Home of Ane Ryan Walker, Teller of Tall Tales, Writer of Short Stories

Tag: rough draft

On Writing

“My words sound better coming from my hands than from my mouth.”

Unknown

I cannot tell you a story. Well, I could, but the significant question is can I keep your attention? Maybe, maybe not.

When you’re a writer you learn how to write a hook, and that you should use a hook at your chapter ending. It’s part of the structure you need to put together to keep your reader engaged. Sometimes writing to the structure goes beyond your writing voice.

Once you’ve written about a million words, you start to see and hear your unique writing voice. It’ s something you worked to achieve and you do not want to do anything to jeopardize it. Authors struggle against the editor who tries to edit it out of the story. But how exactly do you allow editing without jeopardizing your voice?

Truth be told, it’s damn difficult.

Most of us find the zone when we sit down to write. If you need to warm up, and I often do, you slip right into the zone somewhere around the second or third page. It’s different for each of us. But once found, the zone is the heaven where all good stories reside. They wait for us to trip into the garden of paradise and enjoy the moment. Because, that’s what it seems like, a moment in time.

When we read–and most authors are avid readers–we become lost in the story. At least that is the goal of every author for each reader to find his own way, at his own pace, with a separate interpretation. What a story means to one of us will not resonate with every reader. Like small hidden gems, the “moments of universal truth” shine through in varied places for each reader.

Each chapter should be formed to build on the story that comes before it. Not in an episodic manner, but rather as a new layer of character, influence of backstory, or personal insight as to why our characters become who they are meant to be by the story’s end.

So many of the “writing rules” are really guidelines meant to improve our writing. But even viewed as guidelines, they confuse the beginning writer. It’s as if you’re juggling, with too many balls in the air.

Show don’t tell.

Anchor the reader and your characters in time and place.

Don’t give too much backstory too soon.

Begin with a hook.

End with a hook.

The best advice for new writers? Write the damn book. You will quickly learn, good books are not written but rewritten

Traveling, Friendship, and Touring America…before it’s too late

It’s been an interesting summer. Fun times catching up with old friends and revisiting favorite places. My DH (darling husband) an I now travel full time in our 5th wheel and are striking off the places we need to see on our bucket list, before–I hesitate to say it, but before someone kicks the proverbial bucket.

So today, in the RV park of iffy wifi, and bad weather I’m resurrecting an old post about friendships and their true values. I’ll keep you posted as I catch up with friends around the country and see the sites.

Women and Friendship

Date: July 22, 2013

Author: Ane

“And life is what we make it. Always has been. Always will be.”

– Grandma Moses

Here’s a thing I know from my heart: value the women who are your friends for they are worth their weight in gold.

Ane Ryan Walker

I do value my women friends. I am still in touch with the girls I grew up with, my best friend from first grade who was still my best friend at high school graduation, and with whom I am still friends today. Ditto for my best friend from college.

I just returned from a long weekend at the beach. It’s an annual event, a three-day weekend cherished by all of us, spent at the beach house of a mutual friend.

Now these ladies and I have been friends for a very long time, sometimes old friends and sometimes new friends. Some 20+ years, and one who just joined us for the very first time. There isn’t a lot of exclusivity to the ”Girls Club” just a few simple rules.

1) Cardinal Rule: Girls Only, no children, no spouses, no boyfriends, no pets. We’ve only violated this rule once, for a two-year old male toddler whose Mom really needed a “girls weekend”.

2) If you get up, you lose your chair, and if you leave the room, we will talk about you. This requires no explanation.

3) No makeup, no bras necessary. (As we age, we make this bra thingy optional. Some of us really need the support.)

4) What happens at the Fish Bowl, stays at the Fish Bowl. We are a little upset that the marketing people stole this for Las Vegas, but we’re not gonna’ press it.

5) No criticism of others situations or behaviors. The truth of it is, everything else in your life may change, but the Girls Weekend is Sacred. We tease, cajole, and tell stories and secrets of our own and others bad behavior over the years, but since those stories never leave the Fish Bowl, the purpose here is to bond with the new, entertain the old, and to put in perspective who we are in this moment. It’s all about how we went from lean, lanky, single, hot girls to the sometimes Grandma’s of today. We know you, and we know your history. This is the place where you come to be your absolute true self. And they keep showing up.

So another year has passed, I took a poll, and if you weren’t in the room, too bad.

No names, the innocent are protected, always.

These are the women I’d trust with my life, share my “bucket list” with, and give my last dime. They are consistent, caring and crazy. They are a reflection of who I really am and I am proud to know them all.

I love you guys!

Thank You Kelli, for the recent visit to Guadalupe River State Park, as always it was great to see you.

It breaks my heart that I will miss Girls Weekend, but I will catch up with Y’all as I can while traveling.

 

Where does your story start?

There’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question.

I know many authors in various stages of their careers, and not a single one willing to say, “I know exactly where my story begins.”

Once in a rare while we know where to start the story, but not often, and certainly, not always.

As writers we have so many things to agonize over, such as “who does the story belong to?”, and “who will be the primary character?”

We need to decide so many things when we start a new story that we often overlook the obvious when we decide who will tell the story. For Romance writers, we know the story must be told by both sides, the “he said, she said” that keeps romance readers coming back. They love (no pun intended) a gripping story and so of course, they want to know why she behaved that way, and what he thought about it, and why he put the time and energy into winning her back. Did she make it worth his time?

If you have an audience that comes back again and again, you know you’re probably telling the story correctly. But how much do you agonize over the very beginning of the story? How do you decide when you’re just starting out who the story belongs to and how it should be told.

A general rule of thumb is when things change, the story begins. Always a good place to start. Change brings conflict. Conflict and its resolution or lack thereof, is often what keeps readers reading. But, unless we can identify and sympathize with the primary character, then you, as the reader are not likely to buy in for the long haul. And believe me, 400 pages is the long haul.

You must create and open with a character we love, or at least can identify with for the duration of the story. This simple direction is indeed a tall order.
How do I make you love my character? Or at the very least, how do I get you to accept him for who he is, like you but not like you, and still make him interesting.

In a word, backstory.

All of the things I, as the writer know, about the character, who he or she is, how they came to be in the moment fraught with conflict and change, and I must make you care about him and want to know why that happened.

You can love him or hate him, but he must arouse your curiosity, make you ask why? and also wonder, what happened next?

If you fail to incite this interest, you haven’t found the the right character, or the true beginning of your story.

About Writer’s Block

  “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”

― Shirley Chisholm

Writers write. Ask any writer. If they could stop writing, they probably would stop writing. For the rest of us, we write to still the voices in our heads. We write to get our stories out into the world.We write, publish, and repeat the process. Endlessly.

If you ask me about that thing known as “writers block”, I’ll tell you it doesn’t exist. I can pretty much prove it. No other profession allows its practitioners to claim that no work can be accomplished today, tomorrow, this week, next week, or anytime in the near future, because they are suffering from a “block”.

Plumbers block? No. Dentist Block? No. Nurses Block? No. Accounting Block? No.

Trust me, if you are a writer and you’re not writing it’s because you choose not to write.

But wait, you say. I really do have writers block. What can I do? The answer is simple. It’s a choice you make, either a form of procrastination to avoid criticism, rejection, or some other form of negativity. So, you ask, how can I fix that? Start writing. Yes, that’s right. Make a plan and stick with it. Just start writing.

Writing when you have fear is difficult. Fears need to be faced in order for you to overcome them. So of course, the answer is simple. Start  writing.

Having difficulty with your story? Keep writing. Many writers know, you can not fix a blank page, so fill the page, then worry about fixing it later. Nobody–or let me say rarely–does anyone love a first draft. Usually it takes a lot of work, self editing, story restructuring, critiquing, and professional editing to get a story into decent shape.

Did I mention the upside of continuing to write in the face of adversity (i.e, laziness, fear, procrastination, martyrdom, or anything else that prevents you from writing)is you will find your true voice and your writing will improve if you just keep writing.

Truth or Power?

  “All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

So all the rules you can’t seem to help breaking today which will land you in plenty of hot water maybe perfectly acceptable tomorrow.  Just go with it. Things change. If you can wait around long enough.

When we begin our trip down the path to published author, we first need to learn the rules. Excellent advice. I cannot stress how important it is the know the rules before you break them. Only then can you justify the unique twist applied to individual voice.

My best advice is to go ahead and write through to the end. The end of the first (rough) draft.

Then, when the first draft is complete your real work begins. What do I mean by real work? Well, for starters, editing. What kind of editing you ask? Good question. Editing in and of itself, can be considered an art form.

There is Developmental editing. This editing looks at the overall story. How did you structure the story you wrote? Is it logical? Does it follow a linear timeline? Does it make sense? Does it have all the components of a good story, in a logical fashion which will most likely cause your readers to pick up your book, and keep reading through to the conclusion.

Developmental editing is very expensive, and it is not the kind of editing you can do for yourself. Often we ask critique partners to assist us with line editing, and Beta reads. Not your best choice. As far as critique partners go, they make great critique partners or we wouldn’t keep them as critique partners. Most writers–especially those who take themselves seriously–have beta readers lined up. Those are folks who 1) like to read, 2) will be honest about the material they read, 3)have some idea of what makes a good story. At least look for Beta readers who have a clue about what makes a story good and what make it fail story-wise.

Line editing is exactly as it reads. An editor, who you pay, or your publisher pays, goes through your manuscript line by line looking for typos, grammar errors, (such as their for they are, or where for wear, etc.)and other inconsistencies. A character who is short  in chapter one who towers over others in chapter three, or might have blue eyes for several chapters which mysteriously change to green eyes in the end of the book.

Copy editing is done by the truly anal retentive. A copy editor’s job is to make sure you adhere to the house style designated by your publisher. Check submission guidelines. Submission guidelines as laid out by the publisher, will commonly indicate “house style”. Often the Chicago Manual of Style is indicated as the standard. The copy editor is the one who will help you to “tighten” your story. They help you to remove the unnecessary words, those which drag your manuscript down, making it harder to read, or slower to read.

Acquisitions editor is the employee of the traditional publisher who sees your project (book) through to completion. They buy your book. Which means, they sold your book to the sales team and the editorial board,but that’s a story for another time, another blog.

That’s about it for now, unless you plan to use and editor for SEO. For those of you scratching your heads, Search Engine Optimization. Because, when someone goes looking for your book, you need to help them find it.

Secondary Characters

How important are secondary characters?

Very Important. Think for just a minute how you might see The Harry Potter series without Neville Longbottom. Or perhaps Pride and Prejudiced with Jane Bennett.

Not so interesting, huh?

Important to remember the names for secondary characters. They should not be similar to the hero or the heroines name. The first names of these character should never start with the same letters. Names that sound similar or start with the same letter can be confusing to your reader. You don’t want the reader to confuse Crissy the servant with Sissy the villain. That would not be good. Remember, sound alike–Katy, Kathy, Cody–can confuse as well.

Where some writers will provide a full interview to get to know their primary characters, it isn’t always necessary for secondary characters. Does that mean they are less important? Less well-developed? No.

While they may not require the same depth of development, secondary charterers require the same amount of attention to the in development. Supporting characters who are well-developed are those who provide the proper support for your hero and heroine. Their development provides depth for the story and layers of interest to your novel.

Secondary characters provide a unique perspective through which the main characters can be viewed. What they see, hear,  and think about your hero or heroine and the behavior gives additional insight to the main character.

Characters, like people, are often judged by the company they keep. If you wish to define a characters moral core, the companions they choose are a good gauge of moral compass.

Sometimes the secondary character allows us as readers to compare and contrast the desirable qualities between heroes and secondary characters.

Secondary characters can contribute to a story by the use of valuable dialogue. They will know–and so will your editor–which questions should be asked and which subjects the hero wishes to avoid, but shouldn’t. They hep to increase the conflict by introducing the taboo subject, and sometimes outrageous behavior.

Secondary characters are not held to the same high standards which we impose on our heroes. They do not benefit when they advance to primary status in follow-up stories. And be assured, romance readers love to see the secondary characters follow-up with their own story.

 

 

What Writers Do

Writer’s write. This is what I’ve been told since the first day I declared my intention to tell the stories inside me.

It sounded so simple. You have a story, and you should tell it. Just sit down and write. Simple and straight forward. If only it were that easy. But it’s not. Whether you write for a living or simply to still the small voices inside you which compel you share the story you know, it is never easy.

The worst part, always, is knowing where to start. Most of us don’t know where the story begins with any more certainty than you do where every story begins. That being said, let me assure you every story is unique. There is no right or wrong answer about where to start.

Regardless of the advice you read, and the opinions are numerous, where the story begins is a matter of choice and style. You will learn how to choose what works for you as a writer, and style develops over time. I’ve heard it said you need to write a million words before you find your voice.

No matter what type of fiction you choose, writing a salable compelling novel is difficult. The fiction market is  highly competitive, and to succeed in the marketplace, even if you choose self publishing, you will need to know the fundamentals of good writing.

What you need to demonstrate is a good hook to engage your reader and compelling plot points to keep them engaged in the story. Then you will need to write sharp and tight to keep your story appealing to the audience.

Developing the opening hook is as simple as writing a sentence and as difficult as summing up the entire premise of the story in a few short words. Great opening lines create a question in the readers mind that needs to be answered. That need is what keeps them reading. The need to find out how the characters arrived at this moment and what happened to them. But more importantly what will happen next?

Hooks are also used to close scenes and chapters. These scene and chapter endings being the opportunities for a reader to take a break and put your book down. If you don’t want that to happen, then ensure that you’ve posed and important question as to what happens next?

Don’t worry about spending too much time on that opening, because for the most part, other than writing, most writers re-write. And it is not only likely, but highly probable, that re-writing is in your future.  If you don’t master the opening on the first pass (And I bet you won’t) you will have plenty of opportunities to re-write then opening into a fine tuned and lethal hook. Because the thing most writers spend their time on is re-writing and editing.

Who we really are

Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.

― Steven Pressfield

Hopefully, as we all prepare for NANO this year, we’ll remember it isn’t our job to be perfect. It’s our job to tell a really great story. The best way to do that is to put your head down and go for it. If you didn’t do any pre-planning or pre-writing, it’s too late now.  The purpose of NANO, National Novel Writing Month is to just get it done. The Goal is 50,000 words in thirty days. Roughly, that works out to 1,666 words per day for thirty days. I don’t like to do it that way, since I’m superstitious. I just can’t get comfortable with 666 especially since I write horror novels. So I write 1,700 or 1,500. However it works out.

Are there rules, you ask? No, but a few guidelines.

Must you write every day? No, you don’t have to, but hopefully  you will want to write consistently, which means every day. I keep the word count on a post it next to the computer, so I’m not tempted to edit yesterdays words before I begin my daily count. Since I do edit the previous days work in my normal life, this temptation is great, but in November, I ignore it completely. Good practice for learning to ignore people who will want to see you fail. I don’t know why they do this, but they do and you can ignore them anyway.

What happens if you don’t meet the 50,000 word goal? You end up with whatever word count you’ve got, and you can always try again next year. Hey, it’s a start.

Is there a prize? Yes, the rough draft of your next novel is your prize. Editing is another matter. So this is where most people realize once the first draft is done, there is still a lot of work. Yeah. Even if it is damn near perfect, it still needs editing.  Never forget that.

Oh, and the reason I chose this quote to start? Because I really don’t want you to forget who you really are, and a good way to find out what kind of writer you are is to just go for it. Get that rough draft done and then go forward from there.

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