Archive for the ‘Revision Techniques in Writing’ Category

The Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing Workshop/SF Bay Area

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

penonwords

C.S.Lakin will present a workshop on “The fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing” at the next luncheon meeting of the Mt. Diablo Branch of the California Writers Club (CWC) on Saturday, March 12, 2016 at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant, 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill, California.

Ms. Lakin will discuss the following common flaws: overwriting, weak construction, POV violations, telling instead of showing, too much backstory, and description deficiencies and excesses.
C.S.Lakin is the author of twenty-two fiction and non-fiction books and is an award-winning blogger at LiveWriteThrive. She works full-time as a writing coach and book copyeditor, and is passionate about helping writers see success.
Check-in is from 8:30 to 9:00 am. The workshop is from 9:00am to 12:00pm, followed by a luncheon. The cost is $40 for CWC members, $50 for guests.

Reservations are required, and must be received no later than noon on Wednesday, March 9th. Contact Robin Gigoux at ragig@aol.com, or phone 925-933-9670. Expect confirmation only if you e-mail your reservation.

The California Writers Club Mt. Diablo Branch web address is: http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/

 

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

What impresses readers? Analyze your Squirrel!

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Hawk Vs. SquirrelConflict in nature, as shown by this hawk and squirrel behind our house, keeps life dangerous, emotionally driven and exciting. The squirrel hid inside his hole, but used the element of surprise to his advantage.

The hawk waited . . . . waited . . . and . . .

Pop!

The squirrel’s head burst out of his hole!  The hawk jumped backwards.

Yes, if we had captured a video of this, people would laugh.

Isn’t this what we desire of a good book? Capture readers emotionally, add an element of danger and surprise to create an exciting and humorous story.

 Writing Prompts:

  1. Where in your current writing project or art can you add the element of surprise for humor or shock value . . . or both? Remember, it’s all in the timing. Wait, wait, and boom!
  2. How can you engage your readers emotionally? Build your character’s needs and desires so they are real. Empathy for your squirrel increases the impact.
  3. Develop your antagonist so we see more than a cardboard evil character. What are her needs and desires? Why does this character act the way she does? Add this depth for a well-rounded story.

 

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. 

 

Mt. Diablo Writers Club Three-Dimensional Characters Workshop

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Marilyn Atlas will present a workshop on “Creating Three-Dimensional, Non-Stereotypical Characters” at the next luncheon meeting of the Mt. Diablo Branch of the California Writers Club (CWC) on Saturday, March 8, 2014 at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant, 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill.

Ms. Atlas will discuss how to create three-dimensional characters, using examples from film and television. Among other techniques, she will use Myers Briggs and astrology as inspirations.

She is a talent/literary manager, who has worked for major publishers, and has projects in development for both movies and theater.

Check-in is from 8:30 to 9:00 am. Full breakfast will be served from 9:00 to 9:30 am. The general meeting is at 9:30 am, followed by the workshop from 9:45am to 12:45pm. The cost is $45 for CWC members, $55 for guests.

Reservations are required, and must be received no later than noon on Wednesday, March 5th. Contact Robin Gigoux at ragig@aol.com, or phone 925-933-9670. Expect confirmation only if you e-mail your reservation.

The California Writers Club Mt. Diablo Branch web address is: http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/

Deepen Your Writing with Symbols

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

I turned the page of my book, soaking in the story, silence, and reveling in peaceful solitude. Not total solitude, since my Yorkie, Zoie’s rhythmic breathing relaxed me as she slept in my lap.

MOO!

Straightening up with a jerk, I woke my deaf dog.

What was a mooing cow doing INSIDE this room?

Could it have been from an electronic device? Perhaps my husband neglected to take his phone with him. I smiled at the irony of this sound in my suburban California home. Maybe Dad was saying hello from the other side? He spent the first half of his life farming with dairy cows in southeastern Wisconsin, and as a baby and toddler I lived on that family farm, too. Hi Dad, I thought, glad he’d retained his sense of humor.

As I settled back into my story, Zoie, reassured by my calm demeanor, snoozed again.

MOO!

The realistic animal sound came from our family room cupboard. I got up to investigate. Nothing in the stacks of paper, pens, and recipes gave a hint to the mystery. Old video tapes didn’t look as though they’d moo, either. But when I reached Zoie’s dog toys, I knew the puzzle’s answer. A black and white fabric ball must contain the noisemaker. Although it hadn’t worked in years, and I didn’t know it had held a noise device when I threw it in the washing machine, that process could have reactivated it.

Or.

Dad greeted me.

I prefer this answer.

Whenever we try to make this ball produce sound effects, nothing happens. But on its own . . .

MOO!

Writing Prompts:

1. What signs or symbols can you discover within the book you’re reading? Through their repetition, what is its underlying meaning?
2. What sign or symbol can you develop within the project you’re writing? Through carefully placed repetition, your motif may strengthen your theme, characters, and/or plot.
3. Create an artistic representation of your symbol. How does it relate to you? Perhaps this may become another layer of its meaning.

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!

How’s Your Sniffer?

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Everyone I know has their nose in their peanut butter jar. A recent study has shown people who have Alzheimer’s or later develop the disease couldn’t smell peanut butter while plugging their right nostril and sniffing with their left. (There are exceptions: if you have nose polyps, Parkinson’s Disease, or have had head trauma you won’t be able to smell the peanut butter either.)

I knew Parkinson’s would be an exception. When I was a child, my father never could smell anything. Bad milk in the frig? Dad would start pouring and Mom would grab the glass before he brought it to his mouth.

Scared skunk in the back yard? Mom ran to close the windows as Dad unknowingly opened them. I wonder now – - was this an early sign that in Dad’s later life he’d suffer from Parkinson’s? Did Michael J. Fox have a poor sniffer when he was young, too?

I inherited my mom’s sniffer, occasionally to unfortunate consequences. As a person who suffers from migraines which can be set off by scented chemicals, the overpowering smells of perfume, hairspray and cologne and have been known to make me change seats in church, movie theaters and actually leave places if the mixing of aromas are too strong. When Dad moved out to California after my mother passed away, it was the last of his Old Spice days for the poor man.

Supposedly, we choose our mate on the basis of scent. Diane Ackerman, in Natural History of the Senses, says, “Each person has an odor as distinctive as a finger print.” And: “We smell always and with every breath.”

In our writing, the sense of smell is easy to overlook. Although we may not naturally include this sensory image within our first draft, we need to remember to include moments of them within our rewrites.

Here’s an example of using the sense of smell to bring a setting alive. This paragraph is from Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

“The barn was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell–as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world. It smelled of grain and of harness dressing and of axle grease and of rubber boots and of new rope. And whenever the cat was given a fish-head to eat, the barn would smell of fish. But mostly it smelled of hay, for there was always hay in the great loft up overhead. And there was always hay being pitched down to the cows and the horses and the sheep.”

Writing Prompts:

1. Look through a writing project of yours. Is there a natural place one or more scents could be woven within the manuscript?

2. Go back to your past. It could be a long-ago classroom, childhood room, or a favorite place. Meditate so that YOU ARE THERE. Include as many specific scents as you can.

3. Create a poem based on the scents of a setting of your choice.

4. Go ahead. You know you want to do it. Go smell that peanut butter with your left nostril. But don’t get freaked out if you can’t smell it. You may have a cold, allergies or some other issue at work. If you can smell it, eat some and then use all of your senses to describe the experience.