Seen It, Done It, Reviewed It: The Blog is participating in the Indie Lights Book Parade throughout the month of February. A parade of talented authors will share excerpts from their stories, provide writing and marketing tips, and answer questions about their work. Today’s guest blogger is novelist Tracie Roberts, who offers advice to new writers and provides descriptions of her two books, Echo and Blur.
Advice to New Writers
When I tell my students that I am an author, one of the remarks I get is, “I’m writing a story, too. Do you think I can bring it in and you take a look at it for me?” I always tell them yes because I would never want to crush a child’s desire to write, but ultimately I find that the young writers just want me to praise them for simply getting something scratched out. I’m sure what they share with me is the best they can produce at the moment, but when I offer advice for improvement that’s when the dejected looks come.
I have had some students take the advice I give them and improve their writing; and that’s what I want to share today–some tips for first-time writers who want to go beyond a few pages of “telling” what will happen in their stories. And since I am not far removed from being a first-time writer, I’m only going to address topics I feel I can comfortably give advice on.
First, know your premise. What is the idea behind the story? What do you want to express to the reader? Where do you want the story to take the reader and where will it end? These are questions for you to answer, either before you start writing or as the story develops. For my novel Echo, I knew I wanted the reader to consider the topic of being responsible for one’s choices. I had an idea that I wanted my story to take my characters down a path that may make readers question if what is illegal is always wrong, but I didn’t know how far I was willing to go to support that point. My characters did, though, and that’ll be discussed later. Also, some writers feel at ease starting a story that they don’t know the end to. I’m not one of them. I usually know what will be tied up at the end of one of my works, just not how. That’s what I work through in outlining. And that’s what I suggest to my students—know what will happen even if you can’t figure out how just yet.
Plus, limiting the amount of “what” will happen keeps your story from getting out of control. When the students in my Creative Writing class were tasked with drafting a short story based on a picture they were given, some of the stories they came up with got out of hand. I had to constantly remind my students that they had a limit of ten pages. Most of them said, “Oh, I can write all that in less than ten. Don’t worry.” What I got was “tellings” of stories, not actual stories. I had trouble with letting my story get out of hand when I first started writing. The two novels I have out now, Echo and Blur, (plus the third, Bound, coming out in May) were originally just one book. I realized as I was writing that there were too many ideas to cover in just one novel, so I broke the story up into two, then three, books. The pacing is better in each novel and no major plot point is rushed in any of the books. So, limiting the number of big events (or plot twists) to a couple or three, even in a novel, helps keep a writer focused on the premise.
Second, know your characters. What makes your character tick? What does a normal day for him look like? What are his hopes, fears, dreams. etc.? Again, questions that, when fully answered, are most helpful in truly representing your characters in all their brilliance and flaws. When I taught Creative Writing for two years, I assigned my students a character biography sheet and a list of interview questions to answer in order to understand their characters and motivations. I’ve included links here and here to a couple of good ones, but a Google search will also pull up useful bio sheets and questionnaires. Should you complete this for every character in your story? I didn’t for Echo, but I later found myself creating sketches on Scrivener for most of the characters in my series and adding traits as they manifested while writing Blur and the novella, Whispers.
Third, know yourself. Are you willing to put in the effort to write this story? Are you comfortable with the topics you’ll be exploring? Are you afraid of hurting others with or being embarrassed by this story? Most people don’t want to “write” a novel/story, they want to “have written” one, because face it, writing is tough! I know. It took me five years to finally start The Elan Series, and seven years to publish my first book, Echo. Now, I find story ideas just come to me, usually as a single line or thought that pops into my head and I get frustrated that I don’t have enough time to get to them all.
Some of the topics are taboo. When I wrote Echo, I found myself asking, “What will my mom or husband think of me writing about illicit relationships or witchcraft? Will they be upset?” What I realized is that, though I don’t want to hurt my family, I can’t dishonor myself, my gift, or my story by not telling it. Still, I shy away from certain topics. I can’t write erotica or horror, but it has more to do with my comfort level than whether I believe those genres should be written or shared. As writers, though, we must push ourselves to explore edgy topics but still feel okay with ourselves for doing it.
As a debut author, these are my suggestions to new writers just starting out: understand your premise, really get to know your characters, and be aware of what you can and will do to get your story out there. You’ll never know if you’ve got what it takes until you try.
He’s the one she’s been dreaming of…
Tara McAllister has her life figured out: graduate from college, get a job teaching at her old high school, and find a boyfriend that won’t care that she’s a practicing witch. Everything is falling into place…until the visions begin. Tara’s practice has given her a gift–she sees the future. And for her, it includes a gorgeous man that she’s never met but definitely knows. She can feel it. Now all she has to do is find him.
…but is he the one she’s destined to be with?
Derek Williams just wants to get by. He goes to school, works to help support his family, and enjoys the occasional party with his friends—as long as his gift doesn’t create a ruckus. Derek is an empath, born to feel what others feel and able to change their emotions with a touch. His inherited gift comes with an added benefit—the ability to find his soul mate, the one person he’s meant to be with. And he’s found her; he just has to convince her of their connection.
As their relationship heats up and their abilities grow stronger, Tara and Derek must overcome the objection of family and friends, the advances of former flames, and a secret that could ruin them both—if their love is to survive.
Joined by an ancient magic, their love was predestined. Now, that fragile bond is in danger of being shattered.
Tara McAllister has come to terms with her soul mate being underage and a student in her class. She knows that it’s illegal, but legalities are inconsequential where the heart’s concerned. The soul deep connection that drew them together over the summer has strengthened. Just as she feels comfortable enough to dream about a future with her élan, a tragic accident threatens to rip her happiness from her grasp.
Derek Williams chose to pursue the one woman who made his whole existence worthwhile, despite the fact that she was older and his English teacher. Once he convinces her that they are meant to be with each other, he finally feels at peace planning their future together. Then one night and one misstep jeopardize everything they’ve built and fought for.
Tara and Derek’s love story—the story that explores the balance between what’s right and what matters—continues in Blur, Book 2 in The Élan Series.
About Tracie Roberts
Tracie Roberts is the author of ECHO and BLUR, Books 1 and 2 of The Élan Series. She writes YA and NA novels tinged with the paranormal. Beyond writing, she enjoys family time, stargazing and sea glass searches. Find her at tracieroberts.com or on Twitter and Facebook. Blur will be available in February through Amazon. Echo is available now through Amazon here: http://amzn.to/1w6xoSd.
Learn More About Tracie Roberts
Website – tracieroberts.com
Facebook – tracie.roberts13
Twitter – @tracie_roberts
Our wonderful parade authors are offering fantastic swag baskets for three awesome winners! Prizes include ebooks, gift cards and fun!
Remember, winning is as easy as visiting, clicking or commenting–easy to enter; easy to win!