Author Solutions, Editing, Indie book publishing, iuniverse, Publishing, self publishing, writing

3 ways you can use your life experience to help write a great story

You have probably heard the old adage, “write what you know”.  That is great advice for any aspiring author. However, I think too many writers believe those words only apply to factual knowledge when they should actually serve as encouragement to draw on all your sensual experiences for writing. In other words, don’t neglect your remembrance of smells and touch and emotions and particular sounds and dialect. As a writer, you have a vast resource of experiences to draw from to make your writing as good as it can be. Here are three ways you can tap experiences from your past.

Draw from places you have been. Too many writers try to describe locations and scenes that they have never visited. That usually creates a flat or incorrect description of a setting. When you are establishing a scene, take the time to draw upon what you remember from a particular location with all your senses. Use that to bring the scene to life for the reader. Also, be careful if you are writing about a city or geography where you have never traveled. Making up a setting for a fantasy novel is fine, but I would not recommend describing a location from someone else’s description.

Use dialogue and physical description to convey emotion instead of telling the reader how the character feels. Too often first-time writers tell readers what a character is experiencing emotionally, which is not the best way to draw the reader into the life of the character. Writing in that way reads more like a newspaper than a novel. Instead, use dialogue to unveil what the character is feeling or thinking.

One of the best examples I know of personally is the book Still Alice written by Lisa Genova.  This book, which was first self-published by iUniverse, is now a Simon and Schuster title and a major motion picture starring Julianne Moore. The first time I heard Lisa talk about writing the book she explained that she had actually taken acting classes to develop her craft of writing dialogue. It definitely worked. The book, which takes you through the experience of a woman with early onset memory loss, masterfully draws you into what Alice is experiencing. I could not put it down.

…think about all the experiences of your life as a place to look for inspiration. Smells you remember as a child. Time spent with crazy relatives. Car rides with the family.

Visit your past to find things to use today.  When you think about writing, you should think about all the experiences of your life as a place to look for inspiration. Smells you remember as a child. Time spent with crazy relatives. Car rides with the family. Any or all of those may be resources you can draw from to make your writing more interesting.  One author who used her past as motivation for writing a whole book is Virginia Castleman. Virginia self-published her book Strays with Archway Publishing and then was picked up by Simon and Schuster.  In the video below, she talks about how drawing from her childhood challenges gave her the inspiration to write the book.

 

 

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Author Solutions, authors, Editing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

First-time author advice from Simon and Schuster Senior Editor, Abby Zidle

Archway logoArchway Publishing, the self publishing service of Simon and Schuster which is operated by Author Solutions,  has offered some outstanding webinars in the past year to help authors understand what they need to do to make their books as good as they can be. One of the presenters was Abby Zidle, senior editor at Simon and Schuster who did a presentation titled Top Ten Mistakes Writers Make. The webinar is free and you can watch it by clicking here. As a sampler of what you can expect, Abby offers some helpful tips in this 90 second video titled Avoiding Mistakes First-time Writers Make. Definitely worth watching if you are in the proess of workig on a manuscript.

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Author Solutions, authors, Editing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

The 4 most important elements of a great novel

The Author Learning Center was created with the purpose to help authors learn from other authors to improve their craft, understand their publishing options, plus gain insights on marketing and bookselling. I have made the statement before that I think it is the most comprehensive resource on the web for aspiring authors to learn about writing, publishing and marketing. The latest example that supports my case is this interview with Meg Waite Clayton, author of Wednesday’s Daughter’s among others.

Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. If you don’t have those, you don’t have a story

In this interview, which was filmed at The San Francisco Writers Conference, Meg shares some practical advice on the key elements to include in a novel that is well written. The interview is only three minutes long and definitely worth the watch, but in case you don’t hit play, here are her recommendations.

  1. Focus on the plot–Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. If you don’t have those, you don’t have a story
  2. Let your characters have flaws–Perfection is not that interesting according to Meg. Anger, frustration, shortcomings–these are the things that make characters interesting and help the reader relate to them.
  3. Deliver the details in an interesting way–Don’t just say the person has blue eyes. Describe the eyes as “dirty blue eyes” which tells you something about the person making the observation as well as the person being described
  4. Pay attention to your word choices— She quotes Mark Twain who says the difference between lightning and lightning bug is one word, but the addition of that one little word makes a huge difference.
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