Show and tell

Emotions are something we deal with constantly everyday. When I first started writing I told the emotions instead of showing them. ‘She was angry.’ This was lazy and hard to read. I read blogs, articles and some of the books out there such as Master lists for writers and the Emotion thesaurus. Why? Because showing emotion is a lot harder than saying it. Also because emotion generally fell within conversation and ended up at taglines. I read blogs, books and articles Learning more every time.

Here is a telling emotional conversation from my rough draft.

“Are you calling me stupid?” Erin said angrily.

Sam was glad the beds were between them and felt brave for some strange reason.

“No, but you’re acting it.” Sam said forcefully. She did not want to do this, but she was committed and had had enough of her nasty attitude.

“Insult me again Sam and you’ll be sorry.”

“I won’t be sorry Erin, because I didn’t insult you.”

“You did!” Erin shouted angrily.

“No, I said your actions were stupid.”

“It’s the same dammed thing.” She growled.

 As discussed in Tag you’re it this is a rough draft loaded with taglines and I’m telling the emotion not showing it. This is hard to read. Here is the correction.

 “Are you calling me stupid?” Erin took a step forward curling her lips back.

Sam glanced down at the two beds between them. “No, but you’re acting it.” She squared her feet and locked eyes.

This was not an ideal situation. Exhaustion and stress were wearing them all down. Tolerance for Erin’s rude comments is wearing thin.

“Insult me again and you’ll be sorry.”

“I won’t be sorry, because I didn’t insult you.” Sam took a deep breath exhaling slowly.

“You did!”

“No Erin. I said your actions were stupid.”

“It’s the same dammed thing.” Erin clenched and shook her fist slightly.

Emotions are hard to show, the key is to take a moment to think about how you feel and what do you do when you are excited? Do you jump up and down clapping your hands melodramatically? Does everyone? Not likely. There are those that do, but usually its things such as grinning, smiling, whooping, punching the air or clenching fists under the chin and hunching your shoulders. Everyone reacts differently and it’s important that your characters do too. Sam stays calm and defensive. Erin is prone to aggression and rage. However when Sam gets upset she reacts by walking away or pursing her lips while Erin would insult or lash out. Someone else might strike out physically without provocation.

My advice about emotions.
Like actions, they need to be shown not told. Watch others, ask others how they react to emotions. If you’re stumped try a resource, there are some great books out there that have better ideas.

While tricky, showing emotion draws the reader in and creates empathy. People read to experience a story so give them one to dive into.

-Sheryl

More about taglines
Tag! You’re it.

My thoughts on Filter words
No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Tag! You’re it.

When someone reads my work and complements it, it feels amazing. When someone reads it and criticizes, I look at the critic and weigh the value of their opinion. When someone offers advice or points out errors, I thank them.

Recently someone pointed out that I use taglines too much. No I don’t… Oh wait I totally did. Huh.
Here is an example from a rough draft.

Bill ran into Grant who was waiting outside the room.

“How’d it go Bill?” Grant asked annoyed.

“Well. He wanted a firsthand report on the events.” Bill answered.

“That makes sense.” Grant said angrily.

“He said to move them today Grant, all of them. Are the rooms ready?” Bill asked ignoring Grant.

Painful right? It was how I wrote the rough draft. Just to get it out. It wasn’t super important for me to make sure everything was perfect, that’s what editing is for. I even grabbed the adverbs, angrily and annoyed and stuck them in.  Here it is now.

Grant stood outside the meeting room with his hands clasped behind his back. Bill was meeting with the boss Mr. Stork alone, without him once again. He cleared his throat as the door opened.

“How did it go?” 

Surprised by the ambush, Bill stopped in his tracks. “It went well. He wanted a firsthand report on the events.” 

“That makes sense, but without me?” He folded his arms across his chest.

“You weren’t there and didn’t see what happened. Anyway, Stork said to move all of them today.” Bill started walking down the hall, taking note of the hostility. “Are the rooms ready Grant?”

I knew better, yet I still included he said, she said, he asked, she answered a lot. Are they all gone? No, of course not, they have their place. Sometimes simple is better depending on the situation. Putting in action instead of telling emotion can make it flow and read better. Action tags are not the same as Taglines. For example. One should not laugh, giggle, snort, or sigh words. I do this a lot as well. 

“No way.” He laughed.

I still want him to laugh so instead I would say.

He laughed. “No way.”

or 

“No way.” He covered his mouth and laughed.

I remember reading and being taught to use end of sentence tag lines and action tags. I got some fantastic advice a while back. “Show it don’t tell it. Make the reader see what you see.” People read he said or she asked like a period at the end of the sentence. It chops the reading flow off at the knees.

My advice about taglines and action tags.
Recognize them and get rid of them if they are unnecessary. Don’t Jeopardize your sentences with laziness. It’s a great opportunity to take drab conversation and dress it up. Search your work for words such as; said, asked, answered and smiled.  Don’t forget to look for those pesky adverbs that go so well with said.

-Sheryl 

 

If you liked this, check out some of my older posts, if you haven’t already.

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Spell check doesn’t catch them all.

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

Ghosts that write stories

Ghosts that write stories

When people think of ghosts, they think of apparitions or the spirit of the dead. They possibly they conjure the image of something slight that floats around haunting or interfering with life.

The verb ghostwriting means to write on behalf of another. Doesn’t that make us all ghostwriters in a way? We write on behalf of the characters in our creations. We control every aspect of everyone and everything. From the colour of their eyes to whether or not they pick their noses. From the colour of the carpet to the rain that suddenly falls and soaks their new suit before an interview.

I decide if the people I invent are happy, sad, angry or in love. I choose if they are nice, mean or selfish people. It’s partly why I (maybe even other writers) love to write; to control the entirety of the world just created and it’s a lot of power and responsibility.

Yesterday I saw a fellow blogger post a graph. One similar to the one I use to chart out my characters and their progression. Alongside that, I have an excel sheet for each character with every possible thing about them on it. Including things not ever mentioned in the book. This way Joe’s eyes are always ice blue and I can look back to see why he’s secretly angry at women in general and mean to them on the sly. His entire history is there from when his father died from an overdose of heroin to when his mother started yelling at the dog that never existed.

Keeping track is extremely important. People need to have quirks, bad habits, sayings overused and speaking and behaviour patterns. I have many characters, some minor, some major and others only appear to sweep a floor. They all have bios and backgrounds. That way when the Data collection officer is overly friendly and speaks in honeyed tones to the new woman. I know it’s because he’s been passed up for promotion six times, and is now outranked by said woman who is half his age and only been with the company for three months. Is that important to spell out in the book? No. However, if I want to use this later on as part of a plot turn then I need to make sure he’s always overly friendly to her and perhaps she or someone else catches a glimpse of pure unadulterated hatred in his eyes as she walks away.

My advice.
Whether you put an actual ghost in your story or not, keep track. You don’t have to use a graph, chart or the excel program. (I love spreadsheets for some weird reason) You can use a word document, or a notebook or even stick them up on your wall in flowchart form. Whatever you do remember they depend on you not to magically change their height or their dog’s name.

Every story ever written and every character created has a Ghost . We are that ghost to them.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

The first 50 pages.

“Drop and give me fifty!”
“Yes sir!”
“The first 50 Pages of your manuscript that is.”

Guess what? They are the most important. Who knew? I didn’t. Well I did but not in the context that they will make or break the deal. That’s why my first sentence ever written isn’t the first sentence you will read, it’s not even the second.

When they say put your best foot forward they mean it. To apply to literary agents I need to submit a Synopsis, Query letter and the first 50 pages of the manuscript. There are of course books written about how to make your first 50 stand out or to rise above the slush pile.

As odd as this is, it’s nerve wracking. To know I’m so close to putting it out there to be judged and hopefully loved. The trick is not to freak out about it despite the mini drill sergeant that lives in my brain yelling for me to check it again, and again. I like it so someone else is bound to.

I have revised the first 50 pages more than any other part of my book. Not only for the Literary Agents but also for the readers. If it’s not interesting, exciting or fun nobody is going to read further. For the past couple weeks my mind has strayed to chapter 2 and 3. They were originally chapter 1 and 2 until I added a much needed more exciting chapter 1. My problem was this. They were written first my first ever two chapters and quickly after that, my style changed. Sure they fit in fine but there was something about 2 and 3 that seemed slow. They were almost the same scenario from two perspectives.

Two days ago, I had the brilliant idea to meld them together. Pull out the repetitive crap and make one solid chapter. It came out longer than I liked, but still within a reasonable length for a single chapter. Once I put the two together, it made more sense. I knew something was wrong and now I’m glad I paid attention to my gut nagging to change them.

I will read it over again today and probably once more tomorrow. I have a few people reviewing it for me for constructive opinions. Then I will start the process of working with a consultant.

My advice about the first 50 pages.
Make sure they are clean, edited, well written and interesting. It is a fine line between writing to please someone else and writing to please yourself. I have set down a book because I can’t get past the first few chapters so I don’t want to be that writer, and yet I know others that rave it’s the best book they’ve ever read. You can’t please everyone so make sure it pleases yourself. It’s your book after all.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Daily Prompt: Obsessed

I have not responded to a daily prompt before. It thought I’d give it a try. I hope you enjoy.

The very definition of obsessed describes my journey greatly.  My thoughts are preoccupied with my book persistently. The characters, the story and my desire to create both. When I’m not thinking about my story I’m working on it. Editing, revising and writing.

My book consumes me and it should, it’s mine and I created it. Does that mean it has taken over my life? No, but it is a major part of it. My life is where I draw inspiration, it must go on for my stories to continue. All things in moderation. I don’t believe being obsessed has to be a bad thing or a negative force in my life. I can be obsessed with something and still function normally for everything else.

Being obsessed is how amazing things are accomplished. From fine works of art to a beautifully landscaped garden, obsession in one form or another helped sculpt an idea into reality.

In a perfect world, I would see everyone obsessed with my book, the story, the concept, the characters. I want everyone to meet them and love them as I do. To enjoy their story and adventure and live vicariously through their efforts and achievements.

As I continue my unexpected adventure I will share what I have learned along the way and what is yet to come.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

via Daily Prompt: Obsessed

 

 

The prickly process of writing a Synopsis.

The prickly process of writing a Synopsis.png

Synopsis, a pretty word for stripping away the petals, leaves, and thorns. They just want the stem, what holds your story together and brings it from the soil to the sky.

I found that there are 2 main types of Synopsis; the long and the short.

  1. Short Synopsis is 2 pages double spaced. It reveals everything of importance. This is what everyone means when they ask for a synopsis or short synopsis. This is what to submit with the Query and sample pages to the literary agent or agency.
  2. Long Synopsis is 4-6 pages doubled spaced with more detail. It also reveals everything of importance, but more of it. The long is a special request and will be asked for specifically.

Opinions everywhere and no one agrees. There are many opinions out there on how to write one, what is expected and what to show. There are even books written on how to write a synopsis. The gist of all the advice and samples I found is to keep it an active read, not to just drone out a monotone report of how the story goes.

  • Don’t write it in first person.
  • Make a point form list of major events to work with.
    • Make a sub point of any minor events that affect major plot.
  • Choose which characters to present wisely. This was tough for me the story is about a group of people, focusing on one main and her support character. However, one other person is very important to a major plot turn. I chose to work all three in.

So I sat down and started my synopsis. It was painful. Two pages fills up quickly and then some. The first draft I wrote was a whopping 5 pages long and hated it. I tried again a few more times and didn’t like any of them. I started over and got one to 3.5 pages. I liked that one’s direction so I worked with it to bring it down to two pages. Edit, revise, edit again and it’s done. Well, not really done, it’s dry and lacking personality or excitement.

Now because I feel I’m truly stuck on my synopsis and it’s very important in the process of seeking out a Literary Agent, I’m getting help. I am going to pay for professional consultation on my Synopsis, query letter and first 50 page submission. I will share this adventure and both the Synopsis and Query letter once they are perfected. Depending on how brave I am I may post the before and after.

I have bashed my head on the wall over this for many weeks. I can write a story, but to strip it bare and leave just the bones? I am struggling with it not sounding like someone’s reading a blurb on how to test and treat garden soil for alkalinity. My decision to get help on this doesn’t mean everyone will need to.

 

My advice about writing a Synopsis.

Write it, leave it alone for a day and revise it. Like pricking your fingers on a thistle you must pull barehanded. If you don’t let them heal between attempts and revisions you’ll have a bunch of holes in your fingers and your synopsis will be a bloody mess. At least that’s what I learned. I do recommend getting second and third opinions on what you wrote for your synopsis. (Assuming they have read or don’t mind complete and total story spoilers)

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

The not-so-direct path to publishing.

The not so direct path to publishing.png

Something every writer has to think about at one point. For me, it was halfway through my third edit. Right around the time when I started receiving unsolicited advice. I love advice, I have to since I give it so freely myself. Nevertheless, I take it with caution. I like to figure things out and research.

Just a quick note before we get to the nitty-gritty. Apparently, it’s nearly impossible to contact a “real” publisher directly. I found a publishing company online that welcomed inquiries. I jumped the gun and contacted them unprepared. They called me with too many questions. I skirted them and asked how they publish. It seemed too good to be true that they called me with nothing submitted to them. I’ll get back to them later.

There are more than three ways, but these were the three at the top of recommended paths. I didn’t even entertain the others.

Self-publishing – Ready set, go. Um no, not so much. For this route, the book must be perfect and edited professionally. This is the out of pocket, do it all yourself approach, layout prep, find a printer, pay for printing, advertising, distribution, promotion, delivery and on and on. I’m getting a headache just thinking about it. Selling hardcopies this way is challenging, frustrating and exhausting. The other form of self-publishing is online or e-publishing. Lower cost, but risky, as it could be lost in the shuffle.

Vanity press – A smaller version of publishing house publishing. They have pre-set packages that vary greatly in cost and value and are confusing in options. (The place I contacted first was a vanity press.) They wanted minimum $3000 for the bare bones start-up. They were pushy and somewhat insulting.
I checked on them and other VP’s. The reviews were unfavourable and scary. -No, follow through. -Hard to work with once paid. -Minimum effort.
I found out some will recycle cover art so my book would look like a dozen other titles they printed. I can see the appeal, but they don’t care if your work is amazing or crap as long as they get paid.

Literary agent – A person that works solely on commision, to get my book published, and get me the best deal. Yes, they take a cut, but they do the hard work and they actually have access to the all-powerful publishers. A literary agent registered with the AAR, the Association of Authors’ Representatives is preferable. This is the advice I got and I felt was right. A literary agent shouldn’t ask for money, they work for me. If I am not published, they aren’t paid. Therefore, they want to get me the best deal possible.

The consensus I found is that it shouldn’t cost a penny to be published, but the opposite. (Unless I want to go vanity or self-publishing.)

The recommended path to publishing.
The literary agent first, if you exhaust this then Vanity press or self-publishing last. I have read from other authors that literary agents and publishing houses don’t look favourably on the self or vanity press published authors. In their eyes, your work wasn’t good enough for an Agent to represent the first time, it’s probably not any better now. Common sense and a lot of research told me the Literary Agent path is the one for me.

My advice on choosing your publishing path.

I recommend researching this and deciding which option is best for you. I know what I will try first, but that doesn’t mean the others are wrong, just not for me.

-Sheryl

I am getting closer to contacting literary agents for real. I will write about that another time and about what I’ve done and what I still need to do to prepare.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

Spell check doesn’t catch them all.

Blog Spell checkIf the wonk is actually correct, Spell Check doesn’t catch your misty.

When it comes to checking spelling I had to read it myself. I also had someone else read it too. This is where a copyeditor can come in handy if you can, want or are able to go that route.

I’m not saying that spell check is not helpful, it does point out the obvious errors. However, spell checking is more than looking for the red squiggly lines, its making sure that the words are appropriately used.

For example: And and an.
Yes, I typed that right. Even though spell check hates the heck out of it. 😉 Back on track.
Pepperoni an olive.
Pepperoni and olive.

Spell check didn’t have an issue with either option. Neither did grammar check (Blue squiggles). I am cautious when using spell check to correct my work, there can be words that look similar to what I want but are not even close.

One misspell or typo: Wunder gives me a choice of; Wonder, Winder, Wander, Under, and Wonders.  If I choose wrong, it will be “correct”.

My writing was littered with words like this. They are mostly typo’s that got away with existing because they are actually words. Not the right one, but a word none the less.

Spell check wont catch them all, they are not Pokémon. (Although spell check will correct the spelling of Pokémon.) I found reading out loud helps. Yes, I sound like a crazy loon reading to myself, but it totally worked for me. I had to learn to read slow and clearly otherwise I’d just skip over the errors.

One would think admitting to errors, many errors, is cause for embarrassment. I don’t think that way. I’m only human and I make mistakes. It doesn’t matter if I make one mistake or a thousand, because I have the time, patience and will to fix them. I found it easier to write what I need to say and stop worrying about the little things along the way. I did catch many as I worked but I didn’t sweat the every single one.

My advice about spell check.

I think of my self as competent at spelling and catching typos. I still found many mistakes even after the fifth or sixth revision. If you are not a confident speller, don’t rely on the spell check to catch them all, get outside help. That help can be a friend, relative or someone you hire such as a Copyeditor.

-Sheryl

 

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

What’s her name?

Blog nameWhat’s her name?

I thought naming my baby was difficult. This is worse!

They are people, but with a twist. I formed every aspect of them, their history their likes and dislikes. Personality and flaws. Physical appearance and even emotional state. I get to play with their development or regression in the storyline and yes, I can even play God and make them fall in love or snuff them out. *insert evil laugh here*

I found controlling a person in every way made me feel responsible for them and attached. Therefore, a fitting name is important and I needed to get it right.

The thing I discovered with a name is that it can be a well of opportunity for humour, banter and even ridicule between characters and in dialogue. To my surprise, I also found it could shape how a person develops or stays stagnant. People need to grow and change, good or bad it doesn’t matter as long as they learn something along the way.

How do I pick a name? It depends if I have a character already in mind (This is harder) or if I’m creating someone new that I just added because the story demanded it. Minor and sub minor characters get the close your eyes and pick from a list method. (Baby name books work great for this.) I was joking the other day about using scrabble pieces or boggle to create names.

I sometimes go for cheesy and name people things like Rose Thorny or I just look around, pick an object, and go with it. I’ve struggled with names and often I’ve asked someone what their favorite name for a girl is, or a boy. Or what name they think is sexy or annoying. Catch my drift? Ooh. Catt Drift. Nice. Except I like the 1-2 or 2-1 syllable rule for names. That would make her, Catelyn Drift or Catt Drifter. If the first name is one syllable then the last should be two or more and vice versa.

I actually used a placeholder for two characters until I found the right names for them. One was AAA and the other was SSS for no reason other than they would be easy to search and find and replace. They were my two main characters.

I wrote six chapters, hated someone’s name so much I changed it. It’s my story I can do what I please. That’s the beauty of being the all-powerful creator behind the Curtin pulling the strings and blowing smoke.

The thing about naming a character is that I tend to pull from experience and history. So if a name seems too familiar, I sometimes google it to see if it pops up in something recent, such as a movie or book. I’ll also say the name out loud a few times to see if it sounds good or not. “Hello, my name is Catt Drifter.”
My advice about naming your beloved creations.

If you don’t like it or you’re having a hard time visualizing your character because of the name, change it. Baby name books, baby name websites and ‘popular’ name websites are great. But don’t forget the old outdated names, I have found they make for great nicknames, shortened names or fantastic humor. Ironic names are fun if you know where the character is going or if their past is significant work it in.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

The “word count” down.

The “word count” down.

When all was said and done, I had a minor panic attack. I discovered my book is 15,000 words over the maximum allowable for my genre.
Totally fine right? Not so much. Word count matters.

I began the long process of editing. Finding the repeat information or sentences. I Cut the rambling and cleaned up sentences. Like a maniac, I watched the word count with an obsession for weeks. I calculated every day how many words I’d eliminated and how many left to remove to break the magic number.

The last page was done. I made it, almost. Still at 101 words over. I sat and stared at the screen. I’ll be honest I stared at the word count number.

Now what?

A little research turned up a list of words. Ones that are useless and often change the voicing of the sentence. They are called Filter words and everyone uses them. I took them out, fixed the sentences and found myself below by 1850 with 200 pages to go. Yes, I did a little happy dance.

My advice on word count. The words tell the story so let them, but make them count. If you go over, start your own word count down.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved