Monday, August 18, 2014

Kelli Abell's Writing tips!



Tip #38 - How to Tighten UP That Writing

Posted on January 25, 2012 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (0)
When you are writing a novel one of the most important things you can do before you submit to an agent or editor is tighten up your writing and make it be the absolute best it can be and avoid really long run on sentences that don’t add much value and really drag your story down.
(Whew) See what I mean? Many times it’s the simple things that keep your book from being read by an agent or an editor. Here are some tips…
  • You’ve got to have a HOOK! In the first few paragraphs, or at the very minimum, within the first page, give your reader a reason to keep going. Set something in motion that draws in your audience. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic fight scene or a bomb that blows up, although that could be interesting. It can be something very simple that makes your readers want to know more about your story. Without it, you’ve lost before you’ve even started. Many agents have told me, “If I don’t find the hook in that first sentence then I’m done. I read so many submissions that the work must stand out right away.”
  • Clean up your basic writing skills. Use correct punctuation and spelling. Avoid run on sentences with three or more conjunctions and really try to avoid adverbs. Choose more active verbs to keep your story moving. For example, He cried loudly. Change to He wailed. See how easy that was? Many times it’s all about word choice. A good editor can help with this.
  • Avoid unnecessary details. You don’t need to spend paragraphs describing a scene. It can drag your reader out of the story and bore them to tears.
  • Remember whose head you’re in. I can’t tell you the times I’ve read books where I’m seeing the story through one set of eyes then I get yanked into someone else’s head in the same paragraph. Even worse is getting yanked from a person’s head to an omniscient (see all) point of view. The reader can feel completely removed from the story and find it difficult to dig back in.
  • Spend some time with your synopsis and your thirty second pitch. A talented writer can say what their book is about in two sentences at the most. Work on this. It can be used at conferences for agents, or in your submissions to publishers. Stay tuned for more on this topic.
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Tip #37 - A Look at Third Person Point of View

Posted on December 11, 2011 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (2)
Third person POV can be quite confusing and take on many forms. A writer needs to be cognizant of their utilization of those forms. In this blog entry I will attempt to help you as a writer distinguish between the types of third person POV and how to successfully use them in your writing.
The first method of third person narration is the Dramatic or Objective Point of View. This method is used most often by writers and involves rendering action and speech that all the points of view share. You are not in a particular person’s head from a narrator’s standpoint. The presentation is limited to only what is spoken and what happens. There is no presentation of inner thoughts of the characters. This leaves readers the freedom to react on their own accord, much like a jury in a trial.
Next let’s discuss the Omniscient Point of View. Omniscient means all-knowing. This narrator can see all, know all and potentially disclose all. Here the speaker of the novel presents not only action and dialogue but also reports the inner thoughts and reactions of the character. In reality we can never know what is in another person’s mind, but we make assumptions and that is the purpose of the omniscient point of view. This can add dimension to the characters in a novel.
Within the omniscient POV you may have the Limited or Limited-Omniscient POV and this focuses on the thoughts and deeds of the main character in a story. Personally this style works well for me. Here I can present my character’s thoughts and motivations. The reactions and emotions of my characters take on a depth I can’t accomplish with dramatic point of view. It gives a story richness without limiting whose eyes a reader can view a story through.
Limited-Omniscient POV leads many editors criticize writers for “head hopping”. With head hopping a writer adjusts this Limited-Omniscient POV too quickly and without a scene break. It can be utterly confusing for a reader when a writer presents a scene from two limited-omniscient points of view. That is not to say that you can’t use more than one Limited-Omniscient POV but it is easier on your reader if you have an obvious scene break or chapter break prior to changing which character’s thoughts and emotions you are presenting. This is particularly important in love scenes or arguments. You can illustrate what your POV character is observing and that will give you the ability to show your reader what is happening without getting into the other character’s head.
Third Person POV can be an easy way to tell a story and give a writer the ability to richly describe the events and actions of a story as well as demonstrate the deepening of all the writer’s character’s development. Write on my friends and enjoy exploring many different points of view for the depth they can add to your stories.

Writing Tip #36 - When Trimming the Fat Don't Cut the Muscle

Posted on November 13, 2011 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)
Many new writers travel around the internet reading various writing tips like these and a vast majority of them all boil down to someone's opinion, and I guess mine are no different.  But I do want to comment on something I've seen recently in my editing.  Many writers read the advice - Trim the Fat - If your manuscript has unnecessary scenes, cut them out.  Don't bore the reader with meaningless detail.  They also read - "A publisher won't publish work over 100,000 words so you should keep your manuscript tight and clean."
I don't disagree with the above advice, just don't trim too deep.  As you are going over your manuscript don't cut details that do the following:
1.  Help the reader get to know your character better.  If there is a scene that portrays something critical to helping your reader "feel" who your main character is, or gives them a little more insight to the plot then leave it in.
2.  Blend in your backstory.  Don't overload it all at once, but in the editing process don't trim those things that are necessary for your reader to understand what's going on.
3. Don't cut a scene that builds upon another scene.  If it is important to the future leave it in and make sure the link comes sooner rather than later
As you review your first draft and decide on making changes, don't think about word count as much as thinking about what scenes are critical to moving your story and your character forward.  If it doesn't, it's fat and can be trimmed.  If you've got a tight story that draws the reader in and rolls all the way to the end then leave it alone. 
Want a good example of what I mean?  Read A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.  It is a very thick book and a long read, but each scene trickles in a little more and a little more until you get to the end and BAM.  That's what you want to do.  Don't bore your reader, but don't cut so deep that they look up suddenly scratching their head, saying "Something's missing here."
Trim the fat but don't cut the muscle.
Until next time...

Writing Tip #35 - Three Dimensional Characters

Posted on November 6, 2011 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (2)
I'm working on editing a few books and I just wanted to share some thoughts for aspiring writers. Take a look at your characters and make sure you make them three dimensional for your readers. Readers do not like flat characters. They want to know what makes your character tick. Sprinkle in some background, NOT too much at once, but as your character becomes involved in more situations throughout your plot, reveal things you want your reader to know. Are they afraid of spiders, a germophobe, wish they'd never moved to where they live now. Little things make a difference.
You can also accomplish a well rounded character through your dialogue. You can show emotions that make your character real and build their personality for your reader. When your character gets angry, what does he/she do? Stamp their feet, turn purple in the face, scream?? Or do they silently brood until they explode. Do they have a laugh like a donkey when they are extremely happy? You get the picture.
Another thing to remember is to make sure your character has purpose for their actions and that they are in sync with what is going on around them. Really stop and think about your characters motivation. What do they want? How are they going to get it? What obstacles will they face on their journey?
Don't make your reader suffer through a character with no pizazz and personality. Round them out and make them come alive. Breathe breath into them and help them jump off the page, grab your reader's hand and yank them right into the pages!
Other writers? How do you make your characters less flat? Please share.

Writing Tip #34 - More on Showing vs. Telling

Posted on June 19, 2011 at 7:32 AM Comments comments (2)
As I've gone through the editing process with Jewels of Hera, I can assure you that a GOOD editor is more valuable than any precious gem.  Worth more than twice their weight in gold!  Always be willing to improve your craft and a great editor can help you do that.  They will enhance your voice!

I digress.  My topic in this entry is about Showing vs. Telling, another one of my weaknesses and a very easy trap to fall into when writing a lengthy novel.  It is SO SO boring to a reader.  I'm just going to deal with one word here that has turned into a crutch word for me, and for those of you with more experience in the craft, this may be old news, but for me it's been a true learning experience.

The word is...Felt!  This word sucks you right into the "telling" trap.  Allow me to share a few "out takes" from my recent editing experience.
My Sentence: She didn’t know if she felt relief or terror.
My Editor's Comment:  Describe what she is feeling - don't tell us
My Revision:  Relief flooded her. The door latch held firm, but eventually she'd have to face him.  There was no other way out of the room.  Sweat trickled down her back and dampened her palms.  Her heart raced. She had no other options.

My Sentence:  I got dizzy and felt sick
My Editor's Comment:  "Felt is telling.  Revise"
My Revision:  My world spun out of control.  The car rolled over and over, rattling my brain against my skull, and churning  my stomach.  I fought the nausea but lost. 

I think you get the idea.  No more "felt"  show us!
Until next time...

Writing Tip #33 - Recognizing Passive Voice and Tense Issues

Posted on May 24, 2011 at 8:17 PM Comments comments (1)
In working with my fantastic editor for Jewels of Hera she gave me another cool tip I'd like to share.  I've always had trouble recognizing passive voice and this tip made it very easy for me.  For passive voice, Laura recommends looking for the word was + a verb ending in "ing".  If you find that you've got passive voice.
For tense issues check out the following:
It's all about when the action happend.
He will buy it. (future)
He bought it. (present)
He'd bought it. (past)
Hope these quick little tips help you as you work through your own edits. 
Until next time...