Notes From a Twenty Year Almost Career. The guest musings of Indie Author Terrance Foxxe
Checklists are a complete waste of time.
Every writer has to keep track of just about everything in their writing career. I have many lists going at the same time for different reasons. I have a calendar, planning my day. What needs to be done.
My “how to write well” checklist runs about fifteen to twenty pages. I say that because it’s a fluid thing. Most of the time I’m adding to it. I review all of it at least six times a year. Page one deals in scene construction.
My checklists are what I’ve found pertinent to the understanding of my writing. Stuff like, Resist the Urge to Explain, with an example: Rather than telling your reader your car is trash, tie a wire to your starter and touch the other end to your hot battery cable to start it. You can pump the gas with that lever thingee on the side of your carburetor.
Book after book after book, I did just about everything I could think of to figure out just what it was I was doing wrong, not realizing what I was doing right.
I cut or converted into scenes narrative summaries. I hardly ever mentioned emotion, writing scenes to show emotion and help my characters breathe. How I could have a character’s history in my head, and use only what was necessary of that history to highlight an action or reaction. Why too much technical information can kill a story.
Name it. I had it all and used it all. I rewrote just about everything I had those first few years more than ten times each, and used a lot of time doing it. I’m glad I made my lists. They do tend to keep me on the right path.
Use – to show an interruption. Use . . . to show a character’s conversation trailing off, or for a one-sided telephone conversation, use four . . . . Em dashes and ellipses can be overused, so sprinkle with care.
Start a new paragraph when starting a new speaker.
High energy verbs! Crammed! Attacked! Bloodied!
Two words into one list. Good grammar. “Incredibly hard to take” becomes “insufferable.” “The smell of the thing” becomes “its stench.” And little words too, “issued forth” becomes “erupted.” “Opened up on” becomes “revealed.” And about thirty other examples as I discovered them in my own writing. The find and replace feature in my word processing program is a wonderful tool.
I ask myself questions like: Does the story have a logical flow? Do I care about the outcome? Do I have enough conversation? When is too much, too much?
There are questions and examples that helped me gain empathy.
What and why does your character love? What limits would they breach in order to keep that love? What are they capable of doing once love is lost?
God is in the details. So, what details are you using?
If writing is a war, is there enough battle in the middle, or does it sag.
Action, reaction, more action, and more reaction.
Read it all aloud. All change is good change.
A scene dragging along? Cut it down.
Proper words for their proper jobs. Emotions need proper words.
Get rid of the “right foot, left hand” thing. The reader can decide for themselves which foot or hand is which.
Words to waste: And, that, even, up, just, besides, over, and about 40 more I sprinkle all too liberally within my first drafts.
The words most commonly mistaken for each other. That’s part of proper grammar. And, that list is huge.
Most of you are screaming at me for not including my entire list. I could have, but I didn’t. My list is personal. It’s geared to what I think is important for me to remember and understand about mywriting.
In a fantasy I’m working on, I list descriptive words and phrases that apply to the world I’m building. Tall as a scarecrow, a bullock in length. You can figure it out from there. No modern reference points within the story. I draw on other’s words to show me the way.
I can list locations or draw a map, and the map concept is old news. I have lists of character names for each book, and what they do. Business names, street names, on and on. The thing is, lists are good.
I don’t usually get lost. I have a page of titles I might use some day. Lists of ideas. Words and descriptive phrases. I have many notebooks full of things I used (hard copies as well as computer files), can use or will use, helping me improve each story. I want to be one of the best out there today. I do try hard, and then harder still. I owe it to myself and my readers.
Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love,$2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.
He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/