Don’t Use a Big Word…

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Writing | 0 comments

There’s a saying, “Don’t use a big word where a diminutive one will suffice.” It’s totally tongue in cheek, but it’s very true. Lately, I’ve been noticing people trying too hard to use large words, and it shows. I was reading a nonfiction book about marketing or some such, because I like learning new ways of doing things, and came across the word exasperate. Now, it’s one of my favorite words. I actually use it in sentences, usually to describe my husband. However, it wasn’t the word the author meant: the author was shooting for the word exacerbate. Now, there are several reasons this could have gotten put in incorrectly: maybe the author was using dictation software, or meant to type exacerbate and spelled it wrong so the word processing software corrected it, or maybe the author actually thought he or she was using the correct word. At any rate, I put the book down. I know, it sounds rather shallow to put a book down because of one mistake, and most of the time, it takes much more than one word to make me do that. This time, however, for whatever reason (I was in a bad mood, the editor in me was being a brat, I wasn’t that interested in what the author was trying to tell me in the first place), I put it down and couldn’t force myself to pick it back up. I read another book where someone was sweating so much her clothes were sticking to her body (as many characters in many stories tend to do) but instead of pulling her clothes away from her body, she pulled her clothes away from her bodice. Again, whether the author meant bodice, was just trying too hard, or whatever, it stopped me dead in my tracks. I’m still considering whether I’m going to finish that book. I kept reading, and found other errors of a similar nature in that particular book, where the word was spelled correctly, but it wasn’t the right word. Basically, the author was trying too hard to sound sophisticated and missed the mark. There are several books I’ve put down because of mistakes that I just couldn’t get past. In both examples, the author was trying to get something across to the readers, but wasn’t able to because they were choosing the wrong words. In both cases, smaller words or different words needed to be used. The lesson here? Use the right words. If there is a word that you’re not familiar with the definition, or you have a large word that you want to use it, but it doesn’t quite fit, get rid of it. Be merciless when it comes to your words. Read them aloud. See how they sound. Make sure they fit. There are very few things in a book more jarring than reading a word that doesn’t fit or isn’t the correct word. Does this mean all our mistakes will be caught? No. There is a human behind every publishing company, editing software, editor, and author. There are times that the word will be missed, or a phrase will be off. It happens, it’s life; but please, dear authors,...

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I Don’t Feel Like It

Posted by on Aug 23, 2015 in Writing | 0 comments

I’ve been meaning to write, but I just don’t feel like it. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write. I love ripping out my soul and putting it on paper while it’s still bleeding. Putting it out there for the world to see is another story, but over the past few months, I just didn’t feel like writing. Most people will say, “Just push through it and do it,” and I tried. I stared at my computer for hours trying to think of something inspirational or noteworthy to say. Everything I thought of seemed trivial or trite. When you realize your world is ending, nothing seems good enough. I started a blog about content and stopped. I started another about dialogue. I hated it. I erased it, didn’t even save it for a later date. During this time, I learned a few things about my writing. Actually, it basically reiterated what I already knew: be genuine. If you force it, your readers are going to know. When you’re not genuine, readers aren’t going to believe you because you don’t even believe what you’re writing. I think we sometimes need to take the time to step back and re-evaluate what we’re doing. I know a lot of people who say to push through it, keep writing, the muse will come back, and that might be true. If you do that, just remember that the stuff you’re writing should be taken at the value it is: pushing through times of self-loathing, through the times of guilt about not feeling like doing what you love. It should be put in a folder for you only where you can either come back to it at a later date, or used as an example of what not to do or whatever. Not everything we write will or should be shown to the world. Just like feelings and thoughts, some things should be kept private. Did I write even though I didn’t feel like it? Yes. It was drivel. It was terrible prose from an overly-inundated mind. I deleted it…most of it. Once it was on paper and out of my mind, I didn’t need to see it again. Nor did I want to. Here’s what I want you to get out of this article: be genuine. If you can’t, keep going. Even if you don’t feel like it, get all the other stuff out of the way. Take a break. Come back when you’re ready, and hopefully, your readers will...

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Writers Understand This

Posted by on Jun 23, 2015 in Writing | 0 comments

I published this one a few years ago on my personal blog, but I still think it fits. Posted on 23. June 2013 Okay, so I went to bed around 4 a.m. I was editing after a full day of procrastination. Don’t judge me, it’s a process. Anyway, even with the lack of sleep, I sat straight up in bed at around 8 a.m. I’d had a dream that would make a great story and it wouldn’t wait four more hours to allow me to get enough rest to be coherent when I wrote down the idea. I knew if I went back to sleep, no matter how much I wanted to remember it, it would be gone, so that left me one of two choices: Either I get up and write it down, foregoing sleep again, or roll over and go to sleep, hoping (pointlessly), that I would remember it later. The funny thing about story ideas: If you ignore one, the rest seem to leave you too and you’re left looking through piles of old stories that you trashed along the way, hoping for some inspiration. I’ve been through a writing block that lasted years before, so, when the muse hits, even in the middle of the night, I now obey. I know what you’re thinking: “Why not put a pen and paper next to the bed? It’ll solve all your problems.” Yeah, I’ve tried that. I have another problem. I do a lot of things in my sleep that I don’t even remember. I hold perfect conversations in my sleep, I sit up, I troubleshoot electronic devices. Heck, I even eat in my sleep (so I’ve heard). I’ve learned that I do these things from my significant others. My sister used to take advantage of the fact I was nicer when I was sleeping than I was when I was awake and used to ask for things while I was asleep, knowing I would agree. I tried putting a pen and notebook next to my bed. Problem is, I wouldn’t open my eyes or turn on a light and wouldn’t realize it, so most of the time, what I wrote down wasn’t legible, much less made any sense. I tried a tape recorder…I’m still trying to figure out what’s on those tapes, because it sure doesn’t sound like me… I figured I’d get smart and use my phone. It has an app on it for creating notes…yeah, didn’t work much better. The bleary-eyed fully typed notes aren’t any more coherent than my notebook scribbles. So, what’s an author to do? I sighed, got up, went to my computer, typed the idea in, and started some coffee because I’m going to need...

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Deus Ex Machina

Posted by on May 5, 2015 in Writing | 0 comments

By now, it must seem that I am easily annoyed, and that may be the case. That being said, here is another of my pet peeves: deus ex machina. Deus ex machina is a plot device where the author seems to get the main protagonist into such a pickle that they basically have to make a “God call”, introduce something that wasn’t there before, and tie everything up into a nice little bow. My favorite example of this plot device actually came from a TV series that ran for almost 10 years. There were three lovely sisters who had special powers and spent most of their time fighting demons. This is a great plot. If you add dynamic characters, and a bit of drama, to a terrific setup. The problem with the show was in the execution. The protagonists and antagonists were introduced at the beginning, as was the problem, which, again, was a great setup. Then there was drama for the majority of the hour long program and at the end, one of the three protagonists would throw a potion at the antagonist and he or she would disappear. If it was that easy, the protagonists should have done that at the beginning and saved an hour of drama that had nothing really to do with the problem presented at the beginning. There are plenty of examples of this type of plot device, but it should not be used. I repeat, it should not be used. A good setup and a good idea of where your story is going will prevent a God call from happening. If, by some chance, you write whatever comes to mind and correct later, be sure to add something at the beginning or even toward the middle that will tie into the solution at the end, and keep your readers from round filing your...

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Reasonable Suspension of Disbelief

Posted by on Apr 28, 2015 in Writing | 0 comments

I just stopped reading two books today. They were similar genre, but were very different. Neither was, however, what I would consider a good book. I finished one just to see if it got better. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t. I couldn’t finish the second one. Now, both of these books were edited for grammar and punctuation, they had compelling themes, and could have been good stories. The problem? Reasonable suspension of disbelief. The definition of reasonable suspension of disbelief is: the temporary acceptance as believable of events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible. (www.phrases.org.uk) basically, it means that you can put a character in a lot of unbelievable scenarios that couldn’t necessarily happen in real life, and as long as you have created some authenticity, people will enjoy and continue reading your work. People will suspend their disbelief on a lot of things. People will believe that there are vampires and werewolves and zombies; they will believe that parallel worlds with magic exist, but they will not believe when people change the physics of the world that the author has created. People will believe that a magical world with no technology exists, but if we as authors end the story by bringing in tanks, airplanes, and technology, there had better be a good set up and a good reason, otherwise we’ve lost the reader. This goes for everything in that world too. If a human from this world goes to sleep one night and wakes up in a completely different world the next day, that person cannot just automatically accept that they’ve been transported to a new world. There has to be a reasonable reaction to something that unbelievable. He or she can’t just wake up, look around, and say, “Oh, I’m in a different world. Neat. Let’s go explore.” A reasonable reaction to this scenario could be anything from anger, to violence, confusion, panic, even to looking around and wondering what the hell he or she had to drink the night before. Simple acceptance would not work for that scenario. Human emotion is probably one of the most difficult parts of reasonable suspension of disbelief, especially for writers. Writers tend to live in their own worlds most of the time, so some of the scenarios that we put our characters into wouldn’t seem so weird to us, but would be peculiar to those who don’t have multiple worlds running through their heads. There are some terrific resources these days that help writers with creating believable characters. Typing “building believable characters” into any search engine will provide any number of references on the subject. I know this is a long blog post, but I did want to touch on one other thing: there is such a thing as being too real or too close to reality. People read books to escape from reality. It’s one thing to show a person’s struggles with bills and have them thinking about the possibility of selling plasma to make ends meet; it’s a completely different story to walk a reader through every last mundane thing they do in a day. Walking a person through over analyzing every single move in a day, unless the person is OCD, is too much. Walking the reader through every argument, making the main protagonist overly obsessive or whiny without any character growth is real life, not an escape. Taking the emotions out of a scene and walking a reader through a person’s day is another way to lose your reader. We are human, which means we have emotions and that most of them don’t make any...

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Instant Gratification

Posted by on Jan 30, 2015 in Writing | 0 comments

Okay, so you’ve written your book. You’ve combed over it and you think it’s ready. Your book’s as good as it can be and you’re ready to send it off to the publishers who will, undoubtedly, fall in love with it at first sight and will want to publish it immediately, no further edits needed. You send it to one publisher at a time, starting from the top. You receive your first rejection letter. No big deal, everyone gets rejected first try out. You start sending out massive query letters and follow the query guidelines to the letter for each. Finally! You’ve got someone interested and they want to see the entire manuscript. Then, miraculously, they say they are interested. You get a contract a few weeks later and stare in wonder at the contract. You pore over every detail, reading over and over, the royalty percentage. You expected this, think it’s a little low, but you researched it and it’s above industry standard, so that’s okay. Then you look at the publication date… What? Two years? Are they crazy? What would possibly take two years to get a book such as yours published? Heck, it should practically publish itself. Most reputable publishing companies require sixteen months to two years to publish, and for good reason. The editing process alone takes approximately six months, sometimes more, depending on the extent of the rewrites needed and how fast the author turns it around. In order to get it into the catalogues and to reviewers, it has to be ready for publication three or more months ahead of time. There are also a thousand other minute details that are required to give the book its best chance at survival in a world where people are being fed  books by the hundreds, even thousands. While two years may seem a long time, think about how long it takes sometimes to finish a book. Some authors take a lifetime to finish one book. Some people remain stuck for their entire lives. Even if there is silence coming from your publisher, please remember that your success is their success, and they want your story to succeed as much as you do, and please be cautious when someone promises to have the book out in less than a year. Quantity does not usually mean...

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