Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Writing Quick Tip: Explore the Senses Without Saying Look or Hear

I've been toying with the idea of putting together a series of quick tips to improve one's writing. Here's the first installment. DON'T USE THE WORDS LOOK OR HEAR!

Why? You ask. Aren't writers supposed to use sensory language? The answer is yes...sort of. You want readers to be invested in your main character (MC), and that will not happen if they can't connect with the MC's emotions and perception of the world. However, saying "I looked up and saw him standing there" is a weak and repetitive sentence. If you look, you see. So what's the quick fix? "He was standing there..." Now make it stronger by describing his stance, the expression on his face, or how the sight of him impacts the narrator.

The same applies to "hear," such as "I heard the clanking of keys and the swish of the deadbolt sliding open." Rework the sentence to take out the word hear. Words like clanking and swish indicate sound, so the word hear is unnecessary.

The same rule applies to touch, smell, and taste, but these senses are less used.

On a similar note, another quick fix is to look for phrases like "I reached out and picked up." Just say "I picked up."

These are common problems in writing. Even the most experienced writers use these phrases. Sometimes it is easier, especially if you are in the groove, pounding out a first draft, but if you are in the editing phase and you use Word, do a search (ctrl F, I think. There's also an icon for it on the toolbar.)

Hope that helped! Happy writing!


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Week 21: The Next Big Thing

Happy Wednesday!

I'm participating in a game of blog tag. I was tagged by Rachele Alpine. Here's the link to her blog: http://www.rachelealpine.com. Check it out and check out her upcoming novel CANARY.

So how does it work? I talk about my work-in-progress (well, one of them, haha) then tag other writers who will add this to their blog next week.

Here are the answers to the 10 questions about my WIP.

What is the working title of your book?
Podium Finish

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I've always loved sports, especially the Olympics. This idea came to me back in 2006 while watching the Torino Games.
What genre does your book fall under?
Young Adult (contemporary)  

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I'd love it if some professional athletes starred in the film. As for actors, not sure. I think Brad Pitt or George Clooney would be great for the coaches.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Harper Kavanaugh, the youngest member of Team USA women's hockey, is 7 months away from making her Olympic debut when she sustains an injury that could derail her Olympic dreams for good.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This book was self-published under the title of Picking up the Pieces, but I hope to have it represented by an agency, as it has drastically changed since being self-pubbed in 2008. It used to have 5 main characters.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I have written several drafts since 2006, but the "first draft" took about a year and a half.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I guess I'd compare it to other great sports-themed books like the Dairy Queen Series and Chasing Jordan, though those are both about girls playing football.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I got the idea while watching the video montages during the 2006 Olympics. These montages would feature the athletes who were competing and would describe their struggles, injuries, and success. I loved watching these as much as the competition and remember thinking "these athletes would make great characters." There weren't many YA sports fiction books out at the time that were geared toward girls, so I wrote the book and haven't been able to get the idea out of my head since, hence the multiple drafts.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Harper is one of my favorite characters I've ever written. She's tomboy with a soft side. She's tough and no-nonsense, but a great friend. She also experiences her first relationship during the book.

Tag you're it!

Check out these blogs.

Brigid Gorry-Hines: http://mylifeasateenagenovelist.blogspot.com

Diana Gallagher: http://dianagallagher.blogspot.com

I can still tag 3 more people, so let me know soon if you're interested. Also, sorry that the links aren't clickable. I don't know how to do that.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Fighting Writer's Block

I've read lots of tweets lately from fellow writers venting about needing to just buckle down and write. Some said they were distracted by the internet. Others were stressing over meeting their daily word count. I think most writers go through this at some point, so how do you beat the slump? How do you make writing fun again?

1. Write the acknowledgments page for your work in progress.

This has two benefits. The first is that should your WIP be published you won't have to rack your brain for the names of all the people who helped you along the way, praying that you don't forget anyone. The other benefit is that this is something that is writing related, but not actually "writing," so if you find yourself at a loss for ideas and need a break or maybe you need a break because you have too many ideas, give this a try. It's fun and it can give you a bit of perspective, helping you to appreciate all the hard work you've put into you WIP. Hopefully, this appreciation will motivate you to finish your WIP.

2. Write out of order.

Inspiration comes at the worst times. In my case it happens when I'm on the stairmaster, dripping with sweat, with no pen or paper in sight. I'll think of a snappy bit of dialogue or a scene that belongs in the middle of the novel I just started. Write these things down. I used to tell myself I'd remember, but never did, so I rarely go anywhere without a pen or paper or my phone, so that I can write down inspiration when it strikes. So how does this relate to write out of order? I used to simply jot down my inspiration in short hand and would come back to my notes when I got to that scene, but I never used to write the scene. For some reason, I was hellbent on writing in chronological order--I think it was a fear that my writing would appear disjointed if I wrote out of order. Recently, I was stuck on the piece I was writing. I kept rewriting this one scene. It didn't feel write and I couldn't move forward. Then I had an idea for a scene that is probably 4 chapters ahead of where I was. Rather than writing shorthand notes, I decided to write the whole scene. It worked. The juices were flowing and when I was done and returned to the scene I had been working on, I was no longer stuck.

3. Do something else.

For me, it's going to the gym. See stairmaster reference in the example above. Having a separate activity that I am involved in not only serves as a release, but also helps me be more disciplined as a writer. I work best when busy, so it helps me to have to pencil in writing around other activities. I find I get more writing done on days when I have other plans than days when I have "nothing" to do.

4. Make a time card.

If you are surfing the internet too much while you are writing or maybe you just aren't making the time to sit down and write, start a time card. Writing might not be your full-time job, but if you consider writing your job rather than your hobby and treat it as such, you might be more productive. Being honest with yourself and recording how much time you are actually spending writing could make the internet less tempting. Sign in when you write. Sign out when you surf (unless it's research). Then sign back in. Having a tangible record of your time spent writing can help keep you focused. It can also show you how much time you are wasting.

5. Find a strong section in your WIP or a trunk novel.

Stuck? Feeling unmotivated? Find a section in a piece you've written that you like and reread it. It doesn't have to be a section in the piece you're working on, but it can be. I find that if I am stressing or losing faith in my project, rereading something I've written that I am proud of reminds me that I am a good writer and I can do this.

6. Outline or make a story board.

If you are stuck on a plot point, outlining can help you sort out the problem because it helps you think about the bigger picture. Story boards work the same way. They help you find your bearings when you are feeling a bit wayward.Take a step back and ask yourself the big questions. Where is this scene going? What does it reveal about my characters? Is it driving the plot forward and if not why?

These are just a few of the tricks I use when I get stuck. What works for you?