Wednesday, May 30, 2012

You Already Said That . . .

I tend to overuse words. A lot. I have my favorites and they just happen. As writers we need to be wary of this. Some words you need to use a word ton. Like the and a. Others not so much. As I recently blogged about, I had serious issues with the word eyes in my latest work in progress. Three hundred and fifty uses of the word eyes in an 80,000 novel is a bit much.
You can google lists of overused words in fiction, but you should also pay attention to your own word usage. You may pick up a word and use it constantly that isn’t on one of the lists.
Usually, I start my own list of words to seek and destroy. Do this and create a new list often. I tend to have word trends or words of the month. A few months ago, the word was fool. In my novel, everyone was a fool and calling each other fools. Another time, it was almost fell. My characters were slipping and sliding and almost falling all over the place.
As you are editing your novel, pay attention to the words you use. If you are uncertain if a word is being used too often, use the find all function of your document. Seeing them all highlight can make a difference.
Happy writing!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Writing Lessons from Angry Birds: Goals

Angry Birds is one of my favorite writing distractions. Nothing like destroy green, smug-faced pigs to get the creative juices flowing or to relax after writing an intense scene. I think you can learn a thing or two about writing from the simple game.
First lesson: Goals. Your hero should have them and they should be worthy goals. That means they should be something the reader cares about too.
In Angry Birds, the birds are angry (well obviously) and are determined to destroy the green pigs. By itself, that is sort of blah. I’m sure the game would still be entertaining, but would I get as angry at the pigs as I do? (Well, technically yes, because I am angry at the stupid green pigs because they always defy gravity and balance on an impossible ledge or they get nestled safely under rubble that should’ve crushed them, but that’s beside the point).
Why should we care about the birds?
Their goal: Not to destroy the pigs, but to get back their eggs. That’s right! The mean old pigs stole the poor defenseless baby birds. It’s a much better goal. Suddenly, those slingshot birds have our sympathy and attention.
A worthy goal will draw the reader in. It will make them sympathize with your hero and want them to succeed.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Best Friends: Your Main Character’s Sidekick

Sometimes good hero needs a sidekick or a best friend. They can provide the comic relief as Ron Weasley so often did. They can be helpful and save your hero’s behind like Timon and Pumbaa. They can sometimes be annoying like Edmund in the Narnia books (or worse like Eustace Scrubb). Sometimes, the sidekick simply gets your characters into more shenanigans like Ethel of I Love Lucy.
Either way, your character isn’t a solitary figure. (Unless you are writing about the last man in the entire world). Use those people around them to create a richer world and a richer character.
Here are some pictures of my two favorite best buddies:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Please Prove You are Not a Robot

I’ve been dabbling in the blogging world for a while now. I love meeting new people and commenting on their blogs.
One thing that gets me every time  . . . when I leave a comment on someone’s blog, sometimes a box will come up with gibberish for me to type in (you know what I’m talking about. Words like grimshk clikea or paveat hariua). I’ve noticed recently that the top of the box says, “Please prove you are not a robot.”
This gets me giggling every single time.
I’m not sure why. I mean it’s perfectly clear I’m not a robot. (See above where I masterfully typed “grimshk clikea” and “paveat hariua"). And there is nothing funny about being a robot. I’m sure there are lots of nice, hard-working robots in the world.
We shouldn’t judge.
Maybe next time that message comes up, I’ll type in “beep bop boop beep.” Then we’ll see what it does!
Happy Writing!

Monday, May 21, 2012

I Didn’t Mean to Say That!

Ah editing. It is one of life’s necessities when you are a writer. I recently went on an editing frenzy and ended up cutting over 2000 words of Bonded. I’d discovered I had used the word eyes over 350 times. Yes, my characters all have eyes and they all use their eyes to do stuff, like looking, but that’s just overkill. (Perhaps that shall be the topic of another post).
Today’s post is about seeing what you say and not what you mean. Writers are great at writing awesome sentences, but sometimes, what you see in your head and what your reader sees are two entirely different things.
Here’s an example from my editing adventures:
Her fingernails scrambled against the stones, trying to escape.
What I meant was that she (the owner of the fingernails) was trying to escape. But now that I look at what I actually said the only thing I can think is, “Why are the fingernails trying to escape?” This isn’t a zombie novel. Nor is it a sci-fi-your-fingernails-have-become-alive . . . though that might make a good horror story. Imagine waking up in the middle of a dark night to find your fingernails escaping or worse, seeking revenge on you for biting them . . .
Anyhow . . .
The moral of the story: When editing, make sure you see what you say and not what you mean.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Reading It Out Loud

Here’s a little tip I got from the writing conference last week. Reading your novel out loud helps you find errors.
I’ve heard this one before (like a million times), but I never did it. I didn’t need to read my novels out loud. I thought it was a waste of air. Plus, I read pretty fast in my head. Speaking the words takes so long.
But that’s sort of the point. Yes, most people can zip through page after page in their head, but an interesting thing happens when we do. Silent reading means the words go straight from our eyes to our brain. And our brain does some handy little subconscious editing.
For example, when reading silently, we automatically understand words that are missing lettrs. Or our brains will adjust if words up end backwards. We even add words that have been out. While these samples are silly, in works you are familiar with (such as your novel) you will end up doing at least one of these things.
Reading out loud, that’s different. Now it must go from your eyes to your brain and to your mouth. If what you are seeing and what you are saying doesn’t match up, you will catch yourself.
           Also, in reading out loud, you will catch little rhymes and alliterations that you didn’t mean to say. These unintended phrases can be a mouthful (or a brainful) and your epic fantasy novel will end up sounding like Dr. Seuss.
On a side note, now that I’ve started reading my novel out loud, my cat is completely convinced I’ve lost my mind. He meows and tilts his head as if to ask, “Why are you talking?” And of course, he automatically assumes I’m talking to him. Poor kitty. What am I trying to say to him? Why am I talking and not giving him love or food (which is pretty much the same thing in his eyes)?
Do you read your novel out loud? Does your cat think you are crazy?
Happy writing!