Category Archives: Writing techniques

Editing Your Novel: Using Motivation Reaction Units

Editing Your Novel: Using Motivation Reaction Units

Your novel is DONE! Kudos… Now it’s time for editing.

Start by thinking about your readers. Writing is all about the reader. Sometimes we forget that. In the back of your mind, you always need to remember the reader, and his reactions as he reads.

In nonfiction, you write to inform, or to entertain, or persuade your reader. When you’re writing fiction, you write to give the reader an emotional experience.

Think about the emotional experience you want to give readers before you start writing, when you choose the genre of your novel. Are you writing a mystery? A romance? A science fiction epic?

Think about how you choose what you’ll read too. If you’re reading a mystery, why did you pick up that book? What attracted you to it? What emotional experience are you hoping for?

Once you start writing however, you’ll forget the reader, and that’s how it should be. In your first draft, you simply write. You’re discovering your story, and its characters.

Let’s imagine that you’ve completed your first draft. You ensured that every scene you wrote had a viewpoint character, who had a goal. Each scene contained conflict, and ended in a disaster for your viewpoint character.

Now it’s time to revise and edit your novel.

Nitty gritty revision: Motivation Reaction Units

Sadly, it’s VERY hard to get what’s in your head onto the page.

One of the best ways to ensure that you do that, is to make sure that every scene, and its sequel, contains a sequence of MRUs.

Randy Ingermanson has a wonderful explanation of MRUs. “MRU” means “Motivation-Reaction Unit.” They’re a way of decoding what’s in your head, so that your reader has the experience you want him to have. Once you understand MRUs, and apply them, your writing will instantly improve.

As this article, Dwight Swain’s Motivation-Reaction Units | The First Gates, says:

“Motivation-Reaction Unit is the fundamental building block of an action sequence (it’s important to stress that it does not apply to description, exposition, or reverie). It’s pretty simple: something happens, the hero reacts to it, the situation changes, and something else happens. “

MRUs are the way your reader experiences your fiction. Your reader is in your viewpoint character’s body, seeing what he sees, and reacting as he does. They’re powerful. You need to learn how to use them, and then write in MRUs as you edit your fiction.

Watch how writers use MRUs in your reading, too. Getting your head around MRUs is a challenge. Focus on scenes first. Does the viewpoint character have a goal? What’s the conflict? How could you make the conflict more intense? What’s logical? What’s unexpected? What’s the disaster?

In revision, you’ll find that in some scenes, nothing much happens. Be brave. Delete those scenes. You’re providing your reader with an emotional experience, remember. If there’s no emotion, the scene must go. Save deleted scenes to an “Extras” file, if it makes you feel better.

Discovering MRUs, and using them, will immediately improve your novel. Sometime today, take an early scene in your novel, and rewrite it, using MRUs.

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99

Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.

More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.

More info →
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

Updated: January 22, 2018

Your Novel’s Bullet Journal: 10 Easy Tips For Success

Your Novel’s Bullet Journal: 10 Easy Tips For Success

Savvy novelists love using a bullet journal while they’re writing. I’m a keen journal-writer, and started using the bullet journal format for my novels several years ago.

Basically, your novel’s bullet journal is: a book journal, a calendar, and a tracker, combined.

Here’s Ryder Carroll’s quick summary of getting started with a bullet journal.

Your bullet journal is your novel’s Bible

From Bullet Journal Your Novel: Free Up Your Mind, And Write:

When you’re writing a novel, there’s a lot to keep in your mind. Plot, characters, timeline — when you start tinkering with these elements, while you’re writing, the temptation is to go back, and write new scenes, and eliminate scenes. The impulse to fix it NOW is almost irresistible, yet resist it you must.

If you’re keen to try a bullet journal to manage your novel, here are some tips.

1. Use a dedicated journal, paper or digital

I like to use a paper journal for each of my novels, but I’ve also used Evernote. If you’re using Evernote, create a dedicated notebook for each novel. Whatever you use, your aim is to have your journal with you at all times.

2. Create a page for each of your main characters

With a bullet journal, you use one page after another. If you’re using a paper journal, number the pages if they’re not numbered already. Keep the first five pages of your journal to use as an index.

Create a dedicated page for each of your main characters, and for the plot — plus anything else you need to remember.

Enter all your dedicated pages into the index. For example, you might have a page for a character called “Fred”. Later in your journal, you’ll have Fred 2, Fred 3, Fred 4 etc — add those numbers to the index.

One of my main reasons for liking the bullet journal format is that if you choose a journal with blank pages or a dot grid format, you can create mind maps right in the journal.

3. Journal before you begin each writing session

I like to spend five minutes journalling before I start each day’s writing session. This helps me to clear my mind.

When you journal before writing, you can journal about anything you like. You don’t need to journal only about your novel, your goal is to get distracting thoughts out of your head and onto the page.

4. Maintain your index: enter each topic page into your index

Whenever you create a fresh page for a collection of notes on a topic, enter that page into your index.

For example, you might come across some useful information about changes on Amazon’s KDP, or an idea for a new novel. Create a page immediately and enter the page’s title and page number into your index.

5. Enter questions into your bullet journal after each day’s writing

I use paper journals, in the A5 dot grid format. I carry my journals with me, so that I can enter ideas and questions whenever I happen to think of them.

The biggest benefit of using a bullet journal for a novel is that it’s free-form. You can add anything you like at any time. When you get into the habit of creating a bullet journal for each of your novels, you’ll spend less time procrastinating.

The “sagging middle” of a novel is always a challenge. On a recent novel, I got to the 40% point, and panicked. I was sure that I didn’t have enough material to get to the midpoint, and the 80% point; which are the next major plot points.

To steady myself, I created a mind map right in the bullet journal, and soon plotted character changes which would carry me through.

Later, when I was revising the novel, I remembered my panic. Without the bullet journal, I might have floundered for a few days, but the bullet journal enabled me to keep writing without a break.

6. Use your bullet journal to manage your moods if you’re a procrastinator

Do you procrastinate? Here’s what I found useful. Each day, when I enter the date into my novel’s bullet journal, I add a note about my mood. Cheerful, depressed, confident – whatever.

My students have told me that tracking their moods helps them to see how their moods affect their writing; their tracking helps them to avoid procrastination.

7. Capture each important page on your cell phone (for paper journals)

I photograph any important bullet journal page into Evernote.

Think of this as a backup for your journal.

One day I left my bullet journal at a client’s office, and panicked. I picked the journal up next day, but what if I’d lost the journal somewhere else? That’s when I started capturing important pages into Evernote; I commend the process to you.

8. Use your bullet journal as a time log to count words and increase your productivity

One of my 2018 goals was to increase my productivity. I tend to be quite productive. But I waste time, usually on “research.”

I’ve started entering each day’s word count onto a dedicated page in my bullet journal. I can easily check whether I’m on track to meet deadlines.

9. Distracted? Do a brain dump

I write fiction in the early morning. When I’m on deadline for a client project, I write fiction later in the day.

This upsets my routine, so when I get back to working on my novel I’m distracted. Words flow like molasses.

A brain dump, written into my bullet journal, helps.

Try it; it may help you too.

10. Keep your bullet journal: file your journals by year

Your bullet journal contains lots of useful information. So when you’ve completed your novel, file the bullet journal. You never know, you may decide to turn the novel into a series.

The Journaling Habit: Achieve Your Goals And Change Your Life In Just Ten Minutes A Day

The Journaling Habit: Achieve Your Goals And Change Your Life In Just Ten Minutes A Day

eBook: $5.99

Do you love your life?

If you don't ADORE your life, you can change it — more easily than you can imagine.

More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

eBook: $5.99

In this book we'll aim to increase your creativity to unlock your imagination and build the writing career of your dreams.

More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

3 Essential Creativity Tricks To Help You To Write A Book

3 Essential Creativity Tricks To Help You To Write A Book

“I’m not creative…” Have you ever said this to yourself? You may believe that creativity is essential if you want to write a book, but no matter whether you’re creative or not, there are easy tricks you can use to spark your creativity.

We’ll look at some of those tricks, but firstly, consider that perhaps you’re just not writing enough.

The more you produce, the more creativity bubbles up

This was recently brought home to me by a friend I hadn’t seen in years. We contributed to the same magazines, some 20 years ago. Although I’ve trained myself to be reasonably productive, she’s much more productive than I am, and also more creative.

In the past 12 months, she’s ghostwritten three trilogies, written 50 short stories, and writes for four blogs. This is in addition to writing several books for children with a collaborator, as well as publishing five cozy mysteries under one of her pen names. (She has several.)

“How do you do it?” I asked. “How do you become so creative? Tell me some tricks — I’m blogging about creativity tricks.”

She laughed. “You know the old saying, the harder you work, the luckier you get? The same applies to creativity.”

She’s right.

Here are three simple tricks you can use to inspire your own creativity.

1. Build a fence around it: limits make you more creative

Limits make you more creative, so set limits before you start writing your book.

For example, you might decide that your book will be about baking sourdough bread, rather than about “baking.” Or if you’re writing fiction, you might decide that you’re writing a cozy mystery with an amateur sleuth who has four children rather than “a novel.”

Even if you’re an experienced author, writing a book can be intimidating. You can choose to write about, and include, anything in your book. All those choices lead to indecision and procrastination.

2. Schedule time and space for creativity

Schedule time for creativity? That sounds strange, because your best ideas occur to you when you’re doing something unrelated to writing — I get great ideas in the shower.

If you want a regular stream of good ideas however, it’s best to schedule the time. Consider scheduling half an hour, or an hour, sometime on the weekend. Aim to brainstorm in an area which you don’t associate with writing.

For example, I write in my home office, but I do my brainstorming on the dining room table on Sunday afternoons.

3. Trust your intuition: it’s your unconscious mind at work

Creative people pay attention to their intuition. They trust it. They’re always listening for that still small voice which presents you with an idea, or an insight.

Meditation inspires creativity, and intuition. In this blog post, on writing goals, we talked about meditation:

Writing is much easier when you meditate (even if you think you can’t do it, the attempt is enough) because your focus carries over into everything you do and feel, for the rest of the day.

When you meditate for a short time each day, it seems to sweep the junk out of your head, so that you’re more open to intuitive and creative insights.

Writing is easier, when you trust your creativity

My friend’s right: the harder you work, the luckier you get.

You can’t be creative when you’re not writing. The perfect idea won’t slap you on the head like a whack from your fairy godmother’s wand.

Schedule time to write your book every day, and you’ll amazed at how creative you are.

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.

More info →
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

eBook: $5.99

In this book we'll aim to increase your creativity to unlock your imagination and build the writing career of your dreams.

More info →
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.