It’s All About Writing – Writing a Series and Keeping It Fresh

Start your New Year with a goal. Write a book series. Authors Pat Sawtelle, Kristi Bradley, and Allan Gilbreath as they cover key things like:

  • Stringing books together
  • Foreshadowing
  • Character traits
  • Genre influence.

Recorded at the Germantown Community Library we encourage you to watch more of our It’s All About Writing Seminars on the Dark Oak Press and Media YouTube channel.

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Show Don’t Tell by Kristi Bradley

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard, “Show don’t tell your story.”

What does that mean?

It means don’t tell us the victim was stabbed, bring her on stage and let the audience hear her scream as the knife slips between her ribs. Another way is to keep adjectives and adverbs (‘ly’ words) to a minimum. Also, do not modify ‘said’ with adverbs. Avoid the word ‘WAS’ and its other forms – am, is, are, will have, have been – as this shows passive voice.

Example:  Instead of – The floor was covered with dirty clothes. Try – I couldn’t see the floor for all the dirty clothes. Avoid the words ‘LOOK’ and ‘FEEL’. Use more powerful words as this is another sign of telling, not showing your story.

Use sensory images, yes, all five senses, when describing the setting. If describing a cave, don’t just tell us it has rocky walls and cold air, but have your character touch the wall – is it covered in moss? Is slime flowing in rivulets? Does her breath fog on her exhalation? Don’t overwhelm the reader with too much description either, sometimes less is more. Find a happy medium.

Avoid clichés – use good comparisons for your metaphors. Vary sentence structure to avoid monotony. Shorter, choppier sentences help draw out suspense and create tension. Good grammar can slow a sentence down. Sometimes writers make mistakes on purpose to make the sentence resonate. Don’t use dialogue for conveying information dumps. Yes, dialogue can give information, but it should not feel like a description. Don’t be afraid to use contractions. People speak in contractions, so your writing needs to show that, too. Language matters. How it happened means turning the action into words the reader will be able to translate and see in their head as if watching a movie. Punctuation matters. It could be the life or death of a sentence. Grab a copy of Eat, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss for your punctuation questions.

Crafting Compelling Characters by Kristi Bradley

Create your characters with care, know and understand them as you do yourself. You should know their deepest and darkest, how they would react to any given situation. Give depth by instilling strengths and weaknesses. Make them a big hot mess. Perhaps your main character is a cat burglar with a soft spot for felines, using the proceeds from her crimes to finance a cat shelter. Maybe the cop on her trail can’t believe a sweet girl-next-door type could commit the crimes, blinding him to the truth.

For every three strengths, give a weakness. Even Superman had a weakness. What is your character’s Kryptonite?

What’s the Difference in Writer’s Group, Critique Groups, and Beta Readers? by Kristi Bradley

A good writer’s group should inspire the craft of writing and encourage and assist each member toward the goal of publication through programming and member activities. These groups range in size from a handful of members to hundreds of members.

Critique groups are smaller than writer’s groups, usually four to five people maximum. They trade chapters and give comments and feedback about plot, characterization, lack of content, and violations of Point of View. Be willing to take criticism, but if you leave your group feeling defeated after every meet, you might be in the wrong group. When offering a critique, give two to three good points before dropping the bomb. Never make someone feel bad for what they’ve written. Always find ways to encourage and help them improve. If you don’t feel you’re getting this from your critique group, it might be time to move on.

Beta Readers usually read the finished story before sent to the publisher. They can indicate where chapters bog down, where they got confused and had to reread a section and indicate if something is unbelievable. They get to know the characters and advise if they are likable, or even acting out of ‘character.’ Be sure to choose a Beta Reader that reads the genre you write.

Writers Groups by Kristi Bradley

Writer’s groups can be an acquired taste. Some swear by them. Others swear at them.

I tried on several groups, had a few bad experiences, too, before I found a good fit with Malice in Memphis Mystery Writers. I didn’t consider myself a mystery writer at the time, but I was intrigued by the talent in the group and the temptation of a publication credit they offer their members by issuing anthologies.

So, don’t be afraid to try out a writers’ group. Walk away if it doesn’t feel right or doesn’t fit your needs, and try another. It might take some time to find what you’re looking for. You might even have to start your own. Some of our members drive an hour and a half to reach us.

It makes a world of difference to associate with like-minded people who understand the trials of the business and the voices in our heads.

Check out Malice at http://www.maliceinmemphis.com or find us on Facebook.