Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Help Yourself

Writing, for me, has always been therapeutic. Its like having a long conversation with my best friend without that friend getting bored or tired of my problems. When my father died, I wrote reams of poetry and essays to work my way through the pain. When i was smitten with some boy, or crushed by some life event, I wrote about it and everything magically went on. As if putting it into words changed the reality of what had happened.
This, however, is not a tool all individuals can employ. Its the reason we read self-help books.
I have been interested in reading, writing and researching self-help for quite some time. Perhaps its my background in psychology, the work I did with troubled teens or even my experiences as a mother that have always drawn me to this arena. Whatever it is, I've learned a few things about writing such a book.
1.Write like a speaker, don't speak like a writer-
   The language of a self help book that is successful is not complicated, wordy or technical. Its basic, quotable and has a sense of humor. Dr. John Gray, The Author of "Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus" learned this after he'd published a few other books, with a bit of success. Each time he discovered that the language he used to speak  to his audience was too complex. He said "I needed something they could repeat to each other in the line at the supermarket or pharmacy." This also made his books about 200 pages longer than people wanted to read.
2. Use humor-
   Nobody wants to read a dry and boring discussion between their therapist and themselves. The point of self-help is to see that all is not lost and if you can laugh at yourself and the world around you, hope is alive. Everything from title to quotes and stories within the book should allow your audience to laugh. Both at themselves and at the crazy world around them. In "Rich Dad, Poor Dad "by Robert Kiyosaki, he often makes fun of his own mistakes and the methods he used to learn life's crucial financial lessons.
3.Outline in 10-
   Many self-help  authors find their information to be very expansive and overwhelming. If they break the book down to its 10 most important concepts, and then make them the chapter headings, people will actually buy and read the book. The authors of "The anatomy of Peace", Wrote their book 12 times before the concepts were finally broken down to the basic format of the book.

If you just enjoy reading self-help or would like to write it yourself, go look up the writers who have been successful and read their stories. You'll be surprised how helpful they will be. In the meantime keep writing!.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Have I lost you?

The story begins with a tragic illness. The afflicted weakens, assures everyone she'll be fine and then lapses into a coma.
Doctors are brought in, medicine, surgery and blood transfusions are administered until finally are character hangs in a state of unconsciousness and drifts toward death.
As an outline for conflict in this novel, the basic premise of this story will work. Ask your self what's missing though?
Are character can still function although the dark days are drifting in. There is hope. All is being done to bring about a miraculous recovery. We're on the edge of our seats waiting to see whether life or death will win.
The problem; Do you really care?
You should be asking yourself right now why it matters either way? Why do I want this character to live or die? Why would anyone else?
Is it in her background and history?...Then you may have written the wrong story.
If it is part of the backstory; Why do we care right now?
What is invested in her living? Who stands to lose if she doesn't?

While the conflict in the story is the life or death struggle of the character, the life or death struggle your readers are interested in has more to do with the condition of the heart and mind of all your characters. It isn't paramount whether or not this character's heart keeps beating if the conflict in the story is only in the character's well being.
Its vulnerability. Yours, as the author. Your reader's as they read the scene. And finally, the characters in the book.
Authors such as Nicholas Sparks and Jody Picolt are masters at this concept. Their books are filled with external conflict, but more importantly they are swollen with characters you love, hate, hurt with and die for.
If you're writing a conflict type novel, either a romantic thriller, a human drama, or a suspense, Go check out the best writer's in those drama's and answer the above questions about their characters. Then go answer them about your own.
In the meantime keep reading and writing!