Guest Post, Author Fiona Ingram

November 10, 2009 at 12:02 am 2 comments

Fiona Ingram _headshotToday to help with NaNo, guest author, Fiona Ingram gives young writers tips on how to get started and plow through their writing.  Feel free to leave comments or questions and Ms. Ingram will reply! (Please NOTE: She lives in South Africa, so her replies may be a day behind)

Just Begin: Some Tips for Young Writers

By: Fiona Ingram

Writing can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of your life. There are many reasons a person decides to write: to share their life’s experiences, to tell a good story, to express the feelings and situations of others … the list is endless. Some people even write just for fun. I wrote my book because I visited Egypt with my two nephews and wanted to write a short story to help them remember a special time. To my surprise, the short story turned into a book, and then a book series. So, you never know what’s going to happen once you begin!

Any good story is composed of a really gripping plot and realistic, believable characters. What comes first? Everyone has their own ideas but I believe the plot should come first. What’s the point of great characters if they sit around and don’t achieve very much. So, step one, write your plot down in a few words (that’s all you need). “My story is about … who manages to … and goes on to ….” Example from my book: two cousins go to Egypt with their aunt Isabel and their Gran and are given an ancient scarab that plunges them into a whirlpool of exciting events. I have my two main characters, two secondary characters, a great location (open to all kinds of amazing events), an important object, and … well, the amazing events are up to my imagination.

How To Choose a Great Story Topic. You may think, “But what can I write about?” Write about what you know best, or what excites you, or what you enjoy. You’ll find that when you are really keen on something—it can be an activity, a place, an event, or a person (real or imaginary)—it becomes easier to write. Do you love reading about faraway exciting places? Then research a place you find interesting and set your story there. Do you enjoy mysteries? Think about something that’ll keep people guessing. Are you good at a skill or a sport? Set your story around a character with those abilities.

How to Construct your Storyline. Structure is very important otherwise you’ll end up writing away like crazy but forget some vital detail here and there, and your story will fall to pieces. Sit down and draw your storyline—remember, you have already written it down in a few words. You may not stick to it exactly, but it’s important to map out where the story is going. You don’t want to give away the plot too soon, or tell the reader everything all at once. So begin with a simple 3-point system: the Beginning (your hero appears—what is he doing? What does he want to achieve?); the Middle (something will happen to him and he has to …? ); the Ending (your hero resolves the situation). From those three vital points you will fill in your other plot points—how did… why did… what happens next…

Make Your Characters as Interesting as Possible. Tip: take them from real life examples. You could write about someone like yourself, or else model the characters on friends at school, teachers, or other people you know. The dialogue between your characters is also important because that’s one place to develop the plot line. Their interaction will reveal the chain of events as the characters work out various situations.

Make your information to the reader as interesting as possible by weaving it into the story. Don’t say that it’s cold. Get your character to shiver because he left his jacket at home. You can set the scene around your characters by using adjectives and adverbs to enhance your descriptions and actions but don’t overdo it. The reader is also going to use his or her imagination, so don’t overload your writing with too many descriptions.

A final piece of advice: writing should be fun and exciting. Just enjoy yourself and let your imagination take you to places you only ever dreamed of…

Author Bio: Fiona Ingram

I can’t remember NOT having a book in my hand. My schoolmates called me a bookworm, and nothing’s changed since then. I was brought up on the children’s classics because my parents are also avid readers. My earliest story-telling talents came to the fore when, from the age of ten, I entertained my three younger brothers and their friends with serialised tales of children undertaking dangerous and exciting exploits, which they survived through courage and ingenuity. Haunted houses, vampires, and skeletons leaping out of coffins were hot favorites in the cast of characters. We also acted out the stories for my long-suffering parents! I graduated from the University of Natal, Durban, South Africa, with a double first in my B.A. (French & Drama). After completing my Honors in Drama at Natal, I then went to the University of the Witwatersrand to do my Masters degree in French-African literature. I also studied drama at The Drama Studio in London and mime at L’Ecole Jacques le Coq in Paris. Upon my return to South Africa, I immersed myself in teaching drama at community centres, and became involved in producing community and grassroots theatre with local playwrights and performers in Natal for several years. A move to Johannesburg took me in a new direction—that of journalism. I have written freelance for the last fifteen years on everything from serial killers to relationship advice. Writing a children’s book—The Secret of the Sacred Scarab—was an unexpected step, inspired by a recent trip to Egypt. The tale of the sacred scarab began life as a little anecdotal tale for my 2 nephews (then 10 and 12), who had accompanied me on the Egyptian trip. This short story grew into a children’s book, the first in the adventure series, Chronicles of the Stone. I’m already immersed in the next book in the series—The Search for the Stone of Excalibur—a huge treat for young King Arthur fans. Although I do not have children of my own, I have an adopted teenage foster child, from an underprivileged background who is just discovering the joys of reading for pleasure. My interests include literature, art, theatre, collecting antiques, animals, music, and films.

sacredscarab_coverBook Synopsis: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab

A thrilling adventure for two young boys, whose fun trip to Egypt turns into a dangerously exciting quest to uncover an ancient and mysterious secret. A 5000-year-old mystery comes to life when a scruffy peddler gives Adam and Justin Sinclair an old Egyptian scarab on their very first day in Egypt.  Justin and Adam embark upon the adventure of a lifetime, taking them down the Nile and across the harsh desert in their search for the legendary tomb of the Scarab King, an ancient Egyptian ruler. With just their wits, courage, and each other, the boys manage to survive … only to find that the end of one journey is the beginning of another!

Does Egypt interest you?  Here, Fiona Ingram shares some great resources for you to check out. Perhaps your NaNo novel might head towards the rising pyramids?

Some interesting books on Egypt to inspire thoughts of adventure and amazing events! All available on Amazon.

Egyptology by Emily Sands

Join Emily Sands’ expedition to find the lost tomb of Osiris. A jeweled amulet glows on the cover, inside the book, there are fold-out maps, postcards, drawings and photographs, ticket stubs, mummy cloth, a scrap of papyrus. (Activity book) And, don’t miss the hieroglyphs writing kit from the desk of Emily Sands: Egyptology Code-Writing Kit.

Tutankhamun: The Mystery of the Boy King by Zahi Hawass

Journey back to the time of Tutankhamun with famed Egyptian archeologist Zahi Hawass—experience the thrilling discovery of Tut’s tomb by Howard Carter, the boy king’s life reconstructed (how old he was, how tall, what clothes he wore, what games he played) and most recent studies of Tut’s mummy. Gorgeous photographs. (Picture book)

Secrets of the Sphinx by James Cross Giblin, Bagram IbatoullineGet the scoop on the Great Sphinx through the centuries, the sculpture of a lion topped with a man’s head. Find out about builders of the Sphinx, rediscovery by Thutmose a thousand years later, protecting the sculpture today. Fabulous illustrations, including reconstruction of the Sphinx with a red face and blue beard. (Illustrated chapter book)

The Ancient Egypt Pop-Up Book by The British Museum and James Putnam

Ancient Egypt leaps off the page in this irresistible pop-up book—a 3-D boat on the Nile, Ramses II in his war chariot, whole pyramid complex at Giza, an Egyptian villa, Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el Bahari, Tutankhamun’s funerary mask and mummified head, and Tut’s tomb. (Pop-up book)

If I Were a Kid in Ancient Egypt by Cricket Books
Take a step back in time and find out how kids lived in ancient Egypt—eating with your fingers, shaved heads, family fishing trips, popular pets, board games, going to school to become a scribe, and more. (Picture book)

Fun with Hieroglyphs by Metropolitan Museum of Art, Catharine Roehrig

Find out what hieroglyphs mean and how to say them, then write like an Egyptian with 24 different rubber stamps, plus counting, hieroglyphic word puzzles, and secret messages. (Activity pack and book)

The Egyptology Handbook by Emily Sands, Ian Andrew, Nick Harris, and  Helen WardThe companion book to Egyptology, this is a good introduction to the wonders of ancient Egypt—history and dynasties, the great pyramids and tombs, food, dress, work and play, palace life and warfare, hieroglyphs, gods and religion, tales and myths, plus activities to do in each section and stickers. Beautifully illustrated with drawings and historical photographs. (Activity book)

The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone by James Cross Giblin

Find out why this modest-looking black stone is the key to ancient Egypt—where the stone was found, what’s inscribed, and how Champollion, having decided at age 11 that he’d read the hieroglyphics, solved the puzzle. (Chapter book, illustrations)

An ABC Escapade through Egypt by Bernadette Simpson

Discover Egypt from A to Z, especially food, animals and culture—dates (Egypt produces the most dates in the world), konafa (traditional dessert for Ramadan), watermelons (cultivated 5,000 years ago), goats, camels and jerboas, village life, city markets and more. Unique and fascinating insights. (Picture book)

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2 Comments

  • 1. Jodi  |  November 10, 2009 at 9:01 am

    NaNoWriMo is 30 days. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your book? What was your writing schedule like? Did you write a certain number of words or for a certain amount of time each day?

  • 2. Fiona Ingram  |  November 10, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Hi Jodi, I have to confess that the first draft was so long (too long!) I’d have needed about 4-5 NaNoWriMos to finish. Since I had a day job, it took me about a year to finish the first half, juggling my time … and when I wrote fulltime, about two months to finish the second half. All I did was write from morn until night. Some days the words just poured out of my head; other days it would be slower and I’d be correcting previous chapters or checking my facts on Egypt. A general comment: I also find I write in my head, creating whole scenes and even the dialogue. This can be a bit annoying when driving and you really just want to grab a pen and paper and put down those precious thoughts before they disappear…


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