May 25, 2012

Unnecessary Writing

When you are writing Chapter Five you are officially submerged in your story. For a mystery, your detective is hip deep in a homicide investigation while also trying to live out his/her life. For a romance, your two characters are acquainted and possibly ruffling each other’s feathers from aggravation and attraction.

Right now, you are writing filling material and small events to build the story, but that does not give you permission to include parts that people would skip just to reach a certain page number or word count.

One thing I find myself skipping when I am reading a book is a bunch of nonsense that I don’t need to know, that has nothing to do with the story line, and won’t help me to understand the main character. I once read a book that detailed the main characters grocery trip to replenish all the things that were lost in a house fire. Though the book was good, I rolled my eyes and skipped whole pages. Such a waste of words!

Another thing that I find myself skipping is heavy details, especially about a room. Don’t get me wrong, it is very important to paint an image for the reader, but when you have a page-long paragraph describing a room from floor to ceiling, you’ve written something that a lot of people will skip. You don’t have to furnish the whole room in words. Instead, only include details that are important and paint a clear image of the room in a short and concise paragraph or two.

Think about the books that you have read in the past that you didn’t like. Then write down what irked you about those books and make sure when you are writing that you don’t do any of those things.

QUESTION: What do you tend to skip when you’re reading a book?

May 18, 2012

Write With Gaga

Style is not just the crazy outfits that Lady Gaga wears or how we decorate our houses. Style also refers to the way we write. Just as wearing cherry-red lipstick was Marilyn Monroe’s personal style, writing with wry humor and wit is Judy Blume’s personal style.

From Charles Dickens to you and me, whenever we write we inject our personalities into our words, thus creating our own personal writing style.

One great example of style is The Diary of a Young Girl, as this historical book is a real diary full of Anne Frank’s thoughts and personality. Her voice drips off the pages revealing her candid attitude, spirited ways, and sensitivity. We get a sense of who she was when she was living, we understand her, and feel a connection to her.

(Putting aside any controversies about the actual story…) A rather unique example, in my opinion, is how James Frey writes. His book A Million Little Pieces truly displays style. James Frey writes with deadpan language and raw details, which matches his personality and the story he is telling. He doesn’t ever use quotation marks or a single tag for dialogue, and sets up most of the sentences in his memoir like a telegram:

I smiled.
Thank you.
He shook my hand.
You’re welcome.

Every writer has his/her own style, whether it is writing erotically, being overly dramatic and poetic (Shakespeare), or being very descriptive so readers can see every blade of grass in a field.

Instead of mimicking how a famous author writes, use your own voice whenever you write, and not just with the dialogue but all the writing in-between. Are you wacky? Use humor in your descriptions. Are you carefree? Write with a carefree style. Are you sensitive? Fill your pages with sensitivity.

As human beings, there is not a single pair of us who are exactly alike; not even identical twins are completely identical. Our features and personalities do not make up the whole of who we are. Our voices, intellects, interests, and DNA create us, and with all of that combined each of us are unique from the other seven billion people in the world. This also means that there are no two writers who will have the same writing style.

Style also refers to how we write sentences. I write figuratively. I can’t get enough of metaphors, similes, personification, and repetition. I believe it gives my writing more of an impact.

Do you like to write short sentences with no fluff (metaphors, similes, etc.)? Well then that is your personal writing style!

Just know that there is no wrong writing style. It’s who you are! 


(Are you humorous, gentle, or fiery? Instill who you are into your writing to establish style that is uniquely yours like Lady Gaga’s style is uniquely hers.)

May 11, 2012

Characters Make A Book

More than anything readers want to identify with the characters in the book they are reading. They want to believe the characters are real, even if they live on Mars, have magical powers, or are mythical creatures.

Think of Avatar. This is a movie where most of the characters are blue and have tails, but because they love, and have a strong sense of family and home, they are relate-able.

Did you create a character profile (See: Bring Characters To Life) for all of your characters? Great! You are half-way there to developing realistic characters, but just as we are not simply defined by our appearance in the real world, don’t let your characters be, either. Just because characters live in words on a piece of paper doesn’t mean they have to be one dimensional.

The first thing a reader usually learns about a character’s appearance is his/her hair and eye color, but the more you write the more the character has to unravel for the reader. Think about your best friend. What makes him/her unique from all the other people you know?

Now think about your main character:

* Would he/she prefer coffee or tea?

* Would he/she wear a leather jacket and scuffed boots or a sweater and tennis shoes?

* What are his/her facial expressions/habits?

For instance, the main character in my book drinks gallons of black coffee and wears jeans and leather boots. She squints her eyes when she is suspicious and grinds her teeth when she is angry. As for her habits, she loves to piss people off.

To make readers feel as though the characters you conjured in your head are real, you have to believe it first. You also have to make them as complex as real people.

How your characters talk is also important. Unless you are writing a historical novel dated back during Shakespearean times, you don’t want your characters to talk in poetic riddles. Instead, have them talk as you would to your friends, but perhaps not as laid back. After all, dialogue is still writing. Be creative with your characters’ voices.

I have conversations with myself to write complex conversations between two of my characters where I play both sides to get their feelings and words right. Insane? Maybe, but I stand by that method. So, next time you are alone and writing a conversation for your book, role-play out loud. Believe me it works!

TIP: If you need a name for a character and can’t think of a good one, go for a ride and take a look at the street signs you pass. You’ll be surprised at some of the names you’ll see that’ll make great character names. When I was younger, I used street names I passed on the school bus each day for quite a few characters.

May 04, 2012

Six Writing Tips to Know

When you end Chapter Two, DON’T STOP! Look at your detailed plan (if you have one), determine where you are, what needs to happen next, and keep writing! Chapter Three is waiting to be written.

Here are six writing tips to remember while you are writing:

1. Always listen to your gut, even if it means you have to do more work, because in the end it will be worth it. I recently learned this lesson while editing my first book. I kept feeling as though something was missing, that I needed more substance in-between the parts of my book that were thrilling. I ended up going back over the entire manuscript to add in filling material to help the flow. This took weeks, but I am happy with the end result.

2. Use dialogue tags (he said, she said). Beginning writers forget to do this, which causes the reader to become confused, but you don't need one on every line, especially if two people are talking back and forth. Being more descriptive in your writing can eliminate the need for a dialogue tag. And, please, don’t limit yourself to “said” all of the time. I believe using another form can heighten the impact of the dialogue. Again, you can do the same with physical cues and details without the need of a dialogue tag, but you still have to make it clear who is speaking before, or immediately after, one of your characters has a dialogue.

Try using these alternatives:


3. Avoid passive voice as much as possible. Examples of passive voice: had been delayed, will be held. Passive voice also occurs when past tense verbs (tangled, beaten, diagnosed, etc.) follow "were", "was", and "is". This is a common mistake that many writers do, but once you learn how to rearrange the sentence to change it from passive voice to active voice, it becomes easier to fix and avoid.

4. Read books in different genres than what you write in. For example, to learn how to write suspense (even if it is just for one chapter) read a thriller to understand the style. Also, study books by popular authors to see why readers enjoy them.

5. Carry a pen and notebook everywhere you go, even to bed in case you get an idea while trying to fall asleep, because even though you say you'll remember in the morning, you won’t.

6. Write every day, even if it's just a sentence. Some days you may struggle to write a single good sentence, while other days you may produce pages and pages of genius. The point is, if you make an effort to write every day, your writing will improve and it'll become easier to write daily.

If you follow these six simple steps, you will be that much closer to THE END!

QUESTION: Do you know a good writing tip? Feel free to share it so we can all try it!