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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

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 #Writing Craft: #Write Like A Best Selling #Author

The #Writing Craft: #Write Like A Best Selling #Author published on 2 Comments on The #Writing Craft: #Write Like A Best Selling #Author

Lexical Density In which I examine Pro-Writing Aid recommendations against the efforts of published best-sellers.

In the previous three articles in this series we’ve looked at the findings of a group of researchers at Stony Brook University that linked lexical density to a book’s success, at lexical density compared to writing rules and identified the two hundred most common words as parts of speech.

Now we’ll look at some slightly different elements in the word recipe toward building a great book.Continue reading The #Writing Craft: #Write Like A Best Selling #Author

#Howtoblog: Use #keywords to build your #author blog’s reach

#Howtoblog: Use #keywords to build your #author blog’s reach published on 2 Comments on #Howtoblog: Use #keywords to build your #author blog’s reach

blogging, writing, pagerank, keywords, how to blog
Increase your pagerank with keywords
Pagerank seems to be one of those little things that many writer-bloggers ignore. Maybe it’s because Google keeps changing the game rules, maybe because so few authors understand pagerank, or maybe because in the hectic life of a writer (must put down words, no time for anything else) it seems a tiny detail in the world of blogging.

It is not.

Pagerank is your SEO report card and if you are scoring a goose egg on pagerank, one thing is not happening. The search engines are not sending traffic your way.

Yes, I know. I gave you five sneaky ways to get website traffic, but if you are in this for the long haul you need every edge you can get. Securing a page rank is one edge. Some authors understand this better than others. Chuck Wendig has an immensely successful blog with a page rank of five for his main site and four for his blog. Kevin Hearne a page rank of four, which is pretty darn good on the Google end for a non-corporate blog. Obviously Kevin had someone do all the shiny SEO thingies to get the blog to that pagerank. The first actual author’s blog on Google, which is on page two is Advanced Fiction Writing which has a page rank of three. Now if someone is looking for author blogs who do you think is going to get that traffic?

Well, not Chuck. (Sorry, Chuck) And not Kevin, despite that page rank (Sorry, Kevin). The winner here is Advanced Fiction Writing who took the trouble of crafting the blog title around what, class? (Holds hand to ear) Continue reading #Howtoblog: Use #keywords to build your #author blog’s reach

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 Compared to Writing Rules

The Craft of #Writing: Lexical Density Compared to Writing Rules published on No Comments on The Craft of #Writing: Lexical Density Compared to Writing Rules

The Craft of WritingI took some creative license in the title because we all know there aren’t any rules in writing. There is just some incredibly strong advice. The “rules” vary widely from writer to writer and even from genre to genre.

But there do seem to a few general “rules” floating out there that were captured by a Guardian article where they printed the rules of Elmore Leonard, whose rules seem to be derigeur today.

1.) Never open a book with the weather
2.) Avoid Prologues
3.) Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4.) Never use an adverb to modify “said.”
5.) Keep your exclaimation points under control.
6.) Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”
7.) Use regional dialect and foreign words sparingly.
8.) Avoid detailed descriptions of characters
9.) Don’t go into great detail describing places and things
10.) Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.
Other general admonitions handed out to beginning writers are “show, not tell” which runs along thing lines of Leonard’s eight, ninth and tenth rule. Writers are encourage to “show” what is happening rather than telling or writing the story like a news report.

Leonard’s rules seem to lean toward a lean and clean prose that doesn’t bog the reader down with word thick prose. Anything not essential to the telling of the immediate story is stripped away. What he seems to be leaning toward is “readability,” the facility of the prose to communicate to as many readers as possible.Continue reading The Craft of #Writing: Lexical Density Compared to Writing Rules

Scrivener’s Shot Gun Wedding With Pro-Writing Aid

Scrivener’s Shot Gun Wedding With Pro-Writing Aid published on 11 Comments on Scrivener’s Shot Gun Wedding With Pro-Writing Aid

Shotgun wedding My most useful writing tools are Scrivener and Pro-Writing Aid. Most writers have heard of Scrivener, a powerful word processing program that orders and organizes the screaming voices in your writer’s head, helping you to pump out your stories. There are too many features in this program to write about, though the number of features is what turns some writers away.

But having found the most productive way (for me) to use Scrivener, I won’t write in anything else.

Pro-Writing Aid is an online program that helps you with the grunt work of editing your stories. Want a swift and sure way to edit your punctuation? Find the repeat words in your stories? Keep track of overly long sentences? Tell you how many filler words you are using? Pro-Writing Aid does it and does it well. The yearly sixty bucks I spend for it is well worth the money.

The only problem with Pro-Writing Aid was that there was no interface between it and Scrivener. You shifted between your text and the analysis to make your edits. This was a long, slow and boring process.Continue reading Scrivener’s Shot Gun Wedding With Pro-Writing Aid

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