Friday, 22 May 2015

WRITING TIPS #6 from EDGE Author Sara Grant

Welcome to Part Six of the EDGE WRITING TIPS series! Each week, a different EDGE author will offer a few pearls of writing wisdom. We hope you find them useful!


When I give workshops or teach classes – when I meet wannabe writers – I often ask: What are you reading? I hope they will respond with current books in the genre and for the age range they want to write. But all too often, teen writers admit that they don’t read books and adult writers confess they aren’t reading any children/teen fiction.

WHAT?!

My heart breaks. My head throbs.

To be a writer you MUST be a reader.

Some of these unread writers will guiltily try to explain. The reason for their appalling behaviour? They are afraid if they read books in the same genre they will accidentally mimic other writers. If only! I wish that I only had to read Malorie Blackman, Sharon Creech, Sally Gardner, my fellow EDGE writers or other fabulous authors and Voila! I could write like they do. If that’s how it worked, I’d never stop reading their books. I’d sleep with them under my pillow. I devour their books because I DO want to write as beautifully and capture readers’ imaginations the way they do.


Studying Cormier and Horowitz for insight & inspiration for my new series.
The only creative writing teachers you will ever need are on bookstore and library shelves. Find the books you adore and wished you’d written and dissect them. What makes them tick? How did that author hook you and keep you turning the page? If you are having character problems? Find great characters and determine how the writer gave birth to them. Dodgy dialog? Study writers with effortless exchanges.

And I’ll take my advice one step further. BUY THE BOOK. Support the industry you hope will support you one day. There are fewer publishers out there and fewer bookshops. If we don’t support our industry – publishers, bookshops and our fellow writers and illustrators – then we are part of the problem!

My book purchases in May.
For the price of a Big Mac, fries and soda, I can purchase a paperback written by one of my fine, fellow EDGE authors. That’s hours of entertainment – and a much bigger bang for your buck than a movie. (Although you could argue the nearly 1,000 calories of a Big Mac meal will linger on my hips and clog my arteries for years to come. So I’m actually saving your life by advocating Books over Big Macs. But I digress…)

My husband thinks I am single-handedly trying to bolster the publishing industry. (This is a photo of
this month’s book purchases.) Yeah, I have a book buying problem. But there are so many amazing books being published – and much worse addictions.

Want to be a writer?

Want a book with your name on the spine?

My top writing tip – buy LOTS AND LOTS of great books – and study them!


Sara Grant has written two edgy teen novels -- Dark Parties and Half Lives -- and a funny series for young readers -- Magic TrixShe is currently developing a new action-adventure series for tweens with Scholastic. For more information on Sara and her books, visit www.sara-grant.com or follow her on Twitter @AuthorSaraGrant

Friday, 15 May 2015

WRITING TIPS #5 by PAULA RAWSTHORNE



It’s Week 5 of the EDGE WRITING TIPS series! Each week an Edge author shares tips that work for them.  We hope you find them useful!


This week ‘The Truth About Celia Frost’ author, Paula Rawsthorne shares her thoughts on finding what works for you.

First thing to say is that we’re offering tips not rules as there aren’t rules that all writers should follow.  One writer’s rules don’t fit all.  So my tip would be to gather tips and ‘rules’ from the various writers that you admire (and some you don’t) and then see what works for you.

 


Elmore Leonard

A few years ago ‘The Guardian’ ran a tremendous piece for writers.  Following Elmore Leonard’s ‘10 Rules of Writing’ (which are included), they asked a host of brilliant writers for their personal 10 rules.  Have a look at the results and be inspired.



 

The very process of deciding what tips and rules work for you can be thought-provoking, stimulating and productive.  It can help you work out how you, as an individual, write best. Your approach to writing maybe very much influenced by your personality, so, for example, if you’re an energetic type, you may produce your best writing whilst jogging around the park and plotting in your head.  If you are disciplined and thrive on routine, you may work best having undisturbed, set hours to write.  If the writing process feels like pulling teeth, maybe you need to take regular breaks to chill by watching ‘Homes Under the Hammer’!  

I recently stumbled upon a great programme on BBC Radio 4 – ‘The Invisible College’  Monday 4pm.  There are only three episodes in total and I recommend that you catch them all on iPlayerRadio.  These half hour, mini lectures by Dr. Cathy FitzGerald (who has a fabulously soothing voice) use advise from great writers and poets, dead and alive.  We hear, amongst others, Graham Greene, Maya Angelou and William Golding talking about how they develop character, style, plot etc.  It’s fascinating to learn about their different approaches to writing and their methods and attitudes towards their work.  As you listen, certain advice may chime with you whilst you may disagree with others- but that’s good.  It all helps.


Maya Angelou

If you’re looking for tips on whether you ought to plot your novel beforehand or just go with the flow, you’ll find plenty of writers arguing for one way or the other but you have to follow what works for you.  So, for instance, I’m not a writer who just starts the novel and sees where it takes me.  I write thrillers and by their very nature this genre tends to be tightly plotted, with intricate, twisting storylines.  That’s why I find plotting essential and, luckily, I enjoy this aspect of writing.  I’m a low tech kind of woman and I use a (real) cork board and revision cards to help work out my plot.  I think of it like a crime investigation; trying to piece the case, clues and evidence together.

I write the bones of each scene on a separate revision card and pin them onto the cork board in sequence.  I then spend time studying what’s on the board and seeing what works best; it can lead to shifting scenes around, discarding some, creating new ones, taking the plot in a different direction.  I think that a cork board full of scenes can be a useful tool no matter what genre you’re writing. 

However, even after I’ve plotted my story the beauty of creative writing is how the storyline and characters start to evolve once you get stuck into the writing. It’s exciting when you think you’ve got a scene sorted and then suddenly you realise there’s another, better route you can take it.

 
So, write as much as you can and work out what kind of writer you are and what approach and tips work for you.

If you’ve got any thoughts or questions please feel free to leave a comment below.  Good luck and keep writing.