In the spirit of Thanksgiving lets take a few moments to be thankful for all of the blessings we have. When it comes to writing what do you have to be thankful for?
Take inventory of your writing
Good story boils down to these four factors: plot, character, setting and craft.
While there are countless other elements that make up the intricacies of a good book, these are the backbone of a good story.
Odds are, you already know what you’re good at. If not, ask your friends or writing community—anyone who’s read your work. Or you can take this quiz to find out. What’s your specialty?
The World Builder
Are you the type to write worlds that make people think? Worlds where not all is as it first seems and that require great depths of imagination? Can you whip out new worlds with ease and settings so real and unique your readers do a double take?
A few masters of this gift include books like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and the Chronicles of Narnia. In these books each of the authors have a way of sucking you into their worlds of Middle Earth, Hogwarts, or Narnia that have people still talking about them. They created their own creatures, histories, cultures, traditions, and even went so far as to develop new languages and spells.
“Normal is a setting on a washing machine.” – Christopher Barzak
People love reading about alternate realties and new worlds. If this is your gift, there’s a huge demand for your work in the market today. Don’t be shy about letting your bold ideas form into worlds where readers have never set foot before.
If World Building isn’t your thing, don’t despair. That’s what continued development is for. Here are a few helpful articles to get you started:
- World Building 101
- How to Build Beautiful and Realistic Worlds
- How to Write Vivid Animals and Fantasy Creatures – Part 1
- Advanced World Building Tips
- Details: You Need Them for World Building
The Master Craftsman
With a 1 being an award winning prose and 10 being your college management 101 paper you pulled an all nighter to writer, where would you rate the quality of your writing? Is it witty? Fresh? Original? Do you use clichés that top vampire love triangles?
A couple of places I find inspiration for improving my craft are the likes of Percy Jackson, Ember in the Ashes, and the Wheel of Time series. Why Percy Jackson you ask? To me, craft doesn’t just mean well-written words strung together or eloquently crafted descriptions. I would argue the ability to wow readers with life-like details is a part of craft. Percy Jackson does this through his hilariously accurate depiction of life as a kid that has me laughing out loud with embarrassing frequency.
In Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir has me amazed at the level of nonverbal communication depicted through gestures, facial expressions, and other bodily actions. Conversations in her book are really a nice addition but not a necessity as everything is communicated through nonverbal actions.
However, that’s not to say craft can be substituted for wit or capturing life well. There is still something to be said for well written prose. Another fantastic example of craft in this regard comes from Neil Gaiman in American Gods:
“The house smelled musty and damp, and a little sweet, as if it were haunted by the ghosts of long-dead cookies.”
Do you write with the same quality in your craft? Are you the type to rewrite the same sentence to death and then dig it back up only to continue rewriting it? Craft is a huge element to story and a valuable skill to have. Many people, even published authors sadly, are lacking in this department.
If you’d like to work on your craft, check out these articles:
- Crafting Sensational Moods for a Scene
- How to Improve Your Writing Style in 10 Minutes or Fewer
- The Map to Finding Your Voice
Is plot your strong suite? Are your books page-turners? Do you love compiling notes and planning out your book, next book or even trilogy? Do your stories keep people up at night like Ender’s Game, Divergent, or Red Rising?
Plot is an essential part to any book and without it, you’ll fail.
“Someone gets into trouble, then gets out of it again. People love that story. They never get tired of it.” Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt may be slightly over simplifying plot, but he has a point. People love story and good story comes from a good plot.
Plot is huge and if you have it, thank the stars. Plot is, in my opinion, the single most difficult thing to rewrite or add into your writing if it wasn’t there in the first draft. If plot is something you’d like to develop more check out these resources:
- The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Plot
- Tricks to Selecting the Perfect Story Idea
- How to Start Your Story from Scratch
The Character Creator
Can you write characters so real your readers often forget they don’t actually exist? Do you and your readers fall in love with your characters? Do they cheer with them as they grow, weep as life does its best to knock them down, or throw your book down in rage if one of them dies? Do people turn the pages of your book to find out what happens to your characters? If so, this could be your gift.
Some of my favorite books to have nailed this are Pride and Prejudice, the Hunger Games series, and Me Before You. In each of those books, you know exactly how the characters will react and who’s even talking without “she said/he said” disclaimers.
Peeta will always sacrifice himself for Kaniss, Katniss will always do whatever it takes to protect her family in The Hunger Games. Will will always have mood swings in Me Before You and Elizabeth will always behave with civilized decorum despite her family’s often off putting behavior.
“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” ― Ernest Hemingway
Check out these additional resources if you’d like to develop your characters more:
- Four Simple Ways to Create Memorable Characters
- How to Make Readers Fall in Love with Your Characters
- The Dichotomy of a Great Character
- The Simple Key to Unlocking Real Characters
Be thankful you’ve got skillz!
You have a gift!
Regardless of what it is, be grateful. Your writing has value and it’s not the end of the world if you have things to work on. We all do.
For today, be grateful for what you do have.
Candace signing off to recover from Black Friday. Yes I did start on Thursday. Don’t judge.