A clever and clear explanation of the importance of an oft-overlooked aspect of storytelling.
Since I’m now a freelance editor, I’ve decided to start a new feature on my blog: Jen’s Editing Tips. This will give me a chance to share some of the common mistakes and missteps I come across in the work I edit, and hopefully help you avoid them.
To kick things off, I’m going to discuss one of my biggest editing pet peeves: White space.
Or rather, the lack of it.
As you probably assumed, white space refers to the empty areas on a page. You know, the lovely gaps between paragraphs. The simple, yet powerful tool writers use to present their stories to audiences.
Before I get into the exact reasons why white space is so important, let me show you an example. Below is my 150-word flash fiction piece, Crumb Layer.
Without white space:
When I was little, my mom would let me help her frost cakes. “Remember, Annie,” she’d say, “the first layer…
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So, you’ve finished your first draft?
Go out and celebrate because not many people get to this point.
However, don’t think for a minute that you are done. Oh no. You are far from done.
Writing the 1st draft is actually the easiest part of the whole process.
But it’s OK. We’ll walk through the next steps together. 😉
Before we begin, if you haven’t read “How To Treat Your Writing Like a Business” yet, take a few minutes and check it out.
Now, let’s get down to it.
10 Steps To Get You Published
Step 1: Walk Away From Your Manuscript
Don’t go back through and read it just yet. You brain needs a break. Take a few days and do anything but work on your manuscript (MS). If the idea of doing nothing at all in regards to your book makes you cringe then start rounding…
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Write your first first chapter as a short story–I love that idea.
I can’t count the amount of indie books I’ve started but haven’t finished. I read everything on Kindle now save a few of my favorites like those in my Tolkien collection (I have all hard-bound editions of those). If I want to figure out whether I want to read a new book, I download a sample from Amazon and then if I can get interested in the first few pages, I’ll stick with it through the sample, and then if I can read the entire sample and want more, I buy the book.
The thing is, most readers today are reading on phones or Kindles or iPads. It’s not just the young. My mother is in her 70’s and reads all of her books on her iPad…and she’s an avid reader.
So how can a modern writer write their novel so that it has that un-put-downable quality that forces the…
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Do you learn your storytelling from movies as much as from prose? Many of us do. While certain principles can be learned well from both media, others can’t.
I’ve already discussed a few points in previous posts – scenes with a lot of characters, short, choppy scenes and point of view and dialogue. Today I’m going to look at description.
Description in prose aims to give the reader an experience. It fills in the specifics. Description in scripts or screenplays – and novels by writers who don’t read a lot of prose – is often labels or generics. Let me show you what I mean.
The writer who is more tuned to movies might describe ‘1970s furniture’, or ‘a battered car’. But a great description in prose will talk about the chair shaped like a giant egg, the Toyota with a mismatched door and an unlevel fender.
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We all want to write scenes that grip our readers and keep them glued to the page! Easier said than done, right? Well, here are four tips that I try to keep in mind every time I sit down to craft a scene. They aren’t 100% fool-proof, but they often help me find that extra oomph to make my scene’s sing.
1) Make Sure Your Scene Has Dramatic Action.
The number one reason a scene falls flat is because it doesn’t have any dramatic action. Dramatic action is the action the protagonist takes to resolve the problem he has suddenly been faced with.
In STORY, Robert Mckee talks about dramatic action as “story events” and defines them as an “event that creates a meaningful change in the life situation of a character and is expressed and experienced in terms of a value and achieved through conflict.”
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Can’t be repeated enough. Show, don’t tell. There are times when telling is appropriate, but it isn’t often.
“I kinda hate it when I read writing that does more telling than showing, because it almost makes me feel dumb, you know? It sends the message that the writer thinks that to get their story across then they have to describe everything to the point that there’s no room left for my imagination to enjoy the creativity of filling in any gaps for myself.” Ms. Noni is spot-on with that sentiment.
This seriously awesome “cheat sheet” popped up in my Facebook and Twitter feed the other day and it’s simply too good not to share. It originated from a website called Writers Write:
As writers, we’re often told how important it is to “show, don’t tell” with our words. The funny thing is, it can be easier to write “tell” rather than “show”, but it’s waaaay better to READ “show” than it is to read “tell”. And really, as someone who spends a lot of time reading, I kinda hate it when I read writing that does more telling than showing, because it almost makes me feel dumb, you know? It sends the message that the writer thinks that to get their story across then they have to describe everything to the point that there’s no room left for my imagination to enjoy the creativity of filling in any gaps…
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Too powerful not to share.
All right, it’s about to be a brand new year and many of you are wanting to finally see your books published. ROCK ON! But, I am the friend who will tell you if there is toilet paper hanging out of your pants. Writing isn’t all glitter and unicorns and I want to warn you of the most common stumbling blocks, because I really DO want you to succeed.
When I began writing I was SO SURE agents would be fighting over my manuscript. Yeah. But after almost fourteen years in the industry, a lot of bloody noses, and even more lessons in humility, I hope that these tips will help you.
Self-publishing is AWESOME, and it’s a better fit for certain personalities and even content (um, social media?), but we must be educated before we publish. In fact, my last book Rise of the Machines (cover above) is much…
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As much as we all know to never ever use info dumps, it doesn’t always make sense to convey something through dialogue or a flashback, and sometimes you need the reader to know the information right away – you don’t have time to trickle it through several chapters.
So for those times when you truly need to do some telling instead of showing, here are some tricks to slip it in unnoticed.
Before moving into an info dump, always establish a scene. This means that the very first information conveyed needs to establish the basics: who, what, when, and where. Let the reader know what your character is up to and they will have something to visualize. Visualizing something (anything!), helps the reader stay engrossed in the scene.
The scene you establish must be in some way integral to telling the story…
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