Building Books

Hi friends. I promised I’d read you an excerpt from Judy Blume’s Forever…, my favorite banned book in continued celebration of Banned Books Week, but I’m holding off on that until next blah-g post. One of your comments on writing caught my eye and I’m addressing it today since I’m also neck deep in my own process finishing the Dirty Book Club.

Here’s what Lydia said:

Lisi you always give the best advice…
I’ve been writing a book since March and I’m only on Chapter 4. My process is pretty slow, but I want to get it moving a least a little bit. If I can’t think of anything for my current chapter, I write little bits and pieces in my notes. I also feel like my writing style is inconsistent. I try to use descriptive words here and there, but it seems too sporadic. Plus my witty retorts and personalities for the characters remind me of “The Fault In Our Stars” and feel too dated. How can I find my own style of writing without letting the books I read influence it too much? 

 

Lydia, I feel your pain here. Based on what you explained is happening it sounds like you may not have started with an outline. WRITE AN OUTLINE FIRST. Is there a specific message or idea you want to explore? Is the book plot or character driven? Have you thought about how you want the story to resolve? Characters and some plot lines will probably end up changing along the way, but get down the basic skeleton of where you want the story to go. It’s a must. It will save you days if not months of agonizing over the turns you want to take in your book.

As for your descriptive words feeling a little sporadic, are you peppering in adjectives or are you fleshing out a scene based on the senses? Show, don’t tell. Give your reader a feel for the scene by describing the taste of air on a muggy day, the smell of a character’s home, or the texture of the worn-in hoodie she always wears.

Develop your characters as much as possible. Get to know their dark secrets, their driving motivations, their quirks, worries and fears. If it helps your mind to stay organized, create a doc for each character and include everything about him/her down to their favorite snacks, sayings and what nervous ticks they have. All of this will inform you while you’re fleshing them out. It will also make it easier to imagine what your characters might do in the situations you’re creating for them, which will help with your momentum.

I’d usually say to read as many books as possible by your favorite authors to get familiar with the tone and structure of stories you like, but you’ve mentioned you might be too closely mimicking another writer’s voice. While you’re honing your craft and finding your voice, this isn’t the worst thing in the world to do. You come with an entirely unique set of experiences and will approach TFIOS diferently than John Green did writing it. Even if you’re basing some characters’ personalities off of the ones he’s created, you’ll naturally insert your own twists, which will engender new variations. Play around with that. See which parts of them you like, which parts can be edited back and try to develop what will make your characters complex and memorable.

With all that said… four chapters since March? You’re doing great! Keep it up and let us know how the book is coming along soon.

TTYW,

Lisi

Comments

  1. Omg thank you so much. This was a big help. I’ll be sure to keep this all in mind and I’ll work on that outline as soon as possible. Thanks again. 😀

  2. Dear Lisi,
    i was wandering if you had a quotev. Its a story sharing site much Like wattpad. I have one and so do my friends I have a published story but im not done with it yet. I wanted to know if it would be possible for you to make am account…. and possibly follow me. I think it would be great to have an actual author on the site! And I know you are very busy so you wouldn’t even have to be consistent with publishing a story. You could just do journals and read other peoples work. I would love it if you would make an account and im sure allot of other people will too!

    Yours truly,
    Kiara:)

  3. Dear Lisi,
    I’ve been reading your books (secretly because my mom didn’t allow me to at first) since I was eight or nine. I’m now fourteen and I love writing. I have a question though… more like a problem. I’ll have these amazing characters and plots and ideas; I’ll write bit, get writers block & never finish it! It’s a sick cycle I’ve been on since I first started writing at age seven! Any ideas as to what’s my problem and how to fix it? Thank you x

  4. Lisi, this post is very helpful to a lot of young writers! And I can’t wait until the next post! Do you think there’s a way to spice up my blah-g writing? I’m not really sure where exactly I should go with it.

    ♥︎ Alicia

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing writing advice! But I do agree that the major thing is writing an outline. If you don’t have an outline, you’re pretty much writing spur of the moment, and you don’t really know where to go. You can’t have those little hints of foreshadowing that readers dismiss and then they go like, “OHHHH! I should have noticed that!” if you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. The most helpful thing about an outline is that you have your ideas all straightened out, so you don’t have to wrestle with those. You just have to put your thoughts into words and mess with icky stuff like grammar. It just makes things so much easier. If you’re on a deadline, outlines help a ton too. Another thing that’s helpful? Write a mini -biography of all your characters life. It can be anywhere from a couple sentences to almost a page. It just really helps with character development.

    If you are a new author, I found this website filled with great tips. It’s so hard to follow these rules, but it makes your writing SO much better: http://www.plottopunctuation.com/blog/show/forty-five-more-flaws-that-expose-your-lack-of-storytelling-experience-part-1

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