Tag Archives: helpful writing tips

#MondayBlogs: The Importance of Setting in a Novel

2 Feb

Intro:

Monday has reached us again, and today brings us another guest blogger. Today, I am pleased to announce Tara Mayoros, author of Broken Smiles. This well-traveled writer has written a wonderful post about the importance of setting in a novel, and her writing tips are sure to stay with us the next time we pick a location for our stories.

The Importance of Setting in a Novel 

Write what you know. How many times have I heard that? Oh man, probably at every conference I have ever gone to, multiple times.

know setting.

Long before I was ever an author, I would surround myself in settings which filled my soul with wonder. I would cover my limbs and face with autumn leaves to feel the smell. I would spend many nights under the stars, listening to the scurrying of little animals and the sounds of wind applauding my appreciation through the trees. The stillness would settle in my heart and when I began to bring pen and paper with me to different settings, my world became magical.

To me, setting should breathe like a character. It isn’t just streets, buildings, and names of towns — it is the lifeblood which weaves your characters and plot together. It shouldn’t be tacked in, but rather an integral part of the story. It grounds the reader.

It should also ground the author. The author carries the responsibility to bring details that are often overlooked. Especially, in my opinion, when it comes to nature.

Image-3

Pilot and Index Peak – Cooke City, Montana

Recently, I returned from a long trip through Montana and Yellowstone. I have visited many times and even lived there at one point. Those wild, rustic places are some of my favorite spots in the world and I felt the heavy burden to show my love for it in one of my novels. I hadn’t been up there for over a dozen years and I started creating the setting for my novel through memory. When I had finished my book, I was satisfied. But something tugged at me to visit those places again. Either my wild heart, or the pull to immerse myself in those mountains.

Arming myself with laptop, pens and journals, I was ready to take my story to battle and add details that were missing and change a few things. I was surprised when I came home and realized that I had never even written one word when I had surrounded myself in the nature I so dearly love. Why? It wasn’t a conscious decision by any means, but looking back, my body and soul yearned to feel the lifeblood of the setting. I didn’t need to muddle it with words, I needed to experience it and let the setting wash through me.

In this world where setting and placement are so often overlooked or replaced with handheld devices that capture our attention, authors need to work harder to ground the reader. We need to scream at our readers to notice detail. It breaks my heart every time I see someone surrounded by stunning scenery and their faces are aglow with the pale light of a handheld device.

Here are a few ways you can bring your setting to life in your novel, followed by some examples I have written.

*Be specific – it isn’t only a flower, describe the details. example: The vibrant purple petals stretched beneath an indigo hat which drooped over a white lip and a yellow bearded pouch.(Calypso Orchid)

*Sprinkle in similes and metaphors to connect – example: His temper was like a loose cannon. It could explode at any given time and I would be the set target.

*Use the senses; sight, sound, smell, taste, feel – This one is huge! I love to incorporate the senses. – example: My stomach was empty, which was good, because the smell hit me, and I heaved once more against the vacant remains of my belly. The putrid, decaying stench of rotten flesh made my eyes water.

*Show, don’t tell – instead of stating that its raining, describe the dripping trees, the puddles gathering in the crevices of rock, and the pattering on tin resembling tinkling bells.

Here is an excerpt from my novel contemporary clean romance Broken Smiles. The setting is in China, another one of my favorite places. I hope you can feel my love for it as you read my words.

Here and there rocks were covered with ancient moss. Orchids blossomed spontaneously upon the trees. Vines hung like ropes and twine, twisting upon the rubber and the banyan trees. Bamboo stood proudly against the moonlight, casting shadows that had been the same for thousands of years. Away from big city lights and pollution, it was easy to be transported back in time to ancient China. This land had managed to remain untouched throughout the different emperors and dynasties. As they walked, they passed a small ancient graveyard built against the hillside. The limestone shrines glowed mysteriously in the moonlight. Chinese characters and mini-sculptures were carved in the pale rock. Incense smoldered on the top of an old gravestone…

Thanks for stopping by –

Tara Mayoros

Bio:

As a child, Tara Mayoros moved to Asia with her family where her love of different cultures and travel began. In college she satisfied her wanderlust by moving back to China, filling her head with countless stories, and occasionally writing them down.

Years, marriage, children and many adventures later, she picked up her dusty pen and paper (or laptop) and realized that writing took her to different worlds and gave her the experiences that she yearned for. As an author, artist, baker, music teacher, gardener, and nature lover – she sees the beauty in the process, and the miracle, of creation. The Rocky Mountains are her home and they call to her whenever she finds herself in need of inspiration.

Connect with her: Website, FacebookAmazon, Twitter.

Want to be a guest blogger? Wonderful! I am accepting guest posts that focus on reading and writing. You are allowed a book link in the post as well as in your bio. A picture and a bio are encouraged. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

~SAT

Editing Tips

15 Apr

My publications picture has been updated:

All of my publications. :D

All of my publications. 😀

Thank you for your support. I am looking forward to adding to the collection as time continues forward. I also want to take a moment to thank Taking on a World of Words for uploading the picture below to Instagram. They received Minutes Before Sunset in the mail, and she shared the moment with me. These pictures mean a lot to me, so please check out her website.

instambs

As of right now, I am working on editing my next manuscript. (It’s not Death Before Daylight, but that is coming.) I am looking forward to revealing more details about my next manuscript in the future. However, that day is not today. It is tomorrow. (If that sentence seemed strange, there’s a reason for that. You just read my first hint, and that hint reveals a lot if you’ve been with me for a while…or are willing to search through some posts.)

Aside from that, working on this manuscript has reminded me of some editing techniques I have never shared before. Today, I’m sharing my methods that I consider to be unique. However, I will not be talking about the stereotypical ways to edit: read out loud, read backward, and read it again. Okay. We get it. Read it many times and read it in different ways. Having a beta reader and hiring an editor is obvious. I want to discuss editing beyond this because we neglect the unique methods writers use to rewrite and edit. We always talk about how writers all write differently, but we never talk about how writers edit differently. I will also be sharing comments from my Facebook author page.

So we are starting with a completed manuscript. It is written, and “The End” appears at the bottom. But it’s not the end. It’s the beginning of a new process. Depending on the writer and the story, this can be a place where someone completely rewrites a story or where someone just starts an editing job. I am going to write about editing as if we aren’t doing a complete rewrite. The first piece isn’t unique necessarily, but I need to explain it for the other pieces.

1. Create “Final” Notes

I call it “final” because it means you can’t change it after this. Writers have to make a decision, and they have to stick with it. Personally, I make dozens of “final” pages which I actually keep separate from one another so I don’t mix them up. These pages include a final background page for the characters history, a description page that includes physical, emotional, and habitual uses, and finalized maps, so I can make sure that all of my facts are lined up. On my description pages, I even include things like common speech patterns (like if they call a certain character by a nickname only when they are annoyed.) These pages are pages, not one page or one paragraph. I normally have these before I start writing, but – let’s be honest – things change while we write, so it’s often important to go back and make a clear decision on how old that side character was when she met the protagonist (and I check it every time it is brought up in the story, even if I’m pretty sure I’m right.) In my most recent manuscript, I actually kept numerous description pages, because their descriptions changed halfway through the story, but it’s completely up to you how detailed you want to be. I’m sort of a perfectionist, but I will share a story below that explains why I am that way and how these pages saved me.

2. Shoebox Method

I shared this on my author Facebook page, and that’s where I got the idea to write this blog post. I am not a writer who edits on my laptop. I can’t. I need the physical pages in front of me because I think it makes it easier to see everything. Because of this, I have a stack of papers that I must lug around. Most would suggest a three-hole-punch notebook or a folder. I slam my hand on my desk and scream, “Enough.” (For those who watched my poetry reading on YouTube, you might find that statement humorous.) This is what I use:

edittt

I use a sliding shoebox. I never have to punch holes, number pages, or worry about dropping my folder and causing a paper explosion of a disaster. The shoebox also fits other notes, like a dictionary or my “final” notes I was just talking about. Believe it or not, this is also a fantastic excuse to start a conversation in public with potential readers. Someone is bound to ask you why you have a shoebox with you. Take that minute to share your elevator speech and grab a business card out of your back pocket. You just meet a reader.

3. Love Your Office Supplies: Colored pens, sticky notes, etc.

Now that you have the manuscript in front of you (and hopefully a cup of coffee), you are staring at the black and white words with nervous excitement. I used to just grab a pen and go at it, but that turned out to be a mistake when I went back to see what I changed, moved, or corrected. I never use a black pen to edit. The black pen eventually becomes something my eyes skip over. I use red for grammatical errors I come across, but everything else gets its’ own color, too. For instance, I might assign a blue pen to mistakes in the characters – like if I got their history wrong or even if I want to check it later on – but I used purple when I want to move an entire paragraph or scene somewhere else. When I’m moving something, I use sticky notes to mark the place so I don’t forget. We, as writers, never know when we’ll have to take a break, so it’s best to have all the relevant notes in place for when we return. We can’t tell ourselves we will remember because we won’t always remember. Think of all those great ideas we had when we were away from our computers that we later cursed ourselves for because we didn’t write it down. You don’t want this to happen while you’re editing, so write away and write a lot. When I am moving a scene, I even put a check box next to it, so I can check it once I move it.

4. Act Your Scenes Out

Now, if you read my Facebook author page, author, Ryan Attard, said, “Read out loud. Act it out. If it FEELS right, then you’re set. Then, it’s just rereading to correct content.” I love that he said this because I participate in this in many ways. If you want to read more about it, I wrote Writing Tips: Method Acting a while back. I scream my dialogue at myself in the car. I jump around my room and pretend to be different characters. I use place-holders to see if the scenes work, meaning if the characters are facing in the correct directions. (This is where my maps come in handy.) I wouldn’t want my character to storm away to the kitchen by turning to the left when the kitchen should be to his right. Little things like this can matter. For instance, I had a reader realize that the kitchen in the Welborn house is on the second floor during the second novel, Seconds Before Sunrise. She actually went back to the first book, Minutes Before Sunset, to check it and found out that she had read over the information but it was there. If I had changed it, she would’ve caught it, and that would’ve looked like the world wasn’t real.

5. Here are some other answers from authors on my Facebook Author Page:

Join me on FB, and your website might be shared next!

Join me on FB, and your website might be shared next!

I asked, “Do you have any unique ways of editing? What makes it unique? How do you approach editing? This can be a content edit or a grammatical edit.” And here are some responses:

Anthony Stevens: After one or two content edits, where I try to assure a logical flow to the tale, I give it at least two days (sometimes a week) to simmer. When I’m ready, I take my time and slowly read it outloud to myself. Anytime I find myself stuttering or it just doesn’t sound right, I drop back a few paragraphs and try to sort out the problem. It has to sound right out loud before I’ll continue.

Nadia Skye NolanI have an editing checklist. It reminds me to eliminate passive voice and taglines as well as “Lazy descriptors.” I go through my writing and just cut away all the fluff, then I turn it over to my friends and family.

Alexis Danielle Allinson: I do the first couple of edits to weed out errors in my story line, add detail and such. Then I hand it to an editor who doesn’t balk about giving me his 2 cents worth so that the story can be better. We sometimes have lengthy discussions about things I have not written yet because he points out that even though each novel I write is its own story they are all interconnected and if I don’t have it plotted just right I will create a paradox that fan will never forgive me for.

Do you have any methods that stand out? Any advice? Be sure to share below. You might even win a chance to become a guest blogger.

~SAT

%d bloggers like this: