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!

Advertisements
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.

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.

Sunday Story Segment, writing

Asena 10: Plans

Rejoin Asena as she scrambles to save both Emmett and Marlene from a possibly lethal plan to uncover the truth about Francis’ murder. Comment below to add your thoughts and ideas! Thanks!

 

This was a terrible plan. I wasn’t usually the type of person to get swept up in a grand idea without weighing the options. I had learned the hard way that that was the quickest path to destruction. Harold had been a great at selling the idea but the follow-through had always been terrible.

I prayed that Emmett was able to see this through and not get caught. Marlene had promised up and down that she would trash whatever she bought the moment she got it. I still hated the idea that either of them would spend time with an illegal substance in their possession. I shivered despite the heat in my apartment.  

But I hadn’t come up with a better idea. After another half hour in the cafe and my entire walk home, I was still blank. I had no idea who might be able to sell something like that and I didn’t have any contacts who might know. I knew Danny, but I wasn’t sure how happy he’d be if I came asking for a list of anyone who could possibly be selling cocaine.

I groaned inwardly again. Danny had called me back an hour ago but I had let the call go to voicemail. I needed a few more hours to figure out how to explain this whole situation to him and maybe to find a way around our crazy plan.

Emmett had promised he would do nothing for a few days, giving the killer time to cool down. If the very next day someone started asking questions about the uncommon type of cocaine that killed Francis, Emmett would be dead before he got out of whatever sleazy place he was in.

I racked my brain. I had thought about posing as the person searching for drugs, as either a buyer or the middle man. But I didn’t know the business well enough to fake being the middle man and I couldn’t let anyone dig up info on me to make sure I was a legit buyer. Marlene was in the clear, as both rich and spoiled. No one would question that.

I yanked my laptop on to my lap. My apartment was cozy, though I hated whenever Danny used that word. It had a big poofy couch and a recliner all facing the TV hanging on the wall. On the far side of the living room was a large floor to ceiling window with reflective glass. The kitchen wasn’t huge but I kept my mom’s old canister set on the counter and a few of her pie plates that some of her friends had gifted me when they learned I was back in town.

The kitchen counter was a brown marble top that had a cutting board built in next to the sink. I had convinced my maintenance super to replace my tiny faucet with a long goose neck that made cooking so much easier. I thought about heading over there and losing myself for an hour trying out a new recipe.

Instead, I buried myself deeper in the couch and clicked on to Marlene’s Facebook. Research had become so much easier with social media. I scrolled through her most recent photos. I was happy to see there were no selfies from any of our time together, the last one from a party about a week ago. She looked happy, smiling at the camera while dancing in a flouncy red dress. She looked the like the perfect crazy heiress, with her hair curly and messy, dark eyeliner rimming her eyes, and other brightly clad twenty-somethings dancing around her with neon cocktails in hand.

I sighed. She looked like she was having fun. Why did she feel the need to butt into my investigation and to get my approval on her actions?

I moved on, scrolling past pictures of her posing with a cup of hot chocolate, flinging a snowball at some guy, catching snowflakes till I hit fall photos with flannels and pumpkin patches. I shook my head. This girl was my opposite in so many ways.

I frowned at a photo of her family at some gala, dressed in long evening gowns and a tux. Her hair was tamed for once, slicked so it gently curled and the emerald dress popped against the bright red. And while she easily stole the attention, I stared at her parents.

Her father’s face was familiar. I had seen him in the newspaper periodically, either because of his business or his charitable work. His bushy beard always surprised me as a business man but his beefy build pulled it off. He stood a few inches over his daughter and wife, smiling over their heads at the camera.

His wife had red hair as well, though it was chopped into a short straight bob. She had a strong face, with sharp cheekbones and large eyes. Her blue dress offset her coloring well and she was smiling but looking off in another direction. I wondered why Marlene posted that one, with her mother gazing off into space.

I sucked in a breath, jealousy biting at me. What I wouldn’t give for that to be me, for that woman to be my mother, smiling and laughing and hugging me close. Moira was so full of life and so strong. I wished sometimes I was more like her or even more like Marlene. Too often, I could see Harold reflecting back out of my eyes and it terrified me.

I shuddered and clicked away.

My phone buzzed and I looked down. A message from Danny had popped up. “Pizza later? Working late.”

It had been a while since we had gotten pizza together, but it used to be common for both of us to grab a few slices at a local place down the road whenever we worked late. I smiled, glad to see the tradition would survive my freeze out.

I sent back a thumbs up and drug my hand through my hair. I could always ask Danny and get his advice without explaining the drug deal. I knew I had to tell him later tonight that I was still investigating but I couldn’t tell him everything. I was sure he could get me the info I needed but if I brought him in, he could easily be implicated if we got caught.

I needed him to have plausible deniability.

I sat up straight. My fingers flew over the keyboard as I cursed my slow brain. I hated to use the password twice in a week in case it red flagged it in a system and I lost access, but if I could figure out what the police knew, I could maybe convince Marlene and Emmett that there was another way.

It didn’t take long before I was scrolling past mugshots of anyone arrested for dealing highgrade. Most of them were still in prison and I could feel my frustration growing. If I couldn’t figure it out this way, I wasn’t sure my next step. Let Emmett go through with it. Disguise myself as an heiress and go with him despite the risk?

I stopped at a mugshot, blinking in surprise. I recognized that face. I scanned his information and smiled. He had been released for a lack of evidence on the drug charge but I had a feeling he would have my information.

I clicked on him and found the most recent arrest. I minimized that box, happy to see he was still in lock-up for another two nights. Next I pulled up the case file from a few years ago, hoping my suspicion was correct.

I stopped, rereading the sentence I was hoping would be there. “Suspects were in a public library when they made the phone call that led to Linda wiring them $10,000 but the surveillance tape was stolen.”

Harold was sly. He had this whole explanation of using a public place because it’s harder to trace, but it’s so much more than that. He had done this to every partner he’d ever had, usually without them knowing. He would find a place that had easy security, used an older system, and steal the tape as an insurance policy. If his partner tried to screw him over, he had a tape that would put them both in jail. Mutual destruction.

Now I simply had to convince Danny to let me see the man who attempted to attack me at a bar without explaining exactly why. I shut my laptop, happy to know that Bernie’s drunkenness was going to help me make sure my friends didn’t get themselves killed or arrested.