Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Does your novel need to go on a diet?

Everyone likes big books, you can't lie... yeah, I went there. Seriously though, an author tends to write on the 'meaty' side of things during the first draft phase. We write with a ton of adverbs, repetitive nouns, prepositions, verbs, its, and and, the list goes on.

All that makes for a chubby novel. One that needs a hand to cut those extras from it's diet and trim down to a sexier sized manuscript. Yes, I know your novel isn't going to sport an itty bitty yellow polka dot bikini at the beach, but, it is going to go to publishers, editors, and readers hands.


Why should your care if your writing is a little on the husky side? Just like bon bons too much of a good thing can be damaging to your figure, or in this case it can muddle the picture you want to create for your reader. Over description can be boring, too many adverbs or pronouns can get confusing and mess with tenses.

Too many of those little connector words such as  and, it, that, this, like, or as (or is one too!) can clutter your sentences. You want your writing be create a clear and concise.

Don't worry you don't have to squeeze your novel into those skinny jeans hanging in your closet. Here are a few tips to help tip the scale in your favor.

Channel Mark Twain, he is one of my favorites and gave great writing advice. He once said, "Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should."

It really is a good idea. The first step is to determine which words you tend to over use. Once your bad habit words are determined substitute damn in its place or just dashes. When edit read the segment in question without the habit word and with it.


Doing this will help you decide if  you actually need to use the habit words and where you can drop them from your diet. Just like eating less carbs or Heaven forbid cutting out chocolate in your real diet.

How do you determine what words your novel tends to over eat? There are tools in Word or most word processing programs have the option to search and count a certain word throughout the book. Yeah, that can be a lot of work and you can miss leg day (a habit word) and end up with thunder thighs in chapter six.

The easy way to do the deed is to use an editing aid such as Grammarly, Ginger. These products have free options as well as paid subscriptions to their services and tons of features and tools to make your novel strut the runway with it's fit and trim body. My personal favorite is to take a trip over to The Writer's Diet webpage.


The Writer's Diet is also a fabulous book by Helen Sword that helps you trim your writing without sending it to the Biggest Looser. You can even test your writing fitness level right on the site under the Test tab. Just copy paste no more than one thousand words and click Run the Test.

You will get a rainbow colored page that highlights your habit words and shows if you need to put that book on the treadmill. It will also tell you if you're dieting too much. (Your book, not you. Put down that cookie!) Now, this is just a feedback tool. It won't tell you if your writing is good, bad or needs cheese.... everything is better with a little cheese on top. It will help you determine those high calorie words that possibly need to be nixed.

Play with it and try different samples of your writing, if nothing else it's like that cake over there; pretty to look at just like that big slice of cake with the pretty piped rose on top.... 

*takes a bite of cake and sighs happily.... Oh well, so much for that New Year's resolution. Maybe my novel will look good in those skinny jeans.





Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Wall

His back was up against the wall, literally and figuratively. The rain damp brick soaked through his shirt as he pressed against the rain damp brick to peek around the corner. 

Two men skidded around the corner beyond headed in his direction unconcealed weapons in their hands. 

The alley where he stood was a dead end. He let out a slow breath and checked the clip in his gun. Empty. He leaned against the wall, his lungs burned from the run, his heart pounding in his ears, as, the footfalls of his enemies moved closer. The only way out was the hard way. 


Monday, April 23, 2018

Ten ways to squeeze out those creative juices

1. Eat Breakfast
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. You don’t have to have the full meal if that’s not your thing, but try to eat something protein in the morning. Try a breakfast drink like Carnation Instant Breakfast if you’re not a regular breakfast eater. They have a low amount of calories, high protein and the right kinds of sugars to boost your brain and get those creative juices ready to work.

2. Doodle
Sometimes the mind needs a bit of distraction. If you come across a block in your writing whip out a note pad and start doodling. Try some shapes or just draw a circle or pattern something non conforming works best to clear and relax your mind. A few 3-D boxes later and ideas will start to flow again.

3. Watch a movie
Pick a DVD from your collection that has some similarity to what you’re writing. It can only be one element a similar character, setting, or plot. Pop some corn and kick back. Don’t just veg out, use your writer’s brain to look for elements that might add an extra dimension to your work. If something clicks rewind and watch that element again. It’s amazing the little things we can pick up watching with our writer’s eye.

4. People Watch
Pack up your writing gear and head out to a public place, coffee shop, park, library, the mall. People watching can be very entertaining and educational for writers. What better way to study characters in real life. Try some more unusual places to sit and just watch for a while. A train station, find a corner with a stop light and watch people in their cars. Talk about entertainment!

5. Listen to Music
All music can be inspirational but soundtracks are the best. They’re made to set the tone for a scene. You can find exactly the right tone you need whether it be suspenseful, romantic, action/thriller, or saddened. Playing this while writing can help you stay focused on the scene.

6. Old Photos
Pull out some of the old family albums and take a stroll down memory lane. There are so many stories in pictures of any kind. What could be better inspiration that some of your own family tales and traditions.

7. Visit a Museum
Museums are some of my favorite places. There are stories and characters in every exhibit waiting to be told.

8. Writing Prompts
This is one you know, but it bears mentioning because it is tried and true. There are many online sources to grab a writing prompt. A short blurb to start you off or a photo prompt. Some great places to find good prompts are WritersDigest.com, OneWord.com, and PhotoStreet.com.

9. Writing Buddy
You don’t have to write with a partner to have a writing buddy. A writing buddy can be any fellow writer or willing victim friend that will toss ideas back and forth with you. Maybe even pick characters in your book and role-play the scene. Not only with the creative juices start flowing but it’s fun too!

10. Have a Uniform
Specify a special shirt or outfit that is your writing uniform such as a special tee shirt, your favorite bunny slippers, a special hat. When you put it on your brain automatically kicks into writing mode ready to work.


There you have it 10 ways to move the muse. What do you do to get those creative juices flowing? 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Rudiarius

His blade sang as it cut through the air of the arena. The gladiator growled as its edge sank into the
flesh of his target. A soft spray of warm blood spattered his chest and arm as he turned to meet the next opponent.

 He could smell the fear of the Murmillo even though the opponent was the one to advance. His lip curled as he watched his fellow gladiator swing the trident in an effort to intimidate.

He easily stepped back from the sharp points. The trouble with pole arms and using them for their length is the time it takes to reset for the next blow. He took full advantage of the Murmillo’s position and stepped into the fighter as the gladiator’s blade came down upon the wrist holding the trident.

The Murmillo cried out in pain and tried to back away, but the gladiator wasn’t going to give his opponent the chance to get any footing. He grabbed the leather strap of the Murmillo’s arm guard and gathered his strength as he drew his other arm back. He drew in a deep breath of the Murmillio’s sweat and thrust his sword forward.

The Murmillo gasped as the blade sank into his fatted belly and thrust further up into his heart. The gladiator held the Murmillo close as he drove the blade as deep as the man’s body would take it.

The crowd stood on their feet and roared their approval. The gladiator was victorious, he had survived the match, he held back his elation until the Murmillo went limp in his arms.

He lay his fellow warrior upon the sands and said a prayer then stood to raise his sword high the blood glistening as it dripped from the edge. The mob in the stands erupted once more and he let their excitement fill him. The roar of his name echoing through the arena.

All at once the mob quieted and took their seats. The gladiator feared another opponent had been loosed, it was not uncommon. The wealthy in their boxes would often pay for another round if their bloodlust had not yet been satisfied by the games.

He turned and readied for the gate to open. Instead of an armored beast he was greeted with the sight of a senator and his wife.

He watched them still wary. Could it be a trick? Gladiators dressed to fit this part for the mob’s entertainment? No, he remembered the senator.

The senator was his master, his owner. He would come to the ludus and watch him train. He dropped to one knee and lowered his eyes.

It was the senator’s wife that stepped toward him, she rested her hand on his shoulder. The sweet perfume on her skin filled his senses. Her soft fingertips rested on his blood-spattered chin and raised his face to meet hers.

She wore a soft smile, her face glowing with pride. “You have made our house proud, your debts have been paid and it is time for you to walk Rome a freedman.”

He heard the words, but surely, it was some kind of hallucination from the heat and excitement of battle.

The senator stepped forward now and took him by the shoulders raising him to his feet. The woman was as lovely as her scent as she handed her husband a leather pouch. The senator thanked her and offered the pouch to the gladiator.

The mob seemed to understand before he did, they erupted once more. Cheers and chants began through
the arena. The gladiator opened the pouch and pulled the concealed object from it. A rudius. His freedom.

No longer forced to fight, it would be his choice to be Rudiarius. His hands curled around the inscribed wooden sword and prayers of thanks fell from his lips to both his gods and his masters. A new kind of victorious joy filled him as he raised the rudius high for all to see he was free.



Thursday, April 19, 2018

Quitting is never an option for writers

When life gives us lemons, as often it does, don’t be content making lemonade. Throw those sour bastards back and demand chocolate!

Don’t give into the stress and pressures going on that make us say, “I can write later.” Put your boxing gloves on and fight through it. Duck life’s left hook and counter with a powerful uppercut by finishing off that next chapter or blog post. 

Quitting a current project or giving up even temporarily is not an option. When the writing gets tough the writer needs to kick ass. We change goals and pound out pages of words through writer’s block, character frustrations, plot holes, appointments, and real world tasks screaming to be done. Whatever is attempting to hold us back from our story we will fight back.

This week down that pot of coffee, eat the whole bag of peanut butter M&M’s, order take out, or duct tape the kids to the wall. Okay, maybe not that last one, though you have to admit some days it’s tempting. Just don’t lose heart, or give in to that urge to say, "well, I’ll make it next round." There is still plenty of time this round to make our goals. I’m ready, how about you?


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Pocketwatch

I bought a cheap watch from a crazy man, who stood in front of the five and dime with a box full of junk. Trinkets maybe, from his better days.

I tried to walk by and pretend I didn’t notice him, but something made me look up. Our eyes met, a shiver coursed down my spine. His eyes held the cold weight of some kind of dark knowledge. I didn’t want to know what he knew, yet I couldn’t turn away. I felt fate’s hand push me toward him.

“Is there something you like, miss?” His voice was older than his grizzled face. The old man tipped the box so I could see the contents closer.

I tried to look away, my eyes turned themselves to the box. I shook my head gently. “No, thank you. I don’t have time, I’m late.”

He reached out and grabbed my hand. “I have just the thing for seeing time.” He pulled a pocket watch from the box. Its age showed on the engraved metal. Rubbed smooth where it had been held and touched most often.

“That’s a lovely watch but….” The moment he placed it into my hand I felt a tingle of energy flow though my hand and up my arm. Suddenly the air around her felt charged, like before lightning strikes.

When I tried to pull my hand from his my fingers brushed the release. The case opened and my eyes fell to the face of the watch. The hands ticked on minutes and hours as the air thickened around me. It seemed like an ordinary thing, just a cheap watch on the outside but there was something else.

I could feel it becoming part of me. I tried to let go of it but my fingers curled tighter around the thing instead. I pulled five dollars from my pocket and placed it in his old withered hand. When I looked into his eyes this time, I saw relief.

I would soon find out what curse he had passed on to me.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

One word in sixty seconds: Gears


She slathered more grease on the actuating arms and a few of the more rusted teeth of the gears.
"I'm not sure this is going to help. This piece of junk has sat far too long without any care."


She closed the cover of the mammoth war machine and stepped back. "Punch it Louis!"

He turned his cap backward and pumped diesel through the veins of this metal creature. When Louis pressed the ignition switch the gears and plates trembled before breaking their bond of rust and years of dirt.The armored suit took one step then another.

She let out a yell and raised her  grease smeared arms in victory.  If they can revive a few more of these beasts, the allies may yet have a chance.

OneWord.com is a website for getting the muse warmed up. Each day you get one word and sixty seconds in which to write what it inspires.This is my entry for today's One Word. What's yours? For more of my past One Word entries, check out my One Word Profile EliseV.
Your turn, 60 seconds. Go!