Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Writing Wisdom

The following wisdom comes from Claudia Del Balso. Her longer piece focused on how to win a writing contest. I abridged and edited her piece to twenty-one points. For Claudia's broader vision visit her at http://claudiadelbalso.blogspot.com/
  1. Choose a good title—catchy, meaningful, appropriate in tone
  2. Choose good names for your characters—I'm told my Uiaiah doesn't work
  3. Active voice activates your prose
  4. Write what you know, or do your research—don't insult your reader
  5. Be anal with your transitions—too many, and weak transitions, kills a good story
  6. Don't confuse secondary stories with sub-plots—one story
  7. Let the character and action carry your story
  8. Use a consistent tone for the POV
  9. Apply the highest level of conflict appropriate for the story
  10. Unnecessary characters muddle your story
  11. A story requires a BME—beginning, middle, end
  12. Experts insist the story must change the protagonist—eh, I don't know
  13. Write—decant—edit—repeat
  14. Weak prose (errors) resonates when read out loud during edit
  15. Remove everything that doesn't move the story forward
  16. Two-bit words ease readability; dollar words do not
  17. Show your action; don't explain or describe
  18. Over-description (especially ADJs, and ADVs) muddles and interrupts
  19. Tastes change; "They use to write this way"—doesn't mean it will sell
  20. Disconnected pronouns pull your reader out of your story
  21. Concentrate on smooth prose; readability your highest consideration
Write Every Day!

Regards,
Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/


 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Simple Past

Jear growled, baring his yellow-gray teeth, gripping his staff firmly, and turning toward the troll in challenge.

Jear growled, bared his yellow-gray teeth, gripped his staff firmly, and whipped toward the troll in challenge.

A little show-don't-tell, toss-out-the-ADVs thrown in.
Write Every Day!

Regards,
Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Clean Prose with Simple Past

they began to filter back to the inn.
…they filtered back to the inn.

Write Every Day!

Regards,
Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Simplifying Attribution

"I'll do what I can," Bick said. He pinched his eyes together. "Never heard a troll asking for nothing. This ought to be good."

"I'll do what I can." Bick pinched his eyes together. "Never heard a troll asking for nothing. This ought to be good."

Eliminate unnecessary attribution. You typically only need either the tag, or the direction. Not both.

Write Every Day!

Regards,
Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Unnecessary Words

The dragonets' eyes whirled, and her head swayed back and forth.
The dragonets' eyes whirled, and her head swayed.

Write Every Day!

Regards,
Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dear Critique Partner

I absolutely agree with every remark you made, especially the one about the continuity of my reading. Yes, yes, and yes. Everything (except most grammar) is a gray area, confused with taste, style and experiences.

Please, please never feel you have to explain to me. It is YOUR novel. I expect you to ignore anything and everything you disagree with, without ANY sense of guilt :O)

I will point out anything that I feel a reader COULD think odd or slow them down…and leave it to you to decide if I’m nutz. My wife thinks I’m very.

My nits, like my blog postings, are writing prompts. Ideas. Not gospel.

Write Every Day!

Regards,
Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Word Culling

The months of the winter dragged mercilessly.

Winter persisted.

Write Every Day!

Regards,
Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

And you thought WC only stood for Word Choice--

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Growing a Thick Skin

Raymond Obstfeld listed growing a thick skin number eight in his "The 10 Commandments of Fiction Writing," writersdigest.com (Aug 10, 2010).

I've lost it before when I received an overly personal critique. Just recently a writer did the same for one of my critiques. My irate peer pointed out many fundamental flaws of my character, but I'll summarize my faults with two statements. (1) I was impatient in my crit. (2) I tried to compensate for my impatience with humor.

In a business communication class I used to teach, I stressed Never Apply Humor in Correspondence, because the receiver doesn't have access to your tone, body language…or about seven other mechanics required for humor to work. It can easily come out condescending and derisive at best. (How could I forget this?) I suggest do as I say. Maybe you can make a friend instead of an enemy.

As with any other communication, the receiver isn't in your head—doesn't share your mood. The critiquer must be as affective in getting her point across as the writer is in getting his. Do not shortchange the feedback process.

With my lesson in mind, I still agree with Mr. Obstfeld. It isn't reasonable to expect in this busy world that everyone you communicate with is going to take the time to positively spin their feedback. It's best to have thick skin.

Write Every Day!

Regards, Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Get Rid of Passive

Easier to do than you think.

Youthful gnomes, majies, perhaps twenty of them, had Torc and Asr surrounded, and were pelting them with pebbles from the dry creek.

Youthful gnomes, majies, perhaps twenty of them, surrounded Torc and Asr and pelted them with pebbles from the dry creek.


Write Every Day!

Regards, Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cutting the Flab

Her gauzy wings fluttered in anticipation./RUE…resist the urge to explain.

The surrounding context explained her anticipation to this reader.

When asking the writer permission to use this passage: Go ahead, but I still like it. :) To me, it’s a description, not an explanation.


A cat can swish its tail in annoyance, or it can swish it because it's listening to music. It makes a difference.

Write Every Day!

Regards, Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Friday, August 13, 2010

Formulaic Writing

I confess, I'm an old curmudgeon. I posted the following remark on a piece by Weronika Janczuk during WriteOnCom. I'd love to hear your opinion.

"I'm disturbed by the conviction there can only be a single focal thread. Life is complicated, and it is rich with undercurrents. That fiction can't be as vivid as reality is ridiculous. To press that a well-written story can't be a blend of plots annoys me. It is naïve and pompous, and a lazy premise."

I said I'm a curmudgeon. Writing is art. It doesn't follow physical laws and predictable constants.

Weronika is clearly well-educated and experienced, but her formulaic approach troubled me. Education should create an aptitude for what is possible, not constrict our writing into a generic form. A stylistic diagram can certainly aid in developing structure where there is none. I'm concerned about formula destroying the art.

Write Every Day!

Regards, Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What is a Revenir?

From Latin revenīre, present active infinitive of reveniō (“come back, return”).

They live among us, have since man left the savanna. The Hollywood portrayal of their fictional cousin the vampire disgusts the proper Revenir. They are immortal, regenerate from all but the most vicious wounds. Only two characteristics outwardly distinguish them from humans, their luminous, silver-hued eyes, and their melanin-free skin. They are night creatures. Radiation, all EM, is lethal. Since the electronic age, they have been hostage to their underground retreats. They are shape shifters, but don't have to animate to be deadly.

Revenirs are poor reproducers, though they can mate with humans and spawn half-breed endowed. The further removed from pure blood, the more human, weaker they become. Endowed can also turn humans—the weakest of their kind.

They deserve our sympathy. Despite immortality and bloodhound senses, they are incapable of feeling the sensation of a gentle caress, the emotions that make us human. It drives them to extreme pursuits.

Give them space. Never cross them.

Excerpt of Revenir Renee de Rais
Excerpt of Revenir Intern

Write Every Day!

Regards, Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Horrible Pronoun



They did this.
They did that.
Do a search in your manuscript for this horrible four-letter word. Chances are it will point out a passage where your point of view has wandered, or you've lapsed into telling.

Write Every Day!

Regards, Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cut The Flab

I know those I critique hate to see all those crossed out passages I leave in my wake. Every writer must ask this of every word they get on the page: Is it necessary? Here are word-choice examples that scream to be deleted:
  • Obviously
  • Clearly
  • In a bit
  • After a while
  • Nothing happened
  • Then
  • . . .
  • Anything telling
Those are the edits that can be made with a sledge hammer.

To maximize a piece's impact, it takes an impartial eye to find the next level of flab. I believe I write as precisely as any, but am shocked to see what others find in my work to cut. "How'd I write that!"

It takes an impartial eye and a scalpel to trim the underlying flab.

Write Every Day!

Regards,
Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Sunday, August 8, 2010

John Saul – MIDNIGHT VOICES

MIDNIGHT VOICES isn't a new release (2002), but via hand-me-down, I've had it on my shelf for many months. I was excited to read my first Saul novel. Perhaps expectations ruined me. I gave up on page 36.

I probably would have kept reading if I hadn't just finished another novel I sat through expecting it to improve. It may have, but I'm prejudiced now. Because NOW I know the writer is responsible for hooking me.

The first three chapters had all of those elements we writers are screamed at not to do, particularly back story and telling. The situation setting up the plot made me feel manipulated. There were way too many characters up front. The MC felt whiny. The voice just didn't reach me.

Write Every Day!

Regards, Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Feedback on My Query Letter?

I've got too many rejection letters. For novel 15, I'm asking for any suggestions you might have. --Thanks.

Send me a note

Dear Ms. Agent

Caitlin Janecek is a garden variety, smart-mouthed, self-centered teen who happens to be a privileged member of a secret society she has no interest in. Cait's junior essay points out that lack of appreciation, and places her under scrutiny. Interning for the Queen of the kith isn't in her plans. Instead of spending the summer on the beach, she ends up on the night shift, wearing an armored vest, toting a nine millimeter, crisscrossing the nation in a private jet, threatening vampires, and noshing Nerd candies with a quirky twelve-year-old who appears to know all thirteen-million members of the kith.

REVENIR INTERN (79,000 words) is a YA paranormal, thriller. Renee, a five-thousand-year-old immortal, leads her kith in a war against rogue Revenir clans, and humans determined to exterminate what they believe is an insidious sect controlled by vampires. First indifferent to the conflict, it becomes grittily personal for Cait. She escapes an ambush with her twelve-year-old sidekick; gets tagged as The Inquisitor for her empathetic questioning of three combatants; brings a Revenir with a death warrant on his head back into the kith after saving his life; foils one attack, pursues and leads kithmen in a counter-attack; leads an investigation in the abduction of her roommate; survives her own capture in a trap designed to lure her Queen to her death, bringing one front of the kith's war to an end. Cait learns of the love and peace her kith brothers, and her Queen, fight for, while contributing and enduring more than she expects.

I'm a fulltime writer, with fifteen completed manuscripts in paranormal, mainstream, science fiction, and fantasy genres. Please consider representing me.

Thank you your time and consideration.
Sincerely,

R. Mac Wheeler
contact info here
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/  http://rmacwheeler.blogspot.com/

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Worst Critique—May be the Best Critique

Praise and kudos doesn't make me a better writer.

I want honest feedback. Critiquing isn't about editing. It's about the reader sharing her experience in the writer's world.

Tact helps.

There are styles and content that rub every reader the wrong way. Recognizing when you've met that reader is tough. I certainly don't want to think anything I write stinks. We can't write for every audience. But the truth exists. Passages fail. Chapters. Entire plots.

Picking and choosing which nits are "valid" for a piece drives me nuts.

It's an imperfect process.

Critiques will hurt. They stand in judgment.

I thank everyone who participates in the give-and-take. With a little patience, it makes us all better writers. Go critique. Now. Play nice!

Write Every Day!

Regards,
Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Vision

When Dina interrupts my writing, she stands still for a ten-count, because she knows I may be looking at her, but my mind is still in the soul of my protagonist. I exist as an ogre on the shore of Black Lake, or a Revenir deciding whether to rip the heart out of her enemy's chest.

The deeper you submerge your thoughts into your character, the more realistic the setting, visceral the emotion you create.

Notice I didn't say characterS above. What are you, a schizophrenic? Of course you can't write from more than one point of view! Nor should you. EVER. :)

Write Every Day!

Regards, Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Writing Versus Storytelling

Nathan Bransford's recent posting "Writing vs. Storytelling" piqued my interest. I pondered the qualities of each facet of the craft. I cogitated on the definition of "writing." I flipped over and read a score of the rants (commonly called "comments") for one article about King's comparison of Rowling and Myer.

It occurred to me as I read those, you can't separate the two in a comparative way. Taste in the written word is no different than that for sculpture or water color. It's all part of the overall experience, and it's individual. The prose or story may be more important in this piece, not another. The key is to blend enough of each to satisfy the reader.

Write Every Day!

Regards, Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Don't Confuse Your Reader

In my critiques, I rant frequently about dumping on the reader . . . then explaining. It's usually an obtuse statement than raises my rancor.

I recommend NEVER confusing your reader. I HATE subsequent explanations. If you're doing your job as a writer, showing the reader as you go, the reader is always with you. Don't yank them to catch up with you after the fact. The effect is a painful whiplash. Explaining is Telling.
Write Every Day!

Regards,
Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Monday, August 2, 2010

Voice Versus Vision

A writer's voice includes such things as syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, tense, person, flow, and dialogue. A reasonably synonym could be "style." It is the result the reader feels—their experience. I believe. . .

Voice is the writer's bones.

Vision is her soul.

Vision is the process the writer uses to create the voice. Just as there are countless facets that create voice, there is a rainbow of influences that make up our vision. How important is setting, character, pace and story to you? That priority screams within the voice of your work. Do you care more about the prose of your words, the emotion of your characters, or the vividness of your action? Do you see yourself in your character as you write, follow the character's will, or do you compose following a meticulously scribed outline?

These may sound like odd questions. But answering them before you ever touch the keyboard will give you an understanding of why your voice sounds the way it does.

I drafted this days ago, then last Friday Rachelle blogged on voice. If you haven't already read it, pop over and see her thoughts: http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2010/07/what-is-writers-voice.html
Write Every Day!

Regards,
Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Lawrence Block – HIT PARADE

This 2006 novel kept me reading like novels are supposed to, eager for the next scene. Reading the dust jacket, I probably wouldn't have bought the book. Oh, what a mistake that would have been. The character was intriguing, even if I couldn't empathize. On his site, Block says this about his protagonist: "Keller, the urban lonely guy of assassins, wistful and introspective and lethal, is as unlikely a series character as I can imagine." Absolutely true, but you can't avoid flipping the page to see what he does next.

I get most of my books from friends, and from the bargain table, so I test drive a lot of authors I've never read before. In the future, I will be on the lookout for anything by Lawrence Block. His writing is enjoyable, and smooth for a Rockies two-lane, his frequent flashbacks intriguingly engaging.

Overall I give HIT PARADE ★★★★

Technical Composition.. ★★★★
Story.............................. ★★★★★
Characterization............ ★★★★
Style............................. ★★★★★
Edginess....................... ★★★★
Ahhhh factor................ ★★★
Sexiness...................... ★★

Write Every Day!

Regards,
Mac
http://home.roadrunner.com/~macwheeler/