Friday, June 29, 2012

Thought for the day

"When life throws you a curve ball, whack the hell out of it."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Check out this dialogue from my newest novel

From these snippets of conversation from my newest novel, do you get a sense of Cookie? 

“You can say that," Cookie said. "They’re teenagers and the shit they wear to school drives me freakin’ mad. The guys gotta have constant hard-ons.  Zara was sent home from school the other day because her ass was sticking out of her skirt. Of course, I told her that would happen but did she listen to me? Noooo. Mom’s never right. ”
We laughed. 
“Just be glad you don’t have a girl,” Cookie said.
“Sounds like they take after their mother.” 
“What’s that supposed to mean? I never dressed like a whore working the Boulevard.”
“Whatever happened to Bill?” I asked. “Didn’t you date him the end of our senior year?”
Cookie chuckled. “We didn’t even last a month after college started. He wanted to be able to date other girls. He kissed like a damn frog anyhow. Too much lick. Always felt like a damn fly. The last I heard he was working as an engineer for an oil company in Texas.”

Writing good dialogue

I love, love, love writing dialogue. Sometimes I get so caught up in writing dialogue, though, that I forget to break it up with physical description. Fortunately I have a friend, ahem Beth, who challenges me when I do this. As soon as she points it out I'm kicking myself in the butt because I totally see it.

So, lets talk about dialogue. When I read dialogue, I want it to sound like real people talking. If the dialogue is good, I get caught up in the conversation and I forget that I'm reading a story. I feel as though I'm there, with the characters, who in my mind are real people. 

So making dialogue sound real is rule No. 1. And a preschooler sounds different than a teen and a teen sounds different than a 60-year-old. Middle-grade characters should not sound like 20-somethings.

Also, only one character should speak in a paragraph. (Technically, I guess that's a separate rule, but we'll make it rule No. 1.5) 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Writers use details to make stories come alive

During a recent staff meeting, I talked with my writers about showing and not telling, and I blogged an example here. 

What I sometimes find is that writers observe/record details but that's where they stop. They don't ask questions about what it is they've observed. But by asking questions, a writer goes a step further and the answers provide rich detail that help tell the story.
He's an example, let's suppose:

A reporter interviewed a subject on the fringe of society. They met in the person's sparse living area.The reporter could hear his boss (that's me) in his ear, telling him to pay attention to details and jot everything down. So he did. When the reporter returned to the office, he shared what he had found.

1. The person has an old looking TV set with rabbit ears.
2. A ratty pastel quilt covered the couch
3. A hotpot and an electric popcorn maker sat on the floor next to an outlet
4.  A Bible sat on the end table

The reporter was happy. He thought he had done well, and he had. But, I told him, you can do better. Let's look at each one of these details and see what we might possibly find if we ask a question about the observation.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Helping writers to show, not tell

I always preach to my writers: Show, don't tell. The other day I was reading one of my reporter's stories and I came across this line:

John Piermatteo moved about his apartment in slow paces, taking an extra moment with each step. He kept a heavy grip on the banister as he walked up a handful of stairs that led to his dining area.

Do you think the writer is showing or telling? How could she have made the sentence better?

Here are some questions I asked her:
1. You say he moved about in slow paces. Show me the movement. Did it take him 20 seconds to complete one step? 10 seconds to lift his foot and 10 seconds to put it down? Did his eyes squint in concentration?
2. You say he kept a heavy grip. First, I think you mean "tight" and not "heavy." Second, show me that the grip was tight. Did his knuckles turn white? Did the bones in his hand pop through his skin?
2. I wondered if the banister was intricately carved mahogany or metal? The material might tell me a little bit about his apartment. Is it high-end? Low-end? I get a different mental picture if the man grabs a carved mahogany rail than if he grabs a metal one that wobbles.

It's so hot...finish the sentence

The first day of summer in southcentral Pennsylvania is hot and sticky. Tomorrow the temps are expected to climb to 98. So, let's have some writing fun. Finish this sentence:

It's so hot _______________.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Writing is like a lazy summer breeze

There are days when Writing is like a lazy summer breeze. It sweeps you along and you get lost in its fragrant waves. It’s easy and fun and you fall in love before the sun sets.

Then there are days when Writing is like a spring storm, pounding so hard that you can’t see through the razors of rain. About the only thing you can do is wait for the sky to part.

I much prefer the lazy summer breezes, but I appreciate the spring storms. How about you?  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Eliminating redundancies

Here's are some redundancies. Can you edit to eliminate?

1. drink up
2. any and all
3. cost the sum of
4. end up
5. if and when
6. back home
7. new record
8. seldom ever
9. 12 midnight
10. beat out

How well did you do? 

More on redundancies

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Writing sex scenes is, um, challenging

OK, so who else finds writing sex scenes challenging? I'm struggling with one right now in my WIP. Those who know me well probably think I'm kidding because I'm a very open person. I'm not shy when it comes to this topic. But somehow writing about it is different. Or, to be more precise, writing about people doing it is different. How do you describe something so intimate in such a way that perfectly captures the moment? I always feel like I fall short, that maybe it's not sexy enough or fails to convey the couple's passion.

It's strange because the book opens with a horrific rape scene, and I had no problem writing it. In fact, after I finished that passage, I felt a little embarrassed. It was horrible, and I couldn't believe that something so horrible came out of my brain. In fact, a beta reader who read it thought that it had to be real because, well, it seemed so real. She contacted me not once but twice to make sure that what I wrote was indeed fiction. I assured her that I had never been raped and that she didn't have anything to worry about.

But, geez. This sex scene is tough. I've been building up to it in the story and we're at the point where, well, it comes to a head, so to speak. (Sorry!) And I'm worried that I won't be able to do it justice. I need to make sure that I'm showing and not telling. How much is too much? My gut tells me to take readers so far and let their imaginations fill in the rest. But maybe not. Maybe they'll want more.

So I'm asking you. What do you want to read in a sex scene? How graphic do you want it to be? How much is too much? For the purposes of this discussion, lets stick with women's fiction. But, if you're inclined, I'd like to know what you think the limits are when writing young adult, too.

 Now, I gotta get back to that sex scene that I've been putting off by doing things like writing this post. Later, people.

Literary Love Pinterest board pin

This is a pin on my Literary Love Pinterest board.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Quote of the day

"Fiction writers, present company included, don't understand very much about what they do - not why it works when it's good, not why it doesn't when it's bad." --Stephen King
Do you agree with King?

Monday, June 11, 2012

It's all about perspective

This random thought occurred to me.

 The more we try the more we fail. We’d fail less often if we tried less often.


 The more we try the more we succeed. We’d succeed less often if we tried less often.

 So there you have it. It’s all about perspective, how you choose to look at it.

Some quotes:

“One person's craziness is another person's reality.”   Tim Burton

“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty.
I see a glass that's twice as big as it needs to be.” 
―George Carlin 

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” 
― Horace Walpole

“Fairy Tales always have a happy ending.' That depends... on whether you are Rumpelstiltskin or the Queen.” 
― Jane Yolen, Briar Rose

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Video: Inside Random House

I saw this video via a tweet from Random House Kids. It's a great overview of the publishing process.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

WIP: Another semen discussion that made me LOL; this time Mom has some ideas

I looked at the caller ID. “Hey, Mom. I was going to call you later. Did you get my email with the donor profiles?”

 I heard Mom clear her throat. “Are you sure there’s no other way, Gina?”

 “Well, the only other way I know of is to find someone to screw. And finding a screwable guy that meets all of my requirements isn’t easy.”

 “I know. I know,” Mom said. “This just seems so, so unnatural.”

 “And picking someone off the street corner isn’t? Look, Mom. I kissed a lot of frogs in my life and none of them turned into my prince. That’s just the way it goes.”

 Mom wasn’t about to let up. “What about a good friend?”

 “Mom,” I shouted. “Are you suggesting I ask a good friend to get me pregnant?”

 “Well. It might work. People do it in the movies.”

Travel journal slideshow of Key West

Here is a travel journal slideshow from my recent Key West visit. If you'd prefer to see this in a Storify, here's the link. Also, don't miss my Key West Pinterest board.