5 Ways to Tackle Research

Research is a significant part of being a writer. Whether you are writing historical fiction, fantasy, romance – there will always be an element of research that needs to be done. So, aside from using the Google search box, how can you tackle the research part of your book? Read on for five ways!

1) Experience. 

Sometimes people trip up on the advice to write what you know, believing that you should write only about your life. However, this means that you should draw from experience to add realism to your work. So, how can you do this? From cooking the meals that your character eats (I enjoyed making son-of-a-gun stew recently, straight from my novel) to visiting a place you are writing about, there are many ways to experience research. You could even take a class on the subject at your local library!

2) Ask the experts. 

Who do you know that you would consider an expert on a subject you are writing about? Perhaps your childhood friend owns a horse, and your main character uses horseback as their primary method of transport. Why not set up an interview with them? Asking for personal experiences in what you write about can help you develop a realistic storyline and create a world that jumps from the pages.

3) Read.

Read as much as you can – and I don’t just mean non-fiction research type books about your chosen subject. Fiction can also be beneficial for research because it helps you understand the genre and subject you are writing about. You can also use niche magazines to help.

4) Use other forms of media. 

I am so grateful for documentaries when I feel tired, but I still want to research my novel. I find that there is nothing more delightful than sitting back with a cup of tea and enjoying a well-informed, fact-based show. I also watch lectures on YouTube, which many universities upload for free. You can find a wealth of information from experts there.

5) Image searches. 

Using sites like Pinterest can help with your research too. You might find that you’re a little bit stuck on what you need to research, especially if you haven’t started writing yet. Don’t panic – a search on Pinterest can ignite that creative flame and help you understand where to start, where to continue, and give you ideas for your novel.

How do you research your work, and is there anything you would add to this list? Let me know; I would love to hear from you.

Want to chat about researching? Get in touch here.


Your Guide to Decoding Writing Acronyms and Terminology

Have you ever been online and seen a writing post that you don’t understand? I have been there.

Despite having studied Creative Writing at university, I was slightly baffled by the writing acronyms and terminology used when joining the online world of writers. What on earth was a CP, anyway? So, if you have ever felt this way, too, here is a helpful guide to de-code that confusing language for you!

  • Active voice – Using the subject of a sentence to perform an action, “The monkey likes bananas” rather than “The bananas were liked by the monkey.”
  • Alpha reader – Someone who reads your draft as you are writing it. Alpha readers are often writers and can give you insight into fixing an issue.
  • Amplification – Adding to a sentence to build upon its meaning.
  • Analogy – “The mind is like a car engine.” – Drawing a comparison between two things that are not alike to help make a point.
  • Antagonist – The villain of your story.
  • Anti-hero: A flawed hero, such as Batman.
  • Beta reader – Someone who reads your novel once it has been through at least one draft. A beta reader aims to give you a reader’s perspective. They do not have to be a writer, as they are reading as your ‘target audience’.
  • Blurb – A short description of a book designed to engage a reader.
  • CP – Critique Partner
  • CW – Creative Writing
  • Character arc – Your character’s personal journey and how they develop.
  • Colloquialism – Slang, ordinary conversation. This can make dialogue seem more realistic.
  • Copy editing – Editing for grammar, spelling, punctuation and style.
  • Developmental editing – Editing for narrative, characterisation, plot, and more.
  • Dialogue tags – A verb post dialogue to show who has spoken, e.g.: ‘yelled Sally.’
  • Exposition – providing background information to help the reader understand what is happening.
  • External conflict – The issues facing a character externally, for example; A character losing their job.
  • First-person – I language. ‘I went to the shops.’
  • Foreshadowing – To write an indication of an event or moment.
  • Fourth person – One language. ‘One goes to the shops.’ (Not often used in narrative)
  • Grammatical person – First, second, third or fourth person narrative.
  • Head-hopping – moving from one character’s point of view to another within the same writing section.
  • Information dump: A lot of backstory or information given at one time. This can be jarring and might pull a reader out of a story.
  • Internal conflict – How a character is coping internally, within themselves.
  • MS: Manuscript, an unpublished piece of work.
  • NANOWRIMO – National Novel Writing Month, which takes place during November.
  • Narrative break – A break in the story to signal to the reader that there has been a passage of time.
  • OC – Original character.
  • POV – Point of view. The person from whose perspective you are telling a story.
  • Pantser –  Someone who doesn’t plot a novel but prefers to invent as they write.
  • Planster – Someone who both plans and creates on the spot when writing.
  • Plot hole – An issue with a plot that makes it seem unrealistic or creates an inconsistency.
  • Plotter – Someone who plans a story in advance.
  • Protagonist – Your main character.
  • Red herring – To give a false clue to your reader.
  • Second person – You language. ‘You went to the shops.’
  • Subplot – a storyline that moves alongside the main plot, often supporting it.
  • Synopsis – A summary of your story.
  • Third-person – He, she, they language. ‘They went to the shops.’
  • WIP – Work in progress.
  • Writing sprint – A timed session where one writes as much as possible.

Are there any writing acronyms and terminology I have missed out that you want to know about? Let me know, and I’ll add it!


How to Write Subplots in Your Novel

Are you writing a novel with subplots? A subplot is a story or narrative that runs alongside the main plot of a book.

For example, let’s take the classic Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet. The main storyline is the one we all know, with Romeo and Juliet falling in love, etc. However, that’s not the only story in the play. The other stories include the rivalry between the two leading families, the Montagues and the Capulets. Another subplot is the efforts to get Juliet married to Paris. Subplots can support the main plot of your story, as in Romeo and Juliet. We understand that the tensions are heightened because of the subplots.

It’s a great idea to include subplots in your novel preparation, because it leads to a richer experience for your reader. It means that they understand the world better, and your characters are more in-depth. It can also lead to better pacing (see this blog post on pacing here!), raise the tension of your narrative, and give context for the reader.

So, when you are writing subplots in your novel, what do you need to consider? 

A subplot shouldn’t become more significant than the main plot. If your subplot has taken on a mind of its own and can stand without your plot, it might need a novel itself. Subplots are minor stories told alongside or weaved into a larger piece, but they should not overpower your main plot.

Subplots should not be independent of the main plot. If your main character is off to find and fight a dragon, don’t weave a story alongside it about the baker from the local village trying to find his dog if it has nothing to do with the main story. It will confuse the reader and will be irrelevant. Subplots should help drive the main plot forward.

Struggling to come up with a subplot or wondering what yours is? Look at your main character’s relationships with other characters. Is external conflict being created, leading to internal conflict? How about your minor characters or antagonists? What is that they want from the world, and what will they do to get it? Once you have some answers to these questions, consider how this links in with your main storyline. For example, in my novel The Birth of Ida, a subplot involves a secondary character wanting revenge on Ida. This climaxes in a large scene at the end, and so though the two characters do not spend time with each other past the first and last chapters, the subplot is integral to creating tension in the plot and satisfying the reader.

Do you have any questions on subplots and how to write them? Get in touch. As a writer with a PhD, MA and BA in Creative Writing, I have spent years honing my craft and teaching others how to write. I would love to make your novel the tightest it can be today. 

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5 Things to Consider When Hiring an Editor

Are you ready to hire an editor? Good question! When should you approach an editor, and how do you know you are ready? Well, here are some things to bear in mind:

1) What kind of edit do you need? 

There are different types of editing available.
A developmental edit takes into account narrative, characterisation, consistency, plot, world-building, and more. If you have finished the first draft, I recommend reading through it and making any changes before sending it off to an editor for a developmental edit.
A copy edit is when the work is reviewed and edited to improve its readability, ensure consistent writing, and take into account grammar, punctuation, and more. This is usually done after the work has been through a developmental edit and a few drafts in – almost ready for publication.
Proofreading is the last step! This checks for spelling, punctuation errors, missing words, typos, and those pesky things the human eye misses easily.

2) Do you know when you’ll need an editor? 

Editors usually book in advance because edits can take time. If you aim to have your novel finished by a certain time, bear in mind that you should contact editors ahead of this date to see what time they have available.

3) What kind of work does the editor prefer? 

Most editors have different preferences on their website, whether they only work with non-fiction, have a penchant for romance, or love YA fantasy. Peruse their website and consider what they prefer. Why? Because this usually gives you a hint at what they are most experienced in editing and reading. If they spend hours reading fantasy in their spare time, they will understand the tropes of your fantasy novel better than someone who has never read anything fantastical!

4) What is their experience? 

You should be able to tell what an editor’s experience is from their website. For example, do they have testimonials of happy clients, and what is their editing education? If there are neither of these things, it’s worth asking. This is because you want to ensure you have a great experience with someone who is trained, has the skillset to provide you with the service, and has previously worked well with other authors.

5) What is your budget? 

Editors are not cheap, and there is a reason for this. Editing is a big job that takes many hours and a high level of concentration. It also requires a particular skill level that your editor will have worked on for a long time. However, most editors are happy to discuss payment plans and ways you can afford their services. Never be afraid to ask them, because you might just be surprised!

If you have any questions about editing, feel free to get in touch and ask me. To learn more about the editing packages I offer, click on the editing page on my website! As a writer with a PhD, MA and BA in Creative Writing and a previous CW lecturer, I’ve done my fair share of high-level fiction editing, and have very happy testimonials. Get in touch today for dates, questions, and information. I’m always happy to chat! 


4 Tips for Writing in Multiple Points of View

Are you telling a story from the point of view of more than one character? It isn’t always easy, I know. Sometimes it can be hard to get that message across or know who to focus on. So, here are four tips that will make it easier for you to write from multiple points of view in your novel.

1) Assign scenes to a specific character. 

Avoid head-hopping at all costs. Your reader needs to understand that they are reading from a specific character’s point of view. Head-hopping happens when you move from one character’s POV to another within one scene, meaning that the reader is left wondering who they are focusing on and through whose eyes they are seeing the story. Therefore, assign scenes to a specific person, and if you want to move to a new character, use a narrative break or new chapter so that the reader understands what you are doing.

2) Use unique dialogue.

Make sure your reader knows who is speaking through unique dialogue and action tags. This is important for any novel, but especially for writing multiple points of view. It means that your reader will immediately understand whose scene they are in and the character they are focusing on. Even if your characters are from the same place, they should still speak slightly differently. No one speaks the same as somebody else, and if they do, they might use different slang words or have physical movements that differentiate them.

3) Consider a primary point of view. 

Do you have a main character or someone more important to the story than anyone else? A primary point of view makes writing a multiple character story much easier, so it’s worth thinking about if you haven’t yet considered this. It’s not something you have to do – just a recommendation.

4) Consider why you are using multiple points of view. 

Why are you using multiple POVs in your novel? What is the drive, and what is the story getting out of it? What are your characters giving to the tale? These questions are worth working through because if you have a character that adds nothing to your story, you should ask yourself why they are there. The varying points of view that your characters are offering should drive and move the story forward. For example, let’s take a book I recently read – The Mitford Trial by Jessica Fellowes. The story is told from the point of view of two characters, and the reason for this is that, in this classic whodunit, these two have differing opinions, see different things, and therefore provide different clues. So, it wouldn’t work so well as a single narrative point of view.

If you are writing a story with multiple points of view, and have any questions, get in touch to ask! 

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