It is brief, meaty, and good sound editing advice.
Good advice to keep in mind with going over a first draft, or later draft for that matter.
It is brief, meaty, and good sound editing advice.
Good advice to keep in mind with going over a first draft, or later draft for that matter.
Story-writers and novelists,
Check out this interview. It’s insightful and down-to-earth practical.
Fine it here: http://www.thecreativepenn.com…..zoe-sharp/
Best-selling Brittish mystery/thriller writer Zoe Sharp (the Charlie Fox series) started writing novels at age 15 but admits writing is still hard.
She confirmed for me that a good way of promoting your novel (perhaps the best way) is to self-publish an anthology of your short stories, especially if they involve the main character or characters of your novel(s) [what I wrote at the left includes a bit of my own interpretation, by the way].
She talks about traditional vs self-publishing, about writing a series, and about making the transition as a Brittish novelist to a US readership.
Lots of good info briefly stated-–in exchange for an investment of about 20 minutes of your time.
P.S. Let me know if you found it intriguing and/or helpful.
Are you aware of your weak areas? Those areas you could stand to improve?
I’ve been seeing this issue popup on blogs lately.
We all have areas of skill that we are good at. We also have some that need sharpening.
There are books on exercises you can do to improve your writing tech, exercises a plenty, but where do you find the time?
I think finding some time and doing the practice is vital. Maybe a better question, though, is: how can we make the most efficient use of the time we can salvage from our busy schedules to improve our writing skills?
Basically 4 ways: Questions, Reading and Study, Focussed Practice, and Talking to Children…
1. Many times finding a good answer depends on asking the right questions.
Stay alert when you are writing. Notice whenever you struggle.
Is my dialogue sparkling with wit, charm, surprises, suspense?
Will my introduction grab my reader’s attention?
Are my thoughts and words clear? Do they flow coherently, one thought leading to the next and then the next?
Am I describing my character’s emotions with fresh and telling body language?
In other words identify those specific areas where you could stand some improvement?
Take notes so that you can recall and target these skills needing improvement later.
2. You’ve got those books on your shelf or in your Kindle for a reason: read & study…
Go back into the writing books you have read–maybe too some you haven’t yet–read, study. And again, take notes on especially helpful ideas.
Get some info on how to improve.
3. Do some targetted practice.
At this point, if the books you have reviewed and read do not suggest exercises, why not devise some of your own.
Ask yourself: what kind of exercise can I do to improve this skill?
Then do that exercise andany others you come up with.
4. Can you explain how to do it to a child?
Scott Young, a learning expert, advocates the Feynman technique.
Basically it’s this: explain it to a child. Granted, you may not have one handy. If so, pretend that you are explaining it to a child…
“Sally, here’s how to write great conversations…”
“Sally, here’s how I made sure I got my reader’s attention.
If you can explain it well enough that a child of say 9 or 10 gets it, you’ve got it.
(For more on efficient learning go here),
For me, I think the effort described above is vital to writing success.
What could improve your productivity and writing success better than dealing with those skills you need to improve?
Strengthen the weak areas in your writing skill and watch how your writing flow is enhanced.
What areas of writing skill do you know you could improve?
Getting an emotion reaction from her readers.
A good story has several key elements–all of them are challenging:
MY focus here is on emotion.
How do you get your reader to feel your story, be emotionally affected by what’s happening on the page?
By showing how your character is feeling. How she reacts to what’s happening in the story.
If you are constructing your story well, you’ll have: a good plot–a goal for your character to achieve and conflict, things in the way of attaining that goal–and a character the reader can relate to and care about, in a setting that seems real to your reader. But for your story to be moving, your job is also to portray what your characters (major and minor) are feeling.
If you do that, your reader will sympathize and feel those emotions himself
Emotions move us. Readers want to experience emotion while reading. Make them feel, and they will love your story.
But portraying those emotions is not easy.
It’s way too tempting to take the easy, lazy route and just tell, just name the emotion. ”He got really mad.” Instead of: “His face was a raging fire out of control, and he clenched his fists so fiercely his knuckles looked like they would break.”
One of the finest resources in print that you should have readily available is The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. It is a well indexed listing of human emotions with accompanying words and phrases to describe them. To me it’s indispensable. In the introduction, the authors describe the keys ways to portray emotion. Here is a brief summary:
1. Outward physical signs. You describe what you would see in another person that would tell you what they are feeling. “Her face looked as if it has lost the last drop of blood.”
2. Mental responses. You describe what a character is thinking about what is going on.
3. Mainly-internal Physical Sensations (Visceral responses). These are basically involuntary, raw and uncontrolled reponses–like: heavy breathing, a rapid hear rate, dizziness, and so on.
A balance is always advisable.
The authors also point out that you can err in two ways. Having too much emotion in a scene or having too little. And overusing visceral reponses can make your writing melodramatic.
I highly recommend this book. I have reviewed it here before, but my re-reading the intro today prompted me to share it again.
…is The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease. This book is primarily aimed at business people or anyone who wants to learn to read other peoples’ body language more accurately. I wish the writers would have provided an index in the back of the book of all the types of messages that can be sent, which would have made it more useful. But the table of contents does arrange and categorize the content by means of the different areas of the body that send the signals.
So, to make this book useful to you, it’s a good idea to at least scan it to familiarize yourself as to what’s where.
Do you have any practical advice on portraying character emotion in words? If so, please share.
P.S. I want to mention once again K. M. Weiland’s excellent and helpful book , just published, Structuring Your Novel. It’s the clearest and most useful description of story structure I have found. You want a good plot/structure? This book can help a lot. And her section on scene structure and options is super-helpful too!
I have read the first two chapters and have spot read here and there throughout the rest. Enough that I can confidently highly recommend this book to all novelists, beginning or otherwise.
K.M. writes with a reader-friendly clarity and a lovely prose that is a joy to read, and there are significant insights on every page.
I have read awesome books on structure.
For example, John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story, with its 22 steps and abundant detail–like reading an epic–and Larry Brook’s Story Structure–Demystified and his Story Engineering. These books are on my shelf or in my Kindle. Both are brilliant and complex. But Weiland’s book adds a lot of important points and perspectives.
Plus, Ms. Weiland has a gift for making the complex readily-understood.
Her book has come along at the time that I am preparing for a thorough rewrite of my novel, so just in time. My reading of her introduction and first two chapters have excited me about how much her book will contribute to my writing success.
Throughout this book she uses two novels and two movies as examples to further clarify the content of each chapter.
Those are: Pride and Prejudice, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, and the films: It’s a Wonderfuol Life and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. This is important because these well-known and fleshed-out examples help to further make plain and practical the content of each chapter.
The first half of the book (a bit over half) addresses structure, and covers each key point thoroughly, including the all-important First Plot Point, each major section, and also Pinch Points (in which the antagonist, person or force, gets center-state-emphasis in a well built novel).
The second half of the book deals with scene structure (scene and sequel) and at the end even some on sentence structure. Both contain helpful wisdom from a practicing novelist. I especially am glad Weiland deals with sequel because I consider it a tricky element of scene work. Contemporary novels and stories, as I have read them, do not devote a lot of space to sequels, wherein the protagonist ponders his next move.
So to all you novelists, published or not, and first timers: I highly recommend this book.
You can also read a summary of her main novel structure points here at the Write to Done blog: http://writetodone.com/2013/08/29/outline-secret-creating-story-structure/
What are the essentials for your progress as a writer?
Briefly, they are: Writing, Reading, Studying, and Thinking.
Are you writing enough?
We all know writing helps us improve our writing skills. So this will be brief.
Write a lot, and not just in your chosen niche. Any writing helps move you in the direction of being as good as you want to be.
Are you reading enough?
In the evening, especially after a hard day at it, I like a good TV show. Currently it’s CSI:NY. I think well written dramas can add to our story-telling bag of tricks.
But I don’t want to indulge that too much. It’s like desert after a good nutritious meal. First the meal, then the reward.
There is that all important reading within your niche’s range. Study your competition, find out what’s being read, and how those author’s go about putting together their pieces. Beginnings. Endings. Style. Word-choice–all very important.
There’s reasearch you need to do.
Holly Lisle advises us to read everything. That’s the eclectic approach where you read whatever and add grist for your creative mill, grocery items for your pantry. Fuel for your subconscious mind’s engine. Anyway, random is fun.
And you studying too?
A craftsman studies his trade, and artist his tools, and even plumbers need to learn skills and essential knowledge. All benefit from exposure to the work of accomplished practicioners. Are you not just reading fiction-writing how to books or copy-writing how-to courses, but studying, and doing the exercises–even if you have to make them up–that can accelerate your growth as a writer? Are you reading that short story or novel and getting caught up in it, and then forgetting to give it some close scrutiny to learn exactly how the author did it?
And finally, are you thinking though it all?
Nutrition involves eating, digesting, AND assimilating your food.
Until you have done all the above AND made it yours by discovering your own insights and confirmations of all the good points you have come across, until it flows out your fingers hitting the keyboard’s keys, until it’s so much a part of you that you find that writing knowledge and wisdom popping up in your finished pieces–is it really yours?
Which of these activities have you found most helpful to your growth as a writer?
Writing is all about information, getting it, understanding it, communicating it to others.
How do you get your information? And how to you record it so that you can find it later?
My own scenario often goes like this: I come across a juicy piece of info I want to keep, remember and find later. My favorite mode is eclectic, gathering it from wherever. But when saving it, I often take the easy route: I put it in a Word file and save in in a folder on my hard-drive. I have a large hard-drive, so If I don’t name the file and/or folder in a findable way, it can be like figuring my way through a maze later to re-locate it.
That can really knock me out of my writing zone—especially if I can’t find that info after looking for it for a while.
Back to you.
You’re coming across information all the time, some of it you want or even need. What do you do with it? Can you find it next week, two months from now, a year?
Even though I often yield to the temptation to just chuck it into a file and save it, I do like to organize it. So what are the options? And what’s good about each?
Here are my thoughts–along with the pros and cons for each:
1. Save it in a file
Pro: This makes the info available and easy to clipboard and manipulate here and there when writing, or otherwise. It’s usually nicely readable too.
Con: But, as I mentioned above, can I find it quickly and easily later? Sometimes, too, it’s all-too-easy to delete it when that’s the last thing I want to do.
2. 3 x 5” cards (or a notepad)
Pro: No batteries. Easy to carry, quick and easy to use. Later, cards can be shuffled easily into different arrangements to choose the best order for writing. And they can be physically filed. In fact, they are electronically undelete-able.
Con: If you like things in your computer so that you can work with them there, you have to type the cards into files. Also, you can misplace or lose them. And, if you’re in a hurry and/or your handwriting is poor (like mine), they can be hard to read after the fact.
3. Use a “notes” program, like Evernote or Microsoft’s OneNote or similar.
Pro: These programs have indexing and notetab features that make your info pieces much more findable.
Con: It can be either hard to take them with you or at times, when you can, you do not have them with you.
4. Your smart phone.
Pro: Easy to carry, and you usually have it with you. Your notes are downloadable.
Con: Unless you’re a texting whiz (I’m certainly not), recording your inspirations can be slow going.
5. TheBrain–now this is different…
.Pro: It not only can help you organize your thoughts in an organic-outlining fashion, it’s one of the easiest to learn and use brainstorming programs I’ve found. You can record your ideas, then copy them and next output them via your clipboard into Word, for example, where they wind up in a neat outline format, then further develop them–if you want.
Another key feature is that ability to attach files from your computer and links from the Web–to any thought (a “thought” is an individual idea written onto TheBrain screen). This creates a little icon at the left end of the thought. Then merely clicking on the thought’s icon opens the file or webpage in its own window.
A couple cons: (1) the notes feature is a bit awkward to use (but works), and you can open any note in its own window. (2) And, to keep attaching files after the 30-day pro-version trial period, you have to buy the pro-version (there are several options for this), which is rather expensive.
But here’s some key info:
If you use DropBox to store you most-used files, you can go online to your DropBox account and drag and drop files/folders (their URLs) onto a thought on TheBrain screen. They are then clickable just like a weblink. (You can continue attaching weblinks even on the free version, which you get to keep).
I love my “TheBrain.” I get to keep the free version, which is quite powerful, forever. I downloaded one to my laptop too. I use it for brainstorming scenes, recording webinar notes on the fly, and noting down my ideas and developing them. ALSO, it’s become an updated index to my hard drive, at least for the files I use most often.
I’ll leave the many other features (including in the free version) for you to discover if you download it. What the heck–it’s free! And it’s handy software to have. (You can get it free at www.thebrain.com.)
So those are some of my ideas on organizing information.
Do you have any ideas to can add?
If so, or if not, check out the post today from the Write to Done blog…
The post is full of Pinterest info and tips.
Do you struggle with getting your scenes right?
Scenes are the basic building blocks of any story or novel. Get them right, and your story and novel will not only very likely sell but will probably also build you a following of dedicated readers.
Below is the Scene Template I put together and use for planning or revising my scenes.
SCENE QUESTIONS and SOME REMINDERS…
(Remember: Not as short as possible but as dramatic as possible—but no wasted words.)
Read your Focus Cards (brief outlines and notes for the scene)
Create a SCENE OUTLINE
WHAT CHANGES WITH THIS SCENE???
BEGINNING (at the latest moment, w/o skipping key info or dramatic potential):
MIDDLE (What gets worse?):
[NOTE: Wherever two asterisks ** occur above, they indicate ideas added from Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel course, which I highly recommend. Check out her stuff here: http://hollylisle.com/. ]
Do you ever in your haste to get things done, give in to a bit of mental laziness and not think things through enough? Or do you make a mental note to fix something and then later forget to do it?
Don’t be hasty.
We all want our writing and our stories to be good, the best we can make them. Powerful writing gets noticed even in a flooded marketplace. But I think, too, we can be tempted–or even succumb to the temptation at times–to conclude that what we have written is good enough and to ignore that quiet, nagging voice that says, “you need to check that” or “that’s not quite right” or “is my writing dull here?”
This is important for all writing.
I’m going to use examples below from fiction writing, but of course the need for careful thought applies to nonfiction writing too.
What about first drafts?
Now just in case you want to say to me at this point: “Yeah, but I like to write by my intuition, my heart, and make it up as I go.” If you do want to say that, let me add, “I’m with you. When you’re writing that first draft or plowing through your word-count for the Nano contest, go for it. Burn through it. Absolutely. But, as we’ve all heard, good writing is re-written. So I absolutely also recommend careful and thorough thinking-through after that hot piece of writing has cooled down. Even invite your critical left-brain to go for it big-time.”
So what are my points on thinking things through?
1. Thinking-through is vital for depth in writing.
Careful thought can uncover meaning in your story you didn’t see before, themes, symbols, clever twists. Depth can add value and enjoyment for your reader. You might just come up with insights that take your work from good to great.
2. Thinking-through is vital for plausibility.
Would your character really do that?
Yesterday, I was stuck. I realized that in a key chapter in my novel, I had my protagonist too easily let his 12-year-old daughter, his one and only remaining loved one, go on an obviously dangerous outing. Something no caring parent would do. Yet what happens on that outing is essential to my plot, so I was pushing my luck. I needed to get her on that outing. Then I thought it through and came up with a solution: miscommunication.
Plausibility is super-important whether you’re writing a realistic this-world story or a fantasy with a setting in a strange and alien world. Things still have to make sense to your reader.
3. Does it work all the way through?
Thinking things through is vital to assure that your story or copy works all the way through. Without that careful thought, it’s oh so easy to miss the need for a transition, the need for a brief explanation, or the realization that you have your character acting decidedly out of character–and many other possible problems you need to fix.
And the best thinking-through includes asking the question: how will my reader react to what I have written?
4. Thinking things through also can open you up to the possibilities.
How about those lovely surprises that tie things together at the end? Surprises that readers love, that make your reader say, for example, “Oh, yeah, now I know why he didn’t propose!” Also, taking the time re-read your chapters and do some hard thinking can remind you to follow-up on those hints (plants) you crafted early-on and forgot about after several thousand more words.
Todd Henry in his excellent book The Accidental Creative writes: “Assumptions can be disastrous to our creative process because they limit how we look at problems” (page 72). We can, if we are not careful, let assumptions artificially limit our options (Page 75).. Don’t assume it all works until you have checked it and you’re sure.
Don’t miss choice opportunities that can make your work move vivid, more alive. Or as Jerry Cleaver wrote in his book Immediate Fiction, while emphasizing the need for constant conflict and suspense, “Can you make it worse?”
Dare I add…
Careful thought for important life-decisions can be a good idea too? Most of our decisions offer more than one option, and decisions can be powerful.
Back to writing.
My experience with getting seriously stuck made me realize that I need to go back and think through my novel–at least at every major point in the plot–and not just when I get stuck.
How about you?
Do you ask yourself hard and uncomfortable questions about your story or your copy? What do you do when you get stuck?