About Once Upon a Word: We're a large group of multi-talented authors working together, to bring you the best romances. Please, stop by our websites and check out what we've been up to: Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery and Victory Tales Press.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

BREAKING the RULES by Linda Swift

There is an old adage that "Rules are made to be broken" and I would only add "sometimes." This truth is never more evident to me than in my writing. I understand that rules are made for a reason and breaking them can result in dire consequences. However, writing is a creative process and sticking to the "rules" can place constraints on creativity that can kill a story.
Each genre has its own set of rules and woe be unto the author who breaks them. This is often seen as ignorance on the part of the person writing. It is also used to differentiate a beginner from a professional. I think it is very important to know the rules in order to break them when it serves our needs best.
Short stories are a good example. Because of their brevity, every word counts and every act must serve a purpose. More than one character is generally needed to move the story forward. One of my first stories, Winner Take All, had only one character and a creeping vine. It   was awarded the Fiction Skills Scholarship at Indiana U. Writers' Conference, competing with stories from all over the US. At the opposite extreme, another early short story, The Good News, had thirteen characters with no clear-cut protagonist. It won the Ball State U. Workshop's Short Story award. I still remember the judge's words when she presented the award.  "Linda Swift has broken all the rules for a short story and it worked." (Both books are now available as ebooks and are part of a collection in print or ebook titled Take Five.) http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Books+by+Linda+Swift

We are admonished to give real historical figures only walk-on parts in our books and never to put words in their mouths. But when I wrote Maid of the Midlands, Mary Queen of Scots insisted on talking! I had "absorbed" an authentic non-fiction book of her entire life, written by an impeccable source, and her thoughts and words came to me as easily as if I were inside her head. We are also told to use dialect very sparingly--speaking a few words or phrases and then letting the reader's imagination fill in from that point. I used the dialect, as I understood it to be spoken, throughout the book. Then I became concerned that it might be too much so I asked the editor how she felt about it. She said it hadn't bothered her at all. Later, due to this publisher's sale, it went to another publisher and editor. This one was very discriminating and spoke English and French, as well as "American." When questioned about the dialect, she asked, "What dialect? I didn't notice it." Another rule broken with good results.

It is written in stone that all romances must have the proverbial "happy ever after" ending. I had a story that did not fit the HEA mold. So I wrote it the way it had to be and a publisher bought it the first time submitted. This story has been given great reviews by all who have read it. To Those Who Wait is currently out of print but I plan to revive it again.

Then there is the rule about the hero and heroine meeting in Chapter One, (some rules even require in the first three pages). The two main characters in my Civil War novel, This Time Forever, did not meet until Chapter Eight (Page 90 of  256 total pages). My agent had difficulty placing the book, partly because in 2000 the Civil War was not a popular subject for romance books. He felt the H&H not being together sooner in the story might be part of the problem and asked me to begin the story where they met in Chapter Eight. I complied  and added a Prologue to briefly summarize the first seven chapters. Submissions continued to meet rejections. Then, just before the beginning of the Civil War Sesquicentennial commemoration, I put the book back together again (having left my agent) and submitted it to a Canadian publisher who accepted it without question. There is irony in the fact that this very "American" story found its first home in another country. And now in its home with Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery, it has found the most success of all my books. It has also been adapted into a film titled Clarissa's War, soon to be available as a DVD and VIMEO.

So the moral to this post is: Know the rules. Break the rules if it seems the right thing to do. Listen to your characters. Listen to your heart. You will learn the truth and the truth will make you free--free to write the story that was meant to be.

An excerpt from This Time Forever, Chapter 8, when Clarissa and Philip finally meet:

Clarissa was the last to join the group at the foot of the curved stairway where Josiah was completing the introductions of the other women. "And this is my daughter-in-law, Mrs. Clarissa Wakefield. Ladies, may I present Lieutenant Johnson and Captain Burke?"
Clarissa made a slight curtsto the lieutenant as he took her proffered hand and bowed politely. "My pleasure, madam."
Then she extended her hand part way toward the captain before she saw that he wore a faded Federal uniform. She stopped and glanced uncertainly at Lieutenant Johnson.
"Captain Burke is a Confederate prisoner, ma'am," he told her, "but you have nothing to fear. He is also a surgeon and will be in charge of the hospital here."
"Oh, I see." Unsure what protocol dictated, again she tentatively extended her hand. It was taken with a touch so gentle she would not have felt it except for the tremor which passed between them at the contact, causing her to look up into the most penetrating eyes she had ever seen.
For a long moment they stood, warm brown eyes lost in the depths of cool deep blue, then the captain made a visible effort to break the spell and spoke softly, "Charmed."
Clarissa gave a slight nod of acknowledgement and carefully withdrew her hand. The captain was tall and lean; his dark beard didn't quite conceal the hollows of his cheeks and some force she had never felt before made her want to reach out and smooth the weary lines from his handsome face.

* See all of my books in many genres here:

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Clean Writing--The "Avoids" by Celia Yeary @celiayeary @ rebeccajvickery

No, not that kind. My stories do have some sensual interaction between the hero and heroine, but not so little I could call them “clean.”

Instead, I’m referring to the structure of sentences and paragraphs. I know. A bit boring.
However, writing science research papers taught me the process of clean writing—manuscripts free of too many useless words. "Just the facts, ma'am." As a result, my first fiction manuscript was a failure. The editor said my writing sounded like a textbook. That sort of hurt, but the statement opened a floodgate of words that's still gushing. I could use adjectives! And adverbs! And descriptions! But also…too many useless words and phrases.

Still, I absolutely love to embellish sentences with adjectives, adverbs, and well…a long list of writing errors. If I remove the useless words in the previous sentence, I think it reads like a textbook. Where is that fine line?

AVOID USELESS WORDS: We consider good writing concise, vigorous, and active. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, as a machine should contain no extra parts. Fine idea. But an automobile is a machine.
The first cars were little more than a buggy with an engine attached. They were unattractive and uncomfortable, built with only the necessary parts.
2016 Infiniti
The automobiles today contain endless useless parts, but we buy them because of those extra appealing upholsteries and gadgets.

I do agree, though, certain useless words or phrases need to go.
1."there is no doubt but that" should be "no doubt" or "doubtless"
2."this is a subject that" should be "this subject"
3."the reason why is that" should be "because"
4."owing to the fact that" should be "since" or "because"
5."he is a man who" should be "he"
(Hint: One quick way to clean a ms of useless words is to highlight the word “that” throughout. You’ll learn it usually is an unnecessary word, in addition to showing other useless words.

AVOID USE OF QUALIFIERS: A qualifier is a word or a word group that limits the meaning of another word or word group. The worst offenders are rather, very, little, and pretty.
"I should do pretty well on the exam, for I am a rather brilliant student, but if I make very many mistakes, I'll try to do a little better."

AVOID LOOSE SENTENCES: A loose sentence is one consisting of two clauses, the second introduced by a conjunction or relative. Too many loose sentences in one paragraph will sound mechanical and singsong. The compound sentence is the framework of writing, when used wisely and sparingly.
How NOT to:
"The last concert of the season was given last night, and the hall was filled to capacity. Jane Doe was the soloist, and John Smith accompanied her on the piano. She proved to be quite capable, while he performed admirably. The concert series has been successful, and the committee was gratified. The committee will plan for next year's programs, and they will offer an equally attractive program."

Blech! Recently, I tried to read a book written exactly as this example. Pages and pages of compound sentences. Notice, I tried to read the story.

Today's subject reminded me of edits on one of my early contemporary novels. A kind editor—in so many words--told me: You begin too many sentences with well, now, so, or why. (She had counted how many times I began a sentence with “well.” Ninety-seven times. I was embarrassed, but learned a lesson)
In some cases, these words are acceptable, especially when included in dialogue. Southern people talk this way, but in narration, use sparingly.
This made sense, because when I talk with a friend—on-line or face to face—those little words pop up all the time.
"What did she say when you said her hair was orange?"
"Well, first she stared. Then her eyes sort of bugged out, and before I knew it, why, she started bawling."
"Oh, my goodness. Now, here's what you should have said, darlin'. You just do not want to make her any madder."
"So, what should I have said?"

And so, well, I need to bring this post to a halt. I need to make a little lunch, because the fact is that my husband is mowing this morning, and he'll be starving. There's no doubt, though, that he won't say an unkind word to me if lunch if just a little late.(If you can edit this paragraph, you will receive an A+)
“Three of my Re-edited novels with more attractive covers”--
Each now at 99cents
Thanks to Laura Shinn

Thank you for visiting Once Upon a Word.
All my books may be found on Amazon—see link below.
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Trying to get organized.....

Yep, that's been my goal for this year. Has it worked out??

Well, somewhat.

I don't know how many of your are pantsers or plotters. Me, I'm a bit of both. I seem to find that my writing flows better if my life is not cluttered. So for that reason, I purchased a large bound notebook from Barnes and Nobles. Yeah, you know the pretty ones with the designs on the covers. (Writers OCD differently kicked in) I spent time creating a grid calendar for each month complete with notes section, what I should be working on, what I submitted, and process of edits.

I keep it laid out on my desk and consult it daily to make sure my progress is being made. Sometimes I make notes to remind myself to stop chasing squirrels and keep on target. Usually I note each day my daily progress on manuscripts. For me it works.

Then, a writer friend introduced me to Microsoft's One Note. Can I tell you I fell in love. You can create you own Notebooks, link it to an email, and retrieve it on laptops, tablets, even phones. Notebooks can contain a multitude of pages, excel sheets, maps, drawings....for those of you with surface tablets it can be a life saver when looking for your character descriptions or working on that dreaded synopsis. I love the ease of the program. I'm not very tech savvy so something simple makes it better for me. Best of all, the program was free. Yep of course they want you to try another product, but that's your choice.

Will I still keep my paper/pencil notebooks? For sure. I need that constant touch, but I'm digging these electronic feature. Each of my future stories will have their own color coded notebook filled with pictures and descriptions able to be retrieved at a moments notice. Which reminds me, time to go to the Sunday paper and look at the ads, I'm sure there's a tablet just waiting for me, so I don't have to lug my notebooks to work. :o)

Happy Writing...


For information on One Note, please feel free to use the link below and check out their tutorial video.