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Posts Tagged ‘writing tips’

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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“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” – Shannon Hale, author of The Princess Academy and lots of other books.

Great quote by Shannon Hale which reminds writers what a first draft is really like — nothing but a bunch of sand in a box! It’s the rewrites and revisions that take the sand and compress it, shape it, and add a little magic to it. Then, you have your story (or book).

Shoveling sand is where I am on several projects. I don’t mind the shoveling or knowing I’ll be spending lots of time trying to make a castle out of the raw ingredients. It’s all part of the journey.

Today, was a good day. I discovered 2 books which will aid in my research. Both are terribly expensive, but I think they’re worth the cash. I also managed to jot some notes down which will end up in a manuscript. And then there’s the story which I’ve been trying to build — it seems to have a mind of its own. Not such a helpful thing when the story needs to fit in a themed anthology. It feels like every time I get a castle nearing completion, a wave knocks it down and I must start again.

So to my writer friends out there, have a great day, whether you’re shoveling sand or building castles.

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People often ask me where do I get some of my more unusual ideas for writing and art work. My response is often, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Then, I tell them some of the “true” things which were the beginning place for a story, poem, or painting.

Yes, I use conversations I over-hear or oddities I spot while traveling, but sometimes the internet has links to marvelously weird science. Here’s the link to a video of 10 of the strange, but real creatures on our planet. If they don’t inspire alien life on other planets, nothing will!

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I’ve always liked the description of science fiction as the writing (or literature) of the future. Though if the story involves time-travel, it can be writing of the past, present, AND future!

There are many valuable resources for writers (and readers) of science fiction available online – everything from interviews with pros, market lists, and how-to write ups. A blog I discovered (thanks to Carol Hightshoe and her worthwhile newsletter, Wolfsinger Publications Daily) which is filled with information on science fiction is Contary Brin (David Brin’s secondary blog).

So fellow sf-fans (and authors), here’s the link to a fabulous, information-filled, not-to-be-missed post from Contrary Brin: Explore Science Fiction: The Literature of the Future.

Enjoy!

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Almost every writer dreams of finding an agent to represent their writing. So many publishers’ websites say “agented work only” or some variance of that statement.

The un-agented path to publication is often small or Indie publishers. There’s nothing wrong with that path – in fact for many writers, it’s the best path to seeing their books in print. Indies are more hands-on, and you can develop a personal relationship with them. The larger publishers often don’t have the time to develop a personal relationship with their writers – so many authors prefer the Indie route.

But what if you want to go the agent-larger publisher route? Where in the world can you find agents looking for science fiction and fantasy (or whatever your genre is)?

A great (though somewhat dated) source is the article, “Agents looking for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers,” from Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity. The same useful BlogSpot site also has the articles: “Literary Agents Seeking New Writers” and “3 New Agents Seeking Clients – Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Nonfiction, Thrillers, YA, and More” and “7 Established Agents Looking for Writers – Literary Fiction, Memoir, MG, YA, Fantasy, Romance, and More” and lots more articles on agents looking for writers.

So if you’re in the market for an agent, keep on knocking on their metaphoric doors (more likely email inboxes), and best of luck in your search.

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