Monday, February 22, 2010

Less IS More...

We all do it. We type a lot of fluff words into our sentences that we don't even realize that we're doing. We slap down those words that you, the reader, want to see.

If you don't believe me, go back and read the previous paragraph and remove one word I used three times. In case you didn't guess which word -- that.

Yes, 'that' is a fluff word many authors use vigorously to up the word count and sadly, can lessen the impact. If you re-read the first paragraph without 'that' in the sentences you would notice it read tighter and cleaner.

How bad can it get? I read a newbie's story -- okay, one of my old, OLD stories when I first starting writing -- and I found I had on an average about 3-5 superfluous words per page. 'Why that's not too many,' you think. And THAT is what you think! In a 250 page manuscript, it would equal between 750-1250 extra words.

I know, I know. Words are $$$$$. BUT... It's not money if you don't sell the story. A clean, tight, well thought out and written story sells in the higher priced market. Let's calculate the differences.

a) 8000 words X $.02 = $160.00

Remove 1000 superfluous 'that' words for a higher market sale...

b) 7000 words X $.10 = $700.00
c) 7000 words X $.07 = $490.00
d) 7000 words X $.06 = $420.00
e) 7000 words X $.03 = $210.00

Maybe some of you didn't notice the last couple of calculations. The last one (e) is exactly ONE PENNY above the higher (a) word count sale. Yes, it was 'only' $50 more, but, the bottom line here is, it was probably a better market and a nicer feather in the bonnet or hat. Plus, for me $50 in MY pocket is better than $50 in SOMEBODY else's pocket.

Funny what a penny can mean and do...

So, what other superfluous words can you think of to tighten your writing?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Punctuation 101

Let's face it, punctuation is important! Depending on how you place commas, periods and other grammatical marks into your sentences, it can change meanings quickly.

1) What's that up the road a piece mother?
2) What's that up the road a piece? Mother?
3) What's that up the road a piece, mother?

Example 1 is referring to a chunk of mother being on the road.
Example 2 is asking if mother is indeed just up the road?
Example 3 is the correct format if asking mother what is up the road.

Examples 1 and 2 can, with very little imagination, become quite ribal. We won't go there.

Misplaced commas and periods in dialog are notorious blunders. When indicating dialog with quotation marks -- it is almost always a comma.
Ex: "Give me that," Johnny said.
OR it could be "Give me that!" Johnny said.
BUT NEVER "Give me that." Johnny said.

Exception to the rule. "Give me that." Johnny held out his hand, waiting.

Difference? No "said" or "asked" or "demanded" or "exclaimed" or any of the possible words indicating Johnny spoke.

Sometimes we make the sentence just too complicated for our own good.

Agreeing with what he thought was the only concession he would get, "Alright, you grab those papers," he said, pointing to them on the table as he walked to the door, "and I'll bring the car around."

Make it easier on yourself.

It was the only concession he thought he would get. "Alright, you grab those papers," he said, pointing to them on the table as he walked to the door. "I'll bring the car around."

Can somebody tell me how to place the commas in the following sentence?

"Happy Feet" "Bambi" "Finding Nemo" and "Dumbo" are excellent movies for children.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Time Passing 2

Last week I explained some aspects of how to denote the passage of time in your writing. Today I will show how to denote a point in time and denote its passing with the next line or two. This is all within a 24 hour period.

* ~ * ~ *

Eyeliner, lipstick, powder (shaving, cologne, combing hair) – the ritual of getting ready for work was gnawing at me.

The pink sky with golden highlights placed a glazing on the treetops as the sun came up.

Breakfast was hours passed but there was at least two more hours until lunch.

Hidden from the high noon sun, I ate my sandwich in the shade of an oak tree.

The early afternoon rains had waned and kids were hustling home from school.

Suddenly rush hour was all around me as I sped down I-95 to Richmond.

I watched the evening news while the kids did their homework.

It was time to put the little ones to bed.

I glanced at my watch, Julie should be getting home from her date.

I was watching Johnny Carson/Jay Leno/David Letterman after the nightly news.

It was the haunting hour as the clock struck twelve.

With bleary eyes I stared at the glowing alarm, only four more hours until I had to get up.

* ~ * ~ *

As a side note, time is a variable which the writer must be aware of. Using the following line after an evening meal – "You kids be home before sunset." – has different connotations at different locales and seasons.

In Ohio, during the winter, it means they get to be out for approximate 15-30 minutes. During the summer it indicates a play time of almost 3-4 hours!

In Alaska, you can only say it once, late May, and you won't see your kids until early September.

Can you think of other ways to denote the passage of time in your writing?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Denoting the Passage of Time

Different writing formats requires various methods of allowing the reader/viewer to understand time passed.

One of the quickest ways to show time is or has passed is with transitional words such as meanwhile, after, soon, and later – this is only a small list.

Jim and I went fishing, later Jim worked at ...
Betty and Barb went shopping, meanwhile their husbands ...
Billy and Annie went to the movie then afterwards went to ...

Poetry can also use the transitional words as mentioned above.

Another quick way to transport your reader to a new time is to use "* * *" to separate your paragraphs. This can also be used to show scene changes. Of course, a chapter break is always a good indicator of time passage, also.

Screenplays and television scripts are a slightly different breed. Not being a screenwriter I can only rely on what I've been told.

Jill opens oven and slides a cake into it.
Angle in on the oven door and show smoke rolling out of it.

Another good way to demonstrate the passage of time is to use nature itself – the sun, for instance. There is sunrise, morning, daybreak, sunset, eventide, dusk and night, to name a few. For longer stretches of time, you could use moon phases, seasons, or months and weeks, even weather.

Gone was the snow, now small green sprouts ...
Last week had been terrible but I knew ...
Day was done, the rain had ended, the flowers had closed ...

Sometimes you can use a date/time stamp. We have all seen or heard Captain Kirk of "Star Trek" fame enter 'star date entries' into his Captain's Log. The same method can be used for your writing.

June 1, Tuesday. Detective Jones entered ...
2010.02.01:1225hrs. B'Nalcorth waited ...
Saturday. Judith knew ...

Even a speech can denote time–

Four score and seven years ago...

What are some of your ways to denote the passage of time?