Don’t Do That! – Five for Friday

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I’m running so late today.

It’s been a frantic week as we’ve had builders working on the house.

‘The noisy one’, was sent home from school with chronic earache and ‘The bitey one’, is teething and as a result, extra bitey. He has also become a fan of early wake up calls, the most recent being 3am.

So I apologise as this may well become Five for Saturday which really doesn’t have the same ring to it, but at least my intentions were good and my caffeine levels high  🙂

I’m currently knee-deep in editing my novel and really enjoying it, even if I am lacking a little in time and focus.

I began reading my draft I’d completed in November during NaNoWriMo. This brought me to the horrible conclusion that I’m a terrible writer and should probably take up woodworm breeding as I seem to have little talent for anything else.

Therefore, I decided I would make this week’s Five for Friday about,

5 Things to avoid when Writing a Novel.

1. He grinned, he shrugged, he smiled…

Apparently I seem to write first drafts full of these. Everyone is shrugging, grinning and smiling at each other so much that it’s a wonder they haven’t all been committed. All that’s missing is a little maniacal laughter a maybe a shopping trolley full of tins.

Don’t do it. It’s not clever. It’s repetitive and lazy writing. Instead hit yourself on the head with your keyboard twice and go lie down with a damp flannel over your face.

2. She decided to run as he would probably kill her. 

Okay, this one’s a little clunky, but you get the idea. I see this a lot and it’s just bad, bad, bad.

NEVER warn the reader what’s going to happen before it happens. It’s annoying and WILL result in me flinging the book across the room, or, if it’s my kindle, trying to close the page down, miss, and end up hitting the screen repeatedly like some kind of zombie typist.

3. Really, very, suddenly…etc,

…and a number of other weasel words.

If you ‘d like to see a list, that’s by no means exhaustive, take a look under ‘Writer’s Resources’ on my page.

My first drafts are littered with these and I pull out every single one unless they are absolutely necessary. Especially ‘Suddenly’. This word should be tied to a chair and left watching re-runs of ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’, until it’s very sorry.

4. Bad formatting. 

I have read so many kindle books where the words stop abruptly and begin again half way down the page, or they have large random spaces between words like the book suddenly forgot what it was talking about.

Go through your book again and again. Re-check when you add it onto kindle and then bore all your friends to death by making them check it too. It’s worth it.

5. I don’t know/I think you should/Why is that?

I hate wooden dialogue.

There’s nothing worse than wading through a page long conversation between Data from Star Trek and The Terminator, or worse, a book full of characters that ALL sound the same.

I have a wonderful acting friend who helps me with mine. She runs through it over the phone or highlights potentially hazardous wording via email and returns it to me, accompanied with a recent entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, to teach me a lesson.

Either way, read through all your dialogue out loud. Get a friend to read any opposing parts and it will become clear where needs work.

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That’s it for today. It’s now 1am and officially Saturday.

Thank you so much for reading, and good luck to anyone else on the long road to Editville.

Have a great day and Happy Writing!

 

 

Why perspectives are like shoes.

Have you ever bought a pair of shoes/trainers/clogs?

They are the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen (maybe not the clogs). You tried them on in the shop and gloried at how they looked.

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‘Wooden Shoes’ by Bill Longshaw, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

You get them home, get on your matching dress/jeans/lederhosen. Place them on your feet only to find that they are more uncomfortable than David Cameron reading E.L. James.

So, either you do as I do. Go without shoes and claim you gave them to a homeless person on the way – this can also win you brownie points for your selflessness.

Or you minimise the time you move and when you do, try not to look like a raptor wearing heels.

Writing persectives can be the same kind of thing thing. It seemed like a good idea at the beginning, but now you’re half way through the story, somethings happening and you’re feeling uncomfortable.

The above example is a little obvious. But what if you have many characters all in the same place? How do you know which perspective to write in?

Like the shoes, you’re only going to know when you’ve worn them around the house and crushed the backs in a bit. (Shoe lovers gasp in horror!).

So if you’re not sure, try them on.

Here’s an example of a story of my own. It has four characters. Three of which are in every scene. So I’ve wrote a version from each of those character’s point’s of view.

The eldest sister – Christine;

‘Is it dead?’ Meri stared up at me with teary eyes.

I nodded, poking its fat bloated body under the thorny bush that bordered the garden. She buried her face in my trousers.

I huffed, loud enough for her to hear. ‘God, don’t be such a baby, Meri.’

She clung to me tighter and I felt the pang of guilt settle in like an unwelcome guest. Bending down, I peeled her from my leg and brushed her hair from her face.

‘It didn’t feel any pain,’ I said.

‘How can you be sure?’ Her brow furrowed as she looked down at the wretched creature.

‘Because the exterminator said so, that’s why,’ I said.

The next one is from the Mother;

I watched from the kitchen as Christine poked at the thing with a stick. Meri looked up at her, lip trembling, as if her heart would break.

Christine had never been a compassionate or loving child. Even from an early age. She spent her time fishing carp out of the pond or catching mice to tease the cats. A perfect partner for her father to go hunting with.

Not like Meri.

Meri was, softer, innocent. She didn’t have that cast-iron shell her older sister had developed so well.

Christine shoved the creature under the hedge with a sharp jab. Then she bent down and took Meri’s face in her hands. She couldn’t hear what was said, but as the two headed towards the house, Meri was smiling again.

Obviously this is completely useless as a perspective, far too far away from the action and doesn’t take the story in the direction I want it to go.

Then finally, the perspective that I chose. The little sister, Meri’s, perspective;

‘Is it dead?’ I clung to my sister’s leg as she poked its fat bloated body.

‘Yes,’ she replied. The toad rolled over. She gave it another sharp prod pushing it underneath the thorny hedge that edged our garden.  I buried my face in her trousers.

‘Don’t be a baby Meri.’ Christine’s eyebrows knitted together and I turned away.  She gave a heavy sigh and bent down, her dark brown hair brushing the ground.

‘It didn’t feel any pain,’ she whispered.

‘How can you be sure?’ I frowned and looked back to the poor innocent creature, lying discarded like a broken toy.

‘Because the exterminator said so, that’s why.’ She brushed my fringe out of my eyes and tucked it behind my ear.

With this perspective I can be close to the action, but not to close, therefore still keeping the tension as the story unfolds.

This choice was pretty clear for me from the beginning, but not every story is the same.

If you’re having trouble with a story and you don’t know who to choose, take the story and write a beginning from the perspective of each character. When you do, the choice will become clear.

Good luck with your stories, and if anyone tries this, (or the clogs), I would love to hear your results.Maybe it opens up a perspective you didn’t think of before.

Until next time, happy writing!

Please note: Lederhosen are not traditionally worn with clogs. It’s just that clogs sounded funnier than Bavarian footwear 🙂

How do you do it?

With pen and paper?

Straight to screen?

With a sparkler…or perhaps an Enigma machine for the extremely paranoid?

Each writer has their own preferred method of working.

Stephen King writes longhand onto yellow legal pads. J K Rowling writes longhand then transfers it to screen – editing as she goes. George R. R. Martin writes straight to computer using an old DOS machine.

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When you first start out, the writing process can be a little daunting. So I thought I’d talk about how I do it and hopefully some of you will weigh in on the comments later about your favourite ways too 🙂

I write with a good ol’ pen and paper. A biro suits me best, although I’m partial to the Parker fountain pen when I want to pretend I’m a really real writer.

I used to work straight onto the computer, but my children have been fitted with an alarm system that only they can hear. So if I go near a computer, open a book, or try to stuff a chocolate bar in my mouth before they make it to the kitchen, THEY KNOW.

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I also feel I’m a little less creative using a computer. It’s great for editing. I can sit there, nose pressed up to the screen with a slightly desperate expression, and most people know to keep a safe distance.

But when I’m in the first stages of a story or script I prefer the pen and paper. It feels more natural to me and I’m likely to think more about what I’m writing as it takes me longer to write than it does to type.

I write in fifteen minute bursts. It roughly adds up to about an hour and a half per day. I set the timer on my phone and I get as much down as I can. When the time is up. I put down my pen and do something else.

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I think writing this way keeps it fresh. I come up with all sorts of ideas I would never have thought of if I was doing one long stint. Plus if I can’t think of anything, I’m only staring at the page for fifteen minutes…This drastically reduces the time I sit crying, leaving more time to console myself with cake.

So that’s how I do it. How do you? Would love to know your thoughts, especially if you do it with a sparkler.

In the meantime, Happy Writing 🙂

…And so it goes!

As many of you know, I decided a year ago to dedicate more time to my writing projects and would post up my progress, or lack of, as I go.

With that in mind, I would also like to talk about ‘missed opportunity‘.

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original image can be found at www.rantlifestyle.com

I’ve been sitting on this idea for a magazine I love for about a year now. I knew it was perfect and I was looking forward to pitching it.

I’d already made contact with the magazine editor and she seemed open to viewing more of my ideas. The situation was primed.

The only problem – I couldn’t quite get the article down. 

I tinkered with it for a few weeks, then I’d put it aside for a few months thinking ‘I’ll come back to it later’.

I don’t know how many times I did this, but it’s safe to say that it was probably more than the current number of re-runs of ‘Come Dine with Me‘.

So I’m flicking through the latest copy of said magazine when I see a peek at next months articles. There in black and white bold print is not only my idea for an article, but it has my chosen title as well.

I stared at it for a few minutes in disbelief. All that played in my head was – that could’ve been me!

Hey, I’m a big believer in everything happens from the reason and I never like to pass up a situation without trying to learn something from it. Even if it is, I watch TV far too much (see original Come Dine with me comment).

I realised that ideas are around us all the time. You only have to reach up and seize it.

But if you don’t, somebody else will. Someone will be willing to work a little longer, or harder than you did. And they will make a success of your missed opportunity.

Now I’ll be committing that particular idea to the archive section of my computer, labelled ‘took too long and now I feel stupid’.

So, if the muse smiles upon you today and an idea happens to float past you, grab it with both hands and work on it now. Do it now. Don’t wait till tomorrow.

In the meantime, you’ll find me at the bar, downing whiskey and muttering in low tones about how I had a great idea once!

Happy Writing 🙂

p.s. Another thing I learnt today – always back up your work. Because something will happen, such as child impaled on broom, and you will lose your entire post and have to start again, if it wasn’t for browser back up that is – phew!

Move your Muse!!!

I don’t know about you, but if your muse is anything like mine, she spends most of her time daydreaming and making daisy chains  – forgetting that we had an appointment at all!

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If you’re feeling sluggish and struggling to get going, try motivating through pictures.

I’ve recently been taking part in the Friday Fictionerrs, flash fiction contest (If you’re interested in taking part please see Rochelle’s page here).

It’s a great way to wake up your senses and sharpen your focus.

The smaller your focus, the more imagery you’ll create.

Don’t be afraid to be poetic, it will bring beauty to your prose.

Have fun and Happy Writing!

 

Image above courtesy of www.photl.com

Dynamic Dialogue!

It’s day nine of ‘blogging 101’ and we needed to build on one of the comments we’d made from the previous day.

I chose an article on Roz Morris’ blog ‘Nail Your Novel.’

She discussed clumsy dialogue and how to improve your scenes by leaving out more than you put in. I am in the editing stages of a novel that I intend to put on Wattpad. So I thought I would give her idea a go. Here are the results;

First stage: Re-write dialogue in a clumsy way, telling everything in the scene.

‘Do you need any help?’ The boy grinned at her.

Jessie scowled. ‘I had it under control.’

‘Yeah the way you stopped his teeth with your arm was genius. You would’ve been dead if it weren’t for me.’ He yanked her to her feet. The wolf fell aside and Jessie brushed herself off.

‘If you hadn’t been wandering about in the first place, it would never have happened.’ She scowled at him.

‘A simple thank you would do,’ he said. ‘My name’s Alec.’ He held his hand out to shake hers. Jessie ignored him.

‘Hey, I just saved your life,’ he said.

‘Thank you,’ she replied, pulling out her axe and bringing it down on the animal’s neck. ‘But for the record, you didn’t save my life.’

‘I feel sick,’ he said.

‘Well stand somewhere else,’ she snapped, shoving the now severed head into her red bag.

Alec stared at her. ‘Who are you?’

Now I was instructed to highlight all the dialogue in colour. The I was to rewrite, ommitting the clumsy, obvious speech and including action and body language.

Here’s the final version:

                      ‘Lucky I came along.’ The boy grinned, exposing a crooked front tooth.

Jessie scowled. ‘I had it under control.’

‘Yeah, the way you stopped his teeth with your arm was genius.’ He held out his hand. ‘My name’s Alec.’

‘How nice for you,’ said Jessie, jumping to her feet. She grabbed her axe and brought it down on the animal’s neck with a sickening crack!

The boy turned away. ‘I saved your life,’ he said. ‘The least you could do is say thank you.’ His voice croaked and Jessie thought she detected a slight tremble.

She sneered. ‘You didn’t save my life.’

Blood dripped onto the ground as she stuffed the severed head into her bag. The boy swayed a little.

Yanking the drawstring tight, she swung it over her shoulder. The wolf’s body lay next to Alec’s feet. She pulled out a silver bottle and poured oil over the corpse, splashing the boy’s shoes.

‘I’d move away if I were you,’ she said, lighting a match.

Alec’s eyes widened. ‘You’re not from animal control are you?’

‘No,’ she said, fixing her brilliant green eyes on his. ‘I’m not.’

Now the scene is shorter, but gives more information even though I’ve actually taken dialogue out. I’ve avoided questions, given actions instead of answers and vreated an overall cleaner scene…I hope.

I welcome any feedback and would love to know if anyone else has tried this and got better results.

In the meantime, thank you for reading, and happy writing 🙂