Filtering Filter Words From Your Story

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Something I’ve been working hard at in my writing is getting rid of filter words. Filtering is using words that put space between the reader and the protagonist to remove you a step from the point of view. Think of words that are basically internal sensations or ways that you would connect to the external world, words like thought, felt, saw, heard or realized.  They may keep the reader from connecting with your protagonist.

Not a big deal to include these in your first draft, but you need to look for them on the editing phases.

They should only be used when they are critical to understanding the sentence. Notice I used “should.” There are no hard, fast rules when it comes to writing, but you take a risk of pushing your reader back a step or slowing down and possibly even pulling them out of the text so it feels more like reading instead of experiencing the story. It might be that you want to add in a few syllables for pace or poetic use, but you need to understand the risk you are taking. Sometimes you can simply move the offending word into dialogue.

For example:

Tom had the impression that it was reaching out for them.

It seemed to reach out to Tom.

Or with dialogue: “Is that thing reaching out to us?”

Hopefully that gives you the idea. It can be quite insidious. I find myself doing it all the time. See? I did it right there.

Throwback Thursday – It’s much easier to edit someone else’s work!

This from Feb 18, 2011. Stacy has published several books now. She has done very well. We haven’t worked together since I started my Master’s program. I was simply too busy to work on other stuff, but we have kept in contact. I’m very proud of her and a little bit jealous. I need to get busy and knock out a few more novels!

Natalie Whipple has written a lot of books as well and her blog is still going.


79d18-catreadingThis week I had something nice happen. I connected with a new writing partner! I’m very excited about it. She is a little farther along in the writer metamorphosis, she has two novels completed already, but has agreed to work with me. We shared some of our chapters and did line edits for each other and it was very eye-opening. I met her over on Natalie Whipple’s blog: http://betweenfactandfiction.blogspot.com/

She set up a Writing Buddy matching thing, which seems to have really taken off and is no longer on her sight. I feel very fortunate to have wandered over there at the right time.

I learned that it is much easier to edit someone else’s work than your own. This is likely for at least two reasons I can think of off the top of my head. First, it is material you aren’t familiar with. I can tell you my first chapter has been edited so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve rearranged it half a dozen times also. I’m intimately familiar with the story, so much so that I have a hard time seeing it clearly now. It really pays to have a fresh set of eyes on it.

The second reason it a little more esoteric. It’s not my story, and I have nothing emotionally invested in it. I haven’t spent 3 years toiling over it and stroking it and coaxing it to life. I can see sentences and structure and see things that are slightly confusing because I don’t know what the writer had in mind when they created it. As the creator you know the entire story of every character, at least as far as you care to. You know what they are thinking when you’re in their head, but the reader only sees the words and sometimes as writers we can get a little lost in there. It helps to have someone able to show us where the dots aren’t connecting properly.

I hope you have a writing buddy, if you don’t I am highly encouraging you to get one. We’ve just started working together and I am already reaping the rewards of that contact.

Good luck in your writing!

Clear Ether!

Love Your Words (but not too much)

Ziegler has a lot of great quotes in his book, The Writing Workshop Notebook, but this one made me laugh and at the same time it rings very true. I spend a lot of time on picking the right words. I spend even more time picking out names of characters and places.
 
Words have power. They set tone and image and put the reader into the world you are creating. My wife thinks I spend too much time worrying about such things, but the wrong word can be jarring or confusing to the reader, and may draw them out of the story, maybe for only a moment, but great writing is experienced, not just read. When done extraordinarily well, the author becomes invisible and the reader simply goes along for the ride.
 
Contrary-wise, when the wrong words are chosen, or when there are too many, the reader gets bogged down and can certainly tell there is a conductor at the front of the locomotive who is determined to drive the train off the tracks.
 
Writers can fall in love with certain passages, and sometimes it can be to the detriment of the story. Less is more may be a cliché, but it’s usually true. We’ve all read stories that were clunky or overly wordy. It’s actually one of my pet peeves. I get irritated when the author goes on and on about a particular subject or describes everything in sight in excruciating detail. The consequence is that I skip the passage. If the writer stubbornly continues I may put the book down altogether.
 
Sometimes even when you love them you need to set them free!

Let That Thing Fester

The title of this post is so awesome that I feel like the post itself isn’t going to live up to it.  I actually thought of saving it for another post on the subject but I’m going to go with it anyway.  I’m having issues finding time for this currently, and I ‘m not proud of it.  I know I’ve been absent lately but I have been doing the job of three people at my day job (literally) and cramming for my Air War College Exam.  The good news is we have enough people back at work that I can get back to just doing my own job and I got the results back from my exam, which I passed with an excellent!  I’m only one test away from finishing now, so I’m buckling down to get through it and then I can refocus on finishing the edits for Clear Ether and get it out to some beta readers.

I actually had a little down time in there while I was waiting for the exam to be graded.  I was initially expecting four weeks of waiting but it only took four days.  At any rate, I had time to do some revision on the first few chapters after feedback from my alpha readers and I actually feel like I have enough distance now to see it like someone else wrote it.  I was able to make big cuts and move some stuff around and really focus the POV.  Getting that distance is key.  I got some great advice and some great feedback from my alphas, thank you!

When people tell you to put your manuscript in the drawer for a month or two and let it ferment, they aren’t kidding.  I did some preliminary editing after only a few days, but I was really having trouble seeing the errors.  Stacy can tell you I went off the reservation with the word “just”.  It was laughable how many times I used that word in one chapter alone.

As the creator you can often have a hard time detaching yourself from your own POV.  You already know everything that happened and all the background details and motivations, so when you go in to start your revisions you can’t divorce yourself from yourself (Austin Powers anyone?) without giving yourself enough time after the manuscript is finished.  Completing the manuscript is a huge thing.  A lot of writers never get there, so I’ve heard.  And I know I was excited, not because I finished the manuscript, but because I was one step closer to being published, and I wanted to get on with the revisions.  I’m here to tell you that you have to wait a bit before you take that next step.

The manuscript is near and dear to your heart.  You’ve invested a lot of energy and time getting to “The End”.  Carving up your baby is simply not feasible at that point.  Any believe me, it needs to be carved up and have great chunks removed and tossed in the waste bin. (Boneyard)  It’s like a grotesque turkey that has too many legs and wings and parts sticking out and it needs to be prepped and oiled and baked to perfection still.  But before you can do any of that you need to stick it somewhere dark, where you will leave it alone, and let it fester for a few months.  When you put it away it looked like a bright shiny baby, when it comes out it will look like Chucky, and you can stab it and carve it up.  I must be hungry.  Enough of the carving analogies.  You get the idea.

When you get it back out you will be able to see it as a work of literary fiction instead of “your precious”.  You can see the POV errors and the extra background that really isn’t germane to the story.  You can see the bad dialogue tags and the dreaded adverbs and poor word choices.  You can see the poorly written sentences, and maybe there are chapters that really don’t even need to be there.  At the very least they need to be massively trimmed and combined with another part somewhere else.  It is eye opening … really.  Put that sucker away!  Don’t touch it!  Ah..I see you going back to look at it, I said leave it alone.

Anyway, as an aside, I’m also in the process of applying for a Master’s program in writing, so I had to put some finishing touches on some writing and then write a Letter of Intent.  It was kinda fun actually. I’m shooting for the Seton Hill University Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction degree.  It is a distance learning program that will only require me to spend 5 days each semester on campus.  That works great for my busy lifestyle.   The cool thing is it is designed for you to have a publishable novel length book at the end of the program.  I’m very excited about it and have my fingers crossed to get in.  It’s a small Catholic university near Pittsburg, so it’s also driving distance, at least until I move.

I hope you are all having great fortune in your writing and reading!

Clear Ether!

 

Review – Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey by Chuck Wendig

I’m reading Chuck Wendig’s book on writing, CONFESSIONS OF A FREELANCE PENMONKEY, and it’s not only chock full of good writing tips but is also very entertaining.  He has a flair for metaphor and colorful language, so be warned.  But, I absolutely love Chuck Wendig, he is irreverent and cheeky  and is genuinely funny.  One of the things I’ve plucked out of the reading is something I didn’t really have in mind when writing the book, but I think it’s instrumental in creating a story that is engrossing and something that will draw the reader to the next page.  That something is tension, or more precisely, building the tension. 
It should start out slow but the tension should build incrementally to a simmering boil until the climax where it should … climax.  I’ve made some notes and know where I need to work it in.  It shouldn’t hit you in the face, but be a subtle increase until you can feel it as the reader.   

I’ve also been thinking about the follow-on stories.  Once I print this, I can’t really go back and change it to make it fit the story arc better (well I could if I self-pub this but that is not how I’m going to roll), so I’m trying to figure that stuff out now so I can bring in some foreshadowing or more importantly make sure the right characters are following a story arc.  I’m not an outliner normally but I can definitely see the need for it, especially for a series of books where you have overlapping characters and an overarching story arc that needs to be built in.   I’m making progress on both fronts, revising/editing and developing the plotline for books two and three.  There’s lots of lines of backstory on the cutting room floor.    

 
Clear Ether!

World of Warcraft is the Bane of Productivity!

I have to come clean.  I’m addicted to World of Warcraft.  That’s the first step, right?  Back before I started writing my novel, I mean years and years before I pretty much didn’t do anything productive with my free time.  I played Massive Multiplayer Online games.  I’ve played a lot of them, starting with the old Neverwinter Nights game on AOL, Meridian 59, Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot, Everquest, Star Wars Galaxies, Everquest 2 and then the mother of all of them … World of Warcraft.  That’s not even all of them but you get the idea.  I played WoW for probably close to 4 years then finally tired of it and started writing in my spare time instead.  I can’t tell you how good it made me feel to do something at least semi-productive with my “free” time. 

But I did it.  A few weeks ago I went back in to WoW to try the new expansion.  My kids did it first, then my wife and she said it was fun.  One of my coworkers, who plays a lot, said it was fun.

It is fun.  Now I’m hooked again.  I make plans to spend a good part of the day writing or editing and decide just to pop in to do a quick quest and next thing you know the day is gone.  Somebody help me!

As an aside, we took our daughter to college a few weeks ago and set her free.  She came back this past weekend, but you all know how that goes. =)

I passed my Air War College test, but it took them 6 weeks to grade the last test and it shot my timeline all to hell, so I won’t be getting promoted on this upcoming board.  It’s not their fault, I started way too late.  I’ll have it done for next year, so now I can throttle back a bit and actually try to finish editing my book and maybe get in some new writing too.  I have some ideas for the sequel that are forming, and I need to get those down, if I can just stay away from WoW.  It’s got a very strong pull, but at least I can recognize that I have a problem and there is no such thing as just a little WoW for me.  I haven’t bathed been keeping up my blog or twittering much either, but I’ll making an effort to put it behind me.  I hope you are all having a much more productive week!

Clear Ether!

More Cowbell!

morecowbell.jpgIf you haven’t seen the classic skit on Saturday Night live, here is a link.  I think it’s apropos to what I want to talk about this week.  It’s all about adding the right components to your story as you go along.  Maybe not quite that much cowbell, but definitely more.   It may not be quite as important on the first draft, but it really needs to be paid attention to in the rewrite phases.   If you’re an aspiring writer you really should be listening to Writing Excuses.  They have a real knack for presenting material in a way that is easy to understand and provides some great instruction.   They just added the wonderful Mary Robinette Kowal to their permanent team and this week’s episode was about Internal Motivations.  She is a great add and she has a fascinating take on how to write and is very good at clearly describing how she thinks about it.

This week’s episode spurred a conversation with my wife about maintaining the right perspective through your POV character and how when it is well done really makes a huge difference in the showing instead of telling.  I think we all know when we read something and it is compelling.  It just feels right and evokes emotions or understanding on our part.  However, I’m not convinced that we all know why we feel that way.  If a character has been giving hints as to how they think with little snippets of how they see the world peppered in along the story if makes their observations intuitive later in the book.  It cuts down on the need to tell about something when you are already in that narrator’s head.  My wife made the comment, “isn’t that just common sense?”  You would think it would be, but I think a lot of new writers don’t quite get it.  It makes a lot of sense on hindsight, when it’s pointed out to you how the author built their character’s POV along the way, but seeing something that “feels” right and really understanding how the author got you there is not so intuitive.   We know as writer’s what we should be doing, but so many new writers still end up telling instead of showing because they miss adding the little touches along the way and then want to convey something, but end up having to add an info dump or take the reader out of the story to add a narrative to add in extra stuff to make their point.  This becomes the classic telling instead of showing.

It’s the smooth touches along the way that add the magic.  The reader hardly notices that the writer is adjusting their point of view with subtle hints and observances.  In the last book I read, the main character was always noticing what things were made of or who designed it because she was very much about design.  It was one of her characteristics that she was good at noticing trends in the subculture and Gibson didn’t just tell us that, he showed it in every detail along the entire story.  She noticed architecture and materials and when things were old or new.  But it wasn’t in your face; it was just her noticing it, with very little actual text — just little bits and pieces here and there.

As you’re going through your rewrite really focus on staying in the POV of the narrator and show the reader what they see, just a little bit here and there, it will save on the telling later on and will make your character come to life.  We can all use a little more cowbell in our writing.

 

Clear Ether!

 

It’s much easier to edit someone else’s work!

This week I had something nice happen. I connected with a new writing partner! I’m very excited about it. She is a little farther along in the writer metamorphosis, she has two novels completed already, but has agreed to work with me. We shared some of our chapters and did line edits for each other and it was very eye-opening. I met her over on Natalie Whipple’s blog: http://betweenfactandfiction.blogspot.com/

She set up a Writing Buddy matching thing, which seems to have really taken off and is no longer on her sight. I feel very fortunate to have wandered over there at the right time.

I learned that it is much easier to edit someone else’s work than your own. This is likely for at least two reasons I can think of off the top of my head. First, it is material you aren’t familiar with. I can tell you my first chapter has been edited so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve rearranged it half a dozen times also. I’m intimately familiar with the story, so much so that I have a hard time seeing it clearly now. It really pays to have a fresh set of eyes on it.

The second reason it a little more esoteric. It’s not my story, and I have nothing emotionally invested in it. I haven’t spent 3 years toiling over it and stroking it and coaxing it to life. I can see sentences and structure and see things that are slightly confusing because I don’t know what the writer had in mind when they created it. As the creator you know the entire story of every character, at least as far as you care to. You know what they are thinking when you’re in their head, but the reader only sees the words and sometimes as writers we can get a little lost in there. It helps to have someone able to show us where the dots aren’t connecting properly.

I hope you have a writing buddy, if you don’t I am highly encouraging you to get one. We’ve just started working together and I am already reaping the rewards of that contact.

Good luck in your writing!

Clear Ether!

 

Rearranging day

     I renamed the book and rearranged the format of the Blog today.  I’ve been waffling on the title for awhile and finally made the plunge.


     I really should be writing instead of goofing around with this blog, but I am easily distracted.  I’m happy to be back to writing the first book, I missed the characters and they are anxious to get going with the story.  I really need to buckle down and just write.  I was doing a little editing today and was happy with a lot of what I had written.  It’s always nice to go back and say,”Wow, did I write that?  It’s not bad.”  It’s a hellava lot better than, “I really suck, I should just quit writing.”  I know there are weak areas, but I hope to clean those up on the edits. 



     I’ve been doing a lot of reading about editing lately.  There is a lot of advice out there, and I think you can probably find someone that will tell you what you want to hear, follow the rules – never follow the rules, write the way you speak – people don’t speak they way it will work in book format, edit as you write – don’t edit till you finish.  It really boils down to what is going to help your story not suck and following your heart.  If you are cut out to do this and make money at it, I think you will either have it or don’t (You still need to learn a lot more or just write for yourself).  I haven’t figured out which one I am yet, I have to actually finish a manuscript first.  I am not stopping now till I finish and hopefully I can do it by the end of January. 


     Then the wonderful task of editing and editing again and again, then having someone else edit it.  I actually can’t wait to get to that part.