Monday, September 8, 2008

Do You Know Your ABC's?

This post is a re-run of a July, 2007 post I did. I think these ABC's bear repeating. When I learned Gary's original ABC's (these are very close), I listened to them on tape every morning when I walked my dog. I did this for about two months until they became completely ingrained.
Susan Goodwill
Little Shop of Murders
Susan's Editing ABC's(Homage to Gary Provost's ABC's)

A: Active verbs and active characters

B: Brief, cut, cut, cut KILL YOUR DARLINGS

C: Conflict in every scene (two beating hearts locked in battles large and small, that's conflict.)

D: Description—have your description shown in action. Don't stop the action to describe.

E: Emphasis—put your emphasis at the end of the sentence, and often your emphasis at the end of a paragraph (and shhh—hide your clues in the middle of the sentence).

F: Funny isn't limited to comedy writing. Don't force funny, but it has a place in serious writing.

G: Grammar—know it, but don't sweat it.

H: Heat—turn it up. Keep the tensions and conflicts high and on the page.

I: Intention—Every word serves a purpose. Make every word count and make them say what you mean.

J: Journal: exercise those writing muscles.

K: Keep related words together—don't drink coffee with a jerk (unless that's what you mean.)

L: Lead—does your opening sentence hook them by the nose?

M: Music—listen to the music of your words. Do they flow?

N: Never intrude, make the writer invisible on the page

O: Organize your scenes. You may not have written them in the best order for the cause and effect of your story.

P: Pace: Use more short sentences at high tension moments, and shorter scenes toward the books climax. Fast is slow and slow is fast. Accelerate and abbreviate the slow spots, slow and expand time on the action spots.

Q: Questions: Does your opener make the reader ask a story question? Do your chapter ends? What about at the end of each scene? Is every question answered by the end of the book? Are some questions about the series character left unanswered intentionally?

R: Read your work aloud, the whole book if you can.

S: Style—Make specific word choices that reflect your unique voice. Your character's dialogue should reflect their voices.

T: Transition—"the next morning," "later that day," "back at the ranch." A story isn't everything that happened, it's everything that's important to the story and the reader

U: Up the stakes, milk the tension on every page

V: Verity—Are your characters actions true to their character? Is your story goal true to your heart? Are you telling the truth? Are you telling your character's story?

W: Word choices—Be specific, make them vivid. ("Stumbled," "plodded," "strode" versus "walked.")

X: Exercises—do your writing exercises, find your characters through free-writes and prompts.
Y: You and the reader write the story together. Writing less words will allow your reader to write with you inside her head.

Z: Zeeeeee end!!!!


Mark Combes said...

I wish "Z" came earlier in the alphabet.....

What is that Mark Twain said? "I prefer to HAVE WRITTEN to writing."

Susan Goodwill said...

I know. Personally, I prefer the editing part of the job which requires that pesky 'writing' part first.

Anonymous said...

Susan, thank you for posting these! I attended a few conferences back in the 80s that Gary spoke at. I know that he used to write romance novels under a pseudonym but I could never find out what it was. Even Barbara Delinsky didn't know what it was at that time. Does anyone here know?

Anonymous said...

Have you read anything by Saramago? There's a (Nobel-winning) writer who intrudes on every page.

Susan Goodwill said...

I know Gary's pseudonym was Marion something. That's all I recall.

Anonymous said...

The advice is noted. I enjoyed writing my first draft, but not the rewrite. It is tedious and now I'm ready to move on to other stories and characters.

Anonymous said...

This is wrong on so many levels.