Friday, April 10, 2015

April Showers, May Flowers

What do April showers and May flowers have to do with writing? Much more than we might think. How so? Cause and effect.

by Seemann at MorgueFiles
A primary mover of story that keeps the reader riveted to its pages is conflict—what causes a rift or problem between characters or character and circumstances and what short- and long-term effects ensue. Conflict (which often springs naturally from a “what if” writing mentality) creates loose ends, both great and small, that almost always need to be tied up. Failing to address even little dangling “ends” may make a disappointed reader hesitate to purchase our next book, so this is a biggie when it comes to establishing ourselves as go-to writers when a reader wants a sure-fire great book.

One of the big differences between mediocre work and excellent work is attention to details. When applied to writing, this difference includes the cause-effect-loose ends-resolution scenario. While there may be times when resolution isn’t appropriate (as in real life, it isn’t always attained), the reader may want that spelled out in some way so that it’s obvious realism rather than omission by a forgetful author.

by pippalou at MorgueFiles
My beta readers are excellent at spotting my loose ends and calling me to account. Also, I read and reread the manuscript, which allows me to catch some of them, especially if a bit of time elapses between readings. Interestingly, I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and realize I’ve overlooked something in my story. (Apparently, my subconscious is working even when I am not; but because this is not a fail-safe method, I rely heavily on my beta readers.)

How do you make sure you tie up the loose ends in your stories? Please share any innovative ideas you have for avoiding this error in writing.

Now about those showers and flowers here in Colorado. Trees are sprouting baby leaves, and we’re hoping for the showers that bring those beautiful May flowers. (Otherwise, we go to Plan B—get out the hose and help things along.)

Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at DenverEditor.com.

15 comments :

  1. See, this is where a good editor comes in, Linda. Carol Atkins was the one who held my feet to the fire. She'd point out some dangling participle or other and I'd say, "Oh, no one will notice." "Oh no you don't," she'd answer, "you can't get away with that." I'd sigh and do what needed to be done and lo and behold, the product would be better. Huzzah for the folks who wield a blood red pencil!

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    1. Ah, yes, I'm one of those "oh-no-you-don't people. You always make me smile, Christopher, because you remind me not to take myself too seriously. I always look for your comments to make my day. :-)

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  2. debby turner harrisApril 10, 2015 at 8:57 AM

    Reading this article took me instantly back to my first face-to-face meeting with my first editor, Betty Ballantine. She said, "I love your characters. You write great action set pieces. Your plot makes no sense." And she was absolutely right: the manuscript had more loose ends flapping around than a bed of kelp.

    It took a total rewrite to tie everything together, but the resultant novel (The Burning Stone) was picked up by Tor Books, along with its two sequels. The moral: When it comes to sniffing out and tying up loose ends, beta readers and/or editors are the best friends an author can have.

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    1. We all need help finding those loose ends -- even those of us who edit as well as write. We're so close to our story, and we know our plot and our characters so well that it's easy to forget our readers have neither our knowledge nor our insight.

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  3. Wonderful post, Linda, and very apropos to where I am now. I've just finished going over the comments of four beta readers, and it's amazing how they all caught different things. I couldn't finish a book without them. One beta reader mentioned her lack of knowledge that an etching was signed in the stone, and that made me realize an etching isn't signed in the stone; it's signed in the plate. A litho is signed in the stone. There were quite a few thing that readers would have caught as being wrong. Hope we got them all.

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    1. This subject is heavy on my mind as I go through revisions on my novel. I pray my beta readers catch what I miss.

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    2. Isn't it amazing how much we miss, even after numerous readings, "revisings," and "fixings"?

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  4. Seems as though my comment got lost. Sorry 'bout that. It was brilliant and full of great advice.

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    1. It didn't come through, Terry. I never saw it. :-(

      Would love to have you post it again for our followers. :-)

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    2. It's so hard to recapture brilliance! But I'll try.

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  5. My earlier invisible comment was about how I keep track of things. I use post-it notes to write down story questions, plot points, clues, red herrings - anything that's not wrapped up in that scene. Then, when they're addressed, I toss the notes. (I'm sure what I wrote earlier was much more detailed and clearer, but that's the best I can do on a second try.)

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    1. Post-it notes are great, Terry. What a cool way to keep all those storyline ducks in a row!

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  6. I have create a conflict outline, which shows cause and effect. If I change things around, I have to go back and make sure everything tracks again. I hate loose ends and vague endings.

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    1. I'm with you...especially on those vague endings -- with loose ends running a close second.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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