Archive for the Writing Category

Over the Top or Appropriate – Musings on a Reply from a Content Editor

Posted in Writing with tags , , , on March 22, 2018 by Dawn Ross

Getting negative feedback on your writing can be heart-wrenching. My first reaction is to get defensive and dispute every single thing that is said. But I realize it’s important to put any defensiveness aside and try to take a more open-minded approach. Sometimes, however, I continue to wonder how much of the feedback I received was the editor’s opinion and/or her personal preference. Case in point…

I have been consulting with a content editor over the past few years. The first time I submitted the story to her, I got it back with a lot of tips and advice for how to make it better. Many of the tips were spot-on, but some suggested fixes seemed to be a matter of opinion and preference rather than hard-fast rules. Some of those ones that seemed to be opinions were the ones that suggested specific story changes. These story changes were not ones I wanted to make. I preferred to find a way to keep my story the way I wanted it but still take her suggestion at heart by changing the essence of her suggestion. For example, when she said my story had no core antagonist and there was no all-is-lost moment, I understood and agreed. She went on to give a rush of advice on which characters to change, how to change them, which story parts to change, and how to change them. These ideas were great an all, but they weren’t my ideas and some of the changes were so drastic that they’d change my story entirely. So what I ended up doing instead was to try to create a core antagonist and an all-is-lost moment while still keeping the story true to the story I wanted to tell.

Several months of rewriting went by. I believed I had fixed the core problems and have intensified the plot. I rehired her to edit again, but what I got back was not an edit. What editing she did was only for the first few chapters and what she did was to sorely marked up my work with so-called errors and to make style changes that were more in her voice than in mine. I didn’t understand why there were all these new “errors” when they were not notated the first time she read it. Then after only editing the first few chapters, she took it upon herself to completely rewrite my first chapter. By doing this, she also completely changed one of my characters. Then she had the audacity to complain about how much time it took her to write it, probably in attempt to make me feel guilty so that I would think the time she spent rewriting would make up for all the money I spent for her to edit my story.

She claimed the rewrite was because she thought it was better to show me how my story and my characters were lacking by writing a much better character and story herself. Once again, I was on the defensive and once again I decided to sit on it a while and digest the information with an open mind. But months later, I still think this service was over the top and highly inappropriate. As I go back and read her feedback and recall her suggestions, I get the feeling that she’s not really doing content editing so much as she is trying to make the story go the way she wants it to go. I think she’s forgotten just whose story she’s reading to begin with.

By telling me the first few chapters are still weak is one thing. Rewriting the entire first chapter to show me how much better she can write it is quite another. And to be quite frank, I did not find her rewrite any better. I found it boring and hard to read because of all the military jargon. She kept insisting that my characters should have more military jargon and behave more militaristic because that is just how star ships such as this should be run. Really? Star Trek is a space ship and it doesn’t run like a hard-core military team. Sure, it has some militaristic aspects to it, but that’s all. Besides, it’s my damned story. If I don’t want my ship to be run by a bunch of stereotypical jarheads, then I don’t have to.

I ended up submitting my story to another content editor who also happened to have a military background. He did not think the story needed to be more militaristic. Yes, that particular character (J.D.) was rather wishy-washy, he said, but he had just nearly gone through a near-career-ending experience (Kimpke) and it made sense that he would constantly doubt himself. So who was right? I think it’s strictly a matter of opinion.

I think that although the first editor had some great advice, she needs to learn to remember whose story it is that is being edited. She needs to just give the core problem with the story and not go off and tell the writers how their stories should be written. Making style changes is not okay because it takes away the writer’s own voice. Rewriting characters is not okay because this is the writer’s characters. Insisting that the story has to go this way or that way is not okay because this is the writer’s story. All the content editor is supposed to do is point out the problems and errors to the story and explain why from a literary standpoint. That’s it.

Have you had a bad experience with an editor?

Advertisements

The Proper Order of Adjectives

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on September 23, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Old Red Chinese Writing Desk

The more I write, the more I learn. And today I learned something new. I learned that when you list more than one adjective before a noun that there should be a certain order to the adjectives. Though we might know this subjectively because a certain order of adjectives won’t sound right, it’s good to have a guideline.

Here are three orders for adjectives, each from a different source:

⬛ ESL Guidelines on Cumulative Adjectives from the Bedford Guide

  • Opinion – size – shape – age – color – origin – religion – material – noun used as an adjective.
  • Beautiful big square old red Chinese Buddhist wooden desk table.

⬛ Cambridge Dictionary on Adjective Order

  • Opinion – size – physical quality – shape – age – color – origin – material – type – purpose.
  • Beautiful big hard square old red Chinese wood corner writing table.

Differences from ESL Guidelines:

  • Physical quality is added. Physical qualities include hard, thin, soft, rough, shiny, and so on.
  • Religion is not included but it should be, especially if your adjectives include an origin and a religion.
  • Type and purpose are added but noun used as an adjective is not. I think type and purpose is important, but so is a noun used as an adjective. If I had to use all these adjectives for my table, I’d put it in the order of material – type – purpose – noun used as an adjective so that it becomes a wood corner writing desk table.

http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/about-adjectives-and-adverbs/adjectives-order

⬛ Adjective Order Found on First Page of Google Search

  • Quantity – opinion – size – age – shape – color – proper adjective – purpose
  • One beautiful big old square red Chinese writing table.

Differences from Above:

  • Quantity is added. Though, to be fair, the ESL Guidelines says the first thing should be articles or determiners, in which the quantity is considered a determiner. Other articles and determiners include a, an, the, some, this, these, his, hers, my, several, and so on.
  • Age and shape are reversed. Does this mean it should be old square table or square old table? Or how about older square table or square older table? I think saying the age first sounds better.
  • The site says a proper adjective can be a nationality or religion or other proper adjective. And it says that the material can go in this place too, but doesn’t state which order if you wanted to include the material, nationality, and religion.

⬛ Conclusion

While the English language has many hard and fast rules, I think it’s fair to say that there are certain aspects in which opinions may vary. This seems to be one of them. So, if you need to list a series of adjectives, use this as a guideline only and, in the end, follow your gut.

Other quick tips on cumulative adjectives:

  • The adjectives are not usually separated by commas and the word “and” isn’t used.
  • As a writer, you probably shouldn’t use more than three adjectives. If you feel you need more, add other sentences. Ex. The old Chinese writing table stood out from the dark corner with its red paint and the beautiful engravings etched along its edges. It was big, but not as big as the modern desks we see in offices today. And though it was square like most desks, it wasn’t as tall.

Have you learned anything new about writing or editing recently?

5 Sci-Fi Writing Prompts Inspired by The Brainstormer App

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on September 16, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Brainstormer App

As writers, we’re always on the lookout for new story ideas. While it might seem like it at times, there is never going to be a shortage of new story ideas. Ideas can be gleaned from several places – our own lives, books, movies, the news, and nowadays, online. One place I get ideas form is an app called The Brainstormer. The app has three wheels that you spin, and your writing prompt is whatever three areas the wheel lands. The following writing prompts are from The Brainstomer app and have been turned into a Sci-Fi theme.

  1. Unconditional love, Cuban, artist’s studio – This doesn’t sound sci-fi-ish, but consider this: Luisa, the artistic daughter of a famous Cuban scientist, is drawing her dog when she notices something different about him. After some bazaar occurrences that seem centered around her dog, Luisa discovers her father has genetically modified the dog. She loves this dog, who now has superpowers that have gotten out of control, and must find a way to save him.
  2. Rescue of a loved one, naval, kitchen – The alien slave, Kaputch, was quite happy with his life on board the Grupakian space vessel. As a cook, he was very well treated, especially as compared to the other slaves. But when the Grupaks take in more slaves, Kaputch discovers one of them is his sister. Worse, though, he finds out she is to be the sex-slave of the overly fat and disgusting Grupak captain. Somehow, Kaptuch must rescue her from that fate.
  3. Fish out of water, Tibetan, puppet – The year is 2230. The world is dying so the people of Earth have boarded several large space ships in search of a new home. One particular ship houses a hundred or so Tibetan families. Passang is given command of this ship. Once the ship takes off and their space adventure begins, Passang realizes space-life is not what he thought it would be. He’s not prepared to be a leader and soon finds himself as nothing more than a puppet ruler dominated by one of the leading Tibetan families. This dominant family is only interested in their own well-being, and as such, the other people soon find themselves being treated like slaves. Passang must find the confidence and the strength to overpower this family so that he can save his people, and his ship, from their selfish meddling.
  4. Miracle, Klondike, gas station – Life in the Klondike is beautiful, yet cold and unforgiving. Skookum, named from a famous Tagish man who had helped spur the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890s, owns a gas station there (the Tagish are a native tribe). Skookum owns a gas station in the area. It’s a rather isolated place, but he gets enough business to survive. Something happens that causes Skookum to nearly die. His death is certain and he prepares for it mentally. But a miracle happens. Little grey beings rescue and heal him (seemingly with magic though they claim it’s science). Skookum wonders whether they are aliens or if they’d always been here.
  5. Mistaken judgement, undead, fruit stand – Salina managed a fruit stand along the highway. Business was slow in this heat. Suddenly, though, a string of cars drove past. At first, they zipped by quickly. But soon, there were so many cars on the road that traffic came at a standstill. Salina was finally able to ask someone what was going on and they told her to run because of the zombie apocalypse. Now Salina had seen enough zombie movies to know they were the undead, they liked to eat the brains or livers of the living, and that they could only be killed if their heads were chopped off. But there was nowhere she could go. When they finally reached her, she realized they weren’t what she thought they’d be. They were just people who needed help. And for some reason, Salina was the perfect person to give them that help. Perhaps they wanted fruit instead of brains?

Let’s see what creative story ideas you can come up with using the Brainstormer App.

Writing Tips I Learned in English Class

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , on September 9, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Can you believe I haven’t taken college level English Composition II yet? I have been working on a finance degree for some time. I finished all my business core classes and all my finance major classes. But I was recently informed that I haven’t yet taken English Composition II, which is part of my general education requirements.

Here are some writing tips I recently came across in my class. These tips can apply no matter what you are writing, whether it be a novel or a formal document.

  • Write the First Draft Quickly – Write the first draft quickly and without thinking too much about spelling, grammar, word choice, and other elements. This is something I learned how to do through the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I must say it’s a very helpful method. It allows ideas to flow and brings out your best creative elements. And it helps you get the writing project done faster. For example, The Dragon Emperor: Book Two of the Dragon Spawn Chronicles, is already written. I wrote it last year during the NaNo Writing Month. It’s not ready for publishing yet because I still need to do the next steps indicated below, but it’s written. Wouldn’t you love to write your novel in 30 days?
  • Develop & Revise – After writing the first draft but before bothering with editing for spelling, grammar, or punctuation, go back over your work. Develop your writing better by restructuring sentences, making better word choices, reorganizing scenes, adding to the work, and taking away elements that don’t work.
  • Edit Last – Leave the detailing task of editing for last. If you do it while you’re writing or while you’re developing, you could be wasting time on things you might end up deleting later.

One thing my instructor said was you don’t have to have a thought before you start. You can simply start writing whatever comes to your mind and ideas will emerge. I think this is true for when you need to generating ideas. But I like to have a well-thought-out plan. I only use the blank-thought-writing when I need an idea. Everyone is different, though. If you can write without a plan and still have all the proper elements of a story, then do so. If not, plan.

Ideas to Motivate Yourself to Write

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on July 22, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Sometimes I just don’t want to write. It’s true. Sometimes it’s because I’m at a point that I hate, such as when it comes to editing. Sometimes it’s because I have writer’s block. And sometimes it’s simply because I have zero motivation to do much of anything. Here are some tips I use to get moving again. You can use them to motivate yourself to write as well:

Take Ten for Writers

Writing Exercises – There are a lot of books and even websites out there that provide writing prompts for you. Try one. They’re not only motivating, but sometimes even inspiring. One of my favorite writing prompt books is shown above. If you don’t want to buy a book, try the story idea generator on SciFiIdeas.com. There are also apps for story ideas that you can get on your phone. I have one called Brainstormer.

Book Perfecting Plot by William Bernhardt

Read a Writing Guide – Sometimes when I review a technical writing book, I’m inspired to write better. I say reviewing because I’ve already read them. But even though I’ve already read them, reviewing them sometimes inspires new ideas or brings back that motivated feeling.

Do an Analytical Review – Don’t just watch a movie or read a book. Analyze it. Ask yourself what it was about the movie or book that made it worthwhile. Did it have good characters? Was the plot intense enough? Which parts were most intense and why? Which parts made you want to go to sleep and why?

black-and-white-music-headphones-life

Let Music Inspire You – I have certain music that I only play when I write. For a while, it was the music from the Lord of the Rings movies. Now it’s the Hobbit movies. Find your musical inspiration.

Nike Just Do It

The Nike Philosophy – Just Do It. No matter how you feel, just sit down and write. Write nonsense if you have to. Don’t think about it. Just do it.

buddha-india-mind-prayer

Meditate – Not in the zoning out way. Think about what you want and why. Something inspired you to start writing. Think back on what that was and try to grab onto that feeling again.

Take a Break – Yes, sometimes the key to writing again is to simply take a break. As much as I love to write, there are times that I hate it. And I’m afraid if I continue to force myself, I will come to hate it even more. So I take a break. Try it for yourself, but don’t let that break last too long.

What do you do to motivate yourself to write?

 

Creating a Plot Storyboard for your Novel

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2017 by Dawn Ross
Plot Storyboard

Plot Storyboard – Print this out for your use or use note cards or a writers’ software program like Scrivener.

Remember last week’s post? I gave two tips for helping you get started on writing that book you always wanted to write. One of those two was to create a plot storyboard. Why? Because in order for people to like your novel, you need to have a good plot. With a good plot, even an beginning writer can write a worthwhile story. A plot storyboard can help guide you in developing your plot. Here is a basic plot storyboard outline to help you plan your novel:

  1. Character in a normal world – Don’t make this part too long or boring. In the old days, writers took a lot of time to develop the characters and setting in the first chapter or two. But in today’s world, you want to grab the reader’s attention as soon as possible. I, personally, stick to about half a page and add other details to scenes and characters as the story progresses.
  2. Inciting incident – This is the incident that forces the character to act. For a romance, it could be him meeting a woman who captures his interest. For a mystery, it could be a murder of a friend. For an adventure, it could be a call to war from the authorities.
  3. Character must make a choice – Do they pursue the woman, try to solve the murder on their own, or honor the draft?
  4. Character begins his journey
  5. First complication arises – This is going to be the character’s first indication that the journey is not going to be as easy as he first thought.
  6. Complication grows
  7. A new and larger crisis emerges – This is going to be much larger than the first complication and will cause the character to stop and wonder whether he should go on. It may also send the character in a new direction. This complication will be approximately midway through your story.
  8. Complications increase and become more complex – Your character may want to turn back, but keeps moving forward.
  9. A breaking point complication arises – Your character is going to be at the lowest of the low. The task is going to seem complicated. Your character is going to want to give up. The situation looks hopeless and it’s your character’s darkest moment.
  10. The character decides to finish what he started – Your character needs to go against his natural inclinations and do something he never would have thought of himself doing before. Make sure that whatever it is that instigates him to move forward despite the new and more complicated situation that it’s not a deux ex machina. This is something that miraculously shows up just in the nick of time without any indication previously in the story that this might arise. A deux ex machina would be a sudden change of heart with no explanation or a friend who has had very little interaction in the story suddenly shows up with awesome skills to help.
  11. The drama is resolved – The drama is resolved, the antagonist is defeated, and the character has changed. For a romance, the character is now a person in love. For a mystery, perhaps the character has a darker view of humanity. For an adventure, the character has learned more about the world and more about himself.

This is just a basic storyboard outline. Your story can have more than three increasingly difficult complications, but at least three are needed. And your story can have smaller side-plots. Also, remember not to get too caught up in the planning process. It’s good to plan because it gives you a place to start. But too much planning can cause you to lose steam and you’ll never get to the fun process of writing your book.

Two Tips to Help You Start Writing a Book

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2017 by Dawn Ross

Ideas for Writing a Book

Sorry I’m late today. I took the kids on an unexpected trip. Here’s your article this week for what I believe are the two most helpful tips for getting started in writing that book you’ve always wanted to write:

Have you ever had a great idea for a project, but never really started it? This happens a lot when it comes to writing a book. It all starts with an idea, but then ends once you start thinking about all the complicated aspects that go into it. Some people can just sit down and write. But they either know enough about writing to know exactly what is needed to make a good story, or they’re just winging it and hoping a good story will turn out well on accident. You’re probably not the first type or you wouldn’t be here. 🙂 And if your the later type, you probably don’t want to simply just wing it on your great idea. So here are two tips to help you start writing a book.

Break Down Your Tasks

Writing a book can be a very daunting task. If you’ve done some research, you’re probably overwhelmed with all the things you need to do. So the first step in getting that books started is to stop thinking about all of it at once. Break the tasks down into pieces and do one piece at a time. If you’re not familiar with all the aspects of writing a book, this list could change. But at least your brain isn’t trying to process everything at once.

What I’ve done is created a folder on my computer. The main folder is the title of my book. When I open that folder, there are more folders. There are folders for writing tips, research resources, my character journals, publishing information, and more. Several documents are found in the writing tips folder. One document covers plotting tips, another for character development tips, one for tips on adding conflict, and so on. The documents contain things I’ve typed out or links to websites I’ve found that provided good information.

You don’t have to do yours on your computer. You can also create a binder. At first, your computer folders or binder will have very little information in them. But as you write, you’ll find other things to add. This process will help you grow and help you keep organized at the same time.

Plot Storyboard

Plot Storyboard

Create a Plot Storyboard

To write a good story, you MUST MUST MUST have a plot. If your good story idea is about someone who gets into a lot of adventures with no end in sight, your readers are going to get very bored. A well-organized plot can turn even the most amateur writers into good storytellers.

To create a good plot, you need to think about what your character wants to achieve by the end of the book. They have to really want it and you have to help the reader really want it for them too. Then you need to think of complications that your character encounters that make it difficult for him to reach his goals. And these complications have to escalate to a point where your character considers giving up.

The above image is something you can use. You can also use note cards or consider software such as Scrivener. I, personally, like note cards. Note cards allow me to create subplots that I can put in story sequence around the main plot. I’ve heard a lot of other writers praise Scrivener and other software programs. Find what works best for you.

Next week, I’ll provide a generic outline for a storyboard. In the meantime, feel free to comment on this post.