Yes, I do talk to myself, and no, I don’t answer. Well, let me clarify. This Friday’s writing tip is to read your writing aloud. When I finished my historic mystery novel this year and started the editing process, I read every word. Out loud.
I read it aloud to myself (and the two JRTs that share my writing space) so I could hear those repetitive words and awkward sentences. Doing this helped me catch unique phrases I may have used twice in the same page. It also forced me to slow down the editing process. When you take the time to read out loud it helps you notice each word, the cadence of your prose, and if your character “talks” like a real person.
If you’re new to writing or in the second draft of your novel and haven’t tried this editing tip, I encourage you to attempt it. If you feel funny reading aloud, grab your cell phone and hold it to your ear. Just don’t be like the lady in the stall next to mine at the store. You should not (let me say it again) you should NOT talk on the phone in a public bathroom. It makes me think you’re talking to me, and my mother warned me never to talk to strangers!
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This image appeared on the front page of the Abilene Daily Record on November 11,1918. World War I ended and the nation worked to recover. The generation who came of age during World War I and into the Roaring Twenties was often called the Lost Generation because they tended to act recklessly. Hedonism and accumulation of wealth were the creed by which many of them lived.
Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and many other writers and artists were part of this Lost Generation. For me, I always think of a bohemian lifestyle coming into fashion during this time period. I see the loss of traditional values and class structures of the nineteenth century and the rise of the middle class after World War I.
In my latest novel, my protagonist, Evie, reels from the loss of her brother in the war followed quickly by the death of her mother from the Spanish Flu. Evie epitomizes the Lost Generation. She rejects the strictures of her Victorian era father and wants a sense of purpose outside of marriage and family. It is this loss of values which leads her to go undercover as a magician’s assistant to solve a crime.
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I’m happy to announce the words “the end” were typed on the first book in a new mystery series based in the 1920s entertainment industry. Switching from my comfort zone of the Phee Jefferson series to a historical mystery stretched my librarian research skills and my writing.
Today’s tip involves editing. Once you finish your first draft, walk away and DO NOT look back… at least for a week or two. Here’s why. You have marinated in your characters’ lives and your plot for months, possibly years, and they have become your children. You need some distance to recognize their flaws. Ask my grown sons. Now that they are out of the house, I can recognize them as separate entities with lives and personalities of their own. Your novel characters are the same. They need some distance. Some breathing room. Once you’ve had the break, go back and look at your manuscript with fresh eyes. Remember, you want your children (and your novel) to have a personality and life story separate from your own.
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