Archive for the ‘readers’ Category

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

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Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! 

July’s Question: What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

The most valuable so far came from the award-winning author, Alexandria laFaye, http://www.alafaye.com, during 2014, when we were both in the same critique group. I had submitted a chapter from ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta’ (my first book in the Chronicles of Aden Weaver series: http://amzn.com/B015K1KF0I ) to our online critique group, The Creative Collective.

I got various responses from the group noting grammar and word usage and so forth. However, there was one answer in particular, which revolutionized me.

Alexandria wrote back, ‘The writing is good; however there is far too much exposition.’

I was afraid to admit I didn’t know what exposition was.

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Luckily Alexandria also teaches writing and so, she went on to offer examples showing that exposition is another word for explanation. In other words, exposition is when the author is telling the reader everything.

Alexandria said, our task as the writer is to give the reader an experience, as if the readers themselves are experiencing and seeing what’s taking place.

This is how you get the reader immersed. Exposition holds the reader at arm’s length.

It was amazing. A whole new world I hadn’t thought about that until that moment opened up. That one piece of advice helped my writing evolve. I was grateful to Alexandria for her wisdom.

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I’ve worked on this ever since. These days, I find it helps me to think about it this way: instead of being behind a camera observing the action, I think of myself as behind my character’s eyes looking at and experiencing what happens. Then I can inhabit the scene. I have to use all the senses, act out scenes (holler, @TiffanyLawson-Inman!) and speak the dialogue out loud. I have to tease out some scenes and tighten others and think, what does this feel like, what would be going on in the background? I have to look around the whole room and put myself in my hero’s shoes.

This approach makes it a more 3-D experience in the writing process as well.

Then, earlier this year, adding to the concept of reader immersion, my writing pal, James Preller, offered another nugget of advice. He talked about the need for the reader to empathise with the protagonist.

James PrellerJames said, ‘Most importantly, I think you need to hone tight into Aden and his thoughts, feelings, perceptions. I think you could go deeper, bring us closer.’

I went back to my rewriting. I gave my hero, Aden, more time and attention in this second book and even I, as the author, felt I drew closer to him.

Good advice. Thanks, Jimmy, you’re a pal. If there’s one thing the generosity of the author’s community has taught me, it’s that it’s nice to share. So it has been a pleasure to pass these gems on for other writers.

Good ‘question of the month,’ IWSG!

One of my favourite quotes at the moment is “The wisdom acquired with the passage of time is a useless gift unless you share it!” by E. Williams. Try these techniques for yourself and why not share them with others.

How about you, what is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in recent times?

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Talk to you later…

Keep Writing!

Yvette K. Carol

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If you have done well, it’s your duty to send the elevator back down. ~ Kevin Spacey

 

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“There clearly is a myth about boys and reading as so many people seem to think that the gender gap in reading is bigger than it is, but research shows that the number one factor that determines your reading ability is how often your parents read out loud to you and the number of books in your house, which is connected with social class”. ~ Jennifer Dyer skully jensen @catagator

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I’ve been a long time believer in the positive power of a bedtime story.

We grew up with our father reading a story to us, last thing at night, every night. The bedtime story formed a warm, loving, stable pillar of our childhood for my siblings and I.

While my middle child is an avid reader, my youngest son didn’t gravitate to reading for pleasure, so the nightly ritual of reading the boys a few books neatly filled the gap.

The kids and I have started reading Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. Sam-the-man is finding the transition difficult; he needs to babble quietly to himself the whole time I’m reading. I’m reassured he is enjoying it nevertheless, as when I asked him if he’d like me to keep reading, he said an emphatic, yes!

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Mortal Engines has my youngest son, however, riveted. He is driven to talk about what has happened in each chapter we’ve read. During the toothbrushing/toileting before bed phase of the evening, he’ll be asking deep questions and pondering on the chapter. I am seeing first-hand, how a really good book can open and broaden a child’s mind. He’s prompted to look at things a little differently and ask some of the bigger questions.

I wonder if this has inspired the budding writer in him. In the past, I’d been impressed by my youngest son’s obvious talent for imaginative story. Yet, somewhere along the way, unbeknownst to me, his writing skills had languished. I was shocked to be called into school for a talk with his teacher, earlier in the year, to discuss ‘below National standard writing and English skills.’ His punctuation, use of descriptive words, and grasp of basic story structure needed work.

You can imagine how fired up I was. In the following holiday break, I spent time with Nat, reading stories and talking about them. We sat and made stories up on the spot a few times. On more than one occasion, we used making up stories to stave off the boredom of waiting for appointments.

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This week, Nat brought home three typed pages for me to read. Titled, ‘A Wizard’s Journey,’ it was a story he’d written and read aloud in class. I read it and was knocked over by everything. He had it all: structure, descriptive words, active words. I felt a rush of admiration for his talent. Moreover, I felt proud to see he had applied himself and improved.

He said, “A very beautiful thing happened today. My teacher said my story was the best story she’d ever heard in class.”

He was melting. And so was my heart. What a joy!

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Here was a boy who used to have no interest in reading for pleasure. His writing skills were under par, and yet, through the tradition of the bedtime story, we happened to hit upon the right sort of book, at the right time, to light up his inner storyteller.

The regular rhythm of the bedtime story provided the opportunity for that key moment in a reader’s life.  This may be the first book he remembers – the first one that makes him look for the next book in the series or that the author has written.

With a bit of luck, Mortal Engines has sparked my youngest son’s genuine interest in reading. All I can say for sure is that his writing skill and ability has leaped forward. He’s asking bigger picture questions. These things go hand in hand with increasing literacy.

Author and former teacher, Michael Morpurgo: It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children. When I was a boy I didn’t much like reading either, but it was my mother reading to me and my brother Pieter at bedtime that kept stories and books alive for me.

Do you read to your kids? Do you believe in the gentle benevolent power of the bedtime story?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Everything in a good book (perhaps even in a bad book) is a new truth, a new revelation to a child, whose experiences are, as yet, so limited. Therefore writers for children need to be extra careful about preaching, about filling in those empty spaces for a child. -Jane Yolen

 

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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

November’s Question: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

Everything!

But mainly, this thing of nourishing oneself and others through the medium of the written art.

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Recently, our famous movie director, kiwi icon Peter Jackson, announced his next project which will be based on the Philip Reeve debut, Mortal Engines.

This week, I got hold of a copy of Reeve’s book.

First published in 2001, it received rave reviews. The Daily Telegraph said, ‘Philip Reeve’s debut novel, Mortal Engines, seems to have leapt fully formed from a startling imagination…a gripping yarn.’

Let me tell you, Engines lives up to the hype. The pace gallops along. You don’t have time to stop and think. You don’t have time to question. You don’t know what the heck is going on or what’s going to happen next, you’re in for the ride. From the first page, there was never any question of putting the book down without finishing it. This is the sort of book you read by flashlight after you’re supposed to be asleep, because you need to know what happens next. It’s almost a visceral experience, it’s that good. An instant lesson in effortless style and storytelling heft, it’s a wonder to behold.

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A young writer is an explorer. She knows she wants to get somewhere, but she doesn’t even know if the somewhere even exists yet. It is there to be created. In the process of creating it we find out how varied and complex we are.’ ~ Colum McCann

Being a writer means constantly learning, or as Ernest Hemmingway put it so eloquently, ‘For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment.’

Mortal Engines takes your mind out to a new universe where you find yourself looking back upon humanity and our modern world with a different view.

The delight of reading a story is an individual experience. Unlike seeing a movie, or something on TV, where the imagery is offered to you, and you adopt someone else’s vision, the singular action between the written word and the brain when you read a book, stirs up the imagination, and you conjure your own unique and beautiful or terrible worlds.

A book can change your world view.

Reading fiction serves to break you out of your box of living, and remind you of the greater truth and vision. What a wonderful, freeing, fabulous thing, to be freed of the oppression of our minds for a while.

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Why do I love to write? There is intense joy in heeding the call of the muse and following the dappled trails of my daydreaming.

To recapture the ‘lost Eden of childhood,’  is the way my writing teacher and hero, Kate de Goldi  described it in her oft-repeated speech, given at the Spinning Gold, children’s writers and illustrators conference, of 2009.

‘I believe the compulsion to write comes from a deeper place,’ said Kate, ‘I don’t write about or for children, but I write for the once and always child in myself. When I’m writing for children, I’m chasing down a lost Eden, that hopeful springtime, to approximate the pleasure I had in those shaded, imaginative places. The lost Eden of my childhood.’

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With effective fiction, a happy cycle gets instigated between writer and reader. I believe the restorative power of the writer’s bliss goes around and translates to the reader and everyone benefits.

I am captivated by the delightfully dark Mortal Engines so far, and have decided to start reading it to the boys. The story is so powerful maybe it has the juju to jumpstart my youngest son’s reluctance to read for pleasure.

What greater fortune could there be than this, to be employed in seeking my own lost Eden on a daily basis? Then, through the alchemy of capturing it in words, I can share stories and hopefully inspire others with their own giddy escapes from this insane and toxic world. It really is a blessing in so many ways.

Therefore, in summary, my favourite aspect of being a writer is everything!

How about you, what is your favourite part of what you do?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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‘When you’re a writer, you’re never quite like other people — you’re doing a job that other people don’t know you’re doing and you can’t talk about it, really, and you’re just always finding your way in the secret world and then you’re doing something else in the “normal” world.’ ~ Alice Munro

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Here, in New Zealand, media coverage of children’s books is poor. I was particularly interested when a fellow Kiwi author shared this online conversation about the topic of the under-representation of children’s literature in the media.

This was the original “call-to-action:” ‘#CoverKidsBooks invites you to join in a public conversation about children’s books.  Leave a comment, write a blog of your own, or tweet about it using the hashtag.  Tell us why children’s books matter to you, and what you’d like to see the media do to #CoverKidsBooks!’

The research by #CoverKidsBooks showed that children’s books ‘typically got 3% of newspaper review space, despite accounting for over 30% of the market.’

This is a subject close to my heart. *grabs soapbox*

I’ve never been able to understand why children’s books are so greatly undervalued. To me, children’s literature is as important as any other genre. Wake up, world, to the increasing rather than decreasing value of books for our kids! Wake up to the importance  of time spent reading for our children!

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When I was growing up, we were given books as prized gifts on birthdays and Christmases. I can remember poring over each and every tome. They were treasured. The first book I ever received was at seven years old. ‘The Legend of Siegfried’ gripped me so completely, that it started off a lifelong passion for mythology and legendary storytelling.

In the original post, Laura Jackson Warburton commented, ‘I think there is still a massive amount of snobbery about children’s books. Not about one children’s book over another, but people tending to dismiss anything from YA down as ‘only silly stories’.’

Exactly. Why is that? What is this snobbery based on?

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I’ve always been guided by the words of famous author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, in 1853, Children are now the only representatives of the men and women of that happy era (the golden age) and therefore it is that we must raise the intellect and fancy to the level of childhood, in order to recreate the original myths

The part of the CoverKidsBooks conversation to really spark my interest however, was when, in the original post, Emma Perry was asked whether children’s books were important.

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Emma Perry: I think especially in the world today, where we’re bombarded by information and interruption, your relationship with a book is so important. I’d like to encourage my children to have that long-form thought and long-form imagination.

This was the key, I thought.

We, the parents of today’s children, worry greatly about the future awaiting them. We see our kids with their heads buried in their digital games, or, staring at mobile phones. We wonder how they will ever concentrate long enough to hold down a steady job or relationship.

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Maybe that’s why children need to read books these days more than ever before in our history? Because reading helps our modern kids focus their easily-scattered attention for longer periods. Something has to happen to redress the effects of the continuous short-term gratification of playing digital games. Books may just be the cure. Huzzah!

*steps off soapbox*

It’s been proven that reviews and media coverage do sell books. Our children need good quality books, and not just in digital format.

With that in mind, what can we do to raise the profile and image of Children’s Literature?

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Out of all the answers given in the original blog post, I liked the comment by Laura Jackson Warburton.

LJW: Daily book reviews in newspapers, not only of new releases from bestselling authors, but of debut authors and archive titles. A children’s book channel like MTV but with books, grabbing kids’ attention and helping books get into the right hands.  Top 10’s, book bloggers’ reviews, celebrities talking about books, book trailers etc would get kids thinking about books, talking about books in the playground and using pester power to get parents to buy the books!

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Yes. These ideas are great!

Leave a comment, write a blog of your own, or tweet about it using the hashtag.  Tell us why children’s books matter to you, and what you’d like to see the media do!

#CoverKidsBooks – The Facts

#CoverKidsBooks – Booksellers

#CoverKidsBooks – Librarians

#CoverKidsBooks – Teachers

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Any book that helps a child to form the habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him. ~ Maya Angelou

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I’m a day late for posting with my fellow IWSG’ers, so please accept my apologies!

Wednesday (*cough, Thursday) is time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

 

I haven’t been as uncomfortable as this in a long time. A friend who also happens to be one of the modern authors I most admire, will soon be reading my debut novel. I posted him a copy three days ago.

Now, the wait….

I’m suddenly very aware that it’s one thing to write a novel in the solitude of your room. It’s another to share it with your first critique partner or beta reader or editor. And then it’s a giant bound into a glaring stratosphere, to show your work to one of your writing heroes. That’s what I’m doing right now. I’m so uncomfortable it’s a nightmare.

*mental note: this must be what ants-in-the-pants feel like.

The writer I’m talking about is PJ Reece, filmmaker, traveller and author of the excellent Story Structure to Die For, and Story Structure Expedition among many others.

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I first met PJ online, about three or four years ago, when he commented on a post published over on the excellent blog, The Write Practice.

Later on, PJ wrote a guest post for The Write Practice, on his writing theory of 2-Stories separated by a Story Heart.’

He explores the nature of writing fiction in a way that truly reflects the essence of why we’re here on this planet, and why we love fiction, on his blog, The Meaning of Life. PJ lights the way for other writers by his sheer willingness to dive deep into the real essence of himself. Then, he articulates how to bring reality into our fiction, and the transformations needed of our characters, relating the experience like a poet.

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I think to do what he does, one has to have a very important trait and it’s a trait I seek to cultivate in myself. Pluck!

You see, last year, I self-published my debut novel. After weeks of procrastinating, I mustered up enough courage to ask PJ Reece to read it. However, I wasn’t sure if he would read ‘tween reading level.

PJ replied, ‘A good story is a good story no matter what the reading level.’

I was encouraged. However, truth be told, I chickened out and never sent it to him. Then he remembered a couple of weeks ago, and well, long story short, a copy of my debut novel, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ is en route to Canada as we speak.

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I see a lot of pluck in all of PJ Reece’s work which is why I admire it so much. Now, I’m waiting for him to read my (first ever) novel, and I think ‘all my pluck has got up and went,’ as my father would say.

With 35 years of writing fiction under my belt so far, I’m no stranger to the process of submitting stories. I’ve sent my work out more times than I can remember. Yet, none of those times have felt like this feeling of squirming-on-the-hook.

Will PJ read the whole book, I wonder, or horror of horrors, will he put the book down and walk away?

Some submissions really feel like putting your heart on the line, don’t they? How do you stay on an even keel? Any suggestions for how to handle stress are welcome.

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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At present, IWSG are taking part in the ‘A to Z Challenge.’ Due to my time constraints, unfortunately,  I could not participate.

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Kate de Goldi – ‘I don’t care about the classifications of what constitutes children’s literature. I want to write articulate, textural, demanding,’ she said. ‘I think current stories are lacking in complex structure and nuance. Kids need more than a limited diction, and a palette of Smarties.’

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The Oxford Dictionary tells us that the word ‘end’ means limit, furthest point or part. Once the reader has reached the furthest part of a story, therefore, they will read the end of the book. It has a concrete purpose. Sometimes, however, this all-important part of a story is left out or not handled well. Endings can be tricky.

As readers, we remember the great final chapters and never forget the bad ones.

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There was one book I read as an eight-year-old, which came to a premature stop. An aboriginal girl sat by the fire, having learned her entire tribe had been wiped out. She raised her arms up to the sky, tears streaming down her cheeks. This was followed by the words, “The end.”

Left with too many unanswered questions about the girl with her arms raised in despair, my child heart was reduced to confetti.

At this point in my childhood, I had been in the happy habit of going to the library every week, and I lived with my head in a book. After reading the premature ending in this book however, I distanced myself from reading. It took me six months before I would venture to a library. One day, I picked up my first Laura Ingalls Wilder book, ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ and I fell in love with reading all over again.

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Books are so important to our young readers.

Award-winning author, Kate de Goldi, said of her childhood, ‘Reading was my telescope on the emerging world around me.’

For our young readers especially, after a great story we owe them a good ending. As a writer, I feel I make a promise from the first word I commit to the first page, that I will deliver the reader to the resolution of the story.

Kate de Goldi urged us, ‘Complete what you’ve started. It has to pay off. We have to witness the resolution of the question posed.’

If all stories are about the battle between protagonist and antagonist, physics demands not just beginning and middle, but also end, which is why storytelling feels wrong if it’s either omitted or underplayed. ~ Producer, editor and writer, John Yorke, Into the Woods. As readers, we crave that final ‘feeling of resonance,’ when we finish a story.

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The “feeling of resonance” is what Kiwi author, Joy Cowley, would call, ‘a satisfying ending.’ I agree. However, knowing where to curtail our stories in order to hit that resounding note takes skill.

Here are three tips on how to write a good ending.

*Tip One: Joy Cowley said, ‘Don’t finish immediately after resolution, but don’t have lengthy explanations in the climactic scene. Find “the true ending” because we often begin before the beginning and end after the ending.’

*Tip Two: John Yorke, said, at the conclusion we make sure that ‘the knots of plot are undone and complications unravelled.’

Another New Zealand novelist, Lorraine Ormann put it this way, ‘A story starts out low to the ground, rises with each event, the initial climb is gradual, to the eventual climax, then there is a precipitous drop to the end.’

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*Tip Three: In 1863, the German novelist, Gustav Freytag, gave a formula for the underlying shape of drama. A five step process: exposition, complications, climax, falling action, and catastrophe.

In the fifth stage of catastrophe, ‘the conflict is resolved, whether through disaster and downfall of the hero or through his victory and transfiguration.’

At this stage, according to John Yorke, ‘the (protagonists) are, against all odds, able to defeat their enemies, overcome their flaws and in doing so become complete.’

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‘Needless to say, endings are important,’ Blogger and author, Kristen Lamb wrote. Her method for having a knockout ending? ‘Your novel has thrust a likable, relatable protagonist into a collision course with the Big Boss Troublemaker. The Big Boss Battle must deliver all you (the writer) have been promising. Endings tie up all loose ends and sub-plots and, if we have done our job, will leave the reader a feeling of resonance.’

Now, that’s a good ending.

Are you able to find the true end of your stories? Have you ever felt betrayed by a bad ending?

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Keep Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Just as in the middle of your novel there are only three rules: Escalate! Escalate! Escalate! At the end of your novel, there are only three rules: Payoff! Payoff! Payoff! ~ David Farland