Jason Black, A Book Doctor

Before Jason Black’s talk, I thought editors are people who correct your spelling and grammar errors and that’s all. But Jason explained that as a book doctor, he does:

  • Development Editing: find problem in story structure, character arcs. Probably the most crucial part of writing any story, I think.
  • Line Editing: improving your writing skill, make words flow smoothly and enhance how you express your vision.
  • Copy Editing

He also recommended that writers should do self-editing before going to someone like him. And I agree. If you sent in a copy that you have cleaned up to the best of your ability then after he corrected it, you will only see the problems you really didn’t notices or know how to fix.

Once I finished my last short story assignment, I’ll no longer have an instructor to guide me through. Jason, who says he is a number’s guy, will be good at analyzing my story in a logical fashion but I hope to also get a male’s point of view, since I want to write things that everyone can enjoy.

My 1st Rejection

Just got my first rejection e-mail from PseudoPod. The editor, Shawn Garrett, was kind enough to reply with useful tips.

  • Remember to use contractions in dialog: “I am” is not as natural as “I’m.”
  • People don’t usually use first name when they talk to their partners. “Thanks, Kevin.” should be “Thanks, Kev” or “Thanks, dear.”

Saved by The Super Librarian, Nancy Pearl

For two months I have been stuck, not by a writer’s block, just that my pen keeps piping out boring junk. Just when I thought I have lost all hope, The Super Librarian, Nancy Pearl, came to my rescue.

At a library event, she introduced me to less “marketed” but well written books.

I am starting with “The Family Man” by Elinor Lipman. I picked up the book because Nancy said it was set in the 1940’s, I don’t know what that’s about but I can’t wait to get to it.

Also went with one of her recommendations for teens. “Going Bovine
” by Libba Bray. A 16-year-old boy, a mad cow disease victim, goes on a journey to find Dr. X for a cure. On the way, he and his friend gain a lawn ornament (formally a Norse god) as their companion. When I heard that I was sold!

Nancy Pearl, Librarian Action FigureNancy has a super power, the power to propel you into the infinite universe where space traveling is fascinating and safe. Her enthusiasm for good books reignited my desire to write. Thank you, Nancy Pearl, for saving my passion.

Trust me, she is super, why else would she have her own action figure?

Locked In by Marcia Muller

Locked In by Marcia MullerLocked In is Marcia Muller’s latest in the Sharon McCone series. Not only it’s a story full with questions and quests for the answer, she wrote it in a new way.

I still like the way she presents the progress of investigation by dates. This time she also starts each section by a name, and that section will be in that person’s voice. As a new writer, I find it to be good examples of writing from different view points.

If that section is in Sharon’s name, Marcia wrote in 1st person. For the rest of the casts, it would be in 3rd person. That clearly shows it’s still Sharon’s story yet it gave us a chance to see each player’s inner thoughts.

The other thing I noticed is that each section is short enough so you won’t forget what happened with different lines of investigation by other operatives.

This also reminds me of the point Robert Dugoni made in his workshop. Write a flashback as a whole and separate scene and not as a memory info dump. And keep it short so you won’t lead your reader too far away from the main thread.

“Said” is really better

In my previous post, “Said” is good enough, I mentioned sticking with using “said” in dialog. As I edit, I actually made a few more improvements.

“Said” is really better: I found the “non-said” verb in a dialog is often redundant or unnecessary.

  • Old: Then with a smirk on his face, he added…
    New: Then with a smirk on his face, he said… (“then” implied the “added”)
  • Old: I lied with a disappointing expression that was as real as…
    New: My disappointment was as real as…

Rephrase to take away adverb is also better: It forced me to write in more details.

  • Old: And thoughtfully he said, “No”
    New: The creases between his brows deepened. “No”

Limit the use of first name in dialog: Since people don’t talk that way in real life, I replaced first name with dear, honey, and baby throughout so when the first name is used, it has a stronger impact.

“Said” is good enough

Just got back from a PNWA workshop: How to Write A New York Times Bestseller, taught by Robert Dugoni.

After a day of learning, I now have a lot to fix, even for my latest short story. One thing I didn’t want to believe: don’t use anything else but “said” when writing dialogs.

I have also read it in Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. These two bestselling authors have told me so, who am I to argue.

Tomorrow, I will first edit out the “non-said” dialog tags, then check the beginning and the end of each scene to eliminate boring statements and summaries.

Can I do it gracefully?

Getting started with Robert Dugoni

Last night, I attended a writer’s workshop at my local library, never did I know how much I will learn!

Robert Dugoni, writes legal thriller, is a brilliant teacher and a New York Times bestselling author. Although I was already reading Stealing Fire from The Gods, he simplified the process so I now have a better understanding of the traditional story structure. He advice that you start by answering “What is the overall story question?” For example, in OZ, the question is “Will Dorothy get home?”

From there, you can figure out the theme, outline, and summary of your story. Then you can fill in the details and background of the setting and the characters.

I can’t wait to try this out for my next short story and see how it goes!