Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day

In memory of all who have lost loved ones while representing our country, I
pray that your memories are sweet and that God is holding them in the palm
of His hand.

For all of you out there with men and women serving now, my prayer goes out
to them that God covers them with His hand and keeps them safe from harm,
bringing them home to the ones who love them.

May your Memorial Day be filled with loving memories and thoughts of warm
"Welcome Home" messages.

Happy Memorial Day!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Show, Don't Tell, Ugh


Show, don't tell has got to be the hardest lesson for most writer's to learn - and a lot of writers never do. If it was easy, then all those wannabe writers would have no trouble getting published and those overburdened editors and agents would be waving a white flag of surrender from beneath a mountain of submissions.

There are many ways to describe this, but the simplest is active instead of passive writing. Here's a simple example of telling. "He tied his shoe." Okay, that was simple and straightforward and told me exactly what happened - dull, boring, unimaginative. If a whole story is written that way (and many have been), then no matter how good a plot line is, the reader will be bored very quickly. The reader probably won't know why, but they will have to force themselves to continue reading instead of being hooked and drawn in - or, worst case scenario, they will put the book down and never finish it. Then, unfortunately, they will probably tell everyone they know that the book is terrible.

So instead of telling ("He tied his shoe."), what's the option? Let's show what he's doing. "After tripping over his shoe lace again, Nate stepped to the side, set his books down and bent to twist the laces together. That looked right. Isn't that the way mama showed him to do it? Other bodies hurried past him when the school bell rang."

There is a lot more to be learned - a depth of character, setting, even plot - by writing actively. Show don't tell means just that. Show what's happening as if the reader is right there watching, instead of hearing it from someone else.

There are some key words that are clues to "telling". Was, had, seemed, wanted to...are easily spotted and fixed. Past tense verbs usually indicate the writing is passive. They're telling about something that happened. But the telling can be put into dialogue to make it more active.

Setting is often difficult to put into active terms, but otherwise many people skim over the descriptive prose until they get to dialogue. In other words they are looking for active writing. One option to make your description of setting active is to describe it amidst something that's happening.

For instance, "Mark couldn't believe his eyes. The back yard had somehow been turned into the Garden of Eden. He couldn't begin to name all the different flowers blooming back here. The morning sunshine sparkled on dewdrops making the colors almost fluorescent. Pink, purple, yellow, orange - and the piece de resistance - blue morning glories in full bloom covered the arbor at the end of the slate walkway."

The event should make the reader unaware of the setting that's being drawn for them and yet a picture has been painted in their mind.

This is the art of a well written piece. The reader should never be aware of the mechanics of the writing.

Hopefully this has helped to show the difference.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

When is your writing good enough?

Let me tell you right now, if you just finished writing your story, literally just put your pen down, or took your fingers off the keyboard after typing "The End"... it's not good enough.

Even if you think it's the next Harry Potter, uhuh. Set it aside for a day, a week, a month - the longer you can keep your fingers out of it, the better. Especially if this is the first story you've ever finished and you are just so darn excited and want to get your masterpiece out there - don't do it!

If you proofread it right away, guaranteed, you will not see any of your mistakes. You're too wrapped up in it. The story is still alive in your head, so any gaping holes in the plot are all being filled in with what you already know...and they may not actually be written down.

Yes, folks, this is experience speaking.

So, you've given it some time and you go back and read your story. And you think, it's pretty good - that's not good enough!

If your mother, your sister, your cousin and your best friend have all read it and said "It's good"- it's not good enough.

If no one has said, "Wow, that's great!" and if you can't say that yourself - then it's not good enough.

Okay, so now it's time to get your red pen ready. Find a good critique partner - someone who's not afraid to cross things off and tell you how bad it really is. Cause now it's time to get to work and polish, polish, polish and yes, rewrite if that's what it needs.

So set aside that story you just finished - start another one, or read a few books. Just don't touch that story until your brain can't tell you every detail about what your character was wearing, or saying, or doing, or thinking especially.

Don't touch it. Don't send it anywhere (except maybe a critique partner, but it's not even ready for that at first, probably). Let it lie - unless you're anxious to see your next rejection letter.

If you can't say it's great, then it's not good enough!

Until next time...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Writer Rejections

So the question is, "When is a rejection not a rejection?"

If you're a writer looking to get published, let's face it, YOU WILL BE REJECTED.
So I repeat, "When is a rejection not a rejection?"

It's all subjective. "No" is still a no, except when it's followed by "but." (No, this is not
making you the butt of a joke or any other such fodder...)

Say you submit to Publisher X and you get a response of "Sorry, your work does not fit with the market we sell to."

Well, hey, yes, they said no to your work, but they didn't say your writing is unmarketable. Matter of fact they didn't say anything at all about your writing. It's just not a fit for them.

So the first thing any writer has to do is target the market they are going to try to sell to. (Well, okay, maybe second. Either you have to write your story first, or your synopsis, or at least have an idea of what your story is.) Because if you're going to write a historical story in space, for instance, I think you're going to find very few markets for it. (Perhaps you ought to consider self-publishing?)

So let's say you've done your homework and you have a list of publishers that all handle exactly the type of story you write. And still you get a "Sorry, your story is not ready for publication, but..."

Ah, is not ready - THERE'S HOPE!

So your story is not ready YET but obviously they liked something and hopefully they will point you in the right direction. Watch for the next installment and I'll point out some of the biggest struggles writer's have.

And I'll bet you can probably name a few.

Until next time.