Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Photo by nkzs/StockXchng.com
Sam Lawrence, an athletic man of thirty-five, hiked north of Enchanted Rock, a pink granite dome covering 640 acres. He squinted. Was that someone sprawled in the brush ahead? Good thing the hiker was wearing a red jacket or she might have been missed. He sprinted toward the victim, who had a slim build and thick, shoulder-length brown hair. What was a woman doing out here all alone? Of course, he was also on a solo hike and, as an Eagle Scout, Sam knew--and had violated--the rule about the buddy system.
“Hey! Are you all right?” Sam called as he reached the hiker. “I’m a doctor. Where are you injured? What hurts?”
The hiker turned and opened brown eyes. Dark peach fuzz grew above his upper lip. “My . . . my ankle. I fell and twisted it."
A teenage boy. Sam shook his head at his dumb assumption that the hiker was a female.
“Okay, relax." Sam knelt, then slid the hem of the youth's jeans up his calf and searched for bleeding. None. Good. Just an ankle the size of a cantaloupe. "Before I splint your ankle, I’m going to check your pulse, that sort of thing. I’m Sam. What’s your name?”
“Uh . . .” The youth hesitated and struggled to sit up. "The name's Bond. James Bond.”
Sam grinned. “I've always wanted to use that line, too.”
Literature has been widely influenced by the film industry. We want our books to unfold for us in immediate scene, just as they do in movies. We've all heard: "Show, don't tell." Movies are all show, no tell--unless there's an irritating narrator. But movies lack an important quality that's readily available in books: the ability to know a character's thoughts. One of the most powerful weapons in your writer's arsenal is interior monologue, which is a character's unspoken thoughts.
Besides getting to know a character on an intimate level, interior monologue allows the author to disclose information that would be awkward in a conversation, to reveal a character's reaction to an event, to expose what a character is really thinking, which may differ from what he says.
In the first paragraph of the scene with our hiker, the reader shifts seamlessly from descriptions of Sam's actions to his thoughts without italics or speaker attributions.
The reader experiences both the external world and the point of view character's thoughts without realizing something powerful is taking place--an advantage movies don't have. As you create a scene ask yourself what your character has on his mind. Chances are your reader wants to know too.
Monday, July 27, 2009
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Friday, July 24, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Some of the best writing advice--"Get in(to the scene) late, get out (of the scene) early"--is offered by David Mamet, an American author, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and film director in his book, On Directing Film.
One mistake new writers often make is to start scenes at the beginning, which Maria von Trapp said is a "very good place to start," but only if you're learning to sing; it's not such a good idea if you're trying to write compelling fiction.
New writers often try to justify their reason for starting slow, but you've only got five pages--if that--to convince an editor to keep reading your manuscript. You've got to grab the reader by the lapels and make sure s/he cares about your character and needs to find out what happens next in your plot.
Pay close attention the next time you watch a movie or television show. They don't waste lot of time opening and closing doors. To write riveting fiction:
1. Start your scene in the middle of the action.
2. End the scene with a hook. (I prefer a bit of punchy dialogue, when possible.)
Many published authors have had to omit the prologue to their stories when prologues fell out of favor. An editor told other author that her story really began in chapter three, so she had to delete the first two chapters of her novel. Editors urge writers to look at their first chapter critically. Is it necessary? Does the story start with a quick hook or more of a slow build up? Try omitting the first chapter to decide if it makes the story stronger. Carefully consider where your story really starts.
Monday, July 20, 2009
"Silence is not only golden; it is seldom misquoted." —Bob Monkhouse
By Scoti Springfield Domeij
Stressed out by a deadline? Irritated by family interruptions sabotaging your nonnegotiable writing time? Exhausted after meeting that deadline? A writer's response to deadline stress is often not a laughing matter. The University of Maryland Medical Center study "Laughter is Good for Your Heart" (2000, November 17), reveals that a good sense of humor and the ability to laugh at stressful situations lessens the physical effects of distressing emotions.
I enjoy laughing hard, long and regularly. Do you need a good laugh to…?
- protect your heart
- raise that bad mood
- decrease your stress
- make you feel better
- lower your blood pressure
- strengthen your immune system
- restart your nonfunctioning brain
- de-stress your relationship with others
Harry Potter Fans
Chick on Cell: Look, there are only two people other than me who can construct a sentence that awesome: Severus Snape and Keith Olbermann, and one of them isn't even real!
Loud Girl to Friend: Because seriously, how many real redheads do we actually know? And Ron Weasley doesn't count!
The Grammatical Correctness Capital of America
Cashier: Wow, you speak really good English. Where are you from?
Hipster Asian Dude: I'm from Tokyo and I've been taking classes since I was three so I'm really articulate and speak great English.
Hipster Asian Dude: No. I'm from Queens.
Twitchy Dude to No One in Particular: What? You selling something? What you selling? You all are devils! Devil worshipers! Bunch of devil worshipers! Devils, devils, devils! See you in hell! Oh...I won't be there, though.
Young Guy on Cell Talking about a Video Game: I gave them my soul. I gave them my soul! See, my soul legally belongs to you, so you tricked them. (pause) Give him his soul! Give him his soul! What? What? Too late!
Woman Looking for Friend who Got Lost in Massive Crowd: Marco! Marco!
Massive Crowd of People: Polo!
Friday, July 17, 2009
Bestselling author Elmore Leonard has written about two dozen novels, most of them bestsellers, including Glitz, Get Shorty, Maximum Bob, and Rum Punch.
While researching for a workshop I'm teaching on dialogue, I discovered Leonard's writing "tricks" -- and loved them all!
1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”… he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
* Excerpted from the New York Times article, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle”
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
During lunch, a group of writers began discussing overused words. Some words are repeated in society so often they should be banned by everyone. Other words are perfectly fine until you or I use them too many times and they need to be culled from our writing. You may disagree with my list of tired words and continue using your favorites, but overusing words is a sign of lazy writing.
Some words like "big" aren't descriptive enough and should be substituted with a more precise word. Often a word like "just" can be dropped or substituted with "only."
Sometimes the word doesn't need to retire, only the way it's used. You may say your glass "shattered," but don't say your heroine's emotions are "shattered" because that's been written too many times before.
My hero was "chagrined" in chapter two and again in chapter five. A published author said I'd overused "chagrined" because it was a word that draws too much attention to itself. Unique words should be handled like savory spices, sprinkled in small amounts.
(Feel free to add or delete your overused words.)
Don't worry much about using banned words in a first draft. Your goal is simply to get the scene written. When revising the manuscript, you can use the "find" feature to locate your overused words and substitute with more appropriate choices. Once you decide to retire certain words from your writing, you'll automatically begin substituting with better words. Don't stay in a rut. Take time to choose a fresh, unique word for the situation. You'll become a better writer. Isn't that our goal on the writing road?
Monday, July 13, 2009
Wif All Due Utmost Respect: "I came up with the "I don't like books because they is 'too wordy'" line multiple years ago. So no offence, KW, I'm just speaking truth. I read da pages you put together here and they were most profitic. Some people gonna give you hard time and say you write like a 6-year-old or maybe you should go back to elementary school and you know they just a bunch a' haters, throwing rocks as the express train a life pass them by. …you are da king and this is the kinda quality we expect from you."—Navy Bean, Kanye's only five star reviewer on Amazon.com.
I enjoy the international flavor of Melvin Durai's humor. He was born in India, raised in Zambia and now lives in Canada. I asked permission to repost his article "Will Kanye Read His Own Book?" This book, dear writers, obviously meets the publisher's "sell books" requirement of having platform. I just wonder what they think they're selling. Wif Kanye's fan's five star review, who needs enemies? Sometimes to keep from crying ya gotta laugh at the insanity of some book deals.
Will Kanye Read His Own Book?
Kanye West does not believe in reading books. But he does believe in sharing his wisdom, so he has published a book called "Thank You And You're Welcome."
His book is 52 pages — some blank, others with just a few words — and offers his optimistic philosophy on life. One two-page section reads, "Life is 5% what happens and 95% how you react!" Another page reads "I hate the word hate!"
Wow, Kanye, did you come up with those yourself?
The book has only 52 pages, yet Kanye needed help from J. Sakiya Sandifer, a motivational speaker and "thinker" who apparently does not read books either.
JSS: Honestly, I don't read much. Non reader-life inspires me. That's what I write about. Life how I see it—recording my thoughts on paper. Think think think and think again were past conversations I had that incorporated real life situations.
So here we have two guys who don't read books, but want us to buy theirs, just in case we're eager to read "Kanye-isms" such as: "Get used to being used." (Yeah, especially if you buy the book.)
West's derision of books comes despite the fact that his late mother, Donda West, was a university English professor before she retired to manage his music career. She died in 2007 of complications following cosmetic surgery.
"Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed," West said. "I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book's autograph."
Me neither, Kanye. It would be kinda scary — a book autographing itself.
It's a good thing you're not self-absorbed, Kanye. Otherwise, your book might have been 60 pages or something.
Thanks, But—No Thanks
VenonPen wrote on Amazon.com's 1 star Customer Reviews, "The fact is, sometimes genius is hidden very deep inside the words of a great tome. In this case, the genius is hidden so well, it may never be found. I will keep it next to my copy of Milton's L'Allegro in hopes that the depth of both books help to level my coffee table."
If you want to read more laugh out loud reviews of Kanye's book, click here.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Take at look at the updated eleventh edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.
Both the online and print editions have added almost 100 new words to America's best-selling dictionary.
What areas are covered by the new words?
Health and Medicine:
sock puppet (Really--check the definition out and see its connection to online activities. I had no idea!)
Just FYI words:
staycation (What kind of vacation I'm having the summer!)
Monday, July 6, 2009
"There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign." —Robert Louis Stevenson
Give Your Characters a Passport to the World
What does travel etiquette have to do with the novel your writing? If your novel or a scene takes place in a culture foreign to you, you can add authenticity to your character's actions by understanding customs and traditions different from yours. To avoid offending the sensibilities of your foreign readers, you can help your characters behave correctly. Or you can put your character into an embarrassing situation.
Travel Etiquette Features
Give your characters a passport to the world. Keep your characters from stumbling around blindly in a foreign culture like a bull in a china shop. Experts write all articles, update information and add new content on Traveletiquette. Traveletiquette—
- Lists tips and advice on more than 50 popular destinations worldwide
- Search by keyword
- Lists destinations by continent
- Browse articles by countries
- Free and no registration
- Free monthly newsletter updates you with new content along with interesting news
- "Ask our Experts" publishes answers to questions from readers
In the popular Beach House series (more than 60,000 copies sold), a worn and comfortable coastal home in San Diego intersects with charming, contemporary stories—Sally John's The Beach House and Castles in the Sand followed by Trish Perry's Beach Dreams. In Sunset Beach, Perry delights fans by returning to the beloved backdrop where women gather and lives change.
Meet Sonny Miller, a recent college graduate with plans to get her master's degree in psychology. With the intention of resolving some family drama and putting her academic interests to the test, Sonny cleverly invites her mother, Teresa, and her mother's estranged twin, Aunt Melanie, to the quiet and quirky beach house. They both show up...and with surprises of their own. Teresa, a successful classical singer, brings her latest protégé, Irina, and Melanie brings along secrets about Teresa and the identity of Sonny's long–gone father.
The strong personalities cause some big waves, and Sonny is in over her head. Soon she is drawn to Irina and Irina's charming brother, Grigori. Her faith is strengthened by their story of being adopted as children from a Russian orphanage by a Christian couple from America.
Readers will love being a guest alongside these characters. Between each sunrise and sunset is another day for healing, laughter, rediscovering the importance of family, and embracing the hope of God's care.
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Getting to Know Trisha
Tell me a little bit about your background and your family.
I'm the middle child; middle girl. I was raised as one of five kids by my British mum and my WWII Air Force vet dad. I lived in Newfoundland (Canada), California, Colorado, and finally Virginia, which I've called home for the greater part of my life. I love it here. Most of my family still resides in Virginia, which is a bonus.
My late sister lived a rough lifetime of medical problems, which had a distinct bearing on our family lifestyle and our sensibilities toward the hardships of others. Her eventual death may have been a blessed relief for her, but it was a huge loss for us. The loss is what brought me to the Lord.
Both of my children are believers, which brings me such peace. I have a 29-year-old daughter, who is one of the coolest, smartest, most intuitive women I know. She's blessed me with a remarkable grandson, now five. And my 16-year-old son is brilliant and funny, and he tells me daily that I'm weird (but I can hear the "I love you" in there when he says it).
What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?
Novels and films are constants in my life; if I'm home and not working, I'm usually absorbed by one of those. I love good stories. I enjoy varied styles of music. I love to sing and served on my church's worship team until my writing schedule got so busy. I still serenade the neighbors on occasion, whether they want me to or not. I'm a self-admitted former disco queen, and I still love to dance. And I make sure to get together with girlfriends at least once a week. Socializing, dining, and laughing—it's like having your batteries charged!
If you could vacation any where in the world, where would you be and why?
I'd love to take a tour of Europe, both the touristy spots and the secret, unblemished spots. I've never given great thought to why Europe draws me more than other parts of the world. But I suppose the fact that my heritage is rooted in Europe makes it more appealing to me. And I'm spoiled, to an extent, by the creature comforts of the U.S. I love learning about life in the other continents, but I'm not a roughin' it kinda gal. I'm not proud of that, but I'm absolutely aware of it!
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Well, hands down, I'd have to be able to teleport. Frankly, I'd travel a lot more if it weren't for airports! I would have chosen the superpower of flying, but who wants to carry all that luggage in the air? If I could teleport, I could have my luggage in my circle of teleportability (you have heard of those, yes?), and it would teleport with me, free of luggage searches and additional-baggage fees.
What has God been teaching you lately?
I've been blown away by how clearly He forgives my weaknesses. Things have occurred in my life over the past 18 months for which (right or wrong) I carried a burden of guilt. You know, that feeling of "how did I contribute to this mess?" Yet He has blessed me so abundantly in the midst of my feelings of conviction, that He amazes me daily with His obvious love. The blessings keep me humbly aware of how much I need Him. And they instill in me such a strong desire to serve Him and to follow His guidance and will.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I probably wanted to be an actor when I was a child. I memorized dialogue, imagined scenes, and studied actresses I admired. But I never went out for Drama in school. I was horribly shy and couldn't imagine auditioning for anything. Still, I was well served by my obsession with dialogue and the visual exercises of creating scenes in my mind. Sometimes I still come up with my scenes and dialogue by simply visualizing them on screen or acting them out with imaginary characters. I try to keep these antics private, of course. I'd be in big trouble on one of those Big Brother type of reality shows.
How did you get involved in writing?
I dabbled with writing on and off when I was a kid, but I didn't feel the great calling I hear other novelists describe. I didn't get the itch until I went back to school as an adult. I planned to become a psychological counselor, but my English professors kept giving me wonderful feedback on the writing exercises I did for them, and I realized I liked opening up that right hemisphere and pouring out the ideas. By the time I got my B.A., I decided to skip the doctorate program and focus on writing and getting published.
What's the most difficult part of the writing process for you?
Being disciplined enough, especially at the beginning of a project, to just sit here at the computer and do it. I'm always amazed, once I've put something up there, how easy it is to make it better. If you have something to work with, you're halfway there. So I'm trying to be better about the beginning of a project—not to over think it before I start.
What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most?
I love writing dialogue. What a control freak's dream, to have control over what everyone says, including the antagonist. If only life were that easy, LOL! But truly, sometimes a scene simply shapes itself right before my eyes when the characters are engaged in dialogue. I don't know quite what will be expressed sometimes, and I love it when it flows even faster than I seem to be able to think it.
How do you find time to write?
At the moment I'm blessed to not have to work an outside job, but I expect that to change in the next year or so. Still, I have to deliberately keep my schedule focused first on writing. Sometimes it feels as if I have the time to get back into the worship team at church or to beef up my social commitments. But I've learned to avoid putting too much on my plate, and it has resulted in my finding enough time to get my writing done. My son is now 16 and just got his driver's license, so that has freed up some time for me as well. I'd actually like to write more than I do, so I guard against throwing my time away.
When you write do you generally know where you're headed or are you sometimes as surprised as your characters about the way things end?
There is always surprise, no matter how well I plan out a book's progress. I was just talking with my editor about that the other day, the fact that the initial summary I write might change a bit as events unfold around my protagonist. I think that's happened with every book I've written. I typically write a summary, which tells me generally where the story will go, and then I write a sentence or two per chapter idea, and then I start hammering away on Chapter One. As I write actual chapters, the events between "Once upon a time" and "The End" evolve in more significant ways than I expected in the first place. It's an exciting process!
Tell me about your road to publication.
I didn't know what kind of writing I wanted to pursue when I first started to write seriously. So I read Writer's Digest and The Writer magazines and joined the Writer's Digest Book Club. I bought a ridiculous number of books about writing and poured over them. I took Creative Writing courses while I worked on my Psych degree—the workshopping alone was excellent training for skin thickening. I joined a local writing organization and hung out with other writers. I started submitting poetry and personal essays to small publications. I experienced plenty of rejection and kept trying. I wrote several short stories and eventually realized I wanted to write a novel. So I read several books about novel writing. And I read a lot of novels! While I worked on my first novel, I continued to submit smaller pieces, and I started publishing. I joined a small critique group.
The above actions took me years, and I still hadn't submitted a novel for publication (or rejection). This is a long road, but it's best to just put one foot in front of the other and not worry about the length of the journey.
I entered writing contests, and one of them led to my finding representation by my fantastic agent, Tamela Hancock Murray. Mind you, this was representation for my second novel. Once Tamela started representing me, it was a matter of months before she got me a two-book contract. The contract did not include my first manuscript—that baby still sits at home and may never see publication. But it was all part of the journey.
What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?
Give the endeavor to God first. And daily. When doubts arise (and they will), you must be able to fall back on the knowledge that your efforts are for Him. And know that He will never show you the way by crushing your efforts with rejection and desolation. If He wants you to do something other than writing, He'll lovingly draw you to that other endeavor.
That said, take all the practical steps to learn the craft and the business. Read (both how-to's and novels), write, network, and submit. Over and over again.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
The setting (the funky little house on Mission Beach) and time frame (one or two weeks' time) were already established for me by my publisher. All of the books in The Beach House series fall within those parameters. But the characters and their stories formulated over time. First I dreamed up Sonny—a young woman who had lived her entire life devoid of details about her family background, thanks to her secretive mother. Sonny had reached a point where she wanted to take control of her own life. Her mother was the barrier to that, so Sonny needed to both go around her mother and barrel headlong towards her. The hidden details about Sonny's past arose as I created each new character. Even though my own family is close and forthcoming about our family history, there have always been fuzzy areas about which I've wanted to know more. I imagined how difficult it would be if your entire family history were fuzzy. I know I'd be compelled to act as Sonny did.
What are the major themes of the book?
My books always end up having a broad overall theme of the importance of seeking God's guidance in everything. That's never been deliberate—that's just the way my stories work out. But for Sunset Beach, the most important theme entails our personal identities and how we determine them. Upon whom, or what, do we base our beliefs about who we are, what we're worth, what our purpose in life is? A subtheme in the book has to do with the struggle to approach romance and passion appropriately. I think that's a tough one for every single person I know, and it brings us right back to that whole seeking-God's-guidance-in-everything theme.
What kind of research did you have to do for the book?
For the setting, I had already done quite a bit of research on Mission Beach and Pacific Beach for my previous book, Beach Dreams. And I read both of Sally John's books in the series, which were the best research material I could ask for. But for Sunset Beach, I wanted to branch out some, so I sought help from friends from the surrounding areas and businesses that operated in San Diego and elsewhere in California. Also I was blessed by coming across a fellow writer who was able to answer my questions about Russian orphanages, which I coupled with online research. Finally, with regard to the psychological aspects of the story, I leaned on my own education, my textbooks, and on research available through various psychological studies and educational sites online. I'm not a fan of research, but those particular searches were fun.
With which character do you, personally, identify most and why?
Although we're nothing like each other, I'd have to say I empathized the most with Sonny. As I mentioned above, I shudder at the idea of being in the dark about all of your family members, including your own father. I don't identify with the questions Sonny had, but I can certainly imagine them. And the fact that Sonny got her degree in Psychology, of course, is the closest tie I have with her. Knowing how little I know with a B.A. (versus graduate education and years of actual practice), I had fun making Sonny charge forth as if she thought she could cure her family's woes. She certainly had her heart in the right place, but her methods were slightly half baked.
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
First, I hope they'll find the book entertaining. I want them to enjoy Sonny's journey and the way her discoveries uncover secrets and feelings for the people around her. I hope they'll be amused, but only when I mean them to be! On a grander scale, I hope readers will be touched by the whole issue of personal identity and how God factors into that. I never want to write a preachy book—but I certainly enjoy hearing when my books are inspiring. My prayer before every book I write is that God will give me the story someone somewhere needs to read in order to feel more of what He wants them to feel. Then I leave it up to Him.
Friday, July 3, 2009
I've been sprinting through the busyness of my days--both the expected and unexpected events demanding my time and attention. I've snatched occasional glimpses of Keri Wyatt Kent's new book, Rest. And I've wondered, "How do I find time to discover Sabbath Simplicity?"
Kent, who has been practicing Sabbath for 20 years, wrote Rest as a guide to Sabbath Simplicity.
"I wanted to share the blessing of keeping Sabbath with other people who feel frazzled because they are too busy," Kent said. She explains that people avoid Sabbath because they expect it to be heavy with rules and legalistic lists of things you can’t do. "But really, Sabbath is just the opposite—it’s freedom. You set yourself free from the tyranny of your work and chores for a day."
Rest explores six themes: resting, reconnecting, revising, pausing, playing, and praying. The focus of your weekly Sabbath day, Wyatt said, is loving God and loving others.
I'm intrigued by Kent's newest book--and determined it won't get lost in my To Be Read Pile or in the busyness of my life!
Discover more about author Keri Wyatt Kent at her website.
To find out what others are saying about Rest, go here.
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- Writers on Writing
- What's on Your (Character's) Mind?
- Tools You Can Use: Make Any Web Page Print Friendl...
- What to do with bad reviews
- Get in Late, Get Out Early
- Overcome Deadline Stress, Laugh!
- Bestselling author Elmore Leonard's 10 tricks for ...
- Retire "Tired" Words
- Will Kanye Read His Own Book?
- New Words!
- Travel Etiquette and Your Novel
- Blog Tour: Sunset Beach
- Book Review: Rest by Keri Wyatt Kent
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