Six Word Story Challenge 6/16/18

six word SP

Here is this week’s six-word story challenge. This prompt is now hosted by Wonderwall360 and Kirstwrites. Once a week they post a one-word prompt and we get to create a six-word story in response. At the end of the week, there is a Poll for everyone to vote for their favorite story and the winners get a badge. Even if you don’t participate in the prompt you can still vote for your top three picks.

The prompt this week is:

Wildlife

This is a tough one this week. I had several but went with some wild dialogue.

My story:

“Humans photographed us again.”
“Weirdos.”
“Right?”

Come on over to Wonderwall this week to tell your six-word story to this week prompt. Click on the image below to participate in this week’s prompt.

Six Word Story icon.png

Six Word Story Challenge

six word SP

Here is this week’s six-word story challenge. This prompt is now hosted by Wonderwall360 and Kirstwrites. Once a week they post a one-word prompt and we get to create a six-word story in response. At the end of the week, there is a Poll for everyone to vote for their favorite story. Even if you don’t participate in the prompt you can still vote for your top three picks.

The prompt this week is:

MAGIC

Who doesn’t love magic? It’s everywhere and in everything.

My story:  Book cover opened… new world found.

Come on over to Kirstwrites this week to tell your six-word story to this week prompt. Click on the image below to participate in this week’s prompt.

Six Word Story icon.png

Filtering Out Those Filter Words

Filtering Out Those Filter Words

I spend a fair amount of time talking about filter words. That is because they plague me without mercy. Some would say they are the hallmark of a bad writer, others would say even the best writers fall prey to them. So what exactly are they?

They are lazy words, extra words and useless words that creep into a sentence too often. They take the place of words with more literary value.

Here are some of the most common ones I find in my writing

  • Believe
  • Wonder
  • Thought, Think, to think
  • See, to see, saw
  • feel, to feel, felt
  • look, looked
  • Touch
  • Realize
  • watch
  • seem
  • note
  • That
  • Just
  • to be able to
  • hear, heard
  • notice
  • experience
  • sound 
  • Pretty
  • Here
  • actually
  • a bit
  • really
  • very
  • simply
  • rather
  • so
  • quite

There are lists aplenty online that have others and explanations. Basically, they can make a sentence stale and or repetitive. These little words can suck the life out of a sentence faster than you can say “I’m pretty sure I believe they seem to be actually very useless words.”

Here are some actual examples from my new story and how I fixed them.

Edna looked away from me and turned to her son. “You really have to stop bringing the stray’s home Tray, you’re not a boy anymore. I’m pretty sure you can’t fix this one.”

Fixed:

Edna released me from her trance and turned to her son. “You must stop bringing the stray’s home Tray, you’re not a boy anymore. You can’t fix this one.”

Not only did I chop out the filter words but I made Edna more of a bitch, which is good for portraying her character.

The next has a lot wrong with it.

Furious, Edna simply told me to sit and be quiet. I didn’t really get a chance to defend myself. I sat with a thud on the cheap chair that felt very lumpy and looked at my phone wondering what to do. I realized she doesn’t seem to understand and doesn’t want to listen to reason. 

That needs some rearranging and fixing for certain.

Here it is fixed;

Furious, Edna pointed at the lumpy cheap chair.”Sit and be quiet.”
She didn’t give me a chance to defend myself. I sat with a thud and scowled at my phone like a sulky child. What do I do? She doesn’t understand and won’t listen to reason. 

That’s better and gets to the point.

Filter words are best found in editing if they are highlighted. I do this all the time. I also highlight overused words like I, me, myself, said, ate, eat, drink, smelled etc… Overused words are easy to find as they are a type of filter words. I explain how I search and find them in Well colour me silly.

Not all filter words are bad, sometimes they fit into the sentence perfectly and belong there. Sometimes, rarely, but if I find myself excusing too many of them, I go back(Change their colours) and look at them again. It can be as simple as deleting them or as complicated as rewriting a sentence or even paragraph. It’s worth it.

My advice about filter words
Find them and then find a better value than them. They are easy to find once you start looking and you will be better off without them.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Well colour me silly

Mercy

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
 

Side Notes

Side Notes

Side Notes

I’ve been gone for a bit, sorry about that. There was a reason and I do have some news I think is fantastic. I have finished my newest book and have begun the primary revision. I’m very excited about this story and can’t wait to share some information.  I’ll be composing a tentative query letter for it soon and I’ll post about that process as I’ve done a whole bunch more research on the subject.

For me, the writing process for this story became very involved. My writing time is limited (Full-time job + a family + summer = busy me) so when it came to writing I was deeply engrossed in the new story.

While I write, I often have thoughts or ideas. Whether they are yet to come or they are things to add or even things to change. I try not to go back while I’m in ‘writing’ mode and change things. For one, it throws off my groove and for two; I might change my mind before the story is done.

So, what do I do about the little or big ideas that pop into my brain? I make notes. I keep a pad of paper at my desk at all times. The more detail the better, I write down the idea and my reasoning. There is nothing worse than going back to see “Make the tablet a pen and pad of paper.”  If I forget why or the significance I could make mistakes in the change or lose the great idea because of lack of explanation or supportive information.

Here are some things I might jot down

  • A clever line or two of dialogue

  • A foreshadow for something ie. “Go back and foreshadow Belfast knowing about Lex”

  • Change in character name, behavior, quirk or appearance

  • A reminder to go back and add a quirk to a character

  • Location change idea

  • Add a character in

  • Notes to remind me to check whether or time of year ie. when is sunset in July or when do daisies bloom.

  • Add an interaction or moment in

(I just looked at my actual notes for examples)

Anything that is added after the fact, a quirk, character or moment are things that come to mind because of a new idea. I’ll be writing along and a clever scenario pops into mind. However, to make it work I’d have to change a conversation. I write a detailed note and either go back when I’m done writing or at least done writing the new scene.

Nothing in my story is set in stone until I’m certain I’m done with it. I add stuff all the time, just as long as it’s relevant to the story or scenario.

A word of caution, anything added needs to fit. Magically appearing or disappearing objects or people are frustrating, confusing and a clear indication of a novice or careless writer. If I change something, I go through with a fine-tooth comb to make sure all references or moments surrounding the change make sense.

My notes can get messy; sometimes I’ll make a spreadsheet or word document to keep track of the more important ones. Alternatively, I’ll transfer the handwritten notes to a word file so I can actually read them. (Yes, I have chicken scratch handwriting)

This pad of paper I use for side notes is often written on just after a shower or just before I fall asleep. It’s not the best time to have inspiration strike, but I’ve written many notes to the light of my wireless mouse so I don’t wake anybody by turning a light on.

My advice about Side Notes

Whether it’s a novel, poem, blog post or song, keep a pad of paper handy for when inspiration strikes. I recommend making notes or explanations on the notes so they don’t get forgotten or misunderstood later.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Tentative

ONE YEAR BLOGGING ANNIVERSARY

Hello, It was one year ago today that I posted my very first blog The “Word Count” Down, post.

Happy one year anniversary to myself!

I have come a long way since that first post. It was so short and sweet and the beginning of a lot of progressively better posts.

The “word count” down.

Exactly one year from the day I started:

I have posted 247 posts, not including re-blogs and blogging awards which would make it 256.

I have 763 WordPress followers and 118 followers on other platforms totaling 881.

Since day one I’ve had the honor of 16299 views, 7457 visitors, 6972 likes from awesome visitors and 2236 comments from those who deemed me worthy of a shout out or even criticism, all of which were welcomed and appreciated.

I have had visitors from 117 different countries around the world. This is amazing and fascinating to receive comments from such a variety of people from amazing places.

I don’t mention all this to brag, but to show how one year of hard work can be broken down to statistics. I have learned so much from my year of blogging and I know I have so much more to go. With every post, I write and read I become stronger and more confident as a writer.

I started this blog to strengthen my writer’s platform and in addition, I have strengthened myself in many respects. I know what it means to be rejected repeatedly. I have received praise, congratulations, along with scorn, criticism, and negativity. All of it is a resource to learn from. Nobody is perfect and I shouldn’t expect to be.

When I began this journey, I was in the process of editing and revising BiaAtlas, the very first book that I wrote. I’ve toiled and revisited this book many times and the funny thing is I’m at the same stage all over again one year later. I’m working to bring the word count down even further to make it more appealing to literary agents and in the process, I’m employing all the tips, rules and tricks I’ve learned throughout the year of blogging.

I’m not upset that I’m back at the start because I’m not all the way back at the start. I made fantastic progress to the point I was happy with what I had accomplished. Now I’m back at it and making it even better.

I’ve shared my journey thus far with anyone interested in reading. I am excited for the next 365 days that will hold more information, updates and even some rewrites of old (now substandard blogs) that need updating badly.  I hope to share more of my personal journey and the range of emotions I go through as I struggle and persevere.

I plan to try yet again to get BiaAtlas in the hands of an eager Literary agent all the while I will begin the process of revising my new book that is not yet titled. This is all so very exciting for me and I hope to have some fantastic things to report on throughout this next year of my journey.

I have toyed with the idea of writing a short story and posting chapters regularly as I have seen other bloggers do, but I’m not quite ready for that just yet. I did sort of attempt it previously but they were based on my blog character examples and I had to set that aside as it developed too quickly to a novel.

I’m not sure what this next year of blogging holds for me, but I hope you stick around to see how it goes. As always I’m open to comments and constructive criticism and will give an honest consideration to any legitimate suggestions or post subject requests.

Thank you to everyone that reads and follows, to those that comment and care. You make blogging an experience, not a chore.

My advice about blogging.
Write what means something to you and write for yourself. If you like it others are bound to enjoy it as well. Stay strong and never give up on your dreams.

-Sheryl

Here is a list of all my posts from the start My Posts From The Start

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

ONE YEAR BLOGGING ANNIVERSARY new

Substandard

A Million Things

A million things make up our days. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed and even during our sleep, little things happen. They happen around us and in our heads.

Those things make up the basics of our everyday life; sometimes they’re mundane like clipping toenails to the fantastic like going for a hot air balloon ride. Daily events can be predictable like how long it takes for the bread to toast all the way to unpredictable such as parking on the side of the road and dropping your car keys down a sewer drain.

When I’m writing I tend to shuffle the predictable moment to a generalization in the story. Using mundane every-day tasks in storytelling to show something about a character is… boring.

Exhausted, Amber picked up her toothbrush, applied the toothpaste in a modest amount. She dipped the bristles and paste under the water and raised it to her mouth with a grimace. Slowly in circles, as she was taught, she meticulously cleaned her teeth. The minty taste causing a frown as it always did. With all her teeth scrubbed and clean she spit out the foam into the sink. Grabbing her cup she took a mouthful of water and sloshed it about rinsing out the offensive mint paste.

Using a predictable moment like this, one that is done daily by everyone is boring. It is a terrible way to convey that amber is hygienic and hates mint flavor. It can be assumed that someone would be brushing their teeth daily. The only time to mention this is briefly or in an opposite way that makes the moment more memorable.

Exhausted, Amber applied the toothpaste to her toothbrush and grimaced as she prepared for the disgusting mint flavor. It was all wrong; the fragrance of the mint was too strong and it tasted bitter, not sweet. Her eyes flew open wide as She looked quickly to the tube in her hand realizing she just put A535 in her mouth. 

While still a mundane moment it wasn’t as boring to read because something unusual happened. Unpredictable things make life interesting. Therefore they make stories more interesting.

If I find a chapter is dragging on or isn’t quite right I’ll look for the mundane everyday crap that I’ve plunked in as filler. I’ll decide if it needs to be removed or if I can at least make it more interesting to read. Usually, it can be taken out unless it’s a foreshadow for something important later on or if it’s genuinely needed for character establishment.

If I find a chapter is mostly mundane I might even just slash it all out and sum it up in conversation.

Amber sat heavily in her desk chair.
“You look tired,” Dale asked peeking around the divider.
“Ugh. I used A535 on my toothbrush last night and to top it off the freaking mint smell kept me up all night.” She scowled at Dale as he snickered behind his hand. “It’s not funny.”
“Totally is. Did ”
Dale started laughing, her frown turned into pursed lips before she laughed along. He had a way of making her feel better. 

My point is that I try to hunt out these drab moments where I might use hair brushing to describe characters physical features or an everyday action to make a point. Leaving a paragraph or chapter of boring everyday happenings might turn the reader off and might make me look lazy as a writer.  I take my revision process to add in foreshadows for later and adding tidbits to boring moments is a great way to do that.

My advice about ordinary moments.
Try to find them and either take them out or spice them up. Try something startling, funny or dramatic. If it can foreshadow an event later, even better. 

-Sheryl

Other posts

Blood

Sweat

+ Tears

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Fragrance

Toothbrush

What Did You Mean? – Re-blog

Still in vacation mode and don’t want to be tethered to my computer. Therefore I’m sharing another blog that was posted a long time ago. Don’t worry my people watching opportunities have given me some ideas for new posts that I will write and post soon.

What Did You Mean?

I have read stories and books that miss one very important thing. Setting up an emotionally charged statement before it happens.  When I’m reading dialogue it can be frustrating to get to the end of a sentence only to discover my inner-voice was way off on the tone that the character was meant to be speaking in. I call this emotional tone delay. I read said dialogue, find out the tone I imagined was wrong then have to either read it or mentally replay it in the correct tone.  If it happens too often I like the book less and less and less.

How it sounds in my head as the writer isn’t necessarily the way it sounds in the readers. This is why it is so important to create a welcoming world for the reader to jump into. Show them tone and emotion instead of bludgeoning them with a tag.

“Really?” Amber said with excitement.

By putting the tag at the end, what ‘voice’ I read that in was voided. As a reader that can be annoying and then all voices sound out deadpan and the emotion is applied after the fact. It makes for some terrible visualization and fantasy.

Amber grinned and bounced on the balls of her feet. “Really?” 

Sarcasm is often lost in print if I want to convey a tone of voice shows the tone by posturing the character. My rule I’ve adopted from others: Don’t get lazy and tell the tone.

“Really?” Dale said sarcastically.  

Set it up properly so the reader knows it’s sarcasm or tags it with an appropriate action.

Dale inhaled slowly. “Really?” He rolled his eyes.

Creating the tone before the character speaks is important. This can be as long as a paragraph or as short as a few words. Setting the reader up for a smooth transition to the words lets them enjoy the story without having to “re-hear” it in their head before moving on.  So what happens if the set up is the wrong emotion conveying action?

Scott tilted his head to the side. “Really?” 

That could be humor, anger, annoyance, sarcasm or maybe tease. Normally in a story, there would be leading up to a statement like that. But I’ll pretend there isn’t and Scott’s statement is the start of the conversation or scenario. While tilting the head can convey emotion it is often a quirk or habit that without context could mean anything.

Scott crossed his arms, tilted his head to the side with his brow furrowed. “Really?”

Sure it get’s wordy, however, if I really want to show the reader how Scott feels then I will make it work. I might even take the head tilting out unless I have that as Scott’s quirk. I wouldn’t want everyone going around gesturing the same way.

Scott tilted his head to the side as a sly grin spread across his face. “Really?”

Scott’s head tilted to the side as he stifled a snicker. “Really?”

Scott’s fist slammed on the table then he tilted his head. “Really?”

If the tone isn’t foreshadowed by action before the statement, the reader will likely project their own emotion into it. That may or may not work out and may or may not put them off the story which in turn will mean devastation for the review and reader’s opinion of the story and author.  I can write words and have my own idea how they are supposed to sound, but if I don’t let the reader in on it, then I’ve let them down.

My advice about acting out emotion.
I do this to keep the reader engaged, I highly recommend it. Don’t let the reader decide what ‘vocal’ tone the characters are using, show them so the meaning behind the word isn’t lost. After all, you don’t want a character to move when you mean swoon. 

-Sheryl

A post or two from a while back.

Squirrelly concentration at best

Time to take out the trash

My Posts From The Start

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Tether

That is disgusting

I know this is a post from a long while ago. Since I’m on vacation, I decided to sail through today and share one of my old favourites.  Don’t worry I’ll get back to new and fun posts shortly.

That is disgusting

People can be gross, I mean really gross. They do things that make me cringe.

When a character does something disgusting and it’s shown and not told, I will be disgusted too. And that is the entire point of reading a book. I want to be in the story. I want to feel it.

For example:

Billy sat in the back corner of the coffee shop. In one hand, he held his book. With the other, he carefully dislodged a decent clump of moist mucus from his nose. After examining his generous prize, he rolled it between his thumb and forefinger as he continued to read. Without a thought, he flicked the carefully constructed ball. He happened to see it plunk into the cup of coffee on the table next to his.

He glanced around quickly, nobody was looking. Nobody witnessed the once in a lifetime accidental shot. Feigning interest in his book, the devil in his head urged him to silence. He watched the snotty woman in a pale green sweater sip her coffee-surprise. Had she not been so incredibly rude to him earlier he might have spoken up. Then again, he might not have.

When the woman finished her present, Billy got up to leave, pausing at her table.

“Good coffee?”

She looked up from her tablet, her face morphed into a sneer and she tutted. “It’s a latte, and I’m still not interested in someone,” she looked him up and down, “like you.” She dismissed him completely giving her tablet her attention.

Billy walked away, a slow satisfied smile creeping to his lips.

I loved writing this because Billy the bad-guy is as much a victim as the woman who is horrible in her own way.

Billy has a habit. He likes to pick his nose. It’s called rhinotillexis. If he eats it, it’s called Mucophagy. Does the reader need to know the specific detail of what the act is called? Maybe. If it’s relevant to the story. Otherwise, leave it as a quirk or bad habit.

Cringe worthy things happen all the time. Like when someone hands you money that was carefully tucked away in her sweaty cleavage. What bothers you might not bother someone else.

My advice about grossing out your readers.

If it gives you the heebie-jeebies or turns your stomach, it’s safe to use. My example was a very long way to say, – He picked his nose, flicked it into the shrew’s drink and watched as she drank it. – Blech.

-Sheryl

Other related posts.

My Posts From The Start

Tag! You’re it.

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Sail

Stuck On Repeat

I write because I love to. I write because I want people to read and love what I write. I want to draw them to my stories and characters like a magnet, not repel them. When I write a longer story with multiple chapters I often get stuck on repeat. Not in a major way, but in a way that might annoy the reader. It’s something I do, it’s awfully tempting to do and it happens easily. Repeating information.

Whether it’s right away or scattered throughout the story I often find myself repeating information. It may not be exactly as it was the first time, but it’s the same. Sigh.

It’s not always necessary to repeat information but it might feel that way.

There are numerous reasons that an author might repeat information.

Problem: Worry that the reader will forget.

Solution: I try to give the reader more credit. If you I repeat make it worth their while. A subtle reminder might do the trick better than tossing it in their face.

Problem: Worry that the detail will be lost.

Solution: I try to make the first presentation of the detail memorable. This can be done with humor, beautiful prose or have it stand out. 

Problem: The writer forgets how many times the subject came up.

Solution: Revise, revise, revise.  I’ll revise it myself and have someone else revise it too. (Make sure they are honest about revision)

Problem: The writer wants to be doubly sure the reader “gets it”.

Solution: Either they do or don’t the first time around. If they didn’t perhaps you need to revise the delivery of the point/description

Problem: Worry that the reader will forget.

Solution: I try to give the reader more credit. If you I repeat make it worth their while. A subtle reminder might do the trick better than tossing it in their face. 😉 

Basically, I try to find these repeated details whether they are as small as a physical description or something plot important. If I find too many I’ll go back to the first incident and do what I can to improve it so I don’t need to repeat.

Now sometimes information needs to be hashed out more than once, I get it, I have such tidbits in my own book, but I do try to at least make that repeat interesting for the reader by either mixing it with new information or delivering it in a more interesting and clever way.

My advice about being stuck on repeat.
Re-read this post and remember you won’t need to beat the reader over the head with important information if you deliver it well the first time. 

-Sheryl

Other posts

Awkwardly awkward

It’s a love hate sort of thing

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

 

 

Magnet