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Writing A Novel: Writing Slow And Fast At The Same Time

Pen on Notepad Paper

Writing a novel is like riding a bull… And you have no saddle, no strap, or no harness. You’re naked too. And the bull is actually a Boeing 747.


Purposeful Scene Construction

First of all, you’re probably wondering what in the heck we mean by that title. Well, you’ll be pleased to know that it can be broken down. And you’ll be even more pleased to learn that once it is broken down, it’ll be very useful for you and your writing.

So, how exactly can you write slow and fast at the same time?

The answer is simpler than you think.

We’re clearly talking about pacing here, and the truth of this article lies in two different types of pacing. We like to refer to them simply as internal and external. The internal pacing relates to the details – the character thoughts, descriptions, world-building etc., and the external pacing relates to the transitions, speech, and character actions.


The Purpose

We’re going to break down the mixing of these combinations in a simple way that doesn’t make your head want to explode. But before you can understand that, let’s quickly touch on the purpose.

The reason behind writing a scene like the one we’re going to go into is quite simple, but it’s also very useful (for any genre in the novel-crafting game). You can’t go wrong with this method. These scenes crop up across the board, and working this out in regards to your own style is exactly what will help you to level up your writing.

This is going to be incredible for those scenes that need to move fast, but at the same time mustn’t be rushed. You know the ones we mean. You’ll have written them hundreds of times before. And you’ll have read them many times too. You want the scene to move quickly to keep the reader engaged, but you also want to stick around with it for a while so it stays in their mind and isn’t easily forgotten. A murder scene in a crime thriller would be a perfect example. Or the first meeting between the love interests in romance.


Now For The Juicy Part

What you want to think about is this: slow internal pacing; fast external pacing. You want the descriptions to drag a little, to be quirky and full of voice and metaphor. That will help the reader to know that what is happening is important. Then, between those longer descriptions and thoughts, you make the transitions short and snappy, with fast-paced sentences and word choices.

Make sense? Good!

Don’t over-complicate the matter. Just think in simple terms. If you want to slow a piece down, use longer sentences with lots of metaphor and focus more on showing. If you want to speed up between those longer inserts, use shorter sentences and focus more on telling the reader of the transitions.

Mastering the blend of the two is what will take your important scenes and level them up. And leveling up in that sense is what will make your writing ability stand out greatly. That is what you want after all, right?


Trial and Error

As with any article we post here, this is just a general guideline that you can follow and switch up for your genre and writing style. This isn’t a quick-fix solution. This is something to stimulate that writerly mind of yours.

We fully believe in finding your own way to do things. You should be reading these articles and feeling stimulated; they should be giving you ideas on how you can improve your writing. That’s our aim with these, and we certainly hope it comes across.

Think of this as a half-finished blueprint. The foundations have been laid, now all you have to do is build the house.

Writing A Novel: No Looking Back

Man Riding Boxer Motorcycle on Road

Writing a novel is like baking a cake… for four thousand people in less than an hour, with one hand and zero utensils.


It’s A Process

There’s nothing quite like the journey of writing a novel.

It’s a personal adventure; a seeking of the soul. And it should be regarded with love and respect. The process is not easy, and that’s why it makes us sad to see so many writers putting themselves down. That’s what this article will touch on.

It’s time to put a stop to the self-hatred. It’s already tough enough to make it as a writer. If you doubt yourself within that umbrella of hardship, it’ll be damn near impossible. We want to help you think of things in a more positive light – with both inspirational words and practical advice.

We want to set the record straight.

If you’ve completed a full-scale novel that makes sense, twists, and is at least partway entertaining, you’re a very rare and beautiful human, and you should treat yourself as nothing less.


Self-Awareness

Before we get into the main topic, let’s quickly touch on what you must understand first: yourself. This is perhaps the most important thing to understand – especially if you want to make it in the world of words and wisdom.

The community is full of other writers, and that means it’s full of other creatives sharing their processes, their results, and their preferences. What you must realise about this is that all those things have nothing to do with you. The most successful writers are those who carve their own paths through the wild word-filled shrubbery.

You must consult yourself.

This article will contain a strategy for those who struggle with self-doubt, a strategy that will hopefully provide them with an outlet; a way to avoid the terrible black hole. If you don’t struggle with self-doubt, this strategy might not be relevant. But, it could be relevant if you struggle to stick with one idea or to finish a novel, so if that’s you, stick around – we’ve got a logical theory coming your way.


Stop Editing As You Go

Many writers get stuck in this trap. It’s perhaps the easiest pitfall to stumble into as a writer, and that’s simply because it’s in the nature of the beast. When a writer sees words (especially their own) they want to critique them, make them better, and have a fantastic time while doing so.

Now, there’s a slight problem with this if you’re someone who self-doubts or can’t finish a novel. Are you catching on yet? That’s right – the slight problem is that obvious. If you struggle with those things, it’s likely not a great idea to get hung up on the tense consistency of chapter four.

Introducing the solution: no looking back. And yes, we mean it.

We want you to give this a try. Plan out a novel, figure out your plot in detail, and then go to town day after day. Don’t stop to reread the previous page, the previous sentence, or even the previous word. Just write and write until you’ve written the very last word of the very last chapter. Once you reach that point, you can look back all you like. You’ve earned it by then.

This is one way to negate the difficulties of editing while you write and, you know, not doing any actual writing because of it. It’s no good editing chapter four twenty times – it won’t be relevant to anyone else until the final chapter is written.


Extremes

This is, of course, a rather extreme strategy, so again, find what works for you. Maybe reread each sentence, catch any typos or misplaced words, and then move on. Maybe even give the page a quick once over. But remember, the purpose of this drill is to avoid over-editing while you write, so be sure that you can leave it at the bare minimum.

Give this a try and see how it works for your process and your style – that’s how it will be best implemented.

And most of all, don’t forget to have a darn good time with your writing. If you let the stress and the self-doubt overwhelm you, it’ll sap the fun right out of the creative process. And what’s the point in writing if you can’t have fun? That’s why you got into this game in the first place, right?

 

Writing A Novel: How To Skip Ahead In Time Smoothly

apple, black-and-white, camera

Writing a novel is like fishing without a rod or a net or a boat. Or arms or legs or a body. Fishing as a ghost…


Nothing You Haven’t Seen Before

You might be wondering exactly what we mean by ‘skip ahead’, so we thought we’d clear that up first. We refer to these as internal transitions. That translates to transitions that take place within the scene: the action moves to a new time or place but is not separated with a scene break (when the paragraphs split) or a chapter break – it just continues inside the same scene.

You’ll have seen this done in writing many times before, usually when the characters are engaged in something mundane (such as searching for something on a computer or riding in a car) or when they need to get from one place to another without it dragging on.

There are a few things you must take notice of when writing these internal transitions. You don’t want them to seem too jumpy or the reader will lose interest. You don’t want them to drag on too long or the reader will lose interest.

So, how exactly do you want them?


Crisp And Purposeful

That’s how.

First, let’s go into when you should steer clear of using the internal transition. If the skip ahead you’re making is any longer than five hours, we’d recommend using a scene or chapter break instead. That’s purely for pacing reasons. The reader will feel like they’re being tossed ahead randomly if the skipped amount of time is too large.

If the amount of time you skip is within that five hour mark, there are two different styles of skipping ahead you could try. They should both be done in different scenarios and for different reasons.

Scenario one is the simpler of the two. If you’re skipping ahead in time purely to transition through something mundane and boring, and don’t need to give any context because nothing of importance takes place, you simply tell of the skip ahead and then carry on with the scene.

Scenario two is a little more complex. This is done when you want to skip over something but still need to give the reader some detail or summary. We call this the mini flashback. You use them if the time period you skipped over contained something important: something that is relevant either later in the scene, or later in the overall plot.

We’ll show you the execution of both with some examples below.


Examples

They arrived at the station half an hour later. The doors swung open and Quinn stepped out, hugging his coffee as if it were his newborn son. The sun cast a ray of false promises across the ground in front of him. False because it was freezing. Hence the coffee-canoodling.


They arrived at the station half an hour later. During the journey, Quinn had mentioned the relevance of Jack Till, the man Patricia was seen with. They had spoken about how likely a suspect he really was. Why had he been with her? What was the connection?

Quinn stepped out, hugging his coffee as if it were his newborn son. The sun cast a ray of false promises across the ground in front of him. False because it was freezing. Hence the coffee-canoodling.


Make Sense?

The first example is what you’d do if nothing relevant happened. You’d just skip ahead and get on with the scene. The second example is how you’d position things before moving on with the next part of the writing. Make sense? Good.

Have a play around and try some of these techniques in your writing. Maybe you already have scenes that this can apply to, and would benefit from implementing these guidelines. Whatever the case, be sure to keep these tips in that mind of yours – they are really useful when it comes to great flow and pacing.

And great flow and pacing are two hugely important things. Why? Because they make for a very happy reader.

A Writing Prompt: Grit

pexels-photo-68812

The Purpose

Earlier this week with our poetry prompt, we tried out some detailed descriptions – descriptions that focus on one thing for a long time and get very, well, poetic… Funny, right? That a poem would be poetic…

You get the point.

And point is, we’re going to put what we learned on Monday to the test. We’re going to go real detailed again, but this time, it’s going to be in story style as opposed to poetic form.


The Prompt

It had been much too long since Billy Graham smelled the funfair.

The popcorn hit him first, sweet and salted both at once, as if the stall didn’t sell them separately, but instead as a combination. Next came the hotdogs, filling one nostril; donuts filled the other. Again, sweet and savoury. The scents of his life.

He put down his bag and pulled his cap to his brow. For now, he had arrived.


Try this prompt for size and create something based on it. If you do write something, please share it with us in one way or another. Tag us in a post, post it in the comments, send it to us in an email – we’d love to read your work.

Who knows? If you send something our way and we really like the way you write, we might just offer you a discount on our editing services. Or we might even edit a few chapters for free. It’s worth a try on your part.

You can reach us with your submission or with any questions/inquiries here.

DISCLAIMER: These prompts are here for you to use however you like. You can use them to aid you in short story inspiration for competitions, or even for full-length novels. They’re yours. Consider them your little gift – from us, to you. Do with them as you wish!

Writing A Novel: Don’t Wrestle With Futility

arm-wrestling, bar, bet

Writing a novel is like navigating the world in eighteen days, on foot, and you’re blind, and you have no feet.


Too Much Thought

Writers around the world share the exact same problem: they overthink like crazy.

It’s no huge secret… the community is filled with this evidence. But, that doesn’t make it an acceptable analysis. It’s not a good thing to overthink your every move. It only leads to negative self-analysis and a lack of productivity – two things the growing novelist (or any writer under any format) cannot afford to battle with.

We know that it’s hard to avoid.

Writers spend a lot of time in their heads. That’s the way of the beast. (Not that we’re calling you a beast, but you get the expression.) While spending a long period of time in no other company than that of your own mind, you’re bound to experience some hardship: thoughts. Or a lack of them.


Where Overthinking Stems From

If you ask us, overthinking comes from a dark part of your mind. It comes from that little voice in your head that tells you bad things; that tells you falsities. It’ll say that you aren’t good enough, that you never will be, that you never have been. And then you start to believe this, and subsequently, you think about it too much.

Once you get into those depths, it’s tough to pull yourself out.

In essence, overthinking comes from negativity. Don’t beat yourself up about it – it’s not your fault. Science has shown that most of the negativity you naturally produce is down to a couple of predominant factors: biology (how you’re naturally made up), and external influences during your earlier life.

Someone, or something, filled your head with negativity, and now you need to get it out.


A Specific Type Of Overthinking

We’re going to break this down into a very writerly problem. This is something you can all relate to, and by breaking this down, we hope to show you why this (and overthinking in general) is a pointless process to put yourself through.

You know when you’re working on something – a novel, a play, a poem, a short story – and you’re just not feeling it? Well, what if we told you that you need not overthink that? What if we told you that overthinking is the exact opposite of what you need to do?

Because that’s what we’re telling you.

If ever you’re writing something, and feel for more than one second that you don’t want to write it anymore, stop writing it. Now, that doesn’t mean forever. It just meas that for now, don’t do it. It doesn’t require any further thought. Put down your pen, close your laptop, switch off your mind.

Rest and breathe. Breathe and rest.

We lead short lives. You should never have to spend a single second doing anything you aren’t enjoying. That’s your number one rule, and you have to get extreme with it. Even if this project is something you’ve been working on for years… if that fire dies out, ditch it. Who knows? You may never return. And that’s fine too.

You have to follow your heart and instincts. Writing is predicated on those two factors.


Take A Break And Reassess

It’s as simple and as complicated as that. Just shut it off and refuse to overthink. If you find yourself slipping into that trap, shut your mind off from anything that isn’t positive. Play some very loud music, close your eyes, and let yourself drift into a state of nothingness.

That’s how you tackle overthinking. If something’s not right, stop doing it.

You must simply make sense of your decision; remind yourself that you’re always right. You wouldn’t continue to drive if you knew you were going to run out of fuel. It’s much the same in writing.

A Poetry Prompt: Swelling Tide

Waves Splashing at Stones on Beach during Sunset

The Purpose

You know we believe in poetry as a tool to improve your novel writing. That’s the reason we share these prompts – they can be for poets or novelists, and will be useful for honing the craft of both.

The purpose of this one is to focus on really close detail.

We want you to pen the whole piece in one tone, covering nothing more than the intricate details of the swelling tide. Get obscenely poetic with it, and push your voice to its limit. This will help you to develop a great sense of what works well in your writing, allowing you to carry these descriptions over to your novel writing.


The Prompt

Scenery/Vibe: The shoreline. Some sand and some rocks. But mainly water: jumping and swilling and bobbing and caressing.

Poem’s Message: Many things happen in life, but we can tune mostly anything out by placing insane levels of concentration on a particular thing or task.

Beach

Try this prompt for size and create something based on it. If you do write something, please share it with us in one way or another. Tag us in a post, post it in the comments, send it to us in an email – we’d love to read your work.

Who knows? If you send something our way and we really like the way you write, we might just offer you a discount on our editing services. Or we might even edit a few chapters for free. It’s worth a try on your part.

You can reach us with your submission or with any questions/inquiries here.

DISCLAIMER: These prompts are here for you to use however you like. You can use them to aid you and give inspiration for competitions, or even for full-length poetry collections. They’re yours. Consider them your little gift – from us, to you. Do with them as you wish!

A Writing Prompt: Two Wrongs Make A Crime Scene

Crime Scene Do Not Cross Signage


The Purpose

This prompt comes at you a little differently today. It’s Friday – why not have some fun?

Now, you may not enjoy writing or reading crime as a genre, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid using it in your plot. You can include crime and criminality in books outside of that genre – there’s a lot of freedom in writing these days.

You should definitely consider it.

Crime adds tons of versatility and tension to a plot. If you’re cooking up a deeply intricate tale between two newlyweds, imagine the shock the reader will feel if a dead body turns up on their doorstep.

Now, in a crime book, that’s when the detectives’ POV would take over and the real plot would begin. But in our romance, it goes deeper. The details or MO or evidence – none of that is discussed. Instead, the reader is shown how that traumatic event affects their relationship. You could even get totally out there and use the body as a deep (and slightly sick and twisted) metaphor.

Writing knows no bounds!


The Prompt

He pauses in the doorway, the beginnings of a smile spreading on his lips, and next to it, the blood. It sinks into the dimples on his cheeks, seeping into the once-innocent skin and tainting it with evil.

He takes two steps. Not one, not one and a quarter. But two, full and long. And then he drops the body on the doorstep for the entire world to see.

break in, brutal, burglar

Try this prompt for size and create something based on it. If you do write something, please share it with us in one way or another. Tag us in a post, post it in the comments, send it to us in an email – we’d love to read your work.

Who knows? If you send something our way and we really like the way you write, we might just offer you a discount on our editing services. Or we might even edit a few chapters for free. It’s worth a try on your part.

You can reach us with your submission or with any questions/inquiries here.

DISCLAIMER: These prompts are here for you to use however you like. You can use them to aid you in short story inspiration for competitions, or even for full-length novels. They’re yours. Consider them your little gift – from us, to you. Do with them as you wish!

 

Writing A Novel: Do You Need A Prologue?

answer, business, career

Writing a novel is like journeying the ocean…

But in this instance, you’ve no boat, no equipment, and you can’t bleeding swim!

(That, our writing friends, is a very English expression…)


An Ever-Growing Debate

It’s a topic we see a lot in the community: in heated discussions on Twitter, rage-infused debates in Instagram comments, back-and-forth arguments on Facebook. That’s one thing we’re starting to notice.

Where there’s a group of passionate people who are well versed in the art of words, there’s always something – something – to debate. That’s how life in the writing community goes. Someone says something, someone else disagrees; hellfire ensues.

Okay, so maybe it’s not that crazy…

We think we need to add more fuel to the fire, though. And today, we’re going to do just that. The topic of this debate? Prologues. Are they needed? If so, when?

Stick around, we’re about to explore!


Mastering The Art

There’s a harsh truth to be delivered here. If you’re someone who doesn’t like reading prologues, it’s likely that you don’t like writing them. And if you don’t like writing them, it’s likely that you don’t fully understand the perfect method of construction.

We’re nice. We’re going to go into that.

The prologue, first and foremost, should be something the reader reads and then forgets by chapter four. Sounds a little backwards, right? Well, here’s the catch: forget by chapter four until… they remember it again; until it all comes crashing back in one of those almighty ah-ha! moments.

The prologue gives backstory, a part of the plot that is unrelated until it’s not – that’s where the moment of realisation comes from. That’s also why they’re so hard to do well. If a writer doesn’t have the perfect sub-story to deliver in the prologue, the prologue won’t work. Period.

Even if the wordsmith-ery (yes, we went there) was a divine, damn-near perfect representation of literary genius, the prologue would not work if the chosen event wasn’t strong enough.


What To Do Instead

When deciding if your novel needs a prologue, ask yourself two simple questions: can the backstory I wish to give be included via a more natural means (flashbacks, contextual telling, back-to-front structure)? If not, you go on to the next question: is it entirely relevant?

That’s the thing… The most common reason to include a prologue is to detail a past happening; a past happening that sent the pendulum swinging, that set the meat of the rest of the story in motion. And the thing you have to tackle is simple: the timing and the structure.

Truth is, almost every prologue ever could be presented differently, sprinkled through the story in snippets by using well-timed and executed flashbacks. But, that would cause a lot of extra work, and in that, a lot of extra places in which you could royally mess up.

To simplify: the prologue was born.

Now, all you do is  write that backstory, give all the intricate details, and then move on into the actual story. Just make sure that you don’t dance with the ultimate devil: always – always!!! – ensure that your prologue is given a purpose somewhere during the rest of the story. If the reader doesn’t come across something (an event, a character, a location) that they can relate back to it, it is ultimately, indefinitely futile.


An Example:

Below, we’ll give you some practicality. We’ll outline some details (part of a story outline, if you will) that will show you exactly what types of things a prologue should include. This is going to be an example of a story that requires a prologue.

EXAMPLE: The plot is simple: a newly qualified detective is on his first assignment: a double homicide. Both victims are female. Both were strangled (we know, but the cliches are always best). BLAH-BLAH-BLAH, CRIME-SPIEL, CRIME-SPIEL, CRIME-SPIEL.

Now, the prologue detail.

Your protagonist’s past is pain-burdened beyond repair. When he was six year’s old, he bore witness to the passing of his mother. As she was strangled to death. In her own living room. Much like the two victims of his first case (and the three that follow).

Where does the prologue come into it? Well, with his past, of course.

Thing is, the reader never actually knows about his dead mother (or at least the details) until it is revealed at the end. What makes the reveal so shocking? It is the same killer now – the same man who murdered the detective’s mother. He is back on the loose. (That is revealed at the end.)

Imagine having to give all that pain and suffering in flashback form throughout the novel. Imagine how much pain and suffering it would in turn bring to you. Nope. We wouldn’t fancy it.

The solution? A prologue. Just one 600 word scene at the very start, before the book even begins. It shows two things: a woman being strangled in a living room, and a young boy, watching over the evil in horrified silence.

When it is revealed (by the killer, no less) that it was him – he is the guy who killed the detective’s mom – the reader will lose their mind. They’ll flashback to that random, unexplained scene from the very beginning and… AH-HA!

Ah-ha, indeed.


Only When Necessary

To give our final thoughts: yes, prologues are wonderful, and still have their place, but only when they are strictly necessary. That translates directly to: don’t just write one because it makes you feel like Hemingway; write one because that’s what your story needs.

If you can give the details in flashbacks and with past tense context – do that. If that sounds like an absolute nightmare among nightmares, and like it might require an inadvisable amount of whiskey, you need a bloody prologue!

A Poetry Prompt: Wingless Angel


The Purpose:

Okay, hopeless romantics, this week’s poetry prompt goes out to you.

Love is one of the most popular sub-topics in the wonderful world of poetry. Throughout time, literary greats have churned out love poem after love poem, as if no other emotions exist. Some of the greatest pieces ever were centred around love, mainly because it’s such a versatile, deeply relatable topic.

Everyone knows how it feels to love; to be loved. It’s the only thing we truly have.

But, have you ever considered the effects penning love poems can have on your novel writing? Because trust us, it can work wonders for your prose. How? Very simply: when you write poetry about love, you go deep and narrow as opposed to shallow and wide. If you mimic this in your novel, your characterisation is going to be so much stronger.


The Prompt

Scenery/Vibe: Big city. Dusk. Red skies. Tall buildings. Reflective skylines. A cold patch beside you on the empty park bench.

Poem’s Message: The world will always go on around you, but nothing will pull you from the face of it like losing someone you love.

Woman Wearing Blue Jacket

Try this prompt for size and create something based on it. If you do write something, please share it with us in one way or another. Tag us in a post, post it in the comments, send it to us in an email – we’d love to read your work.

Who knows? If you send something our way and we really like the way you write, we might just offer you a discount on our editing services. Or we might even edit a few chapters for free. It’s worth a try on your part.

You can reach us with your submission or with any questions/inquiries here.

DISCLAIMER: These prompts are here for you to use however you like. You can use them to aid you and give inspiration for competitions, or even for full-length poetry collections. They’re yours. Consider them your little gift – from us, to you. Do with them as you wish!

 

A Writing Prompt: A Lie Amid The Truth

adult, blur, bouquet


The Purpose


This prompt is going to stir all kinds of terribly beautiful ideas.

On this wonderful Friday, we’re taking it back to tension. We’re going to paint a scenario that fills your head with lots of insane twists and turns. By the end of this prompt, you’ll have thought of and outlined an entire plot for the next Gone Girl!

Okay, let’s not go that far… But still, this prompt is going to be awesome.

Focus on the tension, and give the reader a shocking reveal that’ll knock their socks off. No matter what genre you write, this is a useful skill to have. Shocking reveals are great to make use of in all genres, especially at the end of your chapters, when you’re trying to encourage the reader to carry on reading.


The Prompt


There’s no place like home.

That’s what she thinks when she walks through the door. It had been a terribly stressful day at the office. She spent her day doing coffee rounds that no one thanked her for and filing reports that no one read. She often wonders if there’s any point.

But not at home. She’s a different person entirely when she returns home. Here, with Martin around, all her worries fade away. They melt into the ground around her as soon as she slips out of her heels. She leaves them in that puddle of worry, an indicator of just how much she hates what she does.

Martin appears in the living room doorway right on cue. He smiles his Martin smile and steps towards her, one hand out in front and the other behind his back, resting on the object he is concealing there.


autumn, background, blur

Try this prompt for size and create something based on it. If you do write something, please share it with us in one way or another. Tag us in a post, post it in the comments, send it to us in an email – we’d love to read your work.

Who knows? If you send something our way and we really like the way you write, we might just offer you a discount on our editing services. Or we might even edit a few chapters for free. It’s worth a try on your part.

You can reach us with your submission or with any questions/inquiries here.

DISCLAIMER: These prompts are here for you to use however you like. You can use them to aid you in short story inspiration for competitions, or even for full-length novels. They’re yours. Consider them your little gift – from us, to you. Do with them as you wish!

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