Inspiration Station: WordPress Blog Share

It’s 5:30 in the morning and I’ve been sitting at my computer trying to figure out what to write for today’s post.

I usually have it planned and written a week in advance, but I’ve been so busy lately that I never got a chance to write today’s post.

I have plenty of ideas, but those require actual thinking and planning. So I’m going to change course and do something a bit different today.

IS WordPress Blog Share (1)

I follow a lot of people on WordPress. I talk to a lot of people and have made many friends because of my blog. I always “like” and “comment” and share the occasional post on Twitter, but I don’t think I’ve ever really expressed how much I enjoy other blogs.

Today I’m only going to showcase three other blogs because otherwise this post would be extremely long. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot, but I will definitely do another post like this in the near future (this may become a mini-series).

First up is Sacha Black. She is a wonderful writer who constantly posts tips and tricks of the trade as well as writing prompts every Wednesday. She also created an awesome real life event called Bloggers Bash. I unfortunately couldn’t go this year, but maybe next year. Check her out–she’s awesome.

Next is Skye Hegyes. She is a fabulous writer who blogs about writing and her own writing journey. She has a few short story and poetry collections published as well as a novel, which you can learn about here. I would recommend giving her a follow.

Then there’s Herminia at AspiringWriter22. I’m pretty sure she was my first best friend on WordPress and we chat every day. She also blogs about writing and books and also just life in general. I’d go check her out as well.

So there’s that. Three blogs I really enjoy reading all the time.

And in case you were wondering, I decided to put this as an Inspiration Station post because these people inspire me to be a better writer. I hope they inspire you too.

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Grammar Check: All Ready Vs. Already

GC All Ready and Already

All ready:

Definition…

Something that is completely ready or prepared.

Example…

I am all ready to go on vacation!

Already:

Definition…

Before a specified time.

Example…

I already packed for vacation.

Which one should you use?

The word “ready” can replace “all ready” in a sentence and still make sense. While writing, substitute the word “ready” and if it makes sense, you can use “all ready.” If it doesn’t make sense, use “already.”

Example…

I am ready to go on vacation!
(Makes sense: I am all ready to go on vacation!)

ready packed for vacation.
(Does not make sense: I already packed for vacation.)

Figuring out the differences between “all ready” and “already” are a lot easier than they seem.

Inspiration Station: Prologue/Epilogue

IS Prologue Epilogue

What is a prologue?

The beginning to start the beginning. A prologue is usually a chapter before chapter one. Sometimes it has something to do with the novel, sometimes it doesn’t.

With that being said…

Do I need a prologue?

Ask yourself, “will this prologue contribute to the plot?” If the answer is yes, then you can probably get away with having a prologue.

If the answer is no, then I wouldn’t bother. Some readers ignore prologues regardless of whether they’re important or not. You want your prologue to have some significance to the plot to start the novel off right.

What should my prologue be about?

There are a few ways to utilize a prologue. Depending on your plot and genre, some ways are probably better than others. You need to use your best judgement on which opening works best for your novel.

Past Protagonist

Take a dip into the past long before your novel even starts. The prologue can be a few years before chapter one, it can be a couple of days before.

This can be written in a different POV, as well. The prologue can explain something that happened long before your main character was born.

As long as there is relevant information to help the plot along, the prologue should be good to go.

Background Information

If your novel is set in a new, fictional world some background would be useful to the reader. There are some things that should be explained before they’re thrown into a brand new world they know nothing about.

New world or not, you can always give information on other things such as a background on the main character.

Just be careful not to info-dump. You want the information to be relevant to the novel and interesting enough to the reader.

If it’s something that will be explained throughout the novel, then don’t bother to explain it in the prologue. Some things the readers should be able to figure out on their own as they read the novel.

What is an epilogue?

The end to end the ending… I’m going to hope that made sense.

While a prologue helps begin the novel, an epilogue helps end the novel.

Do I need an epilogue?

Ask yourself the same question you would ask about your prologue. Will it be relevant to the plot?

Most epilogues are used as an “aftermath” of the story. If you can wrap up your plot and give the readers a more satisfying ending for the characters, then an epilogue might be useful to the story.

What should my epilogue be about?

Most epilogues take a peek into the future.

Wrap-Up

Did your novel have an intense climax? Did it end immediately after the resolution? Use the epilogue to explain what happened to the characters and the world after that. It can be a couple months later or a few years later. Give you characters a “happy ending” or at least the ending they deserve.

Explaining Life

Was a character pregnant? Fast forward a few months and explain the baby. It shows that life goes on despite the plot. Show how the characters have moved on with their life after the plot of the story.

Explaining Death

Did any characters die? Fast forward and show how the other characters cope. Again, show how the characters have moved on with their life after the plot.

Sometimes prologues and epilogues aren’t necessary. Epilogues seem to be more common than prologues. Most readers like to know what happens to the characters after their hardships of the plot.

Good luck with whatever you choose.

If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, check out my posts about Beginnings, Middles, and Ends!

Inspiration Station: Ending

IS End

Is your novel part of a series and you want your readers to go out right away and buy the next book? Maybe it’s a standalone novel, but you want your readers to check if you have another other novels out or in the works.

Here are some ideas to wrap your novel up with a neat bow…

Tie up any loose ends.

Make sure all your plot points have a purpose. Make sure all questions have been answered. Sometimes it’s okay to leave your readers guessing (especially when there’s a sequel), but you should pick and choose what to leave up to the reader. You don’t want to leave out any huge plot points.

Have the ending to make sense.

Don’t rush the ending. Give the reader as much or as little information as possible about the plot and the characters.

Create a lengthy ending.

If you have a 500-page novel, don’t wrap everything up in a couple of paragraphs. Give it a couple of chapters; let the reader really think on it.

End on an image.

My favorite piece of ending advice comes from Stanley Kunitz: “End with an image and don’t explain.” Explain what you need to about the plot, but let the reader create their own sort of epilogue for the characters.

Endings are difficult because you want to leave the reader satisfied. If you give the characters an ending they deserve, then readers will most likely agree.

If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, be sure to check out my posts about BeginningsMiddles, and Prologues/Epilogues!

Inspiration Station: Middle

IS Middle

How do you get from point A to point B in your novel?

The middle of a novel can often sag if there isn’t enough information or enough tension to hold the reader’s attention.

“Well,” the reader says as he closes the book and puts it high on the shelf, “the beginning was good, but then it all kind of went downhill from there.”

Do you want your readers to be saying that about your book? No, you want them to finish the book. Beginnings carry the book for only so long. Then it’s up to the middle scenes to take the reader to the very end.

Let’s look at it this way: pretend your book is the reader’s soulmate. They’re in a relationship together. No matter how long they’ve been together, they should always learn new things about one another, right?

You have to keep the relationship fresh. You have to keep the love alive.

There are many ways to do this. After the honeymoon phase–the beginning–is over, the reader wants the book to spice things up a bit.

Learn something new about the protagonist.

No, I don’t mean reveal that the main character has “crystal blue eyes” because one, that’s cliche. Two, who cares at this point? If his eye color had any significance whatsoever we probably should have discovered that long ago.

Reveal a new flaw.

Reveal a new motive for why he does what he does; good or bad.

Reveal a new side to his personality; as long as he can still remain in character.

Keep the plot moving.

Let the protagonist discover something new about the antagonist; whether it’s a flaw, something good, or their motive.

But seriously, don’t let the antagonist monologue and reveal their plans. Because… Been there, done that.

Introduce a new character.

Here’s the catch on that one: does this new character have an significance to the book? Will this character help the protagonist in any way? Will they come back later and somehow save the day?

If the answer is no to all of those questions… Dump the new character.

Keep the tension high.

Let the protagonist get lost on his journey.

Let the protagonist get captured.

Let the protagonist’s team members or friend get captured.

Have a character get hurt.

Have a character get killed.

Maybe the bad guy misled the main characters and now they’re in trouble, confused, and have to fix it before they continue their quest.

You want your reader to not have enough willpower to put the book down. You want your reader to try to restrain himself from flipping to the end just to see what happens.

There are plenty of other ways to keep the middle from sagging, but those are just a few ways. I’m sure you guys have your own methods on how to keep the middle enticing and exciting to the reader.

If you thought this post was helpful, be sure to check out my post all about BeginningsEndings, and Prologues/Epilogues!

Inspiration Station: Beginning

IS Beginning

Your novel has to go through a certain test before a reader buys the book. The summary on the back cover isn’t enough anymore.

After getting past the cover and title (because let’s face it; we all judge books by their covers when we know we shouldn’t), readers thumb through the pages. Some people read the first couple of lines.

Without even realizing it, they’re checking for the writing style and the type of characters they’ll have to deal with. Is there an info-dump at the beginning? Is the information too vague?

Beginnings are fragile and if you don’t get it just right, it might be what stops a reader from buying your book.

When beginning your novel…

Give us an idea about the plot. Some beginnings can be slow and the plot takes some time to warm up–which is fine–but you don’t readers to be on chapter three and still have no idea what the point of the novel is.

Make sure you introduce a likable protagonist. Give us some background on him or her, but not too much. You can’t give away everything before the novel truly gets started.

Speaking of characters, introduce secondary ones gradually. Let us wonder why those characters are there, why they’re significant in the book.

Sometimes all it takes is one line.

The first line of a novel is the beginning before the beginning. All it takes is that one first sentence to hook the reader in and they continue on.

There are many different kinds of first sentences to help give your beginning a bit of a boost in the right direction.

Dialogue

“What are you doing?” Andrew asked his sister holding open the door, his eyes wide in horror at the sight.

The reader wants to read on because they want to know what Andrew saw. Why did it shock him so much? Also, they wonder what his sister is like if she’s causing her brother to react in such a way. Is this something she does often? So many possibilities open up.

Action

Kyle’s car side-swiped a fence with a piercing screech. It slowed him down, but he was able get going once more as he pushed harder on the gas pedal. He glanced in his rear-view mirror with worried eyes, sweat glistening on his forehead. They were gaining on him.

Start off with conflict right away. We don’t know why Kyle is running, why he’s being chased, or who is chasing him. It’s one of those things that we just have to absolutely know the answer, so we naturally keep reading.

Introduction

He looked as though he was in his mid-twenties. He brushed his sleek black hair out of his face revealing his dark green eyes. Then he bent down and lifted the crate, his arm muscles pulsing from the weight.

Introduce a character. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the main character. From this narration we can assume the protagonist may be admiring the man from afar. The readers want to know more about the man and the narrator. Also, why is the narrator watching the man lift crates? It can’t be that interesting, can it? Then again, his muscles were flexing…

And that’s why beginnings are important.

There are so many other ways to start a story, of course.

Make your reader crave more with each sentence, paragraph, chapter. Before they know it, it’ll be 2 in the morning. They’ll close the book and say, “I want more!”

If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, check out my post about MiddlesEndings, and Prologues/Epilogues!

Inspiration Station: Time Management

IS Time Management

As a writer, time management is an important skill to have. There are deadlines to meet whether they’re from a publisher, agent, contest, or just personal.

If we’ve learned anything about writing over the past few years it’s that you need a good routine or schedule to accompany your writing. That’s where the time management skills come in.

It’s to help you keep writing on a regular basis; meet those deadlines, improve on your writing, finish that novel!

How can you manage your time effectively? There are many ways.

1. Set a timer.

When I write, I sometimes set a timer and try to write as much as I can in that set amount of time. If I have other things to do that day, I can set a timer for an hour. When that hour is over, I can officially say that I got some writing done. I won’t feel obligated to go back to it until the following day.

2. Set daily goals.

My goals include writing for two hours a day or write 2,000 words a day; whichever comes first. If time allows, I’ll write more words or write for a longer amount of time. If you want to write for two hours a day, you need to manage your time wisely and organize your day a bit so you can fit in those two hours every day.

3. Make a to-do list.

This can go along with number two, set daily goals. Every night before I go to bed I write a to-do list of things I want to get done the next day. I can complete the tasks in any order I want, just as long as they’re all crossed off by the end of the day.

4. Reward yourself.

Hit your daily goal? Did you write for a full two hours or write the entire time the timer was on? Reward yourself with something. It can be as little as eating a piece of chocolate or as big as buying yourself a new video game (that’s what I usually do when I win NaNoWriMo). The reward can vary depending on how little or how much you get done.

5. Stay focused.

Do people keep texting you while you’re trying to work? Do you have your favorite TV show on in the background? Turn it all off. Get rid of all the distractions. Every time you pick up your phone to answer a text, you’re wasting precious writing time. I know some people need noise to help them focus; I usually listen to instrumental music. That way I can’t sing along and get distracted by the lyrics.

6. Find out when you work best.

Are you a morning person? Night owl? Pin-point the time you’re most awake, most alert, and most productive in your day. I guarantee you will get a lot more done if you work at your certain time of day. For me, I work better in the morning. I wake up extra early just to write before I go to my day job. Because who’s not tired upon coming home from their job?

The more you manage your time, the more organized you will be. The more organized you are, the more you’ll get done.

How do you manage your time and write effectively?

Inspiration Station: Research

IS Research

Some people say “write what you know” and others say “write what you don’t know.” Well, which is it?

Depending on your genre and the amount of common sense you have, I think you should use your own judgement with that one.

I’ll use myself as an example (that means I’m writing about “what I know”).

In the past month I’ve been working on two novels. Both novels are the first book in a series. One novel, Hunter, is fantasy. The other, George Florence, is mystery.

Big genre difference, right?

Exactly. So I need to research different things for each novel.

As I write, I use the sticky notes app on my laptop and keep a list of editing notes; things I need to look up, chapters I feel are stupid and need to be taken out or changed, etc.

I keep this list because the point of the first draft is to get the idea down on paper.

With that being said, if I come across something I don’t know or something that I believe is inaccurate, I put it in bold. I make it up and bold it so that when I read through the draft I remember that I need to fix it.

Those “fixes” need research. And as I said before, each genre is different.

For Hunter, I kept a list that includes:

–Research all mutant powers: technical terms, what they do and how they work, etc. (including teleportation, electricity, flying, animal shape shifting…)
–Research tasers
–Research gunshots to various areas of the body

For George Florence, I kept a list that includes:

–Research apartment buildings; rent, leases, how big they typically are, etc.
–Research fees for hiring private detectives
–Look up costs of different wedding rings
–Research strangulation

I don’t know about any of these things. I’ve never encountered a mutant or a taser, and I’ve never lived in an apartment or proposed to anyone. So naturally, I need to do some research at some point if I want my novels to make sense.

The funny thing is that some research will help with other novels. At some point I’m sure I’m going to need to know all about gunshot wounds for George Florence.

So whatever you research, you should take notes or bookmark the website. However when you research you should find some way to remember it or at least be able to go back and look at it.

One website I love looking at for research is called The Writing Cafe, which is on Tumblr. People ask questions directly to the person (or people) who run the site. They also reblog a lot from other Tumblrs and like to list websites for specific topics, which is very helpful because then you have an unlimited amount of knowledge at your fingertips. All you have to do is look through the sites.

I also love Pinterest. You can find anything on there. Some pictures lead to super helpful websites. Others… Not so much. But it doesn’t hurt to look.

Of course, there’s also Google and Siri, but I guess you could also go to a library every once in a while and look it up yourself.

Grammar Check: Lay vs. Lie

GC Lay and Lie

English is a pesky language with words such as there, they’re, and their, it’s and its, and a lot of other words that sound the same, are spelled differently, and have different meanings.

I’m sure most of this is easy stuff to you, but as I’ve been writing my Camp NaNo novel, Hunter, I noticed a lot of those green squiggly lines. Well… Not a lot, but more than I would like.

I also noticed that most of those lines came from two little words: lay and lie.

I type fast and therefore make a lot of typos. I don’t think these were typos. I think I wasn’t unsure of which one to put because I had to get the rest of the sentence down so I picked one at random; and most of the time it was the wrong word.

Lay

Lay means to put something down. Yet, there are different forms of the word for each tense, like so:

Present tense: Rachel lays down her laptop on her desk.
Past tense: Rachel laid down her laptop on her desk.

So, lay and laid means to put something, an object, down. It sounds simple enough.

Lie

Lie means to rest, as in you are resting.

Present tense: Rachel lies down on the couch turning on the TV.
Past tense: Rachel lay down on the couch turning on the TV.

So, lie and lay means to rest.

Did any of you catch that?

Lay has two different meanings.

You know, we have 26 letters in the alphabet and virtually no limit to how many letters get put into a word. There are so many word possibilities, yet we still choose to reuse the same ones and give them different meanings. I don’t get it.

I just got my Bachelors degree in English Studies and I just learned this. (I would like to give a shout out to Google… Thanks, Google!)

The definitions and tenses aren’t really that hard to remember or figure out, but I needed to point it out anyway. I didn’t realize I was using the same word for a completely different meaning.

English sure is a funny language.

Mystery Terms

Mystery Terms

Here are some terms to use in your mystery novels to make yourself sound like a detective.

Accessory — A person who assists in a crime

Alibi — An excuse used by an accused person to prove he or she wasn’t at the scene of the crime

Breakthrough — A big discovery in an investigation

Capital Murder — A murder that can be punishable by death

Case File — A collection of documents pertaining to a specific investigation

Deduce — Logical reasoning and thinking to infer information

Evidence — Clues to help solve a crime; can be a statement, fact, or object

Felony — A crime punishable by either death or confinement in a state correctional facility

Fugitive — A person who escapes or evades arrest or imprisonment

Homicide — The killing of a human being by another human being

Interrogate — To ask questions and get information from people about a crime

Motive — The reason a person does what he/she does

Parole — Allowing a prisoner to serve the remainder of their time outside of prison

Perpetrator — Someone guilty of a crime

Red Herring — A false clue to throw investigators off track

Suspect — Someone who might have committed a crime

Victim — A person harmed by a crime

Warrant — A written order directing someone to do something

Witness — A person who saw something related to a crime

Of course there are many other vocabulary terms to use when it comes to writing a mystery novel. This is the most I could think of that I knew exactly what they were.

I hope this helps!