Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Writerly Wednesday ~~ Novel Editing Tips

Good stuff on tap today, writerly blogging friends! Lynnette Labelle is sharing her top 12 tips to editing your way to a better novel. Her article will appear in RWA Online's site at the end of the month, so you're getting a sneak peak! After you enjoy Lynette's tippage, how about leaving your favorite editing tip or trick in a comment? Or a problem area you struggle with? Maybe some kind fellow blogger (or Lynnette, if she has time) will offer a possible solution.

I'm coming to visit, so put on some coffee, okay? :)

Novel Editing TipsBy Lynnette Labelle

As a developmental copyeditor, I do more than correct grammar and punctuation. I also look at the big picture. In a fiction manuscript, I watch for mistakes made in plot, characterization, dialogue, pace, tension, conflict, and more. The beginning should hook, the middle shouldn’t sag, and the end should satisfy. Unfortunately, writers have a difficult time finding these flaws in their work. Sometimes they’re too personally invested in a particular scene or phrase. Other times, they simply don’t know what to search for. Here’s a list of several issues I encounter frequently.

1. Show, don’t tell: Put the reader inside the character’s head. Show him how the character feels and what she experiences. Avoid “telling” words like: heard, saw, noticed, smelled, thought, etc. For example, instead of saying, “She saw Jim kissing Joelle and wanted to kill them both.” You could say, “Jim kissed Joelle, and Nancy’s stomach turned. How could he do this to her after all they’d been through? Well, if that jerk thought he was getting away with betraying her trust, he was in for a big surprise.”

2. Unrealistic dialogue: Sometimes dialogue is realistic, but doesn’t suit a character. For example, a grandmother wouldn’t say, “Dude. That’s so rad, man!” However, there are times when dialogue simply isn’t realistic. If people wouldn’t say it in real life, your characters shouldn’t say it either.

3. Boring dialogue: Always make sure there’s a point to the dialogue and that one character doesn’t go on and on and on. We all know someone like that in real life, but we don’t want them slowing down our story.

4. Dialogue that reads like transcripts: This happens when two (or more) characters are talking and the writer doesn’t have them do anything more than that. In reality, people never just sit and talk, even when they’re sitting and talking. They might fidget, take a sip of coffee, look around the room, gaze into each other’s eyes, etc. All of these actions tell us more about the characters and possibly the plot. Conversations should also show the characters interacting with the scenery to remind us where they are. The atmosphere in a rowdy country bar would be different than at a quiet, romantic restaurant.

5. Scenes that don’t move the story forward: This is a tough one because there are times when a scene is well written, but it just doesn’t fit with the story. Always ask yourself what’s the purpose of the scene. If it doesn’t move the plot forward or develop the characters, then the scene’s purpose is in question.

6. Too many details: Some writers write beautiful passages that go on forever. Others describe every little detail in the scene, leaving nothing for the reader to imagine themselves. Both of these scenarios should be avoided. Readers like just enough information to allow their imaginations to fill in the rest rather than having the author spoon feed them every last detail.

7. Not enough details: On the other hand, sometimes writers don’t add enough details, so the reader feels like the characters are living in a box. Balance between both styles is key.

8. One dimensional characters: These characters haven’t been fully developed. We might know what they look like and what they do for a living, but we don’t have an idea as to who they really are. Show us their personality. How is this character different from that one?

9. Flawless/perfect heroes or heroines: Nobody’s perfect and people don’t want to read about someone who is. Boring. Plus, it’s harder for readers to relate to the hero or heroine if he/she seems too good to be true. Characters need to be at least a little flawed so they can learn and grow by the end of the novel.

10. Unlikable characters: While it’s okay for us to hate the villain, we don’t want to hate the hero or heroine. Granted, sometimes either one of these characters may come across as blunt, bitchy, aggressive, or strong willed, but they must have some sort of vulnerability, something that shows, deep down, they’re good people.

11. Flat beginnings: This often happens when a writer starts at the wrong place. Either too far in the past or too far in the present. (Prologues are an exception.) The ONLY place to start your story is at the inciting incident. What situation or event changed your character’s life forever?

12. Lack of GMCs: Many writers have never heard of GMCs. Others know the acronym stands for: goals, motivations, and conflicts, and may even believe they understand the concept, but more often than not, they don’t. If a story’s GMCs are missing or weak, the book probably won’t sell.

Writing a novel and writing one that’s publishable are two different things. In the end, it all comes down to knowledge. How well do you know the craft? This list is a good place to start.

Lynnette Labelle is a certified copyeditor and proofreader, and the editor of LoveBytes, RWA Online’s newsletter. She offers writing coach services and teaches courses one-on-one as well as in a group setting. Look for her next online course called “Hook, Line, and Sinker” coming soon. Check out Lynnette’s website and blog HERE! 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tasty Tuesday ~~ New Year's Day Menu


I'm late posting my New Year's recipes, but better late than never, right? These dishes use some traditional items with a Cajun-Country-Italian spin on them -- typical Gumbo Writer style. :) The key to enjoying your New Year's food is s-l-o-w cooking, in my opinion. You put your food on to cook the day before, or early morning of, and let it do its thing while you enjoy your football games or other plans. I love that you're working out of one pan of sauteed veggies for the whole menu! :)

BBQ Pork Tenderloin (aka Pulled Pork)

4 8-pound pork tenderloins
Seasoning (Tony's or Cajun spice, garlic powder, sea salt & pepper

Put tenderloins in large aluminum pan and cover tightly with foil. Cook at 350 for about 12 hours. (Works great overnight!)

Drain off about 2/3 of the juice/drippings. Add BBQ sauce (recipe below) after pulling apart meat. It should be very tender and fall apart.) Stir well. Re-cover with foil and put back in oven for 2-3 hours on low. This allows meat to absorb the sauce.

Notes: This is great as a main dish and also for sandwiches. I served this recipe at the men's shelter on New Year's Eve and it was a big hit. THIS RECIPE SERVES 50, SO ADJUST DOWN RECIPE AS NEEDED.

Angie's BBQ Sauce

6 18-oz Kraft BBQ Sauce (2 each - Regular, Hickory, and Honey flavor)
2/3 cup mustard
seasoning (garlic, salt & pepper, Tony's/Cajun seasoning)
1 large store brand grape jelly
4 T. Worcestershire
1 cup leftover coffee (Community Coffee Dark Roast)

Heat ingredients in a medium pan on low, stirring until mixed well. Simmer for 2 hours with lid off to thicken. Yummmmm! (As in pork tenderloin recipe, adjust down quantity to fit your needs.)

White Beans & Ham

1 pkg Camellia Great White Northern Beans ("New Orleans' finest...since 1923.")
Large leftover ham bone (Save your Christmas honey ham bone for this!)
2 medium white onions chopped medium fine
1 cup pan drippings (If you have to ask, just use 2 boullion cubes & water. LOL)
1 cup leftover coffee (I use Community Coffee Dark Roast)

Seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic powder, Diesel's Seasoning --NOTE: Diesel is blogger Karen Evans' son and a swell soldier man!)
1/2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet
A few strips of cooked bacon or breakfast sausage for extra flavoring
2 garlic pods, minced
1 c. juice from pork tenderloin, or bought broth

Soak beans overnight, drain off water, rince, cover with water again. Saute onions in drippings (or olive oil). Add garlic to saute pan the last few minutes.

Put all ingredients into crock pot, cover, and cook on high for 4 hours. Then mash about a cup of the beans against side of crock to thicken. Simmer uncovered for about an hour. Taste to check seasoning, and add more if needed. Serve and enjoy. (Even better the second or third time as leftovers.)

Black Eye Peas

2 cans Trappey's black eye peas "flavored with slab bacon"
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, Cajun seasoning
2 T. pan drippings/sauteed onion & garlic
2 cooked breakfast sausage pattis, crumbled (Or substitute bacon)

Simmer peas in medium pot, lid on for 2 hours. Adjust seasoning if needed. Serves 4.

"Fried" Cabbage

1 head green cabbage
Seasoning to taste
3 or 4 slices crisp bacon and/or breakfast sausage
sauteed onion & garlic
1/3 cup beef broth
1/3 cup leftover Community Coffee 

In same pan you sauteed onion and garlic in, retain 1/2 cup veggies and drippings. Rough chop cleaned cabbage into pan. Cover and cook on medium low for about 30 minutes. Add in broth, cover and simmer on low for 1 hour. Cabbage will shrink down a LOT. Drain off 2/3 of juices. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday Sweets ~~ A Few Goodies

Happy Saturday! I hope everything that fills your weekend is SWEET and satisfying. It's been a great week for me, and I'm having a blast leaving my sticky notes around town. :)

If you're looking for some great short stories and poetry to browse, please check out our shiny new winter issue of Rose & Thorn Journal. Kat and I think it's the best issue yet. Yay! And the cover art below? Isn't it stunning? [Thanks to awesome artist James Day!]


For a writerly treat, hop over to Kat's blog and read an actual rejection letter she got a few years ago, and her hindsight response. It's a hoot!


And how's your year going so far???   xxo

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Writerly Wednesday ~~ Best "Writing" Project EVER!

I read recently somewhere on the Internet (or saw in Twitter or on Facebook...or ???) the coolest project I've come across in a long time. From some tragedy -- probably a young suicide -- someone decided to add a little brightness and hope to the world by scattering around uplifting sticky notes. Cool, hunh?

Though the details escape me, the idea of random acts of kindness always lurks in my mushy brain. Sooooo, the other day when I had some time to waste, I scribbled through a sticky pad with the note you see below.

I cannot tell you how much fun it's been this week leaving the "love notes" around town. Places I've put them so far -- on the glass front door of a high end make-up store, on a restaurant table, the entrance to a hair salon, handed to friends, on random cars in parking lots, on the bathroom mirror at a bookstore, etc.

If you're looking for a method of generating story/poem ideas, give this idea a whirl! I laughed so hard at myself yesterday when I was going through a parking lot putting a few sticky notes on cars' driver's side windows, figuring owners would find them when they finished shopping. I stuck a note on an SUV with tinted glass. It seemed like a good choice at the time. Only after afixing the paper to the vehicle's window did I notice there was a driver sitting behind the wheel! A bearded older man!!!!

Oh lawd, he must've thought I was a lunatic or trying to pick him up. Or both. :D [I pretty much ran to my car and peeled out, so didn't see his reaction when he got out to read the note.] LOL

For the cost of a sticky note pad, you can have a ball of fun and spread the LOVE too. "Try it, you'll like it," as that old commercial used to say.

Have YOU ever done crazy things to generate writing ideas, just to have fun, to spread some happiness, or to flesh out a novel's plot?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tasty Tuesday ~~ Louisiana Gulf Shrimp Poppers

Hey blogging buds. Hope you've jumped into a wonderful new year with lots of good eats and progress with your resolutions and goals! Mine's been wonderful so far, with many projects of the creative kind.

Speaking of creative endeavors, the winter issue of Rose & Thorn Journal is coming out this Saturday, and it's jam packed with AWESOME art, short stories and poetry. Hope you'll browse through the issue and leave feedback for the authors and poets as the spirit moves ya. [Hit the link to sign up for our free quarterly newsletters too, if interested!]

Now, on with a yummy, tongue-tickling appetizer recipe. This one comes from sweet Kelli, who I claim as a niece......

Kelli's Shrimp Poppers

3 pounds thick sliced bacon
3 pounds fresh shrimp (16-20 size) cleaned & deveined
1 8-oz. cream cheese, softened
jalapeno peppers

Slice jalapenos the long way and scrape out all the seeds. Fill pepper halvess with cream cheese, add a shrimp to each "unit," and wrap with a piece of bacon. Secure with toothpick.

Whether cooked on a BBQ pit or at your stove, watch poppers closely to keep from burning, turning often to evenly cook on both sides. (Takes about 20-30 minutes per batch on a pit.)

Serve hot and watch your guests' eyes light up! Serves 6 or more.

NOTE:  If you're not into spicy foods, you can substitute slices of green onion for the jalapeno, or use banana peppers since they're not too hot. :)

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