F is for…Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is not just short fiction. It’s stories that are 1,000 words or less. How on earth can you tell a whole story, beginning, middle and end, with characterization in under 1,000 words? I found it hard enough switching from 85,000 word novels to 2,500 word short stories.  There was no way I could write a flash fiction piece. All the flash fiction pieces I write, though under 1,000 words, could be turned into more. The endings aren’t really endings. You be the judge. Here’s one I wrote based on a sentence I found somewhere.

“Not many people would have required stitches after washing the dishes, but then again I’ve always thought of myself as special.” Fiona Scott held up her middle finger to show off her war wound.

“No! What did your mom say?” Karen’s wide eyes stared at the stitches. The grimace on her face made Fiona smile.

“She practically fainted,” Fiona said.

“She’s a nurse.”

Fiona shrugged. “She said it was different when it’s your own kid.”

“Does it hurt?”

Fiona wiggled her fingers and plunged her hands into the dishwater again. “Nah. Hurt like hell yesterday though.”

“And she’s making you do the dishes again?

“It beats having to take my brother shopping.”

Fiona sighed, enjoying the relative quiet of the house. With her little brother there she never had any quiet time. She cherished the moment.

“Why doesn’t she get a dishwasher?”

“I’m cheaper, apparently.” Karen jumped off the kitchen chair and grabbed a tea towel. “You know you don’t have to help me.”

Karen grinned. “I know but the sooner you finish the sooner we can get out of here.”

Fiona swooshed her hand around in the water to see if she’d missed anything. There was always a fork or a spoon languishing at the bottom. A sharp pain in her finger made her jerk her hand. But she couldn’t get it out of the water.

“Ouch!”

“What is it?”

“I think I cut myself again and now my finger is stuck.”

Karen reached her hand into the water. “It doesn’t feel like it’s stuck on anything.”

A tug on her finger sent fresh pain up her arm. “Something’s wrong.”

Before she could say anything else the tug on her finger changed to something yanking on her arm. As she was pulled closer to the sink all she could think was it’s not big enough for me to fit. But a splash echoed in her ears, water surrounded her, her lungs hurt and everything went black.

#

“Fiona, wake up.”

Karen’s voice pulled Fiona out of what had to be the weirdest dream she’d ever had. She opened her eyes and groaned. When had the sky turned purple? Where was the kitchen?

“Where are we?”

Fiona looked around, a chill running up her spine. “I don’t know.”

Happy writing!

Cindy

E is for…Editing

Every writer knows (or should know) that once you finish writing the book, it`s not done. You need to edit. A lot of writers I know hate to edit. But I love it. For me, that’s where I find most of the gems I my stories. The really great turn of phrase. The excellent description. The better solution to a plot problem.

 

What should you look for when you edit? Depends on how you edit. I like to leave the book for at least a few weeks before I even look at it again. I do a general pass, reading through the story to find plot problems. Then the meat of the edits begin. I dig out my Margie Lawson class notes and start applying her classes to my work. I highlight all the main components (plot, character, dialogue, action, introspection) with different colours to see if I’ve over used one. Under used one. Once I fix those I go back and really edit for the rhetorical devices, the dialogue cues, the cliched phrases. I’ll read the whole thing out loud, not just the dialogue bits. You can always tell when something sounds clunky if you read it out loud. And I should say, that’s the process I’m GOING to do when I finally finish this NaNoWriMo 2010 book. By the end of it the novel should sparkle.

 

Wish I could say I’m going to write now. But it’s late so it’s bed for me.

 

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

D is for…Dialogue

There are so many parts to a novel that make it memorable. The use of words. The description. The characters. And the dialogue.

 

Dialogue is so important to both novels and movies but it’s one of the hardest things to get right. It has a big job. Not only must dialogue give the reader or viewer information they wouldn’t get in any other way, it also has to reveal character, foreshadow events, provide conflict. Help with resolution. Contrary to what some might believe it should not be responsible for telling your story. The action of your movie or book should do that. Dialogue should enhance what’s already there.

 

So what can you do to improve your dialogue?

 

There are a lot of books out there on writing dialogue. There are even some workshops. And I’m sure you’ve all heard the advice about listening to how people talk. All of those are good ways to improve your dialogue but please don’t write dialogue the way people actually talk. People tend to add a lot of unnecessary pauses, ums, no, yes etc., when they talk. We also don’t constantly repeat the name of the person we’re talking to. Example:

 

“What do you mean by that, Cindy?”

 

“Well, um, Fred, I mean you shouldn’t do, you know, what I’m doing now.”

 

“Cindy, I still don’t get it.”

 

“Fred, seriously? You don’t get it?”

 

“No, Cindy I really don’t.”

 

The best advice I ever heard about improving my dialogue was to keep the character in the dialogue. So know your character and make each piece of dialogue that character says reflect one of their characteristics. Another awesome piece of advice that I don’t use just for dialogue was to read it aloud. I read my dialogue aloud to make sure it sounds right, doesn’t feel forced or stiff.

 

Remembering killer lines of dialogue from movies is easy. But can you think of a great piece of dialogue from a book? What’s the line and name the book.

 

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

C is for…Conferences and Conventions

Writing is a very solitary endeavour. It’s important to get out of the writing cave and talk, in person, with other writers. If you belong to a writing group that’s great. Small groups of writers chatting is always great. But what I love is the conference or convention. You can talk with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people just like you. And if you go to genre specific conferences they’re really like you. Okay, not just like you as in clone, but you get the idea.

 

What’s great about conferences and conventions is the common bond. The learning experiences with the workshops offered. The networking opportunities (you never know who you’re going to be eating lunch with). The pitching opportunities. And don’t forget the free books. If we didn’t like books we wouldn’t have decided to be writers.

 

Conference and convention season is approaching. So, some random pieces of advice for those planning on attending a conference:

 

1. Check out the workshop schedule in advance and have a plan.

 

2. Get business cards printed and be prepared to hand them out.

 

3. Have an elevator pitch ready – you never know who’s going to ask that question all writers get asked – So what’s your story about?

 

4. Get there early (a few days if possible) and learn the layout of the hotel, find the rooms for your workshops.

 

5. Pack business casual attire that is comfortable for workshops, meetings, pitches.

 

6. At the banquet lunches or dinners sit with strangers if possible. That way you meet more people.

 

7. Have fun.

 

Some upcoming conferences:

 

Bloody Words – Canadian Mystery Conference – June 1 – June 3

 

New York Pitch Conference – June 21 – June 24

 

ThrillerFest – July 11 – July 14

 

Romance Writers of America Annual Conference – July 25 – July 28

 

70th World Science Fiction Convention – August 30 – September 2

 

A place with more listings – The Shaw Guide to Writers Conferences and Workshops

 

There are far too many to mention here but if you know of other conventions/conferences let me know.

 

Who’s going to a conference this year? I’ll be at ChiCon 7 in August.

 

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

B is for…Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a great way to come up with a lot of ideas fast. As a writer I find I frequently need brainstorming help for plot points, situations. For some reason I can’t come up with the ideas for myself but I’m great at brainstorming for other people. When it’s your own story it’s a little too close to you and you find it harder to think outside the box.

 

I completely forgot Script Frenzy started yesterday so I’m deep in brainstorming mode for my script. While I have a general idea for the story I need to work out the beats of the script so I can start writing pages. Brainstorming in person is the best way to brainstorm for me. But I might have to visit an online chat room with other writers to help with the story. One of my favourite tools for brainstorming is The Writer’s Brainstorming Kit by Pam McCutcheon and Michael Waite. I love it. It’s very helpful for coming up with ideas. Situations.

 

If I can’t figure most of this stuff out by the weekend I will be in the WritingGIAM chat room to get help from my fellow GIAMers. They’re awesome at brainstorming. I also have a local writing meeting tomorrow.

 

How do you brainstorm?

 

Useful links for brainstorming:

 

What is brainstorming?

 

25 Useful Brainstorming Techniques

 

Brainstorming Techniques from MindTools

 

Haven’t had a chance to blog hop yet but I’ll do some of that tomorrow after my meeting.

 

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

A is for…Adoption Society

Today is the first day of the A – Z Blog Challenge. I hope to provide lots of useful writing information during the challenge and beyond. I guess you guys will be the judge of that. 🙂

 

The adoption society in the post title is not about children or pets. It refers to the forum topics in the NaNoWriMo website and the ScriptFrenzy website. Ever wanted to write something but didn’t know what to write? Ever known you’d never write a story idea you had but you didn’t want it to go to waste? That’s what the adoption society is for. Ideas/story concepts available for anyone who wants them. If you’ve never checked them out you really should. You don’t need to be a member to view the posts but I highly recommend joining if you’re a writer.

 

What I love about the adoption society is how much choice there is. You can adopt almost anything from a story idea, a useless talent, a magical power, a fear, an opening line. There are probably hundreds of things you can adopt. I have no problem coming up with ideas but I’ve procrastinated a lot going through the adopt a plot threads. Some of those ideas are awesome! I can’t believe the people who came up with them didn’t want to write them. I found a few I’m going to eventually write.

 

Stay tuned for B tomorrow!

 
Cindy

Guelph Write Now gets a blog!

Ever since I started the group I’d thought about adding a blog. At the time I decided against it, opting for a static website only. Because I’m concentrating on targeting readers on my personal blog I elected to give Guelph Write Now a blog so I could still talk writing. Until I get in a groove the posts might be sporadic. But they’ll all focus on writing.  I’m also hoping group members will choose to blog here too so blog readers can get different perspectives on various writing topics.

 

We will be participating in the A – Z Blog Challenge with some members helping with those posts.

 

Come back soon for lots of writing information!

 

Happy writing!

 

Cindy

 

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