Today I’m delighted to welcome Beth Revis, the best-selling author of Across the Universe, who is talking about her new writing craft book, Paper Hearts.
DON’T MISS OUT ON THE GIVEAWAY AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST! And remember all orders of Paper Hearts made before November 15 from Malaprops will come with a special gift–more details below!
|You can win a journal with this cover!|
I wrote Paper Hearts for the writer I used to be. The questions I used to have plagued me when I was starting this career path. How do I get to the end? What’s the proper way to structure a novel–is there even a proper way? How do I make my book stand out from all the other ones on sub?
Now, fifteen years, eleven unpublished books, three New York Times bestsellers, one self published book, and countless hours working on craft and working with other professionals, I think I finally have the answers that I needed way back then.
Unfortunately, I can’t travel back in time.
But what I can do is try to help others. I’ve been compiling articles on the things I’ve learned about writing, publishing, and marketing for years, first informally on blog posts, then more collectively on Wattpad. After hitting 100000 reads, I realized that I should take Paper Hearts more seriously…and that I had not one book, but three.
Fully revised and expanded, the Paper Hearts series will feature three volumes, one each on writing, publishing, and marketing. Paper Hearts, Volume 1: Some Writing Advice will be out on November 1, with the other two following in December and January.
Preorder it now from: Independent Bookstore ~ Amazon ~ BN ~ Kobo ~ Smashwords
Your enemy is the blank page. When it comes to writing, there’s no wrong way to get words on paper. But it’s not always easy to make the ink flow. Paper Hearts: Some Writing Advice won’t make writing any simpler, but it may help spark your imagination and get your hands back on the keyboard.
- How to Develop Character, Plot, and World
- What Common Advice You Should Ignore
- What Advice Actually Helps
- How to Develop a Novel
- The Basics of Grammar, Style, and Tone
- Four Practical Methods of Charting Story Structure
- How to Get Critiques and Revise Your Novel
- How to Deal with Failure
- And much more!
I’m fond of joking that when I get stuck in writing, I’ll kill a character or blow something up (in the novel…usually). But the truth of the matter is, I most often get stuck in the middle of the novel, and when that happens, the best solution is to shake things up considerably. Here are my go-to strategies for getting past what I call the “murky middle.”
ESTABLISH THE CHARACTER’S MAIN DESIRE…AND DESTROY IT This can work in a few ways. The first is to make it impossible for the main character to get her heart’s desire; the second is to give it to her and then make her regret it.
For example, let’s say you have a character who wants nothing more than to compete in a marathon. You have her training, and it’s difficult, but she’s doing it. But honestly? A story of a runner training for a marathon can be boring.
Break her leg.
Now it’s impossible for your character to achieve her goal…maybe. Your story can divert in two ways—she can overcome the obstacle or she can fail at running a marathon and instead find something else she wants to accomplish.
Another alternative is to give her her goal, but twist it. Let’s say this character runs the marathon—and she wins! But after crossing the finish line, she realizes that she spent so much time training for the marathon that she neglected her relationship with her best friend and must now work to repair that relationship.
Any way you go about it, don’t make life easy for your main character. Never show them mercy…at least not until the end (and maybe not then!).
REFER TO STORY STRUCTURE TROPES Later on in the book, I talk a lot about story structure, which is basically a specific style of outlining. While I don’t think following classic tropes works for every situation, if you find yourself stuck, particularly in the middle of the novel which is often the hardest thing for a writer to get through, refer to structure models. They will usually prompt you with scenarios or possible directions for the story to take.
BALANCE THE INTERNAL AND THE EXTERNAL ARC Often, when I get stuck in the middle it’s because I’m too heavily focused on either the external or the internal arc, and I need to switch it up. The internal arc is the emotional story of the character (the why of how she acts; her heart’s desire and the reasoning behind it). The external arc is the plot, the series of events.
If you’re writing a thriller and are bogged down with fight scenes and car chases in the middle of the novel, balance that out with some introspection by your heroine. If you’re writing a romance and all you have is the emotional side, balance it with some action.
SWITCH IT UP By the time you get to the middle of the novel, you’re probably a little comfortable. You’ve developed your characters and their world, you know the plot’s basic direction, you understand the world.
This is where my “blow things up” statement comes from. When you’re too comfortable as a writer, you’re not taking it far enough. Don’t settle. Switch things up. Turn things around.
This may require drastic rewriting—switching to a different point of view character, changing the direction of the plot, and so on—but it’s almost always worth it. Because what you definitely don’t want is to be boring.
DON’T BE BORING If the reason why you’re struggling through the novel is because you’re bored, then what you’re writing is boring and your reader will be bored too.
This is the death knell for writing. Readers will forgive a lot, but they never forgive being bored. Whatever it takes to rekindle your passion for writing—do that. Take a break and refill your creative well. Change the story. Go back to the roots that drove you to write the story in the first place. Do whatever it takes to not write a boring story.
Thanks for the tips. I struggle with the internal and external plot lines. Congrats on this new series and I just saw you’ve sold new books too!
I think for many of us, we struggle to write because we can be easily distracted by other ideas while we’re putting in the days, weeks, and months into writing a book. This sounds like a book that might help with that!
Sounds like a great book for writers! Kudos for putting it together, Beth. No way I’d be brave enough to spout writing advice to anyone.
Some great advice in there – the middle is always difficult!
“What Advice Actually Helps” that’s gotta be the tidbit in there.
The middle is always the worst for me. This is wonderful advice. Thank you!
Yes, that sagging middle of the book gets many writers. You make a lot of good points here!
Wishing you the best with this!
Sia McKye Over Coffee
Hi Dianne. Hi Beth. This looks like an awesome book. When I’m not in such a hurry I want to come back and have a good look. Some writing craft books are too complicated, but this sounds like it’s been crafted carefully. 🙂
I entered the contest! I am a sponge for good writing advice.
I can use all the help I can get. 🙂
Anna from Elements of Writing
Great tips! And sounds like a great writing book. Practical tips can be hard to find, so I love this concept. Best of luck, Beth!
Wonderful advice. The book looks fabulous.
I’m glad I stopped by. There’s so much to learn. The problem I have is I often lose site of the internal and external character arcs. There are so many balls to keep your eye on.
Hi, Dianne, Hi, Beth…
Books about our craft are always welcome. We are always learning and BETH, you have so much experience for us to learn and hone our craft further.
Thanks for taking the time an affection to help fellow writers!
I’m always hesitant about books of writing advice, but there is some good stuff here; I always have such trouble being hard on my characters so the part about establishing their desire and destroying it is something I’ll definitely have to keep in mind. ^_^
What a lovely giveaway. The name of this book is awesome! Sounds like it is filled with great advice. Thanks for sharing!