Split Narratives: Dividing Your Story Between Two or More Narrators

split-narratives

Image from Flickr by dadblunders.

There are several perfectly good ways to structure a story in terms of viewpoint, but (probably) the more common ones are:

  • A single first-person narrator, as in Florence and Giles or 600 Hours of Edward.
  • A main third-person narrator plus occasional omniscient narration, as in Harry Potter.
  • Several third-person narrators, as in The Song of Ice and Fire series, some getting considerably more “screen time” than others.

In this post, I want to think about stories where the narrative is split pretty much equally between two characters.

I’ve come across more books like this in recent years and wonder if it’s becoming a more popular viewpoint choice. (I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this in the comments!)

Here are some examples of books that are structured in this way:

Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris (Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk) – the narrative is divided between two first-person narrators; the identity of one of these is concealed, though hinted at.

The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness (Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk) – a particularly interesting one as the first book has one first-person narrator, the second book has two, and the third book has three.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk) with three first-person narrators, Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter, all with a different voice.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk) – with two first-person narrators, their narratives combining to give two sides of the story.

Those are all first person examples. Of course there are plenty of third-person narratives split between multiple viewpoint characters, but they tend to be more likely to give some viewpoints considerably more screentime than others, and/or segue into an omniscient perspective.

A good third-person example that works in a similar way to the first person ones above is my friend Nick Bryan’s Hobson & Choi series, where the third-person limited viewpoint switches back and forth between the two titular characters.

Continue reading »

Easier, Better Writing: Harnessing Inspiration and Motivation

fireworks-inspired-motivated

Image from Flickr by jeff_golden.

Inspiration.

Motivation.

What do those words mean to you?

Some writers would have you believe you can’t write a word without them.

Others think they’re unnecessary: you just sit down and write, regardless of how unenthused you feel.

Personally, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Inspiration and motivation matter. They make your writing better. On your best days, they make writing almost effortless – and irresistible.

But … sitting around until the muse descends and the stars align could mean a very long wait.

In a moment, I want to get into practical ways you can harness inspiration and motivation – but before that, let’s clarify those terms.

“Inspiration” and “motivation” sometimes get used almost interchangeably – particularly in the context of “inspirational quotes” or “motivational quotes”.

In a writer’s life, though, they’re two different forces with different roles to play.

Inspiration is about ideas. You might feel inspired by a line of poetry or a blog post or an article in the newspaper: it sparks off an idea for a short story or blog post or article.

Motivation is about drive. It’s the urge to sit down and write, or to carry on writing when you’re half-way through the chapter or blog post you want to finish.

Inspiration can happen in a moment: motivation’s something that lasts longer.

Of course, the two often go hand-in-hand. You have a great idea (could be big – a whole novel; could be small – a line of dialogue). You feel enthused about sitting down to write about it. You jump in and then you want to keep going.

Can you write without them?

(Though, arguably, some level of motivation always exists, if you’re getting a task done – even if your only motivation is to be able to cross it off your to-do list.)

Will your writing be as good as it could be without them?

It might still be perfectly adequate. In many cases, that could be all you need: perhaps you’re writing something for your job or for a client, and you just need to convey information.

But in many cases, if you’re not inspired, you’re going to turn out something that’s somehow lacking heart. It might be a competent short story – it’s not going to be a competition-winner.

And if you’re not motivated, you’re going to struggle to ever reach the end of a project, especially if it’s a long one, like a novel.

Can you manufacture inspiration and motivation?

Well, most of us can’t simply sit down and decide to feel inspired and motivated … but there’s a heck of a lot we can do to hurry the process along.

To get inspired, try:

You might read about writing, or you might read something similar to what you want to write (a novel in the same genre, a blog on the same topic).

Brainstorming.

This might seem like an odd thing to do when you’re feeling totally uninspired – but set a timer for ten minutes, and sit down with a pen and notebook and start to make notes about your project.

What are you stuck on? What do you need to know? What could happen in your novel? What might work on your blog? Before the ten minutes is up, there’s a very good chance you’ll have hit on a new idea.

Taking a course.

This could be a pricy – but very effective – option. A few years ago, the summer before I started my MA in Creative Writing, I was rather worried. I’d been blogging for six months and had (I thought) completely lost the desire to write fiction.

A couple of weeks into the MA, I was raring to go – working first on short stories, then getting up the courage to begin (and, later, finish and publish) the novel I’d been thinking about for years: Lycopolis.

 

Motivation may well naturally follow on from being inspired – but if not, here’s an extremely easy two-step plan to follow:

Step #1: Open up your writing notebook or Scrivener project or Word document (etc).

Step #2: Spend a couple of minutes jotting down a brief plan for whatever you’re about to write.

More often than not, you’ll find that your initial resistance to writing vanishes almost instantly. It’s a bit like exercise (for me, at least!) – once you’re over the initial hurdle of getting started, it’s easy to keep going.

If you haven’t written for a while, or haven’t been writing much, you might feel keen to keep going. Hang onto that.

My best, easiest writing comes when I’m working on a project regularly – not necessarily daily, but more than once a week. Once I’m moving, I want to keep it that way.

If you want to keep up your momentum, try:

Putting an “X” on the calendar each day that you write.                                

Some writers find it incredibly motivating to build an unbroken chain of Xs; others go for a gentler approach and aim for two or three per week (perhaps building up gradually).

Planning writing sessions well in advance.

If you suddenly end up with a busy couple of weeks and no time to write, you’ll lose momentum. Plan ahead – get writing sessions onto your calendar, and mark them off as you complete them.

Keeping a writing journal.

A writing journal is simply a notebook (or electronic equivalent) where you jot down a sentence or two at the end of each session, noting how your writing went. You can record facts (words written, time spent writing), feelings, and even any new ideas that came to you.

 


 

If you’d like plenty of encouragement and support (as well as loads of materials to inspire you and suggestions on staying motivated), check out my community / teaching site, Writers’ Huddle.

Membership is only open for a few more days – I’m closing the virtual doors on Friday 12th June and won’t be reopening them until the autumn.

Writers’ Huddle Open for New Members (Only Until Friday June 12th)

As of yesterday, my community / teaching site, Writers’ Huddle, is now open for new members. :-)

The last time I took in new members was before I headed off on maternity leave in November, so if you’ve been waiting eagerly since then to join, head on over there now!

(Quick note: if you got an email through my newsletter list, or as an On Track member, and tried to join yesterday but hit a PayPal error, please give it another try! I’ve tweaked the “join now” button code.)

If you’d like to know a little bit more about Writers’ Huddle, just read on…

What is Writers’ Huddle?

Writers’ Huddle is a private members site for writers of all ages and levels. It’s been running for three and a half years now.

Most members have done a fair bit of writing, though for some, that was a long time ago. Some are full-time or part-time freelancers, some are published authors, and many others are plugging away with novels / short stories / blogs / poetry / memories …

The site includes lots of teaching content (from me and from guests) to help you take your writing further. There are also forums where Huddlers hang out, chat about writing, share useful tips and leads, and critique one another’s work.

What Do I Get When I Join?

As soon as you join, you get access to:

  • All 40 (so far!) past seminars – these are mainly audio (some video), and each seminar has a full transcript, edited for easy reading
  • Two full e-courses, On Track and Blog On
  • Four mini courses, covering fiction-writing, Microsoft Word, setting up a blog, and Twitter
  • The Writers’ Huddle forums: full of interesting conversations and great ideas
  • A short ebook, Seven Pillars of Great Writing

What Do I Get Each Month?

There’s always fresh content in the Huddle, including:

A new seminar each month on an aspect of writing: in audio and transcript form (sometimes also video). Often, we have guest speakers join me to discuss a particular area of their expertise.

Weekly emails letting you know what’s new and highlighting interesting forum topics. These are designed to help you stay on top of what’s going on in Writers’ Huddle, so you can make the most of your membership.

During the rest of 2015, we’ll also have:

A six-week summer challenge to help you make serious progress on a writing project of your choice.

Two new, full-length, ecourses:

  • Launching Your Freelancing Career
  • Self-Publishing an Ebook

The ecourses will initially be available week by week, so we can work through them as a group. After that, they’ll stay available in the Huddle for members to use at any time in future.

How Much Does it Cost?

I know that writers aren’t generally a rich lot (I still vividly remember the first $20 I got from freelancing!) so I’ve kept membership at the same rate as it was a couple of years ago.

Writers’ Huddle costs just $19.99 per month, paid through PayPal, and you can cancel at any time.

You can also try out Writers’ Huddle risk-free: if you join and decide it’s not for you (for any reason) then just let me know within your first 30 days. I’ll refund your membership fee.

How Long is Writers’ Huddle Open For?

Only until Friday June 12th, so please check it out today if you think you might be interested in joining.

(I don’t plan to open the doors again until October, as we’re moving house this summer and I want to make sure I have plenty of time to get new members settled in.)

If you’d like to know more, just head on over to the Writers’ Huddle information page, which has details on everything you get as a member.

If you have any questions, just pop a comment below. You’re also very welcome to email me (ali@aliventures.com) or contact me through the Aliventures contact form here.

There’s Never Enough Time to Write: Here’s Why

I’m back from maternity leave! In fact, I’ve been sort-of-back for over a month. But this post maybe explains why the blog has been so quiet…

 
Kitty-and-Nick-500px

Kitty and Nick, May 2015

I’m going to take a shot in the dark and guess that you’re pretty busy.

You don’t have enough time to write everything you want to write.

Me neither.

(And it doesn’t matter what your time looks like on paper. Heck, even if you’re a millionaire with no need for any paying work, you may well still find yourself incredibly busy.)

In 2011, I was busy. I was coaching writers, working on Aliventures, writing blog posts for clients, working on a small e-publishing company with my brother, editing and self-publishing my novel Lycopolis

In 2012, I was busy. I was coaching and blogging and publishing and (badly) promoting Lycopolis, and writing Publishing E-Books For Dummies.

In 2013, Kitty was born. Pretty quickly, I realised that the only reason I’d been on top of my work before was because my wonderful husband was doing the vast majority of the housework and cooking, and because I was working into the evenings.

In 2014, my easy-going baby girl was suddenly a stroppy toddler. I took on more of the childcare while Paul finished up his MA thesis. And the novel I’d been working on, the sequel to Lycopolis, floundered.

On Christmas Eve 2014, Nick was born.

2015 is the busiest, by far, that I’ve ever been. (And my writing time is way, way, down.)

But Even If Your Life Doesn’t Look That Busy …

It’s easy to get frustrated about the time I “wasted” in the past. I remember (dimly!) spending whole Saturday afternoons watching episodes of TV shows, back-to-back, with Paul, in the days before children.

I remember evenings where we sat around after dinner, trying to decide what we wanted to do, because there was nothing to watch and we were bored with all our games.

And now that weekends and evenings are taken up with children and housework and sometimes trying to find the energy to work … I feel that I should’ve used that time far, far better.

But I probably couldn’t have.

I was working full-time, back then. Writing and editing and coaching takes up a ton of creative energy … and I needed the downtime to recover.

If you feel like you “should” have lots of time to write, but it’s just not happening, maybe this is why.

(The wonderful Charlie Gilkey has written some good stuff on this, including Use the Two-Hour Rule to Make Progress on Your Creative Projects.)

Sure, procrastination can be a problem. And it’s definitely worth looking at ways to be effective about your writing time.

But if you’re telling yourself you should be writing for six or eight hours a day … you’re setting yourself up for guilt and failure.

You Don’t Have to be Superhuman

Some writers do seem to write insane amounts. Johnny B. Truant produces a crazy, crazy number of words (like, hundreds of thousands per year – you can read about his workflow in Write. Publish. Repeat.). And I wish I could do the same.

But hey, I don’t know the details of Johnny’s life. He’s definitely a super-efficient writer. But maybe he also has more hours available than me. Maybe he thrives on four hours’ sleep.

Heck, maybe he’s secretly identical twins.

There will always be other writers writing more than you.

And there will always be writers spouting advice about what you should do.

Back before I started Aliventures, when I had a day job, I was making myself miserable trying to live up to Stephen King’s advice to always write a thousand words a day.

It just didn’t work for me.

I’m not superhuman. I need sleep, preferably eight hours of it. (This, sadly, rarely happens with a teething baby in the house.) I need downtime. I’m only human.

You’re the same.

In fact, as writers, we perhaps especially need that time.

We need time to live. Time to drift. Time to browse the web idly and stumble across that next great idea.

Some Practical Thoughts

If you want to make more time in your life to write…

#1: Work on projects you really love.

If life is manic, you’ll find some time (even if it’s only a tiny bit here and there) for a story or blog post or poem that you’re truly keen to work on.

#2: Make your writing environment as ideal as possible.

Use headphones to block out distractions. Get out of the house. Pad your chair with a cushion to make it more comfortable. Turn off your wifi. Whatever it takes to help you stay focused.

#3: Find a single slot, once a week, when you can almost alwayswrite.

(If that’s not possible, shoot for whatever is.) I got this idea from a Writers’ Huddle member, and I love it. My slot, going forward, will be Sunday evenings, 7.45 – 9.45pm. I’ll let you know how it goes.

#4: Work with a timer running.

Set a timer: write till the time is up. Don’t check email or do the dishes or take Buzzfeed quizzes. Even if you think you can’t write in short bursts, give it a try. I got a surprising amount written in a few 15-minute chunks when Nick was teeny, and before Kitty dropped her afternoon nap.

 

One final thought:

You don’t have to be writing to be a writer.

If you don’t write for a day, you’re still a writer, obviously enough.

And if you don’t write for a month or a year, you’re still a writer.

Sometimes, life really is madly busy. Sometimes, a rest period might be just what your novel or blog or memoir needs in order to flourish.

If you can’t write much, or at all, right now, see it as a time for seeds to germinate. A time for ideas to strike. And keep a notebook handy.

Last Chance to Get All Four Blogger’s Guides For Just $22

I’m still on maternity leave (baby Nick due in just a week, on the 15th!) My husband Paul is handling business-related things for me, so if you have any questions about the sale, please drop him an email at paul@aliventures.com.
In case you missed my post on Monday, or haven’t had a chance to check out the Blogger’s Guides yet, here’s a final heads-up: they’re all currently just $9.67 each or $22 for all four. 

This is only the case till the end of Friday 12th, though. After that, they’re going off the virtual shelves completely until I’m back from maternity leave.

The individual Guides are:

  • The Blogger’s Guide to Freelancing – this explains the exact process I used to launch my freelancing career (while working a full-time day job).
  • The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing – this is packed with tips and techniques to help you go further with your writing.
  • The Blogger’s Guide to Irresistible Ebooks – this covers what you need to do to create a free or paid-for ebook, with step by step advice.
  • The Blogger’s Guide to Loyal Readers – this goes through everything you need to do to (a) get your blog in shape for visitors and (b) draw them in.

You can find out plenty more about all of them on the Blogger’s Guides websiteBut move fast, because I’ll be taking them down at the end of Friday 12th.

 

Get All Four Blogger’s Guides For Just $22 Until Friday 12th December

I’m still on maternity leave (baby Nick due in just a week, on the 15th!) My husband Paul is handling business-related things for me, so if you have any questions about the sale, please drop him an email at paul@aliventures.com.

 

While I normally do a Blogger’s Guides sale every December, I wasn’t planning one this year. Due to some VAT changes in the European Union, though, I’ve made the difficult decision to take all the Blogger’s Guides off the virtual shelves while I’m on maternity leave.

(They’ll be back in some form, with more interaction from me, in mid-2015.)

Of course, I want you to be able to get your hands on the Guides if you want them … so I’ve slashed the price by two-thirds for the whole of this week.

This means that:

  • The four-pack of Guides is just $22 instead of $66.
  • Each individual Guide is just $9.67 instead of $29.

This is the cheapest you’ll ever be able to get the Guides. I’ve never cut the price so much before, and I never plan to do so again (especially as I’ll be adding more to them next year). Once you own any Guide, you get all future updates and extras for free.

If you’re new around here, you might not have heard much about my Blogger’s Guide series. The individual Guides are:

  • The Blogger’s Guide to Freelancing – this explains the exact process I used to launch my freelancing career (while working a full-time day job).
  • The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing – this is packed with tips and techniques to help you go further with your writing.
  • The Blogger’s Guide to Irresistible Ebooks – this covers what you need to do to create a free or paid-for ebook, with step by step advice.
  • The Blogger’s Guide to Loyal Readers – this goes through everything you need to do to (a) get your blog in shape for visitors and (b) draw them in.

You can find out plenty more about all of these on the Blogger’s Guides website.

After the end of this Friday (12th), you won’t be able to buy the Guides at all for several months … so if you’ve been dithering about buying one (or all four!), now’s definitely the time. :-)

 

Aliventures Break (While Ali Has Another Baby!)

Ali-Nick-bump-35-weeks

Baby bump at 35.5 weeks.

It’s been a little under two years since my last blogging break … and, as many Aliventures readers know, my husband and I are expecting our second child, a little brother for Kitty, due 15th December 2014.

Once again, I’m taking a few months of maternity leave. I won’t be publishing any new posts or sending out any newsletters, and plan to be back around April/May 2015.

Get New Posts as Soon As I’m Back

I’ve got a lot I want to blog about in 2015, and so you don’t miss out, pop your email address in below to get those posts straight to your inbox:

Enter your email address:

 

(You can also get updates by RSS.)

While I’m Away…

If you’re a blogger, check out my Blogger’s Guides. The discount code “babytime” will give you $10 off any individual guide, or off the four-pack of guides. (Enter it after adding the Guide(s) to your shopping cart.)

The four guides are:

The Blogger’s Guide to Freelancing – make real money from blogging, by finding freelance writing jobs (suitable for confident writers)

The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing – learn how to write great blog content (suitable for new and established writers, updated 2013)

The Blogger’s Guide to Irresistible Ebooks – write and publish an ebook on your blog (suitable for anyone who’s been blogging for a few months or longer)

The Blogger’s Guide to Loyal Readers – attract more readers to your blog, and keep them there (suitable for established bloggers and those yet to start a blog)

 

writing-hand

Image from Flickr by Vassilis Online

If you’re looking for some writing-related reading, try these popular posts on Aliventures:

7 Habits of Serious Writers

Eight Secrets Which Writers Won’t Tell You

The Four Essential Stages of Writing

What it Feels Like When Your Writing is Rejected – and How to Bounce Back

How I Make My Living as an Online Writer (And How You Could Too)

Seven Crucial First Steps for Your Writing Career

 

I hope you have a wonderful end to 2014 and start to 2015 … and I look forward to being back with lots of new ideas for Aliventures (plus some baby photos). :-)

How I Make My Living as an Online Writer (And How You Could Too)

Important heads-up:

I’m closing Writers’ Huddle for new members this Friday (31st October) and won’t be reopening the virtual doors until, at the earliest, May 2015.

So if you want to become part of a thriving writing community, with access to the full archive of seminars (33 and counting) and new content each month, check it out today.

And now, on with the post…


 

(Photo by Antonina, a fantastic London contemporary portrait photographer)

Updated October 2014.

It’s over six years since I left my day job.

Ever since then, I’ve been supporting myself through writing. It’s my dream career – and I love being able to set my own hours, work from home, and have a huge amount of flexibility and freedom.

I haven’t written much here on Aliventures about how exactly I actually make money. Maybe you suspect that there’s some amazing secret skill involved, or some sort of dark art.

But there really isn’t. Turning words into money might sound like spinning straw into gold … but it’s a darn sight easier.

And … if you want to … there’s no reason why you can’t do exactly the same as me.

In short, I have a bunch of different revenue streams that bring in cash every month. I’m going to explain the basics of each, and provide some links to places where you can get further information or try these methods out for yourself.

I’ll start with the ones that were easiest to get going with, and work up to the methods that take a bit more time…

Continue reading »

Get Inspired, Get Creative, Get Writing – My New Ebook with Tracy Wilson

get-inspired-cover-3dNote: Get Inspired, Get Creative, Get Writing is off the virtual shelves while I’m on maternity leave. Make sure you’re getting blog updates and/or the Aliventures newsletter (sign up in the sidebar) so you hear from me when it’s back on the market.

If you get the Aliventures newsletter, you’ll have heard about this already …

… but if not, or if your inbox is currently full of as many unread messages as mine, then here’s the news:

Along with my good friend and fellow writer Tracy Wilson, I’ve written a new ebook, Get Inspired, Get Creative, Get Writing.

It’s a short, practical, and encouraging read that tackles some of the most common (yet sometimes crippling) problems that writers run into, like:

  • Finding inspiration, and staying motivated, on projects big and small.
  • Understanding what’s caused your writer’s block … and beating it.
  • Becoming more creative … even if you think you’re not a very creative person.
  • Building a regular writing routine, rather than letting weeks or months go by without writing.
  • Organising your writing life, so you don’t miss deadlines, lose important paperwork, or accidentally wipe out your novel-in-progress.

(Quick aside: if you’re battling against any – or all! – of those problems, please don’t feel alone. Tracy and I have struggled with all of these at various points during our writing careers, and seen plenty of clients and friends go through them too.)

Along with the ebook, we’ve included a pack of ten printer-friendly worksheets to help you put into practice what you read, and three bonuses to help you go further.

Get Inspired, Get Creative, Get Writing is just $5 until Friday 17th October. (That includes the ebook – in .pdf, .mobi, and .epub formats – the worksheets, and all the bonuses.)

Just click here to find out more.

(If you’ve got any questions, or aren’t sure if the ebook is quite right for you, just pop a comment below or drop me an email, ali@aliventures.com).

Review: Business for Authors, by Joanna Penn

Back in early 2011, I made the decision to self-publish my novel Lycopolis – and that was largely inspired by Joanna Penn, who was then bringing out her first novel Pentecost.

Fast forward three and a half years, and Joanna has now published five full length novels, two novellas, and a short story series – plus four non-fiction books. She blogs at The Creative Penn, and I know many Aliventures readers are regulars there too.

Her latest book, Business for Authors: How to Be an Author Entrepreneur came out a few weeks ago, in September 2014. If you’re an author or aspiring author, whether you want to self-publish or get a traditional deal, read on…

Overview

Business for Authors is (as you might have guessed) a guide to the business side of being an author. It’s not a book about how to self-publish, or a book about the craft of writing — though Jo recommends plenty of great resources that can help you with these.

It’s available from Amazon and other major e-retailers as an ebook and paperback, though you can also purchase the audio book and ebook combined directly from Joanna. (You get a discount for the audio if you buy the ebook elsewhere, too.)

Continue reading »