5 Ways to Pick the Perfect Title

How to choose a titlePicking a title can be the hardest part of writing that novel or story. Some writers hang a story off the title itself, but more often than not a working title will be found and then the final title selected when the work is complete. I’ve met plenty of writers who are still not convinced by their title even after publication. And if the writer isn’t, the potential buyer won’t be.

The title must say something about the content, what the reader can expect, and even the genre itself.

Take the book The Devil Wears Prada. What a fantastic title. The ‘devil’ speaks not only of the boss, but also the industry and what the junior must become to be successful. The ‘wears’ tells the reader that the story is going to be about clothing, while the ‘Prada’ describes the piece as about high class fashion. The title wraps around the tongue and plays havoc with the imagination. It has several possible connotations. Superb. But how do you get to such a level of completeness when titling your story?

Use description

Think about single words that might describe your story: nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Write them all down, jumble them up and coin different phrases with them. See what works best. You may even find something alliterative that rolls off the tongue: The Devil Dresses in Dolce, perhaps?

Nikki Dee used this to great effect in her first novel about the disappearance of a young girl with underlying themes of giving up and retreating confidence of ever coming out on top: her chosen title, Losing Hope, speaks volumes about the book.

Copy great ideas

Look at current bestsellers in your genre. Notice how the title says something about the story, and how those titles have been constructed. Now think about your story, think about the overarching theme and write down words that track that theme. What might work on the cover of your novel?

Look in the shadows

Your novel may have underlying themes and subplots that you’ll be able to use in your title. JK Rowling fans are used to seeing such obscure titles. The Prisoner of Azkaban, for example, tells of a theme that grows throughout the book. Does your work have something similar?

Look at your pivot point

Read through your novel, and identify its turning point, or perhaps concentrate on its conclusion. Write what you know about this on a piece of paper, and then choose a couple of key words from your description that will do the job you want your title to do.

Cheat

Go to Google, and type in the search term ‘title generator’. Have fun!

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Why You’ll Never Find the Right Time to Write

make time to writeI keep getting asked if I’ve finished my second novel yet. I’m ten chapters from the end, and have been for a long while. Part of the reason for my not finishing is that I know exactly what happens: in my mind it’s already written. I’m also busy with writing for others – in the last two years I estimate that I’ve written approximately 2 million words, including two ghost written novels and three ghost written business books. But, without a doubt, my prevarication to finish my own work comes from the fact that there just doesn’t seem to be a good time to do so.

Here are five reasons why they’ll never be a great time to write:

Writing takes mental energy

Writing is mentally draining: it takes thought to do well, whether fiction or non-fiction. Other stuff is easier to do: housework, cleaning the car, interacting on Facebook, watching a movie, and even reading. It’s hard work even thinking about writing, never mind getting down and doing it.

Writing requires space

Getting that pen on paper, or fingers working on a keyboard, takes space. You need physical space, of course, but also the brain space. Having the television on in the background doesn’t usually bother me, yet two people speaking in the same room does: it breaks my concentration level. And that is the other sort of space you need – your mind needs to be unclogged.

Writing gets in the way of personal matters

There is always something that needs doing which is more important than writing. You need to pay that bill, or make that phone call. A pint with the lads is long overdue, and your house insurance needs sorting out. Before you know it, the day you’d planned to sit down and write is gone.

Writing is personal, and time isn’t

Writing is necessarily an event that you’ll be doing in solitude. Even if your partner or children are in the same room, having your face stuck in front of a computer screen is isolating. You’ll feel cut off, and more importantly so will the ones you love: they’ll feel neglected, and that will make you feel bad. So you forego the writing in favour of companionship.

Writing might be important, but it’s not urgent

Hardly anyone will think your writing is important. But you know that a finished novel could be your stepping to a new career, perhaps even fame and fortune. Maybe you write regularly already, for example on your blog. Wouldn’t be great to let your followers know you’ve completed that novel? But there is always something more important, isn’t there?

Find a way to make the time to write

What I’m driving at is you will never find the right time to write. But if you don’t you’ll find yourself despondent and disappointed in years the months to come. Come on, give things some thought. Make time to write. There are twenty four hours in a day. Are you really telling me you can’t find 30 minutes to devote to that novel?

And having advised you this, then I had better practice what I preach: hadn’t I?

Why You Should Join a Writers’ Group

IMG_1209[1]One of WordPlay’s members, Joy Lennick, sent this to us a couple of days ago. She just wanted to let us know what she felt about belonging to a writers’ circle, and how it has affected her writing and productivity. We thought we’d share her feelings about what it means to her to belong to a writers’ circle.

Writer’s Block is No Excuse

Having belonged to a few writing groups, and known many writers over the years, I’ve heard too many say “I haven’t a clue what to write about!” or “I’ve really got Writer’s block!” Without knowing whether any of them actually wrote a book or found some other writing outlet, I’d bet that most who uttered such words never ‘made it’. I don’t mean ‘made it’ like being a best seller or having your book turned into a movie (I should be so lucky!); I mean just getting published. This is where WordPlay Writers’ Forum and WordPlay Publishing Ltd comes into the equation.

There’s being published, and then there’s becoming published

In my long career as a writer, I have had three books published by ‘mainstream’ publishers. Running your own small Hotel and Jobs in Baking & Confectionery were published by Kogan Page Ltd of London, of whom I have nothing but praise. These helped me put a lot of jam on my bread in the early days. My third book Hurricane Halsey, about an epileptic ocean rower who successfully crossed the Atlantic, was published by Libros. Although the end product was good to look at and the photographs excellent, the whole process was painfully long: two YEARS, and I was never paid for being the subject’s biographer. But that’s another story…

WordPlay PublishingI come, at last, to WordPlay Publishing Ltd. Fully aware of the huge difficulties in getting accepted by main stream publishers today, and of the sometimes exorbitant sums of money charged by some self-publishing companies, I wholeheartedly recommend WordPlay.

A Forward Looking Forum

The group started when Michael Barton and Ian Govan decided to do something about the lack of opportunities for talented authors in the traditional publishing world. WordPlay Writers’ Forum lives up to its aim of encouraging writers’ to write and then getting them read. Unfortunately Ian passed away prematurely, but Michael has carried on with the same ethos.

Forum meetings are all about the exciting world of writing and publishing, marketing and promotion, and more. We also have workshops discussing all manner of pertinent things: the latest was an introduction to social media marketing. Then there is the website, with useful tips and tricks about the act of writing itself posted on an almost daily basis.

From Writing to Publishing: a Writers’ Circle’s Journey

WordPlay, now headed by Michael, not only assists serious writers to ‘get on the ladder to literary success’, it doesn’t put authors ‘on the bread line’. WordPlay Publishing has a growing stable of books published through it, including my fourth book My Gentle War (Memoir of an Essex Girl). Without WordPlay’s help, I doubt I would ever have seen this in print.

More than this, though, WordPlay Writers’ Forum also regularly publishes group anthologies. The talent and dedication of all members was recognised last year, when WordPlay’s Shorts for Autumn was voted the best writers’ circle anthology in the UK’s Writing Magazine’s annual competition. A welcome literary feather in our cap. In the last couple of weeks, we have published Precinct Murder, an anthology of murder stories set in New York. Winter Gems will be available in the next couple of weeks, and a Spring anthology, working title Talk of the Towns, is due to be published in April. As if that isn’t enough, we’ve started work on a collaborative novel, with plans including turning it into a play for local production.

A Writers’ Group that Helps Others

Many of WordPlay’s members, who might still be floundering, are now published. Too many to mention here (why not visit the websites, wordplaywritersforum.com and wordplay-publishing.com?), but not satisfied with this, WordPlay is also helping non-members with their publishing dreams. The latest is the Costa Writers’ Circle’s eclectic anthology A Mixed Bag, which is due for publication later this week.

So if you want to get ahead in writing, then join a go-ahead writers’ group. If there isn’t one locally to you, then why not start one, or get in touch with WordPlay?

How The Notebook Becomes A Writer’s Best Friend

Writer's NotepadOne of the key pieces of equipment for a fiction writer is the notebook. In the modern world, of course, there are plenty of ways to record your thoughts and experiences in preparation for putting pen to paper in a serious way later. But there is nothing quite the same as pen and paper when you’re out and about to capture those moments that you will likely forget later.

But how do you best use that notebook to further your writing career?

What to Write in Your Writer’s Notebook

In a sentence, anything and everything! But more specifically, think about the following:

  • Character sketches

You’ll see all sorts of people out and about. Make a written note of those most interesting people you come across: you never know when you’ll want to bring them into a story, or even create a story around them.

And if you’re sitting quietly having a coffee, why not get that notebook out and expand on those characters, or the ones you already have in your story.

  • Plot outlines

These things come to you at any moment. They strike like lightning, and disappear just as quickly. Stop what you’re doing, and get your idea down on paper.

  • Snippets of Dialogue

In a previous life, I walked a fair distance from my office to the railway station on my daily commute. You hear all sorts of conversation, and some of this makes for great inspiration. A sentence taken out of context has all sorts of weird and wonderful meanings, and leads to all types of story.

  • To do lists

Think about what needs doing, or jot those items down as they crop up. You’ll soon have a to-do list that will keep you focussed on the necessary and help with your time management.

  • How to use your notes

First off, make it a daily task to review what you’ve got pencilled in your notebook. Take the great ideas and expand them, and disregard the dross. Why not make it a first-thing-in-the-morning routine, while you’re having that wake-me-up-coffee. Not only will it concentrate writing focus, but also energise your brain for the day ahead.

Review your notes briefly last thing at night, too. It’s said the last thing you do at night impacts your dreams: and we all know how dreams can be the best source of plot and storylines.

Keep your writer’s notebooks for the future

The final thing to do with your notebooks is to keep them. Lock them away somewhere safe, even when you think you’ve finished with them. Pull them out in the future: you’ll find them not only great reading, and a lot of fun, too, but suddenly one or two of the ideas that you previously dismissed and considered dross will come to life.

5 Reasons to Get involved With Other Writers

lonely writerWriting is a lonely trade: its very nature is enveloped by the need to be alone and concentrate, or stuck at a desk, tapping away on a keyboard. And yet, writers conduct their craft for others to read and become immersed in, learn from, enjoy, laugh at, cry with, and so on and so forth. As I’ve said before, writing is the most intimate thing you can do with your clothes on.

So, while it’s a lonely trade, great writing is perhaps best achieved by becoming involved with other writers. Here are 5 reasons you really should ensure you get together with others:

  1. Motivation

Other writers will give you the motivation to continue what you’re doing. They’ll talk to you, let you know how they are getting on, and cajole you into going that extra mile.

  1. Take a Break

Spending time with other writers gives you a break from your desk and your own writing. We all need a break now and again, and it really can be energising.

  1. Writing regularly

Meeting with a writers’ group or attending a writing course also gives you great impetus to write regularly. You may have exercises set for weekly or monthly deadlines, and this will give you a great focal point to work toward.

  1. Feedback and Learning

Other writers will give you great feedback on your work. Some groups use an open forum style, while others encourage interaction in smaller groups, or even buddying up. The real benefit, though, is receiving that constructive criticism that you wouldn’t get elsewhere.

You’ll also find you learn different methods, tips and tricks to keep you on track with your project and improve your writing ability.

  1. Networking

One of the most important parts of writing is building a network. You’ll need to use social media lists, and where better to start than with other writers? You’ll find some real great writing buddies, and expand your possible readership at the same time.

Interactive Writing Courses

Here at WordPlay we love to hear about innovative products and services aimed at helping writers. Margret Shea, one of our members who is mostly based in Ireland, recently wrote to us to let us know of something rather special happening in Ireland for writers.

writers' workshopThere’s a new kid ion the writers’ block, called WritersWebTV, which offers interactive TV based writing coaching. The beauty is that a writer will be able to access all the necessary material they need, learning with other writers, yet in the comfort of their own home, or hotel room, or wherever they happen to be (though I wouldn’t recommend participating from the bathroom).

So it’s not just for Irish writers, it’s for writers everywhere. You can even buy their workshops to access at a more convenient time for you.

Taking part in ‘real time’ though gives you some excellent benefits, like access to feedback from experts, and when you enrol you get a heap of pre-workshop material to set you up and prepare properly for the learning experience.

The workshops are free if you participate live, though can also be bought to be viewed at your convenience. So far there have been workshops covering writing for children, writing for women, and writing crime fiction. Definitely worth taking a look.

I’ve long thought that interactive education is the way forward. It’s cheaper, more convenient, and tailored to an individual’s needs. Don’t be surprised if this ends up being a ground breaking service that paves the way for others. (and if you’re quick, you can sign up for tomorrow’s workshop on getting published).

(At this point I’d like to say that WordPLay has no affiliation to WritersWebTV, nor are we advertising their services for any financial gain.)

The Two Most Important Things to me as a Writer

thrid age launchLynda Kiss has proved invaluable to WordPlay. Along with Maggie Hegarty she steps in to take our forum minutes, saving plenty of time and angst in the process. It’s good to know that we give something back. Here, Lynda explains what it is she loves so much about her life.

There are to two things that are most important to me in my third age.

Firstly, learning about WordPlay. When I first heard of the group I had no idea how inspirational it would be. I’m now in the process of writing my first book, and I no longer have that Monday morning feeling when the WordPlay Forum arrives. I get to spend two hours in the company of fellow Forum members, discussing all things writing. I’ve also had the opportunity to buy two books recently, both excellent I might add. The first is Farrel’s Last Case by Gerald R Wright, and the second a Kindle edition of Truth Hurts by Janet Waters. The quality of both is excellent, and reinforces my view that there are brilliant, yet undiscovered, writers the world over.

Second on my list of most important thing is my iPad. I really don’t know where I’d be without it. In bed this morning, I read on my iPad,  mail from iTunes. an advert for the Booker Prize winning novel ‘The Luminaries’ by Eleanor Catton.  With one click I am able to read a sample of the first chapter.  This young lady will not need my review but I need to say that within seconds I am in the room of that opening scene sitting as an observer, among her wonderful characters.  Huge long, beautifully constructed sentences, no wonder this novel is a record length.   By 7.30 a.m. I had bought the book!  How many days would I have waited before I could have got to a book shop here in Spain or received it in the post from Amazon!    Love my iPad – not advertising for Apple, just want to share my pleasure.

Daydreaming Your Way to Writing Inspiration

Lightning inspiresWe recently set a challenge to WordPlayers, asking them to say where, or how, they receive their  writing inspiration. Specifically, we asked if there were any inspirational quotes that they could attribute to their own inspiration to write.

Here Kathy Rollnson – you may know her as KJ Rollinson, author of several books and in the process of completing her Fallyn and the Dragons trilogy – explains how an event that happened to her when she was just a child has stuck with her since.

 ‘Be good sweet maid, and let who will be clever,

 Do noble things, not dream them all day long.’

These words are the first two lines of the second verse in a poem ‘A Farewell,’ written by Charles Kingsley, (1819 – 1875).

It was fashionable when I was a little girl to ask everyone to write in an autograph book.

A friend of my mother’s, grey-haired, whiskery, lines from her mouth to her chin, making her look like a ventriloquist doll, wrote the lines in my book.

I was dismayed. How did she know I was a daydreamer, I had never met her before? Did she think I was lazy; had my mum said anything to her? Whatever the reason was, these lines stuck in my mind as the years passed..

She came to visit with my mum when I was in hospital in Macclesfield having my tonsils out. ‘I left my tonsils in Macclesfield’, does not have the same sentiment as ‘I left my heart in San Francisco’ somehow does it?

Anway, back to the quotation. When I began to write seriously the quotation came back to me. I may not have done many noble things throughout my life but I’m glad I am a daydreamer. Dreams nurture inspiration, which is a gift to any writer.

Four Places to go to receive Inspiration to Write

inspiration to writeA week or so ago I was asked where it was I went for inspiration to write: is there a special place I visit to come up with ideas for stories, novels, or even articles and blogs for clients? I nearly answered that there is this special place that we writers disappear to every once in a while, the fabled ‘inspiration haven’, but then realised that being flippant really doesn’t help.

The answer, of course, is that there is no single place, or time, where inspiration strikes. If, however, you are struggling for a story idea, then here are four places to go for that spark:

Books

It doesn’t matter what you read, just read. The daily rag, a celebrity magazine (yuk!), even the television listings. You’ll be surprised how 10 minutes of reading not only clears the mind but also throws up an idea or two for a new story or article.

Go for a drive/ walk

One of my favourite things to do for inspiration. While you’re driving around, look at the occupants of other cars, people walking on the pavement, kids playing in the park, deliveries being made. So often I see something that looks strange, or out of place, or, just plain ordinary. Like the man asking a policeman for directions to the hospital. What if the officer mistook him for the local cat burglar?

Your CD player

Perhaps the number one way in which to receive that spark is to put some music on – while you’re driving is fantastic (two birds, one stone). Let the music flow over you, and suddenly Kapow! You’ll find that story jumping around inside.

A bar or coffee shop or a shopping centre

Sit down in a strange place and then watch and listen. See how people do things, what they are doing, and eavesdrop. You will probably only hear a part of a conversation, but that’s all the better. Start dreaming up replies and responses.

Still stuck?

If you’re still stuck for that spark, then why not take a sentence or an opening line from one of your favourite books or authors? Read it and then write it down on its own. Now it’s all alone, what does it say to you, what ideas does it give? Here’s an example:

‘Time weighs most on those that have least of it.’

A great line, but what does it say to you? What story or character comes into your mind? 100 people would come up with 100 different stories, solely based on this one line.

The thing is this: there is no one single place where you’ll find your inspiration. It’s all around us, every minute of the day. The only thing stopping you from seeing it is you. 

10 Steps to Writing a Novel: Part 2

writing your bookYesterday we began exploring how to write your novel, and discussed the first four steps on the path to producing the best work you can. Having spent a day blossoming your plans from those very first ideas of the story you want to write, you’ll already have a better idea of how you’re going to start and the journey your characters will take. Before you start that first chapter, though, there’s a little more fleshing out needed.

Now it’s time to build on from the first day of your novel writing adventure.

Step 5: Expand your summary paragraph to a fuller picture

You’ll now have a pretty good idea of the overall structure of your novel, as well as the main theme. Now you need to begin adding a little more detail, and the best way to do this is to take your summary paragraph you wrote in step 3 and expand it.

To do this, work on each sentence singularly. Expand these to a paragraph each. You should find that each one ends in ends in a tragedy or disaster of some kind, except the last paragraph which will describe the ending of your novel.

Have a bit of fun with this step, enjoy yourself. You’re beginning to explore your story more fully, and you may even find yourself coming up with more ideas for sub plots and the conflicts throughout your novel. At the end of this process, you’ll have built your novel summary to one page your so.

Step 6: Expand your character descriptions

The last step we tackle yesterday was to write a one page summary of your characters. But tell me, is one page really enough to ‘know’ your main players?  Work on a further page for each character to round your knowledge of them. You’re going to learn more about them, and so you might find you need to revise what you’ve done before: better now than trying to change the first draft as you work through it.

On the first half page of this extra content, add the finer details of their lives:

  • Date of birth
  • Education
  • Work experience
  • Hobbies/ Pastimes
  • Etc

The final half-page should be devoted to you putting yourself in the character’s shoes. What is the story from their point of view? By the end of this process you’ll understand more fully how each character interacts with not just the thrust of the story, but also with each other.

You’ll also have great character synopsis to refer back to, and know everything about everyone in your novel: even details that your readers may never find out (nor need to).

Step 7: Time to work on your novel summery again

Now it’s time to build your story outline even further. Those one paragraph descriptions of the opening, main disastrous events, and the finale of your novel, need building out to a page each. You will now be planning the strategy of your novel and padding out the overarching themes. You’ll find that you are actually discovering more about your story as you work through this. You may even find a few ideas that stand up and demand to be counted

Step 8: Write a timeline

Now write a time line that details each step of your story, and the characters movements throughout it. This is one of the most important ways in which you will be able to control the continuity of your work. I recently worked on a novel with a client who had completed almost every other step in this process – though not in the same order. By working through a timeline, it became evident to him that the story simply could not evolve in the way he wanted: two of his characters had somehow mysteriously ‘lost’ five years and more from their age for all the other pieces of his jigsaw to fit together! By working the timeline he was able to adjust his plot and subplots before realising his mistake after hundreds of hours of writing and costly editing.

Step 9: Write a chapter-by-chapter outline

Now you know your characters, your plot and sub plots, and the timeline of your novel. Now is time to plan out your chapters. I use a sprea- sheet for this (shock horror!).

You will weave your story in and out of sub-plots as you work through your main plot. Think about openings and hooks to each chapter, and make sure your characters are where you want them to be. Each chapter outline need only be a paragraph or two, but should include all relevant details, including time of day and location, which characters are involved.

Now you know exactly what happens, when and where, and who takes part, throughout your novel. You know how each character reacts, and how they change through the course of the story. Each chapter effectively becomes a scene, and as you read back through, you’ll be able to better picture in your mind, which will help during the next step.

Step 10: Write your novel!

You will probably have spent a good few days, perhaps even a couple of weeks, getting to the business end of the process, but you are now here.

It is time to sit down and type away. You will be amazed how fast your words flow right now. Perhaps even two or three times the pace that you would otherwise have achieved. But more importantly, your first draft will be of a far higher quality.

The actual writing is where you will be figuring out how the finer detail works out – for example, how does the hero, his hands bound tight behind his back, escape from the back of a speeding car? This is going to be fun to explore and write, because you know all the big things already.

Writing your first draft is going to be enjoyable stuff. But even now, you may still find that there are a few leaks in your overall planning to fix: but that’s the great thing about this process. Because you’ve broken everything down into easily manageable chunks, they are more easily fixed.

So, no excuses now. You’ve got a great idea for a novel. You now know how to go about planning and writing it. Get on and do it. Then get it published!