Tag Archives: writing tips

Cut it out with those full sentances! — Rule #23 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #23

23: Don’t allow your fictional characters to speak in sentences. Unless you want them to sound fictional.

Time for all the English teachers to cringe! But it’s true, right?  Do we speak in sentences?  Well, sometimes.  But there should be a good mix of full sentences and fragments.  Heck, even an incomplete thought here and there will help make the dialog seem more real.

And if you are not sure if it sounds real or not, read it out loud.  Even better… have someone else read it to you.  If it sounds weird with a voice attached, then you need a little re-write.

Jennifer___Eaton

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Make it Stink. Ain’t nothing wrong with smelly stuff — Rule #21 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #21

21: Use all five senses in your descriptions. Smell and touch are too often neglected.

Wave that banner high and don’t forget about it.  So many times I have been stuck, needing that little extra “umph” in a scene.  Adding that little bit of extra sensory perception into a scene is awesome for really engaging your reader.

For instance, the smell of popcorn when you enter a movie theater.  The fragrance of roses dancing on the breeze.  The gritty surface biting into her flesh.

I don’t think there’s a better method of really engaging your reader than NAILING the sensory perceptions.

Do you have a favorite sensory perception?  How about a great example ina book your reading?

Jennifer___Eaton

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Torture Your Protagonist Rule #20 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #20

20: Torture your protagonist. It’s not enough for him to be stuck up a tree. You must throw rocks at him while he figures out how to get down.

I just love this one.  Honestly, I fought this for a while in one of my novels.  I just loved that poor little MC so much.  My beta partner screamed at me to torture him, but I couldn’t.

Of course, now I have grown.  If he has to get across the street, he will have to weave in and out of umpteen explosions as the alien bear down on him, only to get to the other side to be caught in a tractor beam, and while he is immobilized, his girlfriend gets beaten up by an alien…. Okay, that’s not a real plotline of one of my books (yet-Tee hee) but you get the picture.

Easy is boring.  Never make it easy.  This goes back into adding conflict. Each time you sit down think: “How am I going to torture him/her today?”

And then don’t be all nice and wuss out.  LET HIM/HER HAVE IT!  They will forgive you after they get their happy ending.

Jennifer___Eaton

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Don’t sleep with him/her? Rule #19 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #19

19: Don’t allow characters who are sexually attracted to one another the opportunity to get into bed. Unless at least one of them has a jealous partner.

Umm…. What?

I’m staring at this, and trying to think about novels that were good, where there was a little bedroom time, but no jealous lover.

I have to admit… there are a lot… and they are fine. A sexual triangle just is not the main conflict of the story.

Sometimes the strong relationship between two characters makes the overall conflict (not necessarily a jealous partner) a deeper conflict, because the characters really care about each other.

Maybe Allen Guthrie has never read a romance novel? Maybe he just doesn’t like to read bedroom scenes?

What’s your take on this?

Jennifer___Eaton

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Goals and Obstacles in every scene – Rule #18 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #18

18: Give your characters clear goals. Always. Every scene. And provide obstacles to those goals. Always. Every scene. If the POV character in a scene does not have a goal, provide one or cut the scene. If there is no obstacle, add one or cut the scene.

I have talked about this with almost every beta partner I ever had.  Why?  Because my first few beta partners spoke to me about this, and when I started listening, things started coming together for me.

This is where we start having to ax out “Little Darlings” – those scenes where two characters have a nice conversation, but NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS.

Make sure every scene has conflict, and if it doesn’t chop it out.  If it is important to you, you can always post it as an “extra” on your website.  [Smile]

Jennifer___Eaton

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Stop “Saying” Things — Rule #14 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #14

14: Use ‘said’ to carry dialogue. Sid Fleischman calls ‘said’, “the invisible word.” That’s not quite true (anyone who doubts this should track down a copy of Fletcher Flora’s Most Likely To Love), but it’s close enough. And don’t use adverbs as modifiers. Adverbs used in this way are ‘telling’ words (I told you rule 8 was rarely heeded!).

I’m going to partly agree here.  If you need to point out who said something, say:

“Mom went to the market,” Paul said

Now, to be clear… don’t spruce it up by saying “said hastily”, or “said sorrowfully” – That is what he is talking about with adverbs.  Use just plain old said and let the action around the word do the description for you.  Never add an “ly” word, and never say “he groaned” or “he snickered.” Use plain old said.

Now let’s talk about the “invisible word” thing. Said IS invisible, but only to an extent.  A recent editor I had challenged me to get rid of 90% of the word “said” in my manuscript. I exchanged it for actions instead of dialog tags.

Paul leaned over the counter. “Mom went to the market.”

See, there is no confusion as to who is speaking, and I got a little action in to.  The scene flows better.  I couldn’t believe the difference in my manuscript.

I just took a gander at my finished manuscript for “Fire in the Woods” and in 253 pages I only used the word “said” 133 times.  I scanned the first 32 pages, and most of those “saids” are in dialog or internal thought.

“You were supposed to stay home.”

“You said to stay home last night. I went out this morning.”

In those 32 pages, I had only used “said” as a dialog tag three times. (Yes, I am quite proud of that.)

If you are in the middle of a conversation, and you end every few sentences with “he said” or “she said” that little word is not going to be invisible anymore. It will drive your reader nuts.

I think I’ve suggested this exercise before, but I’ll do it again.  Challenge yourself.  Try to remove every “said” as a dialog tag.  You will need to leave a few, but if you can get rid of every occurrence possible and change it up with actions, your manuscript will be ten times stronger.

swish swivel squiggle

Click here to tweet: Stop “saying” things. Rule #14 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever from @jennifermeaton  http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Fk

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Rule #10 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #10

10: Don’t be cute. In [your psycho-killer novel], your [psycho-killer] should not be named Si Coe.

Now, let’s be real.  This is not an all-encompassing rule.  Simon Bar Sinister is a ROCKIN’ name, don’t you think?  And Dudley Do Right?  Classic!

Bend_the_rules

But you need to be careful with your genre. Bend the rules where it works only.  If you are writing a serious horror, you don’t want people giggling about the name.  Keep the comedy where the comedy belongs.

Click to Tweet: Bend the rules very carefully on this one: Rule #10 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever via @jennifermeaton

_JenniFer____EatoN