Tag Archives: writing tips

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts – August 2010 Edition

It’s that time of the month again, time to give a round-up of all the helpful writing sites and blog posts I’ve come across in the past month. I have quite a few this month so I’ll break them up into categories.

WRITING TIPS

Bring Your Characters to Life

Some great ideas on how to really get into your character’s head and make him/her come alive.

How to Write About a Real Location if You Haven’t Been There

Joanna Penn gives some ideas on how to write a location even if you’ve never been there.

Act First, Explain Later

Twelve dos and don’ts for writing a compelling first page.

Tension

Spawned from the #storycraft chat on tension, this post talks about ‘The Knitting Exercise’. By applying this exercise to your novel you can check to see how well tension is working in your novel. You can even apply it to your outline before you start writing.

In A Series, Foreshadowing A Character

Using the Harry Potter series as an example, this post shows how characters can be foreshadowed in a series before making their major appearance.

Tips For Writing A Great Second Draft of You Novel

Five tips for those who have finished the first draft and are ready to start editing.

Make Your Characters Earn Their Keep

Author Wendy Lyn Watson offers a trick for weeding out unnecessary characters.

GETTING READY TO SUBMIT

20 Questions to Ask Before Submitting Your Work

A great checklist for making sure your writing is perfectly polished.

Top Ten Novel Writing Mistakes

Check this list to make sure your novel doesn’t contain any of these common errors.

What Writers Wish They’d Known Before Pitching

A list of 12 things that matter to agents and editors when being pitched by writers.

Are You Ready To Submit Your Novel?

This post covers three critical elements to knowing if your work is ready to submit.

Are We Done Yet?

How do you know if your writing is as polished as it can get and is ready to submit? This post covers ways to know it’s ready and ways to know if it’s not ready.

Write on Con Forums

Even though Write on Con is over for this year the forums are still open. If you write picture books, middle grade or young adult there are sections for each where you can get critique or connect with fellow writers.

QUERIES/SYNOPSES/AGENT ADVICE

Writing the Dreaded Synopsis

Author Ebony McKenna gives some helpful advice on writing a novel synopsis.

Some Query Mistakes

Agent intern Amie (who also does great query sessions on Twitter using the hashtag #queryslam) lists 4 big mistakes you should avoid in your writing. And even though the post is titled ‘Some Query Mistakes’, the mistakes she lists can really be applied to your writing as a whole, not just your query letter or first five pages.

16 Reasons Why Your Manuscript Got Rejected Before Page 1

A former assistant editor outlines 16 common problems found in query letters and offers some solutions.

Interview with YA Agent Mary Kole

Mary gives some insightful answers to questions ranging from what she believes are the qualities of a successful manuscript to what books she would recommend to hone your writing skills.

How to Ensure 75% of Agents Will Request Your Material

This post caused a little bit of controversy, and not everyone agrees the 75% request rate is accurate, but nonetheless Marcus Sakey makes some noteworthy points.

How To Write A Query Letter

Agent Nathan Bransford outlines how to write a query letter. This is a really good post for anyone in the process of writing a query letter as it has lots of great information on the steps involved, from researching the right agent to the most important points to include in your letter.

AUTHOR PLATFORMS

10 Things Authors Should Never Blog About

Some things authors should remember when blogging.

ENCOURAGEMENT/MOTIVATION

Don’t You Dare Give Up

I quoted this in a blog post last week, but I thought it was worth linking to it again. Agent Natalie Fischer gives some encouragement to all of us querying and facing rejection.

50 Strategies For Making Yourself Work

If anyone else is like me, procracstination and distraction can sometimes get in the way of getting writing done. This post has lots of ways you can stop the distractions and get down to writing.

Happy Potter Day

In celebration of J.K. Rowling’s birthday (and her of course Harry Potter’s birthday too) last month, Harry Potter for Writers posted some quotes from J.K. Rowling relating to her writing journey, including some on getting rejected and being persistent.

P.S. Speaking of birthdays, my blog is fast approaching its 1st birthday and to celebrate I will be announcing a contest in one week, so be sure to check back.

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My Best Advice for Other Aspiring Writers

I’m writing this post as part of Peevish Penman’s “My Best Advice to New Writers” Blogfest.

My best advice is something I’ve talked about on this blog a couple of times before, but it truly is my writing mantra: “Show, Don’t Tell”.

Some of this advice I’ve covered before, but there are also a few new little gems I’ve recently discovered.

Use All Five Senses

Don’t just tell the reader what the characters are experiencing, have them feel and experience through your character.  Use sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. For example, don’t tell the reader your character is cold, show the reader how your character experiences the cold, “Lucy pulled her coat tightly around her body against the icy wind. The snow crunched under her feet.” Something I like to do when writing is close my eyes and imagine myself in my character’s place, focusing on each of my senses. I’ve even gone as far as putting my hand in a bowl of ice water to describe how my character felt as she plunged into an ice cold stream.

Eliminate ‘Was’

This is something I’ve recently been focusing on in my edits for my novel. Find the places where you’ve used the verb ‘was’ (or ‘is’ if writing in present tense, or ‘am’ if writing first person present tense), then reword the sentence without using ‘was’. This forces you to not only use stronger verbs, but turns a ‘telling’ sentence into one that shows. Take this sentence, “I was tired.” Let’s try to eliminate was and turn it into a ‘showing’ sentence, “My eyes felt heavy, I could barely keep them open.” The sentence conveys the same information, but shows the character is tired, rather than tells.

Interweave Description into the Story

Telling your reader your character is short or the building is old is boring and assumes the reader is not smart enough to figure out things from more subtle descriptions. Interweave details into the story to create a picture that allows the reader to form their own assumptions and at the same time create a stronger story. Take the above examples, the character is short and the building is old. Let’s interweave those details into a few sentences without using those adjectives. “Bill and Peter had to duck low as they passed under the arch, but Jimmy walked under it comfortably, his head barely grazing the top. The boys looked up at the building before them; its brickwork crumbled in places and ivy wound its way up the wall.”

Take Out Your Highlighter

As I proofread my drafts I use a blue highlighter whenever I come across any parts I think are telling, then when I do my edits I rework those parts to show instead of tell.

Just a few other pieces of advice to end this post:

  • Keep writing, every word makes you a better writer.
  • Listen to those who offer critique on your work, your writing can always get better.
  • Always keep a pen and paper handy for when sudden inspiration strikes.

To check out some of the other great advice being offered during Peevish Penman’s blogfest, check out the links on this page: “My Best Advice to New Authors” Blogfest

Something Fun That Can Also Help Your Writing Revision

Since it is my birthday this weekend I thought I would do a post on something fun.

Wordle is a great little website that allows you to create word clouds with any text. All you have to do is copy and paste the text you want and Wordle automates a word cloud for you. The more frequent words show up as bigger text. You can then play around choosing a colour scheme and font. Just for fun copy paste your current writing into Wordle and see what you get. Here is what the first draft of my current wip looks like as a Wordle:

Katie, my main character, shows up as the most frequent word.

Wordle automatically takes out common English words like ‘the’ and ‘and’, although if you go to ‘language’ you can add those words back in (I tried it and ended up with ‘the’ and ‘and’ taking up nearly the whole Wordle). You can also remove individual words from the Wordle yourself if you want by right-clicking on them. I took out all the character names from mine to see what it would look like without them. Here is what it looked like:

‘Asked’ and ‘one’ now stand out the most.

While it is fun to make Wordles for your wip (or any other text for that matter), they are also a neat little way to see if there are any words you are overusing in your writing. For example, when I look at the Wordle of my first draft (the one without the character names) I can see the word ‘just’ stands out far more than it should, so now as I edit I am looking for instances where I’ve used ‘just’ so I can cut down on its use in my novel. Wordle also has an option where you can look at exactly how many times each word in your text is used. My highest frequency word was ‘the’, which I used over 6000 times.

Just a little note: The word ‘that’ is often overused and unnecessarily included in writing so watch out for it. It happens to be one of the words counted as a commonly used English word, so if you want to check for overuse using Wordle you will either need to include commonly used English words or check the list showing how many times each word was used.

I hope you all have a bit of fun with Wordle. I would love for everyone to leave a comment on which word stands out the most in your Wordle 🙂

Writing Action Scenes

Just recently in a writing forum where I am a member someone posted an fight scene for critique. Between offering critique on this particular scene and revising several chapters of my own novel involving action scenes in the past week I wanted to share some tips on how to write an effective action scene. Action and sex seem to be the two hardest types of scenes to write, so hopefully these tips will help with the action.

– The first thing you might want to do is to watch a few action movies. If you are intending to write a fight scene, try watching movies with fight scenes using the same kind of fighting techniques as you want to write (for example if you are writing a scene where the characters are boxing you might want to watch Rocky or if you are writing a scene with a sword fight you might watch Gladiator or even Star Wars). As you are watching take note of how the characters move.

– Something else you might like to do to help get your head inside your characters as they fight is to try out the movements yourself. Imagine yourself throwing that punch or swinging that axe. What does your body do?

Use short sharp sentences. Action scenes should be fast-paced and the best way to achieve that is to use short sharp sentences eg: “A hard boot connected with his stomach. He gasped for breath.”

– … but vary sentence length to avoid monotony. If every sentence is the same length it becomes boring for the reader eg: “He lunged forward. The swords clashed. He pulled away.” Compare this to, “He lunged forward. The metal swords clashed together. He pulled away.”

Show, don’t tell! I’ve talked about this before, and it is an important aspect of portraying realistic action scenes. Consider your characters’ five senses as you write the scene. Describe what it feels like when he is hit. Can he smell the blood or taste it in his mouth? Is there sweat in his eyes so it is hard to see his opponent? What sounds do the swords make as they connect? Bring the reader into the scene so they can experience it with the characters, rather than just watching it from the sidelines.

Show how your character feels. Does the sight of blood make your character feel sick? Does your character enjoy the satisfying crunch of a bone snapping? Who your character is will define how they feel about the action taking place. This is a good opportunity to flesh out your character’s personality. How does your character react to life-threatening situations? Does fighting go against every moral fibre in your character’s body or is it just a way of life?

Dont’ forget about your characters’ motivations in the scene too. Are they fighting for their life? Is there some prize at the end? Keep their goal clear in your mind as you write the scene. The higher the stakes the more involved your reader will become in the scene. Make the reader want to root for your character. eg: “Sarah gritted her teeth against the pain. Her sister was depending upon her. She couldn’t give up.”

If you have any other tips you have come across to make an action scene really come alive, I would love for you to leave a comment and share it with us.

POST SCRIPT:

I just had to add in a couple of links to some great action writing advice from author A.J. Hartley that I came across today.

Writing Action Scenes

Writing Action II: Battles