Writing Advice and Humor

5 Ways Not to Start a Book

books

I have been writing for quite a while now, yet I still don’t have a formula for writing the perfect first page that will captivate every reader. Rather than brainstorming for hours  the best way to start a book, I thought I’d come up with five ways not to start a book. After all, if you don’t know what to do, you can at least try to figure out what not to do.

1.  Don’t have your MC wake up with amnesia. Although it might work for some people, I personally believe that if you’re trying to interest someone your best bet is to avoid confusing them. The first page of a book is the writer’s chance to audition for the reader, to catch their attention, and just imagine how things would go at an audition where the person auditioning doesn’t seem to know what their act is.

2. Don’t have long and lazy description of the landscape. I suppose there might be certain circumstances where describing the setting right off the bat could intrigue the reader. For instance, if you opened with “the fire rapidly engulfed the forest, painting it a bright mix of red and yellow”, there is a decent chance you reader is going to want to stick around to find out why the forest is on fire and if someone or something is going to stop it. Still, if you continue on for the next several paragraphs talking about nothing but how the fire eats away at the trees and turns the grass into mere ashes, your reader might get sick of waiting for answers and decide to put your book down, which is never a good thing.

3. Don’t describe your MC’s everyday, mundane life. Now if your main character’s everyday life is super exciting, like say every morning they jump out of a plane and parachute into the ocean, it might not be a bad idea to start with what is normal for them. On the other hand, if your character is a cool, albeit normal person, you might be better off starting with an exciting event in their life. No one wants to start a book and be greeted by teeth brushing and shoe tying.

4. Don’t have your characters whine. At the beginning of the book the reader isn’t attached to your characters, so it isn’t too easy for them to have sympathy. I’m not saying you can’t ever let your character express their pain, but doing it right at the beginning might give the wrong impression. After all, would you tell a person you just met your greatest woes?

5. Don’t act like the reader already knows something they don’t. This don’t applies to the whole book, not just the beginning, and it is a really good thing to remember in order to avoid confusing the reader. There is a balance between immersing the reader into your world and assuming they know just as much about it as you do. You shouldn’t give the reader an explanation for every little thing as soon as you introduce it, but you also shouldn’t give a detailed description of something brand new and act like the reader knows what it is.

Alright, so that is all I have for today; the muse has been emptied. I hope you enjoyed the post!

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Writing Advice and Humor

Five Ways to Make Your Paper Longer that Won’t Get You Kicked Out of Class (Probably)

1. Lengthen your title. Okay, so let’s say you’re writing a paper about Kate Warne. What should your title be? Kate Warne? No, that’s too simple. Kate Warne the First Female Detective in the United States? That’s heading in the right direction, but that still doesn’t take up very much space in 12 pt font. How about Kate Warne the First Female Detective in The United States of American Founded on July 4th, 1776 After the Revolutionary War with England? Perfect.

2. Only quote and paraphrase from double or triple digit pages. This one is simple. Why do an in-text citation of a quote on page 6 when you could convey the same point by quoting page 166. It’s only two digits, but if your paper is seventy-five percent quotes, it could push your paper of that six page mark.

3. Only use sources that have authors with long names. It may not seem like it will make a difference, but when you do eighty-nine in-text citations of Glubberstarch versus Allan, it does.

4. Use big words. This may seem obvious, but I’d thought I’d mention it anyway. Here’s a  expeditious list of minuscule words you can elongate: Instead of did, use perpetrated, instead of nonsense, use flumadiddle (it’s a real word), instead of had, use in the possession of.

5. Start no sentence without an introductory phrase. Sure, you could say Kate went on several missions, but why would you when you could just as easily say during her extensive career with the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which lasted for twelve years, Kate went on several missions.

Well I hope you enjoyed the post! Have a great time writing those papers.

 

Writing Advice and Humor

Original Cliches: Three Ways to Revamp Overused Cliches

type

When most writers hear the word cliche, they shudder, they think of Hallmark-style romances and villain’s monologues. But not all cliches are bad. Some of them, though they have been used many times, have the possibility to be the start of an amazing story, if executed correctly. So here are three ways to use cliches without being cliche.

1. Use it as a starting point.  Let’s say you want to write a spy story, but you’re afraid that it won’t be original enough. Rather than just ditching your idea, try to use it as a starting point. Three or four drafts later, you may find that your story is unlike any you’ve read before. For example, our book started off as the kind of story where three teenagers try to save their CIA agent parents who have been kidnapped. In our final draft their parents still get kidnapped, but instead of trying to save them, the kids go on a journey to get to a safe house. Had we feared the cliche, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

2. Make it better. Another way to use cliches is to improve upon them. Use the cliche, but make it better. Who says it’s normal to have a nerdy character if they like to play sports or a spy story that takes place in a small town?

3. Turn it into a awesome plot twist. So, one of the worst things about cliches is that they are predictable, and not many people want to read a story where they know the end from the beginning. But what if you were to write a story in which you lead your reader to believe you’re doing something predictable when you’re not? Make them think you’re going cliche when you’re really sneaking a major plot twist in through the back door.

Well, that’s all I have for now. What are your thoughts on cliches?

Writing Advice and Humor

Three Elements to Improve your Story

writingblog

Today, I’m going to share with you three things that I think will make your book better. You may have already incorporated all of these in your story, or you may have left them out altogether, but either way, I hope you enjoy!

1. Setting. I love it when setting is an important part of a story. Whether the main character lives in a small town full of quirky people or is visiting Europe, if done right, setting can make a book a million times better. In my opinion, there are two ways to do this. One, you can create an attachment to a place. This works particularly well if you’re writing a series and have the characters return to a certain place in every book. Think Arundel or Gardam Street in the Penderwicks. Or, if that doesn’t fit into your story, you can create a sense of wonder. This is when you bring your reader to a place that isn’t at all familiar: a new country, a new time period, or even a new world.

2. Relationships. To state it simply, I don’t like lone-wolf characters; I much prefer to read stories where the main character has at least one person that they consistently interact with. At the very least, it provides the opportunity to break up the less exciting scenes with conversation. Whether it be a sibling, a best friend, or someone they just met but will get to know over the course of the story, don’t leave your character to wander the pages of your book alone.

3. Intrigue. No matter the genre of your book, a story is rarely reaching its full potential when there is no mystery and no questions left unanswered. I’m not talking about ending a stand-alone book with a tangle of loose ends, I’m talking about writing a contemporary romance with the three main plot points of The Accidental First Meeting, The Momentary Break-up That No One Is Buying Which Was Probably Over On A Stupid Misunderstanding, and The Ultra-Dramatic Resolution. Even if you are writing a book like this, I’ll bet that there is room in their somewhere for a rich relative’s lost heirloom or a twenty year old note in a library book.

Book 1

The Literary Recipe Tag

I hearby create a tag. Here’s how it works:

1. To the best of your ability, describe your WIP, or any book you have written or will write, in recipe form

2. Tag whomever and however many people you please

3. Please keep all content clean

Let us begin!

Ingredients: 

One mischievous fifteen-year-old girl

One nervous and nerdy best friend

One geeky and annoying older brother

A mysterious letter

A revenge prank

A lot of family secrets coming to light

An annoying CIA agent

A trip to Germany

A long lost aunt

Another annoying CIA agent

Some serious betrayal

A difficult decision

A crazy plot twist

Instructions: 

1. Mix the fifteen-year-old girl and her best friend with the letter. (This will result in the desire for a revenge prank.)

2. Add in the brother and the first annoying CIA agent and shake things up.

3. When the family secrets have come to the surface, dump in a trip to Germany, a long lost aunt, and the other CIA agent.

4. Let things settle for a day or two.

5. Throw in a big helping of betrayal.

6. When recovery has started, drop in the difficult decision.

7. Add in the crazy plot twist. (Warning: this may start a fire.)

8. Bake for I don’t know how long. (It’s been in the oven for over three years and still isn’t quite done.)

Serves as many people as will try it.

I hope you enjoyed the tag! I tag:

Lila Kims at The Red-Hooded Writer

Danielle Droubay at Snapper

And anyone else would like to join!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Advice and Humor

Writing a Book: Do’s and Don’ts

Hey everyone! I just wanted to get things on our blog rolling with some good advice that Penny and I have stumbled across on our journey to a complete novel. I’ll try to keep it simple, and if you have any questions about this post, or writing a novel, or a specific stage of the writing process, or anything else that pertains to writing, please feel free to comment below and one of us will reply as soon as we can.

Okay, so here are a few “Don’ts”: 

  1.  Don’t worry too much about proper grammar and word-smithing in your first draft. My college English teacher has repeated many times that you can have a grammatically perfect essay, but it can still be a poor paper because the content is worthless. The same holds true for your writing. If you want to write something worth reading, it’s far better to just get your idea out before you try to fix grammatical errors. I wish Penny and I had known this sooner, because it probably would have saved us a lot of trouble and heartache in the long run.
  2. Don’t be afraid to “kill your darlings”. You’ve probably heard this before, but if you don’t know what it means, it’s basically a reminder that, somewhere along the line, you are going to have to get rid of a section of your writing that you really love. I remember, waaay back in one of our very first drafts, we had this prologue that led into our first chapter. I poured my heart and soul into that prologue, crafted it to perfection. It was beautiful, if not a little bit cliché and cheesy… okay, maybe it was really cliché and cheesy. ANYWAY, the point is that I loved it, but as our story progressed, we realized that our first chapter needed some major reworking. It was painful, but after we got rid of it and got our first chapter in order, I knew it was the right thing to do, because it made our book so much better!
  3. DON’T GIVE UP! I cannot stress this enough. We went through three years of writing to get to where we are today, and during those three years, we rewrote the entirety of our material a grand total of four or five times. But now that we are almost ready to query, it all seems worth it. Keep writing! You’ll get there.

It’s time for the “Do’s”: 

  1. Do remember to have fun. It can be really easy to be all business when it comes to sitting down with your book, but, for most of us, we didn’t start writing thinking “I’m gonna make it big with this story!” No, most people start writing because something inspired them, or because they wanted to spend time doing something enjoyable. Remember what it was like when you first started and write like the wind!
  2. Do talk to your friends/family about your book. I understand that some of you might not be ready to write a book yet, but whatever writing you have done, I’d like to encourage you to share it with your peeps. A lot of people get apprehensive about letting someone in on such a big part of their life, but, the way I say it, it can only help. If you have good friends, they will take the time to listen to you rant about your awful plot and mediocre characters because they know how much it means to you. Sometimes they can pick out something you’ve been doing wrong that you never even noticed. And, remember, if you don’t like their advice, nothing says you have to follow it. 🙂
  3. And last of all… DO DREAM BIG. The only way anyone’s every gotten published is by either bribing the publishing company or by pushing to write something awesome because they believed it would and could succeed. I’d recommend the latter. If you work at it, you can and will get published, whether that is through self-publication or traditional. Keep at it!

Well, that’s all I’ve got in the way of bookish wisdom for today, so I hope this encouraged you to write more, and better, and to have fun doing it! Comment what you’d like our next post to be about.

~ Cori

 

 

Book 1

How It All Began

You might be wondering two teenagers came up with the idea of writing a book in the first place. I mean, we’re both have schoolwork to do, friends to hang out with, and pretty busy lives overall. And, let’s face it, not many teenagers are readers anymore. For most people in our age group, “reading” means scanning the caption for a picture on Instagram or absentmindedly looking at a Twitter post.

Now, I’d like to be able to say that we embarked on our writing journey with some kind of grand mission to change the way teenagers think about books and reading, but that wasn’t really what happened. Long story short, Penny and I were just hanging out at my house, waiting for her dad to pick her up and take her home. We got bored, so we opened up a blank Word Document, and BAM our book was born. I wrote a line, she wrote a line, pretty soon we had a page or two. The farther we got, the more hooked on the story we became. We just couldn’t let it go. Before we knew it, it had turned into a 58,000-word novel!

I don’t want you to think that it’s just that simple. To get to where we are today took years of writing, re-writing, editing, and re-editing. We had to kill our darlings, start from scratch, read it all until we couldn’t read it anymore. But there is a reward in writing something that is your own, in taking your fantasies and making them come alive on paper. There are very few things in life that compare to it.

Long story short, if you have an idea, big or small, just start writing! Who knows what it could turn into?