Guest Post: Secrets, Lies & Locker 62

by limebirdwriters

This week we have a real treat in the form of a guest post from published author Lil Chase. We have a bit about her new book Secrets, Lies & Locker 62, as well as her top tips and writing secrets.

 

 

At Mount Selwyn High School the students write down their secrets and post them into a locked locker – locker 62. When new girl Maya is accidentally allocated locker 62, suddenly she has access to everyone’s deepest darkest secrets.

If knowledge is power, Maya is now the most powerful girl in school.

The question is, should she use her powers for good or evil?

 

Lil Chase’s writing secrets

Fiction is all about secrets: What they are. Who has them. When those secrets are revealed, and to whom. Never more so than my latest book – Secrets, Lies & Locker 62.

But there are secrets to writing fiction too. All writers know (or should know) about show, don’t tell, having likeable-yet-flawed protagonists, the inciting incident etc etc. These are the foundations of good writing and I firmly believe in them. But this blog post is a little different. These are the writing devices I keep to myself. The benchmark I hold myself to. My personal writing secrets:

  1. Short chapters

I’ve been told by readers that my books are very fast paced, and they get through my books very quickly. I put this down to the short chapters, always ending on a cliffhanger. My first book, Boys For Beginners is 278 pages and 30 chapters long. Secrets, Lies and Locker 62 is 291 pages and 39 chapters long. You do the maths. 🙂

  1. Present tense

I was fifty pages into writing my third book and was finding it hard going. For some reason I had chosen to write in the past tense, and it turned out that was the problem. When I rewrote it in the present tense it got a lot easier. There is something distancing, something to do with the narrator knowing more that the reader that I don’t like about the past tense. With the present you are right with the protagonist as it happens… with the feeling that anything could happen.

Also, I hate writing, ‘Now I was…’ It sounds odd to me.

  1. If I wouldn’t say it out loud, I won’t write it down

I don’t think I have never said the words, ‘exclaimed,’ ‘retorted,’ ‘gingerly,’ or ‘felt tears pooling in my eyes,’ out loud. These phrases are only ever used in books, and they sound very authorial and self-conscious to me. (The exception to this rule is obviously historical fiction and fantasy, where the language can sound more lofty and yet still feel authentic).

  1. No journeys. No arrivals. No waking up.

Filmmakers have a derogatory term for journeys: shoe leather. Show the character arriving and the reader will take the journey as read. But then, do we even need the arrival? Show the character in the middle of the scene and the reader will take the arrival as read. Likewise, never start the scene with a character waking up: show them awake and we’ll assume they woke up at some point.

  1. A chapter is about something significant, then throw in a curveball.

This is how I structure scenes to make my books pacey. For example: chapter 25 of Locker 62 shows the first time Maya gets to hang out with the cool girl – Karmella – looking at secrets. Karmella phones a boy and asks him out for Maya, which is what Maya has wanted throughout the story. While Karmella is talking to him, Maya comes across a secret that her mother wrote – a secret about Maya’s biological father, and it knocks Maya for six. Too much going on is always better than too little, in my opinion.

Do you have any writing secrets you’re willing to share with the Limebirds?

Biography

Lil Chase is the author of two books; BOYS FOR BEGINNERS and SECRETS, LIES & LOCKER 62, both published by Quercus. She also works as a fiction editor for both children’s and adult books. Apart from a brief stint as a barmaid in the Disneyland Hotel Paris, Lil has lived in London her whole life.

If you would like to follow Lil, her twitter is: @lilchasewriter and if you are interested in buying this book, you can do so here.

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13 Responses to “Guest Post: Secrets, Lies & Locker 62”

  1. Thanks for your great post Lil, as well as sharing with us your personal writing secrets. I really love number 3, I can safely say I’m quite guilty of doing this sometimes.

    I wish you all the best with your writing journey, but having already secured your publisher, I don’t think you need the luck! What was your journey to getting published? I’m sure everyone here would be really interested to hear it!

    Beth x

  2. Ooh, we have a guest! I wish I’d known, I’d have tidied up a bit!

    Anyway, great tips Lil, thank you. I definitely agree about short chapters – books with long chapters annoy me because I often only have time to read in short bursts and I don’t want to have to stop half way through a chapter. I know some people say that short chapters interrupt the flow too much, but they don’t have to if done well.

    I was also pleased with your tip number 3 about not using words and phrases that you wouldn’t say out loud. I sometimes worry that my creative writing is too simple in terms of the language I use, so you have now given me permission to not worry about that any more!

    It’s not a secret as such, but one tip that springs to mind is that you should always write the book that you would like to read, not the one that you think other people will want to read. If you don’t love it, you can’t expect other people to!

  3. Book sounds great! I’ve also been writing present tense and short chapters and I like chapter cliffhangers. Great post!

  4. What great tips – I too prefer shorter chapters and even tho I do some bits in past tense, mostly it’s in the present!

  5. Excellent advice on writing, especially the no journeys, no arrivals, no waking up. Great points.

  6. Great tips Lil, especially 3, I’m definitely guilty of that one! I’m trying to think of a secret and I can’t come up with one, you’ve obviously got it all covered!

  7. I’m going to be the odd voice about No. 3. I keep it simple, as much as possible. But as a reader, I get annoyed when the “said” tags pile on—even when the author is good about avoiding too many dialogue tags. To my ear, if the statement calls for a stronger or more descriptive word, I’d rather hear it once in a while to break up the monotony.

    But otherwise, thank you for an enjoyable and informative guest post! 🙂

  8. Love the premise of Locker 62…thanks for sharing!Tense works off the narrator point of view. I went from present to past present and the change opened doors otherwise closed to me. I avoid was (and is) like the plague. 😉

  9. Thanks guys, glad you’ve liked my writing secrets.

    I’ve been thinking about the present tense: maybe it works better in first person, but less well in third. Hmm…

  10. Thanks Lil and the Limebirds!
    Great info.
    Re point 2: Something I didn’t learn at school which I thought I should have, but learned later in a writing course is the two types of past tense: Immediate past and distant past. People talk about writing in the present tense which to me sounds a bit weird if it’s used constantly. It could work but I think it would be a real challenge. The present tense I think of is like “I am walking toward the forest…” or “I walk towards the forest…” In small doses this might be okay. I find that narratives written in the immediate past tense (eg. “I walked toward the forest”) as opposed to the real present tense is how most fiction is written. Compare with distant past: “I had been walking toward the forest”. It’s the distant past that can lose the reader.
    The instructor actually described immediate past tense as present tense which confused me until I got him to clear it up.
    Thoughts?

  11. Hi Richard, I think it’s so subjective. I know some people hate to read in the present tense. I am fine with the past tense, and like you. feel the distant past tense is too, erm, distancing… I guess it all comes out in the reading: if the tense is jarring, it’s not working. If you don’t notice it, it’s fine.

  12. Such a helpful, wonderful post! Succint and wonderful. I am an odd one though – I tend to use words like: alas! What the deuce? By Jove! Tis’ but the inclemency of the day etc etc etc. I blame that though on training to be an actress for 5 years though. Something has to rub off! Brilliant and inspiring, another reason I love it when we get the guest posts in. Instead of me, moaning about my meanderings, we have a bit of an ‘old hand’ as it were to give us some tips.

    The tenses thing… that does tie me up in knots too. I always try and think of a story as something being told to another – you are hearing about a story, in much the same way you would as a child being read. The narrator is reading to you and telling you about something that happened to them. I think it’s subjective as to whether you go for past or present. To me, the present tense can be a tad irritating at times. Like (example off the top of my head) Fifty Shades of Grey. The present tense there annoyed me a bit there. Each to their own and I have written well in both tenses so I think it’s up the the writer to decide and both are wonderful tools in your writing bag 🙂

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