Friday, July 29, 2011

the dreaded synopsis

It's that time again, time to write another one of those dreaded synopses. Blech.
But this time one of my critique partners has given me some tips.
Here they are:
  • Start with a short blurb that grabs the reader. This is for the editor, to give him/her a sense of the book. It needs to be a kick-ass elevator pitch, not boring.
  • then describe/show/explain:
    • the protagonist(s)
    • the inciting incident
    • the setting
    • the protag's goal and motivation
    • the major conflict
    • the major turning points
    • the climax
    • the ending/validation

Thanks, Rebecca! I'll give it try. Does anyone else have any tips on this?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

first chapters

As I revise my WIP, I've been rereading my chapter one. I had totally rewritten it and it's better but it's still not good. :( I think I will throw everything out and start fresh again BECAUSE first chapters are crucial. Writers get agents and sell books based on first chapters. (No pressure!) Generally, authors must set the scene, introduce the protagonist, and hook the reader all in the first chapter (or page!). The first chapter also sets the tone.

How does one do all this? I highly recommend surveying first chapters in the public library, your personal library, or on-line. These days a lot of first chapters are available on-line. Ignoring the obvious large electronic bookseller(s), many newspapers have collections of first chapters (although you may need to be a member or subscriber.) For example, The Guardian in the U.K. has a website of First chapters. Picking randomly, Into the Silent Land by Paul Broks starts with:

'Why does raw meat give me a hard-on?'

This is Michael, chopping sirloin ready for the stir-fry. Typically, he is going to the trouble of preparing a good lunch: beef in hoi-sin sauce. He's bought some beer, too. We're drinking straight from the can. Amy, his girlfriend, sits at the kitchen table reading a magazine. This is intriguing and has a strong voice!

Another good site is Contemporary Literature First Chapters / Excerpts. Check it out. :)

Of course, at some point you just have to buckle down and write the darn things. Then give them to your critique partners or beta readers, listen to their comments, and rewrite. Repeat as necessary.

So, back to work for me...

Monday, July 25, 2011

changing conventions?

As I mentioned earlier, our English language keeps evolving, as does writing prose...
It can be hard to keep track of all the rules and their changes.
When you have a character ask a question in dialogue do you use the tag "he asked" or "he said"? I have a writer friend who insists on always using "asked". Is this the convention? I'm sensing this is a pet peeve of hers.

What's the current convention on italicizing thoughts? For a while there we were supposed to italicize thoughts but now it seems, not. What do you think?

I have a teacher who insists on "damned" as the adjective (rather than "damn"), which is technically correct, but the incorrect version is in common use.

One of my pet peeves is when people use "ok" or "OK" instead of "okay" or "O.K." Ugh! Again, this is super-common. Is it time for me to give up on this one?

How about you? Any pet-peeves? Any good resources for dealing with all these things?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

show and tell

I'm deep in the throes of revising my WIP. In fact I'm pretty bogged down getting mixed up about what I've changed already and what I have left to change. :( To take a break (I'm really not procrastinating. Really.), I've been reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King. Chapter one is "Show and Tell", a topic we've discussed here before, but it's worth revisiting.

Beginning writers often tell a story rather than show a story. I must admit I see this A LOT in ezine slush piles. :(
More advanced writers have been told "Show, don't tell." so they tend to do all showing.
However, some helpful words of wisdom I received were "Show the story, tell the backstory." Personally, I think this works well.

So, anyway, back to the book. I was reading all about how I should show rather than tell, except when I should tell rather than show. And I was feeling pretty smug, thinking I had a handle on all this. Enter my new critique partner with her Deep POV advice. What's this? New information? I even went back and looked at Browne and King's chapter one again and it was actually in there, too, but I hadn't even noticed amongst all my smugness. For example, they say, Keep an eye out for any places where you mention an emotion outside of dialogue. Chances are you're telling what you should show.

I guess no matter how long we write, there's always something new to learn.

How about you? Have you learned anything new lately?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Deep POV

I have a new critique partner and she's been telling me about Deep POV. This is an intimate or limited third person point-of-view in which telling is eliminated. Basically an author just shows the reader all the sensory information a character would experience and doesn't use telling words like "felt" or "heard" or "saw". Interesting!

Some really helpful links with more information are: and
Thanks, Jenn!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Writers Search Engine

Many of you may already know about this, but I recently discovered something neat:
Writer's Knowledge Base, The Search Engine for Writers. The Writer's Knowledge Base (WKB) is a searchable collection of articles that are highly relevant to writers. The articles are diverse and cover such topics as the craft of writing, getting published, promotion, etc. Notice the search engine only covers topics related to writing. If you do a search you won't accidentally get anything weird--like porn. (Why do so many innocent searches lead to porn?)

A little backstory...Elizabeth Craig supplies the links for the WKB. Elizabeth is a published author who monitors over 1500 websites for great articles on writing and then posts the links on Twitter. The WKB then archives the links for us writers to access to our heart's desire.

Does anyone else know of any neat writers websites? Please share!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

revision: unique body language

I continue to ponder the revision process...
The other day we talked about making sure each character has unique dialogue. What they say and how they say it should be exclusive to each person in your fiction. Similarly, every character should have unique body language. Look around your home or office, what body language do you see? That teenaged girl sighs dramatically and rolls her eyes. That mom can't seem to sit still. That older gentleman shuffles his feet and stares at the ground while he walks. You'd never mix up their body language! Similarly, in your work, strive for unique bodily diction. :)

Does anyone have tips or tricks in this arena?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

to grimace or not to grimace?

One of the best teachers I've ever had has a thing about grimaces. He says you should never use the word grimace in your writing because it doesn't mean anything. I would say a grimace is a frown caused by disgust. I looked it up in various dictionaries and they say a grimace is a facial expression, often ugly or contorted, that indicates disapproval, pain, etc. or a sharp facial contortion expressing pain, contempt, or disgust., etc. So, regarding grimaces, I guess: Caveat scriptor.

However, I think this points to a larger issue: the evolution of the english language. There's no question our language has evolved and is evolving over time. How much of this should we use in our writing? For example, in my work I would use "five finger discount", but not "index finger discount". Most people know the former but only a certain subset of folks know the latter (although we could probably figure it out!). Certainly, there are genre considerations here. YA should use a lot of slang. Techno- or geek-thrillers should also use a lot of jargon.

But, IMHO, we can go too far. 2MI can be 2M2H. IKR?

I think we should avoid text-messaging "words" in fiction.

What do you think?

B4N. :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

revision: unique dialogue

We all know dialogue is an important part of fiction. As such, it's worth taking a look at when doing revisions. First things first: dialogue tags should ONLY use said or asked. Don't get creative. In fact, the prevailing wisdom is it's better not to use dialogue tags; use body language, facial expressions, or other information to let the reader know who's talking. However, don't make your characters "bobble-heads". This is an expression from one of my writing professors and indicates too much head nodding or similar actions. Watch out for this. :) A tip: many published works put the dialogue tag or action between two sentences of dialogue rather than at the beginning or end.

Another important point is every character should have unique dialogue. If I'm honest, many of my characters talk like I do in my first drafts. So, when I revise, I have to get rid of this. Ideally, each character's dialogue is so unique you wouldn't even need a dialogue tag. In a long work, I keep a cheat-sheet of slang or special unique words for each character. For example, one character might use a lot of single-syllable words, another might not use contractions. Good luck with your dialogue!

How about you? How do you deal with dialogue?