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479 Posts tagged with the books tag
43

Once in a while I consult with authors who want my advice, usually on how to spread the word about their books. Just last week I had a Skype session with a nice man who had that exact question, so as we began the hour I asked him this:


What is your book about?


He couldn't provide a succinct answer.


He said it was a memoir, kind of. Then he said it was divided into four parts of his life. Then he told me about all four of those parts, which took quite a while. I wanted to be engaged but found myself less than enthralled by his disjointed explanation.


Do you see the problem here? Potential readers want to know WHAT YOUR BOOK IS ABOUT, period. If the description doesn't grab their attention right away, they will most likely move on to something else. Shiny penny syndrome.


After the nice man finished telling me about his book, it was clear that one of the "four parts" sounded leaps and bounds more interesting than the other three, so I encouraged him to focus on that one for the description. The other sections might be fantastic in the book itself, but on a surface level they sounded pretty ordinary. A memoir needs to promise something extraordinary, because unless you're famous, no one really cares about your life story.


It's not easy to come up with a compelling description of a book, but it's important. When you reach out to reviewers over email, for example, they will agree to read your book only if they think it will be interesting. Play around with variations and see which one receives the best results. It may take a few tries, but you'll get there!


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Marketingtip: how to find book bloggers

Marketingtip: make it easy for people to pay you

3,338 Views 43 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors
7

My first novel, Perfect on Paper, was originally self-published before it got picked up by Amazon Publishing, but I didn't let that stop me from getting it into brick-and-mortar stores. And I don't mean bookstores! Here's what I did:

 

  • I identified my main target audience as single, professional women.
  • I went to an art store and bought a handful of cute little bookstands.
  • I headed out on foot around the San Francisco neighborhoods where my book took place and looked for boutiques where single professional women might shop.
  • In each store I asked to speak with the owner.
  • If the owner wasn't there, I found out when she would be. I learned very quickly that in boutiques, the owner is usually the lone decision maker.
  • Once I was in front of the owner, I explained that I'd written a book set in her store's neighborhood, and that my readers were a lot like her store's customers.
  • I pulled out a copy of Perfect on Paper and a stand and asked if she'd like to sell the book on a commission basis.
  • I offered to give her a signed copy for herself.


My strategy worked! Within a few weeks my book was on display (and for sale!) in seven stores, each one perfectly suited to my target readership. All seven owners enjoyed my book and actively recommended it to their customers, which helped generate a little local buzz. I was also able to list those stores on a "where to buy the book" section of my website, which gave the novel a boost in street cred to anyone who checked out my website, e.g. book club moderators I contacted.


Where do your target readers shop? Have a think about it - then get out there and see if you can get your book on the shelves!


-Maria


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Marketing tip: Stay organized!

Book marketing tip: Put a sample on Goodreads

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.

1,844 Views 7 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, marketing, writing
3

The questions

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jan 24, 2018

 

Really bad writers tell readers how great their characters are. Writing is about showing your readers how great your characters are, and the quality of your characters hinge on one thing. This one thing is actually an innate skill that successful writers possess. In a lot of books, authors construct a story based on this one thing.

 

This one thing is really a series of things, but it is the same concept repeated over and over again. The quality of your characters depends on the questions they have to face. If you're writing a mystery novel, it's chock full of questions. How your characters deal with these questions is the linchpin to their development.


And it's not just mysteries. Every genre of fiction is nothing more than a series of questions your characters face from page to page and chapter to chapter. Your readers learn about what your characters are really made of as each question is explored. The conflicts that drive plot provide your characters with the big questions, but smaller questions arise from the journey dealing with these conflicts.


These questions don't just exist in fiction. We all face unspoken questions every day of our lives, some small, some big, and the way we deal with these questions reveal our character. The stories we write simply mirror reality, most likely on a much grander scale and with much bigger stakes, but the concept is essentially the same.


If you want to write better, more engaging characters, pay attention to the questions you face in a day or week, and then put your characters in your shoes. Where would they diverge from your decision making? Where would they make the same decisions? What does that show you about their character?


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Torture your characters

 

What would your characters do?

 

 

 

 

969 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: books, self-publishing, writing, characters, fiction, plot
4

Beyond the book

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Oct 25, 2017

In order to sell lots of books, you may have to release versions of your novel that go beyond the physical book. Here are three other media platforms that may help you build your community and sell more books.

 

1. Audiobook: In another time, they were called books on tape, and then CDs became the preferred format. When we started consuming digital audio files, audiobooks were born. An audiobook version of your novel is a natural transition. I have taken the leap, and I have to tell you I had a blast working on them. From selecting a narrator to uploading the files, developing an audiobook is a truly exhilarating process. The fact it can grow your readership (listenership) is a delightful bonus.

 

2. The stage: I know it sounds like a stretch, but a stage version of your book has the potential to grow your audience. Granted, that audience will be limited to the people in the theater, but social media gives them their own platform to tell their friends and followers about the adaptation of your book to a play. I attended a play in California where the playwright sold and signed copies of her book after the performance of her play based on the book. By the looks of it, she did very well.

 

3. Podcast: This is kind of a mixture of an audiobook and a stage play. The podcast version of your book mimics radio theater. Like a stage play, you would use actors to act out the parts. Unlike a stage play, you would serialize the material and present each segment via a podcasting service on the same day and at the same time. The hope is that you will build buzz as folks wait in anticipation for your next chapter.

 

-Richard

 

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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What makes you different?

The Grassroots Marketing Ripple Effect

1,757 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: books, marketing, selling, promotion, podcast, audiobooks, platform
6

If you?re still puzzled by the concept of show vs. tell, you?re not alone. I think many authors tell too much because they want to make sure their readers "get it." To that I say, "We get it!"


I recently finished a novel in which the author repeatedly explained why the characters were doing or feeling certain things when no explanation was necessary. As a result, I had a hard time getting through the book, and unfortunately I did not enjoy it.


Here are some examples, with some details changed:


  • I woke up the next morning with a headache from drinking too much vodka.


      The issue: I already know the character drank too much vodka, because the previous scene was all about that..


  • I pulled my hand back. Noticing the gesture, Ron asked, "You okay, beautiful?"


      The issue: I can infer that Ron noticed the gesture. If he didn't notice it, why would he ask the narrator if she is okay?


  • I looked at him and felt my cheeks flush with embarrassment.


      The issue: If her cheeks are flushing, I can infer that she is embarrassed.


  • I pulled out the pen and notepad I always kept in my purse in case I wanted to jot something down.


The issue: I know that a pen and notepad is there to jot something down.


In each of these examples, by telling me what was obvious the author pulled me out of the story. This happened over and over, and instead of getting immersed in the fiction I found myself thinking, "Why does the author keep telling me this?" You want your readers to feel engaged, so let them by trusting them to "get it."


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.

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Show vs. tell: examples

Are you breaking the show vs. tell rule in your dialogue?



1,089 Views 6 Comments Permalink Tags: books, writing, showing, telling, writing_advice, author_advice, show_vs._tell
1

It is anatomy day today on the blog. Here are the parts of a novel:


1. The opening/the hook: Some call it the most crucial part of your novel. As a reader, I can usually know from the very first line whether I'm going to connect with a book or not.


2. Characters: For me, this is the make or break element of a novel. If you write deep, fully-realized characters, you have a book that readers will flock to. It's not easy, and you're not going to please every reader, but if you do a deep dive on your character development you have a better than good chance to woo readers galore.


3. Plot: This is your main "What if?" question. This is what drives and motivates the characters. A flimsy plot can leave your readers confused and frustrated. Give them a compelling reason to read on, and they will stay engaged.


4. Subplot: Your subplots give your readers diversions and keep them guessing as they dive into the heart of your novel. Subplots are also great character building devices for your main characters and even secondary characters.


5 Setting: Where and when does your story take place? Authenticity is the key to creating a great setting. Even if your novel is a fantasy novel, it has to feel authentic. Details help and not just visuals. Smells, weather, and the people all help make a setting authentic.


6. Conclusion: How you wrap up your plot could be the difference between having a book with huge word of mouth potential or having a book that is just a blip on the reader's radar. Give your reader a satisfying conclusion to your plot, and you have a book readers can't wait to tell their friends and family about.


7. The end: Different from the conclusion, the ending of a book is where you paint a picture of your characters continuing to exist once your reader has read the last word. This is where a writer transitions from an author to an illusionist. Make the readers believe that life goes on, even when the story ends.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Do you need a prologue or an epilogue?

Embrace the boring parts

1,265 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, author, writing
1

To conclude a story doesn't mean you've reached the end of a novel. For example, I wrote a thriller a few years ago, and if you were to ask me to tell you how it ends, I would describe the last scene in the book. By doing so, however, I wouldn't tell you how I concluded the plot of the story because that came in the previous chapter. The point is, when you are planning your novel remember you have more to write after you wrap up the conclusion of your story.


Your conclusion, when it comes to thrillers at least, has to be... well, conclusive. There has to be a fine point on it. A sense that the battle is over and there is a clear winner. The ending, on the other hand, doesn't have to have as fine a point on it. In fact, in a lot of cases, authors use the end to hint at what's to come for the characters in the book you've just read. Maybe the main character finally found love or maybe a subplot where the author introduced an estranged adult child gets a conclusion of its own. The end of the novel oftentimes affirms, either subtly or overtly, that the universe you created will go on even though the story has ended.


It has been my experience that concluding a story is easier than ending a book. There is an organic structure to reaching a conclusion, but endings are much harder. You have to stretch your imagination beyond what will be read and convince the reader that there is more out there for the characters you've created.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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A Rush to the Finish Line

When Do You Know The Ending?

919 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, writing, ending, conclusion
2

Last lines

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jul 17, 2017


John Irving is famous for writing the last line of his books first. When you think about it, it's not a bad strategy. He's knows where the story is going before he even begins. He just has to figure out how to get there, he doesn't have to figure out where to go. I would think that would make for a much more "efficient" writing experience, and it gives him a leg up on the most elusive element of a novel, a satisfying ending.


How an ending is deemed satisfying depends on a lot of things. What genre is your book? If it's a mystery, ending the book without solving the mystery is going to leave your readers angry and unsatisfied. Is it a romance novel? Your main character should be enriched and empowered at the end of your story otherwise the readers are going to feel robbed of the essence of romance. With thrillers you have room to taunt and tease your readers a little at the end, but you still want a definitive conclusion to the story.  If the book is part of a series, you'll want an ending the signals there is more to come.


We've discussed the importance of first lines on this blog. While the first sentence sets the tone of your book, the last line provides the final payoff, the reward for the reader's investment of time and emotions. You write an ending that satisfies the reader, and you have a new member of your community who will enthusiastically tell their friends, family, and followers about your book.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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The end


What matters more: the beginning or the ending?

1,584 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, writing, last_lines
0

When people find out I'm an author, one of the questions they often ask me is, "What inspires you to write?" It's an interesting question because I think every author would answer it differently.


I find myself most inspired to write when I'm already writing. That probably sounds crazy, but getting myself to write is the hardest part of writing. The creative process is a complex animal, and if I could tame it, I would be a lot more productive than I am.Butwhen I sit down at my computer and focus, really focus, then things start to happen. Soon I'm in the groove and don't want to stop because I'm having fun. I guess it's similar to a runner's high. Getting yourself to lace up those shoes and hit the pavement can be challenging, but there's a reason so many people do it day in and day out: after you get past the resistance, exercising feels great.


This is a little embarrassing to admit, but when I write a line that makes me laugh, or finish a scene I know is good, I'll pump my fist! Just writing that now makes me blush because it's ridiculous, but it's true. I love that feeling of having created something I think my readers will enjoy, of having created characters and stories that are entirely made up but seem real. That inspires me.


In this blog I usually provide tips on writing, grammar, or book marketing. But today I thought it would be fun to turn the tables and ask my readers to chime in with their own thoughts. What inspires you to write? Please reply in the comments. I'd truly love to hear from you.


-Maria


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Two Mistakes Indie Authors Should Avoid

Got Writer's Block? Step Away from the Keyboard

1,262 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, writing, inspiration
2

Opening lines

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jul 10, 2017

Why is the opening line of your book so crucial? After all, it's just one line out of thousands in your book. Yet, it is a singularly seminal collection of words that could make or break your novel. One misstep, and you could chase readers away.


Here are three reasons I think the opening line matters so much to your book:


1. It sets the tone of your story. Whether you go for a simple, gritty line or you deliver dense prose in your opening sentence, you signal to the reader what kind of reading experience they are in for. My personal belief is that a reader should be able to identify the genre of your book from the first line.


2. It gives a hint to your writing style. Readers are going to get an innate sense of your writing style from your opening line. They are going to either feel the connection to your literary approach, or they are going to move on to another selection.


3. The opening line signals whether your story's framework is built around character development or plot development. In Alice Walker's novel, The Color Purple, she opens the story with, "You better not never tell nobody but God." That line signals to me that I'm about to enjoy a book that is centered around character development.


What about you? Why do you think the opening line can make or break a novel? What are some of your favorite opening lines?


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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The First-Line Ritual

The Art of the First Line

1,091 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, writing, opening_line, setting_the_tone
0

As a reader, I have given up on more than a few books in my time. As a writer, I feel bad for doing so, too. It just feels wrong. But in the end, I can't take responsibility for not feeling engaged enough to continue reading. It's not necessarily bad writing. It's just not compelling writing. I'm not talking obscure tomes either. Some of these books have been international bestsellers. Adored by millions. Yet, there the book sat on my nightstand unfinished.


As a writer, I like to interrogate myself for not finishing a book. Not because I have self-esteem issues (I do), but because I want to avoid the same mistakes in my own writing. That's the lesson here. We can learn from books we don't like as much as books we do like, although it's a decidedly less inspiring lesson.


What I have found, more times than not, is that I am almost always turned off by poorly written dialogue. Most of the books I abandon are full of either unnaturally long monologues or ham-fisted attempts at including slang used by a much younger generation than the author. It not only doesn't hit the mark, it can cause me to giggle involuntarily at the absurdity of it.


That's usually why I give up on a book, and it's made me much more aware when I'm crafting my own dialogue. What about you? As a reader, what causes you to give up on a book?


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Read It Forward

A Good Writer Can Ruin a Good Story

879 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, writing, dialogue
2

If I taught a class in writing, the following would be the outline for my syllabus:

 

1. Character – The care you take in crafting your characters is probably the most important time and talent you will spend writing. The goal is to create characters with whom your readers will make an emotional connection. That means you need to have more than a passing knowledge of what makes your characters tick. You need to do a deep dive on their background and relationships.

 

2. Plot – The temptation will be to show off and demonstrate to your readers how clever you are, but resist that temptation. Keep your main plot simple. Limit the number of twists and turns to just a few. Remember, character is what's driving this book. The plot should serve the characters not the other way around.

 

3. Subplots – This is where I have fun with secondary characters. I give them their own adventures within the story, a strategy that gives them much more depth. I believe it's crucial that your readers not only connect with the main characters but with supporting characters, too.

 

4. Conflict – There have to be clear stakes for your characters if they don't succeed, and those stakes have to be personal. The potential loss has to be painful and life-altering. Not only will that drive you to be more creative when things get tough, it will draw your readers in even more. The greater the stakes for a character they've connected with, the greater their interest.

 

5. Endings – You've caused your readers to bond with your characters. Give them an ending that reflects real life. What happens in real life? It goes on. Whatever happened to your main character, life doesn't end when the book does. Give a hint at what's to come next, even if you're not writing a series.  

 

Why did I share this with you? Am I trying to tell you how to write? No. I want you to do the same. Create a five-topic outline for a syllabus, not because I want you to teach a class, but I want you to be able to identify your own writing philosophy. Once you know that, you'll write with more confidence and approach each project with much more energy and enthusiasm.

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Your writing philosophy

Your how-to-be-a-novelist syllabus

1,761 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: books, self-publishing, indie, writing, characters, drafts, plot, author_advice, writing_help
2

In previous posts I've addressed my tendency to overuse certain words, phrases, or gestures, for example she bit her lip and she walked home slowly. To solve the problem I use the "find" option on Microsoft Word to catch the over-usages before my manuscripts go to the copyeditor. Some still slip through, but I'm getting better.


For words and expressions that are common, repeating them on occasion over the course of an entire novel is not a problem. For example:


  • She opened the door.
  • He fed the dog.
  • They ate dinner at home.


It's the uncommon ones that are problematic when repeated, because they are memorable. For example, using any of the following more than once in a novel would not go unnoticed by your readers:


  • She covered her face with her hands and began sobbing hysterically.
  • To celebrate, he jumped up and did splits in the air.
  • As she looked at him, her eyes flickered with curiosity.


While it's fine to sprinkle the same common gestures here and there over the course of an entire book, be careful to space them out. Last week I began reading a novel in which the following appeared in the span of just two pages in the first chapter:


  1. Kristen rubbed my arm, yanking me back to the present.
  2. Kristen rubbed my forearm. "Please talk to us."
  3. Kristen pushed out her lower lip. She rubbed my forearm.


If those sentences had appeared fifty pages apart, I doubt I would have noticed them, but their proximity made them leap off the page. As a result I stopped thinking about the story and instead found myself wondering how neither the author nor the copyeditor had noticed the repetition. Annoyed, I also gave up on that book and moved on to another one. That's not what you want to happen to your readers, right? So be careful! We all have our "crutch" words. What are some of yours?


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Writing tip: don't be afraid to cut

Writing tip: be careful not to overdo the beats

1,110 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, writing, grammar
1

There is a popular show on a streaming service that I had been anxious to watch, given the buzz that it had generated. So, I set aside a Saturday to watch as many episodes as I could squeeze in. I got my coffee, buttered some toast, sat down in front of the TV early in the morning, and started the first episode. It was compelling from the opening shot. I was sucked into it immediately. There was something about the show that I found relatable. It seemed almost familiar.


By the end of the first episode, I realized it was just that--familiar. It was similar to the theme and structure of a series of young adult novels I had written. It wasn't exactly the same, but the similarities were there. It was undeniable. I didn't want to think that someone had stolen my idea, but I still couldn't get the thought out of my mind. So, I did a little research on the show's creators and learned that they had been influenced by the same decade in which I came of age. Suddenly, it became clear. They hadn't stolen anything from me. We had just grown up during the same era. We shared the same cultural references.


It is possible to write a book that is similar to another book without having any knowledge of the story beforehand. It happens. Don't get discouraged if you discover your book is similar to someone else's. Keep writing. Publish. There is room for different takes on the same plot. Your writing style will be enough to set it apart.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Give Author Modeling a Try

 

How to be a Confident Writer

1,048 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, author, writing, story_ideas
1

In a previous post, I discussed how useful beats are to show your readers instead of telling them. I also advised against using beats too often because it can dilute their effect. Another way to devalue the impact of beats is by telling readers what those beats are already showing.


For example, the following beats do a solid job of letting us know what the character is thinking:


  • He slammed his cup down so hard that it broke. (His actionshows us that he's angry.)
  • She rolled her eyes. (Her actionshows us that she's irritated/exasperated.)
  • She batted her eyelashes at him. (Her actionshows us that she's being flirtatious.)
  • He cocked his head to the side. (His action shows us that he's confused.)


When writers tell us what the beats are already showing us, it can become a problem if done too frequently. I recently read a novel in which the author included an explanation after almost every beat, and as a result I found myself repeatedly thinking, "Why is she telling me this? Doesn't she see how obvious it is that (insert name of character) is (insert adjective)?"


Here are some examples of what I mean:


  • He slammed his cup down so hard that it broke, furious.
  • She rolled her eyes, exasperated.
  • She batted her eyelashes at him, clearly flirting.
  • He cocked his head to the side, confused.


Am I the only one who finds these explanations unnecessary? I doubt it. Readers are smart, so respect that intelligence. We might all have a tendency to tell too much in the first draft, but that's what revisions are for! It's never fun to cut your own words, but your writing will be better for it, and your readers will appreciate it. I promise.


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Turn the Beat Around

 

Use Beats to Show, Not Tell

 

1,548 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, writing, promotions, action_beats, writing_tip, dialgue_tags
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