Actions Speaks Louder Than Words…Especially in Fiction

E.Tip of the Day: Everyone’s heard the expression, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Actions do speak louder, especially in fiction. Which scenes do you remember better from books you’ve read? Where characters are showing how they live their lives. Exploring, building, cleaning, fighting, saving someone’s life, or protecting their own, etc.

Scenes with action should draw the reader in, put them on the edge of their seat (if written correctly) and engage the reader with the story. Although inner thoughts and exposition is needed to show some details of the story, the actions of the characters will be –in most cases– more memorable in the reader’s mind. So, as you’re writing this week, think about what you’ve done in your life, and which actions you’ve taken to show what type of person you are personally. Then, take it those memories a step further with your writing. Show what your characters are doing, and what makes them stand out. Use the five senses to explore, and describe their actions.  And most of all, have fun with it! 🙂

Writer’s Wednesday: Casey Clifford And How She Wrote Multiple Books In One Year

I first met Casey at a writer’s conference a few years ago. I felt instantly welcomed by her warm spirit and her love of writing. When she shared her story with me recently of the amount of work she had produced in the last few years, I knew other writers could gain from her experiences. Please welcome Casey Clifford to The Editing Essentials!

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Casey Clifford retired from college teaching and writes women’s fiction and romantic suspense. Her debut novel won the Holt Medallion for Best First Book and the Write Touch Readers’ Award for Best Romantic Suspense. She enjoys speaking about craft, writing under pressure and for pleasure, and motivation techniques for writers. She’s a seasoned woman who uses her experiences and her observations of life to enhance the stories she creates. Those stories always involve love, family, friends, good food, great wine, superb desserts, and problems–big or small. Just like life. Her Sunday blog does also. Visit these sites to learn more about Casey’s books: http://caseyclifford.wordpress.com/ or her Amazon Author page: http://amzn.com/e/B0046UYW3G

Brittiany suggested I write a few words about how I produced 4 books in one year. First of all I want to clarify I didn’t start from scratch, and the time frame was more like 14-15 months.

In the fall of 2010, I sold my second romantic suspense An Island No More to The Wild Rose Press. Edits didn’t begin immediately, but were scheduled to start early January 2011. My editor had a family emergency which shoved my start date into early February. The email with her suggestions, comments, and requested changes/edits arrived the same day my son died unexpectedly. Since I was his closest living relative, I faced edits and funeral arrangements simultaneously. I notified her and she offered an extension but that would put me at the bottom of her project list. Not going to happen. I said I’d meet her deadline and did. I edited through my grief.

My son’s death affected me deeply. He was too young to die. But his death forced me to come to terms with the fact that I was getting older. And I had many stories I wanted to get into the hands of readers. Traditional publishing is a process of being patient and waiting–contract to published can take up to 2 years. I could die before I produced another book publishers would take to contract. This was especially true for the women’s fiction stories that were really exciting me. My agent told me she loved my book, but couldn’t sell it. However, she believed readers would love it, so I listened when she suggested I look into independent publishing. I heard the buzz on the loops and from writers I knew personally who had taken the plunge and published some of their work independently.

After I finished with the edits on An Island No More in March, I decided to take out those manuscripts that editors had rejected for reasons that had nothing to do with readers but everything to do with not wanting to take a chance on something just a bit different from an unknown author. Then I got to work.

Revision was my way of dealing with my stress. Polishing and fine-tuning manuscripts I’d worked on and set aside because the “market wasn’t ready” or “romance can’t have the hero and heroine married to each other,” I realized I was now writing love stories of a sort. So in October 2011, I independently published Seasons of Wine and Love, a romance with a 40ish heroine/hero, which isn’t the norm. In December 2011, Fireweed went live. That one continues the adventures of Caitlin and Mike from my award-winning first novel, Black Ribbon Affair. But now they’re married so it’s not a romance. In February 2012, Better Than Dessert was published. In September More Than A Trifle went live. These last two are part of my ongoing women’s fiction series about a group of women friends in their early 50s. Each book is stand alone but characters continue and new ones are introduced. Each book centers on one of the friends who’s dealing with a serious life-changing event.

Only More Than A Trifle wasn’t finished in rough draft in 2011. So I guess I’ve polished and produced 5 books in 14 months.

How?

As I mentioned. I’m driven to write–initially to work though my grief at the death of my son. Also, I love the process. Even the boring parts like doing that final check for too often repeated words excite me. Yeah, I know I’m crazy. I’d rather write than promote which isn’t a good thing. From what I’ve read, if you’re not good at promotion, then have more books available. I’m trying. 🙂

Besides being driven, I’m blessed with an adorable husband who loves to cook and grocery shop and supports my need to write. This allows me time to work uninterrupted in my office every day. And I do mean every day.

I set monthly goals and weekly goals to achieve them. I retired to my second career as a writer so I keep a daily log of what I accomplish each day to achieve those weekly goals. Generally I spend a minimum of 2 hours writing/researching/editing. One day is a “free” day, usually Sunday, but I’m reading or catching up on PR items on that day unless I’m doing something with my family. Holidays the writing schedule lightens but that means I only write/edit an hour a day unless we’re traveling. With my laptop I get writing in before anyone else gets up.

I have my own writing process but that’s another article. However, I will leave you with 2 ideas to ponder.

1.  A rough draft is a rough draft. Get your story on paper or in a file and don’t worry about making it pretty. After 27 years of teaching writing, I understand when ideas flow, let them flow and don’t worry about perfection. The more you do this, the better your rough drafts will get. No, they won’t be perfect, but those elements you’re strongest in will become stronger and those weak ones? They get better.

2.  Don’t believe in writer’s block. If you don’t know where to start, start where your mind takes you. With that scene that’s playing in your head–you know the one. OR maybe you need to do a bit more research or thinking about your characters, setting, that scene where you think you should start. Maybe write the setting, only hitting all your senses concerning it. Or “interview” an interesting secondary character. Or your hunky hero. Or that love scene you’ve been thinking about. Or the ending that you know exactly how you want to write. Any of these will get you going. You’re a writer, all you need sometimes is that little push.

I appreciate this opportunity to share my story with you. I’ll be available to answer any questions and in fact would love to hear from you. Write well. 🙂

Thanks so much for being our guest today, Casey! We hope you enjoyed her story, and learned something from her experiences. Please feel free to ask questions. She’ll be here with us all day.

Vague Descriptions

E. Tip of the Day:  It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Vague descriptions? Yet we see them all the time in some of the manuscripts we review here at Written Dreams.  What the author is really doing is telling the story to the reader instead of showing what is happening to the characters. What the reader reads is a vague description that doesn’t really say much of anything at all, takes them out of the story, and frustrates the  heck out of them.

The reader can’t see what the author is seeing inside their head, so instead the reader finds something else to do with their time. Reading that book is not one of their options.

So, as an author how do you fix this? How do you learn to show the emotion and tension of your story without telling it? How do your recognize when you are telling instead of showing?

One way to see the vague descriptions is by reading the story back to yourself aloud. We’ve talked about this before and doing this yourself as a writer is an invaluable tool. (You’ll have to put the story down for a few days to distance yourself first so you’re reading it with fresh eyes.) When reading aloud, you won’t be able to feel the emotion that the characters should be feeling at that given moment. You know the emotion that you had thought you had written into the story? Instead, the characters may feel hollow or wooden, and not really alive. Just partly alive–like a walking zombie. 🙂 If you’re writing a zombie book, this might be a good outcome. If you’re not writing about zombies, then you may want to go back and revise to show more emotion and tension.

When showing the emotion, put effort into the words and be creative. Really get inside the heads of your characters and become them. Learn their habits, hobbies, and skills. Learn their vocabulary. Do they like to complain about the referees when watching football (my dad is famous for this 🙂 or do they sit back and enjoy the game? Once you get the hang of it, it will actually be easier showing than it is telling. Hard to believe, I know, but true. Don’t give up! You’ll get there. Just keep working on putting down those words with emotion.  🙂

Cursing Up a Storm

E. Tip of the Day: Vulgar Language—Is it needed or not?

It goes back to growing up as a child, being told you’re acting disrespectful to Gramma by swearing in front of her. Then, being threatened by Gramma that she’ll wash your mouth out with soap if you continue to use those strong–and very wrong–words. Gramma obviously doesn’t like swearing.

But in today’s society where most curse words are accepted as part of the regular vocabulary on TV and radio, it seems okay to use those words as part of the dialogue in a novel. But is it really okay for characters to swear on screen in dialogue? Ask these questions of yourself to help determine the answer for your particular writing style.

1) Do you feel uncomfortable as a writer having your character swear on screen? Does it go against your own personal beliefs? (If the answer to this question is “yes,” don’t do it. It’s that simple. You should feel comfortable with your own writing.)

2) Is cursing something your character–if they were alive and well in real life–would really do? (If the answer to this question is “no,” and you’d still like it in your dialogue, then you need to figure out why it’s really important to you. Also, make sure it is properly set up why your character does let loose and swear so it doesn’t push the suspension of disbelief for that particular character if they normally don’t swear.)

3) Does it fit within the general guidelines of the sub-genre you’re writing in to use curse words in your novel? (If “no,” then why are doing it? For controversial reasons?)

4) Are you using curse words to add tension to the scene sprinkled in here and there? (This is one of the purposes of using curse words in dialogue. If “no,” then why are you doing it?)

5) Do you think your readers will be offended by reading curse words in your story? (If “yes” then don’t take the risk of alienating your readers. After all, having a large readership is what you’re working for.)

It’s important to review whether or not it’s really important for your characters to swear in your story. Excessive overuse of any curse word is unnecessary and poorly translates to the page. If you have further questions about your novel and the use of curse words within it, contact us for a consultation. Our editors would be happy to help you!

Happy Writing! 🙂

Creative Choices

E. Tip of the Day: Try to avoid using the same word twice in one sentence, or in the same paragraph, if possible. Be creative in your word choices, especially when using verbs.

Example A: She walked to the store and then walked home.

Revision: Sarah went to the store to pick up the needed items to make brownies, then completing her task walked home.

With the revision, it’s much easier for the reader to visualize what the character is doing. The reader doesn’t need to see the inside of the grocery store unless it’s integral to the plot.

Example B: He drove to work, stepping on the gas to get there on time. When he parked, he stepped out of the truck and went up the steps.

Revision: Michael slid into his 4X4 truck, put the vehicle in gear and stepped on the gas. He was late for work again. Speeding through traffic, he was in the parking lot of his office in no time. Jumping out of the truck, he ran up the stairs to the large glass doors of the building adjusting his tie before going inside.

The revision gives the reader a sense of who the character is by showing the details of his day. He was late for work. How did he react? Instead of calling to say he was running late, he sped to work. He’s a character willing to take a risk, but not too great a risk to jeopardize his job.

There also isn’t any redundancy of verbs so the reader isn’t bored. Instead, they are constantly learning about Michael’s character.

Happy Revising!

Edit of the Month for September 2012

For September 2012, our Edit of the Month will be Amateur Sleuth mysteries. We will edit your 75,000 word Amateur Sleuth mystery for $300.00. The edit includes embedded comments using the track changes feature, and a cover letter explaining any overarching issues with the manuscript. We will edit for inconsistencies in the plot/characters, grammar, typos, story depth, and much more. Manuscripts must be received between September 1st and September 30th 2012, and must be 75,000 words or under to receive this rate.

Contact us at brittiany@writtendreams.com for more details. Thank you!

Teleporting Characters

E. Tip of the Day: If you’re writing a science fiction novel, teleporting can be a great mode of transportation. However, if you’re writing a contemporary, historical, or any other genre and there’s not a time travel device anywhere in the story, you may want to rethink how your characters are getting from Point A to Point B. Make it clear your characters are not teleporting as a way to get around and showing up in the middle of the beach when they haven’t left home yet.

Not every action needs to be shown but when the characters seem like they “teleport” somewhere you may want to show the action how they traveled from Point A to Point B.

Inspirational Photo of the Week taken at Haigh Quarry in Illinois.

 

 

 

 

 

Where would this path lead your character?

Writer’s Wednesday Guestblogger Capri Smith On Writing Emotion

I met Capri Smith recently when Written Dreams made a donation to the Brenda Novak On-line Auction for Diabetes. I’ve asked her to blog today for two reasons.

1) That no matter what the odds are against you, there’s always a way to write if you’re determined to be published. Persistence is an important quality to have as a writer.

2) Writing from the heart shows through to your readers. If there’s no emotion, a story can be flat and uninspiring. If the writing gets deep into the emotion of the characters, the reader feels those emotions along with the character–living, breathing, feeling every moment. As an editor, my personal favorites are tear-jerker moments. If a writer can make me cry, she’s done her job right. 🙂

Capri Smith is a writer and secular homeschooling mother of four. Her youngest daughter, Keke, was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes in August, 2006. Since then, Capri has been a pioneer in the use of diabetic alert dogs. Their service dog, Teddy Bear, has kept Keke seizure free for over three years. A book that includes his story is due out in the near future. When Capri is not focusing on her kids, she can usually be found holed up in her bedroom typing out her thrillers. On her door hangs a sign – “Interruptions Tolerated for:  Fires, Profuse Bleeding, or Blood Sugar Issues Only.” Teddy Bear is the only one who complies. Visit Capri’s blog at http://www.caprismith.com/

I was acting in a movie, one of the star parts. In the scene that we were performing, I was the mom racing on crutches no less—behind a gurney that held a little blond girl. The nurses clutched the side-rails and bolted down the corridor in front of me.  A petite, pony-tailed nurse straddled the little girl, bagging her, and swaying as she rode along on the wild teacup ride towards the ICU. The floors we moved along were slick and the crutches that I was supposed to balance on slipped out from under me crashing me to the floor. I rolled and tried to get up, but this wasn’t really a movie, and up was very far away.

A month earlier, my daughter, Keke, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. T1 is very different from the diabetes of Paula Dean and Halle Berry. T1 is an around-the clock, never-give-up, no-holds-barred fight. And in that moment, the fight was life or death, and the doctors had prepared me for death to win. Keke was comatose.

I am a homeschooling mom and a thriller writer. I spend my days checking blood glucose numbers, teaching algebra, and writing scenes—like the one above that I lived through not so long ago. It’s not often that I actually write about diabetes. I take refuge in my writing and writing about the monster that stalks us gives me no respite from the constancy of the disease.

I do use my experiences in my fiction, though—panic, terror, impuissance, strain, exhaustion… I know these emotions so well. I can easily write how it feels to think you can lean on your highly intelligent spouse only to watch his brain abandon him, as he calls 911 and forgets his daughter’s name and age. Or to think that as a parent you are the strong one – but then your nine-year-old uses his hands to force fear-frozen legs into motion, sliding forward to save the day as the paramedics’ sirens wail closer.

It’s all fodder for my books—though I’d give almost anything to just be able to make it all up.

Writing and being the mom to a disabled child are roles that often stand in opposition. For me the biggest issue is the sleepless nights. It’s like being the mom to an infant who never grows big enough to sleep until morning. I check Keke’s blood frequently through the night. To miss a low could mean we’d lose her. We have a diabetes alert dog, Teddy Bear, who shares my vigilance. And often it’s his clickity-clacking in the halls that pulls me from my dreams.

Exhaustion makes me fall asleep in front of my computer. The imprint of my key board is impressed on my cheek as I type this. Sometimes I just can’t keep my eyes open. Other times, fatigue creates brain-fog that muffles already ambiguous words and awkward reasoning. But it doesn’t stop me from writing. Because I love writing. And because it’s mine.

I guess the other side of the coin is that sometimes I am excited–tapping out the perfect plot twist, my characters yelling at each other as they go fisticuffs in a fabulous brawl. Jazzed by the vivid scene, I am deep in my own world, then yanked back to reality when Teddy Bear comes to alert, or my daughter yells, “Mom, I need help.” It feels like someone is throwing a pail of water on the fire of my imagination. But I can use those feelings, too. I’ll just remember how the annoyance tightens my jaw and heats my blood, and then how quickly my body chills when I see the low number show up on her blood meter. How it actually feels to run hot then cold. As I type these words, I’m thinking that I actually have the perfect place to insert those feelings—a scene that I’ve been frustrated with…

My goal each day—whether writing from a place of inspiration or a place of sleep deprived, muddled confusion—is to write for six hours. Sometimes this comes at three in the morning, when Keke’s having a bad night. Sometimes I get to sit down at nine a.m. and type straight through lunch. I’ve learned to take everything day to day. And that’s okay, because what’s a day without writing?

Thank you, Capri, for sharing such intimate details of your life and showing us how precious every moment can be. You are an inspiration to moms/writers everywhere! We wish you all the best in the hopes of finding a cure!

 

August 2012 Edit of the Month

Exciting news for writers!

Here at Written Dreams, Lara and I want to be able to help as many writers as we can put forth a well-written story. We know editing fees are something writers may dread due to the sometimes heavy costs.

Every month we will post on our Facebook page the current sub-genre that is the Edit of the Month. August 2012’s sub-genre is Romantic Suspense. Send us your 60,000 word or less romantic suspense manuscript anytime in the month of August 2012 and the rate for editing will be $250.00. This rate includes a cover letter explaining any over-arching issues. The manuscript will be edited using the tracked changes feature and will include embedded comments in the margins.

Manuscripts can be sent to brittiany@writtendreams.com. Please type Edit of the Month in the subject line.

For manuscripts longer than 60,000 words, please query us for an estimate. Thank you!

August's Inspirational Photo Taken in Illinois at Haigh Quarry

Consistency and Convenience

E. Tip of the Day: Proofread your story for more than just typos. Look for inconsistencies and convenient placement of objects and actions. Convenient placements and inconsistencies in the plot can push the suspension of disbelief or even pull your reader out of the story.

Here’s an example:

Consistency:

End of Chapter 1:

Before going to bed, Brenda realized she didn’t have coffee for the morning and George was planning to be over early.

 

Beginning of Chapter 2:

The next morning, Brenda woke up to the smell of coffee.

“Good morning,” George said. “I made coffee. Would you like a cup?” he asked coming into the bedroom. “I found some in the cabinet.”

As an editor my comment would be: How did George find coffee in the cabinet when Brenda was positive the night before she didn’t have any? Please clarify.

Even little errors like this could bother your reader. For this story, having or not having coffee might not be a big deal. But it could be. It could make the reader think Brenda was under too much stress to remember what was in her kitchen cabinets. It could also pull the reader out of the story to think: “So, if this isn’t consistent in the story–a little detail like whether she has coffee or not–what else isn’t consistent? Should I even waste my time reading this book?”

And that’s something no writer ever wants the reader to feel–that their book is not worth the time to read. Because your book is worth it, you just need to take time to read your novel and make sure even the little inconsistencies within the story are clarified.

Convenience: Placing an object or action somewhere without any foreshadowing.

“Good morning,” George said. “I made coffee. Would you like a cup?” he asked coming into the bedroom. “I found some in the back of the cabinet.”

“Thanks.” Brenda said.

Let’s just use this line of dialogue and forget about the thought Brenda had about not having coffee the night before. Let’s say it’s never been mentioned at all what she drinks at home. For all we know she may drink vodka for breakfast. The reader has no idea.

As an editor my comment could be: That Brenda drinks coffee for breakfast should be mentioned sooner. Otherwise it feels like it’s conveniently placed to have it here. George conveniently found the coffee in the cabinet. Sometimes things that are convenient can push the suspension of disbelief for the reader. It’s important for the writer to be aware of this.

A better example for a mystery novel might be: She pulled the gun out of the drawer and pointed it at the intruder.

If the gun had never been looked or mentioned in the previous chapters, that would be a convenient placement.

It’s impossible to foreshadow every little detail, so as a writer you have to pick your battles and go with your gut on the important issues. The characters wear clothing, have a home, etc.

When editing, if I get a feeling that something doesn’t feel right, I’ll let the author know. It’s important to me as an editor to tell the author what feels odd or awkward or convenient so they’re aware of how the reader may react to that part of the story.

If you have specific questions on a scene in your novel that may have either too many inconsistencies or convenient placements, we’d be happy to take a look and let you know what we find.