Writers, Are You Treating Your Readers Like They’re Stupid?

3029426027_b758fb28fdAre you treating your readers like they’re stupid?

It happens all the time! But many writers don’t even know they’re doing it. It just happens so easily, sneaking into your writing, polluting your beautiful prose.

The little worm I’m referring to is handholding. Avoid at all costs!

What is Handholding?

Handholding is when writers pull their readers through their story with a strong grip. It’s when, instead of letting readers breathe in the world of their story, they drag them through it, pointing out every important pebble and shouting, “There, there, you see it! Right there! Let me explain it to you so you definitely won’t miss it!”

Let’s look at some examples:

In Descriptions

The cliff leaned inwards like a jagged tooth, its rocky border as sharp as a knife. It felt imposing.

What? Imposing? Sounds lovely to me!

Avoid overly and blatantly describing important details. Write your descriptions in a purposeful way and your readers will have no trouble catching your meaning.

There was an imposing cliff in the distance.

Never do this! Give your readers some wiggle room, demanding they think and feel a certain way ruins the experience of reading your work. Not to mention that descriptions of this nature are a snooze-fest.

Instead, find ways to show that the cliff is imposing without blatantly saying so.

In Dialog Tags

“I hate you more than anything in the world!” he screamed, angrily.

Unless your character has serious psychological issues, it’s going to be pretty damn obvious that he’s angry, even without the “screamed,” even without the “angrily,” and (shockingly) even without the exclamation point.

“Owe,” he said in pain.

Because people usually say “owe” just for fun?

“I love you,” he said, lovingly.

Okay, this last one’s kind of a joke, but seriously: your readers are not stupid. They can understand your characters’ emotions without blatant cues, and if they can’t, you need to learn how to write more evocative descriptions.

In Character’s Emotions

Jasper gasped, shocked.

Don’t you think your readers know what a gasp is? Of course they do! So cut out “shocked” and keep it simple.

Big, sorrowful tears ran down Emily’s depressed face.

Emily’s depressed? Her tears are sorrowful? I would never have guessed!

When in doubt, keep it simple. Let your audience breathe, don’t drag them through your novel with brutal force. The best novels are those that require the audience to participate and interpret.

Still need help? I’m a professional editor with affordable prices and I don’t bite….promise.  Check out my services.

How to Write and Edit a Novel: The Ultimate Guide

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Have you always wanted to know how to write a novel?  Well apparently, 81% of Americans believe they have a book in them!  But how do you write one?  More specifically, how do you write a good one? Here’s my ultimate guide on how to write a novel.

The Writeditor’s Ultimate Guide on How to Write a Novel

Step #1: Create a Plot

First, make sure what you have is actually a plot and not a premise.  A premise is the concept behind a book (aliens have taken over the world).  A plot is the conflict or obstacle the characters must face (John must stop the aliens from assassinating the president).

A plot must also have a risk. If the character fails, something bad will happen (the aliens will become president and control the human race).

2584174182_ffd5c24905Step #2: Create Characters

Your characters should have strong personalities and identifiable differences between them. If everyone talks and acts the same, you’re in trouble.

Furthermore, characters must have something they want, a desire.  The climax for the character is either achieving that desire or failing.

Watch this video and learn eight steps to writing unique characters.

Step #3: Choose a Point of View

This is where a lot of would-be authors fail right off the bat.  You need to not only understand the differences between the types of point of view, but you also need to make a conscious decision to choose one!

If you can’t name which point of view you’re using for your novel, you’re in serious trouble.

Step #3: Write the First Draft

Sit down and don’t worry about your inner editor, just bang out the first draft.  Try to include all of the elements and plot points you want in the final novel.  Don’t worry too much about voice, consistency, or cohesion, you can fix that later.

If you like outlines, create one before this step. Outlining or not outlining is a matter of preference.

7447732100_1dd60a9c6eStep #4: The First Edit

The first edit should focus on the big picture: which chapters/scenes should stay and which ones should be cut (learn how to spot bad chapters here).  Each chapter/scene should have a conflict and should push the story forward.  If it’s not doing either of those things, it needs to be cut.

You may find it helpful to use flashcards (physical or digital) to map out each chapter or scene.  Reorder them as necessary for clarity and to increase tension.

Step #5: The Second Edit

Now you should take a step closer to your novel and look for inconsistencies and issues with cohesion.  Is your character blonde in one chapter, then brunette in the next?  Does a character’s quirk disappear in chapter eight?

And here’s a big one: are you breaking your own rules?  This is particularly relevant in SciFi and Fantasy.  If you created a rule for your world (only wizards can use wands), then in chapter fifteen you break that rule (a squirrel uses a wand to create an endless supply of acorns), you need to fix that.

Step #6: The Third Edit

This is where you need to put each sentence under a magnifying glass. Ask yourself: does this sentence sound good?  Could it be worded clearer or more smoothly? Is this the best way to get this concept across? Is it in the character’s voice?  Is it needed? Is it repetitive?

3925743489_60e27e04f2Step #7: Get a Second (or third, or fourth) Opinion

Now that your book is the best you can make it, you need to get the opinion of another person.  Depending on many factors, this could be a writing group, one or more beta readers, or a freelance editor.

Your mom, brother, husband, friend, child’s opinion does not matter.  They are too close to you to tell you the truth.  They also don’t know what the heck they’re talking about (some beta readers might not either, so be careful with who you choose).

Step #8: Final Edit (maybe)

Take the notes and comments given to you by your beta readers or freelance editor and integrate them into your novel.  But don’t forget that this is your baby.  If you don’t want to make a certain change (because you don’t believe in it, not because you’re lazy), then don’t change it.

And Finally (you’re going to hate this) 

4835746606_04946f813bJust because you followed all of the steps above, that doesn’t mean your novel is publishable.

Some people have a natural writing style that is relatively error free. They don’t even know what the writing mistakes are, but somehow they just naturally avoid them (feel free to pout about this, it’s totally unfair).  And there are other writers who will make nearly every writing mistake in the book no matter how many times they revise.

What to Do

The best way to improve your writing at this point, is to learn what mistakes you are making. This can be done by going to writing classes, getting more beta readers, stalking writing forums, reading writing advice articles and videos, etc.

But in my totally biased opinion, the best way to learn your mistakes is to work with a freelance editor who will painstakingly explain every teeny-tiny thing you’ve done wrong.  Yes, it’s an investment, but I guarantee that it is the fastest and easiest way to improve your writing (my wonderful clients have told me so).

If you’d like to hire me as your freelance editor, check out my editing services.

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Why Dreams Make Great Writing Prompts

3122868843_fd587bf305Every writer experiences writer’s block.  But there’s an easy, all-natural solution!  Use your dreams as inspiration.  If you have trouble remembering your dreams, start a dream journal and write down anything you can remember, no matter how small.  Over time your brain will learn to remember your dreams (this really works).

Here’s how using your dreams as writing prompts can benefit your writing:

Uninhibited Ideas

When you’re asleep, your mind is relaxed. Ideas flow freely without worrying about your inner editor.  Your imagination takes you to unbelievable places and crafts plots so unique and bizarre that you’d never come up with them in your waking life.

Drawing Connections

Dreams can be chaotic. They can jump around, blend genres, and take you on an emotional roller coaster ride.  Taking the disjointed elements of a dream and drawing a strong, solid connection between them (to create a cohesive narrative) can really put your writing chops to the test.

Symbolism

Great novels have subtle symbolism that affects the reader in ways they may not even realize.  Most people’s dreams naturally contain interesting and complex symbolism that can give your story that extra special something. Check out Dream Moods if you want to learn more about dream symbols.

When using a dream as a writing prompt, don’t feel obligated to stick exactly to what happened. Expand the dream, change it where needed, use it as a jumping off point for your creativity.  The best part about using dreams as writing prompts?  You can manufacture a new one every night!

Need more writing tips? Follow me here or on Twitter.

Need a freelance editor? Check out my editing services.

Writing in Present Tense Might be a Bad Idea

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First, just let me say that I do not hate the present tense.  In fact, I have a present tense story being published in an anthology later this year.  The problem with present tense is that it’s great when it’s great, and when it’s not….*shudder* it’s horrible!

Present tense novels are an editor’s nightmare because no matter how much you think you understand present tense, you don’t.  You really don’t.  Every single present tense novel I’ve ever edited has had hundreds of mistakes in the tense.  If you’re an unpublished, unknown writer, having hundreds of errors makes it a pretty short trip to the rejection pile.  And that’s if the agent/editor likes present tense.

There are many agents and editors who have a written or unwritten policy to never or rarely accept fiction in the present tense (this seems especially common in adult science fiction and fantasy).  Aside from maybe second person, it’s one of the most widely hated narrative styles.  This doesn’t mean that present tense fiction is never published.  It is.  Though in adult fiction it is greatly outnumbered by stories in past tense.

If you want to take a risk and go with present tense, it is not a guaranteed failure. But is writing a present tense novel a good way to launch a writing career?  Probably not.  Does it lower your odds of publication?  Almost definitely.

However, for young adult and middle grade readers, present tense is far more common and acceptable. It’s possible that writing in present tense may even be advantageous in these genres (for stats on present vs. past tense in middle grade, click here).

Still going with present tense?  I cannot stress enough the importance of getting it in the hands of a competent editor before self publishing or submitting to agents/editors.  You’ve gotta get rid of the errors in tense!

Present tense is one of my specialties, so if you’d like my help, check out my novel editing services.

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Writers, Stop Repeating Yourselves!

3814788814_092e85e104You know that feeling when someone is telling you something they’ve already told you?  It  makes your palms sweat and fingers twitch.  It takes all the self control you possess to not scream in their face, “You told me this already! I know, I know, shut up!”  (maybe that’s just me?)

A lot of writers create this irritation in their readers without even knowing it.

This repetition takes many forms:

Repeated Emotions/Motivations

This is when a character feels a certain way about something and we hear about it over and over and over. Often it’s related to the character’s motivation or what they’re trying to accomplish.

For example, maybe a character really wants a boyfriend. That’s all fine and good, but if the narration of every single scene features something along the lines of “She wished she had a boyfriend,” it gets very old, very quickly.  Establish motivation early on, then let it go.  Readers can remember your character’s motivation without constant reminders.

Scenes with the Same Purpose

Say you want to show that Abby has a crush on Bill.  You write a scene where Abby watches him from the back of the classroom.  Okay, no problem, that introduces her motivation, it pushes the story forward.  But then you write another scene, where she doodles his name in her notebook.  Okay, we get it, she likes him.  Then you write another scene in which Abby writes him a love letter that she doesn’t send.  Alright already! We get it!  She likes him!

There would be nothing wrong with these scenes IF something else happened in them (she writes a love letter and gets caught; she doodles his name in her notebook and loses it).  A scene must have conflict and must move the plot forward. You can’t use scene after scene just to establish character motivation. You can test whether a scene is repetitive/redundant by taking it out of your story – does the story still make sense?  If so, cut it out!  It’s useless!  I wrote more about this here.

Sentences with the Same Meaning

Nearly every writer does this, and it is much harder to catch in your own work than in others.  This is when two sentences appear relatively close together (within a page or two, but often they’re back to back) that carry the exact same meaning. For example:

The couch was dark red.  She dropped into it with a sigh. It was the color of blood.

See how the first and third sentences are saying the exact same thing?

Writers should avoid repetition at all costs!  It makes the story grow stale and it can irritate readers (even if they don’t know why they feel irritated).

Need more editing help?  Check out my freelance novel editing services.

Make Sure the Dialog in Your Novel Makes Sense!

LandscapeWriters often create conversations between their characters that don’t make sense.  Usually this is because dialog tags and narration create so much space between what one character says and what another character responds with that it’s easy to forget what the conversation was about in the first place. This most often happens with questions.  For example:

“When do you want to eat?” Oscar asked, running his hands through his hair. He seemed distracted, probably wondering if I still wanted to eat at our usual restaurant after everything that had happened.

“Let’s eat at the burger joint,” I said.

At first read through, you may not notice that her response doesn’t answer Oscar’s question.  Sure she might have some motivation for not answering it, but in this conversation, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  And if that is the case, it’s the author’s responsibility to make that clear.

I see an issue like this one in just about every single novel I edit.  You can solve this problem easily by reading through your dialog without tags or narration. Read it like a normal, natural conversation (this is also useful for creating good flow).

“When do you want to eat?”

“Let’s eat at the burger joint.”

Now it’s easy to see that her response doesn’t make sense.

Need more writing tips? Follow me here or on Twitter.

Need a freelance editor? Check out my editing services.

Don’t Let Your Novel’s Characters be Crybabies

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A lot of writers attempt to increase the drama of a scene by having their characters cry.  This can work (sometimes) if we know the character really well and truly empathize with them. But waterworks should be used sparingly in your novel, very sparingly.  If everything is a 10 out of 10, then nothing has any intensity at all.

Besides, who wants to read about a blubbering crybaby, anyway?  The last thing you want are readers rolling their eyes at your character’s melodrama, silently urging them to pull up their big kid pants.

The other reason to keep tears to a minimum is that tears release tension, and a novel should build tension. So if something bad happens and your character cries, that crying is like a catharsis, washing away the fear, excitement, or sadness.

The other, other reason to avoid crying is that most people find resisting tears much more touching than falling into a blubbering heap.  Consider the following examples:

“I hate you,” he spat.

She burst into sobs, tears streaming down her face.

Versus:

“I hate you,” he spat.

Her lip trembled, but she swallowed hard, turning away.

See how much more powerful the second example is?

Is your novel making you (the author) a crybaby? Learn more about how my editing services can help you.

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Stop Using “-ing” Verbs in Your Novel

Want to add instantaneous strength to your novel?  Cut out verbs ending in “ing.”  These verbs weaken your writing and reduce the reader’s perception of immediacy. So avoiding these verbs can increase tension and improve flow.

6891657867_2b78f2abfeConsider the following sentences:

  • He was walking to the park.
  • I was dancing on stage.
  • She is staring at me.

Now check out these replacement sentences:

  • He walked to the park.
  • I danced on stage.
  • She stares at me.

See how much more direct and powerful these sentences are?  And of course,  this has a cumulative effect.  The more “-ing” verbs you cut out, the stronger your writing will seem. Consider this paragraph:

Abigail was walking along the bike trail. There was a boy riding his bike. He was smiling up at her as she passed. She started wondering what the boy was so happy about.

Now consider the alternative:

Abigail walked along the bike trail. A boy rode his bike and smiled as he passed her. She wondered what the boy was so happy about.

Need more writing tips? Follow me here or on Twitter. Need more help with your book? Check out my editing services.

How to Write Funny Characters by Stephanie Campbell

In my college English classes, I was told there are two things most difficult to produce in writing—irony and humor. I can relate to the statement. There is a very fine line between humorous and corny. I know I think I’m funny, but am I really funny? Chances are good I’m just odd. That’s why it’s so hard to create humor in writing. But don’t fear. There are ways to turn a bland character into a funny one. I’ve created some steps that can tickle your inner giggle maker.

BLOG PICTURES 11.   When you sit down to write, come with the right mindset. Don’t come to write focusing on the fact your husband left crumbs in the bed again, making you want to push him down a flight of stairs. You aren’t going to be writing very funny. Find things that make you laugh until your stomach hurts.

2.   Use Swipefile for more information. No, this is not a place for plagiarizing. I would never, EVER recommend plagiarizing. This is a place for funny inspiration.

bLOG Pictures 33.   Think through the last things that made you smile. For example, today my rabbit, Noel, got so excited when he saw the salad he brought over he fell on his bottom and squirmed around like a turtle. He gave me this hurt look when he got up like I pushed him. Now I may not put this in a book, but I could use a similar experience in one. Family and pets can be pretty funny. But beware of bunnies. They always known what you’ve done.

4.   What was the last thing you did which was funny? Use yourself and your mistakes as inspiration. This step will keep you from being the victim of a mad ax murder because Auntie Laura found out you used the time she got diarrhea at a gas station as a muse.

Funny Rabbit Pictures_25.   Play on a ridiculous trait. This is one of my favorite things to do because I am so OCD. I will only drink tea in a certain cup and don’t you dare touch my bed. I mean it. Don’t sit it it. Don’t look at it. I will kill you. So maybe you don’t want an oddball protagonist like me who is ready to bludgeon you with a laptop just because you sat on my sheets, but you could have a protagonist who refuses to eat red apples.

6.   Timing is perfect. Sometimes. Use the right timing in your work. Even a single word can bring a smile to somebody’s face if you do it right.

And one last thing, the most important of all.

PET THE BUNNY!

                           About Stephanie Campbell

540258_3082561602623_1669079159_nI am the published author of The Willow Does Not Weep, Racing Death, Case Closed, Mirror of Darkness, Hot Wheels, Dragon Night, Poachers, Dragon Night, Tasting Silver, Late but not Never, Specimen X, Tales of Draga, E is for Eternity, and P.S. I Killed My Mother. I have written another screenplay available, His Name was Dan Jose. My short story, The Beauty in Ugly, is being produced by Lower End Productions. I am represented by Sheri Williams of Red Writing Hood Ink.

If you want to read more about my release(s) or just want to keep up with me, please feel free to join with me on any of the following websites:

My blog: http://www.stephaniecampbellsblog.blogspot.com/#!/
My website: http://stephaniecampbellreleases.weebly.com/
My Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Stephanie-Campbell/540104712672670
My Twitter: https://twitter.com/StephanieECamp
My agent’s page: http://www.redwritinghoodink.net/

You can also hear me talk on The Candy O’Donnell Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/candyodonnell/2012/10/23/author-stephanie-elisabeth-campbell.

I have also spoken with Silver Star Media at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/angelsandwarriors/2012/10/27/meet-stephanie-campbell

If you would like to guest post on The Writeditor, please send me an email: ellenbrock (at) keytopservices (dot) com

Need a novel editor? Check out my editing services.

Leave Hands Out of Your Novel…No, Really

3333245919_5fbfe00033Unless your characters’ hands are doing something that hands don’t normally do, leave the word out of your writing. What am I referring to? Consider the following phrases:

  • She grabbed the cup with her hand.
  • She gripped her chair with her hands.
  • He wiggled the fingers on his hand.
  • He rubbed his eyes with his hands.

The word “hand(s)” is not needed in any of these examples.  Nobody is going to think your character rubbed their eyes with their feet or gripped the chair with their butt.  So save words, space, and redundancy by leaving hands out of your writing.  See how much stronger and simpler these sentences are without hands?

  • She grabbed the cup.
  • She gripped her chair.
  • He wiggled his fingers.
  • He rubbed his eyes.

Want more writing tips?  Follow me here or on Twitter.  And if you need major help, I’m a full-time freelance book editor.