Saturday, July 14, 2018

How to Write a Novella


A novella can be a great stepping stone in a writer’s journey towards completing a novel, or it can be a standalone project. Whatever the reason or motivation for writing a novella that a writer may have, what it can do is teach them about how to build characters, introduce themes, and convey a story in more depth than short stories do.

Writing a novella might give you an idea for a novel, or might end up turning into one itself.
Like much in writing, the word count for novella’s is not set in stone, though 30-60 thousand words is about right. This gives you enough leeway to expand your story if you see fit, or keep it quite concise.
Either way, even at the lower end of the word count, writing a novella is no small undertaking. It’s long enough that the reader should become immersed in the world created but short enough that a person might be able to devour the whole story in one sitting.
While there are lots of elements of a novella that are also important in a full-length novel, there are also some crucial differences, and it is essential to understand what these are and pay attention to them as you write your story.
So if you are hoping to write a novella, remember these valuable tips:
Pay attention to structure
The beauty of a novella is that you need to pack so much into a limited number of words that there is no room for an excess of anything. The plot needs to be watertight; the story must unfold without deviation. A good structure will provide the base from which to tell the story and needs to be smart and simple. There're likely to be fewer characters, fewer scene changes, and a clear unifying idea that pulls the story together.
Use characters wisely
There should be fewer characters in a novella, and those that do appear should be used economically. Characters need to be impactful, and their presence must be felt right away. All characters should play an essential role in the story, should drive the action and plot forwards and be cleverly executed, so your readers feel as though they know them without having to know everything about them. You don’t have the luxury of pages of backstory, or of letting your readers get to know your characters gradually - they must feel a  connection with them almost immediately.
Have just a single theme and conflict
While in a full-length novel there are opportunities to bring in several conflicts, dilemmas, themes and subplots, because of the limited word count of a novella, there should only be one. Single time frame, single place, single idea - this way you can fully execute your story with as much power, and attention to detail as if writing a full novel rather than giving a watered down version where the story feels weak as it isn’t fully explained.
Remember simplicity is key
When it comes to writing a novella, it’s important not to over complicate things. Don’t make life difficult for yourself by trying to pack too much in. Instead, keep things simple while still creating a story that is complex enough to come to a satisfying conclusion without any subplots or digressions from the main idea.
By following the above tips you can write a novella that is perfectly paced, keeps the reader hooked, allows them to immerse themselves in your story fully and yet remains simple, sweet and satisfying. So if you are thinking of writing a novella follow the above tips to help get you started.

I'm still not sure if my diary can be classified as a novel, novella or novelette, as I stated in this post and as this chart classifies each of these terms:

But as it says above, no word count is set in stone. Though 17K-osmething is the current word count. I've also been told the current length of my WIP seems long enough for a YA/MG book (again, I'm not certain how to classify it in those terms). I have also been told someone will want to illustrate my book, should it ever get an offer for publishing. I'm not that great at attempting to draw illustrations, but I did include a chart that changes several times:

This should add to the page count in book form somewhat. And illustrate some of the story as well.

I'm not sure if I followed some of the rules above, but they are only suggestions. I'm speaking specifically about the single theme and content. The theme appears to be about the protagonist getting braces, but several incidents take place over the story, including a school play, kids getting assigned into groups for a class project, and taunts from the mean girls at school. This kind of sounds like the opposite of what is being suggested, but then again, it is only a suggestion. 

Have any of you who have written novellas ever been told things like these? and did what you have written seem to follow what was suggested?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

60s Party at Work

Here are some shots from our party last month at work. My digital camera broke unfortunately and I just learned how to upload photos from the memory card. I'm glad to have found this out.

This is something I have been wanting do for years and finally got to do so. I got the idea from this book, which contained a section on "How to Celebrate Your Birthday Like a Hippie." Having a "Save the Seals benefit," doing partner yoga or cartwheels, watching Free to Be Me and You, a puppet show, and checking watches and shoes at the door were not included as activities, but we did have the option to make flower headbands from ribbon and construction paper from the center. I came up this idea on the day of the event because I had wanted to make a flower headband at home, but did not have time to do so. I searched online for poems by Wendell Berry and copied them into my word-processing program, and made them into scrolls, and bought two packs of small plastic recorders from the party section at Dollar Tree. No one was sure where to find carob and our boss was unable to find tangerines. Stringing beads onto ribbon (our boss was unable to find string) was another optional activity.  

As we prepared for the party in the weeks and months before, we made posters, peace plates and construction-paper chains in art class for decorations. I guess paper chains were a thing then. 

Now the center wants to do another theme party. Some want the 80, some want the 50s and even some wants the 20s. No decisions have been made yet, but a lot of them seem to want the 80s the most. We are hoping to ahem one at the end of August, a month that a lot of our clients have birthdays.

The Wendell Berry poems and plastic recorders.

A construction paper chain and some of the posters
we made in art class for party decorations.

Another poster and chain, some "peace plates" and a
 drawing of a hippie bus.

Another paper chain.

My costume for the party. I found the tie-dye dress at
a local thrift store, and got the peace necklace from
another girl at work. and the flower headband I made
from ribbon and construction paper.

Group shot. 


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

How Useful is a Creative Writing Degree?


Many writers wonder whether taking a writing course could actually help them not only get better at their craft but also boost their chances of finding a writing-related job. A creative writing degree is the ultimate writing course, a proper qualification in the filed you are so passionate about.
But in reality, is doing a creative writing degree a good idea? As with any degree, it’s a massive undertaking and requires dedication to studying the craft of writing, as well as writing essays and creative work which will be marked in order to pass and obtain the degree.
Not only that but there is also the question of money. Creative writing degrees can set one back thousands, and without a guarantee of a job at the end, writers have to be pretty sure what they get from the course is worth it.
So what can a creative writing degree do for you?
Improve your writing
There is no doubt that taking such a course will improve writers writing. Here is an opportunity to study the craft, to learn the different techniques and to be guided by a teacher who really knows their stuff. Of course, taking a creative writing degree will require you to do lots of writing too so just by practicing alone your writing will no doubt get better.
Boost your creativity
A creative writing degree will push you to be more experimental with your writing, to try new techniques and to think both strategically and creatively about the way that you work. It can be difficult for writers to do this without help and guidance and creative writing course is precisely the right environment to give writers the confidence and assistance to push themselves to the max.
Provides invaluable feedback
A creative writing degree will encourage students to become more critical of their writing and more thoughtful and purposeful in the way that they write. Not only will peer to peer feedback be given but creative writing will be assessed as part of the course. That’s like having an editor give you masses of feedback on what’s working and what isn’t - which is a brilliant advantage if you are trying to get published.
Looks impressive
Of course, there are no guarantees and having a creative writing qualification on your CV doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a job in the industry. However, it does look impressive. A degree in creative writing means that students should gain both critical and rhetorical skills which are valued in many creative industries such as education, copywriting, marketing, editing.
Being a creative writing graduate doesn’t mean you’ll get published or get a job in the industry, but it does give you an advantage, and if a writer can do one and dedicate themselves to it to ensure they make the most of it, it could help to boost their writing career.

I only have a BA in literature, but have wondered if I should consider getting an MA in say, creative writing or some related degree. This has not been a big thought or priority of mine, but it has occurred to me on occasion. One such time was when I was beginning to work on my memoir, realizing it was the longest paper I'd ever typed. This made me believe I would not have trouble writing a graduate thesis, given the length of my memoir. But I have had to consider if having a graduate degree  is really necessary, as some have said they are only useful for going into careers that require such degrees. This ill need a lot of consideration.
Meanwhile, I have joined a critique group on Meetup, one that is near where I live, but which meets on Saturdays at 3PM in a very busy part of town. I have yet to attend and am trying to decide when to do so. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Still Finding Typos

A while ago, I been looking over my memoir after being away from it from some time (not sure how long in either case). And as always seems to be the case when looking over anything I have written, I have continued to find typos and omitted words. It's amazing how many times one can look over the same work and still find these things. I have begun noting errors on the current printout.

Today I saw this article:
What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos

I guess it can be hard to proofread one's own work. I've had to do its may times now, and I wonder how many more times I will have to go over it again, how many mistakes I will miss this time around. 

From Grammar Girl:

Proofreading Tips

So my primary advice on avoiding typos is to have someone else proofread your work. On the other hand, I know this isn't possible for things like e-mail or rushed projects, so here are four proofreading tips I've collected over the years.

  1. Read your work backward, starting with the last sentence and working your way in reverse order to the beginning. Supposedly this works better than reading through from the beginning because your brain knows what you meant to write, so you tend to skip over errors when you're reading forwards.
  2. Read your work out loud.  This forces you to read each word individually and increases the odds that you'll find a typo. This works quite well for me, and most of the typos that make it into my transcripts seem to be things you wouldn't catch by reading aloud, such as misplaced commas.
  3. Always proofread a printed version of your work. I don't know why, but if I try to proofread on a computer monitor I always miss more errors than if I print out a copy and go over it on paper.
  4. Give yourself some time. If possible, let your work sit for a while before you proofread it. I'm just speculating here, but it seems to me that if you are able to clear your mind and approach the writing from a fresh perspective, then your brain is more able to focus on the actual words, rather than seeing the words you think you wrote.

    Trying to read something outloud has been hard for me as I read other fast. And has anyone ever read anything backwards? I would have never considered that one, but I can see it being pretty awkward.  And I have been trying tog et others to read my work, but to no avail. 
    What are some ways you look for mistakes in your writing? And how many times has it taken you to get this done?


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Chapter Break Bingo – July 2018

Here is the new card for July.

My Books for this one:
  1. The Mars Room--Rachel Kushner (3 squares): Audiobook, Library Book, Dual or Multiple POV
  2. Sisters--Raina Telgemeier (6 squares): LOL, WTF, Physical Book, Long (Over 100 Pages), Travel (Distance), In a Series
  3. Making Waves--Nicole Leigh Shepherd (1 square): Young Adult
  4. The Devil and Daniel Silverman--Theodore Roszak (1 square): Multi-Word Title
  5. Crazy Rich Asians--Kevin Kwan (4 squares): Free Space, Foreign Country, Cookout/Feast, Character Wears Glasses
  6. Carmilla--J. Sheridan Le Fanu (4 squares): Free Book, Mythical Creature, Historic, Magic/Magical,  Super/Special Powers
  7. Love Walked In--Marisa de los Santos (1square): Shelf Love
  8. Slay It With Flowers--Kate Collins (1 square): Crafty Person or Book
  9. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao--Junot Diaz (1 square): Retelling

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Passing on Your Love of Reading

I just saw this link on the Facebook group for the Reading Challenge that starts today. Even though I have no children myself, I could not agree more with what is said in this link:

Parents pass on a love of reading to their children by sharing their own favourite childhood books

I agree that people of all ages should read books from all periods of literature to learn more about different time periods and how people lived then. This is especially important now, with so much focus on tech these days. This is one reason I chose to write a book set in the 1980s. This was the decade in which I grew up, so I know a lot about it. I now hope others will learn more about it if my book ever comes to fruition. 

And if I had ever had children, I try to get them to read books I'd loved as a child, or even read those books to them.