Tag Archives: Editing

Is “meanwhile” the Magic Word of Writing?

Hey there!! It feels like forever since I’ve posted! Sorry about that but life…ugh…don’t you just hate it when life interrupts your blog time? LOL!!! Ah well. Luckily I have been working on my novel…well I call it a novel but actually it’s more like a massive writing exercise I’ve been doing for five years.

It started as a free writing exercise I did about five years ago and during times when I don’t have any projects going on I pull it out and add to it. It’s gotten so long now I’ve realized that it is practically a novel in and of itself so I’ve been going back through it to see if I can make it work as a novel. It’s actually a really interesting exercise but one of the hardest things for me to write are the transition pieces that connect scene to scene and chapter to chapter.

Sometimes I just say “forget the transitions” and start a new chapter, but you can’t do that too often or your book will end up being 100 pages filled with 300 chapters. I like for my transitional pieces to be smooth and for one scene to just sort of flow naturally into the other but in many cases it just feels wrong to me. I read an article somewhere that said that the best way to combat a difficult transition is the usage of the word “meanwhile”. The basic principal was to use the word “meanwhile” when you were undecided as to how to move from one scene to the next.

Making my scene shifts have a workable rhythm is one of the hardest parts of writing for me

Give your scene shifts a smooth rhythm

Example:
Chad didn’t know where to go from here. His father was dead, his home a pile of rubble. The only things he had left were an old scorched picture and a goldfish.
Meanwhile in a shopping center across town Kerri wondered if life could get any better. She had a sweet ride, a credit card, and a father who didn’t ask questions.

Without the word “meanwhile” in between those two bits of scenes, it would’ve felt a bit slap-dash and there wouldn’t have been much of a flow. However, that one word added in it allows for a fluid movement between the scenes and also adds an interesting thematic juxtaposition between the characters’ lives.

Meanwhile= The Writer’s HOCUS POCUS!!

Some might say that “meanwhile” is the magic word of writing and true, there is something a bit magical in the word’s ability to pack so much practical usefulness and potential thematic depth in one word but you can take it too far. When I started off using “meanwhile” to help with my scene shifts I felt great…but then I read back over what I had written and…oh dear. I realized that I had used the word so much that it was almost laughable. A small part of my mind half expected to turn the page and read MEANWHILE AT THE LEGION OF DOOM (I tried to just add a pic of the Legion of Doom headquarters but my computer wouldn’t let me, the video was all I could find)!!!

How do you like to transition? Do you use “meanwhile”? Do you like to add a chapter or page break? What are some techniques you’ve found?

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the day: Looking for a Haunt
For this exercise I want you to imagine that you or one of your characters has just died and has become a ghost and are now looking for a place to haunt. How would you decide which place to haunt and what would you do to haunt the house? Are you a poltergeist (a playful ghost? Are you a friendly ghost? Are you a vengeful ghost? Why?
See you around!

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Plot Outlining: Mapping the Journey

Writers have gotten a reputation of being a roguish band of disorganized dreamers who relish chaos, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. The ability to organize your plot and sort through your ideas is an easy way to make the entire writing process develop better. Outlining is the best method I have found to make organizing my plot points a faster process. I am of the opinion that writing is difficult enough in itself so I will attempt anything that I can to make the creative process smoother.

Writing is chaotic enough!! Save you sanity and make it easier on yourself

Writing is chaotic enough!! Save you sanity and make it easier on yourself

The moment I get an idea for a story I take out a sheet of paper and plot out a potential plotline. The outline I use is fairly general. I use the headings from the plot triangle we all learned about in school (Exposition, Rising Action, Climax etc.) and then I fill in the events for every section.

Example:

This is an example of the type of outline I like to use (note: this is a vague outline I drew up a few years ago before I started a rough draft for a 10 minute play):

I. Exposition
1. Introduce Daughter (protagonist) and Mother (antagonist)
a. Introduce conflict between Daughter and Mother- Mother wants Daughter to get married to jerk.
b. Mother is tight lipped and rigid, Daughter is restless and wants to rebel.
2. Daughter plans to run away
a. Describe what problems she has with Mother/Fiancé.

II. Rising Action
1. Mother wants Daughter to stay and avoid scandal
a. Further development of conflict between Mother and Daughter.
2. Introduce Fiancé.
a. Fiancé is smug and entitled.
b. Daughter insults Fiancé.

III. Climax
1. Fiancé slaps Daughter
a. Daughter stands up to Fiancé.
b. Fiancé exits.

IV. Falling Action
1. Mother shifts from antagonist to protagonist
a. Helps Daughter leave.
b. Starts understanding.
2. Daughter Leaves.

V. Resolution
1. Re-enter Fiancé
a. Fiancé threatens Mother.
b. Mother stands up to Fiancé.

This outline wasn’t set in stone by any means. As I created the characters and came to a better understanding of their mental situations and goals the story shifted but this outline really helped me to organize my ideas and to envision how my story was going to play out. If when I was writing the rough draft I found out that something from my outline didn’t work I’d change it, but the outline gave me a simple and streamlined way to sort through my ideas.

Outlining for me is a simple way to navigate the chaotic world of writing

Outlining for me is a simple way to navigate the chaotic world of writing

It’s like mapping out your route for a road trip. You start out with what you think is the best road to reach your intended destination and you start down that way, but while you’re on the way you find out that a section of the highway is covered in potholes so you change your planned and take a smoother road. That’s the mindset I have when I write my pre-rough draft outline. There may be some bumps in the road as I make my way towards the end, but at least I have an idea of where I’m going.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Lost Senses
Imagine that you woke up one morning and could not hear or speak. Describe the sensations you might feel as you try to figure out what happened to you, why it happened and how to deal with it. How would you learn to communicate with the world without using your ears or your voice? This exercise allows you to explore the world of body language. Imagine what types of facial and body movements you would use to communicate with the world.

Have fun with this one and I’ll see you next time!!!

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Thoughts on Nanowrimo

Well another year, and another dreaded Nanowrimo, is in the books. I say dreaded Nanowrimo not because I don’t like seeing people get excited about writing but more because I dislike the feeling that I get when I try. I have tried many times to plow through and reach the word count but it has never worked. When I first started trying I liked the idea of having a measurable goal to keep myself to because I thought it would give me more motivation, but instead it only added to the already palpable stress of the writing process. I actually reached the word count goal the first time I tried. I sat down every day, even days when my level of caring was below 0, and pounded out the words. I thought that I’d spend November writing, and then December and January editing and polishing. Well by the time I reached January and was in the process of editing I realized a major problem. Somewhere along the way I had become so obsessed with reaching the word count I had placed the higher value on the quantity of the words and had completely stop caring whether or not they were the right words. By the end of that January I had edited away over half of what I had done in November. I still like the overall concept of Nanowrimo and having a measurable goal but I dislike the idea of limiting myself to one month or word count.

Finding the best word

For me Nanos always end up with me placing a higher value on the number of words and not worrying whether or not they are the right ones.

This year I decided that I wouldn’t even attempt to do a Nanowrimo. In the beginning of the month I started a new seasonal retail sales job and I thought that working retail through Black Friday and all of the rest of the shopping seasonal would make for enough stress. Luckily things in the sales world have calmed down enough to let me write this post, but I think things are going to pick up a bit as it gets closer to Christmas. As you might remember from my last post I had set up some reading/viewing goals for the holidays and I wanted to give you a bit of an update. As far as the viewing plans I can happily say that I was able to watch all 3 movies on my list (Inception, The Fellowship of the Ring, V for Vendetta and After the Thin Man) but I didn’t do quite as well with the reading. I was able to find time to read 2 Sherlock Holmes novels (A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four) and Ender’s Game but that was it. I am afraid that I underestimated the level of exhaustion I’d feel working retail during the holiday season.

 

RETAIL STRESS!!! HAHAHA!!! :)

RETAIL STRESS!!! HAHAHA!!! 🙂

 

I would love to just sit here and continue writing a Moby Dick-esque post but I am afraid that I just got called into work…and it just started snowing…yay. Hahahaha!!!! Angry shoppers wait for no man!!

Sorry for the long wait in between my posts, but I very recently got some much needed technological advancements so I have much better inter access. Pardon me for a moment while I do my happy dance. *DANCES* I hope to post more in the future, but I might get a bit caught up in holiday madness.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

The Exercise of the Day: The Travel Exercise

For this exercise you will need to picture someone who is about to travel. Describe the clothes they wear, their destination and method of travel. Do they drive a car? Take a bus/plane? What do they pack? Are they excited about their impending trip or are they scared? Take this construct and build a short piece of fiction around it. Have fun with this and I will see you around!!

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Bad Language in Your Writing: Yes or No?

Oh Gosh Golly!!!!!

Oh Gosh Golly!!!!!

Too many writers today have decided that in order for their work to have an “edge” then all of their characters have to swear like sailors or teenage boys. I am not saying that everything that you write has to read like an episode of Leave it to Beaver, but if you are going to use profanity you must make sure the words have their own flow.

All words need rhythm, even "bad" ones

All words need rhythm, even “bad” ones

In order for profanity to seem natural it has to have a purpose besides making your writing seem more edgy or adult. It needs to begin and end with the characters. In my daily life I at least try not to swear like I’m in an R rated movie but if I do something like drop a hammer on my foot all bets are off. That being said, my characters are not me and have their own unique voices. Any time my characters uses swear words it is because it sounds like it’s something natural for the characters to say. While swear words do not have a “classy” vibe, they can have a rhythm. If you’re ever worried if the types of swear words sound like they have rhythm it’s a good idea to read your passages aloud. If you reading your work aloud can’t make what the character is saying sound natural, you might need to rework the line.

Self-Censorship

Self-Censorship

One thing you need to keep in mind, especially if you plan to be published, is who your intended audience might be. If you are trying to get a kids book published then you can look forward to a lot of rejections if ever other word out of your characters’ mouths is eff this or eff that. You need to tailor your work to your audience, or more specifically to the publisher. I’ve said this before but if you want to be published then it is a good idea for you to research the kinds of things that the publisher has come out with before. If they normally publish things that are so clean they read as if they had been dipped in bleach, then they most likely would not be the best bet to publish a book with gratuitous language.

STOP TALKING ABOUT THE MAN!!! LEARN TO CENSOR YOURSELF!!!!

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: Describe a Christmas

For this exercise you’ll need to create a character who lives in a country that is not your own. Do they celebrate Christmas? If so, what do they do? If not, how do they view Christmas? This exercise gives you a chance to research the cultures of other countries and to think of how they celebrate and view the holiday season.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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5 Bad Habits for Writers and the Lessons they Teach Us

Bad Writing Habits

It's only human to have bad habits, but that doesn't mean we can't overcome them!

It’s only human to have bad habits, but that doesn’t mean we can’t overcome them!

We all know that everyone has bad habits and writers are no exception. The trick to becoming a better writer is the ability to recognize your issues and address them. These are just a few of the habits I’ve recognized in my own writing and the ways I’ve tried to overcome them.

 1. Too many repetitions:

Over and over and over and over and over...

Over and over and over and over and over…

There is absolutely no problem with using key words for emphasis, but if you use the words too many times in a short span it can be a bit confusing for a reader. Have you ever read something where one word gets used too many times in succession? I used to have a job editing research papers for college students and a lot of the students had that habit. One student was writing a short 100 word paper on society and used the word “sociology” approximately 40 times. Trying to read that paper was very difficult because it felt like a swirling vortex of chaos centered on that one word. Lesson learned from this bad habit: Emphasis is one of the central dramatic tools of writers but it cannot be achieved by constant repetition. Use a thesaurus to help you find new words and expressions.

 2. Arrogance:

You get further talking to people than at them.

You get further talking to people than at them.

In order to be a great writer you need to set your ego aside. How can you ever attempt to edit your work if you’re so wrapped up in your ego that you think everything you’ve written is golden merely because you wrote it? Humbleness also helps you to keep your sanity through things like getting rejected by publishers and negative reviews. Also your readers are most likely not going to respond well to your writing style if they feel like you are patronizing, belittling or speaking down to them. Ego is one of the writer’s worst enemies. Lesson learned from this bad habit: It’s a fact that not everyone is going to like your writing and putting your ego aside really helps you survive the entire process of writing.

 3. Trying to sound like other writers:

Trying to copy another writers voice doesn't work. You are not them. You are you. OWN IT

Trying to copy another writers voice doesn’t work. You are not them. You are you. OWN IT

A lot of writers when they first start writing attempt, whether consciously or unconsciously, to tailor their words to sound like other established writers. In order to have a long and productive career as a writer you need to establish your own unique voice and to make it strong. Assert it! Be proud of it! It is your writing, written in your voice!!!!  Lesson learned from this bad habit: Though you can look to older and more established writers for some advice, you cannot attempt to copy or reproduce their voice in your work. It is your work. Own it.

 4. Getting too defensive about criticism:

criticism

I know I’ve spoken about this before but this is one of the worst habits for a lot of writers. When you’ve finished writing something it feels like you’ve given birth to something and even if you try to detach yourself a bit, you feel like it’s your baby and that can make you blind to its faults. Too you your book’s perfect so when it gets criticism, you run the risk of getting angry and defensive because it feels like your baby is being attacked. It’s a fact of writing that not everyone is going to like what your write or get your message. Learn to deal because sometimes the critics are right. Lesson learned from this bad habit: Criticism can be hard to hear but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen. If you listen to the negative critics all the time you will never get anything written because you will think everything you write is awful. If you never listen to the “haters” you will think everything you write is great even if it has serious problems.

 5. Refusing to learn:

learning2

No writer, no matter how many books they’ve written, can say they have learned it all. To learn is to live and to grow. The moment you decide to stop learning that is also the day you should stop writing. Do research, experiment and be open to discovering new facts, emotions and characters. Lesson learned from this bad habit: To learn is to live. For writers to live is to write. The moment you stop learning your writing withers. I like to use my local library’s reference section to do research and discover new and interesting things I am not that knowledgeable about.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day: The Science Experiment

Write a scene where you and your best friend are working on a chemistry experiment. Something goes wrong with the experiment and though you look and feel fine, something is going wrong for your friend. Write about what is happening to them. What is happening? How do they look? Does it hurt? Are they changing? If they are changing what are they changing into?

 

Have fun with this exercise and I’ll talk to you later!! Feel free to comment/like/reblog.

 

 

 

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3 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Post Anything Online

Write like the Wind

“It is wise to apply the oil of refined politeness to the mechanisms of friendship” ~ Colette

In today’s digital age where you can post anything you want across a variety of media, Facebook, widgets, chat rooms, in a matter of seconds many are falling victim to their own posts. In today’s digital world everything seems to be centered on speed. We’ve got to get the tech faster so we can live our lives faster. FASTER!!! FASTER!!! FASTER!!!! The issue is when people can communicate faster they often times do not send their intended message clearly. Taking more time gives people more time to think and to answer some essential questions. If you want to avoid awkward encounters with friends, bosses, coworkers or anyone else in your digital world please do yourself a favor and ask yourself these three questions before you post anything online.

There are no emoticons to accurately translate SARCASM

There are no emoticons to accurately translate SARCASM

1. Does this need to be said (Am I really saying what I mean)? 

Sure you theoretically can write a comment or blog post where you trash talk your boss but just being able to do something does not mean you should. If you’ve gotten though the first half of this question and decided that yes, your message is one that needs to be put out there, you had better take at least a moment or two and make sure that you are delivering it clearly. Oh and for all of my friends who are fans of sarcasm remember that without the usage of emoticons sarcasm never comes across well online.

hyopcrisy

2. Does this need to be said by me?

Sure certain messages might be needed, but you might not be the one to say it. For example, if you constantly post pictures of yourself getting drunk and partying, you might not be the one to tell your friend that they need to go to AA meetings. The message there might be a good one, but in that situation chances are your friend wouldn’t take it seriously because it came from you.

Timing is Everything!!

Timing is Everything!!

3. Is my message something I need to say now?

If you gotten though the first steps and have come to the conclusion that yes the message needs to be said you you’re the one to do it, you need to remember that timing is key in every aspect of communication. For example say your friend’s grandmother just died and they’ve been posting about it all day, that is probably not a good day to post a funny joke onto their Facebook wall. Maybe the joke is good and on most days your friend would enjoy it, but you’ve got to think of what kind of mental/emotional state your friend is in and if they’re likely to take the joke well.   “Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny.” ~ Octavia Butler

If you keep these few questions in mind when you attempt to communicate online, you will be far less likely to say something you don’t mean and you’ll also be more capable of saying the things you mean clearly.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the day:  The 20 Years Exercise

Pick your favorite romantic couple from literature, film, television etc, and write a short story describing their lives 20 years after the end of their story. For example if we ignore the things that happened in Scarlett, the sequel to Gone with the Wind, what might Rhett Butler and Scarlett’s lives be like? Would they have gotten back together? If Romeo and Juliet had lived would they have stayed in love? Just pick a pair and have some fun with it!

So long for now folks!!!!

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From First Draft to Finished: 3 Critical Editing Tips

 

"The main thing I try to do is write as clearly as I can. I rewrite a good deal to make it clear.” ~ EB White

“The main thing I try to do is write as clearly as I can. I rewrite a good deal to make it clear.” – E.B. White

So you’ve completed your first draft? Great work!!! The work however does not end there because right when you think you’ve finished comes one of the most key, and at times terrifying, parts of writing…EDITING!!! No writer in the world writes perfectly the first time. Sometimes it can take a million drafts and rewrites to get it into shape and even then it never feels like enough. There are many keys to learning what to edit and what to keep such as reading groups, the inner critic, and lastly self-censorship. If you’ll just bear with me, I can show you what I do to make sure that I am able to edit effectively.

Find the balance
Finding the right balance

I- Reading Groups – Finding the Right Balance

Though writers are often portrayed as stereotypical loners, if they don’t have other people to turn to they can become a sobbing pile of neurosis. It really helps you to know what is good and bad in your work to have a few objective readers who can look at your work and tell you flat out what works and what doesn’t. The hard part is that you need to find people who can give you constructive criticism but who also aren’t going to tell you everything you write is golden because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. To form a useful and productive writing group you need to find people who are going to tell you the truth and who aren’t going to give everything either a blanket approval or rejection. It’s also a good idea to grow some thick skin. Criticism, even when it’s constructive, can be really hard to hear sometimes. If you worked really hard on one particular piece that you think is really good and you get really attached to it, when it gets any criticism you run the risk of getting defensive. If you get too defensive you run the risk of keeping weak material in your work. When you get criticism, don’t freak out just keep an open mind.

II- The Inner Critic- Help from Within

The Inner Critic- Helpful Madness

The Inner Critic- Helpful Madness

Whether or not you are a writer, a lot of the times in life you find that YOU are your own biggest critic. For writers, this voice usually pops up and makes snide comments about what they’ve just written such as “how could anyone write anything so stupid”, “there’s no way that character would ever do that” and of course the ever popular “and you call yourself a writer”. There are two dangers related to the “inner critic” and both have the capacity to destroy your literature. First, if you listen to you inner critic all the time you will end up hating everything you write because you will automatically assume that it’s garbage. Second, if you never listen to your inner critic you will end up automatically loving everything you write, even if it’s not well written, simply because you wrote it. That means you run the risk of keeping a lot of bad material in your work. The solution is simple; listen to your Inner Critic sometimes because sometimes it’s right.

III- Self-Censorship- Learning to Play the Game

Censorship

When I say self-censorship I’m not talking about the FCC or the “man” bringing the hammer down and trying to shut down your creativity. I am talking about you as the author being able to tailor your own work to suit different audiences. It’s not about taking down censorship, it’s about learning how to push past it and still produce quality work. Also, if they want you to make a cut that will totally destroy the meaning or purpose of your piece then that particular place probably isn’t the best outlet for your work. Censorship might not seem like it really belongs in something as creative as writing, but if you as the writer don’t think about it in some respect, especially if you want your piece to be published or performed, you’ll never get in the door. You have to look into the other kinds of work that the company or magazine has come out with. If they mostly publish work that’s so clean it squeaks, then they are not a good bet to publish something with bad language or sexual content. They will shoot down your work and most likely, depending on the organization, not trust you to censor yourself. Here’s a great tip: Save multiple copies of your work. I usually write plays, so whenever I write one I always save at least one original uncensored copy. Then I can edit for content depending on the theatre, or school, or playwriting competition I am submitting it to that way I always have that uncensored copy to start from.

“No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published.”J. Russell Lynes

The greatest tip anyone can give you about editing is to not worry about it until you have to. If you freak yourself out about it too soon you will only succeed in driving yourself insane. At first just breath, relax and write your story.

Exercise of the Day

Exercise of the Day:

For this exercise I am going to give you two characters, a setting, and a conflict. You need to take the three little pieces I give you and write a scene. Now this can be a drama, a comedy a thriller. It can be whatever you are in the mood to make it.

Character A- a 35 year old mime

Character B- a 45 year old detective

Setting- an art gallery

Conflict- someone is trapped

 

Have fun with this and I will see you next time!

 

 

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