Writing Tips for Instant Improvement

‘Ello, you!

I hope your week’s been going just splendidly! ❤ Today, we’ll take a look at a few writing tips that will help with showing vs. telling, something most (every?) author has difficulty with. These pretty much help make the writing style instantaneously better. But find what works for you. 😉

I’ve seen a lot of blog posts on how you should show and don’t tell, and I can see how it works in their examples, but I wasn’t really sure how to do that in my writing until recently.

Here are a few tips you might want to keep in mind while writing. I’ll provide examples of my own to show the difference between rough draft and third draft. I hope they help. 🙂

Tip #1: Use Dialogue Tags Sparingly

To cut down the telling and up the showing element, I’ve tried to use fewer dialogue tags. Take a look at the following passages from the first chapter of The Reset and notice how the writing flows as well as how you can sort of get the implied tone of the characters as opposed to me telling you how they’re speaking.

Pay attention to the words in bold in the second excerpt. That’s where I cut the tags/inserted action.

Draft 1: Excerpt 1

“What do you want?” I snap, not in the mood for any sort of conversation.

“I came to see if you’ve discovered anything,” he yawns.

“I haven’t. Now go away.”

“My dear girl, you didn’t even look. I’d bet my cat on it.”

The feline looks up at me with that strange golden eye. The other one is hidden by an eye patch.

“What do you want?” I sigh, pouring myself a cup of coffee.

“I want his blood.”

When I turn around, Fëar is standing right in front of me.

Draft 3: Excerpt 1 of the Same Passage

I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. “What do you want?”

He yawned and stretched. “I came to see if you’d been issued your new target.”

“I haven’t.” I rubbed my temples as a migraine began to torment me. “Now do please go away.”

“My dear girl, you didn’t even go in to find out.” Fëar sat up straight as his feet hit the floor. He swept the room with a quick glance. “I’d bet my cat on it.”

The feline regarded me with that strange golden eye. It adopted a defensive position as if afraid its owner might lose the wager.

I repeated the question as I poured myself a mug of steaming black coffee. “What do you want?”

“Blood.” His words were a snarl in my ear, thick as the crimson liquid he desired oozing out of a fresh wound.

Tip #2: Don’t Let the Cat Out of the Bag Too Soon/The Curse of Knowledge

This is something I’m having to work on. In my first and second drafts, I think I dropped too much backstory/fact at once. It gave the reader nothing to wonder about. Don’t do that. 😛 You want your reader to be curious. They can’t be that if you have an info-dump at the beginning or even throughout your story.

Let’s take a look at how this plays out.

Draft 1: Excerpt 2

“Tough, isn’t it?” Fëar looks sympathetic for a moment, but I know he can’t really be feeling that way. He’s incapable of feeling whatsoever. “You’re still so human. It’s a tough phase. You’ll get over it one day.”

Draft 3: Excerpt 2 of the Same Passage

“Tough, isn’t it?” Fëar appeared sympathetic for a moment, but I knew better. “You’re still so human. It’s a tough phase. You’ll get over it one day.”

Notice how Althea didn’t explain why she knew better. This is what I’ll call the curse of knowledge.

You know how there are some really smart people and they’ll be talking about how one interior angle of a heptagon is 128 4/7 degrees or they’ll go off about the current crisis in Crimea or about how ISIS is beheading people in Iran and you’ll still be wondering what the heck a heptagon is, who Putin is, and what ISIS stands for or if it’s just a name of some Egyptian goddess from times long gone.

The people talking in those situations would have what we call the “burden/curse of knowledge.” They know something, so they think you know it too. But you don’t.

In 1PPOV* novels, we, as readers, are limited to only what the MC** knows. When the book starts in media res***, we miss some information – information that makes us curious. So don’t start off with an info-dump. Keep us guessing for a while. 😉

Tip #3: Don’t State a Character’s Emotions

This implies telling rather than showing. “Felt” is often a clue word that indicates you’re telling. Try not to use it, or feeling adjectives. Avoid:

  • Felt
  • Angry
  • Sad
  • Happy
  • Mad

Instead, try to show those emotions through a character’s actions.

Example 1:

“Leave my computer alone!” I screamed, angry.

Example 1: Edited

My fingers curled into my palms. When I spoke, my voice had risen several octaves and increased in volume. “Leave my computer alone!”

Not the best example, but does this make sense?

Hope this helps, darling. 🙂

How about you? Have you got any editing tips for us? Any tidbits to keep in mind while writing?

God bless!

Rana

P.S.

For better posts on this stuff, check out:

Go Teen Writers and Helping Writers Become Authors.

* = First Person Point of View

** = Main Character

*** = in the midst of things (basically starting in the middle)

 

“It’s like chopping fingers off.”

Good morning, afternoon, or evening, darling!

I finished the second draft of The Reset on Saturday, August 23. In case you’re interested. And, as someone once described editing, “it’s like chopping fingers off.”  And then buffing and painting the nails. Some of the revisions included:

  • Changing the novel from present tense to past tense.
  • Fixing grammatical errors.the reset
  • Cutting scenes that didn’t move the story forward or contribute to the plot (word count went from 48,155 to 44,637).
  • Adding some scenes that explained the plot more and/or moved the story forward.

For the third draft, I think I’ll focus on:

  • Cutting a few unimportant characters if needed.
  • Impressing Althea’s apathy upon the reader in the beginning of the story to clearly show how her character progresses throughout the novel.
  • Decide upon January’s mannerisms. It doesn’t seem right that he’s a tall fellow, but still so childish. It’s endearing to me, but it doesn’t seem to fit him even though he’s arguably one of the sweetest people in the novel.
  • Polishing the writing style.
  • Adding a bit more foreshadow.

Hopefully I’ll still enjoy it the third time around. 😛

And, I figured, why not share some snippets? I haven’t done that in a while. I guess I feel self-conscious, like every other author. Ah, well.

“No need to spend more money on something we can do for free.”

“What? I’m not worth it?” January adopted a put out expression.

I set a kettle of water on the stove and leaned against the counter, waiting for it to boil.

“Of course you are,” I said. “You’re priceless. I can’t possibly spend enough money on you.”

“You could try,” he suggested.

~*~

“If I chose anything more than bread and cheese,” January said, “I’d have to cook. And that ain’t happening. Hope you don’t mind.”

~*~

Everyone within earshot turned to look at us.

“What’s wrong?” I asked him.

“Smoke!” he wheezed. Jan doubled over, gripping his abdomen. “It’s killing me! And you!” He pointed an accusatory finger in the smoker’s direction.

I covered my mouth to hide a smile as Jan narrowed his eyes at the man whose face had turned a deep cherry red. He dropped the cigarette butt on the ground and crushed it with his heel. January straightened and nodded once. He tugged on his coat and grabbed my arm. We hurried down the street with our ice cream and dignity.

I looked up at the young man who winked at me.

“Saving lives one hack at a time,” he said.

~*~

“How do serial killers become serial killers, do you think?” he asked, obviously forgetting that I was a serial killer. “Do they eat their Lucky Charms while reading the Paper in the morning and go, ‘oh, nothing interesting in the news today. I’ll change that?’”

“Well, I’m guessing someone forgot to put the ‘lucky’ in their ‘charms’ that morning because, if they were lucky, that’s not what would cross their mind.” I rolled my eyes.

~*~

“Oh, please,” Fëar said with a rolling of his eyes. “You think Fanon and I are just partners in a business? Nah, we’re buddies. We joke quite a bit over a round of drinks. You’re one of the best jokes we’ve heard in a while though, darling, I must say.”

I slammed my coffee mug down on the table. The black liquid splashed up and burned my skin, but the pain only registered in the back of my mind.

“You think my pain is something to laugh about over a drink?” I shouted. My chair fell backwards and crashed to the floor as I stood. “Is that all other humans are to you sick people? Jokes? Toys you can break and throw away when you get tired of them?”

Fëar frowned. “Be a bit more generous, darling,” he said. “We tape them back together a few times first.”

~*~

The elf stepped forward and jabbed a finger at me. “You were lovely, darling, until you started thinking. I would put a reality check on my daydreams if I were you.”

“I’m beginning to wonder which is more real,” I said, “my daydreams or your reality.”

~*~

“Sometimes they don’t mean to,” I cried. “But people are selfish and they’ll do what’s best for you until it’s inconvenient for them.”

 ~*~

I smiled a little and placed the dagger on a decorative table. “Get out of here, tramp,” I said with a grin. “I’ll see you soon. Don’t go anywhere predictable.”

He winked. “No garbage cans or park benches. Got it.”

~*~

Maeve turned to leave, but stopped. “Oh, and just so you know,” she added over her shoulder, “that little episode earlier was nothing. Fanon’s had centuries to discover new methods of manipulation. I’d just get it all over with. It’s the right thing to do.”

I closed my eyes and when I reopened them, she was gone.

The right thing.

How could she tell me that an incremental massacre was right? Would killing many for the sake of one justify the murder of so many innocents?

What’s your editing process? Any advice? Specific things to look for?

I love you and God bless, kid! 😉 You rock.

Rana

P.S.

As I read my Bible last night, I stumbled upon this verse and thought this it worth sharing:

“My son, with humility have self-esteem; prize yourself as you deserve.” – Sirach 10:27