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.

Tip

In ‘A Return to Show, Don’t Tell‘ I shared information about a useful tool called the Emotion Thesaurus.

There is a now a coterie of such thesauri, practically establishing its own genre. If writing is what you do, you might want to check these out.

 

The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Psychological TraumaThe Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Attributes (Writers Helping Writers)

 

The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Personal and Natural PlacesThe Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Flaws

Tip

Having just completed a triple review of my REMAINDER manuscript, I wanted to share a tip with you all.

When you can’t think of anything else to check your book for in terms of grammar, punctuation, word choice, structure, etc, do one thing more.

Read with an ear toward flow. Anything that interrupts the flow of your reading or pulls you out of the story whether by distracting you with a fancy word or ruining your suspended disbelief, must go.

It can be deleted, it can be replaced, it can simply be reworded, but it has to go. You want your story to flow so smoothly that all your reader complains is that he can’t get anything done because he can’t put it down.

 

Image result for cargo net traps

Remember, without sounding too sinister, you want to ensnare your readers in your world so that they will never want to leave.