Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday

This week's choice is over at 43 folders and it's for screenwriters.  Check out Celtx the Free Scriptwriting App.  You can check out screen shots and take a tour before you decide to download it. And you can check out much  more on his site than just the free download.  Wander around a bit, maybe watch his video.  Good stuff.

Photo by Chance Agrella

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What are The Most Common Problems Editors See in Writing?

Well, gather round one and all and I'll point out just a few that are likely to pop up when an editor is reading the writing of new writers – or otherwise. They're common and they're frequent, so try to get these babies out of your work and you'll be on the way to making some editor somewhere very happy.

Focus on the possessive(s). The boy's glove – the glove belongs to one boy. The boys' glove means the glove is somehow shared among several boys. If you say the glove belongs to those boys over there, then you don't need an apostrophe.

It's” is a contraction lots of people have trouble with. “It's” is the contraction for 'it is' or 'it has.' So it becomes “it's raining today,” or “it's been a very busy week.” If you leave out the apostrophe and you have 'its', then you have the possessive form of it. An example would be, “the car careened around the corner and its doors flew open.”

Avoid repetition. For example, “ISBN number”. Since ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number then you'd be saying 'number' twice. ISBN is sufficient. If you make a statement like “two twins” then you need to be talking about two sets of twins, otherwise it's redundant. Watch for this habit in your writing, a lot of writers do it.

Don't repeat the same word over and over. Glance through your writing. If you see the same word cropping up repeatedly, find places to change it. Vary your words and create interest.

As a general rule try to avoid passiveness. See how quiet and laid back it is? Instead write in the active voice. More forceful and clear.

Avoid cliches unless there is a strong reason for your character to speak one or for you to put it in your narration. Cliches annoy editors like pebbles in a shoe. So no more, “Bob arrived in the nick of time.” Or “Amy's problem was as plain as the nose on her face.” You can even find cliche dictionaries if you're in doubt.

Avoid adding qualifiers to your sentences. No more “very,” “really,” or “suddenly.” Don't weaken your writing with them. Get some real strength into our writing, who needs those wimpy sentences.

Vary your sentence length and paragraph length. That's what good writing is. You vary length for ease of reading. Gigantic blocks of words will definitely put your reader off. Most paragraphs go on forever because the writer just didn't know where to break it. Don't be one of those writers.

Cut, cut, cut. Tighten your writing, eliminate extra words. Don't look blank, you know what I mean. Those flowery sentences you're in love with? Dump them.

Oh, and don't confuse your reader by trying to impress him or her with your wonderful and very broad vocabulary. Most of the time you need to keep it tight and clear. Your reader doesn't want to do something that feels like work when he or she picks up your book. It's supposed to be fun, relaxing, maybe educational. Don't make it complicated and confusing.

And those are just a few of the problems. Ask any editor and that editor will give you a list that's even longer of common problems they see in manuscripts. So read the type of book you write or want to write and develop the habits early regarding your book's structure.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday

All right! Author Tech Tips gives tips and help for writers timid about technology!  Yes, help is here! a great site that offers help with everything from social networking to blogging and podcasting.It breaks everything down into basics.  Oh thank you!

Oh, and even if you're not timid - some great info here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Creating Great Dialog

Dialog is a very important part of a writer's bag of tricks and as such it's important to avoid the stilted and cliched. Dialog has to sound like natuarl speech and take a scene one step further down the story road or reveal more about your characters.  A character standing around expounding on a subject does not meet any of those goals, neither does a character who explains the plot to another character or one character greeting another by name just to identify the second character unless perhaps that character is a used car salesman.

So, how can the writer improve the dialog that spills from  his or her fingers onto the keypad and up onto the computer screen?

Well, for one thing, try to avoid dialog tags like,  he shouted, she cried, he stammered or hedged, she demanded or opined. There are moments when one of these can be a good idea, but use should be infrequent or you stand a good chance of annoying yoru reader. Grab a book you've read and enjoyed and read a few pages at random. Focus on the dialog and how it was handled.  See some glaring differences between how you've written yours and how the one you liked to read did it?  That's not to say you should copy someone else's style, but it can stand as a good starting point to understanding dialog structure.

If you stop and think about it, people actually say less t than they think they do. Most of us speak in incomplete sentences, and answers to questions are often very short. Listen to people speak in public, check out they way they talk and their delivery. You might even write some down to get a real feel for it. Think about how you can set the scene so that the dialog would stand on its own without any kind of tags at all.

One great master of this is author Dean Koontz. Frequently his dialog will go on for line after line without interruption by tags or description and yet you, the reader, are totally aware of who is speaking at all times and their state of mind. There are many writers who can do the same. Practice and you'll be one of them.

Try this.  Write a scene wherein you write the dialog without using any tags of any kind. Write only the exchange of dialog between characters.  Then go back and fill in the scene so that the dialog falls naturally into place, the dialog furthering the action with an absolute minimum of tags such as said or asked.

You can also watch or even record a favorite TV show or movie and analyze how the dialog flows with the scene to  help you see where you can eliminate modifiers like muttered, announced, screamed or spat.

Dialog is key to your book, an integral part of the story, not a separate tool to explain what's going on. Hone the skill and show off your craft.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday

Thriller writer J.A. Konrath  has a blog site you have to see. He unstintingly shares what he's learned along his path to success. The site also has a list of other blog links and more just plain links that's hard to believe. So....when does he make time to write??

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Writers' Secrets for Great Titles

                                                    Blown To Hell Available at

You've finished your novel or your screenplay and you've been cruising with a 'working title' or no title at all.You're going to have to create that GREAT title that's gonna grab attention let your reader instantly relate and identify and lead to a sale sooner or later, so now's as good a time as any.

Think about what you want to communicate, what sort of mood you want to set, how you want to draw your reader in.

If you're thinking that you want to create the feeling that there's something lurking there, something below the surface, think about intrigue. Titles like "One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest". Immediately the questions arise. One what flew over where? What the heck? This is good, you got their attention. "After Long Silence". There was silence? Where? Something came after it? Why was there silence and for so long? If you can raise questions in your readers' heads you've caught interest.

To be more direct and use a more 'hit them over the head with it' style, think short, staccato and blunt. Titles like "Stake Out", "Clueless", "Eraser", "G.I. Jane", "Pirates of the Caribbean", "Grass". All of those pretty much tell you what you're in for. They, in a sense, relay the story and give a glimpse of the environment of the tale. They're easy to remember and to promote (don't forget the easy to promote thing). They stick in people's heads and are easily blurted to friends when recommending them. always a good thing. How many times have you and friends discussed a movie or a book and could tell the whole story but couldn't remember the title.  Not good.

Now, something you really don't want to do is create an extrememly long title without a really really (may I add another 'really' here?) good reason. Even with a really really (really) good reason it's not a good idea. A long title is cumbersome, hard to remember and pretty much hell to promote. It won't fit on printed bookmarks easily and it sure won't make a marquee. So take my advice, don't go there. Really, just don't.

Here's another very important 'don't': don't confuse the reader, whether reader of your novel or the all important reader who might send your script along to the next level. By that I mean, don't title something "Gettysburg" hinting at a civil war movie and then turn around and make it a laugh-out-loud comedy of some genre. Bait and switch doesn't work.

Opinions are divided on this last 'don't' I want to pass along so you're ultimately going to have to decide how you feel about this for yourself. I am not a fan of the "understood only after reading the book or seeing the movie" title. It just doesn't work for me. It annoys me. My advice is don't do it. Don't put a title out there that's so obtuse that you can't understand how it relates until after reading/seeing. Why risk alienating your audience? Some claim it can work well for a novel. I don't think so. It most certainly won't work well for a movie title.

And remember, after all this, your jewel of a title that you work and sweat over, is very likely to be changed by some editor, producer or star with clout. There're a lot of people out there with creative ideas and an equal or larger number with huge egos who want to put their own stamp on every project. Sometimes they're right, sometimes they're wrong. I was lucky. Most of my titles are still "MY" titles. That's life.

Stormrider available at

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday

Here it is again, Wednesday and that means a new helpful, fun or weird site I've stumble upon that may just give aid and comfort to writers. This one is a site that offers many Random Generators.

Names, Places, Things, Character Building, concepts and more links to other generators. Fun to play with, helpful in finding or developing aspects of your story.  Great if you're stuck and need a fun way to get things moving again.  I'm a fan of generators for getting your own juices flowing.  Just don't play too long!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Movie In Your Head And Elsewhere

I find, as a writer, that when I'm writing fiction or thinking about my next possible screenplay, there's a movie running in my head. Doesn't matter which one, script of novel, plainly the idea is to draw your reader or watcher into the story you're creating by developing and presenting a clear picture of what's going on in your head. The trick is to get it out there.

Whatever you're writing, however you do it, you can't accomplish your goal without description.

If it's screenwriting you need to give your audience a setting. Simply heading a scene EXT. NEW YORK or INT. HOUSE, and then cutting to dialog creates no picture in anyone's head. You don't want to over do it, but some sharp, brilliant description is imperative.

Where in New York, outside an apartment building, a park, a back alley? What kind of house interior? Opulent? Modest? Cluttered? Neat as a Pin? You must learn to write descriptive, tight and clear. Even sticking action into the scene won't save you if  it's vague like "He punched him in the face." That might at least form some sort of picture, but it isn't clear.

Keep your scene heading short and clear, then add succinct description of that place and maybe a character or two before you hit the dialog button or leap into action.

Writing novels? The same idea applies. Here, though, you the writer, can run amok creating all sorts of purple prose. Keep it short and clear, use vivid description to breathe life into your story. Your readers want to imagine your characters and for a little while live in the world you've created. That means they want to smell the campfire, see the glow of it and feel the coming storm rumbling in the distance. They want to fear the dark, or be comforted by it; to wonder at the sounds around them and grow apprehensive or to be drawn into a soft, romantic world.

You, as writer, are the 'puppetmaster'. To truly engage your audience give them a window into the world you've created. Be careful not to overburden, but make it so real they can smell the frying bacon, see the dingy back alley or hear the rush of traffic on the highway.

Description is the core of your world. Use it wisely.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday

Hatrack River is part of the Orson Scott Card Network.  A great site for any writer, but particularly helpful for newer writers. You can find writing lessons and workshops online.  Also Forums and update to "Uncle Orson's" world.

Author of the Ender Series and many more science fiction tales he has some great tips and advice to give. Also offers live 'bootcamps' for writers, two of them this year, one at Southern Virginia University and one at Utah Valley University. The bootcamps are filled for this year, but there's next year coming fast.

A site definitely worth exploring

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ready to Start Your First Novel?

Many writers think they want to write a novel.  A whole lot more actually start one and never get to the end. At that mpoint many give up, but a few persist collecting a whole file full of partial novels bugun, but not finished until they actually work their way all the way through to the end.

Wow, what an accomplishment. And that is the real trick. Finishing the novel you've begun. Sounds pretty simple, but there are a few stepping stones to getting you there and here are some suggestions.
You need to lay some groundwork, not just for your readres but for yourself.
First - you have a great idea for a story, all sorts of interesting charcters and a cool setting and you want to dive right in. Enthusiasm is great, but hold up just a minute.  First you need ot thoroughly know the world you're creating. You have to know it intimately wheter it is the world totaly of your creation as in fantasy or science fiction or if it is based on some reality such as the town you live in. No exceptions. Check out or determine colors, details, sents and relationships. Look around, whether in the real place you're using as background or inside your own mind if a whole new creation. Think of yourself as a visitor and focus on all th etiny details that make up a place. It's the details that make up life. The splash of oil on the gound at the service station that everybody thinks looks like Jesus, the door handle at the house that always sticks, the smell of popcorn on the air whenever you get near Harold's Hardward Store. All these things and so much more you need to know about your world - and then you'll use many of them, some you won't, but you'll know them and because you do you'll write a more convincing world your readers will love.

Second - know the characters  you're creating with the same intimacy. You have to know so many details, be so connected to your characters that it won't surprise you if you put them in an awkward situation and they rise up to tell you they aren't going to do what you want them to do. Be thoughtful in choosing a name that fits, but remember the name is only a small fraction of character development. And this includes all your characters, not just your "hero" and/or "heroine".  Don't make your main characters alive and kicking, but allow secondary charcters to become cardboard cut-outs.

Third - embrace the conflict.  A story without conflict is no story at all. Make notes, be sure you know what the main conflict of your story is and don't cheat by going so broad you encompass all known relationships and stories. In my Ebook, Stormrider, a fantasy novel, the overall conflict is Stormrider committing her life to pursuing justice for her home world.  A big, overarching conflict putting her at odds with the bad guys and at times with her superior. The closer conflict is her assignment to retrieve the Ring of the Suontar, the ring of power, to he who should wear it and return stablity to her home world. The most perdonal of conflicts is between Stormrider and the mercenary sent to replace her when she's believed to be dead and the unexpected bond she's formed with the Wolves of Nashira of which she now finds  herself to be a pack member. Note your conflict(s) and you'll have something at your side to remind you where you are when you begin to stray from your original exciting path.

Fourth - figure out what voice you're going to write in.  First person is fun, but can be very difficult with many limitations.  Third Person gives you much broader scope, but beware of slipping off into directions that drag you away from your main plot. Third Person is genreally a better choice for the newer writer - however, my first novel, a western titled Night Of The Flaming Guns was written in the first person.  There are other choices as well, but don't go too crazy with your first novel .

These are a few of the most important things to get straight when you begin your novel. Think about them. Work with them and you'll be off to a running start.


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