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Becoming Successful in Writing
It’s completely up to you! There is an advantage to do both. What’s great about magazine and contest submissions is that you have the opportunity to publish your work and it gets your name out into the public while you work on bigger projects, such as your novel.
This could work in your favour once you’re ready to publish your novel. Agents will be more likely to pick up your book if you have published work under your belt.
~ Anonymous, Timmins ON
Goal setting is a powerful process for thinking about your ideal future, and for motivating yourself to turn your vision of this future into reality. When creating a goal, I like to use the S.M.A.R.T method, which is a great way to ensure that your goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Once you’ve set your S.M.A.R.T goal, you can chop it into doable chunks. To write a book of 10,000 words, for instance, you may start with writing 1,000 words per week. After 10 weeks, you have a first draft and you can start editing.
Stephen Guise wrote his book “Mini-Habits” by setting himself a target of writing just 50 words a day. He argues that writing 50 words a day may sound like a low target, but that he could even do it when he was busy, felt tired, or had a thumping headache.
On a good day, Guise often found himself writing way more than 50 words—perhaps 1,000 or 2,000. But his target remained at 50 words. So, even on a bad day, he’d still write.
How do you handle self-doubt when writing? If you lose faith in your writing, do you push through, or start something else?
~ Anonymous, Timmins ON
Self-doubt is an entirely human reaction and we all experience it from time to time. Every writer has had that nagging voice in their head asking them if they are good enough or if their story is interesting enough.
When this happens, it’s imperative that you don’t give up.
You may want to work on another, smaller project for a little while before returning to your book, or you may choose to just push through until the end. Either method is fine, and we all have our own ways to handle the self-doubt, so you need to find what works for you.
Whatever you decide, make sure that you keep going. A writer improves their skill by writing. If you stop, you’re not going to get better. Your writer’s journey is a personal growth that should be more for your benefit than that of your potential readers. It doesn’t matter if your first book never gets published. What’s important is that you finished it, and you learned from the experience.
Allow yourself to be a beginner – nobody starts off being excellent.
How do you reach success in the writing industry as a young writer or a person without a formal college education?
Many of the world’s greatest writers like H.G. Wells, Charles Dickens, and even J.K. Rowling don’t have any formal college education in writing.
The trick is to write a great story and learn how to market it. If you decide to self publish, most of the marketing will be in your hands, so be sure to do your research. A traditional publisher will handle much of your marketing, but you should still be prepared to do your part.
If you want your book to do well, you need to write it well. Keep practicing and improving your skills. You can’t be successful if you don’t try.
Generally speaking, an unlikable character can drive readers away, but it’s not quite so black and white as that. The question you need to ask yourself is if your character is simply annoying, or does it possess some sort of evil genius that is important to the plot?
If your main character comes off as a whiny, spoiled brat that makes stupid decisions without any repercussions, then you may want to consider modifying their personality. However, if they are intelligent, menacing, and manipulative, it can create some great conflict for your other characters to work through.
It realistically makes no sense to have a story full of likable characters. This would result in boredom. You want your story to be memorable, and that means driving passions, even if it’s in a negative way.
Having said that, you still want to try and give the reader some closure on that unlikable character. Either find a way to make them likable or kill them off in an epic event.
How does your character make you feel? Use that as a guide, then rely on your beta readers to provide more insight. We tend to get attached to our characters and may not see them as less than perfectly written, so be open to the opinions of others.
Planning your Writing Project
The title is the first piece of information someone gets about your book, and it often forms the reader’s judgment about your book. A good title won’t make your book do well. But a bad title will almost certainly prevent it from doing well.
A good title should be attention grabbing, memorable, informative, and easy to say. Spend a few days writing down every single title idea you can think of. You can use clever or noteworthy phrases from the book, metaphors or symbols associated with the themes in your book, as well as relevant keywords. It should pique the reader’s curiosity, without giving away any spoilers. If you’re stuck, you can try Random Title Generators, or do a quick search of best book titles as a source of inspiration.
Revising and Editing
It’s important to understand that YA is not a genre – it’s simply the group you are marketing to. There really is no difference between “mature” and “immature” YA. It’s either Young Adult, or it’s not. There seems to be some discrepancy about the age groups that should be targeted, with some saying YA starts at age 12, and others saying they should be older. In reality, the age group is simply a guideline and you may have mature adults who enjoy YA novels as much as a sixteen-year-old.
It’s not your job to determine who, outside of the generalized age group, will enjoy your book. Stick to your market.
So, how do you determine if you’re writing YA?
The first clue is your characters. You want them to relate to your readers as much as possible and, since your market is mainly teenagers, your characters should be teenagers or very young adults, at least.
Next, look at how the story is written. What voice are you writing it in? Does it seem complex and full of wording and phrases that might require some research for the reader to understand? If so, then you are targeting an older age group and should reclassify your book.
The Writing Process
Subtext is the message you are getting without it actually being said. It can be applied in dialogue, detail, and even in foreshadowing. The point is to add depth to your story.
For example, if two street fighters met up in an alley and one of them asked the other to “dance”, you would understand that this doesn’t really mean he plans to waltz and the intention is to fight.
If you’re using subtext in detail, you would know that saying something like “the crooked man struggled to reach the top of the staircase” has a far different effect than “the spry man bounded up the steps two at a time”. We didn’t state whether the man was old or young in each case, but from our descriptive, we were able to determine that.
~ Anonymous, Timmins ON
There’s a few ways to go about this. By making a list of common clichés, this will help determine if you have any hiding in your story. If it does, brainstorm some ways to add your own spin on the trope.
To avoid character clichés, it’s best to avoid stereotypes (such as the high school hunk, the “nerd” or the Plain Jane), and give them distinctive descriptions.
For world building and setting clichés, I recommend that the area be authentic and that everything has a purpose. If there are dragons in your fictional world, why is that? How have they survived human onslaught?
Working with Plots
If written well, love triangles can add depth and offer a new layer of tension to your main story.
A proper love triangle is three characters who are all real, deep, and who the audience will be on the edge of their seat for when the climax comes. If your audience is questioning at the end of your story if your protagonist made the “right choice”, are split between the two love interests and/or feeling bad for the one that was left out, you know your love triangle was a success. A love triangle is cliché when it’s written cliché. If your story works by adding a love triangle, then I say add it in!