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.
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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. email@example.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.
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SWAT member teams with her brother's former homicide detective partner to stop a blackmailer.
Falling in love wasn't one of their strategies.
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.