advice

Tips from the Editor

Left Hand Blue, Right Foot Green: Things Only Stretch So Far

Remember the game Twister, where you had to contort your body into impossible positions?

As determined as you might be to win, your body will only stretch just so far.

That’s especially important during action scenes, and steamy romantic encounters. If Rob’s left hand is there, he probably won’t be able to reach there with his lips… unless he’s Elastic Man.

Get out of your chair and measure.

Grab a willing partner.

Make sure those parts will go where you want them to!

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advice

Tips from the Editor

I Feel Like I’ve Been Here Before

Or at Least, I Googled It

It’s been years, but I still remember sitting down to read Stephen King’s Firestarter… only to discover that he had completely mis-described Albany Airport, the location of his opening chapter.

Most of his readers probably didn’t know, or care. But I did.

When Firestarter was written and published, the Internet didn’t exist. King wasn’t able to use Google Maps and Google Earth to take a long-distance look at an airport in another state, and he couldn’t go to the airport’s website to find a map of the terminal.

We can.

In just a few minutes, we can take a virtual tour of almost any place on Earth. We can fly in overhead, or “drive” down the street and look at the shops and homes.

The majority of your readers may not know that you can’t see the lake from the end of the football field in Anytown, Missouri—but doing the research is easy, and that one reader who does care might be pleased enough that you got it right that they’ll buy your next book. Do them, and yourself, a favor! Take those few minutes to do your research. It’s a definite gift to your readers.

Uncategorized

Tips from the Editor

The Devil’s in the Details

More? Not Necessarily Better

Jen had no idea where the bus stop was, so she stopped the first person she found.

The woman was a good six inches shorter than Jen. Most of her brown hair was tucked into a knit cap, and she was wearing a bright blue raincoat with a row of white stars on the pocket. “It’s down that way,” she told Jen, pointing. “About two blocks.”

“Thanks,” Jen said. To her relief, she got to the stop a minute before the bus did.

Now we know a lot about Jen’s savior.

But… why?

If the point of the scene is that Jen needs to catch that bus to get to a job interview on time, we need to rush through this situation as quickly as Jen does—so bringing things to a halt to tell us about the woman’s raincoat not only isn’t necessarily, it interferes with the pacing of the scene.

Unless the woman appears again later on, and what she’s wearing tells us something we need to know about her (whether she’s trustworthy, or homeless, or she’s someone who wants that job as badly as Jen does), we don’t need to know what she’s wearing. In fact, the only important thing about her is that she provides Jen with the information she needs.

Jen had no idea where the bus stop was, so she stopped the first person she found.

“It’s down that way,” the woman told Jen, pointing. “About two blocks.”

“Thanks,” Jen said. To her relief, she got to the stop a minute before the bus did.

advice

Tips from the Editor

Let’s Get Progressive

If It’s Ongoing, Go for the “ing”

Most of my friends had already gathered in Mike’s family room. Mike wore a Steelers jersey, and Doug—who really didn’t care who was playing, or who won—wore his favorite Zeppelin tee.

Jen wore a gorgeous blue dress to the prom last week.

How’s that look to you? Okay in both cases?

There’s a difference.

The prom is over. The narrator’s looking back at it from some point in the future. So, yes: Jen wore a blue dress. It was a limited event that’s finished now.

But the big game is happening now. Everybody’s gathered in Mike’s family room now, from the narrator’s point of view, and what Mike and Doug are wearing is an ongoing situation. It’s not over yet.

Most of my friends had already gathered in Mike’s family room. Mike was wearing a Steelers jersey, and Doug—who really didn’t care who was playing, or who won—was wearing his favorite Zeppelin tee.

Similarly,

I got to the pub around three o’clock. Dan was sitting in a booth, nursing a beer.

All the women at the garden party were wearing fancy hats.

If the scene is happening now for your narrator, and the part of it that you’re focusing on is ongoing, go for the “ing”.

Ongoing = ing. Simple!

advice

Tips from the Editor

Here’s Lookin’ at You, Baby… Because I’m Talking to You

I looked at him. “I really think it’s important.”

“Well, sure,” he said.

“Don’t you think so?”

He looked at me. “I guess so.”

Yes, if you’re a cop on stakeout, you’re probably looking at something other than the guy sitting beside you in the car. If you’re a guy who’s focused on the playoff game, which has just gone into extra innings, you’re probably not looking at your wife, even though she’s talking to you. If you’re a super-busy mom trying to keep track of two toddlers, you’re probably looking at them and not at your friend Katie, who’s trying to tell you about her impossible boss.

But if you’re having a quiet, important conversation with your S.O., sitting out on the back steps or on opposite sides of a little bistro table, you’re probably looking at the other person more often than not. That’s also true for your characters. If they’re having a game-changing conversation, they’re going to be focused on each other.

It’s a given. You don’t need to keep telling your readers, He looked at me. Really, what else would he be looking at?

Newbie writers often fall into the trap of trying to fill those awkward spaces between lines of dialogue with small actions: He looked at me. He blinked. He smiled. He nodded. Those bits of information are okay… IF the action adds something to the scene, something you want your reader to take notice of. But if your characters are looking and nodding and smiling several times per page, you won’t draw your reader deeper into the story. You’ll be taking the chance of boring them and pushing them away.

Ask yourself, Am I including something important, or just filling up space?

Avoid stating the obvious. Make every word important!

 

writing

New Season, New Plans

At least… new season, continuation of the same plans!

When I got into the indy publishing game 3 years ago, I had no real plan in mind — other than to write books, publish books, make money from books. Not an astonishing amount of money, mind you — that comes with a lot of baggage I was pretty sure I didn’t want to handle. So… a little money. A little success.

I kept seeing other people saying, “Write more books.” So I did that.

Now I’ve got 44 titles up on Amazon, which seems like a pretty impressive catalog. Six different genres, each of them populated with at least a half-dozen books. All of them with pretty covers.

So here we are in the autumn of 2016… and now it’s time to crank up the publicity machine. Which means Carol training herself to blog and post and tweet and comment on a reasonably regular basis. Which means buying some ads and keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for good things in 2017.

In the meantime, have a picture. Hope your day is a tranquil — but successful — one.

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writing

Moving forward… an inch at a time

… And now it’s June! And I’m still awful at blogging on a regular basis.

Actually, what’s troublesome is finding enough time for everything. When I stepped down from my day job two years ago, I thought my new “freedom” would allow me to write for a good part of the day, and edit for other authors in the afternoon — while I also kept up with housework, spending time with my family, taking long daily walks, etc. etc. and so on and so forth.

Yeah, not so much.

I’m getting behinder and behinder. Haven’t found time to shampoo the living room carpet or give the house that “get into every little corner” dusting I planned to do during the springtime. My Facebook author page has crickets chirping as its soundtrack. I rarely tweet. I’m a month behind on the book I planned to publish last weekend. And because I can’t find enough time to edit enough other people’s books, my income is… wobbly.

On the plus side, I get to work in my pajamas. When the spirit moves me, I can put the laptop down and take a walk, or watch some TV for an hour.

So, it’s all good.

It’s all part of the adventure.

Lake crop.JPG