Sharing Your Work

Monday, September 28

I got a couple comments from readers requesting a look at some of my work. I'm sorry to say that I don't share rough drafts.

It is just human nature (and I'm guilty of this as well) to offer your opinion.

The only problem is that rough drafts 100% of the time are far from perfection. Both beginning writers, and their rough drafts, are terribly venerable.

I will accept constructive critique thankfully. But timing is everything. And critics can quite easily (and unintentionally) kill your book.
That’s how my dead story came to be dead.

Rough drafts cannot withhold a lot of barrage. 2nd drafts, 3rd drafts, ect. are a different story.


Showing Not Telling: Characterization

Saturday, September 26

There are two ways to reveal a character and establish their personality; Directly and Indirectly. By far the most interesting, engaging way is Indirectly.


1. What the character says 
(“I don’t care much for fighting,” he said, backing away.)   
We can tell they dislike fighting.

2.The character’s physical appearance 
(He wiped his calloused hands on his worn burlap jacket.)
His hands tell us he lives a rough, poor life, which is also supported by the worn jacket.
3.Their feelings/thoughts 
(I wish summer would come back. This blasted cold freezes my old bones, he thought.)
Old and hates the cold (What do you know, it rhymes!)

4.What other characters think/say about the character 
(“So serious for someone so young,” she laughed.)
The character is young and serious.

5.How the character acts/reacts 
(Without another thought, he dove into the fray, snarling and biting.) 
Impulsive and reckless


1.The author directly comments on the character   
(The man was quiet and thoughtful, never seeking a fight.)
Um...he's quiet, thoughtful, and hates fighting. (Obvious...and kind of dull.)


Staying In Character Part 1

Sunday, September 20

Over the weekend (by the way, sorry for not posting in so long) I learned a little tidbit about charcters. I kind of split them into sections.

One of the things I find the most annoying when I read, is when the character does something COMPLETELY out of character for the sake of a cool scene.

I wrote a scene a few days ago where the main character got into trouble. The point of the scene was not to get him killed/captured so I had to have him rescued.
Unfortunately, the only person around to save him was a character who hated him.
So I had to mess around with that scene for a while.
Yes, they saved his life. But I got rid of the "Are you okay?" and the "Hey, thanks for saving my life."

I once read a story where the character is completely shy and then suddenly steps forward and becomes a leader. I was left floundering for a split second going, “Um…what just happened?”

Yes, you want character development. (The official literary definition is a dynamic character.)
But you want the character to change in DEGREES, slowly, step by step. Not a big WHOOSH all of a sudden they're no longer shy, no longer bitter, no longer...whatever.

It's also hard to stay in character if you don't even know who your character is. I occasionally use a character sketch when this happens. The best one I've found is R.L. LaFevers's;

Family’s social status/income level - because poverty greatly affect worldview

Any ethnic background or influences?

What is their family dynamics? Parents married, divorced, single? Siblings? Birth order?

What sort of student is the character?

How popular are they at school?
Who is his best friend?

Who is their worst enemy?

Do they have any hobbies? If so, how did they come to those hobbies?

Are they athletic? Good at sports? If so, which ones. If not, how does that affect their life?

What is the character’s most treasured possession?

Do they have any superstitions?

What is their general attitude toward life? Optimist? Pessimist? What went into forming that attitude?

What are they afraid of?

What are his hopes and dreams? Both immediate and long term.

What does he long for?

Does he have any food likes or dislikes?

What about pets?

Is there anything he feels guilty about?

What is his favorite book, TV show, or computer game?

What is his relationship with technology? Do they have four TVs? No computer? A cell phone at age 10? An email account? (in historical or fantasy novels, this question is a whopper as it encompasses the other world you're building into your story.)

What are his character strengths?

What are his character flaws?

What about Quirks?

Does he have any physical weaknesses? Uncoordinated, asthma, small for his age, etc.


Death of a story: What should really be two posts but is combined into one

Saturday, September 12

It's been a little over a month since I finished a rough draft for the first time.
So I broke out the worn notebook and stared at it for a while, trying to figure out how to start the revision process.
But no matter how hard I thought, I couldn't think of a way to fix the plot.
So I started making a tree-looking map of all the possible scenarios that each plot point could lead to.
I got this far before the endless choices scared me and I quit.
I was scared that if I followed one, it'd be, I don't know, the WRONG direction.
And I really don't feel like writing out every possible scene.

I've been a scared little writer for quite some time. Sometimes I began worrying about "WHAT IF I GET IT WRONG?"

There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are.
~Somerset Maugham
Though writing rules vary from author to author, Mary Bass's three rules for writng are Be Entertaining, Be true to your story, and BE FEARLESS.
Fearlessnes, ah.
Gonna have to work on that.

But my first shot at revision revealed that the book died a while ago anyway.

I was surprised to realize that it was dead. By "dead", I mean "dead" like a dead language (latin for example.)

I don't know if he (I think of the book as a "he" since the main charcter's a guy) will make a comeback someday in the far future. Maybe someday it'll hit me how to fix the rough draft, but for now, I'm moving on to work on one of my other drafts I still need to finish.


Book Recommendation: FLY BY NIGHT

Wednesday, September 9

I picked up this book by Frances Hardinge in 2005 and have read it four times.
And for me, It's amazing if I ever read a book twice.

Mosca Mye is of the few girls who can read, in a world where printed words are dangerous.
And she loves words.
 ...the words had shapes in her mind. she memorized them, and stroked them in her thoughts like the curved backs of cats.
 To escape the watery town of Chough she helps a smooth-talking con-man escape the stocks.
From there she's tossed headfirst into rivalry between those who rule the land, rule the sea, and those that rule words.
An ill-tempered goose.
A dashing highwayman.
A woman with a snow-white scar.
A duke obbsessed with symmetry.
And the words that catch hold of Mosca and never let go. 
I love this book, not only for its story but for the words.
I’ve always been a sucker for a well-turned Hardinge verse.
~Elizabeth Bird 
Well said Elizabeth.

But it's also how the story is about words, and the power of words.
And so for a writer, I think it makes an excellent book.

Or for anyone who cares to join Mosca in what I think to be one of the best books out there.


The Six Traits: Ideas

Monday, September 7

And now for (what I think) is the most important trait : IDEAS.

No matter how good a writer is, if they write a bland story a reader, won't bother with it..

What makes Twilight so fascinating? A girl falls in love with a dangerous predator. Harry Potter? The idea of a school for magic and the concept of the entire wizarding world in general.

Creativity and Imagination are the cornerstone of most books.
Every writer who ever had any amount of success had at least a teaspoon of creativity.

But let's see what the rubric has to say;
This paper is clear and focused. It holds the reader's attention. Relevant anecdotes and details enrich the central theme.

Turn on some music, work-out, dance-like-no-one-is-watching sort of thing.
Let the Ideas come to you.

Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.
~Arthur Koestler
It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.
~Edward de Bono


My Soapbox

Saturday, September 5

For you new readers out there (and the older ones) I thought it about time to give you a quick welcome.

Welcome to WRITER SENSE. It's basically my little soapbox to share tips and hints I learn.

Every writer has a few puzzles pieces towards the perfect book-writing process. Not every process works for every writer, mind. I'm just trying to give others a leg-up in return for all the support I've recieved.
“If you are a dreamer,come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer.
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire,
for we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!”
~Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends


Writing Schedule

Friday, September 4

Your writing need a GOAL.

Even if its just "Finish this chapter by Friday," or "Write a novel this year," its a Goal. Your stretching yourself to get something done instead of doodling aimlessly on a sheet of paper.

Do you want to be a published author someday? Someday soon? Short spasms of a few genius pages a month won't get that novel done.
If I waited for inspiration to knock on my door before  I wrote I'd get, say, about five chapters done a year. (Trust me, that's what happened.)

But get this; if you don't achieve the goal, IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. Just give yourself a new due date.

But reward yourself IF and WHEN you accomplish your goal. (Mmmm...chocolate.)

GOALS. Set goals for yourself and push yourself to meet them. Authors don't get anywhere if they're not willing to find the time to write.


Dialogue Part 2

Thursday, September 3

What do you, as readers, prefer in a book; Long winded descriptions of the scenery, of every detail or Dialogue.
Yeah, that's what I thought.
(If you chose scenery you are the most patient reader around.)

Dialogue can not only convey messages about the character's relationships with each other, their background (i.e. slang). Dialogue can also tell the reader about the scenery. For example;

"...five steps, six steps. Six steps long."
"What is?"
"This cell."
"Quit splashing around in the water and sit down."
"Sit down where? Everywhere is wet."
"Well standing by that barred window won't help your health much either."

We can already see that a) they're in a cell, b)it's wet, c) it's small, and d) it has a barred window.
A little more interesting than
The room was wet and cold. It had a barred window. It was small.

Dialogue can also show things happening;

“Duck!” roared Joseph.
“That arrow almost had your name on it.” 
“Speaking of arrows, hand me another; I’m out,” said Marcus. 
“Er, so am I.” 
“Move your backsides soldiers!” roared the captain. “Retreat! RETREAT!”

Instead of:

When Joseph told Marcus to duck, he didn't argue. He was glad he had listened because an arrow missed him. When he asked for more arrows he was dismayed to learn that there wasn't any more. The captain called a retreat.


The Six Traits: Sentence Fluency

Tuesday, September 1

One rule for sentence fluency: READ ALOUD. Read it, hear it, make it better. Does it sound like it flows? Is it lyrical?
Every sentence shouldn't sound the same.
Sentence fluency is what you hear aloud and in your head as you read.
Each should have a different amount of syllables than the previous.
For example;
See Spot run. Spot runs fast. "Good Boy Spot." We love Spot. Hear Spot bark.
Spot ran, his lean legs pulling him forward effortlessly. He skidded to a halt in front of Jack.
Jack patted his head. "Good Boy."
He cocked his head to one side and barked.

The writing has an easy flow, rhythm, and cadence. Sentences are well built, with strong and varied structure that invites expressive oral reading.

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