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The Art of #Writing–Audit Your Novel’s #StoryStructure

The Art of #Writing–Audit Your Novel’s #StoryStructure published on No Comments on The Art of #Writing–Audit Your Novel’s #StoryStructure

Over typed keyboard
Over typed keyboard
You’ve sweated, plotted and struck the nubs of your fingers into your keyboard enough times to wear indentations into the keys. The first draft is in your hands. What do you do now?

You fix it.

Even best selling authors have to repair their story structure. Kevin Hearn gives a nice accounting about the process between his editor and him. But you, I’m going to guess, don’t have an editor, at least not a developmental editor, because those puppies are expensive, so it’s a DYI exercise.

You: Hey, I’m a spiffy writer and nothing is wrong with my pretty baby.

Here is the dividing line between an amateur writer and a professional one (at least in intent)–you are willing to tear apart your work ruthlessly in order to make it better. There is no emotion involved in this except the “aw shucks” when you have to kill one of your darlings, or cut a character or scene you love but doesn’t add to the story.

So how are you going to do this?Continue reading The Art of #Writing–Audit Your Novel’s #StoryStructure

The Art of #Writing: #Plotting and #Pacing Using #Scrivener

The Art of #Writing: #Plotting and #Pacing Using #Scrivener published on No Comments on The Art of #Writing: #Plotting and #Pacing Using #Scrivener

The Hero's JourneyYou’ve plotted or pants your way through your novel, spent long months of taking your hero or heroine from there to back again, and then you read it. And die a little inside. Because even though you’ve created engaging characters, put them in gut twisting situations, and gave them a resolution that makes you weep, something is off. Terribly, terribly off.

Your novel drags in places. Goes too fast in others. The beginning is solid, but the middle is soggy. The ending seems rushed. One character seems to overtake scenes they shouldn’t. You think it’s the plotting, but you look at all the elements, and yep, everything is there that you intended as a plotter, or discovered as a pantser. Maybe this is the place you stall. You aren’t sure what to do. Or maybe you suck as a writer (hint: you don’t) and you shove the whole thing (figuratively, because you use a computer) into the furtherest corner of your desk.Continue reading The Art of #Writing: #Plotting and #Pacing Using #Scrivener

Interview with the #Scifi #author

Interview with the #Scifi #author published on No Comments on Interview with the #Scifi #author

Oh no. No one actually interviewed me. But over at Fantasy-Writers.org a member posted a thread asking us about how we started as writers and then added a few more questions. It evolved into an interview of sorts so here goes:

1.How did everyone get their start in writing fantasy?

It was a confluence of cultural influences that led me to science fiction and fantasy. When I was eleven Star Trek first hit the small screen. But before that there were a bunch of popular SF themed shows. Land of the Giants, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are two. When I was even younger there was a Saturday morning kid’s show Fireball XL5 about the missions of spaceship Fireball XL5, commanded by Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol. The characters were produced through puppetry, and had the cheesiest of production values, (sometimes you saw the wires) but to my five-year old mind it was fascinating.Continue reading Interview with the #Scifi #author

Pirate’s Luck: Chapter Eight~Twice Cursed

Pirate’s Luck: Chapter Eight~Twice Cursed published on No Comments on Pirate’s Luck: Chapter Eight~Twice Cursed

Pirate's Luck Pain accompanied every movement as Grokin pushed him up the ladder that led to the engine room.

Arekan stared stupidly at the long cylinder of the null space displacement unit that ran through the center of the compartment. Except for a few class tours on his home ship, he’d never seen one. But this piece of equipment as everything else on this tub looked in disrepair. Its paint cracked and peeled along its casing, and the rust brown of corrosion marked the unit’s seams. Arekan grew queasier at witnessing the poor condition of this major aspect of the propulsion system.

The engineer whipped his head toward Arekan and Grokin and frowned. Tinnen was extremely lean and white-haired. A deep scar cut into his cheek running from his ear to his jaw, which deepened with the scowl he gave both men.

“This is who you brought?” said Tinnen incredulously.

Continue Reading–> Chapter Eight~Twice Cursed

Image by Starry Night Graphixs

#WinterSolstice #Fiction: The Inattentions of Mr. Weatherby

#WinterSolstice #Fiction: The Inattentions of Mr. Weatherby published on No Comments on #WinterSolstice #Fiction: The Inattentions of Mr. Weatherby

Women in LeatherNote: I wrote the following piece for a Fantasy Writer’s.org monthly challenge three years ago. I haven’t found a market for it, so I’m publishing it here for Winter Solstice. There is a little fantasy/science fiction mix here, so bear with me. I’ve always like this story and whenever I read it–well, you’ll see.

THE INATTENTIONS OF MR. WEATHERBY

In advance of the coming cold front, thick flakes swirled and hit the muddy street. Ari’s boots slipped in the mud and the thin coating of melting snow. Her basket in hand, she looked up as the flying ice batted her eyes. She pulled up her scarf over her nose and pushed on, making her way to the little store before her. The storefront was dark, but whether it was because Mr. Weatherby closed the store early, or the sudden storm dampened the light of the sun, she did not know.

She pushed at the door, and it yielded, opening on the slight warmth of an enclosed space holding back the greater cold of the outside world. There was a fireplace off to the left, but it was not lit. The rafters were dark from a lack of light in the shop. She stomped her feet before she entered loosening some of the mud from her boots.\

“Weatherby,” she called.

Typically, there was no answer. She often remarked he was the worst storekeeper ever, but Weatherby would only scoff.

“I’m here, aren’t I? No one else would supply this sad sack little town.”Continue reading #WinterSolstice #Fiction: The Inattentions of Mr. Weatherby

The Art of #Writing: #Editing~Where Your Worst Fears Are Confirmed

The Art of #Writing: #Editing~Where Your Worst Fears Are Confirmed published on No Comments on The Art of #Writing: #Editing~Where Your Worst Fears Are Confirmed

Editing You suck.

As a writer.

No really.

That’s what you are thinking as you contemplate the editing of your work. It is where you confront your worst fears as you embark on the most dreaded of writer’s chores.

Sometimes my first draft is so utterly cringe worthy, I can hardly bear to read it. “What was I thinking?” I’d tell myself when reading my words. How did I write a sentence that convoluted? Why am I using so many filler words? Can I really not find a different word to use instead of writing it three times in the same paragraph? And why the hell can’t I remember where I should and shouldn’t put commas?

Ack! Argh! Hands in face.Continue reading The Art of #Writing: #Editing~Where Your Worst Fears Are Confirmed

The #politics of #words: #post-truth,#gaslighting and #cognitivedissonance

The #politics of #words: #post-truth,#gaslighting and #cognitivedissonance published on No Comments on The #politics of #words: #post-truth,#gaslighting and #cognitivedissonance

Ingrid Bergman in the 1944 film Gaslight
Ingrid Bergman in the 1944 film Gaslight
Stephen Colbert has a complaint. The the Oxford English Dictionary named “post-truth” its word of the year for 2016. Stephen Colbert said he covered that idea ten years previously in his conlang word “truthiness.”

Now unlike other dictionaries, The Oxford English dictionary doesn’t propose to tell you how to use words. Apparently it gleens new words from a plethora of sources, mostly online, to gather words as people are using them now. Of post-truth The Washington Post says:

Oxford Dictionaries has selected “post-truth” as 2016’s international word of the year, after the contentious “Brexit” referendum and an equally divisive U.S. presidential election caused usage of the adjective to skyrocket, according to the Oxford University Press.

Continue reading The #politics of #words: #post-truth,#gaslighting and #cognitivedissonance

Renegade The Spiral Wars Book 1

The art of #writing: stop those awful sentence fragments

The art of #writing: stop those awful sentence fragments published on No Comments on The art of #writing: stop those awful sentence fragments

Renegade The Spiral Wars Book 1 Between writing and editing two books for clients this month, I’m taking in gulps the very fun Renegade: The Spiral Wars Book 1 by Joel Shepherd. Except for one thing about Joel’s writing I’m thoroughly enjoying this action-adventure galactic empire space opera.

But the one thing? That’s a killer, something that throws me out of the story every time I hit it. I have to crawl back into the story worse for wear resigned to the fact I’m going to be hit with this land mine again.

And what is it?

Sentence fragments.

Now let me backtrack. I think sentence fragments can be very useful in advancing the narrative. Used properly they are like the bullet points in a memo to focus the reader’s attention on a single thought or emotion for good effect.

Consider this example from Pirate’s Luck:

Tinnen slapped the button to open the hatch and the air in the small space rushed out in a blast. Obon let go of Arekan and the vacuum of space sucked him into the black. His last look confirmed what he knew. Each man was laughing his head off.

Bastards.

This is an obviously an action scene with events moving quickly. You don’t want to slow the pacing with too much self-reflection but the dire circumstances our hero is in demands one. The one word accomplishes that. Since it doesn’t have a verb it’s a sentence fragment. But it furthers the narrative and allows the reader to get on to the next paragraph with the emotional impact delivered succinctly.

But what I’m seeing in books today is a slapdash application of sentence fragments. Consider this example from Joel’s Renegade.

At the turnover point Erik kicked the shuttle’s tail around and over, still thrusting to slow them while skidding them around onto a new orbit, chasing Fajar Station and Phoenix. Barely fifteen minutes at these velocities, approaching at plus twenty thousand kilometres an hour.

Okay Joel, I’ll bite. Barely fifteen minutes at these velocities, approaching at plus twenty thousand kilometres an hour what? What happens? What are the consequences? Tell me, because I’m just the reader. I’m hanging on your coattails– your creative vision. What is the worst thing that can happen here, because that is what you are alluding to.

But you don’t finish the thought.

Lest you think I’m hammering on an isolated incident there are more, so many more, such as this:

Then past berthing crew at the grapples, and tight space between bulkheads, secured with netting and acceleration slings where marines could ride out manoeuvres while waiting to board a shuttle. He overhanded up the corridor, past zero-G equipment bays and outfitting where a lot of marines’ gear was secured, then finally made the core hatch.

This one is a little more complicated, incorporating a lot more action, but it is still a fragment, and it is still not showing us what Eric is experiencing in this sequence. And I want to know. Here Eric is in the zero g portion of the ship, without the benefit of gravity to get good action from his muscles and it just begs more information. Such as,

“Heart thudding in his chest, he propelled his body with one hard push of his muscles past the berthing crew at the grapples. With a single touch of his hand to the bulkhead he adjusted his course to navigate the tight space of netting and acceleration slings used by the Marines when waiting for deployment to the shuttles. Cursing, wanting to move faster, he overhanded the equally spaced rungs in the bulkhead as his body fought the slowness of muscle movement in zero-g. He picked up speed, and Eric shot past the zero-G equipment bays where the Marines’ secured their gear. Finally he arrived at the core hatch.”

Now you can pare down the words. That’s what editing is for. Action scenes call for as little detail as possible. But that doesn’t mean you resort to sentence fragments to accomplish that.

Because they just don’t work. So stop writing those awful sentences fragments. Verbs and your readers will thank you for it.

P. S. But don’t let the sentence fragments stop you from reading Joel’s book. Otherwise it is a great read.

Image © Joel Shepherd. Use of low resolution images of copyrighted work is permissible for purposes of commentary under US copyright law.

The Craft of Writing: 200 Most Common Words As Parts of Speech

The Craft of Writing: 200 Most Common Words As Parts of Speech published on No Comments on The Craft of Writing: 200 Most Common Words As Parts of Speech
Lexical Density Proportions
Lexical Density Proportions

Two hundred words are said to comprise eighty percent of all English sentences. Here is the list broken down into parts of speech. Why? Because you should know what weapons you are hurling at an unsuspecting public.

It’s been nigh many years when the nuns at my Catholic grammar school made me memorize parts of speech at the age of seven and had me parse sentences at the tender age of ten. Funny thing is that my children never had to struggle with such exercises. Instead they were immersed in “whole language” where they were encouraged to write and express themselves whether or not they knew how to wield words. This is such a stark contrast to me and my classmates having to copy compositions and types of letters out of books to learn how to write such things that it is no wonder that writers today use sentence fragments and feel perfectly comfortable using them. Continue reading The Craft of Writing: 200 Most Common Words As Parts of Speech

The Craft of Writing: Lexical Density and You

The Craft of Writing: Lexical Density and You published on 3 Comments on The Craft of Writing: Lexical Density and You

Lexical Density According to the study, Success with Style: Using Writing Style to Predict the Success of Novels, by Stony Brook University’s Vikas Gajingunte Ashok, Song Feng and Yejin Choi, whether or not a book will sell can be determined by several quantifiable factors.


The researchers downloaded classic literature from the Project Gutenberg archive
, used more recent award-winning novels and analyzed low-ranking books on Amazon — and included genres from science fiction to classic literature and even poetry.

Successful books utilized a high percentage of nouns and adjectives, conjunctions, prepositions, pronouns, determiners and adjectives. They found that successful books made great use of conjunctions to join sentences (“and” or “but”) and prepositions than less successful books.

Less successful books had a higher percentage of verbs, adverbs, and foreign words. Such books also relied heavily on clichés, extreme and negative words. Less successful books also rely on dull verbs that describe direct action, such as “took,” “promised” and “cried,” while more successful books use more verbs that describe thought-processing, such as “recognized” and “remembered.”Continue reading The Craft of Writing: Lexical Density and You

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