Friday, January 30, 2015

The Struggles With Passive Voice

You would think since I usually don't have any issues with confrontation that I wouldn't have an issue with passive voice in my writing, but I absolutely do. After meeting with my critique partners last night this was the subject of my latest chapter - not aggressive when it needs to be.

I think we as writers aren't always paying attention to what we are actually writing, just get the words on paper and move on. But the fact is, the voice needs to fit the scene.

Passive voice is one of the creative writing skills that can make, or break, your readers continuing to turn the page. I mean, after all, isn't this what you're striving for? For the reader to keep turning the page?

What is passive voice?

1. It can be the difference between which word you choose in a sentence, such as "ing" or "was" words. Not that you can write an entire novel without words that end in "ing" or have "was", just recognize when you can avoid them. 

2. It can be your description of an action scene. Are you adding too much internal thought in between dialog? This will slow down a scene really quick.

3. Long sentences are another way to stop the action. Make sure you are using short, clipped sentences when writing faster scenes.

4. Too much information. Info dumps can be one of the worst mistakes to use during an action scene. If it's information you need to convey to move the story along, find a different place to add it.

5. Using too many of the "same" word within a few paragraphs, even a name over and over. Watch for this issue. We all do it.

6. Emotion - this is the one that most recently got me. Your characters each have their own personalities, and sometimes they will be sad, or angry. You can't always stay in the same tone. Don't you get angry or frustrated? Well your characters do, too.

7. And finally, setting the scene. If it is an action set up, stick to the action, not the blue sky. In this type of a scene, changing the weather to fit the mood can help, such as a thunder storm. 

There's quite a bit to watch for to make sure your not writing in passive voice. I'm so thankful I have the wonderful critique partners that I do. Without them, I don't know what my books would read like!

Again, reason number #423 why you need critique partners.

I hope all of you have a nice weekend and enjoy the super bowl if you plan to watch. If I do it will be for the commercials!

Love, Lisa

Friday, January 23, 2015

Character Building Outline

We had a wonderful class last Saturday. We celebrated Jodi's success and we discussed ten mistakes publishers deal with on a daily basis. Lot's of great discussion and it helped to remind my group of some of the creative writing skills you need moving forward.

I thought, since one of the main topics in class was character building, I would touch on that subject. Although I've written about it on here in the past, it has been a while. Maybe a little brushing up is in order.

Your characters need a life of their own. Just like in life, everyone is different. The most important being your protagonist (main character), secondary characters, and the villain (antagonist).

When I began Fable, I had started a list of my characters. I entered their attributes, part in the book, and relationship to the other characters. An outline of your characters is just as important as an outline of your story.

As time went on, I was given a wonderful suggestion, build on that list. You need to outline each of the characters traits and past.

I began with simple things, such as quirks, and gradually built up a little story for each of them. Such as - who were their parents, birthdays, how did they grow up, and continued to add as time moved on.

Although no one will read this but you, it helps you when you're in a scene to think about what would a certain character think or do in that situation. It brings the ordinary character to life. 

In Djenrye, my made up fantasy world, the characters sound a lot alike, only because they talk different than what we're used to. But I've devised a way to give some of them different accents and some different quirks. 

There are some who react, and some who are cowards. There are the brave, and the weak. And there are the different races who will act and sound different from all others.

Even though in fantasy fiction writing it seems much easier to pull this off than the ordinary guy or gal, it still the same scenario. You need to figure out if that particular character is a loser, an ego-maniac, sweet, evil, etcetera. 

It actually can be fun to figure out their personalities and build on them.

So the next time you sit down to write, start with your character outline. I think once you have an idea how you want that character to behave, you'll find they will start telling you. When they do begin to talk to you, you'll understand how alive they really are!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone and just to let you know I have a rafflecopter contest on my website today. All you have to do is answer my question and join in on the interaction when you can. You can gain an extra entry by signing up for the website newsletter. Giveaway on Blog Talk

Until next Friday, have a good one!

Love, Lisa

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Fun Of Revisions

Last week I announced my friend, Jodi's, accomplishment of finishing her first rough draft and I mentioned now the tough work begins. Yes, revisions - they can be fun, or they can be grueling. 

After I finished Fable I was so excited, but I found out, with your first book especially, it can be years before it's actually publishable. On average it takes 4+ years to get your book up to snuff, whether you self-publish or traditional. 

I recently read an interesting article about creative writing and the issues an agent or publisher faces with the manuscripts they receive. One of them was lack of editorial revision.

Sometimes people send their work when it's just not ready. I know when I self-pub Fable, I read back through and still found mistakes. Although true it will never be perfect, you need to at least take care of the big stuff.

Creative writing issues such as, info dump, head hopping, and too much back story can create problems for the reader. The last thing you want is to stop the reader and have them put down your book - never to pick it back up again.

Even with reading some of the author greats, there are issues I've come across. Some of it is due to changes in the writing world as to what is acceptable and what isn't, but some of it is bad habits. 

I'm going to touch on these basic creative writing skills over the next few weeks. But in the mean time, today will be about revisions.

Where do you start? Well, on page one. If you've outlined your story and characters it will help you through your re-write. You need to be consistent with your information otherwise the reader will catch it. Luckily when I saw an inconsistency in my book, I managed to fix it before too many copies were distributed. It can be quite embarrassing. 

The best tool you can have is a critique partner. They will catch things you just didn't see. Make sure you work with this person on a regular basis. Besides, you'll end up with a really close friend and someone you can count on.

As you begin your revisions, start with one scene at a time. Go through each sentence and try to rewrite them with less wording. Check the "voice" of the character in question, and make sure you've given a description of the scene so that the reader can picture it - just don't over do it.

And don't forget your hooks - very important. You should grab the reader on the first sentence, the first paragraph, and the end of a scene. Also at the end of the first chapter. 

You don't want to let go of the reader. You want them to keep turning the page. This also helps to keep up the tension and move the story along.

And of course, check your spelling, grammar, and punctuation. After you've managed to go through your entire manuscript, you will want to read it through yourself. Fix places as you go along and work your first chapter until it's perfect. 

With Fable, I reworked the first chapter and prologue about ten times. Of course with each genre there can be slight differences with creative writing, but for the most part the same rules apply for all.

If you run into issues, talk to your critique partner. There's nothing wrong with brainstorming together. Also, ask people to beta-read once you've gone through the revision process. But make sure they are people that don't have a vested interest in you, such as a friend, or family member. Remember those people love you and don't want to hurt your feelings.

After you think your book is ready, go through it one more time before you send it to a publisher. But if you plan to self-publish, make sure to hire an editor. They are worth every dime you spend and there are some who will do it at a reasonable price. 

Don't think you can edit your own work. You won't see all the mistakes no matter how much you tell yourself you will. Between my two critique partners, my "Jr" editor, and my professional editor, there are still mistakes to be red marked.

No one is perfect and as writers we tend to "over write" or "glaze over" as we write. Don't take any chances with your baby.

If any of you have questions I am always available. If I don't have the answer, I know enough people to find it for you.

I hope these posts help you along on your journey of writing your first novel. Don't be hard on yourself and realize you're only human and will make mistakes. The important thing, admitting it and learning so that you can move on.

Thanks for all of your support the last 3 years of this blog. I know a lot of you don't leave comments, but I hope you still read the blog and get something out of it.

Until next Friday, have a wonderful week and don't forget to check out my new website. Djenworld There's an interactive blog - Blog Talk - that I would love for you to join in.

Love, Lisa

Friday, January 9, 2015

You've Written Your First Novel - Now What?

I received some wonderful news yesterday - my friend, Jodi, finished her first manuscript! I'm so happy for her, and I can't wait to read it, but I don't think she knows what to do next. At least, I didn't know.

Although once the euphoria wore off, I started asking that very same question - okay, now what?!

Well now the hard work begins.

But first - set the manuscript down for 2 weeks. Yes, that's right - walk away. Put it out of your mind and celebrate this wonderful accomplishment. You deserve it. Years of hard work are poured into those pages. 

Between writing classes, critique groups, sitting on my couch for hours going over each word, (that's for Jodi only) and scrambling for time to jump on the computer for one more chapter, it's time to relax. 

Take yourself out for dinner. Go hang out with your friends. Think back to what you went through to accomplish such a feat, and maybe even get a massage.

Okay, so you've done all that and it's time to clean up your baby, (manuscript). What should you do first? Well, you start at page one and go over each and every word, paragraph, and scene, again. And again.

You set aside time each week to meet with your critique partner. You talk about each scene with your partner, and either add to your story, or take away what's not needed.

You will find yourself working tirelessly on each chapter, trying to make it tight, clean, and a novel that you will be proud of to send to an agent or self-publish. 

Our time is just getting started, my friend, but I'm here for you and between you, Sue, and those of us in our group, it's going to be perfect!

Congratulations Jodi!

Love, Lisa

PS. Jodi's the brunette in the pics!

Friday, January 2, 2015

First Blog of the New Year

Happy 2015! Wow, I can't believe how fast the time flies. My parents were right, the older you get, the faster it goes. 

Big plans for this new year - 2 book launches, one in each series, conferences, classes, and working toward finding my fans out there. In fact, I'm hoping to have a cover reveal for Lore next month!

This blog will now turn into a creative writing blog only, and my website will be for fun questions, announcements, and the like. It is hard for me to organize everything and still find time to write so, believe it or not, I'm glad it's winter time. I'm forced inside and with no excuse.

I've already seen several writer friends announce on Facebook how they're sitting down and writing, which is great news. Sometimes it's tough arranging your life to accommodate your writing. But it is well worth it, even if you don't publish.

As for me I have been hitting the computer. I'm trying to catch up from this last year. I have, however, managed to get to chapter 28 (8 pages in) and I believe the book will be around 40 chapters, so lots still to go. 

I've been reading the book from start to finish to make sure it sounds good. I'm up to chapter 5. With the way my eyes start squinting, reading on the computer takes its toll. I do believe I have solved why my eyes do that. I think it's caused by arthritis, at least that is what one of the medical sites said could be the culprit.

Anyway, I'll find out in two weeks when I have my first appointment with a rheumatoid Doc. In the mean time, I'm doing the best I can and plan to get the book out in the next few months.

I hope this new year brings lots of wonderful things your way. We all work hard and deserve to get some rewards for our effort. I think all of you are fantastic and I appreciate your support of me and my books. You've been great to follow me on my writing journey and I want to get to know all of you better. 

I will be posting a new question on Blog Talk today and maybe you'll take a minute to answer. It sure would be awesome to discuss Fable with all of you.

In the mean time, have a wonderful rest of your holiday vacation this weekend. See you back here next Friday. We'll be talking about writing skills.

Love, Lisa