Thursday, January 04, 2007

From the Desk of the Editor... Second Edition

Well okay, then. No questions on the First Edition of *From the Desk of the Editor* so I shall just carry forth with a list of tips and tools found in a Writer's Toolbox. These are things that I've learned along the way as both an author and an editor.

..................TIPS FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE DESK.................

1. Keep the punctuation simple. Periods, commas, and question marks are best. Ellipses (...), emdashes (-) and exclamation points (!) can be overused. These are best when A) used correctly; and B) they aren't overused, but rather are saved for emphasis.

2. Dialogue tags. I find Adverb Abuse happens often in speech tags. Resist the urge to tell the reader how the character spoke: "Listen!" she said urgently. A crackling sound came from somewhere deeper into the forest. "Did you hear that?" End Adverb Abuse. Consider action tags to convey your meaning... yes, SHOW it. "Listen!" Her hand flew up, palm out, cautioning her companion to be silent. She put a finger to her lips as she came to a dead stop. A crackling sound came from somewhere deeper into the forest. "Did you hear that?"
Another thing: resist the urge to tag dialogue that ends with a question mark with "he/she asked/queried/inquired"--PLEASE! The question mark (?) is the reader's visual cue that something as been asked/queried/inquired. If you must insert a tag, go for some action.

3. Add more emotion. Unless you truly get carried away, to my way of thinking, it's almost impossible to have "too much." Take care not to overuse the word "felt" and don't forget we have 5 senses, not just 2 or 3.

4. Tie up all your loose ends. Few things are more frustrating than an unresolved thread. Maddening, as a matter of fact. Cross all your t's and dot all your i's. Be sure that all the threads you've woven into the fabric of your story are necessary, move the plot forward to the black moment and the conclusion, and are taken care of before you type "The End."

5. Variety, in both sentence and paragraph length. This goes hand-in-hand with flow and voice. You want to keep the reader reading, right? Long sentence upon long sentence will tire out your reader and bog down the pace and flow of the story. Short sentence upon short sentence is also wearing. Short denotes, to me, a sense of urgency or an important point you're making. Remember, your characters aren't chess pieces you're moving about a gameboard. If you list in one long sentence a series of things that your character's doing, that's all you're doing. Moving a game piece around, telling rather than showing. You're missing a very good opportunity to layer in details about your characte and the setting. A person can only do so much at one time. Sticking it all in one sentence implies your character is doing it all at the same time. Mix it up with your sentence and paragraphs lengths to keep the reader's interest and to best use the tools in your Writer's Toolbox to your best advantage.

.......................The Writer's Toolbox.......................

1. Voice. Ah. Voice. I have a lot to say on this subject. I've thought of my own writing experience, how my writing has evolved, I also thought about my favorite authors-- authors I've read since their first published novels, how they've changed over the years... and after more contemplation, came to this conclusion:

My voice isn't going to stay exactly the same. Voice isn't static. In order to grow as writers, to become better storytellers (storyshow-ers?), we must be open to change. Voice needs to be adaptable, able to change, grow, fit the needs of the story. Yes, fundamentally, readers will come to expect a certain "voice" when reading the novels of their favorite authors. It's in the way words are put together, word choice, how sense of humor and life experience impacts the writing.

I find that the tone of my voice subtly changes depending on the type of story I'm writing. I can tell a difference between my "rom com voice" and my historical voice.

Just as our speaking voices are able to convey our emotions-- happiness, sadness, warmth, coldness... whatever, our writing voices need to have that same fluidity to impart to the reader what we intend to impart.

Voice is one of the best "tools" we have in our writing toolbox. It's how our readers identify with the characters, with the story itself, and how they identify the author.

Voice is fluid, ever-changing and growing as we learn and grow as writers. What we learn about writing has an impact on our voice, as well it should.

Voice isn't tied into the mechanics of writing, such as punctuation. It doesn't matter whether you punctuate properly or not (although, it will make your editor delirious with happiness if you can punctuate properly). It doesn't matter that you write in long, rambling sentences. It doesn't matter that you "laundry list" actions in those long rambling sentences. THAT isn't your voice. What that is called is "not taking advantage of the opportunities you give yourself to take your story to a deeper level". What you are missing here is the balance boat-- a well-blended balance of narrative, exposition, action and dialogue.

Voice is word choice, how words are used and put together to paint a wonderfully unique picture. Voice builds the mood, allows the reader to see the story beyond the words used to tell the story.

2. Imagination and creativity. Self explanatory, IMHO.

3. The ability to learn and grow in the craft of writing. One of the most important things in the Writer's Toolbox is, in my opinion, our willingness to learn from our mistakes and learn from other writers/editors/crit partners AND, apply these lessons.


© 2007 by Laura Hamby


Michelle said...

These are great tips Laura! I'm adding you to my blogroll :-)

Laura Hamby said...

Thank you, Michelle! I'm glad you found them helpful. :D