ASK A WRITING QUESTION

So you want to know something about writing, but you don’t know who to ask?

Ask me:-) Ask a writing question in the comments section of this page and I’ll try and answer it for you – and you’ll get your name, your question and the answer included on this page…and I might even do a blog post about it.

Bring those questions on:-)

Happy writing.

Dee:-)

STORY ENDINGS

John asked: How can you end a story without finishing it too quickly?

Answer:

Thanks for your really great question, John.

I must admit that I find this can be a problem with my stories too – that I know where the story is going and I can’t wait to get there.

I have learned to try and slow myself down – make sure I am showing what is happening and not telling the reader. The other thing I do is to plot out the ending and work out exactly what is going to happen leading up to the end. I also ask myself have I shown the reader what has happened to my main character? Have I shown the reader how the main character has changed because of what happened to him/her? If I haven’t, then this means I need to add more to the ending.

That’s just a really short answer. But seeing as finishing a story is so important for a writer, I’m going to write a whole blog post on it for my Tuesday Writing Tips column. So keep watching my blog…and I’ll be dedicating my post to you. You can make sure you know when I’ve done a new post by filling in the Email subscription box in the top right hand corner of my blog.

34 thoughts on “ASK A WRITING QUESTION

  1. John,

    Thanks for your really great question, John.

    I must admit that I find this can be a problem with my stories too – that I know where the story is going and I can’t wait to get there.

    I have learned to try and slow myself down – make sure I am showing what is happening and not telling the reader. The other thing I do is to plot out the ending and work out exactly what is going to happen leading up to the end. I also ask myself have I shown the reader what has happened to my main character? Have I shown the reader how the main character has changed because of what happened to him/her? If I haven’t, then this means I need to add more to the ending.

    That’s just a really short answer. But seeing as finishing a story is so important for a writer, I’m going to write a whole blog post on it for my Tuesday Writing Tips column. So keep watching my blog…and I’ll be dedicating my post to you. You can make sure you know when I’ve done a new post by filling in the Email subscription box in the top right hand corner of my blog.

    Thanks for dropping into my blog.

    Dee:-)

  2. Hi Dee,
    I have a question about Book Sequels.
    How do you “know” when a book is best keeping as a stand alone or when a Book Sequel is a plausible option?
    Cheers, Karen :))

  3. Hi Karen,

    Thanks for your question.

    This isn’t something I’ve had a lot of experience in, but I would think that to have a sequel you would need to have another complete story with a new story problem for your character and plenty more conflict. I would think that the story would need to connect to the first one through the characters and some of the events, but would also have to be able to stand alone. I think it comes down to HAVING ENOUGH CONTENT.

    I am currently working on a thriller trilogy, and as well as plotting each story individually, I also have an over arching plot. I found there was way too much happening for one story but I did have to do quite a lot of plot development so that the story could carry across three books. And I wanted it across three books because I had three characters, each with their own big story to tell.

    I don’t think that having a book with too much for one story in it is necessarily a reason for a sequel. The sequel has to have a new episode/new adventure for your character. There has to be a good reason why this couldn’t be included in the first story.

    These are just my opinions. I’m going to do some research and make this a future Tuesday Writing Tip.

    Cheers.

    Dee:-)

  4. Hi Dee
    Do you have any methods to help a writer find their authentic voice?
    I never know which way to turn and seem to have different styles running around in my head. How will I know when I have the right voice?

  5. Hi Kaye,

    Thanks for another great question.

    You’re right, there are so many different styles and people write in so many different ways. I think our authentic writing voice is who we really are so when our personality and beliefs show through in our writing; that is our authentic writing voice. That’s why it’s best not to try and copy anyone else’s style.

    The best way I can suggest for finding your authentic voice is to write and write and write…and try different things. If something isn’t working for you, try a different point of view or tense. I find that when I write in third person I don’t feel that I get close enough to my character.

    To find my authentic writing voice I also try and think what I would do and say in the situation that my main character is in.

    My natural voice seems to be first person, present tense, but I have only discovered this by taking parts of my writing and rewriting them in first person, present, first person past and third person present and past tense.

    Your voice will also depend on the sort of thing you write. I write a lot of YA where there’s plenty of action and immediacy – that’s part of my writing style – and it’s also why first person present tense works for me. A writer with a more descriptive style may find that third person works best for them because it allows them to blend more description into the story. This is a lot harder to do if you are writing in first person because you can only describe what your character can see.

    I think you will know when you have found the right voice, because it will feel right. Write a piece in various styles then read each one out loud and this will help you work out which one is right for you – which one sounds like you.

    I hope this helps.

    Happy Writing.

    Dee:-)

  6. Hi Kaye,

    So glad you found it useful. I do find that experimenting is the best way to find what works for you…and sometimes you can surprise yourself and find that you’re really good at a particular type of writing you didn’t expect to be good at.

    Good luck with your writing.

    Dee:-)

  7. Hi Dee,
    Karen’s question regarding the sequel was interesting. Thanks for the helpful response. I have a question regarding targets. It can be difficult when you are writing a story to know exactly where it fits. I usually have a rough idea such as 8-10 chapter book etc. However i have found this can be difficult when the publisher receives it and they think it fits somewhere else. Do you have any suggestions of how to determine where it fits and the correct target group? when it is no longer an early chapter book, but a novelette etc. This isn’t based on word count alone I understand concepts and themes also play apart. I seem to have a problem with getting that target right.
    Thanks Dee

    Donna

  8. Thanks Donna,

    Donna,

    This is another good question that probably needs a post devoted to it. There are no hard and fast rules about word counts, and publishers have different series of different lengths and different ideas of what constitutes a mid grade book, YA book etc. I was on a forum in the very early hours of this morning at WriteOnCon and the discussion was that these are the standard word lengths for books
    Chapter Book – 4-10k
    MG 40-60K
    YA 60-90k
    +/- 5k on MG and YA

    But publishers have different ideas of word lengths and they have different schemes, so that’s why there aren’t really any standards. Take the Walker Lightning Strikes or the Penguin Aussie Chomps for example. They are intended for readers older than 8-10 yet they are only 10,000 to 12,000 words.

    I think the rule of thumb is that the protagonist is generally one or two years older than the target readers (although you may get younger and older readers reading your book). Letters to Leonardo has been read and enjoyed by 11 year olds and by adults, so it’s not straight forward.

    What I tend to do is think about the age of my character and put the target readers at a year or so younger and based on that I decide the word count and perhaps the target publisher (although this also depends on the content and genre of the story).

    The other thing to do is to look in bookshops and libraries at books with the same age protagonist, genre and length as what you would like to write/are writing…and target those publishers.

    I try not to get too worried about this sort of thing. The publishers know what they are doing and they will market your book to the appropriate age group. I guess what I’m saying is write the story and try not to stress too much about the other stuff. If you have a good story it will find its readers.

    Hope this helps.

    Dee:-)

  9. Hi Dee,

    I went to your writing course at the Sunbury Library and I’ve done more characters and plots to my story I did with you, but i dont know exactly how to start the story, although I would like to introduce my characters first, somehow.

  10. Hi Zali,

    Great to see you here at my blog. Fantastic to see that you have done more work on your story already. There are different ways to start your story. Think about the books you like best and how they have started and these might give you clues about where to start. I always try and start with something happening to my main character, my main character doing something or a piece of dialogue (talking).

    Try and start right when the action is happening. For example, if your character goes to their front door and the prime minister is standing there, don’t start the story with them walking to the door. Start with them opening the door and how they react to seeing the prime minister standing there.

    Hope this helps. I’d love to hear about how you decide to start your story. Feel free to ask more questions.

    Dee:-)

  11. Happy 2011 Dee. I just wanted you to know that I’ve had your blog saved in my ‘favourites’ toolbar for the past year now and I thoroughly enjoy it. Everything you post is interesting, relevant, and of course, well written. I am an aspiring writer, wife and mother, and have a demanding full time job. I am also studying a degree in Creative Writing at university, having already completed an Advanced Diploma in Creative Writing. I have taken your advice and submitted a few short stories and film scripts to competitions in 2010 and even though I had no success, it was such a relief to finally do it. I’ve left this far too late in life and wish I’d pursued my dream earlier. Children’s writing is my aim, and I have a couple of novels in progress (very slow progress). Thanks for the inspiration and the great blog.

  12. Hi Karen,

    Thanks for your lovely comments about my blog. It’s so great to know you have found it helpful. Congratulations on your submissions in 2010. Just getting your work out there is half the battle. Wishing you all the very best with your submissions for 2011. Sounds like you have plenty to keep you occupied, but I hope that you fulfil your dream of becoming a published children’s author.

    Dee:)

  13. Hi, I’ve been working on writing my memoir for apprx three years now and recently submitted sample chapters to an agent. Her response was that my story should read like a novel. I was telling truths without a novelistic style. Not sure how to do this. Any suggestions?

    Thanks, Anna~

  14. Hi Anna,

    Thanks for your question.

    Sounds like you are attempting a big project. I can’t say for sure what the agent meant, but I think it might have had something to do with the way the events of your life are being shared with the reader. Whether it’s a work of fiction or a true story, the reader needs to really engage with the person who the story is about. So with a memoir it has to do more than say, ‘this is what happened to me’. The personality and ‘voice’ of the person writing the memoir have to come through so that the reader really cares about them and will be brought closer to the story.

    Perhaps it could have something to do with structure too. Even a memoir has to have a plot. You don’t necessarily have to tell the events in chronological order. Just like a novel, you need a beginning to hook the reader, a series of major events to keep them reading and a very major event followed by the conclusion. Like a novel, a memoir needs to follow the journey of the person who it’s about and reveal how that journey has changed them as a person and possibly changed their lives.

    Also, like a novel, the reader needs to get a good feel for the setting in which the events are taking place.

    If you go to the library, you might be able to find memoirs that are written like this – in more of a narrative rather than a non-fiction form.

    Hope this helps.

    Happy writing:)

    Dee

  15. I read that I should avoid using words ending in ‘ing’. I wonder if you could give me a context. When I’m writing, I might start a sentence, ‘Katy phoned her mother.’ The next sentence might begin, ‘She . . . ‘ To provide variety and avoid repetition, the following sentence might be, ‘Shrugging on her coat, she . . . ‘
    Is this okay?
    Your writing tips are useful and I’m systematically working my way through them.

    Thanks

    Kerry

  16. Hi Kerry,

    I think the thing with using “ing” words is that you need to be particularly wary of the ones you have used “was” in front of. For example. “She was starting to shiver.” You can just say, “She shivered.” Or “She was leaping over the hurdle” should be, “She leapt over the hurdle.” When I am editing a manuscript I often do a word search for ‘was’ and this helps me pick up a lot of the ‘ing’ words that don’t need to be there.

    Happy writing:)

    Dee

  17. Thanks for your help. I occasionally begin a sentence with an ‘ing’ word but rarely use ‘was’ in my stories. You have clarified the problem.

    Cheers

    Kerry

  18. Happy 2011 Dee. I just wanted you to know that I’ve had your blog saved in my ‘favourites’ toolbar for the past year now and I thoroughly enjoy it. Everything you post is interesting, relevant, and of course, well written. I am an aspiring writer, wife and mother, and have a demanding full time job. I am also studying a degree in Creative Writing at university, having already completed an Advanced Diploma in Creative Writing. I have taken your advice and submitted a few short stories and film scripts to competitions in 2010 and even though I had no success, it was such a relief to finally do it. I’ve left this far too late in life and wish I’d pursued my dream earlier. Children’s writing is my aim, and I have a couple of novels in progress (very slow progress). Thanks for the inspiration and the great blog.
    +1

  19. I have an idea for a series of picture books. I have begun brainstorming for a number of stories, and have actually started writing the first book. Should I be looking for an illustrator NOW or wait until I have more than one book written? I’m assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that for the purposes of branding I would want the same illustrator for the entire series, correct? Or should I just deal with one book and go from there?

  20. Dear Erika,

    Good luck with your picture book series. If you are planning on self publishing, you will need an illustrator but if you are going through a mainstream publisher, they will generally choose their own illustrator so this isn’t something you need to worry about. Especially if you are a new writer, publishers will normally pair you with an established illustrator who is already known to readers so this helps to sell your book. Unless there were special circumstances like the illustrator became ill or was too busy with other work, the same illustrator would generally be used for all books.

    This is a great question and will blog more extensively about it over the next few weeks.

    Happy writing:)

    Dee

  21. Was your writing buddy program still up and running? The commentary seems to stop a couple of years ago…would love to find a good writing buddy.

  22. Hi Dee,
    I am in the process of writing several books on unrelated subjects i.e. A children’s chapter book, a memoir and a short non-fiction book.
    I usually manage to set aside time each day to write, be it 300 words or more, but I find that my ideas and inspiration comes to me in a haphazard fashion. For instance, one day I may feel inspired to work on my children’s book and the next day I may prefer to work on my memoir. To me this seems like a disjointed approach, do you advocate focusing on one book at a time all the way to completion or is it better to run with the inspiration of the moment?
    Many thanks
    Jackie Moore

  23. Hi Dee,
    I’ m writing my family’s history, including “mini biographies” of a few ancestors. I have been bringing together information, memories and perceptions of living relatives. Into this narrative, I insert paragraphs in square brackets containing historical context relating to the ancestor’s events- I think contrasting personal experiences or perceptions of ancestors within the historical context adds interest. I would however, like to also include my own memories of my grandparents but cannot find any writing convention or style guide for how to do this for creative non-fiction writing. For example, should I write something like “My memory of Tom is…” or “This author/writer recalls….”?

  24. Hi John,

    Have you thought about including your memories as a separate section – this would make it clearer for the reader? You could perhaps italicise them. Sorry, this isn’t my area of expertise. You might also try searching university websites or reference books in your local library.

    Sorry I can’t be more help.

    Good luck with it.

    Dee

  25. Thank you Dee for the suggestions. I really like your idea of a separate section- it solves the problem of how to include it while also being clearer to readers.

    Thanks again,
    John

  26. Hi I am Hannah davis, I am 9 years old and im the kid you are going to see and stuff im in miss browns class at Joshua cowell elementary and I wanted to ask how many books you wrote.

  27. Hi Hannah,

    Thanks for dropping in. I have 16 books published and I have 2 new books coming out next year.

    I’ve also written lots of other books that aren’t published yet. Some might never be published. I call them my practise books. I practised writing a lot before I got published.

    Dee

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