Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. – Elmore Leonard
Photo of Elmore Leonard by Peabody Awards.
But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in the Lord their God. They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their fathers and the warnings he had given them. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, “Do not do as they do,” and had forbidden them to do (2 Kings 17:14-15 NIV).
Every Sunday, the Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday participants share 8-10-sentence snippets from their works-in-progress on their blogs for others to read and comment on. Join the fun! Click on the links to see the full lists.
Mine! Six-year-old Buddy terrorizes the playground, appropriating everyone’s toys. How can the kids teach him a lesson and get their stuff back?
In last week’s snippet, Buddy appropriated a little girl’s doll and doll carriage. We pick up a few minutes later. Will his reign of terror never end? (Creative editing of punctuation due to the 10-sentence limit; not as many run-on sentences in the actual manuscript.)
Buddy sat in the grass and watched some kids play with a Frisbee.
They flipped it into the air toward one another. Sometimes they had to leap to catch it; sometimes their dog jumped up and caught it. They laughed and shouted and ran around.
Buddy wished he could throw the Frisbee.
One of the kids tossed the Frisbee way above his sister’s head. Though she jumped and stretched her arms, the disk sailed past her and landed at Buddy’s feet. Buddy picked it up and tossed it into the doll carriage.
“Hey, that’s ours–give it back!” the girl cried.
“Mine!” yelled Buddy, and ran away, dragging the doll buggy behind him.
Yeah, I know–he’s a brat. Justice is coming. Hang in there for one more week.
I know it’s short, but what do you think of this small excerpt? Any suggestions on how I can make it better? Please comment below.
This is the second of a three-part series of articles. Part I is here.
Identify each of your subplots. Do they all have a complete arc (beginning, middle, and ending)? Do they have their own twists and complications? Can you think of a way to make them richer? Is there a thread that never fully developed? In your notebook, write down every idea that comes to mind.
Take a close look at each of your main characters: protagonist, antagonist, and the most important subordinate characters. Although it will be time consuming, go through the manuscript multiple times, zeroing in on one character’s story at a time. Have you identified their external needs and their internal needs? Do they each have their own arc (do they grow over the course of the book)? Does each have his or her own unique voice? (This is my biggest challenge. My daughters say all my characters talk just like me. Sigh.) Does your bad guy have at least one redeeming characteristic? (Maybe when he comes home from work, he shoots baskets with the neighbor kid for five minutes.) Make notes. Fix the easy stuff; think about any big changes.
Work through the entire manuscript a few more times, fleshing out the weak parts, and implementing the best of your notes. When you’re satisfied you’ve done the best you can, print out the entire manuscript, double-spaced, in all its glory. And buy a set of different colored highlighters (pink, blue, yellow, orange, and green), and a red pen.
Analyze your manuscript. I like Margie Lawson’s EDITS system. (Margie Lawson is a phenomenal writing instructor and the founder of Lawson Writer’s Academy, which offers online courses—or you can order a packet of course notes—well worth it!) The linked article gives the process, but start by highlighting all the dialogue in blue. After you finish all the steps, you’re ready for round three.
Shrink large, unbroken expanses of green (description). Gone are the days when you could spend a page describing your character’s eyes (although, maybe you still can in a Victorian romance novel). Include just enough details to make it real for the reader. What is out-of-the-ordinary about your characters or your settings? What is likely to be unfamiliar to your readers, requiring explanation? Use words that activate the senses, pulling the reader in to experience the person or place on the page.
Break up pages of yellow (narrative) with action, dialogue, and emotion. Action implies motion. Your character’s thoughts do not constitute action or dialog. Maybe while your protagonist paces in his hotel room processing the arson of his home, he can hurl a lamp across the room. And if you need help inserting more pink (visceral responses), I recommend you acquire The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. The book lists physical manifestations of every emotion. (If you want, you can try out the abbreviated version, Emotional Amplifiers, for free.)
By the time you finish round three, you might be sick of your story, or you may be super excited about it. Either way, set your manuscript aside for a couple of weeks and work on something else.
You’re not done yet. But don’t worry; I’ll post the rest of the process next Tuesday. See you then. If you found this post useful, please click the “like” button below, and share on your favorite social media.
My offering for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge with the prompt small subjects:
See the dark splotch in the center? The ant is below it, slightly to the left. Yeah, I know, I could have photographed it closer up, but I’m an old lady with arthritis.
Photo by ARHuelsenbeck
Fill up on these amazing glimpses of genius.
My offering for Cee’s Black & White photo challenge:
A construction company truck. I felt the motto was apropos of all of us who create.
In response to the Black & White Sunday challenge prompt of Structure:
A play structure at the local elementary school, taken through the chain-link fence. Photo © by ARHuelsenbeck.
You spend your early life in classroom after classroom
Progressing from day care to elementary to junior and senior high
And college, chasing the paper that will certify
Your qualification to pursue the life of your dreams
Become the person you were meant to be and
Watch your life unfurl
Then your universe expands to include one more at its center
You fall in love and marry and settle down to
Watch your lives unfurl
Before too long, your love multiplies
New life brings new joy
You set aside your wants and needs to
Watch his hand uncurl