Why writing a book is like creating parallel universes #amwriting

When I was little there was a children’s book I read, and in the book you got to choose what happened next. Such books were not new then, and they are still around now. I saw an adult version of this not very long ago. You know the kind…

Lots of exciting stuff has happened…do you:

Open the door – go to page 64

Turn around and walk away – go to page 72

This got me thinking about the writing process, and how, when we write, we sit out of time, as if we are sitting on the edge of countless parallel universes.

Nobody knows the exact way the book will turn out when they start to write. Writers are always talking about the way characters can surprise them, or how the story can twist itself unexpectedly.

But what about us?

What if we sit down to write a chapter today, would it be the same chapter if we wrote it tomorrow instead? Would it be close, slightly different, or very different? And if it was different, could it shape the entire rest of the book.

Hence my parallel universe reference.

It’s a little mind blowing to think that if you sit down at your keyboard you may write a scene in a completely different way just because you are feeling particularly happy or particularly sad. And what if the phone rings and interrupts you, and when you come back you have decided that a character needs to die, or fall in love, or something else that you had no inkling of before.

It’s in that moment when you decide to stop writing, when you move away from your keyboard for whatever reason that a new parallel universe pops in, like a deck of cards on endless shuffle, or a kaleidoscope shifting sand, you never know exactly how the dice are going to fall until they do fall, or in writing terms, sit back down at your computer. And when you do everything has shifted and you sit down to a different place and a different head space.

Every time we write a story, we could have written a million more.

Would those other variations have been better or worse or just different?

Life too, is full of choices and the consequence of those choices impact everything that comes after, so it seems only fair that our fictitious worlds should be subject to the same whims.

We might think that there are a million stories or a million lives we could have lived, but ultimately there is only one story, just as there is only one passage through our life, and that is the one we choose to write.

Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words. – Mark Twain #amwriting #amediting

Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words. . .

. . .Knowing which words are the wrong words, not so easy.

There is a definite art to editing, as I am constantly reminded when I edit other peoples work. It is so easy to spot problems in their writing, and so hard to spot them in my own.

Succinct word choice, duplicate words or information, reordering sentences, typos and other problems, are all very easy when I am reading someone else’s work. The minute I read my own I become. . .typo blind.

I have adopted a few mitigation strategies to help me to edit my own work. One of my favourites being ‘Text to Speech’ on my computer. This only really helps for small bodies of work. With the best intentions, computer speech sounds like—computer speech—and it can get pretty monotonous if used for too long.

Another favourite, which I use when editing my story, is reading it on my kindle. For some reason putting it in a different format on a different device makes (at least some) of the problems pop out.

Finally, I have a pretty comprehensive checklist that I use to help me find my own personal writing demons.

I am just coming to the pointy end of writing my book, which means the mighty editing process is about to begin. I am always looking for new insights on editing.

So, if you have any tips or techniques I would LOVE to hear from you.

What works for you? What doesn’t work?

If you have written your own blog posts on the topic, or know any good sites PLEASE drop a link below.

All help gratefully received 🙂

 

 

Writing stories is my way of scratching that itch #amwriting

Writing stories is my way of scratching that itch: my escape from the claustrophobia of individuality. It lets me, at least for a while, live more than one life, walk more than one path. Reading, of course, can do the same.

Emma Donoghue

Navigating NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books #amreading #scifi #fantasy

A truly epic infographic for finding a scifi / fantasy book based on your personal preferences 🙂

For an Interactive guide click here [An Interactive Guide to NPR’s List of Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books]

Source [Click here] Full size [Click here]

Quick and easy passive voice fix #amwriting

We all know passive voice should be used sparingly if we don’t want to send our reader to sleep. The passive voice often makes sentences unnecessarily wordy, and can distance the reader from the action.

Here is a real quick and easy way to eliminate the passive voice.

Let’s look at a passive example:

The cat was chased by the dog.

There are 3 parts to the sentence:

  • Who or what is performing the action? > the dog.
  • What is the action? This is the verb (or doing word). > was chased
  • Who or what is being acted upon. > the cat

How to eliminate the passive voice? Alway put who or what is performing the action at the start of the sentence.

The cat was chased by the dog…becomes…The dog chased the cat.

The resulting sentence is shorter and clearer.

Tip! 

  • The easiest way to spot this is to search for passive forms of the verb ‘to be’

     (is, are, am, was, were, has been, have been, will be, will have been, being)

  • and then look for the past participle 

     (usually, but not always, verbs with ‘ed’ at the end).

In my example the action part of the sentence – was chased – indicated a passive voice.

More Tips!

  1. I tend to mostly find: is, are, am, and will be/ will have been in dialog so I focus on searching for: waswerehas been, have been, being.
  2. Not every sentence needs fixing or has something to fix. For example Tim is a great painter is not passive, nor does it need fixing. (Passive Voice Myths)
  3. Sometimes you want to be passive. For example if you want to empahsise the thing being acted upon, or the actor (doing the action) is unimportant or unknown.
  4. If you use the passive voice – know you are using it and why.

Winks by Blinkist…the extreme art of condensing fiction (link) #amreading

If you have never heard of blinkist, it’s an app that distills factual book down in the bare minimum ingredients called blinks.

I tried it once, and to be honest, decided that I like the long winded approach to reading even factual books. But I know a few people who swear by it, and reckon it’s a great way of skimming factual books if you’re time poor, and even use it as a preview to buying the full book.

Some crazy people out there have been asking for a fiction book equivalent…and so…here’s some extremely condensed versions of famous fiction books, enjoy  🙂

Winks by Blinkist