From bare bones…how I build a story.

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We all have different systems for writing our stories. Some like to plan everything out, make charts and story boards. Others write copious notes and character biographies, graphs and guides. Some just start scribbling away and see where their words lead them.

The way we set about our writing is personal preference. If, at the end of the day (or many day’s) we end up with a completed work that we are satisfied with, then all is good.

But some parts, some of the stages of writing are I suggest, common to all. These are; the re-writing of the first draft, the re-writing of the second draft. Editing, beta reading, more editing, proofreading, another re-write, more editing and so on.

This will eventually lead to a finished work which we are happy with, (mostly), except for one or two minor alterations…and a little more editing!

The final polished work, which you are now totally and completely satisfied with (?), will now be ready for publishing.

Your amazing work will then sell like proverbial hotcakes; be turned into a TV series, a Hollywood blockbuster movie and a West End play, which will run for at least thirty-five years.

You will become, a multi-millionaire, live on a yacht when you are not staying at one of your several million dollar mansions, which are scattered around the world in the most exotic locations and have a Lear jet to flit from one place to the other.

Your life will be good.

Yeah okay, I got carried away, so maybe not that last bit, at least not yet!

Back in the real world…

The reason I know that we all have differing ways of going about the construction of our novels is a simple one, I have spoken to many of you, read your posts, articles and followed the threads of a thousand and one conversations.

In general, the stages are common, the concepts are common; it is the application, the mechanics which vary.

It was to address this issue that I decided to write this post. But then it became clear, that to include the many minutiae of variances was an impossible task, unless I was to write an entire thesis. Not something I had intended or actually wish to do, at least not now!

So what I have decided is to give a sketch of how I build my own stories, of how I take an idea, a concept and turn it into a book or a novel.

As with many of my posts I am staying away, as much as possible, from any technical jargon, because I think that will help the novices and uninitiated to comprehend my concepts and explanations better.

So here goes!…

 

Using the analogy of a human body!

My initial concept is rather like a jumble of bones. I can easily identify a tibia, the radius and, of course the skull. But the others are mixed in with bones from other species. In this case notes, rough drafts and such that belong to other stories.

The first job I have to undertake (see what I did there!?) is to lay out the bones in an order which loosely resembles a skeleton. The second job is to sift through the remains (at it again!?) and start connecting the larger bones with the smaller ones.

At this stage my bones…read story line…is looking basically as intended. The final pieces of the skeleton, all those niggly wrist bones, the teeny-weeny ear bones can be slotted into place. Standing back, (reading through a day or two later) I can judge how well my efforts have been and make any adjustments needed.

The next step is to double check that the arm is in the position I want it; the legs are angled just so. After all I don’t want my skeleton just hanging around like those from the biology lab. I want mine to pose, to attract and captivate the onlooker. Once I have all the sections (Chapters) in the order I wish, I can the start to put some meat and flesh onto those bones.

This is where I start over again.

Carefully layering, word by word the ‘flesh’ onto the bare bones. Taking my time back and forth over each section of the skeleton ensuring that the thickness of the ‘meat’ is correct in relation to the basic underlying structure. For instance, nobody has a fat forehead!

In the same way I do not want to pad out the first sentence or paragraph of my book with a ton of unnecessary bumf. I want my readers to instantly recognise what kind of person this is… (read- what style of book).

f8a476db508154058928e4f9905bac87I also want my creation to be attractive to that reader. If they like romance then my words must convey that, if it is tension as in a thriller, that must be portrayed too. All this must be accomplished within the first few lines, or at least the first few paragraphs. In this analogy it must be love at first sight.

As I, or you the writer, progresses down the body the same process must take place, adding just the right proportion of flesh to the various areas of you skeleton. By the time you reach its little pinky you should have a basic, rather stout figure laying out before you.

That is the end of that stage, but just the beginning of making your Frankenstein a wholesome human being, or you book into a readable tome.

At this point it is worth standing back once more and regarding the whole. Have a family member or a couple of your close friends inspect your handiwork. Listen to their comments and suggestions. Often two or more pairs of eyes are better than just your own, especially as you will be wearing those rose tinted spectacles.

The next step is to become a cross between Ed Gein (see Texas Chainsaw

Michaelangelo
<This one…not that one>

Massacre) and Michael Angelo. Your job is to carefully sculpt each and every inch of your work. Ruthlessly cut away all the unnecessary, useless, divergent, misleading crap. In fact, everything that is not in harmony with the premise of the story should go.

But don’t throw it away. Keep it filed for another book, a short story or that twist which will let you escape from the dead-end you will write yourself into at some point.

What you have left will be a mean, lean, fighting machine…or not!

Once again work on the sections and chapters of your book, make certain all the joints connections and move smoothly. That the transitions work. This may mean adding some more flesh, but this time ensure it is lean meat and not fat, unless you need that little extra padding. But be cautious.

Time now to stand back again. Sleep and eat properly and regularly for a day or two. Then review your work.

Happy…No? Then go back and polish it some more.

Happy…Yes? Good. Now it is time to beautify your creature, lay on the outer skin.

This is yet another review, edit if you wish. Tidy up anything and everything which is not sleek and smooth. Dot your i’s and cross the t’s. Change ‘that’ to ‘which’ colons or commas to semi-colons, past tense to present. This is like eliminating the moles and birthmarks.

My museNext stage. The test run, test drive. Time for your beta readers to see and feel what you have made. What tasks you have set, or asked your beta readers to do, will affect the feedback you get.

One thing is almost certain. Each beta reader will have poked, prodded, sniffed, licked, and tasted your creation. It will have been tossed about and pulled apart. So you will have to go back and patch it up. All those imperfections that you will…note I say ‘will’…have missed before need correcting.

One good thing is, at this stage of the process is that you can now add the final flourishes. The hair gel and the make-up. Dress your work in fine clothing, titivate it. Get your creation ready for the cat-walk, the promenade. The editor.

You see a good editor wants to look at your work with a critical eye. They are the sage, the modern day Maharishi. With blue and red pens, they (the editors) will clutter the margins with various annotations that require your attention. Oh glory be!

Now you can start from the top, once more, working your way down, through each layer of flesh, each rise and fall, curve and dimple until eventually and exhaustedly you reach that little pinky toe on which you have etched those wonderful words….

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But as you well know that is not the end, because your editor, or another should take at least one more run through…. just in case!

Only after this should you even consider letting your monster out of your laboratory.

I feel I must say, especially those new to writing and who have read this far! That doing everything above only means that you have finished your manuscript.

I have not touched on the subjects of pagination, typesetting, design, book covers, illustrations, blurb, publishing, marketing, promotion, or anything else at all. I have only briefly covered the very simple bit, the writing of a story for a book.

Happy days! 

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 While I have you attention why not pop over and take a wander around my website? 

 

 

 

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Revealed. The websites no Writer or Author can do without.

As we all try and make sense of the process of writing and publishing our books many of us find particular hosts, sites, programmes and applications which, at least at first, look as if they will aid us, help us reach our goal of producing a great work.

A work which has minimal mistakes if any at all. One that is beta read, proof read, edited and formatted to near perfection as it is possible to achieve.

We are the creatives, the dreamers, the weavers of fantasy and make-believe. It is an often lonely and arduous task. So anything we can find that will allow us, help us accomplish our tasks more efficiently, even in an easier way must be welcomed.

The same is true of marketing, of promotion, of finding ways to put our carefully crafted works of magical wordcraft in the eye line of potential readers, those strangely elusive souls who may be the ones, when suitably tempted, to put their hands into their pockets and withdraw a handful of mysterious tokens called ‘coin’.

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RumpledSheets-1024x656Oh the dreams of easy writing, of superb marketing strategy and wondrous, ever climbing sales……yeh okay…you can wake up now!

However that is not to say that there are a number of sites and services that can actually help, albeit to varying degrees.

I for one am of the super sceptical when it comes to paying for a service, particularly when it is (from my point) untried and untested.

That means putting my faith in promises. That means believing marketing bumf and advertising. Not something I do lightly, particularly if I am to be parted with hard earned cash, even hard-yet-to-be-earned-cash.

So I am ever cautious.

In fact I have been so very careful you can call my a ‘tight-wad’ if you wish; but to date I have Indie published five books; Empty Walletone full length novel, one long-short-story eBook, two books of poetry and a very dirty adult erotic anthology. I have also contributed to four collaborative anthologies and produced two stories for a website/video site. Yet I have not spent a bean, not a single Penny, a loose Dime, an odd Rupee on anything.

Honest.

I have written, read, re-written. I have had my stories beta read and edited. I have formatted them. I have designed all my own covers, promoted, marketed and sold them all off my own back. I consider myself a truly independent author and publisher.

No, I have not made a fortune (yet!), neither have I, as yet, created an ongoing passive income large enough to see me through retirement until the day I shuffle off this mortal coil….but I am working on it!

I carry this ‘Modus Operandi’ onto the things I do to help others.

small buttonMy book promotion site ‘Sneak Peek’ offers free listings. I re-blog on ‘Brilliant Blogshare’, ‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind’ & ‘Further Ramblings’ and carry others stories on ‘A Little more Fiction’. FeaturesAwards note2 and Showcases in CQ Magazine are also offered at no cost. I will suggest, coach, aid and do whatever I can to help other authors and artists all without thought of personal gain.

I cannot promise that the way I work would be right or suitable for you. You may well be far more eager for returns and results than I. You may not think you have the skills or the knowledge, or have the time to learn, or the time to commit. So I am not going to get into a ‘how to’ or a ‘how I achieved’ thingy!

Nor have I, or do I, intend to write a book on the subject!

Neither am I asking for you to pay me to tell you what or how I have done what I have. Those of you who know me will know that is not what I am about, it is not how I ‘tick’.

What I do enjoy, what gives the greatest satisfaction is helping others achieve their own dreams, goals, or targets or whatever term you want to use. Put simply I like to help everyone to be happy.

So on that basis I am listing here the websites and services that I use, have used, intend to use, or think could be beneficial at some point.

The overriding fact is that ALL of these are FREE, or have a free basic level with options to upgrade to a paid level(s) at a later stage if you wish. That ‘if you wish’ is all important. It is open-ended, no trail periods, no right to cancel at some future point. IF YOU wish to upgrade to utilise other services that is YOUR choice not theirs.

I guess I have said enough about my principles on this subject so that you get my gist!

So OK. Here is my list and my brief reasons for using and/or liking these sites/hosts. They are not listed in any particular order or categorised in any way, so it is best if you read through them all and choose which you wish to use (or not!).

I do hope that you will find at least one helpful or useful to yourself.

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  • http://www.howmanysyllables.com/ Love this site. Syllable dictionary, syllable counter, Poetry workshop, English Grammar & more. No poet should be without this site in their armoury.
  • http://authl.it/ If you publish in Kindle format this site is indispensable. Create multi-region Kindle book links.
  • http://nibbler.silktide.com/ I use this to safeguard my research. Tests the quality, safety and security of most websites. Don’t browse unsafely, use this as an additional aid to stop malware, phishing etc.
  • https://www.canva.com/ Not a bad site for some basic image layouts for social media etc. Not a image editor, but good fun.
  • http://www.qrstuff.com/ QR code generation. Download, print, email, even print on ‘tee-shirts’! Use QR codes on back cover of you books, bookmarks & all promo material to lead to your website etc.
  • http://authorsdb.com/ Author profiles & book listings….but more…cover competitions, community, promotional stuffAUTHORSdb, services & more. One of my favourites. Contactable, responsive. Site takes some navigation but the end result is worth it.
  • http://www.authorgraph.com/ Get and send your autograph to your eBook readers. Worth checking out & using as an extra marketing tool.ag_logo-e82121c0b20665eb28fa8a9be15d7572
  • http://www.wix.com/ I think this is the best free website on the market at present. Lots of additional features like blogs and ‘shoutouts’. Premium available but as a single person author I have not sensed the need to upgrade yet.

I Love WordPress

  • https://wordpress.com I think the best blogging format at present. I also use WordPress for Sneak Peek.
  • https://about.me If you do not have an ‘aboutme’ page go get one NOW. This is the webs new ‘calling card’. Honestly get your page now, like today…go on…go do it!
  • http://promocave.com/ Love Promocove. Book promo & author profile etc. But much more. Best go take a look. J6_2_IJCFriendly and responsive team too.
  • https://takeasneakpeak.wordpress.com/  OK, so I am biased here large buttonthis is my book promotion site primarily for indie authors. its FREE, so you have absolutely nothing to loose and only new readers to gain. I’ll say no more!

Ok that will do you for now. I am not giving ALL my secrets away!

Any questions, comments, feedback or if you know of any other sites that are free and good, please leave a comment or email me.

Cheers, Paul.

Tips on Creating Settings for your Characters and Scenes.

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I was going to call this post something simple, like ‘somewhere’ or ‘place’, but then I thought that it may be a little to oblique, so I ended up with the rather long title above.

Pretty much is the same with content. To make this as comprehensive as possible without (I hope) getting boring, I have had to write far more than I do in many of my other posts. I am sure you will see why as you read through.

Simply put, this post is all about creating a setting, or many settings, for you story. Somewhere your characters can live, somewhere they can go about their business in a way that helps bring them to life, a way that makes them ‘real’ people to your readers. Which is what we all should be seeking to achieve, a sort of Holy Grail for writers!

Let’s take a look at the three basic options we have.

The first is to use a Real Location.

This could be a village, a town, even a city, say Paris or London, or it could be somewhere much humbler like a hotel, a café, your kitchen or maybe a cellar?

Whilst the ‘where’ has to blend into you story while enhancing the readers pleasure, that is not the initial prime concern one should have. If you are using a real setting the most important aspect is to ensure accuracy.

This means research.

Even if you live in the place you intend to feature. Misrepresentation, whether it is a matter of geography, culture, or something in between, will be considered a travesty, it will be a failure in your story.

Make sure, when you include a detail or piece of information, that it is correct, or at least feasible. It must makes sense, be credible and contribute to the image you are portraying.

Go there! If at all possible go to the location, find details, talk to local people. Look about, notice how the buildings stand, what transport is available, what colour is it? Consider the language, do they have a dialect or use slang? What are the most noticeable aspects of the culture?

Now you have acquired this information you have to write it in a way that builds, or recreates that place for the reader. If the reader has never been there you must lead them in, be their guide in introducing them to the place. If they know the place already then your part is to re-create their memories.

To do this you must ‘show’ them, give strong sensory detail, get them involved and interested, especially in places unfamiliar. Make them feel they are getting to know it and you have them feeling you are portraying it accurately.

imagesDon’t be afraid to use dialect. I would not recommend attempting to write a dialect, a least a phonetic representation, as this shouts doom! But be aware of such in dialogue; for instance what do the people in this location call a long sandwich? Is it a Sub…or a Hoagie, a Hero….maybe it a Baguette?

Getting ofay with the vernacular could make or break your story. But be careful, a misplaced slang word can throw you readers sense of place haywire.

Remember, not every story will fit into every setting. As with the characters and the plot the setting should be a living part of the story, it should interact with everything else on the page. If you tale is not working here, try a new location, or place a new section of the plot in this setting. If you have a disconnect you work may just collapse.

Now we move on…

The Fictional Location.

Here, wherever here may be, you are in total control. Nothing can be here, nothing can exist without your consent. This is you world where you can construct anything you like to be part of your story, even if it is a far-fetched creation.

But let’s start a little simpler. If you need to create a school or a restaurant or some regular societal value, you have no worries if somewhere similar exists, because ‘yours’ is purely fictitious.

A simple example could be an underground railway. If you have no idea of how the London Underground operates, so what? You can design and create your own public transportation system, one that fits into your plot, one that works with your characters schedules. It does not have to be an accurate representation of anything from the real world.

Please do not allow these facts to preclude your story from remaining realistic in terms of how certain types of place operate on a general basis. You still have a duty to your readers to portray a believable scenario.

The location may be best suited if, say for a town, it can be placed near somewhere in the real world. Possibly south of Huston, or just over the Tyne river outside of Newcastle. This will aid your story in finding its cultural roots.

Now the third of our three.

A Fictional setting in the Real World.

This is a far from unusual tactic employed by authors. There are many novels set in small fictitious towns which are then placed in a real counties or countries.

If you aim to do this then your town should be, at least in its initial appearance, similar to real towns in that region. This is to create believability. Yet by creating your own town as a setting you have almost as much freedom as you would with one set in a total fantasy.

Another benefit is that the townsfolk and/or your main characters can have specific feelings or views about this setting. Such as ‘it is haunted’ or ‘or it is a dying town’. No one can refute this, because the place does not actually exist.

This format works well when creating locations which do not exist, within one that is real. For example you may need to have your characters meet in a bar. Create a bar rather than using one that is real. This solves and can also absolve you from future problems. vampire1

Of course one area that fake settings placed in the real world are great is in the realm of fantastical realities. Think vampires, ghosts and Harry Potter! Here one uses the real world to disguise something hidden or a secret.

Let us go a little further.

You are writing a romantic novel and in all good tradition and faith you choose Paris as the main setting of the book. It would therefore be wise to assume that, most of your readers will have a strong conception, a healthy mental image of Paris before they read a single word of your novel.

If the words ‘the Eiffel Tower’ are spoken your reader will automatically conjure up a mental image. The same goes for ‘the Statue of Liberty’. All you need to do is paint the picture of how, at that particular moment, the city lights refract from the River Seine. Now your reader can picture your character in that setting.

Now consider that your novel is in a fictional city.

Firstly you will need describe the city in far more detail, including the landmark ‘tower’ your character is to propose on. This will take a lot more writing, which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you need the word count!

Also it is not always to your benefit if the readers are familiar with the setting. After all many readers perception may be based on, or limited to, the ‘picture-postcard’ vision of a city and it is possible that you wish to portray a very different side of that metropolis.

So your descriptions will have to be vivid enough to dispel false perception while constructing a new mental image to bring the reader closer to the one in your own mind.

While in a totally fictitious location the reader can bring no preconceptions with them. You will, therefore, have a blank canvas on which to paint your words.

To wind all this up…

images (1)If you are to set your location in an actual place, a real setting, then detailed knowledge or meticulous research will be demanded. The payback for this is that a romantic novel set in Paris has far stronger ‘shelf-appeal’ than one set in a fake city. A place no one has heard or knows of.

The same is true if your novel is set in New York, New Deli or cruising along the Nile. Choose a place lesser known and the majority of your readers would not have heard of it anyway!

In writing, particularly in the case of a full length novel, it is evocation of place and atmosphere. It is almost impossible to deal with these as separate elements. Place can and does determine atmosphere. For example where else could Stephen Kings ‘The Shining’ have been set? It had to be that isolated, snow-bound hotel on a mountain.

Some writers have the tenacity and patience to craft meticulous settings, they build amazing and entire worlds. Others approach by the minimalistic route, sprinkling few, but highly suggestive details into the narrative.

It matters not what genre, or what style you use your story will take place somewhere. A small room, a foreign country, another planet. Your setting can be a backdrop or a character itself.

But take a while, take a look. If most of the novels in your genre are set in a particular kind of location, say a shed, a farmstead kitchen or a city tower, that is a good indication that is what readers of that genre expect, possibly demand.

It does not mean that you have to stick with tradition or stay with the norm. That is your decision, to go with the run of the mill or similar, or do you strive for something new? Maybe you will compromise, add that slight twist?

Whatever you are writing consider the scope you have for creating the right setting. You may want to have a small room or you might want your novel to spread across galaxies, even the entire universe.

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Whatever you choose I hope that in some small way this has given you an insight to possibilities not before considered.

Oh, just before you leave I would like to say you can check the setting and locations I have used in my books by visiting my website at

http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white

Thank you for reading yet another of my Ramblings, Paul.

Another great site all writers need

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You folks should know by now that I am always looking for great sites which will help improve our writing skills, or simply encourage us to continue when we feel down or have that thing some call ‘writers block’.

Another area I am always keen to explore is marketing, advertising and promotion because once we have written our books we want to share our stories with the world.

At least I do!


Over the past few weeks I have highlighted book promo sites:

PROMOCAVE http://promocave.com/

AUTHORSdb http://authorsdb.com/

and of course SNEAK PEEK https://takeasneakpeak.wordpress.com/

I have also blogged about MELANIE ROCKET’s wonderful, informative & useful website http://wp.me/p5 one which I would highly recommend you visit whether you are an experienced writer or just starting out.


There is yet one more fantastic site which offers all sorts of advice for writers along with direct help.xlogo.png.pagespeed.ic.HZT-ltPmGK

NOW NOVEL http://www.nownovel.com/

The ‘How to’ pages and blogs are excellent, like how to create tension-eight methods, or how to pace a crime novel, even six secrets to writing a series.

Furthermore you can submit a 500 word sample for criticism by other writers, or constructively criticise their 500 word samples. This is a wonderful way to get personalized feedback to give you direction, and support to improve your story.

ill-1One of my favourites from Now Novel is a process that gives you a blueprint for writing your novel. It’s guaranteed to get you from where you are now to where you want to be.

Now Novel is a structured method designed to help you finish your novel. The process is organised and easy to use, with helpful mentorship and consistent motivation to give you one essential thing: the blueprint for your novel.

Don’t just take my word for it, go check out Now Novel’s site yourself, mooch around and read. You will be glad you did.

I hope the above will help you, as they have me.

Keep tapping away!

Paul.