3 S.R. Johannes: Nuggets of Knowledge (Part 2)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Nuggets of Knowledge (Part 2)

From now on - since this is supposed to be more of a marketing blog (sprinkled with a few rants and raves), I will always include a marketing tip for published and pre-published authors no matter the topic of the post. I will also rank the cost: Free, Low, Medium, High.

Today's tip: Fancy up your cards
Always use both sides of our business cards and always do them in some kind of color. (Low-medium cost depending on design)
  • Published - Use both sides of your business card - use the front for your information, and use the back to list your book title(s), blurbs, how to buy book, etc
  • Pre-published - You can do the same. Use the front for your information and the back for the book you are trying to sell along with your 2-3 sentence elevator speech. It may catch an editor or agents eye.
Now for Self-Editing for Fiction Writers continued:

7) See How it Sounds -
  • Dialogue must be compressed and more focused than real dialogue.
  • use more contractions.
  • two sentences can be strung together with a comma instead of period. Most real people do not pause between sentences. (do not overuse).
  • dialogue is excellent to get facts across.
  • weed out fancy words - instead of "have you considered the consequences?", how about "have you thought about what might happen?"
  • have characters answer unspoken questions, talk at cross purposes, have them hedge or disagree.
  • good dialogue must mimic real speech so it sounds real.
  • read your dialogue out loud with someone - be alert for anything you naturally change or say that is not written. Even non verbals.
  • Don't not use trick spellings or lexical gimmicks. Occasional different spelling is OK but don't use it too often.
  • best way to show dialect or speech is through word choice, cadence and grammar.

8) Interior Monologue -

  • don't use too much - it can interrupt the scene. Focus on beats.
  • be sure you do not reiterate what is already in scene.
  • make sure it is not explaining dialogue.
  • show what you can't show in dialogue.
  • ask yourself - how important are these feelings to the story?
  • never use quotes and you don't need italics.
  • rarely a good idea to mumble or speak under breath unless it is specific to your character.
  • if monologue is long, set off in a separate paragraph.

9) Easy beats

  • internal monologue is considered a beat.
  • physical actions can be beats.
  • allows you to vary pace of dialogue
  • don't describe actions in too much detail unless it is critical to story. Assume your readers can fill in the steps you skip.
  • # of beats depends on rhythm of dialogue.
  • only describe things that really matter.
  • higher tension - fewer beats; lower tension/breaks - more beats.
  • beats show change in emotion - when character has a change of feeling or realization
  • read aloud for natural flow. Listen for the natural pauses - that is where you can add a beat.
  • write fresh beats to cliches. Change up cliches.
  • Watch your friends as they are talking for non verbals

10) Breaking it up

  • watch lengths of paragraphs. never longer than 1/2 of a page.
  • You want some white space
  • longer paragraphs - create a slower pace; shorter paragraphs create more tension.
  • All chapters do not have to be the same length.
  • brief scenes or chapters create tension.
  • IN real life - few of us get a string of sentences off without any interruption. Look for long paragraphs of dialogue and break it up.

11) Once is enough!

  • be sure you are not repealing feelings or actions too often.
  • watch for echos - words repeated in a paragraph should be altered for variety. repeated phrases in a chapter should be altered.
  • don't use brand names often - mention once and then use generic.
  • be on lookout for repetition on a larger scale as well. -
  • Writing 2 or more chapters that offer the same thing - consider combining them or distinguishing them.
  • When you have characters that accomplish the same thing - consider combining them or distinguishing them.
  • Watch repetitive effects (throwing up, rolling eyes etc)
  • Do not crate stereotypical characters- find a way to change them.
  • watch repetition from book to book. Be sure the plot shifts and different characters are not really just the same one repeated with a different name.

12) Sophistication

  • Watch "stylistic constructions" beginning with as or ing word. Pulling off her gloves, she turned to face him. OR As she pulled off her gloves, she turned to face him.
  • Only use these if you need the actions to happen at the same time and if they physically happen at the same time.
  • Look for cliches - life in the fast lane - change them up or replace them with something different.
  • Watch for characterization cliches - nerd with pocket pen etc
  • Look for ly adverbs.
  • You can depart from conventional comma usage in dialogue. It may convey how the speech really sounds.
  • do not need emphasis quotes
  • use exclamation points when someone is yelling.
  • Do not use italics for emphasis - show emphasis in dialogue and rhythm.
  • Watch out for flowery or poetic speech unless it is part of your character trait.Be sure character speaks as they really would.
  • Subtle approaches invokes reader imagination. Leave some physical details to the reader.

13) Voice

  • Literary style is different from voice - they are not interchangeable. You can have one and not the other.
  • Watch out for too many sentences in a row with same structure. Diminishes voice - no one talks that way.
  • If you capture a state of mind poetically - be sure it captures a turning point or key state of mind in character development
  • Most characters do not have a "descriptive" speech naturally
  • Watch for vagueness (generic) descriptions - man ordered drink vs dwarf ordered a vodka
  • If a passage seems obvious - check for explanation (narration or dialogue) or rewrite
  • If passage seems strained - read it aloud for any minor changes you can make.

That's it - I learned a ton. You may find some things are not as problematic to you as others.

Go through your book and highlight each one in a different color. Sweep through for each problem to see if it needs to be addressed.

Happy writing!


holly cupala said...

Great stuff, Shelli! I'm coming back when I'm ready to revise all those words...

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

thanks for coming holly. Hope you'll visit again :)

Anonymous said...

Could you give me a general definition of a "beat"? I've heard the term used in screenwriting, but I'm not exactly sure how the author is defining it here.

Carrie Harris said...

These are great tips! The one thing I'd add is about dialogue... when I critique, I always notice a lot of people using character names in their dialogue. Like:

"Sam," said Betty, "how are you?"
"I'm fine, Betty," said Sam.
"That's great, Sam."

AUGH! People don't talk like that!!!

Sorry. It's a pet peeve. Can you tell? :)

Anonymous said...

Self Editing for Fiction Writers is an excellent resource. Seeing it in your post makes me think I need to pull it out and review it. Again. If i can find it that is...

Anonymous said...

As i read through these recommendations, I wonder about school visits. You don't say much about them. I'm feeling very frustrated 'cause I had a school tell me they couldn't work it out, which means they didn't want to pay me. I have a lot of writer friends who tell me I absolutely should charge for every school visit, yada, yada, yada. But if I lose a school visit over it? I wonder what your thoughts are...