Friday, July 11, 2014

15 Ways to Edit the Feel

-->

The Basket Maker's Wife

You’ve written the whole story and it’s time to edit. Last century, when I started writing, I began writing with a big checklist: Who, What, Why, When. Then there’s the 5 senses, etc. And making punctuation work.
There’s the Plotter and the Plunger style of writing. Sometimes to just get into the story, to get into the pulse/heartbeat of it, I try to write whatever in the set-up, pushing it. I’m fine with Dreck, if it gets the story rolling.
I’m editing now and toning, darkening/lightening, watching those paragraphs for dialogue/narrative positions. If dialogue is placed within the body of a paragraph's narrative, it will be overpowered visually. Thus, either at the beginning or the end of the paragraph.
Right now, in the final stages, I’m feeling my way through what works and doesn’t. 

So here's some hot tips to Massage/Edit the work:
1.     Are subcharacters too strong, trying to overpower the main characters.
2.     When paragraphs change mood, that is the time for a new paragraph.
3.     Today’s e-novels need shorter paragraphs.
4.     Today’s readers may want more quick action up front. (The writer has to be very well known to pull off a slow start and build now.)
5.     If the story lags, is it time to drop a dead body into it, or at least change POV?
6.     Watch the em dashes and ellipses. If interruption is needed em dashes work. If pausing, ellipses. Use them to create more normal dialogue, rather than rattatat back to back sentences.
7.     Someone long ago said to watch how many clauses in one sentence. 2 are usually enough or max.
8.     There’s the old: Is the second chapter a better place to start?
9.     Is too much background packed into the first chapter?
10.  The first paragraph in a chapter has more impact, if it is shorter.
11.  Likewise, the first chapter is the come-on, so a little shorter.
12.  Who’s talking tags aren’t always needed, but if Dialogue is back and forth, some tags are needed to keep the reader within the story. Some physical action, rather than blah-blah-blah. !!These are live people, who move, whose expressions shift.
13.  Breaking a tense scene. Be careful not to distract from the weight by noticing outside elements, i.e. a bird in the window. However. If that bird intensifies the scene, then it is valid.
14.  Ye Olde: All questions should be answered—or not, depending.
15.  Flashbacks: Keep to a minimum. Make certain you introduce the Flashback and then Exit it to the current Now.

Every writer has their personal difficulties, and that’s why we have editors. Good editors. IMHO some editors work better with nonfiction, while others are better at fiction. Some have a talent for exposing humor, emotions, character. Repeat: Talent.

If an editor is not “talented”, he may edit only by the book/rules. This might not serve the work well. Keep in mind that the writer owns the work and style is the writer’s domain, this over a suggestion that does not work. But take all suggestions and mull them. What works, works, right?

If the wrong editor works on a fiction piece, or too many “cooks” are critiquing, it can suck the life right out of the work.

Would love to have your comments on Editing the Feel.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Doll Clothes Patterns

 I'm currently working with the 2nd book in my Basket series, but today had to lay off due to eye strain.

I've been labeled a Busy Bee as I am always doing something, and today seemed a good day to work on my 18" Doll Patterns. (I have granddaughters. :))

!Before reading on, note that making doll clothes is a sideline, and I'm not doing designer work, rather for play.

These patterns were purchased, then traced on grocery sacks. I only traced/cut the ones I would probably do the most and those will go into an easy-reach file. !!I'm using the material/notions I have on hand, because if you've priced fabric lately, it is $$.


Why grocery sacks? you ask. Because a grocery sack is sturdy and with basics and a rotary cutter, you can move fast. No pinning, just hold the sack-pattern down with one hand and run the cutter around with your other hand. The sacks are hardy and I'm not careful with the tissue paper patterns. I've made some of my own clothes patterns years ago, tailoring. Not doing that now tho 'cause I am a Writer. :)

But at one time, I made men's wool shirts, my mother's clothes, Barbie doll clothes, my 3 daughter's clothes/coats/bonnets/long prairie dresses/ my clothes, drapes, etc. I had a Pfaff then, with what I thought was a miracle: a hemmer cam, and the other cams were super, too. With 3 girls and myself, that hemmer was a blessing as I am no delicate hand-stitcher like my mother.

I'm only making simple designs as I really am a writer and want to get back to painting my wildlife/scenery canvases. After all, I bought a lot of art supplies and have to get to them before they dry up. So making doll patterns is a side track on an off day.

Tip: I usually overlap outside leg seams on pants, but this pattern came in one piece. It had a set-on waistband, but I overlapped the seams of the pants and waistband. This will create a seam in front, but I'm going for the fastest way through... which is to sew the crotch seams first, and then the legs together.


Here you can see how to double the waist over. All seams are around 1/4", except the hem at 3/4" I did buy a rolled hem attachment for my old machine and had to watch a YouTube video on how to use it! This after using it years ago.

About the sleeves: I put them in before sewing up the sides, which makes it a lot easier.

If you're connecting 2 small pieces, save time by just sewing from the end of one to the edge of the next, then cut apart later.

With the basics shown on the first photo, you can make about anything, just by changing the length of the dress, adding a ruffle or eyelet lace to the sleeves, different buttons, and bias tape. Since I'm running fast, I'm using bias tape. Since my machine is old/basic, I zigzag seams, especially stress points. Love that old Singer 717 cabinet model. I know if I get a new one, I'll be tied up with that and not writing, but some of the stitches would really be nice.

Here is my model, a thrift store 18" find, who everyone says is "scary". One daughter, a Pinterest lover, says she can straighten the hair. I haven't named her, yet.

I don't think she's scary. Do you think so? :)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Who Owns the Story?

ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
SLEEPLESS IN MONTANA


In editing mode, (if not before) a fiction writer (especially in romance) must answer/finalize two primary questions:
1.) Whose POV starts the story?
2.) When to introduce other protagonists or antagonists?

Hogan Kodiak in Sleepless in Montana has a problem, and he's perfect to demonstrate Who Controls the Story. Other family members revolve around him, and The Problem and sub-problem, but Hogan is central to the story.

A story will twist and turn as it is being written/emerges and characters/individual characteristics are born, edited, reborn, changed. To be creative means just that: you may not want to follow this rule and use another: What Works Works.

Sidebar: I just made a Quinoa and Kale Salad that did not work, also a doll's outfit that did not work, despite all efforts. So some things work and others don't.
However, here’s a good basic writer's rule of thumb (What is a "thumb’s basic rule"? Didn’t know they had rules :)):
Point 1: The starting POV should be that of Who Owns the Story. If one protagonist has a problem with another, the primary POV starts with that first protagonist. Generally, who owns the story, also finishes it. Always generally.

Point 2: When to introduce other protagonists/H&H/antagonists?
That can depend on the length of the story and the genre.
Today’s genre books can be much shorter than yesteryears’. They can have much more dialogue, which moves the story faster, and maybe a lot less color and use of senses. Media has influenced some readers’ need for give me quick, right at the start of the story. Building a story, making it live takes time. If space is short, the story has to move forward quickly to suit the readership.
I am reading a lot now, trying some new writers, and noticing less pinpointing, less color, less 5 senses. Yet the story is there, leading the reader on. However, as a reader, I need color (there’s that artistic personality thing again).
Putting the reader into the story, i.e. the scenery, the room, the location of said room is mega important, that old Who, What, Why, When deal. That can best be done in the lead POV and dialogue, jumping the story forward.
If the story is short, the second protagonist can be introduced after a chapter’s space break. If the book is longer, the second chapter or in yesteryear’s mega books, sometimes the third chapter. That is too long for my taste.
FWIW: If the second primary character is an antagonist, leading with the protagonist’s POV, an argument with the antagonist/dialogue, propells the story forward. Or introduce the primary’s problem, and follow with an antagonist’s POV, but the protagonist should dominate the story, good over evil and all that stuff.
Keep in mind that a story is fluid and characters sometimes make their entrance when they choose. Again, What Works Works.
But to me, as a reader, I need to be set into that story from the Get Go and that is in the protagonist’s POV or Who Owns the Story and What is the Problem.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Character Conflict: Depth


SEASON OF TRUTH
ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

Divorced and down on her luck, Chloe Matthews, star of SEASON OF TRUTH, doesn't want to return to the small western town. But when forced to return, she must meet her past, a teenage love, and old deadly secrets begin to unravel. Her arrival touches off her 2 best friends, and ignites a killer, who must protect those deadly secrets.

This story has depth, character backgrounds, motives, conflicts.

In conversations with other writers/readers, this comment comes up frequently, regarding quality of writing and that is depth of character, i.e. “while the storyline could have been great, there was nothing to grab me, no substance to the characters.”

If you want a visual of character conflicts and how they are affected by backgrounds, watch the following: 
While just one of many western movies of its time, Stagecoach to Thunder Rock 1964 offers a great character/conflict/motives/needs study for writers. This is easily available on Netflix, etc.

If you can work through this carefully, you’ll see inner/outer, man against man, etc. conflict. Stagecoach to Thunder Rock's cast is sturdy, with veteran actors:
•    Barry Sullivan: as “Horn” the straight, unbending sheriff who must face the man who rescued him as a child and who raised him. The name, Horn, is vital and probably sucked from Tom Horn, but indicates a tough/hardened man.
•    Marilyn Maxwell: the experienced “hired-woman” who has returned to home with nothing to show.
•    Scott Brady: A paid, but ethical gunslinger, who is a loving father and husband and must have money for his blind daughter’s operation.
•    Keenan Wynn: The man who took in Horn, the father of 2 other sons, and who has a bounty on his head.
•    Lon Chaney, Jr.: A father who has given up all hope and drinks to dull his pain, who does not challenge his shrewish, money-driven wife.
•    His wife (sorry, don’t know her name): She is desperate to save their home and support, the stage coach rest stop.
•    A younger daughter: (don’t know her name): Very young; she’s desperate to get out of the country and see “life”.
•    A supporting cast that you’ll see in other westerns, etc., i.e. John Agar.

The Story:
Mission: Sullivan heads for the ranch home where he grew up. As sheriff, he’s after bank robbers, who happen to be his adopted family. Gets into a shootout, where he kills one of Wynn’s son (who looks like a very young Elvis Presley) and takes the other son prisoner.
  He also takes the saddle bag with $50,000.  Note: This is the Prize, The Possession, that all want to save their problems.
  Meanwhile, the town’s corrupt council wants the money back, has posted a bounty on the brothers and father of Sullivan. That’s where Scott Brady comes in on the stage coach with his wife and blind little girl. He’s after the bounty for that operation. He’s classy, not the usual type.
Note: Motive
Maxwell comes in on the stage, too. The corrupt council does not want her around as she knows all their evil secrets. So she’s promptly shipped out with Brady on the stage coach.
Note:  Ticking Clock. From opposite directions, two parties are bound to meet at the stage coach rest stop and they will clash.
Note: The rest stop is where Maxwell grew up in her parents’ home/business, but left to see the world, and returns as a high class prostitute, also very classy. !!Background of character!!
Note: SETTING is endangered of being repossessed, due to Chaney’s poor banking/loans.
As Maxwell gets off the stage, she is greeted lovingly by Mother, who thinks Maxwell is a school teacher and has brought money to save them. Which she hasn’t.
Meanwhile, Sullivan knows he’ll have to face the man who saved and brought him up, Wynn, who is coming after the remaining Bad Son, now prisoner.
Maxwell doesn’t want her younger sister, so desperate to leave the rest stop, to head out into the world as she did.
Younger sister is desperate and just wants $10 for stage fare.

Past Relationships: (Too often, we forget using the past as characterization/movites, etc.) Brady is just waiting to get his bounty on the Bad Son, which he must take from Sullivan.
NOTE: An ex-sheriff, Brady sympathizes with the older Sullivan, who is going to be removed by town council as he is too straight.
NOTE: their motive is to get a sheriff, who will play ball with them.

MORE CONFLICTS:
Maxwell and Sullivan were young and in love once. She wants that again, but he knows he’s facing Wynn and tells her to wait until that battle is over.
Sisters: Younger adores older, who must reveal that she is not a school teacher.
Chaney, Jr. and wife: He loves her, but has been worn down, letting her rule.
Wife and Mother: Loves her daughters, but desperate to save their home/income.

In possession of the $50k and the Bad Son, who is tempting everyone to get him a gun to kill Sullivan, this character—the sheriff—is a CHARACTER OUT ON A LIMB.

If you get a chance to study this 1964 western, Stagecoach to Thunder Rock, and outline the conflicts, the combustion of all these characters and their motives, needs, etc., you’re in for quite the learning task.

Meanwhile: I hope you read SEASON OF TRUTH, which does have that cast of characters, conflict, emotion, backgrounds and romance.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Writers: No WB Word


BE MINE

I was once asked by an editor--who later became a writer--how I got my stories. BE MINE's origin came while driving along a country road, and seeing an Amish girl riding her pony.

They were in such unison, that girl with her long dress riding up above her jeans and boots, the spotted pony beneath her, racing together, almost in one body.

And that is the origin, the nugget, that began BE MINE.

The sight of that girl and pony threw me back to some of my background, and the connection, the stirring began...

My first editor put me under contract because "you have the stories, and we want them". I think some writers are naturally just full of it. Stories bubble from their brains, and mine come that way.  Any scene, a special word, can set my imagination spinning. I rarely have a dry spell--and no, the WB words should not be spoken, addressed, mentioned.

The WB words, when stories churn more slowly within the writer, should be eliminated from any discussion, banned, kaput. They are a HEX, a CURSE to any writer believing in them. If believing in WB, you're blocking your potential story right there.

If the story or plot comes more slowly, think of it as NESTING or BREWING THE STORY.

TIP: IF YOU GET INTO A STORY,  DO NOT LET IT GET COLD. Sometimes we have life or what I call NOVEL INTERRUPTUS. But a story is a live thing, with a pulse, and you can lock into it again. One of my best tips here is: If you can... if you can... leave a short paragraph of your intended next scene or make a few notes.

TIP: GET OUT FROM BEHIND THE DESK. GET EXPERIENCES (no laughing here, please.:))  NIGHT FIRE emerged from driving the entire length of the Oregon Trail. I use pictures from wherever I've traveled and researched. (I'm currently looking for a really good old windmill with missing blades.) 
Writers: Shh... Don't say the WB word, or even think it.