May 2022 – Jericho Writers
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Writing Science Fiction: Top Tips From A Sci-Fi Bestseller

Where do you start when it comes to writing a science fiction novel? Perhaps you\'ve written other genres, but just had a lightning bolt of a story idea that is definitely more of a sci fi novel. Or you\'re thinking about dipping your toes into the genre but you’re not sure where to start. You may even be an existing science fiction writer who\'s hit a wall and needs some tips. In this guide to writing a compelling sci fi story, I\'ll be helping you with everything you need to know about science fiction writing. We’ll take a look at definitions, investigate subgenres, give you an overview on how to consider approaching science fiction, some tips to make things easier, and even offer a few reading recommendations. Let’s blast off! What Is Science Fiction? You could debate the line between science fiction and fantasy for ages. I actually did just that in college, when I took Philosophy of Science Fiction. Every time the class thought they’d settled on an answer, the professor would ask a question that would topple our logic like Jenga blocks. It was great. When I lecture on science fiction now, I tend to use the useful shorthand by John Clute (author of the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction), who calls it an “argued departure from reality,” while fantasy is more of an “unargued departure from reality.” In science fiction, you tend to explain what that departure from our reality is in terms of technology, whereas magic in fantasy tends to be more unknowable. But there are multiple examples that could throw that definition out (Dune and Star Wars have plenty of unargued elements to them, for example). Many others have offered up definitions, from the very academic (Darko Suvin: “a literary genre whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author\'s empirical environment”), or through the lens of industry (Hugo Gernsback: “a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision.”). One of the most straightforward ones is by Norman Spinrad: “Science fiction is anything published as science fiction.” Sci Fi Genre And What It Means Science fiction, like any genre, is also not a monolith. There are many subgenres, and it’s useful for you to know where your story might fit in the marketplace. The biggest delineation is between hard science fiction and soft science fiction: Hard science fiction: This type of science fiction relies heavily on science fact, making sure to explain many of the intricacies to the reader and making it a key part of the plot. The science is usually already established as fact or based on current firm theories of how the universe works (for example, working from our current knowledge of black holes or space travel). Examples: The Martian by Andy Weir, Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, The Expanse by James S.A. Corey, Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress. Soft science fiction: This type of science fiction has less focus on the technical aspects and focuses more on the societal, historical, or psychological effects of technology. The technology might not be as deeply explained or less theoretically possible (time travel, faster than the speed of light travel, etc). Examples: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series. But like the definitions between science fiction and fantasy, this is a false binary. There are plenty of science fiction books that blend the two, and many are more “soft boiled” science fiction. Even the same authors can move around on the spectrum. This brings us to subgenres. Science Fiction Subgenres Going into detail about these would make this article too long, so this is a list. Feel free to research any of these in more depth if you think this is an area you already write or would like to try writing: Dystopian Utopian Artificial intelligence First contact Military science fiction Parallel universes/the multiverse Space opera Space western Space horror Steampunk Solarpunk Silkpunk Biopunk Cyberpunk Portal fantasy Afrofuturism Alternate history Alien invasion Ecofiction Feminist science fiction Mundane science fiction Recursive science fiction Slipstream Science fantasy...and many more. The good news is that, when in doubt, you can always use “speculative fiction” as a catchall, but narrowing down your subgenre will likely make it easier to pitch to agents, editors, or sell to an audience. For example, Analog science fiction magazine prefers harder science fiction, so a very soft science fiction story is less likely to be picked up by them. How To Write Science Fiction Now that I’ve set up the definitions and given you a peek at science fiction’s many subgenres, how should you actually go about writing it? You can do these steps in any order that works for you: this is simply how I approach writing SF. To make it more concrete, I’ll use a couple of examples from my own science fiction novel Goldilocks (a near future space thriller), because I know my own writing process best and why I made certain decisions. Step 1: Think About Your Concept And The What If Question All science fiction writers know that SF especially lends itself well to high concepts and catchy hooks. This through-line will help keep many elements cohesive, and also make it easier to pitch. You can try framing it as a what if question? Examples: What if aliens came not to destroy us, but to save us from ourselves? What if an artificial intelligence gained sentience and disagreed with its programmer’s directions? What if climate catastrophe meant everyone had to live underwater for the next 100 years? For Goldilocks, it was “What if five women stole a spaceship to travel from a dying, increasingly patriarchal Earth to the exosolar planet that is humanity’s last hope?” Step 2: Decide On Your Subgenre Often, that \'what if\' question will point to one of the earlier mentioned subgenres. If not, you might need to skip this step for now and come back to it after you have a firmer handle on the plot and world. For Goldilocks, I knew it needed to be set in space. As a pitch, it was The Martian meets The Handmaid’s Tale, which meant a blend of hard and soft science fiction. I knew there would be no aliens, but I wanted the space travel science to be as accurate as possible. So the area of the market became obvious early on: feminist science fiction, set in space, with elements of thriller for the plot engine. Step 3: Create A Character I find that this method works best: I usually start with a character and then build the world around them by asking myself lots of questions. What job is your main character going to have? Why are they the person at the centre of this story? How do they instigate change in this world? How would they speak? What’s their background and story? How will they change as the story progresses? These are general questions I ask of any character in any genre. I decided to make my main character a botanist, in charge of growing the food on the spaceship. I felt more confident in researching this area of science compared to engineering or medicine since I don’t have a science background myself. I also realised early on that growth and nature vs. nurture are major themes in the book, so this tied in nicely as well. Step 4: Create A World Or Universe And Begin Necessary Research If you’re doing a far future space opera that spans multiple planets, then you’ll be creating many worlds. If you’re going a few years into the future of Earth, then you’ll be asking yourself what changed and what factors fed into it. Worldbuilding is an exercise in cause and effect. If this, then that. If I tug this thread of a web, what vibrations will move into other areas? I knew that my future Earth was going to be very sexist, especially in America. I started thinking through basically my nightmare scenario. I wanted it to be a bit less obvious than some other feminist dystopian novels—something that happens so gradually, that you don’t even realise you\'re a frog in a pot until you’re already cooked. Step 5: Start Building The Plot And Deciding On Structure Throughout your pre-writing work, you’ll likely have already seen some necessary plot points starting to fall into place. You can then begin to weave these together and figure out how you’ll lay it all out on the page. We have plenty of useful information on plot and structure to help you in this area. Or, if you’re not a pre-planner, then you can skip this step and simply start writing with your concept, character, and world in mind and see what happens. Writing Science Fiction: Additional Tips Here are some other things you can keep in mind as you create your science fiction novels: 1. Make Your World Believable, No Matter What Amazing SF Trappings You Include Readers want to be transported to another world and have it feel like actual people live there, that there was a long history before the book began, and that the world will continue turning once we’ve finished the last page. Becky Chambers does a great job of this by considering the different languages and customs of her various alien races, even if some of them look very fantastical: lizard people, sentient llama-like people, giant froggy-type aliens that move around in carts, etc. Taboos and social behaviours are also clearly detailed. When a world feels real, then the reader will suspend disbelief in some of those more out-there elements you include. 2. Consider What Your Characters Know And How To Balance Exposition If your character is an astronomer, then they’ll be able to explain and understand the meteoroid heading towards Earth. If they are an elementary school art teacher, they might need someone to explain it to them or to do some research themselves. One of the main challenges of science fiction and fantasy is weaving in that exposition so seamlessly that the reader doesn’t quite realise how carefully the world is being constructed around them on the page. Linden A. Lewis does this well in The First Sister, which is centred around a priestess of a sisterhood who travels with soldiers of Earth and Mars and has no bodily autonomy. 3. Do Your Research Even if you’re writing something relatively soft or toeing the line of science fantasy, you’ll likely still need to do some research around the tech or futuristic idea you’re investigating. Do initial research yourself, to narrow down your focus. There is SO MUCH information at your fingertips. YouTube, podcasts (I recommend NASA’s Houston We Have a Podcast if you’re writing space stuff), pop science fiction articles, academic articles not behind a paywall if you’re not able to access certain databases, social media threads or videos (check out Swapna Krishna’s TikTok for more cool space/tech stuff). Wikipedia can be a great starting point and then you can follow the linked sources at the bottom. Sometimes, though, even all the research can make it hard to answer a specific problem. In my experience, if you politely ask an expert a short, pointed question, they’re often happy to answer a science fiction writer. They’re excited that their expertise can be shared in a different medium and potentially reach different audiences. For Goldilocks, I was able to interview the former head of life sciences at the Johnston Space Center, a doctor studying the effects of microgravity on the human body, experts in infectious diseases, a professor of space law, astrophysicists, and many more. Some I found through friends in my existing network, but others I emailed cold. I made sure to try and use as little of their time as possible by doing the initial legwork myself, making the question as narrow as possible. Make sure to thank them in the acknowledgements if your story is published!   4. You Don’t Have To Put In ALL The Research You Did Yes, we know it’s a very cool fact that the enormous dust cloud at the centre of the Milky Way would taste like raspberries and smell like rum if you were able to smell or taste in space without instantly dying, but does that fact actually add anything to your narrative, or are you just wanting to show off the research you did? Everything you include should in some way advance the characterisation, plot, or world of your story as you go along. Too many random tangents and asides that don’t actually serve the story may frustrate the reader. 5. Don’t Hit The Reader Over The Head Too Obviously With The Message One of the big benefits of science fiction is that you are often giving some sort of prophetic vision: beware, if we don’t change our ways, we might end up like this. Or: how would humanity react to a certain event? Yet no matter how futuristic your story is, you’re still writing to a contemporary audience and usually commenting on something that’s important to us today: climate change, rising bigotry and xenophobia, the threats to democracy, the costs of war or unregulated capitalism. Ultimately, a lot of science fiction asks us: what does it mean to be human? Yet if you’re too didactic or preachy in the message, then it can come off as sanctimonious. It often needs to be subtle or filtered through a couple of characters who all have different opinions on whatever theme you’re investigating. Let the reader come to their own conclusions, and it will be more satisfying. Frequently Asked Questions What Makes Good Sci Fi? A good sci fi novel or movie asks a \'what if\' question (usually centred around science and technology) and answers it in a realistic yet captivating way. For a science fiction book to be engaging it has to feel like those events could, or may, happen in the future. Who Wrote The First Science Fiction Novel? Mary Shelley\'s Frankenstein (1818) helped define the science fiction novel and genre as a whole, making it one of the oldest famed literary works of its kind. What Is The Difference Between Science Fiction And Fantasy? In science fiction, the author explains the departure from our reality in terms of science and technology, whereas magic in fantasy tends to be more unknowable. Although both genres are often set in worlds that do not exist, sci fi is based on the human ability to invent and grow technologically whereas fantasy can have magic systems that exist inexplicably. You\'re Now Ready To Write A Science Fiction Book It’s beneficial for authors to explore the foundations of science fiction to help them write it. There are occasionally authors who write science fiction but don’t read it, and sometimes it is obvious. There’s an existing conversation that has been going on all the way back to Frankenstein or The Blazing World. Read the classics, read some contemporary authors. Read science fiction from various countries or in translation. Check out the winners and those shortlisted for the Hugo or Nebula awards. Read the short stories in magazines like Apex or Beneath Ceaseless Skies. And then go forth and make up your own worlds and universes. The stars are limitless!

Writing An Autobiography: A How-To Guide With Key Tips

I’ve always felt that writing is an intimate activity; neither the writer nor the reader misses the inner workings of the writer’s mind. More so is the case with writing an autobiography. You’ll not only delve into the nitty-gritty of your thoughts but also critique your own life in the process of penning it down.   Sounds a tad uncomfortable, doesn’t it? And yet, it is this very genre of non-fiction that has one of the strongest readerships. Besides, no matter the discomfort you put yourself through whilst writing it, the minute your autobiography reaches the reader, it takes on the task of inspiring others.  There’s a tendency to believe that a biography, and more so an autobiography, is meant to be written by only a subject who’s a stellar performer in their career and highly popular for it. This is far from true. Sure, such a person could have a great ability to inspire their fans and readers, but even an ordinary person is capable of it.   You see, it’s in how you tell your life’s story that the inspiration lies, not necessarily in the popularity of it. Famous or not, every one of us deals with hardships in life and does one thing or another to overcome them. And therein, lies the narrative for every gripping autobiography...  In this article, I’ll help you understand what an autobiography is; go through the differences between biography, autobiography and memoir; provide some autobiography examples; tell you what to include in an autobiography; highlight the things that make for a compelling autobiography; and tell you how you can research your own life (yes, you read that right) to make your autobiography as authentic and balanced as possible.  What Is An Autobiography?  When thinking about the meaning of the word autobiography, it can be helpful to compare the subgenre with others which it\'s confused for (biography and memoir). So, in this section, I\'ll highlight the nuances of each genre/subgenre. Autobiography Definition An autobiography is a non-fictitious story by a person about their own life. It’s a subgenre of the larger genre of biography.   Let\'s look at biographies in more detail. Biography  A biography is typically written by a writer who’s highly knowledgeable about an individual and their life. They might be written post-humously (sometimes, the individual could still be alive), and may or may not be authorised (given express permission by the individual or their family).   Take, for instance, the award-winning Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by author Sally Bedel Smith. This book does the behemoth task of showing the reader what it meant for a young woman – Queen Elizabeth II – to take on the monumental task of being a monarch and do so successfully for decades. This book is certainly a magisterial biography. Though it doesn’t explicitly mention whether or not it is authorised, it certainly seems like it was, because the writer met the Queen on various occasions during the course of her research. So, if watching The Crown on Netflix has left you thirsting for more, you need only read this biography.  Another highly compelling biography is Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs. Openly authorised, this book is a testament to not only its visionary of a subject, Steve Jobs, but also life in the digital era that we live in. In over forty interviews with Jobs himself, and more than a hundred interviews with his friends, family, colleagues and competitors, Isaacson chronicles Jobs’ rollercoaster life as a creative entrepreneur. Jobs was known to irk his friends and foes alike with his brutal honesty and this is reflected in his biography too. He holds nothing back and neither does anyone that talks about him, making this book one of the sincerest biographies ever written.  Autobiography  An autobiography, however, is written by the subject themselves. The writer looks back on their life, putting all major events from their birth up until the time they complete the book under the microscope. They explore their past with the wisdom-filled lenses of their present. Needless to say, the authenticity of such a story is arguably higher than in a biography. I mean, who better to write your life’s story than you! Here are some great examples of autobiographies.  One of the most-read autobiographies of all time is perhaps Nelson Mandela’s A Long Walk To Freedom. The book details the story of the man who spent twenty-seven years in prison for marching against South African apartheid and then went on to become the president of a free country. It’s not only the narration of a revolutionary man (which in and of itself is significant), but also a story of triumph over racism and colonialism.   Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar’s Playing It My Way was a stellar record breaker with a pre-order of 1,500,000 copies of the autobiography, easily overtaking even Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs! The man was a legend on the cricket pitch and it’s no wonder fans want to read about what his life is really like, directly from the horse’s mouth. Suffice to say, Tendulkar’s penmanship matched pace with his batsmanship; his innings began even before the match did!  I’m one of those people who’s rather reluctant to watch a movie unless they’re certain it’s an inspiring, or at the very least a positive, one. One such movie that’s an all-time favourite of mine is The Pursuit Of Happyness starring Will Smith (who incidentally happened to publish his own autobiography Will earlier this year). The movie is an adaptation of Chris Gardner’s own autobiography by the same name. We’ve read many a story of single mothers struggling to make ends meet. But Gardner’s is that of a single father’s rags-to-riches story, which also shows him doing his best to be a good father to his son. For someone who grew up without a father, Chris’ own parenting is both heart-warming and inspiring, even keeping his overnight rags-to-riches story aside.  Where there’s a woman of colour who runs a Fortune 50 company, there shall be an autobiography of her. Ex-CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi’s My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future isn’t simply a story of her life but also a critique of the lack of work-life balance that society so readily accepts. Somewhat cut-and-dry, this autobiography makes the reader picture a rather ditch-feelings-be-formidable Indra Nooyi. But, perhaps, that’s exactly what it took her to get where she did.   What’s common amongst all these autobiographies is that they are highly inspirational, some with a big message for society in general. Where there’s talk of autobiographies, Anne Frank’s Diary Of A Young Girl is never far behind. The epistolary by the teenager lays bare her experiences as a Jew during World War II. The progression of her diary shows the maturing girl’s growing difficulty in maintaining self-awareness, a direct reflection of the impact of the Nazi regime. However, though the book falls under the umbrella genre of biographies, it’s more accurately a memoir.  Memoir  A memoir is another subgenre that’s all about a real person’s story written by the subject themselves, making them autobiographical. It is a long non-fiction narrative of the writer’s memory of their own life. Memoirs are often known – and read – for their exquisite literary quality.  We had a memoir as part of the curriculum for my bachelor’s degree in English Literature. I recall a week during that semester when our whole class was really glum. When one of our professors asked us what was wrong, we all sighed collectively and told her we were reading Elie Weisel’s Night.   Imagine that. A whole class of students were deeply saddened by the subject of a memoir, some even on the verge of tears, as we explained to the professor why we were all low. Elie Wiesel sure knows how to translate his pain into poignancy for the pages.   The memoir (it also falls under another subgenre called faction) is heartbreaking to readers as it details the harrowing experiences that the writer lived through and perhaps relived as he wrote it. Night is a haunting rendition of Elie Wiesel’s experience of the Holocaust as a teenager. This event in history marks the failure of humanity, and to intimately feel a survivor’s account of this horror is a grieving experience. This, right here, is what memoirs are capable of.   A memoir and an autobiography are similar on these counts – they’re both about real people and the real lives they lead. One way in which they differ is in their goal – memoirs are written to move the reader, to connect with them by way of emotive storytelling, while autobiographies are generally meant to inspire the reader, through a detailed exploration of who the writer really is. This is how they function primarily, even though both memoir and autobiography could potentially move and inspire just the same.   Sometimes, autobiographies might be marketed as memoirs and this can be quite confusing. Even experts make the mistake of using ‘autobiography’ and ‘memoir’ as synonyms. A key difference is that autobiographies record the subject’s life from birth to present time, chronologically, whilst memoirs may go back and forth in time and often cover smaller time spans. Autobiographies place importance on facts and history, whilst memoirs lean heavily on emotional experience. This also means that autobiographies are more general in terms of the topics they cover, even though certain events may be highlighted more than others. On the other hand, Memoirs can be thematic with a singular event or experience or emotion taking the forefront.   How To Write An Autobiography  If you’re excited to write your life’s story, then you’re in the right place. Here are the steps to writing an autobiography:  Do Your Research  Yes, it’s your own story. You might even assume that you’re the foremost expert on the topic of you. But think again. You might be surprised by how much you don’t know about your past, by simply going through family photos, and talking to your family and relatives about your childhood. They could give you several anecdotes that could brighten up your autobiography. Even talking to your ex-employers and bosses about the great and not-so-great things about your time in their company could give you a whole new perspective about yourself that you can then share with your readers.  Create An Outline  Writing an autobiography might seem like a mammoth task, especially if you’re not clear on what your narrative is. Are you telling your rags-to-riches story? Are you looking at the work-life balance battle you lead throughout? Or are you depicting your struggle against the societal restrictions placed upon you? If you have the narrative clear in your mind, then the outline is simply about listing all the various events of your life and seeing what aspects of them fit your narrative. Jot these aspects down; they’ll be the key points in your chapter breaks. Voila! You have your narrative, outline, and key points per chapter.  Write The Draft  Once you start writing your autobiography, try to get through it as quickly as possible. Aim for progress, not perfection, at this stage. The thing is, you’re bound to second-guess your own perspective the more you dwell on it, simply because everything seems important. After all, it is your life you’re writing about. However, this is exactly what could keep you stuck. Instead, move through it at a good pace, and later, when you edit it, you can slow down and decide what works and what doesn’t.   Give It Time Before Editing It  I never edit my writing soon after I’m done. To have a fresh outlook on my own writing, I need some time and distance from it. So, I give it at least two days, when it’s a small piece. But for an autobiography, I’d suggest giving it much longer; perhaps a month or two. Completing the manuscript in itself could take you months, if not years, and tire you out at the end of it. Take a long break, maybe even a vacation, where you work on something else completely. That way, when you return to edit your autobiography, you’ll have a renewed eye for error and detail. After this, maybe give it another two weeks before you fact-check and proofread. Once this is done, you’re ready to send it off to an agent.  Write A Book Proposal  Another thing to consider is that most agents will want a book proposal from you when you query them. Of course, before you do that you need to know which non-fiction agents to reach out to and what they are looking for. Be prepared for rejections; you knew this was never going to be easy. Do not take the rejection to be a personal critique of your life. Just keep pitching your book to agents until the right one picks it up.   Tips For Writing An Autobiography  Apart from the obvious – write in the first person – if you’re considering giving autobiography writing a go, then, you’ll need to bear in mind the following:  What Gives The Full Picture? An autobiography compulsorily covers the subject’s whole life until the point they are done writing it. This means you’ll need to cover your childhood, upbringing, education (or lack of it), adolescence, career, relationships, lifestyle and more. So, knowing what to include in your autobiography can be tricky. Of course, you can’t place equal importance on each of these. If you’re a fitness expert, then it makes sense to spend more time on your lifestyle section than any other. Still, it’s important to let your readers know everything that shaped you into who you are today. So, whilst the emphasis might be on you as a fitness expert, the reader will also want to know how you handled life as a parent, child, employee, friend and more. They’ll want the full picture, the complete you.  How Much Is Too Much?  The best autobiographies provide as much information as a reader might crave about the subject, yet know when to stop. Keeping the reader – who doesn’t know you – in mind is crucial at every turn. The things you think are very important to you, might not be very interesting for the reader. Yes, this is your story, but once your story reaches the reader, it’s their review that decides how impactful it really is.  What Ties It All Together?  Life is messy; it’s hard to sort through the clutter and find the thread that ties it all together. But this, you must do, for your autobiography. Even though it will contain various aspects of your life, they need to have a common narrative. At the end of the day, it’s a book. It is a story. So, you’re going to have to write it like one. Here are some examples of narratives: transformations throughout life, lessons you learnt from every stage or area of life, you versus your public persona, you versus the society. These narratives don’t have to be combative, just problematic enough for any human to relate with.  How Balanced Is It?  By its very nature, an autobiography is revealing. It can unfurl the good, the bad, and even the ugly. How elegantly each of these is handled can make or break the autobiography. Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs does this with a flair unmatched by most other books of the biography genre; the extensive research he did makes for a balanced view. Despite the candid voices, none of it reads like a smear campaign. You can take a leaf out of his book and apply it to your own autobiographical writing. If you can research your own life, by way of getting varied perspectives from friends, family, and even foes, then, you might have a nuanced approach to the storytelling of your own life.  Frequently Asked Questions How Do You Write An Autobiographical Story? There are lots of things to include when you\'re writing an autobiography. Autobiographical stories cover an entire lifetime, pay close attention to detail, are often written in chronological order, and have a clear narrative. They also have balanced characters and are well researched and fact checked. What Is The Purpose Of Autobiographical Writing? Autobiographical writing is generally written with the aim of depicting an important experience, topic, or challenge in the writer\'s life. Beyond this, the aim tends to be much more personal, and dependent upon the subject of the book. Writers may hope to entertain, educate, or inspire their readers, or showcase a different perspective. How Long Is An Autobiography? There aren\'t any specific rules when it comes to the length, or word count, of an autobiography, but they tend to be between 250-450 pages long. Autobiographies written by people who are well known and already have an audience tend to be longer, as their readers are more likely to commit to the text and take the time to read a lengthier tome. Autobiographical Writing  Writing an autobiography is a highly intimate affair; it’s bound to bring back certain uncomfortable memories, perhaps even trauma. If at any point, you feel it’s getting too heavy to handle, put the project on hold, seek out a therapist and come back to your book once you feel it’s safe to do so. Let your therapist know that this is in fact the reason you’re there – to be able to write your book from a safe space.  You may want to consider not talking about your book with loved ones until you’ve completed the first draft. Then, let them know that your book might include them and not all of it might be easy to digest. They might not like it, but in the end, this is your story and you get to tell it from your point of view. If you ensure to focus on your own journey in the book, rather than blame others, then this shouldn’t be an issue. If someone still feels uncomfortable with the contents of your book, know that there isn’t much you can do about it. It’s their job to deal with their own feelings. Don’t let them guilt trip you.  Try not to worry too much about the repercussions of writing your life’s story before you even begin. Remember why you’re writing this in the first place – your life is inspirational and there are readers who’d love to read about you. With that in sight, just get started and complete your autobiography. 

Finding The Motivation To Write: Top Tips From Successful Authors

I\'ve been staring at a blank page for ten minutes now, which is ironic as I\'m a writer who gets paid to write and at this moment I\'m meant to be writing about how to get motivated. But that\'s OK, because losing writing motivation is something that happens to everyone. Why? Because creativity can\'t be switched on and off like a tap. So how do you find the motivation to write? In this article, I will be discussing the many ways to motivate yourself to write a book; from setting goals and having a writing routine, to tricking yourself and rewarding yourself. I will also discuss how to avoid distractions, find ideas, and what techniques have helped top writers reach success. Motivation To Write (And Why We Need It) Many people think the hardest part about writing a book is coming up with the idea. It\'s not. The hardest part about writing a book is having to sit down and write, then, upon seeing what you\'ve written, resist the urge to throw your laptop into the nearest body of water, reach for a giant bar of chocolate, and give up. So how do you find your motivation to keep going? Muses, Inspiration, And Ideas Let\'s start with the magic, that mysterious spark that gets us jumping out of bed at 3am eager to tell our story. Sometimes, we can\'t get motivated because we are bored. Bored with our story, our idea, or the monotony of sitting in front of a laptop all day trying to reach our word count. If that\'s the case, then it\'s time to find some inspiration. Getting motivated to write can often simply be a matter of finding something more interesting to write about. So here\'s my list of ways to get your creative juices flowing. Writing Prompts When I teach writing to teens I like to play a game where they have to pick three prompts from a lucky dip jar - a genre, a scenario, and a random object. Write as many of these as you want (or even better, ask a friend so it\'s a surprise) and pick one from each category. It\'s impossible not to feel inspired to write a fun short story when you pick a combo such as: Rom ComYou are stuck in a lift with someone acting peculiarRubber duck What would your story be about? Or, try our writing prompts for fantasy, horror, thrillers, romance, poetry, and Christmas stories. Find A Muse (Or A Squad) Writing motivation is often as elusive as finding inspiration, but having the right people around you can kick-start you into action. Whereas a muse (perhaps the object of your affection) may inspire you to write beautiful poetry or the deep lyrics to a new song - a muse who gets you motivated is just as helpful. In my case, I surround myself with lots of author friends. No one understands a writer like another writer, and they know why it\'s important to stay motivated. I have writer friends on Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, or friends I call. Not only are they a shoulder to cry on or a sounding board for moaning, but they are also the ones who will cheer me on and keep me going. Being part of a writer gang means they can also brainstorm your next work in progress with you, or help with plot holes (after all, it\'s always easier to come up with plot ideas for someone else\'s story). Join our free Jericho Writers Community to find like-minded writers! How To Persevere When You Feel Like Giving Up Some call it writer\'s block, others call it imposter\'s syndrome or simply running out of steam. Whatever has ground you to a halt, the first thing to do when you feel like giving up is ask yourself why you feel this way. Have you really run out of ideas? (If so, see the inspiration section above.) Are you really a crap writer (I doubt that), or have you simply lost faith in yourself? Losing confidence is part of every writer\'s writing journey, Stop Making Excuses If you go to a writer\'s house and every room is spotless, then you know they\'re avoiding writing their book. Us writers are exceptionally good at making excuses as to why we don\'t have the time to finish the next chapter. So next time you find yourself procrastinating... Get Out Of Your Own Way Yep. You may be lacking in motivation because you are standing in your own way. Ignore those miserable voices in your head and don\'t read any negative reviews of past work. Stay surrounded by positive people and remember why you write in the first place. Prove Them Wrong And if that doesn\'t work...there\'s always good old-fashioned spite! We all have that one person in our lives who told us we would never make a success of our writing. Perhaps it was a teacher, a parent, a friend, or a work colleague. So if you are still struggling to find the impetus to keep going with your writing then I strongly suggest you think about this person and imagine their face when you\'re sitting in Barnes & Noble, or Waterstones, ready to sign your book. Is there anything sweeter than looking someone in the eye and saying \'see? I told you I could do it?\' Be petty and reach your goals! The Importance Of Habit And Routine If you\'re serious about writing, you need to take it seriously. That means carving out time in your day to write, the same as you would any other job or commitment. Find A Writing Space Firstly, you need a comfortable place in which to write. You won\'t feel motivated if you\'re balancing your laptop on your lap while your flatmates talk over your head or your dog runs circles around you. It doesn\'t matter whether your writing space is a big fancy office or a corner of the kitchen table. Allocate a nice spot, somewhere where you can preferably be left alone that isn\'t surrounded by things that will distract you, and make it your own. Reduce Distractions You need to focus. That may mean seeking silence, getting out of the house, or putting on headphones and playing your favourite music. My biggest downfall is Twitter. So when I need to do nothing but write I turn off all WiFi, put my phone on airplane mode, and tell myself I can\'t get up until the work is done. One top tip that author Angie Thomas once shared (on Twitter, of course) is to unplug your laptop and write until it needs charging. Then as your computer charges, you get to as well! Set Aside Time To Write Your Book Professional writers, and authors who have found success, treat writing like a full time job -because for many it is! That means they get up every morning and they write every single day. If you\'re just starting out it\'s fine to write simply when you feel like writing, but if you have a deadline to meet it\'s important to set goals and stick to them. Set Goals Your goal doesn\'t have to be anything too unrealistic. Perhaps it\'s to write 300 words a day, or complete a chapter per week, or set a date to get an outline in place. The only way to reach the end of your book is to get that word count up - so bit by bit will still get you there. And the best part? Reward Yourself! Some writers like to buy themselves a fancy box of chocolates and they only get to choose one when they reach the end of each chapter. Or perhaps plan a fun day out to spend with those you love the week after your book deadline. Be Kind To Yourself But, on the flip-side, it\'s also important to take a break now and then... If you get up in the morning and can\'t face the day, I guarantee you will not produce good writing. So if you don\'t feel like writing - don\'t. Watch a movie, flick through Pinterest, or go for a walk. It may feel like a break but it may inspire you too. Do What the Professionals Do I took to Twitter to ask professional authors of every genre what motivates them to keep writing. They shared how they find the motivation to write: Emma Cooper, Up Lit Women\'s Fiction Author Of The Songs of Us I set work hours and treat it like an office job and open the document, even when I want to watch Netflix instead. I break the day up into manageable sections. Isabelle May, Foodie Rom Com Author Of The Cocktail Bar Cake in all its glorious forms! Nothing like a reward at the end of each chapter. It may sound basic, but going for a walk often clears your head. Emma Claire Wilson, Author Of Emotional Thrillers And Editor Of The Glass House If I am lacking motivation I ask myself \'does my brain need a break for a day?\' Forcing it can result in awful words which leads to frustration and even less motivation. For motivation I have a few writing exercises I go to, pick one out of my jar at random, and write something totally new to find my love of the spontaneous words again. Emma Jackson, Rom Com Author Of Summer in the City Having writing buddies to do sprints with, or make accountability goals with, really helps. Also I have a really geeky habit of breaking down my word counts into a spreadsheet and then doing 20-30 min sessions, updating it and seeing how it chips away at the big goal. Sophie Flynn, Thriller Author Of All My Lies I set a 20 min timer on my phone then switch everything else off during that time and write/edit - telling myself I can stop after 20 mins. By then I\'m usually in the right headspace and keep going. But it takes the pressure off! Non Pratt, YA Author Of Giant Days Honestly, for me, writing is only worth doing if I want to - but that’s because it’s no longer my actual job. When it was my job I reminded myself you can’t tell the bits I wrote under duress from those I wrote with joy and got on with it. You edit them anyway. M. K. Lobb, YA Fantasy Author Of Seven Faceless Saints I make a list of all the scenes I’m excited for and write toward them. If the book starts to drag, I know I need to re-plot to get the excitement back. Meera Shah, Thriller Author Of Her Short sharp bursts - it\'s all I have time for anyway. If it isn\'t working, take a break. And if it really isn\'t working, return to it another day! Erin Fulmer, Fantasy Author Of Cambion\'s Blood Routine helps. I write from 7-9 most nights. I use word sprints and sometimes a focus app to block browser access. I also have an elaborate spreadsheet that tracks progress relative to my self-imposed deadlines. Basically, anything to convince my mind that writing is an urgent task. Bethany Clift, Women\'s Fiction Author Of Last One At The Party I don\'t wait for inspiration, I just write. This is my job so I write every day - sometimes 400 words, sometimes 4,000, but I always do something. Also, I believe writing is a muscle - to keep it in shape you have to use it, develop it, feed it. So I do. Elizabeth J Hobbes, Fantasy Romance Author Of Daughter of the Sea I simply remind myself that if I don\'t get on with writing this book I will have to go back to working full time! Lia Louis, Rom Com Author Of The Key to My Heart Knowing exactly what bit I have to write helps me on the days I don’t want to! Throwing my phone in the bin* helps too. (*a nice safe drawer) A J West, Eerie Historical Author Of The Spirit Engineer What motivates me is a desire to escape this world to somewhere more wonderful in my own imagination. Kelly Andrew, YA Fantasy Author Of The Whispering Dark I let myself play around with the scenes I’m most excited to write and then that makes me eager to build to those moments organically in order to really tighten the beats. Leni Morgan, Self-Published Author Of How a Good Geek Survived The Zombie Apocalypse I find having several books on the go good motivation. When I get stuck/fed up with one, I move on to another. Plus rereading it to familiarise myself with the characters helps me unstick myself too. Lauren North, Thriller Author Of Safe at Home I set myself small targets like \'just write 250 words & then you can do what you like\'. By which point I\'m into the writing and ploughing ahead. I try to think about the buzz I felt at the idea. Frequently Asked Questions What Motivates A Writer To Write? For some it\'s to simply share their stories, for others it may be to hold their book one day or to prove to themselves they could do it. Find what motivates you, and use that energy to keep following your dreams. What Do You Do When You Lose Your Motivation To Write? Every writer loses writing motivation at some point. The best thing to do is not panic: Take a breakGet inspired by news stories, images, past life events, or talking to peopleDo some writing promptsGather other writers around you and brainstorm ideasStart a new project How Do You Get Over Writing Anxiety? Imposter syndrome is a part of the writing process every author encounters. Like most artists, writers are rarely happy with their work, but that doesn\'t mean it\'s not good. The easiest thing to do is: Avoid negative reviews (and people)Keep learning and bettering your craftAsk beta readers to guide youRemember the only part of the writing process you can control is writing the first draft of your novel. So focus on that and bettering it with each revision.Write your book can always edit after! Let\'s Goooooo! I hope this article has got you out of your writing slump and raring to go. there\'s no right or wrong when it comes to writing goals and penning a novel; the only way you can fail is by giving up altogether!

Book Translation Rights: Everything You Need To Know

Many authors dream of seeing their books in print and on shelves in leading bookstores across the country. However, your book’s circulation, and your dream, don’t need to be limited by national boundaries or language itself! Translation is a great way to reach wider markets in different countries and will help you to diversify your revenue stream for your novel. It\'s one of the most popular forms of intertextuality. If you\'d like to publish in another language, read on to learn more about this little known process. In this article, I\'m going to walk you through the path to achieving translation and figuring out international rights. I\'ll define foreign rights, explain why foreign rights agents are important, and detail how foreign rights and translation work. To help give you expert advice, I\'ve chatted with foreign rights agents Thérèse Cohen and Lucy Barry who both have an intimate understanding of the world of translation. What Are Foreign Rights? The first step to understanding translation is to learn more about the rights that you own as an author. Foreign rights dictate where you can distribute your manuscript and which languages it can be translated and sold in. The main rights you\'ll have to concern yourself with are translation rights and territorial rights. Rights are sold in both languages and territories, so translation rights deal with the language your book can be published in and territorial rights are associated with the markets where your book is sold. Thérèse explains territorial rights using the example of publishing a book in France or the UK. The most straightforward deal might be selling French language rights in France, or English rights in the UK, but you might also have English readers in the US or readers reading in French in Belgium. To help ensure that your book might reach a wider audience around the world, you can sell your world rights to publishers. This means that your book can be distributed anywhere in the world with no restrictions. However, it might benefit you more to break up your rights into territories to increase your profit. For example, if you\'re working with an English publishing house in the UK, you can sell them UK publishing rights to distribute the book throughout the country. This then gives you the opportunity to approach publishers in the US to sell the North American rights, which will then allow then to re-publish your book and distribute it in the US and Canada. This is the reason you might see different covers and publishers for the same book in the US versus the UK. It’s always interesting to browse the internet to find different cover variants in other languages or countries! Alternatively, your publisher might insist on world English rights, which will then give them the ability to sell your book all across the English speaking world, such as in the UK, North America, and Australia. This leaves you with the ability to negotiate translation rights for international markets. Selling foreign rights is something that you negotiate with your agent and will be incorporated into your publishing contract. If you\'d like to achieve translation in a foreign language, you\'ll have to sell translation rights to foreign publishers. You can do this on your own, or with the help of your domestic publisher. These rights determine which languages a publisher might publish your book in and gives them the exclusive right to distribute it in that language. You\'ll have to negotiate territorial rights alongside this to ensure that your book can be sold in the appropriate markets. Foreign rights might seem tricky, but with an agent by your side, you\'ll have no problem understanding the complexities of translation publishing. Why Are Foreign Rights Agents Important? If getting your book published in English sounds hard, you might think that publication in another language is even harder! You’re right to assume that it’s challenging, but there are specific industry members who are here to make it easy – rights agents. Rights agents work with authors to find international publishers to translate, print, and market their books. These agents are looking to maximise sales across different countries and have an understanding of what types of books work well in other markets. These agents have in-depth knowledge of the international publishing landscape. They’re also looking out for your interests by working to negotiate the best possible advances and royalties. All agents have knowledge of rights, but foreign rights agents are more experienced in selling foreign rights. Most agencies will have rights agents working for them, so it\'s in your best interest to consider finding agent representation in order to achieve translation into other languages. What Do Foreign Rights Agents Do? Lucy Barry describes the role of a rights agent as someone who works to ensure that their clients\' international publishing experience is as smooth as possible. She explains that, \'Rights agents work to place their authors’ titles with international publishers all around the world. Normally, rights agents focus on selling into certain markets, where they have specialist knowledge and longstanding relationships with international publishers.\' Foreign rights agents try to keep in constant contact with editors around the world and meet with them regularly to understand the tastes and trends of different international markets. The agent will work to negotiate the best publishing deal for their authors as well as the advance and royalty rates across all formats. Once the deal is completed, foreign rights agents also handle international press requests, author visits for promotional tours, and translator queries. Considering all the work that rights agents do, it\'s highly worth working alongside them. These agents are experienced in achieving translation from the English language to a new language and even any foreign original language into English. They network with publishing houses and editors at international book fairs, which gives them a strong idea of the tastes of a foreign publisher and whether they\'d be interested in translating your book. Having someone on your side who knows how to sell foreign rights is a huge help. How Do I Find A Foreign Rights Agent? Most foreign rights agents are experienced with rights, so you’ll query agents as you would normally. However, it’s important to communicate early on with your agent that you’re interested in translation. This way, the agent will know that you’re interested in maintaining translation rights for a deal outside your country. UK agencies will often have rights departments that will help query international publishers for a potential translation rights sale. You can get started on your hunt for an agent using our AgentMatch database. This will allow you to search a massive list of all the agents in the US and UK by genre in order to find the best agent for your book. Keep an eye out for agents with international experience or those who are associated with established agencies. Which Rights Do I Keep? It’s highly advisable to get a foreign rights agent who can help assist you with this decision making! Agents will be able to give you advice on whether or not to sell your translation rights to a publisher. Sometimes the publisher can go on to sell translation rights to publishers in different countries, and having an experienced agent by your side to help negotiate royalties is always helpful. If you’re going at it alone, this is a conversation you should have with your publisher. If they give you the option to retain translation rights, you can query international publishers about taking your book on. However, it’s recommended to wait until your book achieves English publication first. If you don\'t have a foreign rights agent, Lucy recommends trying to hold on to translation rights so that you can exploit these separately from the original deal. When you do receive an offer from a publisher, it may be worth reaching out to an agent, who could advise you. She explains that \'without an agent, it is important to be realistic about the international potential of your book. Many publishers have in house rights teams who will have the international connections to sell your book around the world.\' How Do I Know If My Book Will Sell In Other Countries? It’s always tricky to predict a book’s success, and selling in a foreign market definitely complicates this even further. The good news is that rights agents are communicating with co-agents and foreign editors all the time. This gives them insight into what different markets are reading and whether an international publisher might want to take on your book. When asked about selling into different territories, Thérèse stated that \'Readers are much more uniform in what they read, especially in Europe, now than in the past, but there are still some big differences between what does and doesn’t sell in fiction and non-fiction, and we have to be mindful of that.\' Lucy helped to clarify how agents can get a better idea of what books work in other markets. She explains that \'in certain territories, rights agents will often work with a co-agent to place the book in a market. Co-agents are frequently relied upon in the Asian markets and often in Eastern European territories where they work on the ground and speak the local language, this enables us to find the very best publisher and agree the best deal for our clients all over the world.\' Since co-agents and editors speak the language of the country that they’re in, they’ll be able to evaluate your book’s sales potential in foreign markets and work with your agent on a sale. International book fairs allow the international publishing world to mingle and can often result in lifelong partnerships between agents, editors, and publishers from different countries. Certain books sell better in translation, but genre popularity differs from market to market. Children\'s picture books are famously popular in translation, so if you\'re a children\'s author this is a route that it might be beneficial to consider pursuing. Foreign Publishers And How They Work Foreign publishers will work alongside you to help select translators and market your book in their country. The process doesn\'t differ much from that of your domestic publisher aside from the fact that they are producing a new translation of your work. There will be some differences in the royalties you receive as well as your advance, but this differs from publisher to publisher. One of the biggest questions you might have as an author is how translators are selected. Lucy explains that \'Publishers normally have long standing relationships with reliable translators who have experience translating manuscripts in a specific genre or field. Certain authors may have a dedicated translator in each territory, and others may have been translated by many different translators. As an author, you can always discuss this with your rights agent or international publisher, who will be able to explain why they recommend a particular translator and send information on the books they have previously translated.\' It can be a little worrying to see your book move from its original language to one you might not understand, but it\'s worth noting that translators are contractually obligated to accurately translate your work. The publisher might also re-design your book to fit the tastes of foreign markets. This might include creating a new cover, changing your title, or updating illustrations. Sometimes titles might even differ across English speaking countries. For example, Leila Slimani\'s popular novel Lullaby was re-named as The Perfect Nanny to better suit American audiences. What If I\'m Already Published? If you\'re already traditionally published, you\'re off to a good start as you\'ve already set your roots down in the English language publishing scene. To move towards translation, Lucy Barry recommends closely reading your contract with the original publisher. If your book has been sold in a world all language deal, the publisher owns the translation rights and should be exploring ways to exploit these rights. If it’s a world English language deal, the publisher will have the right to publish around the world in English and may sell the rights to a UK or US publisher on your behalf, but translation rights will be controlled by you. It\'s worth having a conversation with your publisher about your contract and your options. Translation Rights When You\'re Self-Published Those who aren\'t with a traditional publisher might wonder if it\'s possible to publish a work in translation if you\'re self-published. The answer here is yes! However, as with traditional publication, you’ll want to find a foreign rights agent to represent you first. You can query agents internationally or work to find a co-agent that has partnered with a UK agency. Alternatively, you might be able to strike out on your own and query foreign publishers directly. Just be sure to defend your query with comparison titles and your self-published sales figures, and do some research on your genre\'s popularity in international markets. If you\'re looking to query a publisher on your own, you might want to consider finding your own translator to translate a sample of your book. However, this isn\'t always required since many publishers read in English. When querying a publisher directly, be sure to follow their guidelines for submission carefully, as if you were querying an agent. What Do I Do If I Want My Book To Be Translated Into English? Your first step to achieving English translation is to contact your publisher to determine who holds translation rights. From there, you can consider translating a sample of your book into English. As I mentioned above, translation into English isn’t always necessary, but it can help agents who only speak English get a taste of your book! From there you can query agents in your home country or in the US and UK. There are plenty of agents who specialise in translation, so it’s important to research thoroughly when querying. Once you\'ve found an agent, they\'ll begin work on finding you a publisher or a translator to sell your foreign rights to. Some publishers prefer that a book is translated in full before it is submitted and others prefer a sample. In some cases, your publisher might have their own translators that they prefer to use. If you aren\'t published, you may want to start by querying publishers and agents in your country. Alternatively, you can branch out and query agents in the US and UK after translating a sample of your manuscript. What Can A Translator Do? Increasingly, we\'re starting to see translators get involved with some of the tasks originally assigned to agents. If you\'re writing in a language other than English and can\'t find an agent to help you sell foreign rights, you might decide to turn to a translator. It\'s worth doing some research to identify UK or US translators who specialise in literary translation out of your native language. These literary translators often have a good understanding of the US and UK market for translation and might be able to work alongside you to help you find an agent or query publishers on your behalf. What Is The Market For Books Translated Out Of English? It\'s worth knowing that more books are translated out of English than into it, so it can be quite difficult to achieve translation in the US or UK. That being said, there are a number of publishers dedicated to publishing translated writing and sales of works in translation continue to grow. Some academic publishers are also working to create their own translated fiction lists. As the market for translation grows, so do your opportunities. In fact, a recent Man Booker study has found that sales for translated literary fiction have increased, with authors like Haruki Murakami, Elena Ferrante, and Karl Ove Knausgaard contributing to the rise in sales. If you\'re interested, below are some great US and UK publishers who have extensive translation lists to check out: Comma Press Pushkin Press Fitcarraldo Editions Granta Two Lines Press Open Letter Press Greywolf Press Europa Editions Oneworld Publications If you\'re an English speaker and you\'re hoping to start reading more in translation, you might be interested in having a look at the Booker International Prize winners. This is a great way to get started on reading translation, as the prize seeks to highlight some of the best books written in languages other than English. Translation can help diversify your reading list and expose you to some excellent authors. Get Your Rights Right Many of the steps to achieving publication in another language are made much easier by having an agent. While finding a foreign rights agent can be challenging, it\'s certainly worth the effort. We recommend using our AgentMatch database to get started on your search. Seeing your book published in another language is extremely rewarding, and while the process might be long and time-consuming, selling foreign rights is a great way to increase your market reach and earn more from a single manuscript. Thérèse encourages writers \'to enjoy the bonus that is having a translation deal (getting a copy of your book in a different language will never get old!)\', but to not let it stress you out or put additional pressure on you. If your book sells, it sells, and that’s brilliant, but if it doesn’t, that’s fine too. Don’t try to change what you write or the way you write to suit a different market, if you’re doing well selling in your home market, that is what ultimately matters the most.\' Frequently Asked Questions Who Owns The Translation Of A Book? Translated works are incredibly valuable texts, but in terms of who owns a book\'s translation, it can vary. Sometimes, the translator holds the copyright for the translation and the original author holds the copyright for the original text. Other times, the translator does not own the copyright for their translation, and the publisher or original author does instead, though many people feel that translators should have more- or all- of the ownership of their translations. However, a translator can claim copyright ownership of the translated version of a book they have translated from a piece that is in the public domain. Do I Need Permission To Translate A Book? You cannot translate a book without the author\'s permission, as they are the copyright holder for the text. In order to translate a book, written permission from the author is often required, or, if the copyright is held by the publisher, you need to contact them instead. Are Book Translations Copyrighted? Book translations are copyrighted, but the copyright is not always held by the translators themselves. Translators have the same rights over their work as authors, which means they are entitled to both the copyright of their translations and proper acknowledgement of their work. However, translators are often asked to cede copyright by some of the bigger publishers, as translation is seen as costly and risky, so they don\'t always hold the copyright to their own translations. Do Book Translators Get Royalties? Translators are entitled to both copyright and royalties, though whether they maintain the copyright, and receive a fair proportion of the royalties depends on individual circumstances. Some of the big publishers don\'t provide translators with a fair amount of royalties, though translated works are generally produced by indie publishers who tend to have more equitable practice in terms of ensuring translators have both the copyright and sufficient royalties.

Zahirra Dayal’s Success: Making Writing Competitions Work For You

From the moment we heard the opening of Zahirra Dayal\'s \'Invincible Jacarandas\' at the 2021 Friday Night Live, we knew it was something special. Now, Zahirra\'s making waves. She\'s signed with Katie Fulford at Bell Lomax Moreton and made the shortlist in multiple writing competitions. We caught up with her to find out what her writing life was like before Friday Night Live, and beyond it. JW: Hi Zahirra! Firstly, please tell us a bit about your background as a writer, and your journey to writing your first book.   ZD: My love affair with words began when I was very young. I spent hours reading Enid Blyton books which I borrowed from the city library in Harare – the capital city of Zimbabwe where I was born. I was never far away from pen and paper and filled pages of diaries with my thoughts and observations. It was only natural that I went on to study English Literature at university in South Africa. I nurtured the secret hope of writing a novel one day. After I graduated and moved to London in 2000, I enrolled in a part-time creative writing course with the Open University - but from that point onwards life seriously got in the way of my writing ambitions.  Fast forward 19 years and I was finally able to steal a few hours on the two afternoons that I finished work early to write in a café in Wimbledon. Those moments were the beginnings of the very messy zero draft of my novel. The entry point to my novel was a story I wrote for the Open University course, inspired by my intrepid grandmother, who moved to a new continent like many other Passenger Indians at the turn of the 19th Century. The story of the main protagonists, sisters Zaynah and Amira, came to me as I developed the story.     Many of my stories were accepted for publication and this gave me the confidence to keep going. Most importantly, I loved the actual writing process.  Then the lockdowns happened and while teaching online from home, I carved out more time and space to write. I joined the writing community on Twitter and started writing short stories which I submitted to literary journals. Many of my stories were accepted for publication and this gave me the confidence to keep going. Most importantly, I loved the actual writing process.  I knew that I still had lots to learn so I applied for every opportunity advertised on Twitter. I did a free short writing course with Spread The Word, but the real game-changer was when I won the bursary for the Jericho Writers Self-Edit Course. Every week we focussed on a different aspect of writing and had a chance to give and receive feedback on our weekly tasks. The tutors – Debi Alper and Emma Darwin -  were fantastic and the other writers were so supportive and insightful.  I joined the writing community on Twitter and started writing short stories which I submitted to literary journals. Many of my stories were accepted for publication and this gave me the confidence to keep going At first, I was terrified of having my work critiqued as I didn’t believe that what I had could be shaped into a novel. Enter Debi Alper! Debi was the first to show me my novel\'s USP: the exploration of timeless themes in the specific setting of Zimbabwe just after independence. Her belief in my writing has been the gold dust on my journey. It just takes that one person to show you to yourself. I continued to transform my zero draft into a first draft with my shiny new editing tools. After the Self-Edit course, we formed a WhatsApp group to stay in touch with each other and the other writers persuaded me to enter the opening of my novel into the Jericho Writers Friday Night Live competition at the Summer Festival of Writing, which I knew nothing about at the time. I did - and I won! One of the agents from the competition requested the full manuscript afterwards. I was elated, floating on a blissful cloud of joy. But in the end, the agent turned it down - which brought me crashing down to reality again. Her belief in my writing has been the gold dust on my journey. It just takes that one person to show you to yourself. I continued to transform my zero draft into a first draft with my shiny new editing tools. Clearly, it had all happened too fast; I was still heady from my FNL win and there was still a lot of work that needed to be done on my manuscript. Part of the FNL prize was a manuscript assessment and I asked if Debi Alper could do mine. Debi was honest in her feedback and - unsurprisingly - told me that it wasn’t ready for submission yet. I worked on my manuscript for the next few months and then in March 2022 started querying the first 10 agents on my long list of hopefuls. Within days I received full manuscript requests. I held my breath because it felt surreal and I was all too familiar with the pangs of rejection from that first time. Two weeks and six full requests later, I had one zoom call and one face-to-face lunch at a swanky café in London with two agents who both wanted me to sign with them.  JW: Writing can be quite isolating - how did you find a sense of community?   ZD: I have met so many writers through my networks on Twitter and that has made me feel so much less alone. It can feel like you are flailing in the dark sometimes as you type away in your little corner. After the Self-Edit course, The Murder Alibi Club was born and we commiserate the woes and celebrate the highs together. It’s a safe place where I know I will be understood. We also post resources that we come across and it’s just a lovely bunch of writerly people. I would never have got this far were it not for the creative people I’ve met along the way. There are so many people I could name here but they know who they are!  Two weeks and six full requests later, I had had one zoom call and one face-to-face lunch at a swanky café in London with two agents who both wanted me to sign with them.  JW: What kinds of resources did you find useful along the way? ZD: Last year was the first time I attended the Summer Festival of Writing and though it was online, I listened to most of the webinars and found them brilliant. They kept me motivated and I learnt so much from the industry experts and the guest authors. I loved that I was hearing from the authors whose books I was reading at the time.   JW: Do you have any advice for writers trying to get exposure before getting an agent? ZD: Apply to every writing competition you hear of! Each time I applied, I thought that nothing would come of it, but I have now been shortlisted for the Owned Voices Novel Award, longlisted for the Deborah Rogers Writing Award, and The Mslexia Novel Award. Even though I didn’t win, it has been great exposure for my novel and each time I received useful feedback on my manuscript. Being longlisted for the Deborah Rogers also meant that Matthew Turner at RCW agency gave me invaluable tips on pitching my novel and writing my query letter. Submitting short stories to journals is another great way of getting exposure and I created a writer’s website to showcase all my published short fiction and non-fiction (at JW: How did you choose your agent, and what has it been like working with them?   ZD: It was really hard to choose between the two agents that made offers. In some ways, having a choice, whilst being empowering, can also make things more difficult. Both agents loved the novel and were wonderful people who I felt I could work with. It was an agonising decision, but in the end I asked each of the agents to give me more details about the editorial work that needed to be done on my novel. I used this to inform my decision. I chose Katie Fulford, who was the first to read the full novel and get back to me. Katie also has a wealth of experience in publishing and is very familiar with the period I am writing about in Zimbabwe. She has been to Zimbabwe several times and we have the same vision for my novel Invincible Jacarandas.    JW: Finally, have you encountered any surprises in the process so far?  The biggest surprise for me has been how slow things can be and then at other times how fast. The mantra of the industry should be ‘hurry up and wait’. I was also surprised by how supportive the writing community really is. It amazes me that I have had so many conversations online with writers who I have never met face to face but feel like I know as we all experience the same highs and lows and really get it!  About Zahirra Zahirra is a Zimbabwean-born writer who lives in London. She is currently working on her debut novel set in post-independence Zimbabwe and is represented by Katie Fulford at Bell Lomax Moreton. She is the winner of the FNL 2021, shortlisted for the Owned Voices Novel Award and longlisted for the Deborah Rogers Writers Award and Mslexia Novel 2021.  Follow Zahirra on Twitter. Explore Zahirra\'s website.

How To Write Faster- And To A Higher Standard

Have you ever wondered how you could write faster? Perhaps you’ve spent ages rewriting the same sentence over and over again? Or maybe you are someone who struggles to begin a book or a project in the first place. You have an idea in your mind, rattling away inside of you, but you are reluctant to get it out on paper. Perhaps you don’t even know where to start? Or, like me, you’ve seen other writers churn out numerous articles, books and blog posts and wondered how they’ve managed to write them so quickly.  Don’t worry – we’ve all been there!  If that sounds like you, some fast writing exercises might help you put aside some of your worries and actually focus on getting the words on the page. I know I, and many other authors, benefit from writing fast first drafts that we can later refine, and it might well be that this process can work for you too.  Many famous books have been written at speed. On the Road by Jack Kerouac was allegedly written in an impressive three weeks and John Boyne has claimed that it took him roughly two and a half days to write the first draft of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.  Of course, in these cases, we are talking about drafts – but if you can get a fast draft down, the rest of your writing can develop quickly too.  In this article, we will discuss why writing quickly is useful and go through some tips to help you start writing faster today.  Are you ready to see how fast writing might just give you the kickstart you were looking for?  If so, sit back read on, and get ready to pick up that pen. The race is on so let’s not delay!   Why Writing Quickly Matters  There is certainly a great deal of value in writing faster, even if it’s just your first draft. Many authors and writers will attempt to get their initial drafts down quickly while the ideas are still fresh in their minds and while they are fully excited by the project. A lot of excitement in a new project is usually stacked at the beginning, so you need to tap into those feelings for as long as you can, and fast writing will really help you to achieve that aim.   Writing quickly really is about just getting those words down on the page – they don’t have to be structurally or grammatically perfect yet! The editing and refinement can come much later. Quick writing means you can simply have fun allowing your ideas to spill from your mind onto the page - and it is a great way to allow your creative juices to flow freely without too much interruption.   Also, by getting your words down on the page fast, you will help your brain remain engaged with your writing for as long as possible, and you will be able to stay in a flow state for longer. You will find you are less likely to lose focus or allow your mind to wander onto the next enticing project - or begin to worry if the project you are writing is even working. The faster and more productive you are at getting your words on the page – the more likely you will be able to have a finished project at the end of it that you can refine.  Regardless of the form you’re writing in, when you are writing faster you will hopefully reduce the occurrence of writers\' block, as you will be fully focused on getting words on the page. It’s fair to say that the faster you are writing, the less likely you are to be distracted or to have the time to pause and worry about what to add next. The fun of this exercise comes in the freewriting itself and letting the words flow. Yes, you may lose some content later and may have to make changes – but that comes at the next stage. For now, you need to simply enjoy the act of writing in its purest form.  I think it’s fair to say that we can appreciate that writing fast can be beneficial and a great way of writing in a free, expressive and limitless way, but how can we do it? Is it really that easy to remove the shackles and anxieties that you might be holding on to and simply allow yourself to write quickly and freely? In the next section, we will explore some tips and methods that will help you to write a book faster.  How To Write A Book Faster  Writing a book faster is not as daunting as it might sound – but it does require some commitment, determination and self-belief. You need to tell yourself that you can do this and make writing a priority even if it’s just for a short time each day. Writing in fast, sharp bursts is often a good method for writers who might fall victim to procrastination or dithering. This way of fast writing worked well for me when I was writing my debut YA novel Seven Days. At the time, I was working full time and raising two young children. An idea for a teenage story developed in my head and wouldn’t leave me. I was determined and energised to get the story on paper as quickly as I could. I set myself short periods of time where I made myself write and this forced me to write fast. The result was a first draft that was written in three months (quick for me!). Since then, I have always tried to write quickly and efficiently, often with self-imposed short deadlines to keep me motivated. This method doesn’t work for everyone, but it certainly did for me, and I would recommend that you give it a try. What is there to lose?  So, how can you become a fast writer? It might not be a skill that comes naturally to you, in which case some of these tips and methods may help you become a much quicker and more efficient writer and allow you to get that draft written at speed.  Write Daily  Try to set yourself a target to write something every day, either by hand or on a computer (whichever you feel most comfortable with). This could be a word count target, or it could be just a set amount of time – but by making yourself write a little bit each day, you will find that your project will develop much more quickly.  Set A Timer  This can be another useful tip, especially for those of us that work well under pressure or to tight deadlines. Set yourself a time limit. It doesn’t have to be long – perhaps 15 or 30 minutes - and then make yourself write nonstop within that period. Don’t stop to check back or edit your work. Simply keep writing and let the words flow as the time counts down. This can be an effective way of speed writing. Again, this method can be used for both writing by hand and typing.   Many people specifically like to use the Pomodoro technique, wherein you set a timer for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and repeat this process. After four 25 minute writing sessions, you then take a longer break of 15 minutes or so and repeat the process again.  Write At A Time When You Are Most Focused  This is quite a useful tip, as it\'s true that most writers have a time when they are most productive. I know writers that wake up very early in the morning and are most productive then. Others may find that they can write faster and better in the evenings. It might be that, due to other demands, you have a limited choice of when you can write – but if you can, try to pick a time when you are not too tired or overwhelmed by other projects. Your words are likely to flow better, and have greater clarity, if your mind is clear and your body is relaxed.   Eliminate Environmental Distractions  Again, this can be a tricky one, depending on your circumstances – but if you can, try to remove those external distractions. Ensure the dog is walked before starting, so they can’t badger you while you’re writing, tell family members that you are working and cannot be disturbed, and try to reduce the noise and distractions around you. I know that many writers value the use of noise cancellation headphones for such work as this helps to block out background noise.  However, once again, all writers are different, and some people (like me) actually write better in noisier environments. So, it is also about finding out what suits you best.  Create An Outline To Work From  Some writers work much better if they have a plan or an outline to follow, and know roughly what each scene will entail. So if you\'re someone who likes structure, having that initial outline will help you write the first draft much more quickly. If you are a writer who tends to like planning out your ideas (rather than a panster who will just slam down whatever comes into their head) – it might be an idea to shape out your idea first. Consider drafting out a plan first to give you something to work from and allow your words to flow much faster.  Stay Away From The Internet!  This is an important tip. If you want to write fast and efficiently, you need to remove the lull of the phone and the internet during the time you are writing. Keep your phone away from your desk while you’re getting those words down and resist the temptation to hop onto the internet for a break. Searching houses or checking Facebook is not going to get those words down any faster!  Set Rewards  This is one that I personally do myself. If I’ve met my word count for the day, I will give myself a little reward. It might be as small as a biscuit, or half an hour watching my favourite (naff) TV show, but it helps my writing brain to know that there’s a reward at the end and I do end up writing faster because of it. Set A Word Count  This could be another daily target that you set yourself to get those words down on the page quickly. A common target is 1,000 words a day. Many authors will either work towards a daily word count, or will set themselves a certain amount of time to write in. Again, it will depend on the individual, as people have different preferences.  Make Sure You’re Comfortable  Ensure that your desktop is set up correctly and that you have the appropriate chair and desk. You won’t get many words down if your back is crying in pain - and you will thank me for this tip later!  Be Excited/Motivated  Try not to see your writing time as a chore or as work. Enjoy it! If you’re having fun and are relaxed it will show in your writing. It makes a big difference if you’re writing about a topic, or in a genre, which you care about and enjoy.  Don’t Stop To Edit/Read Back  This is an important tip when it comes to writing fast. You shouldn’t stop to edit or read back through your work. Writing at speed is all about getting those words down on the page; you can worry about refinement and detail later.  Research Later  The same can be said for research. This can be quite a time-consuming part of writing and although it is necessary – it is not essential at the speed writing point. You can go back and add the relevant research points later, but first, focus on getting your bare-boned structure down.   If it helps, you can always add notes- colour coded, in brackets, underlined etc- in your draft reminding you to go back and check certain details or add in some specific information.  Remember – It’s Not Meant To Be Perfect!  This can be a hard tip for perfectionists, or for those writers that are used to editing as they go, but if you want to try writing more quickly, it’s important to note that your first draft will probably end up quite rough and imperfect. This is fine, though, as you can then have fun refining it at the editing stage.  Use Other Devices (Tablet, Notebook, Whatever Works)  You might consider using other devices to speed write. Some people write faster by hand. Others prefer to use a tablet, whilst others will prefer to write straight onto a computer/laptop. Find what works for you and stick with it.   You could also use speech-to-text dictation and speak your writing aloud into your laptop. This works particularly well if you express yourself more coherently verbally than you do when writing, or if you’re a faster speaker than you are a typist.  Have Snacks!  This is a tip I’m happy to endorse. Quick snacks or drinks will help you avoid the temptation of trips to the kitchen!  How To Write Quickly As writers we must always appreciate our own strengths and weaknesses and for some individuals, the fast-writing method may not appeal, or even work. It takes some people longer to write a book than others, and there\'s nothing wrong with that. However, for many – this could be a very productive and motivating way to get words onto a page and to progress your writing onto the next level.  Remember that the key thing here is not to produce a polished and perfect draft – instead, you are looking to produce a working draft that can be edited and refined later.   Writing quickly can be a useful tool to learn, and can be especially handy if you are trying to squeeze your writing into an already packed schedule. But it\'s not purely about learning how to speed write. The key is to be disciplined and self-motivated and write under the conditions which most inspire you. The results will speak for themselves. Perhaps you will be the next John Boyne and produce a draft within a few days, or perhaps, more realistically, you will have a workable document in a much faster time than you thought was otherwise possible. Either way, you have nothing to lose by giving it a go – so get rid of those distractions and set that timer! Let’s see where your speedy words take you! 

From the stage to the page: Liz Webb’s debut thriller

As a former stand-up comic, voiceover actor, producer - and now, debut author - Liz Webb is no stranger to agility in her career. Her debut novel, \'The Daughter\' (Allison & Busby, May 2022) has garnered reviews from names like Jo Brand and Sophie Hannah. Here\'s how Jericho Writers member Liz navigated her path to becoming a published author, and some things she found useful along the way. JW: How did you find moving between career paths, and eventually moving into writing? LW: I’m both a lily-livered navel-gazer, and a massive control freak greedy for applause.  My career has taken me from stand-up comic to radio producer to psychological crime novelist.  With each job, I’ve needed to fake it till I make it.  In stand-up, I had to fake confidence with audiences and promoters.  With producing, I had to fake confidence with commissioners, writers, technicians and managers.  But with writing, I’ve had to fake the hardest kind of confidence: with myself.  Each time I write, I have to tune out my internal whingeing and keep going, even when I’m sure I’m writing drivel.  Because I know that if I write ANYTHING AT ALL, it may actually be good, or it could be made good.  But if I wait for some mythical future where I’m a 3D confident person (what an outlandish concept), then I won’t go through the process that enables me to write something that I do eventually have confidence in. To tweak a quote from the brilliant Michael Rosen:  I can’t go over it, I can’t go under it, I have to go through it. With writing, I’ve had to fake the hardest kind of confidence: with myself. With all the jobs I’ve done, I’ve used different versions of the same skills.  Stand-up was me telling my stories and controlling the room.  Producing was me telling other people’s stories and controlling a team of talent.  And now writing is me telling a made-up story and controlling myself.  I try to be disciplined and focussed (but often fail) and try to get better at wearing the many different hats one needs to wear to produce a book: idea-generator, plotter, writer, editor, diplomat, therapist, cheerleader, publicist, video presenter and social media promoter.  As I approach the publication of my first novel, my hat collection is expanding exponentially. JW: What kinds of resources helped you along the way? LW: In the summer of 2020, I had a very rough draft of my first novel: a Frankenstein-esque, stitched-together, suppurating thing.  It lacked a USP, a thorough plot, consistent characters, and any depth of theme.  I needed to redraft it multiple times, considering it from every angle.  With all the jobs I’ve done, I’ve used different versions of the same skills.  Stand-up was me telling my stories and controlling the room.  Producing was me telling other people’s stories and controlling a team of talent.  And now writing is me telling a made-up story and controlling myself. That summer, it was at the height of covid, and Jericho Writers ran an amazing online-only writing festival.  It was choc-o-block with videos, live ones and replays, covering everything I needed: plotting, voice, character, editing, pitching, etc.  I looked away from the enormous hill I had to climb and set myself specific tasks.  Each day, I would fasten on my blinkers, watch a video on a particular subject and deal with just that issue in my book.   As I got closer to a decent draft, I did four Jericho Writers one-to-one sessions with agents or book doctors, which resulted in requests for full manuscript reads, giving me confidence. That experience with my first book taught me to always focus on only the next specific task at hand.  It’s like I’m following the practical steps of piloting a plane: taking-off, cruising, course-correcting and then landing.  I try not to think about how unbelievable it is that planes can fly, about all the components needing to work together, or about crashing.  If I did, I would never get that plane from A to B. I still use the excellent resources of Jericho Writers.  There are too many great tutors to recommend, but ones that leap to mind are: Cesca Major, Philippa East, Debi Alper and Rebecca Horsfall.  Whenever I’m in writing freefall, I’ll watch a video and use it to focus my writing.  Yesterday I watched the wonderful Emma Cooper talking about ‘How to hit story beats\', which helped me decide the vital mid-point of my second novel. JW: Do you feel like an author? LW: I feel like an author in the way the fake heiress Anna Delvey felt like an heiress.  I can convince others (and occasionally myself) that I’m an author.  But deep down, I feel like a fraud and I’m just waiting to be caught out.  I’m wracked with self-doubt and imposter syndrome.  But so what!  It’s like I’m following the practical steps of piloting a plane: taking-off, cruising, course-correcting and then landing.  I try not to think about how unbelievable it is that planes can fly, about all the components needing to work together, or about crashing.  If I did, I would never get that plane from A to B. The trick is to write anyway.  When I’m immersed in writing, I can tune out my endless boring negativity.  I’m only too aware that I’ve got massive black spots in my writing skills.  But whoop-di-doo, so does everyone.  I focus on what I am good at (eg. voice, quirkiness and plotting), keep learning the things I can improve on (eg. over-writing and grammar) and just ignore the stuff I’ll always be rubbish at (ooh that would be telling).  I try to remind myself that I’ve worked really hard and should occasionally pat myself on the back. I was at the post office yesterday, posting my novel to a friend. ‘What’s in the parcel and what’s it worth?’ the postmaster asked me. ‘It’s just a book, it’s only worth a few pounds,’ I mumbled. I so wish I’d said: ‘It’s MY book, I wrote it – and the enormous cost of doing so is unquantifiable!’ JW: What has it been like working with your publisher? LW: It’s been great to be published by Allison & Busby, a highly-respected independent publisher.  I will always remember my first meeting with them, being so warmly welcomed at their Soho offices which were filled from floor to ceiling with pristine novels – it was like stepping into a film, in which I played the role of ‘novelist’.  They’ve always been super-enthusiastic about my book and supported me with editing, copy-editing and proof reading. I was quite a novice at social media and got useful advice about using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and (much to my teenage son’s amusement) TikTok.  They hired a brilliant external publicist, who helped me get blog tours, interviews and articles.  They’ve managed all the book production and promotion side of things, but they’ve welcomed discussion about title, front-cover and publicity, thus employing their considerable knowledge and experience, while indulging my megalomania. The self-imposed pressure is good IF I use it constructively to learn more, work harder and open up new possibilities. JW: Has the experience of writing your second novel been different to that of the first? Have you felt any pressure? LW: I feel a gargantuan pressure to write an even better second book and to get an even bigger financial and PR deal.  The self-imposed pressure is good IF I use it constructively to learn more, work harder and open up new possibilities.  But the imagined pressure that I conjure up from friends, agents and publishers is ridiculous.  I have to constantly remind myself that nobody outside of me really cares two hoots about what I do. Writing a second book should theoretically be easier as I’ve gained skills from writing my first one.  But as the achievement escalator I’m on reaches the top of any writing aim, as soon as I’ve blinked, I find myself back at the bottom of a new escalator.  Writing feels like juggling water, never like a solid skill that I’ve mastered, but as long as I keep writing then I’m progressing. Sometimes I kid myself that writing my first novel was easier than writing my second, because I knew less about the enormity of the job and the possibilities of failure.  But that’s such tosh. It’s so easy to look back with rose-tinted spectacles.  I once googled an ex-boyfriend I was remembering fondly and discovered that he was in prison!  That’s obviously the start of another novel – but the point is, wherever you are in the writing process, you are where you are and all you can do is keep on trying.   I will keep learning more, writing more and hopefully publishing more.   Because I want to cocoon myself in my private little world of writing.  And because I want massive world acclaim. About Liz Liz Webb originally trained as a classical ballet dancer but had to give up following a back injury. She then worked as a secretary at the British Library whilst going to night school at the City Lit to get into Oxford University at age 23. After graduating, she worked as a stationery shop manager, an art model, a cocktail waitress, stand-up comic, voice-over artist, script editor, and radio drama producer before becoming a novelist.   Liz was a stand-up comic for ten years performing at clubs across the UK and at festivals in Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leicester and Cardiff. She also worked for fourteen years as a prolific radio drama producer for the BBC and independent radio production companies. Liz lives in North London with her husband, son and serial killer cat Freddie.  Follow Liz on Twitter @lizwebbauthor Visit Liz\'s website here.

How To Edit A Book: Your Guide To All Things Editing

If you Google the phrase “the best writing is rewriting” you’ll find no agreement about who said it first. Hemingway,  Robert Graves, and Truman Capote are just three of the famous candidates. But that doesn’t matter. What does count is the way this quote resonates. When it comes to the importance of book editing, there is near universal consensus. It’s an indispensable part of the writing process and it’s where much of the best work is done. This guide will help explain why editing is so important, how to edit effectively, and the ins and outs of editing a book for publishing  - whether that be with a traditional publisher or self-publishing.   Why Is Editing Important? Writing a book is one thing. Reading a book is something different. It’s manuscript editing that creates the bridge between those two processes. It’s in editing a book that you make sure you are actually saying what you want to say and saying it in the right way. It’s where you get to weigh your words, and make sure they all have the desired impact. It’s where you get to see and remove obstacles between those words and your readers. It’s where you get a chance to enable your book to become the best possible version of itself. It’s where you can turn a book from good to great.   Which all sounds wonderful. But let’s not pretend it’s always easy or straightforward. It’s also where you will make some of the most important and difficult decisions about your work. It is necessarily challenging, painstaking, time consuming and difficult.   Fortunately, there are things you can do to make this process easier and more effective. Let’s get to those now.  The Main Ways To Edit Your Book The first thing to know is that there is more than one way to edit a book. Here are some of the best methods: Editing With A Publisher Or Agent If you’re lucky enough to be picked up by an agent or traditional publisher, you will hopefully get input from a professional who will help get your book ready for the commercial market.  This is the gold standard, in many ways, when it comes to editing a book for publishing. It is a unique relationship because it’s between people who have a special stake in the work in question. However, it’s not the only way to produce results - and often quite a bit of editing goes into a book before it gets through to agents and publishers.   Beta Readers Sometimes a trusted friend or fellow writer can provide that second pair of eyes you need to help you see the things you are missing in your book - and also to give you that crucial insight into how it feels to read your book. It can be extremely helpful - although it can also get complicated and it’s important to find the mix of advice and support that works for you. (Try our guide for all the ins and outs of using beta readers, as well as some useful tips on how to approach the process.)   Editing With A Paid Industry Professional Many writers find it extremely helpful to hire an independent industry professional to give them a detailed and honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses in their work via organisations like ours (access our editorial services here). The advantages of getting this kind of insight into your work speak for themselves. It can be difficult to decide which editorial service to use, which is where our article about the different types of editing and how to choose between them comes in handy. This article also makes the crucial point that “the right time for editorial input is generally: as late as possible.” You’ll get the most out of an external editor after you have taken your book as far as you can yourself. It’s really important that before you bring someone else in, you make sure you know your book inside out and have taken it as far as you can. Make sure, in short, that you have done the crucial work of self-editing first. The rest of this article will predominantly focus on this part of the process - but some tips will also apply to the other editing methods.  Self-Editing This - as the name suggests- is the part of the process that you can do for yourself. Let’s look at it in more detail now.  How To Edit Your Book The truth is that there’s no one way to edit your book. If I were to tell you that you can map out every part of the process and systematically tick off every aspect of editing a book by following a simple formula, I would be lying. In fact, the very best guide to how do edit your book is very often your book itself. Which is to say, you have to try to tailor the work you do according to the needs of your manuscript. You need to look carefully at what’s in front of you and take it from there. But there are still several important steps that you can and should follow to make sure you maximise the potential of your writing.   Take Time Away From Your Book The first thing to do is nothing. Set your book aside. Give yourself time away from the book so that you can come to it afresh and begin to be able to see the wood, as well as the trees. And perhaps even the path you will need to take through the forest… One of the key elements in editing a book is seeing it clearly. It’s hard to do that when you’re still in writing mode and still in the midst of all those thoughts that crowd around as you get down your first draft.  Format Your Manuscript This feels like a very basic step, but it’s important. When you present your book to agents and editors you want it to be as clear and clean looking as possible. And this is also a good part of that process of helping you to see your words anew. If you have them laid out regularly, in a new font, newly double-spaced and with page numbers your own read through of your work will be more productive - and you will hopefully see your words with different clarity.  Fix Your Spelling And Grammar Again, this is an important job for when it comes to presenting your book to other readers. You want them concentrating on what you want to say, rather than tripping over mistakes and falling into needless confusion. Reading through with an eye on spelling and grammar rather than all the other questions relating to how to edit a book will also again help you see and think about your work in a new way and spot things you might not otherwise have noticed.   Read Your Book I know this sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many people don’t carry out this part of the process. It is clearly a key part of how to edit your novel - but before we get too scornful of those who don’t carry it out, I actually understand why so many writers are reticent here. Much as hearing the sound of your own voice can be painful, reading your words on the page can be discomforting. Once you get to the end of a draft it’s also hard not to feel exhausted - and like you already know your book inside out. But you’ll be surprised at just how many surprises your work can contain. And how different a book can feel when you actually sit and read it from front to back. So do it. Try to put yourself in the position of an editor or first reader encountering your work for the first time and think about the things that will jump out at them. Resist the urge to dig in too deep at this stage. Save the big rewrites for later -  although do make marks and comments and keep a list of things that jump out at you.   Attend To The Big Things: Voice, Structure, And Character There are several, important basic questions you can ask yourself when you’re approaching the challenge of how to edit a novel. Of course, editing books is an art rather than a science so these won’t apply universally, but even if they don’t, it may be useful to think about why they don’t matter in your work and what that means about what you should be doing.   Think About Voice There are certain questions you can ask yourself when thinking about your use of voice. Do I know what I want to say, and am I saying it in the most precise, clear and evocative way? Am I using my narrative voice as fully as I can, and have I captured other people’s accurately? Have I got the right voice for the story I’m telling?   Think About Character There are lots of things to consider in terms of your characters and how you\'ve shaped and developed them in your book. Here are some questions you can ask yourself: Are my characters well drawn and convincing both to me and my readers? Do these characters have weight in the world? Can I recognise them as soon as they enter a scene? What about characters\' voices, either in dialogue or when looking at the world from their point of view? Do my characters all have unique voices?   Think About Structure There are lots of questions you can ask yourself when you\'re editing/examining the structure of your book, too. Is my structure working properly, with a good beginning, middle and end? Does it all flow and add up to something? Is it told in the clearest way possible? Does the chronology make sense and is it easy to follow?    Get Down To The Nitty Gritty: Sentences When you\'re editing at the sentence level there are even more things to consider and questions you can ask yourself. Are the words and images I’m using fresh and vibrant? Have I avoided cliché? Am I engaging my readers’ senses of smell, touch, taste, sound and vision in the right way? Am I tagging every verb with an adverb, and every noun with an adjective? (It may be that many are superfluous, and that with a bit more confidence you can cut them out and trust that your writing is evocative enough to get the point across without them.) Does every word, sentence, paragraph, every bit of dialogue serve a purpose?   Check Your Dialogue Are you using prose to break up the dialogue with things like facial expressions, body language, incidental details, internal monologue and physical and emotional responses? Is that working? Are you using lots of emotive dialogue tags, eg gasped, roared, moaned, grumbled etc? Most of the time, you’ll find that it’s best to stick with s/he said which is almost invisible.   Read Another Article! Here’s a really useful alternative article on editing. It gets into the nitty gritty of line editing, increasing the force of your sentences, closing your chapter with resonance, and getting your rhythm right. It’s full of food for thought for when you’re really polishing and improving your work.   Print Out Your Book See how your work looks on paper. And then, that’s right, read it again. Editing a book is a slow, careful process. Sometimes it can be really helpful to have something tangible that you can feel and hold in your hands. And you can make it fun by experimenting with different highlighters and coloured pens, or physically cutting pages into sections and rearranging chapters or paragraphs. The Art Of Editing Before closing let me emphasise again that editing is more of an art than a science. The important things to do are to work with the manuscript you have and edit it according to its needs. Also always try to think of that reader you want to read your work. What do they know, want to know, need to know? What will amuse and entertain them? What will trip them up? What will keep them avidly reading until the end?   There are many different ways of answering those questions - and different ways of getting to the result you want. Self-editing will help you get a good bit of the way there - but do also keep an open mind about getting more help further down the line.   Finally, a bit more food for thought and a few articles that will also help you take your work further:  How to revise a first draft. How to make sense of proofreading marks. What is copyediting?  Developmental Editing: What It Is & Where To Get It.

Chapters In A Book: How To Structure Them Well

Chapter structure may not sound like the sexiest topic, but it has a significant effect on whether readers enjoy your story. As you strive to become a better writer, examining different aspects of your writing, perhaps you’ve wondered: How long should my chapters be? How do I structure my chapters and make them flow?  In this guide, we’ll talk about why chapters exist, and we’ll look at how you can enhance your reader’s experience by carefully considering the context, pacing, content, openings, and titles of your book’s chapters.  To start off, let’s look at a question whose answer might seem obvious: what is a chapter?  What Is A Chapter? The most simple answer is that a chapter is simply a marked division of a book.  The origin of chapters is unknown, but they appear to have developed around or before 400 AD, alongside the concept of a table of contents. In many early examples, the front of the book would contain a numbered summary of each chapter. The reader could then find the corresponding number in the body of the book.  In reference books, chapters are still used in much the same way. They form part of an overall indexing and organising system that makes the book more useful as a store of information.  However, in novels and narrative non-fiction, book chapters serve a different purpose.  The rest of this guide focuses on chapters in novels and narrative non-fiction. To begin with, let’s clarify the difference between chapters and scenes.  How Chapters Work In this section, we\'ll look at how chapters work, how they differ from scenes, what they\'re for, and how chapter lengths are assigned. Chapters Vs. Scenes Chapters and scenes are related, as they are both parts of a book, but they are not the same thing:  A scene is a part of your narrative, where characters experience certain events in a particular time and place. A chapter is a division of your book, marked by a number or title.  In some novels, chapters contain one scene each.  More often, each chapter of a book will contain several related scenes. In this case, the scenes are usually divided from one another by whitespace, by a typographic ornament, or using a transition phrase in the text itself—but not by a number or title.  What Are Chapters For? Unlike a reference book, you typically read a novel from front to back, often across multiple sittings. Chapters in novels support this experience in two ways:  Chapters mark appropriate “pause points”. These are moments where the reader can safely put down the book and forget those short-term details we normally hold in our heads as we read, like which characters are present, who just spoke, and so on. (A scene break can also function as a pause point within a chapter.) Chapter divisions make the story more clear by creating a space when there’s a change in focus, such as a change in viewpoint or location, a jump in time, or a new type of action.  These two purposes often overlap.  Chapter Length There are no hard rules about length when writing chapters. In addition to being functional, chapters in a novel are part of an author’s storytelling style and can be used in a variety of ways. But here are some guidelines to consider:  There’s no specific maximum length for a chapter. If a chapter is too long, you’ll probably notice that the pacing is slow, or that the chapter contains too many unrelated scenes. However, a long chapter can be appropriate for a climactic scene, or a passage that’s meant to feel arduous. There’s also no specific minimum length for a chapter. Too many chapter breaks can annoy the reader, or come across as precious or grandiose. If a short chapter has the same focus as the chapter before or after, consider merging them and using a scene break instead. However, a short chapter can be appropriate when the action is quick (especially when switching between multiple viewpoints), or when emphasising a specific moment that you don’t want to clutter with details. (For more detailed advice about chapter lengths, see our guide How Long Should a Chapter Be?)Remember that chapters are not scenes, so not every scene break requires a new chapter. When you keep chapter lengths consistent throughout most of your book, you establish a rhythm. You can then break this rhythm at a key moment to create an effect.  Now that we know how chapters work in general, let’s talk about how to structure them.   How To Structure A Chapter The structure is an important part of how chapters are used, and it can be helpful to plan out your chapters and determine which type of structure works for you.  When To Plan Your Chapters If you like to plan ahead, or if you like to write from prompts with word counts, you’ll do best by planning your chapters in advance. However, if you find that type of planning too constricting, it’s fine to ignore chapter divisions while you write your first draft. When that draft is complete, you can use your revisions to consider where to insert chapter divisions.  (Now, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t plan at all. See our guide How to Plan a Novel for advice on planning the broad strokes before you write that first draft.) Structuring A Chapter: A Method For Everyone Here’s a method anyone can use to structure a chapter. If you like to plan ahead, use these steps while plotting your book. If you prefer to write organically, then organise and revise, use these steps as part of your revisions.  Either way, this method will help you think about how to write a chapter by grouping and linking scenes, and cue you to whether there might be scenes missing that you should add, or superfluous ones you should (re)move.  Keeping in mind that every chapter is both a self-contained experience and also part of the complete story, consider these questions:  What is the reader’s mindset coming into this chapter? How intense was the previous chapter? Do we want to increase, decrease, or maintain that intensity? What changed or what did the reader learn in the previous chapter? Do you want to elaborate on that immediately (consequences, added details, reactions), or do you want to switch focus (give the reader time to ponder or let their curiosity simmer)? What was the emotional tone of the previous chapter? Do you want to maintain or contrast that?  What should the reader’s mindset be as they enter the next chapter? How will you set that up? Do you want the reader’s mind clear or preoccupied when the next chapter begins? What emotional state do you want them in? Will the next chapter have its best impact if the reader enters it excited, demoralised, apprehensive, …? What does the next chapter focus on? Can you prime the reader’s interest by planting questions that the next chapter will address? Can you make the next chapter feel fresh by avoiding unnecessary references to what it will focus on (“topic fatigue”)? What job does the current chapter need to do? What does the reader need to learn, and how are you delivering that information? Which events need to happen on-stage, which ones off-stage, and which are flexible? If you have a multiple-viewpoint novel, which viewpoints are available to relay this chapter’s events? What length is appropriate for this chapter?  As you answer these questions, you’ll get a good idea of which scenes should be included in a chapter and how they should be presented in terms of viewpoint, tone, and focus.  (Note—if you’re not clear on the overall plot of your novel, you’ll need to get that straight first before you worry about making chapters flow smoothly. See our guide How to Plot a Novel for advice and tools for plotting.) Two Kinds Of Bad Chapters Pay special attention to fixing two types of bad chapters: chapters where nothing happens, and chapters where things happen but nobody cares. If you have a chapter that’s not working, try these questions:  What is the most important thing that happens? Is the chapter built to support that event, or does it contain distractions and superfluous material? Does this chapter exist solely to let you include a scene that you love? Can the story exist without this chapter? If so, try deleting it. Does this chapter exist solely to move characters to new locations or otherwise “get them ready” for future chapters? If so, always delete it. You don’t need to announce location changes to the reader, you can have them happen off-stage and refer back to them with a single sentence. (“Mary touched down at LAX just as furious as when she took off. She’d decided to fly out the moment she learned of Frank’s act of embezzlement.”) Is this chapter an infodump? If so, try to delete the entire chapter by diffusing your exposition into earlier chapters. At worst, you’ll tighten it up considerably.Does this chapter handle its events in a memorable way? If you have a chapter that is focused and does what it needs to plot-wise, but it just isn’t that interesting, that can be a cue to think up a set-piece or a more original way of handling the action of this chapter.  Sometimes, deeply probing a bad chapter will help you to uncover deeper problems in your story structure. (In other words, maybe the chapter is bad because there’s no good way to tell it.) If a chapter feels bad during your early revisions, be a bloodhound and follow the trail until you’re satisfied.   How To Start A Chapter Starting a chapter can be daunting in much the same way as starting a book. Luckily, some of the same advice applies.  Below is a process you can use for any genre. As before, use it as a planning tool or a reviewing tool, depending on your writing style. Starting A Chapter- Reader’s Attention Method Think of a well-planned tourist attraction: its entrance is carefully planned to focus and guide people to ensure their experience is enjoyable. The start of your chapter can accomplish the same thing using these steps: (1) tell the reader where they are, (2) get their attention, (3) put their focus where you need it, (4) lead them on from there.  To tell the reader where they are, use a chapter title, dateline, or opening sentence to provide them with a mental starting point. You might tell them whose viewpoint they’re in, or where the scene is set, or something that’s just happened. This is the equivalent of the tourist attraction’s “Welcome to …” sign.  To get their attention, don’t think “volume turned to 11” so much as “shiny object”. One technique is to force the reader to activate their mind’s eye by giving them a partial image. Another is to engage their analytical mind by creating an open question. Either way, you’re demanding that their mental resources be focused on the story—if half their brain is still on their grocery list, this will help them forget about it.  Now put their focus where you need it. Do you want the reader to watch a particular character’s movements? Speculating about someone’s intentions? Thinking about a particular problem or mystery? Use the image or open question from the previous step to bring their attention where you need it. For example, if you want their attention on a particular character, your opening image might be of something that character is touching, or of an article of that character’s clothing.  Now you’re ready to lead the reader onward. Let the natural action of your chapter begin to unfold.  Starting A Chapter—Example Let’s create an example for a crime thriller novel. We’ll say our protagonist has been captured, and we want to set up a tense conversation between him and his captor, followed by an exciting escape sequence. We might try this:  Mojave desert, Monday, 2pm The pocket-watch was ornate; Civil War most likely. Jesse watched it swing from the brown suit jacket as the barrel chest paced back and forth in front of him, the voice droning on. Gold. Some sort of flowers or vines engraved on it. Diamond stud. Roman numbers on the face. Jesse looked up. His neck was burning. He hadn’t been able to loosen his wrists at all. McCallum was looking somewhere out on the horizon. Talking about loyalty and betrayal. Jesse was too dehydrated to focus on the details. Then McCallum stopped talking, and Jesse realised he could hear the pocket-watch keeping time—a dutiful witness to his final minutes.   Here’s how we developed our chapter opening:  We tell the reader where they are using a dateline, a common device in thrillers. The phrase “Monday, 2pm” tells us how much time has passed since the previous chapter. The fact that it’s daytime gives us the start of a mental image of the desert.  Now we get the reader’s attention with an initially vague description of the pocket-watch and its owner. Ornate, but how? And why is the owner above Jesse’s eye level?  Now we give the reader answers paired with more questions, focusing them on Jesse’s predicament. They realise that Jesse is tied up, kneeling, dehydrated, and apparently in mortal danger. The reader can see that the immediate concern of this chapter will be Jesse’s desire to escape this situation and that McCallum wants a final confrontation.  Now we’re ready to lead the reader onward to the action of the chapter: words will be exchanged, Jesse will attempt to escape, and the reader will anticipate the outcome.  This is just one way we could have started this chapter. Using the same method, we might instead have started with Jesse waking up in a dark, cramped space; hearing snatches of muffled dialogue; then realising he’s in a car trunk when it’s opened and blinding light streams in. The method is a checklist—your creativity fills in the blanks.  Now that you have a method for writing a chapter opening, let’s look at one final detail: chapter titles.  How To Write Chapter Titles The first thing to keep in mind about chapter titles is that, unlike a great book title, they’re optional! Plenty of books do without them, so don’t feel obligated to include any if you don’t think it enhances your story. If you do want to include chapter titles, think about what job they’ll be doing; this will point you toward which format to use.  Chapter Title Ideas If you want to tease or foreshadow the events of the chapter, you can use your title to describe coming events in an abstract or concrete way. For example:  Chapter 7: In Which Bertie McLannister is Shot, But Survives  Chapter 13: The Showdown at the Mill  Chapter 21: An End to Suffering  If you just want a distinct title so your reader can tell chapters apart, you can pull the title from a memorable piece of dialogue or description. For example:  Chapter 34: I couldn’t forget you if I tried  Chapter 6: The temple, its battered walls defiant  If your novel jumps among multiple viewpoints, you can incorporate the viewpoint character’s name into the title. (Alternately, you can put the viewpoint character’s name in a dateline. This can be a better option if you plan to change viewpoints within the chapter as well.) For example:  Chapter 16: Lucy  Chapter 16: Lucy’s Story  Chapter 12: Jack Carter: The Showdown at the Mill  If time, timing, or location are particularly important, your title can incorporate a date or time. (Again, this information can also be given in a dateline.) For example:  Chapter 3: Mojave Desert, Monday, 2pm  Chapter 3: A dutiful witness—Monday, 2pm  These chapter title examples show some of the most common formats. Other possibilities exist—you can use any format that complements the experience you’re trying to create.  However, be sure to stay consistent. You shouldn’t vary the format of your chapter titles unless you have a good reason, such as two viewpoint characters with different ways of thinking—perhaps one is always acutely aware of the time, the other attuned to their mood.  Crafting Chapters Using chapters with purpose will make your book (and your writing process) more satisfying.  In this guide, I’ve given you some tools for thinking about the context, purpose, structure, opening, and titles of your chapters. When you’re ready for the next step, one of the best sounding boards for your ideas is speaking with other authors. 

What Is Intertextuality? A How-To Guide With Examples

Finding similarities between stories is a rather satisfying activity. Intertextuality just adds that extra layer of meaning and a dose of excitement when we can see similar patterns in two different stories.   But what exactly is intertextuality? You know how we are influenced by certain books we read or films and series we watch or songs we listen to? You know how that influence seeps into our writing, advertently or inadvertently? That’s intertextuality. This seemingly cunning literary trick requires understanding in a little more depth so that you can use it as a deliberate tool to your creative advantage.  Ever watched The Lion King and thought ‘Hmmm…Simba’s story is somewhat like Hamlet’s’? Both Hamlet’s and Simba’s fathers are killed by their brothers, Claudius and Scar, respectively. And both Hamlet and Simba seek revenge on their uncles and take back their kingdoms, after being visited by the ‘ghosts’ of their fathers reminding them of their duties.   If you missed that, I’ll take it you didn’t read or watch Hamlet, and you wouldn’t be the only one. You see, we can draw parallels and observe similarities only by comparison. If we’re not aware of the older story being recalled, we might not see the intertextuality at play. This applies to writing too. Even when it’s our own story, there’s a very good chance our writing has intertextual links to some other work we might have read or watched, even if we’re unaware of it.  In this article, we’ll define intertextuality, go through the different types and forms of intertextuality, look at some examples of intertextuality, and explore how intertextuality can be used in your writing.  What Is Intertextuality? Culturally, works of art, literature, and music all derive from one another, and this makes for a thriving web of creativity. These works we weave all share a few, if not many, common threads. When two or more bodies of work parallel one another or reflect themes and/or plotlines from one another, it’s called intertextuality. Often it can be inadvertent, but it can just as easily be a deliberate device. When done well, intertextuality becomes a great literary tool in the writer’s kit.  Types Of intertextuality  Latent intertextuality is when intertextuality is used inadvertently. When it is used consciously, it is referred to as deliberate intertextuality.   Latent Intertextuality  Most writings invariably have some element of intertextuality in them, as being influenced by some of the things we consume is inevitable. When I showed the prologue of my love story to my professor when I was on a creative writing course, he observed that it had a ‘Rudyard Kipling feel about it’. It was one of the best compliments I’d ever received.  In my story, I animated the sun as an onlooker and referred to it as ‘him’ to show the reader the sun’s glimpse into the life of my main character. This is a pretty common way to refer to the sun in all Indian languages; in fact, we gender a lot of inanimate objects in our native tongues and it seeps into our English too.   Rudyard Kipling’s works were heavily influenced by the times he lived in – British India – and his own works were a product of that era. So, he’d have been naturally influenced by the native land and language. So, what was common between my story and Kipling’s works was the native language influence that brought with it a “come, come see this land” kind of vibe, as well as the use of description. I wasn’t aware of this similarity until my professor saw it and mentioned it. Besides, like I mentioned before, latent intertextuality can be easily missed if you’re not aware of the text your own work parallels.  Deliberate Intertextuality  Choosing to use intertextuality as a deliberate literary device is a skill every writer would benefit from. One of my favourite novels of all time is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This work has perhaps some of the most exemplary usage of deliberate intertextuality. Throughout the book, there are various references to real events of the time this story is set in.   An obvious example of deliberate intertextuality is when Max, the Jewish man hiding in the Hubermanns’ basement paints over a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, to write his own story for the protagonist Liesel. This is not only the character’s attempt at rewriting the reality from his perspective, but also the author’s own attempt at having his voice heard by the reader, albeit through a character. This is a clever way for the writer to let his presence be felt by his reader, when the story allows it.   Different Forms Of Intertextuality  Many writers choose to explicitly base their contemporary works on a classic work and this is an obvious way to incorporate intertextuality. Writers can do this through translation, form, parody, allegory, retelling, fan fiction and prequels.   Translation And Form  No two languages are the same and they often come with cultural tints of their own. So, when we translate a work from one language to another, even with most of the story being the same, the two simply read different. Another way this can happen is through changing the form or genre of the original work. For instance, the 20th century Irish author James Joyce’s novel Ulysses makes use of both these kinds of intertextuality. It’s an English rendition of the ancient poet Homer’s Greek poem Odysseus.   Retellings  Retelling is a skill by which a good storyteller can spin a popular (but possibly outdated) story into a compelling tale of the current times. This tool is one of the ways in which Disney tries to stay relevant with the audience of today. Take, for instance, the movie Brave, whose protagonist is unlike any of the other Disney princesses – wild and messy; or Frozen, whose princess Elsa is the first to be coronated and to rule as queen, without having to marry a prince; or Maleficent, wherein princess Aurora’s curse is broken by ‘true love’s kiss’ from her adoptive mother rather than a prince. These fairytales take root from their tried-and-tested predecessors but spring forth with characters and plot-twists that are more suited to the modern times we live in.  Parodies When you take a plot, writer’s style or even an entire genre and exaggerate it for comical effect, it’s called a parody. The Shrek movies do exactly this with the entire genre of fairytales. They’ve turned the ‘happily ever after’ theme on its head. They are literally all about ‘ugly ever after’, with Fiona choosing to remain an ogress with Shrek, despite being given a second chance to be a ‘beautiful’ princess. Littered with several adult puns (“Although she (Snow White) lives with seven other men, she’s not easy”), exaggerations (Sleeping Beauty falling with a thud every other minute, even in an action sequence), and very literal use of deep songs (Live and let die at the Frog King’s funeral), these movies tickle the funny bones of adults and children alike.   Fan Fiction  Fan fiction is a genre more prevalent on the Internet than anywhere else. Works of fan fiction are directly related to rather popular texts, but they are written by a reader and not the original author of the popular text.   As ardent lovers of stories, I’d say we’re all familiar with the pain of a story coming to an end, especially if it’s a series of novels. Readers of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer felt this pain when the four-book series came to an end.   One of them took to writing a sequel to the series on the web – a raunchy piece depicting what the protagonists Bella Swan and Edward Cullen might be up to in their bedroom. The writer, under the penname ‘Snowqueens Icedragon’, then decided to change the protagonists’ names, rewrite the plot, and went on to self-publish it. What happened next was unprecedented – it went on to become a phenomenally bestselling trilogy of erotic fiction in its own right! We know this trilogy as the 50 Shades franchise, and its author as EL James.   Prequels  When a backstory to the main story is provided as a standalone, it’s called a prequel, just as a progressive instalment to the main story would be called a sequel. Similar to fan fiction, prequels have quite the flair to weave intertextuality seamlessly into a story.   One such elegantly handled prequel is the Disney movie Cruella, which serves as a precursor to the 1996 film 101 Dalmatians. In many ways, it attempts to humanise an evil villain who’s better known for her love of skinning puppies to make ‘fashionable’ coats.   Uses Of Intertextuality And Intertextuality Examples  Deliberate intertextuality serves a great many purposes for writers. Here are a few of them:  To Change The Form Of A Text  When in fifth grade, I had to study an abridged version of Ulysses by the 20th century Irish author James Joyce. What I didn’t know then was that my copy was a watered-down-meant-for-kids version of an epic novel, which was in itself a translation of the epic poem Odyssey by ancient Greek poet Homer.   Ulysses is a great example of deliberate intertextuality in literature, where translation and change in form create a whole new piece of work, despite being directly derived from another known text. Joyce has structured his novel similarly to the original poem. However, the duration of his storyline only runs for the course of a day following the hero Leopold Bloom’s realistic life in early 20th century Ireland, whereas the ancient poem narrates the hero Odysseus’ decade-long mythical journey back home from Troy to Ithaca.   To Redo Or Renew A Character  The very allegorical name and character – Cruella – renders itself beautifully to intertextuality. It calls into question how much notoriety classifies as ‘cruel’ because this puppy-skinning villain from 101 Dalmatians is surprisingly fond of dogs in the prequel and only plays the part of a supposed dalmatian-murderer, whilst still using her friends to get what she wants, all the while being mean to them. The backstory of Cruella really makes us wonder what pushed her to be the heartless being she is in 101 Dalmatians, and even gets us to sympathise with her throughout the movie.   To Keep A Story Alive   The similarities between Bella Swan of Twilight and Anastasia Steele of 50 Shades of Grey are uncanny. They’re both young, awkward, lip-biting brunettes, who’re sexually and romantically inexperienced. They both fall for handsome, young, rich men with dark secrets – Edward Cullen of Twilight is a vampire, and Christian Grey of 50 Shades is a sexual sadist. The women are ‘prey’, the experienced men their ‘predators’.   Yet, despite such heavily similar characters and themes, EL James\' 50 Shades manages to stand out as a whole new category from Twilight. While Twilight can be read as young adult and teenage fiction, 50 Shades has a solid place in the erotica hall of fame. Still, 50 Shades keeps the love story of Twilight alive in spirit.  To Rethink Endings  The movie Shrek, and the whole franchise, parodies the very concept of a fairytale. This example of deliberate intertextuality shows how an entire collection of stories, even canon, can be turned upside down to set a new precedent for what can be considered a ‘happy ending’. Shrek is an ogre, not a charming prince. He’s sent on an expedition to save Princess Fiona by Lord Farquaad, rather than Farquaad venturing on the quest himself. And even though marrying Shrek means she’d remain a ‘hideous’ ogress for the rest of her life, Fiona chooses this fate for love.  To Rewrite A Narrative   Retelling popular narratives is a great way to connect with newer audiences. You have no idea how happy watching the Disney movie Brave made me. The story is a subversion of several Disney fairytales. Merida, the protagonist, is nothing like other Disney princesses whom modern girls or women don’t have much in common with. She’s wild, outdoorsy, hates dressing up, and has no interest in princes.   This intertextuality example is one where the very narrative of a well-known genre – fairytale – changes dramatically. In fairytales, external situations lead the princesses to their dangerous fates. In Brave, Merida sets in motion a series of problems, all by herself, and (unlike other princesses waiting for their charming princes to rescue them) manages to fix them all by herself too. It’s a very empowering – and modern – notion that girls and women, and people in general, are the leaders of their own lives and that they can choose to rescue themselves.   How To Use Intertextuality In Your Writing  If your readers can recognise and understand intertextuality, then their reading experience becomes that much richer. It adds multiple layers of meaning, context, and depth, making it a culturally complex and enriching experience.  Here are some ways in which you can use intertextuality in your own writing:  If you’ve been struggling to get a new idea, why not try rewriting a really long novel, perhaps an epic, as flash fiction? Imagine a 100-word long Lord Of The Rings. How about converting a satirical essay into a limerick? Think Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal in an anapestic trimeter.  If you have a particularly upright and moral character in your story, why not explore your character\'s darker side in a whole other book? This could work particularly well in the crime and thriller genre. But it could work just as well in a love story too if your protagonist has a prospective partner but that person has a flaw which wasn’t revealed initially.   Here’s how you could try your hand at fan fiction. We know how Death from The Book Thief collected not only souls but also stories. What if Death had also collected Heinrich Schliemann’s soul? He was the archeologist that introduced the swastika (then a Hindu symbol of hope and prosperity), to Germany. What if Death collected his story? How would he narrate it, connecting it to the events that occur in the timeline of The Book Thief? You could trace the de-evolution of the symbol from something interesting and hopeful into dark and terrorising.  Let’s say you’re writing a romance. We all know how most romantic fiction follow the fall-in-love-fight-make-up-get-married routine. How would you change this? What does a happy ending look like for your lovers? How about a parody of errors? What if their march to the wedding is full of what’s normally considered nightmares? This could come in right after the climax, to serve as an anticlimax before the ending. It could actually punctuate the understanding your lovers have come to after the climax, right before you let them have their ‘happy’ ending. You could use this to show how ‘happy’ doesn’t necessarily mean that there\'s no pain or problems.  Dark, brooding and stern men abound, in literature, whose hearts can only be opened up by bubbly girls or cheerful women. What if the man in your story is the bubbly, cheerful and emotive one, and the girl is the one who needs opening up? How would that go in your story? It’s certainly worth a try flipping this rather cliché of a character sketch of men.   Intertextuality: Top Tip   The key factors that decide what kind of deliberate intertextuality would suit your writing are how you’d like to connect with your reader and whether or not the reference to another work you make is relatable for your target reader. If your reader can’t understand, or even notice, your references, then intertextuality is a moot point, even if your own story is credible and complete in and of itself. This is especially the case in parodies.  The thing with intertextuality is that whether or not you’re aware of it, in all probability your writing already includes it. But if you can make it a deliberate tool in your craft, it can bring a whole new level of creativity to your writing and a complete other experience to your reader’s understanding. 

Internal Monologue Examples And Tips 

How do we convey the innermost thoughts, feelings and motives of our fictional characters to bring a story to life? One of the most effective ways to do this is through the use of internal (or inner) monologue.  An internal monologue is a key and useful feature in many styles of writing. It’s a method employed to give readers a greater insight into the main characters in novels, non-fiction, script writing and poetry. This specific narrative technique shows us how a character is feeling - often in relation to other characters and events within a story - and gives us a deeper understanding of their personality and motivations.  As writers we are constantly seeking to polish this aspect of our skillset to communicate more effectively with our audience, and for our writing to make more of an impact.   In this article you will learn how to write internal monologues, learn the definition of inner monologue, and read some interior monologue examples. By the end of this guide you will have all the tools you need to polish your narration - whatever its format and genre.  What Is An Internal Monologue? In literal terms, internal monologue is the result of specific cerebral function which causes us to ‘hear’ ourselves speak in our head, without physically talking or making sounds. This phenomenon is often also referred to as internal dialogue or our inner voice. It’s basically a stream of verbal consciousness that no one but the person thinking it can experience.  In fiction, inner dialogue is often written in italics so that it’s obvious the words aren’t being spoken aloud; rather that they are the thoughts and feelings of the character.   The exception to this rule is indirect internal dialogue (internal narrative written in the past tense). A stream of consciousness can often be a longer piece of internal monologue and so it may not always be written in italics, but its function will be obvious from the lack of quotation marks, and, perhaps, the use of thought tags.   This way, as readers, we have the true experience of ‘listening in’ on a verbal flurry taking place in somebody else’s head, although this literary encounter will often require acute concentration since such an outpouring of words doesn’t always make immediate sense, or follow a linear pattern.   A stream of consciousness is most effective in character-driven literary or genre fiction with a single point of view. It wouldn’t be impossible in other types of fiction, but it would be a challenge not to have a lot of head-hopping!  A classic internal monologue example (in real life) may be the way we deliberate a purchase in a shop:   I really shouldn’t buy that hardback book with the gold foil sprayed edges since I already have the ebook on my Kindle… On the other hand, it would look incredible on my coffee table and wow all my guests.   This excerpt of interior monologue reveals my own tendency to dither, and that I am easily lured into spontaneous credit card action when I find myself in a Waterstones store!   Similarly, when we want to share the innermost thoughts and feelings of our protagonist (for example) to evoke empathy from our readers, we might decide to breadcrumb facets of their past in and amongst dialogue and action.   You may have a character who, so far in your book, is very professional and cut-throat at work. But then, if you show their inner dialogue when passing a cute puppy in the street, the reader may suddenly warm to them and understand their plight of having to be a certain way at work.  This targeted piece of interior monologue can have a striking effect, helping your audience to gloss over something they might not normally agree with in terms of said character’s present behaviour or characteristics – because they can see the inner workings of their mind.   Powerful indeed…  How To Use Internal Monologues In Your Writing  When it comes to putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, interior monologue is used in two main ways - either as a soliloquy or a stream of consciousness.   The former would come into play, quite literally, when penning a play, so that a character can share their innermost thoughts and emotions aloud with the audience. If you tried that in a novel it may come across as a major info dump and pull your reader away from the action.  Alternatively, the latter concerns itself mainly with books - predominantly of the fiction genre. Once again, typically when we are writing novel-based fiction, we will either present internal narrative in italics (for the most part) or as a chain of thought, which may or may not be structured.  Let us explore some of the best ways to integrate internal monologue into our fiction. Here are 6 reasons why you may wish to add inner monologue in your writing:  1. To Shine A Light On Your Character’s Thoughts  The sharp contrast between dialogue and the powerful inner thoughts of a character can be shown extremely effectively when peppered sporadically and thoughtfully throughout a story, hooking us into the drama and mindset, making characters more 3D and relatable.  In the recent BookTok sensation, The Spanish Love Deception, author Elena Armas takes us inside the head of her female protagonist, Catalina, a lot of the time. Catalina is full of self-doubt throughout the rom-com on her slow burn journey to love with her quarry, Aaron Blackford:   Somehow, somewhere between slipping into my velvety fawn heels and the graceful, airy burgundy gown I was wearing, my head had started spinning questions. Important ones. Will I be able to find Aaron in the crowd? And also: Will he be okay? Will he get to the venue and find his seat? And the star of the show: Maybe I won’t see him until after the ceremony. What if I can’t find him? The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas We can see this works well in romance, but what about other genres?  In a crime novel, you might choose to accentuate your main character’s thoughts by employing a similar internal monologue, where the protagonist analyses the array of suspects without giving away her thought processes to said suspects.  In fantasy, you may have a wicked queen plotting her revenge on the princess. By employing dramatic irony via inner monologue, you can add a new layer of suspense because the reader knows what the queen is planning but the victim doesn’t.   2. To Reveal A Character’s Unique Point Of View  This is particularly constructive when we want to show the way a main character relates to both the characters who are in their midst in a specific scene, and those who are referred to by others.   Through internal monologue we get a true sense of relationship and dynamics, and emotions are laid bare. There’s a rawness and depth to this type of inner dialogue and often it can trigger our own emotions, evoking empathy with the protagonist, allowing us to truly feel as if we are walking in their shoes. Additionally, it’s a good way to breadcrumb a character’s traits and beliefs - as long as there’s not too much ‘telling’.  Roy Straitley, the curious Latin teacher in Joanne Harris’s psychological thriller, Gentlemen and Players, displays an inner narrative interspersed with random Latin phrases to dazzling effect. Harris translates these interior dialogue tidbits into English beneath the italics, and they give weight to our perception of her loveable but pernickety MC:  I have no intention of going gently into retirement. And as for your written warning, pone ubi sol non lucet. I’ll score my Century, or die in the attempt. One for the Honours Board. Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris Perhaps we have a character whose thought process straddles two or more languages? Inserting snippets of internal narrative in another language - ensuring we have had that piece of inner monologue checked by a native speaker, of course! - can really bring the point of view of a character to life.   But less is definitely more.  3. To Display Internal Conflict  When applied with precision and sensitivity, an inner monologue can be used to tug at the reader’s heartstrings, pulling them into the page so that they will root for a character who, until now, they may not have been feeling a whole lot of empathy towards.   Kenna Rowan, the female protagonist in Colleen Hoover’s contemporary romance, Reminders of Him, has recently finished serving time for manslaughter. Five years after her incarceration, she’s on a mission to be reunited with her young daughter who’s being raised by the parents of the man whose death she caused by drink driving:  “Do you think they’ll ever give me a chance?” Ledger doesn’t answer. He doesn’t shake his head or nod. He just completely ignores the question and gets in his truck and backs out of the parking lot.  Leaving me without an answer is still an answer.  I think about this the entire way home. When do I cut my losses? When do I accept that maybe my life won’t intersect with Diem’s? Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover When we work poignant inner monologue statements into our character’s mind, we can convey so much internal turmoil with very few words. It’s a simple but clever technique.  4. To Heighten A Reader’s Senses  All five of the senses can be triggered through the use of internal dialogue.  James Joyce is infamous for his use of stream of consciousness. In his novel Sirens he uses a flurry of words to great effect. As a reader we can practically hear the unique sounds of each observation. The cadence is mesmerising.  Bloom looped, unlooped, noded, disnoded. Bloom. Flood of warm jimjam lickitup secretness flowed to flow in music out, in desire, dark to lick flow, invading. Tipping her tepping her tapping her topping her. Tup. Pores to dilate dilating. Tup. The joy the feel the warm the. Tup. To pour o’er sluices pouring grushes. Flood, gush, flow, joygush, tupthrop. Now! Language of love. Sirens by James Joyce This is a very unique way of writing, and perhaps not something you will see a lot of in commercial fiction, but the clever way Joyce evokes the feeling and sound of water in this description.   If we are writing a work of fiction from one singular point of view, we can certainly employ the above technique, however, it is perhaps easier to use - and more commonly to be found - in poetry or scriptwriting.  5. To Divulge Self-Perception And Mentality Internal monologues can be used to help us gain a better understanding of a character’s state of mind. Thanks to the insertion of an inner monologue we, as readers, can finally see why they act the way they do.   In Hazel Prior’s novel, Away with the Penguins, we are given many glimpses of both set-in-her-ways, grumpy Veronica and laidback-to-the-point-of-being-horizontal Patrick’s self-perception and frame of mind. As grandma and grandson, this is an interesting and essential juxtaposition used with full effect to highlight their very different characters and backgrounds, helping readers find empathy for them both.   If the author had only run with one character’s smattering of inner dialogue, throughout the book, our impressions as readers would be very different. In this instance (as can occasionally be the case) the inner thoughts of both characters aren’t always italicised. This approach, however, is more common when using indirect internal dialogue and referencing the past.  Veronica:  I don’t deign to answer. Instead I examine myself in the gilt-edged mirror over the mantelpiece. The Veronica McCreedy who looks back at me is as unsightly as ever, despite the generously applied lipstick and eyebrow pencil. Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior Patrick: Grief’s a weird animal… It’s like this bungee-jump of emotions. You get jolted all over the place. It gives you this sick feeling in your stomach, makes you jittery and wobbly, plays havoc with your sleep patterns. I’m beginning to wish I had a spliff at hand. Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior If you are writing a novel with two (or multiple) contrasting points of view, getting inside the minds of your main characters and sharing their inner monologues is an essential move if you want our readers to warm to your colourful cast.  6. To Reveal Connections And Comparisons With Others  Another example of the effective use of stream of consciousness in inner narrative is when it is presented in the form of lists. This is a modernist approach to fiction and has been pulled off admirably by Markus Zusak in the literary masterpiece, The Book Thief.  Death is an actual character and a narrator in Zusak’s novel, intermittently categorising the elements of a scene. Death’s inner monologue is made clear to the reader with the use of different fonts. This seemingly random catalogue of concepts gives us a sneak peek of what is to come in the pages that follow:  PART TWO   the shoulder shrug  featuring:  a girl made of darkness – the joy of cigarettes –  a town walker – some dead letters – hitler’s birthday – 100 percent pure german sweat – the gates of thievery – and a book of fire The Book Thief by Markus Zusak As writers, we might like to experiment with this technique in a screenplay or script, where it can be used as an effective tool to set the scene as an internal monologue in the narrator’s (or indeed a character’s) head.  Putting Inner Monologue Into Practice  Compelling writing is full of internal monologues. The trick is to use it sparingly (or not, depending on your genre) and appropriately for maximum effect. If your book is written in the first person, this is a lot easier as the entire book is coming directly from the main character’s mouth (and head). But beware of too much inner chit chat if your story has many points of view, or you may run the risk of sending your reader on a wild head-hopping ride.  The more you play with inner dialogue and the more you practice using it, the more natural it will feel to include it in your narration and prose, and create a clear sense of your character\'s voice. It’s a chicken and an egg skillset: the wider you read and the more genres and authors you devour, the more you will spot its use and sense how it can be applied to your own unique work, and the more you will use it yourself.  So write your story with internal dialogue, try without it, and play about with tenses and points of view until your characters come to life. Are the readers inside their head yet? If so, then you’ve done your job! 
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