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.

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.

words

A small blurb…

remainderFrtcvr

Set in Middle Tennessee a year after 9/11, REMAINDER is about a small community dealing with a potential land buyout by a developer out of Nashville. Amid the early tensions of war and the threat of an end to their way of life, residents nevertheless must face personal drama as well. For salesman Wilson Parker and 13-year-old Ty Cummins, in particular, this year will change their lives.

 

 

*Note

I posted this not only to give more information about my book, but as an example of a small blurb, ie one too  short for the back of your  book, but about right to go in a blogpost, social media, or on a sales page. One of the toughest things I think authors have to do is figure out short, preferably pithy, ways to describe their books; ways that will – we hope – pique a reader’s interest.

 

And it’s on to the next thing

Hard on the heels of launching REMAINDER and filing taxes and the Easter holiday, I am scrambling to publish the third book in my Mackenzie Wilder/Classic Boat romantic mysteries, FLYING PURPLE PEOPLE SEATER. Working now on final revisions, cover, and formatting as I wonder if going in the direction I did was really a good idea. Ever have those moments?  The ones where you wonder if you just killed your own darling by being daring?

On the other hand, I can honestly say I like what I did with it, especially since it provided me with the epigraphs I love to write. And thanks to my writing group, they turned out pretty nifty. Here’s a couple from FLYING PURPLE PEOPLE SEATER:

Chapter 4

  “What a gas! Bootleggin’ on the river was nothin’ like by car. Bouncin’ across the waves, dodgin’ in and outta the islands… You could slip between two of ’em and no one would know you was there. Especially not the flatfoots they had mindin’ the border… I remember one time, there was this cave I found. I could slide alongside the shore and cut the engine. I’d pole in and angle behind the rocks inside… This time, I gets inside and I’m polin’ back there, and all of a sudden, I can’t go any farther. There’s already a boat in there, and there’s this boat is this guy and a swanky dame with gams that ran from stem to stern smoochin’ like there’s no tomorrow. They couldn’t get out past me, and I couldn’t get past them. We stayed like that for twenty minutes, not lookin’ at each other, just waitin’ to see if the coppers would find us.”

 

Chapter 7

“Me and Pop was never ones for religion. We went to Mass sometimes when Al insisted all the boys show up. But all that Hell and Purgatory stuff, I never believed in that. Irony? Now that I did believe in.”

 

Chapter 14

“I was always the guy everyone talked to – like Lindy. Gettin’ himself into trouble with some dame, which he was always doin’ . He’d come to me for advice on calmin’ the lady down and convincin’ her she’d got everythin’ all wrong. I had to teach him how to treat dames right. Did it, too. Enough so’s Lindy got himself married and had five kids, all girls. Served him right.”

 

I love writing chapter epigraphs. They’re like vignettes that drop clues to what’s happening.

What’s a favorite stylistic thing you do?

 

 

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