Merry Christmas to you all

As I send my Christmas message to you, I thank you for being interested in my journey as a first time published author. You have followed my posts on face book and twitter, and some of you have checked out my two websites.

How amazing! I am truly humbled by your interest.

This year has taught me so much about the art/craft of writing. I’ve stumbled at times. And because of my encouragers, (you) I have got back to the keyboard and begun again.

The release of The Fortune Seekers – Dan and Charlotte has been an amazing experience. Can you imagine how it felt to open the first book after it arrived from the publisher. Perhaps it felt like you felt when you read a signed copy from a friend- me. Such a new experience.

Thank you to those who posted reviews on Amazon and Xlibris. And also those of you who sent me your review by email. Most of you loved the story and cant wait for the second of the serried. Some of you discovered the many errors in the book – grammatical, length, etc. I am listenning and learning. Presently attempting a re edit so the next printing will be better. This will happen in 2017, after which the second novel will be completed.

Today I discovered that The Fortune is not only on Xlibris, BarnesandNoble, Amazon.com, and Amazon.com.Au but also available on Amazon UK, Amazon Japan, and Amazon EU. How it got there I don’t know. Possibnly due to Xlibris my publisher and marketer.

Below are some new reviews I discovered tonight. From strangers.

Bragging over – Now it’s time to send my Christmas wishes on their way. 

May you 

enjoy your family and friends, 

love, share and give, 

and continue to be a blessing to others.

Have a blessed Christmas

Glennis xx


Cliffhangers for Novelists—Tips to Use Them Effectively

Cliffhangers for Novelists—Tips to Use Them EffectivelyThanks to by Cindy Sproles @CindyDevoted for posting this blog.  

It was a fast read. I couldn’t put it down.”

Nothing rings sweeter to an author’s heart than these words. The moment a reader becomes so invested in a story that nothing is more important than reading to the end – It’s monumental!

We call these page turners “cliffhangers” – remember “who shot J. R.?” The 1980s season cliffhanger for Dallas kicked off a new era for television. More so, it kept watchers drooling to know what happened next, assuring Dallas a knockout for the next season’s opener.

There are different schools of thought on the subject of cliffhangers, but for me… I love them and I practice them at the end of most chapters of a novel. Why? It’s a challenge for me as a writer and a ring-in-the-nose for my reader that allows me to clip on the rope and continue to pull them deeper into the story.

Some authors insist cliffhangers are unnecessary if you write a compelling story, but a compelling story should be filled with exhilaration and “take-your-breath realizations” that drive your reader into a deeper investment in the characters. Carefully placed cliffhangers are the icing on an already compelling story.

The question is, exactly what is a cliffhanger and how do you insert them into your chapter without leaving a cheesy taste for your reader? First off, a cliffhanger is not always something earth shattering. In fact, the most effective cliffhangers come when the author leaves the reader holding on to a character’s thought or motivation. It’s the “what if” factor or ratcheting up the tension—something unexpected happens… or fails to happen, a new thought or change of thought process.

Practical Application

For example, your character makes a decision: Owen knew the answer. He held the key in his hand all along… talk to Ericka. Just talk to Ericka.

With a cliffhanger like this at the end of a chapter, the reader suddenly experiences the same “ahhh” moment as the character, wetting their desire to know what follows the decision to talk to Ericka.

Perhaps it’s a moment when the character realizes something important.

Example: I flipped open the worn pages of his Bible and pressed my finger against the words. I had my proof. My vindication right in the lines of the Good Book. An eye for an eye. “How’s this Daddy? An eye for an eye . . .”

A good cliffhanger acts as a lure. It proves to be just as valuable as the opening hook in paragraph one of the first chapter. Sometimes the perfect cliffhanger is a simple statement from a character that reinforces the chapter’s tension.

For example: There was nothing left to say. When the gavel hit the desk, guilty rang through the courtroom.

Beware of overuse.

Beware of Overuse

Equally as important as utilizing a cliffhanger is knowing not to overuse them. Remember, when your reader is deeply invested in your story, their heart races, they wiggle in their chair with the intensity of the scene so there are times, very important times, that you give the reader the opportunity for a breath. Let them relax for a second.

I loved the television show 24. But after two seasons, I began to say, “Just how many more times can Jack Bauer save the world?” Instead of my interest growing stronger, I began to feel like there was no end to the dire situations that the nation faced. I was tired and frustrated when the show ended. And poor Jack Bauer, how could the man ever rest? This was the result of never allowing the watcher to experience a moment of hope. Angst is wonderful, but too much… gives your reader ulcers.

As you place cliffhangers at the end of chapters, carefully assess the intensity of the chapters prior and post. Ask yourself the question, “Can my reader take a breath?” If not—give them one. As much as we love drama and action, we need to experience some hope and peace. These strategically placed sentences, enrich your readers experience.

Bottom Line

In a conference class under the late Ron Benrey, he shared his thoughts on the importance of a good cliffhanger. “A good story… a really good story, piques every sense and emotion of the reader, not once, but over and over. Carefully placed cliffhangers bring the story to life. It’s like the character reaches from the pages of the book, takes the reader by the wrist and yanks them into a fictional bubble which refuses to let them escape. This, and this alone, gives the reader an experience they long for.”

As you study your chapters, carefully assess how you can apply a good solid cliffhanger. Decide what type of emotion you need to tweak and then jump on it. Learn to make your readers hunger for the next page and give them the pleasure. When they purchase your book, read it, and close the cover, they should have received reading experience they deserve. Your best hope as a writer, is an email that asks you for “more.” When that happens—it’s a win-win for you and for the reader. 

TWEETABLE.    Cliffhangers for #novelists – tips to use them effectively by @CindyDevoted 

Your Novel’s First Scene: How to Start Right

This weeks blog is really appropriate to me, being in the process of re editing may novel. From some readers reports the first part is too long – and slow. Therefore this information is useful to me – maybe you as well.

Thanks for your blog Paula Munier.

Your Novel’s First Scene: How to Start RightPosted on November 28, 2016 by Paula Munier 

Today’s post is an excerpt adapted from A Writer’s Guide to Beginnings by Paula Munier (@PaulaSMunier), recently released from Writer’s Digest Books.

There are a number of tricks to making sure that you get your story off to a hot, hotter, hottest start, no matter what your genre. I know, I know, all of you people out there who are writing literary fiction are thinking, “I don’t need a hot start to my story.” Well, think again. Even beginnings for literary stories must aim for, at minimum, a slow burn.

I live in the Northeast, where winters can be brutal. (As I’m writing this, New York City is digging out of some two feet of snow.) When I moved here a dozen years ago after nearly twenty years in balmy California, I learned that the secret to staying warm as the thermometer plunges is to keep the fires burning on all fronts. I discovered the cozy beauty of cashmere sweaters, fingerless gloves, and glowing woodstoves.

But I also learned that sometimes you have to break down and leave the house. Go begin a journey, even if it’s only to the grocery store—which means venturing out into sub-zero temperatures to a frigid vehicle that may or may not start. It was a cold prospect I dreaded, until I happened upon two spectacular tools: remote car starters and heated car seats.

With a remote car starter, you can start your car from inside your warm house, wait until your automobile is revved up and ready to go, and then slip into a warm seat in a warm vehicle with a warm engine and hit the road. This is a beautiful thing.
You want to do the same thing with your story. Every reader starts a story cold, and you want to warm the reader up to your story as quickly as possible. You want the reader to slip into a warm seat in a hot story with a blazing beginning and take off for parts known only to you, the writer.

The good news: There are literary equivalents to remote car starters and heated car seats. Let’s take a look at these, one by one.

Start With the Scene That Introduces Your Story Idea

This is the easiest and most efficient way to get your story off to its hottest start. So if it’s at all possible to begin this way, you should, just as Peter Benchley did in the first scene of his classic horror novel, Jaws. Yes, the terrifying film was based on the equally terrifying New York Times bestseller by Benchley. The details of the novel’s opening scene and the film’s opening scene differ—the couple in the book are a man and a woman sharing a beach house rather than a couple of teenagers at a beach party—but the action is the same: The woman goes for her last swim in the sea while her drunken companion passes out. And there we have it, the big story idea of Jaws: a monster great white shark terrorizes a seaside resort town.

Start With the Scene That Foreshadows the Story Idea

If you believe that it is not possible to start your story by introducing the story idea, then you can do the next best thing: Start with a scene that foreshadows the story idea. For our purposes, a foreshadowing is an opening scene that prefigures your story idea.

The most famous example of this might be the opening of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in which the three witches appear as a bad omen, especially for Macbeth. Many fairy tales begin this way as well. In Charles Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty, a king and queen who’d waited years for a child celebrate their new baby princess’s christening with a celebration. They invite the seven fairies of the kingdom to the feast. But an eighth fairy shows up, one long thought dead, and she curses the baby. This is the scene that foreshadows the day when, years later, the princess pricks her finger and falls into a long sleep … and, well, you know the rest.

To use a more contemporary example, consider the tender and funny New York Times bestseller The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. In the opening scene, thirty-one-year-old book saleswoman Amelia Loman is stepping off the ferry to Alice Island, on her way to her first meeting with A.J. Fikry, owner of Island Books. She takes a call from Boyd, her latest “online dating failure,” determined to let him down gently, only he’s insulting, apologetic, and finally, weepy. Finally, she tells him that it would never work out because he’s “not much of a reader.” She hangs up and remembers her mother’s warning that “novels have ruined Amelia for real men.” And as she nearly walks right past the purple Victorian cottage that is Island Books, Amelia worries that her mother might be right.

In this scene, the foreshadowing is subtle but clear: Amelia needs a man who reads, and she’s about to meet one who may seem unsuitable in nearly every other way save that one … but still, the possibility for romance is there.

Start With the Scene That Sets Up the Story Idea

We’ve seen this one a million times. Think of the opening scene of the original Star Wars, in which Princess Leia hides the plans for the Death Star in R2-D2, setting up the story idea.

In Jeannette Walls’s shattering memoir The Glass Castle, she opens with a scene that begins with the unforgettable line, “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster.” She goes on to describe this encounter with her mother, setting up the rest of the novel, which tells the unsettling story of her harrowing childhood, beginning at the age of three.

Beware of Too Much, Too Soon

Even when you’ve got an opening scene that either sets up, foreshadows, or introduces your big story idea, that scene can still fail to capture the reader’s attention. One of the main reasons so many opening scenes fail is because the writer tries to tell too much about the story too soon.

Tell is the critical word here. The writer is telling—rather than showing—us the story. Many scenes are overburdened with backstory, description, and the characters’ inner monologue, which leaves little room for the action that should be driving the story forward.

Remember: What the readers need to know to read the story is not what you needed to know to write it. Because the beginning is usually the first part of the story that you commit to paper, you are just getting to know your characters, setting, plot, and themes. You’re exploring your characters’ voices and histories, your setting’s idiosyncrasies, your plot’s twists and turns and detours and dead ends, your themes’ nuances and expressions. You’re thinking on paper, stretching your way into your story, and that stretching is a critical part of the writing process, but just as stretching before you run is paramount, it’s not part of the run itself. It’s preparation.

So you need to go through and trim the parts of your opening that are obscuring the action so you can get to your big story idea sooner. You need to prune back your writing so that the inherent drama of your story idea is highlighted.

If you’re finding it difficult to edit your work, then try this trick. Print out your opening pages, and go through them, marking up the text in different colors to distinguish between backstory, description, and inner monologue.

Backstory: This is wherever you talk about what happened in the past, before the present action of your opening scene began—childhood memories, past relationships, etc. Mark these lines/paragraphs/sections in blue.
Description: These are the lines/paragraphs/sections where you describe your setting, expound on theme, detail backstory, etc. Mark these lines in pink.

Inner monologue: These are the parts where you record your character’s thoughts and feelings. Mark them in yellow, and underline the sections in which your character is alone as well.

I know that you’re tempted to skip this exercise. But don’t. You only have to flip or scroll through it to know where you should edit your opening scene. This is one of the most useful exercises you’ll ever do and the one my students, clients, and writing friends always most applaud me for.
Turn to Page 50

(This was my revelation – at page 50 I’ m only half way through the issues – much to slow to hold the readers’ interest)

For many writers, their story’s warm up lasts about fifty pages (or around the 15,000-word mark).  – ( oh no, that’s me)

What happens on page fifty of your story?

******.  Writers Guide to BeginningsPage fifty is where many stories truly begin. Turn to page fifty in your story, and see what’s happening there. What’s your protagonist up to? How does that relate to your story idea? Don’t be surprised if this is where your story really begins. And don’t be reluctant to toss out those first forty-nine pages of stretching if that’s what it takes to get your run off to a good start.

(With colour pens in hand I’m doing a work on my novel  – expecting to learn some truths along the way.)

See next week, Glennis 

Writing first drafts and after: 7 tips for stronger rewrites

Writing first drafts and after

 – by Now Novel – the easiest way to get your novel done

Writing first drafts of novels is challenging and completing your manuscript is a major achievement. Even so, if you end NaNoWriMo with a manuscript in hand, or you finish a book at your own pace, this is only a first step. 

Read 7 tips for crafting a strong rewrite in the editing and revising process and turn a perfunctory rough draft into a cracking page turner:

1. Make a list of words, phrases and scenes to cut

2. Make sure every part of your first draft contributes to the whole

3. Revise your rough draft to make the 5 W’s of story stronger

4. Get feedback on the cohesion and clarity of your first draft’s scenes

5. Use hindsight to fix incongruous details of plot, setting or character

6. Rest after writing a first draft so you can reread with new eyes

7. Type your novel’s first draft out anew and read aloud
Let’s delve deeper into each of these post-drafting ideas:

1. Make a list of words, phrases and scenes to cut and replace

The purpose of drafting is to get the story down in its most elementary, functional shape. Incidents of plot and characterisation and the basic flow of your story are there. The language isn’t necessarily burnished, though. Perhaps it doesn’t shine – yet.

When your first draft is complete, make a list of words and phrases to cut or substitute. If you have specific adjectives you typically reach for when describing certain characters or types (e.g. ‘beautiful’ for love interests or ‘cruel’ for villains), think of some alternatives that could add variety and specificity to your descriptions.

Words and phrases to substitute or cut:

‘He/she/they said’ – if you can show who is speaking within a scene through other means, keep dialogue tags to a minimum. Make tags carry descriptive weight (e.g. a sulky character could ‘mumble’ rather than merely say their lines). Avoid getting too creative with dialogue tags, though. Let characters’ words themselves convey tone and mood as far as possible.

Wordy phrases – the most compact phrase is often best. Make sure you say. ‘She returned’ rather than ‘she went back’.

Cut the adjectives-plus-weak-adverb combo. Although adverbs such as ‘very’ have their place, they often lesson descriptive ‘oomph’. Instead of saying a character speaks ‘very slowly’, you could use an all-in-one verb, e.g. ‘drawls’. Example sentence: ‘While he drawls at the lectern, she peeps at her watch’.

See the excellent guide Janice Hardy shared with us on cutting words from a manuscript that’s too long. Even if your manuscript is a good length, it should help you tidy your first draft.

Besides individual words and phrases also think about non-essential scenes that could be cut. This means ensuring every scene serves a purpose for the overarching story:

2. Make sure every part of your first draft contributes to the whole

Tom Stoppard quote rewriting and revisionOften a first draft contains scenes that aren’t completely clear in intent. A conversation between characters might circle around a plot point without saying anything particularly useful or telling the reader anything new or edifying. After the first draft, you have the opportunity to modify or remove these scenes that slow down pace and weaken narrative tension.

As you revise your novel’s rough draft, ask yourself for every scene:

Why is it necessary to show the reader this scene?

Does this scene answer a previous question about the events of the story or raise any new ones?

Am I bored?

This third question is important. If you get bored while reading through your draft, it could be that the scene is indeed boring (and not simply because you’ve read it over many times). Two ways to liven up a dull scene are to give a greater sense of purpose and direction through action (‘x’ surprising or dramatic event happens) or dialogue (characters converse on an important or illuminating topic).

If you do feel at all bored while reading through your first draft, strategize how you will strengthen the 5 ‘w’s’ of story and make them more interesting:

3. Revise your rough draft to make the ‘5 W’s’ of story stronger

Many of the greatest stories ever told have this in common: They treat all of the ‘5 W’s’ of story – who, what, why, where and when – with equal care. Charles Dickens’ London, for example, is as much a character as his characters are. In a novel by Toni Morrison or Margaret Atwood, characters’ choices and actions unravel sequences of events with all the inevitability of natural law.

As you revise your first draft, keep these 5 elements in mind. Ask yourself:

Is my setting clear? Can you picture where my readers are and does this backdrop contribute to the overall tone and mood?

Are the reasons for story’s events clear? Does the ‘why’ of characters’ actions and choices make sense in light of their motivations, goals and backstories? (We feel confused when characters act ‘out of type’ with no explanation)

Is the ‘what’ of the story clear (are its themes and subjects consistent and developed? For example, in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series he teases out themes of power and corruptibility over the entire series arc)

Is the cast of the story’s characters fitting (do minor characters’ parts add to rather than distract from the main plots and subplots that form the core narrative)?

Does the ‘when’ of the story make sense (is the time setting consistently shown through description and narration? Are the events of the story in the most logical or interesting order or sequence?)

As you reread your manuscript, note in the margin wherever one of these elements needs improving. Keep a list of any necessary fixes to make for each – who (characters), what (subjects and themes), why (reasons or cause and effect), where (setting) and when (time setting and story event sequence).

4. Get feedback on the cohesion and clarity of your first draft’s scenes

Getting from a first draft to a final draft is possible without external insight. Yet having a second (or third) pair of eyes to give you honest feedback often helps you see where clarity and cohesion is lacking.

This is where getting critiques (from your offline or online writing community) is valuable. One of the advantages of online critiques is that you can share your work anonymously if you feel uncomfortable attaching your name to something that is not yet in its finished form.

Often when you’ve finished writing a work of fiction it all makes sense because you’ve lived with the characters and the story’s events. You may have supplied any missing links in your own mind. Another reader who doesn’t have the author’s access, however, might spot gaps and missing explanations you’ve glossed over due to your own deep involvement.

5. Use hindsight to fix incongruous details of plot, setting and character

Susan Sontag quote on first draftsThe advantage of rewriting after you finish writing your first draft (rather than as you go) is that you have the long view of the story, from start to finish. With the sweeping overview this affords, you can take events that occur towards the end of your first draft and weave in their foreshadowing and their origins earlier in the book.

Being able to work backwards and forwards in time like this lets you turn a linear story into something with a more interwoven, complex structure. A good example of this type of storytelling (though not a book) is the TV series Arrested Development. The writers cleverly placed humorous incidents early in the series that only become funny in retrospect, once their significance is revealed by later events. In this way the series rewards re-watching.

Similarly, you can place earlier incidents in your novel’s plot that make new sense or add layers of meaning in light of later events. This deep structure rewards re-reading.

Being able to look back over your whole first draft makes it easier to spot plot developments, setting details or character actions that don’t quite fit with the whole. To truly understand any gaps or inconsistencies, outline your novel after the fact. Create a summary, chapter by chapter, of what you’ve written. Condensing events this way will give you a clearer perspective of your story’s total structure.

6. Rest after writing first drafts so you can re-read with new eyes

It’s vital to rest between completing the first draft of a novel and starting to revise and rewrite. A short break gives the details of your story and your characters time to settle and sink in. The partial forgetting that happens makes it easier to put on an editor’s glasses and think of your story more objectively than when it is still new and recently-formed.

Take a week or two to focus on other projects. At the end of an intense drafting process like NaNoWriMo, you’ll likely need a rest from intense mental activity. Don’t leave the rewriting too long, though. Another way to shake yourself out of a habitual process of reading your draft is to read from end to start or last page to first. This is useful for proofreading, as you’ll focus more on the sentence structure and language and not be distracted by the linear flow of narrative events.

7. Type your novel’s first draft out anew and read aloud

When you rewrite your book’s first draft, actually type your rewrite into a new document. This will help because you won’t simply move around existing text but will think about each line due to the retyping. This might sound time-consuming, but it is an effective way to catch any glaring faults.

Also read aloud often, especially when you rework dialogue. This will help you catch any awkward or clumsy turns of phrase. Small revision and rewriting strategies such as these will make writing first drafts and polishing them a creative and intentional (rather than autopilot) process.

Today I suffered the awful emotion of doubt. 

Negative doubt. _______________________________________Those demoralising feelings of doubt. 

Doubt that I could write. That I could really be an author worthy of publishing.

My first book has been published and the painful doubt has now dawned… should I have published? 

Why?

It wasn’t ready as the editing was crap! Hours upon hours of editing ended up showing me up; as a poor writer.

Why do I say this?

Today I began counting the negatives. From those thoughtful people who believe I need to know my writing faults. Who haven’t asked if I really want their opinions. Their negative opinions I mean.

There are those who I know, who have read my novel, but who have said absolutely nothing about it. 

Today I have read that as a negative.

Honestly, why do this? 

Surely some of the silence is – they can’t be bothered talking about the books they read. Or they haven’t even read it. Or their lives are all consuming with more important things than telling me they have read it.
For today one person told me he had read my book. He said he wanted to talk to me about it, with a voice sounding of disapproval. Not looking me in the eye. The ‘higher than thou’ attitude.

What did my mind do? 

Tell myself he hated it; hated my writing style. 

Disagreed with my theology, my interpretation of history. 

Perhaps it is my grammatical errors he wants to talk to me about?
I processed, until I felt the black cloud pass over me. Smothering  my enthusaiam and desire to write. Freezing my creativity.

How rational a response is that ?

What happened to the majority of reviewers who enthusiastically told me they loved it? 

Who can’t wait for the next one. 

Saying,’Keep on writing. I loved to hate the bad guy. Felt for the main female character. Wept at the marriage….’

Those –  the majority, who told me they loved my style of writing. 

Saying, ‘Don’t change anything.’ 

Who didn’t even notice the punctuation marks incorrectly positioned. 

Didn’t see the lack of verbs. 

Loved the large space between lines, paragraphs. Which made reading easy, especially for elderly eyes.  

Chapters? 

Some were short. Some were longer –  ‘Loved it. It flowed naturally. The first part wasn’t slow for them…’
It’s these readers I am really writing for

Those who genuinely like what I am attempting to do. 

As for the self appointed editors –

 – do they read to enjoy the story?

 – or to correct the author? 

            Am I writing for them? 

            No! Definitely not.

Conclusion

Tonight I have decided I will continue writing for my ravers. I love them as they love my uniqueness. They enjoy my ability to tell a story; my way. I love this feeling of being appreciated. I love being an author for those who love my work. 

As for the negative reviewers?

Grammar police –

 I love them as well, but in a different way. I will love them when I ask them to help me editing my second novel. And they agree to help. As this is when their abilities to edit and correct are needed. Yes, I need them. This is when I need those who critique.


Tonight I read my favourite blogging author’s weekly letter.

 Once again she has reassured me of the great writing I am doing. 

 – My ability to pace well. 

 – Have easy on the eye white  spacing in my manuscript. 

 – And more. Thank you Mary Carroll Moore. 

I invite you to enjoy Mary’s blog below. 

May it help you in your writing as her blogs help me. It’s a continual process of learning the craft. 

Glennis 





Paragraph and Line Lengths–How They Affect Your Story’s Pacing 

 by Mary Carroll Moore.

I never paid much attention to paragraph or sentence lengths. I just wrote, felt satisfied if I got the story down. Then, in the late eighties, I got a job as a editor at a publishing company in the Midwest.  
As an editor, I noticed that I had a visual reaction to a person’s writing: how it looked on the page, how dense or light. How much white space or how much text. Even before I began to read, I had a sense of whether I would be engaged, just by how the text looked.

Blocks of dense text turned me off. I was paid to read them, so I did, of course. But I had to work harder to get engaged.  

I learned about pacing: how fast a story moves for the reader. Pacing is half mechanical. Long or short sentences, big or short words, all affect pacing. Shorter sentences and shorter words usually read faster. Longer sentence require the reader to slow down and work harder.  
Seeing writing from an editor’s eyes–what a change that was. Writing became much more than just telling the story. I began looking at my own writing and changing the sentence and paragraph lengths.  
Whenever I read a piece of writing with same-length paragraphs, I noticed a sleepy feel. Another clue!
A blog reader wrote me about this: “Paragraph [length] must be terribly important because as I read and change them the adventures seem to grow in importance.” She’s absolutely right.  
She wanted me to share any rules I knew about how to work with paragraph lengths. There’s aren’t really rules–it’s a kind of rhythm you begin to catch as you gain in writing and editing skill, but here are a few guidelines I picked up as an editor. See if they are helpful. If so, try one as your writing exercise this week.
Working with Mechanical Pacing 

1. Print your pages and lay them side by side. Squint at them. Notice where you have large blocks of text. Notice the white space. (Thanks to writer Alex Chee for this tip.) This is very hard to see on the computer screen, easy to see in an e-reader or printed out.

2. Go back into your document. Read the dense paragraphs out loud. Look for any natural pauses where you could break them.
3. Break out dialogue. Any place you have dialogue embedded in a paragraph of other text, separate it out.
Here’s an example from a recent class–a before and after so you can see the difference. The writing is still rough, but the paragraph changes made a big difference in pacing.  

Before

Sandy climbed the stairs and felt her belly heave. Pregnancy made her feel like a sea mammal, only she didn’t have the luxury of water to buoy her up. Swimming through the hot Alabama air wasn’t her idea of blissful motherhood. She could hear the phone ringing inside the apartment down the short hallway. It was probably her sister. It had been weeks since she’d promised herself to call Jeannine and get someone to come for a couple of hours in the afternoon, just to help with groceries or laundry. Jeannine’s idea had rankled at first, and Simon wouldn’t hear of it, but her sister said she’d even pay the first few weeks, an early birthday present for Sandy. Sandy didn’t want to buck Simon but as she grabbed the top of the railing at last and pulled herself up to the landing, she promised herself she’d call as soon as she got inside and turned on the a/c.

After
Sandy climbed the stairs and felt her belly heave. Pregnancy made her feel like a sea mammal, only she didn’t have the luxury of water to buoy her up. Swimming through the hot Alabama air wasn’t her idea of blissful motherhood.  

She could hear the phone ringing inside the apartment down the short hallway. It was probably her sister. 

It had been weeks since she’d promised herself to call Jeannine and get someone to come for a couple of hours in the afternoon, just to help with groceries or laundry. Jeannine’s idea had rankled at first, and Simon wouldn’t hear of it, but her sister said she’d even pay the first few weeks, an early birthday present for Sandy.  

Sandy didn’t want to buck Simon but as she grabbed the top of the railing at last and pulled herself up to the landing, she promised herself she’d call.
As soon as she got inside and turned on the a/c.

http://writershelpingwriters.net/2014/07/hidden-emotions-telling-characters-dont-want-show/?utm_content=buffer3dbaa&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Hidden Emotions: How To Tell Readers What Characters Don’t Want To Show
Posted on July 7, 2014 by Angela Ackerman
pensiveOne of the struggles that comes with writing is when a character feels vulnerable and so tries to hide their emotions as a result. Fear of emotional pain, a lack of trust in others, instinct, or protecting one’s reputation are all reasons he or she might repress what’s going on inside them. After all, people do this in real life, and so it makes sense that our characters will too. Protecting oneself from feeling exposed is as normal as it gets.

But where does that leave writers who STILL have to show these hidden emotions to the reader (and possibly other characters in the scene)?

The answer is a “TELL”– a subtle, bodily response or micro gesture that a character has little or no control over.

No matter how hard we try, our bodies are emotional mirrors, and can give our true feelings away. We can force hands to unknot, fake nonchalance, smile when we don’t mean it and lie as needed. However, to the trained eye, TELLS will leak through: a rushed voice. An off-pitch laugh. Hands that fiddle and smooth. Self-soothing touches to comfort. Sweating.

How to Crisp Up Your Writing–Revision Tools for Wordsmithing

Once again I am reblogging one of Mary Carroll Moores’s writing tips. 

For over a year she has reminded me or taught me a lot  about writing. Mary and the AutoCrit Programme have been my teachers in the writing of The Fortune Seekers.

 Today’s article is on crisp writing – something quite new to me a year ago. Perhaps my readers may also benefit from this refresher.

 How to Crisp Up Your Writing–Revision Tools for Wordsmithing. By- 

(Quoted by Mary)

I’m a lifelong learner–there’s always so much new stuff to practice and absorb about making great books. I take different online classes for accountability and to keep up with new writing ideas.  

This summer, I took two classes on revision.  

We posted our writing for feedback. Writers were experienced and got mostly positive comments, but occasionally we’d see this: “I love your writing but can you make it a little crisper?”

Crisp writing. What is that? 

 Tight, toned, well paced, fairly bouncing off the page. Stands out to a reader, an agent, an editor.  

Easier said than written, I think!  

Crisp doesn’t usually appear in early drafts (if it does, you might be holding back too much, wordsmithing too soon!). Early drafts are about content and structure, exploring what you want the writing to say, what flow you’re after. It takes a while to get these two aspects solid. In books, even longer. I find about 80 percent of total time with a book, from idea to publication, is spent on content and structure. So if you’re still there, don’t worry too much. Take your time–you need to get this part right before you begin to work on tightening the prose. Otherwise you’ll have beautiful sentences that mean nothing.

But once you’re ready to crisp it up, here are some global searches that help me a lot:

1. Search for “was” and “were” and “are”–any form of the verb “to be.” E.B. White who coauthored the famous book The Elements of Style, talks about this being a blah verb, one that doesn’t provoke imagery or excitement in a reader. It’s true–and when you do a search for “was,” and begin to see how often you use it (was staring instead of stared, for instance), you’ll be stunned. Replace with more direct, active, vivid verbs.

2. Then search for “-ing.” Again, this form of the verb denotes progressive movement, rather than anything sharp and decisive. You’ll need it sometimes, but writers use it a LOT more than they should, IMHO. Replace where you can.

3. Look for repetitive sentence patterns. My unconscious pattern is groups of three actions in one sentence (they sat, ate, then left). Find yours–easier with feedback from a close reader. Then vary, vary, vary!

4. Watch out for your use of sentence fragments. These are great little punches every now and then but like any device, they can be overused.  

5. Cut some of that imagery, especially as “stage set” at the opening of a chapter or scene. Do you need to set the stage? Can you just jump right into action?

6. Search for “-ly” words, the dreaded adverb which Stephen King rails against in his writing-craft book On Writing. Delete whenever possible.  

7. Search for “suddenly,” “finally,” and “at last”–these can create melodrama, so be sure you need them when you use them. I’m guilty of three to four “suddenly’s” in one page!

There are more, but this should give you a good start.

Thank you once again Mary for your valuable tips.

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