Divas on Writing

Your Team

Posted by on Jun 8, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 0 comments

Your Team

Divas on Writing: Your Team There are plenty of places on the Internet to search for writing advice. I spoke about Pinterest in another article; it has many great pins that authors can use to help while they are actively researching or writing their books. But authors turn to other social mediums like Facebook and Twitter as well.  Recently, an author friend asked her friends on Facebook about the spelling of a word. She got conflicting answers from her friends and each person had a reason their spelling was the correct one. How is an author able to trust these types of writing advice? As an editor, my answer would be the most technical: stick with the Merriam-Webster spelling. Done. And my reason is simple: Merriam-Webster is consistent. That’s the advice I would give all writers. Stick with what’s consistent. There are so many rules and guidelines and there is no way any author is going to be an expert on grammar. Nor is it their job to know, that’s mine. So it’s understandable why many writers turn to social media when they are in a bind. It’s a quick and easy source of information but is it consistent? Not always. The trick is to find a good source of advice and stick with it. Generally, the source should be the most proficient like the Chicago Manual of Style or Merriam-Webster. Some other sources would be finding a core group of editors or like-minded authors you can trust. Your team. Asking the social media masses is too broad. Authors need a trusted few that know their preferences and are able to help them stick to their style.   How do you find a core group if you’re just starting out? That can be a trying process. New writers may have to go through a book or two before they find their team. It’s about trial and error. The first thing you do is find a good editor. This is the most vital part. Make sure you interview your editor, know their style, their turnaround time, even what they like to read for fun. You have to be able to trust and be able to confide in your editor. Then find a group of pre-readers or beta readers. These people can give you sage advice on your story before editing. Formatters are next. If you’re not formatting your own book, make sure you find a formatter that can visualize what you want your book to look like. Cover designs are pivotal to the overall appearance of your book and help you with your marketability. Once you have the right team behind you, you will have a consistent core group that won’t make you second guess your style ever again. Should your group be the end all, be all? Not all the time, but the point of your team is to be your go-to people who you can trust and keep you consistent. Tell us about your team: How do they keep you on point?...

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Revising Mundane Content

Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 0 comments

Revising Mundane Content

Revising Mundane Content We’re all guilty of it at one time or another. Don’t lie. Even best-selling authors fall victim to mundane content. It sneaks into our writing disguised as description and detail we think will add to our story when, in fact, it bogs it down. “But my descriptions are necessary to make my scenes fuller,” you say. Not all description is necessary and not all detail makes a scene fuller. So why is it so hard to find mundane content in our own writing and strike it down where it stands? Because one man’s detail is another man’s mundane content. That’s the hard part about mundane content. It wears many disguises. But there is hope, so get your red pen ready and warm up that delete button. This might sting a little. The key to revising mundane content is to recognize what’s important to your story and what isn’t. It comes does to three things: action knowledge dialogue What action is needed to move the scene and plot along? What information are you trying to give your reader? And what dialogue is needed and what should be left unsaid? One of my favorite pieces of advice for writing a scene is to “come into the scene late and leave early.” Everything you write should come under scrutiny to decide if it is mundane content. Now it’s time use that red pen. Read the following scene from a romance. Decide what is necessary and what is mundane. Robert walked into the bedroom. The warm mahogany of the massive four-poster dominating the spaced glowed under the light from the six-blade ceiling fan slowing spinning in the center of a classic tray ceiling. A cream-colored satin duvet punctuated with deep crimson flowers was partly covered with a pile of matching throw pillows. A lavender skirt lay crumpled at the base of one of two matching nightstands with large ornate lamps on top that loomed like sentinels. The carpet was so plush, Robert wanted to kick off his shoes and dig his toes into the thick pile. As he walked further into the room, he turned his head and spied his reflection in the mirrored doors of the folding closet doors. He straightened his broad shoulders and hoisted his bag a little higher. He heard someone approach from behind and assumed it was one of the uniforms. “Where’s the body?” he asked over his shoulder. “In the master bath through there.” Robert felt his chest tighten when he heard that familiar husky voice, and he spun around. Detective Greta Swartz wore black snug fitting jeans that fit her long legs and toned derrière like a glove, and the Persian green of her silk blouse made her hazel eyes pop. He hadn’t seen her since their academy days fifteen years ago when they’d tried to make their poorly timed relationship work. Long hours and two competitive natures weren’t exactly the makings of a successful union—not to mention Denise Paulson, whose constant need for his attention added more strain than the budding romance could bear. “Bobby?” Greta’s tone and the set of her mouth told him the surprise wasn’t exactly welcome. Still, he loved the way she said his nickname. No one ever called him that anymore and it wasn’t until then that he’d realized how much he’d missed it. “Hey, Greta. How are you?” She paused for a moment. “Good. And you?” “I can’t complain. It’s been a long time,” he replied, drinking her in. “Yes, it has. When did you make the switch to CSI?” “A few years ago. I finally let go of Dad’s dream for a police captain in the family and went after my first love.” His dad had made it as far as sergeant before her retired from the force and wanted Robert to do better. But Robert loved the science behind the investigation. When he made the switch, his dad didn’t speak to him for three months. “Good for you. Have you been briefed on situation?” “Yes,” he said with a sigh. A reunion would have to wait. “Where’s the person...

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Storyboarding

Posted by on May 17, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 0 comments

Storyboarding

Divas on Writing: Storyboarding For the last couple of weeks, I have written about character, setting, and plot sheets. Today’s article isn’t so much a sheet but a close relative to it: a storyboard. Storyboarding your story can be done in a couple of different ways; it really depends on what you like. Storyboarding can help a writer who needs to better visualize the structure of their story from beginning to end. The majority of the storyboards I have seen look something like the picture below. The purpose of the board is another way to outline your story using a simple layout that can easily be changed to suit your edits. You can clearly see the elements of your story and what direction your story will take while you write it. The use of storyboards has been generally associated with screenplays or film production. I took a storyboarding for film class in college years ago. We drew out every scene and shot of the student films we were making. It was a great tool to keep us on target and to have that much-needed visual. Storyboarding for your written fiction acts very much the same way. Scrivener and Storybox are programs with the storyboard feature. For the more technically minded, this tool is a better option than a poster board and Post-Its. You can have your whole outline on the program’s storyboards and switch back and forth while you write on one screen. Plus you don’t have the clunky poster board hanging out in your office. I have tried Scrivener and found that the PC version is very lacking compared to what I’ve heard of the Mac version, so my experience with the computer programs isn’t as favorable as I’ve found the old-fashioned way of poster board and sticky notes. The layouts can vary. Like the picture above, you can list out chapter by chapter on your poster board. Or you can just create an outline with key topics you want to include in your novel without having a rundown of each chapter. Instead of sheets, you can also you storyboards for your characters, setting, and plot. Try it out and see where it takes you. Do you use storyboarding as a way of outlining your novels? What method do you prefer? Tell us what you like the best about storyboarding. Later! Related Articles The Five Basic Elements of Plot The Three-Act Structure in Novels How to Use Subplots Plot and Genre Plot...

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Dialogue Tags, Part II

Posted by on May 11, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 0 comments

Dialogue Tags, Part II

In my earlier article, Dialogue Tag Primer, we looked at the basics of punctuating dialogue tags, some commonly accepted rules to what constitutes a dialogue tag and what is a creative tag, and the challenge to generally use fewer tags in your writing. In this segment, we’ll talk more in depth about some other types of punctuation, how the placement of dialogue tags affects pacing, and how replacing the redundancy of creative dialogue tags with smart narrative tightens up your story. Em Dashes and Ellipses: So, let’s get right to it. In normal conversational dialogue, there are commas between the words being said and the tag identifying the speaker—unless there’s a question being asked or an exclamation being made, in which case you’d obviously want to use a question mark or any exclamation point. But what about when your speaker is cut off in the middle of her sentence? Sam turned to Hope, stunned. “I really have no idea what—” “You certainly do know what I’m talking about, you liar!” Hope screeched. In this case we’ve used an em dash at the end of Sam’s sentence to indicate the sharp cut off of her words by the interruption of Hope’s words. However, if your speaker trails off, an em dash is not the correct punctuation. Sam sat alone, crushed. “I really don’t have any idea…”* Here we’ve used an ellipsis to indicate that Sam has paused in her speech, but her thought is not complete. Nothing has interrupted her, not even herself—at least not that we’re aware of. But what would happen if Sam had interrupted herself? Sam sat alone, crushed. “I really have no idea—” She froze with a squeak as it all came back to her. Here, Sam has interrupted her own dialogue with her actions. Since her words are stopped, the em dash is used with her words. But what about when there’s interruptive action in the middle of speech? Sam sat alone, crushed. “I really have no idea”—she tapped her finger against her chin—“what Hope is talking about.” Notice that the em dashes are now attached to the action as opposed to the dialogue. This is because the dialogue flows uninterrupted, but the author wants the reader to see Sam tapping her chin at that exact moment in her speech. *In my example, you’ll notice that I didn’t include any additional punctuation with my ellipsis. When quoting or paraphrasing written work, there are indeed rules to follow regarding additional punctuation, such as periods when the omitted material is at the end of the sentence, but in dialogue, there’s a little more leeway. Some authors like to have a question mark after an ellipsis if the phrase indicates a question was being implied. Some authors like to put the comma after the ellipsis if the dialogue tag were to follow the phrase that trailed off. I’m of the belief that three dots are plenty of punctuation.   Placement and Pacing: Yes, it’s true. Where you place your dialogue tag can affect the pacing of your sentence or your paragraph. And depending on your style as an author, it can affect your story as a whole. Dialogue tags can either come before, after, or right in the middle of the dialogue. I think an even mix of before and after keeps your story flowing smoothly, but a dialogue tag stuck smack dab in the middle of the words stops the flow of the dialogue. Every time. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Depending on the tone and feel of the scene, you could very well want a character’s words stopped and started and interrupted. It makes things choppy, adds a little bit of adrenaline to the scene, but that doesn’t mean it slows the pacing. Since it usually increases in the energy, it could actually speed up the pace. “What do you mean by that?” he asked with a snarl. “I’m not the one who got caught!” But what you don’t want to do is have line after line of dialogue interrupted by a tag. Used for...

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Author Branding: How to Get Started

Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 0 comments

Author Branding: How to Get Started

Author Branding: How to Get Started  We’ve all heard the advice to create your brand as an author, but what exactly is author branding? Being an author is so much more than just the books your write. It’s about your image in the real world and online in the cyber world. The Internet has made it possible for people to connect with people around the world and to create an online persona, all from the comfort of our homes. As an author, it’s a good idea to consider what your image or “brand” as an author is. But first you’ll need a few things to get your author branding started. It’s All in the Name Have you decided on a pen name or do you want to publish under your real name? The arguments for and against for each path are valid. What it boils down to is which path is right for you. Pen Names: You keep your private life somewhat private. If your real name is hard to pronounce or unusually long, a pen name might be right for you. If you write for more than one genre, say steampunk, Viking romance and horror, the use of pen names makes it easier for your fans who read your steampunk books to follow you and not get mixed up with your books in the horror and romance genres. Some notable examples of authors who use pen names for different genres are Eleanor Robertson, who writes as Nora Roberts (romance) and J.D. Robb (romantic suspense), and Joanne Rowling, who writes as J.K. Rowling (fantasy) and Robert Galbraith (crime fiction). Real Name: The biggest argument in favor of using your real name is simple. It’s your book, so why not put your name on it? I’ve also heard the “Are you ashamed of what you’ve written” argument as well, but I’m not a fan of that one. Whether you use a pen name or your real name boils down to one thing: what’s right for you as an author. Whatever path you choose is the correct path for you. Create an Online Presence as an Author The time to begin building your online presence as an author ideally is before you even start to write your book. That being said if you’ve already started your book or you’ve finished and are not sure when to begin, the time is now. Social Media: If you haven’t already done so, you should secure your social media as an author. Open accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr or on as many networks as you please. Many authors find their personal name is already taken or they don’t want to mix their personal Facebook with that of their adoring fans. This is where you often see “author” before or after their name. It’s an easy way to keep your personal and professional monikers separate. If you don’t want to use “author,” you could add your middle initial. If your book is a series, securing the series name on social media might be a good idea as well. Website & Email: Don’t forget the all-important email and website addresses too. If you decide to create a blog or simply a website that lists your books, where to buy them and your email address for you fans to contact you, secure your name or pen name as a dot-com. Do you have to blog? No. I know authors who don’t blog. One of them put it this way, “If I’m writing, it will be for my book.” I know other authors who use their blogs to create a following of potential readers. They share their journey as a creative writer and build a base of fans and a buzz about the upcoming release of their book. In today’s ever-expanding and competitive book market, have followers is a huge asset whether you decide to go the traditional route with a publisher or decide to blaze your own trail and self-publish. Either way you’ll need followers. The attitude that “if I write it people will read it” is one that could...

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Divas on Writing: Plot Sheets

Posted by on Apr 27, 2015 in Divas on Writing | 0 comments

Divas on Writing: Plot Sheets

To round out the sheets trilogy, as I like to call it, I’m going to talk about plot sheets. They work pretty much the same as the character and setting sheets. You can have as little or as many sheets as you need. Plot sheets are just a rough version of your outline.  The Plot Bunny Catchall Plot Sheet This type of plot sheet is good for writing down the plot, details, ideas, subplots, characters, settings, twists, or any other info you don’t want to forget. It’s not meant to be highly organized, it’s just a place to dump the stuff you want to come back to later. From here you can grab many elements of your plot and piece it together if you’re having a hard time laying it all out. No one said that you must have a structured plot to write a book. The Beginning Plot Sheet This sheet is the starting point of your book. Not only will you introduce your characters, you’ll introduce elements of your plot, the setting, and the rising action of the plot. You’re laying the groundwork for the story in the beginning sheet. Make this as detailed as you can. Write a few scenes that you want for each beginning chapter. Or use the beginning sheet to plot out the detailed backstory for your main protagonist. This sheet is where you create your character’s “duty” in the story. What is your character searching for? Write it here! The Challenge or Rising Action Plot Sheet This sheet is there for you to jot down what is challenging your characters. Are they held back in life because they are poor or have a rocky home life that prohibits them from exploring their dreams? Does your protag need to do something mentally or physically challenging? How far will they go to overcome their hurdles? Again, make this sheet as detailed as you can. Get into the minds of your characters and figure out their motivations, desires, wants, needs, etc. Establish their mindset here as well. The Conflict Plot Sheet This is one of the crucial sheets to have. Not only will you lay out the roadblocks for your characters, you will create your story arc or the climax. The plot will come to a head at this point. Your conflict, no matter big or small, will have to be explained well. The setup and challenges are the building blocks, and the conflict is the mountain your characters will climb over. Make sure your conflict is solid so you can move to the next sheet. The Growth Plot Sheet So you have the beginning, the challenge, conflict, and now growth. By this point of your plot outline, this sheet is where you can organize how your characters deal with the conflict of the story. What do they learn from the climax? How do they improve themselves after the climax? Growth is essential for your characterization as they journey through the story. If a protag lacks growth, it shows and readers will not identify with her or him. On this sheet, write down where you want your character to go in the future, how they will handle the results of the climax, how they treat other characters or themselves differently. Will they see the world differently now that they have gone through the conflict? The A-Ha Plot Sheet The solution is the happily ever after or the conclusion of the book. If your book is a series, you may not have the same a-ha moment a standalone may have, but the solution will still present itself in some way. Many writers think the a-ha moment or the solution is an epilogue, but it doesn’t have to be. The solution is basically when your characters get what they want or what they didn’t want. Your characters will also understand their personal growth at this stage of the book. Write out some key aspects you want your character to think or feel by the end your story. How do you want to wrap-up the story for your characters?...

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