- A story begins with somebody who wants something. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that. We start off wanting to write about a girl and her horse, but what does the girl want? A really famous writer once said, everyone needs to want something, even if it’s only a glass of water. It’s really good to have a character who wants something in opposition to what another character wants. Because…
- You need obstacles that the main character can overcome. The girl starts off wanting a horse, but you have to give her obstacles to getting that horse. An obstacle should lead to other obstacles.
- Details are really important in story. You create a scene that the reader can see or the listener can be part of. The right amount of detail draws your reader into the story. Too much and you will lose their attention. Too little, and they won’t be able to picture what’s going on.
- Stories have repetition. The first time you mention something, it’s just a detail. The second time you realize there must be a reason it’s coming up. And the third time, you bring it in to show its significance.
- An Ending. At the ending, the character either will or will not achieve their objective. It ties up the story threads and lets the reader know they’re done.
As a storyteller, you have to do certain things for the listener and reader, because people have an intuitive need for things to happen a certain way.
These rules were originally tweeted by Emma Coats, Pixar's story artist. Number nine on the list—when you're stuck, make a list of what wouldn't happen next—is a great one and can apply to writers in all genres.
1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
2. Keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
3. Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about until you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.
4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
6 . What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
7 . Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
8. Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
9 . When you're stuck, make a list of what wouldn't happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.
11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.
12. Discount the first thing that comes to mind—and the second, third, fourth and fifth. Get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.
14. Why must you tell this story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.
15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.
17. No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on. It'll come back around to be useful later.
18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best and fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
20. Exercise: Take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How do you rearrange them into what you do like?
21. You must identify with your situation and/or characters; you can't just write "cool." What would make you act that way?
22. What's the essence of your story? The most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
Starting out as a writer is exciting and worrisome all at the same time. It is an adventure than many enter blindly and without a specific plan. Here are five things that all new writers should know:
1) Pick a genre! Recently, I was talking to someone on Twitter, who told me that they weren’t sure what genre their work in progress fell into. When I asked them how far they had gotten, they told me they were already half way through. Eek! You must pick a genre and write to that audience. If not, it is going to be extremely hard to market your book in the future and convince people to read it!
2) Social media is your new best friend! Seriously, I’m not joking! Go sign up for a Twitter account, create a Facebook author page, join writing groups online, and get on Goodreads. Of course, there are other social media networks, but the three I mentioned are, in my opinion, the most important! Start finding other authors, people who enjoy reading your genre, editors, publishers, etc. Before your book is out, you want a following of people who will give your writing a chance. This will help increase your popularity in the literary world and increase your sales.
3) There are a ton of resources for writers online! Websites, blogs, and writing groups are all amazing! I highly recommend joining SCBWI! I met my critique group members and other amazing authors and illustrators after joining this awesome group!
4) Writer’s block is a reality and when it happens it sucks! In order to move past these horrible incidents, have a plan to get out of your writing funk. When I get stuck on a particular scene or just can’t figure out what I want to happen next, I do a number of things. I talk to my critique group members, I watch a movie for inspiration, or I read a book in the same genre by one of my favorite authors. All of these actions help propel me out of writer’s block!
5) Have a writing plan and set goals! For instance, my writing plan is to publish Grishmathis February and write the next two books in the series this year. My goals are to write at least 3,000 words a week and continue to work with my critique group members.
It’s a basic truism these days that if you’re in any kind of business, you need to establish a blog. Great, you say! You run right out, sign up for a Blogger.com or WordPress.com account, or the more tech-savvy among us go into the Escher-esque maze that is the management software on our hosting services and manually install the WordPress software. Then, things get trickier. The blog is there, in theory, but once it’s up, what’s an indie writer to do?
Everyone talks about quality content and they’re right to do so. Any blog worth its readership offers something valuable to its readers. What makes for quality content, though? Non-fiction authors have a decided advantage here. There’s a good chance they write in a pretty narrow niche, be it molecular gastronomy or The Punic Wars, and the material becomes self-limiting by nature. As long as there is a clear connection between the content in the post and the writer’s general area of interest, they’re more or less golden. Fiction writers have a tougher row to hoe. A lot of us, me included, tend to default to writing about writing. Write what you know, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t much help in building up a readership. The people who are most interested in writing are other writers, not readers. Fortunately, even though most of us write about imaginary places, we tend to ground our work in the real world. If you’re a science fiction writer, you can talk about (and link to, by God) an article you read about some breakthrough that informed you’re writing. Romance writers can delve into anything related to relationships, from the latest in sex therapy to how relationship books tell them what kinds of things create tension in relationships. Basically, if you ever read something, saw something, or heard something that made you go, “I bet I could use that for X writing project,” you’ve got a blog post that you’re readers will probably be interested in reading.
Talk, Don’t Write
In the olden days, generating video content was solely the purview of high-powered, well-financed production companies and a handful of dedicated amateurs willing to forego food in order to buy good equipment. Today, smart phones, web cams, and off-the-shelve digital video cameras (not to mention a whole lot of SLR cameras) can record perfectly acceptable video content for a fraction of the cost. Most computers come with basic video editing software pre-loaded and the world of shareware can generally make up any lingering deficits. “Wait,” you declare. “You want me to just talk to camera and then load it onto the web for anyone to see?” No and yes. On the no side of my answer, you’re video content, just like your written blog content, should say something relevant to your reader. Maybe you just saw the Hugh Howey interview in Wired and want to crow to the world about an indie writer success. Maybe you just saw a massive uptick in your own sales and you want to send out a more personal kind of thank you to your loyal readers. Relevance is the key, regardless of medium. On the yes side, if you enjoy some success as an indie writer (or any other kind of writer) there will come a day when you must verbally interact with another person. Video blogging or vlogging lets you practice articulating your thoughts verbally, rather than textually. Also, human beings are visually cued creatures. A video will often hold attention where the written word does not.
Do Marketing, But Casually
A lot of indie writers fall for the temptation to use their blog (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube accounts) as an advertising platform to flog their books relentlessly. The reality is that people who are regularly reading your blog probably already know about your book and there is a good chance they’ve already bought your book. If you beat your readers over the head with a constant barrage of marketing messages it will likely result in little more than alienated readers and a loss of future sales. You should absolutely blog about it when you’ve got a new book, article, or short story coming out. You should probably write more than one in the month or two leading up to its release. The rest of the time, though, let the marketing happen naturally. Marketing casually on your blog means creating a dedicated space on the blog that lists what things you have available and where to get them. For most indie writers, this space can simply be titled “Books,” “My Books” or something in that vein. Any new reader than comes to your blog and sticks around long enough to get interested by your incredible, highly-relevant posts will click on that page to see what you have to offer.
I thought it might be fun to publish some of the reviews on Bewitched made by some big-time reading blogsites. To begin with, Tara from "hobbitsies.net" let me blog for here. You can go to this link to see the questions and answers I gave regarding writing and Bewitched specifically. http://hobbitsies.net/2013/03/blog-tour-bewitched-by-mark-harris/
Here are a few sites where they announce the release of Bewitched: http://wormyhole.blogspot.com/2013/03/blog-tour-bewitched-by-mark-j-harris.html
Here is a review of Bewitched: http://overflowingbookshelves.com/blog-tour-review-bewitched-by-mark-harris/
I didn’t know what to think of this story when I first read the synopsis. There are a lot of stories about witches but very few with a male protagonist that is fighting against the witches. I thought it’d be an interesting take on an old tale (witches and warlocks, good vs. evil) and I’m glad to say that it was.
I got drawn into the story right along Darren, I wanted to know if Samantha was a witch (and I had some questions about Andrea as well). I liked the interplay between the characters, it seemed like they were really in high school with petty jealousies flaring up, girlfriends worried about their relationships, and the guys worried about make State Finals in basketball. When you add the paranormal elements to the story, the story and the characters got more fleshed out. One of the most overlooked characters (especially at the beginning), but became one of my favorites was Crissy. There was just something about her even though we really don’t get to see her that much in the first third of the book. For those few pages she was in and the few sentences she uttered, she intrigued me. I was glad that my liking her was vindicated in the latter half of the book. It just reminded me that the most unexpected things can come in small packages.
The only had an issue with two things in the book: keeping the characters separate in my mind at the beginning of the book and the introduction of Darren’s powers. I know the story is set in high school but there were times when it was really hard to keep track of who was important in Darren’s circle of friends. When we’re first introduced to them we meet around
six new characters all at once, all of who are cheerleaders or basketball players. Even though the names were different it was I found myself having to stop and figure out who exactly these characters were to Darren. It got better, though, as the story continued and Harris fleshed his characters out more.
The other issue, the introduction to Darren’s powers, was a little rushed in my mind. I know Darren’s been hearing these stories for years from his grandfather (so the idea of magic isn’t that hard for him) but I, as the reader, have not been privy to these stories. As such, when Darren is being introduced to this whole new world I had trouble keeping up at times. There was a lot of information revealed in a short period of time that I was left wondering how it all interconnected. But like before, Harris does a good job of showing what is important to the story line.
Overall I liked the book and am interested in seeing where Harris goes next with the story.
Another review: http://lustforstories.blogspot.com/2013/03/review-bewitched-by-mark-jay-harris.html
Bewitched is urban fantasy story told from a male perspective. Darren's just a typical teenage boy, but with a less than
happy life at home. His brother's dead, and his parents have withdrawn into a half-life. How could it get worse? What's even worse is that he's actually part of this "magical" group that makes him think his family's bonkers.
To be completely honest, I liked darren's perspective, but just liked. Though Mark Jay Harris created a comfortable character to read, I didn't feel like he had that grit of a teenage boy. Darren's monologue and dialogue didn't feel entirely real, and while I find that alright, he could've used an extra edge to make Darren a real character that I could sympathize with and connect to.
While I do find Darren's character a bit lacking in the "real" sense, I admire Harris' ability to mesh different characters together in a way that creates texture. Do you know what I'm talking about? No? In simpler words, Harris creates characters
to provide different feelings, different atmospheres for his readers. That's something to be admired.
As a conclusion, yes, Bewittched may have some points that can do with a bit of improvement, but for a first novel, this is a truly exciting read. The world-building, different characters can all easily suck one in, and I'm glad that Inkspell Publishing, who are amazing, gave me this opportunity to be a tour host for Bewitched!
And another good review: http://jackiesbookworld.blogspot.com/2013/03/book-tour-review-bewitched-thaumaturgy.html
The story starts of with Ethan's funeral, Darren's brother, who at the time was a normal high school student until he started seeing weird things happening around him that he could only see. Unaware of what was happening to him, he decides to
ignore them, but it was hard to do so when his grandfather start telling him what he is and what he is destined to do. The story takes off from there, and it becomes one with twists and turns that left me wanting for more. It was well written, full of action, secrets and surprises. When a new girl, Samantha, enrolls as a student in the same high school, Darren is left to wonder whether or not there is a reason why she was there. The interactions that he has with those closest to him are vital in order to fulfill his destiny, they all play an important role in his life. The complexity of the characters make the story just
that much more interesting and exciting to read. Mark's use of detail and history (with a twist) made the story believable. The ending left me wanting for more. Overall, Mark Harris has created a world that is exciting, where witches, demons, and those that are after the witches coexist. From the first page to the last, I was able to go into this world that he has created with so much detail. I was intrigued and bewitched by this story, and I can't wait to read the next book of the series, “The Return of the Familiar.”
It gets mentioned her and includes a long excerpt:
Here's a really great review: http://www.leisurereads.com/bewitched-mark-jay-harris/
With a book cover showcasing a boy playing with fire, I sort of assumed the protagonist would be somebody who had already mastered the art of fire magic …
I was wrong.
Darren leads a relatively normal life. He is a basketball team player. He has a few good friends. He likes to have fun and he has a pretty girlfriend. Life on the outside seems good but he knows his parents are still mourning the death of his big brother. When he discovers the secret compartment in his big brother’s room and retrieves its content, he knows his dying grandfather has been telling him tales that are not fabricated but real. Being a part of an ancient order, the “Pessum Ire”, whose duty is to destroy witches, Darren feels helpless – his grandfather is not in the right state of health to be his mentor and he has no idea how to prepare himself to face the evil witches. Will he suffer the same tragic death just like his big brother?
I must say I was a little disappointed at first when I learned that Darren did not know what he could possibly do to tap into his supernatural power. It’s like he’s so clueless about himself. How can he be so powerless?? I was baffled, but as I read and got to know him a bit better, I started to see him more as a determined survivor and less as a frustrated teenager. No
doubt, it’s unfortunate that he had no one to “show him the way” but it didn’t necessarily mean he had a lesser chance to stay alive.
In the story, Darren suffers not just from his ill-fated duty, but also from betrayals of those who are around him. I’m pretty marveled by the number of evil witches that are in disguise and because Darren is not trained to discern witches from normal people, he is defenseless. But I like that Darren never uses his lack of training as an excuse to enslave himself as a
helpless victim. His determination to get out of his mess opens him to uncover a world of allies, magic and power and I like that the outcome and reward are both pleasing and satisfactory.
I guess what intrigues me the most is that I could never be certain about whether a person is a true friend or foe until the very last page of the book. The hint of what’s truly evil lies not just in those who are power hungry but also in the deceptive, self-fulfilled nature of foresight and prophecy. There are so many intricate layers to the plot that I can’t help but be amazed.
And while my assumption about Darren being this skilled teenager with fire magic was not entirely accurate, the image on the book cover does capture the essence of the climactic moment of the story. Although I feel somewhat relieved that
most of the evil people are now identified, I know something devilishly sinister is looming and I look forward to reading the next installment when it’s available.
Here's a very nice review from Heather B at:
I loved it! It was action packed and filled with twists and turns that I was just dying to turn the next page! The words flowed off the page, and I found myself caught up in the world that Mark Jay Harris transcribed. I literally just could not put this book down! I love when books have twist, preferably when they are written in the guys point of view. We never really know what the guy is thinking in most young adult books, so I found it refreshing that the point of view was in Darren's perspective.
It doesn't take long for the story to grab you either. I was pulled into the storyline from the first paragraph. The story starts off with Darren's brothers funeral, and strange happenings amongst the funeral that only he can see. There are some strange men that seem to show up when a bright flash of light appears. The story only progresses from there.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I can only hope that the sequel will live up to these expectations I have set from this debut!
Overall: 5 OWLS!!
Here's another terrific review from: http://thekookybookworm.blogspot.com/
I have to say, I thought this book was pretty amazing. The cover was pretty cool, and I thought that it may be the best thing, but the story upped it by several notches. Just a warning for everyone who loves a good book.
Bewitched is about a boy called Darren who is your average high school guy. He plays basketball, has a girlfriend, very average. His brother died. Darren finds out that his brother died fighting witches and he's supposed to fight them too.
Only his grandfather has health issues and can't help him so he has to figure it out all on his own. And the new girl? Yeah, he thinks she's a witch. I mean, she was floating above the school gymnasium and all. And another fun thing? He has the hots for her. Very messy and complicated.
Suddenly he's not so average after all, is? And he is having trouble trying to tap into his magical abilities. Honestly, he's pretty clueless. Poor guy. You can't help but feel at least a little twinge of sympathy for him.
A lot happens in this book, and Darren has a lot to go through by himself. I'm not going to reveal and details--sorry, but your going to have to read the book yourself--but I will say that I thought this story was compelling and... magical. Pun intended.
When you read Bewitched, you'll love it. There's a lot you have to understand, and that takes time (don't all books?) but in the ended your left with a feeling of completeness as the story comes full circle. I hated not knowing who the evil person was in the story, and that drove me to finish the book as fast as possible. It was like an itch I couldn't scratch. Kudos to you, Mark Jay Harris. You really left me wanting more.
Here are five tips for scaling the editing wall:
1. Do not read too many editing books while you are editing.
A book I would recommend for editing your own drafts is Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell. It's a fantastic book and should help in many ways. The other book I would recommend is Donald Mass’s Writing the Breakout Novel. This is like a Bible for authors. Especially first-time authors who want to knock their first book out of the park. Donald Mass is brilliant and his book is excellent, but reading it while you are editing will put the pressure on. It makes you really want to do the writing equivalent of hitting that home run in the bottom of the 9th–in the World Series.
Imagine learning baseball and expecting that kind of performance. But really, wouldn’t you have to learn to play baseball first? That might mean hitting a lot of flyballs.
Truth is, there are tons of great books on editing, tons of websites giving advice. If you want to read them, do, but take it in small doses. Read one chapter or maybe two, and do a round of edits. Then rest and read some more.
2. Give your manuscript time to breathe.
One of the first pieces of advice I got was to wait at least a week before reading the manuscript. I waited a day. As a result, I had no objectivity and overwhelm came in pretty quick. You have to give your manuscript time, which means slowing down.
3. Switch to a different tactile sensation.
Lots of us spend time in front of our computers. Too much time. Take time away. Print your MS on paper and read it. Make notes in the margins. Use colored pens. Then read it again. This time, make chapter scene notes on index cards (it keeps you brief). Write it on colored paper, with colored pens. Then you can arrange things and see if the order needs changing. I don’t have the science behind it, but it seems to bring about a kinesthetic approach, which is good for adult learning, and opens up new ways of thinking.
4. Take time off and be physical.
Go for a walk. Go do some yoga. Go for a run or to the gym, or even get a pedicure or massage. Letting off some steam not only helps you deal with stress, but it will pull you into a different state of mind, one that will process your story differently and give you more perspective. I also find that doing something physical reminds me of the world around me, which we forget when we’re in the minds of our characters. But if we don’t experience the world, we can’t experience it for them.
Seriously, live a little. It’s good for you.
5. Put your unconscious mind to work.
You know the old expression, “sleep on it”? Apparently, it really works. I read somewhere once about a study showing that people make better decisions if they meditate or sleep on something. Take a nap, a hot bath, or meditate. There’s a great article on how meditation increases creativity here.
Above all, the best way to avoid overwhelm is to trust yourself and your process. if you are creating or doing things that are new to you, it will be uncomfortable at first, but that’s all part of learning how you work. You are the best at figuring out what works for you. It’s an ongoing thing.
Thanks for visiting today! If you have have tried any of these tips and they’ve worked for you, please share in the comments below. Or, if you have worked through editing overwhelm in a different way, please let me know. I’m always looking for new ways to improve my own process.
"Bewitched is spell-binding! A highly-unique page-turner that hooks you from the first paragraph. With complex characters and unexpected twists and turns, Harris delivers and leaves you hoping for more!" - Stephanie Keyes, Author, The Star Child series
Is it love or is it witchcraft? He’ll never find out if he kills her first.
The first time Darren saw Samantha, she was floating above his high school gymnasium during a basketball game, invisible to everyone but him. Next time he sees her, she's sitting in front of him in class, wowing his friends and causing unexplainable things to happen that only he seems to notice. But things really get strange (and complicated) when his dying grandfather tells him that he is part of an ancient order, the “Pessum Ire,” whose duty is to destroy witches. What does he do now, since he’s almost positive Samantha is a witch…and he’s
crushing on her pretty hard?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Harris lives in Smithfield Utah, a small town located in a beautiful valley in Northern Utah. His wife, Shaundale, and he have four terrific children, two girls and two boys and a fifth one due to arrive in November of 2012. Mark has taught English and Special Education and currently works from home teaching English to people from all over the world. Writing has always been his true passion since he was a grade schooler writing about mushrooms. "Bewitched" will be his debut novel. He has two others underway and will soon start on the sequel to "Bewitched," called "The Return of the Familiar." He hopes you enjoy his work because he is working on several series geared toward younger audiences.
Book available on all major outlets: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and The Book Depository or enter below for a FREE COPY!
So...Do you believe in witches? Completely or are you somewhat skeptical? Darren fell in love with a witch and it gets him in all sorts of trouble as you'll find out in my book, coming out this Friday, March 1, 2013. In the meantime, let's see what everybody thinks.
While here, why not join my blog?
Check out the latest cover for Stephanie Keyes up coming novel release: THE FALLEN STARS. Looks like an excellent addition to her series with a beautiful cover!
“Imaginative and fast-paced. Couldn’t put it down!” – E.G. Foley, New York Times Bestselling author of The Gryphon Chronicles
“This well-written and intriguing fantasy was a delight to read. I can’t wait to read the second novel
in this series!” - Linn B. Halton, author Never Alone on The Star Child by Stephanie Keyes
When all is lost, he will have to make the ultimate decision.
Kellen St. James was just your average seventeen-year-old prodigy, until he eighty-sixed the Lord of Faerie and proposed to a Celtic goddess. Now everything in Kellen’s life gets turned upside-down when Calienta, Kellen, and friend, Gabriel Stewart, find themselves on the run from a seriously irritated group of faeries. The worst part? They have zero idea why.
Suddenly, Kellen finds himself stuck in the middle of another prophecy that questions everything about him including where his loyalties lie. Plus, Calienta’s more than a bit different; she’s making choices that he doesn’t understand. And Gabe, his best friend? He’s started doing all sorts of freaky
things that make Kellen question who he really is.
Kellen and Calienta will fight to stay together and keep the hidden part of the prophecy from becoming reality.
When the ultimate power is within reach, which side will he choose?
Release Date: 12-April-2013, Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Sounds good? If you liked Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, Need by Carrie Jones, or Fallen by Lauren Kate, you will love this book!
About the Author:
Stephanie Keyes has been addicted to Fantasy since she discovered T.H. White as a child and started drumming up incredible journeys in her head. Today, she’s still doing the same thing, except now she puts those ideas down on paper.
When she’s not writing Stephanie is also a graphic designer, presenter, teacher, musician, avid reader, and Mom to two little boys who constantly keep her on her toes. In addition, she’s best friend to her incredible husband of eleven years.
Keyes is the author of The Star Child YA Fantasy series, which currently includes The Star Child and The Fallen Stars. She is currently hard at work on the third book in the trilogy.
Giveaway (Open to the US and Canada)
Here's Watson with his cousin Sampson. Watson is 2 1/2 months old in this shot. His cousin Sampson is exactly 2 months older than he is. They are both in the arms of their Nana and Papa. They are wearing their matching "Monster" p.j.'s they got from Nana and Papa for Christmas (which also matches the pajamas of my other boys, Chi and Talmage).
Watson looks a little smaller than Sampson but he's still a cute little "monster!" I think Matt, my brother-in-law, took the picture and managed to capture them both grinning (Watson and Sampson, not Nana and Papa). Good job Matt!!
Mark Jay Harris
Mark lives in Smithfield, Utah with his wife and 5 children.