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Newsletter Dated: 6/30/2004 12:52:55 PM
Subject: Andrea Campbell’s Newsletter
*** Greetings! ***
This newsletter is being sent to you because you are a writer, family member, professional friend of Andrea*s, or a fan and reader of her books. If you are new to the list, welcome. There are a ton of newsletters and e-zines out there to read, thanks for requesting and reading mine.
Have questions, comments, or ideas for future publication? I look forward to your input and never turn down helpful hints. This newsletter is a continued work-in-progress and I hope you will stay around to see new features in every bi-monthly issue.
In this issue:
* From the Author*s Desk
* Francine Silverman
* Pat Holt Uncensored
* J.A. Konrath on Rewriting
* Advice from Elizabeth Lyon
* Free Books Winners
* Free PDF E-Book
*** From The Author*s Desk ***
This quiet summer is producing a lot of great writing information from some of my favorite authors and friends. Enjoy!
*** Francine Silverman ***
Book Promotion Newsletter, a bi-weekly ezine for authors of all genres, takes the mystery out of marketing with first-hand accounts by subscribers about their book promotion experiences—both good and bad.
The ezine is interactive and subscribers are encouraged to share articles, criticisms, promotional coups, marketing tips, classifieds, announcements, and kudos. Take a minute to read the testimonials
http://www.bookpromotionnewsletter.com and you'll see why a subscriber wrote that Book Promotion Newsletter is the only newsletter she ever reads.
The annual token fee of $5 will save you money in the long run. To subscribe, simply e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org (remember to include your first name).
*** Pat Holt Uncensored ***
If you do not know Pat Holt, you must make a quick run over to her web site. She has kindly offered me the privilege of reprinting her mistakes writers don’t see article. Due to newsletter space, however, you are privy to just numbers five and six of the ten (more later). If you cannot wait for the rest, visit Ms. Holt’s site at: http://www.holtuncensored.com/ten_mistakes.html
Ten Mistakes Writers Don't See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do)
Like many editorial consultants, I've been concerned about the amount of time I've been spending on easy fixes that the author shouldn't have to pay for.
Sometimes the question of where to put a comma, how to use a verb or why not to repeat a word can be important, even strategic. But most of the time the author either missed that day's grammar lesson in elementary school or is too close to the manuscript to make corrections before I see it.
So the following is a list I'll be referring to people *before* they submit anything in writing to anybody (me, agent, publisher, your mom, your boss***
5. NO-GOOD SUFFIXES
Don't take a perfectly good word and give it a new backside so it functions as something else. The New York Times does this all the time. Instead of saying, "as a director, she is meticulous," the reviewer will write, "as a director, she is known for her meticulousness. " Until she is known for her obtuseness.
The "ness" words cause the eye to stumble, come back, reread: Mindlessness, characterlessness, courageousness, statuesqueness, preciousness—you get the idea. You might as well pour marbles into your readers' mouths. Not all "ness" words are bad—goodness, no—but they are all suspect.
The "ize" words are no better—finalize, conceptualize, fantasize, categorize. The "ize" hooks itself onto words as a short-cut but stays there like a parasite. Cops now say to each other about witnesses they've interrogated, "Did you statementize him?" Some shortcut. Not all "ize" words are bad, either, but they do have the ring of the vulgate to them— "he was brutalized by his father," "she finalized her report." Just try to use them rarely.
Adding "ly" to "ing" words has a little history to it. Remember the old Tom Swifties? "I hate that incision," the surgeon said cuttingly. "I got first prize!" the boy said winningly. But the point to a good Tom Swiftie is to make a punchline out of the last adverb. If you do that in your book, the reader is unnecessarily distracted. Serious writing suffers from such antics.
Some "ingly" words do have their place. I can accept "swimmingly," "annoyingly," "surprisingly" as descriptive if overlong "ingly" words. But not "startlingly," "harrowingly" or "angeringly," "careeningly" —all hell to pronounce, even in silence, like the "groundbreakingly" used by People magazine above. Try to use all "ingly" words (can't help it) sparingly.
6. THE 'TO BE' WORDS:
Once your eye is attuned to the frequent use of the "to be" words—"am," "is," "are," "was," "were," "be," "being," "been" and others—you'll be appalled at how quickly they flatten prose and slow your pace to a crawl.
The "to be" words represent the existence of things— "I am here. You are there." Think of Hamlet's query, "to be, or not to be." To exist is not to act, so the "to be" words pretty much just there sit on the page. "I am the maid." "It was cold." "You were away."
I blame mystery writers for turning the "to be" words into a trend: Look how much burden is placed on the word "was" in this sentence: "Around the corner, behind the stove, under the linoleum, was the gun." All the suspense of finding the gun dissipates. The "to be" word is not fair to the gun, which gets lost in a sea of prepositions.
Sometimes, "to be" words do earn a place in writing: "In a frenzy by now, he pushed the stove away from the wall and ripped up the linoleum. Cold metal glinted from under the floorboards. He peered closer. Sure enough, it was the gun. " Okay, I'm lousy at this, but you get the point: Don't squander the "to be" words—save them for special moments.
Not so long ago, "it was" *defined* emphasis. Even now, if you want to say, "It was Margaret who found the gun," meaning nobody else but Margaret, fine. But watch out— "it was" can be habitual: "It was Jack who joined the Million Man March. It was Bob who said he would go, too. But it was Bill who went with them." Flat, flat, flat.
Try also to reserve the use of "there was" or "there is" for special occasions. If used too often, this crutch also bogs down sentence after sentence. "He couldn't believe there was furniture in the room. There was an open dresser drawer. There was a sock on the bed. There was a stack of laundry in the corner. There was a handkerchief on the floor.... " By this time, we're dozing off, and you haven't even gotten to the kitchen
One finds the dreaded "there was/is" in jacket copy all the time. "Smith's book offers a range of lively characters: There is Jim, the puzzle-loving dad. There is Winky, the mom who sits on the 9th Court of Appeals. There is Barbie, brain surgeon to the stars...."
Attune your eye to the "to be" words and you'll see them everywhere. When in doubt, replace them with active, vivid, engaging verbs. Muscle up that prose.
*** J.A. Konrath on Rewriting ***
I have killed. With my hands I have hacked and slashed and chopped. I have even, on occasion, pieced back together the mutilated remains, joining parts like a Frankenstein. And I am better for it.
It isn't easy to begin cutting—the sharp instrument in hand, the fear and trepidation. How dare I kill my children? My little legacies, born of my blood and sweat...from fruit of the womb to grist for the mill.
I started with adjectives. Adverbs soon followed. The 'said' clones were next—replied, queried, questioned, declared, yelled, lamented—killed and buried.
But what of beautifully detailed descriptions? What of prose of a rose so sweet the reader can smell it in the page? Not essential to the plot. Kill it.
Exposition didn't die easy. It fought like a wounded bear. I couldn't stamp the life completely out, so I cleverly hid plot devices in dialogue and brief sentences.
Simile and metaphor were like two giant monsters, harder to kill than an army of rats, endless as boring lectures, repeated more often than Lewinsky jokes, like two great--see what I mean about hard to kill?
Backstory posed a problem. The reason it posed a problem is because many years ago, when I was much younger, I knew a—SNIP!
A character's backstory should be a few sentences at most. If it drags into pages, it ain't backstory, dammit!
Harder still, was cutting story. Being able to spot a stray adverb and assassinate was a painful but easy task. But to actually cut dialogue and action...
Visualize a runner. The kind that wins marathons. No corpulence on this guy. No heart disease threatening to kill him before he finishes the race, no extra baggage weighing him down. Lean and fast. That's the story. A race from start to finish. Take only what is needed to win.
Is the hilarious scene where the guy gets his butt stuck in an armchair needed? Not to finish. Is the clever banter between hero and sidekick required? It doesn't make the story go any faster. Fiction does not exist on paper. It exists within the mind of the reader. Use just enough words to get the mind working. Don't let ego tell you otherwise.
The hardest past of parenting is discipline, and there's no harder discipline than murder. But I urge you to kill your children. Not all—some must die so the others can live. Those that do survive will be taking home trophies.
Damn... I should probably cut out that simile.
Perhaps the hardest thing about writing is judging one's own work. Taste is subjective; anyone can read a novel and give their opinion, with points to back it up. But when the mind behind an opinion must critique its own creation, catharsis ensues. I know what I like, and I write what I know, but how can I judge what I have created when I use the same mind for both? The answer is, I can't. Just as potty training toddlers are so proud of their mastery they want to show everyone their doo-doo, we as writers cannot separate pride from opinion.
Self-editing is a grueling task, and trying to incorporate critiques or advice into revisions is akin to pulling out one's own teeth. So here's some Novocain. I've learned three techniques that help make self-reflection more accurate. Instead of deluding ourselves that the very first draft, aside from a few typos, is ready for Pulitzer submission, these exercises will help us trade rose colored glasses for the magnifying kind.
— J.A. Konrath is the author of Whiskey Sour, a thriller featuring Chicago Violent Crime Lt. Jack Daniels
*** Advice from Elizabeth Lyon ***
Unfulfilled Yearnings in Fiction
by Elizabeth Lyon
A fast-paced plot or a fascinating story will get you only so many points. Craft your fiction with your protagonist’s unfulfilled yearning in mind and you'll win the giant teddy bear every time. Writers who begin short stories or novels without knowing about the inner, or psychological, story of their protagonist resemble Californians wandering aimlessly in the dark after a power failure. I recommend the craft books, A Story is a Promise, written by screenwriting guru Bill Johnson, and my new book, A Writer’s Guide to Fiction.
So what is an unfulfilled yearning? Since fiction involves a protagonist, every piece of fiction should explore a deeper issue of human need operating in the character's life. As writers, we promise the reader that our protagonist will fulfill that universal human need by story's end. If we do our job as writers, our readers identify with our protagonists and live their fictional lives vicariously. Why? Because readers share the same issues of human need as the protagonists. Maybe one story explores the yearning for healing; another the passion for freedom, and yet another the longing to leave a legacy. When the protagonist succeeds, the reader shares the satisfaction and relief of an aching yearning finally met.
In my opinion, the best fiction sets the promise or fulfilling this yearning in the lead, whether that lead is expressed in the first line, first paragraph, or first page (occasionally as late as chapter's end). But remember, that lead only gets your story started. You must carry a promise through to the last word of your piece. When the protagonist’s unfulfilled yearning is reflected in the first line, serving as a narrative hook, I relax, knowing I am in competent hands. I will not stumble in the dark, hoping and wishing the writer would light a candle to show me the way.
Take a guess at the protagonist’s yearning in this lead in Jane Hamilton's A Map of the World:
"I used to think if you fell from grace it was more likely than not the result of one stupendous error, or else an unfortunate accident."
One word, redemption, describes this protagonist’s yearning.
One of my students asked me how we can know that Jane Hamilton's novel is about redemption instead of a trip to hell. The plot is about a trip to hell, but the promise refers to the yearning held by the protagonist who believes she fell from grace. The yearning is different than plot, but it drives the plot. While I think redemption, or making amends, is the emotional and spiritual answer to "falling from grace," you might come up with a different yearning such as forgiveness or humility. Obviously, our guesses are limited by focusing on one line. Readers begin their search for a story's promise, whether they are conscious of it or not, with the first line of a story, and it must be consistently reaffirmed and supported, by characterization and plot, until the very end.
Whether you are crafting short stories or novels, decide what your protagonist yearns for in an emotional or spiritual sense, a universal need that will be satisfied by story's end. Let your plot carry the protagonist through the events that will fulfill that yearning, and you'll keep your promise with your readers.
Elizabeth Lyon, instructor and book editor, is the author of A Writer’s Guide to Fiction, The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit, and many other books for fiction and nonfiction writers. www.elizabethlyon.com.
*** Free Books Winners ***
Penny Warner and Jeanne Godbold each won a free copy of THE RENEGADE WRITER. Congratulations!
*** Free PDF E-Book ***
For a free PDF file e-book called Creating Buzz go to:
*** Future Newsletters ***
In upcoming newsletters we will answer reader*s questions, share a new story or two, talk more about publishing, and provide additional writer’s tips. If there is anything you would like to contribute, send me a note. Thanks for the read. : 0 )
Copyright©2004 Andrea Campbell If you wish to quote from here, fine, just attribute it to me and my web site.