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

Tulips in July

The story I wrote takes place in “real time” by that I mean an imagined year of the current year. I was about halfway through when I realized to interact with the world around them I needed to know exactly what day of the year it is. It would be silly to have them looking at tulips in July. It became apparent that I needed to keep track of time as well as the characters.

So I printed out a generic calendar from about ten years from now. It isn’t important that I say it’s April 17th, but it is important to stay on track.

As I went back to the beginning, I wrote down any significant plot events on the calendar. As I moved forward I discovered that by the end of the book, the story was off by two weeks. At the beginning I eluded how long they would be working for. Instead of changing the conversation that outlined the length of the summer job, I wrote the difference in. It gave me the opportunity to add a little more dynamic to the mystery that I hadn’t thought about before. Fifty  days in, someone in charge slips up and gives the protagonist has a very large clue. This is an important event. That clue leads her quickly to solve the grand mystery just in time. I actually planned it to be that day so if I refer back it’s an easy number to remember.

Having a timeline or calendar of events made things much easier. I can refer back to it or even have the characters refer back. At one point, the number of days is actually mentioned. If a reader were to follow along that carefully, they would find it accurate. Even though it is a fantasy, some reality is required.

My advice about time lines.
Use them even if it’s not important it’s a fantastic way to keep track of events or interactions that drive the story. Did Joe make the ominous phone call before or after he got the internship? If I need to check I can refer to a calendar and not have to flip back chapters to find it if I forget.

-Sheryl

Here is a link to a previous post. The first Fifty  pages. Why are they so important?

The first 50 pages.

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

 

Silliness and seriousness

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She envied their innocence, longing to go back to when a scraped knee was the most stressful part of the day. ‘Don’t rush to grow up.’ Her mom had said it often. As a young adult, she understood the wisdom of those words too late.©

This character is often being silly and doing things that are typically something a child might do. Why? because growing up doesn’t mean dismissing the essence of Youth completely. She herself is young, yet old enough to see and understand the worldly restraints of adulthood. Life will punch her in the teeth and kick her when she’s down, yet she will hold onto the things that make her and others smile. Joy in life, the shadows of youth that keep her from losing herself in an already too serious world.  She doesn’t see herself this way, but others in the story do.

I wrote her this way to allow for a humour break from the drama, danger and violence. It gives a great opportunity for character interaction. The overly serious and stoic friend might find her enthusiasm annoying. He may or may not comment on it. He could find it charming and pay more attention to her. Or it could get her into trouble when she needs to focus.

In my life, I have come across adults who range from silly and carefree to starchy and unendingly serious. The diversity of maturity is present in the real world so I put it in my characters.

My advice.

Everyone was young once, even an adult character in a book. Who they were is who they are. Silliness and seriousness have their place, I don’t think it always has to be the obvious one.

-Sheryl

More on character building

What’s her name?

What happened to that guy?

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Doubt clouds out creativity

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The Moon  shines over me like a tender lover caressing the creative pages of my hopeful soul. Inspiration comes from anywhere and anything. The trick is to see it, feel it and grab on dragging it out of the vast depths of my imagination.

I spend a lot of time daydreaming, I always have. It took many, many years to understand that my penchant for daydreaming was my creativity trying to get out. I thought about my story and characters for years. They skulked away into the shadows when doubt came out to play. Ah, doubt. That dubious little jerk. Doubt is that cloud that blots out the moon, casting darkness where it’s not welcome. I discovered that like clouds, doubt is insubstantial. It isn’t solid and it will move on with a little patience.

I would see a well-known book, a piece of literary art and with a twinge of anxiety think, there is no way I could do that. Why not? Why on earth am I letting anyone or anything make me feel as if I can’t? Once I wafted my doubt away, I found the courage that had been waiting for me to take the first step.

My advice about courage and doubt.
They don’t play well together. Put doubt in a timeout; and let yourself shine like the full moon on a clear starry cloudless night. Be bright, wonderful and awe-inspiringly beautiful in whatever you do.

-Sheryl

The “word count” down.

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

Carry

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It’s a noun, it’s a verb, it’s an idiom! A multipurpose word with a big place in my writing.

Whether it’s the action of carrying someone or something or carrying on a conversation or a container holding something for transportation, this word makes a lot possible.

I had a character carrying an object for a reason. They had it with them when they stopped for a conversation then later I realized I forgot to keep it on hand. As I scrolled back to see where it was left it occurred to me to leave it there on purpose. To make it part of the story. That object was a safety blanket of sorts. Something that meant a lot to the character. Her subconscious decision to leave it behind turned out to be a big moment for her. My point is if it’s in their hands and they’ve used it or its part of the story make sure to follow through with it. A parcel picked up and carried from the mailbox to the house needs to be set down or opened. Why did they bother? Is it important? It could be. That action filler can easily become something more significant. If not now then later or even carried forward to the next book.

My friends and family listen to me carry on about my book. They are my support group that carry me forward through my journey with encouragement. As I write, I carry a character from a feeble unhappy person to a strong and independent one. It is better to have someone carry a cup of coffee and sip from it time to time during conversation than to have an inactive conversation. I sometimes get carried away by my own enthusiasm as I wade through the process of writing and publishing my work. It is my hope that one day everyone will carry a copy of my book in their bag and their heart.

It is an important word but not necessarily the only one used for its purpose. One does not want to overuse a useful word.
-Joe walked alongside Sylvia hugging his precious notebook to his chest.-
Joe is carrying the notebook without my actually saying that he carried his notebook.

My advice about.

Keep track of important items people carry. If they aren’t important, could they be? The habit of wearing a simple hair elastic on her wrist could be the difference between life and death if you make it that way.

Whether you write, paint, take photographs or whatever it is that makes you happy. Do carry on the way you do, and make this world better for it.

-Sheryl

Carry

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

The rejection letter

A few months ago, before I had any idea what to do, I sent out some queries to Literary Agents. At the time I was more curious to see what would happen. I did not expect anything from this.

The consensus regarding submissions is that it takes 8-10 weeks for a Literary Agent to accept or reject you. If they are interested they contact you, if not you don’t hear back. You can’t contact them after submitting a query.

Some of them sent an auto responder email to let me know they received my query and would get to it at their “earliest convenience”. A few even gave an exact timeline.

Four weeks in and nothing. No surprise, my query letter was a joke and my synopsis lacked flow. Not to mention my work was still riddled with those pesky little filter words. Week 7 however yielded a response.

I got a rejection letter. I was so excited. Yes excited. It didn’t bother me in the least that I was just rejected, I deserved to be for being so ill prepared. The letter was what I presume, a standard cut and paste rejection. There was nothing personal in it whatsoever. What was written made me laugh. Here it is.

Thank you for submitting your query and giving me the opportunity to consider your work.  Unfortunately, in today’s increasingly tough publishing market, I cannot offer you the support that you need for your project.  

Though my limited time precludes me from recommending other specific agents, a good place to start would be the Association of Authors’ Representatives website.

Please do not allow this letter to discourage you.  Many best-sellers have been passed on numerous times prior to being successfully published. 

I wish you the best of luck finding an enthusiastic agent and publisher for your book.

Sincerely,

Yes, it is true many bestsellers have been passed on; this is why I didn’t even entertain disappointment. The last bit made me chuckle. I wonder, do they realize they just suggested they are not an enthusiastic agent?  They did to me. They can’t offer the support needed or enthusiasm. I understand they get hundreds of applications a day (Or so I hear) so I didn’t take the cut and paste personally either.  I also didn’t go into this expecting anything. So an actual rejection is something.

Overall, it was a kind letter with encouraging words. The next time I submit queries to Literary Agents (Hopefully that will be soon) my expectations will be higher, much higher. Those rejections had better be personalized.  😉

My advice about rejections.
You will get them, what you do with it is what matters. Take it in stride don’t let it drag you down or toss you into the pit of doubt and surrender. Learn from it if you can. Easier said than done, I know.  Oh and it’s probably a good idea to wait until you are actually prepared and ready before trying. Unless like me, you do it for curiosities sake.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

That sounds complicated

A simple thing can be complicated until you understand it.

For me the entire writing through to publication process was a complicated and daunting process to approach. There is a lot to do, consider and understand. When I first started researching  the different ways to publish and what was needed I thought ‘That sounds complicated.’ and it is. After time, more research and asking others questions (A lot of questions) it became clearer.

There were times when I felt overwhelmed with what needed to be done or how to even approach publishing. So much that I would question the worth of my choice. It was in those moments that I would take a second and remind myself that giving up is not an option. That something worth having is worth the effort. I wanted to write a book. I did that. Now I want to see it published. That is where I am now. Getting ready to take the next step. That step is having my first 50 pages, synopsis and Query letter reviewed by a professional as well as some friends. I’m looking forward to their feedback. Good or bad doesn’t matter as long as it’s honest.

I suppose my blog is about making something complicated less so for others. A few blurbs about my experience as a novice writer, and about what found out along the way. I am curious and excited about what’s to come. Will I glide or stumble through the process? I can’t wait to find out.

My advice about complicated things.
Find out why they are complicated and what you can do to un-complicate them. If you’re curious about what I’m up to (enter shameless plug) visit and read my other blogs and follow along with me. Don’t worry I don’t often gripe or complain. I will make fun of myself and be honest about my mistakes as well as accomplishments.

-Sheryl

 

via Daily Prompt: Complicated

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