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Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

Postby glorybee » Sat Oct 12, 2013 9:41 am

amilli wrote:Here's a question: In writing an article or a story etc, it is wrong to talk to your readers? Using word's such as: "what do you think?" or "you be the judge of that" or "take a walk with me down memory lane" etc.


Amelia, that's not a black-and-white question, and I can think of several different circumstances.

If you're writing a certain types of nonfiction pieces, you may address your readers often. Devotionals and Bible studies, for example, frequently suggest actions directly to their readers.

Other types of nonfiction--research papers, journalistic articles and the like--have strict admonitions against using personal pronouns or addressing the reader.

In fiction, it really depends on the voice of that particular piece. If it fits with the mood and the tone of that particular piece, there's no reason no to. I wouldn't encourage you to do it if it "breaks the wall," bringing the reader out of the world of your story.

I found an example of one story in in the Writing Challenge in which I addressed the reader; you can find it here.

However, I'd be very careful about slipping into 2nd person in the middle of an otherwise 1st or 3rd person narrative. For example, I've read things like:

Jan's cabin had that smell that reminds you of your grandmother's house.

Since the writer has no idea what my grandmother's house smelled like, she shouldn't have phrased it that way. Maybe my grandmother was a heavy smoker, while the writer was going for baking bread. It should have been written more like:

Jan's cabin had that smell of baking bread and liniment--like the home of a kindly grandmother.

Let me know if you have any follow-up questions!
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

Postby glorybee » Sat Oct 12, 2013 9:52 am

yarra wrote:When writing dialogue and putting the 'she said' part in the middle, should the second part start with a capital or a small letter? Eg:

"Put that knife down," yelled Dan, "Or I'll call the police."
OR "Put that knife down," yelled Dan, 'or I'll call the police."
Thanks, Ellen


Ellen, I'd love to belong to a book club! Unfortunately, in my tiny town, there's not enough interest.

The answer to your question depends on what the 'she said' part is in the middle of. If the dialogue tag interrupts a sentence, then the second part does not get a capital letter:

"I love cats," said Jan, "but I hate hairballs."

But if you have a dialogue tag between two complete sentences, you'd capitalize the first letter after the tag.

"I love cats," said Jan. "They're so independent and comical."

Note also that in the second instance, I've put a period after Jan.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

Postby choosingjoy » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:45 am

Good morning,

This has been an enjoyable topic. I have been interested in what people enjoy reading. Personally, I read both nonfiction and fiction, but to really relax and treat myself, I need :) fiction. While I do read some secular, I like good Christian fiction, and our public library now stocks hundreds of paperbacks in a special Christian fiction section. Some of it is great, some not so good! I've learned to watch for certain author's names. I do enjoy those which are somewhat historical fiction, without too much description, or too much churchy talk.

Jan, please define literary fiction for me. I really don't quite know what that means, :oops: nor how to differentiate it from other kinds.

Blessings, Christian Writers and Friends!
A child of the King!
Genia

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

Postby glorybee » Sat Oct 12, 2013 11:01 am

choosingjoy wrote:
Jan, please define literary fiction for me. I really don't quite know what that means, :oops: nor how to differentiate it from other kinds.

Blessings, Christian Writers and Friends!


Thanks, Genia!

This thread has gotten pretty lengthy, so rather than sending you on a scavenger hunt through the thread, I'll cut and paste my answer to Lillian on the same question:

Genre fiction is the stuff that you can identify by its shelf in the bookstore: Romance, Mystery, Chick Lit, Sci Fi, Horror, Police Procedural, Historical, Fantasy--that sort of thing. To some extent, the books within the genres follow a certain predictable plot line: in a romance, for example, a gal meets a fellow...they dislike each other but are drawn to each other...there is a crisis or a misunderstanding that drives them apart, even as their attraction increases...the crisis is resolved in such a way that they can acknowledge their love at the end.

The other genres also have their own expected character types, plot devices, and so on. Readers read these types of novels because they LIKE the formula, and publishers look for books that do not deviate substantially from it.

Literary fiction is typically driven more by character development than by plot, and there is no set direction that the plot must take. It's more likely to be written from a unique POV or by using some unusual voice or writing style. Literary fiction can be written in any of the genres; a literary novel may have romantic elements, for example, or a police investigation. But it does not fit any expected formula, nor are its characters typical.

That was totally off the top of my head; googling "literary fiction" may shed more light on this difficult-to-define term.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

Postby lish1936 » Sat Oct 12, 2013 11:24 am

Jan wrote:In this sentence, you'd use a lower case. Here's how you can tell: if you made it a capital letter, you'd end up with a sentence fragment.


And what about this one, Jan?

"There's nothing wrong with me," she responded to my question.

Since "she responded to my question" is not a fragment, should the "She" be capitalized?

Thanks,

Lillian
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

Postby glorybee » Sat Oct 12, 2013 11:32 am

lish1936 wrote:
Jan wrote:In this sentence, you'd use a lower case. Here's how you can tell: if you made it a capital letter, you'd end up with a sentence fragment.


And what about this one, Jan?

"There's nothing wrong with me," she responded to my question.

Since "she responded to my question" is not a fragment, should the "She" be capitalized?

Thanks,

Lillian


No, because it's a continuation of a complete sentence. I think it's a bit awkward, though; I'd have written it like this:

"There's nothing wrong with me," she responded. (to my question seems redundant)

However, take a look at this one:

"There's nothing wrong with me." She turned a shoulder to me.

In that case, you'd use a period and a capital letter. The difference is the verb of the second sentence. If the verb is 'said' or any synonym for 'said,' then use a comma and a lower case letter. If the verb indicates some other action than speaking, then use a period and a capital letter.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

Postby lish1936 » Sat Oct 12, 2013 11:53 am

Jan wrote:In that case, you'd use a period and a capital letter. The difference is the verb of the second sentence. If the verb is 'said' or any synonym for 'said,' then use a comma and a lower case letter. If the verb indicates some other action than speaking, then use a period and a capital letter.



Ah! Now I have a simple formula that removes the guesswork. Bless you, Jan, for freely sharing your time and professional expertise.

:thankssign :thankssign :thankssign Lillian

I wish I'd asked this earlier, before I submitted my devotional. Should it be chosen, and you read it, please know it was written before this post.:-)
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"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

Postby yarra » Sun Oct 13, 2013 7:06 am

Thanks, Jan, for your answer to my question. Most helpful, thanks.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

Postby amilli » Sun Oct 13, 2013 12:56 pm

glorybee wrote:
amilli wrote:Here's a question: In writing an article or a story etc, it is wrong to talk to your readers? Using word's such as: "what do you think?" or "you be the judge of that" or "take a walk with me down memory lane" etc.


Amelia, that's not a black-and-white question, and I can think of several different circumstances.

If you're writing a certain types of nonfiction pieces, you may address your readers often. Devotionals and Bible studies, for example, frequently suggest actions directly to their readers.

Other types of nonfiction--research papers, journalistic articles and the like--have strict admonitions against using personal pronouns or addressing the reader.

In fiction, it really depends on the voice of that particular piece. If it fits with the mood and the tone of that particular piece, there's no reason no to. I wouldn't encourage you to do it if it "breaks the wall," bringing the reader out of the world of your story.

I found an example of one story in in the Writing Challenge in which I addressed the reader; you can find it here.

However, I'd be very careful about slipping into 2nd person in the middle of an otherwise 1st or 3rd person narrative. For example, I've read things like:

Jan's cabin had that smell that reminds you of your grandmother's house.

Since the writer has no idea what my grandmother's house smelled like, she shouldn't have phrased it that way. Maybe my grandmother was a heavy smoker, while the writer was going for baking bread. It should have been written more like:

Jan's cabin had that smell of baking bread and liniment--like the home of a kindly grandmother.

Let me know if you have any follow-up questions!


Yes I know that such writing has no place in academic writings or the likes. I was looking more towards the writing challenge & fictional stories. I saw one entry & a reply that said it's a not a good idea to talk to the readers, it really sparked my interest.It's in the last challenge & a winner hasn't been announced as yet so am not sure if I can direct you there.
But through out the story it was like having the reader in the room. She asked questions that allows the readers to draw their own conclusion, yet the story was tied together beautifully and had a conflict and a resolution.
Amelia

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

Postby glorybee » Sun Oct 13, 2013 1:18 pm

Amelia, it's probably best not to link to it without the writer's permission; not everyone is comfortable with having their work discussed on this forum.

But I'll elaborate on my response: There's a big difference between addressing the reader by intentionally "breaking the fourth wall," and slipping into 2nd person unintentionally. Here's an example of the first one:

You know that feeling when you feel like you're being watched? I felt that the other day, and I checked over my shoulder several times the morning. No one was there, but I couldn't shake it. You know what I'm talking about, don't you?

And here's an example of the second--there's a commercial I've seen a few times for a skin care product. The voiceover says: "I used [product] for a week, and when I woke up in the morning, your skin's as clear as a baby's."

The first example was written with a clear intention to give the narrator a specific voice, and to draw in the reader as if they were having a conversation. The second is just wrong.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

Postby amilli » Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:57 pm

Yes I agree with your response... Guess my question was if the 1st one is wrong...but you've answered me. Once the narrator purposefully include the reader, as in a conversation, then it's accepted. :thankssign
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Re: Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

Postby LookingUp » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:04 pm

Dear Jan,

You mentioned that you were answering questions for a week, so if you're not taking time for more of them, I'll totally understand. (I'm a new member and wasn't here last week)

Anyway, if you have time, here's a bit of background to my question. I'm a wanna-be author with a suspense novel in progress. My favorite author just came out with a new book and I was shocked to find that her book starts out almost exactly like the one I'm working on. While her plot eventually develops in a different direction, the similarities are uncanny. (Of course, hers is much better!) I'm in a quandary about whether to junk mine or try to rewrite.

My actual question: Since there's nothing new under the sun, how can writers determine if their work is original and unique enough to escape copy-cat labels?

Thanks,
Becky

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

Postby glorybee » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:54 pm

LookingUp wrote:Dear Jan,

You mentioned that you were answering questions for a week, so if you're not taking time for more of them, I'll totally understand. (I'm a new member and wasn't here last week)

Anyway, if you have time, here's a bit of background to my question. I'm a wanna-be author with a suspense novel in progress. My favorite author just came out with a new book and I was shocked to find that her book starts out almost exactly like the one I'm working on. While her plot eventually develops in a different direction, the similarities are uncanny. (Of course, hers is much better!) I'm in a quandary about whether to junk mine or try to rewrite.

My actual question: Since there's nothing new under the sun, how can writers determine if their work is original and unique enough to escape copy-cat labels?

Thanks,
Becky


Becky, that's a great question, but I'm afraid I won't be of much help to you. The publishing end of the writing business isn't really my area of expertise. However, I'll share my thoughts, and invite others to weigh in, if they read this.

First of all--especially in genre fiction, there may indeed be nothing new under the sun. I'm sure that if someone were to undertake some sort of vast database with plot points, characters, settings, etc.--there would be very little that was unique to only one work. And writers can't be expected to be familiar with everything that's out there; it's conceivable that you might have completed your MS without ever reading the other book, and that people who eventually read both might have thought, "Oh, these two books have a similar beginning, but they're really totally different."

But of course, you want your own book to stand on its own, and not to be compared with the work of another writer. You certainly don't want be be accused of "borrowing" too liberally from another's work, but even if that doesn't happen, you also want your work to stand on its own. So my suggestion--since your novel is still in-progress--is to do some re-working of the beginning. It's not too late, and you don't want to have a scenario where you plug your novel to an agent or publisher only to have them say, "too much like [other author]."

As to your more general question:

LookingUp wrote:Since there's nothing new under the sun, how can writers determine if their work is original and unique enough to escape copy-cat labels?


There's really no way to do this, unless you have unlimited time to read every book in your genre, and unlimited recall of every detail. The best you can do is to read a lot, to be very familiar with the expected characters, plot details, settings, etc. for your genre, and then to search diligently for ways to make everything else out-of-the box.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

Postby Mike Newman » Tue Oct 15, 2013 10:55 pm

Borrow heavily, and then make it your own.

Oscar Wilde knew of that which he spoke.

I know it's not what happened in your case, but I would have no qualms about the beginning being similar. I would revise with an eye to turning enough inconsequential details away from the other narrative, but I wouldn't sweat it. If your writing is good, it will not be an issue.

Mike

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Re: Be a Better Writer--ASK AN EDITOR/WRITER/Etc.

Postby LookingUp » Wed Oct 16, 2013 12:38 am

Thanks so much, Jan and Mike. I'm leaving this day more encouraged than when I started it. Now to see if I can take your advice and do something with it!

Thanks, again :D
Becky

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