Monday, April 29, 2013

Writing skills-describing emotion

You come to a point in your story where there's a conflict between characters.  How do you describe their actions/feelings?  The one thing you don't necessarily want to do is say something like -  John was angry.   A better way to describe the situation might be something more along the lines of - A muscle twitched along John's clenched jaw.  Showing how your character feels is more effective than telling how he/she feels.  It allows the reader to connect to the character in a more authentic way.  

This holds true in other situations, too.  Action moves your story.  It allows your reader to see the emotion in the scene.  Jane felt like crying.  "Don't go," she said.   With a couple of changes, you can show Jane is feeling emotional without literally spelling it out.   Her lips trembled.  "Don't go." 

That being said, remember "less is more."  All it takes is a couple sentences to get the job done.   


Monday, April 22, 2013

Reading improves writing skills

As writers, we sometimes get so caught up in the task of writing we forget to read.  Reading is an easy way to improve writing skills.  Reading doesn't have to be limited to books; news articles and short stories are great options.  The important thing is to pay attention to sentence structure and paragraph development.

A novel is more than a story.  It is an example of the skills the writer has acquired.  When reading, we should consider the various elements of the book:   how the author maintains the mood of the story, how the plot moves, and whether we feel a connection to the characters.

By paying attention to the work of others, we can improve our own writing skills.

The Bookshelf Muse: Book Reviews Matter: Thank You For Taking The Time

The Bookshelf Muse: Book Reviews Matter: Thank You For Taking The Time

This is a good read for any writer but what really caught my eye is the webinar being offered at the bottom of the post.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Bookshelf Muse: Physical Attributes Entry: Neck

The Bookshelf Muse: Physical Attributes Entry: Neck

I recently found this site and now frequently check it.  The posts on describing various body parts, hair & eyes are very helpful.  Between working a full time job, taking care of my home and writing my first novel....time runs a little short.  The Bookshelf Muse offers quality information - its like taking a mini class at my convenience.

Interview with North Carolina Writer - Carol Ann Ross

I am excited to have the opportunity to interview an Eastern North Carolina writer.  Carol Ann Ross is the author of THE DAYS OF HAIRAWN MUHLY.  She resides in Surf City, NC with her two dogs.  She holds a Bachelor Degree in English and a Masters Degree in education and has studied abroad at Oxford University.  Carol has taught at several colleges and has written a couple historical non-fiction books.  THE DAYS OF HAIRAWN MUHLY is her first novel.

Deb:  Hi Carol.  Let me begin by saying I loved THE DAYS OF HAIRAWN MUHLY.
Carol:  Hi Deb - Thank you so much for your interest.
Deb:  What inspired you to write this novel?
Carol:  THE DAYS OF HAIRAWN MUHLY is a book that had to be written.  I grew up on Topsail Island and know so much of its history, it's part of who I am.  And being a writer - I have to write what I know.  It is the first in a trilogy - there is so much about this area that should never be forgotten.
Deb:  You've written two historical non-fiction books.  Did you enjoy switching genres?
Carol:  I think it's safer to write fiction.  I get to embellish a bit and take some liberties.  I like it better, more fun.
Deb:  Of the characters in your novel, which one do you relate to the most?
Carol:  Geez!  To whom do I relate more?  Hmmm.  Pearl is a better me, Ellie is worse.  Different sides of the same coin?
Deb:  (Laughing)  That's quite a coin.  Would you share some random fact about yourself that might surprise your readers?
Carol:  Random fact?  I do not comprehend algebra.
Deb:  Thanks for talking to me.  I'm looking forward to the sequel.
Carol:  Thank you.

THE DAYS OF HAIRAWN MUHLY is available on Amazon in paperback. It will be available for download on April 23, 2013.

-DS McKnight

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Improving writing skills - Descriptions

Practice makes perfect.  It's an old adage but its true.  If you want to become a better writer, you must write...and write...and write.  It's not enough to love writing, you must make the commitment to improve your writing skills.

Before I completed my first novel, I had made two previous attempts.  Those stories are packed away waiting to be finished.  My biggest problem?  I had failed to do the necessary work to achieve my goal.

Just as an athlete works out, a writer must do the same.  One of the exercises I found helpful was to describe an animal.  Take a cat for instance - you could say a cat is yellow and fluffy.  But if you really thought about a feline, you might describe it as follows:

          The cat crouched low as it crept through the knee high weeds, it's yellow eyes never
          leaving the low branches of the flowering pear tree.

The exercise is not limited to animals.  It can be applied to people as well as places.  If you have time, visit a cafe with outdoor seating.  (Make sure you bring a pencil and paper or your laptop if you must.)  Watch the people around you.  Notice what they do and how they look.  Are they rushed? Agitated?  Does their skin look weathered?  Choose a person, take notes....and then describe that person - giving him/her a name and back story.  You are only limited by your imagination.

D.S. McKnight



Wednesday, April 3, 2013

New River, Sneads Ferry, NC

The New River is the only river in North Carolina that begins and ends in the same county (Onslow).   I spent hours playing in its waters as a child - jumping off shrimp boats, swimming, floating on inner-tubes & learning to clam.  Looking back, I realize how lucky I was.   

Over time, my relationship with the river has changed.  It has became a source of comfort; a place I can go when I need to think or recharge my batteries.  It is perhaps my oldest and dearest friend.

Shrimp boats at LT Everett Seafood
Sneads Ferry, NC

View of the New River taken in Sneads Ferry, NC

Monday, April 1, 2013

Self Publishing

I have chosen to self publish my first novel.  In fact, I didn't even bother to look for an agent.  First, let me be  honest and admit that in a perfect world, HarperCollins or Random House would have been fighting for my attention.  However, I tend to be a realist and I recognized that wasn't going to happen.  But that's okay-the internet has opened doors that were previously shut.  Companies like Create Space and Lightning Source offer options, that until a few years ago, didn't exist.

I considered submitting my manuscript to a small or medium sized publisher.  After attending a writers' conference, I realized that if one picked me up, I'd have to make the commitment to market the book. If I have to market my book (and I understand that small and mid-size publishers don't have large budgets to market every book), then I decided I wanted control of my story.

I tried to do my homework.  I searched the internet looking for the pros and cons of self publishing.  I spoke to writers who had published traditionally and those who chose the independent route.  It just seemed like self publishing was a better choice for me - so, I met with my accountant, followed his advice, and Stone Bay Press was born.

I have decided to use Create Space for their printing services.  I felt they offered a quality product at an affordable price.  I'm still working through the process.  My edits have been completed.  I'm going over my manuscript for the final time before I give it to a proof reader. (Can you say stressed?)   My cover is in the process of being designed and I'm really pleased with how it looks so far.  All in all, the process of publishing my novel has been a learning experience.

I realize that in a sea of self published books, I will have to work hard to get noticed.  I'm under no illusion that I'm the next big thing but I believe in my story and I believe that sometimes you just have to take the chance to reach for your dreams.  For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to write a story I could share with the world.  It is my hope that those who read Of Dreams and Shadow enjoy it.  

The journey continues and I will update on my progress.  Until then, I am looking forward to the day when the completed novel is in my hands.