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)

 

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Make It Up or Make It Real (Part Two)

In the last post, I went over the logistics of how to start researching. Here’s a brief summary (we’ll continue using the druggie examples):

1) Figure out what it is you’re researching.

This will include determining exactly what you want to research. So this is kind of the pre-research stage.

2) Research more about what you’re researching about.

After you know kind of what you want to research, Google some more on that specifically and figure out whether or not that’s what you’re looking for.

3) Know the logistics.

Now you can figure out what that specific thing does, the history behind it, and how it works. (With the Irish Mob, we knew the types of criminal activities they engaged in.)

4) Research the details.

The final step is knowing the specifics. Where does the mob usually hang out, where can they be found, etc.

Make It Up or Make It Real (Part 2)

Sorry, guys! I don’t know where the background image is from and I certainly don’t mean to infringe on any copy rights. If you’d like me to take it down, drop me a comment. 🙂

Today, we’re going to go over what to include in your novel after having done said research. 🙂

Actually, this bit probably comes first… oh, well! Leave it to me to mess up the order! 😛

A lot of it depends heavily on your main character.

For instance, if s/he’s the drug lord, you’ll need to go deeper and figure out exactly how their organization functions, what drugs they deal with, how many people would work for them, how they would pay them, how they do business. The list goes on.

Always ask yourself questions. Is it realistic? How would they achieve that?

But if the MC (main character) is just some poor kid off the street who got in with the wrong crowd and now does errands for the organization, chances are they won’t know too much about what’s going on. In this case, you’ll probably just need to know how they deliver, where they’d pick stuff up, how they live and information like that.

If your novel is about a kidnapped person, like Alyx is in Homecoming, you might just need to know where their HQ would be, how many people were involved in that particular group, and how they live. Actually, I haven’t done that. O_o I didn’t think to think about that. See? I didn’t ask myself the questions! 😛

Know what you’re centering in on.

If you’re just focusing on one aspect of their criminal activities, research it. The rest may not matter too much. For example, if you’re just dealing with murder, then research how they’d kill someone, what they’d do with the body, and whether or not they’d leave evidence, a false trail, a note, whatever.

Whether it be a bullet in the head, or chopping it off with a knife, or bleeding them to death, you’ll want it to be realistic (if you’re like me, anyway), and incorporate that into the story.

Research the levels of the gang, depending on what it is.

This is more example-specific, but it applies to jobs and other things like that as well. Know the heirarchy. If a secretary in the Empire State Building picks up a novel on another secretary of the ESB, she’ll either be familiar with how it works, or very confused at the lack of realism. Know what I mean? 😉

Concerning stereotypes.

Lisa was worried about using something stereotypical. I wouldn’t be too worried about them. It’s just a label. You can take it anywhere. If a stereotypical gang has a lot of research done on them, it’ll make your job easier. 😉 Plus, your readers will be familiar with them. It actually might be better to choose a more well-known gang (or business or whatever) than some obscure, random, virtually non-existent business that deals with nothing anyone would be interested in established in Antarctica just to make the story interesting. Unless, of course, it deals with some pretty high stakes and affects your story and MC heavily.

You’ll want to take into consideration the reality of the premise too. 

This goes along with knowing who your MC is and how their position affects the story. If your plot is focused on some gofer-urchin-person at the bottom of the chain, make sure that what you’re doing to them is realistic. The head honcho probably wouldn’t favor him/her at all. They’d more than likely be disposable and very replaceable. So it might not be a good idea to have the new girl no one pays attention to with the miserable life to suddenly be the big cheese’s favorite minion.

That wraps up this mini-series on research and reality composed of thoughts and opinions by this 16-year-old girl who has no life. If you have any questions or want to add something, feel free to post in the comments! 😉

Don’t forget to rate the post too if it’s not much trouble. 😉 I’d appreciate it and your honesty.

God bless!

Rana

Miscellaneous Writing Observations

‘Ello, you lovely people!

Sorry I’ve been absent. I’m tired. Excuses, excuses, I know. 😛

I’ve been busy with school, editing The Reset, and sleep, as well as other things. I really don’t think God intended people to play with time. I mean, honestly. Who gave us the authority to turn the clock back an hour? Ridiculous.

Anywho. Onto the writing observations or whatever you want to call whatever follows.

1) If you write consistently, you won’t need to force yourself to write.

Now, I realize that sometimes you have writers block. When you do… try to get over it. I know, I know. Brilliant advice. There are tons of posts all over the internet on how to overcome writers block. Just Google it. 😉 So, before I was really into it, it was hard to write. I’d have to force myself to write and even then, it was difficult to make the words flow.

But, if you write consistently every day and set a minimum word count for yourself, writing becomes much easier and fluid. I used to use a novel log (which is very helpful!) and track how many words I added every day until it became more of a hindrance than a help. I couldn’t get as much school done (hah! I really don’t know how I do now…), I’d freak if I didn’t write, etc. And then I realized I didn’t need it. I was writing every day, I didn’t need to force myself, and I was more relaxed. That’s where you want to be in your writing.

2) Doubt is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

Okay, okay. I know it’s a spin-off of George Washington’s fire/government quote. But really. It’s true. If you don’t doubt your work, you’re doing something wrong. But if you doubt so much that you’re constantly putting yourself down about it, you’re on the other end of the spectrum. Find the happy (I use the term loosely) medium and continue to try and improve yourself.

Always push yourself to the limit. Always strive to learn more. Get critiques if you can, read other people’s writing, critique other people’s writing, join a beta group, start one. Writers, I find, are very supportive of each other. We’re like the unicorns of the world – but we really do exist. 😉

3) Be weird.

A while back, I wrote a post concerning the question “why are writers weird?” Basically, it’s because we have much more going on in our heads than most people do. Embrace the weird. Be your real-life unicorn. It’s okay. 😉

4) We’re not sadists. We’re writers. There is a difference.

I’ve noticed that I have an attraction to morbid things, awful stories, and pain. It’s not because I enjoy it, but because I’m a writer. As Julie Write once said, “What doesn’t kill us, gives us something to write about.” Bad decisions make great stories. But that doesn’t mean you should go around making bad decisions. That would be dumb. Just learn from yours and other’s mistakes. And, by using those, you can create epic, believable tales.

5) Advice isn’t absolute.

“Remember when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they’re almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” Neil Gaiman hit the nail on the head right there. Take people’s advice, try it out. It might be something that works for them and not for you or it could be a brilliant piece of wisdom that will work in all situations no matter what. It really depends on the person.

There are no set-in-stone rules for writing. It’s a beautiful art – a relationship with words. No relationship with a person is the same, ever. Why should it be different with writing? Bond, get to know your style, make mistakes, learn from them, be awesome.

God bless!

Rana

Tomorrow and A Tidbit on Meaningful Writing

Hey, everyone! 😀

So, as you know, tomorrow (September 7, 2013) is to be a day of fasting and praying for peace. Which is what I’m going to do. I won’t be online during that time, but I should be back Sunday! 🙂

Please be praying for peace. I don’t care if you’re Catholic, Protestant, or Muslim. We need peace.

I’m trying remember what Sam said in LotR though. “There’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for!”

Next! Okay. So, I know when I first started seriously about two years ago,  I found it really annoying that my writing seemed kind of… flat. If you know what I mean. I was like this as I wrote:

It was terribly hard to keep writing because I knew I had something to say, I just didn’t know what exactly. And I think the reason people write is because they have something to say.

So, to get a deep novel, deep characters, deep thoughts that make an impression on people, find something that means a lot to you (it could be an issue people are facing today that you want to help with, it could be a sensitive issue not talked about frequently, but you want your voice to get out there, etc.), and implement it into a story.

Remember in Lord of the Rings where Sam gave his short, sweet, and powerful speech? He says,

“I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

Those are the stories that stayed with us. The ones that really mattered.

So what matters to you? Will you write a story that’s purely for entertainment, or will you make your mark on this world?

But I’d like to hear from you! 🙂 Is there anything I missed? What do you think creates a good story?

God bless!

Rana