Finally Finished That Novel by Dellani Oakes

So, you’ve finished that 460 novel. You sit proudly and pat the cover page tenderly, smoothing the white surface when much to your horror, you see a mistake! Cold sweat breaks out on your brow, fingers tremble, mouth suddenly goes dry. As your eye wanders down the page, more and more errors jump out at you! Fear grips your heart as you stumble from the desk, desperate for a calming cool drink. It’s a nightmare, but you can’t wake up. It’s real. Your brainchild, the fruit of your creative efforts, is flawed and it’s up to you to fix it.

This is a scenario each of us faces. Sometimes it’s as minor as a misplaced comma or a dangling modifier. Other times an entire scene, or even half the novel is so bad it has to be scraped and retooled. I started an historical novel about ten years ago, set it aside since it wasn’t going anywhere, picked it up a few years later and realized the reason it hadn’t gone anywhere was that it was garbage! No other word for it. After careful review, I threw away all but ten handwritten pages. Of those ten pages, perhaps parts of seven survive in the retooled version.

Several things were problematic that I didn’t realize until much later. First, and most important, the point of view and style were all wrong. Set in St. Augustine in the Florida territory in the late 1700s, it was told in first person by a young Spanish woman. I had chosen to do it like a diary (not really sure why) and it was far too limiting to my story.

Second, after doing some more research, I found that the time period would have to be moved from the 1780s to 1739 or I could not incorporate certain facets of the novel. It would have been grossly inaccurate.

Third, and most difficult, the man I had intended to be the bad guy simply wasn’t working. No matter what I did, even in the retooled version, he wouldn’t be villainous. The heroine refused to fall in love with anyone else. Even the good guy couldn’t be relied upon to behave. He became the villain, the villain became the hero, the heroine didn’t succumb to another man’s charms, and they all lived happily ever after. (Except for the villain, because he, of course, was dead.)

It got terribly out of hand. After lots of time and effort reading and re-reading, honing, changing, and fine tuning, it is a really solid piece of literature that I am proud to put my name on. A few years ago, when I started re-writing it, I wouldn’t have given ten cents for it. It was the catalyst that started me writing in earnest and made me realize I had stories inside me to tell. None of the rest are historical in nature because with that novel I learned something else important. You can’t do too much research if you want to be historically accurate. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d rather spend my time bleeding profusely from multiple wounds that tracking down that evasive, all important fact.

Sci-fi is far easier for me to write. Once I have a believable setting, the rest is easy. Don’t ignore the laws of science, throw in some really good fight scenes, add a few interesting aliens and voila! Creating my own world is far easier than working within the confines of someone elses, but that old adage “write what you know,” is nonsense. What I know is boring! Who wants to know about raising kids, doing endless errands, making phone calls and taking out the garbage? No one.

Writing is the ultimate escapism. For that short span of time, things work out; the hero and heroine fall in love and live happily ever after. The bad guy gets his just desserts, the good guy wins, and there is always a happy ending. It’s far more interesting than washing the dirty dishes, cooking dinner or sorting laundry.

But I digress. Despite the thrill of putting words on paper, the hard part is making sure that everything is right. We can live with the small stuff like ending a sentence with a preposition. Frankly, it sounds odd if it’s correct. However, misplaced modifiers, sentence fragments and subject – verb agreement are very important. Even if a writer can’t name the errors, wrong is wrong.

One solution is to read and re-read your own work, honing and perfecting it. It’s easy to miss simple errors that way. Sometimes running off a hard copy helps, but it’s still difficult to catch it all. Better yet, get people who are gifted in grammar to help you. They might not be able to name the error, but they can spot one and can offer suggestions on how to correct it. If you can afford it, have an editor review it. Few of us can, so it’s up to us to read and re-read our own work until it is smooth and as error free as it can possibly be.

For goodness sake, don’t rely on the grammar check in Word! It’s garbage and will cause for more problems than it solves. I don’t care if it’s the primary word processing program used world wide, the grammar check is terrible. Spell check, on the other hand, is a godsend, but won’t help you if you simply type in the wrong word. I once finished typing out a test for my 11th grade class only to find that I had one very important little word wrong and the spell check hadn’t caught it. Instead of saying, “What is the theme of this story?” I had, “Shat is the theme of this story?” (For those of you who don’t know, that’s the past tense of the verb ‘to shit’. — 11th graders knew that!)

There is no easy way to get through the editing process. It is tedious and time consuming, but if it makes the difference between selling a book and having it gather dust, it’s well worth it.

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Writing Tips from Four Famous Authors by B.Y. Rogers

A few minutes ago, not more than twenty, I was checking my Twitter messages and one of the tweets caught my eye. I clicked on it (imagine that!) and it led me to the Facebook page of Reno Pete. I scrolled down the page and noticed a link to a blog called Brain Pickings. I have run across this blog once before but this particular link made me stop so I clicked on it. It brought me to a post concerning writing tips. The blog offered writing tips from Kurt Vonnegut with links to more tips by David Ogilvy, Henry Miller, and John Steinbeck.  I quickly opened the links and copied them into my Evernote file. I then went to bed but my mind was racing and I knew I would not fall to sleep until I read these tips carefully.

I do not know what to make of them. Some are obvious, some I need to think about. In any case, I think each of the tips are valuable to authors who, like me, are still perfecting their craft (are we ever finished?).  So here they are. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. I have not attributed them as I should, but the link to the original blog is above. If you want to know who said what, please click on that link. There is another link to even more writing tips, in the Kurt Vonnegut blog post, but as they are mostly business related and not fiction writing, I did not provide the link here.

My favorite tips are in bold.

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Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.

If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.

Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.

If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

Write the way you talk. Naturally.

Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

Start as close to the end as possible.

Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Work on one thing at a time.

Don’t be nervous. Work Calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is at hand.

Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time.

When you can’t create, you can’t work.

Cement a little every day rather then add new fertilizers.

Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.

Don’t be a draught horse! Work with pleasure only.

Discard the Program when you feel like it. But go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.

Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.

Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

Beating the Block by Dellani Oakes

Writer’s Block – these ominous words send shivers down the spine of any writer. Insidious, it strikes with no warning, clogging the brain, paralyzing fingers, bringing grown writers to their knees. There are many types of writer’s block, each with its own pernicious characteristics. Below, I have listed those which plague me the most often.

1) Mid-Line Crisis: This is less destructive than its brothers, but still annoying. This is the unfinished sentence, incomplete thought or dialogue left hanging. The tortured …. of the soul. Though frustrating, it is not insurmountable. Usually a little brainstorming, trial and error and copious use of the delete button get me past this tiresome creature.

2) Ex Thesaurus: Also known as “What Word”? This usually runs with mid-line crisis and is fairly easy to circumvent. A visit to Thesaurus.com or a quick flip through the desk copy of Roget’s can pull a writer past this hurdle.

3) Post Climactic Stress: Or “Where Do I Go From Here?” The hero has saved the day, villains vanquished, lovers unite, children dance around May Poles – celebration time! All right, where does the story go now? It’s not over, but it needs to be soon. However, these pesky little loose ends suddenly electrify, screaming “Solve Me!” What to do?

Falling action after the climax isn’t always easy. The one question a writer fails to answer is the one readers will point to and say, “Hey! What about this?” To avoid the lynch mob, sometimes it’s better to eliminate a secondary thread unless it’s absolutely necessary to the plot. Otherwise, it’s a trip to blockage category # 4.

4) The Never Ending Story: As much as we might want our book never to end, it must. Sometimes though, we can’t seem to find a stopping place. The book goes on forever, until we get fed up and stop writing, or force an ending.

I have one book that is 873 double spaced, typed pages. Not only can I not find an end point, I can’t even read all the way through it without getting lost. The problem is too many sub-plots. (Hearken back to Post Climactic Stress.) Everything needs resolution, making the book go on forever. It will require a might re-write or splitting into multiple books.

None of these minor blocks are as frustrating as the fifth category. It really needs no introduction because even the most prolific writers have, at one time or another, suffered from it.

5) The Full Monty: Like its name implies, this is full blown, frontal exposure writer’s block. Insurmountable, uncompromising, frustrating, infuriating, aggravating, annoying, constipating….

There are no words at our disposal formidable enough to fully describe this condition.

Any writer who has never experienced Full Monty Writer’s Block obviously hasn’t written long enough. Suddenly, out of nowhere, completely by surprise it strikes! I equate it with being hit by a Volvo station wagon at 90 mph. Maybe an Escalade?

In any case, WHAM! In the face, hard core, heavy metal writer’s block. There’s no way to avoid it. Once in awhile the Muse takes a coffee break and so must we. As frustrating as they are, embrace these blocks. They force us to leave the security and sanctity of our homes and participate in life for awhile. Use this time to observe others or engage them in conversation. Each encounter gives us a little more grist for our imagination mill.

What’s In A Character by Karen Vaughan

Developing a character people will love or love to hate~
My character Laura in my series can be said to have “balls” but she has a tender side towards people who become important to her and will kick the butt of any bad-ass who gets in the way.  Laura had an average childhood as a tomboy in her family much to her mothers chagrin.  There is tension between mother and daughter as Mrs. Hamilton hated her singularity after her divorce and the fact that she lives in a less than upstanding neighborhood.   Laura doesn’t take much guff from mom but shows up for dinner on Sundays.
Laura’s first marriage was less than stellar. Even though she married her high-school sweetheart, Lou the wheels fell off after a miscarriage and then she found out he was gay when he advertised this publically.
This is all backstory but it gives a character a three-dimensional look and the reader will have empathy and are more apt to root for the protagonist in matters of the heart and ass-kicking.
Give your characters either good or bad a sense of humor. The wise crackers make great protagonists or villains and breaks tension in a suspenseful situation.
I have given some of my villains some redeemable qualities as well so they’re not totally hateful. But when they’re bad; they’re very bad and it works.
TINY TODD CRAWFORD IN DEAD ON ARRIVAL was a little person embroiled in criminal activity but had a soft spot for Laura. Unfortunately taking her and the decoy cop hostage was not a great way to win her heart.
LEENA DUBOIS-BROWN/JULIE WRIGHT IN OVER HER DEAD BODY –is the daughter of a wealthy gangster and is used to getting what she wants and that includes knocking off the competition to her elderly husbands heart and bank account.
KILLER T. FORD MY UP AND COMING DAYTONA DEAD is a egomaniacal NASCAR racer with a bad case of road rage—fellow racers call him a whining prima Dona but don’t piss him off.
DAVE MEECHAM IS A LESSER VILLAIN THE SAME BOOK AS FORD—He unlike Ford has a few redeeming qualities which are revealed in a huge epiphany thus making him a not-so bad ass.
Every character needs a straight man—Laura’s is her fiancé Gerry or the homicide detective Gibbons –they ground Laura when she gets herself in a pickle. They are the ones she feeds off and turns to when things get tense.

Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter 5, Dialogue Mechanics by B.Y. Rogers

I am positively giddy about this post. The next chapter in Self Editing for Fiction Writers is precisely what Matt Stover preached to me over two years ago and since then, I have had more than a few conversations about these principles, most result with negative results.  But I have held my ground on and will continue to do so. What follows is so important so if you want to learn to write, again, I beg you, get this book.

Again, my comments will be in parenthesis (and there will probably be many of them).

Chapter 5  Dialogue Mechanics

What is the first thing acquisition editors look for when they begin reading fiction submission? (Not going to tell you!)

Because it is such hard work, generations of writers have developed mechanical tricks to save them the trouble of writing dialogue that effectively conveys character and emotion…Not surprisingly, these are tricks to avoid if you want to you want your dialogue to read like the work of a professional instead of an amateur or a hack.  (My graphic artist suggested I take a look at writing.com, which I mentioned in my previous post. I looked at two short stories that were submitted for comments on that site. One was so terrible when it came to dialogue that I could not finish reading it. It was too painful. I suggested to both authors to get this book. They need it desperately!)

Imagine you are at a play. It’s the middle of the first act. You are really involved in the drama. Suddenly the playwright runs out on the stage and yells, “Do you see what is happening here? Do you see how her coldness is behind his infidelity?” (Great metaphor)

If your dialogue isn’t written well, if it needs the explanation to convey the emotion-then the explanation really won’t help. (AMEN!)

It’s showing and telling applied to dialogue.

Perhaps it’s a lack of confidence on the writer’s part, perhaps it’s simple laziness, or perhaps it’s a misguided attempt to break up the monotony of using the unadorned said all the time, but all too many fiction writers tend to pepper their dialogue with -ly’s. Which is a good reason to cut virtually one you write. Ly adverbs almost always catch the writer in the act of attributions that belong in the dialogue itself.

(Rennie Browne and Dave King make a reference to “Tom Swifties” , which made me laugh. What got me seriously interested in reading when I was in the 6th grade was the Tom Swift series, by Victor Appleton II. Ah, the memories!)

Don’t make speaker attributions as a way to slip in explanations to your dialogue (“he growled,” “she snapped”)

To use verbs like these last three for speaker attributions is to brand yourself as an amateur.

Verbs other than said tend to draw attention away from the dialogue.

Said, on the other hand, isn’t even read the way other verbs are read. It is, and should be, an almost purely mechanical device, more like a punctuation mark than a verb.  (BINGO! Think about this. When you read dialogue, do you really pay attention to the word said? We don’t, at least I do not, unless the author adds an attribution, which then makes me pause. Should not the speaker’s words in the dialogue tell me if the character is angry, sad, happy, clueless? If the writer builds the character correctly and develops the scene correctly, I will already know if the speaker is angry or not.)

(Here is something I did not know.) Decide how you are going to refer to a character and stick with it for at least the length of the scene. Don’t use “Hubert said,” on one page, “Mr. Winchester said,” on the next and “the old man said,” on the third. If you do, your reader will have to stop reading long enough to figure out that the old man is Hubert Winchester.

(Purchase the book and learn what “beats” are.)

If it’s clear from the dialogue who is speaking-you can dispense with speaker attributions altogether. (Again, build your characters correctly!)

(Learn the difference between dashes and ellipses.)

The truth is, only editors and reviewers really notice these things. (You may not think these principles are important but they will make the difference not only with getting your tome published but how many sales you make.)

“Mr (Robert) Ludlum has other peculiarities. For example, he hates the “he said” locution and avoids it as much as possible. Characters in The Bourne Ultimatum seldom say anything. Instead, they cry, interject, interrupt, muse, state, counter, conclude, mumble, whisper, (Mr. Ludlum is great on whispers), intone, roar, exclaim, fume, explode, mutter. There is one especially unforgettable tautology: “‘I repeat,’ repeated Alex.” The book may sell in the billions, but it is still junk. -Newgate Callendar, The New York Times Book Review

And ACTION! by Karina Gioertz

Thinking about making a book trailer but don’t know where to start? Worry it will be too complicated or cost too much? Guess again! There are wonderfully simple and free programs out there just waiting for you to create your marketing masterpiece!

Personally, I like the site http://animoto.com/ . Not only do they offer several nice templates for free 30 second videos, they also make it super easy for you to get started and begin creating. After choosing the perfect backdrop for your video, you can select music from their extensive musical library. Next, upload your images. Using your own pictures and images is certainly easiest in terms of dealing with copyright issues, however, if you don’t have what you need there are plenty of Websites available offering free open source/public domain images. Remember to include your cover – I like to show it twice, in the opening as well as the end.

The next step is entering in any captions you would like. Generally, I try to choose two or three phrases that sum up my book blurb. Once you have it all just the way you want it, preview the video to make sure everything flows just the way you want it and that the text is on the screen long enough for viewers to read it. Don’t worry about getting it perfect the first time around, you can edit it as often as you like!

Finally, upload the video to YouTube. From there you will able to share it just about anywhere and with anyone. Now hurry up and post it on your Goodreads profile, Facebook, Twitter and website/blog 🙂

Other great sites to submit it to are-

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/submissions/
http://booktrailers.ning.com
http://www.dailymotion.com/ca-en/channels/1
http://www.previewthebook.com/index.php

The Day I Fell Down The Rabbit Hole And Landed In Tweetland by J.P. Lane

The day I fell down the rabbit hole and landed in Tweetland

We all hate the marketing part, right? But we all know it’s a necessary evil. I don’t know what your journey through the labyrinths of social media marketing has been like, or where it has taken you, but mine began with baby steps along the pathways of Facebook. Back then, I didn’t have a clue where to begin. I had very few Facebook friends and had yet to discover the groups I’m in today. While I was stumbling through this yet to be explored territory, I fell down the rabbit hole and landed in Tweetland, a place that can suck you in as sure as Alice got sucked in by Tweedledum and Tweedledee in the woods of Wonderland.

Much has been written about social media marketing and I’ve read a lot of it, including skepticism over its effectiveness. I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, but I will say this: in the past seven months, I’ve downloaded 74 Kindle books by fellow Indie authors. All were promoted on Twitter or Facebook; proof that Twitter and Facebook are good for something.

But let’s forget about Facebook, because Twitter is enough of a discussion for one post. Let’s begin with the fact that, thus far, there’s no measure of return for Twitter. It’s guesswork at best. But based on the 1% – 2% return on direct mail marketing, I’ll hazard a guess that 1% of readers of your genre will buy your book in response to your tweet.

So, one hundred potential readers saw your tweet today and of those, one bought your book. What about tomorrow? And the next day, and the day after that? Faced with the size of the audience needed to sell a lot of books, it seems like becoming a consistent bestseller is completely beyond reach. I hear you arguing that Twitter isn’t the only way. You’re right. It’s not. But Twitter is the great global exchange where all the lines come and go. To quote from the article in Digital Book Today, “With a few exceptions, things that happen on Facebook tend to stay on Facebook. Things that happen on Twitter make things happen everywhere else.”

This means as a marketing tool, Twitter should be taken seriously. I take it seriously and I’m sharing what I’ve learned while hanging out with Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Tweets, Tweeting and Twitterquette:

We’re all guilty of banging out tweets and slapping them on Twitter, but until somebody clicks on the link to your book blurb that you may have spent days writing, your tweet remains the first impression. So it’s worth investing in time to write compelling tweets, bearing in mind a tweet is like a billboard. You have four or five seconds to get your message across – and make it stick. Avoid hashtags if you can. They just get in the way of valuable words. Because they’re links, the eye gravitates towards them first. Look at a tweet with a lot of hashtags and you’ll see what I mean.

Strategize your tweeting. Keep time zones in mind. For example, you don’t want to be tweeting your UK link at an hour when all the UK has gone to bed. If you’re on a tweet team, don’t tweet or schedule other members’ tweets all at the same time. Alternate your tweets and theirs. This will allow people who want to retweet you to find your tweets easily. The same applies to retweeting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to reciprocate a retweet and given up because the person’s last tweet is buried under dozens of retweets.

Sign up with a tweet scheduling service. Many are free and they make life a lot easier by allowing you to repeat your tweets, which Twitter doesn’t. A scheduler also frees up your Twitter time, so the time you would have spent tweeting can be spent interacting with your followers – the key to building relationships that will prove valuable to you.

You can’t build relationships unless you interact with your followers. Thank them for favoriting your tweets, mentioning you or retweeting you. Even chat with them if you’re so inclined. Above all, reciprocate if you’ve been retweeted! To quote a tweet I saw tonight, “If someone has bothered to tweet my book, the least I can do is return the favour. It’s just good manners.” Remember, every time someone retweets you they’ve expanded your audience. If ten people with 2,000 followers each retweet you, they will have expanded your audience by 20,000 and increased your visibility significantly. They’re doing you a big favor.

For those who are wondering how you can possibly keep up with all this without being on Twitter morning, noon and night, there’s a magic button on the top left of your Twitter page. It’s the @Connect button. Click on it and it will show you who’s retweeted you, who’s mentioned you, who’s favorite you – everything concerning your followers’ interactions with you. E-mail notifications don’t tell the whole story, so you can miss a lot if you depend solely on those.

Pay it back and pay it forward. You’ll get a lot more followers, and a lot more support. But selling books isn’t the only reward for living harmoniously with the inhabitants of Tweetland. I’ve connected with some awesome people. What were once just mug shots with names attached to them are now Twitter friends.

“Six Ways in Which Twitter Eclipses Facebook” http://digitalbooktoday.com/2013/01/05/six-ways-in-which-twitter-eclipses-facebook/

Self Editing for Fiction Writers, Introduction and Chapter 1, Show and Tell by B.Y. Rogers

Some time ago, I wrote aboutWriting to Sell” by Scott Meredith and how this book made a difference in how I write. I still think it is a great book. Last week I found another book while reading a blog by David Gaughran. David recommended a book titled “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. As I took a look at the book I figured I might as well see what it had to offer so I purchased it. It arrived Saturday. I read the first chapter today. I wish I would have had this book five years ago. I wish I would have had BOTH of these books five years ago. (For additional insights, check out Dave King’s website here.) As I read today, I decided I would blog about each chapter as I go through the book. I am going to list only the highlights, with a little comment as I go along. My comments will be in parenthesis. I am doing this primarily for my benefit, as this entire blog is primarily for my personal benefit. It’s not like I have 100M followers who are impatiently waiting to discover what I am thinking about tonight. But by blogging on this book, I hope to drill the principles a little deeper into my cranium. So, for the few of you who may accidentally stumble on to this post, here you go. Tonight I will be covering the introduction and the first chapter: Show and Tell. My apologies to Renni Browne and Dave King, who wrote “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. I will be paraphrasing at times, which means I may get something wrong. I hope I got the points you meant for me to get. If not, well you can always leave a comment and point me in the right direction. Or tell me to cease and desist. But I pray you do not.

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Introduction.Writing and editing are two different skills, and even strong writers can make poor editors. A word of warning: because writing and editing are two different skills, they require two different mind-sets. Don’t try to do both at once. The time to edit is not when you’re writing your first draft. But once the first draft is finished…use the principles in this book.Chapter 1  Show and Tell(Most of this chapter Matt Stover taught me in our brief email exchange two years ago. In the past, I have found that when I have tried to explain this concept to others, some just do not seem to understand. Perhaps that is my fault for not communicating properly. This chapter gives some wonderful examples and sage advice.) (after giving two examples of narrative, which I will leave for you to find out for yourself) It’s a matter of showing and telling…The first version is a secondhand report. The second is an immediate scene. What, exactly, makes a scene? For one thing it takes place in real time. Nowadays, literature is leaner and meaner and it’s often a good idea to give your readers just enough detail to jump start their imagination so they can picture the setting for themselves. (I try to do this with my characters as well. I am not too concerned what a person looks like as much as what they do or say. I want my reader to see Uncle Willy when they read about Charley. This brings the reader into the story, making it personal.) Scenes are usually harder to write than narrative. Many writers rely to heavily on narrative summaries to tell their stories. Readers today have become accustomed to seeing a story as a series of immediate scenes. Narrative summary no longer engages readers the way it once did. You want to draw your readers into the world you’ve created, make them feel a part of it, make them forget where they are. And you can’t do this effectively if you tell your readers about your world secondhand. You have to take them there. The first chapter is not the best place for narrative summary. (I learned this from Stephen King’s “The Stand”. From the first word on you are engaged in the story.) One of the easiest ways to look like an amateur is to use mechanics that direct attention to themselves and away from the story. You want your readers to be so wrapped up in your world that they’re not even aware that you, the writer, exist. To write exposition at length–describing your characters’ past or events that happened before the story began or any information your readers might need to understand your plot–is to engage your readers intellect. What you want to do is to engage their emotions. Narrative summary has its uses, the main one being to vary the rhythm and texture of your writing. Some plot developments are simply not important enough to justify scenes. (What I am doing is saving those scenes and publishing them as short stories, for free. If I end up with enough of them, I will publish them as a collection of back stories. I am willing to kill the little darlings but not bury them.) Telling your readers about your characters’ emotions is not the best way to get your readers involved. Far better to show why your characters feel they way they do….you do not want to give your readers information. You want to give them experiences. Resist the Urge to Explain. R.U.E. (Or you will rue the day you did.) More often than not, writers tell their readers things they already shown by dialogue and action. It is as if they’re repeating themselves to make sure their readers get the point. (When Matt Stover introduced me to “Writing to Sell”, this was my sin. He took me to task for this and rightfully so. My tome at the time was just over 121,000 words. Today it is just over 71,000. I have 42% excessive exposition. At least, that is how I look at it.) When you show rather than tell it, you treat your readers with respect. And that respect makes it easier to for you to draw them into the world you created. (Matt told me to trust my readers. I think this is crucial.)