Thursday, December 4, 2014

Romance and Mystery Authors on Writing: Author Marsha R. West with Tips on Dialogue, Setting, and Editing, Giveaway


Hello and welcome to this Thursday's writing tips in the Romance and Mystery Authors on Writing series. Mystery author Marsha R. West shares her writing tips on dialogue, settings, and editing. Marsha has brought along an e-book copy of her mystery, Truth Be Told. 


Win the drawing for a copy of Truth Be Told by subscribing to Marsha's blog. Hop over to the Marsha West blog after reading all her great tips here today. 


      Hey Marsha, thanks so much for bringing tips for us today. What are two of your favorite information-packed writing books? 
      
There are many, but two that I have are post noted, highlighted, and dog eared (yes, I have the paperbacks) and are great helps with editing. I’m embarrassed to say a couple of judges from the first contest I entered suggested I get these. They also suggested I get one on Goal Motivation and Conflict. (I really knew nothing about the craft of writing fiction, especially genre fiction.) Here are the first two:
 SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS  by Renni Browne & Dave King
THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE by William Strunk, Jr. & E.B. White

Whether you have a publisher who provides an editor for your manuscript or you hire an editor (And you are doing that, right?) because you’re Indie publishing, you will be ahead of the game to send as clean a copy as you can possibly get to your editor.
# # # #
Thanks so much. Now read more of Marsha's writing tips below.



DIALOGUE: Read your work out loud. That’s the best way to see if it sounds natural. Try to have the characters each have specific characteristics to their speech. In one book, I realized everyone said “hell.” I decided to give a certain swear word to each  of the main characters to help differentiate them. Thank goodness for the “Find” button! I fellow writer, actually had a hero who spoke in really short sentences—like 4 to 6 words! It really worked for her and for him. J

SETTINGS: I’m drawn to settings. I may even start with that before I have the characters. Helping the reader get a real “feeling” for the locale of the story is important to me. I had a friend who wrote a thriller set in one of the hottest on record Texas summers. The heat became almost a character in that book affecting everyone’s actions.

   EDITING: I first learned about Throw Away words from Margie Lawson. I tend to be wordy.
(My first book had 145 thousand words before I began cutting, getting it to 100K.) And this was when agents and publishers were looking for 80 to 90 K. No one would look at such a long book. I had a great story, but no craft skills. The idea of eliminating any of my wonderful words made me ill. Time passes and now I write 75-90 K books. Much tighter than when I began. I got there by using a list of 75 words and phrases I (and others) over use. I’ve added to the original list of about 30 words as I’ve discovered my favorites.
Quick look at my favorites: that, some, little, bit, (as in a little bit), even, began to, tried, just, really, thing(s)
Omit these words to help keep you in deep POV: think, thought, thinking, mused, wondered, see, seeing, looking, believe, considering, hearing.
Not: He thought he heard a noise.
Better. The large crash threw him from his bed.

After I’ve finished all the re-writes I go through doing a search and find for the words. I study each use and decide if I can make it better. If it’s unnecessary, I hit delete.
Most of the time, contrary to what you might be thinking, your word count may go up rather than down when you use more specific language than saying “things.”
I’d be happy to send you the complete list. marsha@marsharwest.com Then you can add your own favorites. I’ve noticed with different books, I’ll pick different words to over use, so I add those to my list. That’s how the list has grown.
# # # #

  SWAT member teams with her brother's former homicide detective partner to stop a blackmailer. 
Falling in love wasn't one of their strategies.
 Buy Link for Truth Be Told 




About Marsha:
 Marsha R. West writes Romance, Suspense, and Second Chances. Experience Required. MuseItUp Publishing released her first book, VERMONT ESCAPE in July 2013. Marsha released the print version of the first book in the fall of 2014. Her second book, TRUTH BE TOLD,  was released by MIU in May 2014.  She’ll release her third book, SECOND CHANCES, in February 2015, the first of a 4-part series. Find out more at www.marsharwest.com She’d love to hear from you.


31 comments:

J Q Rose said...

Marsha, looking forward to visiting with you. Thanks for being my guest this week!

Susan Bernhardt said...

This was great, Marsha! I agree wholeheartedly about reading one's writing out loud. What a difference that makes. Before I have any of my readers see my chapters, I read them out loud to my husband. Earlier I read it out loud to myself.

I really need to get some of those Margie Lawson writing guides that I'm hearing so much about.

Marsha, I just finished your "Truth Be Told." I enjoyed the mystery aspect very much as I did in "Vermont Escape." You're a wonderful mystery writer. Romance is not my thing, so I won't comment on that. I need to write a review soon.

J Q Rose said...

Hi Susan, I want to check out those guides too. I like your idea of reading your work to your hubby. Mine wouldn't sit still long enough to listen!! And in total agreement about Marsha is a "wonderful mystery writer."Thanks so much for stopping by.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Excellent post, Marsha. It's so easy when we have the tools to tighten our mss. I've bad for THAT. It comes without THINKING. Thanks!

Marsha said...

Hey, JQ. Thanks so much for inviting me to share a bit (oops!)of what I've learned a long the way. Other writers have been generous in sharing, so it seems natural to pay that forward. By the way. TRUTH BE TOLD is a whole new stand alone book. My 3rd book coming out in Feb or March picks up on a character from VERMONT ESCAPE, and that one starts a series. :)

Marsha said...

Susan, you're such a wonderful supporter. Especially when you don't read romance. LOL But then I read your cozies, when I need more romance in them, but the small town scene fascinates me. :) I"m glad the mystery/syspense resonates with you non-romance readers. I'll keep that in mind when working on my next one. :)

Marsha said...

Hey, Joylene. What a pretty name. :) Yes the ever present "that." Of course, if you know your grammar, you know "that" many of those "that's" "that" we leave out would be there in forma; writing. For genre writing in the sentence just before, we'd leave out the "that" before and after "that's." Wow! Too much analysis. LOL Thanks for stopping in, Joylene.

helenafairfax.com said...

What excellent advice, Marsha. I enjoyed reading your post. I also have the self-editing book you mention, and I found it invaluable. Like you, my writing has got tighter, but I still have a lot of room for improvement.
Vermont Escape was a great read. I have Truth Be Told on my Kindle, and I'm looking forward to catching up with a lot of reading over the holidays.
Thanks for the great post!

J Q Rose said...

Oh Marsha, I got ahead of myself thinking about your third book coming out. I deleted my error in the first paragraph. Sorry.

J Q Rose said...

Joylene, I know about THAT. Now I'm so paranoid I don't ever put it in and sometimes I think that [that] you really need it. sigh...Thanks for stopping in.

J Q Rose said...

Helena, write tight seems to be a mantra we all need to repeat. Thanks for hopping over the ocean to visit!

Marsha said...

Hey, Helena. Yes, tighter is the key.Hope you'll enjoy TBT. Nice perks of the holidays getting to catch up on reading. :)

Marsha said...

JQ. Not to worry. Easy to get all our books mixed up. LOL Doesn't that sound good to say "all our books"?
"It" makes me nuts. Not ending the sentence with it is easier than all the places we use "it" in the middle. At some point, the wording becomes too convoluted and better to use the "it" word! LOL Maybe folks who are readers and not also writers, don't fuss over this the way we do. LOL

Kathy McIntosh said...

Great information. I've already asked for your list of overused words. Isn't Margie Lawson terrific?
Have you tried the software that reads your work back to you? I'm considering it but haven't yet tried it out.

Heather Brainerd said...

Excellent advice, Marsha! Like Susan, I read my books aloud to my husband. It helps me find mistakes that my eye glosses over when I read silently.

Matthew Peters said...

Thanks for this interview, Marsha and JQ. I really like what you said about having a list of key words that you can go and chop from the manuscript. I wish you the best in your literary endeavors.

J Q Rose said...

Hi Kathy, Thanks for stopping by today. We'll be visiting with you next week too when you guest here.

J Q Rose said...

Heather, my hubby would be glossy-eyed before me if I read to him. Is that snoring I hear? LOL.

J Q Rose said...

Hi Matthew, chopping out those words sounds so cruel, but one has to be ruthless if one wants to be a writer! Thanks for stopping in.

Marsha said...

Hey, Kathy. I've sent the list of words. Yes, I really credit Margie for getting my first book to the point it could be published. She's awesome!
I haven't heard of the software you mention. I tend to be a bit tech challenged. :)I hope it sounds better than the voice on my phone when it tells me who's calling.

Marsha said...

Hey,Heather. My husband wouldn't stay awake for me to read the book out loud to him. That's really cool you and Susan have that option. But I'm fortunate because he'll go over it usually twice before it goes in for the finally set up. It's been hard for him to accept the idea, we're all probably going to have an error or two or three get through despite all the edits and read-throughs. LOL Big publisher, small publisher, self-publishing, doesn't seem to make a difference. Errors sneak through. All we can do is our best and keep on going. :) Thanks so much for stopping and sharing.

Marsha said...

Hey, Matthew. Yes, I swear by my list. It's painfully tedious to go through the ms checking for those words. The process gives you many opportunities to see how you words work. That's a really good thing. Appreciate you stopping by. :)

JoanCurtis said...

It was almost as much fun to read the comments as the post. Reading out loud to your husband??? I much prefer my cat...

One of my pet-peeves that (oops) I see a lot is the tag he/she thought. Why not put it in italic? Remove the he/she thought altogether?

Another (I'm on a tag rampage) is tags that try to create mood. That's cheap writing. Instead show the mood through the character's dialogue and action and then simply he/she said. "That's much better," she whimpered. :-)

Marsha said...

Hey, Joan. I don't use italics unless the character uses "I". Otherwise I put that thought statement in regular type. You're in deep point of view that way. Ex. "Maybe she'd get another chance." (No quotes in ms, I'm just using them now.)Leave out the she thought words altogether. I'd use italics if the character's internal thoughts were, I gotta get another chance. Sorry I don't know how to use the tags to show italics. :) And you're right on about the words like whimpered. One of the books I mentioned above made a huge point about that. All the time I thought I was being so creative to come up with other ways of writing it. LOL Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing.

katewyland.com said...

Good advice Marsha.
Did you know that MS Word has a text-to-speech function? You can have it read your work back to you. It's really quite sophisticated.

Good luck with Truth Be Told.

J Q Rose said...

Hi Joan, busted out loud laughing about preferring your cat listening rather than your hubby! Always a controversy about using said or not. Supposedly readers are so used to it, they read right across it so it doesn't stop them in their reading. But I like words like whimpered, screamed, etc, but I use them sparingly. Thanks for stopping in!

J Q Rose said...

Hi katewyland, I didn't know MS Word had that program. I'm going to check it out! Thanks. I have also heard authors say they send their ms to their Kindle and then use the text to speech on that to listen to their story. Thanks for the info.

Marsha said...

Hey, Kate. I didn't know that MSWord has the Text to speech capability. Is that the program with the Big W or the one with the Pen symbol? I know it's stupid, but I can't keep them separate. I've got both, but seldom type on the pen one, always the W one. Thanks for stopping and sharing. :)

Marsha said...

JQ, how do you send the ms to your Kindle? That sounds complicated. I can see the benefit of the computer/Kindle reading it, because it will say exactly what you've written. Even reading it outloud myself, sometimes I say what I know I meant rather than what's on the screen. :)
JQ. Thanks for having me. We've had some good conversation. Looking forward to hearing from Kathy next week. :)

katewyland.com said...

Hey Marsha. On my Word 2010, I have a little cartoon talking bubble on the very top. If I hover on it, it says "speak selected text." If you don't have the bubble, go to Help and ask for text to speech. It will give you the instructions.

It's easy to transfer files to your Kindle, but check first to see if it still has the text-to-speech function. My original Kindle does, but my newer Paperwhite doesn't and when I checked it didn't look like any of the newer ones did. They want you to buy audio books.
Also the speech function sounds much more like a machine. Word has better speech quality.

J Q Rose said...

Hi Marsha, Here's the link to amazon to help you figure out how to send the files to Kindle. Thanks, Kate, I'm going to find the bubble now!