Description in a Novel

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Another post I see a lot when cruising the various boards is “What is too much description?” While description is necessary to a novel, it also slows down you pace. So, when you’re writing your novel and you go ahead and write two pages of description, ask yourself: Is this necessary?

The key is to give them just enough description to be drawn into the story, but not enough to keep them from using their imagination. Now, I can hear what you’re saying. “But..but..what about showing versus telling?” While you want to mix showing AND telling into your novel, there’s no point in taking a page to describe a room. It get’s boring to a reader and also slows your story down to a crawl. There’s a quote, believe it or not given his writing, from King on this:

“In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.”
― Stephen KingOn Writing

A big problem, and one I too had to overcome, is being in love with your own words. Too many writers don’t want to cut down their description “because it won’t show the world to the reader.” If you feel that you need to give them every little tidbit then you’re insulting your reader!!! They aren’t so stupid that they can’t piece together the information you left out! Have a little faith in them. Second, when I hear folks say: “I just finished my first novel and it’s 300k words long,” I know they’re in love with their words. Unless you’re trying to write War and Peace, no novel needs to be that long-especially if you’re a new writer.

Also, and you can’t skip this step, description isn’t something that you just learn how to do. Only by reading great novels, learning from them, and writing your own work will you improve in the situation. I’ll leave you with one last quote from King:

“Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”
― Stephen KingOn Writing

Happy writing and good luck!

The Writing Process

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One of the many things I read on writing forums are questions about the writing process. I’m not sure why beginning writers ask other people what the process is like because there’s no one size fits all approach to it. Each of us is different and how we approach writing, carry it out, and then edit will never be the same. Some folks can’t stand if they don’t edit as they go along, while some (like me) just want to get the, for lack of a better term, verbal diarrhea onto the screen and then saved before editing. To each their own.

What’s really different between us all is how we are when creating. There are folks who need an outline of everything to know where they’re going, while others like myself just work and work to get the first sentence and go from there. I remember a Hemmingway quote basically saying the same thing. If you having a hard time writing, create the best sentence you can and then go from there.

Me? I’m different in the fact that I let my novels grow biologically. So, there can be fits and starts in the rough draft, and things that seem like a tangent until I rewrite and start to polish. However, it works for me. Another thing I do is to I’m a ‘method writer.’ What I mean by that is I literally become my characters when writing and sometimes it’s hard to break away for the day because it becomes ‘real’ to me. It’s a similar concept to method acting, which people like Pacino, Duvall and Nickelson are masters of.

I don’t not endorse this for everyone.

While method writing gives me a very close contact with my characters, I can see how it would be dangerous for those who are not as mentally strong as I am. It’s very easy to lose sight of what’s reality and that can come back to haunt you. Even knowing that the world I’m writing in is fictional, it’s still very hard to walk away and I will become depressed over leaving. This can be bad if a writer isn’t capable of being able to make that break away.

So, there are literally thousands of different ways of approaching writing. What’s the most important thing, though, is letting go of your darling and letting it out into the world. With the growing surge in e-books, getting rejected by agents and the Big Six doesn’t mean the death of a dream or career. You may have to run a blog and take to social media to market your product. Just make sure it’s a polished and good as you can make it before sending it out.

And one last thing: don’t compared yourself to other writers who have been published. You’re not Grisham, Patterson, King, etc etc. You are you and the goal to shoot for is to be the best you can be and not be like someone else. To do so will do nothing but drive you crazy.

I hope this helps.

Lazy Writers And Their Writing

 

 

anime_girl_elf[1]One thing I’ve started to see in some series’, which one author shall remain nameless is very guilty of doing, is the writer spending 1/3 to 1/2 of each book recapping the events that happened before. Why? Do you feel that people need to be caught up that much? Each series novel so, ideally, be able to stand alone. I’ve written two, and started on a third, novels with Talia and her sisters and each of them are complete stand alone books. They’re tied together by references to events that happened earlier and personality responses to them, but the first books aren’t necessary to be able to enjoy the series.  This is how we as writers should write books.

A friend of mine finished the last book of a trilogy from a very well known science fiction and fantasy author and she had a major complaint about the last book. “It took forever to get to the action.” So I asked her: “Did XXXX spend the first third to a half of the book recapping the things that already happened?” Her answer was “Yes.” So, in my opinion, she got ripped off from the $9.00 charged for a trade paperback. What makes things worse is this happens in another popular series that comes out in hardcover first, which means people are paying 25-27 dollars for a book and only getting half a book of new writing.

If we as writers want to start seeing our paychecks drop, then start to make the reader feel ripped off. They spend their hard earned discretionary money on our work, so we owe it to them to make sure they get their money’s worth. Besides, writing is like any other customer service based business: the reader pays our paychecks.

Keep that in mind when writing your next short story or novel.