Tuesday, August 07, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: Keep Going

Welcome to Today's installment of To-Do Tuesday. I've got a great line-up of ways to keep your motivation strong and keep going until you meet your goals! I've also got a neat exercise for you putting Paty's post on passive voice into practice.

Remember, even when you don't have BIG news to share, we all benefit from sharing the small milestones--the page goals met, the queries sent, the outline finished. I invite you to set a goal RIGHT NOW for next week. Now, mark your calendar to e-mail me on Monday night and tell me that you MET your personal goal. Think about how good it feels to share at our monthly meetings, and how much you enjoy reading others' successes in this column. YOU are ALREADY a success story in the making. Share it!
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Whodunnit: A Writer's Guide to Working a Crime Scene

The MWVRWA conference will be held Saturday, October 6th from 9:00 to 4:00 in West Salem, Oregon. We are now accepting online registrations, and if you register before September 18, the cost is only $25. This is a true bargain! We've lined up local law enforcement experts who will walk us through a fictional crime scene--from first reports through to prosecution. Each expert will describe their role and take questions from the audience. Bestselling Intrigue Author Alice Sharpe will moderate the panel. Click here to view the brochure.
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Lisa Jackson Releases Almost Dead

Chapter member and NYT Bestseller Lisa Jackson has released her latest thriller, Almost Dead. This book is the sequel to the #1 hit, Fatal Burn. From her press release:

In ALMOST DEAD, Cissy Cahill, still sharp-tongued, is a young mother who married the man of her dreams. Or so she thought. She has an eighteen-month son and outwardly appears to be living the American dream. But her idyllic life has a dark, evil underbelly and soon the facade of her happiness slips as she realizes nothing she believed in is true, and a series of brutal murders brings terror to her and her innocent child. One by one, the people closest to her are being killed. With the death of each victim, the killer is grows closer to Cissy and her precious child. Cissy can trust no one, not even her husband, and love of her life, What does she really know about Jack? What does she really know about anyone? Can she save herself and her child? Or is it already too late? Is she really ALMOST DEAD?

You can read an excerpt here. (Be warned that the site now features music!)
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Synopsis Article in RWR--Don't Miss it!

Alice spotted the great synopsis article in this month's RWR. This article is particularly helpful because it speaks to synopsis writers at all stages of their career--whether you've never written a synopsis before or whether you rely on proposals to sell your next release. The author takes great pains to show how you don't have to be a plotter to write a great synopsis. Don't miss this article!
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Midnight Showcase Accepting Submissions

Midnight Showcase, an e-book publisher, is currently accepting submissions for a wide-range of genre fiction: westerns, mysteries, historical, contemporary romance, paranormals, and erotica.
They are also currently seeking submissions for an array of anthologies. For complete guidelines, visit their website.

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Allison Brennan Offers Online Workshop

If you need more motivation to keep going, Bestselling author Allison Brennan is offering "The Art of Storytelling," sponsored by the Louisville Romance Writers. Many writers have raved about Allison's classes, so if you've missed her at conference, this is a great chance to benefit from her wisdom about what advice to take and what advice you can ignore! Click here for more information.

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Exercise of the Day: Showing not Telling

Paty's great post on passive voice hits at the heart of great storytelling: showing, not telling. Passive sentences TELL your reader what has happened. The subject of the sentences isn't DOING anything, and the emotional impact of your scene is lowered. Focus on using active, descriptive verbs and making the subject of each sentence DO something, and your storytelling will improve. Barbara made the great comment that most of this work occurs in editing--and she's right. You can always punch up the impact of a particular passage--even one that you've already rewritten several times.

Try this: Open your WIP. Hit scroll down, and count to 10. Slowly. Stop wherever you are in the document and highlight the first 5 sentences or so that you see. Concentrate on just this little block, and focus on making each sentence as active as possible. Do you have the right subject? If you're struggling with passive sentences, often you're trying to force action out of the wrong subject. Try changing the object/character that's the subject of the sentence. Add descriptive verbs. Really analyze this passage to gain an idea of what you can work on in the rest of the document. Do this for YOU, and if you feel comfortable, share your revised sentences with us.

Also, don't forget to share your goals for this week. YOU are the key to your own success, and YOU are almost there! Keep sending me your news and announcements!

7 comments:

Paty Jager said...

As usual, great blog, Wavy! Wish I had news to share. I'm behind after having company! I will be traveling to my oldest daughter's next week to babysit and while there will research for the third petticoat book.

Here's my offering:

As he approached the meadow, all became silent. Worried she had been found by the dark spirit, he raced into the clearing.
The sight ripped the air from his chest and accelerated his heart.
Wildflowers, highlighted by the growing moon, swayed in the evening breeze and filled the air with their fragrance. That same breeze, tugged at loose strands of Wren’s soot black hair, fluttering them about her serene face. Her dark lashes rested on smooth cheek bones, her soft lips curved at the corners in an innocent smile.

Karen Duvall said...

Pretty image, Paty. 8^)

The only passive voice I found is: "Worried she had been found by the dark spirit" would work better as "Worried the dark spirit had found her."

Just one other observation, though. He reacts --air ripped from his chest -- BEFORE he sees her. You might think about moving his response to after he sees her instead.

Great report, Wavy! And interesting exercise. I'll try it, too.

Karen Duvall said...

There's one sentence of passive voice here, but I don't want to change it.

I allowed Brother Thomas to steer me into the chapel, his work-roughened fingers warm at the back of my neck. Standing in obedient silence, I watched the man called Heinrich roam the modest room as he scrutinized pieces of religious art scattered across rotting walls and splintered tabletops. He was appraising their value, but nothing here was worth much. Not even the child he’d come to collect, I thought bitterly. What could he possibly want with me?

I want it clear that he's in the act of appraising, that it's happening, not already happened. How else can I do this other than to use passive voice?

wavybrains said...

Karen, I think both your example and Paty's second sentence above are cases where the passive voice is justified. In Paty's sentence, he's more worried about HER than the dark spirit, so choosing to front load that makes sense.

In your case, if you want to focus on HIS action, it's fine. But, you could play with adding more description/action. I.e. "His quick dismissal indicated that none of the items would fetch much at auction." Getting more specific about what he's doing that indicates appraisal and adding action to the items would be one way to eliminate the "was," but doing so might add more bulk than you're really looking for in that passage. It's always a balancing act IMHO.

wavybrains said...

My goal for the week is to finish the new beginning for my WIP that I'm editing.

Here's my before and after of today's exercise:

BEFORE:
Great. Five minutes before the rest of the funeral knew that she was having a nervous breakdown in the bushes. Only Stu’s litany of ever-increasing bad consequences from these mistakes he’d uncovered stopped her from rushing after the trio and waving her hands free headset at them. She tried not to imagine their faces if they learned about these problems. And her mother . . . Gen felt the world spin away from her without a plan to anchor it down.

AFTER:
The main problem here is the first sentence. "She was having" is classic telling, and I think I'm missing an opportunity to be more descriptive. Revised:

Great. Five minutes before the rest of the funeral heard that she carried on long conversations with the Arborvitae. And of course, they'd all cluck and nod, because they expected nothing short of a nervous breakdown from Oliver's younger daughter.

Closer. Really focusing on just a few sentences is a very powerful technique.

Alice Sharpe said...

Wavy, as always, interesting.

I like your examples, Paty and Karen, both were very visual (Wavy's suggestion for yours, Karen, seemed good to me also.) I haven't had time to do one of my own. I am currently in creating and plotting mode, not editing, I guess.

Wavy, I am not a big fan of the word "that" although I know it needs to pop up now and again. I was thinking your revised example could read:

Great. In five minutes the rest of the funeral would hear she had carried on long conversations with the Arborvitae. And of course, they'd all cluck and nod, because they expected nothing short of a nervous breakdown from Oliver's younger daughter.

(Probably committed some heinous crime in rewording, but there you go...)

And yours is a perfect example of the power of focus. I got lost in the wordiness of the first example. The second one made me smile.

Paty Jager said...

Karen, as Wavy said, there was a reason for the passive in the second sentence and I have a reason for the way the third sentence is presented. It's kind of my style. But I won't get into it here. And I think Wavy is right in her thoughts on your dittie.

Wavy, great job condensing and getting to the point in the second stab!