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Posts Tagged ‘writing advice’

One of my pet peeves is when a novel has a prologue.

At worse, as a reader, I view the addition of a page or two or more of world, setting, and/or character description before the start of a book’s narrative to be a sign of weak writing. At best, a prologue tells me this author doesn’t have confidence in either their writing or a reader’s ability to grasp the details of their novel’s world unless it is clearly explained.

Even at my jumbled desk in my chaotic office, I can hear the gasps of many of my fellow writers. Yes, yes, I know many fine authors have used a prologue to transition their readers from the mundane world into the universe of their book. And prologues have been en vogue during certain periods of time. But I, for one, never read those prologues! (And I don’t think I’m alone).

A book should begin on page 1!

Drop the reader into your world, then slip in the necessary information about your setting, rules of magic and/or science, the state of religion and politics, the geography, flora, fauna, etc., and the characters’ places in that world bit by bit as you move through the narrative.

And by the way, this does not mean dumping all that information in one place, but rather, judiciously dropping a crumb of info here and there. Readers will pick up those crumbs and begin to understand your world as they become involved with your characters.

Likewise, I rarely read an introduction or foreword. Again, get to the book itself.

Perhaps the only exception to my dislike of extra material prior to the start of a book, is a preface. Letting a reader know why you’ve written a non-fiction book, and your level of expertise on the subject might be important enough to delay the start of the book. Though to be honest, I prefer an author’s note in the back of the book containing that information.

I know there are other opinions on prologues and their kin, but for this reader, they are pages to flip past on my way to page 1.

For another point of view, check out Should You Use a Soft Opening by JA DuMairier on the Thanet  Writers’ site.

 

 

 

 

 

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Murder on Marawa Prime (reviewed in the December 2016 issue of Analog magazine) is my only published murder mystery/ action adventure tale. Yet, I enjoy reading murder mysteries and crime fiction. In my “in progress” fiction files, there are several other crime stories which, I hope, will be completed, polished, and submitted to magazines or anthologies in the not too distant future.

Murder_Cover_CS_front Like all writers, I try not to use clichés, so it was with interest I read an article on clichés in crime fiction (which will include murder mysteries).

Here’s the link – I hope you enjoy Crime Fiction – 10 Cliches to Avoid from Freelance Writing.

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As a writer of speculative fiction, I have to be aware of the spelling and pronunciation of the places and people which are part of the imaginary worlds I build.

A long jumble of letters with a weird pronunciation might seem to be a good way to announce that my story is set in a fantastical world. Bizarre accents and hyphenated names might appear to be an easy way to signal to my readers that the characters aren’t human. But I don’t want to work that hard to figure out (and remember) crazy pronunciations, and neither do my readers.

So what’s a writer of science fiction and fantasy to do? I recommend selecting names that are easy to remember and pronounce – but ones which “fit” your world.

crist-dagger For example, in my epic fantasy novel, The Enchanted Dagger, I used baby name books to select Nordic, Celtic, Old English, Scandinavian, etc. names for some of my characters. Other characters’ names are mixed-up combinations of the names of family members and friends. Each time I began moving the letters around to create a character’s or race’s name, I used the sound of the letter combinations to determine if the result felt like it belonged in Lifthrasir.

Lifthra-what? Lifthrasir (LEEF-thra-seer) is the name of the imaginary world of The Enchanted Dagger and the forthcoming Beyond the Sheercliffs. It is from Norse mythology, and according to Teresa Norman’s book, A World of Baby Names, it means: “She who holds fast to life, desiring life…[Lifthrasir] is considered to be the mother of humanity after all perished at Ragnarok.” Well, what better name for the world I’m creating in which the good folk must fight for their lives, their children’s lives, and control of their world?

An example of my letter-scramble technique, would be Grindee, a particular kind of goblin. A dear friend’s nickname is Dee. She has a marvelous sense of humor, and I thought she’d grin during parts of the book. So why not name a goblin for her and her sense of humor?

Another example: a minor character in The Enchanted Dagger is named Mobree Dug. Mo is the nickname of another friend, and the first 4 letters of her last name are “bree.” Dug is the phonetic spelling of a brother-in-law’s name.

As for the title character, Beck – I have a sister and sister-in-law both named Becky. Plus, the name of the instructor who taught my Writing the Novel graduate course was Mr. Becker. In addition, Beck (again according to Norman’s book) is a Scandinavian name which is the “Transferred use of the surname meaning ‘dweller near the brook.'” In The Enchanted DaggerBeck comes from a seaside town, and water plays an important part in his interaction with magic.

The names of other family members and friends became a warrior race – the Janepar, a race close to nature – the D’Anlo, the wisewomen – the Alywyn Sisterhood, the Wenbo River, the towns of Raystev and Larmik, the country – Dobran, even the gravediggers Nate and Stu, and I could go on and on. (Though I won’t, since by now, you’re quite bored).

But you’ll notice, Grindee, Beck, Lifthrasir and the rest aren’t too difficult to read or pronounce. Believe me when I say your readers will appreciate the effort when you make names easy to pronounce and remember even if you world is far, far away or long, long ago or even beyond our galaxy.

To take a look at The Enchanted Skean, visit https://www.amazon.com/Enchanted-Dagger-Chronicles-Lifthrasir/dp/1941559182/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489363491&sr=8-1

For a totally different take on Pronunciation, here’s the link to writer friend Andrew McDonough’s take on the subject: https://andrewmcdowellauthor.com/2017/03/12/pronunciation

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After a slew of acceptances, I’ve gotten 3 rejection letters lately. All of them were modified with “good, but not for us,” or some similar comment. But “close” doesn’t make much of a difference to a writer. We still see the word, NO, in blinking letters.

Taking off my writer’s hat, and putting on my editor’s hat, I know if an editor takes the time to add any comment to a form rejection, you made an impression. So it really is good news when there’s a positive comment added to the “not for us.” And, believe it or not, editors do feel bad when they say “No” to a good story, new writer, friendly writing acquaintance, etc. We’re trying to publish the best book or magazine we can, and honestly,  we just can’t fit all the good stuff in.

With another take on rejection from both side of the editorial desk, is On Sending and Receiving Rejections from the Liminal Stories Magazine blog.

So, like me, when you receive a rejection, take a deep breath, shrug your shoulders, and find another market for the rejected story. Send it off again. Then, start writing the next story. Persistence really is the key to success!

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Distractions, when you’re trying to accomplish anything, are a problem. But distractions are a part of life.

For me, it’s a challenge to balance creative time, free from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, and living life! Family, friends, pets, exercise, cooking, gardening, etc. are important to me, and inspiration for my writing and art. I embrace life with all its complexities and contradictions and don’t want to miss it while still pursuing my creative endeavors.

So what to do?

– Scheduling creative time, and letting family members know, unless it’s an emergency, you’re not to be interrupted – works for some people.

– Limiting social media time (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) by using a timer can help control that distraction.

– Recording your favorite television shows, then speed through the commercials when you watch them later saves a few minutes. And I’ve found after a show is recorded, I think about if I really want to spend that 45 minutes or more watching it. Often, I just delete the show and pick up a book.

– Use Caller-ID. Unless you must talk to the person or fear it’s an emergency, don’t pick up the phone. If it’s important, the caller will leave a message.

– The weeds, dust bunnies, and dog hair will be there tomorrow. When a deadline presses close, let the garden and cleaning wait a day or two. Notice I did not say forever here, a few days won’t matter – a few weeks will!

– Eat convenience foods or carry out. Again, this isn’t a long-term solution, but if you’re pushing to the end of a project, pizza one night and Chinese carry-out the next night is fine.

Remember, distractions are a part of life. Don’t complain about them – deal with them!

For a funny, tongue-in-cheek look at distractions, check out this post from Writer Unboxed. Enjoy!

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Self-doubt is the enemy of many writers. On some days, the Doubters Club includes me. But I work hard to close me ears to that little niggling voice in the back of my brain which says my writing and art aren’t good enough. And I try not to set myself up for other voices to plant the seeds of doubt in my subconscious.

For me, the love of telling a story pushes me beyond self-doubt. The need to create a world from a chain of words or smathering of paint is enough motivation to cancel my membership in the Doubters Club and create.

My advice to writers, illustrators, crafters, and dreamers: Believe in yourself, and don’t let anyone (yourself included) keep you from pursuing your creative dreams.

For another point of view on the crippling effects of doubt, check out a recent As the Eraser Burns blog post from my writing friend, Laura Bowers: Write with the Door Closed Firmly.

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Readers often ask where I get my ideas from. “Life,” is my usual response.

A perfect example is an article from Discovery Channel Australia on giant crystals which fill an entire cave. Superman jokes aside, this is a fabulous environment to use as the location of a story. I don’t even need to make up the wonder of this cave!

So I leave you science geeks, speculative fiction fans, and interested readers to ponder the amazing Crystal Cave and its ability to inspire.

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