"Getting published is easy. Writing well is what's hard."-Gary Provost, Make Your Words Work.
"In the long run, you learn rules only to deviate from them." -Dwight Swain, Techniques of the Selling Writer.
Powerful words are strong, active and tight. Use these easy lessons to take your prose to the next level.
1. Strong Words
Use Strong Words-"Don't use weak general verbs like walk, cry, fall and touch if the situation calls for plod, weep, collapse, and caress." -Make Your Words Work.
"Substitute Action for Adverbs"-Techniques of the Selling Writer.
The dog suddenly jumped on the mailman. Becomes: The dog pounced on the mailman.
"No," John said angrily. Becomes: "No," John said. His face reddened as he slammed down the stack of books.
Put Emphatic Words at the End of the Sentence.-Make Your Words Work.
Don't let important words get lost in your sentences!
Tara called Mick and said she wanted to elope tonight, instead of waiting for Valentine's Day.
Sunday Mary Cooper will demonstrate how to properly bake strudel at the next cooking class meeting.
2. Active versus Passive
There are times when passive voice is appropriate, but in general active voice is less wordy, crisper and has more energy.
"The ones you want are the active ones-the verbs that show something happening. Specifically, the verb to be is weak, in all its shapes forms and sizes."-Techniques of the Selling Writer.
"A verb in the passive voice voice contains a form of the verb "be" (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) plus the past participle of the main verb.
Shall, will, have, has, had, are used in addition to "be" and the past participle of a main verb in forming the future tense and the perfect tenses. Any verb that contains a form of "be" and a past participle is a passive verb." -The Handbook of Grammar and Composition.
Miranda kicked her cheating boyfriend. (active)
Her cheating boyfriend was kicked by Miranda. (passive)
In an active sentence the subjects...ACTS!
3. Tight Writing versus Wasted Words
Strive for tight, clear writing and eliminate:
Wasted Words:"Extra words that serve no purpose and slow your writing down."-Make Your Words Work
In Write Tight, William Brohaugh describes these as "empty modifiers that sap power from your writing.
Examples: very, extremely, really, generally, usually, basically, awfully, actually, literally, kind of, rather, pretty much, quite, a bit, certainly, essentially, mostly, somewhat.
Redundancies-"When you use two or more words to say something that is already being clearly said by one of them."-Make Your Words Work
Example: red in color, long necked-giraffe.
See the Grammar Queen's recent in-depth post on this topic.
Techniques to Take Your Writing To the Next Level
1. Telling Verbs. Telling verbs prevent reader intimacy. Eliminate them when possible. By tweaking your words you can create deep point of view, show instead of tell, energize your prose and put the reader in the story.
Examples: She wondered. She watched. She glanced. She felt.
Instead, let your words show what is happening or being thought.
She wondered if Jed really cared. Becomes: Did Jed even care about her?
She felt sick. Becomes: Her stomach cramped in nauseous waves.
"My mother wants to meet you tomorrow," Jenna said to Tim as she wiped the counter clean, careful to leave the salt and pepper shaker out for breakfast.
"I'm busy," Tim said with a scowl as he stood and shoved the chair into the table.
Tacking on action is not only confusing, and lazy, but waters down the sentence and often important information is lost.
His recommendations (paraphrased): "Circle the attributive clauses in your manuscript. Use "said" as your only attributive verb. Rewrite using dialogue and or gestures in a separate sentence to convey the tone."
Read the entire article, The Case for "Said" by Steve Almond here.
A “beat” is a description of the physical action a character makes while speaking, and good beats can bring your characters to life and make your dialogue pop right off the page.
Beats are also a tool to integrate showing instead of telling into your story.
Do yourself a favor and get a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. Read Chapter 7 a good four or five times (Easy Beats), to really understand this writing technique.
4. Details. More important than offering the reader a platter of the five senses or a description of a car as a Honda or a BMW rather than a silver sedan is the why, why, why of the details.
"Know the message the details are sending." -Alicia Rasley,(read the full article here) Details, Details.
Which of these examples can you use to power up your writing?
Comment today for a chance to power up your words with a 10 page critique!
Tina Radcliffe is a mild mannered hermit who writes Inspirational romance for Harlequin Love Inspired as Tina Radcliffe and romantic comedy as Tina Russo. You can find her at www.tinaradcliffe.com
Her latest release from Love Inspired is Mending the Doctor's Heart. Her first Indie release, The Rosetti Curse, will be available late August 2013.
And keep your eyes on the newsstands for Tina's recent romantic short story release to Woman's World Magazine- on-sale date is August 22.
She may look good in black, but Tessa Rosetti is not testing the family curse again. Three generations of women buried the men they love and confirmed Tessa’s belief in the Rosetti Curse.
Los Angeles cop, Thomas Riley, arrives back home in Silver Ridge, Colorado, to settle his grandmother’s estate, but while he's there he stumbles into trouble in the night. If his suspicions are correct, someone's cooking up more than biscotti at the local cookie factory.
Together, Riley and Tessa renew their old bond and battle a curse that leads them on a journey of destiny to the love of a lifetime.
"The Sopranos Meets Fried Green Tomatoes. Loved this book!" -Sharon Sala - author of GOING ONCE - Mira Books - October 2013.
Here's a little Italian pre-release antipasto fun to prepare your tastebuds. Click here.