Keeping Motivated

Keeping motivated is hard … Whether you are stuck on the last chapter of your novel, or you’re just sitting down to write the first, a little motivation can go a long way.

If you need a little extra help in staying motivated, this is just the article for you. Below are some of the best quotes from your fellow writers to inspire you to set aside self-doubt and just keep writing.

1) Anne Lamott

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”

MORE: 7 Motivational Quotes From Shonda Rhimes 

2) Mary Lee Settle

“I start with a question. Then try to answer it.”

3) Jane Yolen

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.”

4) F. Scott Fitzgerald

“All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.”

5) Ray Bradbury

“Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.”

6) William H. Gass

“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.”

7) W.H. Auden

“Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought to always aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.”

8) Lisa See

“Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.”

9) Terry Pratchett

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

10) Stephen King

“Description begins in the writer’s imagination but should finish in the reader’s.”

MORE: Stephen King’s Top 10 Writing Rules

11) Thomas Jefferson

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

12) Robert Louis Stevenson

“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.”

13) Jodi Picoult

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

14) Louis L’Armour

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

15) Charles Baudelaire

“Always be a poet, even in prose.”

16) Robert Frost

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”  

17) Frank Herbert

“There is no real ending. It is just the place where you stop the story.”

18) Ray Bradbury

“First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him.”

19) Anton Chekhov

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me a glint of light on broken glass.”

20) Sylvia Plath

“Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

MORE: Top Advice From 31 Famous Writers

21) Jim Thompson

“There is only one plot – things are not always what they seem.” 

22) Stephen King

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”  

23) Dan Poynter

“If you wait for inspiration to write you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.”

24) Orson Scott

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”

25) Maya Angelou

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

26) Wally Lamb

“If the book is true, it will find an audience that is meant to read it.”

27) Richard Bach

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

28) Margaret Atwood

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”

29) R.L. Stine

“People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”

30) Chinua Achebe

“I believe myself that a good writer doesn’t really need to be told anything except to keep at it.”

MORE: 14 Proven Writing Tricks From Genius Writers 

So, whatever you’re writing and whatever stage of the process you are in, take a minute to appreciate the wisdom of writers who made it. They managed to stay motivated and get where you want to be.  There are countless more motivational quotes like these too, so you will never be short on inspiration.

Good Luck!

BIO: Michael Dehoyos is a health writer at Phd Kingdom and Academic Brits. He assists people with their lifestyle choices as well as sharing his knowledge by contributing to numerous sites and publications, the academic service, Origin Writings, amongst them.

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Non Linear Stories

My non linear novel, Never Have I Ever, is out this week. To celebrate, I thought I’d put non linearity under the microscope, since Bang2writers LOVE to write books and screenplays with this much misunderstood craft element. Ready? Then let’s go …

1) It’s all about story, not stylistics

If you want to write a non linear story because it’s ‘cool’, STOP. Does your story *need* to be non linear?? This is one of the questions I ask as a script editor … and 9/10, the answer is NO. Don’t think stylistics, but STORY here – concept and characters as well as structure. I call this The B2W Holy Trinity.

2) The story needs to benefit from its structure

If we are rejecting stylistics, this means the story needs to BENEFIT from being non linear. Examples …

  • In Never Have I Ever, my protagonist Sam receives notes from someone shady in her past. For this reason I contrast that past (1996) with ‘Today’. If the past had not happened, there would be no problem *now*.
  • In the movie Premonition, Linda receives the knowledge her husband will die in a car wreck at the end of that week … Easily sorted, she should just stop him going in the car, right? NOPE – she doesn’t know what part of the week she is in, so everything keeps changing.

In other words, if there is  no story without the non linearity, BOOM! You’ve nailed it.

3) Characters’ actions need to have a reason

Groundhog Day is the granddaddy of all non linear stories. In it, Phil has to live the same day, over and over. He cannot move forwards until he solves the issue of why this is happening to him and what this means. We see similar in modern movies like Happy Death Day and TV series like Russian Doll.

Everything the characters do in stories like these are the RESULT of the non linearity problem they find themselves in. The structure presents the problem or scenario. They have to get out of it, or die trying (often literally).

4) Think what’s gone before

Non linearity in  movies and television is no longer considered unusual or ground-breaking. There’s been lots of them, especially post 2000. A whole generation has grown up watching non linear properties and can follow very quickly. This is why it’s a great idea to see as many non linear movies or TV shows as possible.

Novels have always been much more ‘free’ in times of jumping around in time. That said, there are different genres and types of story that do non linearity more often. Work out which ones these are. Again, do your research!

5) Use an outline or similar

For the love all things holy, use an outline if you’re attempting non linearity in your story. Or bullet points. A story map. A treatment. WHATEVER YOU LIKE, just use one!!!

Me, I like to draw the story. HERE’S THE WORKSHEET I designed for this purpose. It’s free, download it now!

6) Know how linear structure works

Actually understand how LINEAR structure works is a must before attempting non linearity. Believe it or not, many writers just dive in regardless … Then end up drowning in what B2W calls The Story Swamp.

This is why I always recommend becoming an expert in structure. Studying it and working out how you see it working pays dividends. Here’s SOME INFO to get you started.

7) Count your story strands

Knowing the conventions of the medium you’re working in really helps. Sometimes, the genre or type of story will have certain expectations too. There’s a certain amount of ‘space’ for story in the time allotted. For example …

No clue what any of this means? Click the links above for case studies!!

8) Figure out what non linear really means to your story

Regardless of the amount of strands in your story, I’d wager there’s only 2 elements to non linearity …

‘Now’ versus ‘Then’ 

Obviously the above can mean whatever you like. But you need to decide upfront what they are. Decide on the rules of what your non linearity means.

9) Make sure you can follow

If we can’t follow our own stories, no one else will be able to either. If we have an ‘anchor’, then our target audiences will be able to understand too.

An easy way to do this is by coming up with a timeline. In Never Have I Ever, I set the events of ‘Now’ in an approx. three week period, August-Sept. In contrast, the 1996 events ran from January to July. Now I had my framework to work within, I could ensure I could follow and construct the plot accordingly. This means my readers can follow too.

Other frameworks may include something that ‘kicks off’ the story, that we return to as the story ‘resets’. An obvious example would be the alarm clock in Groundhog Day, or the bathroom in Russian Doll. 

Alternatively, we could use a framing device. These framing devices are placed around another story, like Bastian reading from the book in The Neverending Story. Alternatively, a framing device might be placed around flashbacks, like the Who Wants To Be A Millionnaire? game in Slumdog Millionnaire.

10) Prepare to go crazy

Your brain will explode at least once. Accept it. There will be times writing your non linear story that you will wish you had never started it … Even if you have done your research, drawn the story, made timelines, etc. Rest assured it is part of the process. Keep going! MORE: All About Plot Devices such as montage, dream sequence, intercut and more

Good Luck!

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Every Bang2writer knows storytelling is not easy. But whether you’re writing a novel, screenplay or any other kind of writing (including sales copy, blogs and other content), incorporating storytelling in your writing is a MUST! Ready? Let’s go …

1) Show, don’t tell

Yes, this line has become a bit of a cliché throughout the writing industry. However, that doesn’t make it any less true. As we rush to meet deadlines or to push out new content, it’s one of the easiest habits to forget.

The concept seems straightforward, but the subtle difference between the two can trip up writers old and new. Simply put, it’s going a bit deeper than just using superficial descriptive words. As author Jerry Jenkins tells us, don’t say someone is “tall” show people by telling them how others look up at him, or how he has to duck when going in the doorway. MORE: Writing Adages Explain – ‘Show, Don’t Tell’

2) Learn from the best

We get it, you want to be you. You want your storytelling to have that unique voice and pacing that will immediately distinguish you from everyone else. While that’s an admirable goal, and one you should strive for, don’t forget that there are still valuable lessons to be learned from those who have mastered the art.

Stephen King’s On Writing is considered a must-read for anyone who wants to pursue any kind of writing career. Other legends, like Elmore Leonard’s, also have priceless advice to give.

3) Explore different storytelling mediums

As we spend so much of our time reading and writing, it’s easy to forget that it’s not the only (nor the first) form of storytelling. Before writing, our ancestors drew paintings in caves to depict what they saw around them, as well as memorable events.

Visual media still has an important role to play in storytelling. Video, infographics, memes and photos drive engagement, even as attention spans plummet. It’s time to start practising storytelling across mediums to stay relevant and ahead of the curve. Soon, our main form of storytelling may even be virtual reality.

By the way, your workload doesn’t need to double for each new medium. Content repurposing is a great way to bring the same content across different mediums and platforms.

4) Know your audience inside and out

Storytelling is all about empathy. Without empathy, your readers won’t connect with your story and you, in turn, won’t connect with them. It all starts with researching and knowing your audience. Ask yourself:

Who is your target audience? What do they want? Plus what do they need? And what do they like?

This is equally as important when writing a best-selling novel, an informative essay, or sales copy. Knowing what will pique their interests will help you hook them from the start all the way through to a satisfying conclusion.

5) Always have a point

A strong focal point help tie your story together and give your content a focus. This is especially true for any type of content aimed at conversions or sales. In this case, your core message and/ or theme should feel like the natural outcome of your piece or narrative.

Readers should never have to ask themselves “So? What’s the point?” after engaging with your content. Instead, aim for an “Ahah!” or “Now it all makes sense” kind of moment.

Defining an effective and crowd-pleasing can only be done if you know your audience.

6) Practice, practice, practice!

Finally, no honest successful writer today will tell you they struck gold on their first try. It takes years to master the art of the written word, no matter your exact discipline. In the beginning, it’s going to be hard to implement all of these tips. However, if you focus on incorporating them into your work, they will form powerful habits over time and transform you into a master. MORE: 5 Things I Learned From Story Expert John Yorke

Final Thoughts

Storytelling is very much like marketing. You have to sell your product. This means you need understand it and your target audience. Once you master the art of making others believe and feel YOUR story, you captivate them.

Good Luck!

BIO: David Gutierrez is a web design freelancer and contributor. He enjoys sharing his professional experience in writing, blogging, and content creation. Contact David at david.gutierrez.business@gmail.com

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Types of Protagonist

Protagonist … Main Character … Hero. We use lots of interchangeable words for this character. Most writers know the gist of what makes this type of character great …She or he needs to want something and go through hell to get it, whether that’s literal, metaphorical or both.

But now audiences want more more variety to their protagonists and the types of story they are in. With this in mind, I thought I would put B2W’s two types of protagonist under the microscope. I put it to you there are TWO types of main character …

  • Ones that DO change
  • Ones that DON’T change

Lets look at them in a little more detail. Ready? Then let’s go …

1) Protagonist as ‘The Educated’

AKA ones who change! This is the most common type of protagonist. This type leads to the character changing something fundamental about herself via her actions in the narrative, thanks to the actions and teachings of other characters. This may be the teaching and actions of secondaries, but also the antagonist. B2W calls this ‘The Transformative Arc’).

‘The Hero’s Journey’ is a classic example of the transformative arc, so most superheroes follow this route. Modern heroes would include Black Panther and Wonder Woman, since both have to undergo a quest and face significant challenges in doing so. For more on archetypal heroes, CLICK HERE.

2) Protagonist as ‘The Educator’

This is when the protagonist does NOT change. Instead, she has an effect on all other characters around her *for some reason* … Sometimes the entire storyworld, too.

There are many ways to do this, but here are 3 of the most common ways to write a protagonist who does not undergo a transformative arc.

i) The Change Agent 

This is when a protagonist does not change him or herself, but may inspire other characters to change, such as the antagonist or secondary characters. Famous examples of The Change Agent include Forrest Gump and Mary Poppins. MORE HERE.

ii) The Passive Protagonist

A passive protagonist will resist all efforts to make him or her do ANYTHING … which is why a secondary character or antagonist MUST ‘take the reins’ FOR the passive protagonist and drive the story forwards instead.

Usually, a passive protagonist will take some kind of last-minute action in the final moments of the story *for some reason*, often under sufferance (especially comedy). Some people say this means there’s no such thing as a ‘true’ passive protagonist.  The most famous example here would probably be The Dude in THE BIG LEBOWSKI.

iii) The Voyager

I named this one myself, since I couldn’t find a name for the trope. Those eagle-eyed Bang2writers will realise I name it after Christopher Booker’s notion of ‘Voyage and Return’, which is one of my favourite plotting archetypes.

The Voyager is a protagonist who is already capable. S/he doesn’t need to change, but solve a significant problem presented with skills and attributes they already possess. Famous Voyagers include John McClane, Ellen Ripley. Modern ones that riff off this would include Furiosa and John Wick.

Secondary characters may have to decide to ‘fill in’ with the protagonist and see the mission his/her way … They must help the protagonist, or they are the enemy. You could say The Voyager’s motto is ‘join me or die’. This is why s/he turns up so often in genre movies where it’s ‘life or death’.

Last Points

It’s obvious that the number one type of protagonist is the most used. That doesn’t mean it’s bad to use it, but it does mean there’s some novelty in the second kind. Consider the type of story you want to tell and what has gone before. Sometimes, just a small change is all you need … Other times, you need to make a much bigger change.

One thing is clear though, if you don’t know structure or character or plotting archetypes, it will be much more difficult to get a handle on. So make sure you do your research.

Good Luck!

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Theme in Friends

It’s fair to say the internet erupted with news of a Friends reunion, recently. I’ve written about Friends a fair amount this year on this blog, so thought I would return to the show, with reference to theme.

Theme refers to ‘an idea that recurs in or pervades a work of art or literature.’ Friends is about a bunch of young friends, all getting through life and love, dealing with whatever it throws at them. Being a sitcom, it’s about dysfunctional family too. Le duh.

However, with theme we make our OWN meaning too. How each individual audience member sees the story and characters working may be different. This may in turn be influenced by the groups and communities they are part of. This is where lines blur and crossover too, from craft to opinion and back again. More, next.

Can Friends BE Any More ‘Problematic’?

In the age of Twitter, it is very fashionable to say Friends is ‘problematic’. Hell, even the actual makers have chimed in, with one Friends producer saying the show would have to change if it were made today. Cast members like Kathleen Turner have got in on the act too, saying she would ‘turn down’ playing Chandler’s Dad in 2019. I even saw a thread that decried multiple ‘plotholes’ in Friends … One was ‘Hey, how come they all love DIE HARD, yet don’t recognise Bruce Willis is Elizabeth’s Dad??’ OH. MY. GAWD.

The targets and claims are obvious. There are some jokes that have aged HORRIBLY over the past twenty-five years, especially by modern standards. That said, just as I believe Joker director Todd Phillips is wrong when he posits woke culture has killed comedy, I think Friends actually stands up pretty well considering. These are the facts …

  • Friends remains beloved fifteen years on, with a hugely diverse audience, some of whom were not even born when it finished. This means it has to be still relevant on a theme level. It’s also why it is still a property worth billions
  • All stories are subject to the perceived ideals and values of the time they are written (including our ‘woke’ times, which will date too).
  • Friends has dated, but so has every other story we love, whether we choose to see it or not. NO story is immune to this
  • Some of the issue-laden elements are a matter of perception, like all storytelling
  • Craft-wise, dated jokes aside, Friends remains the gold standard craft-wise in terms of sitcom character and plotting. Here’s Exhibit A – a case study on the pilot, which STILL remains rock-solid. Here’s a second case study, Exhibit B … This time on Friends characterisation and how it uses archetype.

Next, I will make the case for why I believe Friends stands up pretty well on theme, overall … even if some of its jokes would never get written today.

Diversity In Friends

Friends often comes under fire online for not being ‘diverse enough’. Obviously it’s not, but then it also seems unfair to judge an old show by modern standards. We also don’t know what happened behind the scenes twenty five years ago.

In addition, I think some of those ‘pervasive, recurring ideas’ re: theme have been missed out of the conversation. Ready? Here we go …

i) Female Sexuality

Female sexuality is played front and centre in Friends. Remember Phoebe unapologetically playing the field … Or Monica teaching the basic erogenous zones When Harry Met Sally style (‘SEVEN!’) … Or a pregnant Rachel getting so horny she goes store to store and sits on multiple Santas’ laps. They are not shamed or made to apologise for this, either. The women have big sexual appetites because WHY NOT.

There’s no frumpy Moms either … Even secondary characters like Janice, considered annoying as hell, is still sexy and desirable, even after she’s had a baby. This may not seem that unusual in 2019, but back then was a big deal. Friends was instrumental in solidifying the ‘yummy mummy’ trope.

ii) Ross’ girlfriends

Yes, there were no BAME friends, but it’s important to note at least two important women of colour created waves in that iconic Ross/Rachel ‘Will they, won’t they?’ storyline. Julie was the first to make a splash, coming between Ross and Rachel right at the beginning, with Charlie doing similar towards the end of the series. Now, neither girlfriend stuck around as long as Emily, but then Helen Baxendale was at the height of her Cold Feet fame back then. (You may recall the media calling it ‘The British Friends’). So perhaps her casting was less about her being white, but a star? (Unfortunately stars are more likely to be white, especially in the 90s).

iii) Cultural Appropriation

Long before ‘cultural appropriation’ was a phrase used online, Friends appeared to draw attention to the icky notion of white people highjacking stuff. Ross and Monica in particular have a long history of being tone deaf when it comes to race. Consider

  • Ross’ asking the tanning guy place what ‘number’ he is at the salon, to which the other guy replies: ‘Puerto Rican’
  • Or Monica’s unbelievably cringey corn rows, when she comes back from Barbados. (Not only does no one like them, they look to Charlie for her reaction … She tries out the stereotypical ‘You go girl’, only to admit she has never used that phrase in her life. After all, why should she?)
  • Or Ross’ repeated pronunciation of ‘karate’ as ‘KaraTAY’ … Or the entire episode dedicated to his belief in ‘Unagi’, where he is set up again and again as the punchline. It is his behaviour that is ridiculous from the offset, not the concept of martial arts, mental agility, or even sushi, which both Phoebe and Rachel say they want to eat.

iv) Suicide and Mental illness

Phoebe’s back story is epic dark, but it shines a light on the impacts of suicide. Because her mother killed herself, Phoebe ended up on the street. She lead a hugely different life to the rest of the friends as a result, but refuses to censor herself about it … It is quite literally part of who she is. Her desire to save the toner guy and how she cares when his co-workers don’t is very powerful, imho.

Similarly, Ross’ rage and subsequent breakdown when he goes sabbatical reminds us adverse life events like divorce have serious mental health implications. Whilst other depictions of mental illness in the show don’t fare quite so well over the passage of time, Friends was still talking about them at a time most shows were not.

v) Two Moms

The notion of Gay Moms is nothing new today, but again was revolutionary back in the 90s. What’s more, Carol and Susan are always presented as a loving and committed couple. Even when Ross worries about Susan spending ‘too much time’ with Emily, Carol is not worried.

What’s more, their parenting is never under scrutiny. Any issues between Susan and Ross are always played as a result of his resentment towards her … First for blowing up his life (understandable), then because he feels foolish that Carol has her ‘true’ love (less understandable). Being married to a lesbian is always presented as Ross’ problem from the offset (‘How can you not know?‘). Even so, it’s Ross who gives Susan away at her wedding to Susan when the idea of a gay wedding was outside the realm of most people’s experience or expectations.

What’s more Carol’s own sexual appetite, just like Phoebe’s, Monica’s and Rachel’s is played front and centre. We see her openly admiring other women a couple of times. My favourite moment however is when it is her anniversary with Susan, which Ross accidentally interrupts. It’s not only obvious he has interrupted them having sex, if you pay attention Carol literally picks a hair out of her teeth! SUPER LOL.

vi) Race, part 1 – Peripheral Characters

As I mention in my Diverse Characters book, a peripheral character is essentially a walk-on part in the narrative. It’s important to note that peripheral characters are NOT random, they have to have a ‘point’ … This point is usually connected to the advance of the plot and/or the main character’s actions within it.

I watched all ten series, back to back, non-stop for this B2W case study over a couple of weeks. During this marathon watch-a-thon, I noticed something interesting. A huge proportion of the peripheral characters in Friends are BAME. These include (but are not limited to) store clerks, museum guides, cooks, receptionists, waiters and waitresses, neighbours, doctors, nurses and university professors. In other words, from ‘all’ jobs and walks of life.

It could also be they were doing the best they could, given the constraints of the studio and the times they were writing in. Given most creatives try to do the best work they can, I would hope this is the case and diversity was on the table as much as possible.

So it would be very interesting indeed if the casting and writing of peripheral characters like this was deliberate thematically … A kind of ‘push back’ to the white-centric norms of the time (and let’s face it, today). As writers we should try to consider these things, at least at theme level and gather realistic evidence to support our assumptions and analysis of stories.

vii) Race, part 2 – privilege/ status

As you would expect, most of the peripheral characters create a problem for the Friends group (drama is conflict, after all). However, what’s interesting is that NONE of said peripheral characters are belligerent or make an issue for the sake of it. In fact, many of the peripherals shine a light on how unreasonable our main characters are being.

This is most obvious when the women are dealing with receptionists. In ‘The One Where Rachel Has A Baby’, Rachel is denied the private room she wants to give birth. Now, the receptionist could have been painted as an ogre who doesn’t care someone is scared and about to give birth. Instead, it is RACHEL’S behaviour that is framed being that of an entitled, spoiled princess. This fits absolutely with her character bio and makes sense, because people do regress in times of stress.

Occasionally, peripheral characters create solutions for the group in Friends. When Ross goes couch-shopping, he eventually returns the sofa to the store, cut in half. This is clearly totally unreasonable, but the store clerk does not create a scene or laugh in his face. Instead she offers him store credit of four dollars, which he takes.

What’s your favourite bits in Friends and why? Share in the comments …

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Self Publishing Errors

Self Publishing has given writers so much freedom.  But as this site always says, there is more to being an author than writing … There is a degree of business sense too! This is even more important for authors who are self publishing, as they often do not have agents sorting out the books and deals for them. Here are ten mistakes you can easily avoid once you’re aware of them.

1) Making your own book cover

The saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover‘ is spoken by many, but unfortunately most people still do. If the cover you made yourself looks amateur, the chances are people will think the writing within it is too. There are many, easy-to-find and affordable covers to find on the internet! MORE: 5 Strategies For Self Publishing On A Budget

2) Not being confident

Describing yourself as an ‘aspiring’ writer suggests you lack confidence. Also, telling your social media platforms about all your other day jobs detracts from the fact that you are an author. Use your platforms to promote yourself as a published author, nothing less!

3) Rushing the self publishing process

Good things really do take time, especially when publishing a book. You want your book to be perfect: error and typo-free. If you hurry to publish, you will read through it again and be very disappointed at its quality, wishing you waited. Be an author that waits, reads and edits multiple times over and recruits an editor and beta readers to create a masterpiece. Give yourself time to develop the perfect manuscript, an amazing cover, a solid promotion plan … Make sure you take baby steps!

4) Not using an editor

You will not find every single mistake in your book – read that again! Two pairs of eyes are certainly better than one in this case, which is why the vast majority of bestsellers have been professionally edited and proof read. You may also be a professional editor and/or proof reader, but the risk is probably not worth it. MORE: Top 5 Proofing Errors Writers Make

5) Delaying writing your next book

After the first book, you will feel great. It’s a major accomplishment, but  you need to keep the ball rolling to stay in the game. You are a great author already, so keep writing! Update your social media that you’re still going. MORE: 12 Things To Think About Before Rushing Into Self Publishing

6) Using print run over print-on-demand

Print run is when you have a certain (usually large) amount of copies printed in one go. If an author doesn’t manage to sell them all, they don’t make profit. Printing on demand is a great way to only pay for what you sell, while being able to keep promoting yourself.

7) Not asking for a sample product

When publishing with a new self-publishing company, you are giving a lot of power over to them. Unless you know other authors who have published with them, it is a wise idea to ask for a sample book to see how they look and feel before giving them your permission to print.

8) Failing to market correctly

You need to understand how to market your book to your target audience in order for them to want to buy it. See self publishing in the same light as a start-up business. Communicate with your audience well before you actually publish, as well as after to receive good engagement. MORE: How To Build An Online Platform

9) Not paying attention to the publishing contract

Some self publishing companies can sometimes take advantage of new authors. A good contract will address where you can incur other fees during the publishing process. It should be sensible and coherent. If you have questions, the publishing consultant should answer them.

10) Not mastering your craft

Though you have both experience and passion for writing, you can still always improve. Attend workshops, talk to other authors, read books! Anything you can do on a loosely regular basis to invest in your craft will improve the way you write. MORE: Want To Write A Novel? Then Realise These 5 Things First

BIO: Aimee Laurence writes regular lifestyle blogs at Academized.com Review as well as Eliteassignmenthelp.com. She takes part in multiple business-related projects, where she takes on a problem-solving role with the goal of improving communication in business. She also blogs for Top Writing Services.

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All About John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck’s an author best known for the Pulitzer-prize winning The Grapes of Wrath and his novella, Of Mice And Men. (Went to school in the UK in the last thirty years?? You will have almost certainly have read the latter, it’s been on the English Literature curriculum for decades!).

Living between 1902-1968, Steinbeck wrote stories about The Great Depression decade and migratory farmworkers. He spent much of his life in Monterey county, California, which was sometimes the setting of some of his fiction.

It may also interest Bang2writers that before Steinbeck ‘made it’ as a writer, he supported himself as a manual labourer himself while writing. He then went on to win The Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962!

Bang2write on Insta

If you follow Bang2write on instagram (and if you don’t, WHY NOT?), then you have probably seen John Steinbeck’s top 6 writing tips doing the rounds. (If you haven’t, check it out at the bottom of this post).

Just like Elmore Leonard’s Top 10 Writing Rules, John Steinbeck’s tips go viral every time B2W draws attention to them. They’re also tips I have used personally again and again, not only in my own writing but in working with writers.

With this in mind then, I thought it was way overdue to spotlight them on the main site …  Without further ado, here’s B2W’s thoughts on Steinbeck’s tips, with some key takeaways. Enjoy!

1) You will never finish … until you do

‘Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.’

I love this one. Not only is it true that ‘all’ writing adds up, it is particularly useful to writers with day jobs, family commitments and other time constraints. Lots of Bang2writers stress about getting their writing done, but whether you have five hours or five minutes, ultimately it’s about self-belief and perseverance, as Steinbeck says.

B2W TAKEAWAY: Write whatever you can, when you can.

2) Just get it written!

‘Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.’

Bang2writers often confess to me they are perfectionists. NoNoNoNoNoNO! Perfectionism is the enemy of creatives. We can’t write a ‘perfect’ first draft, no matter how much we edit as we go along. There will always be opportunities missed and things that go wrong. So don’t sweat it … just get it written.

B2W TAKEAWAY: Ignore the desire to write a perfect first draft. It won’t happen.

3) Keep one special audience member in mind

‘Forget your generalised audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theatre, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person —a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.’

Steinbeck had a certain amount of leeway as a literary author in days gone by. In contrast, target audience is super-important in 2019 when audiences are increasingly media literate.

That said, Steinbeck’s idea of the ‘special audience member’ still holds water. Knowing WHO your story is for (rather than ‘just’ yourself) is a great start and will always help you focus.

B2W TAKEAWAY: Know WHO your story is for.

4) You don’t have to write in chronological order

‘If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.’

Sometimes we get stuck and this leads us to getting blocked. But what if you just didn’t get stuck? Sure, you might not be able to *write that particular bit* … so write the next bit you CAN.

(I also agree with Steinbeck here, too: very often the bits that cause us the most trouble are the ones we don’t need. More on this, next).

B2W TAKEAWAY: Stuck? Then skip to the next bit and go back, if necessary.

5) Kill your darlings

‘Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.’

Steinbeck is echoing the advice of countless other writers here. It might be one of the 10 Top Rules Writers Love To Hate, but ‘kill your darlings’ is the real deal. Whether we like it or not, we MUST get rid of the bits that don’t fit, even if they are great.

B2W TAKEAWAY: It’s gotta be done!

6) Speech needs to sound real

‘If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.’

I’m always saying on this blog that there’s too much dialogue in the spec pile … In addition, waaaaay too much of it sounds like crap!

So I love Steinbeck’s last tip here … It’s so simple. Also, I love how he writes ‘IF you are using dialogue’.

Lots of writers believe they ‘have’ to, especially in screenwriting. In reality, this is not true. As another uber-writer David Mamet points out, we can pretend we’re writing a silent movie. This means our characters have to ‘earn the right’ to speak.

B2W TAKEAWAY: Use all the tools at your disposal, including dialogue, WISELY and AUTHENTICALLY.

Good Luck!

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Writers Need Tropes

In the age of the internet, tropes get a bad rap. Tropes are often conflated with the word ‘cliché’. Whilst overused tropes can BECOME clichéd, all writing needs tropes.

A common example of trope is ‘the ticking clock.’ Thrillers may use this trope in the form of a deadline, the arrival of reinforcements, or something else the characters have to fight for. The timer puts extra pressure on the protagonists and ramps up the suspense in the story. (To see more examples of every trope ever written, you can check out the comprehensive site, TV Tropes).

So, when we talk about writing fiction of any kind, it is important to add tropes in your writing. Here are some excellent reasons why tropes are essential. Ready? Let’s go!

Why Tropes Are So Important

1) Boosts excitement

A major component of being a successful writer is understanding psychology. The most powerful and exciting areas of psychology deal with excitement. How can story writers boost excitement among people? The answer is simple; by using tropes.

Tropes are tools  that help the reader to create an image in his or her mind. It produces artistic effects on the reader’s sense of excitement. There were a lot of tropes on magical school before J.K. Rowling gave us Hogwarts. What she brought forward was recognisable but also her original take, which made the audience excited and enjoy it even more.

2) Creates Catharsis

Reading a good story is like living a new and different life. Readers spend a lot of money and time buying books, which sometimes end up in the TBR pile. Lots of movies and TV shows get added to the Netflix queue, yet are never watched. Noooo!

A writer often lingers over the pure physical size of a character in literary genres that prioritize violent conflict. This demonstrates not only their potential strength but also their willingness to use aggression. Just take a look at the Mountain in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, or Ursula from The Little Mermaid.

It’s also no accident literal violence and threat are prioritised in many stories. Whilst this unfortunately happens in many people’s real lives, these tropes also present opportunities for powerful catharsis. This is why crime fiction novels are so popular with some women who have unfortunately had to deal with it in real life.

3) Becomes Iconic

The minute you see a boy running around with a cape in the neighborhood, you instantly recognize that he is pretending to be a superhero. How did you recognise that trope? As The Incredibles told us, it’s really a bad idea to put a thick, sticking fabric around your neck and then get into a fight!

But the cape has been the iconic superhero costume since the start of Superman and Batman after the 1930s. A good trope becomes an icon, and readers relate it to their role models. This is all because of a good trope: an ordinary plot element, a theme, or a visual key that conveys something ‘beyond’ the story.

4) Conventional expectations

Why are tropes so widely used? Well, they help in distinguishing an recognizing all kinds of story. Romantic genre is founded on passion, ‘love at first sight’, ‘happily ever after’ and rivalry tropes. This familiarity are what readers and audiences sign up for. This eliminates the need for further clarification as readers already get it.

5) Appeals to inquisitiveness

In the end, all tropes narrow down to one point: will the reader or viewer read or watch until the end? Well, if you ask me if a trope is unique but relatable in its own way, then yes. A good trope plays a vital role in keeping the audience’s desire to complete the story and appeals to their natural inquisitiveness.

Grab Their Attention!

So when it comes to tropes, if you are writing your own novel or screenplay, remember to ensure the following points …

i) Uniqueness

Each writer tries to write a unique story. We also must understand that it is essential to avoid stereotyping.

But for the sake of familiarity, there are also ways of telling a story. Remember, ‘the same … but DIFFERENT.’ Readers want tropes, but they also want a new story, whether it is a fairytale retelling or the boy next door, or a classic mystery.

ii) Relatability

Another point to keep in mind while using tropes in story writing is by making sure it is relatable. Some tropes have been around a long time. A writer must relate his story to the current time frame and remember who the target audience is.

iii) Subvert

The audience loves it when their expectations are subverted. By controlling tropes in a genre, a writer decides whether his valuable work will live or die. That’s why selecting a trope for your genre is very important in story writing. But you must keep an eye out for the tropes that are overly used.

Concluding …

Remember, tropes are not automatically bad! Readers and audiences love tropes that subvert our expectations. Rhey only hate the ones that are overused and feel stale.

Tropes are being used time and time again because they talk to us profoundly and relate to our thoughts, feelings, fears, and dreams. Tropes also help create the conventions and style of the genres and stories we love.

Good Luck!

BIO: Stella Lincoln is a book lover and researcher of what makes excellent writing. She is currently working as a Scriptwriter and blogger at Academist Help. Stella inscribes passionately about writing, literature, and language. She loves to give feedback and share new ideas with other authors.

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Cyber Crime Clichés

So many of today’s writers want to work cyber crime technology into their stories. But they don’t know how,  so they resort to Hollywood hacker stereotypes. You know the ones …

  • Bad guy Hollywood hackers turned to a life of crime after society failed to recognise their unique talents
  • Good guy Hollywood hackers overcame that adversity and now work for a super-secret government agency, where they regularly save the world and wish they could find a girlfriend.
  • Good guy Hollywood hackers break the law for the greater good.
  • Bad guy Hollywood hackers usually do it for the money. (Unfortunately for bad guy Hollywood hackers, the evil crime boss usually murders them in the end because Hollywood hackers lack the social skills to figure out they’re being used).

The world needs better from us. Here are three big cyber clichés to avoid in your writing. Let’s go.

1) Don’t hack into the DMV database

Need information on somebody? Bring in a Hollywood hacker to hack into the Department of Motor Vehicles database and find out everything you need to know. It’s only a couple sentences and then get on with the real story. Even writers like Tom Clancy fall into this trap.

Glossing over how characters obtain information via cyber crime ruins the story. If anyone could just hire a hacker to penetrate any database they wanted at the drop of a hat, those databases wouldn’t exist.

Make it challenging. Launch a social engineering attack. Build a zero-day (that’s a software vulnerability) and find a way to deliver it to your victim organisation. Show some recon and planning, and set up and execute a realistic cyber crime attack. Your readers will thank you. MORE: 3 Tech Clichés That Will Kill Your Writing DEAD

2) Avoid dumb hacker scenes

Search for “dumbest hacking scenes,” and you’ll find plenty. There’s the famous one from NCIS where two people type on the same keyboard to stop an evil intruder … And Gibbs saves the day by turning off the computer monitor.

Nice to have adults in the room with common sense when the cyber crime specialists can’t see the obvious. Seriously, Gibbs turns off the monitor—and that stops the attack. Hello? Do I really need to explain the problem here?

A Note On ‘Duelling Keyboards’

We’ve all seen the dueling keyboards scene when it comes to cyber crime in movies and TV … The evil genius types away on his keyboard; the camera zooms in on the Enter key. He’s about to press it … But cut to the good guy on the other side of the planet.

He’s also typing furiously, sweat pouring off his forehead. And in the nick of time, he plugs the hole in the last-standing firewall and saves the world, one second before the bad guy presses the Enter key.

Multiple firewalls are common in Hollywood hacker scenes. But they’re nonsense in the real world. Aspiring cyber crime writers should do themselves a favour and find out what real firewalls do—and don’t! — do.

By the way, you don’t need to step outside the story to explain technology details. And don’t insult the audience’s intelligence by giving your characters gibberish sentences with technology words.

By the way …

Dueling keyboard scenes CAN work. I put one in Virus Bomb when Jerry Barkley makes contact with a potential adversary.

The movie, Clear and Present Danger, based on the Tom Clancy novel, did a nice one with Harrison Ford.

Keep technology details inside the story and—borrowing from author extraordinaire Jerry Jenkins—resist the urge to explain.

In one Virus Bomb scene, our protagonist tells a general manager her computer is not getting DHCP service. When she asks what that means, he says that’s how computers know where they are. All within the story—no need for the author to explain to the reader. She still gets that deer-in-the-headlights look. Which will resonate with millions of people around the world.

Show realistic reactions to realistic technology challenges. There’s gold in them thar cyber crime and technology scenes. Learn to mine them properly. MORE: 11 Expositional Clichés That Will Kill Your Writing DEAD

3) Don’t save the world by guessing the password

Guessing the password is a time-honored tradition, going all the way back to War Games in the 80s and probably earlier than that. It’s everywhere. And it’s lazy.

Here’s a hint. If saving the world depends on guessing a password, then goodbye world.

Is it any wonder the public thinks we’re all sitting ducks for cyberattacks? Use your creativity and do some homework.

In Bullseye Breach: Anatomy of an Electronic Break-In, an ad-hoc team fights back against attackers stealing millions of credit card numbers by poisoning the stolen data stream.

In Virus Bomb, Jerry Barkley wins with dogged determination and quick thinking. And some reverse social engineering.

Save the world with ingenuity, not by guessing a password. MORE: 5 Times It’s OKAY To Use Cliché In Your Writing 

Bonus!!

Cyber crime writers, respect the profession

Today’s dearth of believable technology in books and movies feeds a public image of helpless organizations at the mercy of Hollywood hackers running rampant. We need to fix this problem.

The technology in our stories deserves the same high quality we expect from all other story elements. If you don’t know how a piece of technology works, find out and work it into your story. I know plenty of professionals who would be happy to help writers with this. I’m one of them. And I’m also a writer.

Good Luck!

Bio: Greg Scott is the author of Bullseye Breach: Anatomy of an Electronic Break-In and Virus Bomb. Both novels feature a middle-aged bald guy with no superpowers who finds a way to save the day without forcing readers to suspend disbelief. He spends lots of late nights in front of a computer screen researching ways to poison GPS signals, hijack trucks, build cell phone bombs, and blow stuff up. Some of his friends have suggested he might be on a government watchlist. If so, he encourages the dedicated professionals watching him to buy copies of his books for everyone in their departments before it’s too late. Find out lots more on his website.

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All About Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin has to be one of the most prolific and celebrated Hollywood screenwriters working today. Working in both television and movies, he’s been responsible for such classics as  A FEW GOOD MEN (‘You can’t handle the truth!’) and THE WEST WING (‘I don’t need a babysitter. Bitch, are you deaf?‘). He also won an Oscar for THE SOCIAL NETWORK for best adapted screenplay.

He’s also incredibly admired by Bang2writers … I have lost count of the number of times I have worked with writers who’ve said, ‘I want to write rapid-fire dialogue like Aaron Sorkin!’ With this in mind,I thought I’d round up some of his best quotes about the craft and process of writing … Let’s go!

1) ‘First scenes are super-important to me. I’ll spend months and months pacing and climbing the walls trying to come up with the first scene.’

Sorkin is bang on, here. HOW a story begins is so important. This is why B2W always goes on about writing great openers … This includes avoiding those same-old, same-old openers that make readers groan. Oh and avoid cliché wherever possible, but especially at the beginning!!

2) ‘Everything can be going well, but if I’m not writing, I’m not happy. When I’m writing well, I’m like a different person.’

I can relate so hard to this, doesn’t every writer? But it is a great reminder that however much writing is our vocation, if we’re pros, it’s also our JOB. We won’t enjoy every part, but we have to push on regardless.

3)  ‘I’m very physical. When I’m writing, I’m playing all the parts; I’m saying the lines out loud, and if I get excited about something – which doesn’t happen very often when I’m writing, but it’s the greatest feeling when it does – I’ll be out of the chair and walking around, and if I’m at home, I’ll find myself two blocks from my house.’

I find this interesting, because I am probably the opposite. I disappear ‘inside myself’. My kids have learned one of the best ways to get something they want is to ask me when I am writing … Because I am away with the fairies, the answer is always ‘yes’. Little sods!!

What do you do … Are you like Sorkin, or like me? Or do you something else?

4) ‘Heroes in drama are people who try hard to reach a virtuous ideal. And whether they succeed or fail really doesn’t matter – it’s the trying that counts.’

Sorkin really nails it here. We know most stories will end ‘happily’ (whatever that means) … it’s the journey that counts. One of my favourite questions for Bang2writers when they pitch their stories to me is, ‘What if they fail?’ Then we can understand the stakes.

5) ‘I consider plot a necessary intrusion on what I really want to do, which is write snappy dialogue.’

We can file this under ‘No shit, Sherlock‘ – this guy is best known for his dialogue! That said (arf), it is worth remembering Sorkin is NOT ONLY good at dialogue. He is good at ALL OF IT. This is something writers often miss when trying to emulate him.

6) ‘Television is a visual medium. You have to create some kind of visual interest. And it’s entertainment for your eyes.’

Following on from point 6, Sorkin nails it again. Yes, it’s true television may be more ‘talky’ than film, but screenwriting is still a visual medium. Many screenwriters simply write chains of dialogue in their spec scripts and this just won’t cut it. We have to write visually!

7) ‘The rules are all in a sixty-four-page pamphlet by Aristotle called ‘Poetics.’ It was written almost three thousand years ago, but I promise you, if something is wrong with what you’re writing, you’ve probably broken one of Aristotle’s rules.’

There are lots of different ways to look at ‘writing rules’ (aka best practices) now. As I’ve posted on here before, I just love visual representations of plotting and structure. It really demystifies things.

That said, like Aaron Sorkin I am a big fan of Aristotle’s Poetics too … if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I always recommend Bang2writers read it, since most of how we understand storytelling today is based on it. To download an ebook copy for just 80p, CLICK HERE.

8) ‘The properties of people and the properties of character have almost nothing to do with each other. They really don’t. I know it seems like they do because we look alike, but people don’t speak in dialogue. Their lives don’t unfold in a series of scenes that form a narrative arc.’

Often writers will tell me, ‘But this really happened’ or ‘My best mate / spouse / sibling / kids / co-workers are like this.’ That’s not the point. Fiction is a representation of real life, NOT real life. This is why we have to be careful when writing true stories.

To make our stories compelling, we have to be able to suspend our disbelief. Of course it’s fine to sacrifice facts for drama, but we have to balance that with what our target audiences can get on board with. No one said it was easy!

9) ‘I love writing but hate starting. The page is awfully white, and it says, ‘You may have fooled some of the people some of the time, but those days are over … I’m not your agent, and I’m not your mommy; I’m a white piece of paper. You wanna dance with me?’ and I really, really don’t.’

Yup. Anyone who follows Bang2write on social media knows I complain about how much I ‘hate’ writing. The reality is, it’s starting I hate most, so I’m with Sorkin again.

Once I’ve begun, I’m usually okay as I get into the swing of it … But I would just about rather do ANYTHING than start, even clean stinky cat litter trays.

10) ‘Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright.’

I’ve seen lots of writers get very upset about this quote from Sorkin. They believe he is advocating plagiarism.  I don’t believe he is … I see it as him playing tribute to the greats and their extraordinary influence that transcends decades, generations and even centuries.

Consider a movie like THE LION KING, which is based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet … Or a TV show like EMPIRE, which has its roots very clearly in Shakespeare’s King Lear. In fact, The Bard has been a foundation for countless fantastic works of writing and other things.

This is not ‘stealing’ so much as using previous works as a springboard for new ways of looking at the world. What’s not to like?

11) ‘You know, one of the things I like about this world, or at least I like about the way we’re presenting this world, is these issues are terribly complicated – not nearly as black and white as we’re led to believe.’

I agree here. The divisive nature of social media in particular means there’s a clamour of voices saying it’s one way OR the other … But this has never been my experience. The best stories reflect these shades of grey in my opinion.

12) ‘I had a lot of survival jobs. One was for the Witty Ditty singing-telegram company. I was in the red-and-white stripes with the straw boater hat and kazoo. Balloons. Even when you’re sleeping on a friend’s couch, you have to pay some kind of rent.’

I appreciate Sorkin sharing his personal story here. Lots of Bang2writers believe it’s somehow too late for them, because they’re over thirty, have day jobs, families and other commitments. But here is a powerful reminder from one of Hollywood’s most prolific writers that he started there too, doing menial jobs to survive.

13) ‘I do not speak through my characters; it’s not a ventriloquist act.’

In the age of Twitter (other platforms are available), frequently writers are considered to ‘be’ their work … ie. whatever subject they choose to write about, or characters they create. Whilst writers do sometimes make personal or political statements via their work, the assumption their self is automatically evident in their work has obvious problems.

For one thing, what if their work is ‘progressive’, but they are actually assholes in real life?? Also, what if they were only a writer-for-hire on that piece? Also, writing ‘bad’ characters is not by itself a malicious act … All stories need an antagonist of some kind! And so on.

14) ‘Writing never comes easy. The difference between Page 2 and Page Nothing is the difference between life and death.’

Sounds like Sorkin is admitting to suffering from Writer’s Block here. Whilst it’s very fashionable online to say there’s ‘no such thing’, I think it’s often just the label that is being rejected. I don’t believe there is a single writer alive who hasn’t had issues getting words on the page. I know I have!

Good Luck With Your Projects!

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