Scene Locations

#writetip Where does your action happen?

Do you vary the locations of your scenes throughout your novel?

If you hadn’t guessed it, I’m going to mention my spreadsheet again. Yup, I have a column for scene locations. When I read, I enjoy a novel that takes place in different locations and has the characters moving around.

Sorting the spreadsheet by location tells me if I’ve used one location too many times. Maybe it’s important to the story, and that’s okay. But what if it’s not? When I see a location turn up many times, I assess it and see if I can come of with a more imaginative way of describing the scene.

Sometimes by creating new location, the characters surprise me and the story takes a new turn. Always an interesting process.

Does Every Character Deserve a Name?

How do you know if you should name your character? #writetip There are loads of writing books that tell you not to name a character unless that character has a significant part in your novel. Well, how to you know?

I name all characters in the first draft. I don’t always understand what role a character might play until I’ve finished the novel.

At the first draft stage, I review each scene for characters that appear only once. For example, I might need a lift attendant at a ski lift for a given scene to work. If that attendant only shows up once, I remove their name. I call them by their title at work, function in the scene, whatever works to identify them.

This is also the stage where I discover who I thought might be a minor character, a walk-on, is really someone significant to the story. Since I’ve already named them, I don’t have to change anything.

I’m sure there are many ways to accomplish this, but this method works for me.

Copyeditor or Proofreader

Have you ever been confused about responsibilities? #writetip I think I’ve figured out the difference between a copyeditor and a proofreader, but if I’m wrong, please let me know.

So here is my understanding.

Copyeditors should find typographical errors. This means checking grammar, diction and usage. They should point out structural problems or inconsistencies, awkward sentences or paragraphs (but not rewrite them), but are not responsible for decision-making.

Proofreaders should find errors in the final manuscript. They look for formatting errors. (extra spaces, missing spaces, incorrect tabs, etc.) and point out errors not caught in the copyediting phase. These are the people who look at every character on the page to make sure it’s correct.

I’d love to get feedback on this one.

How much of you is in your character?

I was asked this question last night and it got me thinking. #writetip

A character comes from your imagination or your life experience. To me, that means anywhere from none to 100% of the writer is in the character. Since a novel is fiction and not journalism or a biography, I like to think not much of me is in there. Especially when the character is nasty.

A character’s origins may come from the writer, but I bet it’s more interesting to write and read if he/she grows into someone else; although, a person could have a very exciting life, and then maybe a memoir is the way to go.

I can’t imagine doing or saying some of the things my characters do or say. My biases must influence how I describe a character, but in the end they are who they are and not me.

If too much of the writer is in the character, then I think too many restrictions on what the character can or can’t do come into play. Let the character breathe and see what exciting things happen.

Should a writer blog?

There are many reasons blogging will help you improve your writing. #writetip While driving through Quebec, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine the other day, I had plenty of time to muse, and what I thought about was blogging.

I try to blog 5 days a week and doing this forces me to focus on grammar and syntax. It lets me work in my prose, making it clear and precise.

Blogging connects me to other writers. There are so many generous authors out there that share their secrets on how to write.  It seems the more I share, the more I get back.

There is a view that blogging takes the author away from writing their novel and maybe even dampens the creative ideas. I don’t subscribe to this. Blogging keeps me motivated and connected.

Is writing lonely?

Not for me. #writetip Writing does require many hours working alone, but that does not mean it’s a lonely profession.

Let’s face it, social networking keeps a writer from being isolated. An awesome writing community is available at the touch of your keyboard. The trick is not to spend so much time networking that you don’t to write.

Then there is the research. Interviewing experts in any area is always enlightening. When you find an expert passionate about their subject, the excitement follows.

How about all the hours spent talking with friends, family, and other writers about your manuscript? That’s definitely not lonely.

It’s a wonder any of us find the time to get words on a page, and when we do, we get to spent time with our characters.

So who has time to be lonely?

Where Ideas Come From

The hair salon? #writetip I went out for a hair cut and came back with a plot solution. The man who cuts my hair is chatty. He talked about his life, current events, etc. He’s funny, and I was enjoying his stories, and then it occurred to me he’d given me a solution for a plot problem I was having.

My problem: I still haven’t figured out how to politely pull out my notebook in the middle of someone’s sentence and write down what they’re saying.

Being a writer means you’re always working. Is there ever a time when you don’t think about your novel? When you are not hearing what others say and playing with it, altering it, and seeing where it might fit  in a story?

I guess it pays to  listen, no matter where you are.

Manuscript Feedback

How do you take high level comments and use them  to improve work? #writetip Early on, I received feedback from my agent, Margaret Hart, telling me the pacing near the end of my first novel slowed down. I hadn’t been able to see it until she pointed it out. Afterward, it was obvious.

So how was I going to fix it?

I reviewed each scene and asked myself, did I really (and I mean REALLY) need the scene. Just because I liked it was not a good enough reason. If it didn’t move the plot forward, reveal something, develop a character, I deleted it. That was hard. By then end my novel went for 86,000 works to 80,000, but the story is tighter.

For the remaining scenes, I reviewed first and last lines. Get in late, leave early.

I studied the narrative. Did I need the description? Was the place I described important to the story. If yes, I kept the details. If no, I either removed them or shortened them.

If you have thoughts on how to ” pick up the pace”, I’d love to hear them.

Writing While Traveling

How to write when your routine explodes? #writetip As the season changes from summer to fall, I think we all go through changes in routine.

I’m preparing to head south on my catamaran, Mattina, for a winter of sailing. This is a difficult time to write. Somewhere in the middle of the million items on my to-do list, I have to find the time.  While, I’m on the  move here are some things I do.

Print my novel to edit while driving (not while I’m at the wheel).

Read books on writing, so I feel like I’m working.

Have my notebook ready. If I’m not in a place where I can use my computer, I still remember how to use a pen.

Write something each day, even if it’s only one sentence, it’s still an accomplishment.

Is your protagonist likable?

How do you know? #writetip I ask four or five early readers. On my first novel, my husband was my first reader. I expected him to tell me I was fabulous, my writing was great, and he’d never read anything better. Well, that’s what husbands are for. Right?

So after he did all the above, he said he didn’t like my protagonist. Wasn’t I surprised. She was whiny and negative. Not a great personality if you’re going to spend 300 pages with her. We had a detailed discussion about why he thought this and it was back to work for me. I liked her, but I had to think hard about why others might not.

Now, I ask all my early readers to tell me what they do and don’t like about my main characters. This helps me gain perspective on the characters and think about who I want them to be.

If you’ve read a few of my posts, you’ll know I depend on my early readers. I can’t thank them enough for helping me, spending their time reading my drafts, and being willing to comment. The conversations after they’d read my work are often invigorating. Who said writing was lonely?