Tag Archives: writing advice

A Change Will Do You Good…

Autumn LeavesOr so the Sheryl Crow song  says. As I mentioned in a my post from a few weeks back entitled Taking New Paths, I’ve been making a number of changes in recent days.  This time, though, the changes aren’t as big and difficult as asking for my rights back. This change was easy and made a world of difference.

This time around I changed my writing space. Not just my desk, but my whole location. I’d found that where I’d previously been working wasn’t really lending itself to productivity anymore. I knew I’d needed to change something, especially when falling asleep on my keyboard with very little written was becoming the norm.  Finally, a few weeks ago, I grabbed my laptop  and a little folding table and I transitioned myself into the kitchen. I had every thing I needed, bright lights, ready access to coffee and snacks, and quiet. It worked like a charm. Suddenly, I was making more progress then I had in ages.

A change certainly did me good. You may find that sometimes even little changes can help spark ideas and get you moving forward in ways you never expected. For example, in this age of technology I bet most if not all of us are writing using a computer and a word processing program.  Maybe you’re finding that your story isn’t flowing as well as you’d like. Maybe you’re actually stuck, possibly even creatively blocked.  Perhaps try hand writing your story for a bit. Just long enough to power throw the barricade and get the flow going again. Sometimes a small change like going from electronic to manual can unblock the creative channels.

If you’re find that you’re spinning your wheels and your creativity and productivity are flagging, try mixing things up. You never know what will shake loose and what directions you’ll go in.


Looking for Action

Passive voice. It’s every writer’s enemy. If you’ve ever had to write book reports or term papers with any degree of regularity, the telling style of writing is something that is hammered into you. With the analysis type papers we write in school it’s all about tell, tell, tell. Writing in passive voice can become so automatic we slip into it in our fiction. All that manages to do is create a very slow ,tedious read.

Fiction writing is all about the active voice. We want to show not tell so that our readers are in the action, seeing it unfold. Writing inactive voice is all about crafting the scene so that it comes to life in the readers mind.  We don’t want narrators to run amok explaining the events that unfold.  After all, this is a book not a dissertation. With that being said, I’m going to use an excerpt from my current WIP to demonstrate my point and give you a before and after shot.

The Original Scene

Thank god for decent night vision, Adrian thought as he navigated his way to the suite’s bathroom. Lee slept soundly and he didn’t want to turn on a bright room light and awaken him. Closing the door behind him, he flipped on the bathroom light revealing a sizable room that had black granite counters and floor tiles, a jacuzzi tube that could fit three people, and a little alcove for the toilet. He took a minute to study himself in the mirror that covered the wall from counter top to ceiling and stared in amused wonder at the variety of markings that Leland had left on his body. Lee had always been a territorial sort. He used the bathroom, then exited to go check in with North since he’d been out of touch all afternoon. The blow came out of the darkness. He heard the rustle of clothing mere moments before the blow landed and was able to deflect the first blow, but didn’t react in time to completely block the second. The knife his attacker wielded sliced his forearm. Pain radiated up Adrian’s arm from the slice, in the at instance he knew something wasn’t right. 

Rather blah if I do say so myself. Lots of telling, internalization, and unnecessary description.  I’m telling the reader about the action instead of putting the reader in the middle of it. The scene was full of he felt, he saw, he heard. All of this is telling which distances the reader from the story and slows the overall pace. That’s certainly not something that you want especially not when it’s building toward a fight scene and you really don’t want to slow the pacing of the actual fight scene with telling. Now try the scene again after two rounds of rewrites.

The Edited Version

“Thank  god for decent night vision.” Adrian padded to the suite’s bathroom. The hinges gave a soft squeak and he cringed, frozen in place. He glanced back over his shoulder toward the king sized bed. Lee’s face stayed buried in the pillow. Adrian let out the breath he’d been holding. He really didn’t want to dive into round two of messed up relationship discussions. Sleeping with Lee wasn’t one of his better ideas, but once Lee had kissed him he couldn’t have stopped if he’d wanted.

He eased the door shut and flipped on the lights, squinting as the over bright blast assailed his eyes. He took a minute to study himself in the mirror that covered half of the wall.

“Damn Lee,” he murmured. The cold granite pressed into his stomach as he leaned in to the counter as he poked at the variety of markings that Leland had left on his body. “I look like the victim of a vacuum run amok.”  He turned trying to get a look at the injury on his back. No more pain, but the flesh remained a bit raw and pink.

 He used the bathroom, then washed up. He needed to call Chris. He hadn’t checked in all afternoon. He eased the door open and reached to flick off the light, as he did a rustle of fabric caught his attention. He whirled in time to see the glint of a blade as it arced toward him. He deflect the first strike, but he didn’t react in time to completely block the second . The knife his attacker wielded sliced his forearm.

“Leland. Grab your phone and get the hell out of here. Now!” He yelled. His strength seemed to wane and an odd tingling sensation grew with every blow he landed. Something wasn’t right.

See the difference? Instead of telling you what Adrian heard, you’re hearing it with him,  feeling his emotions with him, etc. I’ve also sped up the pacing, made the scene flow better,  and made the page easier to read by having smaller chunks of text instead of massive paragraphs.

What other tips and tricks to you have for shifting a scene from passive to active. Believe me I need all the help I can get.



Advice for New Writers

I’m tackling interview questions for my November/December blog tour.  Yes, I know its 2 months away, but I’ve told you before that I’m a geek.  I always had my homework and term papers done way ahead of time.  Otherwise I can’t think because I feel like Wile E. Coyote with an anvil poised over his head.

Anyway, the best piece of advice I can give any beginning writer is to join a writers’ organtization.   Yesterday I attended the Liberty States Fiction Writers meeting.   I can’t describe how good it felt to mingle with other writers, to have them cheer when I held up the gorgeous ARC (advanced reader copy) of my debut novel, She Can Run, to pick the brains of the experienced authors in the group. (Thank you, Caridad Pineiro, yet again.)

Writing is a solitary life, but writers need to leave their writing caves and mingle with other humans occasionally.  But books are about people and relationships and the outside world.  How do we write about these things if we’re holed up in our PJs guzzling coffee and muttering to the dogs for months on end?  Professional organizations also provide important resources to help writers in all states improve their craft, learn to promote, and talk about what happening in the business. Liberty States Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America have both been instrumental in helping me with my career.

So, that’s my big piece of advice: join a professional organization.  For those of you with experience in the writing world, what advice can you give to beginning writers?  For the newbies out there, what’s your biggest obstacle?

If anyone has other writing organizations they’d like to list here, go for it!