Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Guest Post | The Artistry of Writing by Sharlene Almond

Hi all,
Today I am very happy to host a guest post by author Sharlene Almond, you can find out more about Sharlene here, and check out her books on amazon.
On the blog today, she'll be talking about her writing methods, and sharing some helpful tips and tricks with you all.
So let's hand over to Sharlene.

The Artistry of Writing
Sharlene Almond

Writing can be fun, challenging, boring, stimulating or informative. When a writer gets ‘writers block’, it can be one of the most challenging areas of writing. How does an author keep writing if that happens?
I’ve been writing novels for about five years now. Thankfully, I haven’t actually had writers block… yet. Partly, I attribute the regular flow of writing to having an established writing process. A process that keeps the creative juices flowing, and allows me to keep a good rhythm going.
One of the techniques I stumbled across when I was researching ‘how best to write a novel’ was the ‘snowflake method’. I had so many ideas; yet creating a novel from them was another thing, to make these ideas into a cohesive whole.

Using Snowflakes to Coat Your Novel

The ‘snowflake method’ can be quite a tedious process, and I don’t complete all the steps now; however, when starting my first novel, it was helpful.
The process comprises of writing a one-sentence summary of the novel, no character names, just establishing a general idea of what you want the novel to be about.
The next step, I expanded that sentence into a paragraph, including the set-up, major disasters and the ending. Although, you don’t have to be exact in this, it can be helpful to have one sentence for the backdrop, one for each major disaster, and one more to tell the ending.
My next focus was on the characters. How did I want to portray my characters? Who was my main character? Fortunately, I already had a general idea of who I wanted my main character to be. The other two main characters just seemed to fall into place with the plot.
But of course, it’s important to really understand my characters, so I could understand their reactions. Writing out a one-page summary for my characters, enabled me to get a better idea of where I wanted everything to head. To include what they looked like, what they liked, their background. Everything that I could think of to include, I made sure to put in that summary. Even thinking along the lines of their favourite quote enabled me to get a better picture of them.
My following step was to write a full-fledged paragraph based around the earlier summary paragraphs, developing the details.
Once I had a fair idea of the overall ‘feel’ of the novel, I could then write a one-page character synopsis about the main characters, and a half-page synopsis of the other relevant characters.
The final two steps of this process is to elaborate on the plot synopsis, and the character synopsis. That there was my general outline to how I wanted my novel to go.
Currently, I don’t tend to still do this entire process, as I have the same main characters throughout my other novels.

Exceling Your Novel

The last part of the ‘snowflake method’, I still find the most valuable part of the process, and the technique I still use for every novel. And that is using Word Excel to write out a chapter outline.
The functional element for this technique is that it can be used for any sort of writing, and when conducting research, it is easier to add details to the spreadsheet.
Number the chapters at the top of the spreadsheet, going across. Underneath each chapter write out a sentence or two, using the synopsis as a guide.
This final process enabled me to have a clear idea of what I needed to write every day, as well as making sure the novel continued on cohesively, and that everything made sense. Especially when adding extra detail, it can be easy to get slogged down. I found the spreadsheet prevented this.
Because my novels have continuous flashbacks, as well as the historical aspect to my novel; the spreadsheet is incredibly important for me. The chapter outline enables me to see where I want to put the flashbacks, and where I want to write in the historical aspect.

Research, Research, Research

The other part of the process was to research everything I needed to include in the novel. For me, research is one of the most fundamental aspects to the writing process. Not only because it’s required to give accurate information, but I stumble across things that I can add to my chapter outline that I wouldn’t have previously thought about.
My writing process is not set in stone. When I begin writing, I continuously carry out research for every chapter, and add to the spreadsheet. I usually start off with about thirty chapters on the spreadsheet; but the final product can be around hundred chapters (as my chapters are short).

Putting it all Together

The final piece in the writing puzzle for me, and the other aspect that I still use for my novels – is the project file. The project file comprises of a three-ringed binder and dividers. Each section is labelled for things like characters, setting, ideas/theme etc. That way I have everything in that folder I need. And when I’m doing research, I know what I need to research. This also allows me to go through the folder, and pick out relevant information. As through the research process, it can be very easy to get bogged down by too much information.
Having it all in a folder, then making notes from the printed research puts my brain where it needs to be.

Just Enjoy

As I’ve said before, I don’t implement all of these techniques. But some are still very useful to allow one small idea to develop into a cohesive, and hopefully exciting novel.
Writing always keeps me on my toes. I’m always amazed how much is changed from the first draft to the third. The ‘bad guy’ (or female) has changed for every single novel.
That’s one of the things I love most about writing – even I’m surprised at the ending!

Below are some links to articles that helped me in the writing process:

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