Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Listening to the Voices

I recently wrote my first fanfic (for those of you scratching your head at the term, it refers to fan Fiction- aka a story created using characters and settings from TV shows, movies, or even other author’s work. These are just for fun ;)). I did it as a favor/dare for a fanfic loving friend of mine.
One of the reasons that I have never been drawn to fanfic is I don’t like the restrictions of other people’s characters. But, I did find a nice benefit of doing this exercise.
TV characters have great voices.
Young writers are often told to go out and listen to conversations to find out how people speak. This is well and good except for one thing—we don’t write how people speak. We write what sounds like how people speak. Big difference. If you write like people really speak, you’ll bore the heck out of your readers.
But TV characters (and movie characters) speak like what sounds like how people speak. All the extra little stuff is gone. Plus, because a trained actor is reading those lines, differences in speakers are far easier to spot. Pauses, turns of phrase, little nuances that will make it easy for the reader to know who is speaking—even without tags.
Listen to what they say, as well as how they say it. “That sucked.” is saying the same idea as “Well, that didn’t go right.” But these two speakers are worlds apart.
So try this experiment next time you’re watching TV. Turn away from the set and just listen. Pay attention to tones, pitches, pauses, tics, anything that makes that character unique. Especially good are shows where characters (who you know) are “not themselves”. This could be literally (body swapping) or a matter of something being seriously wrong with them at that moment. How do their voices and word choices change?
You’ll be strengthening your own dialogue (and have an excuse to listen to TV ;)).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Avoid Yoga Writing

Now, what exactly IS yoga writing, you may ask.  Since yoga is good for me, shouldn’t it be good for my writing?  Not so fast my little holistically minded writer.

Yoga writing (my own term ;)) is writing in which the author has endeavored so much to adhere to all of the writing rules, plus anything critique partners, judges, random readers have said they must do to make their work “good”, that they have created writing that is often extremely, if not completely, difficult to read, not unlike this sentence which actually violates many rules, but is in itself a twisted example of one form of yoga writing.

An easier to read example of yoga writing comes to mind from a few years ago where an agent or editor mentioned he didn’t like the word “as”.  There were cries and wailing women at this pronouncement as writers fought to get all of the examples of the offending word out of their work.

This led to some really odd yoga writing contortions, let me tell you. The editor/agent (forgot which now) didn’t mean to attack the word itself, but rather specific uses, or misuses, of the word. But many writers took it to their hearts that the word must be destroyed, no matter how unwieldy it left some of their sentences.

Another culprit, and more wide spread than the great “as” purge, is the word “was”.  Yes, this little dickens can often be a sign of weak or lazy writing.  Many times a sentence with this monster in it can be turned into a stronger, brighter, shiner, (and depending upon your genre) more able to leap tall buildings in a single bound version of itself with a “was-ectomy” and some reconstructive surgery.

But sometimes they need to be there for ease of reading, and well, because removing them often leaves a weirdly twisted sentence that often takes longer for the reader to read than it would have had there been a simple…was.  Like the word “said” most readers don’t notice “was”.  Now, this isn’t carte blanch to go dumping "was’s" all over the place.  But it does mean that you shouldn't panic and run screaming for the hills if you have some legitimately in your work.

Our goal as writers is to make our work as evocative, inviting, and magical as we can to a reader so we can pull them along the path of our story with us.  We can’t do that if we sprain their brain with a confusing and tortured sentence structure.





Thursday, February 14, 2013

Guest Blogger- The Author Elf!

Hi everyone –
Thanks to Marie for the blog spot! J

I’m visiting today to talk about multi-tasking and time management…


I’m Lisa Kessler, and I’m a fiction writer. My first novel, Night Walker, was released in 2011, and then re-released again in mass-market paperback in 2012. My eBook novella, Night Thief also released in October of 2012. It’s been a big learning curve for me as a writer to balance all the facets of my new career path.
In school, you read the classics and picture Hemingway, Bradbury and Shelley penning their masterpieces in a dimly lit room and then the masses flow into the bookstores to read it. Simple, right?

Sadly, the reality of publishing these days isn’t nearly as simple. Readers have to be able to find you and your book. There are millions of titles out there, with more popping up on Amazon every day. You can no longer write a book and wait for readers to grab a copy.
How do readers discover you and your books?
That’s where I’ve found things to be tricky. What good is your book if no one ever reads it, but if all I’m doing is promoting, then I’ll never write another book. It’s a crazy cycle! As a writer, I often have a tough time juggling my calendar and my projects. It seems like I turn around and my monthly author newsletter has become bi-seasonal. Whoops!
We really need assistants to check to be sure our websites are up to date, scout for positive reviews, nudge us when it’s time for another newsletter to show readers our new book cover, etc.  But most of us can’t afford the manpower.
That’s when my hubby and I came up with Author Elf. After helping a few writers with facebook release parties and twitter training, we realized that each writer has different needs, but it all starts with organization.
Writers need an elf working behind the scenes to keep us on track!
That’s where we can help. We’re setting goals with authors and building calendars with reminders. We’re also setting up Google alerts for reviews and checking websites to be sure they’re current. All the minutia that we know is important but we never find the time to take care of, that’s where your elf comes in.

You can find out more here…

Our authors have big plans this year, and we’re excited to be their Elves, working in the background so they have more time to write.  And the best part is, you won’t be alone. We’ll be right beside you helping with a promotion plan and encouragement.

 And who doesn’t want that? J  Do you need an Author Elf?

Lisa Kessler –

Don't be a stranger...





Saturday, February 9, 2013

Tell, Don't Show

Now, before some of you start yelling at me for getting it backwards, that it is show, don’t tell, let me explain where I’m coming from.  And yes, I meant it as the title says.

As writers there are few “rules” more powerful than show, don’t tell.  From the first moment we crack open a writing book, we are taught, informed, cajoled, ridiculed, and even bullied to SHOW what is going on in our books.  Never tell.  Telling bad.  For such an offense a good smack on the nose and an hour in the corner is often prescribed.

I say that’s not always the case. And many times writing can suffer if someone worships at the house of Show, Don’t Tell too deeply.

There are always going to be times where telling is preferred to showing.  One of which is when the action doesn’t need to be shown.  TV is easier to see for examples- so I’m going to use one from White Collar. Our hero Neil and his sidekick are driving along when the sidekick sees someone he needs to chase.  We see Neil and sidekick running a red light in pursuit.  Then the scene changes to the FBI buddy answering a phone, and going down to find the cops have caught sidekick after running five red lights. And we’re told he did that.

Now, did we need to see all five lights being run?  No, there was one, with witty banter, and it was enough.  The same could be said for writing, we don’t always need to see what happened, especially if there are multiple viewpoints, or it makes for a stronger story to end the scene- then cut to a new scene where the character wraps up the repetitive action.  The telling actually makes the scene stronger.

Another time telling is better than showing is when it’s an action the average reader has done before. I’ve been a judge in various writing contests for a few years, and I often see this in the “younger” manuscripts.  A step by step paragraph of the character getting to, unlocking, getting in to, and starting their car.  Including shifting gears.  Sometimes these chunks last more than one paragraph.  Those authors may be proud they are showing us what happened, but it’s boring, wordy, and slows your pace.  A simple, “She went to her car and drove to the store.” Gets it across.  Unless there is something new and unique about the action, you don’t need to show it to us.  TELL us. 

I view the telling times as a point where the author is saying, “Ok, this isn’t crucial, but it is what happened.  I’m telling you so you know, but what I really want you to focus on is THIS!”  (This being the good stuff that is new, exciting, and moves the character arc and plot forward.)

We all need to be aware of times in our writing where we don’t need to show, where telling might work faster and cleaner to get the job done.



Friday, February 1, 2013

Bite Sized Writing

I’ll admit it, when it comes to slow and steady, I am a failure. I have more of a tendency to put things off (writing included) then race in and do a few massive marathons to catch up. My record was 10,000 words in one day during NaNo a few years back.

I KNOW that staying in contact with my writing world every day is the best thing, both for my sanity and for my writing. It’s just the sticking with it I can’t seem to coordinate.

Until this last week! *cue suspenseful music here*

For the last 7 days I have snuck in little writing bits, some before EDJ, some in the evening, a few notes at lunch. As little as 200 words before work. And guess what?

·         I ended up with 3,200 words from little bits (also did 2040 on Saturday, but that was a normal longer run for me with a few hours of time to do it in).  The big thing is, that those tiny bits, stolen here and there added up to a nice amount of words.

·         I thought about my work more.  Because I was sneaking it into normal non-writing times, I carried my characters around in my head all the time.

·         I came up with more new ideas for other projects!  LOL- I guess my little brain was just running more all around.

·         I slept better and was less cranky at work. 

Ok, my degrees are in Psychology, and I’ll be the first to admit correlation isn’t the same as causation.  (For example- both murders and ice cream sales are positively correlated, when one goes up the other one does too.  Are folks killing people when they get an ice cream headache?)

But most of the above list is directly the result of the tiny bites of writing.  The sleeping better and less cranky at work could be due to me relaxing more when I write.

The point is that writing is like exercising.  You don’t need to wait until you have a big chunk of time to get really great results.

Think about your day—where can you sneak in some writing bites?

(Oh and that murder rates and ice cream thing?  Yes, the two are correlated however, one isn’t causing the other- they are both “caused” by an increase in temps.  A little Psych 101 for your day!)