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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Savvy Saturday: Writing Tips with Ron Voigts

Writing Tips: Some Rewrite Advice

So you’re done. Whew! You’ve finished writing the novel, the one you’ve been thinking about and talking about for years. Job well done! Now you can move on.

Not yet. Now the real work begins. This is the moment that defines writers and their work. You are now ready to begin the rewrite.

Suddenly your hands become shaky. Heart beats faster. Palms become sweaty. But you shake it off and plod ahead. To help you polish your dream, let me toss out a few tips.

Continuity

In the real world we have expectations how things happen and function unless we’re living in the “matrix” or some alternate universe. We anticipate continuity in our real life experiences and would not expect anything less in fiction. Reread for the continuity.

  • Time Continuity—things take place in real time. Assign dates and times to scenes. I usually add a first line in parenthesis and take out later. Review for conflicts and impossibilities. In my recent rewrite, two characters on a road trip could not arrive in time to meet up with the protagonist. I modified the scene to allow them to drive overnight rather than stay in a motel.
  • Character Continuity—a character has history, personality, appearance, and likes/dislikes. They better well be the same in chapter one and chapter twenty. The pretty girl’s brown eyes better not be blue later. The two year med student becoming squeamish at the sight of blood will raise an eyebrow, unless you’re prepared to introduce some conflict or problem in his life.
  • Plot continuity—plot needs to hold together from start to finish. Gaping holes are not permitted. Flaws will totally unnerve the reader. A dead grandmother in chapter one, making tea in chapter twelve will not do. The hero uses a hidden derringer strapped to his ankle better have been foreshadowed earlier.
  • Location continuity—draw maps of locales and plans for buildings and rooms. Messing up a location can be disconcerting. If the bad guys hide out is north of town, the hero should not be heading south on Hwy 57 to get to them. The Piggly Wiggly down the block cannot turn into a Winn Dixie the next day.
  • Object Continuity—changing the littles things can disrupt the reader’s experience. The hero driving a yellow Camaro in Chapter Two should not be cruising in a red Ferrari in Chapter Six. Grandma’s antique broach cannot magically become a vintage ring later on.
POV mistakes

The point-of-view character can see, feel, smell, hear, think and touch their environment. He or she cannot know what someone else is thinking. So when in Molly’s POV, she observes her boyfriend is angry, unless she is a mind reader, she cannot know that. She must have seen or heard something. He kicked the door, cussed, and shouted at her. The more obvious POV error is head hopping. Not recommended.

Scenes

Are the scenes well crafted? Do they move the plot along? If the scene lacks conflict and tension, it probably won’t hold a reader’s attention. Readers get bored when nothing is happening and page ahead or worse—put the book down. Also, a missing scene leaves things open and unexplained.

Ten More Things to Check

1. Show don’t tell. (This one gets beaten to death but still is important.)
2. Use active voice, not passive.
3. Use strong verbs.
4. Limit “-ing” words.
5. Eliminate excessive “-ly” words.
6. Replace overused words. (Examples: saw, heard, thought, little, looked, that, really, then, as, if, and so on.)
7. Use “said” and “asked” rather than fancier words. Eliminate if possible.
8. Avoid clichés. Find original ideas, metaphors, and similes.
9. Avoid word echoes. (Words repeated in short amount of time.)
10. Provide details instead of generalities.

Listen to Your Story

Finally, listen to your story. Word and Adobe have built in functions that read aloud the words. Some places offer free software for text to speech. Granted the voices are flat and tinny, but hearing your story makes it so much easier to find typos, wording issues, and sentence flow. If you have a friend who can read well that can work too. Just be cautious! The human brain is good at filling in missing words and making corrections on the fly. Someone reading your work may be editing it for you!

The most important tip on rewrites. Have fun! It’s not just the destination. It’s the journey.

About Ron
Ron D. Voigts, originally from the Midwest, now living in North Carolina since 1993, pens murder mysteries with a dark flair. He has authored eight books, including four in a middle-grade series. His latest mysteries, The Witch’s Daughter and The Fortune Teller’s Secret, lean toward the supernatural. Ideas for his stories comes from the rural areas where he has lived, places he has visited, his love of the paranormal, and an overactive imagination. When not plunking out a novel at the keyboard, he spends his time sharpening his culinary skills, watching gritty movies, and eating cookies with chocolate chips.

Check out Ron's website.

4 comments:

  1. Great Article. Practical advice for writers at every level

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  2. Ron is so right (or is it write?). The difference between writing a novel and writing a novel that someone will fork over their money for, is the attention to the details refined during the multiple rounds of revision.

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  3. Good advice, Ron. Editing is what makes a book sparkle.

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