Beat writer’s block – Part II

Girl eating

Are you having trouble with your characters? In At the Hour of the Morning Drink I have a character named Natalie who is not yet as substantial as she might be. She’s not a main character but she’s integral to the plot so she ought to be more rounded. I have a good idea of her personality but I haven’t really written about her physical presence, or brought her face to life when she’s talking.

A good way to bring characters to life is obviously to base them on people you know – but that can jeopardise friendships, not to mention get you in to trouble. An alternative is to work from an image. If you are writing at home in the evenings jump on to Google where there are millions of subjects just waiting to be the muse. Find an image – of someone well known or not – and create an image file of your characters. This is a great way to keep on top of what eye colour and hair colour your characters have, plus it can also be really helpful when selling your book as you can talk about the people you see playing your main characters.

Looking at a photograph of someone is a fantastic writing prompt; notice the angle of the head in different moods, note what happens to their face when they smile, when they look sombre, when they smoulder, when they smoke, laugh.

How do their features combine to make a whole?

Go another step further – find someone in movies or tv who fits your character and watch them – study their walk, the way they move their hands, their head.

Of course, if you can get out and write during the day you can spy on people in cafes too. Write down their conversations, describe their clothes, how they interact; who’s in charge and how do you know? Who’s shy or frustrated or depressed?

Pinterest and YouTube are two great mediums for building your profile, creating interest in your work, and grabbing inspiration.

Pin images that evoke the atmosphere of your writing – pin images of buildings, landscapes and fashions. When you’re depleted visit your boards, add to them, and use them as prompts for your work.

You can also bring your characters to life by making playlists for them in YouTube. In choosing music that evokes their personalities you’ll find new aspects of them to write about. Think about the rhythms and melodies they like, the sorts of music that represents their lifestyle and persona as well as their hopes and fears. Create a soundtrack for your book – and use it later as an add-on to your product.

Now, go be inspired!

Do you need a beta-reader?

Is it any good? Get feedback on your work

Is it any good? Get feedback on your work

Every day I see writer’s asking for beta-readers. Finding someone to read your work-in-progress, or what you hope is your finished manuscript is a bit of a feat. You’ve spent so long cloistered away putting the words down on paper – it’s not surprising that when you need someone to read the work you’re rather lost.

It takes time to make contacts – many writers lack access to physical groups and finding them online can take a while. But it’s by no means impossible.

Absolute Write

AW is a great site for writers. The forums offer the opportunity to share your work and get feedback. Usually this offer is only open to those who have posted 50 times but if you’re not a prolific social media user this can be problematic. However, for the nominal fee of US$20 you can become a Benefactor Member and begin asking for feedback on your work straight away. Of course, I recommend you continue to give feedback on others’ work – just because you’re in cyberspace doesn’t mean you can’t use your good manners.

You can also look in the SYW forums for work you like and suggest a swap. This was how I found my first beta-read – an excellent YA work that was a pleasure to read. In return the author read my YA fiction and offered encouragement and some valuable insights about what was lacking and areas that were confusing. Just what we all need!

Authonomy

Authonomy allows you to upload your writing project – if you have 10,000 words you can make your project public and other Authonomites will read and comment on your work. This is a valuable platform but it has a drawback – albeit a shiny one. The driving force for some is to reach the enormously coveted position of #1 – and therefore the desk of Harper Collins’ editors. Reaching the desk guarantees a written report from Harper Collins and the possibility of being recommended for publication. The problem with this can be that people only generally read a couple of chapters your work – often with the hope of getting a read (and star rating) in return.

This gives you a good feeling for what people think of your writing but doesn’t get you feedback on your overall plot structure, story arc and character development, to name a few. However, snuggled at the back of Authonomy, after the bookshelves and the rankings lay the forums; here you can find crit groups to suit your genre, or start your own. There are a huge number of really talented writers there who will help you polish your book.

Goodreads

As you can see, there are places to get your work read after all! Goodreads is another site that’s easy to use but it helps to know what you’re looking for otherwise it can seem like all you’re there to do is collate an electronic bookshelf of titles you’ve already read.

There’s much more to Goodreads than that though. If you have a published book that’s not getting much attention you can advertise it on the Author Program page. But if you’re not self-published yet go to www.goodreads.com/story/new to upload your writing or work-in-progress. Don’t forget to explore what else is posted and leave feedback on other work.

Wattpad

There’s heaps happening on Wattpad – maybe a bit too much. It’s very popular with young writers so if that applies to you then it’s definitely worth exploring. But for those with finished works, or a large work, it might not be the best place. Let me know if you’ve had a good experience on Wattpad.