Category Archives: 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!

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Filed under Life, Voice, writing process

Conflict? Say What?

So I did something I never do. I spoke to an editor at Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. Kelsy Thompson is an editor for Jolly Fish and Flux. Both houses were recently acquired by North Star Editions (https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/72423-north-star-editions-shining-a-light-on-ya-and-mg-fiction.html).

I was scared as it was as I walked in to talk to her. And Kelsey is super kind. Still I didn’t have my printed pages (broke rule number one–be prepared) and as I rambled at her (broke rule number two–be able to sell your work in 25 words or less),  I realized I had no idea what my newest novel was about (broke rule number three–know what you’re story is about in the first place).

After stammering at her for awhile, Kelsy said, “This book idea sounds so cute, Carol. But what’s the conflict?”

Conflict?

I looked at her for about 18 years. Then I jumped up and ran out of the room. I scared three people who were in line to see this terrific editor. This is not my fault.

So what is conflict?  We know our characters have goals–things they want. Our job as writers is to keep our characters from getting what they want. That series of events of hindering and stopping our characters from achieving their goals is where the conflict is.

Here’s some math to make things more confusing:  cute girl character + what she wants, what she really, really wants + stumbling blocks you throw in the way to torture your character = conflict.

I can do that. Can I do that?

Let’s meet here tomorrow and see.

 

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Filed under Agents, Editors, Plot, writing process

Merry Christmas Days . . . Lots

Merry Christmas day #16
With the snow that’s (finally!) showed up, I think now is a good time to focus hard on sense of place.
Is it cold? Is it hot? What’s the weather like? Is the sky grey? Does the field next to your characters house smell like cow poo? Is there a rustle of wind off in the distance? Did someone blare their horn so hard that it broke? (I did this the other week, believe it or not)
I hate sense of place, but it’s needed to make a story great. So when I work on it, I really take a look around me, I try to focus on my character and imagine what I would be feeling if I was where she was. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. But at least it’s SOMETHING. And whatever I can do to get the story moving.
Merry Christmas day #17
Do you remember the first time your heart shattered into a million pieces? Do you remember the second time it did? Maybe it was because a loved one passed on. Maybe the person you loved didn’t love you back? Maybe your first born child got a tattoo? Whatever it was, do you remember that emotion? Do you remember that sinking feeling in your gut that you thought would never go away?
Use that. Put that into your story. Let your character feel it, too. (even if you don’t think she deserves it) Good emotion not only makes you feel, but it also makes your reader feel, too. (they might hate you for it, but at least you made them feel something)
Push that heartbreak out onto the page, and let those emotions run wild!
Merry Christmas day #18
Do you remember your first Christmas? Reach back into your brain and see if you can find that memory. Do you remember the excitement? The butterflies inside your belly? You must have been little, did you know what was happening at the time? Did you know why everyone was being so kind?
Maybe your character remembers her first Christmas? Maybe it was also her first memory with her sibling, or parents, or grandparents?
Write about it. Write about memories. Maybe a good flashback is what you’re missing, and you didn’t even know it!

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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.

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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

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

Friday Hint

What is the promise of your novel?

Are you writing forward with that promise in mind?

As you go along, if an idea comes to you about something that should have showed up in earlier pages, write yourself a note–right then and there–describing what should happen. Highlight it. Then keep moving forward. You’ll easily find what you’re looking for later.

Another hint- If you are reading the previous chapter to get you into your novel (which I think is a good idea, because it helps you settle back into this novel’s specific voice) don’t count that time as your hour. Your hour begins when you start new words.

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Filed under Ann Dee, CLW, Family, Kyra, Writing Marathon, writing process

Monday Challenge Hint(s)

Do you know where this book is headed? By now you should have an idea. If you’re stuck, write scenes. One scene an hour.

What have you learned about your main character?

Who has surprised you most in this writing process–as far as characters? People you’re working with? Living with?

We’re two weeks in. Have you written one hour each day? Do you miss the time if you don’t write? Are you thinking about your novel on off hours?

 

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Filed under Ann Dee, CLW, First Line, Kyra, Life, Plot, Writing Marathon, writing process