Love this article. Great reminder about the ways and reasons to control the pace of your story. I especially like her comments about big words slowing a scene (lol) and the use of staccato dialog in fast scenes. I rarely write long monologues, but its worth remembering the impact extended dialogue can have on the flow of a story. I also like June’s comments about variation. I often have to remember to slow down, to give readers a chance to catch their breath in between big action scenes. What tendencies do you have in your writing style? Feel free to post a comment and share. — Scott

Ways To Control The Pace of Your Writing

I was listening to a CD by the Seekers while driving the length of the New Jersey Turnpike. As the highway slid under my car, song after song sculpted my mood. Some tunes were brisk and upbeat; others, haunting, even mournful. So I thought about the scenes in a novel, that they should be ordered like the songs on a CD. Their pace should vary. Too many fast-paced scenes in succession exhaust readers; too many slow ones bore them.

So how can you control the pace of a scene?

You can slow the pace by using the passive voice; narration; and longer words, sentences, and paragraphs. Complex sentences and nuanced paragraphs invite your readers to reflect on their meanings, and multi-syllable words slow down readers’ eyes. So use slow-paced scenes to focus on details, complicate a problem, set up a later scene, and develop a character.

Conversely, to increase tension and heighten suspense, you can quicken the pace by cutting out all but the action. Use staccato dialog, familiar words, and simple declarative sentences, even occasional fragments. Make the paragraphs short and snappy. The white spaces invite readers’ eyes to fly down the page. Of course, save the fastest pace for the climax scene, when your protagonist, apparently in a hopeless situation, engages in a titanic struggle to triumph over the antagonist.

The pace of a scene communicates a mood. So be sure it suits the scene’s function. When you’re ready to critique your work, read each scene aloud while concentrating on whether the mood matches the function. And finally, when you’ve written a series of scenes, check that their rhythms vary. Remember, novels like CDs are tiresome when the rhythm is constant.

About the Author:
June Trop and her twin sister Gail wrote their first story, “The Steam Shavel [sic],” when they were six years old growing up in rural New Jersey. They sold it to their brother Everett for two cents.

Now associate professor emerita at the State University of New York at New Paltz, she devotes her time to writing historical mysteries with a connection to early science. Her heroine, Miriam bat Isaac, is based on the personage of Maria Hebrea, the legendary founder of Western alchemy, who developed the concepts and apparatus alchemists and chemists would use for 1500 years.

June lives with her husband Paul Zuckerman in New Paltz, where she is breathlessly recording the story of her plucky heroine’s next life-or-death exploit.

You can find out more about her on her website www.junetrop.com and on Facebook

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Book Three

I am pleased to announce that the third book in my Bobby Ether series, Bobby Ether and the Great Sphinx, is now in the publication process. Cover art and copy text are being created while I work on a final draft to send off for line editing. I expect the process to be complete and the book available sometime either late this year or early 2016. Stay tuned!

More details on the story behind book three can be found on its new homepage, located here.

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Why Your Writing Process ROCKS!

Below is a fantastic article about the writing process and why no single piece of advice, no matter who provides it, is ever perfect. The bottom line of the article is that we are all different, and what works for someone else may not work for you. By all means, listen and absorb advice from others, especially noteworthy authors, but take it with a grain of salt. And don’t be afraid to buck the trend. If something works for you, stick with it, even if it contradicts someone else’s advice. When its all said and done, your writing process only needs to have one thing in common with other authors: you have to actually write. As long as the writing gets done, nothing else truly matters. #writerswrite

– Scott

P.S. Make sure to read through to the end of the article and check out the wonderful quotes Massimo provided. Definitely inspiring.

P.S.S. – For those of you following my Bobby Ether series: I recently had some interest from an agent on book three. Unfortunately, it didn’t materialize into a deal, leaving me still to decide whether I want to continue the search for an agent or self-publish number three the way I did the first two. Stay tuned!

Why Your Writing Process ROCKS!

 August 17, 2015

Among the questions writers torture themselves with are whether we should write the complete work then edit, or edit as we go along. Should we create biographies of our characters before hand or invent them as we develop the story? Should writers do the first draft by hand then type into the computer or go directly to the keyboard? Should they have fixed writing hours or not? Is it important to write daily or not?

The answer is yes to all of the above, or not. Confusing? You bet.

The Writing Process. (My apologies, Dr. Seuss)

I can write in a car,
I can write by a fire,
I can write in a boat, I can write on a float.
I can write on a table, I can write when I’m able;
I can write anywhere.

I’ve read a few how-to-write books, followed online creative writing courses, read blogs of established authors. All of which I have come through, the amount of contradictory advice is only limited by the number of pages I have read. Does this mean that all writing advices should be disregarded? Not at all – if so I’d give up writing this post or past others about writing techniques.

When I had the venture to discuss with other successful writers about their working habits, I have discovered they are as varied as their personalities. Some are extremely disciplined, they set aside a time each day to write, stick to a minimum number of words no matter what. Others cram writing time around the many responsibilities. If any common factor exists, it is their extreme seriousness about their work.

Many things in this world can be standardized, but standardized creativity is an oxymoron.

The secret is to find what works best for you, and throw away any guilt or inferiority that you are disregarding the advice of Best Selling Author X. Remember, Jeffrey Archer once told would-be writers that the only way they can be successful is to quit their jobs and write full time. Tell that to a single mom trying to finish her first book. The alternative is — of course — getting fired, but that’s another story.

Am I saying the advices of Best Selling Author X, Y, and Z are baseless? Absolutely not. Try their methods, but twist their ideas, adapt them to your needs. You are what you are, if a ‘rule’ existed to describe how to write successful novels, everybody would be a Best Selling Author. Testing allows us to develop new skills, too.

So, shall we continue with the poem?

I can write on my head, I can write in bed,
I can write as I eat, I can write on my feet,
I can write with ink, I can write in a sink;
I can write everywhere.

The important thing to keep in mind is that what works for you might be different, and still be the way to go. Have the confidence to do it as well as the wisdom to know when it needs to be changed. And do it without guilt, or shame.

And now that you’ve got here, you can follow my advice, or not, and disregard every word if it doesn’t work for you; and do it with my blessing.

Some Best Advices

“I merely took the energy it took to pout and wrote some blues.” – Duke Ellington.

“Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time… The wait is simply too long.” – Leonard Bernstein

Note: I know the first two quotes are about music, but writing music and writing words are variations of a creative process.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” – Henry David Thoreau

Note: I know this is often quoted, but whenever I realise the crowd went in the other direction, I realise that it is okay if I don’t follow.

“Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it.” – Jesse Stuart

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” – Joan Didion

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. ” – Thomas Mann

And the last one, which I read almost every day to remind myself that the perfect novel doesn’t exist, and there will always be those who will find diamonds in your stories and those who will find nothing:

“’Tis the good reader that makes the good book; in every book he finds passages which seem to be confidences or sides hidden from all else and unmistakably meant for his ear; the profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profound thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

About the Author:
Massimo Marino comes from a scientist background: He spent years at CERN and The Lawrence Berkeley Lab followed by lead positions with Apple, Inc. and the World Economic Forum. He is also partner in a new startup in Geneva for smartphone applications: TAKEALL SA. Massimo currently lives in France and crosses the border with Switzerland multiple times daily, although he is no smuggler.

You can find out more about him on his website www.massimomarinoauthor.com and connect with him on Twitter.

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A Word About Dialog

Here’s an interesting article about writing dialog. I’m not sure I agree that ‘dialog is action,’ but I definitely think dialog should be succinct (Nothing like real conversations!) and ideally work on multiple levels at the same time (Advancing plot, developing characters, building conflict, etc.). I hope you like June’s article and would love to hear people’s thoughts. —Scott

Tips For Writing Dialogue

By June Trop

1195567Dialogue is action. It moves the story forward and demonstrates conflict, the heart of every scene. Besides, external dialogue, a character’s speech to at least one other person, and internal dialogue, a character’s thoughts, reveal personalities and relationships more efficiently and convincingly than any narrated passage.

So how can you make the dialogue you write seem authentic? Just remember you’re not trying to imitate real speech. You are, however, trying to give the impression of real speech, which is much harder.

Real speech is often boring, full of small talk, false starts, and rambling repetitive phrases. Instead, make your characters get to the point directly. Strip their speech down to the essentials. Never mind whether a sentence is complete; fragments are often better. Besides, characters interrupt each other, especially when they’re in the throes of conflict. Just make sure the idioms, grammar, speech patterns, and vocabulary uniquely reflect each character’s social class, education, and age. Even without an attribution tag like “John said,” most of the time your reader should be able to infer that John is the one speaking.

Of course, you’ll need at least an occasional attribution tag when the conversation involves more than two people or when the exchange between a pair of characters is lengthy. So what about attribution tags?

The simplest attribution tag, “he (or Jane) said,” is best. Don’t worry about being m
onotonous. You want your reader to concentrate on the speech rather than the tag anyway. And at all costs, avoid using a tag that refers to body language not speech. For example, avoid tags like this: he snarled, she laughed, or John grinned. Instead, intensify the spoken words or add a gesture to emphasize the speaker’s emotion. Change “‘I think you are being silly,’ Jane laughed,” to something like this: “‘That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever—’ Jane said, choking with laughter.”

If you find yourself writing a solid paragraph of dialogue, then break up the passa
ge. For example, insert a sentence to call attention to a change in the setting, such as a door slamming or the afternoon shadows stretching, or a character’s facial expression, gesture, or movement. Another option is to rewrite the passage as a series of shorter exchanges between the characters.

Finally, read your dialogue aloud to check that it sounds natural, and rework the parts that don’t sound authentic. We read with our ears as well as our eyes. Hear your writing come alive as you use more dialogue and less narrative to tell your story.

About the Author:
June Trop and her twin sister Gail wrote their first story, “The Steam Shavel [sic],” when they were six years old growing up in rural New Jersey. They sold it to their brother Everett for two cents.

Now associate professor emerita at the State University of New York at New Paltz, she devotes her time to writing historical mysteries with a connection to early science. Her heroine, Miriam bat Isaac, is based on the personage of Maria Hebrea, the legendary founder of Western alchemy, who developed the concepts and apparatus alchemists and chemists would use for 1500 years.

June lives with her husband Paul Zuckerman in New Paltz, where she is breathlessly recording the story of her plucky heroine’s next life-or-death exploit.

You can find out more about her on her website www.junetrop.com and on Facebook

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What To Do With Your Deleted Scenes

About a week ago, I submitted an old post I’d written back in 2013 to BookDaily.com for consideration to be shared with their community of readers. Today I woke up to the wonderful news that my article is being featured in today’s Author Update newsletter. I’ve also been selected as their Featured Author of the Day!

Here is the full article listed on BookDaily.com, originally posted on this site under the title The MultiVerse (The Awesome Power of ‘Save As’).

What To Do With Your Deleted Scenes | BookDaily #AuthorTips

One of the biggest fears many writers have is not getting it right. Often times, this anxiety can be so debilitating that the story grinds to a halt, the author unable to progress because the story’s current status isn’t perfect (perfection is a myth by the way, but that’s a post for another time). The purpose of this post is to assure my fellow writers that there is a way to escape the incapacitating fear of imperfection. I call it ‘the MultiVerse.’

The MultiVerse is the multitude of universes created by alternate versions of the same story. Here’s how it works: any time I feel like something I’m working on is less than perfect crap, I either make a new document where I copy and paste a specific section, or ‘Save As’ and create a whole new draft. Now I’m free to beat, bludgeon, and disembowel the scene I’m working on without fear of harming a single ‘verse’ in the original version. Heaven forbid the new draft ends up worse than the original, I just start over again with another draft in another alternate universe.

I confess it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Like many authors, I frequently get attached to my writing, which makes deleting them especially gut wrenching. Thanks to the MultiVerse, I don’t have to. Whenever I feel the need to carve out or trim down something I really like, I simply make a new file.

In my first novel, Bobby Ether and the Academy, Bobby and Jinx have had dozens of adventures that didn’t make it into the published edition. I had a sixty-page section in which Bobby and his friends explored additional levels of the archives, discovering ancient catacombs, as well as an old headmaster’s crypt.

Due to length (The book was 131k words at the time!), I reworked this section and rewrote it in twelve pages, ditching many scenes I loved dearly. At first I deeply lamented this lost, but later came to accept it. After all, those earlier drafts still exist in the MultiVerse.

The bottom line is that, courtesy of the MultiVerse, nothing is every truly gone. All of those wonderful adventures still exist, like actors frozen in time, ready to resume as soon as their audience returns.

So the next time you’re struggling with what to write next, or afraid to mess up what you’ve already got, take advantage of awesome power of ‘Save As’ and expand your MultiVerse. Then go ahead and explore the possibilities risk-free. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

Where do your deleted scenes go?

About the Author:
R Scott Boyer grew up in Santa Monica, CA and still resides in the Los Angeles area. Graduating from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley in 1996, he started writing the Bobby Ether series with the goal of blending YA fantasy with spiritual fiction. Nowadays, Scott splits his time between managing an insurance brokerage, playing with his Shepherd-mix rescue dog, Patch, and writing. More information about R Scott Boyer, as well as information about his upcoming books can be found on his website at www.RScottBoyer.com

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Four Aspects of Good Storytelling

I really enjoyed this post by Patrick Brown. The only thing I would add is that the quality of the writing matters, which, to me, is not the same thing as style or editing. You can write in a very clear style (humorous, dark, witty, etc.) and be bad at it. Likewise, a story can be well edited and still not read well. Nonetheless, I thought this article was an excellent description of some of the key aspects that go into good storytelling. – R Scott Boyer

Why Readers Just Aren’t That Into Your Book | BookDaily.com #AuthorTips

1213669I had dinner with a friend of mine the other night, and the conversation turned to novels we had recently read. More specifically, we discussed what makes a book a good or interesting read. People like to read fiction for different reasons: some may want to laugh, while others desire a real tear-jerker. Some like action, while others want drama. Some readers may want to think, but others may need to feel. Some may want pieces of all of this. But we all, at the end of the day, want entertainment. Right? So when my pal brought this question up, I thought from both the standpoint of writing my own stuff and reading the work of others. I pinned it down to four main factors and a few minor ones that make a good book good.

CHARACTERS:

This is number one. Good, strong, well-developed characters are a must. We don’t always have to like them, but they should stir some emotion in us from beginning to end. Personally, I prefer at least one likable character – a hero, if you will. Who wants to spend a few days or longer with someone they don’t like or admire? I guess those folks are out there, but I’m not one of them. Strong characters? Lee Child’s protagonist, Jack Reacher, comes to mind as well as Robert Crais’s, Joe Pike. Lawrence Sanders’s, Edward X. Delaney was another terrific guy you’d want on your side. How about Agatha Christie’s, Hercule Poirot? I’ll throw in my guy, Salem Reid, for good measure.

Stephen King may be the master at building solid characters. While less heroic usually, they are often regular folks that we can all relate to as King describes them in his folksy style.

An author can have a great story to tell, but if the characters are not interesting or inspiring, the book will not work.

STORYLINE:

Does it move? Does it flow? Is there action? Important questions. I prefer books that grab my attention in the first chapter. Hooked, I think the term is. Of course, there are other concerns. Is there consistency in the story? Did the girl with green eyes in chapter 4 end up with blue eyes in chapter 25? Not good, but it happens, you know. But my friend and I agreed that one of the most important aspects about a story is this: Does it make you think, feel, or re-assess your opinion or view about something? Did we learn something of value? And finally, the ending. If you’re like me, you’ve read a number of books that were really engaging throughout just to be disappointed at the end of the story because the ending was poor. Maybe it was contrived or unrealistic. Perhaps it didn’t end well for our favorite character, or we were left hanging. So endings are crucial to how we think about the book once we’ve finished. A lame ending to a novel can ruin an otherwise quality effort.

DIALOGUE:

Dialogue is number three for me. Witty, clever, and thoughtful banter between characters makes a book come alive. I’ve heard it said that dialogue drives the story. Joseph Wambaugh creates some great characters in his books. The two surfer cops, Flotsam and Jetsam, who debut in “Hollywood Station”, are hysterical. Their dialogue with each other while cruising the seedy streets of Hollywood is some of the best I’ve encountered.

The four teenage boys in Stephen King’s “The Body” are so real to me because I had those same conversations with my young friends in my youth – it’s the way young guys talk to each other. And it’s timeless; nothing has changed over the years on that score in terms of content.

So slick dialogue moves the book along and keeps us turning pages.

STYLE:

Style is number four for me. A writer that can make you feel that you are “right there” with the characters, involved in the action and setting, is a talented writer indeed. Use of metaphor is the first one that comes to mind, and Gillian Flynn in “Gone Girl” used this tool wonderfully throughout the book.

Humor is my favorite though. I recently read “Casting Shadows Everywhere” by LT Vargus and Tim McBain. I laughed on damn near every page. It was Beavis and Butthead colliding with “Catcher in the Rye”. But despite the humor, the book was pretty dark most of the way through, but these two witty and clever writers pulled it off.

So style points are huge.

It’s worth mentioning that editing has some impact on the overall experience of reading a book too, but unless it is grossly flawed, stumbling through a few errors here and there is mostly tolerable. I want people to tolerate the ones in my novels (and any I make in this blog, please). I’ve yet to see the perfect book, so I think most of us can be a little forgiving in that regard.

So to sum it up, characters, storyline, dialogue, and style are the aspects of writing that will send me back to read an author over and over again, or send me away for good if they can’t pull it off.

What makes a good read to you?

About the Author:
Patrick Brown is a longtime Georgia resident. He currently lives in Northeast Atlanta with his wife and two children. “Varied Traits” is his first work of fiction. He is currently working on his second novel, “Heavy Hour”.

To discover more about Patrick, check him out on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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How to Create Conflict In Your Novel

I wish the following article focused more on how to build conflict in the story at large, rather than just in dialog. I don’t necessarily agree with the sentiment that there should be conflict on every page. Sometimes, you need a transition scene, or a cooling off period in between conflict in order to set something up for later. Despite its limitations, however, this post still serves as a useful reminder that story is conflict, and that nuances in the level of conflict can greatly impact character and plot development. – Scott

Conflict on Every Page

An important aspect of any novel, be it romance, mystery, western, fantasy, whatever, is conflict. There are many who say there should be conflict on every page. But how do you get conflict on every page? Dialog offers a great opportunity.

Example:

“You sound different today.”
“No I don’t.”

There’s conflict, in seven words.

Now, you might say, that’s not much conflict. That’s okay. Every instance of conflict does not have to be an all out war. But, actually, even this seven word conflict can be as much as you want. It can be slight. “No, I’m fine.” Or you can make it much stronger when the second person is hiding something. Whom that affects, and how it affects him or her, can determine the degree of conflict.
Suppose the first person, a woman, has never met the second person, a man. She has only talked to him on the telephone. Now he sounds different. Is it the same man? Or perhaps the second person has been threatened by a vicious thug who made it clear her child would be killed if she let anyone know about his threat. She is still terrified and her voice is not the same. If the first person pushes it, this can become a full-fledged conflict. But we’ve set it up in just seven words of dialog. Powerful stuff, this dialog.

Think about your novel. How many instances of small conflicts can you add through dialog? Of course, you need to make certain that the conflict fits in nicely with the story. Don’t force it. Look at your characters and determine which ones will be willing to disagree at the drop of a hat. You may have a character who is going through a bad time and is generally mad at the world. He may take exception to almost everything that is said to him.

Example:

“That was a great movie.”
“No it wasn’t. It was terrible. I can’t believe you liked it.” (Conflict)
“Oh, I’m sorry you didn’t like it. I didn’t mean to push my opinion off on you.”
“Stop it. Don’t be so wish-washy on everything. You liked it. I didn’t. That’s it.” (Heightened conflict)
“Sorry.”
“Don’t say you’re sorry. There nothing to be sorry about. We disagree.” (Escalating conflict)

They will still remain friends, but we’ve added conflict through dialog. And we’ve enhanced the reader’s understanding of both characters.

It’s me against me!

(I guess grammatically it should be, “It’s I against me.” But, even though correct, it will stop the average reader. Your book has to read smoothly and sometimes, by a conscious choice, you need to violate a grammar rule.)
The conflict can be within one character. In fact, this is often the case. Certainly Hamlet had a pretty good conflict going on inside his own mind. This will most often be expressed for the reader with internal dialog.

Example:

He looked through the wallet he had picked up off the sidewalk. There were credit cards, driver’s license, other cards. And a wad of money. I could keep the money, sort of a finder’s fee. Return the rest. Say I found the wallet but there was no money in it. Who would know? He looked at the stack of fifties. I would know.

Here, conflict exists, not with another person, but within himself. And this conflict will further the plot, and allow the reader to know this character better.

So remember to introduce conflict through dialog and maybe you can get conflict on every page.

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