Monday, January 31, 2011

Description is Best Set in Minutia

I am not a tactful person. I can't tell you how many times I've gagged on a flowery piece of prose during a critique group. Let me summarize two facets of description I, not very humbly think, will cure all your description woes. (please recognize I meant this tongue in cheek.)

First: If your point of view character is a rich dude in another rich dude's house, he wouldn't think about the chandeliers, art work or, or fancy Persian carpets. He'd note what stands out to him. That might be the tic in his friend's eye. The slur in his speech. The well worn running shoes.

Last: Your reader doesn't really care what everyone is wearing, unless it is out of the ordinary. They don't care they wear jeans and a pullover, unless the jeans are so tight the character can't walk, or the pullover is covered in blood.

Minutia is more important than describing the style of furniture or the square footage of a room. More important is the whiff of cat hair that floats across the room when the AC comes on. The shiny edge of a belt buckle that sleeps under a vixen's belly button. The hesitation before speaking. The flick of missing polish on the otherwise gorgeously pedicured feet.

Less is more. And it should be pertinent to the protagonist's point of view. Let no scene slip by without that tiny snippet only your character would notice.

Write Every Day!


Friday, January 28, 2011

Wordle Gives You Another View

I wish I could give credit to our fellow blogger who pointed out Wordle the other day. I've forgotten who, but he/she rates my gratitude. I have lists of all those overused words, but nothing points them out like Wordle.

I found I over-liked | held | like | now | just |

No surprises for a couple of them. I got rid of seventy percent of the likes, still I find it on on my second pass--maybe a few others I need to take a look at. If you've never used Wordle, give it a shot. 
You think I need to look at "looked?"

Write Every Day!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Stuart Woods—SHORT STRAW (2006)

After indulging a literary work for two weeks, I'm ecstatic to have moved on so I can report on my latest read. I love Stuart Woods. My only complaint, the two-three paragraph POV glimpses before going to the next character irritates the writer in me. It somehow works for Woods. I can see myself pulled into supporting multiple characters—but I doubt I could manage it—and don't want to try. I like to write from the head of a single character.

If you've never read Stuart Woods, why?

Write Every Day!


Friday, January 21, 2011


I read my first by Barbara Wood, and can't say I'll search her out in the future. That would be more because of the genre than the writing. I don't embrace literary writing, and like a little more action with my sex, in general. (I must be a man.) I almost closed BLESSING in the first chapter. It was a prologue with no characters, literally.

As a prologue suggests, it was all backstory… pre story. If I hadn't closed the last three novels I tried to read, I would have closed BLESSING. After twenty pages or so I'll admit the story caught on, and I stuck with it, all 450 pp.

BLESSING is an anthology, and represented why anthologies are hard to sell. Every seventy pages you had to get a grip of a whole new set of characters and setting. But each read fairly well. I had one serious gripe. The omniscient voice about gagged me at times.

What thrills me about BLESSING: it gives me hope I may someday sell my own fantasy anthology BLACK LAKE.

If you enjoy the omniscient voice, a literary style, and don't mind a new story every seventy pages or so…I think you would like this piece.

Write Every Day!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yellow Sticky -- Flow

I discussed flow in my Jan 7 posting. Here are two follow-up yellow stickies that summarize the posting.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Using Point of View--Thanks Iggi and Gabi

Funny, that as a writer I use graphics (instead of words) as much as I do to leverage concepts. Iggi & Gabi provoked my latest imagery.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Understanding Writers…

To the optimist, the glass is half-full. To the pessimist, the glass is half-empty. To the writer, the stemware is Waterford, the wine is a Bordeaux, and contains sediment of the Thallium used to off the worthless pessimist from Anaheim who dumped her protagonist for the floozy from Jersey.

Write Every Day!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Writers Believe…

Normal people believe that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet. Writers believe "normal people" is unnecessarily generic, you shouldn't use loose pronouns, and if you can't write grammatically correct sentences, how do you expect to get an agent?

Write Every Day!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Help! Someone throw me an anchor!

I'm floating away. Help! Pull this cloud down to earth before I get hurt! I got this wonderful feedback today, and I'm still fanning myself.

"You are an incredibly talented writer. I can't believe you aren't in print."

I don't get enough ego stroking like this. Sniff. Sniff. (I hope she was serious) Could it have gone to the wrong mwheeler? Groan.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Non Sequiturs on My Mind

Found as /nonseqs in pieces I critique (not to be confused with /NSs, which suggest a new sentence), I go crazy when I find them in my own writing. Having completed my seventeenth novel, I should be good enough by now to keep them from wandering into my narrative--don't ya think?

I don't understand how nonseqs emerge. The written word should flow naturally from the author's mind, a single topic fulfilled within a single paragraph. When the topic is saturated and your character moves on, the author should be astute enough to move to the next paragraph, while including an appropriate transition to ensure the reader doesn't stumble, or say, "Huh?"

Every sentence must logically follow its preceding sentence, as every clause, paragraph, scene and chapter should logically flow from its preceding construct. Each should cascade like sparkling ice-melt down a crevasse, connected to the last shelf by an overhang.

Here are some guidelines I recommend for maintaining flow.

  1. Every clause within a sentence must tightly couple—period.
  2. One topic per sentence—period.
  3. One topic per paragraph—period.
  4. One topic per dialog—interrupt with direction if the character must wander.
  5. Everything (topics, descriptions, actions, emotions, directions, tags…) must smoothly transition to the next, or you create a blind step for your reader to stumble over.
  6. If a sentence hangs alone—it probably doesn't belong in the scene or passage, or you've understated/under explained, or told instead of showed.
  7. If element A flows to B, then returns to A—RW, pushing B behind the last clause of A.
  8. Description works best in longer sentences—back-to-back descriptive sentences gag the reader.
  9. Action works best in shorter sentences—don't confuse rising tension with action.
  10. Three staccato action sentences are platinum. Four is gold. Five is tarnished pewter.
  11. Descriptives must couple with action—unless you're going for irony.

Do you have any additions to this list?

Write Every Day!