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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Time to write, time to plan!

Taken from our 3rd Issue in February 2010. Check out the archive link for the full newsletter.


Welcome to ISSUE 3 of Getting Published. In this issue we look at what every writer should have at his or her disposal before they begin writing: the outline. It might seem like a simple concept; it might seem to constrict the creative flow, but we guarantee that without one, you are probably overwriting and ruining a great story with structural errors. Read below for the dos and don'ts of outlines. A huge thank you to Mary Naylus, author of The Dresskeeper and soon-to-be-released The Plaguemaker, for her input here.

Also in this issue we ask one of our illustrators Ellie Boulten how she adapts an author's text to successfully bring characters to life. Another big thanks goes out to Ellie for taking time in her busy schedule to fill us in on her work.

Bringing characters to life . . . an illustrator reveals all.

Book Two in our Littlest Detective series is due to be released soon. Following feedback on the first title, we were looking for an illustrator who could bring the characters to life, and add charm to the text. We found Ellie Boulten, who works from her home office in Queensland, Australia. She tells us how she worked with the well-established characters to produce the goods.

"For an illustrator, like the reader, it's good to be able to get a picture in mind of the characters and the action occurring in the story.

Firstly, illustrations are visualisations of a written character so clear descriptions of each character, his or her physical appearance, and any outstanding features in particular (like Mrs Mac's wild red hair and crazy cat's eyes glasses for example) are great. Also very helpful are descriptions of their individual mannerisms, their quirks, and what makes them unique. A character's unique traits (and not just the good ones!) are often what make them endearing to readers and great to draw. Of course there is no need to make a laundry list of characteristics - you should reveal your characters' traits as your story unfolds.

Secondly, illustrations help to convey the plot so passages that are to be illustrated should be dynamic and move the action along. It's good to know not only what the characters are doing but how they are doing it and perhaps most importantly how they feel about the action that is occurring. For example, are they worried, shocked, excited, amused and so on.

Finally another important factor for an illustrator is the setting of the action. Where the action is located, what time of the day it is, and what season it is are important to know. If the action is occurring in a house then what room is it set in, and is there is something important about that setting that needs to be conveyed? Is the story a period piece or a fantasy? If so, what are the distinguishing features we need to know, and how do the characters fit in with their surroundings?

When all these factors come together a vivid and dynamic series of illustrations can be created that will enhance the enjoyment of the story for your readers.

All the best, Ellie."

THE OUTLINE - starting block to success.

Now it's time to start writing, so what's the first thing you do? We asked Mary Naylus, author of The Dresskeeper, how she goes about her work.

"I tend to work from the smallest premise and expand outwards. This might seem odd, so let me explain.

First things first - what is your book about? If you can't give a story outline in one sentence, I would say your idea isn't clear enough in your own mind. Of course, you writers out there might be saying 'how on earth can I condense my wonderful novel into just a few words?' Remember, that's what you'll have to do when you approach an agent or publisher. They will want to know the what and why straight up, and the more succinct and fascinating your idea, the better your chances of publication.

This is where a great title comes in. I know titles were discussed previously, but it is worth mentioning that a perfect title is both enticing and informative, firstly to the people who may buy your book, secondly to the readers who are browsing the bookstores. Spending time thinking about your title will help you hone your story idea even further.

Right, let's assume you have a great one liner. It's time to create an outline for your novel. What I tend to do is open a Word doc and write the opening paragraph, the first and second turning points, and the ending. I find that in doing this I have to think very clearly about where my novel is going. Yes, it is possible to change these, but if you think about your basic story in these black and white terms, you tend to avoid overwriting and waffling from the very beginning.

Once I have this brief outline I take up a piece of paper and - noting my turning points along with the beginning and ending - plot out the story and subplots so that the turning points of the subplots and the main story link up. Doing this outline also helps me to see how the story is pacing itself. For example, a whole lot of action up front and hardly any after turning point two doesn't make for a hugely satisfying read.

There is always the temptation to start writing without either doing a clear outline or sticking to it, which is why I tend to continue writing around my outline - a bit in the beginning, then the parts around the turning points, and the end. So I build up my story from all angles. These means I tend to avoid overwriting and become too attached to the writing rather than the story, because I am not writing around the subject or action, but directly about it.

One final point about outlines - they can be fluid, but you must ensure that if you make changes to it, you adjust your existing work accordingly. It is often difficult to cull a character you love, for example, but if you've changed focus and there is no point for her or his existence, it's time to hit delete.

Hope that helps.

Good writing, Mary."

Mary Naylus is a London-based writer who has had a life-long interest in history. She loves spooky tales and the supernatural, and tries to incorporate these into her books. The Dresskeeper is available now through Amazon, your local bookstore, or at Her next title, The Plaguemaker, a ghostly novel about (you guessed it) the plague, is due out later this year.

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