Tag Archives: writing craft

Syntax Smarts

syntax smartsSyntax, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is ‘the way in which words are put together to form phrases, clauses, or sentences.”

The beauty and trick is putting those words together to create a specific effect in your writing. This seems to be the biggest hurdle for many aspiring writers, but one which can be overcome with knowledge and practice.

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Where Art Thou?

settingSetting is more than just location!

Usually when folks think of setting in the literary sense they think physical location. But setting is much more than that. Authors construct setting like they do characters and plot.

Setting is a powerful element for establishing themes and often  reflect the author’s own background, biases, and perspectives.

Setting can influence, shape, and emphasize a character’s actions and ideas. Setting can drive plot, create mood, or assume the role of antagonist..

Setting can reflect the following milieus:
  • political
  • time ( minutes, hours, days, years )
  • historical
  • financial
  • socio-economic
  • cultural
  • religious
  • dystopian/utopian
  • magical
  • mythical
  • surreal
  • constructed/ alternate /parallel/imaginary
  • dream ( think Inception )
  • virtual ( think Tron )
  • psychological
  • attitudinal
  • industrial
  • seasonal
Setting can also refer to:

How are you using setting?

 Related links: Rock Your Writing

A Writer’s Taxonomy

Blooms taxonomyAny teacher knows Bloom’s Taxonomy.  For those not in the teacher loop it’s how educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom classified the levels of thinking. Teachers use the classifications to foster and inspire students’ higher-level thinking skills.

Writers can use the same taxonomy to help improve their writing skills.

Knowledge, at the base, is the most fundamental. ( Imagine trying to solve a calculus problem without knowing how to add, subtract, divide, or multiply.)
Knowledge is knowing the writing basics.  Recalling:
  • grammar
  • story structure
  • punctuation
  • authorial techniques like metaphor, symbol, allusion, characterization, structure, imagery, form, motif, dialog, point of view, theme, and tone
Understanding: More than just recall is required. Comprehending the nuances and effects of the basics guides the writer to creating a better, tighter manuscript.
Writers need to understand how:
  • syntax manipulates a reader.
  • syntax impacts the author’s tone and mood.
  • syntax speeds up, slows down, and emphasizes.
  • story structure is more than just exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
  • punctuation impacts mood and slows down, speeds, up, and emphasizes.
  • authorial techniques and literary devices add depth, flavor, and nuance.
  • the hero’s/protagonist’s weakness; his desire; antagonist’s/enemy’s desire; the quest/plan; battle/crisis; self-revelation; and resolution/new normal are used for maximum impact.

Application: Utilizing what you understand to weave, manipulate, and design plot and characters. This is where each writer’s process is different. It doesn’t matter if you don’t write chapter 2 until chapter 1 is perfect or if you rewrite a hundred times. It’s implementing what you know that is important.

Analysis: Read and study trends and genres in the industry. What do agents/publishers want and expect of your genre? What do readers of your genre crave? Scrutinize industry standards to determine if your novel meets the mark.

Synthesis: Craft your manuscript so it meets those standards. Modify with revisions. Imagine new combinations. Predict the problems an agent/editor/reader might find. Deduce why novel X made it big.

Evaluation: The toughest level by far and the one some writers are ill-equipped for because their knowledge and understanding base is lacking. This is where pride and ego keep the aspiring writer down. This is where a thorough assessing and judging of craft and the publishing world determine your expectations, aspirations, fears, and insecurities. Writers should:

  • judge their manuscript against the current biggies.
  • evaluate how, where, and why the manuscript might need work.
  • solve manuscript weaknesses. Do you need a content editor? Do you need a grammar punctuation editor? Do you know how to assess whether the folks claiming to have those skills actually have credibility?
  • evaluate well-meaning fellow writers’ comments when they claim your writing is amazing. Would you take from-scratch baking advice from someone who only makes cakes from a box?

Where do YOU fall on the Writer’s Taxonomy?

Writers Taxonomy

Related Links: Readin’ & Writin’, Symbols & more Symbols, Rock Your Writing

 

Writing & Chocolate Chip Cookies

cookiesWriting is a lot like making chocolate chip cookies. OK, I’ll admit this blog comes after fighting off a craving—and losing—to the allure of the confection, but the similarities are sweet!

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour is like the plot of a novel, the basic element in any delicious tale.
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda is a leavening agent of skill and craft waiting to expand your draft batter when it’s time to turn on the revision heat.
  • 1 teaspoon salt is akin to the salt of your brow as you labor over your creation.
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened. Like real butter, well-chosen words make a better novel and discriminating readers will taste the difference when substitutes are used.
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar. Without sweet conflict a writer has no story. And like the iconic chocolate chip cookies several kinds add depth and complexity to its sweetness, be it the…
  • 3/4 cup packed white refined sugar of man vs man or the psychologically tormented  man vs self.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Great novels have an extra uumph to them—infused with the undetectable something special. Imitation zing doesn’t work—dig deep for the real thing.
  • 2 large eggs. Walkin’ on thematic eggshells does a writer no good. They must crack their creativity wide open to scramble a reader’s prosaic ideals while incorporating them into the story.
  • 2 cups chocolate chips. With just the right amount of narrative hooks, the story will melt in a reader’s mouth, leaving them eager for another bite and turn another page.
  • 1 cup chopped nuts and other optional mix-ins are odd characters that add flavor and zing your novel.

PREHEAT oven to 375° F. Revisions are in your future—don’t become attached to any single sentence.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Writer’s Baking Instructions:

COMBINE plot, craft, and sweat over computer keyboard. Beat words, conflict,  more conflict, and that something special in your brain until ideas are combined. Add themes, one at a time, rewriting & fine tuning well after each addition. Gradually beat in plot mixture. Stir in narrative hooks and optional symbols, motifs, allusions. Drop by rounded sentences and paragraphs onto pages and chapters.

Write & rewrite & edit until story is done—whether you like it moist and chewy, burnt, hard, or slightly raw. In writing time this can take anywhere from 2 months to 10 years. Cool completed novel for several weeks before moving manuscript to the query-agent racks.

Have fun cookin’ up your novel!

Related Links:  Rock Your  WritingSymbolism & more symbols;
Click  Amazon link for novels.

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