Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘being a better writer’

.polar bear scream and poop

It’s one of those ugly little things in life.

Everybody’s poop stinks.

How many of us try to avoid using a public washroom when you have to go “number two”, fearing embarrassment that someone else might smell our stink.

How many of us have had the misfortune of walking into a bathroom to be encased in the stench of doom aka the odious odor of the sulfurous mushy mass of bacteria ravaged compounds (poop) that had been deposited and flushed just before?  Your automatic reaction is to cringe, gag, gasp for air only to suck in a mouthful of stink and gag again because oh for pity sake I can TASTE it.  You hold your breath in disgust and make a hasty retreat.

This is the universal kind of experience you know your readers can relate to.

.

moodCreating mood is essential to good story telling.  Your readers will read your story, that’s the given obvious.  But will they just read it, or will the experience it?

How will you draw them into the story?  To make them feel what your characters feel?  To feel like they are really there?

In short, triggers.  Memory is a powerful tool.  Certain things can trigger memories, both latent and cognisant memories.

.

stinkyOlfactory senses can trigger both of these.  We aren’t there yet to create books full of scents that tease your nose to match the scene on the page.  Maybe someday, but not yet.  And scratch and sniff is not feasible.  Besides, who would actually by a book that smells of poop?  So, it’s probably a good thing.

By adding in your characters’ reactions to their surroundings, the smells that are ever present but suddenly brought to your characters’ attention by what is happening in their world, you can trigger the memory of those smells in your reader.  That, my friend, pulls the reader inside the world on your pages.  The sudden assault on their senses of the sweet perfume of roses when they walk through the garden gate before they can see what the yard beyond holds, perhaps to find a contradictory scene of ruin beyond the remains of the first spoiled rose bushes laying tattered on the ground just inside the gate.

Whether the scents are pleasant or vile, expected or out of place, they can trigger in your reader an automatic response they don’t even realise they are having.  A subliminal affect that pulls them ever deeper into the drama unfolding for your characters.  And when they purposely draw on a memory the scent brings to their mind, it brings your story home to them, making both author and the story more memorable.

Anyone can write a mediocre/good story.  It takes work and attention to detail to write a great story.

.

.
where the bodies areL.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are
What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

.

Watch for book 2 of the McAllister series coming soon:  The McAllister Farm.  Take a step back into time to learn the secret behind the bodies.

.

.

Garden Grove-title & bad bullet holeAlso coming soon:  Garden Grove.  Vandalism, altered blueprints, an entire work crew poisoned, and someone is planting old human remains, all apparently to stop the Garden Grove community development.  Who is trying to stop it and why?

.

.

Links to purchase this and other upcoming L.V. Gaudet’s books

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

Facebook author page

Google+

Instagram

Pinterest

Twitter

WordPress

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

chatperoneThe beginning of your story is the most important part.  This applies no matter what you are writing; an epic trilogy, a novel, a short story, memoire, fiction or nonfiction.

Now that I said it, I will tell you that this is a statement I personally do not agree with.

Some writers, publishers, and agents will argue that if you don’t hook the reader in the first sentence then you failed.  I’ve heard variations of this same idea multiple times.

But what kind of a first sentence does it take to have that instant hook?  And, is it even possible?

Advice will run between keeping it short and simple to using a complex sentence including multiple ways to draw the reader in with those few first words.

Set stage and tone, time and place, conflict, theme, foreshadow, tell a truth, surprise the reader,  shock them, promise a reward, don’t start with a question, relate to the reader, do not start with dialogue, be funny or absurd, raise a question, start with an action, incite an emotional reaction, connect the reader with the main character, it must be vivid, offer a tease, introduce your main character, get them fascinated with the scene, sum up the novel.

This is only a sampling of the advice you might see on how to write the perfect first sentence.  None of it is either wrong or right.  It’s also probably impossible for you to pack all of that into a single sentence without making it incredibly long and unwieldy.

As with everything about writing and every other form of art what is good, or as seems to be demanded of us the perfect reader trap, is subjective to the individual’s taste.  And each individual’s tastes are determined by too many factors to count, including their personal tastes and preferences, culture, experiences, and so much more.

So who is to say what is the perfect opening sentence?

Best First Lines from Published Novels

Consider this list: “100 Best First Lines from Novels” by American Book Review.  How many of these lines made the list simply because of who the author is or because the book became a classic?  How many of these lines would even be considered for this list if they had been published today by a less famous author?

Given the single first sentence and no other reference, which first sentence from this list would you have been hooked on, driven to read on?  Of course, many of these lines are dated and were probably red hot in their day.  But it is also too easy to look back and say that first line must have been perfect because the book was a classic.  For me, more than a few of these invoke a response of “meh”.  So they are certainly someone’s perfect first line, but not mine.

So ask yourself this: if you take the top 100 current worldwide bestsellers and poll a group on a list of only that first sentence with no reference to the author or what book it was taken from, how many would be voted as perfect first lines?  How many would instantly hook the reader, driving him or her helplessly forward to read the rest of the book?

The publishing world is full of books of every type.  Those whose perfect first line went on to set the tone for a fantastic piece of writing, those that fall flat into abysmal blandness after a great opening line, those whose opening line was only the opening to something that draws you in and hooks you as you continue, those that flop on every level, and everything in between.

Let’s face it; it takes much more than an epic first line to make a story a success.  And there are very few readers who would stop at the first line and make a judgment without reading further.

The internet is full of advice on how to write that perfect first sentence that Snaps, pops, and otherwise grabs your reader’s attention and refuses to let go.  Even WikiHow gets in on the action.  But as you research how to make that first line that promises to make your story and career soar to unimaginable heights, you will also quickly learn that this advice is neither absolute nor universal.

Here are just a few articles on writing the first line:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/09/writer-wednesday-first-sentences_n_820512.html

http://thewritepractice.com/first-line/

http://www.missliterati.com/blog/tips-on-writing-first-sentence

http://www.fuelyourwriting.com/the-most-important-sentence-how-to-write-a-killer-opening/

http://writeworld.org/post/26731524562/in-the-beginning

While some people tell you that first line is all important, others will argue that it is not the first sentence that is the most important; that the first sentence is not the do or die of your story and writing and publishing career.

Like this writer, Chuck Sambuchino, who says this of the often pushed list of alleged literary first line masterpieces, “So here’s the deal, or my theory of the deal:  These authors didn’t worry about the opening sentence; they just started telling their stories.  There has to be a beginning.  That beginning might indicate time and place, might introduce a character.  Might reveal a thought.  Present a fact.  Drop in on some event or action in the middle.  Whatever starts the telling makes the first sentence.  Just as whatever concludes the story will make the last.”

So, how do you write that perfect first sentence?

The best advice I can give you is to just jump in and write the first sentence.  Don’t even think of it as the first sentence.  Just sit down, think about where your story starts, and start writing.  But don’t stop there.  Keep going and write the next sentence and the next.  Keep the momentum going.  Do not let yourself get bogged down and lose the feeling of the narrative worrying over whether or not that first sentence snaps.  If you feel the flow, just keep going and worry about perfection later.

Now put it aside.   Let your mind take a break before you go back to it.

Read it and ask yourself, “Would I read this?”  Does the first sentence do justice to the rest of that first paragraph?  Does that first paragraph make you want to read the next?  Do you feel compelled to turn the page when you reach the bottom?  Do you yearn to learn what happens next when that chapter ends?  Do you feel bored or confused anywhere?

Your first sentence sets the stage for the paragraph.  And the first paragraph draws the reader into the chapter.  But it takes so much more than one person’s opinion of whether or not your first sentence is perfect.  It takes more than the opinions of your writer’s group, your mentor, or even your publisher.

Why?  Because the truth of it is that there is no such thing a perfect first sentence.  I would compare it to the search for the ever-elusive perfect man or the perfect woman.  Every individual’s needs and ideas for what makes that ‘perfect’ are different and ever changing.

From first sentences that invoke emotion to those that set place, time, and mood, the first sentence is only the beginning of something much deeper.  What makes it right depends on what your story needs it to be.  What makes it right is not obsessing over whether or not that first sentence is perfect enough, but rather how it works as a foundation for that first paragraph and the story as a whole.

What makes it perfect is making it feel perfectly natural.

Research what others recommend, take advice from different sources, and most importantly, know that every story is different and that means that what works for each story is different.  Every piece of advice is exactly that, it is that individual’s personal opinion, their recommendation and offered guidance.

Now go out there and write the first sentence that is perfect for your story.

Read Full Post »

9a87e-grammatically_correct_catIs being grammatically correct really correct?

From the beginning years of grade school, you were admonished to “watch your grammar.”  Through the years growing up, your grammar was corrected, your papers were graded on the use of proper grammar, and you were advised to fix your grammar.

Now you have made that final step and there is no turning back.  You have decided, “I am a writer.”  Great!  Now you can finally use all those perfect grammar skills that have been demanded from you all those years.  Are you ready?  No?  Good.

Is it correct to be grammatically correct?  The short answer is ‘sometimes’.  Should you write that way?  Sometimes.  In fact, there are no doubt some wonderful tombs parked somewhere on dusty shelves written entirely in perfect grammar, although I haven’t actually seen any personally.  Should you write your story in correct grammar?  Probably some, but not all of it.

As a writer, correct grammar is just as important as it was in grade school.  But, it is also important to know when ignore those grammar rules.

right and wrong grammarConsider the rough character.  He has lived on the streets, surviving the best he can.  He has a full history of problems and hardships that have driven him to this point.  Now imagine that character talking and thinking in perfect grammar.

Good writing draws the reader in.  It flows in their mind so that they are absorbed into the world you created, feeling and living it without consciously reading it.

Now here is a writing exercise you can practice anywhere.  Pay attention.  Pay attention and take mental note of the conversations around you and the words going through your own mind; not so much on what is being said, but on how it is being said.

Most people do not think or speak in proper grammar.  They use contractions a lot and at some point break various other perfect grammar rules.  People also often speak in incomplete sentences and using the forms slang speech common to their particular lifestyle, background, and community.  Speech and thoughts expressed in perfect grammar sounds formal.  It could be a good tool as well when you want that formal feeling in your story.  But it won’t likely draw the reader into the story in the long run.

You want your story to flow in the same way that most people’s thoughts flow naturally.  You want your characters and the situations you put them in to feel real.  Use formal proper grammar where needed, but also know that a more casual flow of thoughts and words are essential to make a story flow naturally.

Read Full Post »

newbieI’m pretty new at the publishing game by any successfully published author’s standards.  So far, my publishing credits include a number of flash fiction and short stories published in writing e-zines, one short story in a mystery anthology published by Second Wind Publishing, and a novel also published by Second Wind.  My contribution to publishing them involved writing them, a great deal of editing, and pressing “send” on the email.

While I’ve been writing for years, I’m a publishing newbie and there’s a lot I don’t know.

With the ever-changing landscape of the publishing world, no matter how much any of us learn there will always be more to learn.

Articles discussing the finer points of how to write fill the internet in droves, but there seems to be very little information on the other side of writing – the business side of writing.

The how-to articles on writing better also tend to be a confusing overwhelming glut of opposing opinions.  Do you listen to the blogger who vehemently insists you must mercilessly gut your writing of all of what they consider unnecessary extra words, streamlining it to a tight bare-bones written masterpiece?  Or do you listen to the blogger who just as passionately says that it is the flow and artistic expression of the writing that matters most and that you must not sanitize it by worrying about gutting it of what another might consider extra words?

The truth is that regardless of the area of the writing advice, what you need to follow will probably lie somewhere in the middle.  It can be difficult to decide which advise to follow and when.  Too much contradicting advice can leave you feeling even more confused and uncertain.  The best writers will take the advice to heart and figure out what is best for their self and each particular story.

Writing is entertaining, can help you explore questions and issues in your life, and can be used as an outlet for the unpleasant emotions we as humans tend to bottle up inside.  But if you want to be published, writing is a business too.

While exploring the answers to my own questions it occurred to me that I’m probably not the only one asking these questions.  So, I decided to share my discoveries.

I make no claims to be an expert.  Actually, I definitely am not an expert.

Like a lot of writers, I’m learning as I go.  Mostly from researching online articles from various sources and comparing notes on what they say.

The first rule of thumb with online information is “take it with a grain of salt”.  In other words, never assume the information is accurate and always question the quality of the source.  So with that in mind let us go forth and learn the business together, and be forgiving when I do get something wrong.

Corrections are always welcome.  You can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t know you made them.

Read Full Post »

Tomorrow is the first day of March; the month legend has it Mother Nature totally plays us with a game of lions vs. lambs.  If it we enter into March with weather that is calm and quiet like the lamb we can predict the month will end with the weather roaring like a lion, wreaking Nature’s vengeance on us all.

Of course most of us don’t actually believe any of this stuff and year after year Mother Nature has let us down and forgot her game by the end o f the month.

.

I do have my own prediction for March and it has little to do with the weather.

.

March is three months after NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where writers around the globe pledge to put aside the daily vanities of life and throw themselves heart and soul into trying to write a 50,000 word novel from start to finish in only the thirty days of November.

If you are like me that is three months during which you have completely put that NaNo novel out of your mind to focus on other things.  For myself December is spent stressing over Christmas, worrying over the lack of money to afford what is required of you, and getting little else done.  The other two months I focused on writing and editing other projects, giving no thought at all to The McAllister Farm.

Three months sounds like a good break to me.

.

March also happens to be a free month, falling between Christmas/Hanukkah/whatever you celebrate around that time and the busy spring and summer time.

.

I predict March is as good a time as any to go back and tackle that first revision of the NaNo novel.  A no holds barred attack in the same spirit of NaNoWriMo.

After three months of pointedly not looking at it or even thinking about it, it’s time to give that NaNo novel its first dose of merciless and aggressive editing.

Don’t stop to think or analyze.  First impressions are everything.

This is not a carefully thought out edit meant to fix grammar and spelling or smooth minor flaws.

MAIM (March Amend & Improve Mayhem) that NaNo novel.  Attack it without care with a big fat red marking pen (or the electronic equivalent).  Cut and slash anything that on first impression is off, weird, doesn’t work, or just seems like extra baggage.

Scribble notes all over it, whatever strikes you as you tackle the beast.  It doesn’t matter if the notes make much sense, impressions can lead to something later.

Anything that comes to mind: observations, ideas, questions, random thoughts, character traits, back story, behind the scenes story, what should have been, things you should link, etc. Anything goes.

.

EDIT: edit, deconstruct, improve, and transform that novel like you don’t care how perfect the final outcome is.  This is only a first edit anyway.

.

Take one month, March, to completely go over the WIP start to finish and tackle the obvious.  Amend, research, and outright challenge yourself.  “What the hell was I thinking when I wrote THAT?!”

.

.

Starting tomorrow you have thirty-one days to beat that NaNo novel into submission, the iron master pounding a strip of iron into a shape that resembles the finished sword it will become.

.

It’s madness, but it’s my madness.

.

So tomorrow grab that NaNo WIP, put on your Mad Hatter hat, and pour the tea (wine in my case) and let’s have a writers’ editing party.

.

And maybe just for fun, the next time you write/edit using the services of your computer accessed dictionary and thesaurus, try running it in a foreign language.  Oh, the madness just never ends.

Read Full Post »

Driving to work on slippery roads:

A freezing fog and drizzle has coated every surface in a glaze of ice.

Everything in the muted early morning light was coated in a shimmer of ice as I made my way steadily along the slippery highway.  It made the world pretty and dangerous all at once.

In the distance I spotted the telltale sight of the red glow of unmoving taillights and the flashing of the tow truck.  There was no doubt an accident lay ahead.  The only questions were how bad would it be and how long the delay.

At last I came upon the scene and coasted by on the clear highway, and the only thing I could mutter was, “How the hell did he end up there?!” as I took note of the single car sitting some distance into the farmer’s field beyond the wide span of ditch and the puzzled look of the tow truck driver.

Surviving the confusion of the truck stop corner down the road, crossing the highway that encircles the city like a snare, and continuing on up another stretch of glazed highway approaching the city, my attention was draw to the sight ahead of me.

After a long stretch of open road a car was taking advantage of the clear road to do a full u-turn.

Driving well below the posted limit, I soon found myself following that car as it cavorted and careened all over the road for some distance.  I kept well back of the driver who was obviously either drunk or texting and unable to drive straighter than a one winged fly might buzz across the floor.  I cringed when the car nearly side-swiped a car in the oncoming traffic lane and sighed with relief that there was a long clear stretch of road in that neighboring lane after that.

Twin beams of lights approached, one set behind the other, a stream of traffic coming, and despite that long stretch of empty road the driver behind me waited for those lights to close the gap before making his move.  I looked in my rear view mirror in shock as the truck behind pulled out into the quickly narrowing piece of road, headlights bearing down on headlights.  I don’t know why I should be shocked; it’s a scene I’ve seen all too many times on the roads.  Perhaps it’s that feeling of helplessness at the inevitable, when you see something bad coming and know you can do nothing to stop it.  I braked despite the icy road conditions, slowing down.  If this guy wanted to kill himself I didn’t want to get caught up in it.

                I cursed as the black hulk sped past me, “Are you fucking kidding me?!  Are you nuts?!”

                I watched mutely as he swerved and the truck barely managed to squeeze back into our lane before causing a pileup of twisted metal and mangled plastic.  Surprisingly he didn’t spin out on the slick surface and we all continued on our treacherous way.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: