red-faced rookie

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breathe
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red-faced rookie

Post by breathe » August 29th, 2012, 10:30 pm

Okay, so this is where I reveal how much of a rookie I am...still working on a WIP (MG) and oddly finding that as I get nearer to the end, the amount of writing I do each day wanes (I've gone from 1000 words/day to 500)...not sure if this is because I kind of know where its going, so its lost the appeal. Nevertheless I will finish, but I should be a little more disciplined I think.

Anyway, I'm noticing something that is making me very frustrated (and worried because it brings me to the "oh no, I really am that terrible).
I make a lot of cliches and I repeat myself a lot with certain expressions and phrases.
Most common so far:
- "His face fell" (trying to convey a feeling of being dejected, disappointed)
- "Her shoulders slumped" (similar to above)
- she smiled
etc etc
(there are many many many more).

Can anyone give me thoughts on alternative ways to express this?
And do you do a lot of these things?

I don't want to overthink it because really "smiled" or simple phrases are often all that is necessary (no need to be gritty about it). But at the same time, I don't want to use a soecific or cliched phrase several times over.

Another thing I'm noticing lately is that scenes run through my head and make me smirk (humorous, charming, witty). But when I get them on paper, they are so flat. I guess this isn't a question, but more so an observation. I see many great authors write really great, witty, sharp, clever scenes that read fantastic and I "get it". If I try to do the same thing, its just words and no real humor or dance to it. I'm not sure how this plays out but it really makes me think these authors that write those scenes I most admire are genuises :shock:

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klbritt
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Re: red-faced rookie

Post by klbritt » August 29th, 2012, 11:11 pm

Oh my goodness! I do many of the same phrasing issues as you, so you are not alone. I've just completed my MS and am letting it rest for a week or so before reading through for its first round of edits. I'm guess I will have lots of rephrasing to do when it comes to the bodily expressions of my characters. Can't wait :? (yeah right!)

As far as writing the *perfect* scene, perhaps you could do some writing exercises such as watching one of your favorite movies and picking a specific scene/setting and try to capture it on paper. Or maybe even go back and read through some of your favorite scenes in a book and sit down with pen in hand and find out what you love so much about the scene and then try to imitate it in your own writing (of course I don't mean copy it, just mean echo the pacing, etc.)

Good luck - and if you find yourself struggling to keep up to your desired word count, take a break. You may be feeling burn out and just need to let things chill for a day or two.
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LurkingVirologist
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Re: red-faced rookie

Post by LurkingVirologist » August 29th, 2012, 11:51 pm

breathe wrote: Anyway, I'm noticing something that is making me very frustrated (and worried because it brings me to the "oh no, I really am that terrible).
I make a lot of cliches and I repeat myself a lot with certain expressions and phrases.
Most common so far:
- "His face fell" (trying to convey a feeling of being dejected, disappointed)
- "Her shoulders slumped" (similar to above)
- she smiled
etc etc
(there are many many many more).
Haha. That's what editing is for, and why nobody ever sees my first draft of anything ;) . Just treat them as stand-ins for the much better phrasing you'll come up with after you've let it sit a few weeks and done some polishing, and move on to the next scene.
"Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic." -Carl Sagan

Sommer Leigh
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Re: red-faced rookie

Post by Sommer Leigh » August 30th, 2012, 11:24 am

Don't worry about it in your first draft! You get rid of that stuff later.

And you will get rid of that stuff. She smiled. He laughed. She shrugged. She sighed. He scowled. He looked over there. They looked into each others eyes. She rolled her eyes. It is all unnecessary word count baggage that does nothing for your writing.

Well, sort of. I mean, sometimes your character can laugh or shrug or smile, but 98% of the time when we use these phrases in writing, it's sort of the equivalent of when we say "Um," "ugh," and "like" when speaking. They are filler. We feel like we should be showing an emotion the character is feeling, but really we should be showing most of that in context of the dialogue, setting, atmosphere reactions, and actions of the characters. This is the hard editing that takes place in drafts 2 and 3. When I say hard, I mean, this is the stuff that makes most of us cry. Grammar and word choices are petty changes in comparison.

A good general rule of thumb to use when it's ok to use these filler emotional tags and when it's not is this: If your dialogue is peppered with it, it's bad (usually). If they come up outside of dialogue, maybe it works ok.

For now, treat them as place holders in your writing, but later when you're editing the draft, scrutinize your dialogue for tension, emotion, and context. I'm stealing Margo's brain for a moment and modifying an exercise she taught us (who got this from Donald Maass I think) Take section of dialogue and remove everything that isn't dialogue. Everything. Even the dialogue tags. Then, read the dialogue, particularly to other people, out loud. Everyone should still have a very good idea of what's at stake, what emotional tension is happening, and what is going on in the scene without the filler cues (even if they can't tell exactly who's speaking.) If the emotion and tension isn't there, fix the dialogue. Then add the necessary dialogue tags and ONLY add anything else if it is absolutely necessary. If you did the exercise right, you probably won't need most of what you had there.

And of course, use the professionals as guides. Open up your favorite books to your favorite scenes, particularly ones with lots of dialogue, and see how they manage it. Read several examples from different authors, because like most rules, some authors can get away with it and some can't. Pay attention to the build up that happens BEFORE the dialogue, where the emotion is woven in through context and reader experience. We don't need an author to say a character is smiling when her boyfriend proposes to her. It's a given response - unless she's NOT smiling, well that means something else!!

A last thing I want to point out is that you said you're getting to the end and writing is slowing down and you think it's because you've lost interest since you know how it ends.

It could be that you didn't really outline or plan your ending very well and your writing gut is telling you somethings not quite right or wrapping up properly. Explore potential plot pitfalls if this is the case. Eventually this could almost feel like writer's block, but isn't.

It could also be this sort of weird response we all have when we are newish writers. In my humble opinion, it happens when a person starts writing because they want to read a story like the one they are writing. This is sort of a bad way to approach writing because you do run the risk of losing interest, especially when you are getting to the point that you need to finish the story. I also see these kinds of writers getting very upset when readers don't "get" their story the way they think it should be understood. But I digress. It's a good idea to start training your brain to realize that you are not the reader of your story. You're the writer creating for other readers. It's your job to write the story, not really your job to be entertained by it. That's a bonus. Train yourself to treat it like your career, like a business you happen to be very passionate about, and not like a hobby you are very passionate about. Unless, of course, it is a hobby and not something you want a career in, which is fine too!
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
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cheekychook
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Re: red-faced rookie

Post by cheekychook » September 1st, 2012, 10:27 pm

Yes, everything that everyone has said here is sound advice.

Remove whatever mentions of actions you notice are repetitive. A lot of the time the fact that your character is happy (smiling) or feeling dejected (shoulders slumped) is already apparent from the context of what's happening in the scene. In those cases you don't need to tell the reader what they've already figured out on their own. For times when it is nice (and make no mistake, there are times when you should say that your character is smiling or shrugging or whatever---particularly if it's a significant moment or if the act is a part of a character's quirks)---but that doesn't mean you have to express it the same way every time.

Use synonyms. Smiled/grinned/smirked/beamed. Use other ways of phrasing. Corners of her lips tugged upward. Cheeks ached from grinning. Try to think about all the ways a person appears when feeling down. Yes, shoulders slump, but they also become droopy. Their head may lower, lips turn down, hands might hang limp at their sides. Brows can furrow, jaws can clench, throats can tighten, stomachs can knot. The more you explore other ways to get across the feelings your characters are having the less you'll find yourself depending on using the same one or two or five go-to ways of describing emotions.

And even then you'll have to edit a ton and will still leave in some unneeded or repetitive phrases, because we all do it!

Hope that's helpful. Good luck!
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guichizango
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Re: red-faced rookie

Post by guichizango » September 1st, 2012, 11:49 pm

I can't say too much about your difficulty with smiling, sighing, shoulders slumping, because I have the same problem, and I have been working for years to try and control that.

But as to the other thing, I find that the closer I get to the finish line, the harder it is to motivate myself. I think it's because I know how much work is going to be on the other side, and I just don't want to start all over again (editing, revising, starting a new WIP). That's why it is for me, and right now, I have a WIP that I just need to finish a few more scenes. I already know how I want to change them, but it's....so...hard....to...start....

breathe
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Re: red-faced rookie

Post by breathe » September 2nd, 2012, 10:04 pm

Wow, you've all been incredibly helpful. Each response helped me in some way, so to all commenters: thanks!

And Sommer Leigh, your advice is solid. And I particularly liked the last paragraph. It got me thinking and I liked what you said.

Cheeky (sorry I think I have your name wrong, I can't flick back to see it, oops), but you've got great alternatives :)
I think my budding worry is that I won't know where to cut the right ones and where to keep or reshuffle.
What's more confusing is that I don't even know what the whole thing is :) Like it might need to be re-written entriely, BUT I don't just want to rewrite it either because then I might end up making same mistakes, just with different spins. So I might be better off really digging into each scene and revising before rewriting.

I don't even want to think about that stuff :(

To the commenter above me: :D I feel your pain. You are not alone :D I am creep...creep...creeping along to the last bits. I think it may partially be because of what you said, it may partially be as Sommer said and something isn't *quite* right, but I"m not in the mood to try to *make it right * :mrgreen: I just want it to be done :twisted:
I seem to spend less and less time on it. But it will be done. Not well. But it will be done.
Right now I'm kind of just slapping words on the page and saying "okay that's enough" and I'm only grabbing a snnippet of time here or there (in the early chapters, I would sit and write longer and think it through, etc). Now its just slap it down and get out of there before I see the mess of it.

I'll pay for that later obviously :)

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