Action!

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“Help! Someone help!” Luanne screamed as the masked man swiped at her once again with the gleaming blade of his knife.

Elizabeth read the supermarket ads.

Sweat beaded on Paula’s forehead as panted through another contraction.

Sandy settled down with a new paperback.

Lightening zigzagged through the darkened sky as rain pelted the frightened boy.

 

“Drop your reader in the midst of the action” is one of the very first writing “rules” I heard. (Running a close second to “Show, don’t tell.”)

That’s good advice. 

Face it, a book is a lot more exciting when, like a blockbuster movie, there’s a lot of action.

The examples above, show varying degrees of action. Writers need to strive for this a good percentage of the time.

Conflict is a great way to generate action.  Man vs. man; Man vs. animal; animal vs. animal; Man vs. the universe; Man vs. the occult and so on.

But, even action needs to be offset now and then, with periods of more introspection, internal dialogue, description, and conversation (unless it’s a heated argument—then, that’s action!) 

Everyone needs to experience “down time” every once in awhile. That’s true of readers, too. So be sure to include some softer scenes in your writing as well.

I don’t know that there is a formula or a magic percentage that anyone has come up with, but for myself, I try to start each chapter with action and end them with a cliffhanger.

What better way to keep the reader turning pages?

Then, I vary the scenes within each chapter with description, conversation, and action which keeps the story rolling along.

Once I finish writing a book, I give it a rest for a few weeks and go back to reread it before the final edit. I look for quite a number of things on my checklist, but first of all, I am sensing whether or not the story has varying amounts of action that make it an exciting and satisfying experience for the reader.

 

Do You Want More of It?

We are repeatedly asked to rate products and services on a variety of surveys and questionnaires.

Teachers sometimes use “thumbs up/thumbs down” with their students.

Some people use a scale of 0-10.

Others use a sad face, neutral face, and a happy face.

I was in a store last week in which customers indirectly rated their choice of ice cream BEFORE they ate it by selecting it by size labels:  Like It!     Love It!    Gotta Have It!

Wouldn’t this be an interesting way to get feedback on our books (AFTER they are read, of course)?

 

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Like It! Might mean is was ok. Not particularly noteworthy but not a waste of time, either.

Love It! This choice would mean, perhaps, that it was very exciting or especially funny. It was well worth the time invested in reading it…the reader would consider reading another book by the same author.

Gotta Have It! This choice would mean that the book was really a page turner. It was inspiring. It spoke from heart-to-heart. It was a great read. The reader would like to read another book by this author.

Didn’t Like It!  To be fair, we need to add this category to indicate a book that was not exciting or interesting or worth the time spent reading it. Perhaps, it even might be used to label a book that the reader put aside, mid-read, never to be picked up again.

And just so we include all possible reactions to a book, we might add a final category for books that are “over the top.” We might call it:

Gotta Have More of It! This would indicate a book that so resonated with the reader and he is watching for the author to pre-release his next one so he can continue the experience! He can’t wait to get his hands on another book from the writer. The author has gained a new follower!

I am close to the end of a novel right now. I think I’ll give it a try.

What about you? What books have you read, lately, and how would you score them on the “ice cream” scale?

 

 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/68894626@N00/2568882956″>Happy Rock</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

MILK IT!

There are times when my Critique Group writes “Milk It!” when commenting on some of my scenes. What they are saying is that they want MORE than I have written.

MORE ACTION

MORE EMOTION

MORE INTERNAL THOUGHTS

MORE DESCRIPTION

MORE CONFLICT

Why? Because that’s what makes a story exciting and satisfying. If you want your book to be a real page turner, then a writer has to deliver ON EVERY PAGE.

DON’T SKIMP.

PLUMP IT UP. Use rich vocabulary. Lots of adjectives and verbs. Paint a visual picture.

Furnish the details. Let them get inside the characters’ heads by revealing their emotions via DIALOGUE, ACTIONS, AND THOUGHTS.

PUMP UP the plot. Make the content EXCITING. Make your reading audience want to keep turning the pages.

I know I have read books that were so exciting that they literally kept me up ALL NIGHT. I just couldn’t put them down.

That’s what writers want, isn’t it? To have our readers so completely drawn in by our characters and their journeys that they just can’t turn out the light and go to bed.

When I am done writing a chapter, I set it aside until the following day. Then, I read it again, with the eyes of a READER. I look to see if the first paragraph “hooks” me, if I want to keep reading to the end, and then if the closing sentence leaves me wanting more.

If so, I start writing the next chapter. If not, I look for where there is lagging action, conflict, emotions, thoughts, and/or descriptions. Then, I re-write, adding those elements.

I repeat the process until I am WOWED.

Then, it’s ready for the critique group. If they are WOWED, then I’m a happy camper. If they are WOWED, I know readers will be, too.

So if you have a nice little story which is lacking in PIZAZZ, why not make it a page turner?

Spice it up.

Change it up.

Shake it up.

MILK IT!!!!

Brenda

The WOW Factor

Ross Perot said, “There are but two things worth living for: to do what is worthy of being written and to write what is worthy of being read.”

I just finished reading a book that had been on my “must read” stack for quite some time. It was written by one of my favorite authors and I had really been looking forward to reading it.

It started out pretty well. It met all of my expectations. It was a page turner.

However, about the middle of the book things started getting bogged down. Plot problems, character problems, difficulties with point of view. There were even errors in grammar and spelling.

I considered giving up on the book because the author just wasn’t delivering the goods. I was disappointed. I had spent about twelve hours reading the book so far, and was at the point where I would either have to cut my losses or keep reading in hopes that the author would be able to pull it all together in the end. It might not be a total loss…

Whether the author is well-known or new like some of us, all readers ask is that we deliver on our promises. Right? Before buying a book, the back cover, reviews, advertising and friends’ recommendations help make for a somewhat informed decision. After the purchase, readers settle into that comfortable chair and expect to be wowed.

So, I write this to encourage each of us to write each the best we can. If you are a well-known writer with a huge following, it is just as important as for those of us who are yet to be published.

We all know that it’s no fun doing rewrites, throwing out a chapter or two, or saying good-bye to a character that just never quite comes to life the way we’d hoped. Having to do these things may disappoint us as writers—especially new ones like myself who are excited to be nearing the end of our first book—but the fact is that we should enjoy writing for writing’s sake—fulfilling our creative passions. Beyond that comes the satisfaction of having our books read and appreciated by our audience and, of course, earning an income from what we do from our hearts.

It may take a little longer before that next book comes to the marketplace, but it will be more satisfying if we know that our readers are getting the “good read” they expect—and deserve.

If you recognized this as a major vent, thanks for reading on to the end. I feel a lot better now.

Brenda

Who’s Voice Should I Listen To?

Will people like it? Is it a “page turner”? Are the characters believable?

If my mother were to answer these questions about my soon-to-be published book, she would answer “People will love it. I could hardly put it down!”  I could ask any number of family members and they’d answer the same.  Families.

If I’d pose the same question to my friends, I’d get a similar response.  Except, maybe for a few who read A LOT. They’d expound by adding comments about spelling, grammar, syntax, and verb tense.

Ah, but now, when my critique group is asked for their honest opinions, I get suggestions for improvement, pointing out issues with point-of-view, voice, and so on.

If I enter a writing contest, based on reading my synopsis and 10-15 pages, judges will use a rubric to assess such things as a good “hook”, marketability, professional impact, and pacing. They may even respond to the question of whether, if they were an editor, they would ask to see the entire manuscript, based on reading such a small writing sample.

From those comments—some from very prejudiced persons—I base my decision as to whether or not my book is ready to send to an editor, a publisher, or whether it is in need of extensive revision. Three groups of people, each with a unique connection to this writer, each with a different focus, each possessing varying degrees of expertise.

So, I’m left with a big decision. Which group, if any, should my professional-writing self listen to? The one with the most expertise? The group of avid readers? Professional judges?

And, if I do listen, do I act on their advice? Do I base my future actions on what they have to say? How much weight do I give their comments over my inner voice—the one that desires to move forward and get that first novel published?

Lots of opinions. Lots of questions. I’m not sure I have the answers—yet.

So, I make a decision to read yet another “how to” book, attend just one more professional conference, sign up for an additional writing course. With added confidence, I  decide to trust

the voice inside my head,

my gut,

my common sense,

what I know to be true.