Category Archives: editing

5 Reasons Why Readers Give Up


by Lillian Csernica on July 9, 2018

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First, my apologies for the drop in the frequency of my posts. I’ve been having technical difficulties with both my laptop and daily life.

Keeping readers entertained and loyal is essential in today’s marketplace. I get a lot of free Kindle e-books thanks to BookBub. Given how much I read, I can plow through two or three novels a week depending on my schedule. Doing so has sharpened my sense of what will make me stop reading a book. Life is too short to read bad fiction. I have such a library built up on my Kindle there’s no reason to go on reading a book that can’t hold my interest.

These are the Five Storytelling Flaws that will make me give up on a story:

0f7398a5-6eed-4f57-b412-757fa49d8849Talking Heads — The dialogue might be witty. It might be well-crafted. If it doesn’t move the story forward, what’s the point? Dialogue can be a form of action, yes. If all you’ve got is characters having lengthy conversations, that’s going to try your reader’s patience and make them lose interest.

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Redshirts — These are the minor characters who take a bullet for the hero or heroine. I once read a fantasy novel where the redshirt problem was so blatant it became more and more aggravating with every predictable death. The novel was clearly meant to be the first in a series. It did not surprise me to learn the sequel never saw the light of day.

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Low Stakes — The majority of mystery novels are about murder because the stakes don’t get any higher than life or death. The higher the stakes, the more the main character has to risk in order to solve the problem. More risk means tougher choices and that creates more reader sympathy. Make sure the stakes in your story are high enough to keep the reader turning pages.

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Too Much Thinking — This is the internal narrative equivalent of Talking Heads. Yes, the reader needs to know how the main character feels and what thought process leads to the next attempt to solve the story problem. Too much thinking means too little action. The pace of the story suffers and the reader will lose interest.

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Purple Prose — If the reader can tell the writer is trying to impress, then the writer is trying too hard. This results in convoluted syntax that breaks the suspension of disbelief and makes the reader aware of the act of reading. I must confess that I do walk a fine line when I’m writing romance. Purple prose is very nearly one of the protocols of the genre. Keep it simple. Clarity and precision are your friends.

For more tips on avoiding these mistakes, I recommend reading:

How to Write A Damn Good Novel series by James N. Frey

Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham

Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress

Revision by Kit Reed

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

 

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Filed under creativity, editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, Lillian Csernica, publication, research, romance, science fiction, steampunk, sword and sorcery, Writing

BayCon 2018: Where to Find Me


by Lillian Csernica on May 23, 2018

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Friday 1:30 p.m. The Perfect Poison

Is it possible to create a poison that will kill only the target, no matter who else is exposed? Genetic engineering and personalized medicine may well collide in a perfect storm of individually targeted weapons rather than cures. What genetic markers would be most useful? What if you can target families or ethnic groups?

Saturday 1:00 p.m. Getting the Point

Understanding the pros and cons of the various points of view available to the storyteller.

Sunday 1:00 p.m. It Began with a Monster

200 years ago, Mary Shelley published the singular novel that set the stage for modern genre literature: Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus. In the two centuries since the full-novel’s publication, Shelley’s Frankenstein has flourished as a touchstone for authors and filmmakers across the spectrum, carving out a mythos and a creative playing field to rival the legends of antiquity.

Sunday 5:30 p.m. Religion in Fantasy & Science Fiction

Where are the Gods and churches and when they exist, what purpose do they serve?

Monday 1:00 p.m. Creative Writing for Kids

Come and learn the six basic elements of a good story. Plenty of fun examples and some exercises to help new writers experience professional writing techniques.

 

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#AtoZBlogChallenge B is for Bakemono


by Lillian Csernica on April 2, 2018

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Bakemono are the group of yokai (monsters) in Japanese mythology who are shapeshifters and tricksters. Foremost among them are the mujina (badger), the tanuki (raccoon-dog), and the kitsune (fox spirit). Also holding noteworthy rank among the bakemono is the nekomata, the split-tailed cat who can assume the form of a beautiful woman.

In Putting On Airs (Thirty Days Later), there’s a surprisingly large cat terrorizing the dogs in Dr. Harrington’s neighborhood. With the help of the monks of Kiyomizudera, Madelaine builds a trap meant to catch what she suspects is the real cause of all the trouble.

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In the second story of this pair, Blown Sky High, Constance is in charge of a garden party held in conjunction with the Blue Dragon Festival at Kiyomizudera. The party celebrates the Blue Dragon, an avatar of Kannon, Goddess of Mercy.  The party features Madelaine’s origami paper dragons and a wondrous clockwork dragon that adds just the right touch to the party’s symbolic rejoicing.

 

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Experience the Wonders of Clockwork Alchemy!


by Lillian Csernica on March 23, 2018

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Join us at the Hyatt Burlingame for a weekend of science, fiction, science fiction, cosplay, music, airship races and more!

Here’s the list of Programming events where you can find me:

Friday, 3 to 4 p.m. Creating Magic Systems for Fantasy

Saturday, 5 to 6 p.m. Steam-y Storytelling: Five Pros Improvise!

Sunday, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. How Steam Changed Japan

Sunday, 2 p.m. Reading “The Wheel of Misfortune”

You can also find me at my table in Author’s Alley where I will have copies of the Clockwork Alchemy anthologies for sale.

My dear son John is coming along, outfitted in his steampunk best. If you see us out there in the halls or event rooms, be sure to say hello!

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Let Me Entertain You


by Lillian Csernica on February 28, 2018

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April is coming. That means the A to Z Blog Challenge.

Those of you who joined me last year may recall my theme was Art Nouveau jewelry. We had a good time with that, I think. Lots of people said nice things. I began my life of Pinterest joy and now I’m up to a dozen different boards.

So here’s my question to you: What do you want to see this year?

I’ve covered writing terms, sword&sorcery movies, all things made of chocolate, and yes, the art nouveau bling.

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I could go with a steampunk theme and tell you strange tidbits of technological history and the men and women behind them.

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There’s a world of info about Japan I could share.

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We could go for classic monster movies, the Golden Age of Universal and the everlasting talents of Karloff and Cheney and Rains.

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Give me your ideas! Tell me what you want to see me tackle. I live to amuse you, so bring it on!

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Reblog: Media Training with Sally G. Cronin


From Lillian: Sally G. Cronin is a wonderful writer and a role model for all of us who want to be successful in the Digital Age. Thank you, Sally, for sharing your expertise!

 

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via Smorgasbord Media Training for Authors FREE Pdf

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99 Cent Sale! The Fright Factory!


by Lillian Csernica on February 1, 2018

Welcome to Women in Horror Month!

To celebrate, I am offering The Fright Factory for just 99 cents.

Learn the fine art of suspense, how to make monsters, and more! The techniques I explain are the very ones that helped me write and sell the stories available here:

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It’s a great way to celebrate

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The Three Ways to Tell A Story


by Lillian Csernica on January 29, 2018

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Lots of people are writing these days. Lots of people have stories to tell, whether fictional or autobiographical or somewhere in between. Sometimes the story is so clear and strong it almost writes itself.

Then there are the many other times when writers have to figure out what to do with their ideas, characters, plot twists, etc. What is the BEST way to tell the story? Outline first, or just dive in? Build the plot, or hang out with the characters?

There is plenty of advice out there on what to do and how to do it. It all boils down to these three approaches.

The way the writer wants to tell it.

When I first wrote The Heart of a Diamond (Literal Illusion, Digital Fiction Publishing), I told it from the POV of Princess Tavia. At the time I thought she was the character who had the most to lose. As the story progressed, I discovered the hero really did have a lot more to lose. So I rewrote the entire story from Prince Khestri’s POV. Same events. Most of the same dialogue. The ending turned out to be the same Big Picture event with the adjustment of some key details. It’s a much better story with richer magical elements, greater tension, and a more effective climax.

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Classic story structure.

These days many writers identify themselves as being plotters or pantsers. Always being one to defy easy categorization, I’m what they call a “plantser.” I will rough out some general notes about the part of the story I either know the most about, feel most strongly about, or both. Then I’ll plunge in. I confess I am a big fan of classic story structure, mapped out most clearly in Campbell’s Journey of the Hero. If you haven’t read The Hero With A Thousand Faces, rush right out and get yourself a copy.

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How the main characters changes in the course of trying to achieve the story goal is the essence of the story and its meaning. It’s been my experience that following the tenets of classic story structure ensures high stakes, rising action, and the suspense that makes a good story worth reading.

The way the story itself wants to be told.

Most writers have at least one anecdote about how one or more characters took off in another direction, dragging the story into unsuspected twists and turns. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Other times it can be terribly confusing. This is where all the advice about having an “Anything goes!” attitude toward the first draft makes life easier. No limits. Play around. Listen to your characters talking to you and talking to each other. We might know what we want to say, but the story may be bigger than that small piece of meaning.

Just the other day I pulled an old short story out of  my files. I had sold it and even made some money from it. Still intrigued by the central idea, I started to tinker with it. One thing led to another, the characters mutated on me, and now it looks like the original story turned itself inside out and the three main characters all changed gender and nationality and the stakes are a whole lot higher. Wow!

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5 Quick Tips to Get You Through That First Draft


by Lillian Csernica on December 20, 2017

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Write the ending first. It will probably evolve. That’s fine. You can change it. When you have a destination in mind, it’s easier to map the route, right? Same goes for stories. When you know what you’re aiming for, you can figure out how to put the best obstacles in your main character’s way. He or she will fight harder and then win a bigger victory.

Go where the energy is strongest. Listen to your characters. Write down what they want to tell you. They may have ideas that haven’t broken through to your writing mind yet. I know, some days you just can’t figure out what to write next or how it should be written. Find a conversation, a bit of internal narrative, or some big disaster in the story that captures your imagination. Run with it! See where it takes you.

Experiment with POV. Who has the most to lose? Who has nothing to lose and everything to gain? Writing from the antagonist’s POV can provide useful insights. You don’t have to use this writing in the actual story. The better you know what’s going on in the minds of each of your characters, the more precise and vivid their actions and dialog will be on the page.

Go big or go home. Push your action, your characters, your magic, your tech, as far and as hard as you and it can go. Don’t be timid. Readers want powerful writing. Yes, there’s a lot to be said for the brushstroke technique, but when you’re trying to finish that first draft, it’s better to go all out. Throw in everything and the kitchen sink. The editing process is the time for picking and choosing which story ideas to keep.

Finish it. Until you finish it, you can’t submit it. Until you submit it, you can’t sell it. I know that’s obvious, but it’s important to bear all this in mind. Writing is hard work. The initial rush of a new idea wears off and then you have to figure out the rest of the story. It’s easy to get swept up in a new idea and leave that other one sitting on your mental back burner. FINISH IT. The only way to learn how to write better, stronger stories is to get all the way through them one at a time.

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The One Writing Skill You Must Have


by Lillian Csernica on December 11, 2017

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Here we are in the holiday season. This time of year will stress out anybody, even those people lucky enough to have a “normal” family life. Writers often come from dysfunctional families. Writers often have mental health issues. Put it all together and the holiday season can be quite a gauntlet to run, between day jobs, holiday preparations, family gatherings, and the desperate struggle for time and space write.

My therapist taught me a skill that I will now pass along to you. This skill is designed to buy you the mental and emotional space you need to survive when you find yourself overwhelmed. Your mileage may vary, but give it a try. Three simple words:

Achieve literary distance.

How does one do this? Here’s my method. I always have my tote bag with me. At the moment it contains four notebooks, two manuscripts, one of those zippered pouches for pens, and a few other odds and ends. I take the tote bag everywhere. When life gets too intense, I pull out a notebook and a pen. If I’m stuck in a line, I spot the most interesting people and jot down quick lists of their notable physical and behavioral traits. If I’m in a waiting room, I might write a scene involving two of the people waiting there also.

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The point here is to derail our anxiety by making our trains of thought switch tracks. Becoming consciously more observant puts us into a more objective state of mind. Sometimes what we really need is to get out of our own heads. By calling on the skills that help us achieve literary distance, we can at least get out of the Anxiety Attic and go hang out in the Creativity Corner.  When we deliberately shift our focus outward, we may very well lower our anxiety levels.

I know this works for me. I get all stressed out about being on time, getting everything done according to my To Do list, or I’m all knotted up mentally because of a conflict with a family member.  When I achieve literary distance, that helps me step back, take that deep breath, connect pen to paper, and re-establish a calmer, more flexible state of mind.

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Make this skill work for you. If you like texting ideas on the Notepad function of your phone, go for it. If you need a blank journal with no lines and a few broken crayons, more power to you. If you just want to sit in a comfy spot and take some mental notes along with a few deep breaths, that’s good too.

Writing is our superpower. We can use it to rescue ourselves.

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