Friday, 21 October 2016

To use Scrivener or not?

I've been playing around with Scrivener* of late (yup, I'm very late to the party!). However, let me explain: I originally tried Scrivener a long time ago, and it just didn't work for me. I found it overly complicated, I kept dotting from one thing to another in the binder, I couldn't keep a continuous flow...ugh. But now? Yup, you guessed it, I'm using it! But what changed?

Quite simply, I don't use it to write my novel. In fact, I still use MS word to type all of my chapters. However, what I do now is use Scrivener to help me keep track of my scenes, chapters, characters, etc. I don't write the scenes in there. I just make a little card on the bulletin board, type in a few sentences about what's in the scene, and hey presto, there's the macro view of my novel. This is particularly helpful for me as I'm working on a multi POV novel (good plan, Fiona, good plan).

So I'm a 50/50 kind of user for Scrivener - I use it for planning and noting down what I already have, but I keep it well away from my actual writing.

What are the cons for me?

Not many, to be honest. I only use the basic functions, because to be frank, I didn't want to spend hours going through the tutorial. However, it can be a little distracting. I have to be very conscious of not spending too much time on there.

Also, the other con for me is simply from a fussy point of view - I hate how difficult it is for me to open the files on another computer. If it doesn't have Scrivener, I'm pretty much flummoxed.

There you have it - my thoughts on Scrivener. If you didn't love it the first time, try using it this way. It might work, it might not, but it does for me!

Have fun!

* Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Tips and tricks for writing YA Fantasy

Welcome, welcome my fantasy lovers (and you actually don't have to be writing just in the YA category). Today, I wanted to talk to you about YA fantasy and how we can make it original, high concept and relevant to modern teens (did you notice that last one? Yup, just like last week's post on contemporary YA, fantasy needs to appeal to the modern teen, too!).

There are countless sub genres within fantasy, and each has it's own list of tips and tricks to look at. However, at the moment, we're just going to focus on the genre as a whole.

By Nidoart - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Here are my top tips to getting your fantasy work into shining condition:

Be bold. Don't shy away from making your world bold and real and vibrant. Your world is a fantasy, make it one! However, remember your world building rules. Keep your world in keeping with the rules and don't break them just for effect. You need to maintain the suspension of disbelief. This even applies for magic in the real world (say, in urban fantasy for example).

Know the conventions of your genre, but don't be afraid to mix them up or genre blend (just do it well!). Epic fantasy is normally quest based, but what if you mixed that up with something else? Keep your reader on their toes.

Don't get sidetracked by your world building. Writers either give a) way too much, or b) afraid of giving too much, they give way too little. Read your favorite fantasy books - how much do they give? Read recent fantasy books. Yes, we have our golden oldies, but see what the market is looking for right now.

Want some ideas of great modern fantasy books?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

As you can see, this is a tiny selection and there are SO many good books out there in the fantasy genre. Go read them!

Think about what modern teens care about? These things should be present in your modern fantasy. They might be in a different world, but the MC should still feel the way teens in the real world might feel. They need to be layered and complex, and modern!

Don't get complicated. It can be so easy for writers to create such a vast world in their head that it becomes super complicated (I know, I can be guilty of that), but the best advice I can give you is make it simple. Don't let your world (or plot) be overly complicated, especially if this is your debut. You want people to grasp your world easily and then they can focus on your amazing characters.

Alright, so that is a little bit to get you started. However, go web surfing. There are TONS of hints out there. Read your craft books. Experiment and have fun!

Happy writing my fellow fantasy people!!!

Friday, 7 October 2016

Tips for writing contemporary YA

Writers can fall into one of two camps: those who stick to one genre, and those who like to dot around. Today, I’m talking to both camps – but only if you both like YA Contemporary!

YA Contemporary books are fascinating, deep and full of emotional layers. This is the time of life where teenagers are developing into adults, learning their place in the world, tackling new (and sometimes weighty) issues that are now coming their way. Plus a whole lot of other stuff, too.

If you’re not sure what contemporary YA work is, it’s basically books for teens that come under the realm of realistic fiction. It’s real life, in the now, tackling modern issues. Some people say it’s imperative to have a love story in the plot, and while this is often a big part of the writing, it’s not 100% mandatory. Some stories just don’t call for it.

If you’re writing in this genre, here are some tips to help your writing stand up above the crowd:

Read the genre you write in.

 By Eneas De Troya from Mexico City, México - Lectura para unas vidas, CC BY 2.0,

There are some amazing YA books out there:

The Fault in our Stars by John Green
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Well, you get the gist.

But above that, there are some other, concrete tips you can use:

Don’t forget to use technology. Whether we like it or not, it’s part of teen life and to omit it would be to make a mistake.

Actually research what teens like. Don’t just rely on your own experience. What are they listening to right now? What are they watching? Do they care about what’s on the news (you’d be surprised – I didn’t when I was a teen, but some of them do nowadays!)?

Give your main characters a diverse experience – by that, I mean let them be individuals rather than cardboard cut outs. It’s easy to avoid a stereotype, but sometimes it hard to avoid a generic character. Give your teenager passions outside of the normal “I like football” or “oh this is cool music”. Some teens do like those things. However, others might like L33T speak, some might be heavy into moshing (not that they should); others still might love to be squirreled away in museums. Remember, it takes all kinds, and just because they are teenagers, doesn’t mean they don’t have diverse experiences and tastes!

We all hear this (and most of us hate to hear it) - it's all about the voice. But how can you know whether you're getting it right or wrong? Well, here's an idea: give it to a teen and see! When you have your ms ready, ask a teen to read! Sure, this is actually scarier than getting a fellow writer to read, because this is your target market, and if they don’t like it...well, if they don’t, find out why. See how you can make it better, more relevant.

I take my hat off to everyone who writes contemporary YA as it’s not as easy as it looks. Here’s to much success for everyone and I look forward to all the new young adult books that will hit our shelves in the upcoming years!