Category Archives: Writing

Monday Morning Wisdom #116

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Monday Morning Wisdom #116

Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. – Elmore LeonardMMW

Photo of Elmore Leonard by Peabody Awards.

 

Weekend Writing Warriors: Snippet #68

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Weekend Writing Warriors: Snippet #68

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?

droneflyer-nick-161833

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.

 

How to Rewrite, Revise, and Edit Your Novel, Part II

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How to Rewrite, Revise, and Edit Your Novel, Part II

This is the second of a three-part series of articles. Part I is here.

ROUND TWO

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.

ROUND THREE

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.

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In the Meme Time: Perspective

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In the Meme Time: Perspective

Perspective

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How to Rewrite, Revise, and Edit Your Novel–Part I

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How to Rewrite, Revise, and Edit Your Novel–Part I

First drafts are ugly.

They’re supposed to be ugly. The function of the first draft is just to get the words down. Much of the first draft will not even appear in the final copy.

But how do you get from the first draft to something that is publish-worthy?

Disclaimer: As an as-yet unpublished novelist, I don’t have the credentials to say I’ve found the definitive process that will guarantee a best-seller. However, I’ve spent many years rewriting, revising, and editing my work, and I know the strategies that follow can help you improve your manuscript.

Rewrite

 

When you finish that first draft, put it in a drawer and don’t look at it for at least six weeks. Fall out of love with that beautiful baby. Work on other projects in the meantime.

After six weeks, read the manuscript from beginning to end with a notebook at your side (preferably the one you started with your planning notes for this book). Don’t worry if some parts of that baby aren’t as beautiful as you originally thought. Write down everything you see that needs re-thinking.

Consider the big picture. If you outlined your book during your pre-writing process, check it to see if you adequately addressed every section of the outline. If you think of addition points not included, write them down in your notebook. Maybe even rewrite your outline.

If you didn’t outline your book already, do it now. Outlining at this late date may reveal plot holes. If you hate outlines, at least make a list of every scene. Some authors like to do this on index cards, so they can change the order of scenes easily. (The Scrivener software has a virtual index card function.) Note the characters who appear, the setting, the action, and the purpose of each scene.

 

 

 

Typing on laptop DeathtoStockWrite a summary of your story—the one you are trying to tell. Reread your manuscript and see if it does, in fact, tell your story, in the clearest way possible, with the greatest potential impact. Does the way you’ve structured your story make sense? Does your plot include complications and twists? Did you leave anything out? Could a change in the order or length of your chapters improve the novel’s readability? Keep your mind open, and write down any possible changes that occur to you. (Writing them down doesn’t obligate you to make the changes, it just saves your ideas for future reference, so you can remember and ponder them.)

Read through the manuscript again, this time looking for two things: plot holes in the main plot, and any inconsistencies. As you read, write down any plot questions that come to mind, such as, what would have happened if your character had chosen a different path at a pivotal moment? Look for solutions that come too easily, or events that are too implausible. Does the plot have a full arc, with a set-up, an inciting event, action rising to a climax, action leading to resolution?

Woman typing on laptop

Also, hunt out details that contradict each other. Did the grandmother have salt-and-pepper hair in chapter one and platinum hair in chapter two? Was the antagonist writing with his left hand at one moment and firing a gun with his right hand later on? Either fix these inconsistencies as you find them, or make a note so you don’t forget to rectify them soon.

Reread the story again, examining each event. Is everything predictable? If so, rethink each scene, and look for places your characters (or external forces) can do something unforeseen (but plausible). Changes might require major rewriting of large sections of your manuscript, but if it makes your book stronger, it’s well worth the effort.

Reread all your notes and give them serious consideration. Simmer them while you walk the dog, fold the laundry, wash the dishes. Go for a few long walks with notebook and pen in hand. (I know it sounds counterintuitive, but some of my best ideas come to me while my body is in motion.)

Go through your manuscript with your notebook open, and implement as many improvements as you can, while noting new ideas. This is ROUND ONE of your revising (or, if you’re making truly big changes, rewriting). If you’re uncomfortable with the thought of making changes, save the original draft, make a copy, rename it Your Novel’s Name 2.0, and make your changes in this new document, knowing you can always go back to the original. (In my experience, after I’ve spent several weeks in my latest draft, I go back and delete my previous version. I never regret the changes.)

You’re not done yet. But don’t worry; I’ll post the rest of the process this Saturday and next Tuesday. See you then. If you found this post useful, please click the “like” button below, and share on your favorite social media.

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Monday Morning Wisdom #115

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Monday Morning Wisdom #115

Found on Twitter:MMW

king

 

Weekend Writing Warriors: Snippet #67

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Weekend Writing Warriors: Snippet #67

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?

droneflyer-nick-161833

We left Buddy at the water fountain last week.

Hot and panting, he took a long, cool drink, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and looked around.

A little girl pushed a doll buggy along a path. Every so often, she’d stop walking and adjust her doll’s blanket or feed the dolly a bottle. She smiled as she sang a lullaby.

When a patch of dandelions distracted the little girl, Buddy flung the pail and shovel, the dump truck, and the basketball into the carriage on top of the doll. Then he took off with it as fast as he could run. One of the wheels hit a rock, and the whole carriage turned over, dumping the toys.

“My baby!” the little girl cried, trying to regain her pilfered possessions.

“Mine!” screamed Buddy. He threw the doll, the ball, the truck, the pail and the shovel back into the buggy and ran down a hill with them all.

I know it’s short (10-sentence limit), but what do you think of this small excerpt? Any suggestions on how I can make it better? Please comment below.

In the Meme Time: Inventive

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In the Meme Time: Inventive

Inventive

Guest Post: How Writers Should Handle Bad Reviews by Lev Raphael

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Thank you to Lev Raphael for the following great advice, which was previously published on A Writer’s Path.

A Writer's Path

by Lev Raphael

Don’t tweet that the reviewer is an absolute moron who deserves exile to Chechnya or at least a lifetime of bad sex and lukewarm meals. It’ll only make you seem nutty, and most people won’t know about the review until you tell them anyway.

Don’t make snarky, veiled remarks about this reviewer when you’re interviewed, because sulking and bitterness will just end up making you come off as a crank who should get a life or see a shrink.

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17 Great Ideas for Your Next Project (Roundup)

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17 Great Ideas for Your Next Project (Roundup)

Need an idea for your next creative endeavor? Whether you’re a blogger, a writer, an artist, or a little bit of everything, here are some terrific suggestions:

  1. For blog posts.
  2. And some more ideas for blog posts.
  3. Even more ideas for blog posts.
  4. Write a guest post for another blog.
  5. Make a video podcast.
  6. Create your own YouTube channel for promotion.
  7. Writing exercises to generate ideas.
  8. Start a writing journal.
  9. Where fiction ideas come from.
  10. Tell a story through letters or diary entries.
  11. A YA romance.
  12. Try experimenting in a different medium.
  13. A visual representation of your dreams.
  14. I bet you’ll have to make one of these craft projects.
  15. Take on a photography project.
  16. 28 projects in 28 days.
  17. Slide show on making your project a reality.