From A Child’s View

I found myself thinking about book covers yesterday afternoon, as I visualised my unpublished books on the shelf of a book shop.  🙂

Whispering Caves isn’t finished yet, but I have always had an image in my mind that I associate with the cover.  However, Cat’s Eyes is finished and because of that, I concentrated on that cover more.

Later in the evening, out of boredom, I opened Photoshop and tried to put my thoughts into an image.  It was difficult!  When I went to bed several hours later, I had a cover that appealed to me, but there’s the big problem…

…I’m a lot older than the intended audience.

This morning, I left my warm bed and decided to research the covers of children’s books and I found From A Childs View: 30+ Creative Children’s Book Covers.

To me, some of the covers shown in the post look old fashioned (and perhaps they are).  The ones that appeal to my young heart are the ones with vibrant colours.  They stand out from the rest.  They scream “READ ME” and isn’t that what every author wants?

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but remember when preparing one that just about all readers do, so investing time into a brilliant cover is worth the effort.

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Research: Comparing Young Reader Books

no-fraidy-catfishy-field-tripCatKid by Brian James is a series for young readers – I’d say 7 to 9 year olds. I borrowed a couple of them from the library in a batch of books I wanted to read for research. I picked “I’m No Fraidy Cat” because the title reminded me specifically of one of our cats (who acts tough but is a scaredy cat through to the core). “The Fishy Field Trip” was randomly picked.

These books, of course, are way too young for me, but I wanted to find out what was being published for the age group. The books I read, there were also two others I haven’t mentioned here, were good research material. They were published by two major publishers – Scholastic and Simon & Schuster – and I found that they all gave the same results, which were:

1. They stayed within a single storyline, which were not too complex.
2. They spoke to the target audience, using words I suspect the age group would find amusing and would trigger copy cat usage (kids love to mimic things they love).
3. Most centred on two main characters. The other characters were only used to help the main characters and the plot advance. There was little information provided regarding these other characters.
4. They were quick and concise. No flowery descriptions in any of these books.

I had a few more books to read, but I don’t think I’ll bother with them. I don’t actually write for this age group – or I haven’t to date. Instead, I’m going to move on to the next age group, which is 9 to 12 years olds. This is the age group I write for and it will be interesting to see the difference between the two age groups.

The Lure of a New Project

If you visit a lot of writers’ websites, you’ll soon find a large majority of them openly admit to starting more stories than they finish. There are several reasons for this, but I’m going to talk about only one of those reasons today – the lure of a new project.

Yesterday, after a strong fight against it, I allowed the lure of a new project to take hold of me. I must say that the feeling is quite overwhelming and I can attest that the excitement of working on something new and fresh is what forces writers to stray from their current project. The writer has not stopped loving the old project; they just need a complete change of scenery. We do this all the time in everyday life. We change jobs when we start feeling bored and depressed with the old one. We seem to change partners at the drop of a hat these days. So why can’t a writer change projects too?

We spend many long months, even years, planning and writing a project (this is especially true when writing a series). Is it any wonder that we grow a little tired of the … well, same old, same old? To me, it’s not surprising at all. New ideas are always surfacing. We might write the idea down, but we will usually return to the job at hand. However, as the months tick by, the lure is more tempting and then…before we realise what’s happening, we have strayed.

Be warned, if you allow the lure to take you too often, then you will be one of the writers who openly admit to starting more stories than they finish. Do you want to fall into that category? I believe none of us do.

A serious writer will discipline themselves against the lure. They will set up guards to force the enemy back. They will build traps to stop the evilness from approaching their sanctuary. They will do whatever it takes to see their current project completed and submitted. That’s how a writer becomes an author. They submit completed manuscripts for publication, which is something you cannot do if you never finish a manuscript.

So, take this as a warning. The lure of a new project feels great. It’s exciting. It’s even inspiring and motivational. But if you give in to this weakness too often, you’ll never finish a project…and you’ll never become a published author.

The "RL Technique" J.K. Rowling Uses To Hook Her Readers

by Jared Myers

The “RL Technique” J K Rowling uses to grab readers by the eyeballs and forces them to re-read her books again and again.

I’ll show you how it practically gives away all her best kept secrets and how you can use it to keep your own readers hanging on your every word.

You’ve probably heard the stories about the kid who hated reading, picked up one of Jo’s books and now he can’t stop reading them. Maybe the same thing happened to you.

But did you ever stop to wonder WHY you can’t stop reading them?

I’ll tell you. It’s a little secret Jo uses in her writing. I call it the “RL Technique.”

What is the RL Technique? The RL Technique is a lethal combination of 1.) Repetition and 2.) Layering that practically forces a reader to re-read books again and again. Especially when the technique is used in writing a series of books.

Here’s why: Many Fantasy novels have few or no boundaries. The dialogue might be realistic. But the characters can do almost anything they want, because there’s always some magical spell that makes it all possible. (And that’s part of the excitement of reading Fantasy. That’s what makes these types of books such an escape for us.)

But this idea of “no limits” can be used as a cheap trick, too.

The last thing you want as a reader is to come to the resolution of a great book. And say to yourself, “Okay now, let’s just see how she’ll get out of this one.” And the author’s lame explanation is, “Well, there’s a spell that takes care of that problem.”

It’s a cheap trick. And it’s sloppy writing.

Jo’s technique of repetition and layering works better.

Let me show you how it works: You remember the first time you read Sorcerer’s Stone? And you remember the part where Harry’s at the zoo talking to the snake? But no one thought anything of it until Book 2, when we found out that most wizards can’t speak to snakes like we thought they could.

And I’m sure you remember the part in Book 2 when Harry, Ron and Hermione drank the Polyjuice Potion that turned them into Crabbe, Goyle and Milicent Bullstrode’s cat? (Sorry, Hermione.) But we didn’t think anything of it until Book 4, when Barty Crouch Junior used the same trick to turn himself into Mad-Eye Moody.

Well, that’s good use of repetition.

You remember the time Draco Malfoy went into Borgin and Burke’s, and wanted his father to buy him the Hand of Glory? And we didn’t see it again until Book 6.

You probably also remember the heavy locket that Harry, Ron and Hermione came across while cleaning Grimmauld Place 12? But we didn’t think anything of it until Book 6, when we started looking at possible Horcruxes.

Well, that’s good use of layering.

This way Jo forces you to go back and search her books for clues. And you can use this technique in your own writing.

In Jo’s own words she explained:

  • “[The reason Book 5 is so long is because] there’s information in there that you really do need to know otherwise people will feel cheated when certain outcomes happen.” [1]
  • “I had to put in some things because of what’s coming in books 6 and 7 and I didn’t want anyone to say to me ‘what a cheat you never gave us clues’. If I didn’t mention things in Order of the Phoenix I think you’ve said ‘well, you sprang that on us’! Whereas I want you to be able to guess if you’ve got your wits about you.” [2] And speaking of Thestrals she said, “If Harry had seen them and it had not been explained then it would cheat the reader. [3]

You see? Jo *wants* you to have to work hard to “get” her books. She doesn’t want you to be able to solve them until after you’ve read Book 7. But she has promised readers that the answers are there.

She wants you to read Book 7, see the resolution, and slap yourself on the forehead when you realize, “Oh, yeah; she did say something about that all the way back in Book 1!”

She’s compelled to write her books this way. Because it’s a game for her. And she doesn’t want you to feel cheated.

And here’s the good news: You can beat Jo at her own “game”…if you’ve got your wits about you go to my resource box now, and I’ll show you how.

[1] Couric, Katie. Interview with J.K. Rowling. Dateline NBC, 20 June 2003.

[2] Fry, Stephen, interviewer: J.K. Rowling at the Royal Albert Hall, 26 June 2003.

[3] Fry, Stephen, interviewer: J.K. Rowling at the Royal Albert Hall, 26 June 2003.

If you’ve got questions about Harry Potter 7, I’ve got more answers for you. A lot more answers. You’ll find them here at http://www.book7answers.com/t2-index.php

About the Author:
Jared Myers is a former Private Investigator who uses his puzzle-solving techniques to bring you hard to find information.

Other Related Links:

Harry Potter Merchandise

Harry Potter Books

How to Murder Your Muse

A muse is similar to a witch’s familiar, which is usually associated with a black cat. The cat is a companion to the witch, but it doesn’t do the work of the old hag (although it can be a pair of extra eyes, which I suppose she could find helpful). A muse on the other hand is meant to fill the writer with extraordinary ideas and help the words flow like the gushing waters over a waterfall. In other words, the muse is using the unsuspecting writer and is writing the novel through them.

I’m not sure I like that idea. When I finish my manuscripts I want to know that all that hard work is actually mine, and that I haven’t been something else’s vessel to get the work done.

To be honest, I’m not even sure I believe in muses but if you insist you do have a muse and you really want to be rid of it, how do you murder that pesky presence?

You could try to trap the little devil, but I haven’t heard of anyone being successful in this task. Muses are adept at hiding just when you need them most. In fact, they take great delight in playing hide and seek and will often disappear for days, if not weeks, at a time.

You could fool it into believing you’re not ready to sit down and write, because a muse loves to appear at those times. It knows the writer gets frustrated and annoyed when it’s an inconvenient moment and that gives the muse a thrill. The excitement is heightened when the writer has absolutely nothing to write on too. Oh, how the muse enjoys that.

I must hang my head in shame, because I’m not able to tell you how to actually “murder” your muse. I wouldn’t want the authorities knocking on my door and accusing me of being the mastermind behind such an act. I believe the best line of attack is to go the other way – ignore it completely. Every time it shows its ugly head, push it to one side and don’t listen (and you’ll feel a certain amount of enjoyment after doing this for a while). The muse, however, will find this treatment intolerable. A word of warning, muses have a temper and it’s quite amusing to watch them stamp their feet and shout profanities so you’ll have to keep your own amusement in check. If you are strong enough to do this for a prolonged period (a couple of weeks should do it) then the blighter will pack up and leave.

You see, a muse wants everything its own way. It’s not interested in your plans (especially fast approaching deadlines) and it certainly doesn’t care about the assorted ideas you have. The muse looks down at its vessel as being inferior and…well, to put it bluntly…stupid. The writer must do as the muse directs or all Hell breaks out. It’s that simple.

However, we writer types know we are not inferior and we certainly are not stupid. If we sit down and think about it carefully, we don’t need the muse. All the muse is doing is dictating when we can write and what we write about. We have our own ideas and once we rid ourselves of the fearsome muse, we’ll be able to write whenever we want…and what’s more, we’ll be able to write in peace.

How to Plot Your Novel

I’ve been plotting novels and short stories for some years now, but that doesn’t mean I think I know everything that needs to be known on the subject. Because of this, I continually borrow books from the library, or purchase them if they are being sold at the right price, to ensure I’m not doing things the hard way, or I’m not forgetting to do something altogether.

I recently borrowed a book called How to Plot Your Novel by Jean Saunders. It’s a relatively old book, but in this case the content is still viable. I didn’t read the entire book (and rarely do with this type of book as I usually pick out the sections of interest to me), but I wanted to share – in point form – the main items I got from the book.

  • Find a theme you are passionate about.
  • Know the kind of book you want to write.
  • Keep the proposed length within publishing bounds and plot your novel to appeal to the widest audience.
  • Create good characters, who you know well, and who have real motivation and goals.
  • Learn how to ask yourself questions such as “What if…?”
  • Scenes and chapters should be linked together.
  • Throw the reader a curve now and then, without relying on coincidences.
  • Don’t allow your story to sag in the middle by sustaining pace and keeping control of your characters.
  • Dramatic scenes need their calming counterparts.
  • End your story without leaving loose ends, and leaving the reader feeling satisfied.

I believe the points outlined above are common sense, but should be reiterated often because it seems that many books being published these days are not paying attention to these important details. Hence, the quality of reading is lowered and the chance of the author becoming a best seller slim.

If you’re a writer and you can place a tick beside each of the above, then you’re off to a great start. Naturally, there are other items that could be put on the list too, but these are the essential ones, in my opinion.

Grab Your Reader With Conflict

by Lea Schizas

No, not conflict of interest…not conflict within your being…but conflict found in a story.

What exactly is conflict in a story? Simple…a problem/obstacle your main character needs to overcome by the end of the story. Think of it as your engine that drives your car forward. Without one your car remains idle, collecting dust in the driveway. Give your car a super booster engine and you’ll be coasting the streets with no worries. Well, until the police stop you.

In a story conflict moves your character through various situations he must overcome. This intrigues and pulls your reader deeper into the story, connecting with your character’s predicament. A character needs to have a hurdle tossed at them, makes for an intriguing situation to find out the outcome. Without an outcome, there is no magnetic charge with your reader.

Before writing your story and making up your character profile, ask yourself these questions:

1- What will be the main goal my character will face and need to overcome?

2- Who will be my target audience?

The second question is important because it will help to focus your words and subject matter to suit the appropriate audience. For stories aimed at children, your focus will need to adapt to a child’s view of the world around them. Most of the time the story is told through the character’s point of view aged a few years older than the intended audience. For example, if you aim your story for the 8 – 10 age group then setting a story for a twelve year old character would be best since kids always like to read and associate with kids a bit older than them.

What subject matter can you write about for this age group? Middle grade readers love mysteries, soft spooky tales ( no knife-wielding maniacs, head chopping, blood and core etc, more suspenseful and ‘goose-bumping tales like in the “Goosebumps” books), magical tales (Harry Potter), even teeny bopper stories like "Baby Sitters Club" or "Sweet Valley High". These latter ones are suitable for the Young Adult market, too.

TYPES OF CONFLICTS:

Here are some examples of conflicts in some books:

– the almighty tried and successful ‘good against evil’ Think Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs…yes, these fairy tales were using the ‘good against evil’ method if you sit down and think about it. The wolves in both fairy tales were intent on overcoming their ‘so-they-thought’ weaker counterparts.

In the above examples, something stood in the protagonist’s way:

Harry tries to defeat Voldemort but problems and other antagonists along the way makes this quest difficult for him.

The Lord of the Rings finds Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring but evil and dark forces stand in his way, too.

Luke Skywalker in Star Wars needs to defeat the new order of evil, and he, too, faces many obstacles and characters along the way.

In each of these examples, these obstacles (new smaller conflicts against the bigger goal they are after) causes a reader to continue reading to find out if he’ll be successful, how he will outsmart them, and what change will this cause in the main character. Along with these obstacles, throwing in some inner conflicts alongside the outer emotions helps to cast them more as three-dimensional beings, for example:

Luke Skywalker deals with the knowledge he has a sister somewhere out there. His inner being and emotions help to make him more sympathetic, which eventually bonds the reader to him. The same with Frodo; his world has been thrown for a loop when he takes on the quest of the Ring…along the way he begins to doubt if he, indeed, is the best man for this job. Also, he questions his will power to avoid succumbing to the dark forces once he has tasted the Ring’s power.

Another example to show you what ‘inner conflict’ means:

Let’s assume your book is based on a police officer who mistakenly shoots a young child while pursuing a suspect. It’s dark in the building and the kid jumped out of nowhere with a toy gun. The police officer is suspended while the case is being investigated.

INNER EMOTIONS:

How he deals and is dealt by his immediate peers His struggle to remove the visions of the killing The emotional turmoil as he waits for the investigation to conclude. His dealings with the parents of the child he accidentally killed.

Throughout all of these emotions the one factor that will bind your reader to continue will be: How will he fare at the end of this book. The way you first portray this particular character in the beginning will be totally different by the end because of the various upsets he’s had to deal with. Show him as upbeat, nonchalant, no change at the end and you will lose your reader’s interest in the book and in you as an author.

Think of real life: if you had to go through a trauma as the officer in the example above, how would it change you? A writer needs to wear his character’s shoes and get inside his head to fully understand him. Write a story with a stick person and you get stale material. Write a story with powerful emotions and you have one interesting read.

THE ALMIGHTY ENDING

By the end of your book all inner and outer conflicts need to have reached a conclusion. Whether your character overcame or failed is not as important as making sure he tried to meet them head on. You cannot place a conflict (or foreshadow) without making sure by the end of the story some sort of a resolution was made. This is cheating a reader and they WILL notice, especially if one of those conflicts was the one he’s been hoping to see the outcome to.

About the Author of this post:
Lea Schizas is an award-winning author/editor and founder of 2 Writer’s Digest top writing sites since 2004. She is the author of the YA fantasy “The Rock of Realm” and the paranormal suspense/thriller “Doorman’s Creek”. http://leaschizaseditor.com

Other Related Links:

Conflict in Writing

Conflict, Action and Suspense (Elements of Fiction Writing)

The Muse on Writing

Publishing with Lulu

Lulu is a self-publishing company. Anyone can use this service and this is where I have a problem with self-publishing. If anyone can use it, then there are bound to be badly written books out there. Let’s be honest, it’s a fact that there are.

But…if a book is badly written, or if there is no storyline, or if the characters are two dimensional, then readers will quickly avoid anything else written by that author. They would have wasted precious money on buying the book, and most people don’t like that. Even if a real gem, written by that author, is released many years down the track it can easily be swept aside and ignored (even if it is published by a mainstream publisher). Once bitten, twice shy. This is a risk writers face when self-publishing.

On the other hand, good writers have been noticed through self-publishing. Some writers have made a name for themselves and sold thousands of books. They are often approached by a main stream publisher for publication of the second or third print.

And let’s face it, just because a book is published through main stream doesn’t automatically make it a good book. How many books have you bought that you thought were a waste of money? It happens far too often.

For me, as a writer, I dream of being contacted by a publisher who is excited about my writing, and wants to publish the book. That would be the ultimate moment for me, followed closely by the first time I walk into a book store and see my book on the shelf.

*Day dreams for a few minutes.*

As writers we think all that needs to be done is to write the story, but there is so much more to do. So many other decisions to be made. Writing is NOT easy, no matter what the woman next door thinks, or what your parents/partner might say.

I’ve always believed that for me the only way to go is main stream. I still believe this to a large degree, although I do think that things in the publishing industry will change in the future. However, I’ve recently found myself wanting to know more about self-publishing, wanting to experience it. How can I run something down that I’ve never tried?

And it is for this reason that I’m considering a new project for Scribe’s next year. The anthologies of past did not work out the way I had planned. That’s fine, I learned a lot from those projects. It’s just a pity that I couldn’t manage to get the stories published. Next year, the anthology will be different – completely different – but I’ll share that news at the appropriate time.

For now, if you have thought about self-publishing, but know nothing about it. Deborah Woehr is writing posts on her experience with publishing with Lulu. The first post, Self-Publishing through Lulu: The First Step in Creating Your Book gives tips on getting started. This post is followed by many others. I’m positive you’ll find the series interesting to read.

Being Invisible

Excerpt from The Business of Writing for Children: An Award-Winning Author’s Tips on Writing Children’s Books and Publishing Them, or How to Write, Publish, and Promote a Book for Kids by Aaron Shepard.

All at once, in the middle of the story, I “woke up” with a shock. For just a few seconds, I had completely forgotten I was sitting in a hot tent with a thousand other people – forgotten even that I was listening to Connie Regan-Blake. She had drawn me into the story so completely that I was aware of nothing but that story’s unfolding within my own mind.

That moment taught me that the height of storytelling – oral or written – is when the teller becomes invisible.

Part of becoming invisible is to engage the reader’s imagination with concrete images, as discussed earlier. If the imagination is busy enough, it will wrap the reader up in the story and draw attention away from the writer.

Have you read a book where this has happened to you? I have and I found that I felt that I was part of the story. In fact, I was part of the story. I tend to imagine myself as one of the characters and I ‘live’ the plot.

The difference it makes to the story is enormous. The pages turn automatically, the setting and characters move before your eyes. And before you know it the story has come to an end and you are left with a feeling of wonder…and disappointment because it’s over.

On the other hand, I’ve read plenty of stories where I find myself flicking forward to see when the chapter ends. Or I might continually look down at the page number to see how I’m progressing. Naturally, doing these things means I’m not right into the story. I’m distracted by the words, the author (maybe), everything around me, because something about the flow or plot doesn’t grab my total attention.

As a writer, being invisible must be a talent because I think it must be hard to do. I can’t say that I’ve tried to achieve this when I write, but I certainly would take it as a compliment if someone told me this happened to them whilst reading one of my stories.

Writing is like painting a picture. An artist uses colour to place an image before our eyes, whereas, a writer uses words. To become invisible, we have to pick the right words, a good balance with description and setting, rounded characters and realistic dialogue and action. It’s not easy, but can you make yourself invisible when you write?

Where to Start

As a reader, no matter what I’m reading – a children’s book or a book for adults – I always enjoy the books that start right in the middle of the action. It’s exciting! It makes me keep reading to find out who the characters are and what is happening to them. Yet as a writer, I sometimes feel the need to “set up” the character and setting first.

Excerpt from Writing a Children’s Book: How to Write for Children And Get Published by Pamela Cleaver.

Begin at the moment of change or crisis in the key character’s life. Don’t start with an explanation with his circumstances, or a description of where he lives. If you feel you need scene setting or character establishment to get you going, write it for yourself and go on until you reach an action point. This is where your story should start:

  • Start where the trouble begins.
  • Start on the day that is different.
  • Start where the main character comes up against something he can’t stand.

Don’t discard the previous material but feed it into the narrative as snippets as the story unfolds.

This is simple advice. Yet I feel that it’s the perfect way to find the best starting point for your story. I now know that I have to rethink the beginning of Cat’s Eyes.

I found this advice by using Google Book Search.