Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Scraps from a Writing Conference

The other day, while cleaning out a notebook, I came upon some scraps of paper torn from a notepad. Obviously these were notes I took at a writing conference. But what conference? and who said the things I wrote down. I haven’t a clue.

The notes were about fiction writing, and I—four chapters into my MG paranormal novel—needed to be reminded of some points. Consequently, here are my notes from a session at the unidentified writing conference:

Back Story: Don’t tell the back story up front. Create the background but don’t tell the reader everything.

Theme: The theme should be beneath the surface. Don’t have a character say it; don’t explain it; don’t put it up front. Subtlety is better.

Pacing: Pacing is energy level. Two rules of pacing: 1. Reader has to care about a problem being solved. 2. Reader has to care about a character (or characters).
Sentence length is one of the most powerful tools there is. Best way to approach pacing—short chapters and sentences. Based on simplicity. Variety of rhythm is power.

Description: Any description—atmosphere—does the reader need to know this?
Wait until we care. Does the color of a dress matter? Give impressionistic images. Pick traits that matter. Cut the similes. “Simile is the tic of a self-conscious writer.” Cut adjective and adverbs. Use one adjective and one adverb per page. (Writing exercise: Can you write a description with no adjectives?)

Dialogue: Dialogue can kill you. Takes longer to compress dialogue. You can’t count on a reader being stupid and just drop clues.

Final suggestions: Edit fiercely. Be ruthless. Read Strunk and White.

Not bad advice. I wish I remembered who gave it.


Blogger CountryDew said...

Looks like good advice to me!

5:40 PM  

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