Posts tagged ‘book writing tips story’
Julia Donaldson is an amazing kids writer. She is the author of things like Room on the broom.
Her stories are always original and cute. They rhyme and the pictures are colourful and fun to look at. I have yet to meet a child that doesn’t get tickled by her work.
If you look at why she is different for most of the other children’s writers then you see a couple of clear messages.
Don’t talk down to children
Kids are not idiots. They probably understand more that you give them credit for. They are more imaginative and enjoy playing more than adults, this means that you can play with the words you use and make interesting characters for them.
Short but tickle the imagination
Donaldson’s books tend to be short enough for a parent to read in one sitting. This is great because kids get bored with long winded stories. But in that space she really let’s kids use their imaginations as she describes all sorts of fun, original tales.
Lesson books about a child who doesn’t want to share are in abundance. Who needs that? Good parents have taught their kids about sharing without the use of these stupid books. Keep to entertainment.
I have mentioned this a couple of times in the other sections but this deserves a section of its own.
The more original and fun you can be the more kids will enjoy your work.
The next time you are in a book store look out for a copy of something by Julia Donaldson and you will see what I mean.
There are a couple of reasons why a story plot is not feeling right or is boring. Examine the work and see if you can find the week points using this guide.
Too little action
A story becomes tedious if there is a lot of inner feelings and not a lot of action. This doesn’t mean that you need to have ninja’s jumping through the ceiling, it just means have your character do something interesting. This has to tie in with the book and the character.
Take Kung Fu Panda – it was a cute little story of a rather large out of shape guy that ended up being a super Kung Fu fighter. In it his inner changes were matched by a lovely sequence showing him learning and growing.
Too much action
An action film with no real plot is an excuse of car chases and fight sequences. Make sure that the action is relevant to what you are saying.
Keep asking yourself, what is this telling me about the character and is it clear enough that the dumbest member of the audience will get it?
A weak main character or main plot
99.99 percent of story problems come from a weak main character or a problem with the plot. You have to make sure that you have an interesting character that people want to get to know. You also need to make sure that the reason for the character doing or reacting to something is strong enough to drive the plot forward.
Weak character or weak plot = terrible story
Information which is not relevant
Too often a writer will have a weak concept or a concept that will get him or her 150 pages into the book, but it is difficult to end or it is too short. This means that they will go back into the book and kill good writing with bum fluff (a term I use for the really irrelevant, thoughts, feelings and descriptions which leave you thinking, who cares?)
I wish the publishing houses would learn to cut these books down. I would rather read a good 100 page book than a fluffy 300 page book. Oh, but a great book, be it 100 or 300 page is well worth it.
Repeating a point
Too often a writer will have a weak concept or a concept that will get him or her 150 pages into a book…
Repeating a point is annoying. Do I look so dumb that you had to tell me this three times? Dude, I got it the first time, move on or do you have nothing more to say?
At the end of the day, if you describe the character well and keep the pace of the books good. Have an interesting plat and character then you will have a readership.
We would love to see some of your work. Please post some of your writing, plots or ideas and we would be glad to comment on them.
I am always getting publishing requests from people or letters begging for advice on how to self publish their work. So, I have created a self publishing guide.
You can self publish in one of the following ways:
Start a blog – this may not seem like self publishing but it is an excellent way to get know and build a following. You might want to look at this as an option, at least for your first work. The trick to blogging is to do it regularly. Make sure you post a new blog entry at least once a week. You might not make any money off of book sales, but you can put something like google adwords on your site once you become popular enough and can earn some money that way.
Do it with amazon.com – amazon is promoting digital books like mad since they released Kindle. And with version two of Kindle out now we can’t see it going anywhere. Problems with amazon.com’s digital books – as far as we can tell Kindle only has a black and white screen. This means that it is not conducive to anything will colour illustrations or designs. Also, you must have a paypal account in order to get paid. This is rather sucky for anyone in South Africa as paypal doesn’t work here.
Try a print-on-demand company – these guys specialize in printing really small quantities of your book so that you are not sitting with a heavy printing bill. Problems with print-on-demand – it’s up to you to market the book and spread the word about it. This is not as easy as it sounds and can often be expensive. Also print on demand tends to be a lot more expensive per copy than bulk printing which means you will have to sell it for a higher price and you will have to take a smaller cut.
Print it yourself – If you have loads of cash, you could print a bunch of books and distribute it to stores yourself. This leads to a whole lot of issues. Costs and taxes – in South Africa printing is rather expensive. Apart from that anything that you print and hold stock of is considered an asset by the tax man. So you get taxed on it, even if you don’t sell it right away.
Storage – You have to find somewhere to put all the books that you publish. This usually leads to you hiring a distribution and storage company.
Distribution – in SA you have to sell your book to each Exclusive books store as if they were not related to each other at all. This is a lot of time and effort and because they are so busy they don’t want to see independents, so it is best to get a distributor. The sad fact of the matter is that once you have created it and managed to get it into the stores you now have the shops taking 50% of the money for the book and the distributors taking 20%, leaving you with 30% to cover all the costs of production.
You could try the CNA, but they will probably try and strong arm you into giving them a huge discount and then still taking 50% of the cover price. Frequently asked questions Where do I get a barcode? You call the national library (at least in SA) and ask them to fax you an isbn number (please note that only printed book require one of these) They will send you the number along with a form to fill in. Once you have the isbn you go to google and search for free barcode generators. You will find several different ones. Now you type in your isbn number and it generates a barcode for you which you then save as an image onto your computer. When you lay it out you add the barcode image in on the back cover of the book.
Make sure it is nice an large, so that scanners can pick it up and that there is white space behind and around it. How do I make it look nice? You need to find someone who understands layout and design. Preferably someone with their own desktop publishing software (something like indesign not photoshop).
Chose a paper size (there are standard sizes, phone your printer and ask them what it is. Bear in mind that oversees printers use different sizes to here.) Get this person to do the layout for you. Negotiate a fixed price and make sure that it includes a set of error fixes. This will give you some room to wiggle if you spot problems that need correcting.
Tip: When laying out your work look out for orphans or widows. This is what we call stray words that end up alone on a line. They need to either move to the previous line or a word from above needs to come down.
You want to start any story with a strong beginning. Something that keeps the reader turning the pages. There are a few simple tips to get this right.
Start with a mystery
Joseph opened his eyes. Something hard and grey was in front of his face. His nose was aching from pressing into the floor.
The mysterious start is a good beginning for a thriller. Keep the sentences short and look for effective ways to describe the environment without creating fluff.
Tip: Fluff is the enemy of writing. Always ask yourself, does this tell me something I didn’t know? Is this description important? Is there a way I can make it better, shorter, slicker?
Start with the end
Looking at her willowy hand as it stroked her daughter face, May realised, “I am dying, child.”
Her daughter gave a small yelp as she sobbed louder.
“Listen to me child, while I still have a breath of air in my body. I need to tell you about your father.” May’s voice cracked.
“Dad died last year, mom. Don’t you remember?”
“No child, your real father is still alive and he will come for you when I am gone.”
This type of beginning lends itself to a more epic drama or fable. Generally you will want to look at more dialogue and description. Tapping into memories always gives you a feeling that is overwhelming. Describe this with sound and smell even where it is appropriate.
Once again avoid the fluff.
Start with a tale
Once upon a time…
There is a legend…
In a galaxy far far away…
These are typical beginnings for a story where you are expecting people to suspend reality and bend the rules of the universe. In this case you want to make sure to tell them what the new rules are. You can do this by showing them someone flying or walking through a closed door.
Make sure that the way you begin your book reflects how you will continue your book, don’t start fast and end up describing every detail of every rock on the mountain.
Remember that putting a book down, changing the channel or walking out of the cinema is the easiest thing in the world.
How to get a good story plot.
Lord of the rings, the movies were awesome. The books were terrible. Before you send out a lynch mob, hear me out. The movie managed to capture emotions, the grandness and the beauty without messing it up with too much dialogue and over sharing. The book was long winded and over descriptive.
Yes, he was creating a new world, but did we really have to have it in so much detail? I believe that dialogue and description should only ever be used to drive the plot forward or to tell us more about the character or a new environment. Give me a brief sketch of the place, it’s a warehouse with wooden beams running across the ceiling.
Set the mood by telling me that the light is interrupted by the ceiling fans. Tell me about the stale smell of fried foods and the crates piled on the far corner. That is enough to set the mood and to establish where we are. Most importantly, make it interesting and keep it simple. Readers want to connect with your work. Using high brow language makes you seem like a smarty pants. Yes, there is an argument for those few people who like to read the complicated pretentious stuff, but Paper Movie Books are for the average Joe who wants to be entertained. That’s what we do. Entertainment.
The dialogue is there to reveal things about the characters, not the plot. This is important, don’t have your character say, “Oh, no. There is a bomb.” Rather describe the bomb and describe his reaction. Then have him say something that relates to his character, like, “My father always said I should watch out for brunettes.” Much more entertaining. The Lord of the rings books waffled on for hours about things we didn’t need. It used complicated language. Tolkien had way too much time on his hands and even developed a language. Seriously, most readers don’t care. And yes, the books have a huge, cult like following and yes people love them, they have an awesome original story, so I am not knocking them entirely, just the way they are written.
Every story is driven forward by a problem that the main character faces. The story will then center on him trying to solve that problem.
For example, our hero will be coming home from work on a normal day. He walks into his house and discovers that his children have been kidnapped. He spends the rest of the story trying to solve this problem. In order to have a good story you need a clear, compelling problem for your character to solve.
Deciding on what problem to have will relate strongly to what type of main character you have created. (See part one and two of creating a character).
Characters that are loners are much less likely to want to save the world from a natural disaster than characters with families and friends. There are four major types of problems that your character can encounter
- Romantic problems – Romeo and Juliette type stuff
- Physical danger – this includes being caught on a rock face with no way down
- Psychological danger – this is not only people going crazy but also when you have an evil person who says, play this game of chess with me. If you win you live.
- Some sort of quest – to find an goblet, treasure or something of value, or to do something noble like destroy an evil ring in the fire in which it was forged.
Inevitably solving these problems will lead to some sort of character growth. (This will be discussed in more depth in the next blog) for example, Roach (our shy, ugly gnome) wants to journey to edge of the forest to find his mother. This is his quest.
During this quest he will run into a lot of smaller problems like an evil frog will try to eat him, he will have to save a terrible spider but in turn receive a magical jewel and so on and so on.
This will lead to great character growth as each new experience teaches him about himself and stretches his boundaries.
Pick your major problem wisely so that your character has enough motivation to keep going, even when things get tough.