Tuesday Tip

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tip#1This week, the third and final installment of The Hobbit trilogy premieres in the U.S. Obviously my mind is in Middle Earth and not in the real world. In honor of the very last movie, I’m going to publish a series of blog post dedicated to The Hobbit, starting with this week’s Tuesday Tip: How to celebrate premiere week hobbit style.

Have a Hobbitathon

6-filmsI did this Friday with my son while he was home sick. Watching the first two movies made him feel better and got him pumped for the last one. I recommend watching all of the movies in order from beginning to end. Better yet, watch the first two installments of The Hobbit, followed by or preceded by the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. That’s almost 20 hours of movie viewing mayhem. If you’re a diehard fan, watch  the extended versions instead of the regular movies.

Plan a Long-Expected Party

You can host your own Hobbit-themed party, or you can join me this Thursday on Twitter for my Hobbit party. There will be cake, food, music, and party games all inspired by the movies. Unfortunately we can’t share food via Twitter, which is a shame because this cake is going to look and taste amazing, but we can share our thoughts on the movies, our favorite moments, pictures, and a riddle or two. Party starts around 7:00. I’ll be tweeting up a storm. I hope you’ll join me!

If you want to find a party in your hometown, check out this lineup posted on TheOneRing.net. 

Dance like a Hobbit

Do you know the song the hobbits dance to in The Fellowship of the Ring has a name? It’s called “Flaming Red Hair.” This happens to be one of the songs on my party playlist. I’m going to bust a move–and probably a toe dancing Hobbit style at my party. Don’t be shy. Grab a partner and dance your feet off . . . or maybe just have another ale.

Maybe I'll just have another ale . . .

Maybe I’ll just have another ale . . .

Say Your Last Goodbye

What better way to say goodbye than with the song “The Last Goodbye” by Billy Boyd. What an appropriate song title. This does feel like a final farewell. How many times have you or will you play this song before you hear it in theaters? My sister and I will probably be singing along with the credits like we did last year to Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire.” If you haven’t had a chance to hear “The Last Goodbye,” check out this music video.

Learn Elvish

Spanish would certainly be the more practical language. After all, you’re not likely to bump into an elf on a daily basis, but hey, people speak Harappan. What’s better than a dead language–a made up one of course! I’m sure there are a lot of guides online, or maybe even a book. There is a book on how to speak Dothraki, so anything’s possible. If you learn only one word, learn friend, which is mellon, but if you master the language, use it to have conversations you don’t want other people to hear.

KTWxZLC

Read Tolkien

Not caught up, if you’re a fast reader, you still have time to read the entire book before seeing the movie. Already read the book? Don’t worry, I’m sure there will still be plenty of surprises. After all, we don’t know what will happen to Tauriel.

Eat like a Hobbit

The food doesn’t matter as much as the quantity. Cheese, breads, mushrooms, and meats, are good choices. Don’t forget ale and tea.

It’s not about what you eat, it’s when you eat. Breakfast, second breakfast, afternoon tea, lunch, dinner, elevenses, etc. Hobbits eat about 12 meals a day.

Dress up as your Favorite Character

IMG_12841I already dressed up as my favorite character this year for Kokomo Con. If you want to see more pictures of me dressed up as Thranduil, check out my post here. I won’t be the party king-er-queen this Thursday, however. The zipper of my robe is still broken. On the plus side, my crown is intact. You can bet, I’ll be wearing it with my party glasses.

Dress up at home, or if you’re truly brave, dress up at work or for the theater. If you dress as Thranduil, I recommend that you remove your crown so you don’t block other’s views.

Play Hobbit Games

Hobbits love games, especially riddles. Join me Thursday for Riddles in the dark. I’ll post some riddles on Twitter to see who guesses them first.

Walk Around Bare Foot

Be proud of your feet. Walk around bare foot outside, at the office, the gym . . . or at least at home.

Tolkien trivia

Test the knowledge of everyone around you with Tolkien trivia. This will be a lot of fun for fellow fans . . . and really annoying to those who haven’t seen or didn’t like the movies. Use quotes and references from the movies and books liberally, as often as possible. Drive people insane.

Enjoy Hobbit Parody

The internet and YouTube are great places to spiral into a Hobbit hole. Check out these great videos satyring the films.

Shop at the Hobbit Shop

IMG_14251Since I can’t wear my Thranduil robe, I’ve got two or three shirts on the way. This stuff ships super quick too. I love this shirt. How cool is it that Lee Pace’s face is on my boob. Haha!

Go to a Bar and Drink like a Dwarf and Sing like an Elf

IMG_12761I’m thinking about doing this. Not sure if my sister would be game, but how awesome would it be to drink an ale and start singing “I See Fire” and “The Last Goodbye.” I’ve already been to the bar dressed as Thranduil, so I’m sure this wouldn’t be the oddest thing I’ve done.

Cry

Last but not least, cry all the tears. I know I’m going to. And I know some of you are with me. What will I do on December 17 for the next 50+ years of my life? What movies will I have to look forward to? We don’t even get another Disney princess until 2016. I’ll probably have a Lord of the Rings marathon or maybe I’ll just have to finish the next epic fantasy series.

That’s a pretty long list. Should give you plenty to do while you wait for the release. Let me know how you’ll be celebrating premiere week.

Tuesday Tip

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Ever wonder if people are reading your post? And if they are, do they read the entire thing? Are they just skimming? If you read last Thursday’s post (check that out here), you already know what this Tuesday’s tip is about. For those of you who didn’t read it, or just skimmed it, I’m taking a break from the editing series this week so I can talk about how to make sure your post get read. They’re called readers for a reason. Let’s get them to READ!

Why don’t people read or finish reading blog post?

  1. They don’t have time
  2. They got bored
  3. They thought it was irrelevant
  4. They didn’t see it

1. Make Your Post Quick and Easy to Read

Quick and easy: Microwave meals have been banking on this concept for a long time. Make your post the Uncle Ben’s of blog post. I’m not saying it should take less than a minute to read, I’m just saying you should make it as quick and easy to read as possible. For instance, I timed this post. It took me 4 minutes to read from start to end.

You might be tempted to go through your post and just start cutting words, but believe it or not, it can take longer to read a 500 word article than a 1,500 word article. Here are some ways to decrease reading time regardless of word count.

Headings

I used to write my post without headings, only page breaks. Headings help important information stand out. Without them, there is no structural hierarchy, nothing to cue the reader that this section is important or even what it’s about.

Bulleted and Numbered List

List are another way to make important information stand out. They break down the content into pieces. No one crams an entire king sized Hershey bar into their mouth at once. They break it off one piece at a time. Do this for your readers. This shortens the time it takes to read the post.

Not only do list cut down information and eliminate unnecessary words, they also make information easier to read and remember.

Example 1: Your post should include four things: a title, introduction, body, and conclusion.

Example 2: Your post should include these four things:

  1. title
  2. introduction
  3. body
  4. conclusion

White Space

White space is not a waste of space; it helps readers comprehend what they read. The lack of white space has the same impact as a speaker who doesn’t pause for breath during a long-winded speech. The reader won’t remember what they read, and they won’t have a chance to process it. This was another mistake I made in earlier post. I wrote big, chunky paragraphs. Compare some of my new post with older ones and you’ll see white space between my sections–like a breath of fresh air.

Font Size and Color

When choosing font, consider fonts that are easy to read, not ones that are pretty. Choose a larger font in a color that contrast with your background. Don’t make your readers squint to read fancy pastel font.

Structure

Your blog and each post should be easy to navigate. Give your post structure by dividing your content into sections. This will keep you focused as you write as well as make your post easy to read.

I touched on structure in a prior Tuesday Tip. Check that out here. The structure should look something like this:

  1. title
  2. introduction
  3. heading one
    1. text
  4. heading two
    1. text
  5. heading three
    1. text
  6. conclusion

Declutter 

Even a well-structured post with appropriate headings and readable font can suffer from clutter. What is clutter? Anything that is distracting to the reader or that slows them down.

word count: There isn’t a magic number to increase readability. My rule of thumb is to keep it as short as your average reader’s attention span. Word count depends on the topic of your post. Is it informative? Are you selling a product? On average, keep your post between 200-2,000 words. These post are more likely to be read and shared.

Read your blog post objectively. Is there anything that can be cut: a word, a paragraph? Keeping your sentences concise helps them read the entire post without skimming or stopping.  Likewise, if you get off topic or ramble, your reader will lose focus and move on.

photos: Photos should entice the reader and give them a clear idea of what your post is about. They should also support your text. Remove all unnecessary images. Not only are they distracting, they can also make your page load slower. Remember that your readers will be using different devices, and some computers or devices have slower processing speeds. I’m a little guilty of this. I love GIFS, but I should cut down on using them because they might slow down my site. Some of my readers, my sister for instance, can’t view them in motion, which defeats the purpose. What you get instead is an image that loses its impact because it’s not moving.

2. Keep Your Reader’s Attention 

Sometimes readers quit reading because their just plain bored.

It could be your tone or your topic. Just because you’re writing about something that has been done, doesn’t mean you can’t write about it in a new or exciting way.

Title

This is the first place to gain or lose attention. Make sure you have an eye-catching title. You don’t have long, literally seconds, to gain your reader’s attention.

Your Title should do one of the following

  • ask a question the reader wants answered (they’ll lose sleep if they don’t know)
  • gives a sense of urgency (You need to know this)
  • appeal to them emotionally
  • pose a problem

I have several examples of this. One being last Thursday’s post titled “Are you Going to Read This?” Apparently many of you did, because my blog has never had so many views and comments in one day. So if I had to guess what it was about this post that made people check it out, I’d say it was the title.

My second example is an article my sister shared with me titled, “Ebook Publishing Gets More Difficult from Here–Here’s How to Succeed.”

Wow, what a title. It poses a problem, gives a sense of urgency, while suggesting a solution. If you’re curious about this article–and I’m sure you are–check it out here.

Introduction

Now that you’ve enticed your reader, don’t lose them with the introduction. This is where you’ll mention the topic. Make sure this is in your introduction and not buried in the body somewhere.

3. Stay Consistent 

One of my pet peeves, and I’m not the only one complaining about this, is when a blogger isn’t consistent.

Post Regularly and Predictably

Post on the same day if you can. If a certain day doesn’t work for you, at least try to churn out the same number of post each week. Don’t create long gaps between post. For instance, my sister publishes every Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. Obviously by the title of this post you know I post a tip every Tuesday. Other than that I am working on choosing another day to post. Think of television. A show airs on the same day, at the same time every week so viewers know when to tune in.

Post Quality Content

Quantity is not as important as quality. Quality is key. Don’t start posting redundant or lazy post after offering top-notch content. If anything, your post should get better over time, not worse.

Keep Content Consistent

If you blog about writing and kids, write about both. If you say you blog about writing, don’t blog about your kids. If you say you blog about parenting, don’t blog about writing.

Facebook is the platform for your vacation pictures, religious views, and family updates, not your blog. If someone is following you for great editing tips, don’t be surprised or offended if you get little response on your post about your ten-year wedding anniversary or your cake recipe.

4. Share it

Sometimes your post get ignored because no one saw it. Use your social media to promote your blog. Tweet your post. If you’re not sure if Twitter or Facebook are helping you, WordPress has a stats section that allows you to see how many people were referred to your site by various sources. I’m not sure how accurate it is, but it’s worth a try.

Where to share?

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • Giant Billboard

To wrap this up, look through your post and see how you can make them more readable. When your post doesn’t take long to read, readers will take the time to read it.

 

 

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1I’m not the only one offering free writing advice on the blogosphere, and I don’t pretend to be. There are thousands if not millions of people offering advice daily. Once you’ve read one tip, you’ve read them all, right? Wrong. Just because blogger A wrote a post about pronouns doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read blogger B’s post about the same topic. Thousands of people can write about the same thing, but none of them will write it the same. Even though they are all covering the same topic, they all have their own unique point of view.

Choosing the right point of view (POV) is as important to your writing as choosing the right protagonist. I know what you’re thinking. You’ve read other authors’ tips on POV; you understand the difference between first, second, and third person, etc. That’s great, because that’s not what I’m going to talk about. See how everyone’s perspective on a topic is different? Some people focus on the writer’s voice. I’m focusing on the narrative voice: Who is telling the scene.

How many POVs should you have: the debate

You might tell the story from a singular perspective or from many–or too many, George R.R. Martin!

Nah, I’m just kidding. You know I like to pick on George. Sometimes he deserves it.

Going back to online advice, some of the earliest tips lies I learned was that you shouldn’t have multiple POVs. I didn’t see how this was possible. Most of the books I read had multiple perspectives, so I thought there couldn’t possibly be any truth to this.

I determined the question is not can you have multiple perspectives, but how many can you have? The long and short of it is you can have as many as you like as long as they benefit your story. What do I mean by benefit? Well let’s look at the pros and cons of multiple POVs, shall we?

Cons

  • multiple POVs confuse the reader
  • some POVs can distract from the main story
  • the reader can lose connection with the primary character
  • the reader can lose emotional investment

Pros

  • with a new POV, you can write scenes that don’t include the main protagonist
  • you can give information that would not be available to the main protagonist
  • you can intertwine two or more stories and watch them come together
  • you can answer questions that you can’t get from another POV

Example:Twilight 

I’m not a fan of this series, but think of how much trouble the author could have saved if she’d given Edward a POV. Fans were so interested/confused/obsessed as to why he chose an average, mediocre girl that they found a partial draft of the sequel online to find out. Again, I’m not a fan, but I am likewise interested: What was it about her anyway? She had the personality of a Lego brick.

Looking at the list, the pros and cons seem about evenly stacked. So what is a writer to do?

My advice (and you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t want my advice), you shouldn’t avoid writing multiple POVs because it’s challenging. Just learn to do it right. Easier said than done. The easy way to do it right? First, learn how others have done it wrong.

Usually multiple POVs fail because the writer was trying to give every character a POV instead of just the major characters. Or the author wanted to make sure all their POVs had an equal amount of scenes.

Easy fix

The main protagonist should always have a majority of the scenes.

Choose POVs that are focused on the main story. If they aren’t, cut them.

How many is too many

qv544423c9Again, you’re looking for an actual number aren’t you. Sorry, there are no black and white writing laws that dictate how many point of views you can have. Most writing laws are unwritten and meant to be broken when necessary anyway. The correct answer varies from book to book. In a nutshell, how many can your story support?

 

Rule of Thumb: You have too many POVs if . . .

One of your POVs is telling a different story. All POVs should be focused on the same story.

More than one story? You have more than one book. You’ll want to eliminate some POVs. It’s as simple as that.

Rule of Thumb to be Broken: I’ve heard it said that you can only have one POV per chapter. Again not a rule. Some chapters split into multiple scenes. You may need to switch to your antagonist or another character before the end of your chapter. Just make sure the transition is clear. I probably wouldn’t head hop mid-scene unless you can pull it off. Every rule is meant to be broken–if done well.

POVs need to be distinct and consistent

Think of your characters’ perspectives like smells. They should have a different scent. After all, no one smells the same, right? Even twins don’t smell alike. I’ll go sniff my sister to prove it.

Getting off topic . . .

Each character should have his or her own, unique tone, mood, beliefs, voice, outlook, and perception. If not, all of your characters will sound the same. This is one of the most common reasons multiple POVs fail.

Choose POVs that are different. I’m going to use my sister’s debut novel, “The Quest for the Holy Something or Other” as an example.

Pig: optimistic, delusional, hopeful, idealistic

Kay: grumpy, stubborn, pessimistic, realistic

You can see how those POVs will contrast. No situation, scene, or event will be weighed, judged, or experienced the same for these two characters.

Just make sure readers will identify with all of your POVs. Even though Kay and Pig are so different, readers can relate, sympathize, and understand both points of view.

Choosing the Correct POV

imagesPOV needs to be considered in every scene. Look at the characters in your scene. List them if you have to. If you’re not sure which one to choose, write it from all of their perspectives and choose the best one. Remember that it’s not just your choice. Never write multiple POVs “just because.” That is a horrible reason. The same goes for reason number 2. I really like this character and I think it would be super fun to write a scene from their POV. Tempting, I know, but consider the purpose. POV will impact the reader’s perspective and attitude toward events. Consider the tone you want to set.

Example: You want your reader to see the beauty after a storm. Would you choose:

Character A. He is grumpy and pessimistic. Always sees the glass half empty. He wouldn’t notice the sun because of the puddles.

Character B. She is always optimistic. Nothing brings her down. She’s observant and sees the best in all situations. She keeps her chin up no matter what.

Hands down: you’d choose character B. She’d probably notice the beauty of a storm–she won’t have any trouble seeing the beauty after one. She always keeps her chin up too. She’ll notice a lot more than grumpy gus.

perspective

Which one is the best one?

The easy answer is not your favorite.

The more complicated answer is: which is the best for the reader.

  • reveals information you need the reader to know
  • conceals information you want to hide from the reader
  • most or least reliable (depending on which you want)
  • the character that has the most at stake in that scene

That’s just my point of view on point of view. Now I’d like your point of view. Please comment below.

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1This week’s Tuesday Tip is about something essential, something crucial that you MUST have in your writing. Without it, the scenes between your action sequences will fall flat, and readers will get bored and take a break from reading your book or–gasp–stop reading it altogether!

Are you sweating yet? Nervous? You should be. Keep reading.

This Tuesday’s Tip is about–

Dun, Dun, Duuunn!!!! Tension and Suspense.

Do you see what I did there? That’s what you should be doing in your writing. Tension and suspense go hand in hand with conflict. To read that Tuesday Tip, click here. Suspense keeps the readers turning the page, asking questions, and wondering what will happen next.

When do you add Suspense and Tension?

You may think suspense and tension belong in your action scenes, and you would be correct, but mainly they belong in the scenes between the action scenes. Suspense creates build-up, anticipation, the promise that something will happen–usually something bad. Think of it as the foreboding dark clouds before the storm.

How to add Tension and Suspense

Foreshadow

Tease the reader with future events. Let the reader see the problem before the protagonist does.The reader will fear for the characters, knowing that they are in danger.

One way of doing this is to change perspective. The reader will learn information the protagonist does not through the eyes of another character. This is a great way to show information the protagonist might not be aware of or understand clearly.

Reveal the Plan

You might be tempted to conceal what your character plans to do to add suspense, but contradictory to belief, revealing their plans and motives adds suspense.

But you just gave it all away! Now all that’s left to do is stop the villain and save the day, and the protagonist just said how he’s going to do it, so I might as well stop reading this book now. Wrong. All you gave away was the plan, not future events. This is where you add a dilemma, a twist, something your character didn’t consider or can’t predict. Let them make the plans. Make sure they feel good about them too, and then sweep the rug out from under them. The characters–and your readers–will be surprised.

Don’t forget the Antagonist’s plan. Knowing their plan when the protagonist doesn’t will add suspense.

And what better way to reveal a plan than in song!

images

In The Lion King, Scar’s plan (plot might be a more accurate word) is told in the song “Be Prepared.” Really, considering how dumb hyenas are, this was a rather catchy way to help them remember their part in it, don’t you think? Before Mufasa dies, we know he’s toast. We totally see it coming. This does not ruin the moment for us when he actually does. If anything, the viewer is rewarded with the feeling of foreboding doom while we watch Scar’s plan unfold, unhindered before our eyes. We shout at Simba to stop meowing at a lizard and to get the Hell out of the ravine. Run, you idiot! Watch out Mufasa! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mufasa__s_Death_GIF_animation_by_SuperVocaloidfan4eva

Deadlines

You feel the pressure when you have a task to complete by a deadline. Your character and your reader can feel it too. Add a sense of urgency by creating a deadline for your character to complete their mission.

Example: The Hobbit 

The dwarves have to get to the Misty Mountain by Durin’s Day before the last light fades in order to locate the hidden keyhole. If they don’t, they won’t be able to enter the Misty Mountain and reclaim their home.

Add a Dilemma

When the protagonist isn’t battling the antagonist, they should be battling their mind. Give the character something to sweat about between action scenes. Create a dilemma, a choice, a conundrum that they have to resolve.

Example: The protagonist must choose for one person to die in order for another to live.

Example: They must do something they swore never to do again.

Tip: Let the reader be privy to your character’s thoughts during these scenes. Their doubt, dread, and anxiety will fuel suspense and keep the reader hooked.

Apply Murphy’s Law Generously

If something can go wrong in life, it usually does. In literature, it SHOULD. Give your protagonist a full-proof plan and then foil it. Don’t let your character’s plan succeed without a hitch.

Cliff Hangers

Cliffhanger_gif

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT end your chapters on a peaceful note. This is a great place for a reader to rest their bookmark … and stop reading for good. End your scenes, chapters, and series with a shocking revelation, a precarious predicament, or other suspenseful event.

George R.R. Martin does this well in his Game of Thrones series. But I’m tired of using A Game of Thrones as an example, so I’m going to reference The Walking Dead.

Example: In season two, when the farmhouse is overrun by walkers,the season ends with the characters getting separated and running for their lives. Who lives? Who dies? Who is that cool, badass character with the zombies on leashes. Dun, Dun, Duuunn!!!

It happens again in a later season when the prison is overrun by the Governor. Once again we are left with unanswered questions. Cliffhangers almost caused me to purchase cable; they will sell books. Trust me.

That’s all I have to say about suspense . . . for now. Dun, Dun, Duuunn!!!

Hope you enjoyed. Please comment below. I love hearing from you. Praise is nice. I get a lot of it from my Tuesday Tips, but how about some praise for authors who use suspense well. Who is an author that left you hanging?

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Tuesday Tip

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We have no control over the delineation of time in real life. An hour-long meeting on a Monday morning can feel like an entire day; however, an entire day can seem like only an hour when we’re having fun. The only time we can control how fast or slow time goes is in our novels. This is called pacing.

How to Pick up the Pace

For some scenes, you’ll want to step on the gas: cliffhangers, action scenes, fight scenes, arguments, climaxes. To make sure your reader keeps turning the page, eliminate all but the following

  • immediate action
  • exposition
  • descriptions
  • immediate dialogue
  • internal dialogue
  • sensory details

You’ll want to keep description brief. Likewise, only describe sensory details your character would notice at that moment. Perhaps he taste blood in his mouth during a fight or hears a gun shot.

Summarizing

Some scenes just drag. Travel scenes are infamous for this. Describing every detail of every day of a long journey can be exhausting and pace-killing. Summarize slower scenes so you can get back to the action. Think of it as the literary version of a montage. Tolkien does this quite a bit in “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” For instance, the dwarves stay in Rivendell for 14 days. During this time they rested, studied their map, and learned the origins of their weapons. What could have taken several chapters is condensed into one paragraph.

Eliminate Unnecessary Dialogue

Dialogue can be used to hasten or slow the pace of your writing. To speed things up, cut out all boring or unnecessary dialogue.

Example: “Hi, Bob. How’re you doing?”

“I’m good, Ted. How about yourself?”

“Fine.”

“Did you hear about Jim?”

“Yeah, his wife told me he died Saturday.”

“Well, she should know; she killed him.”

Instead

Example: They exchanged greetings.

“Did you here about Jim?”

Shorten Sentence Length

Long, detailed sentences take longer to read than short, choppy sentences. To quicken the pace, use short sentences or sentence fragments–that’s right, you can get away with these, but don’t overdo it.

You can also eliminate adjectives and adverbs.

There’s a lot of hate for adjectives and adverbs. I never understood why until I read Karen Miller’s “The Falcon Throne.”

Let’s look at Chapter one.

“Brassy-sweet, a single wavering trumpet blast rent the cold air. The destiers reared, ears flattened, nostrils flaring, then charged each other with the ferocity of war.

“Huzzah!” the joust’s excite onlookers shouted, throwing handfuls of barley and rye into the pale blue sky. The dry seeds fell to strike their heads and shoulders and the trampled, snow-burned grass beneath their feet,. Blackbirds bold as pirates, shrieked and squabled over the feast as children released from the working day’s drudgery shook rattles, clanged handbells, blew whistles and laughed.

Karen Miller does to her books with adjectives what my sister once did to my soup with paprika–ruined it!

These sentences are heavy and cumbersome. She uses description in excess during the joust as well: every noise, every sound, the light shining off of armor, exposition, the character’s thoughts,etc. All this description makes the scene drag. Even though these are very pretty sentences, they make you tired reading them. The excess of adjectives and adverbs can blur a sentences’ meaning, while tripping the readers eyes. I know I had to go back and re-read several of them.

Describe only what Your Character would Notice

When writing an action sequence, like a battle, fight, or chase scene, don’t use as much detail, inner dialogue, or description.

Describe only what your character would see. For instance, in a chase scene, everything blurs as you run. Are they looking for a place to hide? They won’t notice the trees are beautiful, only that they are too skinny to hide behind. This is not the time to stop and describe the roses.

I read a book that began with a chase scene. The main character is running for her life when suddenly she falls. As the character is laying exhausted on her back, the narrator went into a detailed description of her clothes, hair, the scenery, and exposition.

So many problems with this scene. Where to start.

Firstly, she would not notice anything serene or pretty, like how the light shines through the trees. She is running for her life. She is focusing on survival, not the scenery.

Secondly, the exposition in this scene slows the action. The reader might want to know why she is running, but this is a horrible time to bring up all the events and politics that lead to her escape. It also kills the suspense. If the character had this much time to reflect, she didn’t need to run now did she? What probably was only supposed to be a brief moment in the story felt like an hour.

Lastly, the description of her clothes was pace-killing, and jarring. Description needs to fit into the narrative smoothly without disrupting the flow.

For example:

She ran, not caring that her new boots were ruined.

Her velvet dress hindered her in the brier patch.

She could hide, but her red hair made it impossible to blend in with her surroundings.

Create Rapid-Fire Dialogue 

Minimize dialogue tags, reactions, and attributions so your dialogue is short and snappy. This will give the impression that your characters are talking quickly in rapid-fire succession. This is great for arguments. Some authors believe readers rely heavily on dialogue tags to know who is talking, but as long as you make it clear who is speaking to start with, and as long as there aren’t too many characters in one scene, it will be understood.

How to Slow Pacing

Have you ever heard the expression, don’t rush the good things. Maybe it’s a Tina Turner song and not an expression at all. Anyway, sometimes it’s better to slow the pace. This is good for slower scenes, character development, or romantic scenes.

There is a difference between slowing the pace and killing it. Let’s look at some tricks for slowing pace. You might assume you can take the tips from above and flip them. You’d be correct. It really is as simple as that.

To slow pacing include:

  • descriptions
  • inner dialogue
  • exposition
  • all those things we crossed out from the list above

Avoid

  • info dumps
  • redundancies
  • being over descriptive
  • too much inner dialogue or dialogue that rambles

Be Descriptive

Just like the fast scenes, focus on what your character would notice. In a slower scene they might have more time to reflect on their past, focus on setting, or stop and smell the roses.

Dialogue

In a slower scene, you can use more dialogue tags, actions, reactions, and inner thoughts than you could in an action scene. This does not mean you should have wasted dialogue. Whether the pacing is fast or slow, dialogue should start with the introduction of the important information and end when the characters conclude the main point. Don’t let them meander too long. Leave out lengthy introductions, greetings, and small talk. Let’s return to that first example. For starters, you would still leave out the “Hi, Bob.”

They exchanged greetings.

“Did you hear about Jim?” Bob spoke into his coffee cup as he took a drink, his voice suddenly lower as if there was someone else in the break room who might overhear.

Ted rubbed the back of his neck. He almost wished someone would interrupt. “Yeah, his wife told me he died Saturday.”

Bob slammed his mug down. “Well, she should know; she killed him.”

So there you have it, just a little advice on pacing your narrative. Hope you found that helpful!

 

 

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1I was so conflicted about what to write about today. Well, would you look at that, conflict just happens to be the next item on the editing checklist. To see the full editing checklist, feel free to check it out here.

We all face conflicts in our daily lives. Small conflicts like what to eat or wear. Major conflicts like getting a divorce, having surgery, or moving for a job.

water-cooler-gossipPeople enjoy conflict–not in their own lives, but in the lives of others. Ever notice how engaged your friends and coworkers are when you tell them about your divorce from hell, but for some reason they glaze over when you recap your relaxing weekend. People feed off of drama like plants feed off of light. Maybe it distracts them from their own lives; maybe they relate; maybe they are addicted to the chemicals released from experiencing negative emotions. Whatever it is, harness its power to engage readers. If conflict keeps people at the water cooler, it will also keep readers turning the page.

Types of Conflict

Conflict is the most important part of your novel. After you introduce your main character, you introduce the conflict. The story doesn’t truly begin on page one, but when the protagonist sets out to resolve the conflict. When we think conflict, we often think of something exciting, like a plane crash or a car chase, but a conflict can be something invisible and small-scale like an emotion. To help understand conflict, let’s break it up into categories.

External: Any force outside of the protagonist: fire, tornado, shark, sharknado, etc

Internal: Internal conflict adds meaning to the external conflict. Consider the Battle of Blackwater in a Game of Thrones. Since this event happened in season two, I hardly feel the need to announce a spoiler alert, considering there are five seasons now. You’ve had your chance to catch up.

There are a lot of external conflicts in this scene: Stannis’ fleet, under-protected walls, fire, etc. However, the true drama comes from the characters’ inner conflicts. There are a lot of characters we could choose to focus on: King Joffrey, Tyrion, or Stannis, but let’s look at The Hound (I don’t remember what his real name is). The character is a great fighter, so why does he freak out and leave in the middle of battle? It’s not the ships, it’s not the men with swords, it’s the fire. Because he was burned as a child, The Hound fears fire, which is everywhere at King’s Landing. This is a great example of inner conflict layered underneath external conflict. His fear, and inability to overcome it, makes this scene more dramatic. Kudos goes to George for playing on a character’s weakness, but before I hand out too much praise, let’s just see how this character arc ends. George typically fails at character conflict resolution. No, this is not just my opinion. There are a lot of arcs that are never closed off and conflicts unresolved because Martin kills off a character instead of developing a more satisfactory conclusion (e.g., most of the Starks). Lazy, just lazy. For the Hound’s conflict to be resolved successfully, he will have to overcome his fear of fire in order to achieve his goal, but George will probably just kill him off–which is ok as long as it’s with fire.

hound

Person vs.

  • Self: inner conflict: flaws, doubts, prejudices
  • Person: an antagonist e.g., a villain
  • Society: tradition, laws, culture e.g., Hunger Games
  • Nature: weather, elements e.g., Robinson Crusoe
  • Technology: tech takes over
  • Supernatural: something superficial: Gods, demons, fate, destiny
office-space-printer

Man vs. Technology: Take that, stupid printer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to create conflict

To add conflict, you don’t have to plan a ton of major events, like explosions, war, etc. If you’ve ever read The Teahouse Fire, you’ll notice there was only one catastrophic event in the entire story: the fire. Other than that, not a lot happened, but every page was saturated with conflict. To create conflict, simply ask yourself, what does your character want? Once you know what they want, take it away and make it difficult to achieve.

  • family
  • money
  • power
  • job
  • justice
  • a Hippopotamus for Christmas

Give your character a goal that your audience can relate with. The more they can relate, the more they’ll root for your protagonist. Create situations that prevent your character from getting what they want, and show their struggle to achieve it.

How to increase conflict

1. Give a Deadline

Think of a ticking clock. Imagine the story of Cinderella without the midnight curfew. Not as exciting, is it? A race against the clock adds suspense and drama.

2. Make your Character Choose

Decisions, decisions. Giving your characters choices will keep your readers on the edge of their seats. What will they choose? Will they complete their goal if it means ruining the lives of others? What will they sacrifice to get what they want?

3. Conflicting Goals

Like real people, your main character can have more than one goal. Make those goals compete.

Example: He wants to get a promotion and save his marriage. To get the promotion, he has to spend more time at work. To save his marriage, he needs to spend more time with his wife. He obviously can’t do both.

Also, group your protagonist with side characters who have conflicting goals or who have personality traits that conflict with your character.

Returning to the prior example. He has a mother-in-law who hates him, persuading his wife to leave.

4. Include Conflict in Every Scene

To iterate, this does not mean you have to have an explosion in every scene. Just make sure your character is struggling with something. Are they conflicting with their morals, another character, nature?

5. Inability to take Action

Render your character helpless to act. What always comes to my mind is a villain hand-rubbing and cackling while the main character, usually tied up, declares that they won’t get away with it . . . to which the villain always replies:

I already have

I already have

Main Conflict. 

Let’s look at Star Wars (The good ones). You might think the main conflict is about the battle between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance; however, the main conflict is actually Luke’s inner struggle between choosing the honorable way of the Jedi or getting revenge. The war complements Luke’s struggle because it is a battle between good and evil.

Side Conflicts

One conflict is not enough. On the road to your character achieving his or her goal are smaller conflicts. Think of these like bumps in the road. A good story has layers of conflict. Multiple conflicts add realism, depth, and interest. Interweave them so they are related. Let’s return to A Game of Thrones, however, we’ll take a look at Daenerys this time. Her main conflict is her desire to rule the iron throne. The battle hasn’t begun, but already she’s had many side conflicts: choosing between her family and her rule, hunger, obtaining an army, her brother, etc.

Note: Don’t forget to give side characters conflict as well. Make their wants compete with the main character. Just make sure their conflicts complement, not compete.

Raising the Stakes

Every conflict should be worse than the one before.

Conflict one:They mess up your order at McDonald’s

Conflict two: You’re late for work.

Conflict three: Your boss gives you a write up.

Conflict four: You’re girlfriend calls you during lunch to breakup with you.

Conflict five: You get pulled over on your way home and receive a ticket.

Conflict six: You get home to find all of your stuff is on the lawn.

Conflict seven: You have nowhere to go and nowhere to sleep, so you spend the night in your car while your stuff gets rained on.

Compare the first and last conflict. I bet you’d happily eat that Mcmessed up egg muffin now.

What happens if your stakes decrease?

One of several things. Your readers will lose interest or the conflict will get resolved too fast.

How to make sure your stakes are rising.

It’s easier if you plan your conflict while you’re planning your novel. Map the conflicts on your outline in the order they occur. You’ll obviously put the major conflict last.

What if it’s too late? You’ve already written your first draft. It’s never too late to rearrange or cut scenes. Keep a list of the conflicts that arise in your novel and compare them to make sure they appear in the correct order. I did this while editing my sister’s novel, The Quest for the Holy Something or Rather. Kay and Pig’s conflicts include a bear, a salesperson, and a kidnapping. Obviously the salesperson came first, followed by the bear, and lastly the kidnapping.

Don’t Raise the Stakes too High

Sometimes writers raise the stakes so high the protagonist cannot resolve the conflict realistically, resulting in a deus ex machina. I love her, but Karen Miller is infamously guilty of this. Do not let a God step in or bull-shit a magic ability at the last minute.This robs the reader of a satisfactory conclusion.

Rules of Conflict

  • Conflict must always be resolved (That goes for you too, George R.R. Martin)
  • Conflict must always be resolved by the main character or as the result of their actions
  • No deus ex machina
  • Have conflict in every scene
  • Have multiple conflicts

There you have it. When it comes to writing, don’t save the drama for your mama.

 

 

 

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1It’s Tuesday again, which means it’s time for another Tuesday Tip. Going back to the editing checklist, let’s take a closer look at style.

photo provided by instyle

photo provided by instyle

Not that kind of style–writing style.

The trouble with giving advice about style is that it’s subjective. What one person likes, another won’t. However, writers tend to prefer styles that are clear, concise, and easy to read.

Personal style

Style is simply how something is written. Everyone’s personal style varies. Your writing will convey your voice and personality. Everyone’s voice is different; everyone’s style is different, so how do you know if your style is good . . . or bad?

Potential Problems

1. Passive Voice

Passive voice is not grammatically incorrect; however, many readers prefer books written in the active voice. Sentences contain nouns and verbs, subjects and actions. A sentence is considered passive when the action comes before the subject doing the action.

Example:

Passive: The chair was sat on by the boy. (action comes before subject)

Active: The boy sat on the chair. (subject comes first)

Technically, the first sentence is correct, but the second sentence is easier to read and understand. That is the problem with passive voice; readers get confused trying to decipher the meaning of passive sentences. For clarity, use active voice. To identify and eliminate passive sentences, highlight all to be verbs in your sentences (are, am, is, was, when). Make sure actors come before actions.

2. Too Wordy

Good sentences are clear and use strong, concise wording. Wordy sentences can bore, challenge, or confuse your reader. To cut the clutter, you first need to identify why your sentence is wordy.

  • Too many qualifiers–or what I like to call filler words (very, often, hopefully, mostly, practically, extremely, somewhat)
  • Prepositional phrases (on, in, for, of, from, with, about)
  • Redundant wording (advance warning, 7 a.m. in the morning, a brief moment)

Now that we’ve identified some problems that might be weakening your style, let’s look at some ways you can improve your writing style.

1. Sentence Variety

Instead of rewriting or paraphrasing, please check out my first Tuesday Tip, which was about sentence variety. To read that post, click here.

2. Clear Concise Words

Choose your words deliberately. Use specific words, nouns, and verbs instead of vague or wordy ones.

Example: He is aware that his dog is sleeping on the bed

Correction: He knows his dog is sleeping on the bed.

3. Connect Images, Ideas, Chapters, and Sentences.

When you think of connecting sentences, commas and semi colons probably come to mind. There’s another way to connect your sentences, paragraphs, even chapters. You’re not connecting them with commas, but images. Repeating ideas and images will help your sentences flow and improve your writing style. Before you start the next sentence, look at the last one. Do this with your chapters as well. Look at the last four sentences of your chapter. What is the image, theme, message? Carry this image in the next chapter. Think of it like the transition of a movie. Have you ever seen a West Side Story? Before the dance, Maria is spinning around in her room and the camera blurs on her dress. When it refocuses, she’s spinning in a ballroom. In A Christmas Story, a bathroom scene cuts as the boy opens the toilet lid to the boy or mom opening the lid to a pot of red cabbage. Repeated images make transitions less jarring and help scenes flow.

Example: Your chapter ends with a fire or a character blowing out a candle. The next chapter starts with a sunrise.

Example: You end the chapter with someone screaming. You begin the next chapter with someone singing.

See how these images or ideas repeat. Look for these connections in the book you’re reading or the movie you’re currently watching (when you should be writing). You’ll start to notice the transitions aren’t random.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Choose your words and connect your sentences wisely so your writing style will not go out of style.

 

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1I want to start off by apologizing for not posting a tip last Tuesday. I should have had something prepared in advance since I knew the con was that weekend, but it was just such a busy week. I’d rather miss a post than publish a half-baked one. So here is last Tuesday’s tip today.

Let’s take a look at setting. “Look” is only one of the five senses we’ll be using to describe the world your character lives in.

What Should you Describe?

When introducing your readers to your world, it helps to think of the five senses and the 5 W’s.

Who: This is your character. How does your setting relate to them? Is this their home? What do they notice about their setting?

What: What does it look like? What landmarks, features, buildings, exist in this landscape? What items are important to your setting: a chipped coffee mug? A stack of books? A photograph?

When: This could be the year, season, time of day,etc. You always want to establish this early on.

Where: Does your novel take place in Colorado? Another galaxy? New Zealand? Psuedo-New Zealand?

Why: Why did you choose this place? Is the sunny east coast or an isolated mountain village the best setting for your novel?

Five Senses: Use your sensory details. But remember, the sights, smells, and sounds should be coming from your POV, not you. If your character is deaf, do not describe the sounds of a busy city. If your character is a child, don’t point out things that would not be at their eye level. Also don’t describe something as being soft or hard until your character has touched it. Describe things as they encounter them.

Info Dumping

Often, especially with new writers, descriptions of scenery are dumped into one paragraph like a dump truck unloading dirt. It might be tempting to tell your readers everything you know about your setting, but this is called info dumping. Instead of enhancing the plot, the scenery slows down the action, bores the reader, or distracts from the character or plot. Avoid info dumps at all cost.

  • Only describe what the reader has to know to understand the setting.
  • If your descriptions are a block of text or a paragraph, this is probably an info dump. Cut what you don’t need or spread out your description throughout the narration, so that there is something separating it. Describe the setting while your character moves throughout the world so your setting doesn’t stop the plot but flows with it.

Things to Avoid

  • Info dumping. See above.
  • Remember to describe the setting from the character’s perspective. What would they notice? A major pet peeve of mine is when authors describe the scenery as being “exotic” from their character’s POV. Don’t describe your world as being exotic if it isn’t for them. What you want your reader to find unusual (double moons, red lakes, man-eating trees, giant cats) will be common place to your character. You don’t need to force the image down your readers’ throats like a funnel at a frat party. A sky with two moons hovering over a red sea will sound unusual enough without your character pointing it out as being strange.
  • Not enough setting. Yes, it’s true. While a majority of writers seem to suffer from info dumping, there are those whose characters are floating in space. I recently read a sample of a book where I could not get a grasp of where the characters were.
  • Don’t overdue it. Have you ever red a book where the character seems to have control over the weather? It doesn’t always have to rain when the character is sad or storm during a battle. On the contrary, say you were writing a story about a missing person. They find the body on a sunny Easter morning. It may be more eerie to find a body on a sunny day rather than a rainy one. This also adds realism.
  • Do not start your story with a sunrise or sunset–unless this is an important image that has something to do with your plot. I once checked out three books from the library that all began with the rising of the sun. Not only is this overdone, but it’s often an unnecessary detail. If the sunrise is an important part of your setting, put it in, but try to avoid starting your book this way.

Creating Your Own World

If there is one reason I don’t believe in a god it’s because of this: No one can make a world in seven days. It’s taken me a year to fully develop my own. If you’re setting takes place in a real place, my suggestion to you would be to go there–especially if it’s somewhere tropical like Hawaii. For those of you creating your own world, you have a lot more planning to do.

  • Make it believable. Understand the laws of nature and science. Say your characters land on a planet with no oxygen. What does a planet without oxygen look like? What are the effects of metal when exposed to low levels of oxygen? What about the opposite? Your characters live on a planet with higher levels of oxygen. Not only would they have more energy than we do, but they would also have very large bugs. Research, research, research.
  • Create a world that enhances your plot. Don’t create a boring environment that will stunt your story. Make it vivid. Create a landscape that challenges your protagonist. Your character has been exiled from his tropical kingdom. On his journey to a new home, make him walk across a desert or a frozen tundra instead of a lush, green valley.

Plan your setting like you would your characters and your plot. Make it vivid, make it believable, but most of all, make it the way you want it.

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1When you start writing, you begin with an outline. When you start editing, you begin with a checklist.

Writers are often warned about the many mistakes they can and will make in their first drafts, but what about the mistakes they can make editing? During this stage, you can miss errors or introduce entirely new ones. You won’t catch all your mistakes in one pass and you shouldn’t try. Like painting a wall, editing requires several layers.

Layers. You know, like an onion–or ogres. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it, they both have layers. The editing process is less overwhelming when broken into layers or steps. As a former copy editor, I was taught to make three passes. The first pass was for content and structure alone (except for any glaring, obvious punctuation), saving the final two passes for grammar and punctuation.

There are several types of editing. I’ve broken it down into two.

Substantive: Also called content editing or developmental editing. This is where you edit your manuscript for organization, content, and presentation to tighten and polish the writing. This includes reorganizing and restructuring so that everything fits into the big picture.

Mechanical: This is where you edit for accuracy, consistency, and conformity to style, grammar, and punctuation.

With so much to look for, how can you be sure you leave no stones unturned? This is where creating an editing checklist comes into play.

First Stage: Readability and Content

The biggest  mistake I think self-editors make is trying to fix everything at once, especially grammar. This is the LAST thing you should tackle, because you will waste so much time fixing the punctuation of a sentence only to change it or even cut it later. You don’t sew the buttons on a shirt before you’ve attached the sleeves. Think of your commas as buttons, and put them in last

If you think about it, we’re going to scrutinize your manuscript as you would admire a painting. Start with the big picture and then look for the minute details.

imagesCADM6AUW

What to Look For

  • Plot
    • structure: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement 
    • call to action/adventure
    • scenes in a cohesive order
    • themes support the plot
    • test, allies, enemies
    • plot holes
    • do subplots aid or detract from main plot
  • Setting:
    • when
    • where
  •  Style
    • sentence variety
    • clear, concise words
    • remove vague or overused words
    • replace passive voice for active voice
    • Remove unnecessary words, sentences, and paragraphs
    • remove redundant words, sentences, scenes, characters
    • link beginnings of chapters to the ends of preceding chapters. likewise, link the end of the book to the beginning.
  •  Conflict
    • main conflict
    • are there too many, not enough
    • is each conflict worse than the one before
  • Pacing
  • Tension/Suspense
  •  POV
    • are the POV’s distinct?
    • consistent
    • is each scene told in the right POV?
    • too many?
  •  Characters
    • consistency of physical appearance, personality, attributes
    • motivation
    • name spelled consistently
    • too many/not enough side characters
    • side characters enhance or distract from main protagonist
  •  Dialogue
    • purposeful
    • natural or contrived?

Second Stage: Mechanics and Grammar

After your first pass, you’re probably pretty tired–but you’re not done. To be honest, the first stage of editing might take two or more passes. Now that your ducks are in a row, it’s time for everyone’s favorite editing stage: grammar and punctuation.

What to Look For

  • Capital letters
    • first word in the sentence
    • proper nouns
    • names
  • Spelling
    • names of places, characters, things
    • check commonly confused words it’s/its, effect/affect, etc
  • Grammar
    • punctuation
      • commas
      • semi colons
      • colons
      • periods
  • Sentence fragments
  • Subject verb agreement
  • Verb tense
  • Hyphenation
  • Numbers
  • Quotations

The editing checklist might seem longer than your manuscript, but think of it as your polishing guide. Remember, you don’t have to do this alone. Beta readers can help spot plot holes and other content issues. Likewise, you can relieve the burden of editing altogether with an editor, though I highly recommend going through once yourself to remove obvious errors. This will save your editor time, which will save you money.

How many of you use an editing checklist? Did you find this helpful?

While I’m editing my sister’s manuscript, most of my Tuesday Tips will be about editing. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be working my way down the list to discuss each part in more detail. Join me next week when I discuss plot.

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1

Last Tuesday, I talked about major time gaps in your story. This week, let’s talk about shorter ones: scene transitions. Between your novel’s beginning and end, there are dozens or hundreds of beginnings and ends. These could be new paragraphs or new chapters. How they begin and end is just as important as how your story begins or ends.

In the movies, it’s easy to show the transition from one place or event to another: Cue the montage music or fade out. But in books, we don’t have musical or visual cues, only our words to convey the passage of place and time.

Transitions should clearly connect one scene to another. Think of it like building a bridge. You want a good sturdy bridge, not one of those rickety wooden things that hangs over a 500 foot drop.

Why you need scene transitions

  • change viewpoint
  • change location
  • change mood
  • change place
  • to move the narrative forward
  • skip unimportant events
  • advance time

How to Transition: Ending a scene

 Before you move on to the next scene, make sure you finish the prior scene. Don’t leave your readers standing in the middle of your bridge–get them across. By finish, that doesn’t mean you have to wrap up all the action, it just means the scene needs to have accomplished something. What needs to happen in this scene? Why were you writing it to begin with? New scenes aren’t only used to establish a new place or time. Sometimes, they establish a character’s new frame of mind. Perhaps in order to end the scene, your character needs to have a change of heart or a realization.

Beginning the next scene

Usually a new scene occurs in a new time, place, or point of view. It can even have a new tone. These are clear ways of letting the reader know you’ve moved on. Establish the time, place, tone, and POV early so your reader is oriented. 

At the beginning of the new scene, there are several ways to let the reader know what has changed.

  1. Type out the date (if a major time gap) or the name of a city or place.
  2. Use the narration to establish the new setting or time, e.g., “that morning,” One sentence might be all it takes, or you can use the first paragraph to describe the new time, place, character, etc. Be quick and concise. Anything over a paragraph or two could result in info dumping. 
  3. Starting a new chapter is the easiest way to establish a scene change. The reader expects a transition at the beginning of a new chapter. Don’t think you can get away with a new Chapter every time you change your setting.
  4. Use symbols between scenes. I’ve seen this done several ways. How you do it may be based on your preference or your publisher. The most common symbol is the asterisk though scrivener uses the pound symbol.
  5. Use an extra space to divide scenes. This is how it commonly looks in published manuscripts. I’ve noticed in some books the first word is indented. In others it’s not. In some, the first words are even capitalized to make the transition clear.

Cliff hangers

As writers, we’re tempted to wrap everything up neatly at the end of a scene or chapter. This gives the reader a break, a place to put the bookmark. I’m not a fan of soft, neatly packaged scene endings. Will the reader return, or is this the final resting place of the bookmark?  Don’t wrap everything up. End on a beat. Keep the suspense. Leave your chapters at a cliff hanger. Think of Game of Thrones. I haven’t finished reading the books, but every episode ends at a cliff hanger, especially the last episode of each season. This compels viewers to buy the next DVD or keep paying their cable bill in order to find out what happens next. Do this in your book. They’ll have to keep turning the page to find out what happens. This ensures your reader will finish your book and purchase your next one.

HInt: Don’t take this too far. Don’t add suspense for the heck of it. This is what is commonly called false suspense. Don’t have your character be presumed dead only to wake up in the next chapter. Your reader will feel cheated and lied to.

Things to avoid

  1. Lazy transitions
    1. My least favorite transition is where a character goes unconscious and wakes up somewhere new (often in bed away from the danger). People don’t usually black out that long, maybe several minutes tops. I will forgive this type of transition, however, if the character wakes up in the same place. Remember that episode of The Walking Dead when Darryl goes unconscious. When he wakes up, it’s still the same time of day, no one has rescued him, and his boot is being gnawed on by a zombie. That is a great way to keep the suspense instead of derailing the scene from the action.
    2. Character goes to bed or wakes up. Similar to the above only instead of false suspense, you get no suspense.
    3. Using “then” at the end of the scene, e.g., “I pressed my ear against the door. I did not hear the intruder walk away, but the absence of sound was reassuring. Then the doorknob turned.” Not the worst example, but imagine how this could have been  more suspenseful and less jarring had the narrator taken the time to flesh this out. 
  2. Back-to-back scenes in the same location. You may need to break up one scene into several transitions, but don’t overdo it. The problem with this is it may not be clear how much time has passed.
  3. Info dumping. If you change to a new time and place, you might be tempted to go into a long-winded description about the new location. Work it naturally into narrative and dialogue. Only tell the reader what they have to know.
  4. Waiting too long to introduce the new POV. I don’t know why writers withhold character names. I’ve read novels where it takes a page or more to establish the name of a new character. Unless their hidden identity is crucial to the plot, don’t create false suspense by withholding information about a character.

As always, I’m interested in your feedback. How do you show scene changes? What are the worst, the best transitions you’ve ever read?