How to Streamline Your Writing Process Using Technology

(Note: This is a guest post by Eric Gordon.)

Photo by Aaron Burdenon Unsplash

 

While people still herald paperback books and handwritten letters as wonderful traditions worth preserving, technological advances have made the writing process much more streamlined so production is faster than ever before.

Technology cannot generate content for you, however. Your writing projects need to be your own brainchild, but technology has a way of streamlining the process from conception all the way through to publication.

The right tools can help you with brainstorming and organization, and make the writing itself so much more seamless. These innovations have a way of sparking creativity and allowing writers to think outside of the box.

The Writing Process in the Digital Age

In the Digital Age, content is the backbone of marketing and sales. Businesses are constantly writing and creating new content. This includes business plans, blog posts, infographics, video scripts, magazine articles … the list goes on forever.

All that content conveys different messages, depending on the intended demographics and overall purpose, but there’s one thing it has in common: the writing process is typically the same.

While there is no overall consensus on how many steps the writing process has, with some saying four while others going as much as six or seven, experienced writers often combine some steps in the preliminary section. Overall, the most common process that’s used is:

  1. In the pre-writing section, writers start with idea conception. This is where choosing your topic, brainstorming, and the gathering of ideas takes place.

  2. The next step is organization. This is where ideas are put into an outline or a mind map. While you may not know the exact flow of thought at the beginning, you can see what ideas predicate others.

  3. The actual writing process is what follows. Individuals have unique approaches to the way they tackle this step.

    1. Some people believe the most effective way is to write one paragraph at a time. You write the first paragraph, then you go back and edit it. Then you write your next paragraph. You continue the process until you reach the end of the piece.

    2. Others prefer the all-or-nothing method. This is where they put their stream of consciousness onto a piece of paper and they write from start to finish without stopping. Most people fall into an in-between category where there’s editing done as they go, but mostly they write first and revise later.

  4. Last, there is the revision and editing step. This is where you go into your paper and add in sources, change grammar or sentence structure, and do final proofreading.

For each of these steps, there are various tools on the market that enhance the processes, make them more streamlined, help you research faster, or spellcheck automatically. Here are four great tech solutions that can help you write better content:

1. Mind Maps

Mind maps are brainstorming techniques and tools which help writers to conceptualize their ideas. They are used to join themes and topics, which normally wouldn’t be thought to be related. By seeing them on a mind map, you can think of new creative ways to link them together.

A good mind map tool is an app called Coggle. Coggle allows you to create colorful diagrams, which connect a variety of ideas, resources, and topics to encourage creativity in the initial stages of writing. It takes a bit to master mind mapping, but once you do, you’ll find new ideas for articles faster than ever.

2. Style Checkers

Style checkers, like the Hemingway app or Pro Writing Aid, are useful for the editing phase. While spell checkers and thesaurus apps are excellent for finding grammatical issues and helping writers choose more descriptive words, style checkers help writers determine the grade level at which they are writing. The choice of which one would be better for you is entirely up to you and your preferences.

This allows you to know if you’re too casual in writing, too formal, overly technical, or using too much jargon. This information helps you reach your targeted demographic. When marketing to seniors, for example, your language will differ greatly as opposed to writing about academic software for graduate students.

3. Cloud Sharing

Cloud computing has revolutionized the way content is produced, too. Instead of relying on onsite software, you can do everything from your browser with solutions like Google Docs or Office 365. Most are already familiar with Office 365 that comes with cloud apps (Word, Excel, and others) and their own storage solution: OneDrive. This allows you to have your entire writing project backed up online and accessible at any time.

Now, the beauty of cloud sharing is that you can share your drafts with collaborators. If you’re collaborating on a project, you can invite others and work on it simultaneously. This makes the editing and revision process much simpler since you have multiple pairs of eyes looking at a document within a short period of time. This means that not only will you have spellcheckers looking over your document, but will also have fellow proofreaders who will catch errors and think of other ideas to improve the content.

4. Speech to Text

Speech to text is actually how this article was written. Some people are verbal processors, while others do better by typing or handwriting their drafts. Whatever form of writing works for you, speech to text is an incredibly helpful tool for creating content in 2019.

By using speech to text tools for your drafting, not only do you really flesh out your ideas, but you have better chances of sounding more natural in your writing style. This will make your blog posts and scripts more relatable.

Technology has improved the writing process by making it more streamlined and given us great ways to explore new ideas with systems like mind maps. Collaboration is easier than ever now, thanks to cloud solutions.

 

Eric Gordon is an independent business development and marketing specialist for SMEs. He loves sharing his insights and experience to assist business owners in growing their revenues. You can find Eric on Twitter @ericdavidgordon

Keeping It Fresh: Advice for the Mid-career Writer by Janet Elizabeth Henderson

bw THIS ONE BLOG TOUR BANNER RECKLES copy

Welcome to the blog tour for my special guest, Janet Elizabeth Henderson. She’s been a guest before, and I always love having her on my blog. This time, rather than an interview, I’ve asked her to share some writing wisdom for those of us who have been in the writing game for a while. Check out her advice below, and be sure to read all the way to the end so you can read all about her new book: Reckless.


There are a lot of fiction writing advice books out there. Most of them focus on teaching the basics of the craft and guiding you on how to find your voice. There are very few that concentrate on what to do once you have the basics down. I think this lack of balance reflects a deeper problem within the world of fiction writing—a lot of writers assume that once they’ve found their personal style and understand the basics there’s nothing else to learn.

They’re wrong.

If you don’t want your writing to stagnate… If you don’t want to write the same book over and over… Then you have to challenge yourself in every new piece of work you write. Think of the process as mining. You can dig down a little, find something interesting and then stay at that depth forever as you widen the same hole outwards. Or, you can go deeper and find something more precious. Maybe even find something that no one has ever found before. And yes, digging deeper is harder. But it’s worth it.

So, if you’re a mid-career writer and you want to dig deeper, how do you go about doing that? You could try some of the following:

Get out of your character comfort zone

Challenge yourself to write a character unlike any you’ve ever written before. If your speciality is alpha men, write the weakling—but do it in a way that makes him lovable, desirable and magnetic. (Be careful he doesn’t morph into your usual character type throughout the book. Keep him true to himself.) If you write great submissive women, try writing about a strong, leader-type woman. Get into the head of your character, changing your language and adapting your style to suit the character’s voice.

Make story, not plot, your priority

When we first start out, we cling to the formulas for plotting as though they are lifelines. The problem with this is that sometimes the flow of the story can become mutated or get lost to accommodate the structure you feel it must fit. Instead of following a pattern for your book, focus on the story. Story is the natural development of a tale which meets the criteria of your fictional world and the needs of your character. Plot is a series of events which follow a set structure. Do you see the difference?

Try not to think about whether your fiction fits accepted norms, but rather whether the story flows or not. Ask yourself: is this is the story your characters need to tell? Does it make logical sense within the frame of the world you’ve created? When you read something written by a natural storyteller, you often can’t see a structure at all. It’s buried underneath the very real dilemmas of the characters. It flows with a natural rhythm that suits the world the writer has set up. And it always surprises the reader.

Do one thing in each piece of work that you haven’t done before

With each new book, try to do something new and do it well. If you’ve always focused on the internal drama of your characters, write a scene where everyone has to deal with an external drama. If your last book was full of action, make this one full of emotion instead. If your last book flitted all over the world, set this one in a single room for the duration. Do something hard that will make you think deeper for every single scene in your story.

Never go with your first idea

I learned this one in art college! Always brainstorm your story ideas. Keep asking “what if?” until you hit an angle that you wouldn’t have come across otherwise. This will keep your stories fresh and give greater depth to your writing. The first few ideas we have are usually pretty obvious. Dig deeper. Find the idea that’s going to surprise you and your reader.

Critique your own work

There is a difference between having a critique and being a critic. Being a critic is often a negative thing; staging a critique is a productive event. The difference is that a critic often compares your work to the work of those around you, whereas a critique asks questions of the work itself to make you consider it on a deeper level.

Have a critique of your work by asking questions of it and not being afraid of the answers. Ask things like: “Is this truly in character or am I trying to bend the hero to fit the plot?” and “What other outcomes are possible from this set of circumstances?”

Always ask yourself why you’ve chosen something and whether there is a better, more unusual choice to be had. Make “what if?” your mantra. What if the plot took a different direction? What if the character did something else? What if there was another person in this scene? What if the setting was different? “What if?” is a question that will help you mine deeper into your work.

Okay, so that’s five things I try to do with each new book. I hope, if you give it a go, that you’ll let me know how it works out for you. And if you have some suggestions to add, all the better—I’m always looking to improve my writing!


Celebrate the release of Reckless

by Janet Elizabeth Henderson!

Follow the tour and enter to win great prizes!

2 grand prize winners will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

2 runner-ups will receive an e-copy of choice from Janet’s backlist!

Click HERE to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Visit all the blogs participating in the tour for reviews, excerpts, guest posts and more chances to win!

07/23/2016

Romance Junkies

Splashes Into Books

True Revue Book Blog

Carrie’s Book Reviews

07/24/2016

Kitty’s Book Spot!

Deluged with Books Cafe

Those Crazy Book Chicks

Books and Bindings

She Hearts Books

What Is That Book About

Just Books

Reese’s Review

Nicole’s Book Musings

07/25/2016

It’s All About The Romance

07/26/2016

Indie Authors, Books, and More

I am, Indeed

07/27/2016

Tamar Hela

Reviews From The Heart

Catherine Mede

07/28/2016

Swept Away By Romance

07/29/2016

Happily Ever Chapter

The Power of Three Readers

Loves 2 Read Romance

We So Nerdy

07/30/2016

Fiona Reads and FoodSpots

Splashes Into Books

Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm

Joyfully Reviewed


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About Reckless

Synopsis:

The new London office of Benson Security hasn’t even opened its doors yet and already it’s neck deep in its first case…

If the mission doesn’t kill him, his sexy partner just might.

Dimitri Raast and Megan Donaldson have a common enemy—the head of an organisation that specializes in human trafficking and sexual slavery.

They have similar motivation—Dimitri’s sister was taken by the organisation, and Megan’s sister is threatened by it.

They have the same goal—eliminate their enemy and save their sisters.

Given they have so much in common, you would think working together would be a piece of cake.

You would be wrong.

While Dimitri brings skills and experience from years as a US Army Ranger to their partnership, Megan brings a background in failed career choices and an ability to cause trouble wherever she goes. Yet, even with so much at stake, Dimitri can’t resist Megan’s particular brand of crazy.

She’s wild, she’s sexy and she’s fearless. An irresistible combination for a man who lives his life completely in control. Now, after almost a year with one all-consuming focus, Dimitri finds himself torn between rescuing his sister and protecting the woman he wants—from herself.

Before she gets them both killed.

Available at: Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | B&N


Excerpt:

They were meeting Johnny Rotten in a dark alley. Of course they were meeting a guy called Johnny Rotten in a dark alley. Megan rolled her eyes. Obviously Johnny went to the TV movie school of how to be a bad guy.

“You stay here.” Dimitri pointed at a dumpster. Yeah. A dumpster. She half expected some guy with a camera to shout cut and make them start again.

“You don’t mean in the dumpster, right?” Because—eew!

“No. Beside it. In the dark.” He didn’t even try to disguise that he was losing patience. “Don’t move, don’t make a sound, don’t interrupt.”

Blah, blah, blah, let the big boys play. She was so tired of hearing the same old tune. It was time to change the radio station.

“Right,” Dimitri said. “I’m going to drive round and come in from the other end.”

“Why can’t I just wait in the car? It’s cold and it stinks here.”

“Because…” He stretched the word out. “You’re supposed to be my hostage. I can’t just let you hang out in the car.”

“I can pretend to be drugged.”

“No. Too dangerous. He might spot you, know who you are and that Rudi wants you. Then what would stop him deciding to eliminate me and take you to Rudi himself?”

She stamped her feet to get her blood circulating before the chill removed her toes. “Why didn’t you just take me back to the office?”

“You’re my backup.” There was a silent ‘idiot’ attached to that sentence, she just knew it.

“The backup that hides in dumpsters?”

“The backup that phones for help if it looks like things are going south.”

Megan blushed, grateful he couldn’t see it in the dark. “So, I need my phone?”

He put his hands on his hips and looked skyward for a moment. “Where is it?”

“Car.” She gave him what she hoped was an apologetic smile.

He stomped off, cursing under his breath and came back a few minutes later with the phone. “Sorted now?”

Megan nodded. It probably wasn’t the best time to tell him she really needed to use the bathroom. She could hold it. How long did it take to have a covert meeting in an alley anyway?

She gave him a thumbs up and watched him march back to the car. Leaving her alone in a stinky, dark alley. Alone and not thinking about how good Dimitri’s lips felt against hers. Nope. She wasn’t thinking about that at all. She was a professional—nearly. She had a job to do. She backed into the shadows and tried to become invisible. Ninja Megan. She could do it. It was all about the power of the mind. She closed her eyes and took a few calming breaths.

That’s when her stomach rumbled. Her hand smacked flat on it as she bit her lip. Maybe all that fried food wasn’t such a great idea after all. Not that she would ever admit that to Dimitri. She was still mad at the man. Sure she’d been the first to say they weren’t in a relationship, but he didn’t have to agree so enthusiastically. He’d sounded affronted. As though she was the last person on earth he’d consider dating. It was insulting. Her stomach made a strange bubbling sound as she saw Dimitri’s SUV pull up at the other end of the alley. He got out and stood under the yellow glow of the street lamp. Waiting. Alert. Moody.

Megan’s stomach rumbled again. Loudly. This wasn’t good. So much for not making a sound. Her own body was working against her. She crouched down in an attempt to dull the noise, and hoped it worked. She closed her eyes, tried to calm her stomach and think thoughts that made her invisible.

That’s when she farted.

It wasn’t silent.

Megan dropped her head to her knees. If the bad guys didn’t get her, she’d die of humiliation.

And then her stomach rumbled again.

© 2016 Janet Elizabeth Henderson


About Janet Elizabeth Henderson:

I grew up in Scotland, but now I’m living in New Zealand – married to a Dutch man whom I met in America. (It can get a little confusing in my household!) When I’m not living in my head, I’m a mother to two tiny kids, three pet sheep, three miniature horses, three alpacas, one dog, two cats, several chickens and an escape artist goat.

5 random things about me:

  1. I accidentally mooned a crowd at a Bolivian wedding.

  2. I’ve been chased by a gang of baboons. And I mean gang. They were organised and vicious. All that was missing was their leather jackets and tattoos!

  3. I wrote my first novel when I was 22. It was a cross between Star Wars, Monsters Inc. and Tinkerbelle. Funnily enough, no one wanted to publish it. Odd, that…

  4. I was a portrait artist on the streets of Amsterdam for a time.

  5. I worked night shift as a security guard at Stirling Castle in Scotland while I was in art college. The castle was on a terrorist hit-list back then. To defend it they gave me a flashlight, a two-way radio that only worked one-way and made me wear a polyester A-line skirt…

If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, which happens sporadically – usually when books are being released – then you’ll find a form on my website. I hope you enjoy my books. Happy reading!

 

Find out more: Facebook / Website / Twitter / Goodreads

 

Author Interview: Keshawn Dodds, Author of Menzuo: The Calling of the Sun Prince

Today, for Writer Wednesday, I am hosting one of my clients from Cosby Media Productions. I had the privilege of editing for Keshawn Dodds last year, and he was amazing to work with. He has been one of the easiest and most receptive writers I have worked with—EVER. And, because of that willingness to learn and take my suggestions, there’s no doubt in my mind that this talented author is going places.

Cosby Media is gearing up to release Keshawn’s middle grade fantasy/sci-fi novel, Menzuo: The Calling of the Sun Prince. Of course, all of us at CMP are very excited. The book will be out on Tuesday, March 24th, so make sure you mark your calendar and pick up a copy of the eBook when it’s available.

Now, let’s get on to the interview and learn more about Keshawn and his writing process. Please give a warm welcome to author Keshawn Dodds!

Keshawn DoddsTell us a bit about yourself—what’s your background and how did you become a writer?

Well, I am from Springfield, Massachusetts, the Home of Basketball (born and raised). I still live here with my wife, Tamara Dodds, and my amazing daughter who just turned ten, Sydney Dodds. Also, we have the best guard dog, our Shi Tzu, Barkley. I grew up in the center of the city with my mother, who raised me by herself after my father passed away when I was seven. I have three older brothers, Kevin Edward, Keith Edward and Kraig Edward Dodds. YES, we all have the same middle name. My three brothers have helped guide me through live and have helped me with finding my place in life as an advocate for education, sports and my passion for writing. I am also very thankful for the neighborhood that I grew up in. The people on Dunmoreland Street really helped my mother raise me, and I could not be more thankful for growing up in such a great environment.

Now, how I became a writer is a little bit of a sad story but very uplifting. When I was seventeen, my best friend, Marcus McDowell, was diagnosed with Cancer. While he was in the hospital, he wanted to do something to take his mind off of the pain and the chemo treatments that he was going through. So, we decided to create a comic book. He loved to draw, and I always had a passion for writing, so the process began. We both created this one character, Menzuo (Men-Zoo-O) and gave him the best super powers that any superhero could have. From there, we developed other characters and were well on our way to put things together.

Unfortunately, eleven months later, Marcus passed away. At that point, I fell into a very deep depression and really wanted to give up on everything that I wanted to be. Losing my friend in the world was heartbreaking. I was lost and didn’t know how to make my way back to being me.

A few months later, I sat down with Marcus’ father, Douglas Skinner, and we talked about life and Marcus. After that discussion, he gave me the artwork that Marcus created, and I took it home. I constantly looked at it, and then one day, I started to put pencil to paper and just wrote. I continued to write and write and write until I had a three hundred page manuscript. I really had no clue how it happened, but I looked at it as a blessing.

When I realized it, what I wrote was a tribute to Marcus and also a way of me dealing with the loss of my best friend.

What is the genre in which you write?

I write in several different genres: Juvenile Science Fiction/Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction, and Adult Romance. I have a very wide range in the art of writing with so many stories to tell. My favorite genre of them all is the Juvenile Science Fiction/Fantasy because it keeps my mind young.

What is the book you recently published? What is it all about?

The book that I have recently published is actually a republished book called Menzuo: The Calling of the Sun Prince. The book has been republished through Cosby Media Productions, and I am glad to announce that they have picked up the entire series. Menzuo has also been considered for film and television. My dreams are really coming to fruition.

Have you published or written any other works?

Yes, I have. I have published a book in the Young Adult Fiction genre called: Who’s On My Side? The Story of Kalen Brown. I debuted the book as a stage play back in 2012, and for all three shows, we got standing ovations. I am actually in the process of putting the play on again this summer at American International College.

Name your favorite characters you’ve made up and explain why they’re your favorites.

I really love all of the characters that I have created because I consider myself a method writer. I become each one of the characters that I create. I believe that’s why people really enjoy my writing style. If I had to choose a couple characters, it would have to be Menzuo and Solar from my Menzuo—Solar Warrior’s series. The reason these two characters are my favorite is because when you read the story, you will see that Menzuo is actually me and Solar, Menzuo’s protector—the one who gives Menzuo his superpowers is my best friend, Marcus. The connection with these two characters is real and makes my story complete.

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?

I feel that I am seriously very lucky. I don’t ever get writer’s block. I believe that’s because everything that I write plays like a movie in my head, so I can see everything that is happening and where the stories are going. The best thing that I can do is paint the pictures that I see with words on a page.

How long did it take to finish your first novel?

My first novel took me six months to write out the first time. Writing the first Menzuo novel was my escape from pain, and I dug deep and got lost in the story. For those six months, I kept writing, and from there, I fell in love with creating stories.

What were the challenges you faced when getting your first book published?

There were so many challenges because I was an unknown author. It seemed like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Back in 2002-2003, every company that I contacted or submitted my manuscript to rejected it. Then, there were the companies that said that I needed an agent to represent my work. Then, there were the agents who said that I needed to have a published book to be represented. REALLY? So, how is a writer supposed to break into the market?

After seventeen rejection letters, I stumbled upon a company that was willing to publish my work. PublishAmerica opened its doors to me. I am forever grateful for the start because it has gotten me to where I am today.

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found that work best for your genre?

I market my work in many different ways, from using social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, to my own website: www.keshawndodds.com. I also go into schools, community centers, boys and girls clubs, and hold reading and writing events. Being face-to-face with your target group really gets people interested in your work and grows your following.

What I am doing now to market my book is creating a documentary with the help of American International College students called, “The Creation of a New Superhero,” which we will put out on YouTube, leading up to the East Coast Black Age of Comic Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 15th – 16th. This is where I will reveal the Menzuo costume that is being created by the Theater Department at AIC.

What does your writing process “look” like?

My writing process is really free flowing. I first think about the story that I want to create, what message I want my story to tell, and how many characters I want to start with. I think about the background of my main character, what the obstacles are that he or she will be facing and how will they be solved.

I rarely have an outline for my stories. I try my best to write out the first draft straight through. The one thing that I do is take notes, so when I go back, I can add, take out, or change things to make the story flow better. I usually write my story over at least three times before I give it to my editor. I really try to do my best to make sure that my reader is inside of the story and understands my characters and where the story is going.

When I’m ready to write, I put on some music to get me in the mood—more than likely, I play Busta Rhymes for my fight scenes, and Metallica when I’m putting together some intense scenes. Music is my lifeline to my writing and it keeps me focused.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently working on the second book in the Menzuo ~ Solar Warrior’s series: “Menzuo S.W. Legend of the Blue Diamond.” I am looking to release the book by the end of this year. To see where the series is going is amazing, and I am loving this journey.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

The toughest criticism has actually been my best motivation. I have had someone tell me that my books are not good and no one will enjoy my work. The fear for every author is that people will hate their work. I have come to see that you cannot please everyone, but as an artist, you have to do what you love, and the people that truly enjoy what you do will continue to support you.

The best compliment that I have received is that my work has inspired them to write their own stories. That is the best compliment that I can receive. If I can motivate others to build upon their dreams, that’s what makes my work matter.

What advice can you give to aspiring authors?

The best advice that I can give to aspiring authors is: “Just Write!” That is the hardest part. Getting your story out of your head and onto paper or onto a computer is the first step to becoming an author. Many people think that this is easy to do, but it’s just like working out; not everyone is in shape because it’s hard to stay focused on your goals. The same goes for writing. It’s hard to keep going back to finish a story.

When can we expect to see another publication of your work?

The eBook for Menzuo: The Calling of the Sun Prince will be released on March 24th, and the physical copy will be out shortly after. From there, you can get updates on my next projects on my website: www.keshawndodds.com. I plan to publish many books over the years, so be on the lookout.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans and readers?

I want to say thank you for believing in me and helping to make my dreams a reality. I consider all of the fans of my work as friends. I’m just a regular guy trying to build an empire that will inspire others to be great and also live their dreams. I am truly blessed to do what I do, and I thank you all for taking the time to be on this journey with me.

What’s a cool (or nerdy) fact about you that you’ll share with us?

I am truly a comic book buff. I fell in love with comics when I was a kid. I always wanted to be Flash! He was my favorite because he was so fast. I am also a huge fan of science fiction/fantasy movies that people really have never heard of. I stay on Netflix and on the Internet, looking for new stories.

Finally, how can we find you? What are your social media sites and where can we purchase your book(s)?

You can find me on these sites:

www.facebook.com/keshawndodds

www.twitter.com/iamkeshawndodds

www.instagram.com/k.e.dodds

www.keshawndodds.com

My books can be purchased on my website and various other online sites like www.amazon.com & www.tatepublishing.com.

Menzuo Book Cover - FrontMenzuo synopsis:

Jammal Hall is just eleven years old when he finds out his life on Earth is more important than he could ever imagine. A week before his twelfth birthday, which happens to be his age of destiny, many secrets are revealed to him—including the news that he’s from another planet and his earthly parents are not his birth parents. Jammal, who is actually Prince Menzuo: Universal Protector, must rely on his guardian, Solar, if he is to survive combat training in order to prepare to face his arch nemesis: the deadly Pirate Warrior, Morbid. As Prince Menzuo begins to understand just how important he is in protecting the planet and the power of All Good and Evil, he must also face the challenge of trying to live a normal life while participating in a virtual reality tournament with his best friends. Will Menzuo be able to fulfill his destiny as protector, or will he give in to his fears and let the fate of the universe fall into the hands of the evil Morbid?

Don’t forget to grab your copy of Menzuo: The Calling of the Sun Prince on March 24th! Book available at most major online retail sites.

Why I Err On The Side Of TOO LITTLE Description While Writing

Have you ever read a book so chock full of description or backstory that you got lost in the middle of the characters’ dialogue? I sure have. And, as a budding book reviewer, that’s what makes me drop the review an entire star—in regards to rating. When writers go down the rabbit hole for far too long, or describe a room with an overkill of flowery prose, it can make a potentially great book just good, or a good book become bad.
***
Some readers like lots of description, but I promise they’re far and few in between. Why? Because we have movies and video games to get the visuals we want. Our world is overflowing with visual onslaught, and now, writers must pull in readers faster than their predecessors. 
IMG_0763

What Makes A Great Book?

Most contemporary great books have excellent pacing, unpretentious dialogue, and just enough detail to bring the reader into a different world while still allowing her/him to use her/his imagination. Reading can often be a form of escape, but readers don’t want to be told word by word how they’re supposed to get to this imaginary world. Many of us have a little rebel inside, vying for a bit a freedom—especially when it comes to the arts. 

An Editor’s (And Reader’s) Perspective

Last year, I edited 16 books—fiction and non-fiction [HIRE ME HERE]. Not once did I ask my clients for more descriptions of a building or a room…nor did I ask them for more backstory. Often, I advised they cut down on some of the book’s description in order to increase the pacing of the book. Unless I’m editing a technical manual, there is no need for overkill on descriptions. (Yes, there can be exceptions, but that’s not my point in this post.) I also read about 75 books last year, in all different genres, and continued to develop my eye for a great story versus just a good story. The best books were those with minimal descriptions.

Minimalist Descriptions

As a writer, I tend to hold back on description until the very end of revisions. In the YA genre especially, characters are expected to have descriptions so that fangirls and fanboys can draw fan art for all the cool authors. But in other genres, there may be more of a focus on action, suspense, romance, etc. Therefore, shorter descriptions of characters, or none at all, may be more appropriate. And of course readers want to know what the setting looks like, but erring on the side of less description and then waiting for feedback from beta readers would be an easier fix than crying because your editor wants you to delete a whole page. 
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In the book Hooked by Les Edgerton, it’s advised to focus more on putting characters in action rather than worrying about their eye color, weight, height, hair color, etc. I’ll quote Edgerton, as he addresses character description in his writing:
“In fact, my own writing contains very little description of any of my characters—it’s virtually nonexistent—yet, for years I’ve asked readers if they can describe a character I pick at random from my stories, and invariably they come up with a detailed description, no matter which character I might choose. When I tell them I haven’t described the character mentioned at all (as I hardly ever have), they’re surprised, and some swear that I did, even going so far as to drag out the story and look for where I’ve included the description. They never find it.” -Hooked, page 141
Via Goodreads

Via Goodreads

What’s A Writer To Do?

So, what to do? From experience as a writer and editor, I advise not worrying so much about description as much as plot, pacing, and dialogue. When my editors go through my manuscripts, they make notes when I need more description. I also have some great beta readers who will let me know if I need to add more detail or if I left some questions unanswered. 
MY edits in my book proof.

MY edits in my book proof.

The Boneyard

However, if you just can’t see yourself lessening your story details, you can get in the habit of making some cuts as you rewrite. I coached a good friend of mine through his dissertation, and he taught me about something I’d never before encountered: “The Boneyard.”
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The Boneyard is a “grave” or placeholder for all that wonderful, genius prose that just doesn’t work for your manuscript. However, the cool thing about this type of grave is that words can be resurrected from it. Sometimes we’ll make cuts but decide that our original idea (or a variation of it) works better. The Boneyard comes to the rescue! When I make any big cuts, I place them in that book’s Boneyard in case I need to pull from it later. It saves me from going through old drafts, trying to pinpoint what I had originally written. I either keep my manuscript’s Boneyard in a separate Word document, or I create a new note in Evernote.
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Backstory

Backstory is another offender. It truly is an art to be able to seamlessly weave in backstory while still keeping pacing intact. I read a really cool book the other week, but it had the largest chunks of backstory I’ve ever seen in my life! In fact, that was the number one complaint in all of the reviews. I’m talking about pages of backstory or a character flashback in the middle of dialogue. At times, it was so bad, I almost forgot what the characters had been talking about. Almost none of the extra descriptions and backstory added to the novel whatsoever. 
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For that very reason, I make a point to let my clients know if they are at risk of the same thing. I want their books to be the best they can be—with witty banter, fresh but limited descriptions that sharpen the storyline, and a fictional world that has never before been seen. I’ve been a backstory offender before, so I’m speaking from experience. What’s cool about cutting unnecessary backstory is that you can place the cuts in The Boneyard and pull it out later to write a novella or character extras for fans. Just because your words have been cut from your manuscript, doesn’t mean that they suck or need to “die.” No! If they’re decent, they can be reused in other ways. 
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Here’s what Les Edgerton has to say about backstory and details:
“What’s not done today is the immediate helping of backstory right after that (implied) ‘once upon a time.’ We don’t fill readers in on the protagonist’s life for the past ten years leading up to the story’s [actual] beginning. We also don’t spend a lot of time describing the village he lives in, the street he walks down each day to work, his waking habits, or the copious details of each room he enters. Or every bite of the breakfast he ingests or the primary colors of the songbird outside his window.” -Hooked, pages 9-10
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Edgerton goes on to say that what matters for a story’s beginning is the inciting incident, and then things continue to build from there. Less really can be more, especially when it comes to fiction. It’s like a man perhaps finding a modestly-clothed woman more mysterious and sexy than one who’s wearing daisy dukes and a bikini top. Maybe not the best example, but you get the idea.

Let’s Wrap It Up

The thing is, we live in a different society and culture than the one thousands of years ago—or even a hundred years ago—where long and flowery descriptions were thought to be signs of creative genius. Readers today want something fast, something different, something special. And writers need to deliver on those terms, meaning that too much description and/or backstory just won’t cut it. The plot needs to be solid, conflicts need to be resolved, and unless readers just want a fluffy cotton candy read, the imagination needs to be engaged. Give readers more feelings than visuals, and I promise they’ll remember your book more than ones overshadowed by boring details and a dump of backstory. Why? Because if you can make them feel a certain way—a way in which they resonate with your characters—they won’t give two craps about whether your main character has red, blonde, black, or purple hair. 
Give readers FEELS! All the FEELS!
Feels

What Do YOU Think?

Okay, blog readers. Time for you to sound out. What do you think about descriptions and backstory? Have you read—or written—books with way too much? Do you like all the additional details? What’s too much for you? What’s too little? Comment below! 

Writer Resource: Synonyms for “Said” and “Walk”

Today I have a special guest and good friend, Robin Woods, sharing some great writing tips. And rather than type out paragraph after paragraph to convey this awesome resource, Robin has compiled an excellent chart, available for YOU to download for FREE! Woohoo! I am so excited about this chart, because Robin is very organized. Therefore, I encouraged her to put her process to paper to help other writers. As a seasoned English teacher and author, this lady knows her stuff. I hope that you will find this resource extremely useful.

Also, just wanted to say that you’ll want to stay tuned for THIS Wednesday because Robin will be back on my blog, sharing the beautiful cover for her up-and-coming book Allure–part of “The Watchers” series. Plus, it’s her birthday that day, and I’m sure you’re eager to wish her a happy one. 🙂 Until then, have fun with the chart!

Click the chart to download in PDF format.

Click the chart to download in PDF format.

If you’re eager to learn more about Robin and simply can’t wait until Wednesday, check her out at these places:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Robin-Woods/e/B009H8V62C/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
Facebook: www.facebook.com/robinwoodsfiction
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RWoodsFiction
Good Reads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5390266.Robin_Woods