Tag Archives: writing

To Vegan or Not to Vegan – Worldbuilding a Future Generation

An appropriate post for National Vegetarian Week! When I began worldbuilding for The Seren Stone Chronicles, there was much to sort out. Set roughly two thousand years into our future, the populace has learned a great deal from our mistakes.

To Vegan or not to Vegan - Worldbuilding - Writing a Future Generation - The Last Krystallos

Their ancestors had to live through apocalyptic consequences of our generation’s capitalism and complete disregard for the environment. So, their outlook is very different to ours. Many things have changed, from the landscape which suffered and shifted hugely in the ensuing chaos, variations in the chemical makeup of minerals and natural elements, a large loss of population, and the rise of dragons

Dryslwyn Castle Cait and Lisa The Last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The Chronicles are set in Wales within a naturally simplistic countryside, having lost the large cities a millennia or so earlier. Though technology levels, beliefs, and lives the world over will be different, my lands are a beautiful backdrop to include the changes in landscape and scenery, and to introduce dragons. It lends to a natural community which have turned their backs on twenty-first century technology and embraced the organic and elemental ways of life. This is a society that renounced plastic and tech generations ago because of its aftermath, and makes choices with empathy and a symbiotic relationship with the earth.

The Seren Stone Chronicles -Worldbuilding - Writing a Future Generation - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The question of food and sustenance crept into my worldbuilding, and I thought I’d be making the decisions, but my characters told me exactly where their values stood.

Their choices lead me to Carnage, a BBC iPlayer mockumentary on veganism. This also coincided with my daughter (who’s been vegan for over a year and vegetarian for two) showing me Cowspiracy as I needed to learn about the environmental damage caused by our current diets and animal agriculture. I wanted to know if meat-eating, vegetarianism, or veganism would be part of their future.  I like that we can be both light-hearted and informative about veganism, especially when the stereotypes are so vicious, but both these programmes and further research opened my eyes to much more than I’d expected.

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© Lisa Shambrook

As I wrote, my characters let me know that environmental issues are an imperative part of their lives. They are determined not to make the mistakes of ancestors and they choose to live sustainably. This doesn’t mean they have no tech – just very different devices to ours – and their food choices and health became a crucial part of my worldbuilding.

They use natural materials for building, clothing, and technology, but my biggest dilemma was with leather. However, leather is still a by-product of wild animals, and dragons, quickly reaped when animals die and is highly valued and respected.

Moors - To Vegan or not to Vegan - Worldbuilding - Writing a Future Generation - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Without the huge populations that we have today, mass-marketing and factory-farming are a thing of the past, and choices based on environment, welfare, and ethics are much easier to make.

Incidentally, my research brought me to a pivotal point in my own life. I won’t judge anyone on their own choices, but within a month I was a fully-fledged vegan. We often get portrayed as self-righteous and of inflicting our food choices on others to make them feel guilty. This, in general, couldn’t be any further than the truth. Our care and evangelism is about the environment and the animals about us – and you can’t blame anyone for wanting to share how to help the world, can you?

Berries - To Vegan or not to Vegan - Worldbuilding - Writing a Future Generation - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I’ve also discovered a true love of food and the alternatives that exist out there. I thought I could never live without milk-chocolate, or cheese, or lamb, but I don’t miss any of it. My characters couldn’t imagine a life any other way, though there are definitely people who will differ and choose other diets and ways of living, just as it is in our world.

Worldbuilding is a fascinating process, especially when your characters spell out their ethics and conscience to you, and help you change your own life!

Have you ever been influenced by another world in a book,
or wished you lived in a different time?

Read and Review – How to Save an Author

If you read and love books you will appreciate the
time, energy, love, and passion that goes into writing a book.
This is how you can pay it back and forward…

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Add to that list angst, frustration, low financial reward, and you’ve got what it means to be an author. There’s plenty of love and passion, days of writing with your muse whispering in your ear and the true wonder of watching a story, an adventure, open up beneath your fingertips, but there are days and weeks when your muse goes AWOL, when your fingers bleed (figuratively), and you hate everything you write. Novel writing is not easy, but it is extremely rewarding.

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Raven says “Review…” © Lisa Shambrook

Writing a review can make all the difference. Reviews not only tell the author that their book has been purchased, read and enjoyed, but it tells others what they can expect, what there is to love about the book, and lots more. On top of that online reviews add to the visibility of a book (and an author). It is said, that once a book receives over 25 reviews on Amazon, Amazon will add your book to its ‘also bought’ and ‘you might like’ lists – thereby increasing your visibility. Once you receive over 50 reviews it is thought that Amazon will highlight, spotlight and include your book in newsletters. Of course, Amazon’s algorithm and marketing strategies change all the time, but the more reviews a book receives the more it helps the author.

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Books I’ve written and contributed to © Lisa Shambrook

It can take from between 6 months and 2 years (or more) to write a book, and the process is tough.  We write the first draft in which we hammer out words and we hope it’s a story that makes some kind of sense. Then we’ll go over said first draft revising and rewriting, in an attempt to find that sense we thought we had first time around. Then will come several further drafts of revising, reading, correcting, cutting huge chunks and adding others, and much more.

We will cry, we will laugh, we will love, and we will think all is lost.

We then do another round or two of revising and editing. Then our beloved beta readers will get the draft, the one that makes sense, to read through. They will return it with corrections, notes, errors they’ve found, and plot holes they’ve discovered, and they’ll tell you what they loved. The author will then bite their tongue, ‘til it probably bleeds, and try desperately not to take the critique personally while they, again, think, all is lost.

When they’ve picked themselves up, they will resume revisions, edits, line edits, and more until they send it to their editor, who will pick more holes that no one else noticed, and return it for further work. In the end the writer will, hopefully, have a polished manuscript ready for publication. It doesn’t matter if you’re being traditionally published or independently published at this point, we’ve been through the same things and now we will await cover art and formatting, or do it ourselves, and finally publish.

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Independent and Traditionally Published books – we all need reviews © Lisa Shambrook

It’s not over at that point either. Most authors market their own books, even those published by the Big Five. Those of us without outside help will market, advertise and publicise, even though authors are in general, introverts! And then we wait…

An eBook generally costs about the same as a cup of coffee, or a hot chocolate, yet it takes two minutes to make a coffee and about two years to write a book…Books are great value!

When sales come through we celebrate, even the pennies that come in are welcome and embraced!

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The difference between a book and a hot chocolate © Lisa Shambrook

This is where you, the reader, come in. If you buy the book, and you read it, and you love it, then the best way you can thank us for those months of hard work is to write a review. Let the world know that the book is out there, that you loved it, and why you loved it.

You don’t have to write much, literally, just a sentence or two is worth everything to an author. Just award your stars and say “I loved it!” That works. Or you can write a paragraph or an essay, it’s up to you!

Of course, we want truthful reviews, and we’re big girls and boys, we can handle that our book might not be your thing, feel free to say so, as long as you’re honest and not rude. Don’t be nasty about a book you didn’t like, not every book will suit every reader. And try to judge the book and not the author. On the other hand, we love it if you spread the word when you found a book delightful, or rewarding, or helpful, or fun, or inspirational… Tell everyone.

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I always leave reviews for the wonderful things I find on Etsy © Lisa Shambrook

You can leave reviews anywhere these days. Most people when planning to travel will check out Trip Advisor, a very valuable site for companies within the industry. It exists to help. Many will search reviews for technology, cars, movies, etc. We are a society who wants to know what we’re buying and if it’s worth it. I also sell on Etsy with Amaranth Alchemy, and reviews of my products help others to see what quality they are getting. I always check the reviews on Etsy and Ebay before buying anything. Books are the same.

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Amaranth Alchemy Etsy © Lisa Shambrook

You can leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, on Facebook, Twitter, your Blog, anywhere you wish. We share our opinions on politics, TV, and everything else on social media, why not tell people about that book you just read and loved?

I’ve just finished reading Stacy Bennett’s Quest of the Dreamwalker and have left a review on both Amazon and Goodreads. I have been completely enchanted by it and adore the writing. If that’s all I wrote the review would be worthwhile, however, I wrote more than that because I was completely bewtiched! Here’s my Review…

And I have to ask, if you’ve read and loved my books and you haven’t reviewed them, please do… You’ll make me very happy and will help me to further my writing career! ❤

Share your last favourite book with us here…
Why did you love it so much?

The Hope Within Novels and Review Quotes Lisa Shambrook

The Hope Within Novels and Review Quotes © Lisa Shambrook

Television Writers who Inspire and Enchant us

Do writers get the recognition they deserve?
As a writer myself, I’m going to say that in general they don’t.
There are millions of us out there with beautiful words to share,
and stories that would blow your socks off, if we just had the chance to be noticed.

But, I’m not talking about books today, though you can always check mine out at my website

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I’ve been watching The Good Karma Hospital on ITV the last few Sunday nights. It’s one of those shows where I wasn’t enthused by its name and hubby wasn’t keen on its description, but I love Amanda Redman and the trailers looked cool, or rather hot, filmed in Sri Lanka! So we gave it a try.

It’s a hit in my house, great acting by its entire cast – not just the leads, gorgeous scenery, humour and wit, lovely cinematography, and, last but not least, beautiful writing.

The third episode hit home for me. Clive Russell played an artist with pneumonia and Dr Lydia Fonseca astutely recognised symptoms of dementia. The acting was spot on, as it has been all series, showing vulnerability, compassion, and a multitude of emotions. Phyllis Logan is a gem in a part that draws you right into her dilemma. And these actors are playing supporting roles, the acting and characterisation is superb.

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© Lisa Shambrook

And that brings me to the writing. I’ve name checked three actors in this post, and I could list them all, but the actors are nothing without good writing. I’ve seen brilliant actors let down by poor storylines, lousy hooks, and lazy scripts. So, the writer is vital. Again, the entire cast and production team is important as it’s an ensemble in reality, but without the writer there is nothing. I’d love to see interviews with writers on TV, but often the selling point for a series are the main actors.

Dan Sefton is the writer and creator for The Good Karma Hospital, and he deserves recognition.  His storylines and characters are delightful, painful, gritty, realistic, vulnerable, and engaging. It’s the emotion beneath the protagonists that move the show along. The moment when Maggie (Phyllis Logan) bends at the height of her joy amongst the paint powder and dancing at the Holi celebrations, and whispers “I don’t want to die,” cuts you to the quick. She delivers the performance but Dan Sefton gave her the words and script to make it work – and it works! When writing and acting come together and pour out of the screen and into your heart, then you know you’re onto a winner.

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© Lisa Shambrook

I generally pick which series I want to watch according to the actors I love: Nicola Walker, Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Hugh Laurie, Amanda Redman, Peter Firth, and John Thompson are just a few that draw me to the screen, but the writers are becoming more a source to search.

Nicola Walker and Stellan Skarsgård pulled me into River last year, and I loved it. Abi Morgan’s writing, her script, was outstanding. It drew me into John River’s poignant world of awkwardness, fragility, strength, intelligence, and mental pain. I empathised with the lead, I felt what he felt, and I wept when he wept. It takes great skill to write scripts that move you.

Mike Bullen’s Cold Feet was always a favourite, but the revived 2016 series tackled depression, something Mike Bullen, himself, had experienced, and John Thompson’s portrayal of Pete slipping into despair was spine tingling. Excellent writing had me on the edge of my seat, as I’ve suffered clinical depression for most of my life, and when Pete stood on the edge of the cliff, I was right there with him. Mike Bullen’s writing was real, honest, and both he and Abi Morgan with River, were able to highlight conditions (that are often swept beneath the carpet) with truth and integrity.

Chris Lang’s Unforgotten had great stars in Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar, but it was the ensemble cast that pulled his brilliant scripts together. Chris Chibnall’s Broadchurch is another fantastic cast with great writing.

There are also wonderful dramas scripted by several writers or writing teams, like Humans, Wolf Hall, Sherlock, and many US dramas, I was a huge fan of The West Wing, and loved The Good Wife.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Good actors are, generally, what sell a TV drama, but good writing is what keeps us there. Take the time to recognise the writers behind the screenplays – it’s much harder than it looks!

I know most of these series are British, and only some have been shown internationally,
but what show really inspires you, which writers are the ones that make you tick?

What’s been one of your favourite shows?

NaNoWriMo and How to Make it Through

November has been National Novel Writing Month for me for a few years now.

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Back in 2011, I was a writing community newbie and heard the word NaNo getting thrown around and I had no idea what it was. Then I began seeing that several of my friends had won NaNoWriMo, and I thought how amazing they were at winning something that was so widely talked about. It must be big! Now, those friends who win or take part in NaNo are still amazing, even though I know what it is and anyone who completes it – wins it!

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It’s not an easy thing, bear in mind.

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month on many writers’ calendars and to win it you must write 50,000 words in the month of November. 50K – that’s 1,667 words per day throughout the entire month. In 2012, when I first signed up it felt like a huge mountain, and I had no idea if I was fit enough to climb it!

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© Lisa Shambrook

I’d already written several manuscripts and one published book and would be rereleasing my first novel, Beneath the Rainbow, a year later, so I knew it was possible, but I had never ever written a book in one month… Could I do it?

I had a sequel in my head for Rainbow and I spent October planning Beneath the Old Oak. I took advice from other writers: cancel all your plans for November, plan easy meals, keep your family informed (their support is vital), stay positive, and keep writing.

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© Lisa Shambrook

NaNo is not about writing a book, or at least not a full, polished, finished book. NaNo is about writing your first draft, and we all know first drafts are all about getting words on the page, letting the story flow from your fingers, and allowing your imagination complete freedom.

The months after November will be for rewrites, editing, deleting, pulling your hair out, worrying about plotlines that don’t work, honing the words, adding, altering, and fixing… November is for getting words into a draft.

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My secret weapon – Hot Chocolate – © Lisa Shambrook

So, how do you do it?

Simply, by writing.

Some days you won’t feel like it, but write if you can.

Don’t worry if you fall behind, you can catch up on a good day.

Don’t worry if you don’t complete 50,000 words, any words, any words at all are positive and moving forward.

See it as a personal goal, don’t compare. My first year was tough, I didn’t think I’d do it, especially as I watched friends zooming through, but I made it, just.

Treat yourself, chocolate works.

Have a great support network. Your family needs to know what you are doing, it will pull you away at times as you let your muse inspire and flow. If dinner doesn’t arrive on time, or the bins haven’t got put out, it’s not the end of the world…order takeaway, beg someone else to do the rubbish, or catch it next week. Writing Community friends are also magic. Their words, commitment and progress can help fuel and enthuse you.

Take time out… go out, leave the house, take a walk (November is full of autumn goodness and crunchy leaves!), watch a movie, read a book. Sometimes your muse will overwhelm you with words, and sometimes you will struggle to find her!

But, the best advice, just write.

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Take a break from writing – © Lisa Shambrook

In 2013 I wrote Beneath the Distant Star during NaNo then took a break for a couple of years. This year, 2016, I was raring to go with a project I’d held up for years, and this time my words exploded out of my fingers, completing my 50,000 words in just 19 days, and I’m still writing…this is a longer book than my others and I’m loving writing.

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Get family support, and cats! – © Lisa Shambrook

I believe my success this year is down to the fact that I originally wrote this book way back in the early 2000’s and then left it alone. I know the story inside out, but I had to throw out the old manuscript and completely rewrite from scratch. An old framework, but a brand new concept and one that excited me immensely to write!

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NaNo win – © Lisa Shambrook

The discipline of NaNo inspires me and works so well for me. I’m a writer who gets distracted – a lot. So, keeping a timetable, turning off apps, ignoring the internet, and just writing is something that works and I hope this year I can continue the habit over the following months. I have two more books planned in this series, and have already spent months world-building, restructuring plotlines, characters, and backgrounds, and I can’t wait to write.

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Keep Writing! – © Lisa Shambrook

If you’re still writing, keep it up and let your muse stay close…

Keep those words flowing!

Have you taken part in NaNoWriMo, how did you do?

Would you love to have a go?

What are your tips for getting through a month of intense writing?

7 Tactics to Kickstart Your Muse

Where I drag my Muse when I need a nudge with my writing…

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With NaNoWriMo right around the corner (you can find me here as Last Krystallos)writing a book in only 30 days across November, you might benefit from a couple of ideas to help keep your muse around!

I don’t often get writer’s block, it’s more like, plot fogwhere my Muse gets a bit disoriented and lost amid swirling mists and confusion. So what do I do to combat her inattention or bewilderment?

I have several things that help inspire me and refocus my Muse:

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© Lisa Shambrook

My first go to is write some Flash Fiction. There are lots of Flash Fiction sites online and you can find a prompt, a picture, or a word, or a piece of music, and you write a short story or snippet based on the prompt. If there’s nothing online, peruse your photos or your own music and find something to kickstart your imagination. Set yourself 100 words and see what you can write, you’ll be surprised and often impressed with your short tales!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Cloud Watching. Have you ever gazed up at the sky and watched the clouds pass by? What do you see? I see whales, dolphins, dragons and all sorts of mythical creatures. Clouds can form castles, beaches, mountain vistas and sunlit scenes. Out with my daughter recently, we gazed up at what was definitely the Starship Enterprise, I only wish I hadn’t been driving and could have taken a picture! Write about what you see.

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© Lisa Shambrook

If I need inspiration I go for A Walk. It helps that I have a dog so walks are frequent anyway! It doesn’t always matter where you go; the act of walking and allowing your mind to scroll through whatever it wants often conjures up inspiration, storylines and fills plot holes!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Nature, connecting with clouds and walking, not only do you have time to think while you’re out absorbing nature, but maybe what you see will inspire your Muse? I love bluebells and our local woods were full of them during April and May. Trees have also inspired me; my second book is Beneath the Old Oak, so literally inspired by a poem about an old oak! Let the wind whispering in the trees lower your guard, let the grass tickle your feet, and let the flowers fill you with hope.

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© Lisa Shambrook

The Ocean needs its own place on this list. It’s vast, and can change in an instant, just like your Muse! Not much beats walking on the seashore to inspire me. Waves can be calm and as still as a millpond, and they can rage like a tempest. The ocean ebbs and flows and ideas do the same. Imagine a battle between pirates out on the sea, or selkies bobbing in the still water, or a contemporary romance beneath the sunset on the sand… The ocean drifts with a million stories…

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© Lisa Shambrook

Be Creative. Make something. Play with clay, draw, get out your paints, do anything that requires physical creativity. See what you can shape and how it inspires you.

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© Lisa Shambrook

My last piece of advice is to Go And Do Something Else instead. Top of the list, go for a drive – you must have experienced that plot reconstruction that came to you while you were driving, and you panicked to hold onto it until you could pull over and add it to your memo app or write it down? Go to sleep – did you not know that your mind will give you your best genius plots as you fall asleep? Note them down too, as you’ll never remember them in the morning… Start a mundane task and see how quick your Muse decides vacuuming isn’t much fun and you’d much prefer to write!

There are many more ways to redirect your Muse, what are your favourite ways?

Where is Your Happy Place?

When life is throwing shards of ice at you, your head is ready to explode,
or you are just in a dark, bottomless pit (figuratively – otherwise you’re not going anywhere…), where do you go? Where’s your happy place?

Where is your Happy Place - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos
Last week I blogged about water – it’s my happy place. Where’s yours?

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Feet in the water © Lisa Shambrook

I am happiest when I have my feet in water, down at the beach, letting waves ebb and flow as I splash through the ocean. This is where I am in my element. It revitalises me, lifts me, and energises me. It calms me, relaxes me, and soothes my spirit. Sometimes, if I can’t get to the sea, I can sit by or dabble my feet in a river, and the rush of water will still my senses. The sound, the movement, the texture of water all affect me, and without doubt it’s where I am happiest.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Woodlands and forests have a similar effect. The magic of trees, bluebells, wild anemones, winding tracks and pathways offer me another place of happiness and retreat. Listening to the wind whisper, fae glancing through flowers, and even trickling streams take me away from the troubles outside and stresses decrease.

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High on a Mountain Top © Lisa Shambrook

My oldest daughter loves mountain tops, the rugged landscape and the freedom of the wind and the air. I, too, feel alive when I stand upon mountains and hillsides!

Where are my other happy places? How do I cope when I can’t get out and throw myself headlong into nature?

My dog and my cats are another safe zone. They have the added bonus of interacting with you too. I’d never known complete unconditional love, until I owned a dog. Her dependence on me is total and she gives me everything. Deep chocolate brown eyes and loyalty that’s unheard of in most creatures, including humans. If things are bad, she knows and she’ll sit beside me with her head on my knees.  She also gets me out, dog walking, and into nature every day! She is my happy place.

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Misty, Raven and Roxy © Lisa Shambrook

My cats, though more conditional with their love, are also there for me. Run your fingers through soft fur and listen to a cat’s purr, and you can’t fail to feel better. One reason why it’s proven that the older generation live longer and happier when they own a pet, is that they give you love and a reason to go on.

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Writing and Art © Lisa Shambrook

My other releases are writingnothing takes me away from stress and trouble than losing myself in another world, in words and places that don’t exist outside my head – and creativity. Making things, stories, or art, or craft, take me to happy places.

All these things, all these happy places can be solitary, or with my family. My family are always welcome in all my happy places – they make my happy places even better!

Where are you happy places?

Where do you go when it’s all too much?

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Chocolate © Lisa Shambrook

PS. We probably shouldn’t forget chocolate…that’s always a happy place!

Tell me about your Happy Place…

Dragons, Castles, Wales, and Works In Progress…

Now that Human 76 is out there in the wild
and you’re all getting your post-apocalyptic fix,
I need to get back into my tales and my WIP (Work In Progress).

Dragons, Castles, Wales, and WIP... The Last Krystallos.

Exciting plans involve a short story collection embracing a dragon theme and then a new series. The short stories will include a story that ties to The Hope Within Books and a new tale that will link directly to my new chronicles.

Dryslwyn Castle Cait and Lisa The Last krystallos June 2016

Caitlin and Lisa at Dryslwyn Castle with Paxton’s Tower © Bekah Shambrook

So, as a teaser this post is a visit to Dryslwyn Castle in Carmarthen which will play a part in my WIP. These books are set far, far into the future:

‘Centuries beyond post-apocalyptic, the landscape of Wales has turned into a whole new country…and the rumble of dragons has returned…’

I’ve spent the last year travelling across Wales, researching, and having fun! You may recall my blog post Road Trip through the raw beauty of Wales, not only did we have fun, but we mapped out the landscape that I’m going to need.

Dryslwyn Castle, Black Mountain , Tywi Valley, Lisa Shambrook,

The Black Mountain in the far distance from Dryslwyn Castle © Lisa Shambrook

Dryslwyn is a ruined medieval castle, the very strategically placed home for 13th century Rhys ap Maredudd, high above the Tywi Valley. It was a front line defence but deliberately decommissioned in the early 15th century. It was walled up, blockaded and ruined, and burnt to the ground at a later date.

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Dryslwyn Castle foundations… © Lisa Shambrook

However, it still holds strong foundations upon the hilltop peering across at Paxton’s Tower, the neo-gothic folly erected in memory of Lord Nelson in the 18th century.

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Paxton’s Tower across the Tywi Valley… © Lisa Shambrook

In my future the current Twyi Valley will be a flooded land populated by islands, including Dryslwyn castle which may be a stronghold for its owners – and I know exactly who will live there – having rebuilt a small fort of her own within the safety of the islands…

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Dryslwyn Castle and Caitlin… © Lisa Shambrook

We had a lovely visit planning and plotting and imagining post-apocalyptic futures…

It’s been quite a week for contemplating the future
and dystopia and post-apocalyptic seem appropriate!
*spoken with tongue firmly in cheek*

What are your plans for the future? 

4 #WritingTips To Make Your Writing Better

We’ve all been given writing tips that have helped us improve our writing skills.
Hopefully these will help you too.
These are the best tips I’ve been given, you may have different or better ones…
please share them in the comments, as we’re all here to learn and grow!

4 #WritingTips to make your Writing Better - The Last Krystallos

Said is not dead - it's alive and well - Four #WritingTips To Make Your Writing Better - The Last Krystallos

Said – is not dead… © Lisa Shambrook

1. Dialogue…I try not to go too fancy, I stick to said in general and ignore all those flowery replacements especially the pretentious ones. The internet is full of ‘Said is dead’ and ‘Over 200 ways to say said’, and maybe at school, whilst increasing your vocabulary, it’s great to learn new ways to say said but in a novel be sparing with your speech tags. Editors and authors know that dialogue is part of the story and speech tags are purely there to inform which character is speaking and when. Most dialogue tags should be invisible to the readers so as not to detract from the story.

If you’re character moaned, muttered, grumbled, murmured, and exclaimed all the time, your reader will soon long for a simpler flow of words. By all means sprinkle different dialogue tags throughout your work, but said, asked, answered, and replied are the preferred verbs.

Another important piece of advice I’ll always remember is how to use dialogue tags. I still see people writing: “It was so funny,” she laughed.  *Remember that you don’t usually laugh and speak at the same time. The same goes for sighed, sneezed, and spat for example. The piece of dialogue should finish and the action added in a new sentence or continuation: “It was so funny.” She laughed. (note fullstop and capital letter) or “It was so funny,” she said and laughed. (note comma and continuation adding the action in the sentence).
*edit: If you do use these tags be sure not to overuse them and make sure they work in context, it has been pointed out to me that it is quite acceptable to spit out words and laugh etc whilst talking, and, yes, I’ve certainly spat out an angry phrase before!

Four #WritingTips To Make Your Writing Better - The Last Krystallos

Dialogue from Beneath the Distant Star © Lisa Shambrook

2. Lose a good chunk of adverbs, or words ending ‘ly’. Please DO use them where they fit, and sometimes they’re the perfect word, but be sparing. For example if you’re writing about anger show the anger in the context of the story, demonstrate it to your reader through your character – for example (note the bold sentence):

“And it’s your birthday, why are you out here?”

Jasmine’s grin faded and a flushed smoulder spread across her features instead. “Well, at least someone remembered.”

“C’mon, we’ve got presents. Dad’s waiting for you downstairs. He’s waiting for us both. Aunty Rachel’s probably yelling up the stairs at us now!”

Jasmine’s face darkened further at the mention of her mother. “So, at least she’ll know what day it is now.”

I could easily have written:

“And it’s your birthday, why are you out here?”

“Well, at least someone remembered,” said Jasmine angrily.

“C’mon, we’ve got presents. Dad’s waiting for you downstairs. He’s waiting for us both. Aunty Rachel’s probably yelling up the stairs at us now!”

Jasmine’s face darkened further at the mention of her mother. “So, at least she’ll know what day it is now.”

The first example shows how the adverb just isn’t necessary and you learn much more about Jasmine’s response through the description, rather than just telling the reader she’s angry.
See my previous post: Don’t Just Tell Me, Show Me for more information about writing with emotion.
(Example text taken from Beneath the Distant Star book three of my Hope Within novels)

Stephen King On Writing Quote simplify - The Last Krystallos

Stephen King On Writing Quote – © Lisa Shambrook

3. Write simply. I love simplicity in my writing. You’re telling a story, not writing purple prose – unless you are, in which case, go for it! This does depend on your style, but most readers are more engaged in a story if it flows and simple words are usually less distracting. Stephen King told us not to be ashamed of our short words, my story is smoother and sleeker if my words, though beautiful and important, carry the reader without removing you from the experience.

That said – make sure your writing does contain appropriate big words unless you’re writing for small children. It was books I read as a child and teen that gave me my extensive vocabulary. There’s a lot to be said for looking up words in the dictionary and learning new ones. And I’m a huge fan of words, simple ones and complicated ones!

Four #WritingTips To Make Your Writing Better

Read aloud to find your spelling mistakes…I’m very sure my children were singing not sinning! © Lisa Shambrook

4. Lastly, the Best #WritingTip I’ve ever been given – Read your work out loud, especially dialogue. Reading through your work is imperative, in silence or aloud, but reading out loud gives a further depth to your work. Before reading out loud you’ll be sure there are no other distractions around and your attention is on your writing. You’ll engage more closely with your manuscript and you’ll hear it. You’ll hear the flaws, the way dialogue doesn’t flow, you’ll see the spelling errors Spellcheck didn’t highlight, and you’ll notice awkward sentences and placement. You’ll also hear what does work and be able to enjoy those passages that do!

If you can’t bear reading your work to yourself, find a friend or partner to do it, or use an app, you can even enable Word’s Text Speak command. Give it a try! Reading aloud has enhanced my writing and editing process hugely!

So, these are the tips that have really helped me – what has helped you most?

What makes your writing better?

What are your best writing tips?

Those Moments before Sleep – which you’ll Never Remember…

I don’t know why the human brain allows us to conjure up
such brilliance as we fall asleep, but it does.

the-moments-before-sleep-dream-wake-the-last-krystallos-quote

Keep a notebook beside your bed and use it…and the ironic thing is my quote above was scribbled into my phone on One Note almost as I fell asleep…so you truly might just capture that moment of magic.

dream-bekah-the-doctors-journal-of-impossible-things

Bekah’s GCSE art from 2009 and The Doctor’s Journal of Impossible Things from ‘Human Nature’ episode, where John Smith keeps a journal of his dreams.

Don’t lose those thoughts, storylines, plans and grand ideas…keep a pen and notebook by your bed, or memo app on your phone…and write them down! 

Will Self said on writing:
“Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.”

Beneath the Rainbow, Oak and Stars…find Hope

Stand beneath the old oak’s boughs,
staring up at a late evening rainbow as its colours arc across the sky
and early stars begin to shimmer…
This is how the rainbows, oak and stars entwine.

The Hope Within Novels BLOG post

I’m so happy that all three Hope Within novels are now out and available. I thought it was time to show how they interweave and why the major themes are so important to me.

Beneath the Rainbow is an enchanting story of tragedy and the hope that rises from it. It introduces the theme of hope, the running melody through all three books.

Beneath the Rainbow AD with public reviews“It’s those silly dreams that keep us alive.”
Freya won’t let anything stand in her way. Not even death.
A heart-breaking event leaves Freya’s family devastated, but Freya has left clues to her secrets and her family need to uncover them before it’s too late.
As she watches from beyond, hope and stories of love prevail.  Her united family help, however, as final yearned for wishes remain unfulfilled, time begins to run out.
Freya is certain she’s the only one who can help as precious life hangs in the balance.

When loss hits a family, grief is the strongest emotion and as hearts break human nature struggles to find something to cling to. Hope is the emotion we clutch and pull into our souls to help rescue us from the despair and pain.

Freya’s family needs hope and Freya has it in abundance. She is the only one who can help when life reaches crisis point.

The subtheme of Beneath the Rainbow is dreams…as quoted by the tag line “It’s those silly dreams that keep us alive.” Sometimes we need dreams to give us hope and sometimes they keep us alive!

Beneath the Old Oak is a beautifully woven tale that follows Freya’s story with her best friend, Meg.  Meg has grown up with loss in her life from the young age when she lost her best friend, Freya. She’s desperate to know where she fits in and the subtheme of her story is courage to face adversity.

Beneath the Old Oak AD with public reviews“Turn those dreams of escape into hope…”
Meg thinks her mother is broken. Is she broken too?
Meg’s life spirals out of control, and when she mirrors her mother’s erratic behaviour she’s terrified she’ll inherit her sins.
Seeking refuge and escape she finds solace beneath a huge, old oak. Life seems as transient as leaves upon the tree and as the seasons change the timeworn oak shares its treasured memories with her.
Meg wants to run away, but a devastating storm will change her life forever.

Meg has no idea how her life will play out when it spirals out of control and she has to face mental illness and a tragic past within her family. All she wants to do is escape, but her mother beats her to it.

She needs to change her dreams of escape (there we are again: dreams, linking with Rainbow) and turn them into hope. Meg’s challenge is not to lose hope when all seems lost.

Beneath the Distant Star is a turbulent story which takes us right back to Freya’s family. Her sister, Jasmine, was only a toddler when she lost Freya and cannot remember her at all. She fights her sister’s memory determined to become her own person and not Freya’s ghost.

Beneath the Distant Star AD with public reviews“Discover what you already have.”
Jasmine feels like the ghost of the sister she can no longer remember.
Her existence reminds her mother she has something her sister never will—life—and their fragile relationship shatters.
Jasmine craves love and acceptance but refuses to be her sister, Freya, and fights to become her own person. Life becomes a battleground as she disregards the rules and resolves to live her life to the fullest.
Jasmine’s reckless abandon threatens to destroy the very thing she needs most. 

Like Meg, Jasmine wants to fit in, but her battles alienate her from those who love her, and she loses hope of ever being the daughter her parents want. Jasmine craves acceptance and love and needs her mother to come to terms with her grief. Bringing us the subtheme of gratitude for what you already have. We sometimes disregard, or just miss, the beauty of what we have for what we’ve lost.

It brings the novels full circle fourteen years after Freya’s death as hope becomes the one force they can all cling to and build upon. Freya, Meg and Jasmine all need to find Hope Within.

The Hope Within Twitter AD JPEG

So, if you’re looking for books that will inspire and lift your spirit and steal your heart the Hope Within series will do just that.

Rainbow Stars Times New Yorker

Each theme means a great deal to me and has touched me personally. Though I haven’t lost anyone in my life, we have all felt grief at some point, it universally unites us as humankind. Dreams are what inspire me…the reasons I keep moving and working to achieve. Courage is something we all fight for and it grows with us, and gratitude is a constant, something that keeps us grounded.

Hope embodies all of these and inspires us to keep reaching for those distant stars…

Add these books to your reading list and feel inspired!

Buy here: Beneath the Rainbow, Beneath the Old Oak and Beneath the Distant Star.