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Posts Tagged ‘writing help’

While my husband and I were having breakfast together at a local restaurant a few days ago, I noticed that he was almost finished whereas I had barely eaten any of my meal. I asked him why he eats so fast, and he replied that he doesn’t—he just gets done first because I never stop talking long enough to eat.

When it comes to writing, I think there are many of us who spend more time talking about it than working towards our goals. We have reasons, many of them good ones, why we have to do other things before we can complete our novel, memoir, or other projects, but that doesn’t change the fact that we aren’t achieving the success we hope for.

One factor holding us back may be a lack of time management skills. I know it’s an area I struggle with, so I did some research. Here are some of the ideas I’m hoping will help me manage time more effectively:

  • Set realistic long-term and short-term goals.

Knowing what we want to accomplish is the first step toward getting it. If we separate each big goal into smaller ones, it will keep us from feeling overwhelmed and we are more likely to succeed.

  • Set priorities, and stick to them until they change.

Every day, figure out what’s most important and work those into our schedule, allowing more time than we think we need because everything takes longer than we think. Life has a way of throwing obstacles in whatever path we choose, so we need to be flexible.

  • Develop a routine that fits our lifestyles.

We all have different responsibilities, talents, and personalities, so we mustn’t get hung up on what people say we should be doing. If our priorities don’t allow for a regular routine, so be it. We should do the best we can, when we can, and not get discouraged by comparing ourselves to others. Giving up is the surest way to fail.

That last point was one I made up myself. Apparently I lost the focus of my post somewhere along the way and started thinking philosophically instead of practically. If you want more specific tips, here are a couple of sites that I thought were especially well-written and helpful.

Top 10 Time Management Tips

13 Tips for More Effective Time Management

 In closing, here’s a bit of advice that I’ve always followed: Try not to stress over what doesn’t get done today, because it will probably still be waiting for you tomorrow.

 

Do you struggle with managing your time? What are some ways you fit writing into your schedule? What’s the most useful tip you know of for those of us needing to improve our time management skills?

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I’ve frequently heard that writers are supposed to “show instead of tell,” but that isn’t always easy to do. When it comes to settings, I think it can be especially hard.

 

Setting is more than a location or time period. Among other things, it provides a frame of reference for readers, affects the tone, supports a theme, and adds to characterization. It can also detract from those aspects of a story if the setting isn’t appropriate or memorable.

Sometimes pictures speak louder than words, but unless we’re writing a picture book we must depend on words to convey our meaning. Long narratives describing the setting can be overwhelming and boring, and many people skim over those kinds of passages (me, too!). It can be more effective and interesting to integrate specific, important details of the setting into the story itself, allowing readers to imagine the big picture.

 

To illustrate my point, I’ve included a few photos from my recent vacation. With each, I’ve added a basic caption regarding the setting; underneath I’ve mentioned why the picture is memorable to me. I hope those comments will help you get a feel for the setting where each one occurred. (Plus this gives me a chance to share a few of my favorite vacation photos without violating my blog’s writing-related theme. :) )

 

Conservatory at the Bellagio hotel

Thousands of flowers blended with fountains, birds, and storybook characters in a fantastic panorama at the Bellagio hotel.

 

Bally and Paris hotels at night

The lights at night made even conservative structures like the Bally hotel appear amazing, while turning the beautiful ones into spectacles that took my breath away.  

 

Dinner on Thursday

This decorated chicken breast resting on a few pieces of asparagus was the main course in the most expensive meal I ever ate.

 

view from the plane before takeoff

I never expected to see palm trees lining the roads while mountains loomed in the distance. Nothing at all like rural Indiana.

 

 

Here’s one where the setting wasn’t important; it was the people I was with that made this one memorable.

Lisa and Carol

I don’t even remember exactly where we were, but I was so tired I couldn’t keep plodding along. Getting a picture taken with my daughter gave me a welcome break without having to whine that I was tired!

 

For more information on setting, I recommend these sites:

 

My post from 4/13/10 on the importance of setting.

Setting Is More Than Mere Time And Place    An article on setting. The site also covers many other writing-related topics.

Setting: Writing a Story With Atmosphere This article discusses setting in some depth. It also contains lots of helpful tips on writing novels.

 

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Do you focus on the setting as much as you do the plot and characterization? Is setting important in nonfiction? What details do you like to know about the setting when you’re reading a book? Have you gone anywhere interesting on vacation this year?

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Each event in a story takes place within a scene, showing the reader the action as it happens.

Short stories typically consist of only one or two scenes, while novels contain many. They vary in length, with some only a few paragraphs long and others covering many pages. However, most scenes follow a pattern similar to the typical story arc, beginning with a hook, building conflict or tension in the middle, and ending with a change in time/place, or a suspenseful moment (cliffhanger).

Each scene should serve a purpose in the story. It might:

  •   introduce or develop a conflict, theme, or character
  •   establish the setting (time period or place)
  •   create atmosphere (romantic, suspenseful, etc.)
  •   provide information that moves the plot forward

An author may use exposition to summarize what’s going on rather than including scenes to show all of the action as it happens. This provides a transition between scenes, and helps adjust the pacing of the story.

  

 

How do you determine if a scene is necessary? Do you like scenes that end on cliffhangers?

 

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In fiction the main storyline is the central focus, but there may be secondary plots involved, too. These subplots can pertain to the main characters or minor characters, and may be entwined with the larger plot. For example, the hero may be running for political office while also dealing with his wife’s alcoholism. Or, the heroine may have a brother who is involved in illegal activities that she is unaware of but which eventually cause conflict she must deal with.

Subplots should support the main plot but also be able to stand alone, with a beginning, middle, and end of their own. They may run through the entire story, or be resolved earlier. Often they’ll merge with the main plot at the story’s climax.

Subplots can enhance a story in several ways:

  1. Create tension or conflict
  2. Develop characters
  3. Help resolve the story’s outcome
  4. Give the story added depth
  5. Reinforce the theme
  6. Introduce characters or conflict to be featured in a future book
  7. Affect the pacing

Often subplots are incorporated into a story by using multiple viewpoint characters in alternating chapters. For instance, in the romance genre the heroine’s viewpoint is generally the primary one but the hero’s viewpoint is also used, giving depth to both characters. In many suspense stories, the author will focus on the protagonist’s viewpoint but include chapters from secondary characters’ viewpoints in order to create tension by revealing events the main character isn’t aware of.

Short stories typically don’t have more than one or two subplots, if any. Novels will have several that are of varying importance to the main storyline, but all subplots should support the main plot rather than overshadow it.

  

Can you think of any ways using subplots can be detrimental to the story instead of enhancing it? How many subplots is too many?

 

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When I was in high school, our English teachers encouraged us to use lots of descriptive words in our writing. Adjectives and adverbs were our friends, making us sound educated and interesting. Flowery prose was admired, and many of my favorite stories spent more time describing the scenery than the action.

Times have changed.  

The type of writing I was taught is now considered “purple prose.” That means it’s writing that calls attention to itself by being excessive or exaggerated. The writing itself becomes the focus rather than what is written.

Though the excessive use of adjectives, adverbs, clichés, similes, metaphors, and alliteration is no longer in vogue, it doesn’t mean these literary devices shouldn’t ever be used. Sometimes they’re effective in clarifying what we mean, and they can add to characterization. They can be used to grab the reader’s attention or adjust the pacing of a story. In dialog, they add a sense of realism as real speech is generally full of description and clichés. The key is—don’t overdo it.

Today’s readers are less impressed with flowery writing than those of yore. Choose words that say what you mean and are appropriate for your target audience. An occasional adjective or adverb can spice up a sentence, but too much of a good thing can get old quick (like clichés). Limit your use of them to those that are essential to the image or thought you’re trying to convey.

So, how do we know which ones are essential? They’re the ones that make what we’re describing come alive for the reader, or clarify an important noun or verb. They’re the ones that, when missing, make the sentence feel incomplete or unclear.

For those of us who could use a refresher course, here are excellent references for understanding some important points of grammar.

Adjectives  http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/adjectives.htm 

Adverbs  http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/adverbs.htm  

Verbs  http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/verbs.htm  

Nouns  http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/nouns.htm

Another helpful site for grammar info is: Purdue OWL  http://owl.english.purdue.edu/   

 

 

   

Did your high school English teacher tell you adding lots of adjectives and adverbs made your writing more interesting? Do you use lots of them in your writing or deliberately limit them? What criteria do you use for determining whether words, phrases, or sentences are essential to what you’re writing?

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In general, mysteries follow the typical story structure of an enticing beginning, a middle building tension to the climax, and a satisfying ending. Sometimes these stories feel more like a circle, though, as they may open with a crime (often a murder) or other event that needs investigating and end with that mystery being solved. Many of them are part of a series of books that have the same protagonist. Those books may end with an event that leaves open the possibility of a new mystery.

Mysteries tend to be somewhat formulaic, with subgenres that have characteristics readers can rely on. The protagonists range from hard-boiled detectives to amateur sleuths and can be any age. Though characterization and setting are important elements, the plot is always the central focus of the story.

Clues are interspersed throughout the story so readers feel involved in solving the mystery along with the protagonist. An occasional red herring to throw the detective—and readers—off track is fine, but the twists and turns of the plot must make sense when the outcome is revealed. Mysteries must be solved using logic rather than supernatural means or deus ex machina.

This is a genre that’s popular with readers of all ages. Some mysteries involve elements of romance, fantasy, or suspense, and the degree of danger to the protagonist varies. Factual accuracy is important, and certain types of mysteries require extensive research to create a believable story.

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Some common types of mysteries are:

The Cozy: usually involves an amateur sleuth in a small-town setting, with little violence involved

—For more on cozies, check out http://www.cozy-mystery.com/Definition-of-a-Cozy-Mystery.html

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Private Eyes: a hired investigator follows clues to solve the mystery       

—A good site for more info is http://www.writing-world.com/mystery/PI.shtml

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Hard-boiled Detectives: police investigate crimes involving violence, with a gritty feel to the story

—If you’re interested in crime fiction, you might enjoy http://www.crimeculture.com/

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For a more complete description of subgenres, check out http://www.writing-world.com/mystery/genres.shtml  or  http://ticket2write.tripod.com/id29.html

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For more tips on writing mysteries, here are a few helpful sites:

http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/genrefiction/tp/mysteryrules.htm  General mystery writing tips

http://www.right-writing.com/child-mysteries.html  Writing mysteries for kids

http://www.writing-world.com/mystery/floyd.shtml  Writing short stories

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What type of mystery stories do you enjoy? Who are some of your favorite mystery authors? Who is your favorite fictional detective?

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Romance novels consistently represent one of the most popular genres, with over a billion dollars in sales each year. There are two basic types of romance novels—category, and single-title books.

 

Category Romance:

Some publishers release several books in a particular line each month, with strict guidelines as to their word count and structure. This format must be followed for every book in the category, regardless of the author.

Single-Title Romance:

These books are sold individually rather than as a group. The page length is not fixed, and the author has more control over the structure of the story.

 

In every romance novel, the growing relationship between the heroine and the hero is the most important element of the book. There must be believable conflict causing them to change and grow closer, but subplots must not take on more importance than their romantic relationship. Conflict, both internal and external, should increase emotional tension, but readers expect things to end with the hope of the couple living happily ever after.

The setting and time period can be anywhere, anytime. There can be elements of suspense, mystery, fantasy, etc., but the couple in love must be the main focus of the book. If it isn’t, it isn’t a real romance.

 

 Resources for the Romance writer:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Romance Readers:

Harlequin ebooks 16 free category romances

 

Reviews and News for Romance Readers

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Why do you enjoy/hate romance novels? Do you prefer the category romances or single-title books? What’s your favorite romance author or book?

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