Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Word Play!

I was cyberstrolling around Facebook last week and saw that my buddy from Oz, Lynda Young, had posted a word she'd run across--spaghettify (supposedly a real word). She said:

"Spaghettify: such a cool word, but try and put it in a sentence."

And so people did try.

Dan Henby: If you interrupt my cooking ONE MORE TIME I WILL SPAGHETTIFY YOU!

Becky Levine: Some days, it looks like I spaghettified my hair.

Me: Mother placed the heaping bowl on Junior's highchair tray, leaving him to spaghettify himself with blissful abandon.

(Photo courtesy of SuperStock royalty-free images.)

Yes, my example was longwinded. What can I say? But the point is--it was fun. So let's have some similar fun.

1. In the comments, feel free to use one or more of the words below in a sentence(s).
2. These are actual words from a compiled list courtesy of THIS SITE.
3. It doesn't matter what the REAL meaning of the words are. What do they sound like, seem like? Be imaginative and Lewis Carroll/Jabberwocky-like if you wish.

Choosing Writerly Words
Sometimes in your writing you are faced with a word choice in a sentence. Don't forget to factor in the sound of the word when you're deciding which one to use. Match it to the tone and flow of your passage--its rhythm, mood, connotations, number of syllables, and consonant sounds (hard, soft, etc.)

(Insert "Mission Impossible" music here.) Your words, should you decide to accept them:


Extra cyberpats on the back for anyone who can use all three in ONE sentence.

ALSO! Yesterday I found a great article about being creative with words HERE--like making your nouns into verbs, etc. Check out the neat imaginative comments after the article, too. Try your hand at the word challenge if you'd like.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Avoiding Stop-Action Description

Winner of GIMME A CALL, which is the consolation prize for those who missed my first book/critique giveaway, is--CherylAnne Ham!

How's that for a convoluted sentence? Tip for the day: never write sentences like that.

CherylAnne, send your address to artzicarol [at] gmail [dot] com, and I'll mail the book to you.


DESCRIPTION: Meeting a New Character
I see this often in novels, published or otherwise: describing things in exhausting detail. And I'm sure I've done it myself. But doing so wreaks havoc on the pacing of your scene. The forward movement comes to a screeching halt while you detail someone's hair color, eye color, clothing style, exact degree of their head tilt, and other specifics of your new character. Same with describing a setting or a place. A better strategy is to describe only what is necessary to the flavor and plot, to take a cameo snapshot. It's NOT a grocery list of everything about the appearance of a character or a setting.

1. Stop-Action Description--Dump Version
I meander down the sidewalk with my ice cream cone, licking the strawberry sweetness of it up one side and down the other. It hits the perfect spot. My ponytail swings behind me, and I'm one happy camper.

As I get to the pawn shop on the corner, right in mid-slurp, I see this guy barrel out the door. The guy has a wild look on his face. He's holding a ratty, emerald-green guitar, the acoustic kind, and fumbling it like he's gonna drop it. Three of the guitar strings are dangerously unattached, and dangle in mid-air. I stare at the guy, noting the perfect powder blue of his eyes, the random carelessness of his tawny hair. A few freckles parade their way across his nubby nose. His legs are long and his blue jeans are patched. I'm scoping out the tan on his muscular arms below his short-sleeved navy t-shirt, when one of his renegade guitar strings twangs out and pokes me in the stomach. I yelp, and jump back.

2. More Integrated Description--Spare Version
I meander down the sidewalk with my ice cream cone, licking the strawberry sweetness of it up one side and down the other. It hits the perfect spot. My ponytail swings behind me, and I'm one happy camper.

As I get to the pawn shop on the corner, right in mid-slurp, I see this guy barrel out the door. He's holding a ratty guitar, fumbling it like he's gonna drop it. Three of the guitar strings are all sproingy and loose. A wild look glints in his baby blues, and his hair looks like someone shoved the front of it up when it was wet and let it dry there. One of his renegade guitar strings twangs out and pokes me in the stomach. I yelp, and jump back.

While the emerald-green, acoustic, tawny hair, freckles, nubby nose, long legs, patched blue jeans, tanned & muscular arms, and short-sleeved navy t-shirt of the first version may be important (hahaha, right), all those items don't have to be dumped into the paragraph. They can or should be woven into the scene later, while the characters are talking and she's continuing to look at him. Some details could even be postponed for another scene.

The number of adjectives in the first version are almost exhausting (as much as I adore adjectives). The first version is a total of 171 words due in part to this plethora of adjectives, while I slashed my second version to 129. That's 42 extra words--words that readers might skim or skip if you keep them away from the action of the scene too long. And will the reader remember all these details of color, shape, length, and style? Probably not. That's another reason to spread the information out.

Some writers make it a habit of limiting themselves to roughly three sentences of description about a new character or place. It's kind of the limit before your reader starts tuning out or skimming. That's how many the second version has in the second paragraph, in between the sentences of action. And no, it doesn't count if you try to cheat by making those 3 sentences extremely long!

Do you love to pepper your introductory descriptions with a lot of adjectives?
If you overwrite in your rough draft, are you able to slash the extra description later?
Do you try to describe EVERYTHING about your characters the first time your reader encounters them? What about when writing a new setting (house, landscape, city)?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

WINNERS! Book & Critique Giveaway

Well, I posted on a Friday supposedly to give all you lovely bloggy buddies EXTRA time to enter my giveaway, but then I wrote down the deadline date as Sept 13 instead of Sept. 20. Rawr! I need a new brain.

But I'm not going to extend the deadline; I'll go with what I so dumbly posted. Sorry, I hope that didn't cut anyone out. See below for a consolation prize if you missed my premature deadline.

So without further self-flagellation, here are the winners courtesy of

1. Hardcopy of DIVERGENT: Rosie Connolly!
2. Hardcopy of ENTWINED: HeatherK Photos!
3. First chapter critique: Sarah!
4. First chapter critique: Jennifer Groepl!

Congrats, ladies, and thanks to everyone for entering. Winners, please email me at artzicarol [at] gmail [dot] com to set up your critique or to let me know your address for mailing your book.

CONSOLATION PRIZE--if you missed this giveaway!
If anyone didn't get to enter this contest and wants to be entered for a second giveaway for the YA novel GIMME A CALL by Sarah Mlynowski, just say so in the comments by Tues. Sept 20. I will draw a name and award an additional prize winner. Okay? Do you feel better? I feel better. Whew.

GIMME A CALL is about a girl who accidentally drops her cell phone in a wishing fountain and is stunned to discover that she can call her Freshman self! So she sets about to change some things in her life, with the aid of that younger self.

Have you read GIMME A CALL by Sarah Mlynowski?
Is your list of TBR (to-be-read) books growing into unmanageable proportions?
Is anyone else besides me having a problem showing color in your posts lately?

Friday, September 9, 2011

YA Book & Critique Giveaway

I feel like celebrating and giving away stuff--and I'm posting earlier than Wednesday to give you more time to win! What am I celebrating? Well, I'm sure I can think of something. How about:

1. I passed my 100th blog post. This is the 103rd post.
2. I have 350 blog followers. Okay, 349, but that's close enough, right? I didn't celebrate 300, so consider this part of that.
3. I'm making good progress on more revisions for my agented novel, SHAPERS. And I never properly celebrated with you all when Kelly Sonnack became my agent in April.
4. I have 1000 followers on Twitter. Woo!

What am I giving away? How about:
1. TWO thorough but kind chapter critiques from me. 20-page limit.
2. TWO YA books. Hardcopy editions of ENTWINED and DIVERGENT.

HOW TO ENTER: Easy to do
1. Be a follower of this blog.
2. Leave a comment below or email me at artzicarol [at] gmail [dot] com. If you just want to comment and NOT enter, please say so.
3. Enter by next Tuesday, September 13, at midnight PST.
4. FOUR random winners will be chosen and announced Wednesday, September 14.
5. Extra entries (leave links) for spreading the word on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, etc.

[Sorry, the winning/shipping of the books are only offered to US and Canadian blogger buddies, BUT the critiques are open internationally.]

Have you read DIVERGENT yet? How about ENTWINED?
Do you have a chapter of a manuscript ready to be critiqued, to enter for this?
(No worries if not--if you win, I'll take a rain check for whenever you DO finish.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Got Romance?

Last week I mentioned using humor in writing, and this week I'm focusing on ROMANCE. You know, the hand-holding, smooch-swapping, swoon-inducing parts of a story or novel.

It's true that in general, females read more than males; statistics prove it. There's also no denying the popularity of straight-out romance novels, whether mainstream, erotic (bodice-rippers), or Christian-themed. I admit that in college I read Harlequin romances, although then they were probably more tame than nowadays. You may know the formulaic plot: girl meets guy, girl hates guy for varying (and often superficial) reasons, girl falls for guy against her will, girl adores guy until it's finally mutual, and then they live happily ever after.

Despite that formula, I had a friend who actually read the END of romance novels to make sure they ended happily, before she'd read the books!

There are also books or stories where the romance is not the whole plot, but a subplot. The percentage of romance subplot varies from book to book. Paranormal romance novels take romance a step further by combining two genres, weaving a tale of romance between a character and a paranormal being. A girl falls in love with a fairy king or a fallen angel or a ghost or a werewolf or a vampire or a merman or a goblin king…etc. TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer is of course a famous example, as is SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater. Not to mention FALLEN and HUSH, HUSH.

In my own writing, I tend to include at least some romance, because I'm writing YA. When I was a teen, that was one of my favorite parts of a novel (was it yours?). The fun part of writing and developing characters is their interactions with each other, and quite often that works naturally into a romance.

Writing romantic scenes can be challenging. There is a risk of sounding melodramatic, cheesy, sappy, or even ridiculous. That first moment the hands touch, the first time a couple kisses--it can all be overdone as the electric tingles run down the arms, the lips press firmly together, and the arms clasp around each other's backs.

Ah, exquisitely true love! Um…yeah.

Especially be aware (and beware) of adverbs while writing romantic scenes. They not only Tell instead of show, they often give the prose a distant or melodramatic flair. Don't wax too poetic in these spots--especially if your prose or voice isn't that way during the rest of the novel. And don't strain too hard to be original, so much that you perform outrageous literary feats with your metaphors and similes. Often, simpler is better. It's a tough balance between too much attention or description, and not enough. Sometimes I write my rough drafts and cringe when I return to them!

Have you ever written a straight-out, pure romance book?
Do you feel confident writing romantic scenes into your novel or story?
On a scale of 1 to 10 (1=lowest), how important do you feel romance is in a novel?
Do you think it's more important to include romance in a YA/teen novel, compared to an adult novel?

Come back next Wednesday: BOOK AND CRITIQUE GIVEAWAYS!!