate. Clever, right?

No one will ever know Joanna said take words out and add words in – necessary if you haven’t milked the crucial moments in your chapter. That’s like, after the big moment in each chapter, you need to show the main character’s emotional reaction, not just the physical. So if your character wants to run away, it pays to make them think about it first. Understanding character motivation helps the reader to care and keeps them turning pages.

Yep, wild horses couldn’t drag that information from me. Oh … darn.

Right.

Well … give J K Rowling my best, okay? I will come to all your book launches and eat the free food. Mostly because I’ll be unemployed and starving.

Bye for now,

Leonie Agnew

P.S. I think I was supposed to tell you stuff about me. I’m the author of Super Finn and The Importance of Green. That’s a start. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you facts about my life that may or may not be true.

Usually I tell the truth, until I get bored. But it’s not telling lies. When you write lies down it’s called writing fiction, and that’s completely okay.  Just ask your librarian.

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Andy Griffiths Writing Challenge #1

Want something to do these holidays? Enter the Andy Griffiths writing challenge and you could win a Typo prize pack.

Andy Griffiths, the author of Just Crazy, Just Tricking, Zombie Bums from Uranus and The 13-storey Treehouse, has just released his book about writing, called Once Upon a Slime.  In this very cool book he gives lots of tips about writing and some activities to help you become a better writer.  You’re probably looking for something to do in the holidays so why not try an Andy Griffiths writing challenge.

In the box below there is a writing challenge from Andy’s book, Once Upon a Slime.  Why not try it out and post your writing here on the blog.  Just post your piece of writing as a comment at the end of this post, along with your name and email address.  At the end of the week we’ll choose our favourite piece of writing and the author will win a prize pack of goodies from Typo.

Write a story starring YOU!

You don’t have to be able to make up imaginary characters or exotic settings to tell a good story.  A fast way to create fun, believable-sounding stories is to start with the character you know best in the whole world (YOU!).  Choose one of the following scenarios and describe what you would do and what happens next.

  • You wake to discover that you can no longer speak – you can only bark like a dog.
  • You are in class.  It’s a hot day.  Your friend starts taking off their clothes…their shirt…their shoes…their socks…their pants!
  • You have a strong suspicion that your teacher is a vampire and, worse still, you suspect that they know you have discovered their secret.

So get writing and see what you can come up with!

 

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Growing a story: The art of doing nothing

How much time do you spend doing nothing? Nothing as in being by yourself without the TV on, without your phone or computer or even a book. If you want to write, learning to do nothing is an important skill to develop.

In her book If You Want to Write, Author Brenda Ueland calls this “moodling” time. Moodling is letting your mind wander and explore without distraction, allowing it to work out problems and find ideas.

I was moodling one day a few years ago in my house in Iowa. There was a picture on the wall of my great-grandparents on a rickety porch with chickens running around in the yard. I looked at that picture and let my mind wander for a long while.

I let one thought lead to another and then another, from that photo to a tombstone in a prairie cemetery with the name I’d misread as “Tugs Button,” to my grandmother and her long gangly arms and something her father had said to her once about not getting a swell head.

The thoughts piled one on top of another until an idea sprouted. I took that idea for a walk in the woods and let it grow a little taller. I sat again in front of the picture until the idea bloomed, then I picked up a pen and started scrawling loose sentences.

All the time that may have looked to an observer like I was being unproductive, I was actually growing a story that turned into three books about the comically unlucky Button family: The Luck of the Buttons, Button Down, and a third that I’m writing and moodling over now.

Do you want to write? Put down your pen, turn off the TV and radio and computer and phone. It’s time to do nothing!

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Tiny Collections

I am a collector of small things. One of the great things about being a writer is that even a hobby like collecting can be part of the job. Do you like to write? Here are a three collections you could start for yourself.

I’ve been collecting postcards and photographs since my great aunt started sending me art postcards before I could read or write. Hundreds of postcards and photographs fit nicely in a shoebox. Read my last post to discover how collecting images inspires my writing.

In elementary school I started collecting names. The smallest notebook has space for dozens of names. Characters like LeRoy Pence (Dear Papa), Harold Sylvester George Klein (Little Klein), and Verlon Leek (Button Down) were inspired by names I collected as far back as 3rd grade. Whenever you hear a name that you like the sound of, or is interesting to you, write it down.

And my favorite tiny collection? Words. I keep my words on small slips of paper in an ordinary jar. Sometimes a word just strikes my fancy and I’ll write it down: labyrinth. If I’m feeling verb-y, I’ll go to a cookbook and write down all the action words: mix, stir, whisk, sift… Sometimes I start thinking of a group of words and add a bunch at once. Recently I added words I like saying out loud: Iowa, Ohio, Maori, autumn, iota, swift, oriel, oleo.

I started collecting words with my writers group several years ago. We drew words from our word jars each time we met, then each of us would write something using the same four words for our next meeting.

Every chapter in Little Klein was written using those word jar words. Harold turns out to be sickly so I could  have his mother warm a teakettle day and night. A storm arose when I had to use the word wind. 

If you like to write, I think you’ll have as much fun as I do collecting pictures, names, and words. Better yet, grab a friend and start collecting together. Then watch your writing soar!

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Picture Your Story

DEAR PAPA is fiction, but it was inspired by family photographs, three of which appear on the cover of the book.

Say two writers get this assignment: Write about an elephant.

One writer thinks: What happens to the elephant? 

The other thinks: Who is the elephant? 

One writer starts by considering story, the other by considering character.

I am the second kind of writer. I can’t start writing a story until I know my main character.

So where do characters come from? For me, it all begins with pictures. After my first post, commenter Ella shared that she’d read Dear Papa, so I’ll use Dear Papa as an example.

My grandpa died when my mom and her siblings were young so I never met him. I asked my aunt once what he was like. She started by telling me that she wrote a letter to him before he died when she was in fifth grade. I asked to see the letter but we couldn’t find it. What we found instead were boxes of old family photographs.

I was particularly taken with a picture of my aunt as a child. This looks like a girl who could have an adventure, I thought. As is my way, I misremembered the facts and thought she’d told me that she had written her father a letter after he died.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that girl and her letter. So, with the photo taped on my computer screen in front of me, I wrote a letter like I thought she might have written, made up a name for her, then invented an adventure for her and just kept writing.

Here’s a writing game for you:

Look for a childhood picture of one of your parents or grandparents, aunts or uncles. Spend some time imagining what they might have been like as a child.

Study the picture and ask yourself, what could have been happening right before the picture was taken, what might have happened afterwards? Then set your timer (see last post) and see where your imagination takes you!

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Figuring out your main characters is just as important as figuring out your plot.

So you have worked out a plot. You know how your story starts and where you would like it to end but before you can begin writing it pays to think about your characters. I have some rules that will help you write great characters and also help you write great stories

1) Don’t have too many. Lots of characters are not only confusing to write about, they are confusing to keep track of when you read

2) Its often less important how they look (blue eyes and blond hair is unlikely to have any affect on how they solve their problem and achieve their goals in your story) and more important how they behave. Are they polite and respectful, angry, sad, or rebellious? Are they good at art, maths, good with friends, awkward, or shy??? Do they watch a lot of tv, or read a lot of books? Are they sporty and adventurous? Do they pick their nose, obey their parents, lie, or avoid their homework?

3) Little details can tell you a lot about a person. Do they wear nail polish to school when the school rules forbid it? Do they wear odd socks because home life is disorganised or they think it looks cool? Is that scar from an accident or where they were marked by their enemy? Do they sniff a lot (allergies, bad cold, bad habit?)?

4) The better you know what kind of person your main character is the easier it is to figure out how they are going to deal with the problems you throw at them in your story. Are they the kind of person to solve their problems alone or will they get friends to help? Do they have special skills or talents or are they brave and determined?

5) In the best stories the main character will change or learn something as they solve their problem. Maybe they are a loner who needs to work with others to fight the bad guy. Or perhaps they have to overcome their shyness or their fear. if you have an idea what that change is it will make it easier to write the story.

6) The right name can make a big difference. Calling your character Myrtle or Arthur will have a different affect on your reader, compared with calling them Hannah or Josh. Voldemort would never skip, sing nursery rhymes or smell flowers but then Suzy is unlikely to use the killing curse.

7) Don’t be afraid to have your character behave or react as you would behave or react. It helps make them more real to your reader.  My characters often have bits of me in them but because I mix in some qualities I would like to have and then add a few other qualities no one can tell which part is which.

8) No one is perfect. Your character shouldn’t be perfect either. The best characters have good qualities as well as bad qualities.

Good luck with your characters. The better you know them the easier they will be to write about and the more fun they will be to read about.

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Where do ideas come from?

As well as talking about books and reading on this blog I thought it might be useful and fun to talk about writing. Over the next few weeks I’ll share my thoughts on plot and characters and names and all the twiddly bits that you need to think about when you are creating your own stories. A good place to start is ‘ideas’. A question I almost always get when I am visiting schools and talking with groups about writing  is, ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ My answer is that ideas are everywhere – out there in the world in day to day life, out in the playground, at home, in the conversations I have with people, on tv, at the movies, in the news and newspapers and of course in the books you read. Now if you are just starting out with your writing and you are having trouble coming up with good ideas this answer isn’t very helpful at all. But there are three things I can tell you that may help.

1) Before you can find your own ideas, you must know what a good idea looks like. The best way to do this is to read a lot. If you really want to write you need to start asking why you liked a particular book and what was so good about the story. I also ask these questions when I am watching a good movie or television programme. Part of the idea for my novel Jack the Viking came from watching the third Lord of the Rings movie.  And the more you read, the more you discover how inspiring language can be. Sometimes my ideas spring from a few words that are combined in just the right way to get my brain turning excited somersaults.

2) Start with simple ideas. My summer holiday. The first time I cooked. We got a dog/a cat/ a bird. We lost a dog/a cat/ a bird. Starting a new school. The thing that went bump.

The wonderful thing about how we get ideas is that it is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the bigger and stronger it gets and the better it works. It can take a little while to build up this muscle but giving it regular exercise is a good idea.

3) I think ideas come from 3 things – experience, imagination and curiosity. My stories tend to be a mixture of all three but if you are a bit short on one of those three things, try making up for it with one of the other things. When I watched the third Lord of the Rings movie I was curious about what would happen if you put a modern day boy into a battle from a thousand years ago and that’s what inspired Jack the Viking. But I also used my own experiences to create the central character and his day to day life, and my imagination to help describe places I’ve never been to (a thousand years ago). The more things I do and see, the more ideas I get. The more I read and watch, the more my imagination grows. The more I ask questions, the more interesting the answers are to me.

So if you are having a hard time coming up with good story ideas, don’t worry – read lots, try and think about what made your favourite stories good, practice with different ideas, and remember ideas come from the things you do, the questions you ask, and your own imagination.

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Some fun writing rules

Hi everyone, I hope you all had a great weekend. I was lucky enough to see the comedian Lenny Henry on Sunday night, which was a lot of fun. I’m still in a light mood, so thought I’d share some fun rules on writing. The biggest part of a writer’s life is checking and rechecking work for grammatical mistakes and other errors. I have a fun list next to my computer screen which helps me with this. Here are some pointers:

 1.        Don’t abbrev.

2.         Check to see if you any words out.

3.         Be carefully to use adjectives and adverbs correct.

4.         Don’t use no double negatives.

5.         Just between you and I, case is important.

6.         Don’t use commas, that aren’t necessary.

7.         Its important to use apostrophe’s right.

8.         It’s better not to unnecessarily split an infinitive.

9.         Only Proper Nouns should be capitalized. also a sentence should begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop

10.       Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

11.       Avoid unnecessary redundancy.

12.       A writer mustn’t shift your point of view.

13.       Don’t write a run-on sentence you’ve got to punctuate it.

14.       A preposition isn’t a good thing to end a sentence with.

15.       Avoid cliches like the plague.

16.       1 final thing is to never start a sentence with a number.

17.       Always check your work for accuracy and completeness.

 

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Some writing tips

For those of you who love writing, I thought I would share some tips that have helped me on my own writing journey:

* Write about what interests you and then your passion will shine through in your writing.

* Great stories involve the main character facing a problem or obstacle and overcoming it through their own efforts. The main character grows and changes as a result.

* Great stories need great characters. Characters must be both interesting and believable. And remember your main character shouldn’t be perfect: even Batman has his weak spots.

* Use all the five senses when you write; describe scenes or action using sight, hearing, touch, smell, and even taste.

* Use strong and interesting verbs. Instead of “he walked to school” what about “he trudged to school” or “she skipped to school”; they convey more emotion and meaning.

* Show, don’t tell in your stories. For example, if your character is unhappy, don’t tell your reader by writing “Susan was unhappy.” Instead show how Susan is unhappy: for example, “The tears tumbled down her cheeks.”

*Start your stories with a great hook that will make your reader want to continue reading. And end chapters with a cliffhanger or a question not answered so readers want to turn to the next chapter to find out what happens.

* Writing is a craft: the more you practice it the better you’ll get!

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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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Writing an exciting narrative

Hi again!

So did anyone notice last night was the longest night of the year? I didn’t. I went to bed very early and slept right through until 7.30 this morning.  I love sleeping. It’s my third favourite thing after eating and writing. What’s YOUR favourite thing?

Speaking of writing, Alara asked yesterday if I could give some tips on writing a professional narrative. So here are my top tips.

  1. Start off with a BANG!! The library is full of books. (If you haven’t noticed!) So, as a writer, you have to hook your reader from the first few lines. Your story might be the most exciting story in the world, but if the first page isn’t exciting, only your mother or teacher will keep reading. So before you start writing, you have to figure out the most exciting starting point for your story. Writing the first few lines is usually the hardest part.
  2. And then … While writing your story, keep asking yourself “and then what happens?” Once you think you know what’s going to happen, stop for a second and ask yourself – “Is that really the most exciting thing that can happen?” or “Is that the best thing that can happen to make my story the best story it can be?” When I’m writing, I have hundreds of ideas whizzing around in my head. The hard part is choosing which one of my ideas is the best idea for my story. Like when I was writing DO NOT PUSH, I didn’t know what was going to happen when Cam pushed the button. All I knew was he WAS going to push the button. Anything could have happened, really. And I could probably write a thousand different stories about it. (Especially if I stole some of YOUR ideas! hehehehehehe) But in the end I had to choose just ONE idea – the idea I thought would make the best story.
  3. Remember your characters are NOT ZOMBIES! I bet you can all write amazingly exciting stories with lots of action. But to make your story even better, try to remember that your characters are always THINKING and FEELING. Every time something happens, ask yourself  – “What is my character thinking or feeling?” The readers don’t need to know everything your character thinks and feels, but YOU DO! By adding a thought or feeling sometimes, the reader gets to know your character a bit better. And the more your readers like your characters, or understand them, the more likely they’ll not only finish your story, but like your story!
  4. Learn to be a reader! I don’t read boring books. Or books that are badly written. I bet YOU don’t either. And when I write a story, I always think MY stories are brilliant!! Even when they’re not. So I have to put my story away a while then read it again, this time pretending I DIDN’T write it. I pretend I just found the story lying around and don’t know who wrote it. Is it a story worth reading? As I read my story, I try to be super-critical. I try to find every mistake, every bad sentence and every bit that isn’t totally exciting. Then I go back and re-write my story.
  5. Re-write!! Re-write! Re-write! Keep writing your story until it’s as good as you can make it.

Oh, and there’s one more important tip – MAKE SURE YOU FINISH!! Once you start a story, you have to finish it!

OK, so those are a few of my tips. Every writer has their own tips, and their own way of writing. In the end, you have to figure out how YOU write best. Good luck!

Kyle

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Writing Secret #2

Hello from another dank and dull Waikato Wednesday!

I hope you enjoy alliteration. And I hope your Christchurch weather is brighter than mine. You may or may not have noticed that I have been blogging on the even numbered days of the month. This is partly deliberate and partly to keep me organised. However, I am off to Auckland early tomorrow morning (the 12th) for secret research mission and I won’t be near a computer with bloggability. So I’m giving you tomorrow’s writing tip today. Hopefully I’ll be back to even numbered days on the 14th. We won’t mention Friday the 13th for obvious reasons. Anyway, here’s another tip! This is actually one of my favourites because it is SO GOOD IN SO MANY WAYS!

Writing Secret 2: Read your writing out loud

You can read your writing out loud to yourself or to another person. It doesn’t matter, as long as you read it out loud. I always do this. Here are the reasons:

1. When you read your writing out loud, you hear the rhythm of your words. Rhythmic language is much more satisfying to read. If your writing sounds like it flows, great. If you stumble when you read… not so good. Try rewriting those bits so they flow more easily when you read them aloud.

2. When you read your writing out loud, you find lots of errors that you missed before. I like good spelling, punctuation and grammar but sometimes my eyes miss the errors when I’m reading silently. Reading out loud makes it harder to miss the errors. If you find some, correct them.

3. When you read your writing out loud, you can tell if it’s boring or exciting! Enough said about that.

So there are three good reasons to read your writing out loud. Hope that helps.

Until next time,

Sharon

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Writing Secret #1

Hi there

In my first blog post I promised that I would reveal a few writing secrets.  Here’s the first one: Write about what you Know

This morning my daughter told me about a writing assignment she has to do at school today. She has an idea for a story, but wasn’t sure how to stretch the idea out. I told her one of my writing secrets… write about things that you have really done, felt and experienced. So if you want to write about a farm, think back to a farm you visited. Remember the smells, sounds, sights and thoughts you had that day. You can put several ideas together from different farm visits too. The key is to make your writing seem “real” to the reader. If you haven’t been to a farm – ever – then it’s pretty hard to write about it. Seeing something on television or in a picture helps a bit, but your writing isn’t quite the same as the writing of someone who has really experienced a visit to a farm. It’s the real life experiences you write about that make your reader want to keep reading.

For example, in my book called “No Survivors”, I wrote about the main character being bullied at the bike shed for the diary entry on Tuesday 4 September. If you get a chance to read that bit, you’ll understand what I mean. There is no way I could have written that if it hadn’t really happened to me. Your writing doesn’t have to be totally about things you have really done and seen. However, if you add plenty of “real” stuff from your own experience, it will be much more interesting to the reader. Hope that helps!

Sharon

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