Archive for January, 2006
January 31, 2006
It’s time to put your manuscript on a diet. Cinch your belt as tight as you can and let’s self-edit.
What’s self-edit? It means you eliminate all the fat, all the extra words that don’t move the story forward, and all the passive words bogging down your scenes.
REUNDANCIES are unnecessary words over describing an action.
The following are examples and if you look hard you’re bound to find several in your work.
• David pulled out the bench and sat down in the chair.
The word ‘down’ is unnecessary because that’s the only way David could sit.
• David jumped up. OR David stood up.
‘Up’ is unnecessary because, again, that’s the only way he could go.
• Melissa shrugged her shoulders.
I love this one because it eliminates two words, ‘her shoulders’. What else could Melissa shrug?
• Melissa loved to see David’s well-toned chest and how it tapered down to his narrow waist.
‘Well’ and ‘down’ go. The sentence should read;
Melissa loved to see David’s toned chest and how it tapered to his narrow waist.
The corrected version is cleaner and right to the point.
A few other examples are;
• Blue in color
• Climbed up the stairs
• Eased slowly
• Nodded his head
• Stomped heavily
• Stood to his full height
• Terribly bad
PASSIVE WORDS are used in our speech but should never be used in writing. You’re telling a story and must keep the action moving. These words are showing not telling.
• Started to
Readers want action therefore you must construct your sentences with powerful verbs.
The same reasoning applies to ADVERBS and ADJECTIVES. The following is but a small select and offer little to help paint a picture.
• A little
Most, if not all, adverbs and adjectives weaken your writing and need to be eliminated from your story.
PREPOSITIONS are not your best friend. Go through your work and highlight every preposition, including prepositional phrases. If you have an abundance you must clear them out to create stronger sentences.
THAT is a word we seldom need in a sentence. Its filler and a word you need to eliminate from your writing and your vocabulary.
The Best Tip of the Day;
Do a word search to discover how many times you’ve used a specific word. Reread your sentence and replace the overused word with something stronger.
Friday we’ll discuss dialogue. Until then…
January 30, 2006
We’ll have Caviar to go with that Champagne!
When a friend gets great news it makes everyone’s day better.
Jeanne Laws, Passionate Ink Editor, has received a contract from Loose-Id for her exciting book “Animal Dreams”. And here’s the best part; Loose-Id is interested in all three books in the trilogy.
Congratulations, Jeanne, I’m proud to know you.
Sloane said @ 10:46 am
| Hot Damn
January 27, 2006
What the hell is that and where does this broad come up with these phrases?
Well, this broad will tell you what it’s not. Chapter setting is not the grace and charm you display as you lay your manuscript into yet another unsuspecting friend’s hands.
Chapter Setting is where you break the chapter and determine its best location within your manuscript.
As you well know, every adult book has chapters. You, as the author, get to decide how many there will be, how they begin and end, and the placement of each chapter. You, as the writer, have to create such an impact on your reader that they want to turn the page.
I had one chapter in Teddi Turns On that had 8,843 good, edited, words. My critique partners, Beth Anderson and Yasmine Phoenix, listened patiently as I read every single one of those words. Did I mention their eyes glazed over about half way through the diatribe?
“Too long?” asked I.
“Aahh,” they muttered between yawns and stretching.
I didn’t need the infamous 2×4 to get the hint.
We went through that chapter, line by line, scene by scene, to determine the best point to break. It turned out to be a logical scene where the chapter went from one point of view to another. Simple enough but there’s more to chapter setting.
Every chapter ending must make the reader want to continue, excite them enough to want to find out what happens.
Here’s a little sample;
Gina was tormented with indecision. She tossed and turned, twisting the sheets into a knot, until she finally rolled over and fell asleep.
Make you want to turn the page? Not hardly. Why should your reader go any further? Gina slept. End of story. The reader will probably toss your hard work into the fire and bitch about the $10.00 they wasted. Will they buy another book written by you? Not likely.
End every chapter with a cliff-hanger. You can’t? You’re going to let chapter 15 slide? Guess you don’t want to be published let alone aim for the best seller list.
How about a slight alteration to our example?
Gina was tormented with indecision. She tossed and turned, twisting the sheets into knots.
Better, not great, but at least it’s heading in the right direction.
In my humble opinion, the best ending is;
Gina was tormented with indecision.
Now your reader wants to find out what the indecision is and how Gina handled it.
Tease your reader. They’ll flip the page with the hope of discovering the resolution.
Surprise! You’ve taunted them again by inserting a chapter that doesn’t give the conclusion. Instead it’s a new chapter, in another character’s point of view, about a totally different phase of the book. The reader may have to continue for another forty pages to discover Gina’s outcome. And they’ll love you for it.
You must withhold the information from the reader. It’s the old carrot and horse thing. You can’t let go of the carrot until the timing is right.
This is the time in your novel writing to go through your manuscript and make sure;
• chapters are ended in the correct spot
• each chapter is a cliff-hanger
• chapter placement is timely to your story
I’ll be back on Tuesday with Tighten the Writing. Until then…
January 24, 2006
To Comma, or not to Comma, that is the question.
Webster says a comma is a punctuation mark, used especially as a mark of separation within a sentence. Doesn’t that definition just clear it all up for you? If so, you’re lucky because it never did for me. Back to my Writer’s Bible, “The Elements of Style”.
Here’s the skinny; there are seven comma rules. We’ll take them out of order for simplicity.
1 – Dates are written as;
• Jan. 24, 2006.
• 24 Jan. 2006.
In the second example no comma is used.
2 – In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, the commas are placed as follows;
• I enjoy tennis, skiing, and books.
• Jason, Fred, and Esther went to the farm.
You can’t drop the last comma. I don’t know, maybe the Punctuation Police force you to repeat English 101 for eternity if you do.
The exception is if you’re writing a business name. The last comma is omitted.
• Jefferson, Clemmons, Blake and Company
3 – Use a comma before and/or after a proper name or place;
• “Hi, John.”
• “Hey, John, did you see the dog?”
• Munich, Germany
4 – A comma is inserted before a conjunction introducing an independent clause;
• She was in a situation which should have scared the hell out of her, but didn’t.
• In no time the airplane landed, and the passengers clapped with joy.
5 – Don’t use a comma to join independent clauses. If the clauses are grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction, it’s the semicolon’s time to come out and play.
• It is nearly half past five; we cannot reach town before dark.
6 – Don’t break sentences in two. Meaning, don’t use periods when you should use a comma. “The Elements of Style” have the best examples;
• I met them on a Cunard liner many years ago. Coming home from Liverpool.
• She was an interesting talker. A woman who had traveled all over the world and lived in half a dozen countries.
The sentences don’t make sense as written. In both examples a comma should replace the first period.
If you want more dramatic effect in your sentence do the following;
• He yanked the cell phone from his pocket and punched in the number. The phone range. No one answered.
Don’t use the above example often in your story, it has a choppy effect and the editor won’t like it. Clipped sentences, as the above example, are more often used in dialogue.
7 – Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas. A parenthetic expression is a word, phrase, or sentence inserted in a passage to explain or modify the thought. Again from “The Elements of Style”;
• The best way to see the country, unless you are pressed for time, is to travel on foot.
In a nutshell here’s how it works for the author;
• The eight rules are standard and must be followed so you look like a professional writer.
• Beth Anderson taught me to listen to the flow of the words. Use the commas when you need the reader to pause and give them a little time to prepare for what’s next.
• Use common sense. As you apply the rules they will become second nature.
Next on our list is Setting the Chapter. I’ll be back on Friday to explain my technique.
January 23, 2006
!?-.:; = ARGH
“The Elements of Style” by Wm. Strunk Jr. and E.B. White is a must for any writer. I don’t get royalties on it, but I without it I won’t get royalties. I strongly suggest you buy a copy.
We all know a period is the mark at the end of a declarative sentence or an abbreviation and a question mark is used at the end of a sentence to indicate a direct question or inquiry.
But there are other punctuation marks which may be a bit confusing. Today we’ll try to clear it up.
The common usage of QUOTATION MARKS is in dialogue;
“Martin can you swim to the other side?” asked Leslie.
If the quotation is the direct object of a verb it’s preceded by a comma and enclosed in quotations marks;
Mark Twain says, “A classic is something that everyone wants to have read and nobody wants to read.”
The EXCLAMATION POINT is a punctuation used after and interjection or exclamation. Be sure to use it sparingly in your writing. It’s very jarring to see a multitude of ! on a page.
Not too long ago I had to review a category romance by an established author. The story was excellent, but the exclamation points drove me crazy. Every page in the first chapter had a minimum of fifteen irritating !. I was not a happy reader. Over-usage of exclamation points loses their effect and really piss off a reviewer.
APOSTROPHES show possession no matter what the final consonant;
Hers, its, theirs, yours, and ours do not need an apostrophe. But you do need the punctuation for;
somebody else’s dish
Be careful when writing it’s the possessive or it’s the contraction;
Its author is well-known.
It’s the hottest new book on the shelf.
PARENTHESES are used around a word, phrase, or sentence inserted in a passage to explain or modify a thought. The following examples are taken from “The Elements of Style”;
I went to her house yesterday (my third attempt to see her), but she had left town.
He declares (and why should we doubt his good faith?) that he is now certain of success.
In my writing I avoid all use of parentheses for two reasons.
• I don’t like the look of the completed sentence.
• I don’t really understand why a comma wouldn’t be used in example one.
To work around my dilemma, I rewrite the sentences to work with the punctuations I know and love.
A DASH is a stronger punctuation make than the comma and should also be used with discretion. It does give your reader a longer pause to gather their thoughts before you impart a pertinent phrase. Again from “The Elements of Style”;
Violence – the kind you see on television – is not honestly violent – there in lies its harm.
Using commas or writing as separate sentences doesn’t give the same dramatic effect as the dash. You must use it sparingly or the effect is lost.
Webster’s definition of the SEMICOLON was about as good as the horrid chop suey I made for dinner last Saturday. So it was back to “The Elements of Style” for a clear understanding;
If two or more clauses grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction are to form a single compound sentence, the proper mark of punctuation is a semicolon.
Mary Shelley’s works are entertaining; they are full of engaging ideas.
It is nearly half past five; we cannot reach town before dark.
Both examples could be written as two separate sentences.
You can also use a comma in place of a semicolon if a conjunction is used;
Mary Shelley’s works are entertaining, for they are full of engaging ideas.
It is nearly half past five, and we cannot reach town before dark.
Romance writing is mood type writing. We are creating a world of love and beauty as it pertains to our hero and heroine. Therefore semicolons seem stark and/or jarring on the page.
Next up is the COLON. Sorry not the organ, which I understand much better. This colon thing is another form of punctuation I avoid as much as a drunk at a bar.
According to “The Elements of Style”;
A colon tells the reader that what follows is closely related to the preceding clause. The colon has more effect than the comma, less power to separate than the semicolon, and more formality than the dash. It usually follows an independent clause and should not separate a verb from its complement or a preposition from its object.
Your dedicated whittler requires: a knife, a piece of wood, and a back porch.
Your dedicated whittler requires three props: a knife, a piece of wood, and a back porch.
For me a colon means REWRITE.
The last punctuation mark is the comma. In my humble opinion this much used symbol deserves its own lecture. Tomorrow we’ll uncover the mystery; To comma, or not to comma, that is the question.
January 20, 2006
Who Thought That?
As promised today we’ll discuss the topic POINT OF VIEW, commonly referred to as POV, and what it means to your novel. Following are the frequently asked questions by new writers;
1. What is Point of View?
POV is the thoughts and five senses of a specific character. You can not write POV effectively if you don’t know your character. Hence the characterization sheets you did in Week One.
It also allows your reader to “get inside David’s head”. What the hell is that, you ask? Simple. For your reader to love (not like but love) your book and recommend it to others, they must feel a rapport with David. It can not be accomplished if you haven’t given David enough time to develop.
2. Why use a specific POV?
Doesn’t it seem you should be able to just tell your story and get on with it? Not have to worry about all this technical stuff? Here’s a heads up; readers today are savvy. They want to like your main characters, especially in a romance. They want to relate to your hero and heroine. Unless you show your characters to be living, breathing, beings, the reader will never be happy. For that fact, neither will a publisher, therefore no sale, therefore no readers. It’s your decision but if you want to sell you must master POV.
3. How do you determine who should have a POV in a specific scene?
This isn’t always easy to decide. You, the author, must choose whose POV you need to use at that precise moment in your story. Consider these points;
• Who has the most to gain in this particular scene?
• Who has the most to lose?
• Which character’s part of the story needs to move forward the most at this exact moment?
• Which character’s POV will be the most interesting to the story at this exact moment?
4. Length of POV?
As long as the scene warrants. Most, if not all editors, want to read a minimum of 500 words in a specific POV which is easy to accomplish in your edits.
5. What is Head Hopping?
One of my greatest, and funniest, mistakes when I first started writing was head hopping. It means each paragraph is in a different POV and very confusing to the reader. A good author controls this rotten phenomenon while writing. I correct it in my edits.
6. What POV can’t be;
It can not include lines such as;
The car roared to life and he peeled out onto the street, cutting off a delivery truck. David never
noticed the driver when he flipped him off.
A very dramatic way to write but if David can’t see the driver flip him off then it never happened or the scene is in someone else’s POV. Your POV character sees everything that occurs around him/her.
The POV character can not see the color of their own eyes or hair at that moment. Therefore she can’t think, “My green eyes have brightened at the sight of David.”
The POV character doesn’t think of their own name or the full name of their parents or friends.
Other characters thoughts cannot jump into the middle of your hero’s POV.
Consider how you think when you’re watching or speaking with someone. What is it you see, do, and think? It’s the same actions and reactions your POV character will have.
7. Correcting POV
We have finally hit on something easy. When I edit the first draft I mark the margin in whose POV the paragraph was written. Should I see, and believe me I do, a mix of POV’s in one scene I go back and rework asking myself the questions from above number three.
Many times it only requires changing a few words. See the examples below;
• Original which should be in David’s POV
David stared into Gwen’s eyes searching for an answer. Beyond this incredible desire to be in her, he
realized he really liked her. She was kind, funny, and intelligent. Her ability to discuss any topic
sensibly excited his brain, perhaps even more so than her scent and soft eyes sent his body into a
• Corrected which now is in David’s POV
He stared into her eyes searching for an answer. Beyond this incredible desire to be in her, he realized
he really liked her. She was kind, funny, and intelligent. Her ability to discuss any topic sensibly
excited his brain, perhaps even more so than her scent and soft eyes sent his body into a sex-driven
• Original which should be in David’s POV
David watched through narrowed eyes, his mouth grim. A blue vein throbbed in his forehead and his
hands gripped his glass like a vice. Unmistakably, he was pissed watching Gwen enjoy herself with
• Corrected which now is in David’s POV
She could see David watching her through narrowed eyes, his mouth grim. A blue vein throbbed in his
forehead and his hands gripped his glass like a vice. Unmistakably, she thought, he was pissed
watching Gwen enjoy herself with another man.
Just a few word changes will bring the paragraph into the right POV and maintains the continuity of the scene.
Your work is to correct your entire manuscript to be sure you have all the correct POV’s within your scenes. If you have any questions, please insert them in the comment box and I’ll be happy to help you.
Monday we’ll work on punctuation. Until then have a great week-end,
January 18, 2006
Ernest Hemingway step aside
because you’ve written the newest Great American Novel. Sorry to deflate your ego, but…
Welcome to Week Four. Pretty exhausted aren’t you after the writing frenzy of Weeks Two and Three. It’s not going to get any easier so sit back and grab a red pen.
Self-editing is one of the hardest aspects of writing. It’s now time to delete all those beautiful words full of your soul. Can’t do it? Won’t get published.
There are several steps in editing and not necessarily in this order;
2. Spell check
3. Point of View
5. Setting the chapter
6. Tighten the writing
8. Passive writing
10. Get rid of the crap
11. Line edit
We’ll take them in small groups to give each point proper consideration.
The writing industry has common format requirements. Most publishers want the submission in;
• Times New Roman or Courier. Both fonts are in 12 pt.
• Use a 1” margin on all sides.
• Double-space the entire text.
• Start each new chapter on its own page, one-third of the way down. The chapter number should be in all caps.
• Begin the body of the chapter four lines the chapter title.
• Indent five spaces for each new paragraph
I use Microsoft Word. All of this can be preset by clicking onto Format on your toolbar, from the dropdown list, click onto Paragraph. You’ll find everything you need to format successfully.
If you’re really new to all this and haven’t done the formatting before you typed your novel it’s easy to fix. Highlight the manuscript then click on Format and continue with the above directions.
You probably know the publisher you’re striving to impress. Go onto their website and print out their Guidelines for the Header and Footer requirements and any others not listed above.
The writer’s best friend? No way. Spell Check is great for the basics but it can’t tell the difference between ‘buy’ and ‘by’. Later as you’re reading your work for the nineteenth time you’ll uncover words misused. At that time you’ll make the corrections.
After you’ve formatted the novel return to the toolbar and click on Spell Check. As it scans your work it will come up with incorrect spelling and phrasing. Be sure of what you want changed. Do not arbitrarily accept all the corrections.
I’ll be back Friday for Point of View. Until then,
January 16, 2006
Thank You All
I appreciate everyone coming back to check on the writing plan and again I apologize for delaying its return.
Beginning Wednesday we’ll take up where we left off and the topic will be Editing.
Until then, Happy Writing!
Sloane said @ 1:57 pm
January 11, 2006
I am sorry to disappoint anyone but there will not be a blog on editing today. Unfortunately my heroine, Teddi, is pruning up in the shower because I can’t seem to get David motivated. If I didn’t have such a strong presence of mind I’d drop a straw in the Stoli’s bottle and tell them both to get over it.
On the good news front, Sherrill Quinn (check out her site by going to the links page) has just received her seventh contract for another new story. CONGRATULATIONS, Ms. Quinn. The world is waiting for you.
Back to the shower!
Sloane said @ 1:02 pm
January 10, 2006
Are You Having Fun Yet?
Writing is your chosen job and you need to make it fun. Flip on the stereo, dress up your writing space, do anything to bring out your creativity and keep you planted in your chair for hours on end.
Weeks Two & Three
Read your calendar to determine when you’ll have blocks of time to write. I need blocks of time, hours, or I get confused. I can’t work well with ten minutes here or thirty minutes there unless I’m editing. For me short spells are good for editing, otherwise I lose my critical eye. Write your schedule on the calendar, in red. You’ll feel more committed and will spot in an instant when you can work.
Maybe you have a fulltime job. It’s not so easy then. Author Judy Powell used to eat her lunch in her car, just to get away from her desk, and write. She had a kitchen timer set for her return time and was never late.
Judy’s habit may not work for you. If that’s the case then set your writing time, at least an hour, in the morning before you head out. Only do it if you’re a morning person otherwise you’ll have wasted an hour’s sleep. Maybe evenings are your creative time but you’re too tired and hungry after work. Eat a light dinner, clean up, and grab a short nap. Better yet skip the nap it’ll only add unwanted pounds.
Look, everyone has a real life with doctor appointments, grocery shopping, cooking, family, friends, and lovers. You don’t want to aggravate or alienate but you do have to put your career in prospective. Some things just have to wait. As an FYI, so can house cleaning and most laundry. So as far as friends go, they can probably live without you for two weeks. Explain what you’re doing and why. Inform them you and your phone are out of commission for two weeks, unless they die. You love them dearly but you must be selfish and think of yourself. Spread out your socializing until week four. If they are your friends they’ll understand. If they don’t….
Appointments, groceries, cooking, family, and lovers are another matter. Let’s discuss them individually.
Appointments – Either schedule them as far apart as possible or cram them into one day. You have the ability to grant yourself blocks of time to write.
Groceries – Stock up! Write a concise list and do one giant splurge. Yes, you may blow the budget but it will even up down the road when you don’t have to do an emergency run for toilet paper.
Cooking – Easy, either buy frozen ready made food, fresh with a far out expiration date, or cook up a storm during Week One, and freeze the extras.
Family – If you have children at home you’re time is going to be occupied with a gazillion things. All you can do is make a serious attempt to carve out blocks of time around their schedules. It’s okay if you take longer then the ten weeks to get your novel written. You have the ability to grant yourself that permission. If your children have moved out, tell them to get a life and leave yours alone for two weeks unless there is a grave situation.
Lovers – Not so easy. It’s important to keep them included in your life and not make them feel like they’re a bother. Studly’s cool on this. When we’re watching TV, I have my work on hard copy and do what’s necessary. This way we’re together during the evening and I can ask a question at halftime or he’ll bring up a short subject. Neither of us gets into anything deep, those topics are reserved for dinner. Not only are we together but we’re each doing what we enjoy. A huge Thank You to my Brazen Vixen pals for their insight on this area.
Now to the real fun.
Have your notebook with the outline and characterization list at hand. Remember you’ve written in the daily log section how many words you wanted to write? Go for it.
Turn on your computer, block out the world, and type. Don’t think about spelling, grammar, paragraphs, or anything else, just think about your novel. Consider this the outline your freshman English teacher would have hated. Pound it out. Let your words flow. Week four you’ll concern yourself with editing. Weeks two and three are strictly for writing. You’ll be surprised at how much more you accomplish in laying down your story when you kill your Internal Editor.
If you get stumped or tired, get up and walk around, grab a bottle of water, or a snack. Do not sit there and stare at your monitor. Maybe you need music, a break, exercise, and unless you want to turn into Waddling Wilma you’d better exercise. On a 9-5 job you’d have two breaks and a lunch time. Do the same with you’re writing. Hello! It’s your job.
And since it’s your job you will know and must adhere to quitting time. If you don’t, burn out. Nothing worse than a writer with nothing left to write.
1. Keep pen and paper scattered throughout the house and car to write down those ideas/phrase
popping in your head.
2. Revitalize your creativity by reading outside your genre, walking, a movie, or my all time favorite –
eavesdropping at a restaurant.
3. Sit outside, anywhere, and commune with nature and your higher being. It may not be a bad idea to
thank him/her for your success.
Tomorrow we’re advancing into Week Four and editing.
Until then, Happy Writing,