How To Determine If Your Novel Needs An Epilogue [NaNoWriMo 2017]

Epilogues can be just as tricky as prologues can be. Why? Because you may not always need one.

Epilogues are used as an afterthought. They’re used to show the readers what happened to the characters after the big showdown and everything is resolved.

So, do you need one?

Epilogues in novels

Do you have something new to say?

If there isn’t anything left to the story, but there’s some room for a little aftermath, you can get away with an epilogue. Sometimes it’s nice to show off what happens to the characters after the main event of the story. Of course, it can also work so that readers infer what happens after themselves, but if it’s important and you feel it’s a canon thing that needs to be said, go for it.

For example, show the “happily ever after” of your characters or explain what happened to the world.

Set up the sequel.

If your novel has the potential to have books come after it and you plan on doing more, feel free to set up a cliff-hanger or set up a small plot point so that your readers can tell that a sequel will be coming.

Should there be a twist?

Yes and no. If there is going to be a sequel, you can get away with throwing in a small twist to get your characters thinking.

However, you need to stay true to everything that happened in the novel before. Don’t change any characters or major events that happened. That will only frustrate your readers.

Do you need an epilogue if you have a prologue?

No. While they sound like they go hand in hand, they do serve different purposes as similar as they are. Still, whatever you needed to tell in the prologue has nothing to do with the epilogue because time has passed and your characters have grown and changed. The before should be vastly different from the after so you’ll have to decide whether you need an epilogue or not no matter if you have a prologue or not.

I do think epilogues are great. I always enjoy reading the aftermath of the characters and events that took place. Still, they only work if there is something new to say or add to the feelings the readers already felt.

Then again, some things are best left unsaid.

Do you typically add epilogues to your stories? Do you like them or not? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!

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How To Write A Perfect Ending For Your Novel [NaNoWriMo]

Sometimes you know how you want to end your novel and you think to yourself, “How do I get from A to B?” But even if you have an ending in mind, it may not always work out that way.

Your characters have something else in mind. Your outline may change. You may decide to go a completely different direction as you write.

So, how exactly do you write your ending? Well, that’s something you have to decide as you get to it.

Ending a novel

Tie up all loose ends.

This is a must no matter what kind of ending you have. Whether you have a sequel coming up or you’re finishing a standalone book, you must answer all questions that book posed. Sometimes you can get away with leaving a few unanswered questions if it’s part of a more elaborate plot for a series, but you don’t want to leave your readers hanging.

Throw in a twist or cliffhanger.

Going along with the previous point, if you’re writing a series, a trilogy, or whatever, feel free to leave a subtle cliffhanger or throw in a twist at the end. You don’t have to reveal something huge, you can always save that for the next book and throw your readers right back into the action. But something small that will leave your readers feeling satisfied, yet eager to start the next book right away, should suffice.

Go back to the beginning.

I always find it cool when the author brings the story full circle. Something happens at the beginning, they go on a long, treacherous journey, and then they end up right where they started. Yet, they’ve changed. They’ve grown. They’re better (or worse) people than they were before.

 

The end… Or is it?

You can take this one of two ways – you can throw in a twist like what I mentioned above or you can leave an open ending. Be sure to answer all questions and cash in all those plot points, but you can leave your readers feeling satisfied yet imagining what would happen next. They can infer where the characters will go from there. That way the story will last for a long time.

It all depends on your plot and genre.

There are way more ways to end your novel, but it all depends on you, your story, and the genre. Still, some ways to end your novel that seem “wrong” can be “right” and some ways that are supposedly “right” can be “wrong.” It’s really up to your readers to decide.

But you can’t please everyone.

How do you typically wrap up your novels? Are they any other ways you can think of? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!

How To Write A Gut-Wrenching Climax [NaNoWriMo]

The climax of a novel is this big point in the story where everything either comes together in a way or comes apart. Big things happen and keep the readers wanting to read more and turning the pages.

The climax typically happens towards the end. It’s like the big finish before the grand wrap-up of the story.

Climaxes can be tricky. You want them to be exciting like fireworks to your readers. There are multiple ways to do this.

Climax

The climax can do a number of things, but here are four we’ll talk about today:

1. Showcase the internal conflict

There should always be something going on with your protagonist. Is there a reason they’re on this specific journey? What’s their motive for wanting to complete this story? What internal troubles are they having throughout the story?

During the climax is usually when the protagonist has some sort of epiphany or moment of truth about themselves. It’s a moment of clarity for them and most likely for the readers as well.

2. Showcase the external conflict

Similar to the internal conflict, this is sort of a moment of truth for a sub-plot or even for the major plot. Something can happen between two characters or something can happen between the protagonist and the antagonist.

3. Prepare for the falling action

The falling action is, basically, what happens after the climax. Something big happens and then what? Everything has a reaction to it, what happens next? When the protagonist defeats the antagonist, what happens? What about if someone dies during the climax? What are the consequences?

4. Allowing a surprise or twist

Anything I mentioned above can happen, of course, but what if you added something a little extra to it? Throw something from left field. You can either incorporate the surprise into the climax or you can build up to one final mystery and then throw in a twist in the falling action.

Overall, the beginning and most of the middle of the story is a build-up to the climax, so you want to make it a good one. After all, what else are your readers waiting for?

How do your climaxes typically go? Do you have any other ways you utilize the climax of your stories? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!

8 Tips For Writing A Mystery Novel [NaNoWriMo 2017]

I’m not writing a mystery novel for NaNoWriMo this year, but I’m sure you know how much I love mystery and that I do write a lot of it.

I run a Mystery Month on this blog and 9 times out of 10, I write a mystery for NaNo. So, if you’re writing a mystery novel this month, here are some tips.

8 Tips for writing Mystery

1. Do your research.

It sounds a bit weird to research how to hide a body or how long it takes a body to start to smell if left out for too long. Still, you should fact-check. Despite it being fiction, you should always have that little bit of truth in there. Know what you’re talking about and when your characters are investigating a crime, do the real world some justice.

2. Know your genre and sub-genre.

There are so many different sub-genres of mystery. You’ve got your cozy mystery, you’re courtroom drama, whodunit stories, and much more. Which sub-genre does your mystery fall under? Sure, you can mix them up, but it always helps to define what kind of mystery you’re writing about.

3. Keep your readers always guessing.

Red herrings are a lot of fun, if they’re used in the right way. Red herrings are fake clues thrown in just to throw the detective and the readers off the hot trail. It’s great for a “wow” factor when the real clue is finally found and it certainly keeps the readers interested.

4. Know the crime inside and out.

Whether you like to outline or not, it never hurts to plan out the crime before you write. If you have  a basic idea, know the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the crime. It’ll help you keep track of what’s going on, keep a list of clues and evidence. The more you know and understand, the easier it will be to convey to your readers.

5. Should your readers be able to figure it out? Make it so, but not too easily.

I’ve read my fair share of mystery novels. Some are easy to figure out, some are hard. Some I don’t figure out at all. It’s up to you whether you want to make it so your readers can investigate and infer who the culprit is. You can let them be detectives or just keep them guessing throughout. Every reader has a preference. Either way, you should explain everything to a certain extent in the end.

6. Motive is key.

I’m sure everyone knows that motive is everything when you’re trying to charge someone for a crime. Why did they do what they did? Sometimes the motive isn’t always clear. Sometimes the motive can be a red herring for a suspect. However, there should always be some sort of connection, personal or otherwise, to the culprit and the crime.

7. Give unique and thorough backgrounds for your protagonist and antagonist.

This sort of goes along with the previous point. Why did your antagonist do what they did? And why is the case important to your protagonist? Usually, when a detective solves a crime, they have some sort of connection to it somehow, or it reminds them of something from the past. There are a lot of cliches to watch out for (such as the detective who lost his wife prematurely or something), though some of them can still work depending on how you weave it in.

8. Remember, good is not always good and bad is not always bad.

People do good things for bad reasons and bad things for good reasons. But is it really good or bad? Is your protagonist an anti-hero? Is revenge their motive? It’s up to your readers to decide.

Are you writing a mystery novel for NaNo? What other tips can you come up with? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!

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8 Tips For Writing A Fantasy Novel

I’m no expert on writing fantasy. But I have written my fair share of the fantasy genre. I’ve written a couple of (totally not flushed out) short stories and I have written a novel or two with a few other ideas.

And when I say fantasy I mean I’ve written about mages. I’ve written about wizards and elves. I’ve written about superheroes. I’m all over the place with it.

I’m giving these tips because this is what I’ve learned along the way (and we can pretend I’m some sort of expert on writing fantasy), but also because I’m writing fantasy for NaNoWriMo.

So, here we go!

8 Tips to writing Fantasy

1. Keep it “real”

Fiction is fake, fantasy is out of this world. Still, there’s a little bit of truth in everything we write. Sometimes we base characters off of ourselves or someone we know. Sometimes we take places and warp them just a little bit to fit in a fictional land or some stories are based on real-life places.

You can always create and base elements of your story on real-life people or places. Take a myth or lore into your hands and add a twist to it. Research is your friend.

2. Mythical creatures

Like I said in the above point, you can do a lot with real-life people or places or even creatures. Unicorns and dragons don’t exist, but they can in the fantasy world. Dragons especially usually have big parts in the fantasy world. However, while you can make them your own in your world, you can also do research on them.

It took me a long time to realize that mermaids are not in fact like Ariel in The Little Mermaid. They are, supposedly, not nice creatures. It shattered my childhood, but I used that information to my advantage in one of my fantasy novels.

3. Magic

J.K. Rowling created the spells in Harry Potter using the Latin language. It’s not Latin exactly, but she twisted it around so that the spells were her own and they could kind of be “translated.”

I’m not saying you have to create a magic system just like Rowling did, but it should still make a little bit of sense.

4. Know your world inside and out

If you’re writing the kind of fantasy where you need your own Middle Earth area, you have to know the world as though you’ve been there in real life… as though you’ve lived there all your life.

Create a map. Do they speak another language? Do they have a different currency? What kinds of food do they eat? What are the seasons like? You may not need to know all of that, but it’s helpful to know anyway.

5. Use a map

Maps are important. Your fantasy novel may not need a map necessarily, unless it’s Middle Earth, but creating a map for yourself won’t hurt. It’ll help you keep track of all the areas which in turn will help you write it and allow your readers to understand.

6. Create character names that can be easily read and pronounced

Yeah. I don’t know what Flbergsted is. There are plenty of fantasy name generators out there on the Internet. Use your vowels wisely.

Sometimes I take names of people I know and spell them backward. For example, Rachel would be Lehcar. Even then you still have to mix some letters around to make them comprehensible, but most names work backward.

7. Do your research

There’s no wrong way to write a book, but research never hurts. There are so many sub-genres of fantasy. Some are way more complicated than others.

There’s a lot on the Internet and there is so many fantasy writing craft books out there. Not to mention fantasy novels in general that you can read. Just brush up on your fantasy knowledge.

8. Know your fantasy genre and subgenre

This kind of goes along with the point above. Fantasy is a vast genre and there are so many sub-genres to it. Like I said earlier in the post I’ve written many different kinds of fantasy. I go from Lord of the Rings style to X-Men style. Both are fantasy, but that’s just about all they have in common.

Do you write fantasy? If so, what sub-genre of fantasy do you typically write in? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!

 

7 Ways To Avoid A Boring Middle For You And Your Readers [NaNoWriMo 2017]

Ever hear of the sagging middle? It’s when you get to that point in your novel that just seems to go on and on and on… yet nothing seems to be happening.

I think everyone, at some point or another, has a problem with the sagging middle. Even I, as an outliner, have trouble with it at times. Sometimes you don’t know where to go next in your outline or the outline changes so much that the middle gets deformed somehow.

In a way, it’s kind of like week two of NaNoWriMo. You end up in some sort of slump.

Either way, here are some tips to avoid that sagging middle. Or, at the very least, you can throw something in to keep the story going. There’s always editing later.

7 Ways to Avoid Sagging Middle

1. Make it short and sweet

Quality over quantity, right? Listen, if you get stuck in your middle, skip it. Don’t worry about it. If that bothers you, write anything there. If you have any thoughts, write it out and see how it goes.

This is what editing is for. I know editing typically takes words out, but there’s nothing wrong with adding something in. After all, you usually have multiple drafts of novels. You can add something in, take it out, add something else in just to take that out as well. You have to play around with it.

First drafts are supposed to be all over the place.

2. Question your protagonist’s or your antagonist’s goals

Everyone has second doubts. Everyone worries. Everyone regrets something at some point in their life. What has happened in your novel before the middle? Is there anything that you can use to make any of your characters have an internal conflict? Or maybe they can have tension with other characters?

Bring the antagonist around, have them run into the protagonist. What happens? How do they handle the situation?

3. Play with your characters

Introduce someone new. Have someone leave the group due to a fight or they have something else to take care of. Kill someone off, whether it’s an important character or a side character.

Anything can happen, especially if tension is high.

4. Change location or POV

Where are your characters and what are they doing? Did they finish what they needed to do? Let them leave. Have something else happen and they need to move on as soon as possible.

Changing POV is harder, of course. Unless you’re writing in that kind of style where you switch POV characters for each chapter or some other way. Still, you might be able to make it work somehow. You just have to be careful with it.

5. Throw a curve ball at your characters

This is the point of novel writing. You’re supposed to constantly throw lemons at your characters, especially your protagonist.

Depending on the situation you put before your characters, anything can happen. Something as simple as changing the weather can throw your characters off.

6. Start writing in the middle

Are you nervous about your middle sagging before you even start? Start in the middle. Throw your characters into something that you think may help get your novel to the end and go with it. This may be easier to do if you have an outline in mind, but it’s doable either way.

At the very least, you may get to know your characters a little better. You’ll figure out what you want the plot to accomplish.

7. Throw in a red herring

Red herrings are fun. They’re fake clues handed out for the mere sake of throwing your characters (and your readers) off the trail. Send your characters on a wild goose chase. As long as it leads to something else that will advance the plot or bring tension, it’s a great way to keep those pages turning.

Do you typically have trouble with a sagging middle? What do you do to get out of that slump? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!

How To Start That First Chapter The Right Way [NaNoWriMo]

What’s the hardest part about writing a novel? It’s different depending on who you are, how you write, and what you write.

Still, you may have all the ideas and you may even have a quick outline, but beginning a novel can be tricky. It is, after all, one of the most important parts of your novel.

There are plenty of readers out there who not only read the book’s blurb on the back, but they already read the first paragraph or so of the first chapter.

Why? Because they want to get a feel for the writing style. They want to see if they’ll be hooked into the story right away.

If they are, they’ll buy it. If they’re not… well, maybe the next reader who is enticed by the blurb will be into it.

How To Start The First Chapter

There are so many different ways to start a novel. There’s no certain way that will work for every novel. That would, of course, end up being boring and unoriginal.

Though while many books may start with a piece of dialogue or some ominous message, each one is different and unique because every book and idea is unique.

With that said, here are some ways you can start your first chapter.

Introduce A Voice

Begin with a piece of dialogue. I know there are some people out there who don’t agree with starting with dialogue, but I personally like it. It introduces a character (whether it’s clear who it is right away or not) and it also gives you a sense of what kind of character you’ll be following around.

You don’t even have to start with dialogue. If you’re writing in first-person, start with a thought from the main character. Or no matter what the point of view, start with some sort of point the character is noticing or thinking.

Get Right Into The Action

Throw your readers and your characters into the heart of the matter. Or, the heart of matter that may lead into the main plot. The action is always enticing, especially when it starts the book off. The readers don’t know what’s going on, but if done right, they’ll want to know. They’ll keep reading and reading and reading.

Start Slow, But Not Too Slow

Feel free to ease your readers into the story. You can start with a typical day in the life of your main character or have them do something they would normally do that ends up affecting the plot somehow.

Just be wary of opening with your character waking up. That one gets old pretty quickly.

Throw In A Little Background

You want to keep your readers guessing, yet you want to give them something to work with. I’m not telling you to info-dump because no one wants that. However, giving a little insight to your characters and the world around them isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The Prologue

We talked about this yesterday. Use at your own risk.

What are some ways you typically begin your novels? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!