Monthly Archives: September 2011

Meandering Thoughts On Readability


Readability is a term which covers everything from font size to writing. Thanks to e-readers, font size is adjustable, leaving authors able to focus on their craft.

I have strong beliefs as to what makes a novel readable.

  • First, the reader should NEVER see the writer in the characters or story.
  • The language has to flow like breathing in a yoga class.
  • Lastly, the plot must unfold with seemingly no effort.  Then the reader becomes entrenched in the story and engaged with the characters.

It’s easy to let your opinions creep into a character’s thoughts or words, but those bits should be removed or reworked in the editing process. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to make every paragraph work or keep every chapter.  Try removing parts and working key details into other scenes. Your story will be stronger for it.

Also avoid telling your reader the obvious, such as “she raised her hand up”, of course her hand went up, that’s the natural expected motion.  Only give a direction when it is something unexpected.  Same with “sat down in a chair”. I don’t know anyone who ever sat in any other fashion than “down”.

The breathing flow of the novel is more difficult to master.  There are two techniques I use to help with this process: distance and reading aloud.

Distancing yourself from your work helps you go into editor mode and study without attachment, gauging what needs work and what to cut.  Reading aloud will help you tweak your dialogue to a natural rhythm and weed out the tendency to make your characters speak the King’s English.  Really, no one talks like that… unless of course it is a carefully crafted character trait.

It’s a very deliberate process to make your writing read without feeling deliberate. Step into your character’s shoes, think with their thoughts as you write and let your readers see, feel, hear, smell and touch the action first hand. Cut the mundane and keep your pace moving forward.

And one last thing on the topic… flashbacks are not gratuitous character fill.  The scenes are building the story forward with information and insight the reader needs to be satisfied when they reach the last page.

Happy writing and keep plenty of coffee around for editing:)


Nearly Departed in Deadwood


“The first time I came to Deadwood, I got shot in the ass.”—Violet Parker

The best characters are quirky. The best stories are complicated. To make readers fall in love with both you need a healthy dose of character flaws and a unique voice.  Ann Charles accomplishes all this in the first novel of her Deadwood Series, “Nearly Departed in Deadwood”.  Early reviews compare her heroine, Violet Parker, to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum.  Violet and Stephanie would enjoy a glass of wine together, but really, the comparison stops there.

Ann Charles has created a wholly relatable character, full of despair and optimism, flaws and strengths.  Violet is a lot like us.

In earlier posts on writing, I’ve discussed deconstructing novels to understand how to write effectively. “Nearly Departed” is a well written example of how to build your characters and develop a page turner plot.

Here is Ann’s perspective on writing:

WRITING PROCESS

Overall, I’m what many writers call a “pantser” in the author world, which means I write by the seat of my pants. I get a couple of plot ideas in mind, put together a high-level plot paradigm with all of my subplots listed, work up a few necessary character goal details, wait for that opening line to hit me right between the eyes, and then explore the story as I go. Every time I finish a chapter, I pause to daydream and brainstorm what comes next. I have a general idea of the beginning, middle, and end, but I allow myself the liberty to change things along the way.

If we’re talking about my daily process for getting words on a page, my typical day is pretty normal. I work a full-time day job as a technical writer, so the morning starts out with dragging my butt out of bed around 6:00 a.m., checking email and Facebook/Twitter, and then getting the kids up and moving. My husband gets breakfast going while I get the munchkins dressed and ready for school/preschool. Then I head to work and play technical writer for eight hours, but my brain is constantly dabbling in fiction during long meetings and on “slow” days. I go home in the evening, hang out with the family until the kids go to bed around nine, and THEN I get to start working on writing. I usually stay up until around 1:00 a.m., then crash and start over again when the alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. By Friday, I’m existing solely on caffeine and sugar and I look like an extra from a zombie flick, minus the craving for brains. Saturday morning, my husband keeps the kids busy so I can sleep in and return to looking somewhat human. The weekend nights are major writing time, too. Then Monday rolls around and I’m back to the weekday grind. Someday I hope I can drop the day job, but that’s far into the future at this point.

 HOW I KNEW I WANTED TO BE A WRITER

In my 20s, after reading romances for well over a decade, I decided that I wanted to try writing a romance of my own. So I did. I wrote it by hand and it was absolutely horrible. I’ll never share that one with anyone. But I sent the first 3 chapters of it off to a publisher, not realizing at the time how bad the story was, and Harlequin’s Mills and Boon division was very kind in their rejection letter. The editor encouraged me to keep trying. That was all the encouragement I needed, and I’ve been working on improving my craft and career ever since. 

ADVICE TO NEW WRITERS

If writing to get published and sell books is what you really want to do, realize that winning contests, finding a publisher (or agent), and becoming a bestseller doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years, sometimes even a decade or more, like it has for me. I have been working to be published for about fourteen years now. Many authors take less time than I have, some take more. Patience is necessary, as is continually learning, persevering, and practicing. And most important—this is an entrepreneurial business. Entrepreneurs are known for living, breathing, and sleeping their businesses. Writing is the same. If your family doesn’t periodically consider staging an intervention to break you from your writing-related addiction, you aren’t working hard enough at it to succeed.

Featured Best Seller for a Day SEPT 28, 2011

Nearly Departed in Deadwood by Ann Charles

Irony is having a big ol’ fiesta and Violet Parker is the piñata.  Little girls are vanishing from Deadwood, South Dakota, and Violet’s daughter could be next.  Short on time and long on worry, she’s desperate to find the monster behind the abductions.

But with her jerkoff co-worker trying to get her fired, a secret admirer sending creepy love poems, and a sexy-as-hell stranger hiding skeletons in his closet, Violet just might end up as one of Deadwood’s dearly departed.

Awards

  • WINNER of the 2010 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense
  • WINNER of the 2011 Romance Writers of America ® Golden Heart Award for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements!

Interview on “The Platform” with John Rakestraw


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