Tuesday, June 24, 2014
** Don't forget the Stormrider signed paperback book and Unique Totebag giveaway ends July 7! Enter now!
Well actually it’s the ‘wrong’ dither. Are you a writer who’s trying to get your word count down and can’t figure out why it is you can’t? All those words are so special, so pertinent, so important to the story.
No they’re not.
Here’s the thing. First of all word count is important. You shouldn’t be obsessive about it, but if whoever you’re writing for has a word limit then stay within it. Don’t think because you write so brilliantly they’ll make an exception. They won’t.
So, to reduce the word count (funny how we almost always over-write and not under-write) remove empty words. You know all those words that get thrown in to express an idea (or even to pad out a story or article) that you might not even be aware of. Words like “maybe”, “try to”, “perhaps”, etc. (yes, the etc. means something – think about all those other ‘filler’ words.) The spinning and multiplying of words as a writer whirls and dance with language because he really doesn’t know what he wants to say.
And think about sentences like this: He decided it was about time he should be beginning to be learning about science.
Huh? What? How about: He decided it was time to learn about science.
Most of the time there are simple ways to cut lengthy sentences which not only reduces the dreaded word count, but believe me it will help hold the interest of the reader – after those cuts keeps a deciding editor happy.
Now, before I get everyone jumping all over me, there are times when the longer sentences are a necessity. There is such a thing as beautiful prose; that in which the writer creates a world, uses poetic metaphor and scintillating adjectives. So, as the writer (and at least first editor) the writer (you) is going to have to weigh exactly what is what in the story being written.
But, as a reminder, at the same time don’t fall into the cliché trap. That’s not poetic writing, it’s simply boring and shows the world the writer is a bit low on imagination. Let’s just skip things like “looking like the cat that swallowed the canary,” or “the early bird catches the worm,” or “things that go bump in the night” – get it? It’s so much easier to avoid adding all those words, to create better, smarter and tighter sentences and create a much more engaging story all with just a little extra thought. It’ll become so easy over time that very little conscious effort will be needed to create your own metaphor and skip those old, worn out ones that have morphed over time into clichés.
So, instead of “he looked like the cat that swallowed the canary” how about, “he looked smug.”
Instead of “things that go bump in the night” how about “his heart pounded in the wake of the thump in the dark, deserted basement.”
Make words your playground ~don’t let them fence you in.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Yes, I'm hosting a giveaway of a signed copy of my paperback book Stormrider (available in paperback and of course digital) editions along with a fabulous original design tote bag!
The opportunity to enter runs from June 18, 2014 through July 7, 2014 so hurry and get your entries in.
It'll be at my Facebook fanpage for Stormrider - just click the 'giveaway' tab and enter!
Mobile? go to http://tinyurl.com/p8xukr4
Mobile? go to http://tinyurl.com/p8xukr4
The book is gaining 5 star reviews and enjoys the endorsement of Tony award winning actor John Cullum.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Yes, it is important. This blog is focused greatly on writers and to a certain extent readers. So it’s not surprising I repeat quotes such as the one from Stephen King, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."
Reading, though, is much more than that. By reading we can learn things, we can learn about places, we can jump into fantasy worlds, interface with intense drama or laugh ourselves silly or submerge in any part of the human (or sometimes even not so human) experience.
But look back at the key words I used in the last paragraph; interface, submerge, dive into, jump into – all of them are indicative of active interaction, not simply the scanning of words. Don’t you find even if it’s text from which you wish to learn something that it needs to grab your attention? That you have a difficult time learning from something that is dry and pedantic?
So, what does that say about reading? It says you should be critical and choosey. If you’re learning from what you read you might want to have a pen handy or a device of some sort where you can make notes and comments. If you’re a fiction writer you might want to make critical notes in a book you’re reading to remind yourself what you feel is good writing and not so good (unless what you’re reading is strictly to kick back and relax, then don’t force yourself to take notes!)
But you should consider being always critical in your reading whether you are the serious reader, but not a writer type or one who is both. By critical I don’t mean dive in and be prepared to rip a work apart. Just be thoughtful. If you’ve decided to read a book that’s gotten fantastic reviews (or very bad ones) approach with an open mind. You may well like it (or not) for a lot of your own reasons. Don’t allow yourself to be totally swayed by someone else's option.
That goes for so-called ‘classics’ as well. Just because it falls into that category doesn’t mean you have to like it and it doesn’t mean it remains ‘good’ by today’s readers’ standards. Writing method had changed greatly over the years. And no writer is without his or her flaws. Even writers whose books you’ve read and loved can come out with one you really dislike. That’s life. Be honest with yourself about what you enjoy, what you can learn from. That’s when you learn and when you enjoy.
If you’re a writer, even more. Think about parts of the book that work for you, dialog you love, scenes you hate. Subplots you thought could have been left out or those that struck a chord. And think about why they work or don’t work for you. Remember that quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” A lot of truth to that.
It can be fun to talk to someone about the book as well. Especially if you loved the book and the other person perhaps hated it. You can see it through someone else’s eyes. It’s entertaining, and if you’re a writer, educational as well.
Ah, and don’t pass up a book just because ‘reviews’ aren’t the best, or are flat out bad. If you can, read a sample. If you get drawn in, read the whole thing. Then perhaps add your ‘review’ to the stack.
We read for fun, entertainment and to learn. So read, a lot. Don’t miss out.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Writers and Artists has a web address out of the UK and offers expert advice articles, inspirational author interviews, competitions, a lively online community and editorial services for every stage of the writing journey.
Sound good? Then head on over and give it a thorough checking out.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
“Language is the source of misunderstandings.”― Antoine de Saint- Exupéry
Yep, there it is, on a whole lot of levels. Language, writing or speaking, can lead to misunderstandings of a whole host of varieties.
But let’s just stick to the reading and writing arena.
Readers, you read for information, education, entertainment, a whole host of reasons. When you read you hope what’s on the page before you will be clear and concise. If fiction it might be gripping and evocative as well, but still has to be clear so the story can be understood. The simple reality if it isn’t reasonably so, or in the case of fiction, very much so, then the reader stops reading. Sets the material aside and goes on to something else.
Writers, your intent is to inform, entertain and hold the reader whether it’s for purposes of education or entertainment. If you don’t hold on to your reader for whatever intent, then the information or entertainment won’t follow. So again, the simple reality is if the words on the page are scrambled and difficult to understand the reader stops reading. Sets the material aide and goes on to something else.
Well, actually, not so much. Sometimes the material, if informative or educational, filled with something that must be learned or absorbed, then no matter how badly written the reader will slog on (no doubt muttering and curing to him or herself), but nonetheless will probably continue. It’s still not good that the reader is forced to stop, read and re-read to unscramble what’s on the page before him.
If you’re a writer of fiction or scripts, then it gets even worse. See paragraph 4 above. The fiction reader is far less patient because, well, he doesn’t have to be. The script reader will toss your script aside in favor of one he can make some sense of. The novel reader will curse whatever he or she spent on your book and your name or an editor will toss your manuscript in the digital recycle bin.
Writers read your work, re-read your work, have your friends read it if you can get them to. Have it professionally edited. Whatever it takes, make sure your writing flows, that it makes sense, that it doesn’t have places that brings the reading to a screeching halt. Drop all extra words; cut mercilessly. Read. A lot. See what makes that writing smooth and seamless. Your story, your information will get lost if the reader can make no sense of a sentence or a paragraph.
Don’t think ‘this is okay’ or fall into the trap of ‘I know what I mean so everyone else will too’.
Too much of what I read has words left out, sentences half written or so long it’s impossible to keep the thought straight. Too much has dialog where it’s unclear who the speaker is. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes and make sense of the senseless. Just because it’s the era of texting and twitter doesn’t mean that’s the language of text book and novel. Focus and your writing will stand out.