Category Archives: Writing

Show, Don’t Tell

index

Beginning writers are often instructed to Show, Don’t Tell. Sounds simple enough, but exactly what does that mean? Here are a few examples.

Telling. Bob Jones was fat.

Showing. Bob Jones pushed himself out of the chair. His arms wobbled has he hefted his large body up and tried to stand. His knees buckled under the weight and he had to sit down and catch his breath before he could try again.

Telling. I hurt myself.

Showing. My arm throbbed. Blood streamed from a large gash, staining my shirt and pants.

Telling. I was nervous.

Showing. Waiting for my teacher to reply, I grew dizzy. My face flushed and I hoped my deodorant was strong enough to mask my fear.

Telling. It was hot.

Showing. Max sweltered under the noonday heat. Beads of perspiration formed a river, dropping into his eyes and clouding his vision. If he didn’t find water soon, he knew he would pass out.

These are simple examples, but you will notice two things. It’s easier to tell because it uses less words, and often the word “was” shows up in the sentence. I was doing something; he was doing something. Your reader will get a better picture and be more invested in your story if you can describe what is happening with action. A man is so heavy he can’t get out of his chair. Blood streams from a cut on an arm.

Remember to use Show, Don’t Tell wisely. If you “show” every sentence in your novel it could easily reach 200,000 words. Show the things that are important and the things you want your reader to remember. Tell the small things that don’t matter. He started his car. He walked to the store.

Don’t forget to incorporate the five senses. What does your character hear? The sound of the chair creaking as he tries to stand. What does he smell? The grease from his cold French fries. What does he see? Blood staining his clothes. What does he taste? Salt when he licks his dry lips. What does he touch? His wet forehead when he wipes away the sweat. Using the senses is another way to make the scene more intimate and allows your reader to experience what your character is experiencing.

Balancing show and tell is tricky, but once you master it your writing will sparkle and your readers will ask for more.

-Bonnie Dodge

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Archives 2016, Writing

Learn the writing business

Whenever I tell people I’m a writer, they usually say they’ve also written a book and want to have it published. Usually my first advice to new writers is about craft and becoming the best writer they can be. But after having been around publishing for awhile, I have additional advice. That is, learn about the writing and publishing business.

Look at it this way. If you decide to start a restaurant, you’re not just going to throw open the doors to your new place and start cooking. You’re going to learn about the restaurant business.  The same is true for the writing business.

I will emphasize that most of my experiences have been good with people, but I too have had my hair singed on occasion. So start by learning about what type of writing you’re interested in, from novels to nonfiction to screenplays to magazine articles. There are hundreds of books and internet sites with advice.

Here’s some things I learned along the way that I hope will save you heartburn.

  • If you’re offered a contract by a publishing company and don’t have an agent, hire an attorney and have him or her look at it. This is well worth the money to make sure you aren’t giving away your rights and do you have an option to get back your publishing rights.
  • Do research on the publisher or whoever is interested in buying your writing. There are many sites on the Web to warn you about the good, the bad and oh so ugly.
  • Ask lots of questions. Don’t be shy. If a publisher doesn’t want to answer, beware. But always be polite and never obnoxious about it.
  • Get paid. Don’t give your writing away. If someone wants to publish it and make money off your talent, then get your share. And get this in writing. A guy still owes me money for a writing job.
  • Keep copies of everything, including emails. Hopefully you won’t need those but if you do…

I know many of you may not care about making money from your writing and your reward will be to share it or give it away, which is great. However, if you want monetary compensation — even if you consider writing a hobby — then it’s best to learn the business or you may end up getting the business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Archives 2016, Writing

How Important are Book Reviews?

How Reviews Help Authors

Do you read reviews? After you’ve read a good/bad book, do you leave a review? Should you?

In the super competitive world of publishing, reviews are important to writers. Many authors see this as a dreaded nuisance; you wrote the book already, why do you need to worry about reviews? The answer is simple. Because reviews matter to the industry. The more positive five-star reviews you have on Amazon.com and Goodreads, the more visibility your book will get, making the book easier to market. That’s why, if you follow many authors on social media, you will find them asking for reviews every time they release a new book.

Maybe you’re not a fan of reviews. Maybe you never read them. But most of the world does. According to social media, over 85% of all Amazon Kindle readers rely heavily on book reviews. In a sea of books, a good book review helps readers determine if the book is for them and worth the money.

Additionally, many online advertising venues have requirements such as a certain number of positive reviews before they will sell you an ad. The same is true with book review sites. More reviews get authors exposure to other book review sites, blogging communities, and book clubs. More reviews equal more sales for authors.

If you’re an introvert like me, it’s hard to ask for reviews. Especially from people you see everyday. Further, some sites look closely at author relationships, going so far as to take down reviews they believe are not genuine or too closely related to the author.

So, what’s an author to do?

It’s your book, who better to promote it? Get over yourself and your fear of asking for reviews. Ask everyone, your friends, family, and other writers. Offer copies of your book, in print or a pdf file in exchange for reviews. Consider using sites like Kirkus Indie Reviews and pay for reviews.

Ask, ask, ask, but be realistic in your expectations. Not everyone is going to like your book. Not all your reviews will be positive. What one person likes, another one won’t. Don’t be afraid of bad reviews. They often spark interest.

Book reviews come in all shapes and sizes. Successful authors know reviews are an important part of the process.

-Bonnie Dodge

Leave a comment

Filed under Archives 2016, Writing

Waiting for a query reply? Don’t wait. Write

Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worse kind of suffering.

Paulo Coelho

I remember the first time I got a request for a manuscript. I thought this is it, man. The big time. Money. Fame. A Charlie Rose interview.

I sent off my manuscript and then I waited and waited and waited. It was worse than meeting a cute boy when I was younger, giving him my phone number and then waiting for the call, which never came.

Now when I query, I don’t wait. I write.

If you want to be published and your last name isn’t King, Grisham or Patterson or some of those other people on the Amazon bestsellers list, the reality is you’re probably going to have to wait. Like waiting for an agent to decide whether he or she will represent you, or for a publisher to get back to your agent or you. The great thing about the industry today is that you don’t have to wait a week for your letter to get where it’s going. There’s email. But that doesn’t necessarily speed up the wait. (Although it is a bummer to get a rejection email five minutes after you sent a query. It’s like Ouch!)

This all takes time so don’t let it get to you. Don’t check your email ten thousand times a day because it will only increase your angst. In many instances, you may not even get a reply because agents and publishers are busy and get a billion queries.

Forget about anxiously awaiting for snail mail. Only rejections end up in your mailbox if you get one at all.

If you focus too much on waiting, then the painful self-doubts rise up like an El Niño storm. As your grandmother once uttered, don’t put all your writing eggs in one basket.

My advice is that once you send your manuscript, immediately start work on another, if you haven’t already done so. The best way to forget you are waiting is not to wait, but write. Use the days productively. We only have so many, after all.

If you are fortunate and your work is accepted for publication, that takes time, too. Sometimes up to two years to get your book published. The same advice holds when it comes to waiting.

Don’t wait. Write.

Patricia Santos Marcantonio

I received some great comments on this, especially C.S. Wilde’s. Thanks for your comments!

1 Comment

Filed under Archives 2015, Writing

Steps to Writing

“Now shall I walk or shall I ride?
‘Ride,’ Pleasure said;
‘Walk,’ Joy replied.”
― W.H. Davies

I love being a writer, but writing has its hazards. One of them is the amount of time I spend in front of my computer. If I’m deep into a story, I can sit for hours, forgetting to move as I struggle to create a perfect phrase or sentence. When I finally look at the clock, I’m often surprised that the day is over and I haven’t made time to walk.

It’s no secret that walking is good for us. A Harvard health letter claims walking can strengthen bones, tune up the cardiovascular system, and clear a cluttered mind. Because I try to walk every day, I know these declarations are true. In addition to lowering my blood sugar, the minute I put on my shoes and start to walk, that plot problem I’ve struggled with for hours, or that special word I couldn’t find in the thesaurus, pops into my head and just like that I’m eager to finish my walk and return to my desk.

Often I find myself suffering foggy brain syndrome. When I sit too long, everything slows down, including my brain. A quick stroll, even just ten minutes, helps combat this affliction. Walking moves my muscles and pumps fresh blood and oxygen through my head, triggering the release of feel-good chemicals and making it easier to get back to work.

I’m not the only writer to find walking beneficial to my craft. Henry David Thoreau said, “Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” Gretel Ehrilich said, “Walking is also an ambulation of mind.” And Thomas Mann said, “Thoughts come clearly while one walks.”

Hemingway wrote in A Moveable Feast, “I would walk along the quais when I had finished work or when I was trying to think something out.” And Henry Miller said, “Most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I’d say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while you’re walking or shaving or playing a game or whatever.”

The next time you get stuck with a plot point or are facing writer’s block, put on your shoes and go for a walk. It might just be the right step to take to further your writing.
-Bonnie Dodge

Leave a comment

Filed under Archives 2015, exercise, Writing

Writing takes as long as it takes

When I was a reporter facing a deadline, I had to learn to write well, accurately, and fast. I had to see the story in my head and do it.
As a fiction writer, I’ve kept that mode. That doesn’t mean I don’t research, edit and rewrite, and rewrite and edit. But often, I felt bad that could write so fast because aren’t all writers told it takes years and years if your project is going to be good. Of course, some of my projects did take years. But some didn’t and that made me feel like a hack. Writing was starting to feel like work, which it is, but it should also be damn fun and fulfilling or why the hell are we doing it?
Then at a conference, authors Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch spoke about how they write quickly. And they are successful writers. Indeed, they have great credentials.
To me this was one of those ah-ha moments that made me extremely happy.
It was okay that I wrote quickly. But writers still wrestle with this.
Recently on the Stage 32 network, of which I am a member, there was a long discussion about how long it takes to write a screenplay. The opinions were all over the place.
My only opinion: It takes as long as it takes.

Scott Fitzgerald wrote “The Great Gatsby,” considered to be one of the best American novels, over a summer and fall in 1924 with revisions the following year, when it was published, according to a University of Southern Carolina website.

It takes as long as it takes.

Weeks, months or years. No matter how long it takes, the thing we shouldn’t give up is telling a good, well written story.
Time is relative, after all.

Patricia Santos Marcantonio

Leave a comment

Filed under Archives 2015, Writing

Why Writing Conferences are Important to Your Mental Health

Earlier this spring, my writing partner and I discussed attending the Idaho Writers Rendezvous in Boise presented by the Idaho Writers Guild. We knew the basics, money was tight, and it meant being away from home for three days, not to mention away from our writing routines. With so many excuses, it was easy to talk ourselves into staying home. But we knew it was important to network, so we made time in our schedules and went.

We’re glad we did. We both had hit a brick wall in writing. We were buried in work—the editing, the marketing, and revisions. Every day was a grind—responding to emails, putting out fires, scheduling book signings, and trying to make time to write. Under the strain of the daily routine, we found ourselves in an agonizing rut. We were writing, but we weren’t having fun.

You’re smiling now because you know writing is work. Hard work, and not every day is a picnic. But it should be, right? At least some part of the day should make you glad you’re a writer, or why are you doing it?

That’s where our heads were when we attended the IWG conference this spring. We must have been in the right space at the right time because two of the presenters helped us reset our brains. Highly successful writers, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, opened our eyes and reminded us why we chose to be in this business. My partner had an aha moment when she discovered it was okay to write as fast as she does. She had self-talked herself into thinking she had to slow down to be normal, and she wasn’t enjoying the process. It went against her natural drive. I learned it was okay to let go of the “shoulds.” I was reminded that the only should I needed to listen to was the should that makes my writing better. Our two-hour trip home was electrified as we discussed these affirmations and formulated new projects. We felt free to let go of the expectations and enjoy writing again.

Maybe you’re on the fence about attending an up-coming conference. Maybe it would be easier to stay home. But while you’re deciding, don’t forget to look at the things you might learn; some things that may even surprise you.

-Bonnie Dodge

Leave a comment

Filed under Archives 2015, Writing

Whatever you write, be happy

I had lunch with a woman who is also a writer and throughout I was struck by her love of what she was doing. She had no bloodthirsty goal to be on the New York Times Bestseller list or climb the lofty heights of the Amazon ranks. She wasn’t out to make sure that her writing was on all the Nooks and Kindles in the universe.
She just loved what she was doing. She was happy, and her happiness was comforting.
I will admit to you I’ve fallen into that unhappy underworld when I begin to wonder why the heck I’m not selling millions, okay maybe thousands, of books on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble, or why Hollywood hasn’t optioned any of my stories for big screen or little one, for that matter. These are times when my ego takes hold like a rope. But as I’ve grown older I have learned that pinning happiness on those two things alone will lead straight to unhappiness. It’s like high school when you wish the cutest guy would ask you out or that you make the cheerleader squad. When those two things don’t happen, you are in high school hell. Thankfully, high school is over.
And please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not knocking ambition. If your only goal is to sell lots of books, then I wish you all the happiness. Damn, if my books do hit no. 1, I certainly won’t be sad or turn down the royalty checks.
But I’m not going to be holding my breath either.
I’m just going to keep on writing and learning how to become a better writer because that’s why I began all this in the first place. I love to tell stories and create characters. I love to have someone read my writing and feel a bit of the emotions I felt when writing the words. Or have them say, ‘Hey, I know what that’s like.’ I like to make them laugh, cry, feel scared, or rewarded. I like them to think. Mostly, I pursue what Harper Lee wrote in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
That gives me the greatest joy–giving people another point of view through my writing.
I’ve had my share of successes and I am grateful and lucky, but as in life, I have to realize there will always be people with more success and less success. People with more money and less. At times, I still have to work to keep myself out of that hades of unhappy writers, but it is getting easier and isn’t that something to be happy about?

Following is the link to the best list I’ve read about how to be a happy writer by novelist, screenwriter and game designer Chuck Wendig. Enjoy!
http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/03/26/25-ways-to-be-a-happy-writer-or-at-least-happier/?subscribe=success#blog_subscription-2

Patricia Santos Marcantonio

Leave a comment

Filed under Archives 2015, Writing

Checklist for writers

January is a month for new beginnings. While everyone is setting goals and making resolutions, I have a few of my own I’d like to share. Years of writers’ conferences, workshops, and book signings have taught me what to do as well as what not to do as I try to present myself as a professional writer.

  • Professional writers listen and observe. At workshops, they don’t talk unless they are the keynote speaker. They respect the presenter even if they think they know more than the speaker. They don’t hog the time or offer their opinions unless they are specifically asked.
  • Dress appropriately. Professional writers don’t show up in pajamas even if they write most of their books in pjs. They pay special attention to their appearance and put their best self forward. They brush their teeth, comb their hair and wear clean conservative clothes at presentations and book signings.
  • Be courteous. At book fairs, professional writers don’t shout out, “Hey you, buy my book.” Nor do they interrupt other authors talking about their own books by saying, “Hey, I’m a writer too.” Or “Hey, I take credit cards.” They wait their turn and are considerate.
  • Don’t gossip or complain. Professional writers are mindful of what they say in public. They don’t gossip or burn bridges. They know that the writer they pan today may be the best-selling author they’d like a back cover blurb from tomorrow. They know that the writer they berate may be the person they may have to chair a committee with some day.
  • Be on time. Professional writers realize that time is a precious commodity. They don’t make others wait. They call when they know they are going to be late and stick to schedules, no matter what.
  • Continue to learn. Professional writers know that writing is an ever-changing industry and that what worked five years ago isn’t going to work today. They read, study, and attend meetings and conferences to stay current in their industry.
  • Don’t brag. Professional writers check their egos at the door. They realize that everyone has an opinion or something to boast about. They don’t pontificate or shove their personal opinions on others.
  • Be dependable. Professional writers keep their promises. If they sign on to do something, they do it. They are honest and reliable. They finish what they start.
  • Exercise self-control. Professional writers control their emotions. They realize that writing is a subjective career. They know how to handle rejection. They don’t shout or scream in public if their feelings are hurt, or if they have a problem with another writer. They settle disputes privately with discretion.
  • Be present and give your all. Professional writers believe in themselves and write even when the writing is going badly. They believe in the process and they always do their best, knowing that their audience deserves only the best.

And lastly, professional writers know the difference between work and play, and count themselves blessed that they get to do something they love every day. As you begin the New Year, put your best foot forward. Be professional and enjoy the journey.

-Bonnie Dodge

Leave a comment

Filed under Archives 2015, Writing

Old State Pen makes list as most haunted place in USA

HAUNTINGS 3

The historical Idaho State Penitentiary was named one of the Most Haunted Places in the USA on the Places You’ll See site. A story about the penitentiary is featured in River St. Press’ book, HAUNTINGS FROM THE SNAKE RIVER PLAIN. In its second printing, the book will soon be available as an ebook on Amazon.com.

Check it out at

http://www.placesyoullsee.com/the-most-haunted-place-in-each-of-the-50-states/

Leave a comment

Filed under announcements, Archives 2015, Writing