Showing posts from August, 2016

The Importance of Setting the Scene in Your Writing, Part 1

Setting , the place or places where your story occurs, is as important as character development.  My writing group hones in on this quickly when someone fails to show us the setting. This happens more than you realize because writers often start a scene with two people interacting but fail to establish where they are. What is Setting? Setting describes the room or place where the story occurs.  One question it must answer is whether the characters are indoors or outdoors. If the character is outdoors, some of the basic things the reader needs to know quickly are: Day or night Climate Landscape If the characters are indoors, the reader wants to know where they are. They could be in: A house - which room? A store - what kind? A church - what faith? An office or manufacturing floor? Etc. Within the first few sentences of your scene we should get a feel for where we are. Depending on the location, we might need to know a bit more.  For example: Is there any f

4 Ways to Identify Problems With Plot and Flow

When I edit another writer's work, one of the areas I focus on is plot and flow of the writing. What is plot and flow? According to, plot is the plan, scheme, or main story of a literary or dramatic work, as a play, novel, or short story.  It is overarching and follows the story arc . Flow is related to plot but looks at the work on a smaller scale.  Sections don't connect well, are awkward to read, or choppy. It could be a transition issue between words, paragraphs, sentences, sections, or chapters. If something in the piece makes you stop and re-read it in order to discern what the writer meant, it could be a flow problem. How can you recognize plot and flow issues? Short answer? It's not easy. Why? We know what we meant to say, so that's how we read it.  Our brains fill in the gaps. I've found four ways that help me find plot and flow issues in my own work: Ask someone else to read it and identify any areas that confuse them or

Recognizing and Eliminating Adverbs in Your Writing

Image courtesy of Don't use adverbs! Ok, that's all I should have to say on this topic, but I'm sure most of you have questions, so I will expand. Why Can't I Use Adverbs? When we use adverbs (those lovely -ly words and a few others like very), we weaken our sentences. Why? Because it's seen as a crutch.  Rather than take the time to select a strong verb that says the same thing, you copped out and went with an adverb.  Active verbs provide a stronger sense of the action and the story. Example: She spoke softly as she walked gingerly out of the baby's room. She whispered as she tiptoed out of the baby's room. In the first sentence, what are the adverbs? softly, gingerly In the second sentence, I changed spoke softly to the verb, whispered , and I changed walked gingerly to tiptoed . The second sentence provides a stronger image of the woman as she leaves the baby's room, with the ad

Why Should You Use Active Verbs?

Image A few posts ago, I started a series on critiquing others' writing by outlining the areas my writing critique group excels in when providing feedback .  This series has covered the following topics so far: point of view ( first and third , multiple , and omniscient ) and word repetition . Today, I want to discuss active versus passive verbs, sometimes referred to as active and passive voice. What Makes a Verb Active? Active verbs put the reader into the story's action.  They experience everything as it occurs.  When the verb is active, the subject of the sentence performs the action.  When the verb is passive, the action is performed by the object of the verb, so the action becomes indire ct.   The easiest way to understand this is to look at an example.  Here's a short passage from Southern Heat by David Burnsworth : A patrol car headed for me, and I jerked my hands up in reaction.   It skidded to a stop a few yards away.   Doors swun