Tag Archives: writing

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

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Welcome back, readers!  This week’s writer’s links is a grab bag of general writing tips, help in writing science fiction, and a little about handwriting itself.  Pour yourself a nice cup of coffee or tea and dig in.  I hope you like ’em.

How to Fill Plot Holes in Your Novel

Strengthening Your Fiction The Ben Franklin Way

Rogue Viruses in Science Fiction

An Author’s Guide to Book Subtitles

7 Essentials for Your Book Launch

Resilience: The Key to Reaching Your Writing Goals in 2017

10 Ridiculously Simple Steps for Writing a Book

Cursive Handwriting

Is My Novel Offensive?

The 1000 Day MFA

Author Interview: Joshua Grasso

Joshua Grasso is a professor of English at East Central University and the author of three books on Amazon: The Winged Turban, The Astrologer’s Portrait, and The Count of the Living Death. He is also a fellow member of the Fantasy and Science Fiction Network.  Please welcome him here on No Wasted Ink.

author-joshua-grassoHello—my name is Joshua Grasso, and I’m currently an Associate Professor of English at East Central University, a small university in Oklahoma. My day job consists of teaching all those wonderful classes that are the genesis of every science fiction and fantasy book out there—British Literature, World Literature, Shakespeare, Gothic Literature, and every once in a while, a class on Superheroes as Lit. As a teacher, I try to do the same thing I do in my books: introduce students to a new, exciting world that has (seemingly) always existed, and invite them to start exploring themselves, using language, art, and logic as their guide. I think some of the greatest adventures in history actually started in the classroom, by a writer, or an explorer, or simply a dreamer who caught wind of something unique from a lecture, or a discussion, or a reading assignment. That’s where my journey began, anyway—as a first-year college student in a drafty classroom.

When and why did you begin writing?

As an English major in college, I was inspired by all the works I read, particularly the works set in ancient worlds and languages: Homer, Shakespeare, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, etc. These works seemed vitally alive to me, yet also quite incomplete; there were ‘holes’ and gaps in the narratives that seemed to invite a future writer to fill in. They provided the perfect introduction to my own world and ideas.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

In 1995, I entered a one-act play writing contest at my college and surprisingly won (I had never won anything writing-wise, and I haven’t won much since!). The grand prize was a full production of my little play, but as luck would have it, this occurred just weeks before the Oklahoma City bombing (April 1995). Since we were in Oklahoma, that became the focus of everyone’s life and the production became largely forgotten—and was finally just half-performed for one evening. Still, it was a starting point, though I quickly realized my talent did not lie in writing plays (I typically just stuck my characters in a room and set them arguing at each other; I learned that you should probably change scenes once in a while).

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My most recent book, The Winged Turban (2015), is a fantasy novel with a slight Gothic influence set in a Europe-that-never-was. A young woman is married into a strange family and packed away into an ancient estate, where she uncovers a strange old portrait that was never there before, and at least one person is fairly certain is a portrait of her (though it’s well over 200 years old).
What inspired you to write this book?

The cover of the book features a famous 15th century painting by Rogier Van der Weyden, The Woman with a Winged Turban. This is a painting I often use in my classes when teaching the late medieval period, and I’ve always been captivated by it: the painting and the woman. One day, while teaching, I began having a conversation with myself, wondering who she really was, and how I could build a story around it. Those rough ideas slowly blossomed into a full-fledged novel about a year later. The painting—slightly changed—is actually described in the book, so if you know it (or have memorized the cover) you’ll realize immediately what I’m talking about.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I think so, but that’s a dangerous thing to try to nail down. I used to be very verbose, flowery, and full of asides. I’ve tried to cut that down, but even today, I like sentences that flow from specific word use and sentence structures. I love long sentences, too, and I’m not afraid of using semicolons, colons, ellipses, or parenthesis (even though an agent once warned me that writers stopped using them ages ago!). I don’t like writing that is too obvious or clipped. I think writing should be like a ball of yarn: the more you read, the more tangled up you get in the narrative, and just when you think you’ve gotten loose—ah, another tangle! The writing should be clear and readable, but not easy or obvious. It should make you read, re-read, and think a little. That’s what I hope my style does—makes you re-read, not out of confusion (well, once or twice) but for the sheer enjoyment of a sentence or idea.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Ha, this one was easy: I just stole it from the title of the painting. I loved the phrase “winged turban.” It’s just a style of medieval fashion, but it sounds so mysterious, and most people have no ideas what a winged turban is, anyway. You have to read to find out. And then you’re like, “oh, it’s just her headgear.”

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Messages are tricky: a good novel has more than one, and none of them are just bobbing on the surface. Though I would hate to spell any of them out (and there are probably some I’m not even aware of), I did want to stress the idea that the “villain” is rarely a true villain in the sense that we find in movies and old novels. A villain is often just the person who has different goals and desires than you, and is more driven in achieving them. The ‘villain’ in this book is not very evil at all, just desperate to do what she thinks is the ultimate right thing, even if some sacrifices need to be made. And most of the ‘heroes’ agree with her…up to a point.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

No, this is all from my own imagination, books I’ve read, and themes I enjoy reading about. That’s the beauty of writing for me: nothing is autobiographical (other than the ideas/aesthetics), and I can completely immerse myself in characters, worlds, and journeys that are a complete expansion or negation of my own. I don’t want to see myself anywhere in the book if I can help it!

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

The biggest influences on my writing are typically (with a few exceptions) British, very old, and usually mentioned as “classics”: Austen, Coleridge, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Wilde, Mary Shelley, Voltaire, Tolkein, White, and the extensive works of “Anonymous” (particularly Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, etc). For me, a great story has to be coupled with powerful and beautiful language, and the pre-20th century world seemed more at peace with this. After WWI, beauty in writing seemed somewhat naive or improper, so writers adopted a more clipped, terse style of writing which gets to the point but (often) without flair or beauty. I think writing should be beautiful, so that you can fall in love with a single sentence, and only later understand how that sentence fits into the puzzle of the entire piece. I also like works where the narrator is him/herself a character, and writers like Chaucer, Austen, and Wilde were masters at this. After all, if someone is talking, why make him/her anonymous? Give him/her life and a voice, even if the ultimate identity remains mysterious.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Since I’m also a professor, I learned the most from the writers I wrote about and ended up teaching, figures like Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, and Jane Austen. Analyzing their works as a scholar, and then figuring out how to teach them to (largely) bored undergraduates, really makes you appreciate how they work as writers and as books. That has to rub off on you as a writer yourself, and I picked up a lot of Austenisms in my writing, some of which I edited out, but others I kept as a badge of pride. No shame in sounding like one of the greatest masters of prose in the English language!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The only thing I’ve truly learned about writing is to be devoted to it. Don’t do it by halves. By that I mean make writing (not being a writer, or acting like a writer, but actually writing) your entire life. Write every day until it becomes second nature. Read every day without fail. Find the connections between different authors and try out their techniques. Set goals and come as close as you can to accomplishing them. But most of all, write. If you don’t like writing, there’s no reason to become a writer. And if you do, then get to it!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Remember that I’m poor and I can’t afford to pay fancy editors to go over my work. It’s just me and some friends and students. So if you find a typo, tell me about it before you post a 1-star review! I promise to fix it! You can’t believe how hard it is to find every single typo or missing word in a 90 thousand-word manuscript even after reading it five or six times in several different mediums. But other than that, I hope you enjoy the book!

book-cover-the-winged-turbanJoshua Grasso
Ada, OK

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The Winged Turban

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No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

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Welcome back to another listing of No Wasted Ink’s writer’s links.  Perhaps I was feeling a little insecure as a writer this week.  Articles about combating procrastination, writing schedules and other emotions that inflict all of us as writers seemed to call to me.  I hope you find these articles as inspiring as I did.

Using Scrivener with Story Genius

How to Write Rock Climbing Wrong

5 TIPS FOR WRITING BETTER DIALOGUE

Boba Fett’s Guide to Writing Cool Characters

To Count or Not to Count (Words, that is)

You’ve Decided to Write a Novel. Now What?

A Writer’s Insecurity

Podcasting: Another Way to Reach Readers?

4 Counter-Intuitive Benefits of Scheduling Your Writing Time

How to Set – And Rock – Your Writing Goals

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

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Good Monday to you all!  This week’s writer’s links focus on general writing tips, science fiction books and a little about writing poetry.  Pour yourself your favorite beverage and have a seat.  Time for some interesting articles, at least in my opinion!

Immersive POV

Handwriting

2016 Locus Recommended Reading List

An Assignment from W.H. Auden’s 1956 Poetry Class

CRISPR-Cas: Editing Life in Science Fiction

How to Outline a Series of Bestselling Books

Unpacking the “Character-Driven” Story—How to Make Your Story Sizzle

Pacing and Momentum in Revision

The Joy of Writing Whatever the Heck You Want

How to Write With a Teen Voice

So You Wrote a Novel! Now What? by Katz

So You Wrote A Novel!  Now What?

typewriter

Yes, you really did write a novel, but let’s face it, what you have is a rough, first draft. The creative conception of your novel is a done deal, but your book is far from ready to publish.

songbird

Now it’s time to let your inner editor back out of its cage and put it back to work. Now is when you get down to the nitty-gritty of rewrites, proofreading, and editing, all of which must be accomplished before you can even think about getting your masterpiece ready to submit to a publisher for consideration.

Let’s talk about some of the tools you’ll need to begin taking your novel to the next stage.

Your Next Stepsrainbow

Your first draft is the block of marble from which your final product will be carved. Michelangelo is said to have been asked how it was possible to find something as grand as “The Madonna” in a raw block of granite. His reply was, “Simple. You just carve away everything that does not look like The Madonna.”1

We urge you to remember these words, carve them on your heart and in your mind. Then learn to see your writing with the eyes of a master artist. The early draft of your work is the rough, chopped lump of marble. When you finish your first draft, you’ve done nothing more than create the rough lump of granite from which your final masterpiece will emerge. Now, you must chip at it, and sand it, and polish it, until it shines like the brilliant star you imagined in the beginning.

Every good writer learns and understands that there are many steps in the process of writing a novel before one achieves a Masterpiece.

If you haven’t already discovered your own style and method for proofreading and editing now is the best time to get started doing so.

Proofreading Your Worksunglasses

Can you read this? Take a few minutes and try. I think you’ll be surprised. It really isn’t all that hard.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!2

It is amazing how the human brain works. Unfortunately, the very capacity that enables you to read the above piece of mish-mash is your enemy when it comes to proofreading, especially so when proofreading your own work.

You know what you’ve written, and your mind has a tendency to skip over many basic spelling and punctuation errors.

The first thing you should always do is run your computer’s spell check and grammar check programs. They will target many of your errors. But, your computer program does not know every accepted spelling, nor all accepted meanings for every word in the English language, so you can’t stop there. Grab a good dictionary and double check every word you thought was spelled and/or used right that your computer flagged.

Next go through your piece, chapter by chapter, and really look at each and every individual word to make sure you have the correct spelling for the meaning you are using in that context. One of the easier ways to do this, without allowing your brain to skip ahead, and miss things is to start at the end and go through each chapter backward, from ending to beginning. Because the sentences don’t make sense backward your brain and your eye will be less likely to slip ahead. You will be more likely to spot sneaky little spelling boo-boos waiting to ambush you and embarrass you in front of your editor or publisher.

This step covers your spelling and most punctuation errors.

Next, you need to go back and read each of your chapters for grammatical errors and plot inconsistencies. Don’t just sit and read them to yourself. As in spelling, here too your brain will have a tendency to skip forward and fill in the things you know you meant to put in there—even when they are missing!

Go somewhere where you won’t bother anyone or be interrupted. Take the time to read each chapter out loud. Again go slow and read your piece word for word as it is on paper—not how you intended it to be—but exactly as it is written down. You will be surprised at how many things you missed when you checked for spelling or sat and read the piece silently to yourself.

Now ask someone else to read your chapters out loud to you. Don’t interrupt them, but as they read make notes on any errors you hear.

Repeat the above steps as many times as needed, until you are sure you found all of the problem areas.

Just proofreading isn’t enough to bring your work to that final point of perfection. Once the proofreading is done you must go back and correct the errors, remove the inconsistencies, reweave the weak areas, and trim away all un-needed extraneous material that does not move your story forward.

Avoiding Wordinessman

Wordiness is a common problem for prose writers. It’s important not to “clog up” your prose with extra words, phrases, or paragraphs that aren’t necessary to move your story forward. Following is a list of methods you can use to eliminate wordiness in your writing.

♥ Convert word groups or phrases to single words whenever possible.

♥ Convert modifying clauses into phrases or single words whenever possible.

♥ Use expletives sparingly, if at all.

♥ Use active instead of passive verbs.

♥ Avoid using too many noun forms of verbs.

♥ Write infinitive phrases as finite verbs or brief noun phrases

♥ Eliminate circumlocutions with direct phrases. For example: change At this point in time to Now.

♥ Omit words which state the obvious or provide excessive detail. Remember: If a second grader can understand it, you have explained it.

♥ Omit repetitive wording.

Making your writing crisp, precise, and concise will move your story forward at a steady pace and help keep your reader engaged.

Rewriting and Editingnotebook

There are a number of different ways to go about the rewriting and editing process. Let me warn you here—none of them are easy. Rewriting and editing is time intensive, hard work. It doesn’t really matter which method you use as long as you buckle down and do the work.

Take the notes you made during the times the piece was read out loud. Then go through the entire novel line by line, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter. Rewrite every single poorly formed sentence, every paragraph that isn’t clear, and every action that does not move your plot forward. Eliminate anything that is not absolutely necessary to tell the story in a clear and concise manner.

Do this over and over until you feel you have each chapter as close to perfect as you can get it.

There are numerous writing resource books on the market that explore proofreading as well as editing and polishing. You should have at least two different resource books in your personal writing reference library in addition to your dictionary and thesaurus: one on writing style and basic grammar, and one on rewriting and editing. There is a list of my favorites in the Printed Resources section at the end of this article. Check them out and then go find those that suit you the best.

One last thought . . .lightbulb

As writers, we all have a tendency to become attached to our precious written words. For proper editing and rewriting you cannot cling to them. I had an instructor once who said, “Until you are ready to ‘murder your darlings’ you will never be a good writer.” So I repeat here if you want to do a good rewrite and reach perfection you must “Murder your darlings!” But never worry! Even better words and phrases will rise up and live to take their place – if you work hard!

Now pull out those reference books. Get out that red pen. Warm up your DELETE key. It’s time to go to work – line by line, page by page, and chapter by chapter!

Resources Online

♥ The Owl at Perdue – Free Writing Help and Teaching Resources
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

♥ Fiction Factor – Honing Skills
http://www.fictionfactor.com/honing.html

♥ Painful Prose: How to Edit Your Paragraphs to Make Them Great
http://www.stepbystep.com/Painful-Prose-How-to-Edit-Your-Paragraphs-to-Make-Them-Great-152111/

Resources In Print

♥ Write Right – A Desktop Digest of Punctuation, Grammar and Style by Jan Venolia Publisher: Ten Speed Press Berkeley ♦ Toronto Date: 2001
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/write-right-jan-venolia/1111609915

♥ The Elements of Expression by Arthur Plotnik Publisher: Henry Holt and Company New York, New York Date: 1996 http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-elements-of-expression-arthur-plotnik/1110796062

♥ ReWrite Right – Your Guide to Perfectly Polished Prose by Jan Venolia Publisher: Ten Speed Press Berkeley ♦ Toronto Date: 2000 http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rewrite-right-jan-venolia/1004089614

♥ Getting the Words Right How to Rewrite, Edit & Revise by Theodore A. Rees Cheney Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books Cincinnati, Ohio Date: 1990
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/getting-the-words-right-theodore-a-rees-cheney/1012529512

New and used copies of all the above books listed in this Resource Guide are available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and/or Alibris.com.

Author’s Note: I learned many of the ideas and methods shared in this article through the years in college classes I took, from online reading and classes, and from participation in several different writers’ and critique groups. I’m sorry I can’t give full credit to the originators of some of the techniques and ideas I shared here. Unfortunately, I don’t remember exactly who you are, but I know you share my passion for helping others improve their writing and I hope you don’t mind that I’m passing on what you so generously shared with me.

Footnotes
1 I believe this quote came from the book. Vasari on Technique by Georgio Vasari, Published by J.M. Dent & Company, London 1907
2 Can You Read This? by Green Chair Marketing Group
© Copyright 2016 Katzendragonz (katzendragonz at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Katzendragonz has granted Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.

sarah-in-redSarah Elizabeth is also known as “Katz” around the online writing world.

As a young child she made up stories for her friends and told them like an old time story teller. She first started writing her tales down in grade school. In Junior High School she won an award for and published her first fantasy story.

Several of her stories and poems have been published in fantasy fan publications over the years. She’s written three novels, one science fiction and two that are a cross between classic fantasy and alternative history. She also has four additional fantasy novels currently in progress.

She spent two years tutoring all types of writing while taking courses at Southern California ‘s Fullerton College in the late 1990’s.

Sarah now teaches fiction writing online with New Horizons Academy. She’s developed and instructed courses in Grammar, Short Story Writing, Novel Writing, basic Fiction Concepts, and Character Creation and Development.

Every year in November she participates in National Novel Writing Month and has been working with the organization for ten years guiding and mentoring harried, exhausted novelists through the process of writing an entire novel (at least 50,000 words) in thirty days.