Tag Archives: editing

Writing Action Scenes – Part 2

Whether or not you read the last post, I highly suggest you go (re)read it now. It is an important example.

The answer really is to write short sentences. It’s a little more than that though. The habit of Steven King’s use of one word chapters was a little excessive. You. Can’t. Just. Write. Like this. And. Get. Great. Results.

I’d like to take you back to my story for a moment. Let’s return and look at Dragons of Wellsdeep pages 8 and 9.

If you look at page 8, we start off in Moonhunter’s thoughts. The second paragraph has Moonhunter being fired upon. Except for the second-to-last sentence in the paragraph, they are all relatively short sentences or are divided by commas, which gives a feeling of a break.

The third paragraph has the sentences stretching out a bit more. It kind of feels all short and anxious, followed by a bigger span in order to breathe. Then we have Balthier’s and Moonhunter’s action and dialogue sequence. See how it starts off long and starts to get shorter as they go along. I’m increasing the page here with the white space of the page.

Now, in the last post, did you feel the intensity of it? Maybe a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more? I set up the great question, then slammed with the answer.

Bam! I have you.

It’s those short, punchy sentences where action has to take place. It locks you in. But you also have to have those longer sentences where the reader feels the space to breathe. You’re probably starting to feel a bit of the hypnotic spell here with post. At least I hope you are.

Now look at page 9 and see the sentences vary in length depending upon the emotional impact I want for the action scene.

Now, go write great action!

Dragons of Wellsdeep- pages 28 &29

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Page 28 has a lot of things to change. Mostly, I think there’s a lot better ways to show this information rather than telling it. It’s going to expand the material greatly when I get to rewrite it.

Page 29 has less to fix, mostly because it’s dialogue, but there are still some things I can do better.

I also just noticed a spelling error I hadn’t seen before. I misspelled Moonhunter’s name on page 29, paragraph 8, by adding an extra “e” on the end. Does that make it French? “Moon-hun-tier”?  I wonder how many other things I have missed.

Happy writing.

Dragons of Wellsdeep- pages 24 & 25 edit

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Let’s look at my edit notes for these pages:

Page 24 is a lot of telling and prodding for more details. This really is where showing first draft material gets a little hard because I know that this is one of my weaker points. But it’s also very important, so please don’t get too bored. When I get started on the 2nd draft, you’ll start to see how this all rounds out, how it gets deeper because I know where I need to add things.

Do notice that I also point out things I like. That doesn’t mean they won’t be cut or emphasized more, but it’s a mark of something I feel I did right. Sometimes, you do need positive notes in your edit too, even to yourself so that it doesn’t get to feel like, “Oh, I’m such a failure! I can’t write. What am I thinking?” Again, that’s why I’m here showing you what the first draft looks like and illustrating how to fix it. If you’ve got it down, you’ve got a great start on people who only want to write a book but never do the work. So mark the spots you like!

Page 25 – what was this? Was there an explosion? If the ink was red, this page would be bleeding! Look at all the “was” words. There’s a lot of suggestions for improvement, plus a note to go into out-galaxy (OG) missions earlier. Yes, this is the mark of true first draft material. I really am learning the story here. In earlier pages, I had no idea that there was going to be a difference between off-world missions and out-galaxy missions, much like I didn’t know about the abilities of the dragonborn when I first started. I am learning as I go. That’s your proof.

How’s your manuscript coming? Hopefully well.

Until next time, happy writing and editing!

 

Dragons of Wellsdeep- pages 22 & 23 edit

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Let’s look at my edit notes for these pages:

Page 22 is run amok with alliterations (words starting with the same letter: i.e. Peter Piper picked a patch of pickled peppers). I mostly wanted to notice it on the page when I come back to it because I kind of like it — all those “s” words give the illusion of spinning. However, I know that “spinning on her slippered foot” is really something I do with Keteria from my Sacred Knight series. I really need to make Sundancer different. Maybe she pirouettes. Okay, I really need to get some dancing terms for her — and that’s something I’m only realizing now as I’m writing this. So, if you notice while editing that something like this stands out, it might be more than just a note on the page. Dig deeper into your reason for why it stopped you.

There’s also a lot of “was” words. I do like the connection to the Norse mythology — it emphases the fact that this is an Earth-based universe versus a non-Earth based universe (blog coming on that later). It also ties it in to The Loki Adventures.

Page 23 – still wanting more information from the characters, how they are feeling, showing versus telling items. Then nearing the end of the page I’m getting into a lot of similar sentence structure: he tore, he couldn’t, she was, he wanted, he curled, he felt, etc. That tells me there is a good opportunity to add setting to their actions, and a lot more action and interactions between the characters. This is a very loose lace where I can embroider in more juicy details. That’s why there is the big MORE! at the end.

Are you getting enough in your writing? Maybe a second glance over it wouldn’t hurt.

Happy writing!

Dragons of Wellsdeep – Pages 20 & 21 edit

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When I get to editing this for the rewrite, I need to push the characters more here and how they are reacting off of one another. Especially if you take a look at all the “was” words on page 21. This is an overload for me. That definitely tells me there’s a problem! Yes, it is all telling. Fortunately I have a lot of room to work with, so it’s just a matter of of untying the knot I’ve got here and fixing it. I look forward to it.

Yes, adding those layers and deepening the story is what makes if fun. I promise.

Happy writing!

 

When the writing gets hard

Yes, there are days when the writing gets hard. There are days when the editing gets harder.

Go on, Google all you want on creative blocks. You’ll find lots of answers.

Yes, follow all those leads if you will: read a book, take a walk, write anyway, edit anyway, blah, blah, blah.

The truth is there are just some days when you can’t do it. This blog is as much about my journey in writing as it is yours. It is my legacy. Someday someone will come along and read this and know that I’m sharing everything I know about writing with you in order to help you.

So here it is, the truth about when the writing gets hard:

Suck it up, cupcake. No job or career is fun all the time. There are times when you just have to make yourself have the discipline to step forward into the task you don’t really want to do. If you want to wait on the Muse, put down your pencil or delete all the writing files off your hard drive now. You cannot wait for anything. You only have this moment because one minute, one hour from now and it’s gone. Hard work requires discipline. If you want to have your book done, you have to do it.  Put your butt in the chair and do the work or suffer the regret later. That’s your choice.

Now I’m really going to injure those creative block lists. The thing is, they aren’t all wrong either. Sometimes you do need to step away for a moment. A moment! Half an hour or less, if you think that life won’t suck you into something else. Don’t let drama happen to you in order to procrastinate. If you think that’s going to happen, skip this paragraph and move right to the next one.

Just because you don’t want to write one book, or if you feel it’s too difficult of a scene for you to write from where you’re at in your life right now, switch to something else. Yes, you heard me. Start another project. (gasp!) I’ve found that everything cycles around. I’ve learned to listen to my Muse and what she wants to work on. Sometimes I have a schedule for a book and I have to override the Muse — but hey, who really is in control of this body anyway? When she gets a body, she can do what she wants too. Until then, I ask, “What would you like to work on?”, she answers, then I have to decide if it’s really wise or not. My decision. Then I step into discipline, put my butt in the chair, and get to work.

I generally have 2 or 3 projects going at once. My main writing projects right now are, of course, Sacred Knight and The Loki Adventures. After that, I know that I have Dragons of Wellsdeep to write for this blog. If I really don’t want to work on any of those projects, I also have the script for my Weblinks comic (which I’m also lining out at a novel when I have time and inclination), and another young adult story. I like having lots of ideas. I might not feel like working on one story at the moment, but surely there is another which I can easily lean into and work on.

If I don’t, I write anyway. Unless I really can’t. But that’s usually because I’ve gone into a cycle to draw or paint and that’s a whole other can of worms.

So write. Be disciplined, even if you don’t feel like. The Muse will sit down with you when she realizes you are serious. She usually just wants to see you get to work first.

Get to it. Happy writing.

Dragons of Wellsdeep – Pages 18 &19 edit

 

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Remember my post from last Thursday about balancing your posts. Yeah, these pages show my definite weakness for setting. Fortunately, that’s why we edit our manuscript!

Once again we’re in the “white room” and there’s a lot of talking. It’s not all talking, so that’s good, but wouldn’t you like to know what Sundancer looks like. I do, but right now it’s in my head. I have so got to get it out.

Another thing I’ve alluded to, but never really said is that they have speed healing. This would be a great scene to put it in. I started thinking about his mouth and gums, how he had steam coming out of his mouth. It’s not possible for him to be unhurt. When was the last time you drank scalding coffee or tea and wished you hadn’t?

Also, notice how with the names, Serchk and Sundancer, we start to have a lot of alliteration going on in the middle of page 19. I’ve underlined all the S’s just so I remember to change something.

Well, I have a lot of work ahead of me to get this part whipped into shape. Bring it on!

Happy writing.

Dragons of Wellsdeep – pages 16 & 17 edit

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We’re starting to get into a scene that was very easy for me to write. I’m starting to feel like I have a good handle on the characters, though what Moonhunter is up to is still a little vague and unclear. It’s developing and that’s good. I’m still also waiting to get his motivation, but I trust that it will fall into place; I’ve been giving it a lot of thought still.

In some ways, writing this is feeling a lot like writing The Loki Adventures. I don’t see the whole journey, only the next step. But, if you’ve been reading the posts I’ve been putting out on Thursdays as well as this one, you know that I’m a big believer in just getting the story out on the page. Once you’ve written something, then you can go back and figure out the actual story. It’s like going to the store and buying clay; okay, that part has been successful, but now you need to mold it into something.  Honestly, I’ve reached a point where I wish my painting was as easy as my writing (strange, because for quite a number of years it was the other way around). Enough whining. Onward!

On these two pages, I’m wanting a lot more description. Yeah, that’s no shocker. I know that I first write with a lot of action and dialogue. You might be completely different. I know authors that write tons of description in their first drafts, then they have to go back and work it in. But for me, I’m moving with the story, transcribing what’s happening. Then I have to go back, re-dream the dream so to speak, and pull the setting out of my head to put it onto the page.

Now that I know exactly what Moonhunter is up to in the next scene, I really need to go back and heighten his worry that Balthier knows something. And because he’s developing his special powers, I need to really slow down and introduce the reader to what he’s doing and why. Again, I know it’s in my head. I just have to get it out on the page for the reader. I know you don’t realize it, but when Moonhunter’s voice deepens, that’s part of the dragon change and him gathering fire within him. You’ll see that again in the next couple of pages that reference is made to it again, along with a note to myself that when Moonhunter is aboard the ship with Balthier and he makes the room hot that it’s him working on his dragon breath. I might not have even remembered that when I was editing those pages, but I did make myself a note to go back and check.

Get it out, get it down on the page. Form into something later, once you know what you’re building.

Happy writing!

When Your Details Stops the Story

Beginning and novice writers fall prey to this clever little deceiver when they suddenly realize that they hadn’t included any details in a scene. They start popping them in without thinking about their placement or they rush back during a rewrite and drop them in like they are sprinkling in raindrops. These haphazard details smear across the page and take the characters hostage at knife point to completely stop the story. Here’s a scene I see way too often:

Mary jumped out of the car and ran into the house. The little two-story cottage style abode had a white picket fence surrounding it. The lawn had been cut two days ago, and already it showed signs of needing to be watered. Shelby barked at Mary as she unlocked the door with one of the many keys on her key ring. She had about 10 on the loop, but the house key was the only golden one. Inside, the hallway was dark, despite the bright day outside. She flipped on the light and rushed inside. The new carpet squished beneath her feet. The hallway still smelled of fresh paint. A breeze, as if a window had been left open, pressed against her warm skin. She noticed a coffee cup sitting on the low table in the middle of the living room. With a shock, she noticed someone was in there, sitting casually in the recliner. She entered the room. The ornate room had red carpet that hadn’t yet been replaced. As a child, her grandmother had never let her play in the room and had hardly used it herself, so the carpet was hardly worn. All her grandmother’s nick-knacks remained on the fireplace hearth just in front of the mirror in which she could now see the reflection of the man sitting in the room. A lamp was on beside him, shining onto a book he’d pulled from the shelf beside the fireplace. He slammed it shut as Mary entered the room. The sound made her jump.

Okay, well, that’s a start. But there’s a lot that needs work. Let’s start at the top.

Mary first gets out of the car and runs into the house. Then, it’s like she backs up in reverse so we can see not only the house, but the white picket fence, the lawn, the dog, and the keys. Not only has that stopped the reader, but it’s made the reader go backwards too.

Remodeling the house might be important, especially in light of the room that Grandmother left pretty much untouched — it was a show room, one reserved for company and special occasions and otherwise not used. I got that from writing this. Did you get that sense from reading it? Possibly not. So there were thoughts of the author that the reader might not get.

Then, we have the stranger in the room. Did you notice how even after she’d realized that someone was in the house she still reflected on the carpet, the nick-knacks, and the lamp without having a reaction to him. In fact, Mary doesn’t react at all until he slams the book closed. Let me ask you: if you came home to discover a stranger in your house, would you think about these things or would you be dialing 9-1-1 already? Yeah, let’s not make our characters do things we ourselves wouldn’t do (unless there is a very good reason for it, like she knows the cops are right behind her already).

Do you also see how the details of the story are listed like facts? Starting with the keys, in describing that she has 10 of them on her ring, right on the lamp. The story has pretty much stopped in this time, except for her turning and realizing that someone is in the house — that’s the only action. All the rest are details that have stopped the story.

So, now let’s fix this:

Mary pulled the car to the curb outside of her two-story cottage style house. She pushed her way through the gate of the white picket fence, reaching down quickly to pet Shelby as he barked a greeting to her. Mary riffled through the multiple keys on the ring for the golden house key and unlocked the door. Through the darkness of the hallway, the scent of fresh paint greeted her. She flipped the light and as she turned, she noticed a coffee cup sitting on the low table in the living room. A soft breeze drifted across her face as if someone had opened a window. Her heartbeat quickened as she stepped toward the room. The new carpeting squished beneath her shoes, dampening the sound of her movement. As she drew closer, she saw a black hole on the shelf where a book had been removed from the others. She scanned quickly to see if anything else in the room had been disturbed. All of her grandmother’s nick-knacks were lined up perfectly across the fireplace mantle. She looked up into the mirror above the fireplace which reflected the rest of the room and saw him. The stranger’s eyes locked with hers. He sat in the recliner, the book in his hands. He slammed it shut, making Mary jump, as he made to stand.

First we see Mary making her way from the car to the house. We show the reader the house from the vantage point of the car and move her through the fence and into the yard. Gone now is the state of the grass — it’s not important to the scene. The dog stays, because the dog is a state of normalcy — she’s expecting to see the dog and since the dog isn’t freaking out about someone being inside the house, the reader doesn’t expect it and must wonder how someone got passed the dog. This creates suspense.

Also notice in the first example how things are separated from the rest of the story: hallway was dark, carpet squished, fresh paint smelled, etc. All these things are independent sentences on their own. But in the second example, I’ve actually blended these things into the scene. They are no longer facts being told, but have a reason for being in the story: the carpet dampens the sound of her walking, the hallway is dark to bring on a sense of foreboding, the odor of the paint greets her in another warm gesture to make her feel safe in opposition to the dark hallway. Even the items in the room are no longer facts, but clues as she discovers the stranger in her house.

I did take out the whole part about the house being her grandmother’s. It probably is important, but not here. What’s important here is Mary returning home to find a stranger.

Any time you have details in your story that are standing alone like facts being shouted from a textbook, find a way to blend them into your story. If you don’t, they stop the story.

If you’d like another example of this, check out my chapter on narrative in The Write Edit.

Until next time, happy writing.

Dragons of Wellsdeep – pages 14 & 15 edit

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Well, there’s not really a whole lot to say about these two pages except that my pronoun problem which I spoke about in last week’s post has gotten so much worse. I’m still not sure how to rewrite this other than to slow it down and add setting and narrative, but that will come.

Because this is a repeat problem, I really don’t have a lot to say about these two pages. I hope your own writing is coming along well.

Don’t forget: if you’re having any questions on your own work, patterns that you’re seeing and would like to solve, send me an email.

Until next time, happy writing!