Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Reading to Improve Your Writing

At first, I planned to post a book review. That was until I realized that the book was about ten years old and after visiting Amazon learned that there are over five hundred reviews listed. Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/False-Memory-Dean-Koontz/product-reviews/0553592149/ref=sr_1_1_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1 I figured no one really needs my opinion on this book.

Guess what, I will share it anyway. If you are a Dean Koontz Fan and haven't read False Memory, do yourself a favor and pick it up. It's one of those rare ones that once you pick it up, you won't put it down. When I made the purchase, I felt that I'd lost interest in reading. I couldn't make it past the first few chapters with anything I picked up. Halfway through this book I realized that it wasn't my interest that was lacking it was the writing of the book.

Reading to Improve Your Writing This is where both types of books come in handy.

How did the writer pull you in? How did she fail in doing so?

Watch for flashbacks. Do they work? If so, why?

Do the characters feel real? If not, what qualities should the writer included to make them real?

As a writer, much can be learned by other's successes and failures. When it's done right, the stories flow like magic. The seams are hard to see. But when it's done wrong, different characteristics of the story will pop out at you.

I'm currently trying to read another book. It was written by another of my favorite authors. It's just not sucking me in. Why? For one, I feel the writer jumped from one character's view to another's too often. It also seems that most of what is going on at the beginning is letting the reader get familiar with the characters, who are great by the way. I'm hoping that the pace picks up soon and stuff starts happening. I guess that may be my number one issue with the book. The pace is unusually slow.

What do you look for as you read a book?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Plot

What is Plot?

This is what happens within the individual scenes and the overall story.

One way to simplify this is to break it down into three acts. (There are other methods.)

Act 1 should include introducing the main characters, their goals, conflict, and setting. There should be plot conflict (What the character wants and what’s in their way), character conflict (Why they want what they want), and stakes (what will happen if character does not succeed).

Act 2 should show the stakes increasing (now instead a trophy, the character needs the prize money to pay the mortgage his mother didn’t pay), and decrease the characters ability to be able to obtain goal(perhaps the character is entering a car race and he finds out that the engine has to be overhauled before he can race, this puts the pressure one.)

Act 3 is where it all comes to a close. The character either reaches or fails to reach his goal. She faces the consequences of the outcome. All loose ends are brought to some sort of closure.

I’m not sure how many writers draft their stories using this method or any other structure. I feel more comfortable with a free flowing method. Once the story is down on paper, I may check to see if the ingredients are there, but it’s usually apparent when they are not. The story will not feel complete.

Please share your thoughts on structuring your story’s plot.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

War of Words - Poem Accepted

I sent a poem to Long Story Short and it has been accepted. 'War of Words' will appear in the April 2010 edition at http://www.alongstoryshort.net/ .

Monday, September 14, 2009

Reading Your Work Backwards

Over the years, I’ve ran across the advice of using this method for editing many times. I’ve never really thought much about it and had never put it to the test. While editing my last story, I decide to give it a try. I was amazed by what popped out at me and even more amazed that I did not catch the mistakes during the normal read through.

The steps I took: I began by reading the last sentence, then the next to last sentence, and continued this until I was done with a complete paragraph. After this I reread the paragraph from beginning to end. I made corrections as I went. Some were just straight reading, there were no errors, but a few paragraphs receive complete makeovers. I continued this process from the end of the story to the beginning.

Depending on the length of the story, I suggest doing this in small intervals. The eyes get tired and begin to scan over the words after a while.

Give it a try. There’s nothing to lose, but a little time. I’m sure this process will be useless to some, but you’ll never know for sure until you give it a shot.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Stories That Flow

Have you ever noticed that some stories work you to death, while others just flow from your fingertips?

I’ve been working with one story that has been through many edits. I’m still working on it. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m not working it to death. Am I telling the wrong story? Do the characters wish to remain unknown? This story has taught me a lot. I believe my writing has improved considerably from reworking it.

This thought occurred to me because of another story I wrote a month ago. It flowed from me so magically and after one edit it was ready to send out.

If only they were all that easy.

Maybe some stories are meant to be lessons, while others are precious gems waiting to be shined slightly.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Finding the Time to Write

It’s one of the biggest issues plaguing the writer. Even if you have plenty of time, most writers will discover new things to do to keep themselves from sitting down and writing. Overcoming the fear of writing is the number one obstacle. By writing every day, this will become a thing of the past.

Every writer is different and each will find a different routine that works for him. Some need structure in their day. Others enjoy that spare of the moment writing.

One of two things is necessary to get your butt in that seat. A timed schedule will work best for you structured writers, while a set goal of words or pages may work better for you others. Of course, it is possible to use both.

A timed schedule can be set up relatively easy. You’ll need a scheduling graph, including each hour of the day. First, write in all of your obligations and tasks that have nothing to do with writing. Now look for openings for writing time. You should allow for at least two hour sessions if possible. This will give you time to stare at the blank page, but still enough time to get something wrote.

A set goal should be something of word count or pages done in a week’s time. Find a calendar and set your goals. Sunday would be a good choice. Say you decide upon five pages. You have no obligation of when to write, but by Sunday evening you need five pages wrote. This allows you to use thirty minute sessions, or even three hour sessions, depending upon what you are capable of.
I’m still setting up my routine, but I feel I’m getting close to having one that will work. I’m leaning toward the timed schedule. In this way, my allotted time can be distributed between writing, editing, research, and marketing, depending on what needs to be done at that time. As I move along, the speed of my tasks should also increase allowing more to be done within my set time.

I’d also like to set a goal system in place to up productivity, but this will wait until I have a comfortable routine.

Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on developing a routine. I look forward to your comments.
 
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