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The Five Stages of Writing: inktips from Veronica Roth

Posted by inkpopbecki on June 10, 2011

She maybe a debut author, but Veronica Roth’s hit book Divergent has taken the book scene by storm. Racing up the charts, it was a bestseller its first week on sale. So what advice does she have about writing? Write, write and write some more!

My tips involve a series of stages.

STAGE ONE: Word Vomit. (Sorry for the graphic image, there.) Just write. Do not reread what you’ve just written, even if you don’t remember it and you want to check it for the sake of consistency. Don’t do it! You will be tempted to edit, and pre-draft-finish editing is the enemy of writing progress.

STAGE TWO: Let it sit for awhile. This is a good time for you to reconnect with friends and family you may have neglected while writing, and to recharge your writer batteries, so to speak. Not writing is as important as writing—go out into the world and remember how interesting it, and the people in it, are.

STAGE THREE: Reread, and make notes. I prefer the Microsoft Word in-text comments, but I have also used notebooks. I try to write down big, plot-or-character shifting things the first time I reread. Like “remove this character,” or “the end has to happen differently” or “set up this huge plot element earlier in the story.”

STAGE FOUR: Rip Draft to Shreds. The phrase “murder your darlings,” (meaning: the stuff in your manuscript that you love best is probably the stuff that needs to go—and you have to be willing to get rid of it) has been important to me in developing as a writer. I try to make it a big, dramatic event wherein I save my old draft, copy-paste the text into a new document, and start deleting huge sections of text. It hurts, but it’s oddly liberating. The story can become something new now. Something better than it was before, something it couldn’t become if you clung to everything.

STAGE FIVE: Start writing again.

Veronica Roth is a twenty-two-year-old debut author and a recent graduate of Northwestern University’s creative writing program. While a student, she often chose to work on the story that would become  Divergent  instead of doing her homework. Now a full-time writer, she lives near Chicago.

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Editing a Manuscript: Inside the Editorial Process

Posted by inkpopbecki on June 8, 2011

So many of you have asked, what goes into the editorial process? Well as inkpop author Leigh Fallon will tell you, Carrier of the Mark went through A LOT of editing. Want to hear more or ask a real live HarperCollins Editor about publishing? Join us for a live chat today at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop forum events.

Until then, check out some of the work that went in to making Carrier of the Mark the fantastic novel that will be published on October 4, 2011

Eric performed two rounds of line  edits on Carrier of the Mark. These were the first line edits, done by hand. Line-Edits

The second line edits were done through  Track_Change.

Want to see more or want to find out more about the editing process? Psst a comment or a question in our  inkpop forum events.

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Writing from a Different Perspective: inkTips from Author Heidi Ayarbe

Posted by inkpopbecki on May 13, 2011

Are you looking at this week’s writing challenge and scratching your head. How can you enter the Compulsion Writing Challenge if you don’t know how to write from another perspective? Heidi Ayarbe, author of Compulsion, is here to help. Check out her tips for writing from the point of view of the opposite gender.

Jake, my main character in Compulsion, is the school soccer star, exudes cool dude fumes, and is hiding a debilitating illness. He’s living with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).  One of the most common questions I get is, “You’re a girl. So how do you do it? How do you write from a guy’s point of view?” Girls are fascinated I do it, and guys often feel exposed. And they’re ready to pummel the guy who told their secrets.  Generally, when we talk about writing from the opposite sex’s POV, we’re talking about gender identity – where a character falls on the scale between masculinity and femininity. The thing is, writing from the point of view of the opposite sex is something all writers have to know how to do unless you choose to have a one-gender book which, really, would be a bit odd. And, even so, in a “one gender” novel, you’d have a whole bunch of characters and personalities that fall on the masculine/feminine spectrum.  So instead of focusing on gender, focus on characterization – who your characters are

1. Dialogue: Listen to how people speak. How do they phrase their sentences? Do they get straight to the point or circle around it? Language and dialogue is key to creating a believable character. As much as we don’t want to pigeon-hole genders, it’s probably likely a teen male character won’t say, “Oh my!” Socialization, guys. We’re taught from the time we’re little how to speak. Speech patterns help define genders (or where your character falls on the gender identity spectrum). That said, your characters will have their own way of speaking.

2. Non-verbal communication and habits: How does your character move? Does she flop on the couch? Does he sit stiffly in a chair? Do they slouch or stand up straight? If they slouch, why? There are so many ways you can create depth of character by how your character moves. Movement can be graceful, choppy, brusque or smooth. Furrowed brows compared to wrinkled noses.  Fingernails tapping compared to fingers drumming.  Nuance is key.

3. Avoid “gender” stereotypes: Remember we’re talking about characters – people (that come from your head) – with depth and complexities. So writing Rambo guys and weepy, melodramatic girls is, to put it bluntly, boring. Think about your favorite characters in lit and movies, and I can almost guarantee you they’ve surprised you.  Pattyn in Ellen Hopkins’ Burned. Dulcie, the ultra-punk angel in Going Bovine. The tenderness of Rudy Steiner in The Book Thief.

4. Make your character good at something: Whether it be movies, drawing comics, photography, science, mafia obsessions, mechanics, soccer, being a good friend … make sure your character excels in something, something we can admire. This is a wonderful starting point for personality and character development. And this can become the lens through which your character views the world.

The key to writing from the opposite gender is writing great characters. Believable characters. Characters that you want to know, like, hate, admire … characters that surprise us, challenge us. Characters we’ll remember.

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Writing from a Point of View: inkTips from Author Heidi Ayarbe

Posted by inkpopbecki on May 13, 2011

Have you seen this weeks challenge? Are you stuck on how to create a unique point of view? Heidi Ayarbe, author of Compulsion, is here to help. Check out her tips for creating POVs.

Jake, my main character in Compulsion, is the school soccer star, exudes cool dude fumes, and is hiding a debilitating illness. He’s living with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).  One of the most common questions I get is, “You’re a girl. So how do you do it? How do you write from a guy’s point of view?” Girls are fascinated I do it, and guys often feel exposed. And they’re ready to pummel the guy who told their secrets.  Generally, when we talk about writing from the opposite sex’s POV, we’re talking about gender identity – where a character falls on the scale between masculinity and femininity. The thing is, writing from the point of view of the opposite sex is something all writers have to know how to do unless you choose to have a one-gender book which, really, would be a bit odd. And, even so, in a “one gender” novel, you’d have a whole bunch of characters and personalities that fall on the masculine/feminine spectrum.  So instead of focusing on gender, focus on characterization – who your characters are.

1.            Dialogue: Listen to how people speak. How do they phrase their sentences? Do they get straight to the point or circle around it? Language and dialogue is key to creating a believable character. As much as we don’t want to pigeon-hole genders, it’s probably likely a teen male character won’t say, “Oh my!” Socialization, guys. We’re taught from the time we’re little how to speak. Speech patterns help define genders (or where your character falls on the gender identity spectrum). That said, your characters will have their own way of speaking.

2.            Non-verbal communication and habits: How does your character move? Does she flop on the couch? Does he sit stiffly in a chair? Do they slouch or stand up straight? If they slouch, why? There are so many ways you can create depth of character by how your character moves. Movement can be graceful, choppy, brusque or smooth. Furrowed brows compared to wrinkled noses.  Fingernails tapping compared to fingers drumming.  Nuance is key.

3.            Avoid “gender” stereotypes: Remember we’re talking about characters – people (that come from your head) – with depth and complexities. So writing Rambo guys and weepy, melodramatic girls is, to put it bluntly, boring. Think about your favorite characters in lit and movies, and I can almost guarantee you they’ve surprised you.  Pattyn in Ellen Hopkins’ Burned. Dulcie, the ultra-punk angel in Going Bovine. The tenderness of Rudy Steiner in The Book Thief.

4.            Make your character good at something: Whether it be movies, drawing comics, photography, science, mafia obsessions, mechanics, soccer, being a good friend … make sure your character excels in something, something we can admire. This is a wonderful starting point for personality and character development. And this can become the lens through which your character views the world.
The key to writing from the opposite gender is writing great characters. Believable characters. Characters that you want to know, like, hate, admire … characters that surprise us, challenge us. Characters we’ll remember.


				

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Breaking the Genre Code: inktips from Kimberly Derting

Posted by inkpopbecki on April 13, 2011

Most authors will tell you it’s important to write in a genre and stick with it. That’s great, but not all books are that easy. Kimberly Derting’s Body Finder series offers readers a paranormal story with a bit of suspense. So what do you do when your genre is not so clear cut. Join us for a live chat today at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop Forum Events with Kimberly Derting who will answer this and other questions. Can’t wait until tonight? We have some  writing tips from Kimberly Derting to wet your appetite.

 

Trying to pin down the exact genre of THE BODY FINDER was no small feat.  It was a mystery/thriller with a paranormal spin.  And, on top of that, it was a romance as well. It was a paramystamance.  Yeah…not so much.  But writing THE BODY FINDER was a whole other story.  I never once thought about how I was going to fit it into a neat little box, mostly because the secrets to writing suspense are the same whether you’re writing a fast-paced action-thriller or a toe-curling romance. For whatever genre you write, it’s all about trying to keep your readers on the edge of their seats.

 

1)  Use the Red Herring approach.  Sounds like some sort of cold, dead fish, right?  Well, it’s not.  The red herring can be your best friend when you’re writing.  Don’t know what a red herring is?  Here, let me help.  Red Herring: something intended to divert attention from the real problem or matter at hand; a misleading clue. Think about it, you have to give your readers clues along the way, hints as to how your story will wrap up, but you don’t want those clues to be too obvious or you might as well just tell them whodunit and get it over with!  One way to make those hints less conspicuous is to use the “red herring” trick.  Just when you’re dangling a particularly juicy bit of information onto the page, divert their attention by giving them something even shinier to look at…something more interesting to focus on.

2)  Cast aspersions and doubt onto your characters.  This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to fall into this trap.  Make sure your “bad guy” isn’t wearing a black hat and your “hero” isn’t always riding a white horse.  Don’t let anyone off the hook.  Give your readers reason to questions everyone.  In romance, a lot of writers create love triangles to build this sense of tension for the protagonist, forcing her (or him) to choose between two romantic opposites.  Making the readers ask who will they pick?  Is he/she the same one we would choose?

3)  Ratchet up the tension.  How many times have you been reading a scene and you’re perched on the edge of your seat practically screaming at the pages—at the character—not to go in the room where danger awaits?  You know what I mean.  We do it with books, TV, at the movies.  But it’s those moments before the protagonist is wandering into dangerous territory that really get your heart racing and make you want to jump out of your skin.  Take the movie JAWS, for example.  The girl is swimming along, minding her own business, and suddenly you hear it…the music.  You know the shark is coming, but she has no idea.  You hold your breath.  You squeeze the hand of the person next to you.  You want to tell her “Swim!  For the love of God, swim!!!”  But once you see the blood gurgling to the surface, and the girl has disappeared beneath the dark waters, you already know she’s toast and you can breathe again.  At least until you hear that familiar soundtrack once more.

Take your time constructing those “moments before”.  Set the scene by describing the atmosphere, what they’re smelling, hearing, and feeling around them.  Think about the emotions the character is going through…is their heart racing?  Is their breathing shallow?  Give the reader some time to really fret over that character’s well-being.

So how does that same principle apply to romance, you ask?  Simple.  What’s really the best part of the love story?  I love a good kiss as much as the next girl, but even better than the kissing scenes are those moments before the first kiss (or kisses).  The close calls and what-ifs and will-he-or-won’t-he moments that have you leaning closer to the page and holding your breath.

 

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Creating a Paranormal World: inkTips from Author Cynthia Hand

Posted by inkpopbecki on April 6, 2011

Cynthia Hand knows a thing or two about writing compelling paranormal worlds. As a debut author, she was able to intrigue a HaperCollins editor so much, she sold the paranormal trilogy Unearthly on her first round of submissions. That is practically unheard of in the publishing world. How did she do it? Ask her yourself. Join us for a live chat with Cynthia Hand today at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop Event Forums.

In the meantime check out these helpful tips from Cynthia on how to create an engaging paranormal world.

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1.Do the research. For most paranormal worlds there is some sort of mythology and history out there. Most of the big best-selling books like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, etc, that have fantastic, creative and original worlds also have a very strong basis in real history and myth. Don’t be intimidated by it—dive in! Become an expert in the subject, really let yourself get into it and try to look at your topic from all angels—whoops, I mean angles. J The more you know, the fuller and richer the world you create will become. Creating a believable paranormal world is about the details, and doing the research will provide you with all kinds of beautiful details. Make it your business to collect details.

2. Follow your instincts. While you’re doing all this amazing research, let your gut lead you. If there’s a nagging little voice at the back of your brain that says that a piece of information you stumble over could be important, or that maybe you should look into this particular story or subject a little more, listen to it. Be curious. Go after what interests you, not just in a little way, but in a big way, because if something is super interesting to you, chances are that it will be interesting to everybody else, too.

3. Ditch the research. At some point you will have to push out on your own. Don’t let the information you’ve gathered confine you—break away. Take what you want from the research and abandon the rest. What will make your paranormal world successful is ultimately not about the fact-gathering you’ve done, but about your own unique vision. That’s why there can be ten great vampire novels out there or why so many writers can get away with retelling the story of Cinderella; even if the story’s been told before or we’re familiar with the subject, you, as a writer, can make it new. It’s all about your creativity, your twist, your fresh take.

4. Don’t forget the real world. Maybe the biggest, most important tip I can give you in creating a paranormal world is to put as much focus (if not more) on the real world of your story as you put on the supernatural world. When we are immersed in a real world that feels true and visceral and er, real, then it is easier for us to believe the aspects of your story that defy belief. A good story is not just about the flashy special effects—it’s about the people, and you want your people to live in as real an environment as possible. Practice restraint with your crazy supernatural stuff and think instead about what your main character eats for breakfast. (My main character, Clara, is a fan of Cheerios with banana slices.) Again, this is about the details.

5. And finally, have fun with it. Let yourself play! This is the fun part of being a writer!

Want to read more about the Unearthyly series? Check out Unearthly at HarperTeen.

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Interest, Research and Personality: Writing Tips from Ellen Schreiber

Posted by inkpopbecki on March 30, 2011

Ellen Schreiber is the author of the bestselling series Vampire Kisses and the recently released new series Once in a Full Moon. Clearly this is an author who knows writing. Want to hear from bestselling author Ellen Schreiber? Join our live chat today at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop forum events . In the mean time check out these writing tips.

1. Write what you’d like to read. Pick characters that are of interest to you and they will flow much easier when writing about them.

2. Research can help. The internet, library, etc. can give you ideas into folklore and what has been passed down from generations and cultures. You can incorporate these ideas into your story.

3. Make the characters your own. What is special about your paranormal characters and what do they have to say about their situations and circumstances? Use your own take on them to bring originality to your work.

4. Have fun! Whatever you write about, you should always enjoy the process of writing. Sure there might be stumbling blocks, but being creative should be enjoyable and fulfilling. Always follow your passion.

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Writing Poetry: Tip from Poet and Professor Thanhha Lai

Posted by inkpopbecki on March 9, 2011

Poetry is a popular topic on inkpop. Whether it’s how to become a published poet or is alright to alter meter and rhyme to enhance a poem? Today we have poetry professor and published author Thanhha Lai live on inkpop to discuss the art of poetry. Join us in the inkpop Forum Events at 5 p.m. EST to speak directly with Thanhha Lai. In the mean time, check out some of Thanhha Lai’s quick tips on how to write poetry.

Writing Poetry: Writing Tips from Thanhha Lai

1.  Use as few words as possible.  First, write down your line.  Then cut one word at a time while asking yourself, has the meaning changed?

If not, keep cutting.  You want the syrup without any sap.

2.  Conjure up fresh, concise images.  Surprise the readers whenever possible.  For example, instead of: “He killed the chicken.”  Write:  “A red line appeared across the hen’s neck.”

3.  Say it, without actually saying it.  When conveying emotions, instead of outright saying, “She’s sad (or happy),” employ an image or detail that reveals the character.  Instead of: “She’s sad he cut down her biggest papaya.”  Try:  “Black seeds spill/ like clusters of eyes,/ wet and crying.”

Thanhha Lai’s new book, Inside out and Back Again is a  historical novel told in verse, based on the author’s childhood move from Vietnam to Alabama. 

Want to discover more about writing poetry? Join us in the inkpop Forum Events for a live chat with poetry professor and author Thanhha Lai at 5 p.m. EST

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Writing from Two Perspectives: inkTips from Walter Dean Myers and Ross Workman

Posted by inkpopbecki on January 21, 2011

Writing as a sixteen year old is a different experience than writing as a established author and adult. When bestselling author Walter Dean Myers and sixteen year old Ross Workman teamed up to write Kick together, they knew this. Check out their writing tips to see how each approaches the art of writing.

Writing tips from Walter Dean Myers
1. To write well, you have to know what good writing is: for me, this means reading good literature on a regular basis.
2. The time I spend in prewriting usually predicts if I will sell the book or not. The time I spend rewriting usually predicts the success of the book.
3. If the problem in your story or essay is crystal clear in your mind, the writing will be infinitely easier.
4. Anyone who loves the process of writing—creating characters, exploring the logic of a story or argument, and using language to convey thoughts and feelings, can become a successful writer.
5. Writer’s block is not a matter of having nothing to write—it’s a matter of not having given the project sufficient thought.
6. I can write a better 20 page story if I write 5 pages a day for four days rather than writing 20 pages at one time.
7. If, starting at the age of 14, you write two good pages per day for five days each week, you’ll probably be rich and famous by the time you’re 25. Okay, maybe 27.

Writing Tips  From Ross Workman
1.    While you’re writing, it’s helpful to have a thesaurus handy. I always use one when I’m trying to think of a better word, or a better way to say something.
2.    If you’re writing in first person, make sure your narrator always sounds consistent. I had to be very careful about that, as I wrote my parts of KICK from the point of view of a 13-year-old boy. Whatever point of view you’re using, always keep in mind that it should always sound like the same person.
3.    Don’t permanently delete sections of your manuscript that you don’t like. Put them either in a separate file or at the bottom of your manuscript, which is what I do. You never know when you might want to use some of what you wrote.
4.    Be willing to revise as many times as it takes.
5.    Don’t give up!

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History to Fiction: Writing Tips from Award Winning Historical Fiction Author Ann Turner

Posted by inkpopbecki on January 19, 2011

We know we can not change history, but sometimes we can re-imagine it from the perspective of fictional characters. Ann Turner, author of the new book Father of Lies,  has some tips on how to write historical fiction. If you want to hear more, join us for a live chat with award winning author Ann Turner tonight at 5 p.m. EST in the inkpop forum events.

 

1/ When I write historical fiction based on actual events, I have two threads to keep in mind: be accurate about the history and weave in emotional content which makes that period come alive.  Basically that means I use the person I was as part of the character I am creating.  For example, Lidda, in “Father of Lies,” is rebellious, independent, a free-thinker, acutely aware of dishonesty in others, and sensual. This could be a description of me at 15 years-old.  It is permissible to make some changes in the use of historical material, however, which I did in bending the time line slightly in FOL.  I noted that at the end of the book.

2/ Language is always tricky when writing historical fiction; you want to give a sense of authenticity to the period but to do it in a way that doesn’t put off your readers.  So although I did a ton of research into the period I write about (1692 in Salem, Massachusetts), I couldn’t really use the kind of language they spoke or wrote in.  It’s archaic and sometimes difficult to follow.  What I did do was not use contractions (which they generally did not) in speech, and to try and throw in the occasional authentic historical term for authenticity.  For example, Dr. Briggs (and who knew if he was really a doctor?) examined the girls making the accusations against “witches” in Salem; he said that they were under the influence of “the evil hand.”  I love that phrase, and used it in the book.

3/ I always need to think about how my character, set in a time before ours, is like people in my time: how is this girl like a girl I know?  How is this boy like a boy I know? For even though the people of Salem in 1692 thought differently about their world (such as believing in witches, certain that ghosts came to haunt them, certain that the devil surrounded Salem with his fearsome power), they shared many of the things that we care about as well: family, a secure household, dreams of a better future, love, and the beauty of nature.  It’s a bit like walking over a divide with one foot on one side and one foot on the other, balancing–keep the past in mind but also connect it to our time.

4/ Different writers have radically different ways of writing and thinking about their writing.  Here are some thoughts I have which may or may not be useful to you: I rarely know where I am going when I set out.  Some writers know the end of their book; others, like myself, set out on the journey, trusting a way will be found.  In “Father of Lies” I did know how it ended, but that is unusual for me.  Trust yourself.  Never give up.  Don’t get worried if you get stuck or slow down.  When I’m stuck, I always go back to the beginning and let the story claim me once again, get excited once again about my characters.  Remember how much chocolate chip cookies and strong black coffee can help the writing process.  Caffeine rocks!  Have a play list of music to write to, if that helps; my daughter has. Don’t be afraid to throw stuff away.  Sometimes you have to do that to move forward.  Nothing is written in stone.  And if you don’t feel like writing, do it anyway!  Don’t worry about being “creative,” but take your book out, read it over, make some corrections, scribble notes in the margins, talk to a friend about it, and before you know it, the juices will start flowing again.

 

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