Tips and Tricks, writing

Quick Tip #2

Is your story one blob of text that looks daunting to the most enthusiastic reader?

Here are the times when you should make a new paragraph:

  1. When someone new is speaking.
  2. After dialogue before action that is not directly related to the speaker.
  3. When a new person arrives
  4. When the setting changes
  5. When you introduce a new idea or thought
  6. When the time changes
  7. When your paragraph is getting lengthy.

Are there any more you would include? Add it in the comments!

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Tips and Tricks, writing

Starting Your Story: Tips For That First Sentence

We’ve all been there. The best novel idea is bouncing around in your head and you’re staring at a blank piece of paper, trying to figure how to break the ice and start putting words to paper. 

Oh, that feeling is rough. It’s like, “C’mon, I’ve got gold in here, I just need that first sentence to really kill it.”

Well, let me tell you. You will rewrite that sentence. Now, I would recommend doing it later instead of six million times before you even start. You’ll lose that golden idea you’ve got before you finally put that last punctuation on your sentence, trust me. So, I’ve come up with some tips to help combat that. These tips are things I’ve used (or learned the hard way that I should have).

 

  1. Write the most cliche thing ever.

You will rewrite this later in your editing phase, so sometimes I start out with something like “Once upon a time” or “It was a dark and stormy night”. It lets my mind move past it but it also sounds kind of right (thanks Disney) so that you won’t keep worrying over it.

  1. Skip the first page all together.

I know, this one sounds a bit strange. But jump right into the middle of a scene. Keep it near the beginning, but craft the scene bouncing around your brain rather than forcing yourself into one that isn’t there yet. Act as if you already have those entry scenes. This gets you into the action fast.

  1. Tell us the ending. 

This only works in some novels, so use it cautiously. But, telling your reader the ending with the very first sentence brings in this tension throughout the whole novel of how we get there. Many novels have done this well, starting with something like “This is the story of how I died” or “This is how I ended up becoming queen.” But remember, it adds suspense throughout which means no big reveal later. Weigh the options. 

  1. Tell someone about it

Things tend to come more naturally when talking so get with someone you don’t mind giving a brief overview of your story. Explain the premise and then ask yourself and answer to them “So, how did all this begin?” See what flows out and tweak that. 

  1. Don’t procrastinate

This is the most generic bit of advice but the most important one. A lot of people, myself included, try to nail that first sentence and never get anywhere else with their story. Put something, anything down and move on. If you start researching or brainstorming and it just begins to take away from your story, you’ve hit the danger zone. Remember, this is a first draft. You can perfect later.

Sunday Story Segment, writing

Asena Ch. 11: Information

Hello dear readers. It’s been a while since we’ve dived into Asena’s life. Here’s a quick recap of the first ten chapters. After discovering Francis, the thief who stole from Marlene, dead at his hotel, Marlene proves that she has great observational skills and deduces it was murder. With a solid lead that someone with access to a deadly form of a drug was involved, they hatched a risky plan to pose as buyers, putting Marlene’s money, and possibly life, at risk. Asena, terrified of someone getting hurt and worried that she has lost control of her operation, searches for other ways to find out the info they so desperately need. 

 

 

Danny had been completely understanding when I had asked to see Bernie before he was released. I felt a twinge of guilt as I descended the cold concrete steps in the police station. During pizza, I had caved and told him that I didn’t think Francis’ death was an accident. He wasn’t surprised since that seemed to be where the investigation was leading and he had felt bad for not letting me know sooner. 

“I just figured I’d give you a day or two of relative safety before you start poking your nose around,” he had answered with a sheepish grin. 

If only Marlene hadn’t been so curious. But that smile, his concern for me that literally radiated out of his actions, forced my mouth closed. I couldn’t tell him about Emmett and our incredibly risky plan. And because of that, I couldn’t explain exactly why I needed to talk to the criminal in his jail cell. 

So I had told him that Bernie had talked about  my father and that it had been nagging me. He had been in town and didn’t see me or try to reach out or anything. I wanted to know why he had come back. 

I felt a little better, knowing that it wasn’t a lie. I did want to know, but I never would have stood to be near Bernie again if it didn’t keep Emmett and Marlene out of danger. 

The jail cells were nearly empty, one person in the first one dozing on the bed in a pair of slacks and a dress shirt. I kept walking till I hit the last cell where Bernie sat, reading a book. He looked up at the sound of footsteps and his eyes widened.

“What the hell are you doing here?” His eyes were clear and despite having been in jail since the fight, he looked much cleaner and more put together. 

“Hi Bernie,” I replied, my mouth quirking. 

“You shouldn’t be here,” he said, closing his book. 

“I’ve come for some information,” I said, leaning close. I tried to stay relaxed, arms open and my breathing steady. 

“Information?” He laughed loudly, echoing off the walls. “What kind of information? Where the best cupcakes are in town?” His condescending voice ate at me and I took another steadying breath so I didn’t lash out. 

“I need info about something a little more sensitive,” I replied. “Like where you would find a pure form of cocaine.”

His eyes widened and his forehead wrinkled, causing the dirt from the past nights to crease. 

“Damn, you really are following in your father’s footsteps,” he replied, whistling. “And why would you think I’d know where you can find that?”

“Because I know that the police believe you to be in contact with pretty much every drug runner in the area. You are very influential when it comes to this kind of thing, apparently.”

He grinned, sitting up a little straighter. “Well, that’s flattering. But if I knew anything, do you really think I’d talk to the little girl who tazed me when I was drunk and who’s daddy ripped me off?”

“C’mon,” I cajoled. “This is business. Don’t drag the personal in.”

“Business?” Bernie’s nostrils flared as he raised his voice. “Your father screwed me over in business. Don’t think you’re getting any help from me.” He shook his head, crossing his arms as leaned back.

“My father didn’t screw you over,” I answered slowly. If I didn’t play this well, I could be in a serious amount of trouble. “But I know he could. And I can too, if you force me.”

“What are you talking about?” he asked, his eyes slits.

“He always does the same thing, each con,” I replied. I slipped a CD out of my purse, holding it up for him to see. “It’s why you never ratted him out. Mutually assured destruction.”

Bernie looked pale as he stared at the CD.

“How did you get that?”

“Dad always left a copy in our safe deposit box,” I answered, slipping it back in my purse. His eyes watched it hungrily and he stood up, his legs ready to pounce if I gave him the chance. 

“You can’t give that to the cops,” he said, shaking his head as if to dispel the notion physically. “Your old man is on there as much as me.”

“Yes,”I said, as if I was thinking it over. “But in case you didn’t notice, we don’t get along very well. A stint in prison could be good for him. Maybe straighten him out.”

“Liar,” he breathed. “You’d never send your father to jail.” He clenched the bars, now only a few feet from me. I took a step back, just in case he did decide to lunge.

“I know what’s on this video. You scammed a poor, old woman out of so much money. You are both scum and I would happily turn you in. People who do terrible things like this deserve to be in jail,” I spat. My fists were clenched and I leaned back quickly, realizing I was within grabbing distance from the bars. 

Thankfully, my outburst had caused Bernie to back up. His fingers were fidgeting with his shirt and his eyes kept darting from me to my purse.

“If I tell you, you’ll destroy that and all other copies?” he asked. He scratched his face.

“No,” I retorted. “Do you think I’m stupid? I know the people you deal with, I wouldn’t make it out of the parking lot. No, I will not turn in the video. Though there is someone who has a copy, and if I ever go missing or something unfortunate occurs, this will go out. Plus, Harold would kill you.”

He rubbed his arm and his chest heaved as he thought about it. “What did you need to know?”

“Who has the ability to sell a pure form of cocaine? Something that could cause an overdose from one usage?”

“An OD with one use?” He scratched his chin, staring far away at a corner of the cell. “ I mean, there could be lots of sources.”

“Narrow it down. C’mon, who do you think would make a sell like that?”

“Calm down, girl, give me a second.” I huffed my impatience, happy to see a small smirk lift his lip. He liked being able to annoy me.

“Wilson Helston works off from Ninth and Praline, he could do something like that,” he mused. “Or maybe Henry Fauston. Actually,” he drug out the word and I sighed again for good measure. “Jeffery Mugson, he’s got a good connection with his suppliers, he’d be able to find some very discreetly. If I needed something done like that, I’d go to him.”

“Thank you,” I said. “Now, I don’t want us to be hostile, even if you did try to ransom me back to my father. I’m not the kind of person to hold something like this over you. Please don’t see me as your enemy.” 

He spat out some laughter and shook his head.

“What you’re doing, girl, that’s called blackmail. I may not be your enemy, but that is a sure-fire way to make them. Be careful, those drug dealers aren’t as kind and sweet as me.”

I smirked back at him. “Last time we met, you got tasered and I walked away. Trust me, I can take care of myself.”

He let out a chuckle. “You’re bold, I’ll give you that. Definitely Harold’s brat. But if I get one word that that disk has been seen by the cops, I’m going to be much less friendly. You got that?”

I stared him down, my fists curling. “I keep my word, Bernie. I am not Harold.”

“No,” he said, shaking his head with a half smile. “You aren’t. But you could do well to be a bit more like him if you’re getting into this world.”

prompts, writing

Story Prompt #9

Today is your first time in a hot air balloon. The operator looks young and a bit nervous. As you rise, you see police cars pull in below. The operator turns to you, eyes wide.

“I’m on the run. Either you’re coming with or you can hop out now.”

 

Any stories from this prompt submitted using my contacts page have a chance to be published on my site with a link to your page. Have fun writing!

WordSmith Musings, writing

Learning to Write Again

I’ve been writing for years, so the idea of teaching myself the habit of writing seemed ridiculous. But, that is currently the dilemma I’m facing. As any author knows, writing changes over your lifetime. There are times where you can sit down and write for eight hours straight. And then there’s times where you fit in five minutes every week.

I’m getting off a season of life that was the latter. I went from stealing away time to having almost two hours every day and more to write.

And suddenly, my fingers froze.

Do you know that feeling? It’s not quite writer’s block. I know what I want to write and even, shockingly, how to start. But diving in, immersing myself, feeling the keys beneath my fingers and letting myself sit in the world I create is intimidating.

So I’ve been slowly learning to write again. It starts with just a little bit. A page, a paragraph. I even reread the last few pages I wrote just to ground myself, whatever helps ease me in. I sit down, limit my distractions, and write. Write even when my brain is jumping to the list of chores I still need to do or what I want to pack for lunch or how loud the neighbor’s lawn mower is this morning (which is very, in case you’re wondering). I write even when it’s hard. Because deep down, I know that writing is my passion. My husband can attest, I will go on and on about my characters and my world. I love it.

And yet, I’m relearning it. Teaching myself to put in the time, put the effort in. I have a cup of coffee, some wordless music, and I write. And, word by word, I’m learning how to write again.

Have any of you felt like this? Do you have any tips or tricks that help when writing becomes hard or it’s just too easy to get distracted? Let me know in the comments, I would love to try them out!

Thanks for reading!

Tips and Tricks, writing

Quick Tip #1

Beware “turning” words, a word or phrase that helps shift your story to go in a new direction usually by telling rather than showing. A heavy reliance on them lends towards less action and less engagement with the reader. 

Turning words to avoid: suddenly; then; out of nowhere; surprisingly; shockingly; seemed

Examples: 

Turning words: Suddenly, Kevin threw a punch at Ben.

Action words: Kevin’s fingers tightened into a ball and took a deep breath. He swung quickly and Ben’s eyes widened as he jerked backwards.

Turning words: It seemed to me like Alicia had no idea he would be here.

Action words: I watched Alicia’s mouth form a tiny ‘o’ and the color slowly started to drain from her cheeks as her eyes locked onto his.