Hi all! Friday - FINALLY. Good lord it's been a bit of a week, hasn't it? Snow and slush and ice and rain, bah, I cannot wait to kick back and chill out this weekend. Well, I say chill out but I'm actually off to the races tomorrow - as long as the weather doesn't mean it gets called off. Wish me luck, guys, I could be off to win my fortune.
Anyway, I've got Celia Bryce, author of Anthem for Jackson Dawes, here today to dispense some brilliant advice about writing. I'm getting ready to send my novel out to agents in the next few months so these tips have come at just the right time for me. In a market as saturated as YA making your story unique is one of the most important things to consider and, luckily, that is exactly what Celia is focusing on in her post today. So, feast your eyes, chaps!
MAKING YOUR STORY UNIQUE
When I was asked to write these blogs and was given the topics I could cover, I wasn’t sure how to approach this one. I read the title and my mind went blank, much as it does when I’m trying to start a new story. You’ll know exactly what I mean. It happens. But then I got to thinking. Throughout the previous four pieces I’ve tried to explain how I like to write, how I like to use different ways of showing the reader what’s happening in the story, showing who the characters are in an interesting way, and hopefully anyone reading Anthem for Jackson Dawes will feel that I have achieved some of what I set out to do, though I know there’s still a long way to go and I will be forever learning something new.
Thinking about the topic made me wonder why I write the way I do, and I can’t really answer that except that I always have done, but also I’ve listened to the advice that people have given me and I’ve tried to improve on some things. I learned a lot from listening to a teacher at school. Top year, Juniors. Mrs O’Hagan. On one particular occasion she read a poem I’d written and loved it so much that she wanted to show her husband who was a teacher in the senior school. It made me feel special to be singled out like that. Mrs O’Hagan loved the poem for so many reasons, but I wasn’t really paying enough attention, so can’t actually say what those reasons were. I wish I’d listened. I wish I still had it, so that I could look at it and try to work out what was so special. Ah well. One thing that did stick in my mind was this: Mrs O’Hagan told me never to give up writing. And I never did, though I don’t think for one second she meant me to be a writer, which is probably why I trained to be a nurse. Much safer and steadier, especially when you come from a town which for a very long time had lots of unemployed people in it.
When I go to schools and work with children and young people, when I read entries for story competitions, or listen to work read out in writing groups, some stories just seems to leap out at me from the very first sentence or paragraph and I know that what I’m about to hear or read is going to be just that bit different, just that bit more interesting and my heart soars. It really does. When I see that the writer has thought about the words and has tried to reach beyond the usual, either in the words themselves or in the way they’re arranged in a sentence, or the story itself, when the writer is being creative, I’m really filled with a kind of joy that is impossible to describe.
It doesn’t matter what you want to write about, but to make your story stand out, try to think about ways to make it different. Try to edge away from the usual. Read lots of stories, look at lots of writing styles, from page turning adventures which have you hanging off the edge of your seat to the kind of books which make you want to pause and think just a little longer before turning the page. Try to identify what it is about a certain book or even just a section of a book that makes you think, I want to write like that and give it a go. Every book that you pick up from a shelf has been published because it’s a little bit different, in style or subject matter. Each one is unique for a reason. You may prefer to write in the page turning style of the adventure book which is scene after exciting scene, or you may prefer the complete opposite. That’s fine. Choose a style you’d be most comfortable with and start writing. Finish the story right through to the very end. Then read it through. Be prepared to cross some, even lots of it out. Be prepared to change some things, add something here, take away something there. Be prepared to make it just that little bit different. Put it away for a week or two, if you can, or a day or two or even an hour or two. Go away from it completely. Then come back and re-read it. You’ll discover other things that still need to be re-written, or even put back the way it was originally. That sometimes happens. Try this out and you’ll be on the right track to making your story unique.