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Showing posts from April, 2011

Punctuating Quotations

Some time ago I was reading the manuscript of a new critique partner when a punctuation mark sent me into a line editing frenzy. That mark was a period inside a quotation mark at the end of a non-dialogue sentence. But, as it turned out, we were both correct (though on opposite sides of the globe). Something that increasingly perplexes those of us who write using British English is the insistence by writers using American English on slipping unrelated punctuation into a quotation. So insistent, in fact, that it’s even been included in the Chicago Manual of Style as correct style however illogical it might seem to some of us. Here’s an example: N.Am English: Michael told me that he was too “busy .” (period within quote marks) UK English: Michael told me that he was too “busy ”. (full stop outside quote marks) For those of us using UK English rules it is very easy to determine that the punctuation mark following “busy” should occur outside the quote marks. Move the quoted word

Voices in your Head, Part II

Last month I wrote about how to make your internal critics go away by writing about them, and told you that my critic was named Ed.  But Ed is only one of them – like most of us, I have several internal critics, nearly all of them nasty.  Here is a piece I wrote about Cousin Irene, the voice inside my head who is in charge of procrastination, laziness, and all the addictive distractions there are.     Cousin Irene lurches into the room, trailing leavings from her purse – a dried-up lipstick, a wallet with a broken zipper, a scarf that has gum wadded in it, and of course those old used Kleenexes. She doesn’t pick anything up, because that is my job. She says she is tired because she played so many games of computer solitaire. She plops down on the most comfortable chair in the room. Her bulk overflows the cushion and her dress rides up on her thighs; she is wearing nylon socks that only reach halfway up her meaty calves. She tells me it’s too hot to write today, and besides there

Tracking Those Changes

 We want to welcome Terry Odell to The Blood Red Pencil. Terry is an author who frequently shares tips on writing and marketing on her blog, and we thought it would be nice to have some of her tips here. Thanks to Maryann for inviting me to the Blood Red Pencil. Not long ago, on my blog , I discussed dealing with three different editing projects. I also grumbled about using Track Changes, and Maryann thought the readers here might be interested in my take. First, let me say I'm not saying Track Changes is a "bad thing." For editors, and for sharing information, it's an excellent tool. What I am saying, is that like any other tool, it has its good and not-so-good aspects. I have an exercise bike in our basement. It's an excellent fitness tool. Doesn't mean I have to enjoy using it. With writing, some people love plotting. Others love writing description. Or dialogue. And there are just as many who feel exactly the opposite. But it's our job, and we le

Tricks of the Trade- Give Sentences Punch

The following is taken from my writing seminar manual: Writers have on their palettes some unique figures of speech that add dazzle to sentences and turn the ordinary into the unique. Consider the following when you are writing your next piece. Hyperbole – an extreme exaggeration. I’m so hungry I could eat a horse. The spider was the size of a basketball. Irony – an expression that is the exact opposite of what you mean. Of course, I’ll have time to do that. I’m only working seventy hours this week, and it’s my turn to cook supper, do the dishes, and clean the house. Irony lacks the hurtful element of sarcasm and can make a point that might be missed if stated another way. Metonymy – substituting one name for another. The press was invited. ( Reporters were invited. ) The White House had no comment on the situation. ( The President had no comment… ) The F.B.I. came to my front door. ( Someone from the F.B.I. came to my door .) Metaphor – says something is something else.

Pacing in Writing

Pacing is important to writing. And no, I don’t mean walking back and forth, trying to figure out ways not to sit down at the computer and write! Pacing is used to control the speed of the plot. Pacing is manipulating time. Most writing gurus these days advise to “arrive late and leave early.” By this, they mean, start in the middle of the action or with an element of suspense that will help prompt the reader to keep reading. You don’t need to set up the scene with lots of description and backstory. We don’t necessarily need to know what this person’s history is and how he/she got there, just to know that he/she is in some kind of problem or crisis and needs to solve it. A crisis moment has to be in what I call “real time”—written as if it is happening right now (even if you are using past tense). Summarizing or including it as a flashback does not create the same amount of tension. Summarizing is simply “telling” us what happened, rather than showing our character in trouble. Ba

To Writer with Love ~ Writers write; Editors edit

Some might read the title and say, "But editors write and writers edit. What are you talking about?" Yes, I know they do both; however, writers need to understand that not all editors write when it comes to their editorial services. And knowing this, and researching accordingly can help the writer get the exact services he or she needs. As an editor, I have a site where I talk about my philosophy of editing, state the type of editing I do, and offer prospective clients the opportunity to read what past, current, and repeat clients have to say about my services. I explicitly state what I do on the site: I edit . Prospective clients go there and they know what I am about. When I talk to these prospective clients, I give them my spiel, much of which is expressed on my site. My goal as an editor is to help the client develop the strongest project he or she can. In my evaluations, I try to talk about what I see in their works in a way that teaches the writers, that gives t

Writing that matters

Why should a company pay you for your writing? In today's tough publishing industry, so tenuously held aloft by shredding economic tethers, this question has never been more relevant. If you are trying to earn money from your writing, you've hopefully given some thought to answering this question. If your answer is "My book is just like Nora Roberts," you're on thin ice— Nora Roberts is already doing that quite well, thank you. What do you have to offer the world? How can you make your writing important enough to sustain you through what may become many lean years? How can you discover your true material, that story that only you can write? The following questions, answered quickly, might lead you in a useful direction. 1. Let’s say you’re going to write a fictional story. Is your main character a man or woman? Why? Humans are intensely interested in this primal question: Is it a boy or a girl? And if it's not clear, or a bit of both? Ooh, even more

Let’s Be Friends - Social Sites and Marketing

March Madness may be over but I thought I would write about the madness of promoting and get some help from our fearless leader, Dani Greer at Blog Book Tours . She is always passing me a promo tip and then pushing me to move down the court and put it in some basket. Most recently, she suggested I ask everyone to "like" my author page on Amazon. Then she asked if I posted a link on my blog, Web site and every social site I belong to. Well, of course I had not. I write. I don't think of things like this. So here’s a little discussion we had and would like to share with you, readers and authors. Please join us in the comments if you have suggestions of your own. Maryann : Dani, how on earth does a writer balance writing time and promoting time? Dani : Maryann, promotion just requires a plan and an hour or so a day. Authors should develop their own blogs by posting at least three times a week. They should also promote their blogs and their books daily on social networ

Deep Point of View – How to Avoid Head-Hopping, Part 3

In Parts 1 and 2 of this topic, I gave examples of deep point of view or close third-person POV. Here’s one more example: Say you’re writing a romance, and you’re in the heroine’s point of view, showing her thoughts, perceptions and reactions. The hero, whom she’s just met under unfortunate circumstances, is angry. You’ll show his thoughts and reactions, not from inside him at that point (What the hell is going on here? he thought. What’s she trying to pull off, anyway?), but by what the heroine is seeing and perceiving—his tense posture, hunched shoulders, clenched fists, furrowed brows, set mouth, clipped tone of voice, angry words, etc. The general rule of thumb is “one scene, one viewpoint.” Or even better, wait for a new chapter to change the point of view to someone else’s. If you change the viewpoint within a scene, it’s best to do it only once, and leave a blank space before you start the next person’s point of view. Ping-ponging back and forth can be jarring and confusing

A Foolish Consistency

 Today we welcome Karen Brees to The Blood Red Pencil for the first of several guest posts she will share with us. Thank you, Karen. Ralph Waldo Emerson (no slouch himself when it came to writing) said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…” Maybe so, but if you’re a writer, you’d darn well better be consistent. If your heroine had short brown hair on page 25, she’d better not have long, blonde locks on page 27, unless she donned a wig on page 26. Is your villain right-handed in the beginning and left-handed later on? Hmmm. Somewhere you had a brilliant idea that the mystery had to have been committed by a southpaw, so you changed Rudolfo’s handedness. Catching these goofs is important. The problem is you see what you meant to say. What you wrote, however, may be different and that can create credibility problems for your plot, your characters, and your career in writing. Consistent Expectations Your characters’ actions need to be consistent with their pe

The Character of the Character

There are many ways to show the character of the people in your stories. One way to set them apart is through things associated with them – their car, their house or apartment, something they treasure. Look around your own home. What makes your living room different from anyone else’s living room? Is it ultra modern? Country? Full of antiques? Is there one thing that you just love – the coffee table, the stuffed bear sitting in the rocking chair, the blanket draped over the chair? Why? Was the coffee table handmade by your grandfather? Did the stuffed bear belong to your daughter? Do you like to snuggle under the blanket while you read? Now think about your major characters. What would they have in their living room and why? What about the house as a whole. What color are the walls? All white? Pale pink? Green? Is each room a different color, some rooms multiple colors? What does that say about that character? What kind of cars do they drive and why? A hybrid? A Hummer? A sedan? A

10 Signs of An Approaching Deadline

10. Your normally loquacious imagination now mumbles "Umm..." 9. You've worn a path in the carpet from your pacing. 8. You notice you're typing more typos than actual words. 7. You have to describe a sunset. The only word that comes to mind is 'pretty'. 6. You're drinking cold coffee. 5. The manuscript you swore yesterday was near-to-perfect now reveals itself as riddled with errors. 4. Your knowledge of rudimentary grammar and spelling seems to have disappeared along with your typing skills. 3. Your closest relationship is with your thesaurus (see #7). 2. You're convinced this manuscript is the one that will give away that your previous success was an error and you actually have no talent at all. 1. You promise yourself to never put yourself through this again. You know you're lying. ------------------ Elspeth Antonelli Elspeth Antonelli is an author and playwright. Her twelve murder mystery games and two plays are available through

Leave A Tip On the Blood-Red Pencil Today

Spring is in the air. Buds are blooming into beautiful flowers. Some manuscripts are still buds or seedlings waiting to realize their full potential. Others are almost there. One cogent tip may be all that's needed to fertilize a manuscript so it can leap from an author's computer onto Amazon, Smashwords, maybe a traditional publisher, or another place in the universe where its beauty can be appreciated. Today, as in every second Tuesday of the month, you're invited to Leave A Tip On The Blood Red Pencil. Share something you've learned about writing. Even if the tip seems obvious or too tiny to mention, do it anyway. Writing is a learning experience, and not everyone knows exactly what you do. If you agree that someone else's tip is terrific, you're more than welcome to say so. Stop by more than once, check out the other tips, and decide whether you'd like to use one or more in your writing. I'll start with one - Be sure to vary sentence structu

To Writer with Love ~ Formatting

I've been an editor for nearly ten years, and in every one of those years, I have preached the necessity for writers to practice a life-long learning of the writing craft. With the proliferation of technology and writers' increasing ability to self-publish (print or electronic books), it is more important than ever for writers to grab the reins and study--writing and industry. One stop that most writers come to in their journey to Publishdom is Editorland . This is where writers submit their works to those who can help polish the manuscript and assist in making it a strong literary product before writers decide to either self-publish or submit their works to agents. Now, we all know editors vary in style and in purpose. Some focus solely on the project; whereas, others focus on the project and the writer--making the editing experience a teachable moment. That's for a whole other post. Despite the differences in types of editors and what they all do, I feel fairly safe

Cues from the Coach: Thwarting a Mutiny

Last month’s post on taming characters drew a great comment from Kate Kyle, who wrote, “I . . . thought this post was going to be about a situation I’ve heard . . . from some ‘pantsers’ - when a character takes over their book and how to ‘tame’ your characters so they don’t take over YOUR book.” Characters often develop minds of their own, so we need to be careful lest they take our story to a place we do not want it to go. On the other hand, we don’t want to stuff them into a mold that reduces them to puppets on a string. Where’s the balance between these extremes? It helps to understand the difference between character driven and plot driven stories. One driven by character focuses on emotions (often negative) and motivation. But when people take precedence over plot, they may be prone to mutinous uprisings—your story could become their story. A plot driven story is based on action; and the people, who may fade into overwhelming events, are less inclined to take over. Great books

The Importance of Subtext in Story - The Story Book by David Baboulene

A few years ago I took a writing course that covered subtext because it was an element of writing that fascinated me. That course went through a lot of explanation of how characterisation, dialogue and even setting contribute to the development of subtext and instructed us to plan to build subtext into our stories. I was still fascinated, but not much clearer on exactly how one would go about “building” subtext. Subtext seemed this tenuous thing that should be left to writers of high-brow literary works. When I was offered the chance to review The Story Book by David Baboulene, I was impressed to discover that David was writing a Ph.D. thesis on subtext with the conclusion that readers and audiences prefer stories with deeper levels of subtext. In The Story Book , David clears up the mystery of subtext in a few lines: David Baboulene “Most writers think they must write subtext in order to deliver an underlying story. This is wrong... If the story is created using knowledge g

Time out for a little fun

Since the humor offered here doesn't always have to connect to writing, I thought I would share a bit of humor from my friend, Tracy Farr, that is all about goats.  Enjoy..... Never trust a goat I have three goats – a mamma and two twin daughters. I bought them from a little girl who knocked on my door one day, asking if I'd like to buy some goats. And since goats like to eat grass, I figured that I’d let them eat it (instead of me having to mow it), leaving me free to nap on the couch. I give a lot of credence to napping on the couch, especially when I’m supposed to be doing yard work. I actually enjoy watching my goats, but the only reason they tolerate me is because I bring them food every now and then. If it wasn't for the food, they'd steal the credit card right out of my wallet, and head for the mall to hang out with their little goat friends and eat Chinese food. It's a good thing they can't drive, but I suspect while I’m asleep they’re secretly l

Make the Most Of Your Spring With Ask the Editor Free-For-All

Spring is a wonderful season. Everything seems possible when the air grows warmer, the grass turns green and tulips, hyacinths and daffodils begin to bloom. In the dead of winter, it's easy to get down, doubt our talent, and wonder if we have what it takes to write a first book or the next; yet in the Spring, when the birds chirp and the sky is blue, all things seem possible. With the change of seasons, along with the promise of new life, also comes showers and storms. Questions plague us. Is our manuscript as good as it can be? Some parts don't look right. Maybe the whole thing should be pitched and we should start over. Don't give up. You may only need a little fertilizer to get your manuscript ready to bloom in all its richness and beauty. That's where our monthly Ask the Editor Free-For-All comes in. Today, and every first Tuesday of the month, The Blood-Red Pencil sponsors our Ask the Editor Free-For-All. I send e-mails to e-groups, Facebook, other social n

Can You Read This? (If so, you need an editor)

CAN YOU READ THIS? if yuo can raed tihs, you hvae a sgtrane mnid, too. Can you raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can. i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! I don’t know about you, but after I’ve worked on a manuscript for weeks, months, even years, I become so close to the work that I cannot look at it objectively anymore. As you witnessed with the above example, your eye will see a misspelled word or a typo and your brain registers the word that it’s supposed to be. A Seattle newspap

Busted!—Janet Fitch and her unlikable character, Part 2

In yesterday's post we took a look at five ways author Janet Fitch tries to win our support for unlikable protagonist Josie Tyrell in her novel Paint it Black (if you follow this link to you can use their "Look Inside" function to see several of these pages). Fitch doesn't stop at five, however—Fitch imbues every single line with something that helps engage the reader as her character moves toward that moment, eight pages in, where her life will change forever. Here I'd like to highlight seven more techniques you can imitate to curry favor for your own difficult protagonist. 6. Fitch grounds this off-beat character in familiar domestic bliss: She opened the door, threw her key in the red bowl, and called out, “Hey, Michael?” 7. Then, a one-word sentence: Silence. Uh-oh, what’s wrong? We learn that Michael, for the first time ever, had needed “space” to paint and has left for a few days. 8. In this next excerpt, from backstory, remembered sens