Do I Go Towards…Or, Toward?

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Towards or Toward. Which one is a writer supposed to use? Do you know?

Figuring out which toward/towards to use is frustrating, especially because both are considered correct.

But, thankfully, there is a preferred version to use.

Do you know which one it is?

If you said toward, you are correct! But, if your answer was instead towards…you are correct too. Congratulations!

How can both be right? Well, let me explain…

Toward is the preferred version in the United States and Canada (aka American English). And, towards is commonly used in the other English-speaking countries (aka British English).

For example:

  • If I go to toward the train. I’m from North America!
  • And, if I go towards the tube. I’m either from the United Kingdom or Australia!

Hope that helps!…But, just remember: if you get the two confused, you are not the first (or the last). You are in good company.

Keep on Writing!

 

 

Wake Up Your Protagonist

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One of the most overused tropes that should be avoided by writers is one that I am also guilty of using…

The trope is having your novel begin with your protagonist waking up.

For a first-time novelist, this trope might be tempting (it was for me) because it gives the writer the ability to describe the protagonist’s setting as your character awakes and takes in their surroundings. Though this is true, it also creates a stalemate for the beginning of your novel which is the last thing you want to create.

The first pages of you book are crucial because they are sometimes the only chance you have to hook a reader (or, before that—an agent/editor). You don’t want to lose readers to your protagonist padding around as they move through their morning routine. Instead, you want to begin your novel in a way that draws your reader in immediately. This interest is created with action, suspense and raised questions. Try advancing your novel past the waking, dressing, etc. and toward where your story really begins to take hold.

As an additional argument against using this trope, I have been advised by published writers, professors, and agents about how much this trope makes them roll their eyes. So, as this advice has helped dramatically improved my work in progress—I wanted to share it in case it saves you from a similar fate. We writers must look out for each other.

So, in conclusion, unless your protagonist is Sleeping Beauty…wake them up and get your story moving!

Keep Writing!

Trouble Developing Your Character? Use this Trick!

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Whether you are starting a new novel, or you are struggling with figuring out your character’s motives—there is a trick to help you develop your character.

The trick is: side writing.

The process of side writing might feel a little silly at first, but it’s a great creative exercise that I think would benefit any writer.

Interested? Here are some examples:

Example 1

One of the most popular example of side writing is: writing letters—from your protagonist’s point of view. The letters can be about anything. For me, I write about my character’s thoughts and fears about what is to come.

I have found writing letters to be very beneficial when you are starting your novel. You can address the letter to one of your parents, a friend, or one of your favorite characters from a similar book. No matter who you choose to write to, you’ll find your protagonist’s voice clearer and their personality more concrete after you write the letter. With these clearer in your mind, you might find those first twenty pages easier to write. Who doesn’t love that benefit?

Example 2

Another example of side writing is writing journal entries as your protagonist. This can be helpful if you write the entries as your character moves through the novel. As your character grows, so will their view and ideas in the entries. Also, who knows? Those entries might end up creating another motive, or a new character arc.


Those are two options to choose from, but there is also a question about how you are going to do your side writing. Will you write the letters freehand? What about typing?

Either way, you’ll be glad you tried it.

Keep on writing!

“Just”… No

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During my two month mentorship with Martha Brockenbrough, author of The Game of Love and Death. Martha highlighted a writing tick that I didn’t realize I had…

The tick was using just in my writing—a lot. Like fifteen times in twenty pages a lot. It was my writing crutch and I hadn’t even realized it (how embarrassing). But, once my eyes were opened to it—Oh goodness, did I see it.

For example, the below snippets were taken from the pages Martha Brockenbrough reviewed:

Just please protect her…

just make sure you look after yourself…

…I just wanted to be…

Can you see how just is not necessary?

It doesn’t enhance the sentence, it just sits there like an inedible garnish on a dish—Yuck!

As you don’t need that inedible garnish on your tasty plate, get that word off your compelling page…

Please protect her…

…make sure you look after yourself…

…I wanted to be…

See? So much better once the crutch word has been vanquished from the sentence, don’t you agree?

If just isn’t your crutch word—you’re not off the hook yet! There are other adverbs that can weaken a writer’s writing.

Below is a list of the most over-used adverbs. Do you overuse any of them? (Be honest…)

  • Just
  • Very
  • So
  • Kind of
  • Really
  • Totally
  • Actually
  • Seems
  • Suddenly
  • Probably
  • Could have
  • Hopefully
  • Perfect
  • Viciously
  • Usually

If you use a crutch word, don’t fret! Thanks to Control+F, you can easily track those adverbs down after you finish writing and replace them. Easy fix!

Last Piece of Advice: Don’t settle for an adverb modifying a weaker verb, when you can use a great verb. Your writing—and readers—will thank you!

Keep on writing!

The Best Writing Advice I Have Received: Part 2

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If you read The Best Advice I Have Received: Part 1, you might have already deduced what Part 2 will be about.

Either way, I am happy to share my second nugget of advice. The second best advice I have received is…

Reading!

There’s a reason why writing programs have such a heavy dose of reading on their curriculum—it’s because it:

  • Makes you a better writer because you can view well constructed stories and see what works.
  • Improves your vocabulary (how supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!)
  • Inspires your creativity.
  • Provides motivation.

But, if you are anything like me, there are some misconceptions about reading while you write…

For me, my avoidance to reading was because 1) I feared that I would start to imitate whatever writer I was reading and my story would no longer be my own, and 2) writing already took so much of my time—why did I want to add another time consuming activity into my life? Preposterous!

To be honest, I was pretty stubborn with these beliefs—even after I heard multiple published authors talk about the importance of reading. Of course, I never let on that I didn’t believe what they were saying. I would nod and smile at their suggestion, but I was never swayed until I started picking up books again. I then discovered they were right!

Reading gives you a sense of how successful published novels are constructed. I am also constantly inspired by other writers and how they are able to create characters that the reader empathizes with. Each book I read is like my very own book report. The life of a writer, am I right?

I do understand that if you are just starting your writing career, you might have a similar fear that you will imitate the writer you are reading. If so, my suggestion is to read books outside of the genre you are writing. Or, try listening to audio books to hear how the prose sounds out loud.

Reading really is the secret ingredient to make your prose go to the next level. And, who knows…one day an aspiring writer might read your book to motivate them.

The Best Writing Advice I Have Received: Part 1

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The best advice I have received can be summed up in two words. Part 1 is about the first word…

Write!
Writing is like a muscle—it only becomes stronger if you work it out every day.

Bill Konigsberg, author of the best-selling novel Openly Straight and co-founder of my writing program, gave my class the best advice about how to become a better writer. He told us to make it part of our daily routine to write at least 350 words A DAY.

Up until I started the program, I was used to writing when I was inspired. So, the idea of sitting down and writing every day was daunting.

I tried to follow Bill’s advice—I really did. I made the attempt and sat in front of my computer every day. But, obstacles kept getting in my way when I tried to put words to paper.

Instead of writing, I was usually stopped by these inhibiting writing suspects: I was too tired (I had a long day at work), distractions (TV, etc.), or (my favorite) I needed to think about the scene more to figure out what to write next.

All sound valid, and can be valid. But, I noticed that once I stopped giving in to the obstacles…they lost their persuasiveness.

I might not write 350 words, but I do write every day. I’ve learned how to eliminate all distractions, and I can pickup where I left off easily. It took time (and determination), but it’s possible. Best of all—I can see that my writing is benefiting from this change.

It’s an obvious piece of advice, but it’s obvious for a reason—it works!

Keep writing every day, I believe in you.