Monday, April 29, 2013

How are you blooming?

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the soon-to-be-released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.



Well, my curse of getting sick right before a book release has struck again.

Over the weekend, I had some kind of flu thing. Basically all I did on Friday was sleep and groan. My 5-year-old took a picture of me so, as she put it, she could remember me in case I died.

Fortunately, I pulled through just fine, but I didn't have a chance to prepare a post for today.

So instead, I'd like to ask you a question. The May issue of the Go Teen Writers newsletter will be talking about the idea of "blooming." I'd love to highlight some of you in a feature. If you're interested, leave a comment below answering this question:

What writing technique or skill did you used to struggle with that you now feel you've finally gotten the hang of? Too many adverbs? Passive characters? Plot lines that lose tension after page thirty?

Oh, and one last thing...

48 comments:

  1. Hmmm. Well, it's not necessarily a skill or technique, but I used to have a really hard time coming up with a plot at all. Like, I'd write half a story and wonder why it was boring...then eventually I started reading books about writing and Go Teen Writers, and I realized "Wait a second! The reason these stories don't last and they're boring is because there's no POINT!" :)

    And I'm just going to try to forget about the mysterious messages. -_-

    ReplyDelete
  2. One thing I really used to struggle with was filler. I would have a great plot idea and beginning and I knew how I wanted it to end but I would flounder along in the middle unsure of what to do with myself. Then I discovered character arcs and suddenly poof! the problem disappeared. I find that when you're focussing on making that character grow and change and thinking about how to challenge his inner convictions and problems plot points dring naturally from that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too! I'm getting better at it as I outline and write my stories.

      Delete
  3. Outlining. Seems strange, since I always love planning ahead, but I used to think that the only way to be creative was to forge ahead by pantsing. Now I always outline and it's no longer just simple who, where, and maybe one main event, but I generally write a mini-synopsis for each scene. It really works. It also helps me keep my focus and stay excited during the writing process.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Still not totally there yet, but this is the hardest I've ever worked on ONE book. Before I'd write something like 500 words to my new novel and then I'd move on to another one. Thankfully, I've gotten much better at actually CONTINUING what I'm working on. I've been working on this book for about a year now. Yay for actual progress! XD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is exactly how I used to be! Thankfully, I've gotten better at sticking to one story too. :)

      Delete
    2. So do I! I think CampNaNoWriMo and all the interesting stuff here on GTW inspired me to continue. But it's possible that it was the story itself which was calling: 'I want to be written';)

      Delete
    3. Oh, yes, same here as well! Thank you GTW for that! :D

      Delete
  5. I think I'm getting better at plotting. My stories would used to happen in that there would be an inciting incident and my characters were reacting to it--I wasn't building to a climax or anything. Now that I've figured that out, I feel like my writing has improved by miles!

    Do we get another hint today? :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I vote yes :) I'm sure everybody else does too, so we SHOULD get a hint.

      Delete
    2. A hint. Hmm. I will need a spreadsheet for this one. A very big spreadsheet.

      Delete
    3. Stephanie, you totally have us all curious! Someday when I have such a loyal following on my blog, I'm going to have to do something like this. =)

      Delete
  6. Finding a genre I love. I started with fantasy and Sci Fi (I think there's something inherently appealing about the fantastic genres for many young writers). Learning to read showed me that I loved contemporary. I wholeheartedly believe that reading books, besides teaching how to write well, teach you what it is to be a reader, and so tell you why and who you're writing for.

    So I guess I've learned two things:

    Read to find your genre

    Read to find your readers

    ReplyDelete
  7. This may be kind of a strange one, but I think I've gotten much more comfortable not using dialogue tags. Until I came to this site I would use them all the time, but now I only use them every once and a while. Actions are a lot more helpful, and descriptive! :)

    2 days....................................

    ReplyDelete
  8. There were lots of things that I used to do that I have now fixed. Dialogue tags would be everywhere, and they were terrible ones too (hissed, moaned, groaned). I learned that those are for the most part physically impossible and thus make no sense. I also used far to many -ly words. Now, when I think of one, I try to think of any other word that means the same thing or even restructure the sentence. The biggest help for my writing though is, I think, my two blogs. One is for book reviews and other bookish things and then one is for historical facts. They both keep me writing even when I am stuck in a story and learning how to make things come alive for my followers.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I've gotten a lot better at plotting, adding in theme, stronger characters that aren't all clones (*cringes at old writing*), and description. Oh, and voice. Differentiating voices used to be the hardest. thing. ever. for me.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I used to struggle with voice. For some reason, I had this idea that my stories should read like a polished, literary piece...even though I was writing from a teen's perspective and for a teen audience. Once I realized I was forcing my self to write in a way that wasn't natural for me, I started noticing changes. My writing became more alive, and I was able to connect with the characters better. I started loving the writing process even more. Even now, when I try to write in a more "sophisticated" voice, it never turns out as well as the stories in which I stay true to my natural writing voice. I've decided to save the professional voice for research papers and let myself enjoy my stories.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hrm... I think I'd have to say authentic and natural-sounding dialogue. This has been the bane of my writing life forever, which is sad because I love dialogue. Some of my old stuff sounds like a particularly bad school play, but the funny thing is, I didn't notice when I finally got te hang of it. It took my critique partner (who has not had the misfortune of seeing the awful stuff) pointing out that she liked the dialogue to make me realise "hey, I don't suck anymore! Sweet!"

    And of other news, Stephanie, I'm sick too and have been reading Me, Just Different to pass the time -- I love it! So much more than I thought I would. (I usually don't read anything that doesn't contain fantastical/supernatural elements and/or cryptic mysteries.) So yeah, I don't know what yor previous-draft Skylar was like, but I think this one is really relatable. And I love your voice :) hope you feel better! Your daughter sounds adorable :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Hannah! I'm glad she's there for you when you're sick :) Makes it bearable when you have a book you're enjoying!

      And I hope you feel better soon!

      Delete
  12. There are days I wonder if I'll ever feel like I have the hang of things. Writing is challenging. I've focused mostly on plot this past year and it has improved. Over the weekend I re-read my WIP, took notes, and started gearing up for the next draft. I'd say just over half of it needs major surgery, so that's improvement, I'm getting the hang of it. I feel like wiht plotting I know enough to meet my skill level at the moment and I need to focus on characters and conflict.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The parts that need an overhaul im still just befuddled, but I'm pushing on :)

      Delete
    2. Wait,wait, wait I said that wrong! Just over half the plot I'm comfortable with. It's the ending of act two & act three that needs major work.

      Delete
  13. When I first started writing my book, I was thirteen. I saw somewhere that speaker tags were bad, and I took that to a whole new level and refused to use them at all. So I found other ways to make it clear who was talking. (I later found out that that was called speaker beats.) I got better and better as I wrote more and got older. I learned to show my story like watching a movie not reading a script. But, most importantly, I learned how to find a balance. Too much of any kind of food is bad for your health, and the same works for writing: a lesson, that I definitely learned the hard way.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I would mainly struggle with realistic dialogue. To get people's conversations to sound like a conversation someone might have. To make what and how they say something fit their character. However, I recently "began" overcoming this with a technique, which I had heard of briefly mentioned by some authors, yet I expanded and tweaked the idea to make it fit my style of writing. Now I know you are wondering what this miraculous "idea" is so I will explain it here: listen to someone's conversation (it sometimes helps for you to be included in it) and then change the words to fit your situation, but not the fluency in how they are spoken. For example, I once turned a conversation (or more of argument;)) with my brother in which he said I promised nit to scare him any more into a harsh woman's conversation with her husband about promising nit to eat the donuts anymore. Looking back on that dialogue, it sounded a lot more realistic that when I made up a few brief sentences on the fly. After writing dialogue in that structured way for so long, I slowly began to transfer to just making it up again, yet I was now so used to writing dialogue in such a realistic style that even with no former plans it still turns out well.

    Hope you enjoyed:)
    Layla.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I've struggled with creating stronger and more developed characters. I used to write about characters that were exactly the same. Over time, though, I've learned to build characters with desirable characters, flaws, and even hobbies, thanks to GTW. :) Now I really enjoy building character charts and visuals for my characters, and it really helps when writing.

    ReplyDelete
  16. My problem was cheesy and wordy dialogue. I feel like I'm a lot better at that now, but still, there's lots of room for improvement!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Aw, your daughter is so kind and tactful! ;) And prepared!

    Ack, my thorn in my side probably was passive verbs. Everything was "she was running" "he was sitting". I mean! "He sat" makes more sense and is more concise. I think I have the hang of this one (at least I can identify it in my own writing). Now I'm working on my voice.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Looking forward to your post, and glad you're better! We need to keep you around, y'know!

    A writing technique I recently discovered is, "Trust Your Reader". It was brought to my attention during something I did at school called Creative Writing Intercession. Basically, for a week solid I did nothing but write and edit a short story, which was put in an anthology with the other writers' work. While having my writing critiqued, the teacher told me that I struggle with trusting my reader. I am skilled with showing, not telling; however, I always repeat myself by directly telling the reader whatever I was trying to show. This surprised me because I have never noticed it in my writing before. I went back through the story and was shocked to discover how many times I showed something, then went on to tell it. With this new revelation, I was able to cut down unnecessary words and sharpen my writing. I'm still learning how to use the technique of trusting my reader, and to tell the truth it is actually something I struggle with every time I write. Now I am aware of the problem and know how to improve my writing. My writing teacher was awesome for showing me that technique & for helping me improve, and I'm really thankful for that week of nothing but writing!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I really strugled with description when I first started writing. I think that was around when I was about thirteen. I remember a few weeks ago, going through some old stuff of mine, when I came across a novel I had attempted when I was younger. I started reading it and noticed how much description it lacked. It really ruined the story. I compared it with a novel I am working on now, and boy how I have improved especially in description. I'm still not amazing at writting, but seeing that improvment really made me feel that I can get better at it.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Isn't "The Revised Life Of Ellie Sweet" coming out in 2 days? Is that what it is? I thought it was may 1 unless it's something else but it's just a guess . . .

    Hmmm. Writing techniques? I don't know if this is a technique or not but I used to use the words, glance, cover, scared, a lot. I mean like A LOT! I was getting so bored of them so then I went through all my novels and did some research to come up with new words!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hey I was right! I just checked! The "Revised Life Of Ellie Sweet" is coming out IN 2 DAYS!

      Delete
    2. Yep, that's right Fire. And while we're not counting down to my book release, it's also not a coincidence that the opening is happening on the same day :)

      Delete
    3. Just makes me want to know it all the more!

      Delete
    4. Just tell us! We're dying here! :)

      Delete
    5. That's gotta mean it has something to do with Ellie Sweet...something to do with her writing blog?!

      Delete
  21. I used to be really bad with cliche plot lines and Mary Sue's. I gave my characters perfect lives and everything they ever wanted. They had little to no trouble, other than one of my main characters being kidnapped by my other main character for no particular reason.

    Now I like to think my characters are unique and special. They're flawed, greatly, and have a hard time accepting they're good enough for whatever goal they're striving for. Their lives are ruins, and I only make them worse. I used to be really shy about my stories, and hated having any conflict happening, but now I'm the complete opposite of what I used to be. And I give all my thanks to Go Teen Writers. Without this blog, I don't think I would have ever come this far.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I struggled (and still do) with making my books lively. The characters I have made are completely ready for the story I have in my head, but when I go to write I'm...blank. So I've really been pushing myself with how much I write each day. In other words, I'm building my writing muscles ;) It's going much better now that I have set goals for myself!

    This mysterious countdown is killing me...

    ReplyDelete
  23. I've gotten a lot better with continuing the plot and making my characters really real. And witty. (Very sarcastic...) I've also realized that writers do work in drafts, at least for bigger projects, and that my first drafts will (and should) never be uploaded to Amazon.
    As for your daughter's tactful remarks, I've been there. The other day, my eight-year-old brother told me I should be an embezzler. (Our house's former owners embezzled millions of dollars, and so it's come up a lot.) We figured out it's because he wants me to go to jail. Lovely, right? We're all about family bonding over here....
    Katia

    ReplyDelete
  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  25. When I began writing books, I thought that I had accomplished a lot and that people would love reading my work. I sent some of my stories to my grandmother when I was thirteen thinking that she would like them. Two years later, I stopped writing books for a lack of inspiration and good ideas for a plot. I looked over my old stories a few months later and found that I wasn't good at describing my plot or showing detail about the main character's surroundings. Frustrated, I tried adding more detail to my new stories.

    So now when I compare my stories, the ones written in the past to the new ones, I see that my writing skills have improved and that I am able to put in more detail than before.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I finally feel as if I write "actively" rather than "passively." Whereas "'was'es" pepper old manuscripts of mine, now whenever I write a buzzer blares in my brain as soon as I type "wa..."

    Which annoys. ;) But also prevents laziness.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thanks for all these great answers, guys! Sorry I haven't been able to respond individually like I normally do. Lots of prep work for Wednesday going on :)

    ReplyDelete
  28. I used to have such a hard time with jumping from head to head. I didn't know that wasn't allowed for the first several years of my writing, so when I finally learned the rule, it was hard. Sometimes it seemed impossible to figure out when I had done it or not, because it seemed so natural to me. I think I've finally figured it out! I just finished a kids book (around 11,000 words) and I can't remember my editor addressing that issue at all! Yea!!!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I think I've gotten better at making my story seem real. My characters actually live these days.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Sounds like a contest...hmmmm I'm dying!
    I feel like I have definitely improved on planning ahead and working on my plot. I've been outlining my chapters before writing them *gasps* I've been planning a lot more and that has been helping me to write the chapter and helping everything to come to me more smoothly.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I've become much better at slowing my stories down and showing rather then telling. Rereading some of my old stories I cringe at how superficial they were. When I wanted to say someone was sad, I'd simply say they were sad. The story ideas worked okay, but the execution stunk. :P Like most writers, I'm still working on deepening my characters and doing more showing, but both areas have definitely improved over the last four years.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I finally kicked the horrible habit of plotting *before* I plunge into the story. Unfortunately, it took 150 pages of nothing but character development to drive that lesson into my head.

    ReplyDelete

Home