Optimism is NOT Arrogance

Arrogance is the belief that you are BETTER than others. Optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as others. We all have the chance to achieve our dreams. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Read it outloud!!

Final phase of editing before releasing it to the public in book form, and this, my friends, is the single most important part.  Read your entire book out loud.  Pretend you're making an audio book.  Do voices if you want.  Mumble on the bus to work like I did for two weeks straight.  It's ok.  It's winter.  Throw on a tattered hoodie and forget to shower and people just think you're a crazy person.

Why is it so important?

Because our brilliant mind can auto-translate and buzz over misspelled words without us even knowing it.  Reading your book isn't good enough, because the mind works too well and efficiently:  you need to slow yourself down, and reading out loud does that.  It forces you to go line by line.

Take, for example, this little beauty I picked up in my own book after reading it to myself, oh, seven or eight times:
I pulled Bill back a bit.  “What the hell are you doing?”
“Giving you a chance,” Bill said.
“Yeah, but this isn’t really a ‘giving you a chance’ kinda moment.  This is serious stuff.”
“Do you honestly think there’s anything out there you can’t handle?  Worse than the lake?  Worse than what you told me about in Pittsburgh?  You’ve seen the worst nature has to offer, and you’re still here.  Anyone who can cover the ground you’ve covered, keeping his team intact, is ok with me.”
I stood there, frozen and confused.  Me?   I looked around the room.  Ashley didn’t smile, she just put her two pistols into her jeans.  “He’s right,” she said.
Louie looked down at his shoes.  “I don’t want to go with anyone else.”
Tommy hoisted his sniper rifled on his shoulder and gave me a nod. 
The general shook his head.  “Not these three.  Bill - for chrissakes, they’re just kids.”
“Not anymore sir.  They stopped being kids a long time ago.”
No argument from anyone.  The room grew quiet.  “Fine.  Bill, you’re in charge, Dawson’s second in command.  Get those people organized and get ‘em ready.  Let’s move.”

Did you catch it?  Don't feel bad if you didn't, like I said I buzzed over it seven or eight times.  Spell check accepted it because it's a real word (although it doesn't make any sense in context), and my mind saw it and instantly dismissed it because it knew what it should've said.

If you read it out loud, you go line by line.  Slowly.  And then you catch it:

Tommy hoisted his sniper rifled on his shoulder and gave me a nod. 

RIfled.  A d.  One simple letter that doesn't belong. 

There were plenty of other examples that I caught by reading the book out loud.  It does take time, it slows you down to a crawl and burns inside your "get this thing out as quickly as you can" center, but it's well worth it.  Trust me.

So read it out loud, and WRITE ON!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How to spot a "show don't tell" violation

More revisions?  Like to find those areas you could improve, like searching for the word "was"?

Search for any narration that includes distance.  Words like "about", "miles", "feet", "yards".

These are boring descriptions that leave the reader trying to imagine what 100 yards really looks like.  Ever notice how many times people refer to football fields when talking about distance?  It's because we can visualize a football field. 

About is usually a dead give away, unless you're describing what something is about.  And again, it's ok for characters to use this, as people do this all the time, but the narrator shouldn't.  It's just boring, because we're not interested in metrics or area or what have you. 

For Example:

The road stretched for about two miles ahead of us.  First of all, I can't visualize two miles, because even in the flattest heartland of Kansas, you may not be able to actually see two miles.  But regardless, this is boring.  The road stretched out ahead of us until it shrank into itself on the horizon gives you a better visualization.  When Andy Dufrane crawled through a half-mile of the foulest smelling shit you could think of, Stephen King made sure we knew that was "five and half football fields". 

That's a long way.

If something is about a hundred yards away, you could say the person of interest was so far away they appeared slightly larger than my thumb.  Or Jim Lovell used to block out the moon with the tip of his thumb, indicating how far away something that big was.

How deep is the ocean?  Don't answer in miles.  Someone going two miles below the surface of the ocean is hard to visualize.  Someone going so deep in the ocean that the sun, without a single cloud to block it, vanished like God had pulled the string and clicked it off, is in pretty deep. 

A little flowery, I know, but you get the point.  Watch for places where your narrator is telling us about distances and you'll find plenty of gold pieces you just need to dust off.

So?  Go get crackin' and WRITE ON!

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