While I consider myself the Queen of Run-On Sentences, because I tend to write the way I talk…in run on sentences, I also tend to write very lean. I know, that may seem contradictory, but it’s true. While author friends are trying to bring their word counts down, cut description and wordiness, I find myself short of my word count goals by as much as 20,000 words. Not a small number. And, fiction editors and critique readers tell me that sometimes I need MORE description.
I’m sure this comes from my non-fiction background. When I wrote magazine articles, I generally had a word count goal around 2,000 words. While each word should count in everything you write, when you’re this limited, each counts double. Every editor I knew had the same mantra, ‘Cut the Fluff’.
This works for me. I want to get to the point. Don’t dilly dally and draw the story out with unnecessary details, or you’ll lose me. TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED.
So, I find myself reading for details that matter. Why did an author put that description there? Was it necessary? Does it give the reader a better picture? Does it move the story forward? Is it something I would normally just skim over as too much detail when I’m reading? Does it make the reader turn the page?
You would think that because of my preference for clean sparse words that I’d read (and write) primarily short stories and novellas, but it’s not true. I read long, I read short, I read flash. I love a good story told in how ever many words it needs.
So back to my problem. Writing too short. I’ve decided it’s not a serious problem. The solution is of course to read, read, read…one of my favorite things to do. And write the words that matter, that of course is the hard part. I’ll keep working on it.
And what about you? Do you find that you write short or long? Sparse or fluffy? War and Peace? Or Flash Fiction?
I was out buying an electric blanket yesterday (it’s winter in New Zealand) and I passed by a rack of blank books and journals that were on sale. I can’t not stop when I see pretty journals despite the fact I haven’t yet used all the ones I have. So I paused and looked them over and what do you know, one of them caught my attention.
If you’ve seen any of the pictures I’ve been posting on Facebook, you know I live in a spectacularly beautiful area with amazing sunrises and sunsets. And this journal reminded me of the view right outside my front window. But more than that, the title really spoke to me.
Not just “start” or “do it now” or “get moving” but it seemed to say, “jump in, even if you don’t know how deep the water is.”
That’s a little scary, and that’s exactly why I sometimes procrastinate doing things I want to do. I know the wisdom of “count the cost” and I don’t think it’s a good idea to jump into something when you don’t know how long it will take or how much it will cost. Not unless you have plenty of time and money, and who does?
I’ve been talking about starting my own podcast for two years or more, and I’ve done a lot of research on what podcasting entails. I’m excited about it. I know what topics I’m going to cover and the format the show will take. I have all the right equipment and software. But I haven’t put a start date on it yet because, as usual, I never know when I’m suddenly going to up and move (husband’s job). I’m scared I’ll get started and suddenly find myself out of time and behind in my schedule and disappointing my listeners.
I bought the journal. I’m starting my podcast now by getting the information in my head written down. Step 1 on the journey.
The blank pages are calling out to me, offering excitement and adventure. And you know what’s doubly exciting about that to me? That’s what I want my podcast to do for my listeners. I want to encourage people to get started, to keep going, to see the hardship as part of the adventure, to understand that trepidation grows along the sides of every new path.
Hopefully, I won’t release the first episode or two and find myself in the middle of another round-the-world move. But I’ve got lots of blank pages here to fill with ideas on how to manage the work despite a potential move.
Some writers hate the blank page, the blinking cursor. But something about journals begs you to fill the pages. Now. With something. Maybe you’ve got a beautiful blank journal sitting around that you forgot about. Go find it. See if the pages call out to you like this one does to me.
Write down your ideas.
Begin your adventure.
Kitty Bucholtz writes superhero urban fantasy and romantic comedy, often with an inspirational element woven in. Married to her college sweetheart, their romantic romps have included a scolding at Parliament House in Belfast for canoodling, and three trips Down Under where her handsome hubby made a movie penguin named Mumble dance. Meanwhile, she’s (sort of) fighting an addiction to all things Monsters, Inc. Only God knows where they’ll wind up next, but it’s sure to be another adventure filled with romance and laughter!
The Internet hosts an amazing feast of website for writers. Some offer weird advice (it is the internet) and some offer good advice, but some offer excellent advice and provide step by step guidance—for free. One of those excellent and free sites is K. M. Weiland’s Helping Writers Become Authors. The website was the winner of Writer’s Digest 10 Best Websites for Writers in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Helping Writers Become Authors is easy to navigate with a helpful menu across the top. On your first trip to HWBA, click on “Start Here” where K. M. Weiland has organized her “whopping big” website into quick steps to get you started. Two of my favorite articles is included here : How to Write Character Arcs and The Do’s and Don’ts of Storytelling According to Marvel.
She has free books Crafting Unforgettable Characters and 5 Secrets of Story Structure and for those of you who like to listen to craft she has a huge series of podcasts available both on her website or through iTunes. She also has a giant Story Structure Database where she deconstructs books and movies pointing out where the story structure is spot on and where it needs help. It can be very helpful to see the story structure bones of other authors. The database includes new movies like LOGAN and old ones like the 1959 BEN-HUR and books like WHITE FANG and GONE GIRL. The database also includes two short stories and a video game.
K.M. Weiland has several reasonably priced books about writing from Creating Character Arcs and Structuring Your Novel to Outlining Your Novel. Structuring Your Novel and Outlining Your Novel are also available as workbooks.
Just this week she also released Outlining Your Novel Workbook Computer Program (for PC and Mac) which I’m pretty sure is going to be a birthday present for me. I am very interested in seeing how this program compares to Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Pro which I use and really like.
She also writes historical and speculative fiction. Her titles include the award winning Storming, Dreamlander and Behold the Dawn. (Dreamlander is a free ebook.) I’ve read Dreamlander and enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to reading her other novels especially Storming—because hello, 1920s Dieselpunk!
Check out Helping Writers Become Authors. Let me know what your favorite resource is.
Marianne H. Donley makes her home in Tennessee with her husband and son. She is a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, OCC/RWA, and Music City Romance Writers. When Marianne isn’t working on A Slice of Orange, she might be writing short stories, funny romances or quirky murder mysteries, but this could be a rumor.
During one of my Canadian vacations, I accidentally came upon a film crew shooting in the streets of Old Montreal. The movie was called Heavenly Dog. The star of the flick was comedian Chevy Chase (known for the Caddyshacks and National Lampoon’s vacation movies) and co-starring with him was a cute little scruffy dog named Benji. The plot of the movie is about a detective who is slain in the middle of a murder investigation and is given the opportunity to come back to earth—not as himself, but as a dog, so he could solve, along with the original murder, who was behind his own demise. I think it’s pretty obvious who played which part.
With hardly any effort at all, I somehow managed to get some one-on-one time with Chevy Chase. We talked about Montreal, the entertainment business and the movie he was working on. Widely known for his comedic behavior, I was surprised how serious he was when it came to conversing in small chitchat. I guess we all have this image of how we expect someone we see on film to act when we meet them in person.
Because I was on vacation, I happen to have my camera with me. But truthfully, there’s a reason why my friends and family used to affectionately refer to me as the Kodak Kid. If there was ever an opportunity for a photo, I’d be there with my handy dandy Instamatic. ‘Cause nothing says it better than a Kodak Moment (or to help you remember those things that age has a way of making you forget).
As we were posing together, I could tell Chevy was either making funny faces or doing some kind of gesture behind my back. I told him several times to stop, because I wanted to have a nice picture of us together. Every time I told him, he would humbly agree to stop. And like a fool I believed him. I didn’t realize until after I had my pictures developed, that he had put rabbit ears over my head. At first I was annoyed, but I guess Chevy being Chevy, he couldn’t resist. And now when I look at the picture, it just makes me laugh.
Several yeas after the release of Heavenly Dog I was at a CBS afternoon Affiliates party when I met Benji’s trainer, Frank Inn. Frank, a world renown animal trainer, got his start as an assistant trainer to Skippy, the dog who played Asta in all of those famed Thin Man movies.
Besides Benji (whose real name was Higgins), Frank trained Orangey the cat, who played Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Arnold the pig who was best known for his fictional character as Arnold Ziffel on TV’s Green Acres. Frank was so fond of these animals that when he died, all three of their ashes were buried with him.
When Higgins, the original Benji retired, he was replaced by his daughter, Benjean. She was smaller than the original Benji , but fluffier, and the tips of her ears had to be dyed to match her father’s. The older she got, her own ears turned as dark as her dad’s, and dyeing them was no longer necessary. I’m sure she was thrilled. And Benjean forever became known as Benji and went on to star in the most popular of the Benji movies, including Heavenly Dog, and then on to the popular TV shows.
Not only was Frank kind enough to have Benji perform several tricks when we met, but he allowed me to take a picture with the adorable moppet-like star.
After posing with both Chevy and Benji—man and canine, it’s hands down for me who of the two followed directions better.
Bobbie Cimo has worked in Hollywood for years. She has ALL the best stories.