Have you broken your New Year’s resolutions yet? It’s been three days and I’m doing great! Sorry to gloat, but this—as Joe Biden would say—is a big f***ing deal for me. I generally break mine immediately, so most years I don’t bother to make any.
Last week, though, a blood test revealed the need for me to lower my sugar, so I’ve been eating healthy meals, rather than my preferred potatoes, rice, doughnuts, waffles and muffins. Hubby brought a lovely cantaloupe home from Acme today, so I have that to look forward to for breakfast tomorrow.
I usually crave candy in the evening, but last night I covered my ears to that box of Christmas truffles calling to me and washed a handful of blueberries instead. They were remarkably satisfying, some squashy and others firm, but all deliciously sweet. And I sucked them in them one by one, drawing out the pleasure, just as I would have with peanut butter M&Ms (OMG, why did I just remind myself of those?!).
Food is my addiction. I can’t remember the last time I stuck to a meal plan for a single day. But dieting is a day on the beach compared to making writing resolutions. I break out into a cold sweat and come seriously close to a Breyers mint chocolate chip binge.
Said, said, said. Do you get tired of writing that your characters said everything? “Yes, I ate your plums,” he said. She said, “I want to be alone.” “Josh will never eat those Brussels sprouts,” Debbie said, “even if you make him sit there all night.”
Wouldn’t it be more interesting to use a variety of dialogue tags? “Yes, I ate your plums,” he taunted. She whined, “I want to be alone.” “Josh will never eat those Brussels sprouts,” Debbie warned, “even if you make him sit there all night.”
You might write killer dialogue, but if it’s not reader-friendly, it might as well be ancient Greek. If your reader has to go back and reread to figure out who is speaking, your momentum will die right there like a car out of gas. If you present a couple of talking heads with no action, your reader will yawn as he browses for the next author’s story. Formatting conventions such as dialogue tags and beats are not just fluff—they help the reader stay aware of who is speaking at every moment, along with each character’s body language and movement in space, maintaining the dramatic tension and allowing scenes to flow smoothly.
Today’s post will teach you all you need to know about formatting dialogue, from quotation marks to paragraphing. As a bonus, I’ve copied these tips into a handy .pdf document you can download and print out to keep handy. You’ll find it at the end of the article. Continue reading Top 5 Dialogue Formatting Tips
That is, it’s easy if you’re anal about detail, like me. [I just checked, and “like me” is correct, although if I were being formal I might have written, “If you are as anal about detail as I am.” Then again, I’d probably have to ditch “anal”…] If you have ADHD or dyslexia like some members of my family, you might prefer sticking pins in your eyes to proofreading. [I am in a mood today! Maybe I should write all my posts in the afternoon early in the week, rather than cramming them at the last minute late at night!]
So now you’re a pro at revision (step 1 in the revision process, that is). From my June 22 post, Revising Writing is Like Home Renovation, you know there are three steps in the writing revision process: Revise, Edit, Proofread. On July 20, we examined Step 1: Revise. This week, we tackle Step 2: Editing.
I’ve been using the house renovation analogy to illustrate the revision process. Step 1 in the house reno process meant making major structural changes. Step 2 involves doing the interior finishing work. In writing, Step 1: Revise meant assessing content and meaning—making sure you said what you meant to say. Step 2: Edit involves language issues in sentences and paragraphs—making sure you said what you meant to say the way you intended to (and should) say it.
Let’s assume you accept my position from last week’s post that writers must revise their work. Exactly how do you make your shitty first draft better?
Many writers wish for a magic wand to wave over the pages or the keyboard. Sorry, but Harry Potter has moved on to bigger and better projects. I can’t even give you a single, quick-’n’-dirty operation that will do the trick. Because revision isn’t something you do when you finish writing. Revision is really another stage of writing, itself, and can’t be rushed or superseded—or as we saw last week, skipped.
Writing is Revision
Writing isn’t simply the act of spewing ideas from your brain and printing them onto paper. It is the art of choosing just the right words and arranging them into the most appropriate syntaxes and rhythms, and then organizing those ideas into just the right structure to accomplish your purpose and connect with and move your reader. Writing is revision.
You’re reading WowPow because, like most writers (me, too!), you’re always looking to better your craft. There are so many resources available today that you could spend your children’s inheritance and your summer vacation sifting through them to find even one that speaks to you. To save your children from penury and make sure you actually wiggle your piggies in the sand, I’m sharing the writing resources I can’t live without. These are real, honest-to-J. K. Rowling, published-by-fancy-dancy-publishers books. I’ve read them multiple times and I get new inspiration every time.
These should be on your desk, getting dog-eared and spine-broken. If you’ve already read them, let this be a reminder to read ’em again.
Getting this blog out on Thursdays isn’t working for me. Most of you seemed to prefer Sunday night, too. So, I’m returning to publishing late Sunday nights for Monday mornings. Look for my next post this Sunday/Monday.
In the meantime, I’m posting a photo here as a story prompt. Here are some ideas, but don’t limit yourself to them:
What is happening here? What has just taken place? What is about to occur? Create a realistic story, a fantasy, a fairy tale or a horror tale. How did these figures/puppets get here? Are they sentient or simply dolls? Tell a story in which the figures are not what you’d expect. Make them main characters or minor props. What role does the setting play in your story? When and where does the story take place? Make the mood be as it appears in the photo or change it drastically. Add a specific item that changes everything. Who will tell your story?
Have fun with this! I can’t wait to read your work!
After the recent horrific terrorist attacks, it’s comforting to remember someone who advocated change without assassinating cartoonists or eradicating entire towns. We celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday. King was electrifying, and as a speaker he drew on his experience as a charismatic preacher. He also pulled from an enormous stock of rhetorical devices to add even more creative power and evoke emotion. His now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C., employed dozens of these, including charged words (last week’s topic!). Continue reading What Martin Luther King, Jr. Can Teach Us About Creative Power Writing