Here’s a Fun Trick to Make Your Writing Time More Fulfilling (and More Productive)

As a writer who has done a fair share of gaming over the years, I can totally relate to this post! Gaming analogies aside, the points made are excellent ones, and I have successfully used them all, so even if you don’t play video games, keep reading anyway. 🙂 (Shared from Don Massenzio’s blog)

Novelty Revisions

What do you do to motivate yourself to write when you don’t “feel like it”?

Chances are, you found this blog not because you have an answer to this question personally, but because you’re desperate for someone else to give you one.

I never claim to have all the answers. Everyone’s writing experience is different, so any advice I give may or may not apply to everyone in the same way, or at all.

But what I can do is tell you what works for me. And that’s turning work into a game.

It’s time to level up your writing. It’s time to play a new game, and embark on the path to “winning.”

First, you have to know the endgame. Every game has an end goal, or a point in which you know you’re about to reach the finish line. What is your personal endgame? Where do you want…

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Show & Tell (Part 1) by Adam at Write Thoughts

“Show, don’t tell” is common phrase that attempts to oversimplify a complex topic. “Show” and “Tell” are both essential for good writing. They represent complimentary techniques for writing prose. It is true that telling is often easier, and as a result it’s frequently over used, but both have their place in writing.

Telling in a Nutshell

If writing is the art of using words to convey meaning, then telling is the technique of blatantly stating the meaning directly. “He was mean.” “She was nice.” “It was hot outside.” Few words have been used and the meaning is clear, but the significance of the meaning is left vague. Audiences know what the character thinks and feels, but almost nothing about the object of those thoughts and feelings. No concrete information has been revealed.

Telling is also very passive experience for the audience. Audiences don’t have to think to understand the meaning of the text. They simply absorb it.

Showing in a Nutshell

Showing, in contrast, is an indirect approach. Showing implies meaning through details. “Rain pelted the windows.” “He cradled the dog in his arms.” “She hummed softly as she worked.” By themselves, these phrases could mean many things. Perhaps he likes dogs, or perhaps he is a nice person. Perhaps she is a diligent worker, or perhaps music is an important aspect of her life.

As audiences learn more, the range of possible meanings narrows, until audiences are able to reach a conclusion. However, showing is not limited to a single meaning, and often carries multiple implications. It’s possible for the protagonist to like dogs and be a nice person.

Continue reading…Show & Tell (1/3)

Why You Should Consider Writing A Trilogy #SundayBlogShare #Writers @tonyriches

(Shared from Blonde Write More)

When medieval historical fiction author Tony Riches contacted me to say that he had a fab guest blog post up his sleeve I was over the moon.

When I read his guest blog post I felt like one of my big writing related questions had been answered. The question being – why should you consider writing a trilogy?

Prior to Tony’s guest post, I spent a lot of time thinking about why you should consider writing a trilogy. I came up with the following points:

  • You should write a trilogy if you secretly crave literary pain. Writing one book won’t come close to satisfying your literary pain needs, so you need to write three in quick succession to get your fix.
  • You should write a trilogy if you can’t think of a way to end your story and you strongly believe that come the end of writing the third book you will have figured it out.
  • You should write a trilogy if you have fallen madly in love with one of your characters and can’t bear to be parted from them. Writing a story about your crush and spanning it over three books might help you get this fictional love interest out of your system. Your readers might not share your love for this character but that’s low level detail.
  • You should write a trilogy if you have an attention seeking diva of a main character who demands a bigger world stage. Give them a trilogy and watch their power hungry eyes light up!

To my surprise Tony has come up with a different set of reasons to me.

Check out this great post below.

Take it away Tony!

Source: Why You Should Consider Writing A Trilogy #SundayBlogShare #Writers @tonyriches

Five Tips for Writing Good Dialogue

Throwback Thursday! I thought it might be fun to resurrect this post from my other blog two years ago this month!


Five Tips for Writing Good Dialogue

Many writers struggle with dialogue, maybe because there is so much pressure to get it right. Speaking in someone else’s voice isn’t always easy, yet as writers we end up with a whole cast of characters who all need distinct, unique voices, and it is up to us to provide them. Who would want to read a book where all the characters sound the same? Boring…and confusing.

But creating our characters’ voices is only the beginning—they still need something authentic and interesting to say, not to mention the writing itself must have all the correct grammar and punctuation.

I thought this week I might share some tips for writing dialogue, and anyone who wants to add their own in the comments section is welcome. No, I am not an expert. These are based on my own experience as a writer/editor, and on advice I have received from others over the years. I am still learning and improving, and frequently need to go through and re-examine my own dialogue when I am editing.

Tip 1 – Finding your character’s voice.

As I mentioned earlier, the last thing you want is for all of your characters to sound the same. Even people growing up in the same household will vary in their speech patterns. An outgoing person might have the tendency to talk a lot, while a more reserved person may say very little at all. Knowing your characters well is vital to writing good dialogue. What are their personalities and thought processes? What would they say, and how would they say it? Would they use big words or simple ones, formal speech or slang? Does she talk faster when excited? Does he deliberate over every word? Do they live in a region with a dialect? All things to consider. A good test is to strip away the identifiers in a section of dialogue. Can you still tell who is speaking, just from the way the words are spoken?

Tip 2 – How much realism is necessary?

I took a writing class once where we had an unusual assignment to help us learn about dialogue; go sit in a public place and listen in on the surrounding conversations.   We were supposed to return with our observations about how people naturally speak to each other. Several things stood out for me.

  1. People rarely give direct, simple answers to a question. They tend to dance around it and give explanations rather than just say yes or no.
  2. They easily tangent from subject to subject, sometimes having multiple conversations simultaneously. They might eventually circle back to the original topic, or never resolve it at all.
  3. There tend to be lots of extra pauses, ummm’s, uh’s, like’s, and external interruptions.

Does all of this really belong in a story?  Probably not, especially the latter two.

While the point of that assignment might have been learning how to re-create realistic conversation, I think for me it was a lesson in how not to write dialogue. When it comes to what our characters do, we don’t think twice about skipping over all the mundane parts of the daily routine. No one wants to follow their characters to the bathroom ten times a day, or watch them cruise around the grocery store checking package labels—unless there is a point to doing so. Why should dialogue be any different? If it does not enhance our character’s development or further the plot in some way, it doesn’t belong. Make every spoken word count so that it has purpose and meaning, otherwise it is just taking up valuable real estate.

Tip 3 – What about special speech?

Regional dialects, “thee and thou,” historical, and traditional fantasy dialogue are all under this category. My advice is to proceed carefully. It is usually better to give the occasional flavor of a dialect than try to replicate the whole thing, especially if you do not speak in that dialect yourself. It won’t sound authentic, and you’re bound to make mistakes. Writing in dialect can get very tedious for the writer and hard to understand for the reader. Choosing a selection of words that will make it obvious where the speaker is from, and using them consistently, can be quite effective.

Thee and thou I wouldn’t use at all in a long piece, unless you know you can authentically pull it off and the story absolutely needs it. Most writers don’t get the grammar right consistently and it just doesn’t work. Readers also tire of it pretty quickly.

Historic and fantasy-specific language is pretty well accepted. Readers of these genres are quite comfortable with the tradition and actually expect the use of older words and more formal, elegant speech.

What they are not as likely to forgive is language that will pull them out of whatever era they have settled into. Don’t use modern sounding words, or worse yet, metaphors or sayings that refer to things that would not have even existed yet. This is where an online dictionary can be your best friend. Yes, you already know what a given word means, but scroll down to see the word’s origin, or etymology. You can find out where the word came from, and when it came into use. If you’re writing a medieval era story for example, don’t use words that didn’t come into use until the 1700’s or later. It will greatly annoy your more savvy readers and make you look like an amateur.

Tip 4 – What comes after the quote?

One of the most difficult parts of writing dialogue can be knowing what to say after the quotation marks are closed. There are lots of different opinions out there, and I can’t say that I agree with all of them. He said, she said—pretty standard. Some advocate that you shouldn’t use much else, that the reader will just tune it out after a while and focus only on the dialogue itself. Others say varying it up strengthens the writing; he stated, she replied, they inquired, etc.

Both camps are pretty adamant, but I think this is one of those areas where writers have some leeway. Neither is technically right or wrong—it is just a matter of personal taste and writing style. I tend to vary it up because as a writer I get bored with just he said, she said. And sometimes including some extra descriptive words (yes, even those controversial words ending in “ly”) help me convey the emotions and facial expressions of the speaker.

That being said, be careful of ending your dialogue with phrases like, he laughed. Try to laugh an entire sentence sometime and let me know how that works out. It is more correct to say something like, he said as he laughed. The difference may seem subtle, but grammatically there is a difference. Also, be aware of whether your character is making a statement or asking a question. If there is a question mark at the end of the sentence, use he asked rather than he said, and vice versa.

Tip 5 – Commas, and periods, and quotation marks, oh my!

Quotation Rules

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah, this is grammar, and I’m sorry. But as an editor, it makes me crazy when writers don’t know how to correctly punctuate their dialogue. If you are an American writer, please keep your periods and commas inside the quotation marks. “Yep, just like this,” she said. “Not like this”. Also note that I did not write, “Yep, just like this.” She said. She said is not a sentence by itself.

If someone in your story is speaking for a long time, requiring more than one paragraph of dialogue, do not end each paragraph with closing quotation marks. However, every time you start a new paragraph, begin it with quotation marks. The reader will understand your character is still speaking. Reserve your ending quotation marks for the end of the very last paragraph of the dialogue.

Quotation marks can also be confusing when someone who is already speaking quotes another person. For instance, My grandmother always used to say, ‘cheaters never win, and winners never cheat.’ The regular double quotes are for the person speaking, while the information being quoted is enclosed in single quotation marks. Make sure that you have both beginning and ending quotation marks for each.

Quotation marks should be reserved for spoken words only. Inner thoughts written as dialogue should always be in italics. That guy is crazy, she thought.

Lastly, check to make sure all your quotation marks face the right way. When typing things for the first time, your word processing program will position them correctly. But once you start editing, cutting, pasting, inserting, and moving text around, sometimes they can get turned the wrong way. It is easy not to notice unless you are looking, so make this part of your self-editing process. It is way easier to fix these issues as you go, rather than having to find and correct them in an entire manuscript after the fact.

These are just a few of my thoughts on writing dialogue. What makes good dialogue for you as a writer or reader? What makes the story stronger, and what makes you want to stop reading? How can you let what others have done inform your own writing to make it better?

Inciting Moment–What It Is and Why You Should Care by Andrea Lundgren

Recently, I was explaining the concept of an inciting moment to my five-year-old (he’s a bit young, but one might as well start early, right?), and it got me thinking about how critical the concept is.

Some writers may call it an inciting incident, and others have probably never heard of it, including the idea without any formal title or understanding of how it works, but the inciting moment is what happens to make the world of the story change. One of the many rocks dropped in the story-pond that set off a series of ripples. It’s the spark that jolts the story to life.

Once you figure out your inciting moment, you more or less have the story running away by itself as the chain of events keeps going…

Click to keep reading: Inciting Moment–What It Is and Why You Should Care

 

The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues by Kristen Lamb

If you’ve read my Wind Rider Chronicles series, you know I’m guilty of prologues. Hopefully I am using them well, and not committing any of the deadly sins mentioned in this article.  How about you? Are you generally for or against them? Do you always read the prologue, or do you skip right past it?


We writers have a vast array of tools at our disposal to craft stories readers will love. But like any tool, it helps if we know how to use it properly. Theme is wonderful. It can keep us plunging a story’s depths for years when used correctly. Applied incorrectly? It just makes a story annoying and preachy.

Description! Love me some description! But pile on too much and we can render a story unreadable.

The same can be said of prologues. Now, before we get into this, I want to make it clear that certain genres lend themselves to prologues. But even then, we are wise to make sure the prologue is serving the story.

So, to prologue or not to prologue? That is the question.

The problem with the prologue is it has kind of gotten a bad rap over the years, especially with agents. They generally hate them. Why? In my opinion, it is because far too many writers don’t use prologues properly and that, in itself, has created its own problem.

Because of the steady misuse of prologues, many readers skip them. Thus, the question of whether or not the prologue is even considered the beginning of your novel can become a gray area if the reader just thumbs pages until she sees Chapter One.

So without further ado…

The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues—What Doesn’t Work and What Does

 

Focusing Your Novel with A Journalist’s Trick by Andrea Lundgren

Okay, perhaps it’s more of a tool than a trick, but journalists have been using the “Who-What-Where-When-Why-and-How” format on hard news pieces for well over a century (to judge by the sort of articles they write, where each of these items are addressed), and I’ve found the six questions are equally useful when writing a novel.

Because, like journalists, we’re writing a story about something that happened…it’s just that it happened in our imagination. The standard six questions can be used when brainstorming your next story, focusing your editing, or trying to come up with a blurb (which is rather like a very short news article about your novel, without the ending disclosed) …

Keep Reading: Focusing Your Novel with A Journalist’s Trick