Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules

SwordBearer:

More great writing advice. Simple and easy to remember. I agree with all the points. What say you, dear Writer? Are there areas in your writing that need tidying up and analyzing? I have learned over the years how to tighten up my writing and make it sound less like writing and more like storytelling. Is there a difference? I think so. Do you?

Originally posted on Indie Hero:

Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules

Among all the lists of writing rules and advice, this one ranks high, in my opinion. Simple, yet so important.


  1.  Never open a book with weather.
  2.  Avoid prologues.
  3.  Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  4.  Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
  5.  Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  6.  Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7.  Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8.  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9.  Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  10.  Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

 * Excerpted from the New York Times article, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle”


Some…

View original 25 more words

How Do You Face the Page When You’re Exhausted?

006

Editing Book 4 of my epic fantasy tetralogy, The Sword Bearer’s Ascension, has been going slower than expected. The reason? We’re in the process of moving to another country, and for the last month we’ve done nothing but pack and make arrangements for the movers to first come over for two days to wrap and then take our stuff, hoping we’ll see everything in one piece and all present when we get there! Sorting out what we want to take with and leave behind (and the fact that once you’ve decided, even if you’ve made a mistake, once it’s done it’s done!!) is mentally and emotional draining, to say the least!! This includes my entire life of stuff accumulated over 45 years that I must now fit into a few boxes and what’s left gets thrown away, the latter being more stressful and painful than can be described in simple language.

It has taken a few months to make the final decision to move to the UK and leave behind all I know, including my poor mom. During this chaotic time I have done very little work on my book, and with teaching ballet (my afternoon/evening  job) five days a week, finding the time to sit down for a couple of hours and get something significant done has been nigh impossible.

Now I know some of you will say that even getting in half an hour is better than nothing and I agree. But what level of quality will my work exist at if I just squeeze it in quickly here and there? Surely I need a good 2-4 hours at least to lose myself in my story once more and connect heart and mind to ensure it doesn’t become superficial and amateurish? Doesn’t that cheat the reader out of the best of me?

You see, I know myself too well. I need that full emersion to get the entire spiritual experience. I have to live my story and my characters, to see their world and partake in it again every time I sit down at my computer in order to feel what I did when I wrote that frenzied first draft, when the true magic of creation happened.

Everything you do has the potential to be brilliant - but if you're too tired to see it then you and your readers won't experience the magic you've created!

Everything you do has the potential to be brilliant – but if you’re too tired to see it then you and your readers won’t experience the magic you’ve created!

No, I MUST find the proper amount of time to spend on the book, to edit it well so that my existing fans, and future ones, will not be cheated out of the final installment that I worked so hard to create. They deserve all of me – all of my emotion and attention and creative force, that which makes magic on the page and leaves them wanting more. Isn’t that our duty as storytellers, anyway, to ensure that our readers get what they want from a story – laughter, tears, love, joy, excitement, fear, adventure… It is vital we bring our readers what they want and need, and to do that we need to invest all of ourselves into every word. Therefore, I will make the time to edit and edit well so that I and my readers are completely satisfied.

What do you say, dear Writer? Do you write when you’re tired? I have heard it works and I have experienced an interesting emotional effect when I do the same. But when it comes to editing, that extremely detailed process that requires a clear mind, isn’t it preferable to be more alert? I’d love to read your thoughts. Please leave a comment and let’s discuss.

 

“When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am.”

SwordBearer:

Wonderful words from the incomparable Maya Angelou! Let’s celebrate the life of this phenomenal writer and artist!

Originally posted on The Daily Post:

Maya Angelou by Spanglej, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Maya Angelou by Spanglej, CC BY-SA 2.0 .

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.

Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin — find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that it was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.

When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how…

View original 503 more words

Social Media, Book Signings & Why Neither Directly Impact Overall Sales

SwordBearer:

Another fascinating blog by one of my favourite bloggers! What is your take on whether social media sells books or not? With all of us trying so hard to get seen it becomes a hugely debatable subject. What are your opinions?

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

Original image via Rosaura Ochoa via Flikr Creative Commons

Original image via Rosaura Ochoa via Flikr Creative Commons

One of my AWESOME on-line pals posted something troublesome on my Facebook page. Apparently there is a recent article in a major writing magazine that declares social media does not sell books and, in a nutshell, isn’t worth the effort.I’ll warn you guys ahead of time that I went hunting for the article—at the last remaining Barnes & Noble within a 25 mile radius of my home—and couldn’t find said article (and have asked Kim to get me the specific issue). But, since this type of commentary is prevalent enough in the blogosphere, I feel I can address the overall thesis accurately enough.

Social Media Was NEVER About Selling Books Directly—Who KNEW?

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Zoetnet.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Zoetnet.

I’ve been saying this for about ten years, because the idea of using social circles for sales is NOT new…

View original 1,955 more words

When Life Interferes with My Passion

Make time to write every day even if it's just for a few minutes! Feed your soul!

Make time to write every day even if it’s just for a few minutes! Feed your soul!

So, those of you who follow my blog might have noticed that I haven’t written a post for a while. The reason? My job, and I don’t mean writing. I mean that thing I do that pays the bills. And every day I cannot get to my computer and focus on my first love, my passion, my creative outlet, and drug, to put it mildly, makes me grumpy and miserable.

I enjoy teaching ballet, but there comes a time when it all becomes too much, especially when I can’t find time to spend writing or editing for even just a couple of hours. My mood sours, my husband complains I’m not as cute and cuddly as I usually am when I manage to spend a few hours a day feeding my addiction, my hunger to create and unleash what churns inside!

I share my teaching week with another teacher, who is also an international examiner and tutor. As a result of her status, she frequently travels all over the globe  leaving me with more classes to teach and less time to write. The month of March was insanely busy for me as I taught six days a week as opposed to the usual three. Hey, I received an incredible salary at the end of the month so no complaints there, but I can’t help but feel robbed of time with my beloved characters; you know, spending quality time with them in their world.

I know I don’t really have to ask you this, dear Writer, but do you not also feel a sense of separation when you cannot be with your characters, especially those you’ve written four or more books about? For me, it hasn’t only been the last five years of penning their story. No, try thirty-seven years!!! Yup, my epic fantasy tetralogy was born when I was a wee kid, and the story has evolved over all that time, growing, morphing, evolving, until it eventually found its voice in 2009 when I decided to share it with the world. These characters have lived with me practically my entire life, so when I can’t spend time with them every day it feels like I’m ignoring them and my relationship with them suffers. I lose the connection with them and their story, never a good thing when writing an emotionally charged tale!

My writing and blogging have taken a back seat this past month but I hope now to finally kick it up into gear again and finish editing The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4, the final installment and the end of a thirty-seven year journey. My characters are waiting for me to finish telling their story so that the world can read it, so that they can become part of the hearts and minds of those who choose to read it. I also hope to blog more regularly, and I want to thank all my followers for your support and interest in what I have to say. It means a lot to me that you read this humble blog, and I hope that in some way you are inspired to never stop writing every day no matter what life throws at you.

I have determined to make an effort to write every day even if it’s just for a few minutes. My soul sings when I create; how could I be so cruel and deprive it of  such joy and expression?

I love reading your thoughts. Have you also had times when the mundane necessities of life have interfered with your first passion? Please share!

Winners Highlights from the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards

SwordBearer:

This is so inspirational – as I try to be to everyone who reads my blog – so I thought I’s share something different with you all. Enjoy! They are incredibly beautiful and breathtaking!

Originally posted on TwistedSifter:

The winners for the Open, Youth and National Award competitions of the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards were announced today by the World Photography Organisation (WPO).

Selected from over 70,000 entries from across the world, all three competitions were judged on a single shot and prizes ranged from the latest Sony digital imaging equipment to trips to London to attend the Sony World Photography Awards gala ceremony on 30 April 2014. The ten Open winners will also compete for a $5,000 (USD) prize and the Overall Open Photographer of the Year title.

139,554 images were entered in total to the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards: 69,114 Professional entries (winners yet to be announced); 65,512 Open entries and 4,928 Youth entries images. Entries to the National Awards were selected from the Open competition.

Professional category winners and the coveted L’Iris D’Or/ Sony World Photography Awards Photographer of the Year title will…

View original 3,472 more words

Why Writing is Like Flamenco Dancing

Flamenco Dancer

For the last two weeks I’ve been doing Flamenco. As a dance style it has always been one of my favourites. It’s fiery, passionate, rhythmical, powerful, sexy, and as much about the music as the steps and movements. The last time I did Spanish dancing was at Art School thirty years ago and I missed it a lot when I matriculated and ended up in a classical ballet company. Don’t get me wrong, I love my ballet, but there’s something about Flamenco that stirs that ancient part of man that feels and desires and recognises earthy rhythms!

Now, it’s extremely difficult to do Flamenco if you aren’t musical. The time signatures, the syncopations, the pauses, silent beats, co-ordination of body, skirt, and castanets has to be flawless in order to do Flamenco well. Fortunately, I was born musical; I hear rhythms very easily. I started my dancing career as a tapper at the age of 5 so it’s part of me. It’s different to the intricacies of classical music; the rhythms and phrasing in Flamenco can get pretty complicated. But once I allow myself to become engrossed with the sounds and beats and nuances then it takes over my movements and I am led by it rather than trying to manipulate the music to follow me.

Stephen King Quote 2

It is the same with writing. Finding the rhythm of my writing, the ebb and flow, the cadence of the story, is vital to the creative process and the development of the story, especially in the beginning. When I allow the story (music) to take control of me then the words (steps) become easy and the story tells itself.

When you watch a professional Flamenco dancer, she doesn’t count her music 1-2-3-4, but rather the music weaves around her and she becomes one with it and in so doing tells her story effortlessly, drawing her audience in, creating emotion and passion and excitement with every step, every twirl of her skirt, the undulation of her hands, arms, and body, the beats of her castanets, the emotion on her face.

As a writer I have to use my words, the core energy of the story – its passions, colours, visualisations, characters, environment – to captivate the reader and draw him in. And to do so effectively I have to have the perfect rhythm, a rhythm that doesn’t break or stop or become annoying or disturbing because of an unnatural style which the reader will sense instinctively.

Just as a dancer has to create movements that are effortless and as close to perfection as possible so as to hypnotise her audience, so, too, does a writer.

Ebb and flow, rhythmic perfection, minimising mistakes in language, grammar, punctuation, and style, is how the writer creates the performance his readers will applaud!

Music Fades by Billy Alexander1 sxc

As a more experienced writer, after three published novels and a short story, I still have to work hard every day to perfect my style and rhythm. While I edit I ‘listen’ to my story, sometimes reading it out loud, to hear if there is a break, something that will distract the reader and pull him out of his trance. The goal, dear Writer, is to keep the reader entranced from page one. Do nothing to disturb the rhythm of your story or you will lose him to discordance.

What are your thoughts on writing style and rhythm? I love reading your thoughts. Please share!

Last image courtesy of Billy Alexander

Rewriting and Editing is Not for Sissies!

 

Dream Landscape 1 by Chris H index17 sxcLast week I started reading my first draft of The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 after months of creation without looking back to do any rewrites or edits. I took the advice of seasoned authors and wrote with the single-minded goal to finish the story and not check back on what I’d written (as I’d done with my other works) until it was time to do a rewrite. And what I discovered took my breath away!

I’m a Pantster. I do not outline or have a storyboard with cards and post-its all over my wall. I have one notebook which I use to remind myself of particular details I need to include in the story relating to characters or descriptions or vital plot twists that will make the story better and more exciting. Those thoughts come to me when I’m not writing but doing other things completely unrelated to the craft like brushing my teeth, washing dishes, watching TV, or when I’m just about to fall asleep – the latter being the best time to come up with great ideas. When I sit at my computer I allow the story to tell itself without any interference from my perfectionist brain. I do not have a muse (that I know of), but I do believe that my stories come from a place I cannot describe, a place where the magic happens – that source you cannot explain to someone who has never had the privilege of creating magic with words.

The Cover Image for The Sword Bearer's Ascension: Book 4 courtesy of Jon Sullivan

The Cover Image for The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 courtesy of Jon Sullivan

Whenever I write and allow this inexplicable process to take over, I am always left dumbfounded by what comes out of me. So, when I began reading from the beginning, I was amazed with the incredible detail and power and beauty of the story. “Did I write that?” I frequently asked myself as I tightened up my style, got rid of extraneous words and redundancies, and checked spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I have been drawn into the story anew; I experience the turmoil and chaos of the battle scenes, the love stories, the grief and joy of the characters I fell in love with – the characters that are so much a part of me that to say goodbye to them is a special kind agony reserved only for storytellers, I believe.

Rewriting is hard work; it requires an unemotional approach because it is meant to remove the detritus that accumulates, the bad habits that have crept into my writing I’m still trying to get rid of, and the stuff I know my readers won’t be interested in. Sometimes its a brutal process, especially when you have to get rid of entire scenes or delete a sub-character you really love. But it is necessary in order to create a product as close to perfect as possible. (You do know that no work is ever perfect, right? That would remove the soul of any story.) Rewriting and editing polishes up the frenzied creating that went before, that first ‘pen to paper’ moment when the fire in your belly and brain is urging you to create just like an addict’s urge to satisfy his cravings. The latter is the most exciting part of writing – for me, anyway. I have no inhibitions, I do not concern myself with perfect spelling, grammar, punctuation (my typing skills are not fantastic as it is), and I do not get in the way of whatever/whoever is working through me. And that is when the magic happens!!

Pen on Paper

My readers are going to be blown away by the final book, but before they get their hands on it, it’s my responsibility to make it a smooth experience for them. It is my duty to make sure nothing creates a bump as they lose themselves in the story. My goal is to take them in so deep, to hypnotise them so completely, that when they are rudely pulled back into reality by the demands of normal life, they cannot remember the passing of time. All they do remember are the emotions of getting lost in a story so completely that time stood still for a little while.

Don’t you want power like that? I do. I have never received a greater compliment than when one of my readers tells me they couldn’t put my book down until they finished it – all 700 pages!

Rewriting is not for sissies, it isn’t for those who are only interested in the emotional aspect and who do not care enough about the quality of their craft. I have posted on this before: Balance between passion and knowledge is vital. It takes experience and patience to rewrite in a way that keeps the passion/emotion/magic in the story alive and then compliments it with great grammar, punctuation, and style. If we can learn to find the balance then we can be better storytellers. I make sure I learn something new ever day to improve my craft. I encourage you to do the same.

I love reading your thoughts! Do you agree with having balance between passion (that first frenzied, magical draft) and knowledge (the more emotionally removed process of rewriting and editing)?

What Would You Attempt To Do If You Had No Fear?

QuoteWith the new year spread out before me and nothing yet written – both figuratively and literally (and I am talking new works here) – I have the power to create not only new literary works but my very life, and the message I’ve been reading and hearing about the most since 2014 began is that I have the power to decide what I want and how to go about getting it.

Whatever your faith, whether you believe in God or the Universe or your own creative power, I know that this is possible, and therefore I have presented myself with a challenge: This year will not be a year of negating or doubting my skills as a writer, creator, student, teacher, and wife. I want this year to be different to last year. Oh, I accomplished a lot last year, but by the time December rolled by I had a distinct sense of non-achievement. I could have done more, achieved more, written more, learned more, and become more.

The Cover Image for The Sword Bearer's Ascension: Book 4 courtesy of Jon Sullivan

The Cover Image for The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 courtesy of Jon Sullivan

So, this year I am going to achieve great things. I am going to improve my writing skills; I’m going to finish rewriting and editing The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4 and get it published, and then rewrite and edit the book I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2012! Yes, I haven’t had time to do it yet because my tetralogy had to be completed first and I’ve never been the kind of person to handle two writing projects at once. That’s just how my brain works! I give all my attention to one main project and if an idea comes along for another book I jot it down to come back to it later.

Now, some of you may think that all this is a simple case of procrastination, but, unfortunately, it’s worse than that. Feeling despondent because I’m not selling as many books as I’d like, or because more people are interested in 50 Shades of Grey than epic fantasy, is quite simply an excuse to not to keep focusing on what I want! I began writing my Sword Bearers tetralogy because it needed to be written; it needed to be read and shared with the world – even if that world was only a handful of people.

When I started, I wasn’t as skilled as I am now. I made mistakes and I had to learn as I went along. I read excerpts from Book 1 now (The Sword Bearers) and I pick up those small mistakes, things that a rookie might do their first time out. But you know what, I’m so proud of that first book. I nicknamed it The Beautiful Monster because it was both beautiful and a monster in that it took so much out of me – blood, sweat, and tears, as it were. But I did it! It was one of the greatest achievements of my entire life! I didn’t give in to the fear of public opinion or my lack of knowledge or the fact that I was writing in a genre that wasn’t as popular as romance or thrillers or the paranormal.

Book 1 in The Sword Bearers tetralogy

Book 1 in The Sword Bearers tetralogy

My writing career began in 2009, and by the time 2013 came along I had read hundreds of blogs by experienced writers and editors and publishers, enough to make me doubt myself that the fear I defied writing Book 1 suddenly reared up and took hold of me and I started slowing down. There were too many people telling me what I was doing wrong and, the worst, not to publish until my work was perfect! Perfection? Really? I didn’t know that perfection actually existed in the human race!

Thank goodness I didn’t listen to those ‘perfect’ bloggers and experts but rather to the writers who had tried and failed, tried and failed, tried again and failed again, and how they kept going and finally succeeded. Those are the people I gravitated towards because those are the people who were like me. They had faced their fears and had snubbed their doubts and had pushed ahead and had conquered not only their fears but their shortcomings regarding their skill as writers.

So, this is what I have decided for 2014: No resolutions, but rather a decision to approach my year with the same fearless tenacity I had when I decided to write my first novel. I have grown so much as a person and a writer since The Sword Bearers: Book 1. I am a better writer – more skilled, more knowledgeable, braver, and more confident – and armed with these truths and a determination to create my future, I will accomplish a lot more than I did last year and the year before that and the year before that!

My message to you today is to defy your fears, your doubts, your concerns, and those people who say you can’t and press forward with new determination. If you need more knowledge then go get it; if you have a weakness then face it and deal with it; if you have lack in a particular skill then find out how to improve it. But whatever you do, do it with no fear!

Truthfully, there isn’t really anything that exists that you can’t accomplish this year. You just need to believe it, and then hold on to it as you approach every new project.

Personally, I have to rewrite and edit The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4. Writing this incredible story, a story that began in 1978 when I saw Star Wars for the first time, has been a thrilling, joyous, and often tearful journey as I’ve told the tale of the characters that have lived with me for over thirty years! Coming to the end had me sobbing, and I mean sobbing! But typing that last sentence filled me with such a sense of accomplishment and joy and all because I started it with no fear!

I love hearing your thoughts! Tell me about your fears and doubts and how you overcame them. Do you still face any? Maybe I can help.

Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors

SwordBearer:

A great thought-provoking blog from Kristen Lamb! Sorry I’ve been scarce, but I needed a good break and time to reach the end of Book 4 before the end of 2013! I promise to return soon. In the meantime, have a fantastic New Year’s day, and prepare for an awesome adventure ahead! 2014 is going to be a fantastic year!

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

Rise of the Machines Human Authors in a Digital World, social media authors, Kristen Lamb, WANA, Rise of the Machines

When I began writing I was SO SURE agents would be fighting over my manuscript. Yeah. But after almost thirteen years in the industry, a lot of bloody noses, and even more lessons in humility, I hope that these tips will help you. Self-publishing is AWESOME, and it’s a better fit for certain personalities and even content (um, social media?), but we must be educated before we publish.

Mistake #1 Publishing Before We Are Ready

The problem with the ease of self-publishing is that it is, well, too easy. When we are new, frankly, most of us are too dumb to know what we don’t know. Just because we made As in English, does not automatically qualify us to write a work spanning 60,000-100,000 words. I cannot count how many writers I’ve met who refuse to read fiction, refuse to read craft books, and who only go to pitch agents…

View original 1,496 more words

%d bloggers like this: