Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Jan 20-26, 2019

And here we go with another week of informal writerly learnings!

Janice Hardy offers this Sunday writing tip: make sure your chapter endings hook your reader. Later in the week, Becca Puglisi explains how to use vocal cues to show hidden emotion. Then, Janice returns with three mistakes to avoid when creating stakes in your story. Fiction University

Leigh Medeiros considers writing and time management: a dispatch from the kitchen sink. Writer Unboxed

Sonja Yoerg praises one of our tools of the trade: whiteboard wonders. Writer Unboxed

Heather Webb shares some truths about the publishing industry you can only learn in the trenches. Writer Unboxed

Keith Cronin: my ongoing feud with Billy Joel. A bit click-bait-y, there. This is really about how to write good dialogue. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland explains how to create your perfect writing process. Helping Writers Become Authors

Angela Ackerman stops by Jane Friedman’s blog. The inner struggle: how to show a character’s repressed emotions.

Anne Pisacano interviews Lori Henriksen on how she uses the tarot in her creative process. Writers in the Storm

Tamar Sloan stops by Writers Helping Writers to explain the key components of a compelling character according to psychology.

Jami Gold wants to help you find your story’s essence.

Mira Singer: making sympathetic antagonists and why Thanos wasn’t one. Then, Oren Ashkenazi covers six more common storytelling problems in new manuscripts. Mythcreants

Andrea J. Johnson shows you the five steps to creating characters of colour. DIY MFA

Why Science Fiction Authors Need to be Writing About Climate Change Right Now. Charlie Jane Anders for Tor.com

And that was tipsday for this week. Come back on Thursday for a little bit of thoughty.

Until then, be well, my friends, and keep writing!

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Trying new things with DIYMFA

Here is the QotW:

QOTW 14: Try a New Technique

Throughout the book, there are visual techniques, diagrams, and exercises to help your writing. These include story-mapping, the revision pyramid, the character compass, and so forth. This week, I want you to choose a technique that is new to you and try it out. Then report back and tell us how it went.

The technique I’ve chosen is TADA.

This is an acronym Gabriela created to assess character. The letters stand for Thoughts, Action, Dialogue, and Appearance.

The idea is that the writer wants to achieve a balance between all four aspects of character, and between characters, in each story. This could even be applied on a scene by scene basis.

So you can look at your characters individually, in scenes, in conjunction with one another, and overall in the story to ensure you’re keeping all of these character elements in the ratios you want.

To visualize this, Gabriela provided a graph, which she calls the character compass. It’s a circle with the letters T, A, D, and A distributed over the cardinal directions. Lines divide the circle into four with Thought and Dialogue, and Action and Appearance, in opposition to each other.

CharacterCompass

I’ve done my best to create a facsimile with Word’s drawing tools, print screen, and The Gimp 🙂

In this particular compass, I’m looking at one character, Ferathainn, in general.

She’s my protagonist and her POV is first person, past tense. There’s a lot of thought and internal monologue with Fer.

She’s studying to become a mage, but at the beginning of the novel, it’s all been theoretical. Her studies have prevented her from maintaining friendships, and so she lives in her head a lot. Part of her studies include rhetoric. Intonation and presentation can affect certain types of magick.

Fer’s been allowed (yes, allowed, it’s a plot thing) to study with her father, who is a bard, and her betrothed, who is an eleph finiris, or songmaster, because magick can be sung. She’s extended this part of her training to include dance, because she’s realized she needs a physical outlet after all this theory and rote memorization.

One of her small rebellions is that she also trains with her best friend, the forester, who teaches her how to fight. Primarily unarmed combat and survival skills.

So Fer is a heavily thinky character, with a good side order of dialogue and action. She doesn’t often consider her appearance, however. There aren’t a lot of mirrors in her little village. It’s not something she’s ever placed a lot of value on.

So I have to be careful when I write a scene about Fer alone, because she’s lopsided.

When she interacts with other characters, it’s primarily through dialogue and action, but I have to pay attention to their reactions to her physically. It’s actually very good for the show versus tell thing.

For example, Fer’s mother has to reach up to hug her, because Fer is tall. She’s of a height with her father, though. Through little interactions like this, readers form a picture of Fer in their minds over time.

When I switch POV to the other characters, they get to describe Fer, but I try not to have them do the ‘classical’ romantic inventory.

In early romances, which were often more adventure tales than what we think of as romances, when the hero meets the love interest for the first time, he waxes poetic and describes her from head to toe. Bad thing to do in a modern novel, though.

When Eoghan first ‘meets’ Fer, she’s all but dead. Having tried and failed to save victims of the war in the wake of the army’s passing, Eoghan decides he’s going to make his stand. He’s going to save this raggedy girl if it’s the last thing he does. Her appearance, other than the severity of her wounds, is secondary to his efforts.

When Dairragh first sees Fer, it’s from a distance, and it’s what she’s doing—performing magick—that makes its biggest impression on him. Dairragh hates all magi with a passion for the sake of the mage who murdered his parents and destroyed his home, including the people and gryphons that were his charge to protect.

So, of course, he hates Fer on sight and his prejudice colours his every interaction with her. At least initially.

The way I see it, readers are going to form an image of Fer in their heads that’s probably nothing like the way I see her. And that’s okay. They get ownership of my characters and my story on a reader by reader basis.

That’s what I want.

Gabriela’s TADA acronym and character compass are going to be one tool I take from the DIYMFA book and incorporate into my writing process.

Since I’m a plantser (part plotter, part pantser) I tend to pants my way through the first draft, but in revision, I can see the character compass being a very useful tool to evaluate how balanced my characters are in any given scene.

I hope I’ve given you enough of a run down that you might be able to make use of this technique yourself. Of course, you could always go buy Gabriela’s DIYMFA book and get a more detailed explanation of TADA and the character compass. The official release date was yesterday.

Jus’ sayin’.

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 28-Oct 4, 2014

I think this week was taken over by Roz Morris and Diana Gabaldon 🙂

Novels aren’t movie scripts: how to write great dialogue in prose, by Roz Morris.

Roz has been busy with Peter Snell of Barton’s Bookshop recording Masterclass radio shows for Surrey Hills Community Radio. Now they’ve made them available as podcasts, too. You’ll miss out on the musical selections, but Roz is always careful to offer the artist and song title so you can have a listen on your own.

Plus, Roz offers excellent advice for NaNoWriMo prep on Writers & Artists.

Ruth Harris has fourteen (writer’s) block busters for you on Anne R. Allen’s blog.

What if your character has no arc? K.M. Weiland discusses the differences between a flat arc and no character arc and whether or not it’s possible, let alone permissible, to write a novel about a character without an arc.

Agent Sarah Negovetich’s Hey, Sarah! In which she discusses how she works with self published authors.

 

Last week, I featured Chris Winkle’s post on Mythcreants about the heroine’s journey. Having read Maureen Murdock (both The Heroine’s Journey and The Hero’s Daughter), I was naturally interested. Now Chris has supplemented that with this post about villains who follow the heroine’s journey. Effective examples of how the heroine’s journey can be used in your novel.

Banned books week was two weeks ago, but I found this Huffington Post article interesting in retrospect: banned books by the numbers.

Maureen Ryan wrote this thoughtful article for The Huffington Post about Outlander’s wedding episode and what it means for the female viewer. Is television’s sexual revolution finally coming of age? I get to watch this tonight because the Canadian affiliate started the series two weeks late (probably by agreement). #ohcruelfate

Visit Scotland has an exclusive three part interview with Diana Gabaldon about her inspiration for the Outlander series of books and its resulting television series on Starz.

i09’s Charlie Jane Anders offers this list of ten characters that totally wasted their immortality.

Hop you enjoy these offerings, my writerly friends.

See you Thursday!

Tipsday

WWC Day 1: On dialogue, building accents, and dialect

Disclaimer: These are my notes. I am human. As such, I fully acknowledge that my notes are imperfect. Feel free to correct me if you see any glaring errors or misrepresentations.

Panelists: Axel Howerton, Sandra Fitzpatrick, Nola Sarina, Minister Faust

axel_photoSandraFitzpatrickNolaSarinaMinisterFaust

 

 

 

 

 

NS: You have to be consistent. Don’t shock your readers by changing things up part way through your novel. Don’t write phonetic dialect or idiom. It’s too much.

MF: There is no right and no wrong. Everything is a matter of taste. Chaucer would have probably hated Shakespeare. Does that make either of them wrong, or one better than the other?

SF: Make sure your dialogue is pronounceable. There are problems with other languages, like Gaelic, in which nothing can be sounded out, or Japanese, in which everything is contextual.

NS: Write out the dialogue from movies whose characters reflect your protagonist. Reflect the evolution of your character.

Q: What if all your characters are from the same small town? How do you make them distinct?

MF: Look at your friends. You can identify each of them by specific catch phrases or tics. Go someplace in your town or city where you don’t normally go. Listen. Learn to love how people talk.

NS: Bond two characters through dialogue similarities. Have a third party interpret for your reader.

Q: Any tips of how to keep consistency in your characters? In one novel, I had to tone down the protagonist’s swearing, but it was a part of his character. In the end, I only had him swear when he was upset, but that could come off as jarring.

NS: Edit for voice by character. Make a pass for each.

Q: What about using other languages?

NS: Intersperse them in the text. Try not to have long passages in other languages. Use another character as interpreter.

Q: How do you avoid caricatures or stereotypes? For example, I have a character much like Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid.

MF: Avoid stereotypes if you can. If you can’t, make sure there’s a reason for it. With regard to Miyagi, if someone watches the Karate Kid and comes away thinking that Miyagi is uneducated or backward, they’ve missed the point of the character. He was betrayed by his country, lost his wife in tragic circumstances, and has a disorder as a result. He’s chosen isolation as protection. He’s rejected the society that betrayed him.

Q: Is there a way to ease off dialect over the course of the novel?

NS: We’re back to consistency again. If it’s too much at the beginning, it’s too much, period.

MF: If you want to write a character with thick dialect, then do it. Don’t tease. Write the book you want to write.

Q: What about multiple different languages?

SF: It depends. In a science fiction setting, you could have something like a universal translator, but you have to make it plausible. Otherwise, think about syntax, word order. What are the differences between the languages we speak on this planet?

Q: I’m writing a YA historical. It’s historically accurate for the protagonist to call his parents mother and father, but writing it that way felt awkward.

MF: If it feels awkward to you, chances are it will feel awkward to your audience, too. If you want to address it, do so head on. Show it. Hang a lantern on it. Reveal it’s relevance by contrast. Do people of other classes refer to their parents in the same way?


 

I hope you enjoyed this opening salvo of When Words Collide (WWC). I’ll be continuing the transcription of my notes, one session each weekend, until I run out of notes.

WWC set a military pace. Most sessions were one hour and though intended to end at about 50 minutes, initially, most session ran overtime. There were no breaks for meals with sessions running from 10 am through to 9 or 10 pm. Special events often ran later.

In many cases, I had to arrive late or leave early to catch the next session with enough time to hit the bathroom, or grab a quick snack at the commissary.

Next week: The Anthology Jam. All about how to get published in an anthology.

CanWrite! 2014: How to be your own editor with Farzana Doctor June 19

Farzana DoctorThat’s Dr. Farzana Doctor 😉

Learning to edit your work is learning to know when to let go. Maybe that’s what this workshop should be called: Let it go.

This is what I do. You don’t have to do what I do. Do what works for you in your process, but I hope you’ll find some interesting tips and techniques you can incorporate into your process.

First, a couple of definitions:

  • Prose editing is fine tuning: Spelling, grammar, syntax, usage.
  • Revision is substantive, structural, plot-related.

To start the editing process, you must have a completed piece of writing.

What was your intention in writing the piece? That core intention will guide you in the editing process.

Plan the process

Prose editing checklist:

  • Overused or repetitive words. First identify them. Everyone has her or his words. Then, use find and replace to address them.
  • Useless words (Mel’s note: also called zero words, because you can remove them from the sentence without changing the meaning of it) such as, just, only, that, actually, etc.. If you’re not sure what useless words are, Google it.
  • Grammar tics. Again every writer has a weakness. (Mel’s note: mine is commas. I either use too many or too few.)
  • Passive language. Examples: The biscuit was eaten by the dog (the dog ate the biscuit). She was jumping up and down (she jumped up and down).
  • Telling versus showing. Telling has its place, but avoid it where possible. Check your use of adverbs, adjectives, and clichés. These are often signs that you are telling, rather than showing.
  • Dialogue. Tags – do you need them, or would an action beat be better? Do all of your characters sound the same? Said is just fine. Read it out loud to see if it “sounds” right.
  • I start with editing first, because I find it easier. Some writers may not want to do this because it may mean too many wasted words when the revision stage is reached. Editing first works for me.

Revision checklist:

  • Where does the story begin? Is it too early, too late, is there enough action, conflict?
  • The protagonist. What does he want? What prevents him from getting it?
  • Other characters. If you can take her out of the story and not alter it, she should go. Every character should serve the story. Every character should be real, have a background, desires and frustrations of her own.
  • Keep track of plot and subplots. Structure.
  • Description. Is there too much or not enough?
  • Flashbacks. Do they stall the story?
  • Is the ending satisfying? Is it a resting place?

How to do it:

  • Focus. No distractions. Space. Set time, page number, or word count goals.
  • Separate new writing from editing and revision. Could be different times of the day, or different days.
  • Revision iteratively. Editing as you’re going. Must always make progress, however. S.J. Rozan’s method of Iterative Revision – Bookbaby. Start with previous day’s work, and then move on. It’s like a progressive spiral.
  • Change perspective. Step away. Change your font. Read aloud. Print it out. Draw maps. Pretend you are a reader.
  • Create a visual outline. Literally cut and paste your scenes and chapters.
  • Write a synopsis or jacket copy. Write a logline or tagline. Write a poem. Find your theme.

Asking for feedback

  • Who will you ask?
  • When is the best time to obtain a critique?
  • Be specific about what you want/need.
  • Stay general. When did you stall, get bored, get lost?
  • Receive your critiques without resistance. Set it aside. Decide what rings true. Ask for clarification (do not defend).

The rest of the workshop was spent reading and responding to the participants’ works-in-progress.


 

I must admit, I haven’t thought of purposefully editing first. I have edited too early before, and regretted spending all that time fixing scenes and even chapters that I would eventually delete. For me, I would think that revising first makes more sense.

Similarly, iterative revision doesn’t work for me. I get caught in an endless loop of going further and further back. It doesn’t prime the pump for me, it engages my inner editor too early in the writing process and stalls me.

Overall, I found Farzana’s workshop informative and practical.

I hope that you, too, will find something useful that you can use in your daily practice.