Tips for Using Foreshadowing in Your Fiction

June 13, 2017

One tool fiction writers use is foreshadowing (hinting to the reader about something that’s coming). If you use foreshadowing, you’re setting up an expectation with your reader and you absolutely need to meet that expectation before the end of your novel.

Here are some tips to help you make sure you create a good relationship with your reader so he/she trusts you’ll deliver what you promise in your foreshadowing.

  1. Make sure you’re working from a detailed outline that lays out these things: each character’s role, how each character affects the overall plot, and how each character ends up at the end of the novel.
  2. Be aware that you may decide to change your story as you write (one mystery author I know told me that one time the character she expected to be the killer simply wouldn’t do it, so she had to change the story). If you do change directions in your story, make sure you map out the change in your original detailed outline so you can see if the change makes sense with the rest of the story.
  3. Create a series of questions about your novel so you can critique it once it’s completed. Feel free to use these questions as a starting point: (1) Did the characters meet their goals or explain their failures? (2) Which destinies of which characters were left unanswered (if any)? (3) Which plot activities were not completed (things like a love attraction, a crime committed, etc.)? (4) How clearly did the plot and any subplots merge by the end of the story? (5) How well did things like dialogue, actions, etc. move the plot along (you don’t want to lead your reader down blind alleys or dead ends, which will only frustrate your reader and cause him/her to distrust you as an author)?
  4. Find a few readers you trust to read your manuscript and offer you honest feedback. Encourage them to share questions with you that they may have thought about during the reading. You, as author, know what you mean, know what you think, and know what you intend. Your reader, however, only has your written story to go by, so you’ll do yourself a big favor by learning about any holes in your story before you try to get it published.

I’ve written both fiction and nonfiction, and I think fiction is much harder to write because you’re creating the entire world the story lives in. You make a promise to your reader that your novel will be entertaining and worth his/her time to read. I hope these tips help you keep that promise. Happy writing!


Tips for Getting Interviews

May 25, 2017

Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, every good writer conducts research and one of the best research techniques is interviewing experts. But many experts are busy people, which often makes it hard to get interviews with them. Here are some tips to help.

  • Create a list of primary resources. No one person is the only expert on a given topic, so consider creating a list of experts instead of focusing on just one or two.
  • Create a list of secondary resources. Sometimes experts are reluctant to spend time with interviewers because the interviewer doesn’t appear to know much about the subject in the first place. Experts like to share, but don’t have time to offer in-depth education. Demonstrating you have background knowledge on the subject matter can go a long way in getting the interview.
  • Let the expert know how you intend to use information from the interview. If you’ve sold an article, let the expert know which publication the article is for. If you’re still looking for a sale, let the expert know you’re approaching several publications and will let him or her know which one is publishing it when that’s determined. If you’re writing a book, offer to keep the expert posted on your progress.
  • Show the expert your professionalism as a writer. Mention publications you’ve written for. Offer samples of your writing. Give references if asked. Experts don’t want to be misquoted. You can ease that concern by showing you’re a professional.
  • Make sure the expert knows you selected him or her for the interview and why. Most experts really care about their subject matter and want it treated with respect. Your job is to make sure it is.

Getting an interview can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding in many ways. I hope these tips help. Happy writing!


Are You Ready to Become a Writer Full Time?

March 28, 2017

As a writer, one of the toughest decisions you’ll have to make is whether to keep writing in your spare time or go into it full time. As tempting as it might be to go full time, be sure you make the effort to really analyze yourself and your situation before you do.

Here are some things to consider.

  • How much money will you need to earn in the next three years in order to do more than just survive? Can you make that much if you combine writing, teaching, speaking, etc.? Do you have income sources or savings to help you while you’re making the change to full time?
  • What is your worst-case financial scenario and can you live with it if you need to? If you can, for how long?
  • How large is the marketplace for the type of writing you do? How stable is that marketplace (example: there’s been a huge change in the newspaper market in recent years)?
  • How well do you handle rejection? Will you take it personally or will you understand it’s what you’re offering that’s being rejected? Are you persistent enough to keep trying after multiple rejections?
  • How many people do you know who are willing to help you understand the writing profession? To mentor you? To represent you (example: agent)?
  • How disciplined are you to work on your own? To do the things you need to do that aren’t so much fun (find markets, research, write query letters, meet deadlines, etc.)?
  • How well do you handle unmet expectations? Giving up perks (like benefits, regular hours, etc.)? Keeping business records (writing is business, after all)?
  • How flexible are you when asked to change something you’ve written? When adjusting your lifestyle to becoming self-employed? When expanding your circle of influence or researching projects or learning more about the publishing industry?
  • How supportive is your spouse or significant other in your decision? Your friends? Your family?
  • Finally, how do you really feel about not having a steady paycheck?

Only you can answer these questions, and I trust you’ll spend some time really thinking about them before you make your decision. Whether you decide to write full time or part time, remember that only you write what you write. No one else is you, so no one else can write what you do. Happy writing!


Reveal Character in Snippets

March 2, 2017

Today’s society runs 0n sound bites and 140-character postings. Few of us have the luxury of sitting down for hours to enjoy reading fiction. Instead, we claim our reading time while riding public transit, waiting for appointments, or at the end of  a long, busy, exhausting day.

Authors need to be mindful of how readers read. When introducing your reader to your characters, it’s best to remember what it’s like when you first meet a person. You don’t get that person’s entire backstory all at once. The longer you know a person, the more you learn about him or her. Here are some tips to help you reveal your characters in snippets.

  • Consider what the person’s name tells you about the person. Is it a common first name? Surname? Does the surname remind you of certain countries? Ethnicity? Is the first name a family name or unusual in some other way?
  • Describe how the person dresses (you may include jewelry choices in this also). Is the person in uniform? Casual? Dressy? Flashy? How comfortable does the person appear in that attire? Clumsy? Tugging at what he or she is wearing? Picking lint off a shirt? Wearing a wedding ring?
  • Notice how others interact or react to the character you’re introducing. Do you sense respect? Tolerance? Admiration? Frustration?
  • Listen for any speech nuances. Does your character have an accent? Speak with sophistication? Use street talk? The dialogue you write can help here.
  • Take note of the character’s table manners and types of food he or she prefers. Does the character know when to use a salad versus a table fork? Where did that knowledge come from? Does the character prefer finger food? Fast food? Fine dining? Desserts? Why?
  • Give insights into the character’s class status by offering what the parents do for work (professional, trade, business owner, etc.). Can also give insights into where the character lives or has lived growing up.
  • Offer insights into the character via his or her inner thoughts, comfort level in different situations,  personal strengths or insecurities, etc. Share what in the character’s background contributed to character feeling this way.

Your readers want to get to know your characters, but not all at once. You don’t know everything about everyone you meet right away. You learn a little at a time. So it should be with  revealing your characters to your readers. Weave the backstory into your writing a little bit at a time using dialogue, observation, and action. Happy writing!


A New Use for an Old Tool

January 25, 2017

Storyboarding is an old tool used to arrange the flow of images in film. It involves time (what happens first, then second, then next, etc.) and provides an opportunity to imagine and evaluate ideas for the project.

How can you use storyboarding in your writing? Get some post-it notes or 3 x 5 index cards (whichever you prefer) and determine your working space. You can use a whiteboard or poster board for post-it notes or lay out index cards on any flat surface (floor, bed, table, etc.).

Jot one idea about your book per post-it or index card (example could be Jennie hears gunshot, peers out her window, and sees person look toward her). Write another idea on a different post-it or index card (example could be Jennie’s coworker asks her if she was home when the shooting occurred in her neighborhood). Write another idea on a different post-it or index card.

Don’t evaluate your ideas as you capture them. Wait until you’ve got a bunch of ideas  (let’s say, up to twenty), and then lay them out in sequence so you can begin to see your story unfold.

You’ll find gaps that need filling in. You’ll find scenes that need fleshing out. You’ll discover new things about your characters, and may even find some that don’t belong in your story at all. When you find things that don’t fit in this story,  save them to use in another one you’ll write.

As you work, you’ll get new ideas, which means you’ll create new post-its or index cards. As you do more research for your story, you’ll get even more new ideas to add to your story sequence. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with ideas, take another look at each idea and ask these two questions:

  1. Why does this belong in my book and why does it belong in this spot?
  2. Where else can I use this idea (think book series, short story, etc.)?

These two questions will help you decide what stays in your book and what will serve you better in a different story.

What do you do when you’re done with your storyboarding? Use the notes to help get you writing. For example, if you need an outline of what happens in each chapter, use your notes to help you create your outline. I caution you, however, to not spend so much time getting ready to write that you never actually get around to writing.

Consider this new use for an old tool and decide if you want to add it to your writing toolbox. Happy writing!

 


How You Think Impacts How You Write

January 17, 2017

We’re two weeks into the new year, and it’s a good time to think about how we think. Why? Because our thinking impacts our writing.

Here are some things you might want to consider as you write this year.

  • Realize that people are your greatest resource and are available all around you. People write. People create. People examine. People research. We tend to look for people with common interests, common goals, common ideals. In other words, we like to hang out with people who validate us. How does staying in your comfort zone impact your writing? It helps you determine whether you’re challenging yourself enough.
  • Look for things in others that you don’t like. No one can be all things to you, yet relationships last for years. How can that be? When you discover something about another person you don’t like, try to figure out why you still work on your relationship with that person. How does that impact your writing? It helps you create more interesting characters and highlight differences in them.
  • Understand you can never change someone else. People change and they change every day, but they change when they want to, not because someone else wants them to. Look at your own life. You’ve made changes along the way, and you made them when you saw a benefit to making them. How does understanding that impact your writing? It helps you determine your writing schedule and goals. It helps you organize your writing and decide what to include and what to save for the next piece you write. It helps you motivate your characters or change story line.
  • Appreciate that people don’t like to be ordered around, but rather prefer to participate. Granted, there’s a place for authority and orders, but you get better commitment and “buy-in” when you invite or ask people to join you. How does this impact your writing? It can help you in your research, in your time commitments that take you away from writing, and even in your plot and characters.
  • Know that confrontation can be good. Conflict shows something isn’t right and needs attention. Can you think of any engaging story that doesn’t have confrontation or conflict of some type? That question should be enough to show you how conflict can help your writing.
  • Recognize that everything has a beginning and an ending. Today started and will end. This week started and will end. And so it goes with this month and this year. Your stories begin and end. Your activities begin and end. That’s not to say things don’t repeat, but each repetition differs a little from what occurred previously. How does recognizing beginning and endings help your writing? You can use beginnings and endings to map out chapters, character development, writing schedules, research options–everything!

I hope this list of ideas helps you keep up your writing for the new year. Remember, only you can write what you write because you are the only one who thinks exactly the way you do. Happy writing!


How to Turn One Book into More

December 30, 2016

As I write this, the holidays are almost behind us and it’s time to look get going on a new year of writing projects. One idea you might consider is writing a book that can form the foundation for developing other ideas.

One author who was genius at this is Stephen Covey. Starting with 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, readers still buy his books. His book titles are too massive to list here, but I’ll give you an idea. He wrote a personal workbook to go with his original 7 Habits book, a personal workbook for teens based on the 7 Habits, a 7 Habits book for families, a book on just Habit 2, and one on just Habit 8. Well, you get the idea.

Considering doing this yourself? Here are some tips to help you.

  • Create new editions of the book that are changed, updated, or both, and do this approximately every three years so readers know your new edition contains fresh material rather than being a simple rewrite.
  • Take an idea from the original book and develop that one idea further.
  • Explore other closely related topics your readers will be interested in.
  • Compile an anthology of what others write on your topic (articles, reports, etc.), and make sure you get permission to include them in your anthology before publishing.
  • Expand your original book into step-by-step workbooks to give your reader the opportunity to actually apply your insights.
  • Talk to people who have read your book about what other issues they want to deal with (each issue offers an opportunity for a new book).

The new year stretches out in front of you and offers you an excellent opportunity to expand your writing career. Happy writing!