Archive for the ‘Revision’ Category

Middle Grade Students – Win $$ for your Writing AND Poetry Tips & Techniques

Monday, February 8th, 2016

YWC Flyer V1

 

Poetry Tips by Poets David Alpaugh and Aline Soules

Getting Started

Start by brainstorming—just as you would for any other project.  What’s on your mind?  What’s in your heart?  What moves you?  What do you care about?  Do your best to come up with your own idea.  This isn’t supposed to be a class assignment, but a chance to share a piece of yourself and practice your love of writing.

Start writing, even if you haven’t come up with your final idea yet.  This is called “free writing.”  It’s been said that if you write for seven to ten minutes, your brain will come up with an idea.

Once you’ve created your “raw material,” it’s time to begin writing your poem.  Now, we’ve moved from inspiration to perspiration, from free writing to craft.

Crafting Your Poem

 Poems are crafted—every word is chosen and placed in its position in the poem for a purpose.  You should never submit a rough or first draft because judges look for your ability to craft your poem and that can take many drafts.

 General craft ideas

  • Show, don’t tell
  • Be concrete and specific
  • Create original images—no clichés
  • Choose the right title (which may come any time in your process)

 Grammar, Usage, Word Play

  • Choose active verbs, e.g., “sit”, not “is seated” or “is sitting”; see if you can think up “punchier” verbs that make your point stronger.
  • Verbs and nouns are strong, while adjectives and adverbs are weak. Concentrate on verbs and nouns and use adjectives and adverbs sparingly.
  • Play around with your poem to make sure every word and its place in the poem are exactly right.  You can play “switcheroo”—move around words, phrases, clauses, whole stanzas to see what works best.

•    Must poems rhyme? No. Many of today’s best poets don’t use rhyme. If you want to write in rhyme, remember that it’s difficult to write well in rhyme. Make sure that your rhyming words make sense and move the poem forward. Rhyme for its own sake doesn’t work. (In most cases, rhyme is more effective for humorous rather than serious subjects.).

  • Highlight the best phrase or couple of phrases in your poem and see if you can bring the rest of your poem up to the same level.
  • Use repetition with care.  Make sure there’s a reason for using repetition.
  • When you think you’re done, see if you can cut out some words from your poem.  It’s easy to let too many “little” words slip in, like “the” and “a” and prepositions and conjunctions, when you don’t need them.  Poems should be “dense,” saying much in as few words as possible.
  • The best way to learn to write poetry well is to read poems by successful poets and pay attention to the way they use language. Poetry employs the same words as prose but is usually richer in imagery and figures of speech, particularly metaphor and simile.
  • After you’ve read a poem you love go back and re-read the first and last lines and ask yourself how the poet gets in and out of the poem? It’s usually most effective to rocket your reader into the heart of the poem instantly, without any introduction or wind-up. Last lines are most effective when they leave readers with something dramatic or memorable to think about.

 Layout

  • Experiment with line breaks.  Do you want short lines or long lines?  Choose the end of your lines with purpose every time.
  • Experiment with your stanzas, too.  Long, short?  What’s best to convey the meaning and feeling of your poem?
  • Another thing to avoid is centering your poem.  If there’s no reason inside the content of the poem to center it, don’t.  It may look “pretty” to you, but if it’s not appropriate to the poem, it shouldn’t be centered, but lined up along the left-hand side of the page.

 Sound

  • Listen to the sounds in your poem.  Are they hard? soft? What do you need in your poem?  Change words or move them around to get the sounds you want.
  • Listen to the rhythm of your poem.  Is it too sing-songy?  If so, make more changes.
  • Read your poem out loud or ask a friend to read it to you.  Does it sound the way it should?
  • Read your poem with a pause at the end of every line.  That will help you to see if your line breaks are in the right place.

Time

You can’t write a poem in a hurry.  Don’t try to write a new poem when the deadline’s due.  Give yourself a few weeks.  After you’ve written several drafts, set your poem aside and come back to it again in a couple of weeks.  Read it aloud and try some of the tips again.  You’ll be surprised at how much you can improve.

Submitting

Only submit a poem when you’re confident it’s the best you can do and it’s ready to go.  Judges can tell when a poem’s not ready, but they love to read the poems that are your very best effort.

For more information visit https://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/young-writers-contest/

 

25% less? You kidding?

Friday, April 10th, 2015

penonwords

25%    That’s how much we Californians must cut our water usage.  Since we’ve already been conserving, it isn’t going to be easy.  But we will do it.

How many words are in your latest manuscript?  Cut 25% of them.

It won’t be easy?  Yes, it’s difficult at first, but soon it becomes addictive.  Make it a game.

How concise can you write?

Writing Prompts:

  1.  Note how many words you’ve written.  Read your piece out loud.  Begin with the last sentence.   Check for clarity.  Are the tenses right?  Can you say that sentence any more succinctly?
  2. Put your writing away for a while.   Time is your friend.  When you read it again, you’ll see your words through fresh eyes.
  3. Share it with a writing friend or writers’ group.
  4. How many words is your piece now?  Have you shortened the word length by at least 25%?

The Bad Guy: Is He Making You Do Things You Shouldn’t?

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Bad Guy Target Silho

 

The Bad Guy:  How do you deepen him making it integral to your plot?

In the first draft of your novel, are the villains were plain old stereotypes?

Mines were just bullies, through and through.   How could I create fully fledged three-dimensional characters?

Trying to deepen mine, I free-wrote scenes.  Suddenly the bully turned  into a goody-two-shoe!  How did I do that?

When I woke up the next day, a line of dialogue from this character spoke to me.  Next, I read over yesterday’s work.  I had wasted the whole day!

I started over. When the character spoke to me, she accidentally (?) shared her secret desire.  Bingo.  It felt real.  It felt right.  Now this bully is hanging around with me as I take a walk, wash the dishes, and empty the washing machine.

Don’t worry if your first draft, first ideas, or even second or third drafts don’t quite hit their mark.  We have to wade through our initial thoughts to discover the truth underneath it all.

Remember author Sid Fleischman’s words:  “Nothing is wasted except the paper.”  And in our electronic world, that’s not even an issue.

It’s all part of the process.

Writing Prompts:

  1.  What is your most useful way you deepen characters?  Do you hear their dialogue first?  Discover them through narration?  Illustrate them through art?
  2. Secondary characters are as important as major ones.  Think about them as much as you do your protagonist. Write a journal for them.  What is in their closet?
  3. Revising can be the most fun ever.  When those tidbits and discoveries click your plot comes together.  Write about your process on your latest project.  Save it!  Reread it before you begin your next writing.  It helps to see what has worked for us in the past.

 

 

Ten Steps to Enthusiasm

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

 

Panda sleeps in tree Are you finding it hard to feel enthusiastic?

Once reality settles in, you might feel despair. Sad bride on bus 

Don’t give up hope! Try Attitude Adjustment!

Steps to Enthusiasm:  

1. What inspired you in the first place? Write WHY you chose this idea.

2. Next, highlight the parts of your project you love.

3. Read good examples in the genre which is most like yours. Soak in the voice, style, and word choice.

4. Retype a paragraph, description, or sensory image which you admire about this work.

5. Model a specific scene/line in your writing using this example.

6. Illustrate a few scenes or lines. Breaking it down often helps diagnose problems.

7. Read your scene/line/story out loud. Tape it. Play it back. What sounds good?

8. Circle active verbs; highlight a vivid image in the text.

9. Feeling better? If not, time is your friend. Put it away for a while. Rest. Rejuvenate.

10. Share your work with a trusted writing partner or group. Specific suggestions can motivate.

 There now. You feel great!   It’s time to revise!

501 Dogs Hyper

Three Ways Which Show Editors You Are Professional!

Monday, March 31st, 2014

What’s a writer to do?  With so many submissions sent to editors, how can you make your writing stand out from the crowd?  Make sure you show you’re a professional? 

Don’t let your manuscript scream AMATEUR from page one!

 But how?

  1. Reduce adverbs.  Many of those pesky words which describe verbs – - many ending in “ly” aren’t necessary.  They tell and don’t show.  Rather than describe how someone does or says, show through an action.  

 Example:  “Don’t come back!” she said angrily.

Instead:  “Don’t come back!” she said, throwing a shoe at him.

Cut useless adverbs, such as very, extremely and really. 

 2.  Remove purple prose, unless you are writing romance, melodrama, or creating a satire. If writing is melodramatic and flowery, it will draw awareness to the words themselves, rather than the meaning.  The Bulwer-Lytton Contest awards writers for purposely using purple prose in order to be funny.  Note all of the adverbs in the example below. 

Example:  The 2013 winner, Chris Wieloch, from my home state of Wisconsin, has created this:  “She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds, the tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the thief of imagination.”

  3.  Follow the rules.  Break them only if it’s for a specific reason

Example:  Although your grammar check will correct you for using fragments instead of a full sentence, sometimes they’re useful.  Why?  People use fragments while talking, so it’s okay to place them in dialogue. If fragments are in humor or suspense, it speeds up the pace, which increases the humor and suspense. It also provides emphasis to strengthen the meaning of words.  But use them sparingly, or the device, overdone, won’t serve its purpose any longer.

Writing Prompts:

1.  Revise your latest writing projects.  Rewrite sentences where you’ve used adverbs.  Show with action instead.

2.  Cut out your purple prose.  How can you use show don’t tell and description in a non-cloying way?  Create with poetic images which go along with your themes.   

3.  Grammar check your writing.  Go against the rules only when you have a specific purpose.

4.  Read other good, humorous entries for the Bulwer-Lytton Contest.  Write your own submission.  Have fun!

www.bulwer-lytton.com/

How YOU Can Create Memorable Characters!

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Hollywood Producer/Agent Marilyn Atlas led an excellent writing workshop where focused on character.  She gave a multitude of terrific writing tips and I’ll share one of them.  She discussed three reasons characters resonate with readers or viewers.

The characters are:
1. fascinating or
2. mysterious or
3. relatable 

Writing Prompts:

1. Study a memorable character in literature or film.  Is this person fascinating?  If so, how?  Mysterious?  Explain.  Can you relate with her/him?  What makes him/her relatable?
2. What about the piece you are composing now?  If your protagonist isn’t fascinating, mysterious or relatable, invent back story and layers so he/she will be compelling. 
3. Before you write your project, spend time crafting your characters.  Draft scenes of conflict.  Every page should have tension, which can be done in subtext.
4. What is subtext?  Express characters through dialogue about one thing, while under their words remain an underlying meaning. 

 

How YOU can Write a Short Short Story

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Benjamin Franklin says it all: “I have already made this paper too long, for which I must crave pardon, not having now time to make it shorter.” Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”

The most common question which pops up in various contests I’ve judged, is: “My story is longer than the guideline’s length. May I submit it all?”

No! Writing short requires a much-needed skill. Revise so your story is written succinctly.

Below is advice on writing a short story of 100 words. It can be applied to all stories.

My favorite tidbit is this: “Think of the story in terms of a question and answer.”

Your answer will become the plot of your story. But brainstorm lots of options! If it’s too easy, your option may be too convenient.

http://www.rdasia.com/how-to-write-story-100-words

Writing Prompt:
1. Take a story you’ve written and tighten it. Can you cut out 100 words? More? Once you challenge yourself, the process can be fun and addicting!
2. Read your story aloud. Where have you “told” information? Can you show it with an action verb instead?
3. Choose a poem you’ve created and do the process of #1 and #2. Is the end result more vivid?

Cutting out vague words sharpens your writing and respects the reader to make conclusions. Use this new technique with all of your writing!

10 Tips for Winning Writing Contests, Scoring an A, or Attracting an Agent/Editor

Monday, January 27th, 2014

1. Hook your readers with a vivid scene right away. How? Read on.

2. Specific senses will get your reader to experience your story.

Example: Gary D. Schmidt’s Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy begins like this: Turner Buckminster had lived in Phippsburg, Maine, for fifteen minutes shy of six hours. He had dipped his hand in its waves and licked the salt from his fingers. He had smelled the sharp resin of the pines. He had heard the low rhythm of the bells on the buoys that balanced on the ridges of the sea. He had seen the fine clapboard parsonage beside the church where he was to live, and the small house set a ways beyond it that puzzled him some. Turner Buckminster had lived in Phippsburg, Maine, for almost six whole hours. He didn’t know how much longer he could stand it.

3. Show the protagonist’s problem right away. Turner’s is shown in his feelings shown in the last sentence.

4. Character dialogue must move the story forward. If it’s just talking back and forth to talk, remove it.

5. Use adverbs sparingly. Change them to verbs.
Example: He said loudly. Change to: He shouted.

6. Create suspense with tension. Author Steve Mooser employs the element of time. He says, “If the bad guys are due into town at sunset, if Friday is the day of the school play – that’s the easiest way to build tension.” In Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, the hourglass shows how much time Dorothy has to live.

David Almond created atmosphere with action verbs and specific images in Heaven Eyes:
Mud. Black, sticky, oily, stinking mud. It was January who dared to lean out of his raft first. He dipped his hand into what should have been water. He touched mud, black mud. It oozed and dribbled from his fingers. The raft settled, and mud slithered across its surface, onto our clothes. It seeped through to our skin. It seeped through the tiny gaps between the doors. I took my flashlight out, switched it on, saw the doors disappearing as they sank . . . saw that we were being slowly sucked down into the sodden earth . . . Our feet, our hells, our knees were caught in mud . . . I grunted, whimpered, groaned. I slithered forward. . . My head filled with the mist and darkness.

7. Everyone loves humor. The unexpected is funny. Two unlike characters or objects placed together can be funny.

8. Read your piece out loud. Is it balanced? Not big chunks of description or pages of pure dialogue, but evenly paced?

9. Eliminate vague words: Possibly, many, pretty, terrible . . .

10. What has the protagonist learned or how has your character changed in some small way?

After several drafts, put away your manuscript for a while. When you return, read it aloud with fresh eyes. Are you having fun? If not, rework the story until it’s just right. You’ll feel that tingle of excitement when it works!

Revision Techniques for Students!

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Winter Wordplay: Revision Results
4:30-6:00 p.m. at The Storyteller Bookstore, Lafayette, CA
Ages 9-up

Submit up to a 10- page story (double-spaced, 12 pt. font) or stand-alone chapter by January 11.

Students will receive a portfolio with copies of each of the stories to discuss and edit. We will focus on various elements of the revision process and work toward sculpting a story into a final draft.

$30/each class or $75/series

January 18: Shaping Characters

February 1: Developing Themes

February 8: Refining Language

Questions and help with registration: wordplayworkshop@hotmail.com

Losing Your Way in Your Novel

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Question: I’m in the middle of writing my novel. Help! I’m stuck. I know what is going to happen later, but I’m not sure how to get there. I’ve lost track of some of my story. What do I do?

Writing a novel with characters and their various problems without a plan is like driving with a flashlight in the fog. It’s exactly how I write. It’s one process. But even if you don’t plot every moment in advance – - and many authors don’t, there are techniques that help us.

After you’ve written scenes or chapters, create a diagram or at least various pages of your threads and subplots. Where do you character’s lives intertwine? How will your symbols re-enter the story?

Mystery author Camille Minichino uses colored markers to help her stay organized. Anne Lammott wrote about stringing a clothesline across her office and clipping important novel notes there. One friend of mine use color-coded cards: one for characters, another for symbols, and a third for subplots. What is my device? I have lists around my office that only make sense to me.

Next, the stuck problem. Once you’ve got a list of characters and their conflicts, you’ll want to increase suspense as much as you can. Prove your main character’s life is filled with emotion and difficulties. Which characters and problems can you throw at your protagonist to reveal depth of your main character with relevance to your plot?

To keep from writing stock characters and bland stories, you won’t create these lists before you write but after your quirky characters have sprung from your creativity.

Writing Prompts:

1. Check your scenes. Do you have a small moment that is memorable? Important truths are found here. Don’t tell them. Show them through the sensory details and the character’s thoughts and actions.

2. Change a scene you already have written into poetry. Use as few words as possible. Next, put it back into prose. How many words do you REALLY need in this scene?

3. Write a chapter where your protagonist has a small epiphany. What has she learned through something she has experienced in the scene?