Category Archives: Revision

How to revise your novel

Big story ideas & what to do with them

Hey YABookcasers!

Today, I’d like to look at big story ideas. You know, the ones that you think of and think of and think of…but don’t write. That cool, awesome big story that has an amazing world, dynamic characters, a killer plot, but yet, you’re still not putting fingers to keyboard. So why not? Continue reading Big story ideas & what to do with them

How to make a book out of one word

(Audio at the end of the post)

Hey YABookcasers,

Yup, you read the title right – how to make a book out of one word. Now, I don’t mean write just one word down on the page and bam that’s you done. That would be a very short novel indeed. However, I am talking about a way to get around writer’s block, start off a new book, or give you that spark of inspiration to form a plot twist, sub-plot, or new character. Am I crazy for saying it could be spurred by one word? Read on to see if I am! Continue reading How to make a book out of one word

Adding emotion to your book

Hi Ya Bookcasers!!

Let’s be frank here, this is something a lot of writers struggle with, so don’t feel like you’re the only one. Most of us, at some time or another, have that statement of “I didn’t connect to the story in the way I wanted to,” or “your character felt too remote,” or “the voice didn’t quite grab me.” Or any variation thereof. And while there are many reasons for these responses, I believe that one of the most important reasons why your readers aren’t falling in love with your book is: lack of good emotional display. So, how do you fix this? Continue reading Adding emotion to your book

Not a Pitch Wars mentee?

Hi YA Bookcasers!

Audio version: 

Welcome to the end of August and the almost-start of October, my favorite month of the year (can anyone say Halloween?). Pitch Wars has just come to an end (if you don’t know what that is, you can find out more here), and while some hopefuls have snagged a mentor, there are some wonderful writers who have missed out. However, that doesn’t mean your chance to build your writing career is gone. Not at all. It means you’ve taken a healthy step in the right direction. Continue reading Not a Pitch Wars mentee?

What happens outside of your book?

Hey YABookcasers!

All of us pretty much know what we want to happen in our books (unless you’re in the new ideas or first draft stage – if so, I recommend you check this post out on YATopia).

Either way though, this post is for you, and it revolves around what happens outside of your book. You have this wonderful world between your pages, and characters that have lives and wonderful, awful, and strange things happening to them. But what would it be like if the plot wasn’t there. What would your universe and characters be up to now?


Continue reading What happens outside of your book?

NANOWRIMO pep talk!

Now that Nanowrimo is in full swing, it’s time for a little pep talk. You started off flying – a new idea, a bustling community, a lot of coffee (or tea)…and then you hit week 3. It’s like the brick wall of writing. You know you only have a week to go. You know you’re way short of your word count. Or your way over but still can’t see the end of the book. Well, I’m here to say “Don’t Panic!”.

You see, it’s a self-imposed goal (and a lofty one at that) and you need to ease off on yourself in places. Writing a WHOLE novel in a month? Amazing if you can. Amazing if you even get halfway. Be proud of yourself no matter where you are in the process. Don’t write out of desperation. Don’t write out of stress. Write because you love it.

If Nanowrimo works for you and the deadline surges happiness through your veins, then awesome. But if you feel your life force seeping away when you see you’ve not quite reached your goal, don’t push yourself to the point of self hatred. Love what you do instead and celebrate the small victories along the way.

Whatever happens, if you even got a handful of words down, you won. You got closer to the end of your book. Take it word by word, sentence by sentence, page by page. Regardless of what happens, you ARE a warrior.

If you complete Nanowrimo you have a huge congratulations from me. If you don’t, you still have a huge congratulations from me. Now go love that story of yours!

Should you give up writing?

It happens to the best of us. You hit a slump. A bump in the road. A huge well of despair. You wonder if there’s even any point trying to break into publishing. And I don’t blame you. This is one hell of an industry and it is not for the faint of heart. You need to be pretty much a steel clad warrior in order to survive (okay, maybe not, but it sure does feel like it sometimes!).

This is when we ask ourselves the brutal question: “Should I give up writing?”

Now, I’m not going to condescend to you with a big cheery “oh no, you shouldn’t”. Because, to be quite frank, there are some cases that mean you should give up writing…or at least take a break. We tend to troop on despite the damage to ourselves and think asking whether we should write or not in an objective way is tantamount to defeat – mutiny against all other hopeful writers out there.

But it really isn’t. And here‘s when I think you might need to take some time away:

1) Your mental health is suffering. If you think of writing and all you get is a whole lot of anxiety and stress, then perhaps you need a break. Perhaps it’s not for you. Only you can know the answer. But be honest with yourself. Is it worth it? We all have moments of stress and despair, but if it’s a lot more stress than it is enjoyment, then you have some soul searching to do.

2) You don’t enjoy it. Quite simply, people write and don’t actually like the process or what they end up with. Too many people say “I hate my book”. You have to learn to love it. And you have to love parts of the process (note, I didn’t say all of the process). For example,  first drafts aren’t really my favorite part, but editing…sign me up with a glitter stick, honey! If you don’t enjoy any of the process or the book you finish with…consider whether you really want to do it or you’re just trying to be published so you can call yourself a writer.

3) If it is badly affecting your everyday life. Now, I don’t mean it’s a bit of a nuisance and you have to shuffle things around. I mean if you’re badly affecting your job (your only income), you’re causing marital rifts through not being there for your family, your health is suffering, etc, etc. This may be cause to take a break until you are back on an even keel. Self care is SO important.

I know so many of you are troopers. You are determined, ambitious, positive, boots on ground survivors who will do anything to get your book onto the shelves. And I’m not trying to convince anyone to stop writing. Certainly not. All I’m saying is be careful with how you balance writing with your life. Writing shouldn’t be your life. It should be a part of your life.

Again, let’s say this one more time: SELF CARE IS IMPORTANT.

To use Scrivener or not?

I’ve been playing around with Scrivener* of late (yup, I’m very late to the party!). However, let me explain: I originally tried Scrivener a long time ago, and it just didn’t work for me. I found it overly complicated, I kept dotting from one thing to another in the binder, I couldn’t keep a continuous flow…ugh. But now? Yup, you guessed it, I’m using it! But what changed?

Quite simply, I don’t use it to write my novel. In fact, I still use MS word to type all of my chapters. However, what I do now is use Scrivener to help me keep track of my scenes, chapters, characters, etc. I don’t write the scenes in there. I just make a little card on the bulletin board, type in a few sentences about what’s in the scene, and hey presto, there’s the macro view of my novel. This is particularly helpful for me as I’m working on a multi POV novel (good plan, Fiona, good plan).

So I’m a 50/50 kind of user for Scrivener – I use it for planning and noting down what I already have, but I keep it well away from my actual writing.

What are the cons for me?

Not many, to be honest. I only use the basic functions, because to be frank, I didn’t want to spend hours going through the tutorial. However, it can be a little distracting. I have to be very conscious of not spending too much time on there.

Also, the other con for me is simply from a fussy point of view – I hate how difficult it is for me to open the files on another computer. If it doesn’t have Scrivener, I’m pretty much flummoxed.

There you have it – my thoughts on Scrivener. If you didn’t love it the first time, try using it this way. It might work, it might not, but it does for me!

Have fun!

* Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents.

Tips and tricks for writing YA Fantasy

Welcome, welcome my fantasy lovers (and you actually don’t have to be writing just in the YA category). Today, I wanted to talk to you about YA fantasy and how we can make it original, high concept and relevant to modern teens (did you notice that last one? Yup, just like last week’s post on contemporary YA, fantasy needs to appeal to the modern teen, too!).

There are countless sub genres within fantasy, and each has it’s own list of tips and tricks to look at. However, at the moment, we’re just going to focus on the genre as a whole.

Here are my top tips to getting your fantasy work into shining condition:

Be bold. Don’t shy away from making your world bold and real and vibrant. Your world is a fantasy, make it one! However, remember your world building rules. Keep your world in keeping with the rules and don’t break them just for effect. You need to maintain the suspension of disbelief. This even applies for magic in the real world (say, in urban fantasy for example).

Know the conventions of your genre, but don’t be afraid to mix them up or genre blend (just do it well!). Epic fantasy is normally quest based, but what if you mixed that up with something else? Keep your reader on their toes.

Don’t get sidetracked by your world building. Writers either give a) way too much, or b) afraid of giving too much, they give way too little. Read your favorite fantasy books – how much do they give? Read recent fantasy books. Yes, we have our golden oldies, but see what the market is looking for right now.

Want some ideas of great modern fantasy books?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

As you can see, this is a tiny selection and there are SO many good books out there in the fantasy genre. Go read them!

Think about what modern teens care about? These things should be present in your modern fantasy. They might be in a different world, but the MC should still feel the way teens in the real world might feel. They need to be layered and complex, and modern!

Don’t get complicated. It can be so easy for writers to create such a vast world in their head that it becomes super complicated (I know, I can be guilty of that), but the best advice I can give you is make it simple. Don’t let your world (or plot) be overly complicated, especially if this is your debut. You want people to grasp your world easily and then they can focus on your amazing characters.

Alright, so that is a little bit to get you started. However, go web surfing. There are TONS of hints out there. Read your craft books. Experiment and have fun!

Happy writing my fellow fantasy people!!!

Tips for writing contemporary YA

Writers can fall into one of two camps: those who stick to one genre, and those who like to dot around. Today, I’m talking to both camps – but only if you both like YA Contemporary!
YA Contemporary books are fascinating, deep and full of emotional layers. This is the time of life where teenagers are developing into adults, learning their place in the world, tackling new (and sometimes weighty) issues that are now coming their way. Plus a whole lot of other stuff, too.
If you’re not sure what contemporary YA work is, it’s basically books for teens that come under the realm of realistic fiction. It’s real life, in the now, tackling modern issues. Some people say it’s imperative to have a love story in the plot, and while this is often a big part of the writing, it’s not 100% mandatory. Some stories just don’t call for it.
If you’re writing in this genre, here are some tips to help your writing stand up above the crowd:
Read the genre you write in.
 By Eneas De Troya from Mexico City, México – Lectura para unas vidas, CC BY 2.0,
There are some amazing YA books out there:
The Fault in our Stars by John Green
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
You Against Me by Jenny Downham
Well, you get the gist.
But above that, there are some other, concrete tips you can use:
Don’t forget to use technology. Whether we like it or not, it’s part of teen life and to omit it would be to make a mistake.
Actually research what teens like. Don’t just rely on your own experience. What are they listening to right now? What are they watching? Do they care about what’s on the news (you’d be surprised – I didn’t when I was a teen, but some of them do nowadays!)?
Give your main characters a diverse experience – by that, I mean let them be individuals rather than cardboard cut outs. It’s easy to avoid a stereotype, but sometimes it hard to avoid a generic character. Give your teenager passions outside of the normal “I like football” or “oh this is cool music”. Some teens do like those things. However, others might like L33T speak, some might be heavy into moshing (not that they should); others still might love to be squirreled away in museums. Remember, it takes all kinds, and just because they are teenagers, doesn’t mean they don’t have diverse experiences and tastes!
We all hear this (and most of us hate to hear it) – it’s all about the voice. But how can you know whether you’re getting it right or wrong? Well, here’s an idea: give it to a teen and see! When you have your ms ready, ask a teen to read! Sure, this is actually scarier than getting a fellow writer to read, because this is your target market, and if they don’t like it…well, if they don’t, find out why. See how you can make it better, more relevant.
I take my hat off to everyone who writes contemporary YA as it’s not as easy as it looks. Here’s to much success for everyone and I look forward to all the new young adult books that will hit our shelves in the upcoming years!