Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Conference Catch-up, Congrats, and Craft Notes! (Yay for C's!)

The conference was SO fantastic!! :)  

I hate that we missed so many of you that I know would have wanted to be there. But it was super fun finding loyal ScribbleChick readers LAURIE TOMLINSON and CJOY and getting pics and a bit of time to chat inbetween all the chaos. Try to come next year guys - 2014 will be in St. Louis, Missouri.

Special shout out to Laurie for winning her category in the Genesis! Woohoo!! I had to throw that out there, but here in a few days we're going to do a big feature of her and her award. We're so proud of her! (and guys, this could be YOU next year! Don't give up. Laurie is proof.)

I'm going to share quickly today a few notes from Brandilyn Collin's (suspense author) class I attended on Writing Tight and Sentence Structure. She took first-pages submissions from volunteers before the conference, and well, basically ripped them apart. lol Not a full edit for content or grammar or punctuation or any of those things, but strictly on the basis of going after extra words and rhythm in the writing.

This is something that takes a lot of work to master. But it's so effective and will give your writing a quality that rises high above the others on the editor/agent's desk you are pursuing, so listen up and practice these tips, okay guys?

I wish I could share the examples she gave of her actual edits, but the bottom line to remember, is sentence rhyhtm. We all understand pacing by now, hopefully. Rhythm is the feel of your sentence with the goal being to make the reader FEEL what your character FEELS.

For example, from Brandilyn's class, she used a story from a historical manuscript, where a mom and boy were going on a picnic. The woman is taking in the day as they walk, thinking of all the fun they're going to have, hearing and seeing the details of the woods and beauty around her. Those sentences are longer and flowing and descriptive. Then the mom hears a noise ahead in the woods. After Brandilyn got through with the structure rearrangement, you could FEEL the change the character felt (peace to panic) immediately simply through the sentence structure/order.

The author hadn't changed the structure, and the sentences were still like they were before. A little telling, and rambling (not in a wrong kind of way but not in a way that fit the sudden sense of story mood)

For a change like that, from peace to panic, from serenity to suspense, you have to think short, choppy, fragments like you would in your own head if you were suddenly faced with something scary. You're walking along, la la la, and then hear a noise or a gunshot in a deserted wood, when you're alone with your child, and you're going to stop. Your heart is going to pound and adrenaline will flow and you won't be thinking as clearly and detailed as you were before.

Instead of: (this is me paraphrasing my own version)

Then a noise sounded in the woods in ahead. What was it? They hadn't seen anyone come by, and this was the only trail that led to the picnic area. What could possibly be making that noise? Another noise followed by a groan made Sarah's heart pound in her chest. She moved in front of her son. "Stay back, Toby." Then she felt in her pocket for her gun that she always carried ever since Old Man Peters had that issue with the coyote in his yard.

Try this:

Suddenly, a noise ahead.

Her heart thudded and she grabbed for her son's arm. "Stay back." Where was her gun?

There. Front pocket.

She gripped it in both hands, moving in front of David. The silence roared in her ears, until broken by a gunshot and a groan. She clenched the gun tighter.

------

Okay, see how the short sentences, the choppiness, the broken up pacing, and the use of strong words like "thudded, grabbed, gripped, clenched" lend a totally different feel than the first example?

(Brandilyn did this sooooo much better but I hope you guys get the gist)

You feel the shift in atmosphere in the second example, don't you? The panic, the "oh no". The first example is too flowing and long and thoughtful. This really goes back to POV (ponit of view) as well because you have to remember to not overexplain to your reader, but rather stay true to what the POV character is actually going through/feeling/experiencing in that scene. You can explain later.  :)

Brandilyn also reminded us as writers to always keep the order of events straight in regards to action/reaction. Never phrase your sentence where the reaction happens in front of the action.

Conference classses are available for purchase at www.acfw.com if you'd like, as well. :)

6 comments:

  1. Awesome. I wish I'd gone to that class! Great example, by the way. :)
    And it was great fun meeting you and Sarah! I'm sorry I didn't get to meet Laurie, though.

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  2. Thank you, Betsy! Sending you an email!

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  3. I did have one thing I wanted to ask. Is it just me or do so many authors seem so similar? As if everyone is being put in a box of rules and now there are fewer variations on style? It is just something I've been noticing and wondering about. Any thoughts?

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  4. Alicia, I think that depends on a lot of factors. I'd say yes and no. It can easily happen within authors in the same house in the same genre...but most publishers I've come across don't have a lot of rules at all. My Love Inspired novels require a little bit more consistency and rules than other houses, but my experiences with my two other publishers wasn't like that at all (and I don't even find the LI novels to be too constricting once you realize what they're looking for and want to write for that market. It's not for everybody! But they do so well so I've enjoyed my time there).

    Can you be more specific in what you mean? Are you talking about plot lines or the author's voice or what? :) This is a great discussion!

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    1. Well, I noticed most historical fiction authors describe everything the same way. The factors of emotion and dialogue are all very similar. Some of it seems "stiff", as if the rules are always in the back of the author's mind. You can almost expect what is going to happen because of the overall voice. Does that make sense? Basically, I am trying to incorporate your advice about writing with a modern feel with still trying to be distinct. :)

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  5. I think I know what you mean. Maybe the historical writers feel more limited because of the time period and staying true to the setting? And not being able to use certain phrases or expressions that weren't invented yet? I could imagine that could get super tricky. I don't write historical though so I'm not entirely sure. Anyone else want to chime in here?

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