Showing posts with label Novel Writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Novel Writing. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sit Butt in Chair!

Sit Butt in Chair,
Sit Butt in Chair,
Sit Butt in Chair,

After years of thinking about writing and, every once in a while, actually writing, I decided to take a college course called, "Write your Novel." At the time I thought writing might be a great hobby. Something to do in my spare time after working a full time job and taking care of four children all still in school. (I know, what spare time, right?) I remember the advice from my my then college professor well. 'To write, sit butt in chair." That was it. 

Sit Butt in Chair
Sit Butt in Chair
Sit Butt in Chair

Before that I would often 'write' stories in my head. I 'wrote' whenever bored - doing dishes, making beds, weeding, driving. I found lots of time to create stories, but actually writing them down seemed to be difficult. Then I took this class and I was encouraged to just 'sit butt in chair.' I found that the process meant I could write a novel length manuscript and still have a job and children.  All I had to do was find the time to: 
Sit Butt in Chair
Sit Butt in Chair
Sit Butt in Chair

Surprisingly, there are many opportunities to sit butt in chair.

A couple of years went by and I attended a writer's conference. There I heard someone else give this great piece of advice, "sit butt in chair.' Simple but effective they said, and I knew it was true. I have found to write all I need to do is 'sit butt in chair.' And when writing isn't happening, I know its because I have not come to the desk and sat down, nothing else is at fault. So make a habit of sitting your butt in chair and see what you can accomplish.  

What was the best piece of writing advice you've received? 
D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Solem was released February 2016.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole, and Perception, and the co-author of The Exodus Series: The Water Planet: Book 1 and House of Glass: Book 2. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.                                                                                             

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at                                      

You can also follower her on Facebook.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tips from C.S. Lakin on Cinematic Techniques for your Novel

Image from
C.S. Lakin's terrific book, Shoot Your Novel: Cinematic Techniques to Supercharge Your Writing, is the latest addition to my desk. Note, I didn't say bookshelf. Overnight, Lakin's book has become a staple of my process that is quickly growing dog ears. This is no exageration: Every page of Shoot is jam-packed with suggestions for writing or re-writing the scenes in your books to advance the plot, reveal your character, and stir your readers' emotions. In short, Shoot is thorough. It covers so much on what it takes to enhance your novel that it is a great resource for all writers, beginners as well as experienced.

In this post we will touch on Lakin's approach to writing fiction, which is to view your story as a series of scenes as seen through the lense of a camera. For the full scope of what she has to offer, I highly recommend this book to be added to your own personal writer's toolbox. It could save you time and effort and give you a concrete way to reach your reader, ridding you of any guesswork. Sprinkled throughout Lakin's book are numerous passages from books and movies to illustrate her points. A handy list of them is included at the end.

Most important, there is much more to this book than is covered in this post, such as how to combine camera shots for the best outcome, how to use visual motifs and symbols, and more. I hope the post will spark your interest in reading it for yourself and reaping all it has to offer. Lakin has written three other books on writing and many fiction books. Next I want to study her book, Writing the Heart of your Story: A Guide to Crafting an Unforgettable Novel, which details scene construction (and dip a toe in one of her fiction books . . . just for fun, of course). 

Before you begin, you might want to make room in your closet for more hats other than the editor's, illustrator's, writer's, marketer's, etc., hats you already wear. To name a few, you might add chapeaus for cinematographer, production designer, and screenwriter. Save your fanciest topper for you as director, as you will be donning this hat to tell your story in a series of scenes as if it were a movie.

Lakin has handily narrowed down the types of camera shots to two: stationary and moving. Stationary shots are the most common shots in movies and on TV. "These essential shots define our world . . . We are not always moving . . . We see life most often [this way], whether close up . . . or far away."

"Moving shots mimic the way our eyes follow what's happening . . . The right choice of a moving shot will effect pacing and tension . . . Novelists have a wonderful medium in which to translate moving shots into powerful prose."

Lakin's Method
Begin by identifying the high moment of your scene--the moment of greatest impact. You will need to decide which camera shots to use leading up to the high moment, and then the best shots for whatever happens afterwards. Once you know the high moment and how your plot builds to it,
you can work backward and forward. Some basic shots Lakin describes:
  • Establishing Shot (ES): Each time the scene changes the time and place need to be established. In most cases, it is best to keep the ES short--move on to the main part of the scene. Omniscient POV is okay. Give just enough details, then move on.
  • Three Basic Distances:
  • The Close-Up or Two-Shot (CU): The CU is used when you want to zero in on a detail, such as an expression on a character's face or an object that is the point of the scene. The common two-shot shows two people in conversation or relating with one another. CU's tell the reader, "Pay attention here!" You can reveal a clue that is not explained until later to add tension and your reader's curiosity.
  • Full or Medium Shot (MS): Full shots can be full body shots or shots from the waist up, showing body language and facial expressions. MS shots can also show a small group of people, such as a family sitting at the dinner table eating and talking.
  • Long Shot (LS): LS's in novels are effective if showing something that might be coming or what might be happening such as a threatening tornado or hurricane off in the distance, which can add tension. LS's can add tension by drawing out a high moment. The example used is an excerpt from Predator by Terry Blackstock: "[Krista] has to wait (and so does the reader) agonizing moments until the body is pulled out and she can make out the shirt and hair--not the face because she's not close enough--" we've had to wait (and sit on the edge of our seat) for the final moment when she recognizes her sister.
More Helpful Tips
  • Every scene has a purpose in advancing the plot and every camera shot has a purpose.
  • Scenes need to be shown from the POV character's eyes and reveal her frame of mind.
  • Each scene needs to be planned out and the best shots chosen for greatest impact.
  • Scenes are a string of moments leading up to the high moment and may include movements, internal thoughts, gestures and expressions and dialog.
Some of the Ways I Plan to use this Book
  • View my scenes as camera shots and see if I can improve on how to show them.
  • Make a list of the scenes in my WIPs, identify the high moments and make sure I've done what I can to build to the high moment.
  • Consider shortening my ES's.
  • Make sure every scene has a purpose. Right now I can think of at least one part of a scene where I described my character waiting for her friends to sneak out of their house, and the night sounds she listened to. The description popped into my head as a part that could be eliminated unless I assign it a purpose other than simply listening to sleepy crickets crick.
  • Read the books and watch the movies used as illustrations, partly for fun--I'm always looking for good reads and shows, but mostly to take Lakin up on understanding these works' importance as seen through the authors' lenses.

    Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for adults and children and six short stories for children. Recently she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction and picture book courses. She is currently working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on  Facebook.

Monday, November 3, 2014

What I've Learned from NaNoWriMo

For those of you who don’t know about NaNoWriMo, it’s an event that takes place in November every year.  Hundreds of thousands of dedicated writers all over the world each pledge to write a rough draft of a novel (at least 50,000 words) in one month.  That’s almost 1700 words per day:  a serious commitment and an exhilarating one.  I wrote my first Nano novel in 2009, starting at midnight November 1 in my pension in Znojmo, Czech Republic.  I wrote all the next day on foggy train rides in South Moravia, the perfect mysterious setting for writing my tale.

I now have five Nano novels under my belt.  It’s a great experience and I highly recommend it.  Here are some things I’ve learned from NaNoWriMo that can apply to all writing, not just crazy novel-in-a-month challenges.

1)  Have Concrete Goals and Record Your Progress.  “Write a novel this month” doesn’t work as well as “Write 1700 words today.”  During NaNoWriMo, I update my word count daily on Nano’s cool website so I can get a visual of how well I’m doing.  It’s really motivational.  You can create similar charts on your own, with spreadsheet graphics, other computer applications, or simple paper charts above your desk.  The very act of physically marking off your progress (or realizing you haven’t done the work to allow you this satisfaction) really helps.

2)  Band Together with Other Writers. In Nano, depending on where you live, you can join regional groups that host in-person planning sessions, parties, and write-ins throughout the month.  Even if you don’t have an active regional group, there are virtual write-ins and word wards (where you compete to write the most words in a set time limit).  NaNoWriMo forums are fantastic places to go for inspiration or to do research for your novel.  Ask what arsenic poisoning feels like, or how much beer costs in Germany, and you’ll get answers.  It’s amazing.  In non-NaNoWriMO life, writers’ groups are just as important.  I am and will be eternally gratefully to my writer’s critique groups, who not only help me become a better writer and catch my stupid typos, but who motivate me to write, write, write, so I can submit regularly. 

3)  Lock up your Inner Editor.  When you’re trying to get a story down on paper, try not to re-read and edit as you go.  It slows you down and may kill your inertia once you get going.  I used to edit a lot as I went.  Every time I sat down to write, I’d go back several page sand re-read and edit before I started writing.  Sometimes I’d run out of time or creative energy and never get to the actual writing part.  In Nano, if I wanted to reach 50,000+ words in 30 days, I couldn’t afford this, so I would open up my document, read maybe two paragraphs, and then start writing. And my rough draft wasn’t as rough at the end as I supposed it would be.  Now I try to implement this “just get it down first” style of writing even when I’m not in a time crunch.

4)  Plan Plenty of Time to Revise Later.  My first NaNoWriMo novel is in print and available.  I’m querying my second to agents.  But my third, fourth, and fifth?  They’re in the trunk, not completely finished and mostly unedited.  What I’ve failed to do is commit as much (or more) time to polishing these novels as I did to writing the first drafts.  They say, of course, that writing is 1/3 of the work and revising is 2/3.  So plan for this and don’t let your drafts languish in Rough Draft Land.

So this year I’m not writing a novel during NaNoWriMo.  Instead, I’m rewriting and revising a trunk novel—still in 30 days, still a huge challenge.  And though I’m a little sad not to be writing something new, I’m excited about readying my old work for public eyes. 

It’s not too late for you to start Nanowrimo:

If you want to read my first NaNoWriMo novel (on sale now in honor of Nano), here’s the Amazon link:  Far-Knowing 
Far-Knowing is also available at other major online bookstores.

Melinda Brasher loves visiting alternate worlds through books and exploring this world through travel. Check out her newest article on Go Nomad:  “Hunting Mushrooms in Wallachia.”  For some free short fiction, read “Stalked” on On the Premises or “A Learned Man” on Electric Spec.. Visit her online at

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Creating Characters

As writers, we know story is important. Readers want to know what happens next. But while story is important, it alone, will not sustain a reader to the end. To keep the reader going, a book requires characters, colorful characters that surprise, intrigue and keep your readers guessing what they will do next. 

E.L. Doctorow said, "Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." Yes, I hear voices. Usually they are tiny ones that speak with accents or have unusual phrasing. Sometimes they come up with thoughts that are brilliant. Sometimes they make me laugh. No matter, these voices cause me to sit in my hammock and listen more closely to the story they tell. 

I often start my novels with the "bookends." I hear an engaging character's words and listen long enough to figure out how their story ends. Then, (picture me rubbing my hands together evilly), I get to write the in between. This is the space in my novels where the character is tested, molded and finally formed into a different human being. Historians record, while novelists create. For me as a writer, this is what takes my breath away, what makes the experience of being a writer a joy.

With characters being so important to the craft, we must take the time necessary to create them.  Knowing all the details of your character is critical. It is more than just eye and hair color, or what they eat and drink.
Developing a fully formed character means you are able to describe everything about them, including their hand gestures and how they pose. What do they do with their legs while seated? How do they stand? What angles do they create? When building fully formed characters, start at the feet. Describe their toes, and ankles, as well as their choice in shoes. Move from the feet to the legs. Are they defined? How so? What about your character's torso? Do they have "love-handles"? Are they trim and fit? Or somewhere in between? Shoulders, arms and hands are all important. Only after you have a clear image of your character's body is it time to focus on the face. The more you know about your character, the easier it is for your readers to see them.

Dressing your character is also important. Clothes make a statement. Then there are your character's props. What items do they keep handy and what do they use them for? I often use things for unintended purposes. I'm sure this must say something about me. If your character uses a letter-opener for a hole-punch I'm sure it says something about them too. 

What does your character dream about? Dreams often establish our vulnerabilities. Fully formed characters must have flaws if only because flawed characters are more interesting. They seem to be more like ourselves and our readers.

In developing your character, also think about where and what they hide. (Again, see me with my hands rubbing together.) I just love a good secret.

Exercise: Create a character. Describe his or her hiding place. A closet. Their desk. The kitchen drawer. The cupboards in their laundry room. Their garage. What did you find there that most surprised you? Why is it hidden? I'd love to know what you found!

D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction. She loves to tell stories of personal growth where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is the author of Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception, her latest book dealing with the subject of death and the afterlife. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.
She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at
Her novels are available in electronic format here, or print format here
You can also follower her at or on Facebook
Or you can just contact her at

Write for the Reader, Not for Yourself

  By Karen Cioffi Years ago, a client told me that I don’t write for the client; I don’t even write for myself; I write for the reader. This...