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How to write a first draft

How to write a first draft is not really something that can be taught as each writer is unique and what works for one writer will not work for another. So to help you I have put together 15 simple rules for completing your first draft in record time:

1) Commit to a particular time of day

The choice is yours but early in the morning is best, and stick to that every day, no matter what happens
If you have a full time job you might have to get up at the crack of dawn or, even better, take some leave and just get the job done.

2) Skip over problem areas

You can skip over any parts that really don’t make sense right now, but try to get the main points of the plot on the page or you could end up with nothing. You need to see if your story is going to work.

3) Don’t worry about quality

Concentrate on the story and don’t worry about editing your work. Punctuation and spelling can be sorted out later on.

4) Don’t think too much

If you take your time and think about every word you will not be able to get your ideas down

5) Know what problem, or problems your protagonist will face.

All stories are about how someone solves a problem. Often there is more than one problem that can’t be avoided and you need to decide on the internal and external battles your main character will face.

6) Know how your protagonist looks at life

Decide on how your protagonist reacts to what life throws at him. In other words how does he relate to the world and the people in it?

7) Come up with ideas for minor characters

Have a basic feel for the minor characters and decide which one is to be the antagonist

8) Flesh out minor characters later

Names, ages and all the other nitty-gritty can come later on, for the time being just let it flow.

9) Extra research and characterization

Characterization and motivation can be fixed in later edits, once you have got the basic story down, and you have more time to do research

10) Decide on what the moral (lesson) of the story is

Every story has a lesson. The protagonist needs to be changed somehow at the end of the story. Don’t leave this decision right until the end.

11) Know where your story is going

If you know how your story is going to end you will be able to work out how to get there. If you don’t follow this important piece of advice you may end up with a convoluted story that is difficult to edit.

12) Ask “why” and not “what”

Stories are not about “what” happens, they are about “why” it happens.

13) Use the five senses

What your characters see, smell, hear, touch, and taste will draw the reader into the story and make it more real. Although the first draft is not about going into too much detail, focussing on the senses will help create the imaginary world that your characters live in.

14) Decide on your theme or genre

The theme will decide the underlying feel of the story and will influence the way that you write so this is extremely important. Another way to look at this is that books fall into different genres such as love story, adventure, thriller and so on.

15) Shut your inner critic up

I have written about how to wake up the writer in you and to do this you need to stop that nagging voice that criticises you as you write. Just tell yourself that this is the first draft and it really doesn’t matter if it isn’t a master piece and this will help you to shut your inner critic up.

Now that you know how to write a first draft of your book you can put some time aside and do it. Oh and my one last piece of advice is to put the first draft away for a week or two and let it percolate. When you come back to it you should know exactly how to correct any problem areas.


Tricia DorringtonTricia Dorrington (9)

Tricia has been writing content for websites for many years and, as the editor of this site, attends to the posting of all content, together with the online marketing of the business.



Plot planning or adding to your plot idea

Plot planning, or adding to your initial idea, is an important part of writing a book as just having a good idea for a story is not going to grab the attention of the reader.

Let’s first look at what a story is and here I am using one of the definitions from the Longman Dictionary of the English Language It states that a story is an account of incidents or events. That’s it! So we can all write a story, but adding to the idea and plot planning are what make a story gripping, amusing, heart-warming or any of the dozens of adjectives that you could use to describe a story.

So what does a story need to make it attractive to editors, publishers and finally the reader?

The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote of his theories in Poetics in about 335BC and his ideas still stand to this day. I have tried to read up on his theories and they are, quite frankly, too complicated for words, so I would rather put forward this quotation from his writing which, to me, sums up the main ingredient of a story. “Man is a goal seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is striving and reaching out for his goals.”

Adding to your idea or plot planning

Some of what is required for a story has already been covered in our article creative writing ideas, so now you need to plan your plot further by adding many situations where the protagonist is reaching out for goals but is thwarted by conflicts which escalate to a point where the reader cannot put the book down, and finally a resolution is reached.

Put simply, a story should either be about the transformation of a situation or a character, and should have an initial problem, an escalation of conflict, and a resolution.

Now remember that you need to keep the reader in the story throughout, but grabbing the reader’s attention right at the beginning is certainly of the utmost importance. This is especially so these days when one can go online and read the first chapter of many books before buying.

Once you have caught the attention of the reader you need to set the scene, mood and tone of the story and introduce the protagonist and minor characters, deciding which of the minor characters is to be the antagonist.

When thinking about your protagonist (main character) ask yourself why the reader should care about this person. Remember that if they don’t care about the main character they won’t care about your story either.

So you need to paint a picture of the main character and his or her life, and add oodles of tension which is created by describing unfulfilled desires. Now bring in the minor character or characters who usually serve as the antagonist and provide the setbacks and crisis that initiate the action.

The more tension you create as the story unfolds the better, as that is what holds the reader’s attention and keeps him or her turning the pages. In our article on creative writing we covered all the different genres of books that you can write, and it would depend on which genre you are writing as to what the crisis is that alters your character’s world.

• Adventure could involve a journey to a new land
• Children’s books may involve moving to a new school
• Myth, fantasy and science fiction, often involve a prophecy or revelation that the main character is destined for great things
• Crime fiction involves a crisis that could be a new and seemingly unsolvable case
• Romance involves a crisis of the heart such as going through a divorce.

In each case, though, you need to emotionally engage the reader in the main character’s life which, at the end of the story, will never be the same again.

Plot planning and introducing crisis into the protagonist’s life:

• Begin the story by allowing your main character to have what is most desired and then take it away
• Deny your main character what is most desired and then have him strive for it throughout the story.

Readers often enjoy stories that have many interwoven plots and it has become popular to move backwards and forwards in time as well. I personally avoid these stories like the plague as I find them very confusing. After all I read for relaxation and don’t wish to concentrate too much when reading a book!

You do need at least two crises that interweave throughout the narrative, and these are often an internal struggle and an external struggle that need to be surmounted. The consequences of not unraveling these problems need to escalate as the story moves on and draws the reader in to the story until the climax is reached. This climax usually involves the protagonist making a discovery that will change his life or, at the very least, the way he looks at life.

So to recap when plot planning you should:

• Paint a portrait of the protagonist’s life so that the reader can picture his world
• Make the reader care about what happens to the main character
• Provide one or more crisis or struggle to be solved, or goal to be reached
• Raise the stakes as the character battles to come to terms with the challenges
• End the story in an unexpected way that shows a transformation of the main character’s life.

Well that’s it for plot planning and adding to your idea. I hope that this article has helped you in some way and, should you need any further advice, don’t hesitate to contact us.


Tricia DorringtonTricia Dorrington (9)

Tricia has been writing content for websites for many years and, as the editor of this site, attends to the posting of all content, together with the online marketing of the business.



Creative writing ideas and how to use images as a prompt

Creative writing ideas, or in other words the story or plot, are not always easy to come up with and can be a huge stumbling block for an aspiring writer. There are many ways of coming up with a plot but I have found that the one that works for me every time is to browse through one of the sites that sells royalty free images. The one that I prefer is Fotalia but there are many sites where you can find images that are not very expensive should you need to buy them, and that you can use for various projects.

Take the image that I have included in this article on creative writing. If I wanted to write a fantasy or a children’s book, or even a love story, I know that I would be able to get my creative juices flowing by looking at this gorgeous image with its many possibilities. If I look at this image the story is just about jumping out of the pages of the book at me!
I first learnt about using this sort of creative writing prompt when I did a course on writing for children and I found that it really helped me, so let’s talk about how to go about this.

Using a graphic as a prompt for creative writing ideas

• Look at your picture and come up with a main character and one or two minor characters (for our purposes the main character is male and the minor characters are female)
• Decide what the goal or motive is of your main character (usually, but not always, the protagonist)
• What is the conflict that prevents the main character from reaching his goals
• What will happen if he doesn’t get what he wants
• Decide what the goal or motive is of your minor characters
• One of your minor characters will probably be an antagonist-decide on how you are going to handle this
• When the minor characters pursue their goals how does it affect the goals of the main character
• Remember that the goals are what drive the story forward and you need to be clear about what they are
• What is the main climax of the story
• Each chapter should have a mini climax that comes towards the end of the chapter and makes the reader eager to see what happens
• Does the main character succeed or fail in his endeavours
• How is he changed by the outcome of the story

How to craft motivations for creative writing ideas

Asking questions will help you craft the scenes and decide on the motivation of your characters so keep asking yourself the following two questions over and over until you have the basis of a plot:

• What if? (crafts scenes)
• Why? (decides on motivations)

Once you have come up with a myriad of creative writing ideas you should put your work away for a few days. Now I’m not saying that you should forget about it. Just put it to one side and let it work away in your subconscious. When you return to it you should be able to pick out the creative writing ideas that you want to keep and put the others aside for another project.


Tricia DorringtonTricia Dorrington (9)

Tricia has been writing content for websites for many years and, as the editor of this site, attends to the posting of all content, together with the online marketing of the business.

Creative writing ideas to get new authors started

Creative writing is where you express thoughts, feelings and emotions rather than convey information. So creative writing would be for a novel, poem or short story and, at the same time, you would also use descriptive writing to describe people, places, scenes or objects in such a way as to form a picture in the reader’s mind.

For creative writing you need to come up with ideas to write about and this is what we are going to tackle here.

Ideas are everywhere. You may be inspired by a childhood memory or something that is going on in your life at the present time. Imagination and inspiration are the key factors when you need to come up with ideas for creative writing, but there are some tricks and tools that you can use as well.

I am going to call this stage of the writing process the invention stage and it usually involves you asking yourself many questions and employing a whole lot of strategies before you can get started with the writing process.

The creative writing process strategies:

•Read as many books as you can in your chosen genre e.g. fiction or non-fiction, poetry, short story, novel, children’s books etc. For an in-depth look at the different genres have a look at Wikipedia
•Gather as many ideas, good and bad, as you can
•Keep adding to your list as ideas pop into your mind (use a notebook)
•Take in what is going on around you all the time and listen for lines of dialogue
•Just get going, write and write some more
•Don’t worry about the quality of the work you produce at first
•Write every day, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes
•Use the writing prompts that you will find on our resources page
•Do various exercises such as writing a series of very short works starting with a particular phrase or using only words that don’t have the letter ‘e’ in them
•From the word go you need to ask questions
•These questions lead to more questions
•Ask questions until you can’t think of any more.

By now you should have quite a lot of ideas to work with and it would be good to think about what main elements should be included in your work.

The main elements in creative writing

These are the main practical elements that you need to take into account when you start writing:

•Planning
•Settings
•Viewpoint
•Plot
•Characterization
•Character
•Contrast
•Conflict

So if you are feeling a bit more inspired now you can get busy with some creative writing and see where that takes you.


Tricia DorringtonTricia Dorrington (9)

Tricia has been writing content for websites for many years and, as the editor of this site, attends to the posting of all content, together with the online marketing of the business.

10 Free writing resources that will improve your writing skills

These writing resources will help you become a better writer whatever you want to write. It seems that writing is really about recycling ideas and words and whether you are writing a headline, poem, book, thesis or blog there are not too many original ideas around.

So give up the ideal of coming up with an original idea for everything you write and concentrate on finding a way to write quickly and efficiently by using the ideas of others and putting your own slant on it.

It seems that there are only seven basic plots and even someone as renowned as Shakespeare stole his plots from Greek and Roman plays. So use your creativity by taking existing plots or information and find new perspectives, adding your own ideas and inspiration to produce something that is unique.

By reading and writing and using the writing resources, together with others that you will find throughout this site, you will become a better writer.

1) The Economist English Style Guide
This guide is used by the journalists at the Economist and is packed with hints on how to use the English language.
On their site you will also find a language blog, Johnson, where you will also find many old discussions on their house style.

2) The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr.
I this on-line copy of this classic reference book is a must-have for any conscientious writer. It gives the principal requirements of plain English style and concentrates on the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated.

3) Common Errors in English Usage
Have a look at Paul Brian’s very successful site but make sure you read his introductory remarks before you go to the list of errors.

This site gives you various options in exploring the common errors in the usage of the English language:
• There is a text-only version for people who want to read it as if it were a book
• Read an entry a day on their Facebook page
• You can read the daily entry on twitter
• You can go to the blog
• Get a FREE calendar.

4) Visuwords Graphical Dictionary
This site lets you look up words to find their meanings and associations with other words and concepts. You can enter words into the search box to look them up or double-click a node to expand the tree. It’s a dictionary, it’s a thesaurus and it’s great for writers, journalists, students, teachers, and artists.
Visuwords™ uses Princeton University’s WordNet an open source database built by University students and language researchers.

5) Wordcounter
Wordcounter ranks the most frequently used words in a body of text. You can use this to see which words you are over using or to find keywords in a document.

6) Copywriting
Copywriting is the art of using the right words to put your message across to get people to pay attention and buy your product.
This site will teach you how to increase your sales and profits. You will need this craft as soon as you have finished your master piece!

7) OneLook Dictionary Search
On this search engine you can:
• Find words and phrases that start with a word
• Find words and phrases that end with a word
• Find words that start with certain letters and end with certain letters
• Find adjectives, related words and concepts
• Find phrases that contain certain words.

8) OneLook Reverse Dictionary Search
This reverse dictionary lets you describe a concept and get back a list of words and phrases related to that concept. Your description can be a few words, a sentence, a question, or even just a single word.

Just type it into the search box and hit the “Find words” button. Keep it short to get the best results. In most cases you’ll get back a list of related terms with the best matches shown first.

9) WordWeb Thesaurus and Dictionary
This is a one-click English thesaurus and dictionary for Windows that can look up words in almost any program. It works off-line, but can also look up words in web references such as the Wikipedia encyclopaedia. Features of the free version include:
• Definitions and synonyms
• Related words
• Audio pronunciations
• Text pronunciations.
Join the millions of people from all over the world who use this software.

10) Writing Courses
You will be surprised at what you can find at learningpath.org! Free online creative writing courses offered by top universities and educational websites. This is certainly a good way to improve your writing skills.

Well we hope that you find these 10 writing resources helpful in your quest to improve your English writing skills. There are many more free and paid resources available and you will find them on other pages of this site. In fact the array of free writing resources is mind boggling so we have resisted the temptation to put more of them on this page as it is so easy to get side tracked from your writing project.


Tricia DorringtonTricia Dorrington (9)

Tricia has been writing content for websites for many years and, as the editor of this site, attends to the posting of all content, together with the online marketing of the business.

Writing style is what makes each writer unique

Writing style is what makes each writer unique. Obviously there are not enough writing styles that every author can have an absolutely unique style, but every author will have a particular tone to their writing that will make it distinguishable from someone else’s tone.

An author will also have a different tone for different types of writing. For instance writing for the internet, children’s books, cookery books and a novel would each require a different style, but it is not inconceivable that one author would write a book in more than one category.

The writing style should fit the context, purpose, and audience of each project and by choosing certain words, sentence structures and flow of words the writer will develop a voice.

Style is not only for writers such as P.G. Wodehouse, F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce who are well known for their distinctive writing styles but also for journalists, historians and all other informational writers. Another famous writer to add to this list is e.e. cummings who never used capital letters in his writing, including when spelling his name.

Elements of writing style

There are three main elements of writing that contribute to an author’s style:

• Word choice
• Sentence fluency
• Voice

Word choice

1) Your writing should be concise so you should choose the exact word to convey meaning
2) Use adjectives sparingly and adverbs rarely. Let nouns and verbs do the work
3) Chose words that contribute to the flow of a sentence. Construct sentences that roll off the tongue and make reading easy
4) Use romantic or long words (languorous, pearlescent, meandering) to slow down the pace
5) For a feel of adventure use staccato words to give an impression of haste
6) Use short breathy words to calm down and provide a more more dreamy feeling
7) Long sentences using descriptive words will expose readers to unfolding scene
8) To instil a sense of urgency use short sentences. Words should be quick-fire with no commas

Sentence fluency

1) Sentence fluency is the flow and rhythm of phrases and sentences making them easy to read
2) Vary sentence structures to achieve different effects and avoid monotony
3) Arrange ideas within a sentence for greater effect by choosing your words carefully, delete extraneous words and making vague words more specific

Voice

1) Voice is an essential element of style as it reveals the writer’s personality
2) Voice conveys feeling and is aimed at the audience of the work
3) Some of the feelings conveyed can be authoritative, reflective, objective, passionate, serious, funny, impersonal or chatty.

There are also four different types of writing:

• Expository writing
• Descriptive writing
• Persuasive Writing
• Narrative Writing

For each of these types of writing you would use a different style of writing which would fit in with the feel of the document as follows:

Expository or Argumentative style:

1) Subject-oriented style.
2) Author does not express own opinion on the topic
3) Furnishes relevant facts and figures
4) Found in text books, instruction manuals and ‘how to’ articles on the internet

Descriptive style:

1) The author focuses on describing an event, character or a place in detail
2) Often poetic in nature and describes an event, object or person
3) Usually incorporates sensory details.

Persuasive style:

1) The writer uses persuasion to win the reader over to his point of view
2) It contains the opinions, bias and justification of the author
3) Advertising copywriting is a type of persuasive writing,

Narrative style:

1) The author narrates the story as if he were the character
2) Narratives are works that provide an account of connected events
3) It is used for novels, dramas, short stories, poetry, etc.
Developing your writing style is a unique art that requires a lot imagination, creativity and dedication. With practice you can write about any topic and present your work to readers in a way that will have them hanging on every word.


Tricia DorringtonTricia Dorrington (9)

Tricia has been writing content for websites for many years and, as the editor of this site, attends to the posting of all content, together with the online marketing of the business.

Writing process series to help new and experienced writers find their own writing process.

The writing process is different for every writer and established writers will certainly have a process that they can follow with ease. New writers, however, have to develop a writing process from scratch and this can sometimes be very difficult.

It can be a problem to get started whether you are writing a blog post for your website, a short story or a full length book. Usually an inexperienced writer will simply put the job of getting started off to the next day and, in the end, the work will never be written.

Even an experienced writer can struggle when changing formats and find that they just don’t know where to begin. For instance someone who has written many books, may have a problem writing a blog post for the website to promote his work and so the process of trial and error begins, in order to find your own writing process.

Before starting the writing process arm yourself with information:

• What style of writing is required for the task at hand
• Do I need any other knowledge such as search engine optimization for a website or resources that will assist me with my writing
• Come up with ideas for the subject or plot
Add to your idea
• Research your subject

Now start the writing process:

• Start your first draft
• Write your article, short story or book.
• Revise and polish
• Edit you first draft
• Employ an editor
• Publish

Sounds easy but we all know that it is not that simple. A lack of self-belief, failure to come up with an idea and writer’s block are just a few of the problems that can stand in your way and prevent you from writing your first work.

Unfortunately there is no ‘one fits all’ solution and you need to be patient with yourself until you come up with a winning formula. In this series of articles we will attempt to point you in the right direction so that you can find your own writing process. The ‘we’ that I am referring to are John and Trish of J&T Dorrington.

I have been writing copy for websites for years and can complete an article in under an hour. I didn’t believe that I could write a book until I did a course on writing children’s picture books. The course advised that you find your pictures first and the book would follow. I followed this advice and my children’s picture book was produced soon after that.

John has written books and is a wonderful editor, but he nearly freaked when I told him that he had to write articles for this website. He is still struggling with the concept but, with my expert guidance, he is getting there.

So join us on this journey to find your writing process and let’s see whether we can make an author out of you.


Tricia DorringtonTricia Dorrington (9)

Tricia has been writing content for websites for many years and, as the editor of this site, attends to the posting of all content, together with the online marketing of the business.

Write a creative CV that stands out from the rest

Write a creative CV that stands out from the rest and you will be first in line for the position. Having been in the recruiting business I know how many CV’s land on a recruiter’s desk. In order to be noticed you need an attention grabbing Curriculum Vitae to get the recruiting consultant to stop and notice you.

Many job seekers bung together a bit of information and send it off hoping for the best. It lands on the desk of the recruiting consultant, together with dozens of other applications, and gets easily passed over.

 Some ideas on how to write a creative CV:

  • Include a professional picture of yourself
  • Whether or not you have a driver’s license
  • Confirm that you have no criminal record
  • Your marital status
  • Number of dependents
  • Residence (where you live)
  • Do you speak any other languages
  • Something about your character (hard working, think on my feet, am a people person)
  • Something about your interests (social activities e.g. movies, theatre etc.)
  • Leadership style (are you a follower that can take orders and execute them or a leader)
  • Are you a team player or a loner?
  • Lifestyle
  • Communication style
  • Where you attended school, university or college

 Social Media

Your CV should not be impersonal and should give a good idea of your character.

Companies often check the Facebook and other social media accounts of prospective employees so make sure that your account is either private (can be seen only by friends) or it is squeaky clean. You last thing you want to do is have a prospective employer discover a Facebook page that is full of profanities or other unsavoury posts.

If you are sure that your account is clean, it may be a good idea to provide details on your CV so that the company can get a better idea of what you are all about.

LinkedIn

Alternatively, if you are a professional, and you are on LinkedIn you could supply these details on your CV.

Most of all make sure that your document is well laid out and does not contain any grammar or spelling mistakes as these will definitely put you in a bad light.

As you can see it takes insight and experience to know what recruiters are looking for and it is sometimes better to have a professional writer to put together a creative CV for you. I cater for all budgets and every career level.

If you would like your CV developed from notes or have it revamped please send all your information to me with a photograph (optional) and I will come back to you with a quote. I can create just the right CV for you at an affordable rate.


Tricia DorringtonTricia Dorrington (9)

Tricia has been writing content for websites for many years and, as the editor of this site, attends to the posting of all content, together with the online marketing of the business.


 

 

 

 

Hit the bull’s eye with your SEO content writing

SEO content writing is an important aspect of any online marketing campaign and every business should have a presence on the World Wide Web because consumers who require information often look for this information on the internet.

You need a visually attractive web site that appears on the first page of the search engines for as many keywords as possible, this is referred to as Search Engine Optimization, and article marketing is an extremely cost effective way of doing this.

Provided you know how to place keywords and satisfy the search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing) this should be a fairly easy task, depending on how competitive your niche is.

A good website with excellent articles about the company’s products, services and anything related to the business, offers prospective clients the opportunity to interact with you without even having to leave home.

A content writer who specializes in providing content for websites should be used to write your copy, as writing online is very different from writing content for printed materials.

The main reason is that web surfers tend to scan text instead of actually reading each word. They skip over what they are not interested in and search for the relevant information.

The web content writer that you employ should have the skills to use the relevant keywords to satisfy the search engines and also reach the target market and engage them with interesting copy. Every website has a specific target audience and therefore requires content aimed at that audience.

Because quality content often translates into higher earnings there is a growing demand for skilled content writers and J&T Dorrington can take care of all your SEO content writing needs. Just go to our contact page and you will be able to get hold of us.


Tricia DorringtonTricia Dorrington (9)

Tricia has been writing content for websites for many years and, as the editor of this site, attends to the posting of all content, together with the online marketing of the business.