Tips for Better Fiction Writing: “Start”

Speaking of start, you’d better START your story – time is running out!

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img_2351-12I’m writing a book series called Tips For Better Fiction Writing, in which I tackle all the rookie mistakes new writers make.

And hey, I made them, too.

Which is why I’m helping you not make them.

Until the next book in the series comes out, you’ll see these gems here on the blog.


“START”

What’s my beef with that word? It seems innocuous enough.

Okay, I’ll tell ya.

Don’t use it.

As in, don’t start. It’s more of the Show vs Tell thing.

We don’t start to do things, we do things.

As in:

We don’t start to do things,

we do the things

that are the beginning of a bigger task.

Whatever the steps are in the “start” phase, that’s the things your characters are doing. Say those things.

  • You don’t start to wash a car (telling) you gather a sponge and a bucket (showing).

  • You don’t start to run, you lace up your running shoes and eye the path with swelling excitement. Maybe stretch. Leap off the back porch, striding over the leaves covering the dirt path.

  • It doesn’t start to rain, the opening salvo of the storm announced itself with tiny, cool droplets.

Okay, that last one’s a little over the top, but you get the idea.

Think about the steps involved in what’s about to happen, or what actually is happening – and write that.

A is for Action 12 FINALYou can do this stuff.

Wanna get personalized tips like this for your story and take it to the next level? Check out my Private Critique Group.

What’s YOUR revision process like?

There are lots of helpful things I have picked up along the way, and I’m happy to share them with you here on the blog or occasionally picking a topic that requires a deeper dive. We aren’t born with a pen in our hand. We learn this stuff. And If I can do it, you can do it.

Get A Is For Action today for 99 cents, part of Dan Alatorre’s Tips For Better Fiction Writing series.

 

Tips For Better Fiction Writing: The Pause.

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your humble host

I’m writing a book series called Tips For Better Fiction Writing, in which I tackle all the rookie mistakes new writers make.

And hey, I made them, too.

Which is why I’m helping you not make them.

Until the next book in the series comes out, you’ll see these gems here on the blog.


Clarisse paused, leaning back in her chair. “Yes, I think you’re the right one for this job.”

Paused.

Hmm…

Try not to write that someone paused.

Instead, write briefly about what happens during the pause.

That will create the pause for the reader.

Clarisse leaned back, eyeing the massive painting on the wall. A barrage of green and blue oil colors filled an enormous frame, with random dots of yellow throughout. A kind of modern art masterpiece of some sort.

She turned to me, nodding and smiling. “Yes, I think you’re the right one for this job.”

Think about what you’d see if you were there – and write that.

A is for Action 12 FINALYou can do this stuff.

Wanna get personalized tips like this for your story and take it to the next level? Check out my Private Critique Group.

What’s YOUR revision process like?

There are lots of helpful things I have picked up along the way, and I’m happy to share them with you here on the blog or occasionally picking a topic that requires a deeper dive. We aren’t born with a pen in our hand. We learn this stuff. And If I can do it, you can do it.

Get A Is For Action today for 99 cents, part of Dan Alatorre’s Tips For Better Fiction Writing series.

Help!

Allison 2 will keep you guessing at every turn

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Revising and Layering: The (Often Very Tedious) Stuff That Makes Your Story COME ALIVE

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Nobody likes revising, okay?

Nobody.

Until you see how good it makes your story, and then

well, you still won’t like revising.

Because nobody does.

But if you do something enough times, it can become a habit, and that means if you torture yourself with enough revisions, you will eventually incorporate that stuff into your first draft. Or more of it, anyway, and that’s totally worth the lesson you’re about to get today.

I read the following scene in a manuscript I edited a while back.

(The names have been changed.) It’s a great story, and this is a really good scene, but you can see the places where it’s just kinda missing something.

It felt rushed, because it probably was rushed – in a good way.

The author was probably excited about the scene and was moving quick.

Good.

The reader will be moving quick, too – but only if we slow down and revise the scene so the page has everything that was in the writer’s head.


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Rule 1: Get it down.

Get it out of your head and into the computer or onto paper, whichever. Capture the idea for your brilliant scene somewhere. On your voicemail if necessary.

Then write it.

Then revise it.

But while revising, there are a few things you’ll need to address.


Here is The Scene as originally written (with the character names changed)

George rushed towards them pushing John’s hands away from the ropes. With one swift move, John kicked George with his foot and he fell over hitting his head against the wall.

The smack of her grandfather’s head hitting the wall reverberated through Lori’s head. Her heart sank as she swallowed a scream. She tugged on the ropes with all her might needing to get to George, but it was no use.

“You moron!” Robert rushed to George’s side.

Intense anger filled Lori watching him lift George’s head, feel for a pulse, and examine his eyes. “He’s going to be out for a couple of hours and who knows whether or not he’ll be in any condition for writing.”


NOTES:

With one swift move, John kicked George with his foot and…

Cut “with his foot.” Kicks are with feet. Always.

You could show John raising a foot up and landing it in George’s knee or belly or whatever.

…and he fell over hitting his head against the wall.

New sentence, and be descriptive:

George crashed into the stone wall and slid to the floor in a heap.

Which is better? (USING ACTIONEY VERBS, #3 below)

 

“You moron!” Robert rushed to George’s side.

This reads like Robert is calling George a moron. He’s saying that to John.

Robert glared at John. “You moron!” He rushed to George’s side. (ORIENTATION, #2 below)


Think about all the steps involved in the scene in your head, and after you write a scene,

let it rest and then attack it again.

 

The Steps:

  1. Would the reader 100% understand who and what I mean?

Might have to add a line.

Usually it’s adding a few lines here and there, or a few words, that make all the difference.

2. Have I oriented the reader?

Too many he’s and we’re lost. Gotta use a name here and there, and occasionally a detail about the room, even in an action scene. But not too much

3. Have I added dramatic action verbs in my action scene?

Action = go big with action-ey verbs. Run or sprint? Threw or heaved? You get the idea.

4. Have I added enough emotion?

Stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum, even in an action scene. If Lori is seeing her grandfather attacked, she will have a visible emotional reaction to it. Write that.

Grit her teeth. Clench her fists. Add that stuff.

That might take three or four passes

– with some resting in between – but it’ll make the scene comes alive. You want that.

It’s simple, but it requires patience and time.

A is for Action 12 FINALI wrote a whole book about this stuff called A Is For Action. Oh, he’s trying to sell me something! Yeah, it’s a whole dollar, for Pete’s sake.

Buy it and get the rest of the amazingly helpful information you need to know.

Oh, and leave a nice review on Amazon, too. I’ll appreciate it.

Tips For Better Fiction Writing: SUDDENLY

Don’t write the word “suddenly.”

Write in such a way that it reads as happening suddenly.


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I’m not saying you can’t ever use that word. You can. But usually

the word “suddenly” is a signal to yourself that you want a dramatic event that surprises the reader – and you didn’t write it

You didn’t set it up, you didn’t emphasize it in punctuation and style, you didn’t add a character reaction physically and emotionally to sell it…

You just wrote “suddenly.”

You told the reader they were supposed to be surprised at what happened, instead of doing your best to have them actually be surprised by showing them.

Be better than that.

When you write suddenly in your first draft, add it as a crutch word at the top of your manuscript and go back later and flesh out that scene.

“SUDDENLY”

No suddenly’s.

Don’t say something happened suddenly.

Write in such a way that it reads as happening suddenly.

(And have a character react as though they are surprised by what happened, too.)

suddenly

Write so the reader is surprised – which makes it sudden to the reader. That’s what you want anyway.

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I did not see that coming. Neither did she, apparently.

WRITE like the goat.

Let the READER be the young lady.

Wild Bill smiled, raking the chips across the green felt table. “Gosh, Mike, I’m not sure I wanna play poker anymore—now that I have all your money.”

Suddenly, Mike stood and punched Bill, sending him reeling. Chips flew everywhere.

OR

Wild Bill chuckled, raking the chips across the green felt table. “Gosh, Mike, now that I have all your money, I’m not sure I wanna play poker with you any—”

Mike leaped from his chair and swung hard at Bill, landing a punch squarely on Bill’s chin and snapping his head around. Poker chips flew everywhere as the old man sailed backwards and crashed onto the floor.

You can argue that the second one isn’t really surprising, but you already knew what was coming because you read the first one. Either way, it’s more sudden and quick and unexpected to the reader than the first one.

A is for Action 12 FINALYou can do this stuff.

Wanna get personalized tips like this for your story and take it to the next level? Check out my Private Critique Group.

What’s YOUR revision process like?

And the less your reader expects it, the more surprised they’ll be – and the more sudden your scene will read. So set it up that way. Let readers think one thing and do the other without warning. Don’t announce it with “suddenly.”

Get A Is For Action today for 99 cents, part of Dan Alatorre’s Tips For Better Fiction Writing series.