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Posts Tagged ‘Writers Resources’

Let’s begin with a bonus today: By

It’s the preposition of the wRiting Effort DoUbled by Concentrated Educational Details, but let’s not forget the little things. And that’s it – don’t forget the little things:

  • The importance of proper formatting for manuscript submissions:
    • Times New Roman
    •  size 12, double-spaced
    •  1 inch margins
    •  new paragraphs indented (tabs) not an additional space between paragraphs
    • Running headers are expected: your last name, title, page # (i.e. Schaub/Gateways/14)
    • Resource for formatting: http://www.writingworld.com/basics/manuscript.shtml
  • How to write a query letter
    • Writing a great query letter is as important of rockin’ that little black dress on the red carpet. It’s the first and sometimes the only impression you make. It must be flawless, as intriguing as your story, and it must be formatted correctly. Each agent, editor or publisher will ask for different submission packages, but query letters are pretty standard. The best resource I’ve found on-line is http://queryshark.blogspot.com/  It’s funny and direct.
  • Using the Writer’s Market to find agents and editors. That’s a no brainer.
  • Read books they have represented. It’s time-consuming, but necessary – know to whom you are sending your work. Visit their website. Follow their submission guidelines to the letter. Track your submissions.

Concentrated. (Pack a punch in fewer words – how)

Like orange juice and soup from the can: just add water. In writing, that means we grant the reader some intelligence and don’t spell out every single detail. Find the words that fill in the gaps without running margin-to-margin for three pages.  Excellent writers give readers the concentrated pulp. Readers add their own vision. End result: literary joy.

Three out of four suggestions of what follows are some excellent writing points I found in Word Magic for Writers by Cindy Rogers.

The book oozes ideas, reminders, reviews, new concepts. And just when you think you’ve read it all, there’s another zingy hint that punches up the quality of your writing.

The first two are terms I had never been introduced to before …and I called myself a writer!

1. ASYNDETON

Put simply, this is a list without a conjunction. I’ve already used this in this post. Do you see it?

I learned something new right on page 27 of Roger’s book even though I’ve studied writing, practiced writing, edited writing. (There I did it again.) The technique of listing a series without a conjunction creates multiplicity, despite that only three things are listed. Computers are programmed to dislike the asyndeton as the word ‘edited’ in the previous sentence is underlined in green. Be brave. Ignore the green line.

Another example:

The house of a homeschooling family is busy; not only in the flourish of activity from numerous children, but the books that clutter the tables, the art projects on the walls, the kitchen that serves lunch with a side of algebra.

The image given shows the reader – without so many words – that there is more going on in that homeschooling household than just those three things. The list goes on in the readers mind, allowing he/she to bring a piece of their own imagination to the sentence without me, the writer, stuffing it into their heads. This first sample gives the reader ownership of the image this sentence evokes.

However, in school, I was taught to put a conjunction at the end. Read that again with changes that make the inner editor happy.

The house of a homeschooling family is busy; not only in the flourish of activity from numerous children, but the books that clutter the tables, the art projects on the walls, and the kitchen that serves lunch with a side of algebra.

Written in this way, there are only three things happening in the house. My home has been a homeschooling home for years, but I’m certain that any parent will agree that any house with kids has more than three things going on at once.

2. POLYSYNDETON

If you guessed that a polysyndeton is a series with a conjunction between each and every word, you are a genius! The effect of the polysyndeton is similar to the asyndeton in that an image is strengthened and given a feeling of endlessness.

Her day included laundry and diapers and groceries. It didn’t matter if she was tired or sick or had no matching socks. She was a mother and a daughter and a sister. Nothing else mattered.

The use of commas between each phrase is optional – I like it without sometimes because of the restless mood it creates. This mother is so busy a sentence about her doesn’t even have time to use commas. But if you want to slow down the pace of the polysyndeton, use the comma. For example:

We drank wine on the deck, and on the beach, and in the hot tub. Lunch was taken in front of the T.V., or by the campfire, or in bed. Delicious slices of sleepy silence filled moments between meals, between walks, between sight-seeing. It was their first vacation since the last child went to college. If only they knew it would be the last.

An example Cindy Rogers uses in her book is from Isaiah 24:1-2

Behold, the Lord makes the earth empty, and makes it waste, and turns it upside down, and scatters abroad the inhabitants thereof. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with the master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.

3. AMPLIFICATION

Just like it sounds, amplification brings attention to a particular feature, event, or idea to which the writer wishes to direct your attention. Being a ‘concentrated’ writing technique – using fewer words and no exclamation points – to make a statement, a professional writer knows this trick.

He responded as a two-year-old, with a two-year-old tantrum. A tantrum worthy of Best-Actor performance. A tantrum which broke the sound ordinance.

4. REPETATIVE REDUNDENCY

I recently read a friend’s draft of the first chapter of her first novel. While her concept is top notch and the characters are easy to like, the writing lacked the sparkle needed to make it jump out for agents and publishers. For example, within the first paragraph, she wrote something like this:

He launched himself down the dark alley, hoping the darkness would hide him from his pursuers, hoping the cloaking blackness would hide his fears.

Notice the problem? The words dark and hide are used more than once. If you are savvy, you also noticed that hoping is used twice, but that is the amplification technique, and therefore acceptable.

Every sentence in your novel needs to pack a punch. Using the ‘punch’ concept, what is more memorable? A one-punch knockout or a series of medium slaps on the cheek that really just irritate? If you box, you go for the gusto and land that solid right-hook in the first ten seconds of round one and go home. The same is true for writers. Knock the reader out with amazing upper-cut to the imagination.

The sentence re-written might be:

He bolted down the alley, hoping the darkness would conceal him, hoping the raging beat of his heart wouldn’t give him away.

I changed launched to bolted. This character isn’t jumping off something – he’s not launching. He’s running for his life. I also followed the show-don’t -tell rule (your bonus tip for the day). Instead of using the word fears, telling the reader how he’s feeling, I described his pounding heart. It’s implied that he’s afraid. If he wasn’t he wouldn’t be running away.

Next Time: Educational (no quiz, I promise!)

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In the movie Pleasantville, the students in geography class arduously study the layout of their city. When asked what happens if you go passed the East end of Main Street, the teacher laughs and says, “Why, you’ll end up at the beginning, of course,” and she points to the West end of Main Street with her yard stick.

While real-life streets actually can go on forever or end in frustrating dead-ends, our tasks and goals certainly can feel like Main Street in Pleasantville.

I am nearing the completion of another novel…writing one, that is. Again I am amazed that no matter how much work I put into it, another series of things to do jump up at me like some To-Do list jack-in-the-box. After months of planning scenes, working out plot issues, character sketches and tweeking the dialogue, the completion of the last line becomes the beginning of a new task before I can announce that my novel is truly finished.

Revision.

Starting next week, I’ll go through the novel again, looking at it as a whole. Plot weaknesses will need mending. Bland dialogue will require a dash of seasoning. Gaps in the story, weak transitions and spelling errors must be patched up.

Then the novel goes to my four most trusted critics: my husband and three daughters.

They will circle, comment, laugh, shake their heads in sad disbelief and tell me where I missed the mark and where I was spot-on.  After the first round of critiques, I will return to the revision process and do it all over again. And again and again until they deem it worthy for submission.

And thank goodness for them. Without their knowledge of stories, their experience between the lines of fantastic tales, if not for their incredible honesty, I would never succeed. That implies that I have succeeded already as a writer. And by gosh I’m going to convince myself that I have! I write every day because I want to be a writer. I blog, read the latest issue of Writer’s Digest from cover-to-cover the moment it arrives, and I read as much as possible, both about the craft of writing and young adult novels. But my greatest success is accepting criticism from my family. It’s an honor to know and love a group of people who know and love me no matter what kind of dribble I try to pass off as a good story. I hope that my daughters see me improve as a writer. I also hope they will someday have people in their lives that will speak to them honestly and that they will listen.

Another beginning I’m working through is the marketing of my first book, Gateways. And so, in an effort to share my stories and step out into the world as a ‘real’ author, I encourage you to check it out at http://amzn.to/KSAlyb (in Kindle and Paperback).

Another plug is for the on-line critique group I’ve started. Have a children’s or young adult story you would like feedback on? Check us out: http://bit.ly/KOL5hU

And so, as I cross one finish line I will also begin another. Isn’t that they way of life? Just when you think you are “There”, you find yourself right back at the beginning with a fresh start or a second chance.

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Years ago I read a piece of advise that made me smile: Create a soundtrack to your life. Yes. A soundtrack. I loved the idea and spent a few days gathering CD’s and scouring iTunes for just the right songs. The result was a 15-song play list of my life. I play it constantly for writing inspiration, dance to the music with my children and listen to it on long drives. But mostly, and you can laugh at me, I play it loudly during the moments of my life that should be big but feel anti-climatic. For example, I finished my third novel a few weeks ago and no one was home to celebrate with me. Saved by my soundtrack, I poured a small glass of wine and listened to U2’s ‘Zoo Station‘ three times. Then I set to work editing, feeling my ‘movie moment’ had been fulfilled.

My son repeated me when I said, “I love you.” It came out more like, “Wuv U” but I’m not picky! I celebrated by rocking him to sleep to George Winston‘s ‘Holy & Ivy’.

When I slid my submission packages across the counter at the post office, I was torn between the Rocky theme song or ‘Eye of the Tiger‘.

Now I’m creating the best query letter I can possibly write, formating my chapter-by-chapter synopsis to be just as entertaining as the book I hope they will publish. What is the music of choice? ‘The Kiss’, the beautiful violin music from The Last of the Mohicans.

I’m sending submission packages to smaller publishers in hopes that someone will ‘Take a Chance on Me‘ (ABBA). And send them out I will. A submission can only be successful if I try…and try and try again. If I stop writing and submitting, then failure will embrace me like a choke vine. I refuse to quit (I Will Survive). Rather, (imagine ‘Stayin’ Alive‘ here and picture me walking down the street, full of motivation and wearing a spiffy white suit) I will will weed through the Writer’s Market 2012 once more, take all the notes I can, attend the conferences, support authors at booksignings and writing groups, and remember who it is I write for: God (Il Divo‘s, ‘Amazing Grace’) and the young minds and hearts who want an excellent story about people with a pulse.

Share your song – what music motivates you? Workouts, writing, driving, dancing with the kids…share the soundtrack of your life.

 

 

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