Today is a quickie post for something handy I learned. I’m writing a story about vampires who live for multiple centuries, so sometimes it’s difficult to keep their ages straight as the story goes through time. I came up with a simple method in Google Sheets, but this likely will work with Excel too. While I used this for immortal vampires, it could be handy for normal humans, or plot events you need relative time scales for.Continue reading
22 EDITS TO DO
Hello! I know it’s been a long time since I posted; I’ve been working on some big projects I’d love to share with you soon. For now, I wanted to share this list with a friend of mine, and thought you all might like it too. This is a checklist I use for my editing process. I do more editing than this of course, but if you get through these all, you should be well on your way! I will include more general editing tips, as well as lists of specific words to look for. I’ll probably write more on this in the future, but this is a good overview.
1.) BASIC READ-THROUGH — Read through the story, looking with an eye toward anything that seems rushed, poorly explained, or overly wordy. Highlight the passages, or edit as you go.
2.) TELLING NOT SHOWING — Look for passages of ‘telling’ instead of showing. You may want to expand them to be more descriptive, or just remove the phrasing that sounds ‘telling-ish.’
Search for these words in your document, for possible signs of showing.
NOTE — When searching for words, try different input to catch different forms. ex.) searching ‘know’ will get ‘know, knowing, known. Searching ‘Glanc’ will get ‘glance, glanced, glancing, glances’ etc.
KNOWING words – For more about these, check out this great article.
Thought/think (especially in dialog, ‘I think that…’)
Figure/figuring (as in ‘figured it out’)
Mind (her mind said… Changed mind etc)
EDITING TIP – OVERUSED DESCRIPTION
When we write our first draft, we tend to describe things by instinct. We say whatever seems obvious as we imagine the scene, but this can create repetitive writing. If our story takes place in a heat wave, we want to remind the reader of the heat, but don’t let it dominate. This is a good thing to look out for when you’re editing. Read through your draft and note what you describe. Do you keep mentioning how dusty the environment is? Is the sunlight filtering through the windows at a regular interval? Pick the top three things you describe, and highlight them.
Here’s an example from one of my drafts. I created a ‘key’ and color-coded them.
This is when the character first arrives at the location, so obviously I will want to hit these important descriptors.
But I need to watch how often I return to it, particularly as the story goes on. Try mixing up how you remind the reader. If it’s cold, have a character shiver and put on a sweater indoors, have them wince about putting their bare feet on the floor, have them hurry to the bathroom and let the shower run for a few minutes before they can stand getting undressed. The grass can sparkle with frost, icicles can drip down from the roof, trees can crackle as they move in the wind. This is more interesting and evocative than just saying ‘it’s cold’ for the 100000th time.
A companion piece about description will come shortly! Also, I’ve been fixing up my Tumblr and recreating my previous posts. You can follow me there for updates, though I still find WordPress to be the best reading experience.
CHARACTER PROFILES – DEL TORO STYLE
A while back, film director Guillermo del Toro tweeted character profiles he’d written for several of his characters. It was a fascinating look at how much work he puts into his characters, and a unique method. In this post I will discuss his profiles, including one aspect that I really, really love, and will include a template .doc profile in his style.Continue reading
ZODIAC FOR CHARACTERS – PART ONE
Even if you think the stars only tell us when our birthdays are, this is a fun exercise that could give you some insight into your characters. This is also a starting point for future zodiac-themed exercises.
To begin, you will choose your characters’ signs. Don’t go by their actual birthdays — read about the signs and find one that suits your character’s personality. There are a lot of guides out there, but some astrology sites are a bit shady. I recommend Google image searching ‘zodiac personalities’ etc to get some visual guides. For an example, here are some traits:Continue reading
TIGHTEN YOUR DIALOGUE – PART ONE
When we focus on realism in writing, we can hew too close to actual human speech with all its attendant ums, uhs, and y’knows. Even if we edit these superfluous words out, we might still feel tied to certain conventions. In a movie, you might see a conversation between two characters where one is telling a story.
CHARACTER A: “So, words words words words words.”
CHARACTER B: “Oh yeah?”
CHARACTER A: “Yeah, so then words words words words words.”
CHARACTER B: “Uh huh.”
CHARACTER A: “Then words words words words!”
CHARACTER B: “Oh wow.”
This makes sense in visual media like comics or films, because we see the other character sitting there silent. However, we can typically read faster than someone can speak, so these pauses don’t feel as noticeable in writing. It’s good to break up big paragraphs, but you can lose a lot of the beats and superfluous exchanges. For an example, here’s some unedited dialogue from a story of mine.Continue reading
BLOCK BREAKERS 4 – FLIPPING THE SCENE
Have you ever felt like a character was being a useless slug who’s dragging your whole scene down? Or maybe you could just use a fresh perspective to break through your writer’s block. Unlike the previous block-breakers, this exercise will be more for your reference than generating words for your draft itself. It may still give you the boost you need to forge ahead through a tricky spot.
In a nutshell: re-write a troublesome scene from another character’s perspective. Try switching to first person if you’re currently writing in third, to get more of their unspoken thoughts. You could write it in another color directly in your draft, or separately. Go through the whole scene, step-by-step, imagining this character’s reactions. You might decide they’d say something different, or even take a whole new course of action. Go with it! If you don’t like where it goes, back up and try again.
When you’re satisfied, look at your original draft. See that character in the back, sitting silently with their hands folded? What might be different now that you know what they’re thinking? Maybe your POV character will notice and behave differently too.
AUTHOR VOCABULARY – GABRIELLE WITTKOP
This year a friend introduced me to a writer — Gabrielle Wittkop and her book, the Necrophiliac. I fell in love with her poetic, grotesque style despite the disturbing content. This obscure, tiny book, (less than 100 pages,) felt like some illicit artifact from its own story! I have compiled a safe-for-work list of her romantically macabre vocabulary that you may use for good or for otherwise…
NOTE: the original is in French, so I have collected these words from this translation.
Check this post to learn how to make a vocabulary sheet for your own favorite books & authors.
CHARACTER NAMES – HOW TO DECIDE
In my previous post on naming characters, I discussed how I research names but only briefly covered how I choose them. In this post I will give some tips on finding strong names for your characters.
I generally create a list of potential name candidates, narrow them down, then assign them to characters. This is the most important thing I consider:Continue reading
BLOCK BREAKERS 3 — CHOCOLATE CHIP SCENES
Today’s post will be quick and simple. Sometimes when you feel demotivated to write, you don’t even know where to start. Starting at the beginning or from where you left off feels obvious enough. Yet often those points are the things holding us back. You’ve run into a problem with a scene, or just lost interest. Getting some words down is better than none, and we don’t always have to be ‘productive,’ especially when it’s paralyzing us. Why not skip ahead to something you enjoy?
I call these fun-to-write scenes ‘chocolate chips.’ They’re similar to the pearls in my String of Pearls method, but with more focus on what’s entertaining for you as the writer. Do you like writing silly conversations? Action? Bloody gore? Romance scenes? A self-indulgent dream sequence? Skip ahead to a scene that would be fun and maybe a bit frivolous. You can always cut it later, but it will get you started, and you might end up liking what you write.
Why ‘chocolate chips?’ Well, it’s the best part of the cookie, isn’t it? 🙂