Lay Your Truth on the Page

Every writer loves promoting their books.

Not.

I’m deep in the midst of promoting my latest book and, to tell you the truth, this time around is WAY fun. That’s because I’m sharing almost every event with a dog or two.

Dogs make everything better.

Truth.

My last three books were novels – stories I made up sitting at my laptop on long afternoons and pre-dawn writing jags. I crafted characters and lived their lives- but only in my head.

The main character in my latest book, Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs, is much more real…. Me.

So instead of dreaming up my drama, I lived it.

It’s easy to take risks when writing fiction, everyone knows you’re making it up, even if they suspect you’re actually writing about them (but changed the names and distinguishing features).

It’s another thing entirely to take risks while writing memoir. Memoir is nothing if not Continue reading “Lay Your Truth on the Page”

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Give the Reader a Little Credit

“Assume they are wearing pants.”

pants

I’m not certain which famous author wrote that in an article I read in which rich and well-known writers were asked for their best piece of writing advice.

I’m also not certain how many times I’ve quoted it to creative writing students. It used to hang on a little sticky note on my computer monitor, but it’s probably lost amongst the dust bunnies behind my desk now, the sticky long since dried up.

I’m a wordy writer. If it weren’t for the countless editors who forced me to bend to their word count will, I probably never would have been published. I tend to over-tell you what’s happening, repeat myself, as it were.

When you’re writing a clever personal essay where voice is the most engaging feature, you can get away with extra words. But in fiction, readers have no patience for the writer who explains every turn of the doorknob and unfolding of a napkin.

‘Assume they are wearing pants’ means that there is much you can trust the reader to figure out on his or her own.

You don’t need to write that your character brushed his teeth or pulled on his pants or went to the potty or drove to work. You can trust your reader to figure out by the time your character ‘stepped out of the elevator on the sixth floor of the Bronson building ready to conquer the world or at least the part of the world that dealt with Fifteen-millimeter straws ’ that all of that has happened.

But maybe your character was late? You might need a few of those steps. ‘Fred brushed his teeth, as he drove, weaving in and out of his lane frustrated by the slowpoke in front of him mentally rehearsing his presentation which should have started ten minutes ago. In the elevator, he noticed his socks didn’t match and he had toothpaste on his tie.’

I still didn’t tell you that he put his pants on, but I’m pretty sure you know he’s wearing pants. Otherwise, everyone in the elevator would be staring at him, right?

Details are important, but the only details you need to include are the important ones.

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.

Honored,

Cara

If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.

COMING AUGUST 7 2018 FROM Pegasus Books (available for preorder now:

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What is YOUR Creative Self Saying?

I started teaching a new course of Creative Writing this week. I forgot how much I love it. My class last spring didn’t fill and was canceled. At the time, I was busy preparing for a book launch, so I was somewhat relieved.

Driving home after class this week, I was energized. It’s so exciting to work with writers who are just beginning their journey. The possibilities are fresh and exciting.

The knowing nods when we talk about the urgent need to write, reassure me. I’m not the only crazy person in my town who feels this compelling urge to bear witness to all the little oddities in my life and heart.

pexels-photo-115782We talked about what we write and why. So many echoed the same sentiment—a voice running through their heads aching to get out on paper. I recognize that insistency. It’s their creative spirit. Everyone has one. That spirit can find its way out in a plethora of ways, but when its left trapped inside, unrecognized and unfed, it can lead to a confused despondency, a sadness borne of a day-after-day sameness. Continue reading “What is YOUR Creative Self Saying?”

Enough of That

Cut how many words?

The last few weeks have been a blur of editing. For me, editing is the worst part of being a writer. Also, it’s how you spend half of your time as a writer (the other parts are 10% writing and 40% promoting). Sigh.

I sat down with my current WIP and began slashing. My agent suggested I cut nearly ten thousand words. I was sincere in my effort and after letting go of my initial instinct to fight for every word, I discovered the story was cleaner and clearer once I unloaded 9,000 words.

After weighing every word and questioning every sentence, I was still coming up short. I figured if I could just get rid of another five hundred, I’d be golden. I mean, nearly 10,000 is pretty much 10,000, right?

I couldn’t bring myself to comb through the manuscript again, so I employed my favorite writing tool – the find feature. Now, which words could I cut that wouldn’t affect the story? Continue reading “Enough of That”

How Not to be Boring: 8 Tips for Writers

Be honest. Don’t pretend you know something you don’t, feel something you don’t feel, or are something you’re not. Just be heart-exposingly honest and readers will appreciate it. Honesty is never boring.

Write your passion

write with passion

Write what you love. Write what you are committed to. Write about the topics, stories, people, issues that get your heart aflutter or make your pulse race. When you write your passion it comes straight from your heart. Passion is never boring. Continue reading “How Not to be Boring: 8 Tips for Writers”

Writing Without a Net

It’s a bit of gamble, this writing thing.

I write and write and write and write.

And then I edit and edit and edit and edit.

writing

And then I edit even more.

And when my latest masterpiece is all shined up and ready, I send it out into the world.

Sometimes (okay, many times) it comes back to me with words of rejection.

It feels like judgment. Probably because it is judgment.

And I say – Continue reading “Writing Without a Net”

Verbizing (yes, it’s a word!) (okay, it’s my word)

What’s the most important part of a story? The plot? The characters?

How about the verbs?

Okay, maybe they aren’t the most important part but wow, they can make or break it.

Secret wisdom of the earth by Christopher ScottonI’m reading The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton and I am dumbfounded (love this word – oh, and what a great verb!) by how he simply makes up verbs. Out of thin air. He takes ordinary words and he verbizes them (there! I just did it too! I verbized the noun, verb.).

Watch how he does this:

I remember watching my mother from the backseat as she stared at the telephone poles flishing past us, the reflection of the white highway line in the window strobing her haggard face.

The first time it happened, on the first page, mind you, I thought – flishing? huh, never heard of that verb.

But then again and again (and again) he simply created verbs where there were none. Jounced? (okay, that one’s real, but who uses it?) Vigiling? Birth-defected?

How empowering, I thought.

The verb you choose for a sentence can be the difference between eating vanilla store brand ice cream and Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food flavor ice cream. Totally different experience.

For example:

He walked slowly along.

He lollygagged.

The bird flew across the grass.

The bird flashed across the grass.

She thought about it.

She sloshed the idea around in her head.

See? It’s easy. And what Scotton has proven to me, is that if you can’t think of a verb, you can simply make one up. Nobody minds. Really.

The toddler wasted time.

The toddler fiddle-de-dooed.

Cake? Right?

If you need a few lists of verbs check out foxhugh.com who teaches ESL and has lists of action verbs, PLUS a cat and the hat rap video and a number of other interesting posts. You could also check out ResumeGenius.com which claims to be the longest action verb list in the universe, although I’m quite certain that Fox Hugh has it beat.

If worse comes to worse, you can also right click on a boring verb in your document and look at the possible synonyms, there could be a more interesting alternative there.

Want to pump up your manuscript? Search out words like was, is, walk, sat, run, read, stand, etc., you know the standard stuff from your first grade primer, and see if you can liven up your sentences by plugging in more interesting verbs.

It used to be we had to stick to Webster’s for our word choice, but I’m pretty sure that rule is long gone. I can’t imagine how spell check or auto-correct keep up. That’s their problem, though, because clearly best-selling writers make up words everyday—why can’t you?

Thanks for reading!

If you’d like to read more, meander on over to my website. We’re just getting my Street Team (Cara’s Cronies) off the ground. I’d love to have you on my side!

Oh, and if you’re totally into dogs, check out my blog about fostering rescue dogs!

Enough of the shameless self-promotion. Have a blueberry pie with fresh cream kind of week!

Blessings,

Cara