Confession on Exposition

I have to confess to the world the hardest part of writing to me… exposition. Description of places, buildings, areas, anything that doesn’t deal directly with the plot of characters. I just don’t like doing it. Why? I have no idea. I understand that it has to be there. I’ve read tons of books and sat in on lots of lectures at conferences about it. It just doesn’t come easy for me.

I don’t even like to read a lot of description. I remember the first time I actually recognized my ‘non-love’ of exposition. I was already several years in to being a beginning writer and my inner editor was occasionally appearing when I would read other author’s books. I was reading a Sue Grafton book, one of her alphabet series murder mysteries. Kinsey was travelling through the desert in her VW. For two pages or more, Grafton described the desert. I was so bored and wondered why she had spent so much time on this description. I skimmed the pages and later wondered why. So I reread it. To me, it was over kill. Tell me she is in the desert. Give me a short description of it if necessary or if anything is needed for the plot or will make a statement on the character. Tell me it’s hot. I know what the desert is… and move on.

I realize that in some genres, the setting is a character itself. Like paranormal. Using description sets the stage and gets the reader in the spooky mood. Horror and science fiction are the same way. I get it. But in other genre’s, like murder mysteries, some of the descriptions of places are not as necessary to draw out, for instance an interrogation room in a police station. Everyone knows what they look like from watching TV. And yes, usually TV doesn’t get it right. (That’s true for a lot of things in Law and Order type shows… and the cops are happy about it too. Makes the criminals make stupid mistakes!) Anyway, a few sentences is all it takes to describe the room. Boom. Done. Move on.

Is description necessary? Absolutely! Of course it is necessary. Stories would be really stupid without it. But too much is … well, just too much. Here is how I write it. (And again, remember this is not my favorite thing to write.)

My first draft contains very little description. Maybe a line that says … they walked into an interrogation room. I move on. The second draft I will add a little more but I am still concentrating on plot, character development, red herrings (murder mysteries, remember), etc. On the third or later drafts I actually begin thinking of how my description needs to fit into the story. This is where I do the work of fleshing out the description. After that I usually hear from my editor that I need to add more. So I do so then. Finally it’s done.

Now this is how it goes for me. You may be the complete opposite. I have a writer friend that writes excellent exposition. I mean awesome description. She writers paranormal and we usually have to pare her stuff down a little bit (not much but some). The bottom line here is you need to find the best way to write for you. Each and every writer writes differently. Just remember to not use so much description that it pulls the reader away from the story. It’s a balancing act and that is what makes writing an art!

Stay tuned.

Check out our newest author—Guy Gertsch and his book A Mississippi Immortal in Europe. When the Grouch, who lives in a cottage behind his daughter’s house, wakes up one morning, he believes he’s Tom Sawyer. There is a renewed excitement in his life as he discovers Europe through Mark Twain’s eyes, following in the same path that Twain took while writing The Innocents Abroad. Each step is one of self discovery and adventure believing those he runs into are straight out of the fun filled characters like Becky, Huck, Aunt Polly and more. On his travels, he begins to question his ‘immortality’ as a story book character. Can ‘Tom’ remain immortal? Or will ‘Tom’ find something during his adventures that will allow him to return to his normal life, now happy and content?

Angela Abderhalden
Author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series
Acquiring Editor, Seventh Wave Books, LLC
http://www.seventhwavebooks.com
seventhwavebooks@gmail.com

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Read It!

I recently was editing a manuscript and came across some dialog that just didn’t work. It was written well and correct but something was nagging at me that it felt wrong. So what I did was to print it out on paper. I try to always edit everything in at least two different formats. I’ll see things on paper that I didn’t see when I was editing on the computer. Yes, I run through a lot of paper that way, but I find it the best way to edit. (And I get a lot of scrap paper that way too. Come to think of it… way too much scrap paper. But that is another topic.)

After letting it sit a day or two, I went back to the piece of dialog and read it again. Something was still bothering me about this part of the manuscript. So I next did something that I would suggest all beginning writers do. I read it out loud.

The written word and the spoken word are two whole different monsters. But in this instance the spoken word, simulated dialog in the manuscript, was the best way to edit the scene. You see in my mind’s eye, and in that of the reader’s, the dialog has to be real. After I read the dialog out loud, it was very obvious what was wrong. In this case it was just two words. When I re-read the part out loud with the fix it sounded smoother… more normal. Real.

I actually read a lot of my manuscripts out loud. It seems weird to sit in a room by yourself reading out loud, but it works. My family has gotten so used to it that they ignore me now, but it wasn’t that way a long time ago. So you might have to warn the people in your family or even better yet, make it a fun family event. Read the whole story to them. As you read if you find places that don’t read well or have issues mark them as you read. Then come back to them later and fix them. Not only will your writing improve but it will bring the family together.

Oh, and don’t forget the free conference call we do the last Saturday of each month. It last around an hour. We do a short presentation of about ten minutes, then we answer questions. This month we’ll have two editors, three authors and our cover artist. Come join us and pick our brains, what little of them is left! Just email at the address below for the phone # and access pin #.

Stay tuned…

Angela Abderhalden
Author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series
Acquiring Editor, Seventh Wave Books, LLC
http://www.seventhwavebooks.com
seventhwavebooks@gmail.com

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Best and Better

This blog’s topic is one that I’ve touched on before but it is so important that I want to address is again. In my mundane job, you know the one that I have to work to pay the rent and put food on the table, we have a saying or motto… Today I did my best, but tomorrow I will do better.

I was thinking about that as I waited for another call (yes, I work in a call center), and I thought how appropriate that is for writers too. When I write today I do the best I can, but I always need to improve myself. Always. Learning is so important in this business.

Although the ‘art’ of writing hasn’t changed in centuries, after all we’ve been putting words on paper for years, the way that we form words, sentences, paragraphs, and manuscripts have change and continue to change. We no longer write like we did in the 1800’s, nor in the 1960’s. We write faster, meaning the action moves faster. Competing with all the other media in our life is the main cause of that.

But the bigger aspect of this topic is the major changes going on in the industry. Who would have thought twenty years ago that you could walk around with one device that holds more than 250 books! Who would have thought 10 years ago the explosion of the digital/ebook era would have been possible.

I recently went to a workshop for writers in my hometown, when the presenter was an older gentleman. While very knowledgeable about the craft, he was totally off about submitting to agents/editors. I hated continually correcting him but he was talking to a bunch of new writers and they needed to know the truth. He was very uncomfortable with ebooks and e-publishing.

I’m not saying that you have to be the expert in all things happening but you at least need to stay on top of the trends. For instance, he also talked about marketing your book after publication. He was literally stuck in the 70’s for that. When I mentioned social media, he again didn’t really know what I was talking about.

So again I’m not saying you have to be a social media busy bee, but at least know of the changes. To this day I have not gotten into Twitter. I know I should, I just haven’t. Maybe tomorrow. So the idea behind this blog, is don’t hide in your writing room and only write. You also need to stay abreast of the world and technology. Because when you do get published, you’re going to need to market your work. And what worked ten years ago, will not work today. For that matter, as fast as things are moving today… what worked today, may not work tomorrow!

Stay tuned….

Angela Abderhalden
Acquiring Editor
Seventh Wave Books, LLC
http://www.seventhwavebooks.com
seventhwavebooks@gmail.com

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Deadlines

Do deadlines inspire you or make you crazy? Why do I ask? I ask because deadlines are a part of every author’s life (and publisher’s life too, if you think about it). They are there for a reason, obviously so that things get done. However they can be a big pain in the you know what. So back to the original question… do they inspire you or just drive you crazy?

I live with the King of Procrastination. No really, I do. Deadlines for him are a motivating factor and not in the way you are thinking. He actually does his best work when he is facing that deadline that is just hours or minutes away. But it usually is his best stuff. So he is inspired, nah, works at his best under the gun.

I, on the other hand, am on the side that deadlines drive me crazy. I know they are important but they make me crazy. I hate to get behind and start facing down that deadline. I like to get things done before they are due. Usually. Most of time. But there are times when I get behind and begin to feel the deadline breathing down my neck.

It does not inspire me. It panics me. So I have to take a deep breath and put it out of my mind. Concentrate on the job at hand. And work until it’s done.

You’re probably wondering why this is the topic of this post, beyond me ranting again… As I said deadlines are or will be a part of your life. So, it is important for you know how you will react to them. And if you need to work on how you deal with them, you should start now. Start making deadlines for yourself. It could be as simple as something like this… If I don’t write a scene by the end of the week/day, I won’t be able to watch/play my favorite TV show/video game. And stick to it. Made the deadline count. Learn what you need to do in order to meet those nasty deadlines.

Okay, so I’ve procrastinated enough with this blog. Time to get back to work… I have a deadline looming over my head. No, really I do, but… Yeah, deadlines drive me crazy!

Stay tuned…

Angela Abderhalden
Acquiring Editor
Seventh Wave Books, LLC
Seventhwavebooks@gmail.com
http://www.seventhwavebooks.com

PS- Don’t forget about the free phone conference for all stages of writers. This Saturday, February 23, 2013, at 10 a.m. Mountain Time. Email me for the phone number and code. We’ll have four authors, two editors, and a book cove designer. Join us and ask questions.

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And…. Action!

We’ve touched on the idea of using action verbs instead of more passive verbs in an earlier post. And we’ve touched on being active vs passive overall. This post is going to address using the actual structure of your writing to imply action. All of these tools are important in writing.

In the past, writing was a much more cerebral process. (I’m talking quite a while ago, as in the times before the internet, when many stories were published as serials in magazines and such.) Now the written word competes with so much; movies, TV, video games, audio books, and the biggest time drain, the internet. So it has to move, capture and keep the interest of the readers. But you know all of this, so let me get to the meat of this post….

Which of the following paragraphs is better?

She knew that the monster followed her. She could hear the footsteps echoing in the empty chamber behind her. She ran as fast as she could, but the footsteps stayed right behind her; almost as if it were following her step for step. Her breath came in huffs even louder and faster. Her heart raced even faster then her footsteps trying to pound out of her chest. She could feel the fear of the situation swallow her up. Then she tripped and pain shot up her leg originating from her ankle. She brought her hand up to her mouth to stifle a cry in pain.

It chased her. The footsteps echoed behind her. She sped as fast as she could. The footsteps stayed with her. Step for step. She huffed harder. Louder. Faster. Her heart raced faster then her footsteps. Pounding. Fear swallowed her. She tripped. Pain shot through her ankle. She stifled a cry.

Both express the same idea, but the second makes feelings more visceral for the reader. The shorter sentences brings the reader into the story, actually making the reading faster as the girl is moving faster. It is more engaging and creates more of a page turner.

In movies and in TV, the director can add mood altering music to do the same thing. Watch your favorite movie or TV show and instead of paying more attention to what is being said, pay attention to the music. As the action increases the music gets faster with more beats and usually louder too.

As writers we are trying to do the same thing with the structure of the words that we write. Do you have to do this? Absolutely not. However, it will add a dimension to your story that the reader will subconsciously ‘get’.

Now of course if you did this throughout the whole manuscript it would get old and the effect would be lost. So use it sparingly, but use it when you need to, especially in action scenes. But don’t forget this as a tool. If you use it right, the added effect with strengthen your writing.

Don’t forget that if you have questions, you can join us for a free conference call the last Saturday of each month. This month it will be the 23rd, this Saturday, at 10 a.m. mountain time, which is 11 a.m. central time. To join us, email me at the address below for the phone # and code to access the free call. Come visit with us!

Stay tuned…

Angela Abderhalden
Acquiring Editor
Seventh Wave Books, LLC
seventhwavebooks@gmail.com

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Change Energizes Us

Okay, so it’s been a while since I blogged. Here are the facts (not excuses), the holidays, moved half way across the country, the holidays again, and new job. Now that you’re caught up…

Lots of changes this year. And yes, I do feel energized. I’m writing again and it feels good. I’ve started on the sequel to Desperate Situations, called Evasive Maneuvers. It’s moving along at a slow but steady pace. I’m re-editing the fourth book in the Mel Addison Mystery Series, Nefarious Deeds, that will come out in the late summer/early fall. And I’m also re-editing a coming of age story set in WWII. No possible date on its release but soon.

We here are Seventh Wave Books are also energized. We’re in the midst of launching two new authors. The first is Guy Gertsch. He wrote this awesome book that brought out the geeky classical book lover in me. If you love Mark Twain, or at least just like him, you have to read The Mississippi Immortal in Europe. His book is the story of a grouchy man who wakes one morning thinking he is Tom Sawyer. He takes a trip to Europe to follow in Mark Twain’s footsteps when he wrote The Innocents Abroad. During his trip ‘Tom’ discovers a lot about himself, besides meeting many of Twain’s best characters, he begins to question his ‘immortality’. I’m very excited about this book and this new author. Check it out on the website http://www.seventhwavebooks.com

Our second new author is Alicia Sheehy. Her book will be coming out later in the spring. It’s a fantasy that is a terrific story of a young girl’s growth and learning. This YA book is great reading for the teen readers, although I enjoyed it as an adult. So don’t think that you have to be a teenager to read it. No way! It’s that good. But more on her and her book later.

Lastly, Jason and I at Seventh Wave are promoting writing by holding monthly free conference calls. It’s free! All you have to do is have questions or just an interest in writing, email us so we can give you the phone # and access code and call in. It doesn’t last long, around an hour or less. We will answer as many questions as we can, and if we don’t know the answer, we’ll find out and let you know. And did I mention, it’s free. (We aren’t collecting info on anyone either. So don’t worry we won’t sell or give away or anything with your email address. I hate it when people do that with my information!) So if you’re interested email me at the address below. Oh yeah, it’s on the last Saturday of each month, around 10 a.m. Mountain time. (11 a.m. central time, etc.)

Enough of the commercials. This just goes to show you that we/I am energized and ready to continue where I left off last year. I’m going to try my hardest to blog twice a week again, barring any of life’s nasty happenings.

Write. Energize. Write. Stay tuned!

Angela Abderhalden
Author and Acquiring Editor
Seventh Wave Books, LLC
http://www.seventhwavebooks.com
seventhwavebooks@gmail.com

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The Sagging Middle

Back to the writing… So, we’ve got an awesome hook. A great beginning. And we know what will happen in the end. So we need to work on the middle of the story. This is where many writers get into trouble and stall.

If you are a plotter (a writer who creates an outline and plots out the entire story), this mostly likely is a little bit less of a problem. You know exactly where you are going and what you need to do to get to the climax.

If you are a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants, and just write only knowing the end but not how you are getting there), this maybe a little more of a problem. By giving yourself the freedom to go where the characters take you (all writers are crazy), it can be a two edged sword. I am a pantser. I find freedom in the art of composing on the fly. It’s not for everyone. You need to find your own way of writing. Whatever works for you, go for it.

Either way that you write, you need to worry about that sagging middle. This is where the story stalls for many different reasons. There are a couple of things you need to keep in mind to avoid that stall. (I don’t remember where I read or heard this so I’m not claiming these ideas as my own…)

Four important parts of a story:
The inciting incident.
Complications
Crisis
Resolution

We’ve already talked about the inciting incident. Moving on… Complications. This is both in the plot and the subplots, and in character development. Give your hero(s) things to fall, trip, climb, and stumble over in order to make the story stay exciting.

For instance… Lord of the Rings. The plot is a ring needs to be destroyed in Mordor. Someone needs to take it there. They travel to Modor to destroy it. They destroy it. I know that’s over simplifying it but nevertheless it is the plot. What gives the story excitement? It’s the things that the heroes of the story must do to destroy that pesky little ring, and of course, what it costs them.

Now adding complications to the plot just to add complications is not the way to do it. Every complication that you add, every obstacle added needs to advance the plot or character development. It must move the story forward.

We move onto the crisis. This is the climax. Always the story should be moving to the crisis of the story. You can have all of the subplots come to crisis at the same time or have them peak at a different time. If you do so, make sure that they are not more exciting then the main plot crisis. Again I turn to Lord of the Rings. There are so many subplots in the story, it’s hard to pick out one. But I’m going to focus on Aragorn and his rescue of Minas Tirith. His story has been weaved in and out of the entire book(s). Here he takes up his heritage and saves the city and, for the moment, Middle Earth from Sauron’s forces. His story and most of the subplots are resolved by this time. However, the big story is still unfolding. Now he joins (sort of) into Frodo’s story by distracting Sauron. And when the main plot is resolved, i.e. when Frodo/Gollum destroy the ring, his story is mostly finished.

And that brings us to the resolution… but that is for another blog.

Stay tuned.

Angela Abderhalden is the author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series and the Acquiring Editor for Seventh Wave Books, LLC. Seventh Wave Books is always on the look out for new authors. See the website for more info… http://www.seventhwavebooks.com

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