Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Simplifying Your Writing Style

Do you tend to overly describe your stories to the point they become too wordy for words? See what I mean? Do you consider it your style or just an oversight? Back in the days, describing scenes or characters in great detail was the norm. However, things have changed in the writing industry, not to mention our readers’ taste.
Consider the following when revising your work:
1. Use uncomplicated language.
Using simple words (whether verbs, nouns or adjectives) help you avoid ambiguity. Try to use less sophisticated words and more readily understandable ones.

2. Cut down long sentences.
Divide a long sentence into two or more shorter sentences. By doing so, you’ll keep the meaning clear. However, you must examine and decide how to keep a balance between short sentences with longer ones, as well as how to use sentence variety.

3. Avoid redundancies.
This is a major faux-pas in writing. Redundancies can be tiring, not to mention “amateurish”.

4. Trim unnecessary qualifiers.
Using qualifiers in excess diminishes the essence of your story (A qualifier is word or phrase that precedes an adjective or adverb, increasing or decreasing the quality signified by the word it modifies, e.g., very, quite, rather, somewhat, more, most, less, least, too, so, just, enough, indeed, still, almost, fairly, really, pretty, even, a bit, a little, a (whole) lot, a good deal, a great deal, kind of, sort of.)

5. Use active voice.
Active voice helps the story move along faster. The passive voice slows it down by using too many words. Consider the sentences: She unwrapped the gift, vs. The gift was unwrapped by her.

6. Go easy on the adjectives.
Too many adjectives can be cumbersome and distracting.

7. Limit the use of the verb “BE”.
Using any form of the verb “be” can slow the action. Use action verbs instead.

8. Use parallel forms.
Parallel structure is using two or more words, phrases, or clauses that are similar in length and grammatical form. Elements alike in function should be alike in construction.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Is it narcissistic to use first POV?

When I first started writing, I felt comfortable narrating my stories in third POV. That quickly changed after taking some workshops where I discovered how realistic writing in first POV is.

Some authors agree that first-person narrative could be unreliable. But, isn’t life unreliable anyway? Think of great books such as The Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Huckleberry Finn, The Sun Also Rises, to name a few, which are written in the first-person narrator. Do you think they would have been so effective written in a different POV?

As one of my mentors said, “It’s as if you’re looking through the lens of a camera.” What a great analogy! It’s helped me detach from my protagonist and, in turn, avoid sneaking in my own voice (the author’s voice). Writing this way narrows the possibility from getting inside each character’s mind.

I usually stick to the POV that feels comfortable, but this can be tricky even for seasoned writers. Sometimes my mentors suggest changing the POV of my finished stories to make them flow better or be more captivating. I try writing several paragraphs, including dialogue, from each POV. I know immediately what feels right for my way of storytelling. I find this exercise very helpful.

Which POV do you prefer to use in your stories?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Odd Source of Inspiration

Dear Bloggie Friends,

As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t posted anything in two weeks. Work kidnapped the writer in me. Then I got sick, so my inspiration turned as bitter as the antibiotics I was on. However, last night while talking on the phone with a dear friend who’s also one of my former university professors, I got the push I needed. Since I graduated, we’ve kept in touch despite all of my moves (and boy, do I move more than a migrating flock of Barnacle geese!).

Well, last night she told me that her younger sister had just passed away. I wanted to utter compassionate consoling words, but they eluded me. I offered my condolences and promised to keep her in my prayers. And then she asked me, “Tell me, how’s your writing?” The tone in her voice had changed; it was lighter. I could almost hear the smile in her voice. I told her that it was non-existent. She then added, “Hurry up and finish your book so I can buy it!” My heart shrank. Her kind and supportive words were uplifting. How did she manage to offer the right words despite her own pain and sorrow?

Before I hung up, she reiterated, “Keep writing.” Her words still echo in my head. For this reason she’s not only my friend, but also my mentor, role model, and mother-figure. She has always given me great advice, pushed me to explore my limits, and above all, she’s believed in me.

Have you ever heard the right words at the moment you needed it most?

Do you have a supportive someone who believes in your writing?