Thursday, October 4, 2012
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Passivity is what lulls our readers to sleep—no matter how exciting our story. Here are some ways to get rid of this deadly sin.
PASSIVE SENTENCE CONSTRUCTION. Construct sentences so the subject performs the action instead of having an action performed upon the subject. This means the actor (subject) is mentioned before the action (verb), not after. Sentences that begin with “there are,” “there is,” “there was,” or “there were” are always passive. Get rid of them.
Passive: Sleeping was used by the writer to prevent exhaustion.
Active: The writer slept to prevent exhaustion.
Better: The writer slept.
Passive: A book is read by the student.
Active: The student reads a book.
Passive: There were three people in the grocery line.
Active: Three people waited in the grocery line.
PASSIVE VERBS. Watch for passive verbs, such as was, is, were, are, had, am, and so forth. Replace them with active verbs, the most active and descriptive words you can think of. Your prose will come to life.
PRESENT PARTICIPLES. Verbs ending with “ing” (and requiring a helping verb) are by nature more passive than those ending with “ed.”
Bad: She was eating breakfast.
Good: She ate eggs and toast. (Specifics never hurt!)
BONUS TIP: If you’re using a “helping” verb (was, were, is, are) there’s a good chance you’re passive.
BONUS TIP: Never start a sentence with “there was” or “there are” or any variation of these.
(c) 2008 Inspiration for Writers, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
The First Rule of Writing is Show, Don’t Tell. That sounds easy, but what, exactly, does show mean? It means we must act out our scenes using action and dialogue in such a way that our reader can visualize exactly where he is and who he’s with—all while keeping him on the edge of his seat. Let’s look at an example:
Carey ate breakfast, then he took a shower and went to the store. At the store he met a girl and they talked for a long time. Carey liked her but she blew him off. Then he went home.
Tells you a lot about Carey, huh? Okay—so this example is exaggerated, but it hits home the necessity of showing and not telling. What can we do to fix it? We need more detail, especially in dialogue and action. Consider:
Carey studied the frozen dinners. He’d had turkey and dressing for the last four days, so Salisbury steak would be good for a change. But did he want the “Big Man’’ or the regular?
A scent teased his nose. Not the overwhelming smell of fish and frostbite, but a fresh smell, like the smell of skin just out of the shower. He glanced sideways and saw the most perfect arm he’d ever seen in his life. Long, slender, graceful, full of sinewy muscle and smooth skin. His eyes followed the arm to the shoulder and then the head. Her head. A head covered with long blond hair and containing a face that made his heart stop.
“Hi,” she said, her voice rich and melodious.
Carey’s mouth didn’t work. He tried to return her greeting, but only a grunt came out. He tried to smile politely, but his face erupted with a grin as large and toothy and goofy as a cartoon character’s . . .
So now you have the idea. We need details. We need to know thoughts, feelings; we need to smell the perfume, taste the wine, feel the cashmere. It is especially important to act out emotions and emotionally-packed scenes. This is the writer’s opportunity to shine. Never tell us what a character is feeling. Show us. Anything less cheats the reader from experiencing our imaginary world.
Bad: John was angry.
Good: John’s eyes narrowed. He slammed his fist on the table.
We also find the “show, don’t tell” problem in less-apparent ways. For example, in description.
Bad: Mary was a pretty girl, with blue eyes and blond hair.
Good: Mary’s blue eyes glistened with joy, her blond hair bouncing with each step.
Bad: Molly is a wonderful person.
Good: Molly is always there when anyone needs her. She’s the first to arrive with a casserole when someone is sick, the first to send a note of encouragement to those who are troubled, the first to offer a hug to anyone—man, woman or child—at anytime.
Instead of saying Sam is a talented musician, let us hear the crowds cheer, let us feel his passion. Take us into his head as he strokes the piano keys:
Consummation of the soul. That’s what Sam called the gratification he received from music. When his passion became so intense it begged to be satisfied, pleaded to be released, and he was helpless to resist its urges. When his fingers assumed a life of their own, titillating the ivory keys with the complex music of Bach and Mozart and Beethoven, and he became one with the cadence, breathing with the crescendos, his fingers caressing the melody, until everything else faded, everything else disappeared, and only the music existed.
Dialogue is another area where we have the opportunity to show or to tell. “I love you,” she crooned. “I love you, too,” he sputtered. And I cringe. First, using creative dialogue tags (crooned, sputtered) is telling, not showing. Let the power of your dialogue and the accompanying action show your readers the tone of voice and the emotion. Consider:
“I love you,” she said, her voice smooth as her fingers massaged his Rolex.
“Love you, too,” he said. His glassy eyes roved over her naked body, his mouth too wet and limp to properly form words.
You can’t tell us someone is a wonderful person, a talented musician or a spoiled child. We won’t believe you. You must show us. Throughout your manuscript, look for any opportunity to show us in real time, to act out, to let us feel.
But—does this mean we should act out absolutely everything? Uh-uh. Let’s face it—if we showed everything, our novels would run tens of thousands of pages—and readers would die of exhaustion. So what do we do? We must decide what information the reader needs. Just because we know everything about our characters and just because we spent weeks researching, it isn’t necessary to share everything we know with our reader. We must choose only the details we need to authenticate our story and omit everything else.
One of the most difficult and most crucial elements in story-telling is knowing when to give play-by-play action and when to back off and summarize. Play with this. If a scene doesn’t hold your interest, maybe it is better to summarize it in a sentence or two and go on to something more important. However, if it is a pivotal scene in the plot or critical to our understanding how our character reacts in a given situation, go for it. Give us action, give us dialogue, and let us experience and savor every single moment of it.
BONUS TIP: Never name an emotion. That’s a sure-fire giveaway that you’re telling and not showing.
© 2008 Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved.
For more tips visit www.InspirationForWriters.com
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
The Devil of Rejection tempts every writer with the Seven Deadly Sins of Writing. They seem innocent enough—a misplaced comma here, an adverb there—but soon the writer finds himself sinking into the dreaded darkness of the Rejection Pile. Often, he doesn't even realize he's been deceived. So let's reveal the Seven Deadly Sins of Writing for what they are—Death to your manuscript.
DEADLY SIN ONE: POOR GRAMMAR AND SPELLING
And punctuation and word choice. Nothing shouts “AMATEUR!” as loudly as poor punctuation, ghastly grammar, and sporadic spelling. No matter how wonderful a story is, if the writer doesn’t make an effort to proof for these problems, no agent or publisher (or reader) will take you seriously. If you do not have these skills yourself, hire an editor. If you plan to make writing your vocation, take classes at a local college, pick up a good reference manual (we recommend the Little, Brown Essential Handbook for Writers by Jane E. Aaron—$26.75 at Amazon.com), and keep up to date by subscribing to email services (we recommend Daily Writing Tips at http://www.dailywritingtips.com/ and Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips at http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/)--and, of course, our own blog, newsletter, and bevy of tips on our website. Proof your manuscript, have five friends proof your manuscript, and then proof, proof, proof again.
BONUS TIP: Be consistent, especially if you wander from conventional usages. For example, if you choose to capitalize a word that is typically not capped, do so throughout your manuscript.
BONUS TIP: Limit use of exclamation marks, ellipses, colons and semi-colons.
BONUS TIP: Periods and commas go INSIDE the quotation marks.
Next week, we'll post the Second Deadly Sin of Writing. See you then!
(c) 2003 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
by Nancy Parker
Writing seems like fun at first. I mean, what can be more fun than expressing yourself and sharing your interests and talent with the world, right? But, eventually, you may get bored. You are sick of being tethered to the computer, pouring out your heart with little to no reward. Or, worse yet, you are bored with your story. The same thing, day in and day out, and you are just burnt out. But what can you do? You don’t want to just stop and lose everything you’ve worked so long and hard for. Well, here are four ways to put the spark back in your writing life.
1. Take a break – Everyone gets burnt out. If you work on something, anything, for too long, no matter how fun it is, you will get tired of it. You can take a break. Sometimes, you have to. Now, that doesn’t mean that your story lies fallow, losing inspiration like rats off a sinking ship. There are other avenues. Take notes. Get into your character’s backgrounds. Heck, just draw pictures! Take a break from the long, draining bouts of writing and regain your passion.
2. Start afresh – No one ever said you couldn’t change things up. Maybe you have a story aboutromance. You are sick of romance. If you have to see one more shirtless dude you are going to puke. So, change it up. Start writing about mystery, for example. At first, tie it in with the romance. Things like a love triangle and a murder mystery would be a good start. Then as you go along, you can change the direction of your story completely and not lose all your hard work.
3. Pick something new – You’ve written the crud out of your story. You are just sick to death of writing essentially the same thing day in and day out. Here’s a hint: look at it a new way. If you’ve been writing from a male perspective, try writing from a female. If you’ve been writing as a senior, try writing as someone younger, or vice versa. If you come at things from a new way, you’ll see everything differently.
4. Fall in love – This can be literal or metaphorical. It is true what they say; that falling in love changes the way you see the world. Whether you have a new relationship in your life or just a new hobby, share the love. When you are passionate, it shows in your writing. It's easier to write, things flow better, and it's just more fun to read.
Don’t get so caught up in the business of writing that you forget your love for writing--the reason you started writing in the first place. Take a break, get some air, start a new hobby, and fall in love with your writing all over again.
Nancy Parker was a professional nanny and she loves to write about wide range of subjects like health, Parenting, Child Care, Babysitting, Live out nanny tips, etc. You can reach her @ nancy.parker015 @ gmail.com
Monday, June 18, 2012
Before you can start writing, you must have at least a basic idea of the three major components of a story. Plot is what happens. Character is to whom it happens. And setting is where and when it happens. Most stories are either plot-driven or character-driven. A plot-driven novel is one in which what happens is more important than to whom it happens. An example of this is an action/adventure novel. A character-driven novel is one in which a character evolves during the story, and what happens isn’t as important as how the character reacts to what happens. An example of this is a romance novel. A successful plot must have a struggle of some sort—on one hand, something that a character (or characters) wants, and on the other hand, something that prevents the character from having it.
Plots are based upon three fundamental struggles:
• Man-against-man—this is when another character (the antagonist) is at odds with the protagonist (the main character) and tries to prevent the protagonist from accomplishing his goal. An example of this would be a cop chasing down a serial killer.
• Man-against-nature—this is when nature (or, possibly, machinery) causes problems for the protagonist. An example of this would be a man left behind in Antarctica, fighting for survival against the elements of nature.
• Man-against-himself—this is when some character flaw within the protagonist prevents him from achieving his greatest desire. An example of this would be a man who wants a happy home life, but who battles alcoholism.
Many novels have a main plot with several subplots spidering off of it. However, in order to keep a handle on things and to prevent random rambling, it is important to have a focus statement to give your story cohesiveness. A focus statement describes your story’s basic plot in one sentence. Yes. One sentence. Forcing this focus gives you a home base to return to and reflect from, and ensures that you don’t drift too much in other directions.
Examples of a focus statement::
• An uneducated man from the slums climbs through the political world in his quest to become President.
• A teenager hones his acting skills in hopes of making it big on the Silver Screen.
• An alcoholic mother struggles to raise her children.
A plot must also have three distinct parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning, of course, is where the story starts. The setting must be firmly established (both place and time), the main character must be introduced, and the story question must be presented. The story question puts the focus statement into a “what if” format:
• Will the uneducated man from the slums be able to achieve his goal to become President?
• Can the teenager make it big on the Silver Screen?
• Will the alcoholic mother be able to successfully raise her children?
The middle of the story is where we build the action and further develop the characters. The middle of the story is the link between the beginning and the end, and that which makes the end possible. The end of the story consists of two parts, the climax and the resolution, also called the denouement. The climax is the turning point in the novel, where the tension is highest. The climax is where all seems lost, where decisions must be made, where life and death hang on the balance. The climax should lead directly into the resolution, which should answer the story question and resolve the character statement of the main character (usually, these will be linked).
In a character-driven novel, the main character should be changed in some way—wiser, more mature, kinder, perhaps even more cynical—but he/she must have undergone a change. If his character goal has not been achieved, then it must be resolved (perhaps the uneducated man from the slums decides that he can make a greater impact on society if he becomes a teacher than he could make as President or perhaps the teenager’s father is seriously injured in an accident and the youth realizes that nothing is more important than his family and he’d prefer to stay close to home).
Plot is accomplished through a series of scenes. A scene is the dramatization of one snapshot in time—what happens at one specific place at one specific time. Of course, the action may unwind over a period of several minutes or longer, but once the action is transferred to a different setting or to a different character, that scene ends and another scene begins. (However, the same scene continues if the viewpoint character himself is moving, say walking down the street from one house to another, or if the omniscient point of view is used).
Every scene in a novel must further the plot or develop a character (preferably both at the same time); otherwise, it is an extraneous scene and should be cut. Every scene should also have a feeling of completeness about it. This is accomplished by ending the scene with an action, thought or dialogue by the viewpoint character, hopefully resolving or reviewing whatever “mini-crisis” the scene presented.
Most writers divide their novel into chapters. Some give a title to each chapter; others just use numbers. There are no rules for assigning chapters, although I’ve read advice that suggests that each chapter should consist of three scenes or each chapter should consist of twenty pages. I think this is up to the individual writer.
Plot is certainly one of the most important components in your novel. There are several ways to go about developing plot. Some people outline, putting every scene on an index card. Some people know the entire plot before they even write one word; others discover the plot as they write. If you'd like your own copy of our reproducible Chapter Summary Worksheet, which can help you outline your chapters, or the Novel Summary Worksheet, which can help you identify each component of your novel so you can stay focused, please just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send one out to you.
Bottom line: plotting is as individual as personality. Find what works for you and use it.
(c) 2003 Sandy Tritt. All Rights Reserved.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
by Heather Smith
Throughout our career as English students we’re taught that grammar and punctuation rules are unbreakable. However, any foray into the world of journalistic writing, from blogging to writing for print or online media, will show that these rules aren’t as unbreakable as we were once taught. In fact, many of them are downright obsolete at this point. Here are five old-school writing rules that are just begging to be broken:
1. Never begin a sentence with a conjunction
For years upon years we’ve been told not to start sentences with words like “and,” “but,” or any other conjunction. And at one point that rule may have held. But not anymore. Starting a sentence with one of these words can give it a bit of edge and shows that we’re moving from one thought to the next. Besides, it’s consistent with the way we talk in everyday life.
This rule-breaker applies to coordinating conjunctions, which are: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.
2. Double space at the end of a sentence
We no longer put two spaces at the end of a sentence. Originally, the extra space was used because manuscripts were typed on typewriters and then given to a typesetter to re-type, and the double space helped the typesetter recognize the minuscular dot was indeed a period and not a comma. Now that manuscripts are transmitted electronically and typesetters no longer re-type, there’s no reason to add the extra space. In fact, doing so is greatly frowned upon.
3. Concluding sentences with prepositions
Let’s be honest, ending sentences with prepositions is where it’s at. A good rule to follow: if a sentence makes sense without the preposition then you should ditch it, but if the preposition is what makes the sentence comprehendible, then you should keep it. A sentence that flow—whether it ends with a preposition or not—is much more acceptable than an awkward sentence that obeys the rules.
4. Put three to five sentences in each paragraph
Paragraphs are not always three to five sentences in length. In fact, sometimes they’re only one sentence in length. Open any book, newspaper, or magazine, and you’re likely to see this in action because one-liners can be the most effective paragraphs in an article or story, adding a nice little pause before hitting the reader with something thought-provoking or unexpected.
Don’t you agree?
5. Avoid incomplete sentences
Incomplete sentences are all the rage. Right? They’re often witty and can add interest to your prose. However, you need to understand the rules to break the rules. An incomplete sentence should either complete a thought started in a previous sentence or add something left out. Or add a bit of punch.
Writing has to change with the times to remain effective and coherent. As writing becomes more casual and conversational, some of the older, stricter, and more established grammar and punctuation rules are becoming outdated and unnecessary. Know the old rules, know the new rules, and know when to break the rules.
Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to hire a nanny by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Here's what they say:
We're looking for stories!
We have many Chicken Soup for the Soul® books in development and are adding new titles all of the time. We are always looking for new stories and poems and hope you have some for us to consider. Take a look at the list of our future book topics to see if you have a story or poem on a subject we are looking for and then please submit it to us.
If you have a great story or poem you want to submit but we are not collecting for that topic at this time, please save it and check back with us soon. Our list of Possible Books Topics is added to frequently and hopefully, in the near future, we will add a topic that will be a perfect fit for your story or poem.
We prefer that you submit your stories only once, but if you believe your story fits in more than one book topic, please indicate which other topics you have submitted it for in the Comments line on the submission form. You can submit your story by going to the link at the bottom of the page. Thanks!
Here Are Our Future Topics:
Whether you are single or married, widowed, or divorced, you are in charge of your life and the lives of many other people. Tell us your story about running your independent life, achieving independence, and being a complete person. We are referring to all kinds of independence, not just financial or emotional. Share your story of empowerment and independence to help women of all ages feel stronger, more capable, and more confident. The deadline date for story and poem submissions is July 31, 2012
Inspiration for Writers
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, books or articles, paranormal or romance, the process is equally challenging. Thus, it's important to learn from others who have made the transition from dreaming about writing to being a writer. If this describes you, we want to hear about your setbacks, breakthroughs, and successes. How did you overcome writer's block? Who or what encouraged you when you were about to give up? When did you realize that your story was ready to be shared with the world? This is your opportunity to help other writers -- published and unpublished -- draw inspiration and learn from your journey to publication (including self-publishing and blogging). The deadline date for story and poem submissions is June 30, 2012.
Throughout our lives we meet new people and social circles change. Sometimes we have to say goodbye to friends and make new connections. We are looking for stories about men and women making new friends. Whether it was a move, a divorce, or a friendship that failed, share your stories about finding new friends. What led you to form new relationships? How did you go about it? This book will encourage and support other adults who are looking to expand their circle of friends. Funny stories are great too. We are not looking for teen or preteen stories for this book, just stories from people over 18. The deadline date for story and poem submissions is March 31, 2012.
They always say it's the best job and the worst job. But basically it's the best! We are looking for your stories about parenting - the hard work, the joy, the unconditional love, the funny times and the occasional sad ones too. Whether you're a new parent of one or an "experienced" parent of several, by birth, by marriage, by adoption, or by fostering, tell us your stories about parenthood. Funny stories, stories that will make us tear up, stories with nuggets of great advice - all your anecdotes are welcome. The deadline date for story and poem submissions is June 30, 2012.
The Power of Positive
Everyone knows about the power of positive thinking. After the success of our book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive, we are ready to make another book full of stories about how you changed your life, solved a problem, or overcame a challenge through a positive attitude, counting your blessings, or an epiphany of some kind. Tell us your success story about using the power of positive! The deadline date for story and poem submissions is April 30, 2012
SO, GET WRITING!
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Joy E. Held
The indie publisher is gaining traction in our business, and that's good news for authors! Look at these indie publishers actively seeking submissions at the moment.
1. Martin Sisters Publishing is relatively new and open to non-fiction and fiction inspirational and Christian writing.
http://www.martinsisterspublishing.com/ Click on Aspiring Authors.
2. Secret Cravings Publishing is open to submissions for a new series called "Love On A Plane". As long as the story includes a plane (or air travel of some kind) and a happily-ever-after-ending, they want to see your manuscript. Any time period, any length.
3. Surely you've heard that e-monster Amazon is now in the publishing business, and we're not talking about their self-publishing avenue. In fact, there are six new lines at Amazon Publishing covering a wide range of genres.
The newest Amazon genre is romance:
Would you like assistance with your submissions? Talk to me! We have several options and very reasonable rates.
Meanwhile, don't forget to check out my book available online and from Who Dares Wins Publishing http://www.whodareswinspublishing.com/
I will be in Huntington, West Virginia Monday, April 23 as a featured author at the Ohio River Festival of Books 2012.
If your Huntington area group would like a workshop or book discussion with yours-truly while I'm in the neighborhood, contact me soon.
I will be in Cincinnati, Ohio June 1-2 as a featured editor at the Lori Foster Reader and Author Get Together.
If your Cincinnati area group would like to schedule a workshop or book discussion while I'm in the neighborhood, contact me soon.
Be well, write well,
"Women with clean houses do not have finished books." ~Joy E. Held
Monday, February 6, 2012
Many thanks to the concepts of authors Bob Mayer, Jen Talty, and Kristen Lamb.
Monday, January 9, 2012
If you aren’t on the steampunk bandwagon yet, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time to write your story and get it published. Steampunk isn’t showing any signs of slowing down for the new year. The genre is still going “full steam” (I couldn’t resist) ahead. What is steampunk and who’s looking for your writing?
Does your story clank with inventions, have energized time travel involved, or perhaps some space exploration? Do your characters resemble heroes from the wild west but they employ unusual gadgets with gears? And have you submitted your story only to hear, “Sorry, it isn’t right for us”? You may be writing a steampunk genre novel and submission success lies in knowing where to send the manuscript. There are several small to medium publishers calling, begging, or screaming at a decent decibel level for steampunk work.
For the unsure at this point, check out this genre definition for more about what we’re talking about:
There are a couple more general steampunk resource sites below for further investigation.
A. If your steampunk novel includes a romance (happy ending or not,) Carina Press, a Harlequin company, wants to read your stuff asap but they will probably take about three months to get back to you.
B. Got a great steampunk novel full of gadgets and flying dirigibles? Untreed Press is the place to submit.
C. Can’t let go of the vampire sucking thing but it’s set in a time period no one else seems to want to touch because your vampire is also a Victorian inventor? Blacksails Press has the desire to read your manuscript for a 2012 anthology coming out soon.
For up-to-date info and general hanging around with like-minded nineteenth century literary innovators check out these sites:
Whenever you have a finished novel in any genre, contact me here at IFW and let’s talk about making your completed manuscript the dream come true for an editor soon.
Be well, write well,
Joy E. Held