Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Lose the wordiness. If you can say something in five words, don’t take fifteen to do it.
Wordy: Jane decided she would order a pizza. Limping to the kitchen, she favored her wounded knee the whole way. Grabbing the telephone book, she tried to find a pizza place that delivered.
Tight: Jane, her wounded knee throbbing, limped to the kitchen and called Domino’s.
If you told us on page one that the Bob’s brother, Will, is a police officer, you don’t have to refer to Will as “Bob’s police officer brother” on page five. The reader will get it.
PASSIVE VS ACTION VERBS
Passive: Jane was divorced by Bob. (The subject, Jane, is acted upon.)
Action: Bob divorced Jane. (The subject, Bob, performs the action.)
Passive: Jane was fooling around with Will. (Was is a linking verb and really performs no action, unless it’s to show time passage. If the fooling around happened in the past, keep the was. If it’s happening right now, lose it.)
Action: Jane fooled around with Will.
See the difference? Use action verbs whenever you can to keep a story tight and well-paced.
What you need to know about Tight Writing:
Tight Writing doesn’t just happen. It takes work.
Don’t try to write tight on your first draft. Work on tightening when you edit.
Tight and short are two different things. Don’t sacrifice clarity in place of length.
I hope this has all made sense and you've found some benefit in it. These are the tools I use when editing to tighten up my writing and I'm happy to share.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Dialogue tags are fine, but I prefer action tags. Say more with less. How? Like this:
“Shut up,” Jane yelled. She scowled at the man she’d once loved.
“Make me,” Bob retorted, his face coloring like a boiling lobster.
“Shut up.” Jane scowled at the man she’d once loved.
“Make me.” Bob’s face colored like a boiling lobster.
Do you miss anything by not having the dialogue tags? Just some words. That’s tight writing!
Don’t just say a color, describe it. Don’t say car, tell me what make. If there’s a better, more descriptive word, use it.
Bob drove his red truck to Jane’s house.
Bob drove his burgundy F150 to Jane’s double-wide.Just by changing a few words, we've already got a clearer picture of this scene.
Next up...Wordiness, Repetition and Passive/Active Verbs, plus the wrap up.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Ah yes, the dreaded, much aligned adverb. Think of it like a trip to the gynecologist: once in a while it’s necessary, but not every day. One of the worst thing about adverbs is that they make for lazy writing. Examples:
Jane quickly ran to the car. Boring! How about: Jane raced to the car. Better, right? More vivid. Or maybe she jogged. Or scampered. Ran doesn’t tell me her mood. Scampered says she’s happy. Scrambled might imply panic. Staggered might mean she’s had a few too many. Use your verbs wisely. And leave the adverbs out of it! Tight writing uses vivid verbs and fewer adverbs.
Take out the qualifiers where you can, too. Words like: just, very, some, etc. And do I need to mention the dreaded “that”? Get rid of it when it’s not necessary. Keep it when it is.
Prepositional phrases can really drag a sentence out. Fortunately, most of them are pretty easy to trim. For example:
Jane leaned against the door of the car that was parked in the driveway, her fingers strumming on the hood of the vehicle.
Jane leaned against the car door, her fingers strumming the hood. (If we don’t already know the car’s in the driveway then maybe that info isn’t important.) Look how succinct!
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
This past Saturday I did a workshop at my chapter called Literary Liposuction: How to write tight and say more with less. Since Hotrod and I are traveling for the holidays, I thought I'd share that info in a series of posts, starting with today! During the holidays, we could all use a little lipo, don't you think? If something doesn't make sense, ask questions. Agree or disagree? Tell me. Mostly these are the things I look for when editing, not necessarily something I force myself to do when writing the first draft.
Part One is an overview of Point of View and my favorite, Deep POV:
Think of POV like looking through a camera. Only what’s visible to your character can appear on the page. That means he or she can’t know what the person next to them is thinking although they can assume it based on body language, facial expression or tone of voice.
“You’re wrong, Jane.” Bob clenched his fists. When would she understand? “It’s not over.”
Jane sighed. This guy was really getting on her nerves. “It was over the day we got divorced.”
Okay – who’s head are you in? Both! That shouldn’t happen. Pick one head per scene unless your initials are NR and then your publisher doesn’t care what you do. A better way to do this scene would be like this…
“You’re wrong, Jane.” Bob clenched his fists. When would she understand? “It’s not over.”
Jane sighed and looked away, obviously tired of the discussion. “It was over the day we got divorced.”
See that “obviously tired of the discussion” line? That’s Bob’s guess as to how Jane is feeling based on her sighing and looking away. It works and it keeps us in his head.DEEP POV
I love Deep POV. I strive for it in everything I write. Is it right for everything? No, but when it’s properly utilized it will help you write tighter. What is it? Deep POV is showing the scene through the character’s eyes, not watching it as it happens to the characters Let me show you what I mean.
Shallow POV: Jane watched Bob carry the groceries into the house, listening to his grunting and mumbling with a wry smile on her face.
Deep POV: She shook her head. Bob might be carrying the groceries in, but his muttering said it all. His unhappiness gave her a perverse tingle that went all the way to her grin.
Can you see the difference? The first snippet is like you’re watching Jane in this scene. In the second snippet, you are Jane.
*Filtering or distancing words will take your writing out of Deep POV, words like watched, heard, noticed, saw, felt, thought, decided, etc. What other distancing words can you think of? Do a search for them in your work and see how many you find. How can you rewrite the sentence to take them out?
*Having your characters refer to themselves by name over and over diminishes Deep POV. Do you refer to yourself by name when you’re thinking?
*Lastly, make each character’s descriptions distinct to their personality. Would a military man describe something as a gentle shade of mauve or pink? Would a female kindergarten teacher see a weapon as a Smith and Wesson 9 mil or a gun? Sure, there are exceptions in every case, but make the descriptions ring true. If those characters above answer with the first option, there better be a reason why.
Next up...Adverbs and Prepositional Phrases!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
1. I cut myself on tinfoil. I didn't know that was possible. I do now.
2. Reading 50 books in a year while trying to write a minimum of 2 is harder than it sounds, especially when your characters won't shut up.
3. The holidays are too hectic. Why do they have to be so hectic? I love them, but not the rushing.
4. Cats are good teachers of how to slow down. Waaaaaaaay down. Unless they've just pooped and then they're good teachers of how to break the land speed record.
5. There is too much junk mail in the world. Why is someone sending me a cigar catalog? Seriously?
6. Once a week, cake should be free at all cake supply places.
7. Lists are fun.
Feel free to ramble back with whatever nonsense fills your head. Seriously. The stranger the better. Go!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Isn't that a pretty cake? So simple. SO not Christmas-y or Thanksgiving-y.
Refreshing, sweet-tart lemon cake. Perfect for a Thursday when all you want to do is write, but you have errands to run because it's becoming that time of the year when the days turn into one hectic list of things to do after another.
So I've chosen to talk about cake instead. What's your favorite kind of cake?
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I did a lot of revision on my WIP yesterday in prep for new writing today (did 2 pages of new writing yesterday too, but today is the big push.) Why so much revision before the new words, you ask? Let me tell you: I'm not a forward thinker until the past makes sense.
I can't suddenly change a character's motivation and write it that way from page 134 on knowing that from pages 1 to 133, he's thinking something completely different. I have to change it from the beginning. It's just me. It's just how I work. I know a lot of writers that don't worry about that kind of stuff until the final polish, but I worry that I'd get lost.
As a result, every time I change something or add a layer of detail, I have to go back through the manuscript and make the whole thing work. Not saying I do it with a fine tooth comb, but I hit the big spots, realign what I can. Does this cost me time? Yes. Does it preserve my writing sanity? Yes. And I get happier about the book with every subtle new thing that gets done.
That's my revision hang-up. What's yours?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Don't be jealous, but one of the things on my list today is to finish my Christmas shopping. Yep, one trip to Target and I'll be done. The feeling of being done is beyond awesome. It's like Ed McMahon just showed up on my doorstep to tell me I've won the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes and I hadn't even entered. (Of course, I haven't wrapped anything yet. And with 3 cats, wrapping presents is a ginormous undertaking of skill and patience.)
I also have to run to the post office. Then I'm done with outside errands and I can dedicate myself to inside stuff. Which means writing (hoping for 8 - 10 pages, but would be happy with 5) and working on the Writing Basics Workshop I've giving to my chapter this Saturday. I'm not sure why I agreed to do that. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment. Or I wanted to see just how far I could push myself before I went postal. I'm close. And I don't need to remind you that I now own a gun.
What's on your Monday To Do list?
Edited to add: A friend's daughter needs votes on her drawing to win a scholarship. Check it out in the link below and vote!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Friday, November 14th, is National Pickle Day. Get your dill on!
It was 94 here yesterday. Makes it a little tough to get in the holiday spirit, but I'm working on it. We'll be headed to my folks for Thanksgiving and I spoke to my mom yesterday about the shopping list. I told her the things I needed most were pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes and corn. Sure I like turkey and cranberry relish and all that other stuff, too, but I'm a pumpkin pie addict. Truly. Hot, cold, with whip, without whip...I'll eat it any way it comes.
And mashed potatoes are one of those foods I almost never eat except at Thanksgiving and Christmas so I want to be sure there is enough. And the corn? I like that on the mashed potatoes. Is that weird?
What are your favorite Thanksgiving foods?
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Hey, this is my 800th post! I can't believed I blogged that much.
Today I have two goals: vacuum and write. Exciting, huh? Well, the writing is, the vacuuming not so much. I think I should do the vacuuming now and get it out of the way. Oh, I might go out for a walk later, too.
In other news, did you catch Top Chef last night? I don't have any real favorites yet but I like the blond surfer boy from Miami, but mostly because he reminds me of chef John Besh (whom I adore), and I kind of like Eugene, the guy who worked his way up from dishwasher. How can you not like that kind of ambition and drive?
What's on your plate today?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Hotrod and I have been meaning to get handguns for some time now, but the election helped us make that decision sooner, due to the possibility that gun ownership may become more restricted. We are now each the proud owner of a Smith and Wesson 9 mil. (And a pistol grip pump action shotgun, but I digress...)
We'll both be taking a class (Hotrod doesn't need it with his military background, but he's taking it to be with me - sweet how weaponry makes us closer, no?) so that we can qualify for a concealed carry permit.
Unfortunately, the S&W didn't come in a sparkly pink configuration. Me with a gun. Kinda hot, don't you think? lol I'm naming it Jane, after Patrick Jane, the main character on The Mentalist. I figure seeing this gun in my hand will help me figure someone out pretty quick.
Oh, and if you happen to be my ex-husband and you're reading this, you can consider Jane my new restraining order.
Does it surprise you that a girly girl like me would want a gun? Do you have one? What's your thoughts?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
So it's Monday. Happens once a week, you'd think I'd be used to it, but I'm not. Thanks to Hotrod's snoring and one bothersome black cat *coughScootercough* that woke me up THREE times to be scratched and adored, my sleep was less than blissful last night. Needless to say, I'm dragging.
Besides redesigning my blog (did you think you'd gone to the wrong place?), the weekend was quiet and mostly spent recovering from last week's icky cold. Safe to say I'm over it, except for the occasional scratchiness in the throat.
The coolest thing was that last night as I was falling asleep, I had a Major Idea for my WIP. Huge. And delicious. I love when that happens, don't you? Now I'm psyched to write and see what I can do with it. Of course, there are errands to be run and other stuff to do today first. Ick. I want to write from bed.
What's on your Monday agenda?
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
1. The Chicken Purse - Not made out of actual chicken. Not that that is in any way a selling point. Seriously, the very existence of this may be a sign of the apocalypse. The amount of money it would take for me to carry this handbag would not fit into that handbag. Not in $100 bills. Or Krugerrands.
2. Lingerie - This is not a Christmas present I want under my tree. A silk nightgown or robe I'm fine with. A sexy lace babydoll? That's a Valentine's Day present meant to be opened when there are only two people present. The wearee and the undresser. Nuff said.
3. The Guitar Toilet Handle - Even if I played the guitar, I don't think I'd need to express that creative side of myself when flushing. What is the purpose of this? Who owns one? Is this given as some sort of conciliatory prize for those voted off American Idol? I am agog.
4. Toenail clippers - These should never be a gift. Ever. Not under any circumstances. Not if they're gold plated and mother-of-pearl inlaid. Just don't. Ever.
5. Christmas Themed Clothing - See, by the time I get this, Christmas is basically over, so that means I must wear it immediately. Not that I would wear it. I promise you, these items go directly into the Goodwill bin tags attached. If that's the best present you can come up with, save your money and buy yourself a clue.
What won't ever be on your list?
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Thanks to Hotrod, I'm now sick too. Of course, he's off to California on a business trip while I'm home alone. Who's going to bring me soup and tea and meds? Me, that's who. *sigh* I will be on the couch watching old movies, reading and napping intermittently if anyone needs me.
What do you think of the slight blog redesign? I'm not sure of it yet. It may change again.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Between Hotrod being under the weather (read sick and in need of constant care) and the actual weather being rather cool, I decided to make gumbo yesterday. At the last minute, I left the shrimp out since we'd had shrimp the night before and just went with chicken and sausage.
This was the first time I'd made it and wow, it was tasty! Now I've got massive quantities of it to keep us going through the week. (The Italian in me doesn't know how to make small batches of anything.)
In other news, I wrote a scene in my WIP yesterday and then realized it didn't accomplish what it needed to do so I think I have to scrap it and start over. I hate deleting words. It's almost painful. But it needs to be done. I'll probably save the scene in a scraps file in case I can use part of it later. Do you do that or do you just send it into the ether?
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
I had a great, albeit too short, weekend. Saturday was spent at a booksigning that took place at a local mall. Much fun was had by the five writers/authors in our group, even though we started the day by having lunch at a rather curious place. The restaurant we ate at featured a menu where every plate was 475 calories or less. Great! However, there wasn't a pat of butter to be had in the whole joint. They don't stock it, cook with it or serve it.
My dislike was immediate. I almost don't trust a restaurant that doesn't use butter. Granted, the food was really good. I just couldn't get past the butter thing.
I made up for that on Sunday afternoon when Hotrod and I indulged in the chili and cornbread I'd made for lunch. Mmmm...boys and girls, I can cook. Just saying. I also finished one book and started another. I am pushing really hard to make that 50 book year end total.
My one and only major goal this month? Write "The End" on my WIP. That means approximately 133 pages. Very doable. No NaNo, no fast draft, just regular writing. Any of you doing NaNo? Any other big monthly goals?