How to Write Short Stories – and Write Them Well

So, a short story was probably what you specialized in when you started writing. What you called a “book,” if you started as young as I did, was probably a ten-page (tops) short story written in huge font. Sound familiar? You might have started with a little more professionalism than I did, so hats off to you.

But I started between the age of four and eight, depending on what you actually consider “writing.” Hmm, I should do a post on the controversial “definition” of writing. ūüôā But now I’m going off on a tangent and we’ve barely started. You can tell what mood I’m in, right??? *stares distractedly out the window with a smile*

Okay, let’s get back to business. *puts hat back on*

What constitutes a short story?

It varies. I mean, I don’t think a definition is actually necessary, but you should know that anything below 1,000 words is considered flash fiction, or a super short story. However, personally, I feel that flash fiction should be defined as something closer to a few hundred words or less. So, the minimum word count for short story falls somewhere in the <1,000 category, and can be up to 10,000 words.

Why are short stories so important in fiction?

Not only are short stories an excellent building block for writing (see my Faithwriters’ short stories), but they are a fabulous tool to provide entertainment, inspiration, amusement, and even, if you’re really skilled, a powerful piece of writing that makes an impact that lasts! It’s a taller order than it sounds. Some people may not have time to read a novel. But anyone can make time to read a short story. See the potential there?

I wish I could share with you all the incredible short stories I’ve read. I can’t, but let me say, they have changed my view of “short” stories.

quote

And, I might add, so can the smallest stories. ūüôā

Don’t you all just love LOTR quotes?

How to Write Them Well

No, not LOTR quotes,¬†short stories.¬†ūüėČ

Okay, so, the only reason I can give you some advice on this, is because I’ve written so many of them. But if you’re really interested in writing short stories, do your research. I can only share the bit that I’ve learned along the way.

Depending on the length of your story, keep extra POVs to a minimum. In all likelihood, your short story is probably only focusing on one person. However, be very careful when including more than one POV. Try to have just one, if at all possible. It should help the story to flow more smoothly.

Stories are powerful. Words can change lives. So work on the flow of every sentence and paragraph, as you write and as you edit. Tightening sentences where you can will often help the story flow. Cut out unnecessary descriptions, but let the reader see the scene that is unfolding.

It is difficult to explain everything that can improve a short work of fiction. Your best bet is to read. Mine aren’t the best examples in the world, but you can check out the stories I’ve written for Faithwriters. If nothing else, you’ll be able to get an idea of a tight story with a message. My short stories page features many of the winning stories. But if you do some exploring on Faithwriters, you’ll find some really incredible winning stories.

First sentences and last sentences also count in short stories, mainly because they are the first and last impressions. But remember, quite often, the real fashioning of a story happens after the writing, during the editing.

So, read. Read a lot. If you want to perfect short stories, you can’t read enough of them. And you can’t write enough of them. My first many stories written for Faithwriters were, um . . . *coughs* embarrassing. But each one improved. And short stories are unique opportunities to inspire! Don’t discredit them because they’re short. Remember Lord of the Rings quotes!

Oh, and, before we go . . . a puppy update. Phoenix is doing awesome. Personality-wise, she’s bull-headed, but very sensitive. The other night, right at midnight, she heard two cats screaming outside, and started barking. Like. Crazy. I jolted awake, fumbled to turn the light on. She might have been noisy, but she was actually really freaked out and scared. So I petted her for a while, then turned off the light, and she went back to sleep. All thoughts of screeching cats forgotten. ūüôā Goodnight, Phoenix!

Your turn. What sort of short stories do you like to write? What is your advice for a newbie looking to start out with short stories? Have you ever had your dog wake you up in the middle of the night? Let’s chat!

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Punctuation Pantry – Friend or Foe: Semicolons and Parentheses

‚ÄúOn matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē¬†Thomas Jefferson

Our second installment of the Punctuation Pantry talks about semicolons and parentheses. This may seem exceedingly dull (and I agree, suspended hyphens were more interesting);  but the fact remains, in this day and age, these two punctuation items need to be discussed. (See what I did there?)

A definition is not needed for parentheses. But you may have noticed that you really don’t see them anymore outside of emails (and blog posts, of course). ūüôā In books, you typically don’t see parentheses. Why?

Based on my observation, they’ve been replaced by dashes. Look at these sentences:

The characters in the movie were three-dimensional (and very entertaining).

Which can be written as,

The characters in the movie were three-dimensional – and very entertaining.

So, the general rule is, parentheses are fine for informal writing. But formal writing tends to avoid them.

SEMICOLONS

Semicolons basically join two independent clauses, which is very helpful in outlining or list-making. But until a couple years ago, I was strongly opposed to using them in formal writing, simply because they were used – heavily – in classics and older literature. They are more sparse in today’s work.

However, that does not mean they have no place in the literature of today. Do your research. But I would recommend not using them quite as frequently as the classics did, simply because they seem to be a little less popular today.

So, recap. Formal writing, avoid parentheses and sprinkle the semicolons. A lot of what I’ve learned about punctuation in writing comes from observing the writing of others. So if you want a stricter definition of what is accepted, do your research.

And NOW! Drum roll . . . I did not want to leave you all today with a few up-to-date pictures of our little Goldendoodle Phoenix. ūüôā She has grown so fast, it’s impossible to believe. She barely fits in my arms. Already! Today, she has her appointment with the vets, so she’s got a car ride to look forward to. She’s okay in the car, but we’ll see how it goes.

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Fast asleep . . .

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THAT FACE!!!

Her potty training is slow, but her training in basic commands is incredible. She’s even learning hand signals. And guess who wakes me up at five every morning? Without fail. That’s her “I’ve got to go to the bathroom” alert.

And good news, the cats are adjusting to her. And she knows she’s not supposed to chase them, but . . . oh, they’re so fast and fluffy¬†she says!

So, what are your favorite uses of the three topics we’ve addressed in the Punctuation Pantry? Do you use semicolons or parentheses? Now, how about Phoenix – cutest puppy EVER? (I know, I’m horribly biased.) Let’s chat!

How to Silence Your Inner Editor – and an Update on Writing with a Chromebook

Now, I normally do not blog on Sundays, but because I’ve gotten a little behind in blogging, I felt today needed to be an exception. So, greetings!

Today we’re going to have two blog posts in one. How fun!

Silencing the Inner Editor

We all have to deal with this. That sneaky little voice that slithers about in our brain and tells us one of two things Р1, that our writing is horrible, or 2, that sentence you just wrote is something a three-year-old would write.

Number One has no place in your brain. Erase it. Number Two, well, it has its place. But that place is NOT while your writing your first draft, and maybe not even your second.

Our Inner Editor can be difficult to silence, in part because some people will believe they need to edit as they go along. MYTH! NO! Do not edit while you’re writing UNLESS it’s your second or third draft and you are rewriting. That said, let me clarify. When you are rewriting, you are, in a sense, editing. So edit the previous draft, don’t edit the one you’re currently writing.

That’s the responsibility of the¬†next¬†draft.

See how vicious that cycle is? Beware of writing too many drafts before you decide enough is good enough.

Anyway,¬†I do have some advice on silencing the Inner Editor, and it’s a technique I discovered during NaNoWriMo last year. I think NaNo has a June or July edition coming up, so if you’re one of the people taking part, this might be just the right time for you to hear this.

SET A DEADLINE

This might seem a little surprising if you’ve never experienced the stress and the relief of a deadline. Stress because it can be, well,¬†stressful,¬†and relief because I’ve found that my Inner Editor can’t rear its head when I know – completely know – that when writing on a deadline, the condition of the draft doesn’t matter much. What matters is the deadline. So, Inner Editor,¬†relax.

Don’t set a random deadline. It should be challenging, but doable. And not too monstrous, unless you have some reliable people alongside to keep you going. ūüôā

Like NaNoWriMo.

Still, I have found that a writing deadline/goal really helps me to focus on the task, NOT on my biased opinion of what poor writing looks like. We authors are the worst judges of our own work, believe me.

 

Writing on my Chromebook

So, on the subject of the Chromebook, some of you may remember I purchased one a couple months ago.¬†It’s awesome. Not just for writing (like this blog post), but also for short Internet searches when I don’t want to fire up the computer.

But . . . one bit of my opinion has changed since I first announced the Chromebook.

I won’t use it for novel writing.

Editing? Yes. Short stories? Absolutely. But novels? No. Why?

Because I’ve used a Alphasmart Neo 2 word processor for so long, I completely adapted to the small, dim screen, and now I find myself incurably distracted by a large, bright screen. So, after juggling with this for a while, I switched back to the Neo. Now everyone’s happy. ūüôā It’s probably completely mental, but, hey, if I can get in the “zone” on a Neo, then on a Neo I shall write.

Isn’t that profound? ūüėČ

 

And there y’all have it! But let’s chat. Have you used a simple word processor or a Chromebook? What are your techniques for silencing¬†your¬†inner editor? Let’s talk in the comments!

Punctuation Pantry – How to Use Suspended Hyphens

Welcome! We’re starting something new today. An ongoing series entitled “Punctuation Pantry,” because amid all the excitement with crafting characters, creating unbeatable plot twists, or finding a way to kill cliches like nobody’s business . . . well, all that would fall pretty flat without proper punctuation, wouldn’t it? *tries to ignore various snores among audience*

Hey, it’ll be fun, I promise!

And you might be pleased to know I’m not starting with something boring like commas. Nope. I’m introducing – you may or may not have heard of these handy little things already – drumroll, please . . .

Suspended hyphens.

These things are so useful. Everyone needs to know about them. Ironically, I did not learn about their usage from a grammar book – nobody ever talked about them. I picked up on them from reading novels, and compared their usage so I could guess as to the proper placement. Then I asked an English professor who also happens to be our neighbor. ūüôā

So, have you ever seen this:

We strolled across the black- and white-checkered floor of the restaurant.

The italicized phrase black- and white-checkered floor employs the suspended hyphen. Note this sentence:

The two- or three-sentence riddles were vastly entertaining.

Two- or three-sentence riddles¬†also recruits the suspended hyphen. What is it? Basically, you use it to bridge the gap between two adjectives that describe the same noun if a conjunction (like¬†or¬†or¬†and) comes between the adjectives. So, if you just wrote¬†two-line riddles,¬†you obviously wouldn’t need the suspended hyphen, just a regular one. However, if you wanted to add an adjective,¬†and still keep the conjunction in between,¬†a second hyphenated word would be in place, with a space between the hyphen and the conjunction.

If this is confusing, I have more examples to follow. However, please realize, you can rework the structure of most sentences to get rid of suspended hyphens. But don’t do so too eagerly. They are extremely useful.¬†The suspended hyphen actually makes your writing clearer to the reader, in my opinion.¬†It harnesses those adjectives and makes it clearer what they are describing. For a more thorough definition, I recommend you check out Wikipedia’s explanation.

Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century technology was limited during those times.

The gray- and blue-scaled snake stole away into the grass.

It took only a one- or two-minute speech to capture the people’s attention.

These are all examples of suspended hyphens. You’ve likely seen them while reading, but if you didn’t know their usage before, I hope you can understand it now. There are other, clearer explanations elsewhere, I’m sure.

Let’s chat!¬†Have you ever used suspended hyphens? What do you think of them? And what other forms of punctuation would you like to see highlighted in our Punctuation Pantry series?

Does Your MC Have a Soul? – and some character-crafting advice

If you have spent any time at all researching the art of writing, or, for that matter, if you’ve spent time actually writing, you’re probably aware of what might, arguably, be the single most important factor in the crafting of your story. Simply, it’s called¬†character development¬†or¬†character arcs,¬†but we’re delving a little deeper than that.

Does your MC have a soul?¬†It might sound like a funny question, but it essentially refers to the bend-ability of your characters. Or, their ability to grow and change, for better or worse, and thus engage your reader’s heart and attention. If your characters do not engage the reader, your story is very likely . . . drowning.

A while back, I read a novel that was very much based on the typical plot line of “time travel brings the prophesied hero into a world that they are destined to save.” You know that kind of story. And there’s nothing wrong with that kind of story, aside from its cliche-ness. However, because the plot of that book relied so heavily on a used-and-abused cliche, it did not feel to me as the reader to be a very well developed story.

But then there were the characters. And those characters were so well-developed and had so much room to grow Рin other words, they had souls РI kept reading and ultimately enjoyed the story. Because of the characters.

Then there are the stories with plots and worldbuilding so thorough and well thought-out we are blown away. But many times, if those stories do not have believable characters, they cannot really stand up to the stories that do.

However, please note that you may write a very believable, real MC, with an excellent arc,¬†that a particular reader can’t relate to.¬†Thus, they may not enjoy the story as much as they could. I’ve read books like that – but just because¬†I¬†can’t relate to the protagonist, doesn’t mean it isn’t a character with a soul.

1. GIVE YOUR PROTAGONIST FAULTS

Let him/her make mistakes. This is one of the easiest first steps in reaching the reader. If your MC is “perfect,” well, who can relate to that? Yes, of course, you can make your character a hero in his own way, but a hero without fault is unlikely to inspire the avid reader or garner their support. And besides that, I think even the author will find that a hero¬†with¬†his own weaknesses or misled beliefs or shadowed past is much more interesting to write. ūüôā

2. DON’T LET YOUR ANTAGONIST BE STAGNANT

This is far trickier, it doesn’t work for every story, and honestly, I don’t recommend you tackle this until you’ve reached a certain level of confidence in your writing, especially the writing of your protagonist. That said, there may come a time when you’re ready to do more with the antagonist.

Be creative. Ask questions. Was he/she always evil? What carried him/her down that path? Make your antagonist someone we might even be able to feel a little story for. An example, at least for me, would be the antagonist Shinzon in the movie Star Trek: Nemesis. Without going into too much detail, let me just say that he was not only given a unique launch point Рhe was more or less a clone of our protagonist who took a different road in life Рand because of the things that encouraged him to make the choices he did in his life, it is easy to come to feel sorry for him, making that character an excellent antagonist.

To clarify, that antagonist just went from someone we cheer against to someone we want to see become a better person. And that is good writing.

ūüôā

There are many more points I could talk about here, but I’ve run out of time. So let’s chat.¬†Who is your favorite antagonist/protagonist? What do you do in your writing to give your characters a soul?

How to Choose the Best POV For Your Story

Here it is Рthe follow-up on my last POV post.  I brushed over this topic in that post, but I felt I should go into more detail about the actual process of selecting which POV is best for your story.

First, there are questions to ask yourself.

HOW MANY CHARACTERS DO YOU NEED TO COVER?

This is one of the most important factors in deciding the POV fate of your book, and in some cases, it may be the only question you ask.

If your story centers around one character and that character essentially carries the whole story,¬†consider first-person POV.¬†Because it will enable you to come across with a depth of emotion and voice you may or may not achieve in third person. In my writing, I prefer first person over any other POV, simply because I do not write as well in third. In this POV, I can get deep into my character’s head and convey that character much more clearly than I can otherwise, and clarity is critical in writing.

An example from one of my WIPs is Ashes Remain. I finished the first draft of this story in first person/present tense. This story contains many characters, but it is told solely from the perspective of a teenage girl, Wren, because I found her to be a strong enough protagonist to carry the story.

However, if you have many important¬†characters, several different main or secondary people who will carry the story, your best choice is likely third-person multiple. Keep in mind, you don’t want to enter¬†too many¬†characters’ heads in the course of one book. Keep it to as few as you can manage and still tell the story.

Another WIP example is my back-burner book, One Light Shining. This is written in third-person multiple so I can allow several different main characters to carry the story throughout.

WHAT VOICE ARE YOU SPEAKING THROUGH?

This is another important question. If you’re telling the story of a young woman living through WW1, you may, in fact, find third-person limited or first person to be your best options, simply because, in a story like this, you are probably trying to portray the emotion of the time, and remaining in one character’s head throughout is a possible way to accomplish this. That said, if you have two crucial MCs, the girl waiting at home and her brother (or father, or fiance) on the battlefield, obviously first person – unless you use first-person multiple – is not going to work.

Your story/character voice is another deciding factor in what POV you will use.

WHAT POV DO YOU LIKE BEST?

This is actually a more important question than it seems. Whatever POV you are most comfortable writing in, that’s probably what you’ll write the best. You may or may not be able to make the rest of your story conform to your preference.¬†Keep in mind, you may simply need to stretch your abilities in writing, but this is a good start-up question to ask yourself.

 

There are so many ways to choose the best POV for your story, but asking these questions can get you started.

What POVs do you like the best in books you’ve read? First? Third? How about second?? Let’s chat!

The POV Battle – and Choosing the Right One for Your Story

If you have been a writer and reader for any length of time, you’re probably aware of the major debate among authors regarding POVs. There are so many of them. Some work better for one story, some work better for one author. So let’s lay out the facts today. Because, really, there’s no right answer.

THIRD PERSON – MULTIPLE

This POV is fairly straightforward but can be a learning curve. Simply put, it is the third-person POV in which you can only see through one character’s eyes in any given scene. You can switch around between characters,¬†but not in the same scene.¬†Use a clear scene divider on the page, or just switch characters at the end of the chapter.

PROS:

Good for suspense-building.

Fairly simple to understand.

CONS:

Limiting for the author with a bunch of important characters (see the warning below).

Can be difficult to write if you’re totally new to it.

WARNINGS:

Don’t put your readers in the head of too many characters, especially secondary characters, in one book. Stick to your most important characters and build the story off of them.

THIRD PERSON – OMNISCIENT

As the name suggests, this POV refers to the books like Frank Peretti’s and the classics, in which you can be in any number of characters’ heads at any time in any scene. It may sound super easy, but it’s not. To write it well, and I mean really well, as it should be, you’ve got to be an experienced reader and probably a pretty prolific writer, too. I can’t explain it fully – read the classics, you’ll know what I mean.

PROS:

Encompasses many characters without the need for scene or chapter breaks.

May work well for a book with a good many characters.

CONS:

Difficult to write well.

Not as popular anymore, especially among young adults.

WARNINGS:

Don’t try to write this until you really know what you’re doing!

THIRD PERSON – LIMITED

This is the POV I have no experience with. From what I’ve learned, it encompasses only one character’s thoughts through the entire book. I once read a book I thought was written this way, until the end, when I realized it was omniscient. ūüôā

PROS:

Will come in handy for someone who only wants to write in deep POV with one character, perhaps in a novella or a shorter book.

Excellent for building suspense.

CONS:

Very limiting.

Takes a lot of discipline to write correctly.

WARNINGS:

Know for sure that this is the POV you need before writing it.

FIRST PERSON – LIMITED

The most common type of first person is limited, though some books are now first-person multiple. This, also, is one character for the whole book, but written under the pronoun I instead of he or she.

PROS:

Excellent choice for getting into your character’s head.

A common choice of POV.

CONS:

Somewhat limiting.

Not a popular POV among certain groups of readers.

WARNINGS:

Know that this POV is right for your story before you start writing it.

FIRST PERSON – MULTIPLE

Again, I have almost no experience writing this way. However, this is a reasonable step forward in writing first person, and it is relatively new in regards to popularity.

PROS:

A good way to get into your characters’ heads but still encompass other characters.

A growing trend.

CONS:

Highly unpopular among certain groups of readers.

Can be very difficult to establish different “voices” in different POVs.

WARNINGS:

Make sure you practice with different voices in this POV so that each character is distinct. Don’t use any more characters than you absolutely have to.

FIRST PERSON –¬†PRESENT TENSE

This is one of personal interest that I am including. It is one of my favorite POVs. First person, written in present tense, is a lot harder than it sounds, but I have found it to be one of the best ways I can connect with my characters – because all of a sudden, they feel real.

PROS:

Growing in popularity quickly.

Excellent way to connect with characters for some.

CONS:

Can be difficult to master.

Unpopular in certain groups of readers.

WARNINGS:

This POV does not work for every author, nor for every book.

 

And that is about it. Because I’ve used so many words in this post, I’m splitting it up. Stay tuned, because my next post is going to go into more detail about choosing a POV, and I’m going to have a list of recommended reading for each one!

 

What are/is your favorite POV(s)? Why? What advise could you share with new writers about choosing one for their story? Let’s chat!

How to Overcome the Threat of Cliches in a few Easy Steps

Ah-ha! I know what you’re thinking. My blog post title was cliche. “A few easy steps”? Yes, I know that was cliche, because that’s exactly what we’re talking about today.

First off, let’s just get this out of the way – it’s awful hard to do away with “cliche” in general, and there are times when cliches can actually be used to your great advantage (which we’ll talk about as well). But if you’re writing time travel fantasy, you might find it difficult to get away from the cliche “ancient prophecy” storyline. In fact, let’s start with that one.

WHEN TO DO AWAY WITH SAID CLICHE

Personally, I consider time travel fantasy to be an exceptional sub-genre, one to be used and used thoughtfully. However, C.S. Lewis popularized the trend which has spanned eons Рthe main characters come into your make-believe world via the projection of an ancient prophecy. Who are we to argue with C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia?

This storyline may be .¬†.¬†. how shall I say it .¬†. . cliche.¬†Now, but maybe not then. Which means if you’re writing a time travel fantasy story, consider doing away entirely with the prophecy cliche. However .¬†.¬†.

WHEN TO USE SAID CLICHE

When it defines your story – when, in other words, there wouldn’t¬†be¬†a story without it. Or when it contributes something meaningful and powerful to the plot. Or when you can use it and¬†completely twist it around so it is unique, or otherwise no longer a cliche. Simple. Pretty much.

You can apply this to practically every cliche, except maybe the happily-ever-after one. Seriously, don’t end¬†anything¬†expect a child’s bedtime story with happily-ever-after.

STEP ONE – OVERCOMING ANY CLICHE STORYLINE

  1. Take care to recognize if that cliche is actually a building block for your story, one you can transform so that it is no longer a “cliche” in the strictest sense. In other words, try to reinvent, to some degree, whatever cliche you’re employing.
  2. Be imaginative! If you’re dumping the cliche altogether, it will likely be a difficult feat, especially in fantasy, or a fairy tale retelling. I get that. So you may want to refer to number one right above this. But if you are determined to be rid of that cliche plot twist or setting or character arc or archnemesis, by all means. Now just be patient in your outlining and be imaginative! Think outside the box –¬†wwaayy¬†outside it if you have to.

STEP TWO – OVERCOMING ANY CLICHE SETTING OR ARC

  1. A lot of settings are cliche in fantasy writing. Forests, castles – you know the ropes. So consider placing your story in a different setting than the commonly appreciated ones. Maybe your main characters are nomadic? Live under the ground? Under the sea? Maybe they’re people the size of ladybugs. How would that affect your story? Tricia Mingerink placed her story in the Blades of Acktar Series on the open prairie.
  2. Be aware of what character arcs you’re using. There is a lot of flexibility here – I mean, a good character arc is a good character arc, cliche or not. So if you’re using a cliche character arc to achieve character development, maybe change the way your character gets there. Jane Maree wrote a fantastic post on torturing your characters that you should find helpful in this.

But that is just about all I can say on the subject. How often you can do away with cliches – we’re more dependent on them than we realize – will only be identified through careful examination of your story. Let me know how it goes! What are your thoughts on this subject?¬†Let’s chat in the comments!

When Villains Win – and the art of writing it.

Because villains¬†do win. Now and again. And a crucial part of writing is to know when it’s time for the villain to win – if only for the sake of the plot, character development, etc. – and how to write that in a way that leaves the reader hopeful for tomorrow.

I’ve read books in which the villain wins and the reader is¬†not¬†left with hope for what’s next. Maybe I’m just not experienced enough in writing to know that that can be a good thing – can it? – but I know that, when I read and the villain wins, I want to be left with a sense of hope that the protagonist and the other characters we’ve come to love are down but not out.

Of course, there are brief instances where you have to leave things very open-ended and not wrapped up, whether at the end of the book or the end of a chapter, and by all means, do it. But if the victory of the villain is a longer lasting occurrence with more serious repercussions, remember, my dear writer, we readers want to grasp on to hope.

TRUE OR FALSE – TO CONVEY HOPE TO THE READER, LEAVE A POSSIBLE ESCAPE ROUTE OPEN TO THE CHARACTERS.

If you haven’t guessed already, that’s generally false, because those “escape routes” are generally false the first time. Take a little time in this case to develop a wild and believable – if¬†wild – escape route.

TRUE OR FALSE – THERE SHOULD ALWAYS BE A QUICK ESCAPE FROM THE VILLAIN’S VICTORY.

Nope. Never. Period. False.

A quick escape is usually not going to engage the reader’s attention or sympathies. Build upon the villain’s victory, create a climax, a solid climax. Be patient. Just remember¬†hope.

TRUE OR FALSE – YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONVEY HOPE IN THE VILLAIN’S VICTORY.

Depends on the victory, depends on the villain, depends on the plot, depends on the MC, depends on the MC’s character development . . .¬† Need I go on? You’ll know. Never make a drawn-out victory totally hopeless. Never. But a brief victory? A victory that looks like a victory but really isn’t a victory? There’s room for careful consideration there.

TRUE OR FALSE – THE STORY’S ENDING SHOULD INCLUDE A VILLAIN’S VICTORY IF THE BOOK IS THE FIRST IN A SERIES.

That could be true or false, depending again on the story and where you intend to go in the next book. I’ve found, however, in reading, as you may have as well, that an ending which includes a villain’s victory over the main character or the main character’s mission¬†does¬†make for a pretty good incentive to read book two. (Read Nadine Brandes’ Out of Time Series).

 

I hope this has made some sense. Essentially, hope is an important tool when you’re crafting a piece of the story in which the villain gets his/her way. But there is a balance to be maintained, and you may want to be wary of just how far you tip the see-saw one way or the other. Remember, a victory may just¬†look¬†like a victory to your main characters and your readers. Maybe it isn’t quite as big of an enemy victory as they feared. (Read Richard Paul Evan’s Michael Vey Series).

Opinions, people? Let’s hear them! Let me know how you have accomplished this in your writing. Have you books that tipped the see-saw balance upside down or books that mastered it?¬† Let’s chat!

My Top Preferred Methods of Writing

I’ve been meaning to write this post for the longest time. Alas! Life intervened. But here it is. And I want to hear your writing method opinions at the end of this post!

So, methods of writing. People write in a notebook, people write on the computer, people write on word processors . . . people even write on clay tablets. Or, did I miss a few centuries there? What, you don’t write on clay tablets anymore?

I have just two basic methods of writing and two of editing. So here goes.

WRITING – 1. WORD PROCESSOR

No, not a typewriter. Not the ancient computers. Just a simple, easy-to-use system called the Neo 2 Alphasmart.

The Alphasmart is really basic, but it has most of the critical features, like a Thesaurus and spell check and word count. I’ve owned two. The second failed on me early on, deleting roughly fifty-thousand words. That stung. The first Neo is the Neo I still have. Works every time. Super reliable. Easy to type on. WAY easier than our computer keyboard. Not as easy as a laptop keyboard.

Another feature of the Neo 2 Alphasmart is ease of downloading. Plug it in, press send. Twenty-five pages take about forty, forty-five minutes to download to the computer, but you don’t have to touch it the entire time. The Neo has the storage space for eight files, with each one containing roughly twenty-five pages, or eight to nine thousand words.

And it’s portable. Really portable. That’s nice, too.

WRITING – 2. NOTEBOOK AND PEN

Please note, this is only for outlining. I never write a scene or a chapter or a book in a notebook. That said, I seldom type an outline. A notebook is such a beloved addition to a writing desk, though, isn’t it? What’s a writer without a notebook?

(A notebook-less writer, of course!)

Anyway,¬†I’ve found some simple lined pages to be invaluable in the outlining process. You can cross out, tear it out, burn it (don’t recommend that), and oftentimes get a really solid foundation for your story.

Then there’s the pen. Not just any pen will do. It must be the perfect fit, with perfect comfortability. Ya know what I’m sayin’? Show of hands for all the¬†planners¬†in the audience who know exactly what I’m talking about? ‘Cause I could go on about the perfect writing space, too.

EDITING – 1. COMPUTER

I don’t like to type much on the computer, given the scientific basis for it impeding good health. But when it comes to editing and revising, if I’m not actually rewriting, and I am just working on new paragraphs, fixing errors, etc., then I like the computer screen. It is, of course, several times bigger than the Neo’s screen, which is my one complaint about the Neo. But you do get used to that.

EDITING – 2. HARDCOPY

There’s nothing better for editing than picking up that book and its beloved pages, and then picking up your red pen, and then . .¬†. death to grammatical¬†errors and embarrassing mistakes.

This is a valuable tool in the preliminary editing. You’re able to hold the book in your hands, and thus see it in a whole different light. This helps immensely with proofreading as well. Don’t overestimate what you can pick out on a computer screen.

That’s it. Methods of writing and editing. Super basic options here, but I know everyone has a different approach that works best for them. So what is yours? What do you find most helpful when fashioning your manuscript?

Let’s chat!