Friday, July 29, 2016

The Most Important Job in the World

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. To connect with Shan, check out her website, FB, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

Oh my goodness, we're back in business! It's been so long since we've chatted!

I have a confession to make, friends. I've hurt myself. No idea how, but I've got something funky going on with the nerves in my right arm and I've lost feeling in a few fingers. I'm healing up okay, but it's slower than I'd like and I'm having to keep my writing sessions short and sweet. Bear with me, okay?

I came across a quote this week by one of my favorite writers, John Steinbeck, and I thought we could chat about it today. Also, that pic there (scroll down, homies)? That's my munchkin giving Mr. Steinbeck's bust a little HELLOOOO when we visited Monterrey a few years back. He was a fascinating guy, Steinbeck. Read his books, 'kay?


Things I LOVE about this quote:

  • It rings true to me. Loud in my head and warm in my gut. It feels like the kind of thing writers should say to one another. You know, grab your crit partner by the shoulder, stare them in the eye and growl Steinbeck's words into their face (You should totally growl like Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. What a cool voice he has, amiright?) 
  • Writing is difficult. It's a riot at times, but it can make you crazy. If we don't honestly believe that this thing we do is important, that words can change people, that they can change us, we'd never, ever put ourselves through the trouble. 
  • Every day when we put our nose to the grindstone, we must convince ourselves that while there are horrid, desperate things going on in the world around us, this story we're telling deserves every bit of our attention for the duration of our writing session. If, on occasion, it's not the most important thing in the world, it will never, ever get done.  
  • Thinking like Steinbeck, remembering the importance of your task, will get you through the rough days. The days where the story feels ridiculous and the time feels wasted and the doubters outnumber the believers. The value of storytellers cannot be understated. But no one will believe the truth of it if storytellers themselves aren't convinced. We are important. YOU are important. Stories are important. Steinbeck knew that.
  • It reminds me that I have to take my job seriously. Yes, writing is fun. Yes, you should enjoy it. But you must also make every effort to hone your craft. Important jobs need dedicated people. People who stay hungry to learn and remain teachable even when success comes to call.

The ONE thing I kinda, sorta dislike about this awesome quote:
  •  There's no room for error. If we have the most important job in the world, and we're to continually convince ourselves of that fact, every small mistake can become amplified in our eyes. And, I don't know about you, but I have a very hard time excelling if I have to write with the fear of failure hovering over me. Writing is the most important job in the world, but that doesn't mean we put together the most important words every time we write. We need to be clear about that fact. And we need to be okay with it.

Alrighty, friends! My arm's totally and completely done. So it's your turn to type. 

Tell me, what do you like about this quote? What do you dislike?

 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

#WeWriteBooks, Post 22: Exposition


Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series. 

Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.


Welcome to week twenty-two of #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays, where we are writing books together. I posted Chapter 22 of THIRST yesterday over on my author website. Click here to read it.



  

Recap

Week one was genre (THIRST is post-apocalyptic YA). Week two was premise. Here's my premise:

A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Young survivors Eli McShane and his friends journey toward Colorado and the rumored location of a safe water source.


Week three was Storyworld.
Week four: maps and floorplans.
Week five: protagonists and main characters.
Week six: side characters.
Week seven: prewriting.
Week eight: plot structures. 
Week nine: Theme.
Week ten: creating a plot outline or list of key scenes.
Week eleven: point of view.
Week twelve: narrative modes.

Week thirteen: how to write a scene.

Week fourteen: Where to start.

Week fifteen: Prologues.
Week sixteen: Dividing Your Book Into Chapters and Scenes Week seventeen: Write Fast and Free
Week eighteen: Dialogue and Thought
Week nineteen: Character and Author Voice
Week twenty: Action
Week twenty-one: Description

Today's Topic: Exposition

Exposition is the fifth of the five narrative modes we discussed back on week twelve. You've likely heard how fiction writers need to "show" and not "tell," well, sometimes you need to tell. And exposition is the "telling" part of the story. It's sole purpose is to convey information to the reader. Exposition can come at the beginning, end, or in between as the glue that connects the other narrative modes together. It can appear as backstory. It can help time pass by in a sentence. It can skip over something too horrible to show (like torture or a gruesome murder). 

Exposition can be dangerous. Why? Alfred Hitchcock said, “What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out.” Exposition is the dull bits of the story. The author might use it too often to (cheat and) tell the reader things he wants them to know. Too much exposition and you risk bogging down your story and making it boring. In if there isn't enough in just the right places it might confuse readers.

How to avoid exposition

The best way to avoid having too much exposition in your story is not to write it. Here are some tips to help you do that.

Write bare bones first drafts - NaNoWriMo is great for practicing this. Write as fast as you can and only write a skeleton of a story. You can go back and add description and narrative later, and then you won't be so tempted to add too much.

Avoid all backstory - Just don't write it. If you find yourself if the rewrite or editing stage and needing a backstory scene, consider it very carefully, because there is often a better way to handle the scene.

Show don't tell - Don't tell us that your main character is a trained in martial arts. Have him run into some thugs and kick some tail. Don't tell us that your side character is a pig. Show him at the dinner table stuffing his face. Showing is about writing the movie version of your story, what would appear on screen. That's not likely some guy telling us interesting factoids about the other characters. Readers would instead prefer to see them in action, being themselves and living through an interesting situation (keyword: interesting). If you have a hard time spotting sections of telling, look for places where you overuse the word "was" (ex: He was doing this and that. He was a person like this.) or words like: felt, saw, heard, know. I'm not saying you should never use those words, but those words often lead to places of telling.

Start late and leave early - Authors have the tendency to start stories way too early. We think, "Oh, but the readers need to know that too!" The same thing happens at the end of scenes. We go on too long, wanting to linger in the moment. Fight it! Analyze your scenes and start at the latest possible moment, then end as early as you can. This will keep your story moving along at a brisk pace that keeps readers turning pages.

Keep it simple (stupid) - Authors have the tendency to complicate things. We've created deep stories, sometimes with amazing storyworlds, and we want the reader to know everything! But that's not necessary. The reader only needs to know what is relevant to each scene. Work hard to give just the facts they need: no more, no less. Don't throw in extra information that clutters the scene and the reader's mind.

Don't talk about what everyone already knows - This is one I struggle with, especially in books with multiple points of view. Take King's Folly, for example. If Trevn discovers something major but Wilek is off elsewhere for several weeks, once those two characters come back together, I want Trevn to tell Wilek all that's been happening. And I did. But I had to be very careful not to overdo it. Because the reader already knows all that. They experienced in in the story once. They don't want to relive it again.

Don't skip the cool parts and tell us about them - I once had a scene where a character was injured in a life and death situation. I ended the chapter on a cliffhanger. Then at the start of the next chapter, I summarized, saying the character was fine. Bad move! I had high tension going, and the reader wanted that experience to continue. Also, don't write a bunch of planning, then skip the play by play of the actual event. Show the reader your cool stuff! That's what they want to see.

Hold back as long as possible - You want to tell the reader something. You're dying to. Fight it! Hold back as long as you can.

Exposition might be necessary when . . .

Trying to figure out when to tell information and when to let the reader figure it out on their own is a tricky thing to do, even for professional writers. Your readers are smart. And it can annoy readers if you constantly state the obvious like they're children.

Sometimes, the amount of exposition you need depends vastly on what type of writer you are and the genre you are writing. Genre fiction tends to have far less exposition compared to literary fiction. No matter the genre, balance is key. So when do you need to use exposition?

When it's relevant to the scene - Save your bits of backstory and exposition for just the right moment. You have a character who is afraid of heights. Don't tell us. And don't put a flashback of the time she almost fell off a cliff when she is sitting in English class. Save it for when she's on a balcony or a tall building, then show us her fear and let her explain.

When the plot demands it - It's even better to save up exposition until the plot demands that it come out. The story won't move forward without this bit of information. As to our girl who's afraid of heights, perhaps she must get the golden egg from an eagle's nest on the edge of a cliff. The story can't move forward until the characters have that egg. But, uh oh. Now our girl must tell everyone about her fear of heights.

When you've made them curious - Jeff Gerke once said to me, "Don't answer questions that no one is asking." You might have a bit of cool research that you're dying to stick into your story, some amazing storyworld detail, or character information that you want the reader to know. Maybe you've created a childhood memory that explains how our girl came to be afraid of heights. But if the reader isn't curious about this, if it is currently irrelevant to the plot, you need to keep it out of the story. Make your reader want to know before you bother sharing. Carefully plant questions in the reader's mind, so that he will be anxious to learn the answers to the questions you want to tell about.

How to deliver exposition

Keep it short - Especially if you're summarizing or giving the reader a flashback. The shorter, the better.

Pretend the reader already knows - Whether you're writing a story that takes place in Canton, Georgia or a fantasy realm, resist the urge to include random facts about the place or your characters or magic. Write your book as if your reader already knows the facts. Then as you edit, you can insert critical details when necessary.

The dumb puppet trick - This is what Jeff Gerke and others call it when you have some information that needs to come out, so you designate one character as the dumb puppet. In my book Captives, Mason goes to work in the Surrogacy Center. He has never seen such medical equipment and asks Ciddah many questions to learn what's what. The reader learns right along with him. Pay attention when you watch movies and TV shows. Hollywood uses the dumb puppet all the time.

The Pope in the pool - This is a screenwriting trick from Blake Snyder. There was a point in a movie when some boring set-up information needed to get explained by the Pope. So rather than having the hero go to the Pope's office, he found the Pope in a swimming pool. So even though the boring, need-to-know information was coming out in dialogue, the reader was fascinated at the idea that the Pope might wear a swimsuit and swim. The oddness of the scene disguised the exposition.

Make it realistic - Be really hard on yourself when asking if what you've written is realistic. Would people really say that?

Make it a mystery - Whenever you can make information hard for your main character to get, you increase reader's curiosity. The bigger the mystery, the more the reader wants to know. Plant clues and let it come out little by little. That way the reader it discovering along with the characters.

Shards of glass - Think of your exposition as a stained glass window. Throw it on the floor until it shatters, then stick those little shards of glass into the story where they fit best. Look for places where the reader might be curious, where the information is relevant, or the plot can't move forward without the information.

The big reveal - You've made your character curious and saved the information until the best possible moment, then reveal it in a dramatic way. Don't overdo this. You can't reveal everything in this manner or it would become cliché.

Dialogue - You can reveal information in dialogue, but it must be a natural conversation. If it sounds forced, it likely is. (See the Dumb Puppet tip below.)

Monologing - This can be a bit cliché, so be careful, but sometimes near the end of the story in certain genres, the villain has an opportunity to explain the motivation behind all his dastardly deeds. 

Summary - You might feel the need to summarize if a lot of information has come out in your story, but be careful to make that summary timely and relevant or it can look like sneaky telling.

Flashback - You can take the reader back in time and show what happened. This also needs to be done very carefully. And use this rarely, too. A book filled with flashbacks can really annoy readers.

Backstory - I put this one last because it's not a very effective way to tell a story. But it has its uses. If you have some information that you've been saving up the whole book long, backstory might be the right way to share. But probably not.




Assignment time

Look for a place in your novel where you've written exposition and you shouldn't have. Rewrite that scene so that it's active and engaging. Do you have trouble with exposition? What tricks have you tried? Which ones would you like to try? Share in the comments.




Monday, July 25, 2016

How to Make Connections and Boost Your Writing Career


Times gone by snatch Rachelle close, so she reads and writes about years long ago--her passions include the Reformation, Revolutions, and romance. Rachelle wrote the Steadfast Love series during her college years. Five months after she graduated, she signed a three-book deal with her dream publisher, WhiteFire. She's a homeschool grad, Oreo addict, and plots her novels while driving around her dream car, a pick-up truck. In June 2016, she married a man with the same name as her fictional hero. Find out more about Rachelle at http://rachellerea.com.

Being a writer is all about bleeding words. But becoming an author requires more... business strategy.

That fact lies behind the reason I recommend the Go Teen Writers blog to everyone who asks me how I got published and how they can, too: here at GTW, we get that words are great and writing is what we do but, well, we need a little something more if we want to hold our book in our own hands someday soon--and see that book in others' hands, too!

How Authors are Made

“It occurs to me that our survival may depend upon our talking to one another.” ― Dan Simmons, Hyperion

As writers, we need (and dream!) of one day connecting with a publisher. Or an agent. Or a critique partner. Or, if we're self-pubbing, a cover designer, a formatter, an editor. Most importantly, readers!

And it doesn't stop there. We need to continually connect with readers, bloggers, influencers, bookstore employees and execs, newspaper reporters, librarians, television journalists...

The list goes on, of course. We need an ever-growing network in the industry, an expanding reader base, etc. So now that you get that we need connections, how do we make them?

The Easiest and Hardest Thing Authors Do

“Be persistent, be persistent, they say. But please, do not mistake being a pest for being persistent.” ― Nike Thaddeus

Making a connection can be as simple as sending one of your favorite authors a Facebook message telling them how much you appreciate their most recent release. This is how I found one of my endorsers.

Making a connection can be as difficult as calling a local coffeeshop that hosts local authors for book signings three times to confirm a book signing you scheduled two months ago. This is how my first book signing almost didn't happen. ;)

At the end of this post, I'll include five ways you can make connections with readers and industry professionals (publishers, agents, editors) and fellow writers, but the most important thing to understand about connecting with people is that it will most likely happen in unchoreographed ways.

In fact, people can usually tell when you've made them into a project. Which brings me to my next point:

Ditching Networking for truly Making Connections

When Stephanie asked me about guest-posting about networking and making connections in the writing industry, I was elbow-deep "networking" in an industry I had suddenly found myself immersed in: the wedding industry. You may have noticed the new name attached up there; that's right, I got married this summer!

I prepared myself for marriage by reading books and gleaning advice from married folk, but little prepared me for the adventure that was wedding planning, an adventure that required a lot of, you guessed it, connections! For example, our choice of venue revolved around a connection of my grandmother's. My grandmother had recently begun attending a church she had been a part of years before, the very church where my cousin got married. My cousin's wedding had been one of the first weddings I had ever been in.

I walked down the aisle of that church years ago as one of my cousin's flower girls.
When my husband and I were dating, I had never even thought of getting married in that same church, but when the opportunity presented itself, when the connection was made while we searched madly for venues that would hold our gargantuan guest list, the choice was simple.

Last month I walked down that aisle on my daddy's arm...as the bride.

As another example, my husband stood out to me before I even met him because of a connection he has to my fictional hero...his first name is the same as Dirk's Christian name.
So, put forth a little effort when it comes to making connections in this industry (see the ideas below!), but don't forget you're dealing with people. Not projects. Be kind. Courteous. Patient.

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” ― Herman Melville

5 Ideas for Making Connections
  • Leave blog comments. My goal is to visit one new blog every week. Visit the blogs of fellow writers, editors, and agents, as well as those of book review bloggers.
  • In fact, comment...everywhere! Wherever you are on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest), be social. Don't just Heart or Like. Leave comments
  • Share others' blog posts on social media. Even moreso than a blog comment, a simple share may endear a blogger/agent/editor to you. Don't simply click "share," either. Include the link and a quick caption in your own words.
  • Respond on Twitter. Nearly every publishing house, editor, and agent is active on Twitter. Respond to their tweets every once in a while.
  • Explore Goodreads. Until recently, I didn't know how interesting Goodreads can be. There are tons of ways to connect with fellow readers, writers, and all-around book-lovers: events, discussions, groups, asking questions, recommending books to others, etc. Have fun with it!

Stephanie here! I'm going to take Rachelle's advice by sending an email to the author of the book I'm currently reading, The Blue Tattoo, to tell her how much I've enjoyed it and how rare it is for me to feel this engaged by a nonfiction book. 

What are you going to do TODAY to build a connection?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mail Bag: Being an editor, choppy writing, and brand names.

Stephanie Morrill is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street, which releases in February 2017. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

Normally Shannon posts on Fridays, but I'm stepping in for her this week. If you're missing Shannon, here's a post of hers from a few months ago that I'm particularly fond of: Write Stories That Excite You.

Today I'm doing another Mail Bag installment where I answer questions that have been sitting in my inbox for a really sad amount of time.

What's it like to be an editor?

This is something I was asked during a mentoring appointment last month. Jillian Manning with Blink YA Books wrote a post about "What Does An Editor Do All Day?" so you can check that out if editing is something you're interested in pursuing. (Though it's also valuable information for a writer too!)

Ciel said, "I've been noticing my writing is super choppy. It seems like all that happens is "I did this" and "I did that" and it prevents my story from moving forward. I've just started my 1st rewrite, and I don't know what to do."

I recognized this in my own writing when I was still getting the hang of writing complete drafts but still hadn't learned how to edit a manuscript. I felt like I handled dialogue pretty well, but the flow of everything else seemed off. Here are a few thoughts on how you can start to fix it:
  • Reevaluate your content. One of the reasons I used to struggle with prose was that I hadn't yet learned how to balance action and thought and description and weave them through paragraphs. That often left me with several sentences in a row that were action sentences, then a paragraph describing where we were, then a few lines for inner monologue, and so forth. As I learned to edit these different elements into better flowing sentences and paragraphs, I also learned to just write with a better flow as well.
  • Focus on sentence structure. Falling into a habit of writing our sentences with similar structures is a very easy thing to do. Something you could try is taking a page of your  manuscript and diagramming your sentences like you learned to do in elementary school. Seeing it laid out like that could help you see ways to rearrange sentences so that they mesh in a more interesting way.
  • Be kind to yourself. While it probably doesn't feel this way, just being able to look at a paragraph and think, "This is choppy" is a great step to fixing the issue. Learning how to edit your writing so that it reads smoothly takes time, so try to be patient with yourself as you learn.

Hosanna asked, "I am editing my first novella. But I have had some questions about copyright that I've had trouble finding answers to! Do you know if I would be allowed to reference "Google Earth" in my novella? I wouldn't be including anything else that might have copyright, just the words "Google Earth." And is it okay to mention Nancy Drew and a scene from one of her books?"

Absolutely. Brand names and characters from other stories are totally on the table. Your character can drive a Honda Odyssey (if she's cool like me, that is), wear Cover Girl, and enjoy taking pictures with her iPhone.  

What you wouldn't want to do is imply bad things about those brands. She should not, for example, think, "This Cover Girl makeup is really giving me a rash. Next time I'm going with L'Oreal." Not only does that just sound like it would be terrible and boring pacing for your story, but portraying a company in poor light like that could get you into some trouble.

Have a question? Leave it in the comments below or email me!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

#WeWriteBooks, Post 21: Description and a the Broken Trust Cover Reveal


Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series. 

Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.

Hi, guys!

I missed you. Did you miss me?

Vacation was good, though. It's always important to take time off to rest your brain and your body. But like I said, I missed you guys. 

Welcome back! 

It's week twenty-one of the #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays series, where we are writing books together. How are you doing? I did not take much of a break from THIRST over the GTW vacation, so I'm a little further ahead. I posted Chapter 21 of THIRST yesterday over on my author website. Click here to read it.



Goal Check

So how is everyone doing? Are you hanging in there? What's your word count? Have you kept up? Or did you need to re-adjust your goals some?
I am almost done! I missed posting the week of OYAN. I just couldn't keep up. And then I started posting on Tuesdays rather than Mondays because I needed the extra day. But I've managed to keep this thing going. THIRST is currently at 79,075 words. I think I'm three chapters away from the end. 

So. Excited.

Let me confess, however, that the book is feeling a little meh. For those of you reading it, perhaps you've noticed this. It's unsurprising, really. This is a first draft, and while I try to clean it up as best I can so that you all can read it. It's still a first draft. And remember what I say about first drafts? 

I give myself permission to stink.

I'm trying to do better than stink with THIRST. But the story does have some issues that will need to be dealt with when I rewrite it. Can't worry about that now, however, if I'm going to keep on schedule. So I just keep writing and posting. 

I can fix it later. 




  

Recap

Week one was genre (THIRST is post-apocalyptic YA). Week two was premise. Here's my premise:

A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Young survivors Eli McShane and his friends journey toward Colorado and the rumored location of a safe water source.


Week three was Storyworld.
Week four: maps and floorplans.
Week five: protagonists and main characters.
Week six: side characters.
Week seven: prewriting.
Week eight: plot structures. 
Week nine: Theme.
Week ten: creating a plot outline or list of key scenes.
Week eleven: point of view.
Week twelve: narrative modes.
Week thirteen: how to write a scene.
Week fourteen: Where to start.
Week fifteen: Prologues.
Week sixteen: Dividing Your Book Into Chapters and Scenes Week seventeen: Write Fast and Free
Week eighteen: Dialogue and Thought
Week nineteen: Character and Author Voice
Week twenty: Action


Today's Topic: Writing Description

Why bother describing things? Editors and writing instructors vary on whether or not setting and characters be fully described. Some say to leave it out so that readers can imagine everything. Others say you need to paint the scene for the reader because if you describe nothing, you have what's commonly referred to as "talking heads" floating in a black space, uttering strings of dialogue. On the other hand, if you describe too much you can pull the reader right out of the story.

I think somewhere in the middle is best. Give your reader enough details so that they know generally what the characters look like, where they are in each scene, and who is in the scene with them. Then let the reader fill in the other details however their imagination sees fit.


Tips for Writing Description

Last summer I wrote a post called 10 Tips for Tight Descriptions that says pretty much everything that I want to say today. So I decided to briefly recap that post, then add a couple more important tips.

1. Don’t describe in your first draft.
You're in first draft stage right now, so don't stress about description. I rarely describe anything in my first drafts because I'm trying to write fast and I don't care if it stinks. The goal is to get a first draft written, and description slows me down. So feel free to give yourself permission to ignore description while you're writing your first draft. You can fix it in rewrites.

2. Only describe what's necessary.
You don't have to describe every little detail in your book. Things that are important to the story, however, must be described. Important location? Describe it. Magical object of great importance? Describe, please. You, as the author, know what is important and what is not. Make sure you spend your valuable words on things that matter.

3. Description should serve at least two purposes.
If you can, make your description do more than one thing. Maybe your description describes and characterizes. Or describes and shows emotion. Or it describes and reveals a clue. Don't stress about doing this every time, but when you can, it will add depth to your story.

4. Description should be active and moving.
Pacing is important. And description tends to halt the story. Whenever possible, try to keep moving while you describe. Your character might be running or looking for something as he lets the reader know what he sees. Perhaps he is getting a tour of a building he hopes to break into later on. Whatever it is, try to match your description to the pacing and mood of the scene. Quick action should have short description. Longer descriptions fit better in a slow-paced scene.

5. Description should be memorable.
A room coated in dust that makes the character sneeze. An apartment that is filled with so much trash that your character's foot sticks to something on the floor. Look for simple ways to create images that will stick in the reader's memory.

6. Description should be specific.
Use specific words that tell the reader as much as possible. Like leather the color of cinnamon rather than brown. Slimy rags rather than merely wet ones.

7. Description should use the five senses.
To help you get into the habit of not forgetting the five senses, try to use one of each per chapter. Writers tend to overuse sight and forget to mention smell, sound, taste, and touch. Add these in when it feels natural.

8. Description should fit the POV character’s voice and personality.
Describe the scene through the eyes, voice, and personality of your point of view character. Focus on what interests him. Use words he would use, and avoid words he wouldn't know. Spencer from my Mission League books would say that a doctor "took his blood pressure," while Mason from my Safe Lands books would say "the doctor used the sphygmomanometer to measure his blood pressure." Spencer would NEVER IN HIS LIFE remember a word as long as sphygmomanometer. He just wouldn't care.

9. Description should convey emotion.
When it feels natural, try to work your point of view character's emotion into your descriptions. Is your POV character happy? Annoyed? Excited? Each feeling should affect the way he sees things as he moves through a scene and should have an impact on his word choice.

10. Description should leave room for the imagination.
As I said at the beginning, don't describe everything. Leave some room for your reader's imagination to paint images of the characters and places. That's part of the fun of reading. 


Description Must Haves

Here are a couple must haves for your description writing.
1. Time of day and location
When the time of day or the location changes, let us know! Give a quick time of day and location reminder at the start of a new scene. Something simple is all the reader needs to keep from getting lost. Something like: I reached the library just before six. Or: We walked until the sun came up and painted the rolling hills in sunshine. If time passes in your book and you forget to tell the reader, the reader will not know that time has passed. So don't forget!
 
2. Introducing new places
When your characters arrive at a new place, give us a quick description. Again, short and sweet is perfect, unless this is going to be something major like the haunted house in a story about a haunted house. Something like: We entered a muddy alley. Or: Her bedroom was so pink it gave me a headache. 

3. Introducing new people
If an important new character enters the story, you need to give a quick description. It doesn't always have to be what they look like. You could describe them the first time in dialogue ("See that guy who looks like David Tennant?") or narrative (He had a face like a cabbage). This is also a great place to plant hints as to their character. What are they like? What do they mean to the protag or main characters? Where do they hang out? What is their job? What are they good at/bad at? Then describe them the first time they come on screen with at least one or two memorable, descriptive tags. (He had a face like a cabbage and was currently stuffing it with chips, holding the container of dip in his hand like it belonged to him and wasn't part of the buffet.) 

4. How many people are present?
When scenes change, early on list the important characters who are present, especially any who will have dialogue so that they don't seem to magically appear from out of nowhere.

5. Temperature/weather? 
You don't have to share this unless it's abnormal or important to the scene. But remember, if you don't tell them differently, people will assume that the temperature is average and the weather is nice.
 

Here are some more posts that might help you:


 

Assignment time

Description is a fine balance that takes a lot of hard work and tweaking during edits to get just right. Any questions about how to describe things? What comes easiest to you when describing things? What is hardest? If you have a description you're particularly proud of, share it in the comments. This can be a description of a person or a place. And if you have one that could use some help, feel free to post it and we can give each other ideas.





Broken Trust Cover Reveal

For you Spencer fans out there, I know you've been waiting patiently for the third full novel in the Mission League series to come out. I had planned for Broken Trust (book three) to release last spring. That was over a year ago! Then life happened. Big time. Life doesn't really care about our plans. It does what it wants. So life did what it wanted to me, and Spencer suffered. He waited patiently at first. Then he started to get mad. "My story must be told," he said. "You promised to tell it. What gives?"

"Life happened," I told him.

He was not sympathetic.

But I worked on Broken Trust little by little and finally managed to finish the book. It is now with the editor, who will send it back as soon as she can. And then I will publish it! Readers who have been waiting for Spencer's next tale will not be disappointed. I hope.

Spencer says you won't be. He promises action and adventure. In Alaska.

So, without any more babbling by me, here is the cover for Broken Trust, coming in September 2016.

Yay!

 
 
 
 
Scroll down to see it.























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Almost there!



























Hooray! Long time no see, Spencer. Welcome back.
If you've never read a Spencer book, you can read book one, The New Recruit, for FREE on Kindle or iTunes.