Thanks to a fellow blogger, Mr Pootler, I recently entered a short horror story competition called Twisted50. It’s a brilliant idea (and one that has turned out to be more than just a writing comp) where writers who enter are additionally encouraged to leave feedback on other stories in the competition. The minimum commitment they ask of you is to read and comment on three stories for every one story you enter; I entered two stories so therefore I was obliged to leave feedback on six others. In the end I read and left feedback on nearly 60 stories – and some people way more than that. In truth, I found myself a little caught up in the whole process, which was not only enjoyable and entertaining, but also provided some really useful experience in both giving and receiving feedback, be it good… or not so good.
If you’re reading the series documenting my journey though Stunk and White’s Elements of Style, you’ll know I was recently made aware of a handy piece of editing to be undertaken on my manuscript: talking in the positive form and my use of the word not.
As writers, we all know redundant words such as that and very can (and should be) cut during the editing process. Until I read S&W’s book, however, I had no idea how also removing the word not can tighten up one’s prose. Writing in a more positive tone has a wonderful effect on the whole feel of a book… unless of course the mood you’re going for is one of darkness, hesitation and negativity; in that case let words like not, would, could, should, may or might come raining down. If not, dump them.
So, after reading this rule I used the ‘find’ tool and plodded though my manuscript looking for instances where I could replace negative phrases with more positive ones. I found 277 uses of the word not… that’s right, 277.
Here are just a few examples of the changes I made:
Today covers rules 13, 14 and 15, and can I just say how nice it was of S&W to group these rules together thus allowing me to alliterate them into a catchy title. Thanks.
Anyway, on with the post.
Rule 13. Make the paragraph the unit of composition.
This rule basically tells us that writers should use the paragraph as a means of communicating intent to the reader. A paragraph can be used introduce a new topic as well as defining separate dialogue and punctuating prose. S&W make a good point on paragraph length saying in general, remember that paragraphing calls for a good eye as well as a logical mind. Enormous blocks of print look formidable to readers, who are often reluctant to tackle them. (True) But remember, too, that firing off many short paragraphs in quick succession can be distracting. Continue reading
For all my friends out there who write sci-fi, Chuck Sambuchino has just released a list of literary agents who are actively seeking sci-fi novels.
They are all US-based agents, but I won’t let stop me.
I hope you find this as useful as I did.
Yet another great post from Writers in the Storm. Thanks guys.
See the full list here
Just read this really handy post on Carly Watters blog of an agent’s view of first pages and how to improve them:
I’ve read thousands of “page ones.” Very often I don’t read page two.
Sometimes all I read is that first page and I make judgements based on what I see there. As an agent and a reader my practice is that if I’m not connecting with the material I move on–and quickly.
I wish I had time to give writers (and their books) more of a chance but I can tell a lot by one page: sense of dialogue, setting, pace, character, voice, and writing talent–yes, usually all from one page. Five at the most.
So how are you supposed to get us past one page?
It’s a brilliant post, so I just had to reblog.
Thanks Carly for the original.
So I just read this great post with advice from successful authors on Writers in the Storm, and I simply had to reblog it.
If you’re a writer and fancy some bite-sized nuggets of worldly writing wisdom, then you can read more here.
If the over-use of adverbs is one of writing’s biggest crimes, then dialogue attribution has to be up there with murder (and can easily murder a good novel). Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for adverbs in good writing, but that place is small, exclusive, and should be reserved for only the most upstanding and respectable adverbs. But – and it’s a bigger but than Kim Kardashian’s – when we come to adding an adverb to dialogue, well then that adverb must be really, really special to be allowed a place on the page.
For the most part, I like to talk about writing on this blog. Generally, I try to keep to what I think should be done when writing and how I personally like to do things… even though these two don’t often agree with each other. I don’t usually like to moan about the craft of writing, but sometimes, just sometimes, I get so cross I simply have to put pen to paper (so to speak). Continue reading