Tag Archives: Helpful Hints

Ho-Ho-Hope You’re Writing! 5 Writing Tips from Santa Himself

santa claus
credit: Eric Lanning

Seasons’ greetings, fellow writers.  It’s that time of year where the eggnog starts pouring and the coloured lights are a twinklin’.

The busyness of the last few weeks of the year can leave very little time for writing, but it bears saying:  write anyways.   Whether it’s just 15 minutes, 500 words, whatever your method for squeezing in some writing time, do it.

While the expertise of Father Christmas lies in the industry of distribution and holiday cheer, there are a few things we can learn from his gift giving strategy when it comes to the picking up that pen, or committing to some keyboard clatter:


1.  Not everyone will believe in you.

Let’s rip this bandage off quickly.  There are probably people in your life who don’t believe you are a writer, or don’t believe that the effort in pursuing the craft is worth your time.  These people might be bitter and malicious or they might be very well meaning.

You are still a writer.

 Don’t waste time feeling like you have to convince them otherwise.  Just because they aren’t putting out the writer’s equivalent of milk and cookies for you, doesn’t mean you don’t have a sack full of plot lines and protagonists in your sleigh– which brings us to our second tip:

2.  Deliver.  

Don’t be an aspiring writer.  Be a writer.  Write often, write purposefully, and write until you’ve finished something.  That big velvet bag full of description and literary devices that you’ve been telling people about?  You need wrap them up nicely so people can open up their browser,fire up their tablet, or crack open those pages and read them.

3.  Santa has a workshop.

Good ol’ St Nick has his work space well established, and while you don’t necessarily need an area the size of the north pole for writing, you do need a designated writing zone.    Someplace  to sit, or stand, something to support your writing devices (a computer, paper pad and or pen), and somewhere you can focus with relatively few distractions.

4.  Practice and Perfect.  

I don’t mean “practice makes perfect”. Santa has been doing this a long time, and we’ve heard enough wacky tales about his misadventures delivering goodies to know that he still hasn’t got it completely right.  But Santa sticks to it, even after the set backs.

Santa also evolves.  He’s tried new things for better results, and you can too!  Just think: what if one foggy Christmas eve, Santa didn’t add another reindeer to his team?

5.  Santa knows what’s up… and so should you.

Santa does his research.  He knows what his audience is looking for, though his means of acquiring such data is potentially questionable (He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…?).  Do you know who your audience is?  Do you know what they want to read about, or how to present it to them?

So here it is: Santa doesn’t execute his one night flight of gift giving with out a little bit of planning. He makes a list, and he checks it twice, so review this list: do you follow his advice?

6 Tips for Writing Young Adult Fiction

photo credit: Martinak15

photo credit: Martinak15

It should be no surprise that the rules for writing a young adult novel do not differ so much from writing any book.  Write well, write passionately, and write a story you care about.    When it comes to the YA genre, there is an added pressure to follow specific literary trends, dumb things down, or use the slang of today’s youth, for fear of losing the fickle interest of teens and tweens.

Don’t worry about these preconceptions.  Young adult readers want the same things that any readers want: a well written story they can enjoy and relate to.  Here are six little reminders to help you write your YA story.

  1. Complicate things.  Write stories that make readers think.  Write flawed heroes.  Write not-quite-happy endings.  You’re writing young adult fiction, not fairy tales.
  2. Write honestly.  Don’t try to be “hip”.  As soon as you think “what’s cool with kids nowadays?, you need to stop. Take a step backwards.  The story you’re writing should mean something to you- if it doesn’t, chances are that your story will feel forced and inauthentic; something both readers and publishers can sense.
  3. Take risks.  Write in first person.  Write with urgency.  Average 50-80,00 words. Talk about hope.  Consider what’s selling.  These are some of the most talked about guidelines when writing specifically young adult novels, but they don’t define compelling fiction. As mentioned above, write honestly- it’s a risk worth taking.
  4. Write a story, not a sermon.  Teenagers, much like anyone else on the planet, do not enjoy being told what to do. As an author, your job is to write the experience of adolescence, not a lesson plan about it.  This does not mean you have to advocate dangerous activities, but if you want to engage young readers, carefully consider how you include the topics of ill-advised practices and their consequences.
  5. Remember.    The ill-advised practices mentioned above are a part of being a teenager.  Most teens and young adults face larger issues than failing a math test or making the soccer team, and the emotions that go along with them are dynamic.  Slip back into your Converse shoes of yester-year, and get back into your teenage mindset.
  6. Don’t underestimate your readers.   Often, authors are advised to “simplify things” when writing young adult stories.  Has anyone ever looked back on a story and said, I loved it because it was easy to read?  Moreover, teens can be just as capable and often more willing to try and interpret complex social issues.   Refer once more to no. 3: Take risks.

Readers of YA fiction, what advice would you give to writers?  YA writers, what rules do you try and abide by?  Comment below, or tweet us @sumbolacosi.

Transmedia: Picture This

image credit: allenran 917
image credit: allenran 917

Why connect images to my book?

Images are the most common form of transmedia integrated into books.  Authors of all genres, fiction and non fiction have experimented with the many reasons to do so, including:

  • To entertain.  Most commonly, this reason is applied to early reader books, but it certainly does not have to be.  David Sedaris will often include sketches inside of his collected fables, which are most certainly not for children.
  • To enlighten or clarify.  In fiction, an author should usually try to paint the picture of the setting, characters, objects, etc. with words, however some will choose to reward readers with visual images to reward readers who correctly assume what the characters look like.  And what about non fiction?  The more images for reference, the better.
  • To inspire.  A seemingly unrelated image to the story can place emphasis on the theme of the story, or draw on relations to current affairs, invoking emotion or thought.

If you’re considering adding images to your book, here are 4 examples of popular pictures:

  • Character sketches.  Drawing out your scenes, characters, important objects ins a fun way to engage the audience.
  • Maps.  These could be real maps, or fictional.  Think back to how often you examine the map of Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings.  Practical, and entertaining.
  • Infographics.  People are loving infographics, and why wouldn’t they?  Visually pleasing and easily digestable, they are a great way to recap on information in a reference chapter.
  • Candid photos.  For memoirs and biographies, candid photos are treasured insights into the lives of the star(s) of the story.

Helpful Hints

  • Ask permission.  Always, always, always ensure you have the rights to the images you use.  If you are using images with people in them, even if its your own Aunt Molly, extend a request to publish it.
  • If you are using images you’ve created yourself, ask yourself: does this look professional? There is nothing wrong with outsourcing image creation to other talented individuals; images are there to enhance your story, not take away from it.
  •   Consider the purpose.  As stated above, images should enhance your story, not take away from it.  If you are including an image, make sure there is a reason for it that the audience will understand.