Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Compressed A to Z

My writer friend, VR Barkowski, gave me permission to repost one of her blogs because I thought it bore repeating. VR’s debut novel is A Twist of Hate and can be found on Amazon. Check it out.

A is for Anne Lamott. Who, in Bird by Bird, reminds us of the importance of shitty first drafts.

B is for blogging. After all, isn't that what the A to Z is all about?

C is for critiques. Be gracious, be kind, be honest, be open-minded—both when giving and receiving.

D is for drafts. First drafts receive the lion's share of attention, but a first draft is only the clay. It is the innumerable subsequent drafts which will mold that clay into something extraordinary.

E is for editing. Approach this task without mercy. (Unless you're writing about a character named Mercy, as I am.)

F is for formula. The kryptonite of the creative mind. Avoid whenever possible.

G is for grammar. One of the required tools of the writing trade. Get up close and personal. You can't do the job if you don't have the right (write) tools.

H is for hell. Refers to the oft-mentioned destination that lies at the end of the well-paved writing road. According to Philip Roth, “The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” While Stephen King maintains that same road "is paved with adverbs."

I is for imagery. Use words not only to create pictures in your reader's mind but to engage ALL the senses.

J is for J.R.R. Tolkien. Who warns against procrastination thusly: “It's the job that's never started as takes longest to finish.”

K is for killing your darlings. See entry on editing if further explanation is required.

L is for literary fiction. Three cheers for writing that goes beyond spinning a good yarn.

M is for mystery. All great books are mysteries. At the heart of every good story is an enigma, puzzle, or unsolved problem.

N is for Nathaniel Hawthorne. He not only gave us The House of the Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter, he reminds us that, "Easy reading is damn hard writing."

O is for Oprah. While no one can adequately explain why, Oprah has the ability to get people to read. Props.

P is for process. "The idiosyncratic act of producing a written communication." Plotter, pantser, or something in-between, there is no right or wrong way to write. There is only not writing, and that is very wrong.

Q is for quotation. My favorite: “Write like no one is reading.”

R is for revision. The single truth every real writer knows (or is destined to learn): all writing is rewriting.

S is for show don't tell. Let readers live your stories through emotions, senses, actions, thoughts, and dialogue rather than expository narrative.

T is for theme. The unifying idea around which a story revolves. Identify theme(s) before revision to add to, enhance, and deepen meaning.

U is for unsolicited manuscripts. Submissions not requested by an editor or publisher. Also known as the pit of despair seekers of traditional publishing hope to circumvent by acquiring an agent.

V is for voice. How a writer is reflected in his or her work. To develop your voice, learn The Rules™ then break them as only you can.

W is for words. The building blocks of writing. Words matter, both choice and spelling, because your knotty plot can also be naughty.

X is for xeroxing. A practice embraced by writers (and everyone else) prior to the advent of digital copies and email.

Y is for Yahoo Groups. A means to communicate with folks who share your interests. Are you a writer? There are scores of Yahoo groups focused on writing. Can't find the perfect fit? Start a group of your own.

Z is for zeitgeist. The defining spirit of the time. Whether you are writing about the present, the past, or even the future, capture the period's zeitgeist on the page to ground your story.


Posted by Polly Iyer, who is the author of seven novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

25 comments :

  1. What a great list, Polly. Thanks to you and VR for sharing the bits of wisdom and inspiration.

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    1. I thought it was fun too, Maryann. VR was generous to let me post it. The credit is hers.

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  2. This list illustrates "editing to the bone." :)

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    1. Which I'm trying to do now, Diana, and it is hard. I'm afraid my bone has too much meat on it.

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    2. Maybe I should say fat instead of meat.

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  3. Great list. Fun yet oh so much truth.

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    1. That's what I thought, Judy. The ABCs for sure. Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. Some good food for thought here, Polly. Love the nod to the past (J.R.R. Tolkien, Nathaniel Hawthorne, xeroxing) while we deal with the present (blogging, Yahoo groups) and look to the future (hopefully publication). It's a great reminder of how much the writing world has changed in just a few years after remaining almost the same for decades.

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    1. And it changes every day, Linda. We have to keep on top of it. The one thing not listed is marketing and social networking, the part I hate the most. But it's a fun list.

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  5. Thanks so much for posting this, Polly. I probably should have written that F is for Forward—the direction all writers should be headed. For some reason, every time I get close to the end of a manuscript draft, I feel the pull to go back and start editing before I finish. It’s wrong, a huge mistake, but the temptation is hard to resist.

    VR Barkowski

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    1. I love all the letters. I wish there was a triple M for Mystery, Marketing, and Media. The last two are my nemeses.

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    2. Whoops, hit publish before I thanked you for allowing me to publish your blog post, but I thought it was great fun.

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  6. Well said, Polly! And very helpful!

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  7. Wish I wrote it, Lorrie. The kudos go to VR Barkowski.

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  8. Thanks, Polly and VR. Great stuff. :)

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  9. What a great list. I'm going to copy it to read at my local writers group. We have a few real procrastinators who should be writing, but aren't.

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    1. I'm glad you feel the same way about it as I do, Gloria. Thanks for commenting.

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  10. thanks for the reminder--as I draw to the close of my 1st and brilliant draft for my next book. I did say brilliant, didn't I? After 6 books I get to make fun of my own 1st drafts. Thanks, Polly!

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  11. I'm on about the tenth draft, and I still think it's not right. I would keep rewriting books if I could. And I'm sure your first draft was brilliant, Rebecca.

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  12. Good one, Polly and VR Barkowski. I need to post Tolkien's line over my computer.

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  13. I have a few half finished that I liked when I was writing them, Ellis. Maybe one day I'll get back to them. We've all been there, are there, and should be there.

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    1. Maybe I should clarify what I mean by we should be there. It means we're writing something.

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  14. Replies
    1. I thought so too, Morgan. So I stole it. :-)

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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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