Category Archives: Preambles to Writing

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – Part 20: Down, Down, Down

Welcome back! Over the next several more months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twenty: 

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 20: Down, Down, Down

In my last few posts, we’ve talked about increasing the tension in your novel or story, but you know that old saying, “What goes up must come down.” So today let’s talk about coming down off those tension highs.

1476101_10202851031740638_1363769618_n_002* photo credit given at end of article

Tension reduction isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes the writer needs to give his or her reader “a rest.” If the tension is too high for too long, it can wear your reader out. Too much tension can also rend the veil of disbelief. I’m sure that’s happened to you in your reading life, those books where you think, come on that’s way over the top. At other times, we urge our readers onto a downramp so we can gain enough momentum to swoop them up even higher a few paragraphs or pages later.

Like all tricks of the trade, easing tension takes on the added dimension of the artistic when it’s done effectively. First, let’s address that issue by listing two general classifications of tension-easers.

A. The unavoidable. The unavoidable includes chapter breaks, the turn of a page, or the finger swipe across the screen of your eReader. These are mechanical in nature and not of great concern. Often you can use the unavoidable moments of relaxed tension to your advantage. You might want to check back and read post #19 in this series, “By Hook, Not by Crook,” which discusses effective chapter breaks.

B. The desired. These instances of relaxed tension are the result of well-executed pacing and include the following:

1. A shift in the point-of-view character

2. The solution to a small mystery or a large mystery

3. The completion of a very tense scene

4. A short paragraph of back story

5. A sentence or two of description

The tension-easers in the second category — I’m sure you can think of others I haven’t listed — can be effective tools in any novelist’s arsenal. It’s really all about pace. I usually edit for pace when I’m working on the third draft of my novels, which is one of my “hard copy” reads. I three-hole punch the printed pages of my novel and put them in a binder so I feel like I’m reading a book. Then I get out my red pen! Here’s what I look for:

1. When I catch my mind wandering, I need to up the pace with more tension. (See post #18. Tension)

2. If I begin reading so fast that I forget I’m editing, my pace is probably fine. (My editing might need a kickstart, though!)

3. If a scene does not place a strong visual image in my mind, I probably need to pull back  on the tension and slow the pace with a tension-easer, usually a sentence of description or a very short bit of back story.

4. If I crack up at the implausibility of the scene, I need a change of pace. Often, it’s time to cross out then rewrite whole pages until I have reestablished a believable scenario and my upramp isn’t quite so steep.

I’ve purposely left out one huge category of tension-easers. Those we don’t want to include in our novels.  I hope you’ll come back next month, and we’ll talk about The  Dreaded Pace-Plague!

How do you adjust the tension or the pace of your novel?

Strength to your pen!

Sue

* Photograph, copyright David Massongil, 2010. Used with permission. Thank you, David, I love this photo!

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back October 23, 2014, for part 21.

About these ads

Create your own promotional products!

Today I’m excited to share with you two helps I have found that writers can use, what is needed but maybe not known to be so simple.

If you are a “creative” looking for an easy way to promote your writing, art, needlework, painting, crafting … whatever work/passion it is … why not create your own promotional products while you’re at it? Here are a couple of very easy ways to do that.

  1. Café Press – you can find thousands of items there! For example: if you are a writer and you want to let people know about your new book or that you are available to write for someone else, you can create your own images to use or choose one already on the Café Press website. They take the image you selected and print it on a t-shirt, mug, bookmarks, cell phone covers … or whatever you like of any of a variety of items. How fun would it be to advertise your own book on a t-shirt by having your book cover design on it! **
  2. Vista Print – you can find a wonderful selection of comparably inexpensive marketing items and promotional tools to personalize with your own design or one they have. They’ll print it for you on address labels, note pads, pens, magnets, letterhead, postcards, brochures, and more of your choosing. **

Both of the above services are ones I use and appreciate. They have very good products, turnaround time and service. You can create your own designs, use ones they already have, personalize however you want. Although it’s easy to do online, they also supply customers with a toll-free number if needed. In my opinion, these both are great ways to obtain items that will help to promote your book, or share whatever interest you have.

** For future reference please find Café Press and Vista Print listed on my Writers’ Helps page with links to their sites; just scroll down to Needing promotional and marketing help.

I hope you will find these to be useful to you.

Have you used either of these services? If so, have you been happy with them?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

What is the reading level of your writing?

For anyone writing for a certain readership, something that has to be considered is the age group or reading level of the intended reader. I’ve given attention to how to write for children, how young to make my writing – suiting it for the age group I am writing for – but I hadn’t thought so much about the reading level of my ‘regular’ writing.

I recently read an interesting article, and, although it is not to be taken as a firm guideline, I thought you may enjoy reading it, too. It’s called ‘What’s the reading level of your writing?

Before you leave here to check out that article I want you to know that I added the following three tools to my Writers’ Helps page. While there, please take a few moments to look around in case you haven’t seen other helps I’ve added.

  1. If you have a website or a blog you can test your readability of it by using the readability test tool. There are three different ways on there to test your writing, or you can even test the writing you read on someone else’s site.
  2. You also can analyze a sample of your own writing by using the writing sample readability analyzer. This one was created by Sarah K Tyler and is even more fun to try.
  3. Have you heard of Scrivener? It is a word processing program and as a management program it has become popular as a tool to improve one’s writing.

3886950-fountain-pen-writing-paper-with-black-inkBefore I sign off I just want to tell you my daughter’s ten-day visit – mentioned HERE – was fun and packed full of family things, including four barbecues – although one was more of a very informal “weinie roast” at the lake where we also created sticky s’mores by firelight, followed by thrilling fireworks that my husband set off when it got dark enough. Our final events were yesterday. After fourteen of us had a BBQ and corn boil at Dad’s, eight of us went from there for a fun visit to the local farm zoo, the largest zoo in Nova Scotia, arriving at feeding time for the lions. (Fortunately, we weren’t on the menu. ;) )  Then this morning, my husband and I got up shortly after 4:00 and woke our daughter. We were all soon on the road to the airport, taking our daughter for her flight back to Alberta. It’s always difficult for me to turn and walk out of there, keeping back the tears and leaving for home without her.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend – and on September 1: for those of you in Canada have a safe and pleasant Labour Day; for those of you in the USA have a safe and pleasant Labor Day. :)

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

 

 

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – Part 19: By Hook, Not By Crook

Welcome back! Over the next several more months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month nineteen:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 19: By Hook, Not by Crook

What do a fisherman and a writer have in common?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yes, you’re right! Using a hook! How did you ever guess?

If you’ve read any how-to books about the craft of writing a novel, then you’ve read about the all-important hook — that sentence or idea which draws the reader into the story right from the first page on.

This post isn’t about that huge hook. It’s about another place within your novel that benefits when you append a hook. The end of a chapter. I’m one of those novelists who believe, that in our current reading climate, most readers prefer short chapters. I know there are exceptions, but long chapters can make a reader feel like she is listening to a long, boring diatribe.

Short chapters ramp up the tension, allow for more fluid point-of-view changes, and help the writer segue more easily into a new scene. However, shorter chapters mean more chapter endings and chapter endings can be a problem.

When I write, my goal is to pull the reader into the story and to do everything I can to keep him there. So the reader lives and breathes and sees the world as if he were the main character. Chapter endings remind the reader that he or she lives in another world. No matter how many positives exist because of a chapter break, those breaks also act like stop signs in the continuum of the story. Pop! The reader is back into real life. He or she sets down the book and goes about regular business. So you, the writer need an edge to bring him or her back as soon as possible, and that edge is the proverbial hook.

Basically, I observe two rules when I end a chapter with a hook.

1. The hook is short, contained in only a sentence or two or three.

2. The hook is honest. It doesn’t set up bogus expectations.  You don’t want your reader to feel cheated. The crooked hook: “Albert caught his breath. He was staring  into the golden eyes of a snarling cheetah.” The disillusionment, next chapter: “Of course, the cheetah was only a poster on the wall in Albert’s bedroom.”

I’m not at all the best  hook writer in the business. I’m afraid I’m not even in the top 1000, but I own the copyrights to my novels and my works-in-progress, so rather than cite hooks from other writers’ copyrighted novels,  I’ll close this post with a few examples of chapter-end hooks that I have written. I hope they’ll convey what I mean and give you some examples to draw from as you write your own hooks.

From MOTHER EARTH FATHER SKY, Chapter 25: “Then Kayugh took his daughter to the beach while the others finished burying his wife.”  [The hook: If he can't even bear to see his wife buried, how will Kayugh be able to survive his grief?]

From CRY OF THE WIND, Chapter 41: “‘River Ice Dancer,’ she said, holding out her hand, ‘you are cold, and my bed is very warm.’” [The hook: Will River Ice Dancer fall into the wily hands of the temptress K'os?]

From BONE FIRE (work-in-progress), Chapter 3: “If Rose wasn’t still pregnant when they got there, the Spirit-caller wouldn’t take her in trade. Then what would Villr do? Watch his own daughter die?” [The hook: Why would his daughter die? What are Villr's horrible plans for the main character Rose?]

Remember, you want to draw your reader back to your novel, even after the disruption of a chapter break. A small hook will do, a tease that will make your reader want to stay in the story. Be quick. Be honest.

Strength to your pen!

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back September 25, 2014, for part 20.

Hillsong music, and Helping one another

A rambling post …

Here it is Sunday again. Weather-wise it has been like a late summer day – but it is supposed to warm again this coming week. I appreciate the summer so much; it’s far too short for me.

My spirit longs for particular music sometimes, right now being one of those times. Here is a link to Hillsong so you can enjoy the music I’m listening to as I’m writing this post.

Life continues on with its caregiving challenges (almost 3 1/2 years now!) – some days make me appreciate the good ones so much more. If it weren’t for the help we are getting my sister and I could not have managed all this as long as we have.

As you know, one of my goals is to write children’s books, or even any writing for myself would be good right now! Last month a friend and I were discussing our mutual desire to write, and I suggested a challenge. From that conversation we are now both writing – actually, we are writing together although long distance – one writes, the other adds to it and sends it back … and so on and so on. This effort is challenging us and helping to release our creative (writing) energy. Have you tried anything like that?

Now for the burning question:
How are you enjoying my blog; is it helpful to you?

I’ve been looking into ways I can help you more. Since I’m interested in helping promote your books (the ones I agree to read and review) and others I think you might like or should know about, you know I have a new page for that purpose: BUY THE BOOK!  On that page I’m in the process of adding a few more things – both for writers and for readers.

As you can imagine, I spend a lot of my available time reading books, updating my blog and writing posts. (and I enjoy it all!) When I upgraded my blog to better suit my needs it meant I’d have to pay for its hosting. (WordPress is very reasonable or I wouldn’t have done it.) After much consideration, I recently decided to look into affiliation which will bring in a very small percentage for any sales made through your clicks from the links I have here on my site. It will help me pay for my blog as it is, so is a way you can help me, too, if you want to.

The affiliations I chose are ones I think are of the most benefit to you as writers and readers. Once all the techie stuff is worked out you will be able to click to great things not only at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and WritersDigestShop, but also at Christianbook, Chapters.indigo, CafePress, and Vista Print. When I get them all set up you will find them through BUY THE BOOK! and on my Writers’ Helps page. Exciting!

Now I must grab some time to read more of the book I am going to review soon. So many books — so little time!  :)

Please tell me what you think of what I’m doing here on my blog. I appreciate hearing from you.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

 

 

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 18: Tension

Welcome back! Over the next many months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month eighteen:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 18: Tension

My editor recently read the first 20,000 words of a novel I’m writing called BONE FIRE. BONE FIRE is set circa 6000 B.C. in Eastern Europe near the Danube River’s famed “Iron Gates,” and 20,000 words comprise approximately 1/5 of the novel. To my delight, she liked what I’ve written so far, and, even better, she also designated where I should ramp up the tension. Advice like that is absolutely golden to a novelist, because tension is what grabs readers and pulls them into the story.

IMG_0444 As a novelist, my goal is to entice readers into my story and keep them there. Achieving that depends on a number of factors, but let’s assume that my reader loves my chosen genre, that she wants to escape into a novel, and she has time away from distractions and life’s mundane chores. If that is the case, then the pulling-in and the keeping-there depends mainly on my storytelling skills. Yikes! That’s a little scary, but not quite so scary if I remind myself that I can use a relatively simple writing device to help make my story more captivating.

And that writing device is…?

Tension! (Give yourself a gold star if you already knew because you read the title of this post.)

All right, I can hear you say, “Aw come on, Sue. Tension is NOT simple.”

Well, maybe not simple, and maybe not even easy, but definitely a skill that almost any writer can learn. I like to visualize tension as a ladder my readers ascend. Step by step they climb toward the high point or climax of the novel.

Through the years, I’ve found a variety of ways to tighten the tension, lift my story, and entice my readers to take that next step up.

1. Internal conflict. (See Writing the Third Dimension, Part 16: “Conflicted.”)

2. External conflict. (See Writing the Third Dimension, Part 17: “Curses Foiled Again.”)

3. Small mysteries. (Why is the main character afraid of cats? Who is that man watching from the shadows?)

4. Large mysteries. (Who killed John Doe?)

5. The use of short, quick paragraphs or sentences. (These will make the reader read more quickly and up-pace the tempo in a subtle way.)

6. Unexpected emotional responses from the characters. (When John gives Mary the new car, she becomes angry. The reader was expecting her to celebrate.)

7. Confrontation between characters through dialogue or physical action.

8. An unexpected turn or detour in the main plot line.

9. A teaser at the end of a chapter that makes the reader want to continue to the next chapter. (I’ll discuss how to write teasers in my August post.)

10. A poor decision made by one of the characters.

11. An undercurrent of foreshadowing about what may happen next. (Subtle is the by-word here.)

12. Heartache moments.

13. Moments of small victory when your point-of-view character conquers the odds to succeed.

14. A change in the rhythm of your words. (I’m referring here to actual word choices. If your chosen “voice” for the novel is flowery, you might choose to write a short section in very succinct and harsh-sounding words. Or vice versa. Let your ears be the judge of how well this works. Read your rhythm changes out loud to check their effectiveness.)

15. A first kiss or any romantic meeting.

16. Rescue and the need for rescue.

17. Pain. Physical, mental, emotional. (Be sure you present this as a “showing” event. You shouldn’t tell your reader, “Joe was in agony.”  Show the reader that Joe is suffering through his words, actions, and angst.)

18. Cutting unnecessary wordiness. (Especially awkward words like wordiness!)

How do you ramp up the tension in your novels or stories? Share with us!

Strength to your pen!

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back August 28, 2014, for part 19.

How Not to Get Happily Published

Originally posted on Liz Burton's Portable Soup:

Education Concept. Read Books Sign.Now that what used to be sneered at as vanity publishing has been embraced by the mainstream, one thing that has been lost in all of the discussions that have gone before is that there are other options besides the two that have been the center of attention for all this time. By that, I refer to a fair number of digital presses that operate using the best elements of traditional publishing while adjusting their processes and their relationships with authors so that the end result is to everyone’s benefit.

However, all too often, writers who are interested in doing all the work of publishing themselves but who, for whatever reason, aren’t all that interested in seeking the attention of the Big Five have some misconceptions about how the digital publishing industry does business. Some of this is in the form of myths I will attempt to clear up.

If…

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