Monday, April 26, 2010

I'm Still Hanging Up My Shoes

Life is going to be double busy for me over the next two weeks, and I plan on spending every free moment writing. I'm determined to finish my revisions before my kids get out of school for the summer. This, of course, will drastically reduce my blogging activity. I'll be in and out for a couple of weeks, but I look forward to catching up with all of you when I return on Monday, May 10th, which happens to be my blogiversary. We'll celebrate all week with some fun prizes. I hope to see you then. On another note, I'd like to thank Susan Fields for the Sunshine Award and Laura Best for the Beautiful Blogger Award. Thanks Girls! I'm flattered. Have a great couple of weeks, and I'll see you soon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I'm Hanging Up My Shoes!

It's the third week of the month, and that means I'll be unplugging. Have a great one, and I'll see you next Monday.

Friday, April 16, 2010

From Point A to Point B

Yes, we need to get there, but do our readers need to know every detail in between? Of course not. They'd be bored to tears after page one and toss our book to the side. Which is exactly what I felt like doing to the life-like baby my daughter brought home for her Parent and Child Development class last night. Yikes! The thing never quits crying. Isn't that enough for you to hear? Don't you know what a miserable night I had from that? Do you really need me to tell you that he (his name is Ryan) wanted to be fed every hour and a half, changed every hour, burped every two, snuggled constantly? You're probably already sick of hearing about it, and you would have gotten the point after my first sentence, right? A typical characteristic of first drafts is the inclusion of mundane details that really don't matter. They are usually inserted to get our characters from one point to the next, but they aren't necessary. Our readers are smart and can make the connection themselves. This is no joke, and feel free to laugh, but I had a scene in my first draft where I described every detail of my MC getting ready for school. She showered, she dried her hair, she got dressed, and so on. Who cares? No one, that's who. Some of you may decide to call the writing police on me now. I've heard they do exist. But this is an instance when "telling" is appropriate and even preferred. A simple summary sentence would suffice. "After my usual morning routine, I headed down to breakfast." Really bad example, but I figure the writing police are already after me, so what the heck. Besides, that baby stole all my creativity in the middle of the night. My point is, as authors we need to determine when we should "tell" instead of "show." Uh-oh! I hear the sirens now. Do you have any other examples of appropriate telling? If so, please share. I'm leaving town for a baseball tournament today, and yes, the baby is coming with us. It could be interesting. I may or may not make it around to all of your blogs, but I'll catch up with you Sunday. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

These Shoes Are Flat

There's nothing wrong with them. In fact, they're pretty darn cute if you ask me, but we aren't talking shoes here. We're talking writing. And let's face it. There's nothing cute about flat writing. In my opinion, this is one of the easiest traps to fall into. A good sign of flat writing is the "to be" verbs: was, are, were, is, etc. Don't use them unless you have to, which will happen occasionally. Example: Inside was the garnet ring. Flat. The ring is doing nothing. The garnet ring sparkled under the fluorescent lights. Still not great, but better, don't you think? The ring now has some sparkly significance. My second challenge for you this week (not that you can do it all in a week) is to try to rewrite every sentence that you've used a "to be" verb. Your words will start to jump off the page. Geez, no wonder these rewrites are taking me so long. How do you feel about "to be" verbs? Do you have a love/hate relationship with them like I do?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Do these boots really need the laces and all those buckles?

Wouldn't one or the other suffice? In fact, neither are necessary. I'm pretty sure the boots would stay on your feet without them. It kind of reminds me of adverbs, exclamation points, and non-said dialogue tags. Take this sentence, for example: "I hate you!" he shouted loudly. I mean, really, come on. Are the exclamation point, shouted, and loudly all needed to get the point across? Furthermore, are any of them necessary? I think not. "I hate you," he said through gritted teeth and stormed away. Not great examples, but I think you get the point. Which sentence conveys a more powerful sense of anger? I go with the second. I've heard so many writers complain about the rules of not using adverbs, exclamation points, and non-said dialogue tags. And, not to put anyone down, because I find it as frustrating as the next guy, but there is a reason these things are frowned upon. They are TELLING. It's lazy writing. Don't get me wrong--there are times when these things may be necessary, but in my opinion, they are few and far between. Use them sparingly. I can't tell you how many times I had to restructure sentences during my rewrites to avoid these things. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it. For every adverb, exclamation point, or non-said dialogue tag in your writing, I challenge you to rewrite them without it. I think you'll find that you've created much stronger sentences. So, what do you say? Are you up for the challenge. I know I am.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Watch Out For That Plot Hole!

It's an accident waiting to happen. Speaking of accidents... I've read about plot hole disasters on several different blogs. It amazed me that this could happen. As authors, don't we know where each and every one of our characters is and what he or she is doing at all times? Don't we know the story forward and backward? Most importantly, aren't we in charge of it? How can we let a plot hole develop when we have so much control? Ah, but it happened to me. I had a secondary character drive over and pick up my MC. Not a problem, right? Well, unfortunately, the secondary character had totaled her car a while back, and she had a broken leg, both of which prevented her from driving. My dear, sweet, faithful, and talented crit partners didn't even notice that one. I didn't catch it until I went back to add some detail to the wreck scene. Oh, my! There are also smaller plot holes that may go unnoticed. Keep a watchful eye for those. I had one character listening to sleet hit the window, and moments later, another character squinted in the sun. Now, Kansas weather can change on a dime, but not quite that quick. So, whether you think it can happen or not, it can. And don't rely on others to catch it for you. It may be so subtle that only the recreational reader will pick up on it. Have you ever caught yourself in a little plot hole? How did you find it? Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

These Shoes Are All The Same

They may be different colors, but other than that, they look the same. No matter how cute I think they are, people would get sick of it if I wore them every day. The last couple of weeks, I focused on some of the bigger issues we should watch for when rewriting and revising our manuscripts. Now, I'd like to spend some time on the smaller, but equally important, things. I've noticed repetition in both my own writing and the writing of my critique partners. This should be avoided. There are a few different types of repetition. First of all, there is the echo effect when the same word is used too close together. You've probably noticed this even in my blog posts. I have a bad habit of repeating words without even knowing it. For example, look at my previous two sentences. I used the word even in both of them. Another type of repetition is using the same word multiple times throughout a manuscript. You will notice that I've used the word notice three times, oops make that four, in this post. Pay special attention to unique words. A unique word used even twice can rub our readers the wrong way. Repetition isn't limited to the overuse of words. It can also refer to the overuse of certain phrases or sentence structures. One of my favorite phrases to abuse is When he didn't respond, I ... I used that phrase, or something similar, at least ten times in the first draft of my current manuscript. Sometimes we are repetitive in our description. I referred to characters' eyes multiple times. I also described the moon more than once. I've been known to use repetition on purpose for added emphasis. It's possible to pull this off, but we must be very careful. Having someone read our work aloud can help us decide if the technique is effective or not. What are some of your favorite repetitive mishaps? Do you have anything else about repetition to add?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Check it out!

I'm not here today. I took a walk over to The Lovestruck Novice for an interview. Go check it out, and I'll be back here on Wednesday.

Friday, April 2, 2010

March Madness, Part 6--Keeping Emotions In Check

Yes, I know. It's a picture repeat, and technically, it's April. I'm still talking basketball, though, so please bear with me. One of the toughest jobs a coach has is keeping his players' emotions in check. They tend to overreact when a bad call is made or get a little out of control when things aren't going well. It is such a turn off when I see these things happen during a game. I want to shake them and scream, "Grow up!" But, there are times when I find a player's exhibition of emotion touching. It always boils down to one thing--whether or not it is warranted. In fiction there is a blurry line between melodrama and true emotion. As authors, we are obligated to keep our characters on the right side of that line. We have to make sure we give our characters appropriate reactions. Remember my first March Madness post about staying in control of our stories and not letting our characters take over? Well, this whole melodrama issue is the perfect example of why we should do so. Let's face it, characters roaming around without direction are spoiled little brats who become extremely melodramatic when they don't get what they want. Believe me, I've experienced this first hand. How do you tell where the line between melodrama and emotion is? And how do you keep from crossing it? Have a great weekend!