it’s a trip . . .

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ten good craft tips

craft tips

craft tips

Today I’m sharing ten tips I’ve picked up in the last three years learning the craft.

  1. To make your prose more graceful, in a series of items, put the longest item last.  Example: wide eyes, a pert nose, and lips as tempting as a ripe peach.
  2. In describing someone follow the natural path of the eye (unless of course your viewpoint character has a strange optical tic) from top to bottom, bottom to top, near to far or vice versa.  Example: She wore pink lip gloss, her curly dark hair fell to her shoulders, and a low-cut cashmere shell showed just enough cleavage to distract any man she happened to want something from.
  3. Lighten up on the -ing verbs and the participial phrasesExample: Crashing into the Christmas tree, she began spinning around the room. It would be better to say: She crashed into the Christmas tree and spun around the room.
  4. Drop “began” and “began to” phrases wherever possible (see previous example). People don’t “begin to.” They just do.
  5. Most adverbs can and should be written out of your prose. Look for -ly words: hauntingly, hurriedly, calmly, briskly, etc.  Only keep an adverb if you’d pay $100 for it.
  6. More than one or two adjectives (modifiers) weakens rather than strengthens the writing. It dilutes the power of all the others.  Example: The sad, tired, old woman rested on the park bench. Now none of the modifiers–sad, tired, or old–makes an impact.
  7. Description can be too lush. If you describe every detail in a scene, there’s nothing left for the reader’s imagination to fill in.  Painstaking description can be painful.  Example: The quarter inch gold plated locket on the 20 inch 14-karat gold chain with feather weight links was perfect for a cameo about the size of a small child’s middle fingernail. Aren’t you in pain already?
  8. Adjectives, if used, are always stronger without qualifiers. Forget the really happy’s, very well-off’s, too beautiful’s wherever possible.
  9. Most writers have habits or idiosyncracies such as overusing one or two words. I slip the word “just” into many sentences. Now I use the find function in word processing software to take it out.
  10. Words are diamonds. Showcase their beauty by sloughing off the carbon around them. Or as one of my writing teachers put it, “Words are stones. Feel the weight of them.” Diamonds, stones–you get the idea.

If you have a craft tip to share, feel free to leave it as a comment. If you send me enough, I’ll post them as my tip of the week.

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  • my author bio . . .

    I began writing creatively three years ago, fueled by midlife and a Curves' addiction. Since then, I have published short work in The Christian Science Monitor and Sirens Magazine in the same year. How's that for versatility!
    Sirens Magazine

    Sirens Magazine

    Also the Duck & Herring Company's Pocket Field Guide, The Giggle Water Review, Alighted, Wet Ink Press, America's Funniest Humor, Brilliant!, Laughter Loaf, Flash-Flooding, and the Greensilk Journal where my short story, "How I Boinked John Cusack" won editor's pick.
    The Greensilk Journal

    The Greensilk Journal

    My newest novel, THE SHAKER PROPOSAL, has received numerous accolades, the latest a fifth-place in the 2008 annual NWA (National Writing Association) Novel Contest.
    THE SHAKER PROPOSAL

    THE SHAKER PROPOSAL

    I am a marketing professional by vocation (but not by choice). My husband and I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania—the sounds, sites, smells, and flavors of which are a never-ending source of literary inspiration.