Category Archives: Voice

Writing a Book Together: What I’m Figuring out about My First Chapter

Working on this opening chapter–yes, that’s all I’ve written since I started this blog of writing together–has been interesting. School started, which has slowed me down considerably. Plus there’s been illness and visitors and trips for others which left me caring for all the farm animals (ha!) and visiting and two other novels to be rewritten. All of that has taken away from the hour a day I wish to give to this newest book.

Also, at the end of the chapter, a character (love interest, I know that) I wasn’t expecting showed up and knocked me over sideways. And that meant I’ve had to start thinking all over again. And I have been since he arrived.

But back to this beginning.

I have several friends who completely rewrite their openings over and over and over. And what I’ve found myself doing in my chapter one is getting to know my main character. Just like my pals, only in a different way. I’ve read and reread these paragraphs adding a sentence here and there. Taking out words. Pondering. Staring off over the top of my computer. Wondering about this girl’s mom and dad, her sisters, her love life, her shyness, her job cleaning doctor’s offices, and some secret that I’m unsure of that’s waiting at home.

Each read-through means shifting sentences, adding sense of place, figuring out this girl’s sense of humor and how she fits in her family. Though I’m not sure what it is she wants (to have her dad trust her more could be one thing, but is it the main thing?), I do know this is a romance so maybe she’s looking for love in all the wrong places.

Probably not.

Anyway.

Each time I look at the words or add to or take away from this opening, I see my main character a little more clearly. And once I more fully understand her, I can follow her for 40,000 + words. I think I’m ready, as far as this start goes. But now that guy? Come on!

At the opening of chapter two I’ve left my girl walking up the long driveway to her home in Florida. After wisdom tooth surgery for one of my daughters today, I might have time to see what’s behind those doors.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Character, Voice, writing process

To Ly Word or Not to Ly Word: Writing Real Good. I Mean It. (Part 2)

I’ve had the chance to listen to Lance Larsen  speak several times about writing jaw-dropping sentences. If you ever have a chance to hear Lance speak or read or speak and read, GO! You’ll not be disappointed.

Why do you read?

I read, not just for story, but for the way the sentences of a novel sound. I read to see the way an author puts words together. To see the way I am surprised–not just by plot–but by sentence structure or word choice.

Lance has several suggestions for jaw-dropping sentences and I’ll share one: turn the adjective on its ear. Here’s what I think he means. If every word must do work, then that includes adjectives. Lance suggests making adjectives work in new ways, in ways that paint pictures the reader isn’t expecting. Easy writing isn’t always the smartest, best, clearest, most beautiful etc. It tends to be filled with cliches and overwritten and weak. Good writing, of course, takes place in rewriting. BUT if you’re thinking as you write (some people do), you can put better words on the page the first time through and refine as you rewrite.

Exercise: Look at your first five pages. Trying not to love what you’ve written, start trimming. Adverbs. Adjectives. Weak verbs. Weak words. Cliches. Was-ing words. The words I put up on Monday. Description that’s stale. Etc.

What do you have left? If you’ve been honest, your story should be far thinner.

Exercise: Using these new five pages, write this beginning over in short, choppy lines. (If you need an example, look at my novel GLIMPSE. Or read any of Ann Dee Ellis’ novels.) This is just an exercise, so enjoy the line breaks and be intentional when you add or take away words. Make each stanza have hard-working words so you accomplish more with less.

Exercise: Look at your rewritten five pages (which should be far longer, page-wise). Is there sense of place? Strong dialog? Description that is fresh? Are your words working hard? Is there emotion?

Exercise: Lay this rewritten piece aside for a week. When you go back, see how to change it into regular prose. How do the five pages read now? Can you keep writing this way? Can you do the same thing with the next five pages and the next and the next?

Exercise: Read a book that is known to have strong writing. (I suggest The Road. Or at least part of it.) What do you learn from this author? How does s/he make sentence sparkle? How can you imitate her/him.

So, Writing Brothers and Sisters, have fun. Remember writing is hard work. Good writing is even harder. But there is joy in having written. There is excitement in finding a fresh way to say something. Enjoy the experience!

2 Comments

Filed under Life, Voice, writing process

Merry Christmas Day 13 & 14 & 15

Merry Christmas day 13

Life has a way of throwing curveballs. We never really know what to expect. And that can be pretty darn crummy. Another thing that is crummy is when you can figure out  what is going to happen in the novel from page two or three. There’s no reason to read a book when you already know the ending from the beginning.

Look carefully at your  novel. Is it too easy to see who done it? Wha? You’re not writing a mystery novel? Well, you sorta are. All novels should have something that  has to be figured out. Giving that surprise away too soon, or writing poorly so there is no surprise, or just plain being lazy in your writing leaves the reader wanting more.

How can you change up your book so there are plenty of curveballs? Plenty of surprises?

Merry Christmas day 14

For me the name of the character is really important. My editor at St. Martin’s Press said, “Carol! I cannot believe you named your characters after your daughters.”

Well, I do. My daughters. Or other family members.  Or people I love. Or people I hate. They all wind up in my books. (I joke I should have given them each three names not just a first and middle name.)

In my newest novel, MESSENGER, I used all of my grandmother’s sisters and brothers names. That’s a family of 10. Because I love my extended family, the book became that much more  important to me.

So who would you write about?

Why?

How did that person change you?

How is that person complex?

We all know we can’t use our relatives exactly the way they are, but what are 15 things you would write about this person?  What are 15 things you would keep the same about their personality? Their mannerisms? Their speech? Their loves and hates?

I always, or almost always, have Nana smoking, drinking beer, cleaning house, wearing polyester, and laughing. Those are just a few of the things Nanny did.She died almost 25 years ago.  I miss her. When I write about her, she lives again for me.

Merry Christmas day 15

I just saw a post on Twitter about not using adjectives. And I have to admit that I am one of those people who is trying to trim my overuse of them. Or at least I’m trying to do as Lance Larsen says and turn them on ears. (We’ll talk more of this next year.)

Anyone can talk about the Christmas season in cliché ways. It’s snowy. Glittery. Cold. But using adjectives in new and different ways will make your prose sing. It will make the reader stop and pay attention. Yes! That’s what we want!

Take one chapter of your novel and mark  all the adjectives. Now go through and look at the ones that you can cut.  Which ones you can change and make more special? How can you use them in unique ways?

Ack! It must be the season. I used the word special. I really don’t like that word.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ann Dee, Character, Life, Revision, Uncategorized, Voice

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

On Thursday I wrote a long list of things we could do to prepare for NaNoWriMo and for some reason, when I went to post, it wouldn’t.

I pitched a fit and stomped off.

Went to the TH evening party and it was a lot of fun.

Never resent.

You have today and tomorrow to think about a few questions so you can jump into NaNo a little more prepared.

BTW, if you want to play with WIFYR, email Bruce here: wifyrdoesnano@gmail.com and make your goals. Bruce will add you to the list. The goal is 1,000,000 words as a group! Woot woot!

Novel questions:

  1. Who is your main character?
  2. What does she want?
  3. Have her write a note to you.
  4. Ask her 25 personal questions and write this interview down.
  5. Who are her friends?
  6. Her enemies?
  7. Her family?
  8. What is she afraid of?
  9. Can she sing?
  10. Dance?
  11. Is she funny?
  12. Snarky?
  13. Does he have a crush?
  14. A true love?
  15. What is the scariest thing that can happen to her?
  16. Will it happen to her?
  17. What do you see as the climax of the story? Do you have a general idea?
  18.  Name three things she will lose during the telling of the story.
  19. Are you trying to teach a lesson?
  20. What are you willing to give up to complete your 50,000 words?

Also, every Thursday evening, from 7-10 pm we will meet at Kyra Leigh’s house, eat and write.

Last year this was a lot of fun. This year it will be even more fun because I won’t have to clean every TH in anticipation of people arriving at my home. YAHOO, KYRA LEIGH! Anyway, if you want to bring potluck (which is what gets you into the house) and write for a few hours with fellow NaNoers, let me know. We have room for about 15 people.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ann Dee, Character, CLW, Exercises, Kyra, Plot, Voice, Writing Marathon, writing process

LAST DAY!

You have just one day–just these last few hours–to complete your writing goal of One Hour a Day.

When will that be for you?

Will you join me for one hour right after I post this blog?

 

I’ll post one more time tomorrow.

But may I just say, even if you write five times with us this last month, good for you. What we do? It’s hard. And you’ve been doing hard things.

Enjoy your last hour on this challenge.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE

Leave a comment

Filed under Ann Dee, CLW, Kyra, Life, Voice, Writing Marathon, writing process

TWO DAYS LEFT!

Today!

Tomorrow!

How will you finish the challenge?

We hope you’ve been writing.

I know I have tried to write Every. Single. Day.

Hint:

Put your head down.

No need to try and make up lost time. Just WRITE today.

And tomorrow.

Enjoy these last two days.

Love your words.

Love this chance.

Love your story.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ann Dee, CLW, Exercises, Kyra, Life, Voice, Writing Marathon

Writing Challenge, Monday Hint

Did you get your goal number of words for last week?

Did you write everyday?

Have you five hours writing logged?

Is your goal where you can see it?

Hint: Do not stare into the sun during the eclipse. Damage can occur in moments.

Another hint: Do not sing Total Eclipse of the Heart. CORNY!

(Now I will have to sing that dumb song. I will change the words to Turn around blind eyes in case one of you looks at the eclipse today.)

2 Comments

Filed under Ann Dee, CLW, Plot, Revision, Voice, Writing Marathon, writing process