WRITING BASICS_ SHOW DON'T TELL

Hi all! Back again with a few writing tips and tricks.

Today I wanted to talk about a very common topic in the writing community: the “show” don’t “tell” rule. This is something writers often hear from editors or the interwebs as being the key to good writing. And I wholeheartedly agree.

To show you why, I’m going to give you two different versions of the same scene from my “work In progress” Maximillian Ironson: Vampire Hunter. One is showing you the scene and one is telling you the scene. I’ll tell you which is which after, but you may be able to guess from the quality of the writing.

Version One:

Cat followed Max up the hill, enduring his taunts. He was wearing a skin-tight thermal with a puffy Northface vest over to keep out the cold; she a bomber jacket with a fluffy hood, thick leggings and knee-high boots. She zipped her jacket up to her chin. It was freezing, the wind biting their faces.

They were headed to a site on the west side of the Highlands, a place where Max said there had been a few missing person reports. He suspected vampire activity.

Version Two:

Cat’s breath puffed out into the air in front of her in a haze of icy vapor. The muscles of her calves were beginning to cramp up beneath her knee-high boots. “Why does every place we go have to be up hill?”

“Because I enjoy torturing you.” Max peeked back at her, the collar of his ski-vest concealing his face. “It brings me great joy.”

She scowled at him past the fluffy hood of her jacket. “Where are we going anyhow?”

A freezing wind came flying up to bite their faces; Cat saw his muscles tense beneath the tight thermal he wore under his vest.

“Just up this hill,” he pulled his collar closer. “There’s a farm village due south, a couple of people have gone missing walking out here in the country.”

Cat stumbled to keep up with his long stride. “They think it’s just dangerous terrain, surely.”

“Course,” he said, turning to gaze around at the hillside. “Usually, “dangerous terrain” is code for man-eating bloodsuckers.”

“A coven?”

“More likely one or two hoping to draw in hikers for dinner.”

 

If you guessed the second version was superior, it’s because it’s an example of showing and not telling.

Because telling the action in a scene doesn’t read comfortably, it reads as if I’m dictating to you what’s happening instead of the natural occurrences that happen between human beings. If every story you read started with “Once upon a time, there were three bears,” you probably wouldn’t be able to relate much, because that’s not how events really happen.

Often, telling reads like a bad fanfiction. Marysue had plain brown hair and plain brown eyes and the vampire lord was gorgeous and tall and dangerous. He kissed her, and it was sexy. While this may be fun to write for some, it really doesn’t do anything for the reader.

So how can we show and not tell? It’s easy! Here are a few ideas:

  1. Dialogue! Dialogue is the easiest way to show things are happening without explicitly writing that. Here’s an example:

Tell:
He looked happy.

Show:
“I am happy,” he said with a smile.

  1. Incorporating a character’s stream of thoughts. An inner dialogue can make the text seem more natural. Here’s an example:

Tell:
There was an apple on the table, it was a glorious red, and looked mighty juicy.

Show:
Cat watched the light of the dying sun hit a piece of fruit on the table. An apple, reflecting red in the light. Its skin seemed to strain with ripeness; she wondered if she bit it, would the juice run down her chin?

  1. Mixing your way to deliver descriptions to your audience. A lot of times, especially for new writers, we want our audience to see our characters in the exact way we see them. Think of all those books to movies you have seen, and how disappointed or disturbed you were when the character in the film looked differently than you imagined.

    I think automatically to Hermione Granger as an example. Lately, many people in the Harry Potter community have been speculating that Hermione could have been dark skinned. You may think “well she was white to me,” but does it really matter? Rowling described her as having bushy hair, buckteeth and being incredibly bossy. Nothing about her skin color.

    As much as you want to tell your audience what a character looks like it’s important to try and let them make a few ideas on their own. The Hermione in my head was my own skin color because I felt I was a lot like her. She was relatable to me because Rowling allowed me to form that image of her on my own. And to someone with darker skin than me, she can be relatable to them as well. Here’s an example of how you can limit direct descriptions of characters:

Tell:
Max was a prick, and he was often sexiest to women.

Show:
“Nice ass,” Max said with a feral grin.

Use these three tips to start doing more showing in your writing. It’ll help your writing to be more relateable, which attracts an audience, and flow in a natural way. If you have any questions, leave me a note on any of my social media outlets and I’ll be happy to answer them.

If you’re interested in reading Maximillian Ironson: Vampire Hunter, be sure to check out my Wattpad. I update every Tuesday!

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10 tips (1)

So you’ve written a book! So you’ve edited your book! Congratulations! Now you can begin the road to publication.

This is something I’ve been thinking about as my novel SURGE goes to print and I begin my next writing projects. The road to a second publication is something very new to me.

Below I’ve listed my top five points of advice for getting that first novel published, a bit of an outline on how writers do it for those of you completely in the dark. Proceeding to publishing, of course, relies completely on a finished text. That means fully completed, edited and proofread by you.

Once all that is in order, here’s how to get started:

  1. You must put in the time for Queries

The process of publishing is initially quite simple: In order to get published you have to ask a house to publish your work.

Offering up the big question to a publishing house is called “Querying.”

A query is basically a cover letter presenting the book, a small plot synopsis and a few bits about your experience if relevant. I won’t tell you exactly how to write a query, there’s already hundreds of articles online, but I will give you my best advice on the topic.

Book queries are like job applications. You want to send hundreds but finishing just one can take hours at a time. Each company has specific criteria for this (which I’ll talk about in number 2). Unfortunately, just like getting a career-based job, you have to put in the effort. There’s no way around it.

It’s difficult to get published as a first time author because you have no previous works to sell and, unless you’re a social media guru, no following. So when I hear of writers querying one or two houses a month- I cringe a little bit because they’re really limiting themselves. There are so many Houses in the world, how many years would it take to reach them all with only one query a month?

My best advice is to sit down and pump out ten queries a day on the weekends or when you have a day off. I queried 42 companies in about five days and ended up, after several months, with about 30 rejection letters…. and 2 contract offers!

A little elbow grease, with nose to the grind, can make a huge difference.

  1. Pay attention to the rules of each company

On every website of every publishing house there is a page or section dedicated to their query requirements.

Some companies require just a query letter.
Some companies require that letter to be a certain length and format.
Some want the first five pages as a sample.
Some want the whole book.
Others will automatically reject you if you send any sample at all.
Some companies want comic sans font, page numbers, a dance number and a blood sample….

Just kidding. But you get the idea.

Just like applying for a job- if you do not follow a company’s instructions for query to an absolute T, they will toss your query straight into the garbage. Potentially without even a letter of rejection.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the next Jane Austen, you must follow the rules.

  1. You don’t need an agent.

I think every writer starting out has dreams of making millions on their debut novel. We look at well-known contemporary authors like Rowling, Chbosky, and Jonathan Safran Foer and think ‘wow, if I can just get in with Random House, or HarperCollins or Bloomsbury, I’ll make it big.’

The problem is- these companies do not accept queries from anyone but a literary agent. So the solution should be to get an agent right?

For me, the answer was no. There are tons of risks involved with selecting an agent, and a phony screwing you over is only the tip of the iceberg.

One of these risks to consider is your earnings. As a first time bookseller, the odds of making it big are pretty low on the first book, which is totally normal. But what that means is not only is your publisher taking a percentage of your earnings from sales- but the agent can take around 15% as well. If your books are only selling to a select audience, you could end up with pennies.

There are hundreds of perfectly good houses that do not require agents that know how to market their books well and have sales to prove it. You’ll have to do the fine-tuning of your novel for presentation yourself, but it can save a lot of hassle.

  1. On that note- bigger is not always better

There’s more than one benefit to publishing outside of a Big 5 House. Selecting a small to mid-range publishing house may give you a little more control when it comes to cover choices, major editing decisions etc. You may be able to work more closely with the entire company and your team.

Also, it may be easier to get published. Big companies have aggressive sales goals and if they have even a tiny doubt that your book is marketable, they may reject you without giving your book a chance to prove itself.

These smaller companies will support you the entire length of your publication. And continual promotion is key.

  1. Don’t get discouraged.

When the first rejection letter comes, it feels like a stab to the chest. But don’t give up, and keep querying because if your book is well structured and well written someone will pick you up. Remember that for a hundred no’s there is only one yes!

So those are my five tips. If you’re published, I’d love to hear how you made it happen, and how you dealt with the initial rejection.

Good luck and keep writing.

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10 tips

There are two things people say to me when I tell them I’m professionally published:

  1. I could never do that.
  2. I have a great idea for a novel, well six ideas for six novels really, but I just can’t finish a whole book but let me pitch you this idea and tell me what you think…

And so on and so forth.

I think most people have this idea in their head that successful writers are brimming with inspiration 365 days a year and must funnel it down by putting pen to paper lest they explode with the burdens of creativity.

It’s all very Monmartre, isn’t it? Our glorious purpose as artists leaves us with the burden of our craft. Days of writer’s block, living on coffee, cigarettes and bits of Parisian cheese!

Sometimes I wish it were like that. But if you’re not living in Paris in the Impressionist era you’re in luck: you don’t have to be a starving, creative type to finish a book. You just have to have a good idea, a good work ethic, and follow these tips:

Ten Ways to Finish Writing a Novel

  1. BICHOK.

You want to write a whole book? Then you have to sit down and write.

BICHOK is the writing community’s acronym for Butt in Chair; Hands on Keyboard. And it’s the only true way to finish a novel. It’s the only true way to finish anything. You must carve out time to write.

Lack of time is the number one excuse I hear when people say they can’t get a book out. Listen, I know were all very busy, but regardless of being a CEO or a homemaker with five children under five, try to write something every single day.

Now Steven King BICHOKs ten pages a day minimum. What that means is he finishes a 100-page book in 10 business days. Wow. I can tell you most days it takes a village for me to get out one page of text let alone ten. But you should sit down and write as much as you can, even if it’s only fifteen minutes. Some days, you’ll get out five pages, other days a paragraph. But the book won’t get written unless you sit down and write it.

  1. Write an Outline.

You don’t need a hard outline to start writing, but having an idea of where you’re going can help you to prevent yourself from getting stuck down the road. I typically go into a novel knowing the beginning sequence (the call to action) and the climax of the story. The hard part is connecting those events.

As we learned in elementary school, every piece of literature has a story arc that builds until a climax of action. If you don’t know where your plot will end, you can start thinking of your characters on an individual basis. Remember they all have arcs themselves, an arc that maps a character’s journey through emotional growth or change as the events of the plot happen to them.

If you are stuck, start thinking about how your characters change and how they would make new decisions as they do so. You’ll need to think especially hard about your villain, as they drive a big part of the plot.

  1. Don’t Blame Writer’s Block

I’ll go ahead and say it: Writer’s Block doesn’t exist.

Writer’s Block is an excuse we use when we don’t make time to write, we don’t BICHOK and we try to write in sequential order.

That’s right, it’s your fault. And my fault. It’s all our fault.

When getting to the next part of the story feels like wading in molasses, skip it. Jump to the next section, jump to the climax, jump to a part you want to write and get to it. The important thing is getting some text out.

  1. Read ALL THE TIME

It’s quite simple: when you’re reading, you’re writing. I don’t know why, it’s science or something.
Engaging in literature is a surefire way to get the writing wheels turning. Ask any author.

  1. Find out where you draw inspiration: Use and Abuse it

I’d say I spend about half of my time with imaginary people. I like to be thinking about my writing all the time. Working? Novel. Showering? Novel. Noveling? NOVEL!  Cutting Tools (1)

This makes me a crazy person. I recommend the crazy person route. Here’s why: the sad truth is inspiration does not come often. 99% of the time, I am not inspired.

Sure, I was inspired to write the story.

I was inspired for several great, epic scenes that control the plot of my story.

The rest of the time, you have to force it. Which is why I suggest documenting what exactly gave you that initial burst of inspiration and calling on it whenever possible.

For me: its music. I have a playlist for every story and every character I’ve ever written. I play that music everywhere I go, to bring that inspo-juice back to my brain. I suggest you do the same.

  1. DO NOT READ YOUR WRITING

Listen to me. Do not read what you’ve written until it is time to edit, or until SIGNIFICANT time has passed (a month at least). Every artist has taken a very serious break (some have quit) after reviewing what he or she has created.

One of them cut off his ear.

Do not be like Van Gogh. Do not read your writing. And remember: there is always someone better than you. Do not get discouraged.

  1. Write down your ideas as they come

My tech-savvy friends would have a fit: I keep my phone in the bathroom while I shower. Yes, alas, the steam. But it’s a place where writing breakthroughs often find me.

If you’re not phone friendly, get a notepad and carry it with you everywhere. You know remember that incredible scene you imagined up on the bus this morning?

I didn’t think so.

  1. Get hard headed- Say no to “Writer’s Porn”

This is my own way of saying: “Write drunk, edit sober.”

Do I really think Hemingway wrote drunk? No, of course not. I’ve tried and I don’t recommend it. What I think he really meant was to channel your passion and creativity into that first initial draft (drunk on inspiration y’all!) and then bring yourself back to reality to edit your work. Which brings me to Writer’s Porn.

Writer’s Porn is the text you go to battle for, that you love like a child, scenes that you wanted so badly to write… but do not actually serve your plot. They feel so good. They are special-snowflakes of character interaction and epic battles out of nowhere. Sadly, they are fluff. And they are the hardest to let go.

Edit sober. If it doesn’t connect to the plot, put it in a folder for when you need character development inspiration and cut it. Be ruthless with yourself. Your future editor certainly will be.

  1. Understand the time and effort

I started my first novel when I was 14 and finished it at 19, in the summer after my first year of college. The first one was the hardest and by far the longest to write.

Writing takes time. And frustration. And love.

But the more you write, the faster it goes. Soon you’ll be under a year.

  1. BICHOK

It’s so important, I made it two points.

Ever read that Elizabeth Gilbert book Eat, Pray, Love? There’s that part about the Italian proverb- where a man prays and prays to win the lottery and one day the statue he is praying to wakes up and tells him to actually buy a ticket?

That’s BICHOK. You have to put pen to paper if you want to write a novel.

So that’s it. My final suggestion to all you aspiring writers out there: buy a ticket.

And tell me: what is your greatest writing inspiration?

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Second interview alert! Friends and Foll

Second interview alert! Friends and Followers: SURGE has been featured on the site of fellow Chicago writer Wayne Turmel! I was hugely thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Wayne about my writing – here’s an excerpt from the interview:
“[WAYNE] When you’re writing fantasy based on history….. where do you decide how much of each….. how much does real history impact that balance? I mean, the mob was tough but they weren’t creating electricity out of bodies!

[…KELSEY] I was woefully ignorant about the 20’s as a period before I started research, which is why I went in this direction. I think most people have an idea very different from what it actually was like. Interestingly, the biggest delusions about the era are pertaining to women, crime and, of course, fashion. I could go on for hours about the actual length of a flapper’s dress (much longer than we see in modern costumes) or the modern fad of wearing suspenders (back then were considered undergarments, not for show). But, at the end of the day, I hugely enjoyed the research aspect of writing!”

CHECK THE LINK BELOW TO SEE THE REST OF THE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW!

http://ow.ly/Ditx301wqOe http://ow.ly/i/kxUNz

Exclusive Interview with The Book Folks, LLC

Capture2

Capture (2)Having recently published SURGE, a cyberpunk fantasy fiction thriller in a re-imagined 1920s Chicago, we spoke to author Kelsey Lee Connors about writing her first novel, her influences and sources of motivation.

TBF: What started your passion for writing fiction?
KLC: I tell the same thing to everyone: there is no writing without reading. My mother read me The Hobbit when I was 8 years old, Harry Potter by the age I was 10. I read the Lord of the Rings when I was just 13, and at this time I was struggling to fit in both at school and at home. By the time I was 14 I was an all-out fantasy nut, completely addicted to the genre. These writers made me feel like I had something to call mine. So I wanted to give back to the genre that made me who I am today.

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Welcome to the Ragtime Era!

Welcome to the official website of Kelsey Lee Connors, author of dystopian cyberpunk novel SURGE!

“Alternative history fiction at its best. A wonderfully reimagined 1920s setting.” James Gallagher

On this page you can:

  1. Download SURGE on Amazon for any of your Kindle applications (including free PC, MAC, Kindle or Smartphone)
  2. Learn about SURGE
  3. Read about Kelsey Lee and her writing career
  4. Connect with Kelsey Lee on all Social Media platforms to receive weekly writing updates and news
  5. Get the latest blog bits: up to date information about Kelsey Lee’s writing journey, life in Rome, Italy, adventures in publication, interviews, photos and more!

Be sure to purchase SURGE on Amazon and join the razzle-dazzle world of Chicago in the 1920s!