The Little Details

As I make my way through my second edit between living my life, I’ve noticed something is missing.

The little details.

I’m missing the little details. I have people dressed but in what? I have people entering a room but it’s empty. I have people in a car that was never described and dancing to music that isn’t acknowledged.

This is a bad thing, but it’s expected. When I write my original draft, I tend to skip the little details in favor of writing the story. My fingers fly across the keyboard and because they can’t keep up with what I want to say, the little details are left out. This isn’t always the case but it does happen. There will be naysayers out there that say “if you can’t write it properly the first time you’re not a good writer.”  Boo to them. Naysayers will do anything to bring me down and I don’t care what they say.

This book is so much fun and it’s very fast-paced. It happens in under two weeks. Because of the pace and excitement level, I did skip a lot of little details.

I don’t see this as a problem, now I have the opportunity to go back and fix what’s missing with a calm mind.

For example:

Original:

I rushed to get dressed and ran down the stairs to the busy street. I skipped my morning coffee. I would get one from the franchise near the office.

I hurriedly walked the six blocks north and dodged people too busy to care that they were in my way.

This needs some work. Now you don’t know the character or why she’s rushing, that’s not important for this example. Because word count is of little concern this time around, I can embellish without worry.

Corrected:

There was no thought to the grey pencil skirt I slipped over my hips nor the powder blue blouse I fumbled to button. I tore a pair of stockings in my haste and cursed until I had my blue flats on my feet.

After nearly tripping down my apartment stairs out to the busy street, I elected to skip my usual morning coffee from the little shop across the street. I needed to get to the office six blocks north. The sunny morning was an exercise in dodging people too busy to care that they were in my way.

Now she’s wearing specific clothes because this story is fast paced I try to keep track of what each character is wearing by having a day summary for each day in the story.

When putting in details like skipping the coffee, it’s an opportunity to set the mood for later or a moment when she might go to get one elsewhere. When editing it is easy to put in small details that can have a big impact. They are foreshadow’s on a small scale.

Finding the missed details can be a challenge, I’ll often have others read my story and let me know when they can’t imagine what a character’s wearing or doing or where they are exactly.

My advice about little details.
Fit them in without listing them off, have the character interact with the object or space you’re describing. Whether you put them in from the start or later when you edit, don’t forget to mention what kind of coffee someone is sipping.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Other posts about details

Details, details, details

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Dancing

Word Counts By Numbers

I often talk about word count. It’s a big deal for me because I’m wordy. My newest book, Prophecy, is not a wordy book! Yup, that’s right I managed to keep it within industry standard.
According to Wikipedia, these are the classifications are Novel, Novella, Novelette, and short story.

Classification Word count

Novel 40,000 words or over
Novella 17,500 to 39,999 words
Novelette 7,500 to 17,499 words
Short story under 7,500 words

I talk more in-depth about this in Stories Classified

These are the basic classifications of what a book is by word count. Novels are 40,000 +, so what does that mean? Well simply put each genre and subgenre have their own word count limits. This number varies greatly and seems to change the range values.
Professional editors and publishers told me that when in doubt, get it or keep it to mid or bottom of the range. (For the first novel)

Science fiction between 80,000 to 125,000
YA (Young adult) 45,000 to 80,000 (Midrange is best for this genre)
Horror 80,000 to 100,000
Historical fiction/romance 90,000 to 100,000
General Fiction/Literary Fiction/New adult 75,000 to 110,000 words max 70,000 is considered too short for a first-time author/published novel.
Science Fiction and Fantasy 100,000 words to 115,000 (Some say 125,000)
Mystery novels 40,000 to 80,000 words. This is a genre of disagreement on numbers; I’ve seen the recommendation for a thriller or mystery 90,000 to 100,000. I would keep it midrange or close to 80,000 to be safe.

Now I bet someone rushed to a shelf to pull a book or ten down to dispute the numbers. There are always exceptions to the rules (The lucky ones or not a first novel) or they are older books from older standards. Times are tough and the market is flooded with new authors looking to have their books published.

So what about… let’s say, Harry Potter? Some of those young adult books were well over the limit. Yes, they were but not the first one. In addition, JK struggled for years to get it published. Once she gained the footing in the industry and had a book under her belt, she could increase the word count without worrying about the limitations.

The limits are guidelines and they can be ignored. I learned from my own experience that it’s not wise to disregard time-tested advice and limits set by those who will actually be judging your work and deciding if it’s worth their time.

Now back to my new book. It is a TREAT to revise and edit a book without the gloomy cloud of ‘cut, cut and cut’ over my head. I’m not worried about trimming the fat (Hopefully, it’s not there).

It is currently at 73324 and I have room to fix and embellish some scenes without sweating the numbers. For the first time, I have to add words, which is super exciting for me. I still have to finish the filter word edit, but I’ll talk about that another time.

My advice about Word Count
While it’s important to keep your word count within the limits it’s more important to make every word count. After all, we want to keep the reader’s interest.

-Sheryl

Other Word Count related posts

The “word count” down.

Redundantly Redundant Redundancies

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

 
Interest
 

We can just assume…

When I read other stories or write my own I try to pay attention. Lately I’ve been over describing things or including things that are just not necessary. We don’t need to constantly include the little things. Things that can easily be assumed or understood by the reader because it’s something everyone does.

Mundane tasks that are often over described:

Going to the bathroom (Gross)
Showering (unless this is a naughty scene or pertinent to the story leave it out)
Brushing teeth/grooming/makeup (Just mention it and move on, if at all)
Getting dressed/undressed (Apply same rule as showering)
Eating (Use this as an action tag sparingly or part of dialogue.)
Shopping (Unless a major plot turns here graze this)
Cleaning
Driving
Working
Working out/fitness

Most of the time these become redundant if the action or scene is solo. Where narrative takes over and little to no dialogue occurs.

Use general terms if you want to include the action but it’s not necessary to go into detail. IMO things like this are best done in past tense. By this point I would have already described her apartment so I wouldn’t go back into that. This paragraph is the transition from waking to going to work. While not completely necessary if I really wanted to include this I would have think and be considerate of the reader. I think sometimes as I write I tend to “tell all” and that might be condescending to a reader.

Anne scrubbed every inch of her skin with the rose scented soap. Once clean, she rinsed, turned off the water and stepped of the shower. She grabbed a soft white towel and began to pat dry her body. Anne wrapped herself with the towel and began blow-drying her hair. After brushing her dried locks, she went into her bedroom humming a chipper tune as she began selecting her clothes for the day. She slipped into her favorite grey slacks and light blue blouse. After buttoning the blouse, she made her way out to the kitchen to have some granola and yogurt before she headed out to work. (107)

This is pretty wordy. I have actually read books where the mundane is laid out as if I have no idea what happen

Clean and dried from her shower, Anne dressed in grey slacks and a light blue blouse. Whistling a chipper tune she padded out from her bedroom to find some breakfast before she headed out to work. (36)

71 words difference. That’s a lot. For me as a wordy writer taking out that surplus is a benefit. I still conveyed what she’s wearing, that she’s in a good mood, clean and ready for the day.

We can just assume the reader expects the characters have gone to the bathroom, brushed their teeth and put clothes on before leaving the house. Unless it’s really important keep it simple and to the point. The temptation to put those extra words in to beef up a story will backfire and bore the reader. Make your words count there is no replacement for good writing.

My advice about skipping or summarizing the simple tasks.
Sometimes somethings are best left unsaid and left to the readers imagination. Keep it simple in this case.

-Sheryl

Other talkative posts

Oops! What did I just say?

Shut your cake hole

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Replacement
Gray

Paint a desperate picture

There comes a point in writing when we need to induce stress in our readers by making our characters live it. Whether it’s a timeline crunch or a race to stop something horrible from happening. Showing the reader how the characters react and handle these situations will establish them further in their mind and hearts.  After as a writer I want people to love and hate my characters as much as I do. Making someone desperate and afraid is a great way to induce stress. 

Some sources of stress

Work/co-workers
Work deadlines
Family
Friends
Money – usually the lack of
Peer pressure
Self degradation
Illness
Threats
Blackmail/Extortion/Bribery
Holidays
Politics
Impending Danger
Active danger
I’m sure there are many more but I just wanted to suggest a few. Now, building tension and or stress is important. These are the moments, the foreshadows for something fantastic or important to the story. This is where I try to set my readers on the edge of their seats or at least be less willing to set the book down. Just one more page… The holy grail of writing, hooking the reader. This is important for many reasons. Good story telling, keeping the reader interested and dazzling the reader so they go and talk about the book to/with others and again, there are more reasons, but these are my primaries.
Stress can go hand and hand with desperation. The more stressful the situation, the more desperate a person can become. Whether the stress is real or mythical doesn’t matter, as long as I express it well. 
To do this I select a moment before the proverbial shit hits the fans. I start to ramp up the tension. This doesn’t necessarily have to be done through the protagonist. It can be anyone in the story thus far. I don’t suggest introducing a new character to create tension at this point, use someone established that has a report with the protagonist or even antagonist. If the reader likes my characters enough then they will be invested to find out what’s going to happen next. 
Cal dropped the keys, cursed and fumbled to retrieve them from the car floor in the dark. With seat-belt on and car finally started he sped out of the parking lot. 
“Dammit.” Sasha wasn’t answering her phone. His cell rang and he answered with his hands free. 
“Thorn.”
Thorn it’s Deputy Chief Jones. Miller filled me in. I have some bad news. Baylor Crowen lost his tail too.
“What!” Cal gripped the steering wheel tight as he stopped at a red light. All he asked was for eyes on both Baylor and Sasha.
The judge ruled him low risk, nobody believes he’s the guy disfiguring those women.
That was no excuse for lax officers. Cal took a deep breath avoiding a string of expletives that would get him reprimanded. “I’m on my way now to check on Miss Parsons.”
Thorn, if he’s not the guy then she’s in no danger.”
The muscles in Cal’s neck went taught as his stomach jumped. “I know it’s him. I’m going to check on her anyway.”
Do what you need to Detective. I agree with you, I think Crowen is guilty.
Cal pushed the speed limit. The Chief’s wishy-washy stance annoyed him as much now as it did earlier. A million scenarios played out in Cal’s mind. All of them berating him for not insisting Sasha have better protection. His gut and logic told him that Baylor was the guy. Sasha pissed Baylor off and he could easily get to her. She wasn’t taking this seriously enough and thought that being followed by a police cruiser was enough. 
“Thanks Chief. I’ll report in if I find anything out of the ordinary. It wouldn’t make sense for Crowen to try anything now.”
I agree. I’ll send the cruiser over to her place as well.”
“I’m almost there Chief.”
Okay then, keep me posted.” The call ended, Cal pursed his lips and flexed his white knuckled fingers. What a mess.  
The oncoming car approached too fast with their high-beams on. Cal would have to let them go by, he had more pressing matters than a car speeding. When the car swerved into his lane he steered to avoid. 
“Son of a.” Cal held his breath as the car righted at the last moment. He watched in his rear view as it careened into the ditch hard. “Of all the dammed, stupid things.” He u-turned his car around, drove closer to the ditched car and pulled over. He put his four-ways on, shook his head and got out of his car. He had to check on the idiot driver and probably arrest them. He took his phone out of his pocket to call it in and for back up. Now he was delayed for checking on Sasha who was just down the road. As he got a closer look at the vehicle, his heart skipped a beat.
“I know that car.” Cal moved fast toward the car as the driver got out.
With Cal’s nervousness, frustration and anger muddled with regret, he paints a desperate picture. Sometimes lack of judgement or complacency can lead to some pretty fantastic situations imagined or real.  The trick here is to use what I call anxious words or movements, nothing calming or ordinary. 
My advice about inducing stress.
Watch the trigger words, keep it tight and avoid filler words and wordiness. Less is more and will generate a better sense of urgency if the reader isn’t lost in a sea of description or narrative.
-Sheryl
Other stressful posts
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Mythical