Writing Trick 1: OSM

Man holding book

Often I get asked, “Oi, mister! How do I stop people falling asleep when their reading my writing?”
And I reply, “My name’s not Oi Mister.” Then I tell them about Writing Tricks. I’m going to introduce a few of them here.

1) Onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is the sound things make. It’s how a writer lets reader know what a sound is exactly like. Common ones are things like: crash! bang! wallop!
But the real fun happens when you make some up of your own, such as Splurrgting!
That’s not all. You can play around with how they look on the page and so how the sound was made:

splurrgtingsmalltobig
Here the sound is going from quiet to loud as if someone is getting more and more annoyed

splurrgtingbigtosmall
and here it is like they were being noisy and were then told to quieten down. Both great fun and when a writer is having fun so is their reader.

2) Simile. Similes help a writer describe what something is like to a reader by describing something it is similar to with regards shape, colour, smell, size, behaviour, texture…Basically saying one thing is like something else.
You use the word like or as in a simile.
The best similes often match the genre or book type you are writing in. For example, these wouldn’t be out of place in a horror:

the ghost was as white as a bag of bones

the spirit’s face was pale  like bone

Although you can have fun writing unexpected similes:

The princess flicked her golden hair around her face as beautiful as a slug.

3) Metaphors. Metaphors are very similar to similes in that they help a writer decribe something to make it clearer to the reader. The key difference here is you are not saying something is like something else but it is something else.

A simple example is this:
the man ate like a pig  (Simile)
the man was a pig eating (Metaphor)

More complicated:
his eyes burned like flame (Simile)
his grin with eyes of flame 
(Metaphor)

So next time you are writing, why not try some of these tricks out but remember the most important thing: have fun with your writing and your reader will too.

 

Write-30 No.5

Woman sitting and writing on notebook

 

Free Choice.

Write about anything you want. It could be about your day, about a TV programme, a computer game, in fact anything you want.

STUCK?   Try this story starter: My favourite TV programme so far this week has been…

What is Write – 30?
Write – 30 is a daily activity where you write non-stop for twenty minutes then check and edit your work for 10 minutes. You will be asked to write about different subjects and in different forms.

The writing should be done on lined paper in pencil if possible. Edit and check the work in pen. If you don’t have paper and pencil, use what you can. Even a computer.

Finding it difficult? What you can do to help:

  • Always sit/work in the same place
  • Always use the same writing tools
  • Always turn the TV off
  • No talking – it distracts thinking
  • Always listen to the same piece of classical music when writing.
  • Always set yourself a goal: count the number of words. Try to beat that number the following day.

Write-30 No.3

Blue and white ball on brown wooden surface

The Marble Crusher.

The Head Teacher has a devilish device: a marble crusher. Just don’t let her catch you playing marbles. Write the story about when you got caught.

STUCK?
Try this story starter: The Head Teacher loomed over me like a dark figure of doom.
“What?” she bellowed. “Are those marbles?”
I tried to hide them behind my back but it was too late.

What is Write – 30?
Write – 30 is a daily activity where you write non-stop for twenty minutes then check and edit your work for 10 minutes. You will be asked to write about different subjects and in different forms.

The writing should be done on lined paper in pencil if possible. Edit and check the work in pen. If you don’t have paper and pencil, use what you can. Even a computer.

Finding it difficult? What you can do to help:

  • Always sit/work in the same place
  • Always use the same writing tools
  • Always turn the TV off
  • No talking – it distracts thinking
  • Always listen to the same piece of classical music when writing.
  • Always set yourself a goal: count the number of words. Try to beat that number the following day.

WRITING TIP 7: Story Pieces

story parts

I’ve been asked many times by children when visiting schools: “Hey, mister, what makes up a story?”
Stories are made up of different kinds of parts which help you tell the whole thing. This explains some of the DRAD.

DESCRIPTION: This is the part of the story where you use lots of adjectives and longer sentences to describe the setting or characters. You might use descriptive writing devices like power-of-3, simile, metaphor, personification. Generally, it is better not to do all your description in one large chunk and have none any where else. Usually writers drop in some description through out their story.
Example: The old house stood at the end of the winding street on top of a grey hill. It loomed over the area like a dark, foreboding presence waiting for the unwise to enter.

REFLECTION: This is when the characters think about what is happening or what has happened to them or what will happen to them. It gives insight into the characters and their motivation.
Example: Why did I ever come here? This was the biggest mistake of my life! Kevin is dancing with Sarah and they’re dancing real close.

ACTION: These are fast paced sections where your character is doing something exciting. It should have lots of exciting verbs (action words) with little or no description and short sentences.
Example: He pulled the gun. He let off a shot. One. two. They flew over the bandit’s heads. He dived behind a rock. 

DIALOGUE: This is when two or more people are talking to each other in a story. Try to avoid using lots of words instead of SAID. Usually SAID is the bet word to use. What is said is the important thing. It should be important, interesting and move the story forward.
Example: I was like, ‘What do you want?’
He shuffled his feet. ‘I wanted to ask you out.’
‘YOU!’

How much of each part you have depends on the type of story you’re writing and what form it is taking. An adventure story like James Bond will have more action but a historical drama will have more description. A story told through diary entries will contain more reflection, dialogue but less descritption and action.

Get a copy of the Story Parts to print for display here: story parts

 

Pulling A Blank

 

22504F9C-90B1-4611-B70F-22C901E5A62C.jpeg

You will have noticed I haven’t written an entry for my blog for a while. There is no great mystery behind it. I was not kidnapped, transported to another planet or plummeted into a mystical realm like the children of Narnia. No. It is quite simple. I was going through what many writers go through at various points when writing: writer’s block.  I just couldn’t think of anything to write for my blog.

Maybe it was because my creative energies were being sapped by two other things: submitting my second book to Literary Agents (time consuming and somewhat soul destroying) and compiling the notes on my third book before settling down to editing proper. I’m still at both of these and they have become my obsessions.

This meant I had less time to just let my wander and play in the quiet moments. This is an essential part of writing. If you are told to ‘just write,’ often you’re mind goes immediately blank.

That’s why writing at school can be really hard. The blank page and your teacher asking you to come out with some great story just like that. And there are all the things you are told to remember: fronted adverbials, alliteration for effect, a simile or metaphor or two. No wonder you mind just freezes. How can anyone write under such pressure?

Take a moment and put your pencil down. Stare out the window. Watch the trees in the breeze, traffic passing or the rain fall. Take some calming breaths. Think about what you are interested in: A TV programme you watched; a computer game you play; a song you like; a pet you cuddle… Make that your story.

There are no rules when writing stories. You can have happen whatever you want. You are the magical master. If you want a tap-dancing zebra as a class teacher, so be it! You want to be skiing on the skin of a bowl of custard, go on! It is your world. Rule it.

How To Write Badly…

 

So you have finally decided to write that story or book.  Let me tell you all the things you need to do to not get to the end and fail at your task.

1) Keep re-working that first chapter. That’s write. Why go on to the next part of the story when you can spend all your time endlessly re-writing the first part so it becomes perfect. After all, it’s not like most writers end up cutting the first chapter/part anyway as they started the story in the wrong place, is it?

2) Make sure you have access to Twitter, Facebook, Messenger or any other social media. You need to be constantly updated on the latest cake picture and cat video. You need to lose yourself down the rabbit hole of messages. Social media is catnip to writers and should be engaged at every opportunity rather than actually doing any writing on your story.

3) Surround yourself with lots of noise. Why not put the TV on as well or a playlist with good vocals? Nothing works better to help you lose your train of thought when you are being constantly…

4) Make sure you drink loads. Have lots of tea, coffee or fizzy drinks. It easily breaks the flow if you’re constantly sipping and having to run to the loo. Also, adds a sense of urgency.

5) Play a video game. You know you want to. Just get to the end of the level and then you’ll stop. Well, maybe, just one more level. Oh, is that the time. I’ll do some writing tomorrow, I promise.

6) Keep re-drafting your plan. In fact, invest in lots of colour pens and sticky labels to add a bit of colour to it all. What about a character spreadsheet mapping out all the history and interests of all the characters? I know you won’t use any of it but preparation is key.

7) Read a few books about writing. Better safe than sorry. Best to learn the craft from a book rather than actually doing a bit of writing. Maybe attend another writing course. Better still, re-read this blog post until you have memorised it.

8) Stare at the page. Fill yourself with nagging doubt and hesitate. Tell yourself it won’t be as good on the page as it is in your head. Whatever you do, don’t begin. Don’t put words down. You’re only setting yourself up to fail.

 

 

 

Little Devil In My Ear

 

There’s a condition that plagues all writers. If you come across a writer of any sort who says they never suffer this then they are a liar. It’s the Little Devil On Your Shoulder that whispers in your ear. Some psychologists call it imposter syndrome and writers may refer to it as writer’s block but I know better. It is an invisible devil that sits there waiting for you to write. Just as pen touches paper it begins it’s games. It tells you You Can’t Write. It laughs Call That A Sentence? It says Everyone Will Think That Rubbish!

My devil still pesters me despite kids secretly reading Wishbone Billy at night or having 5 star reviews on Amazon or receiving positive responses from my author visits. That devilish negative voice can be so loud. It stops you from writing anything. You procrastinate: watch junk TV, tidy the house, daydream. The pen lies still.

I am not the only writer to suffer the devil. Vivian Gornick, critic and journalist says of it: I would look at the words on the page – still do – and think, ‘This is so naive. This is so stupid. Who’s going to want to read this?’ It was even said of the brilliant Scott Fitzgerald of Great Gatsby fame that he fell into the devil’s hands after an estatic review from Gilbert Seldes. Poor Fitzgerald, after that every word had to be brilliant, every work deserving of high praise.

The devil by the ear attacks children too. I see it every day. It tells them they can’t write. It laughs at their efforts. Their page remains  empty. Their teacher grows impatient. What can be done? We must fight against the devil together.

Pick up that pen. Strike a blow to the devil’s head. Tie it up with adjectives, smother it in similes, drown it in metaphor. Let your pen roam free. It doesn’t matter what you write. It can be as sensible or silly as you want. You can write. You’ve been writing since your first crayon marks in nursery. Each word deserves an ovation. That devil knows nothing. Kick it away!

This piece of writing waas brought to you care of one squashed devil.

 

WRITING TIP 6: Getting Started

story startb

Stories can start in a number of different ways. I’ll talk you through a few and you can pick the one you want to try or you could try them all!

DESCRIPTION: You’re probably familiar with this one. It’s when you begin your story describing the setting or main character.
EG: The house stood on the hill at the end of the street, looking over all others as it groaned in the wind.

DIALOGUE: You can begin a story with some speech but make sure it’s active and moves the story forward. A conversation about going to the park is not exciting unless there is something sinister waiting.
EG: ‘I hate you. And your mother stinks too!’ she yelled.
‘You just wait. I’ll get my own back on you Mary Jenkins!’ said Pete.

ACTION: You can drop your reader right into the thick of it by starting with some high octane action. But be careful to get the pacing right.
EG: The silver ship soared across the sky, lazers blasting at the saucer. The saucer dived, twisting and turning, engines screaming; it’s rear guns beaming.

NARRATION: This is when the author is setting the scene by speaking directly to the reader.
EG: Everybody knows that when children are asleep, the little popsie-fluffs sneak out from under the carpet and begin.

WRITING TIP 5: Hearing the Perfect

 

‘Always write (and read) with the ear, not the eye.
You should hear every sentence you write as if it was being read aloud or spoken.’
– C.S. Lewis

Once you’ve finished writing your story don’t think your work is over. There is more to do. You have just finished your first draft. It is now time to do a bit of editing. How you do this is ultimately up to you but I have a tip if you find it difficult to spot errors in your work

The no.1 method is READ YOUR WORK ALOUD. Find a space; a nice quiet spot and let rip. Hear the flow of your narrative and dialogue.
Are there any parts that you found difficult to read? Fix it.
Are there any parts that just weren’t clear to you? Fix it.
Are there any parts when you wanted to stop reading and do something else? Fix it.
Are there any sentences that seemed to never end? Fix it.
Are there any parts where you are repeatedly repeatedly repeatedly repeating the same words/phrases? Fix it.
Are there any parts where a character is just stood still doing nothing for a while? Fix it.
Are there any settings you can’t picture? Fix it.
Are there any characters that only exist in name only? Fix it.

Your ear is your writer’s friend. Trust it. Use it.

WRITING TIP 4: About Spelling…

 

I’m sorry to say but often spelling gets in the way of good story writing, along with handwriting. Parents panic about it, pointing out any ‘simple’ errors to their children. Teachers fret about it because it can influence Assessment scores.

This is bad.

By all this panic and fretting, you get very worried. You begin to believe that spelling and handwriting make a good story. That any story where it is a bit wobbly is not a good story.

WRONG!

When a writer is writing their story for the first time (first draft) there is only one thing they are worried about: getting to the end of the story. That’s right! You should only worry about getting your ideas down, following your characters as they go on their adventure in whatever world or place you have put them in.

That doesn’t mean writers ignore spelling, punctuation and that grammar stuff. It just means we check all that when we do a second draft. That’s a time to fix that.

And handwriting?

Well, a published work should be readable. But you only worry about that at the very end. And you could always use a computer.

So stop worrying for now about that spelling and punctuation stuff. Sit down. Dream. And get that story down – to the end!