Tip

3 Basic Rules for Starting New Paragraphs

Okay, so you want to write – a book, a story, an essay – whatever you want to write. But you have ZERO experience.  

You know pages have words on them, and they seem to be broken up into patterns called paragraphs, but how do you know when to do that? Here are the beginning rules. Use them to get started writing your work the way it should be written.

 

  1.  Begin a new paragraph whenever you change speaker.

This means, in dialogue, one person says something, then another one says something.

Each time this happens, each time the speaker changes, they get a new paragraph all to themselves, and their spoken words are contained in quote marks (BONUS tip there)

 

  1. Begin a new paragraph whenever you change topic.

You begin your essay by describing the outside of your house. Then you want to move on to describing the inside of it. Make a new paragraph for the inside description. When you want to describe what the back yard looks like, that is another new paragraph.

 

  1. Begin a new paragraph when it feels like one is needed.

This can be for a pause, a change of direction in the action, or just to change theme or thought, much like a change of topic.

You may have spent some time describing how you felt when the ambulance arrived. Then the EMT has you move into the ambulance, and you need to describe how you felt – maybe more physically than emotionally -, and what the inside of the ambulance looked like.

The arrival is one paragraph, the move into the ambulance is a second, and the description of the interior is a third.

 

Most of all, watch for these things in your reading. As you identify them in what you read, it will be easier for you to remember to use them in your writing.

Never promise what you can’t deliver…

… a brief monologue on the ways that can backfire on you

 

Besides being a means of offering my excuses for missing deadline once again, this short list enumerates various ways promising something can get you into trouble.

  1.  Most obvious and pertinent: Never put in writing the date your book will be available unless it is on its way to the printer. And not even then. Those of you who are alert will  note the ‘update’ of launch info for FLYING PURPLE  PEOPLE SEATER. I won’t bother you with excuses; there are some. It will be out soon.
  2. Never promise you will  never do something. A certain editor I know vowed she would never go so far as to cross borders to see a performance she admired; guess where she will be next month? (correct if you said not in her home country)
  3. Never promise to house-sit or pet-sit when you don’t really know your own plans. (Was that the weekend you scheduled for minor surgery on Friday and were told you’ll be out of it from the pain meds for three days?)
  4. Never promise you will be there for the birth of a child (except your own, and then not if it is your spouse who is delivering). Do I really need to mention that babies are unpredictable?
  5. Never promise payback –  whether it’s a favor, a visit, a loan, or revenge. Life is also  unpredictable.
  6. Never promise to write an article from a certain slant. You  never know when you will discover information – even during an interview with the subject – that will change everything you’re going to write.
  7. Never promise a friend or a family member that you will name a character after them or, worse, ‘put them in your book’.
  8. Following from #7 is, never promise (or brag) that you’re going to kill off your mother-in-law (or anyone real in your life) in your book. — We all do it; just don’t say so.
  9. Never put so many people or things in the plot of your novel that you can’t keep track of them. You’ll have things like boats with gunmen on them vanishing  into thin air when they would have been in a position to turn the tide of battle, but you can’t have them there because that’s not how the fight turns out. (yes, that was a thing)
  10. And never, never, as the saying goes, put a gun on a mantelpiece in a scene unless someone is going to get shot.

That’s a saying that was taught to me by my screenwriting son. It refers to economy and purpose in writing.  When you put an object or person into a scene, there’s a reason they are there. There has to be, particularly in any short writing, but even in novels.

Mysteries may be notorious for red herrings and misdirection, but that’s not what you’re doing if you are introducing stuff into scenes and not doing something with them.  Ie, there is no reason for a gun on the mantelpiece in a young woman’s apartment, unless there it is going to be used. Maybe it’s self-defense, because she feels stalked. Maybe it’s  self-defense, because she feels under siege by law enforcement. Maybe it’s self-defense, because she feels stalked and under siege by an ex-boyfriend. Maybe it just goes off and the bullet strikes her baby. Maybe she’s going to sell it, turn it in, clean it, or use it on the damn cat, but that gun needs to be used somehow. Or it needs to not be  there.

Even 600-page novels have a finite number of ideas to convey, in a finite number of words. If you can’t deliver follow-up why something is on the page, if its being there doesn’t serve a purpose later on, don’t promise the reader that it does. Take it out.

Now I’ll go finish my book. No, that was not a promise, but I will.

One more quick note…

Alas, as you will see from my new message on the sidebar  — launch date has been pushed slightly back AGAIN. My wonderful alert editor found an absolute morass of confusion in my current revision of FLYING PURPLE PEOPLE SEATER. I’m in hot pursuit of the problem, but it will take longer than a mere 5 days to fix completely. After all, it has to be done right, right?

 

FinalFPPSfront

So, a new launch date of the 29th of April, and soon you can see what happens in the Flying Purple People Seater.

Oh! and for all the putting-up-with-me you’ve done, here’s a sneak peek at the cover:

Day at the Write-in….

Spent about six hours of Saturday at our group’s write-in. We had use of an event room with its adjoining kitchen at our library. Some pot luck, a little set-up, and we had ourselves a friendly quiet location dedicated to fostering an atmosphere conducive to writing.

We had people working on designing covers for their self-published books. It’s a two-edged sword when you publish yourself. You’re in charge of everything, but that means you’re responsible for everything.

Someone was outlining a story for our group anthology. Another was working on a script. One was reviewing and revising her long-suffering book outline. Long-suffering only because even she thought she’d been working too long on it, and because the work itself has been intense. We had short stories and verse going on as well, and everyone seemed to make progress, even the writer who had to leave after coming in solely to pick up information.

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It’s great to stop and devote a large chunk of time to writing. I’m lucky enough to be able to do it more regularly than some of my full-time working writer friends. Even so, a special day allowed for special focus. I  hope we follow through on our idea of doing this every couple months.

 

 

 

 

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Be careful what you ask for…

So, yesterday I posted a little blurb I wrote for Remainder. In full flush of having posted it, I read it last night for my writing group. And, so, the pluses/minuses of being part of a writers group, and hence today’s title, be careful what you ask for.

Because I got the full brunt of their critique. To get right down to it, after setting ego aside, I saw the value of their criticisms. Here, after a bit more work and input from my closest critics, is the revised blurb.

If Wilson Parker better understood what he was taking on when he headed into Remainder, then the town’s future might not come down to a race between him and the son of a dying man.

As the war on terror builds, Wilson’s boss is building one of his infamous planned developments   to show ‘those terrorists’ how successful – and unafraid – America can be.

Encouraged by the eagerness of Ray Boone, who sees booze bottles next to the buyout’s dollar signs and Branden McKewen, who needs to move to New York City to help rebuild, salesman Parker expects property deals to go smoothly.  But success requires the cooperation of the landowners, and they are an independent if not eccentric bunch. As the push-and-pull continues, the life-paths of a dozen or more of Remainder’s residents change. For Wilson Parker and 13-year-old Ty Cummins in particular, this year changes everything.

 

Writing groups are great, and I’m glad I asked their opinion, however humbling an experience it was. I am happy I made the changes I did, as the blurb is both more specific and inclusive of better, more coherent detail. It also struck what I feel is the right note.

It’s a reminder to be willing to let go of our babies, and to consider criticisms respectfully leveled at our  work thoughtfully. I kept what I wanted for the new blurb, and discarded or re-worked the rest. It’s all in the name of making the writing better.

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