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Work-out Writer: After the big cussin’ hissy fit, we may see a truth we tried to deny

He was an ass . . . but . . . . was I, too?

Jerkface, sumbitch! Huhn!

Workout: Saturday while on the treadmill doing a new, and particularly high energy part of my workout, some jerkface came over, waved his hand in my face, and then bitched me out for stomping on the treadmill. I couldn’t even respond—I was so furious, a sailor would blush at what caught in my throat and I had to swallow down.  All the rest of the weekend, I was pissed off, and within that anger came a little depression and anxiety: what would I do? That newer part of the aerobic workout kicked my ass but good and was something different, made me sweat, helped control my stress and take down my jitteriness a notch. I kept seeing his face; kept seeing his hand waving in my face; kept seeing me punching his face until it was a bloody-ass pulp (um, yeah, not proud of that thought, lawd!)

I didn’t even look forward to my next workout, for I thought, “It’s all ruined. My joy is ruined. My workout is ruined. Woe is me.”

*woe is wittle me*

*woe is wittle me*

Meanwhile, I’d conveniently forgotten how many people said I inspire them, how they enjoy my joy. I’d forgotten that the addition of this stomping was fairly new, and in a quiet little dark corner of myself, I knew I shouldn’t have been doing it—it just felt so good I ignored everything and everyone else. I was being stubborn. I wanted want I wanted. I didn’t want to give it up cause it was just so cool.

omg - I was being an asshole, too!

omg – I was being an asshole, too!

But, when I allowed my rage to subside. When I stopped thinking, “That sonuvabitch jackass mo-fo, rude asshole!” I heard what he said, not how he said it. And folks, yeah, I sure was being disrespectful to others and the equipment at that particular addition of my high-energy workout. Admitting that made me pull up my big girl panties and acknowledge I was being an asshole, too. I don’t excuse his delivery system, for he had no call for the way he treated me, but hidden in his Big Ass Stupid Face Assholedom was some truth.

This morning, as I stepped on the treadmill, someone said something so positive, reminding me that I wasn’t a bad person, I hadn’t always been so out of control, and I felt my joy slipping back in. Instead of stomping like an over-crazed idiot, I found something else to do that kicked my ass even better and more efficiently, and without worrying about hurting myself, and just as wonderful, I was still respectful of the machines and others.

WHUPOW!

Writer: Sometimes when we’re given critique/edit suggestions from our editors or beta reader, or whomever, that we don’t like, we may be tempted to say “Oh, they just don’t get it; they don’t understand what I’m trying to do; they SUCK! I ain’t listening. If I change this, it ruins everything! If I take that out/put that in/alter that, then what?  Waaaaaaah! Sumbitches!”  We push any rational thought aside, cuss, holler to the four winds of the universe how unfair they are, and how they just don’t get us and our work. Want to smack them three sides to Tuesday. We may want to give up, give in, be depressed and defeated. Put aside the work and walk away.

Well, shit . . . huh. I guess I see what you're saying . . ..

Well, shit . . . huh. I guess I see what you’re saying . . ..

However, if we still our minds and think of the bigger message, even if it’s embedded in a delivery we don’t appreciate, we may just find some truth in that critique/edit. We can pull on our big girl panties, or big boy undies, and acknowledge how we are being intractable, childish. We can pull back and look at their suggestions/comments, see if really they do have something to add to our manuscript, after all. Then, we find a way to work the manuscript into something that still gives us joy, makes us excited, and works ever so much better to make the work kick-ass.

images (1)

I actually do have a can of this!

WHUPOW! Open up a can of whoopass and get going!

Work-out writer: A leaner you; a leaner manuscript

from SHAPE magazine site

from SHAPE magazine site

Work-out: Want an efficient work out? Try interval training. The easy answer to “what is interval training” is, for example, say you usually walk on the treadmill at a steady pace — even if it’s a fast pace — for thirty minutes to an hour. Try adding in short bursts of speed or intensity. You want to raise your heart rate; to go fast/hard enough that you think, “Omg! I can’t go much farther!” then you slow it back down and catch your breath. Do this several times during your workout–get that heart rate going and then slowing it down, up and down, up and down, until you are sweating and feeling kick-ass, and as if your ass was kicked! It’s efficient and effective. Though I do high-energy intervals for an hour, actually you do not have to go that long. It’s all about making it efficient — I’m just insane *laugh*

For a better, more comprehensive explanation, here’s an article in Shape Magazine: Interval Training: Short Workouts That Really Pay Off 

(As I always tell you: please see your doctor before beginning an exercise, or new exercise, routine.)

logoWriter: Want a more efficient manuscript? If we want our manuscripts to be “lean” and tight, sometimes we have to delete. Find those areas that are flabby and develop their muscles. Our manuscripts can become bloated after writing up those first drafts. We’re developing characters, setting, scene, etc. We’re trying to find our way, and the character’s way. One of the “easier” ways to develop a leaner manuscript is to find and delete  “internal monologue” or internal thoughts the character has. I finally figured out that the only “purpose” or reason for these internal monologues in our drafts is to figure out something at the same time the character is – sort of like when we yap to a friend about a problem because we are trying to sound it out, hear it out, figure it out. Most of this can GO. Delete. Get rid of it. Instead of writing along at this steady pace, punch it up! Instead of a long paragraph, or *gasp* page(s), of internal monologue, use action, or dialogue, or cut it down to a sentence or two. Do this throughout the manuscript and you’ve deleted thousands of bloaty words that weighed down your manuscript.

For a better, more comprehensive, explanation of internal monologue, see: The Do’s and Don’ts of Internal Monologue by K.M. Weiland

Don't be afraid to stretch yourself a little in life.

Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself a little in life.

A fit you; a fit manuscript.

Wednesday Classroom: Do your research to gain trust with your reader, yawwwwl

Morning Y’allses! Guess where I am while you are reading this? In Oregon! Lawdy but I’m far away from my little log house. GMR and the dawgs and the ghost dawg have the house and cove all to themselves and I bet they miss my pea-headed s’ef.  So, for this post, I’m a’trying to post ahead of time. Just think, as I’m typing this I’m in the little log house, but as you read it, I’m in Oregon. Wheeee ain’t technology grand?

Folkses, as you all may be able to tell from reading my posts on writing, I can be strict about some thangs. I try to have things Right. I want to convince my audience, and you should, too!

With fiction, bring in truths to ground the reader—and whatever those truths are will be  up to the writer to convey them. The amount of danged old research we do will have much to do with the place/time we create. My worlds have been and are in South Louisiana, West Virginia, and here in these western North Carolina mountains. My time has been from the 50’s to the present. My research will deal with that time and place.

If I’m writing about a real town, I need to be accurate about that town to honor its people and sense of Place–I wouldn’t have New Orleans as the capital of Louisiana–lawd!–because it is Baton Rouge; I wouldn’t have Maggie Valley with a McDonald’s because we do not have fast food joints in Maggie (except for one lonely Subway, and who knows how it managed to find its way here). If I’m writing about a fictional town based on a real town, I have a little more flexibility, but I still need to be mindful. Most of my books do not mention specific towns, but my readers can often guess where I am talking about, or place my characters in a specific area that they can relate to.

If you’ses have yourse’f a world that’s all made up, like “Madeupland,” you still must ground the reader in some reality, yawwwl, right? riigghhht! So there will be some research even if it’s minor. Mainly, if you have a “Madeupland” you best be consistent–I tell you what!

All you’ses wunnerfuls out there have seen me write this before: Convince your audience and you’ve done your job, no matter how, what, where, when, who you write. Throw all the danged ole rules out the window for all I care—just convince me, or you lose me as your reader.

Sometimes you may think you have something correct, but you do not! oopsies! It doesn’t hurt to double-check those things you “remember” or “think you know.” I had Tang in a Tender Graces scene–later, it began to bug me, when was Tang invented? I looked it up and Lawd!, it wasn’t released to the general public until sometime after my scene–the astronauts had it first.

Whenever I mentioned a movie or a television show or a football game, I made sure I had it Right. Folkses, you don’t EVEN want to go messing with South Louisiana and have their LSU Tigers game days, or anything else, wrong–lawd! I can’t have my South Louisiana town’s team playing  Old Miss in September when they didn’t play until later in the season, or have them playing in town when it was an out of town game. I can’t have the movie Rocky coming out in March of 1976 (in Secret Graces), because it didn’t release until December 1976. Look It Up and double check–our memories are wankity.

You can play around with research to enhance your books. Was there a significant weather event that would change something with my characters or their Place? Or make something fun/interesting? (Like the South Louisiana Hurricane mention in TG when Mee Maw comes to visit—category five Grandmother.) Or, if in the holler in West Virginia there was a bad snow storm, Katie Ivene wouldn’t be flying to town in her Rambler with the windows open yelling “wheeee!” I found sites that show historical weather. I love those little details even if only I know that on April 13, 1976, it really was 82 degrees and foggy in a town in South Louisiana (I use weather more as a mood or as Place or whatever, not that I go around quoting weather).

Little details help the reader to “Be There” with the character, to ground them in a place or time or mood, maybe even to have them say, “I know that place/event/area!” “Hey, I remember that!”

Don’t rely on only one source. I do the best I can to make sure I have everything as accurate as possible—because you are worth my time and care, you being the reader. Often, I double and triple check my sources.

Will someone find an error if they go through my books with a fine-toothed eye? I don’t know, but it won’t be for lack of me working hard and doing my job best I can. I don’t respect lazy writing and I know it when I read it.

When and how you do your research is up to you. Do what works.

Don’t cheat. Don’t be lazy. It’s worth it to build trust with your readers. Do you want your reader to stop and say, “Hey, wait a minute! This ain’t right . . .” and bump them from your world, your story? Naw! And more important to me: I want my reader to trust me and to forget about me and only focus on the narrator and the story.

Do you make sure you have things Right and build trust? Does your work require extensive research, or just a bit?

See all y’allses wunnerfuls later!

Don’t forget: I changed my blog posting schedule for my Classroom series & I am your Personal Trainer series, etc, to the first and third Wednesdays of the month, with Friday open to photos/art/video: no words. So there will only be posts twice a month, and on most Fridays, photos/video/art with no words.

Monday Classroom: See-Saw/Watch(ed)/Look(ed) – cleaning up our manuscripts, y’all (and no whining allowed!)

Morning all y’allses out there, wherever you are. I first want to say how much I appreciate you. Many of you come by here for every post, and there are those of you who leave comments regularly. Thank you.

I have not been able to return the favor as I used to, but I am subscribed to many of your blogs if you have that capability, and I do read your posts in my email. I know many of you are in the same ole boat–so much to do, so many blogs, so much social networking–Lawd!

I am behind on writing The Lightning Charmer because I whined too much instead of trusting my process.  “I caaaaaan’t write this boooooook. Cause it suuuuuuucccckkkks and I suuuucccck!” I have a deadline; I have already received my advance; I have people depending on me, readers waiting. There should be No Whining Allowed! But whine I did. I felt stuck.

After four published novels and a novella, you’d think I’d Have This. But we can always create some angst, can’t we? Lawdy be in a bucket – yes. Folks, sometimes just switching a scene around (making something happen earlier–as I did to TLC) or turning the manuscript on its head in some other way does the trick–Hey! Why, there it is! There’s the thang I was looking for hiding in plain ole sight–haw! And then the “flutter” of excitement begins in my/our belly and off I/we go! Give that sucker (your manuscript) a shake and see what falls out. Do whatever it takes to make it seem fresh  and alive. No Whining Allowed! (Okay, you can give yourself “whine time” as long as you do not give in to it for longer than two shakes of a hippo’s tail.)

Sometimes it is appropriate for a character to see-saw/watch(ed)/look(ed). But oft-times we write the character seeing looking watching when the direct action would work better. Right? Riiighhht!

For example, let’s say there’s a scene in Tender Graces where Virginia Kate and Micah are on the porch in the Looseeaner house after she’s left West Virginia.

Oh look! A rock. I am looking at the rock. You are looking at the rock. GMR is watching me look at the rock. I saw the rock. I see the rock and saw it and looked at it

Scene:

I looked over at Micah as we rocked on the porch. I saw him grin at me. I watched him run down the steps, pick up a pretty rock, and bring it back to me. He looked at me looking at the rock. I saw him look at me. We looked at each other and smiled. I watched him sit down. He looked at me as I rocked. I watched as he rocked. Then we looked at the sky because we were danged ole sick of looking at each other, sheesh.

Okay, folkses, I know that’s a little extreme, *teehee,* but you get the idea. Obviously sometimes we use looked/watched/saw, etc, because it fits the scene. Sometimes Virginia Kate uses the “I’m a looking fool” because that’s what she does–her thang; in those cases, I actually use it as a device, On Purpose, and I know it is On Purpose and the audience knows it is On Purpose–if they do not, then I ain’t done my job. This is what I mean about breaking rules or manipulating the language—if you are aware of what you are doing, if you are doing it On Purpose, it is fun to play with the language and it can be quite effective/affective.

If the sneakity sneaker thangs make their way into the work, then being aware of those sneakies will help tighten the manuscript.

Don’t stress yourself striving for perfection, especially in the first draft or two. I like to slam that story down first. However, the more you know instinctively, the less mess you have to clean up, right? RIIIIGHHHT!

Simplistically:
I saw the ball hit the wall. – The ball hit the wall.

I watched Marie jump rope. – Marie jumped rope.

I looked at Jennifer eating her pie. – Jennifer ate her pie. I want pie–this has nothing to do with this post, I just want pie now.

The audience will know the narrator is doing the watching/looking without us bomping them upside the head with it.

Playing with language and words is the most wonderful danged old thang in the world. If you tend to “over-do” or “over-use” certain words or phrases, etc, find ways to recast your sentences/phrases to create a tighter work. A swollen manuscript will become, well, not swolled up.

So, pull up your manuscript in your editing phases and do a search/find and see how many “look/see-saw/watch” you have hiding in there. You may be surprised.

Now–go Do This Day with Gratitude. And write.

Monday Classroom: Why you’ses dumping information all up and down and all-over creation? Ain’t necessary.

Oh woe is us’ses but sometimes we feel the need to stuff down too much information at once, instead of gradually feeding information to our readers, or hinting, or giving them just enough so that they come to their own conclusions. We think, and I have done this, we have to tell the reader “certain thangs” or else they’ll be lost or won’t read our story because we haven’t given them “reason to—” but instead, when we dump too much on our readers, we may drive them away (meaning: put down our book – NOOOO lawdy NOOO! Woeful sobbing Noooooo’s!)

Some writers want the reader to know some “backstory” or other information that may or may not be crucial to the storyline and they shove it down the readers’ throats all at once. Ease back. It’ll all work out. Trust the process. Trust your readers. Trust yourself. Let your reader figure things out, feed them a spoonful so that they want more, and then give them just a little more.

Some writers want the reader to know how the character looks, because they know just how that character is “supposed to” look instead of letting the reader form their own images.

And please y’allses, don’t describe your character in a mirror. That’s another form of dumpity dumping information.

Can you see me? You can see enough of me.

Now, does that mean you can never ever ever never ever have your character look into a mirror and “see” her/himself? Whyses No’ses. Shoot, I have a mirror scene (or two), as in: Young Virginia Kate runs to her bedroom to fetch her camera, sees herself in the mirror, and notices her hair is messy, she has a spot of ketchup on her blouse and it reminds her of the snake’s blood (from the snake polo scene). So, she makes these observations and goes on. That’s something we’d all do, wouldn’t we? We’d pass a mirror and make an observation about ourselves, but would we describe ourselves to ourselves?–um, prolly not.

Remember I’ve said before: think about your scene in reality. What do people really do?

And lawdy be in a bucket, sometimes, to my horrorification, information dump is done in dialogue, and in such an

Objects in mirror are often described too much . . .

unnatural way, thusly:

After describing her heaving bosoms, cornflower blue eyes, pouty red-tinted lips, thick glorious hair, and determined chin in the mirror, arms akimbo, she stomped her little foot and cried to the bedroom decorated in tapestries and filmy scarves, because no one was standing there and the room was a good listener, “I am going back to the market on fifty-first street today, where I went last week to buy tomatoes for the famous homemade sauce my family has made for generations and I have made my twenty-three years I’ve been on this earth, and while there I saw that dark and dastardly street vendor Raoul and Raoul stole my broach just as it happened with my mother and her mother’s mother and her grandmother before her! I shall have vengeance on Raoul this very day or else my name isn’t Sabrinina Melissa Bambitto Deligato!”

 Lawd!

Some writers want the reader to “see” the place/setting/room/house just as they imagined it, so they write and write and write the description to dawg-danged-old death, such as:

She then turns on her pretty little slender heels and stalks out of the bedroom, and as she huffs to her front door . . . the

lawd, I need a nap! Wearing me out with all these words!

drapes were orange-marmalade velveteen after it has set in the sun three hours, the armchairs polka-dotted except on the fringe because the fringe is solid and hung down all-fringe-like, and in the corner to the right was a purple violet vase with forget-me-nots inside with an inch of water to cover the stems and some aspirin in there to keep the flowers fresh and the flowers were bought last Tuesday and were still perky and next week she’d put red—the color of the red crayon she had as a child and it was her favorite—roses in the vase and the petals would be soft as her peachity-creamy comely skin, and in the other corner to the left, as Sabrinina Melissa Bambitto Deligato’s corn-flower blue eyed lashes swept her flushed cheeks as she further surveyed the room and saw how her lovely yellow as a egg yolk that just was cracked from the shell five minutes ago chaise longue captured her kitty cat named Mr. Furry McFurrPants, and the lady-slipper pink carpeting that crushed most charmingly and softeningly  under her tiny little feet, and the chandelier above her golden-blonde glorious hair sparked all diamondy and sparkly, and . . .

. . . and all the while, we are supposed to imagine Sabrinina Melissa Bambitto Deligato is walking through this room staring at all of this long enough for the reader to read allllll this description—so she must be walking sloooooowww moooooootion, right? Riiggghtt. Why not just give a little detail here and there that she notices as she goes through the room—maybe a favorite item that she touches or brushes her hand against, or a couple of details about the room that a person would note as they walked through it—the reader will fill in the blanks and be happy to do so, even if they don’t even realize they are filling in the blanks and instead think you are a genius at description—Haw!

Okay, while I’m at it: I’ve never used arms akimbo (other than this example :-D), but the other night I read a book and there it was. In fact, I had to look up “arms akimbo” to know what it meant. I’ll never use arms akimbo, but I suppose if you must you must. Nope, I ain’t telling you; you’ll have to look it up just as I did. *laughing oh laughing with mouth akimbo.*

Professor Dawg says, “Woof!” – that means, write it all good and all, y’allses

So, friends, what I am talking about here and digressed into my brain going akimbo is don’t take the easy or cheating or unimaginative or lazy way out and force down the throats of your readers information—instead write it to show readers in a more natural, or gradual, way, in a way that gives the reader credit for knowing or figuring out much more than we as writers think they do/can. If you need to write it all out, that’s great, as long as you delete what isn’t needed. Consider: our readers’ imaginations and thought-processes are quite intelligent. Why, sometimes they even think up better things than we could have written . . . right? Riiighht! No, really, riiighhht!

If you dump on your readers too much description, they’ses eyes might glaze over and what might they do? OH NO! They might put down the book or “skim it.” Oh, the dreaded skimming isn’t as bad as the putting down the book, but both set my wittle heart to squeezing inward with writerly angsteses. Why, I bet some of you’ses out there have skimmed this! Oh heavy Irony abounds! Haw!

I read a novel a couple of weeks ago by a well-known, well-beloved author. So imagine my surprise when she info-dumped a whole-lotta backstory into the first chapter. There was no dialogue, no moving the story along—it was as if she

la la la la I can’t hear youuu; I’m looking inside my hat – you done lost me – la la la tee dah – Yawn, whatchoo was saying? Whatever, the inside a-my hat is more innerestin

and I were sitting in a restaurant having dinner and she was filling me in on all these details to make sure “I got it—you know, got it, the stuff that happened before the stuff that’s really happening” all before she could go on to “the meat of the story.” Well, I was bored. I didn’t want to know all that backstory—I didn’t care. Because once she began writing The Story, once she just wrote what the character was up to, I forgot all that crapa-doodle-doo-doo she’d stuck in that first chapter. It’d have been so easy to take a few things from that first chapter and insert a little bit here and there to fill me in on any details. She could-a deleted most of that entire first chapter and I’d have not cared.

How do you know it’s backstory? How do you know it’s boring? How do you know it’s crapa-doodle-doo-doo? Dang—you’ll have to use your instincts on this one, folkses. If you feel you are moved to tell your readers a bunch of this’s and thatses to “catch them up” or to “make sure they know the reason for it” or “if I don’t tell them this, they may not understand what comes later,” then maybe just maybe you are dumping information in the front part of the book—then it’ll be all top heavy and end up toppley-gangly all over creation. As well, if you are bored or restless when you read it–not a good sign.

Write write write—and then make good friends with your delete key. It’s such a lovely key. People are afraid of the delete key. They think the delete key is EEEE-VILLLLE, but it isn’t! It’s our friend.

But, y’allses know what I tell you. What I preach and preach—what is most important to remember: If you convince your audience, make them believe, make them happy to be where you lead them, engage them in your character’s world, you have done your job–Period. And be-doodle-be-damned any “advice” some writer, like me or anyone else, gives you, right? Riiighhht! But consider: just consider.

So, are your arms akimbo? If so, un-akimbo them and get to work! That’s what I’ma gonna do, folkses.

Monday Classroom: Y’allses, we’s gonna clean up our languageamation, right? riiighht!

Morning, all y’allses! What? You think all y’allses isn’t correct? Well, it ain’t. It ain’t even correct in many southern towns. Nope. But it’s correct in my pea-head, so there y’allses goes’ses :-D

Our manuscripts/work/language will never be perfect. Yeah, I know! It’s difficult to imagine, isn’t it? That we aren’t or will never be perfect? Nor will our books/essays/short stories/letters/posts, etc. Lawd and Dang. However, we can strengthen our work by at least knowing The Rules and applying them when we “should;” and then we can also break the rules with a firm and knowledgeable hand instead of feeling flabbergastivated by them. Right? Riighhht!

Do you own a Strunk & White? No? *Gasp!* Go ye and purchase one. I’ll wait whilst you do. *Jeopardy music here* You back? All right then (and notice, all right is two words—two!) let’s begin.

As I wrote above, all right should be two words. Not alright.

Do you feel badly? Well, what’s wrong with your hands? Oh dear! Folkses, it is: I feel bad.

Most always when we write “hopefully” we mean “I hope.” Or at least we should mean I hope. I hope y’allses will use I hope instead of hopefully, which means in a hopeful manner.

I often see “that” used instead of “who—” if you are writing/speaking of a person, then it is who. She is a woman who likes strawberries right off the vine; not, she is a woman that likes strawberries right off the vine.

Commas before which’s. The dog wanted his walk, which was most inconvenient for the woman who wasn’t yet ready.

We Southern/Mountain folk often add words and such all and all that stuff and a little bit of this and that the t’other. I often use colloquialism in my work, since my settings are usually in the Appalachian/Deep South. However, I am careful I do not over-do it, and as well, I use a firm hand by Knowing the Rules so I can break them when I want to.

Off of is incorrect, and plain old “off” is correct. The woman jumped off of the couch and ran to the porch to yell, “Git off’n my land!” should be: The woman jumped off the couch and ran to the porch to yell “Git off’n my land!”

As well, instead of “Could of” we should write/say “could have” – I could of had a V8 is incorrect! Don’t you watch commercials anymore to learn yer grammarfications? It’s I could have had a V8! I gots my verbs, yeah, and they’ses makes my sentence so nice and loverly!

We don’t have to merge together! We can simply merge! Who knew?

Let’s all go to the grammar store! wheee!

Nauseous versus Nauseated. If you feel it, it is nauseated. I am nauseated becauses I ain’t et my breakfas yet, y’allses. What? That sentence? What about it?

And this one I see misused over and over and over and over. More importantly and most importantly is incorrect. Sorry, it is! Is, too! Yes it is too incorrect. Humph! It should be more or most important. So, go ye and speak importantly no more!

Y’allses gots any grammerfications and other writin bloooperdoops you wanna tawlk about? :-D

Now, go do the day!

And P.S. – Thank you all for your support for Tender Graces Promo on Thursday & Friday to launch Family Graces, and for Mom’s day. Appreciate you all!

And a head’s up that Rose & Thorn Journal’s spring issue will go live the 15th –  that’s tomorrow! Hope you will stop by to peruse the prose, poetry, and art. We appreciate you.

Monday Classroom: Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, kill your darlings if you dare . . .

I’ve killed me some darling’s in my time, let me tell you what! Yeah. But then again, I do remember a time when I didn’t know  what that meant—I mean, I knew in theory, but in reality it only confused me. I could see obvious phrases or words that could come out, but “Darlings?”

How would I know a darling to be able to kill it? And if it was a darling, why didn’t I want to keep it. Ungh! Brain hurts! Brain hurts!

Guess what? The killing your darlings question, my friends,  cannot exactly be answered by a writer giving advice, much as we may try. This, I believe, is one of those “Unteachable Things” that writers must figure out on their own. They must write (practice craft), and develop their own “style and voice;” have their AHA moment(s) and let the mists lift and things become clear—or not–hahahahahah! Yes! Writing is for the insaaaaane ! or for at least the mildly discombobulated. And even then it’s a whole lot of guessing or hoping or experimenting, or if you just ain’t getting it, asking someone else to read your manuscript and rip it to shreds–oh dear.

For the most part, knowing your Darlings to Kill versus Prose That Should Stay is subjective–at least until your readers read your published book, then subjection goes all out the window–flyyy flyyyy little bird and try not to crap on my car, please.

Have you ever watched deleted scenes in a movie and thought, “Oh geez, so glad they took that out!” But of course we are seeing the deleted scenes in the context of what we’ve just watched as a completed movie. Imagine if  those deleted scenes were still in the movie (I am thinking of a magical ring and the endings that never wanted to end and how butts came off the seat, back down, off the seat back down and “is it over? wait, not yet” could be heard across theater-land). Some of them may bring out an eye roll or a “why did they put that unneeded fluff/extra gloppity doo in there?” or “I’m kind of bored right now;” or a “Hmm, a bit over-wrought/over-done/over-acted.” Oh, but because things can never be easy, maybe a scene or two or so could have fit right on in without a glitch and you may think: “Hey, that’s a cool scene; why’d they take it out?”

But folkses, one thing is for certain, most all of the time the deleted scenes are not missed as we watch the final movie-product–no one notices the place they once had in the movie, nothing explodes/implodes from the scene(s) not present in the movie, no one stalks to the movie director/producer/screenwriter’s door and smacks them upside the head sideways-to-silly for taking out that scene or scenes–and they had a reason for taking it out, right? riiiiggghht, even if Big Movie Head said, “This thang is too long. Cut it or I stop paying the bills,” while the screenwriter moans, groans, gnashes his/her teeth and cries him/herself to sleep for fifty-two days plus one.

And, most times we who watched the cut movie are not saying, “Something is missing here, I wonder if they deleted a scene?” Of course, to make things all mixed up and confused and angsty-poo, there may be times we say, “Wait, something is missing here . . . .” Ah, isn’t it an ever-moving vague wavery line made of pencil that can be erased and replaced, erased and replaced, and even misplaced retraced and whatever other “aced” you can think of? Hot Damn!, ain’t writing a whole sack o cra-cra? I mean, fun—yeah, fun! It’s fun fun fun fun fun fun fun *help me* fun fun fun fun fun.

Gas-X for Writers. Try one today! *results may vary*

Welp, all y’allses, it’s like this: we have to use our own judgment and instincts to kill our darlin’s—or find an editor or reader you trust to help. But, me? Huhn, I want to have control over my books. I want to KNOW. I want to be AWARE. And one way is to be true to who you are as a writer and stop trying to: show people what a great writer you are; show people you can write like/better than so and so; step in the way of your characters because you can make them better-stronger-faster-bionic! It’s your voice, your style, what you want to say and how you want to say it, but when you “try too hard” to be what you are not, to write what isn’t Yours, then what you have when you type “the end” may be bloated and gassy–urp. Grab that sucker by the ankles and shake the ding-dang-dong out of it. Turn it inside out and upside down and sideways. Give it some gas-ex.

There is no magic to writing you will find peeping through a magic keyhole (although, sometimes there really is magic in this writing life, isn’t there?–a wonder fairy-land of magicalnessess, right? riiighhht!) There is only the writing and tweaking and rewriting and editing and hoping and dreaming and doing the best we can and pulling out our hair and stomping our feet and then crying and laughing and grabbing the manuscript and kissing it and telling it how it is our true love and buying it flowers and asking it to . . . um, . . . *ahem* anyway . . . .

You can save a copy of your manuscript in another file if your stomach ties in knots because you just looooooooove a phrase or paragraph or scene soooooo much and you’ll just diiiie if it’s not in there. It’s easy to do: “save as” your manuscript under a different name, like “Darling Killer Take 1.”  Use the re-named manuscript to rip the be-jeebus-dangity-doo out of it. Splash/dribble/sprinkle paint on it ala Jackson Pollock. Drip your sandwich mustard on it and then say, “this means something; this means something.” Wrinkle it up in a big-arse ball and dribble it down the court. Put a pink lip-print on it. Dress it in diamonds, and then rip off those diamonds and slap on some over-alls—no, wait, not overalls, no no never overalls! Gawd NO Not the Overalls! What about some simple dark jeans and a white shirt with a silver necklace. Wait, what are we talking about here–oh yeah, our manuscripts. teehee.

As well, your delete key can become your very best friend. I mean it. No, really. I know you keep seeing these words here: “The pweshush. The delete pweshush.” But remember, you have your original manuscript waiting all nice and comfy just in case you freak out once your nice manuscript has become unrecognizable. (Of course, there is the “knowing when to stay when and it is done so it’s not fiddle-danged to hell and back.” How do you know that? Guess that’s another thought for another day, and another subjective angsty-poo, to boot–hey, love those ooooo sounds, haw!)

A thought for you: how many times have you written something you thought was GOLDEN plucked straight from the GOLDEN tree of GOLDEN words, and then when you had someone read your work, they never mention that GOLDEN part, but instead, they mention some other part you hadn’t even paid attention to, and in fact, you almost deleted that scene because it seemed so, well, NOT GOLDEN, and you didn’t even find it that interesting. What the hellvitica? They liked that and not this wonderfulnessnessess? Well, rip me in two and call me double-danged. Hey, guess what? We writers aren’t always the best judge of what a reader will respond to and love. No, really. No, really. No, reeeaaaaallllly.  I shrug.

Which, again, could make Killing the Darlings a frustrating exercise in our writing. Look folks, all we can do is use our gutty instincts, be true to ourselves and our characters and their world, write with heart and sincerity, stop thinking ahead of ourselves, and hope for the best. Right? Riggghhhht.

What do you  have to say about Killing your Darlings?

Monday Classroom: Tic Words, Similes, Ignoring Advice until . . .

Morning, y’all. Time for Monday Classroom!

Filler words. Tic words. Most all of us use them; although, the more you practice your craft and Recognize/Pay Attention to what you are writing/saying and how you are crafting your prose, the more you will be aware of filler or unnecessary or tic words. Yet, they do creep in when we are writing as we naturally speak (or as the character speaks), especially when “free-writing” that first draft, or writing in a casual loose way as we do in blog posts, or letters, et cetera. But the idea I try to push to you in my Monday Classroom posts is for things to become “second nature” – instinctual – in your writing, so that it carries over naturally into everything you do (mostly! :-D).

Some “tic” words: little, just, that, so, then, very, really—to name a few. It doesn’t mean you never use these words, it means to make sure you aren’t peppering your manuscript with unnecessary words that, well, aren’t necessary. Do a search for “so” or “just” or “very” and see how many come up—sometimes I use them on purpose, but it’s the “on purpose” that makes the difference, you see? In Family Graces, Adin says “very really much” – on purpose, though I tried not to do this so often it became distracting. In the South we often use “a little bit” or other colloquialisms—but again, “on purpose,” and as well, again, using them in a way that doesn’t distract your reader by overuse, or mindless use.

In Tender Graces/Secret Graces (oh dear, did I do it for Family Graces, erkity dang I don’t remember!) I did a search for “felt” and was amazed at how many times Virginia Kate said she felt something instead of showing the action of her “feeling it.” Sure, sometimes “felt” fits, but in many of the incidences I used “felt,” I was able to delete it along with several other words and instead make the action active instead of passive. How much better to have the character actually feel something rather than saying the character felt it, right?

Kathryn felt her stomach growling but she wanted to finish this blog post and besides she sure ate a lot over the weekend for her birthday (*birthday plug here even though she is already on cloud nine with birthday wishes on FB/twitter/email/phone/mail, but she’s greedy-guts – just a danged ole greedy guts who can’t get enough attention–dang her hide!*). *Wishes had more of those waffles GMR prepared for her yesterday–and notice the word “prepared” instead of “made,” huh? huh? notice?*

Kathryn’s stomach growled, but . . .

I once read a book peppered with “suddenly” – Suddenly, someone grabbed her arm; suddenly, the wind came; suddenly, she ran to meet her friend; suddenly, the car rounded the corner. Consider your manuscript—do you really need that “suddenly” when the action and/or dialogue itself can show immediacy? Virginia Kate has a “VK’ism” where she says, “All a sudden,” and like Adin’s “very really much” above, it’s On Purpose.  But, yeah, watch those “suddenly’s,” y’all, and instead create the Action itself.

What about those similes? (which are often clichés if we aren’t careful): “Her hair was like an old frayed rope and she re-climbed it to get away from that prince dude she thought was her savior, but the tower was actually not so bad after all . . . .” Simile – when you use “like a” or “as a.” When I go through my manuscript, I really do try to watch for overuse of simile and metaphor—because boy did/do I tend to over-use them (hopes I do not now—wonders if should check latest manuscript but it’s already in copy-editing stage, dang! Wonders if remembered to check all these things in latest manuscript–dang.). I will note here that I use “as if” and “as” much more then “like” – as in, example:

Kat typed like she wasn’t in a hurry but she was because her stomach growled mean and hateful—her guts are in an uproar, shouting and stamping and storming the castle because the Prince is pissed off that the Repunz rejected him.

I use “as if” instead: Kat typed as if (or as though) she wasn’t in a hurry . . .

Create a Good Draft with freedom and abandon (unless you are an organizational type person who cannot write in this way). Personally, I ignore advice until I have a good solid Draft; I mean a GOOD solid DraftPersonally I think we writers give out too much advice, but dang, we love talking about language and writing! And really, we want to put a fire in your belly; at least I want to put a fire in your belly! Read your manuscript with a critical eye and tighten it, tighten it. Sure, we’ll always have “extra filler words” or use too many similes or use passive phrasing instead of direct action; after all, who is Perfect? And if we spend all of our time creating Perfection in our manuscripts, we’ll never be able to say, “I’m done . . . ” and then do the Happy Dance of Whoop Whoop Whooop as we gaze lovingly at our Completed Manuscript. However, the more you know, the more power you have to manipulate your words and the language. Right? Right!

Once again, as I always write to you: Know the rules so you can break them. Be aware of “tic” words. Practice your craft. Read with a critical eye. Pay Attention.

What are your “tic” words or phrases? Will you have a fire in your belly?

Monday Classroom: So, you want to write? . . . Then, come on with me and do it. (Voice/Style/Setting/Tone/Dialogue)

 Practice

Just as any musician, athlete, artist, Olympian gold medalist, blacksmith, butcher, baker, candle-stick-maker, must practice their craft, and practice often to become better at what they do, so must the writer. The more you write, the more you will understand just what it is you are doing and why. Of course there are the mysteries. I love the mysteries, too—those things we do that come just from the instinctual/natural and no matter how much someone else may practice, they may never break through that wall that some achieve more easily and naturally. But with practice comes confidence.

If you could read the original Virginia Kate story compared to what would become The Graces Trilogy, you’d laugh. Oh, the writing isn’t really bad (uh huh, some of it is, Kat), but everything is just Wrong. I cut my teeth on what would become Tender Graces, and then the others followed. But that first novel was an experiment, a beginning. It allowed me to learn about dialogue, setting, tone, point of view. It allowed me to “find my voice,” and as important, to find the character’s, Virginia Kate’s, voice. (And by the way, yes sometimes your first novels are published, as mine was.)

When I was younger I used to try to write as other writers did. I’d read a good book and then try to sound something like that author. I did that until one day my own voice, my own style, my Own emerged. Something clicked and it felt Right. I began to better understand what I was writing and how and why. I felt more comfortable with the language, with my language.

Finding your voice–

When you are not so “self-conscious” about what or how you are writing and just let the words come, you will “find your voice.” It isn’t some magical thing—just be who you are. Find a quiet space and then allow yourself to write the words without worry over how they read (sound) or without worry over who will read and like it/hate it/not care one way or t’other–this is the time to experiment, to be free to see where all this Goes. Most important, don’t think too far ahead of yourself. If you let yourself become worked up over “Who’s going to want to publish this drivel?” you may find the urge to write what you think someone else wants to hear. Set the words on the page without stopping to over-think it—your own voice will come through. After you finish, you can then revise. See “practice” above.

Finding the character’s Voice–

Your character must tell his/her own story in his/her own unique way. You must step out of the way and let them emerge. I want readers to be able to know who a character is without me having to identify them. I could take out all the taglines between Sweetie and Melissa (in my novel Sweetie) and in most, if not all, instances, you will know who is speaking just by their “voices” – who they are and how they speak. You don’t want everyone to sound alike, do you?

 Style–

The way the writer writes – use of the language/words – the unique way each writer has, just as the unique way a painter paints, or a dancer dances. The “voice” (above), if you will. One day, someone will tell you: “Before I even saw who wrote this, I knew it was your work.” And when I am told this, I feel a sense of gratitude and happiness–it is a supreme compliment. Our style is our handprint, our fingerprint, on the work. It is ours and no one can do it quite like us.

 Setting–

This is the where and when of your story. For example: a small mountain town in 1966; one stormy night spent in a boat on the sea; a house on a hill in the middle of winter. (This also can set the “tone” of the story.) To me, Setting is as important as character, or even in some way, a character. The mountain in the Graces Trilogy is almost as if another character, as is the lonely house on the hill, Momma’s little white house in the holler, for they set mood (tone), have “personalities,” and are as important to Virginia Kate, and the story, as her human supporting characters.

Tone–

The “feel” or “mood” or “atmosphere” of the story (see above). Set the tone at the beginning of the story–by the way you write it, your reader will anticipate “what kind of story” to expect or how they will feel while reading it.

Dialogue–

You do not have to repeat what’s already been told in your narrative—use dialogue to move the story along, or to develop your character(s), not just to hear them talk back and forth as we would in real life because you think you should have some dialogue thrown in there. Dialogue is also a wonderful way to show your characters’ personalities, quirks, etc etc etc. Don’t put yourself in the story–let your characters speak for themselves. Listen to them. Don’t force your characters to say something that feels wrong or unnatural (or if you have a rant or “lesson” you want to project through your character–no no!). And remember, your readers won’t be fooled by your trying to fool them into believing something unbelievable just because it is easier for you to have that particular (implausible) thing happen instead of thinking the scene through—like dumping a bunch of information in the dialogue because you want the reader to “know” something; don’t be a “lazy” writer.

Do your research

Not only when you write something technical or informational, but in general, make sure you are accurate, for if you make mistakes, the reader may no longer trust you. If I say that the capital of Louisiana is New Orleans, then many people may not completely trust what else I have to say, since the capital of Louisiana is of course Baton Rouge. If I talk about clothing/food/drink/models of cars/hairstyles, etc, I do my research even when I think I know it from memory–memory is a tricky thing. Same goes with figures of speech, pop phrases, music, et cetera. There have been times I thought sure I knew something was correct and I’ll be danged turned out I was wrong. We aren’t perfect and we do make mistakes; so again, don’t be a “lazy” writer.

And finally, Rules are made to be broken

If you break them, do it well; do it with confidence; do it so that the reader loves you for it.

We hear this a lot: Never Give Up Your Dreams. You know, I do believe this. But I also believe that sometimes we may have to alter our dreams. Maybe the way we’ve always “dreamed” of something isn’t going to happen just in the way we’ve always dreamed of. So, try something else, or do things another way. Turn the dream on its head and shake it and see what falls out of its pockets. But you’ll never know until you sit down and Begin, right? Right.

Oh, and don’t forget to have fun, for lawd’s sake! See you Wednesday! — now go do the day.

Monday Classroom: Those squiggly little bast—um, The Comma

The comma causes more torn out hair and gnashed teeth. You may remember what I told you in a post below, Kat’s Picky Sh*t, how I see commas as pauses and as grouper-togetherers.

I’m not the perfect Comma Momma (teeheehee), so I do invite you to use the links below to learn allllllllll about those tiny little trouble-makers. Because, really, there is simply too much information about that little teeny bitty itty squiggle than I can place here in one post without tearing out my own hair. In fact, that teeny bitty itty squiggle’s size is deceiving, for it makes Big Arse Trouble for so many out there, and not only writers.

Thing is, folks, it really is not so difficult once you Pay Attention to what you are writing and how the sentence “flows” and the rhythm of your words/sentences. I’ve written those two words before: Pay Attention. Because when you do, you learn. As I write this post, I am using commas without thinking about it. If this were my novel, I’d go in and remove some of my commas to make sure everything sings along musically to where there are not a lot of choppy sentences that leave the reader’s brain squeezing–or maybe I just want to leave the reader a bit breathless. When you Pay Attention, you begin to see how the comma interacts with your work. How the comma sets things off. How the comma groups things together and/or separates them. How it considers the natural pause—where you take that bit of a hitch of a breath after an introductory phrase.

Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use, feel free to play around with it.

Sometimes I leave out commas where Grammar says they belong because I want to keep the sentence moving along without any pauses as if one is talking all at once and does not pause even to take a breath because they are in OMG OMG OMG mode *gasp for air* . . . folks, use this sparingly or else your readers’ eyes may fall out and follow someone to the door, and in fact, their eyes may not return for many a week because you simply exhausted them and they needed a long long vacation and I think I am doing it again, oh dear! *Eyes falling out of my head and traveling to the door, suitcase in hand (hand? Do eyes have hands? Well, if we’re dropping them out of their sockets and giving them a suitcase, guess they best.).*

Consider the sentence above as an example of a pause.

(Introduction) Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use (a natural pause) feel free to play around with it.

Now read that sentence aloud with and without the comma and decide for yourself what happens:

Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use feel free to play around with it—does saying this aloud without a pause make you feel rushed or a bit breathless?

Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use, feel free to play around with it—does the natural pause here give you a chance to hitch in a breath?

If you think, “Well I like both ways.” Fine, go ye to write it how it works for you! I tell you this, though: when I’m reading something that doesn’t have commas where I like them to be, I insert them myself. Yeah! I do! Ha! You can’t escape my Comma-ndo! Alternatively, if you place a comma where I do not like it, I pluck it off the page and pinch off its wittle head (okay, now I feel bad. I won’t pinch off its wittle head. But I’ll do something! Yeah . . . something. . . huhn.).

Though, again, there are times I leave out commas because I want the sentence to move along without a pause. I don’t want the sentence to be broken up or choppy. But when I catch myself pausing after that “introduction,” I add a comma. Because. “Because whyyyyy, Kat?” Because I said so, that’s why.

The comma separates incomplete sentences—another form of a “pause” – like a parentheses.

Kathryn has, and always has had, a tiny pea-head. Kathryn has (pause to say/qualify: and always will have) a tiny pea-head.

Kathryn has—that’s an incomplete sentence that is separated by “and always has had” and then another incomplete sentence “a tiny pea-head” – I paused in the middle of those two phrases to tell you something else. I used commas to pause. Bless my wittle tiny pea-headed brain.

What you don’t want to do is go sticking commas everywhere willy nilly. Those commas, small as they may be, will chop up your sentence and make them read stoooopid. Do you want choppy stoooopid sentences? Of course not! I’d rather see fewer commas than a litter of them crawling around all over the page mewling and making a mess all over creation. Listen to the rhythm of your words/the language. Listen for those pauses. Those parenthetical pauses. Those introductory phrases that then lead to a little hitch of breath before going on to the next part of the sentence. That’s where the comma goes.

Commas as lists or grouper-togetherers:

I like cornbread, cookies, beans and ice cream. But I do not like this sentence—ewwww! (Intro)If you want beans in your ice-cream, (pause/hitch breath) go right ahead.

But I do like the serial—not cereal—comma. Although wouldn’t that be cute? A bowlful of punctuation-shaped cereal for grammarians/writers? Haw! *Kat considers giving up novel-writing to create a Punctuation Cereal and becoming a millionaire* Anyway, *back to reality, Kat* the serial comma makes sense in the world of grouper-togetherers.

I like cornbread, cookies, beans, and ice cream.

See how each list of food has its own place in the sentence world?

I like cornbread. I like cookies. I like beans. I like ice cream.

is not:

I like cornbread. I like cookies. I like beans and ice cream. Ewwwwww!

I can also do a grouping, thusly,

I like cornbread and beans, cookies and ice cream, and serial commas. Teehee.

Notice above how each little family of words has their own little neat home to live in. Their own little grouping. The items that go together are placed together. Those that do not go together are separated by commas. The comma keeps things neatly packaged that should be neatly packaged together. The comma separates what doesn’t belong in the same package.

Clear as the mud on the bottom of your boot, ain’t it? Or maybe you are beginning to understand. Maybe I am a Geeeeenius at explaining the teeny tiny wittle cutie squiggly and suddenly the clouds are clearing and you shout EUREKA! and you name your dog after me or something. *Kat has dreamy expression thinking of puppies running around named “Kat” because that sounds contradictory and funny haw haw haw—at least to her pea-headed brain it does—stop judging me!*

Look folks, here’s the thing: commas are irritating little shitters and they always will be. I mean, geeeezzzz, I have a headache just trying to explain them. And even as I type these words for this post, I worry I will miss one or I’ll place one in the wrong spot. I’ll be in a hurry and someone out there will gloat and scream how I messed up. Ungh!  I’ll go back and read this and think, “This could be better.” But isn’t that the Thang about writing? How we always should be growing and learning? How we should think: “This could be better,” and then we make it better—until it is Done, for at some point we must be Done, right?

Below are two grammar sites that talk about the comma and may be a better help to you than my pea-headed self. I invite you to visit and to study their contents. Pay Attention. When your AHA! moment comes, you may then begin to manipulate the language with Knowledge, and folks, that’s when the real fun begins.

These have a whole-lotto comma madness—lawd!

Guide to Grammar & writing—rules for comma use: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/commas.htm

Grammar Girl—an entire page of links on commas, oh yes. Pick your poison: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/SearchResults.aspx?cx=018137038020134942690:bivmuxgubrq&cof=FORID:11&ie=UTF-8&sa=Search&safe=active&q=comma

see y’all on Wednesday Free-for-All!

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