Category Archives: Blog

A Long, Overdue Update

Hello, faithful subscribers.  First, let me apologize for my lack of posts lately.  The fact of the matter is, after a considerable amount of time with this business, I have decided to let it go.  I will leave up my Facebook and Pinterest pages, but sharpenedpencilediting.com will not exist after October.  After that, it will revert back to sharpenedpencilediting.wordpress.com.  I will keep the site up so that you may refer back to it any time you wish, but there will be no new updates.  Writing is now, and has always been, my first love.  We have had some vicious fights over the years, bad moods have persisted, self-doubt has reared its ugly head, and there have been times when I have wanted to throw in the towel, but the love I have for writing has only grown, matured, and lasted.  I have really enjoyed sharing what I have learned with you and I wish you the best in whatever you set your mind to.

I know it is little consolation, but I have some writing resources for you.  As you know, writing is not a solitary career, even though we may try to treat it as such.  We are writers and, while that might set us apart from the chemists and mathematicians of this world, it binds us together like a heavily-woven fabric.  Never be afraid to add a new patch or re-work an old stitch.

Remember, wherever you go, go with a purpose.  Whatever you do, put your whole heart in it.

Writing Blogs:
http://www.nownovel.com/
Well-Storied.com

How To Go From Idea To Story

tumblr_m0dd9vSCBy1qic3ieo1_500

http://thebestgifsforme.blogspot.com/2012/06/barney-from-how-i-met-your-mother-gifs.html

Have you ever had an idea come to you and immediately thought, “This is such a cool idea, but what can I do with it?” If you are anything like me, your best ideas will usually come to you when you are least expecting it and, more often than not, these ideas have little or nothing to do with your current writing project.  So what are you supposed to do–forget about it?  Put it to the side?  Hope you’ll remember it later?  NO!

In my twenty-six years of writing, I have learned one thing with absolute certainty: if you don’t pursue the ideas that come to you, don’t expect them to stick around and wait for a more convenient time.  I like to think of story ideas (or music or art) like spoiled children.  They want your attention RIGHT NOW and DON’T YOU DARE IGNORE those ideas or they will go hide and you will never, ever find them.  Trust me, I know of what I speak.

Drop Dead Fred

http://xxrazorbladelovexx.deviantart.com/art/Hide-N-Seek-257999149

Writing can be a bit like hoarding, especially if you have more than one idea or project you want to tackle and complete.  Suddenly, your office is filled with scraps of paper, notes on napkins, multi-colored Post-Its, spirals, note cards, pictures, timelines, and every type of pen you might need!  Maybe, it looks something like this:

Messy

Now, tell me, how are you supposed to get any work done when your office looks like this?  The fact of the matter is, it’s not possible.  Artists may thrive in chaos, but there is a limit.  Never fear, bloggers, because I have a few solutions for you.  If you have been with me for a while, you know that when I find an idea, strategy, or anything of worth, I like to share it with you.  Today, I stumbled on a magnificent blog post by Kate Forsyth (http://www.kateforsyth.com.au/kates-blog/writing-advice-how-to-build-a-story-out-of-scraps-of-ideas) that is rare and a bit ingenious.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to look through the following strategies and apply at least one to your writing routine.  Once you have done that, I want you to share your experiences.  Was it a success or not?  Which worked better for you?  Did any of them work?  Or, if you have a strategy that is not on this list, tell us about it.

Take a look:

 

  1. Spread all your ideas, all your story fragments…out on the table.  See if any of them seem to belong together.  Start sorting them into piles. 
  2. Pick one pile.  Just one.  Probably the biggest pile is best, but go with your intuition– which idea, or cluster of ideas, speaks to you the most?
  3. Put all the other ideas away in a folder, and shut them away in a drawer.  You may wish to have a number of folders, one for every other pile.
  4. Take the one you have chosen and focus all your attention on it.  Begin to see the skeleton of a story in it.  Write a rough outline of a plan.  Write character outlines.
  5. Think about your setting, your time period, your story structure.  Set aside an hour or two a day to work on it.  Do nothing else in that time. 
  6. When you have an idea of the story from beginning to end, with about a dozen key plot points along the way, begin to write.  Start at the beginning of your story and write one scene at a time.  Set yourself a goal for each week. Two thousand words are easily achievable.  Tell yourself no wine or chocolate or mindless TV till you have written your word goal.
  7. Write your story word by word, sentence by sentence, scene by scene.  Do whatever you need to do to keep on going. 
  8. Whenever you get an idea for another story, write it down – all of it, as much as you can – then put the idea away in a folder and shut it in the drawer. If you find yourself thinking about it, force your mind away from the pretty new thing and MAKE it think about the idea you are working on. Do not allow yourself to be distracted because that way lies chaos and failure.

How Most People See Editors

Not This Editor

Good morning, readers, and welcome to Sharpened Pencil Editing.  The illustration above is how most people see professional editors.  There is even a chance you have thought this about me.  Let’s set the record straight right now.  I am not this kind of editor.  I agree that I am not your mother and I will not hold your hand, but I will be with you every step of the way and help you to manage, and eventually defeat, your writing woes.

You may be wondering how I can make such a promise.  We live in a world of useless facts, propaganda, and sales jargon that all boil down to one thing: nonsense.  We lie to get by, you might say.  When it comes to writing, to your career–hell, to my career and reputation–I will never lie to you.  If you show me something you have written and I don’t like it, I will tell you I don’t like it.  I won’t coddle you, because I know that will only hurt you in the end.  If you’re in this business to please everyone, or even just to please your editor, get out now.  This is not the right career for you.  Writing is hard.  It might even be the most difficult job in the world, because it requires you to bear your soul to a world full of strangers, never knowing how they will react.  That’s why you don’t write for them: you write for yourself.

If, on the other hand, you are ready to show your work to someone who will appreciate the time and effort you have put into it, shoot me an email.  I offer a free consultation to every new client, so what have you got to lose?  Let me show you what an editor really does.

The Misfits

Main Characters

For today’s topic, let’s talk about that ever-important main character.  Now, you may remember in previous posts that I told you the narrator is NUMBER ONE when it comes to important characters and I’m not going to contradict myself.  The narrator fits nicely into that second slot, because, without him, her, or it, you have no story.  Try writing a story where there is no main character, just a major theme, and I can promise you, it’s not going to go over well in the reading community.  Readers want characters they can root for, or even hate.  You’ve got to make them feel something: you’ve got to make them care.

Think about the popularity of super heroes.  What draws you to them more, their powers or their inner torment?  Their powers might be interesting for a second, but it is that torment with which you find yourself relating to, even if you’re not totally aware of it.  Writers know this and capitalize on it.  Why should you be any different?

As for the main character’s actions, how do you keep them in line?  Do you find yourself following behind them, struggling to keep up or do you struggle to make them fit into the mold you have created for them?  If you’re like me, you probably tried that second option and found yourself wishing very bad things would happen to your spoiled little main character who thought she could get away with whatever she wanted.  I have learned my lesson and now I kind of like her.  Does she listen?  No.  Does she cooperate?  Sometimes.  I had to make the story true to my character, not just to myself, but that is just me.

I like to think that you come here because I provide you with insight or at least a chance to work out your writing muscles.  Maybe you just like to have a place where people talk about writing without feeling the need to put others down.  Whatever the reason, I’m glad you’re here and I’d like to hear from you.  Tell me, what works for you?  What doesn’t?  Have you been writing long?  What have you learned?  What surprised you the most?  Thanks for stopping by.

Once Upon A Time

jungle-book-disney-fairy-tale-movies

 

Good morning, readers!  Have you seen the new Beauty and the Beast?  What is it about fairy tales that is so appealing to us?  Why do they seem so timeless?  I want you to think about the last great fairy tale you read or watched.  What kept your attention?  What made you laugh or cry?  Did the story have a relatable theme or moral?  How was the pacing?  Did it seem too long or too short?  If you could change one thing about the fairy tale, what would it be?  Now, I don’t want this to feel like a homework assignment, but chances are, you are a writer and I think this would be good for you to see what works and what doesn’t.  If nothing else, this little experiment might tell you things about yourself that you never even realized.  Your writing might just improve.  What have you got to lose?  I’d love to hear from you!

Screen Rant. (2016). The Jungle Book: Cracking Disney’s Live-Action Fairy Tale Code. Retrieved from http://screenrant.com/jungle-book-disney-fairy-tales-movies-discussion/

Back To Basics: The End?

I thought you would enjoy “Enterlude and Exitlude”  by The Killers.  I would adjust the volume level if you are at work.  Enjoy!  

Welcome to Day 8 of “Back To Basics.”  How fitting that this post should be all about endings!  Please don’t cry.  I have a lot more to share with you.  Check back in for more details.  As we wrap up this series, the most basic tip you need to know–more important than your characters, plot, setting, or any other aspect of your story–is the ending.  This can make or break your story.  This is where readers decide if you’re a gifted artist or a no-talent hack.  No pressure, right?  In order to figure out what kind of ending you want for your story, you’re going to understand the different types.

Explicit Ending- When you think about the word explicit, chances are your brain will go straight to something bad.  I blame television and YouTube for this knee-jerk reaction.  When it comes to literature, however, an explicit ending refers to a type of resolution that leaves nothing unsaid.  Every conflict is solved, every question is answered, and the reader is probably left with some kind of closure.

Implicit Ending- Have you ever heard someone say, “It wasn’t said; it was implied”?  Ever been offended by something someone said, because you thought they were really talking about something else–something left unsaid?  Even if the answer to both of these is no, stay with me.  I will explain.  An implicit ending is like a piece of artwork: everyone sees something different.  Have you ever read a book that was so engaging, it kept your attention all the way through?  Then, when you got to the ending, instead of finding that everything had wrapped up nicely, you were expected to fill in the blanks where the writer hadn’t?

(This is very similar to the unresolved ending, so don’t let the similarities confuse you.  I’ll explain that one in a minute).

What sets this type of ending apart from the others is that you, as the reader, are given the opportunity to end the story in any way you see fit.  If you are a hopeless romantic, maybe you decide that the soldier makes it back home from a war zone to find that the love is life is still waiting for him.

If there was an epic battle (I know that epic might be stretching it a bit for this particular example, but go with me on this one) such as the ending of the show Angel, you can tell yourself that, after the screen went black, there were survivors and one of them was, actually, Angel.  The writer left it up to you for a reason, so try not to be too hard on them for giving you the opportunity to think on your own.

Tie-Back Ending- This is a very common writing device for writers.  Have you ever started reading a book and found that the character was already in distress?  Did the book, then, lead up to what put them in that situation, offering “cues” and/or “clues” along the way?  Congratulations, you’ve just witnessed a tie-back ending.  These are extremely common because it gives the writer a way to get your attention and create tension that you, as the reader, will carry through the rest of the story.

Unresolved Ending- As I mentioned, this is similar to the implicit ending, but the two are not interchangeable.  If you have read the “Harry Potter” series (or seen any of the movies), you will know who Voldemort is and why he is considered Harry Potter’s arch nemesis–not to mention, just a really bad guy who is in desperate need of sunscreen.  Now, think about the final battle between these two foes (I won’t give away the ending).  Every line of the story has been building up to this moment.  Every conflict, every danger, every waking minute has been devoted to bring the main character, Harry Potter, to this moment in time.  The two face off and the battle is about to begin…

The End

WHAT?!  It can’t be!  J.K. Rowling wouldn’t do that to her readers!  She wouldn’t bring them to this epic (I do love this word) conclusion without a resolution!  That would just be CRUEL!  The unresolved ending is just that: unresolved.  You don’t get to know what happens.  You have followed the characters, kept up with the pace of the plot, put the rest of your life on hold, and now, you are left wondering.  It should come as no surprise that this is the most frustrating and, rightly so, the most hated type of endings in all things: literature, media, and life.

Long View Ending- Last, but not least, we come to the long view ending.  Like the unresolved ending, the definition is in the title.  It’s a great excuse for an epilogue, because it allows the writer to move as forward in time as they want.  It should be more than a day if you don’t want to just annoy your readers (and me, in particular).  Look at television shows: they love to speed up time.  Think about the last soap opera you watched (“Kristin, it’s not a soap opera: it’s a nighttime television drama.”): how did the six-month-old baby turn sixteen in a month’s time?  Look at One Tree Hill.  It moved ahead in time twice: first four years, and then, what eight?  Ten?  How old was Jamie in Season 9?  Do you see my point?  This kind of ending provides the reader with a clear-cut idea of where the characters went and what happened to them when they got there.

I would like to thank my very best friend, Samantha Waddington, for suggesting this topic for the final post of my “Back To Basics” blog series!  I had a lot of fun; I hope you did too!  I would also like to give credit where it’s due and thank Sheryl Tuttle, of https://sheryltut.wordpress.com/2009/05/26/six-common-types-endings/#comment-284.

Tuttle, S. (2009). Six Common Types Endings. Retrieved from https://sheryltut.wordpress.com/2009/05/26/six-common-types-endings/#comment-284

This series has been brought to you by me, Kristin L. Miller.  I’d love to hear from you.  Did you get a chance to see the entire series or would you just like an excuse to see it again?  Click on any link below:

Day 1: https://sharpenedpencilediting.com/2017/04/10/types-of-writing-a-matter-of-tenses/

Day 2: https://sharpenedpencilediting.com/2017/04/11/types-of-writing-blog-series-just-a-figure-of-speech/

Day 3: https://sharpenedpencilediting.com/2017/04/12/types-of-writing-blog-series-literary-genres/

Day 4: https://sharpenedpencilediting.com/2017/04/13/types-of-writing-poetry/

Day 5: https://sharpenedpencilediting.com/2017/04/14/back-to-basics-the-narrator/

Day 6: https://sharpenedpencilediting.com/2017/04/15/1725/

Day 7: https://sharpenedpencilediting.com/2017/04/16/back-to-basics-know-your-characters

Back To Basics: Plot-Driven vs. Character-Driven Stories

10 Rounds

Plot Vs. Character. (2016). Retrieved from https://jenowenby.wordpress.com/tag/plot-vs-character/

Hello bloggers!  I can’t tell you how much fun I am having with this blog series!  I can only hope you are too!  Let’s keep the momentum going, shall we?  Today’s topic: plot-driven vs. character driven stories.  Now, it is customary for me to include some kind of helpful guide; today, I thought I’d take it a step further and provide a video that clearly defines the difference between these two types of writing.

It’s not often that I send you to other websites, but Pen & Sword breaks these differences down so masterfully, I don’t mind bowing to their brilliance.  My goal is to help you, so I’ll try not to keep you all to myself 🙂

Here’s a quick little game to help you decipher what is character-driven and what is plot-driven.  Take a look at the following examples and see if you can tell which is which.  How many of you can do this without looking it up?

  • “The Fifth Wave” by Brandon Sanderson
  • “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
  • “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett
  • “Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton
  • “The Goldfinch” by Dona Tart
  • “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling
  • “Room” by Emma Donoghue
  • “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
  • “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger
  • “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden
  • “The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling
  • “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger
  • “The Last Unicorn” by Peter S. Beagle
  • “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler
  • “The Unexpected Everything” by Morgan Matson

Leave your score in the comments or, if you haven’t read any of these, tell us some plot-driven and character-driven stories you have read.  Tune in tomorrow!

Do You Know The Difference?

Pen & Sword (2016, February 26). Plot Driven VS Character Driven Stories [Video file]. Retrieved from YouTube website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jp6ARuDzw8o

 

Back To Basics Blog Series: Measure Up

Welcome to Day Six of “Back to Basics.”  I hope you are ready to put your skills to the test.  As you can see, I have shared a chart (thank you Sarkemedia.com) that outlines some of the most common writing pitfalls.  What makes this list unique is how it sums up more than just misspelled words; it also covers punctuation and grammar!  Remember, when it comes to writing professionally, the first impression is key.  If you want to be taken seriously in this business, you better make sure your writing isn’t full of errors.

Common Writing Mistakes

Back to Basics: The Narrator

Welcome to Day 5 in my “Back to Basics” Blog series!  Today, I’m going to tell you all about the most important character in any story: the narrator.  I know what you’re thinking, “What could you possibly tell me that I don’t already know?”  Well, for starters, do you happen to know how many different types of narrators there are?  Take a look:

Point of View Chart

As you can see from the chart above (thank you Miranda Tacoronti for sharing this), as a writer, it is absolutely necessary to decide which type of narrator “you” are going to be and that means you need to determine point of view right off the bat.

  1. First Person occurs when the protagonist, or someone close to the main character, is telling the story.  Think about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.  A story told from Holmes’ point of view would be considered first person.
  2. First Person Limited refers to a story told by someone other than the protagonist/main character.  Their story is “limited” because they weren’t there to witness every moment of the protagonist’s life.  For instance, if Frodo Baggins had gone on his adventure, but lost touch with Samwise Gamgee (I have seen all three movies, but I can’t, for the live of me, remember if this actually happens) somewhere along the way, then any story Samwise would tell would never include any accounts of what happened during his split with Frodo other than what he, himself, witnessed.  That makes sense, right?
  3. Third Person Multiple: This is what happens when your narrator is more than one character.  Let me give you an example.  I have several stories I have written that switches from one character to the next, or hops from brain-to-brain, if you will.  This can be done for a variety of reasons.  For me, I used it as a way to give my readers a more in-depth look into my main character and supporting characters’ minds.  Plus, it’s fun, if you don’t get carried away.  Just because it’s fun as a writer doesn’t necessarily mean that your readers will be as excited, so handle with care.
  4. Third Person Limited Narrator refers to a narrator that is in the dark about something.  In other words, they can’t know everything.  So, if you are writing a mystery, let’s say, but you haven’t provided enough evidence to prove who did it (and there was never a point in the story where your narrator found it), then you can’t reveal it in any other way than as a scene of discovery.  Alternately, the Omniscient narrator knows it all.  This is a common choice for writers, specifically Third Person Omniscient because then your view is everywhere.  You know more than your characters ever will and that can be a relief for a lot of writers.  
  5. Third Person Omniscient can be especially fun for readers because, more often than not, they will know something that the characters do not.  As with First Person Omniscient, the narrator knows everything and can provide any information to the reader whether or not the characters are in possession of said information.  For instance, as I mentioned, I often jump from one point of view to the other in a couple of my novels.  That means, there are scenes that my readers are privy to that my other characters might not have witnessed.
  6. The Unreliable Narrator: As the name implies, the reader/viewer can’t count on this narrator because they have a tendency to lie.  Ever read Fight Club or seen the movie Shudder Island?  Both of these featured an unreliable narrator.  The reader was drawn in by what they thought were facts, because, after all, why would the narrator steer them wrong?

Examples in Books:

First Person-  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

First Person Limited-  Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Third Person Multiple- The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Third Person Limited- Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Third Person Omniscient- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

Unreliable Narrator- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

As you can see, there is a lot that goes into choosing a narrator for your story.  I hope that I’ve been able to shed some light on the subject for you.  Tune in tomorrow.