Monday, June 3, 2013

A tip a day to keep the rejections away 

Welcome to my writing marathon—one tip a day for 26.2 days to help you become a better writer.


What are my qualifications?  For several years, I’ve written the Pet Vet column for the Post Bulletin newspaper.  I’ve had articles published in RunMinnesota, DVM360 journal, and The Wagazine.  I’m in a wonderful critique group that meets weekly to tell me everything I’ve done wrong.


Save yourself some time by learning from my mistakes.


Abbreviations as follows:

MS = manuscript

CP = critique partner

WIP = work in progress




Maybe I’m alone in this, but I don’t think that roses smell particularly good.  They’re pretty, all right, but they smell like hot dogs—and I don’t like hot dogs.  So I’m going to ask you to smell the lilacs instead—the most wonderful smell in the world.  The second most wonderful scent is the smell of tires at Fleet Farm, but don’t get me started.

(now this is a scene worth describing!)

My point is this—take time to notice the world around you, then use your observations to bring your book to life.  (Obviously, if your novel is set in outer space, this exercise might not prove to be so useful.) 


It’s summertime now (here in MN, anyway).  What would a character see, hear, smell, and possibly taste this time of year in the land of 10,000 lakes? 


We’ll call our main character Bertha, and she likes to walk her dog every day.  On this particular day, she sees blue skies and feels the warmth of the sun on her bare arms.  As she turns a corner, Bertha hears children playing hide and seek in the neighborhood.  She goes once around the block and heads home, lured by the smell of steak on the grill that her most excellent husband is tending in wait for her.     


Now that isn’t the most inspirational piece of prose you’ll ever encounter, but it gets the point across.  Notice your surroundings, don’t just sleepwalk.  If you stay aware, you’ll bring more life to your writing.


Setting is important in books, but don’t describe things just for the sake of description.  The reader doesn’t need to know absolutely every feature about how a character or a room looks, unless these details are somehow vital to the plot.


The amount of description necessary in a book seems to vary by genre.  Romance and historical fiction tend to include more description than a thriller.  Too much detail would slow down the heart-racing pace needed in a thriller.

(I wanted a romance novel cover, but aren't you glad I found this?)

Explore the first chapter of your favorite novels.  See how much detail the author uses as they set up their fictional world.  Learn from others to better yourself.


See you tomorrow at Mile Ten!

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