Advice, Fiction, Motivation, Scene, Tips, Writing

One useless writing tip!

Last month at a critique meeting, I recounted my experience with a writing tip I’d read. Some famous author (I’m bad with names) said that he always ended his writing day in the middle of a sentence. For him, it was a jumpstart into the next day’s writing session. For me, it was sheer frustration.

I sat with my fingers poised on the keyboard for a half-hour trying to recapture the words I had intended to write. “As he ran back toward home, he strained to make out the stairway  … “ Hmmm. I read it again. And again. I knew, of course, this was Jalal running on the beach, and I knew why he was looking for the stairway. But how had I intended to end that particular sentence? And what was the next line meant to be? In the end, I deleted that sentence and “meditated” to re-visualize the scene. Eventually, I saw that Jalal doesn’t see Renee on the stairway because she’s descended to the beach. He doesn’t notice this and runs by her. She calls out, startles him, he turns around. Then, as the whole scene unfolded, I typed away, irritated I had wasted those thirty minutes on a half-finished sentence. Now, no matter what, I not only finish the sentence, I finish the scene before I end my writing day.

Obviously, that author’s writing tip is not useless for him, nor likely for many others, it just didn’t work for me. Have you tried any writing tips that didn’t work for you?

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Advice, Craft, Editing, Fiction, Tips, Writing

Your sentence deserves a good beating!

Do you hear the music in your writing? I’ve finished another round of red-pencil editing on my manuscript and next week I’ll start a read through. This time I’ll be reading aloud and recording it. Yes, I know, novels and short stories aren’t usually read aloud, but the voice in our heads is not really silent as we read. It picks up the rhythm, the music in the writing.

The sentence beats are what I listen for when I read my work aloud. Sometimes, I sense that a line is not working, but don’t know why until I hear it read. Often, the problem is that the sentence has one or two syllables too many or too few—one word—throwing off the rhythm.

Sometimes, it’s not the number of syllables that makes the sentence awkward, but the syntax. In those cases, often just a reordering of words or clauses frees the rhythm.

Another thing to consider is punctuation. Pauses are beats too. Sometimes a comma added here, or removed there provides the sound you’re after. A semi-colon might provide the continuation of flow that pleases your ear. Or possibly the removal of one gives the staccato effect needed in this part of your story.

So, listen for beats as you write because when a sentence trips up the tongue it also dances clumsily on the page.

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