Jumping Through Time

A story can include one of two things: flashbacks or skipping to the future. We don’t think recommending the two is a great idea but if executed cohesively…sure! Why not! Let’s discuss.

Sometimes, writing flashbacks can help a story flesh itself out. Readers understand the plot better, the character better, ANYTHING! But what happens when a flashback becomes more than a flash back? Meaning, what happens when a brief moment takes up a whole chapter? Is that acceptable? There isn’t any reason why it shouldn’t be acceptable – other than not being written properly. Make sure flashbacks are quick and easy. They’re meant to be memories triggered by people or items or occurrences surrounding the character or plot. Here’s an idea: it doesn’t necessarily have to be written in the perspective where the character is brought back to a moment in time…but rather, induces a feeling, an image flashed in the character’s thoughts. Something like that.

Skipping ahead in time is also a way to get the story moving along. Readers don’t need all filler details and a story doesn’t deserve that either! A few months can pass in the story in a matter of words, as long as the reader is caught up with the characters and ongoings in their world, what else is needed? Questions should never be left unanswered, too. If they are, there better be good reason for it. Did something happen prior to the time hop that wasn’t resolved during the time not mentioned? Well, it better come full circle because then the reader will not be happy (they’ll scream, “PLOT HOLE, PLOT HOLE!” and write a whole review about how the plot hole ruined the story for them.)

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So, now that we’ve lectured about time and the relationship it has with your story – let’s build a time machine and have some fun!

Restored Faith in Literacy

 

Taking a step away from our usual posts, I wanted to talk about something I saw earlier this week that truly touched my heart in more ways than one, and shed a tear in the privacy of my own home.

Without getting into too much detail in setting up the scene (I know, I am going against my own advice on this one), I live in a very urban area by the coast of the Long Island Sound where houses must have sprouted from the ground like wildflowers. To set this up a bit further, my neighbor owns the home next to my apartment where he spent some time outside building what I thought was a bird house.

It’s not a rarity to see younger kids walking up and down the block in packs in my neighborhood, but there was one group that for some reason really caught my eye. One night, as I pulled into my driveway after a day’s worth of work I saw a  group of adolescent girls bickering and laughing with each other as they headed up the avenue. They were singing a song released before their time and one girl kept saying, “That song is so annoying!”

One girl held a basketball under her arm and stopped at the birdhouse. Her friends kept walking as she fell behind. I then began to realize it wasn’t a bird house – but a free little library. She peered in through both glass doors, opened it up and pulled a couple out to examine the covers, read the summaries, and truly admired the weight of the chosen ones.

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Her friends had made it a couple houses down and turned around to see where the girl was. They yelled down the street, “What are you doing? I thought we were going to play.” She held a book in her hand, closed the doors to the library, and ran towards her friends. They heckled her for grabbing a book, but she kept smiling down at what she picked.

In that moment – I couldn’t help but feel full of happiness and love because the universe restored my faith in the beauty of literacy.

– Tania

The Bedtime Book Club

blog reading in bed.jpgThe only free time I get to transport myself to another world within the pages of a book is in bed. Reading the right bedtime book is sometimes hard to do. I enjoy lighthearted reads before bed, but some people enjoy a good thriller to fuel their nightmarish dreams. Some prefer to read an action-packed chapter to tire themselves out. Everyone deserves a bedtime read – and now we have a way to get that book in our hands before resting our eyes at night.

As of 2018, HarperCollins UK has teamed up with the Heart radio station and Dreams, a bed retailer, to begin what will be known as the Bedtime Book Club. With the radio station broadcasting to listeners, the hosts will discuss a variety of HarperCollins novels, different themes, and genres to encourage reading. But just because the station is only broadcasting in the UK, doesn’t mean you can’t find your own nighttime reads.

If having a Bedtime Book Club isn’t reason enough to read before bed, maybe I should tell you why it can be important to get your nose in a book while under the sheets. It’s simple – if you want better sleep, read. You read me right. Sleep better. It’ll help reduce stress by distracting your brain from the life stresses that can get the best of you. I’m guilty of blaring my TV to help me fall asleep but it’s actually a good idea to read rather than watch. It’ll reassure your brain that you are at peace. And if you’re also like me, scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (whatever social media platform you choose), reading can help you concentrate better. In the long run, reading before bed can improve two other things: your empathy and your creativity. In a good way!

Reading is a powerful tool, so why not start your own Bedtime Book Club and start curling up with a good book to help rest your eyes and your brain.

Writing Revelation

Michael Moorcock:

“My first rule was given to me by TH White, author of The Sword in the Stone and other Arthurian fantasies anmoorcock.jpgd was: Read. Read everything you can lay hands on. I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction or romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt.”

 

I Know What You Read Last Summer

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It’s the middle of August and the summer season is almost over. Goodbye to having your toes in the sand; goodbye to having your hands on the beach bar ordering a fishbowl from the bronze bartender; goodbye playing volleyball on the beach; goodbye to the summer sun making sure your skin isn’t pale. This is a tough time of year, but enjoy it while it lasts.

Before you move back to school or start staying in on the weekends, enjoy the rest of the summertime on the beach (or in your backyard) with a last minute summer read to keep you dreaming of the sun!

  • Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan
    Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence,
    Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian Jetset; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.
  • The Island, by Victoria Hislop
    A richly enchanting novel of lives and loves unfolding against the backdrop of the Mediterranean during World War II, The Island is an enthralling story of dreams and desires, of secrets desperately hidden, and or leprosy’s touch on an unforgettable family.
  • Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty
    In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations [of] our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.
  • The Girls, by Emma Cline
    Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.
  • The Strings of Murder, by Oscar de Muriel
    1888: a violinist is brutally murdered in his Edinburgh home. Fearing a national panic over a copycat Jack the Ripper, Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Frey. Frey reports to Detective “Nine-Nails” McGray, local legend and exact opposite of the foppish English inspector. McGray’s tragic past has driven him to superstition, but even Frey must admit that this case seems beyond belief…
  • The Fireman, by Joe Hill
    In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

The Magical 7

A lot of the writing advice that I give on this blog can become monotonous at times. There’s only so many different ways I can tell you to edit your work, read more books, and just keep writing no matter what. I love when I come across different ways to present the same information to you. Because the truth of the matter is, this ‘stuff’ is really important. You can never be told enough times to edit your book one time or read one more book to understand your genre better. If something I told you didn’t stick the first time, maybe it will stick this time.

Business 2 Community published a creative article this morning about ‘7 Ways You Can Become A Better Writer.’ I really liked the way in which they choose to present the information. It’s fun, and let’s be honest, we can all use a little fun on this Friday- it’s been a long week.  🙂

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Take ONE course/class per year.

It’s true, writing is a personal journey. It allows for a lot of self-reflection that you can’t get anywhere else. But every once in a while, you need to work with other writers. Sharing your work in progress, reading it out loud, and receiving real life criticism (the good and the bad) is very important to your writing journey. You can learn a lot from a complete stranger. Many writing courses/classes can be expensive, but there are also plenty of free ones too- you just need to search them out.

Make TWO good beginnings.

The title of your book is one of the most important decisions you are going to make. It’s the first thing that readers see and most likely the reason they picked up your book in the first place. Make it count. If the title doesn’t feel right, then it’s probably not. The first few paragraphs and pages also need to make an impression. You want your reader to become immediately invested in your story. Give them a reason to stick around.

Read THREE books a month.

You barely have time to write, how are you going to find time to read three books? Trust me, it’s worth it. Just as you should always be writing, you should always be reading. I also really like what they suggest to read. Read one recently published book in your genre to keep up with the current trends. Read another book that has seen a lot of success and figure out why. The third book should be for pleasure- whatever interests you.

Do FOUR revisions.

Editing, editing, editing- it’s very important. As you write your first draft, you should keep an eye out for as many errors as possible. It will make your life easier in the long run. After you finish your first draft, do another edit. After the second edit, take a break and come back with fresh eyes for your third edit. For the fourth edit, ask a friend/editor/family member to read it through. I would highly recommend to do a couple more edits as well after this, you can never do enough.

Use all FIVE senses.

While writing, remember to use all five senses. You want your readers to feel what you are writing. You want your readers to be able to put themselves inside the pages of your book, right there with the characters. You want them to feel, hear, see, smell, and taste everything that the characters are.

Focus on SIX weaknesses.

When you go back and analyze previous works of yours, you should be able to pick out at least six areas that you struggle with or could use improvement on. Do some research and find some ways that you can improvement upon your weaknesses. Use what you learn in your next piece and focus on turning those weaknesses into some of your best qualities.

Learn SEVEN new words.

Make a point to learn one new word each day of the week. Chances are you are never going to use or say that word again, but you never know. One of those words might just naturally find it’s way into one of your books one day.

Write on.

 

The “Arc” of Writing

While on the topic of technical writing, I came across an article on Business Insider by Chris Weller that talked about Steven Pinker’s “arc of coherence” while writing.

As Weller points out, our brains hate to work. As soon as something becomes a little complicated or confusing, it’s not enjoyable anymore. That’s the last thing we want our writing to be, so we need to make coherent and smooth sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.

Weller nicely explains how writing works in simplistic terms, “Nouns revolve around verbs to push sentences (and thus ideas or plots) forward. These sentences then get strung into paragraphs. Paragraphs build sections. Sections build chapters. Chapters build a book.” Each of these sentences, paragraphs, and chapters are “arcs.” The idea is to fit each “arc” together as naturally as possible, which Pinker refers to as “coherence relation.” To explain it a little better, Weller says that “coherence relations are the glue that hold arcs together.”

Having successful “coherence relations” is the key to smooth, easy, enjoyable reading. You don’t need to blatantly show the reader what you are doing- just the words around each other, the words that connect sentences, and the flow of chapters needs to make sense. Coherence is all that is needed.

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But many writers fail to do this. Scattered thoughts, missing details, and dropped scenes make it harder for the reader to understand what is going on in the story. If you have to reread sentences, sections, or chapters again and again just to piece together what is happening you probably aren’t going to pick up another book by that author, you may not even finish reading the current book.

Good writing does take practice sometimes. Weller suggests that sorting out your ideas before you start writing helps this coherence to take place naturally, you want your writing to feel like “I am showing you something, rather than us figuring it out together.” Write On.