Categories
Coaching

5 Questions to Ask a Potential Writing Coach

Ready to hire a Writing Coach but don’t know what to ask on a Discovery Call? Don’t worry; I’ve got you.

Writing coaches (also called book coaches) are your personal trainer for writing, there to support you, help you through your writing issues, and give you the confidence to show up to the blank page. You may have considered hiring a writing coach but struggle to know who is best for you. First of all, here are some tips on finding a writing coach before we move on to what to ask them.

How To Find A Writing Coach

You can find a writing coach online. One sure-fire way to peruse the options is by searching ‘writing coach’ on Instagram. Any coach with that in their bio will show up, and you will be able to see what they’re about. As a writing coach myself, here are my tips:

  • Ensure the person is offering some type of ‘meet and greet’. This might look like a Discovery Call, like the ones I offer, an introduction over email, or even a coffee in the local area if you happen to be nearby. This is because you want to make sure you and your coach have a rapport. You will be having confidential sessions with your coach, so find someone you can talk to, open up to, trust, and like.
  • Check their experience. Do they have qualifications and happy previous clients?
  • When was the last time they posted? It might be best to look elsewhere if it’s been months because this signals that the person is no longer engaged in their business.
5 Questions to Ask a Potential Writing Coach

Once you have made some progress with your search and you’re ready to chat with a coach, here are some questions you can ask:

  1. How would you help me with my writing issue? (This will help you understand if this is the best step for you.)
  2. What are your values? (Having a coach whose values align with yours is important.)
  3. Why are you the right coach for me? (This is a great question and will tell you whether you are a good client for them.)
  4. Do you have your own coach? (A coach who is coached and invests in themselves believes in the value of coaching and works on their own mindset. This makes them a better coach.)
  5. What is your feedback style? (If you’re looking for tough love and the coach you are talking to isn’t built that way, it’s okay. It just means that it might not be the best fit.)

There you have it, five questions to ask your potential writing coach! Do you have any questions that you would add? Let me know. 

Looking for a writing coach? As a Certified Professional Coach, trained by an ICF company and with an ILM Level 2, you can trust that my coaching skills are tried and tested. As a writer with a PhD, MA and BA in Creative Writing, and over six years of lecturing in adult education and at universities, I’m a professional writer specialising in helping others find their way forward. 

Any questions? Feel free to get in touch.

Want to read something similar? Check these out!

What is a Writing Coach?
4 Ways to Edit Your Own Writing

Categories
Coaching

How to Get Rid of Self-Limiting Writing Beliefs

“I haven’t published a story, so I can’t call myself a writer.”

Many self-limiting beliefs can hold us back in the writing world, and that’s just an example of one of them.

I often compare writing to the art world. If someone paints, loves it, spends their spare time painting, is part of a painting community and thrives in it…there’s no question that they’re a painter. Whether they have had an exhibition of their artwork or not, they are still a painter.

Often when we tell other people we write, the first question that comes back is, “Have you written anything that I’d know?” Or “Are you published?” Or “Where can I find your work?”

I know this can lead to anxiety and can further that annoying self-limiting belief. So read on if this is something you struggle with because I am going to share a task to help you move forward when these thoughts appear.

Acknowledge.

What is the belief that’s holding you back? The first step is acknowledging its presence and taking note when it appears. Write it down and don’t let it get away without investigation – because if it’s holding you back in writing, then you have every right to show it who’s boss!

Question.

Ask yourself the following:

  1. Do I actually believe this?
  2. Why?
  3. What’s my proof for this?
  4. What advice would I give someone else who is feeling this way?

These questions will force you to really get to the heart of the belief and allow you to break down those self-limiting walls with proof and empathy for yourself.

Practice. 
Every time you notice this pop up, remember that this is not necessarily what you believe. Remind yourself of what you have discovered, and keep working at moving past it!

If you struggle with this and want to chat more about it, get in touch! As a writing coach, I can help you investigate the issue and develop action points to move forward. Want to read more about self-limiting beliefs? Check this post out from The Open University.

You’ve got this, writer!

 

Categories
Craft

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.

Categories
Craft

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!

Categories
Craft

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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Uncategorized

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! 

Categories
Craft

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! 

Want to read something similar? Click here!

Categories
Craft

3 Ways to Ensure Your Novel is Well Paced

Pacing is such an essential part of a novel. But what is it? Well, it’s essentially how fast or slow you tell the story. A well-paced novel doesn’t include irrelevant details that could bog the story down with information, such as non-eventful travelling, information dumps, or non-essential back story. The idea of a well-paced novel is to keep the reader engaged, interested, and well – turning that page!

So, how can you ensure your novel is well-paced? Here are three ways.

1) Shift the focus.

Have you been in a hurry to tell the story, and it’s moving too fast? It could be time to shift the focus from the main plot to your subplot. There are many different types of subplots, from romance, to giving backstory through flashbacks to supporting the novel’s central theme (think Bob Cratchit’s tale in A Christmas Carol).

Focus on a subplot means that it will take you longer to reach the final destination of your main plot, so use this idea sparingly. Too many subplots and diversions can be frustrating for a reader who really wants to know whodunit.

Want to speed up your story? Consider taking out a subplot.

2) Vary your sentence length. 

Just as including large narrative sections in dense paragraphs can slow down your pacing, the opposite is also true. Short, sharp sentences and the use of single paragraph sentences can pack a punch and speed up the pace of your novel. An exciting read has varying sentence length, and a novel with roughly the same length sentences can be repetitive, even if the content varies. Keep your reader on their toes by changing up those sentences!

3) Create urgency.

As I shared in my blog post – How to Create Tension in Your Writing – urgency can come from different places. For example, adding a literal time limit will keep your reader on the edge of their seat, checking their watch to see how much time the character has left to complete their mission. Creating urgency in writing can also mean adding an element of danger – is your character being chased? Is there a fight brewing?

Alright, those are three ways to ensure your novel is well-paced! Do you have any questions about pacing? I would love to help answer them. Get in touch here.

Fancy reading something similar? Click here!

Categories
Craft

How to Find and Fix Plot Holes

A big part of self-editing is finding plot holes and fixing them. I know that when you have written the work, it isn’t always easy to spot them, so let’s begin this blog post with what a plot hole might look like in your novel before moving on to how to fix them. 

I also teach a class on this in my Novel Writing Masterclass: It’s Time to Write Your Novel. This 40 class course will take you from idea to publication – self-editing included!

Let’s look at those plot holes issues right now. 

Plot Holes:

1: Continuity errors. For example, a character suddenly knows something that they shouldn’t until later in the plot, or there’s a scene that’s missing that explains how two characters met. Anything that makes you go ‘huh? Hang on a minute….’

2. Those sneaky narrative threads. When you’re reading the work, you should now see if all of your threads are tied up nicely. If you find one that isn’t – that’s a plot hole that needs fixing!

3: Unusual actions or dialogue: If your Scottish character suddenly spends a few lines talking like a cowboy without reason, that’s a plot hole. If someone does something that is entirely out of character without any explanation or backstory – guess what? Plot hole! Yes, your character will develop throughout the novel, but keep it realistic. If someone’s personality changes overnight without reason, that’s significant and can be considered a plot hole.

4: Error and impossible action: If you’re writing a renaissance and your main character flicks on the radio – this is an obvious plot hole. But remember, they can be more subtle. If you have a character who lives in the 15th Century in a mud hut and you say something in the text like ‘His interest turned up like a dial’ – this too is a plot hole. Your reader will be thrown out of the story as they wonder about the consistency of the writing. Impossible actions include things that would kill someone usually, but your character happens to survive – unless they have a valid reason for doing so (secret superheroes and that sort of thing). Remember – your character can’t just survive because they’re the main character – that’s not realistic.

Fixing the Plot Holes!

Now we know what the plot holes are, how do we fix them?

1: Continuity errors: If you find a continuity error that’s bigger than a dialogue issue, often writing in a scene to explain how you have reached a certain point can help. Don’t rush it – take your time. A shoe-horned chapter can throw the reader off, so really consider: how did this character get here? What could make this section of the journey more believable? What can you add to make this part of the story make sense?

2: Narrative threads: If you have found a thread that’s flapping in the wind, you can tie it up or remove it. Consider – is it essential? Is there a reason you didn’t tie it up or forgot about it (Perhaps it didn’t play into the plot or relate to it)?

3: Unusual actions or dialogue: This is a character action or personality issue – so ask yourself: Is there any explanation that could make this work? Why is my character behaving in this way, and does it make sense? What can I change to make it make sense? If you like the unusual action or dialogue, ask yourself, ‘Is there anything that can be added earlier on in the story to help this make sense?’

4: Error and impossible action: This is usually to do with a lack of research, and the answer is the same as the problem – it calls for research! The only fix to this is to re-write these parts.

If you need a professional editor to help you clean up your plot holes, get in touch. That’s precisely what a Developmental Edit is for. I would love to help you make that manuscript shine! 

Any questions? Don’t hesitate to ask.

Want to read something similar? Check out the following…
How to Deal with Constructive Criticism of Your Writing
4 Ways to Edit Your Own Writing

Categories
Coaching Publishing

How to Write a Synopsis

The synopsis. I can hear you groaning already…what is it about a synopsis that writers find so tricky to write? I believe I know. You are so close to your novel, and you’ve written thousands of words. You’ve edited it and finally reached the end. And then, you have to pull yourself way back from the story and summarise what you’ve written? That isn’t easy.

It’s actually way easier for someone else to do for you – and I know this because I have written clients’ synopsis and pitches for them and found it much easier than writing my own. It’s because I can view the story objectively, pull out what needs to be known, and re-write it clearly. When it comes to my story, I just want to tell you ALL of it!

Writing a synopsis is a class that I teach in my Novel Writing Masterclass – It’s Time to Write Your Novel, but I wanted to give you a little freebie here because I know that other people struggle with this area too.

So – let’s break it down together. Here are the steps I recommend to write a synopsis:

1) Write down plot points in the order of events.
2) Write the first paragraph – set up the premise and write a clear description of the world and scenario you have created.
3) Connect your plot points by describing your character’s growth.
4) Tell us the ending.
5) Re-read for editing.

Ideally, this should be no more than 1000 words.

Follow these steps, and you should find it much easier to write your synopsis!

Let me know how you get on and don’t forget to get in touch if you need a hand.

Are you looking for a similar read? Check out the following:
3 Things Needed for a Fantastic Book Proposal
5 Things to Avoid When Writing Dialogue