Posted in Writing

The Mud-mire of Writing

Do you get stuck in places within your story/manuscript? Do you sit and wonder what went wrong during the writing of your story after everything had been going so smoothly? Why did you get stuck all of a sudden? Why the brick wall that popped up and hit you head on?

Maybe it has to do with information being in the wrong place. As you know, a novel/story is broken down into three acts with act two being broken down into two parts (the chase and the attack). What happens when you are writing and part of what you wrote should be in another act and not the one you are currently writing in? You get stuck. The story is no longer clear in your mind. The result is, you sit in front of your manuscript wondering what to write next, or you try to figure out what happened that put a stopper in your otherwise smooth writing experience. The answer could be, part of what you wrote belongs in another act. So, try to move your text in question by trying in out in another act. If it is something that belongs in act three, and you have not written act three yet, save it off to the side for later.

Another answer is that it does belong in the act you are currently writing, but it is in the wrong chapter. For example, for a couple weeks I was stuck on a couple of back to back chapters. The story was making no sense to me. The clarity was not there, and up to that point it had been. Then I realized that one of those chapters belonged in front of a chapter three chapters up, so I moved it. This particular chapter had two scenes in it. Both had the same two characters in it, but time elapsed between the first scene and the second. When I moved the chapter up three chapters, everything began to make more sense. Then, when I started reading the second scene within the moved chapter, it made no sense anymore. I sat and played around with the chapter in my head and after about five minutes, I realized that the second scene within that chapter belonged in another chapter further down, so I moved the second scene in that chapter down two chapters and put it as a second scene within its new chapter. A-HA!!! Now everything made sense.

So, next time you get stuck, before you delete and start over, move your text around.

Posted in Editing

Plot Holes

Have you ever read a short story or a novel and somewhere along the way the story/plot didn’t make any sense? It felt as though information was missing, or there was a lack of consistency. The result of all that is you scratching your head in wonder, putting the book down, or leafing back through previously read parts to see what you missed.

That gets too distracting. So how do you as the writer avoid making those same mistakes as a writer? In your own writing, some of the inconsistencies you may be aware of and some you may not be. For the ones you know of, write them down in a plot holes log. For the ones you are not aware of, you will catch those later in your editing.

To expand on this, here is what I do. In the writing software I use, Scrivener (You can find it at Literatureandlatte.com), I create an extra file labeled Edits. Within that file folder I have various files for the different types of editing I will do later. One of those files is called Plot Holes. When I know of a plot hole that I need to address later, I write it there. When I am finished with my manuscript later, one of the things I do is go to that list and fix those plot holes one by one. THEN I start reading my manuscript from page one and go straight through to the end. Along the way I am searching for any more plot holes I may have missed. I make note of them in the manuscript with my red pen and move on. When I get to the end of the manuscript, I go back to those plot holes I made note of in red pen and fix those. Please note…..when I am reading for plot holes like this, plot holes are the only things I am searching for as I am reading. DO NOT fix anything else or make note of anything else during this process because you will lose track of what you’re doing, and you don’t want to start over. If you have to stop to run an errand or cook dinner or something, mark your spot and go back to it later. Trust me, this is the process I used and it served me well.

Posted in Fiction, Writing

Goals

If you are serious about writing a novel, novella, a book of short stories or poems; create a goal for yourself for each day. They say in order to create a habit, one must do the same thing for 21 days (maybe longer depending on the individual). Write everyday and hit the goal you set for yourself. Eventually, sitting down to write will become second nature.

However, it’s tough sitting down to a blank screen because, when this happens, many times the mind goes blank as well. Help your mind out by creating some stimulation for it. Again, we’re all different, so the type of stimulation will be different for everyone. Maybe music will get your mind going, or even the television in the background. Whatever works for you. Or, just start writing what comes to mind. This gets those wheels turning as well. Before you know it your fingers will be flying across the keyboard.

Posted in Fiction, Writing

Atmospheric Emotion Continued

On (April 8, 2021) I posted a photo of a lightning storm and titled the post Atmospheric Emotion. In your writing you will need to convey emotions to your atmosphere/setting. This then creates a connection to your readers because they start to feel these emotions too. Typically, darkness or a dark room conveys foreboding or unease. A warm setting with trees, green grass, a cozy cabin with a small pond depicts serenity. But what if you want that calm serene scene to depict foreboding without the darkness? What can you insert into that scene to create that foreboding? Perhaps it’s too calm. Maybe the friend of yours who lives there is no where to be found. Her belongings and car are there, but she is not. Her cellphone is sitting on the patio table, so calling her won’t do any good. Or, perhaps he/she was there a minute ago and now he/she is not. He/she vanished in the midst of this calm setting.

When it comes to emotions and projecting them onto a setting, you must go beyond narration. Just telling your reader the back yard was creepy or gave your main character a creepy feeling or a sense of foreboding, is not enough. They must FEEL that sense. These emotional projections from a story to its reader(s) is part of what makes for a great book/story.

Example 1:

Bad
I hadn’t been in my friend, Elliot’s, basement before. Elliot had always been so upbeat all the time; full of jokes. But the black walls and purple lights were the opposite of my friend’s personality, so it was creepy.

Good
I hadn’t been in my friend, Elliot’s, basement before. I never understood why until now. In the past Elliot’s upbeat demeanor magnetized others. People drew to him. So, my breath caught in my chest, when I reached the bottom of his basement steps and flicked on the light. A deep purple glow radiated throughout the room in front of me. The color of the walls appeared to be black, but the purple light made it impossible to tell. A kind of mist seeped through a few cracks in the walls. It hit my nostrils and a dank stench reached my stomach, giving me the dry heaves. Peering to the left, a cot stood in the far corner. Was it my imagination, or was there an indentation of a body on the one and a half inch mattress? I inched that way to take a closer look. I came within five feet, and the indentation moved. No body was visible…..

Example 2:

Bad
I took my tea, opened the sliding glass door and stepped onto the back deck. The grass had been freshly mowed the day before and the flower gardens weeded. A well kept yard makes for a relaxing mood. I spotted the lounge chair to my right, walked over to it, and sat down.

Good
I lifted my tea to my nose and inhaled the ginger fragrance, causing me to smile at the sweet scent. The sun peeked out from behind a cloud and shown through the sliding glass door. I opened it and stepped out onto the back deck. A warm breeze whispered by and pushed my shoulder length hair back as I took in the freshly cut lawn and sweet scented flowers. Standing there taking in all of the beauty reminded of a mental massage of sorts. I stepped over to the cushioned lounge chair and sunk in, closing my eyes and relishing the clapping of the leaves on the trees as the breeze moved them.

In Example 1 the bad sample tells us that the character feels creepy, but do you the reader feel it? In don’t. We get that the main character feels creepy, but WE don’t feel as creeped out as he/she does. We don’t even believe he/she feels creeped out because the seriousness of the situation doesn’t come across.

In the good sample of Example 1 we feel the main character’s emotions of fear and apprehension, and we feel his disbelief of a friend who is normally upbeat but has a basement that’s dark and dreary. We are as creeped out as he/she is.

In Example 2 the bad sample is rather mundane and stale. We understand the environment is relaxed in nature but it doesn’t come across in the writing. The environment doesn’t evoke emotion at all.

However, the good sample of Example 2 conveys the imagery needed to evoke the relaxed and warm atmosphere to the reader. We can actually identify with this because most of us have experienced this type of relaxation. But, it wasn’t told to us as in the bad sample. It was SHOWN to us. Did you feel relaxed? I did.

Overall, emotions play a huge role in any story, especially when it comes to atmosphere/setting. They draw your readers into the text and keep them there. That’s where you want them, and you want them there to stay.

Posted in Writing

The Jigsaw Puzzle

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

I like to think of writing a novel much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. There are so many pieces and there is so much to think about. Placement of each piece/part is key if it’s going to fit with the rest of the ‘picture’. One wrong placement can make the rest of the story appear out of place. So, where do you start? Better yet, what do you start with? That really is up to you. As long as all the pieces fit together and the ‘picture’ at the end fits together, how you get there doesn’t matter. After all, we’re all different.

Still, there is so much to think about. Please see the list below.

  • Characterization
  • Setting
  • Story Structure
  • Scene structure
  • Theme
  • Voice
  • Point of View

Generally speaking, these are the biggest elements that go into the creation of a novel. It’s quite a bit to keep track of while you’re writing. For the first time author writing their first book it can be daunting. One might ask, “How do you work with all of them as you’re writing?” It’s simple. You don’t. Yup, I said it. You don’t. What you do instead is this:

  • Write the first draft to get your story down. Start from the beginning and work toward the end. Start from the middle and work your way to the end then write the beginning. Write the end then the beginning and then the end. Whichever way you go about getting that first draft done is up to you. Just get that done first without worrying about the particulars listed above. Put if away for a few weeks when you finish the first draft. This will keep your mind fresh when you go back to write draft two.
  • In draft two look at the story structure. Make sure make sure each Act has the appropriate information in it (Please see my post from July 17, 2020 entitled Story Structure in Three Acts). Story Engineering by Larry Brooks is a wealth of information. I highly recommend it.
  • Go through each scene. Is the structure of each what it should be? There are two types: 1. Action 2. Reaction (Please stay tuned for a later post on this topic).
  • Here is where I would go through and look at the character development of your Main Character. There must be character growth from the beginning to the end. Here is where their character flaw comes into play. Remember, by the end of the book they will overcome their flaw. How they do that is part of their growth.
  • Setting is huge. Readers need to get a good idea/picture of where your story takes place, what it looks like, and how it’s connected.
  • Point of View is a huge one. You don’t want to confuse your readers by accidentally moving from first to third person or vice versa. So, choose a point of view and stick with it. Go back and make sure it’s consistent throughout.
  • Voice encompasses more than one thing. It incudes diction, detail, imagery (through description or use of simile or metaphor), dialogue, tone, and syntax (the way words are arranged). As you read through your manuscript looking for these elements as it relates to voice, you might find you need to add something here or there or change the way a character said something.
  • Theme goes along with the main message you are trying to convey to your reader. What is it you want them to learn by the end of the book? Do you accomplish this?
  • PLOT HOLES. This is huge. After all is said and done, please read through your whole manuscript and look for those pesky inconsistencies. Readers will find them and you don’t want them to. Keep a style sheet where you keep track of details you need to remember throughout your story. Your 31 year old MC can NOT be 42 in the last half of the book (unless they’ve been lied to and that’s part of the story). Her/his birthday you had mentioned on page 20 as being January 8, 1972 can’t be mentioned later on page 245 as being March 23, 1974. I just won’t work.
  • The editing is the very last thing that’s done. Grammar, spelling, sentence structure, etc. This comes last before publishing.

As you can tell, these tasks are not done in one swoop. They are done one at a time (generally). Hey, if you are able to focus on one or more at once that’s fine too. The point is take your time. Focus, do not rush. The story won’t grow legs and walk away. It’s yours, so take your time and make it the best YOU you can make it. By doing this, all of the pieces will fit together, so that when someone else looks at it (reads it), they will be looking at something that will stay with them and make them come back for more.

Posted in Writing

The Traveling Words

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

Words travel across the page and along with them, our eyes. From our eyes our brains receive the “picture” that, when put together, the words project to us. This journey of words is not only for the benefit of the reader but for the author/writer as well. It’s a two sided gratification. The readers reap the benefits of a great story, which they can chew on for days afterwards. They will even pass it on to others who then get excited to read it. This cycle continues from reader to reader. It’s a form of advertising, whether they realize it or not.

There are two journeys authors go on. The first being that of the story itself, which changes more than once along the way. Sometimes they may even feel as though they’ll never get it finished (many of us go through that), but they/we do, and they/we gain the satisfaction of having finished such a lengthy project. The second journey begins when the book is finished, which involves passing the book along to others. Marketing. It’s fun because there are so many creative ways to do this (not going into details, as this is for another post), yet it’s challenging. But, once you get going with it, the momentum picks up. Time, give it time. My point is, authors pass along just as the readers pass along. The two are on two different highways, but the goals are the same. They’re getting the book out there.

Thus…..the words travel on and on….

Posted in Social

Book News

I received notification today that the order containing my books, which was supposed to arrive today (January 29th), has been delayed until February 15. My plan was to begin selling them on Monday February 1st, but now it will have to wait until the February 16th (this gives me a day to set things up).

I am so sorry for the delay. Thank you for understanding.

Posted in Characterization

Character Flaws

What holds you back? What is one of your character traits that works against you more often than you care to admit.

Are you:

  • Stubborn
  • Anxious
  • Naïve
  • Arrogant
  • Selfish
  • Paranoid
  • Gullible

When I was younger, and for many years, I was very naïve. I hadn’t had the experiential knowledge of many things that would have allowed me to make the correct decisions. In other words, I hadn’t learned anything about life. Worse yet, it took me a while to get past that naivety. Some individuals learn life’s lessons quicker because they are willing to rely on new information without letting their own opinions get in the way. Well…I wasn’t one of those people. I had a stubborness to me which made me more headstrong than most. The result is that I didn’t listen to good advice. Because I didn’t listen, I ended up hurt (not physically, but a lesson learned type of thing). It cost me financially at one point. That was one instance. Another example came in the form of a relationship. I became involved with someone I had no business getting involved with. I let my heart guide me and not my common sense and certainly not the advice of others to the contrary.

I should have listened to what others were saying. I should have listened to that conscience of mine. But I didn’t. I truly though I knew better. I learned my lessons in the end, but it took a long time to get to that point. It shouldn’t have taken that long, but it did. The silver lining came when I FINALLY learned. When I learned my lesson, that’s when things started to change for the better. I now knew how to avoid those missteps. I knew what to look for. My story changed and the ending was GREAT.

My character flaws at the beginning were naivety and stubborness. Over the course of my life (or story), I was presented with challenges that created setbacks based on my own behavior (character flaws). In the middle of it all, once I ended up hurt, these instances made me rethink what I was doing. I was able to go back in my mind and go over what wasn’t working, THEN I was better able to correct and attack my issues head on and take them in a more positive direction by changing my behavior. THIS IS THE PATH YOU MUST TAKE YOUR CHARACTERS ON when you are writing you story/novel/book. The character flaw(s) in your main character is a large part of what carries them on their journey throughout the story. If they don’t learn anything by the end of the book, how are they able to overcome the antagonist?