Let’s talk about “Kindle Dementia.” I have it. Do you? Kindle Dementia is manifested when the owner of a Kindle finds a book to purchase, often at a reduced price, and utilize Amazon’s “buy now with one click” feature only to be informed that they have purchased the book previously. Amazon — in the event that the purchaser doesn’t already feel foolish enough — also advises the date that the book was previously purchased, said date being a year, or a few months, or even a few days prior to the current effort to purchase the same book twice. There is no doubt in my mind that at some point in the future the software or algorithm or whatever in heck it is called will be able to tell you what you were doing when you first bought the book and what other books you’ve bought and read instead of the one which you want to read so much that you’re trying to buy it again just so you don’t forget. What bothers me is that this has happened to me twice in the last three weeks, with different books. I think. Obviously, this isn’t just happening to me; I say “obviously” because although I have been known to think highly of myself (ask my family) my narcissism hasn’t progressed so far that I think that Amazon devised this feature just for me, or a few other people of my age and station. So I ask: has the heartbreak of Kindle Dementia manifested itself in your world? Have you accidentally tried to purchase a book for your Kindle twice? Have you done it often?
One of the words I’ve been repeating in my works lately has been “dark”. You know, the man swung his dark gaze her way. He wore a dark suit. He had his dark hair brushed back over a wide forehead. Shadows darkened in a corner as he gave her a dark scowl.
This can be considered lazy writing, except I hadn’t even been aware of this fault until I ran one of the self-edit programs described in my personal blog at http://bit.ly/12iU9nZ. I embarked on a search and find mission to replace as many of these weak terms as possible.
Let’s start with clothes. Face it, men wear dark suits. To get a better idea of colors, I accessed this website: http://lawyerist.com/suit-colors-for-the-clueless/. Ah, now it became clear which colors are popular for men and suited to business. My descriptions of dark suits changed to black, charcoal, slate or navy. That’s a lot better than “dark”, isn’t it?
If you want to get even more particular, go online to a department store site like Macys.com and put in the search feature “suits, “blazers”, or “sportcoats” and you’ll get a wide variety of colors.
What about the character who has dark hair? Is it black or dark brown? Check this reference:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_hair_color. Instead of black hair, give your character raven, ebony, or onyx hair. Varying the descriptions adds spice to your story.
Also watch out for redundancies like dark shadows & dark scowl. Both of these work well without the “dark” element.
The filmmakers can get away with it, but as a writer, you cannot. What other ambiguous words like this might you want to change?
Clare’s post yesterday about social media has inspired me to add my own two cents about social media. Specifically, I’d like to discuss some of the language errors I see online at many sites (Fortunately, I don’t notice these mistakes here at TKZ, which reinforces my already high regard for this community).
Anyone can make a typo or a mistake when they fat-finger something in haste or after consuming too many Singapore Slings. But there are a few gooflaws which seem to reflect a lack of understanding about the use of language.
Here, in no particular order, is a list of the five language mistakes that have been driving me absolutely bat poop crazy lately, especially when they’re made by people who claim to be writers:
- Loose/Lose: Perhaps because my series deals with body image issues, I lurk at a few sites where people discuss their need to lose weight. Too often, someone will say she needs to “loose” weight. Whenever I encounter this error, I have to control my itchy typing finger to keep from replying with a snarky correction. Nobody likes snark.
- Its/It’s: This is the mistake I see the most. People often use “it’s” when the correct form should be “its”. “It’s” is used as a replacement for “it is”. “Its” is a possessive pronoun, as in, “This post has got its dander up.” When unsure, try replacing the word with “it is”, and see if it makes sense,
- Your/You’re: Sigh. I don’t think I even have to explain this one to our readers. This offense seems to be committed mostly by Millennials, including some who claim to be writers. These people make me despair of the current state of English teaching in America. On the other hand, I don’t have to wonder how their literary ambitions will pan out.
- Their/There/They’re: These words seem to get misused on news sites a lot, mostly by online bloviators who use anonymous IDs and savagely attack the opinions of other people, no matter how benign those comments are. So, to recap: “Their” is used when you are referring to more than one person and something they possess. “There” is the word that is most often misused in place of the other forms. “They’re” is a contraction for “they are.”
- Compliment/Complement: “Compliment” is something nice you say to someone. “Complement” is something that adds to, enhances, or completes something else. It can also be used as a verb with an object.
So that’s my rant for today. Do you have a pet peeve about language you’d care to add to my list?
We’ve blogged a lot about the need for authors to be savvy marketers, as well as great writers, and to use social media wisely and effectively to promote their books. At the Willamette Writers Conference I attended a few weeks ago this was evident in all the presentations provided on publishing and marketing ebooks.
As someone who has only used social media sporadically in relation to my books, I was interested in how many of the presenters viewed the social media world as a fragmented one – with options such as Facebook and Twitter having, in their view, only limited reach and effectiveness in terms of actual marketing. I have certainly noticed a real uptick in the number of Facebook posts I receive that are little more than either blatant self promotion or thinly disguised marketing (To be honest I’m getting pretty sick of hearing what # on Amazon’s rankings certain author’s books are – does it mean I’m more likely to buy their book because I read a Facebook post on this – short answer, no). Most of the time it doesn’t bother me though – I’m always interested if it’s a post on a one-day sale or some special event/signing etc. – but I remain unconvinced that Facebook is a tool for actual marketing. In my mind it’s more of a tool to connect with people who have already opted to be your ‘friend’ (either on your author page or for you as an individual). I’m not sure it necessarily gains an author new readers.
After digesting what many of the presenters at the Willamette Writers conference said on the use of social media, I thought I’d get some feedback from the TKZ on their views. It will be interesting to get your take on the issues raised. So…here goes…
- When mapping out your own marketing plan (or author platform development) how do you view Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, or Tumblr etc.
- Do you adopt a different approach and have different expectations in terms of using these?
- Do you use all or only some of them?
- Are there any you just don’t bother with?
- Do you replicate content across social media or do you produce discrete, original content/posts for each?
In short, how are you navigating the social media world when it comes to marketing and promoting your books?
book. Joanna already runs one of the most helpful websites for indie writers, The Creative Penn. Go there and hang around awhile. You’ll find material aplenty, including a podcast with a certain author of note (at least, of note to himself).
icy cold will make us grit our teeth to even manage one run. But we keep going back because we love it.”
By Mark Alpert
And I’ll be checking out the place as a possible setting for future novels. I’m always doing that. I don’t feel comfortable writing about a place unless I’ve been there.
What are you reading this week? Enjoying it?
A brave author/follower of TKZ has anonymously submitted the opener to a book entitled – The Good Guys. My critique will be on the flip side. Enjoy!
|Purchased from Fotolia by Jordan Dane|
I should’ve let the cops arrest me. After all, it was just a drug deal in a neighbourhood park. A much smaller crime than taking a hostage at gun-point. I’d have most likely just got a date with the Magi and been home in time for lunch. A lot less trouble that I was in now. But it was a stressful situation, and in the heat of the moment, I panicked.
“Are you a fucking retard, Tay?” Si yells. “I told you to get the money, hand over the shit, return. How the fuck did you manage to come back with no money, no drugs and this son-of-a-bitch?”
His fist strikes my jaw and I fly backward. A dull moan comes out before I can stop it. I’m fucked now. Even though I’m a chick, Si likes people to take their beatings ‘like men.’ Before I hit the floor he grabs my by the front of my jumper and pulls me back to my feet. Then he appears in my face, so close I can smell the sausage on his breath.
“Say: I’m a fucking retard.”
“I’m a fucking retard.” I speak slowly and clearly, holding his gaze.
He smiles. “Good.”
I start to exhale, praying it’s over, but then he grabs my ponytail and the air whooshes past my face. The room blurs. At first, it feels like someone is attacking my scalp with a thousand tiny needles, then it’s more like half a dozen thick, sharp blades. White noise is all around, but in the background, the far, far, background, I hear a husky voice.
“Leave her alone.”
Suddenly released from Si’s grip, I slump to the floor and stare at my hostage. Did he just say that? Fuck me. He hold Si’s gaze, but I see fear in his eyes. Fear and something else. I can’t quite place it. There’s a scent of familiarity about him. Must have done a drop to him before.
“Sorry, man, are you feeling left out? Don’t worry. It’s your turn now.”
Si cracks his huge, mangled knuckles then pulls a shiny, black handgun out of the back of his jeans. He points it at my hostage. I now know what I saw in his eyes. Hope. I know, because now it has been extinguished.
A.) First thing I want to point out are the typos. I’ve bolded and colored the ones I found in red. There are 3. This is where reading your work aloud would’ve helped, but typos are a big NO NO, especially with such a short excerpt. An editor or agent would see these and think the rest of the book is riddled with them. Submitting work for publication or representation is competitive. Don’t give them a reason to turn you down. Beta readers checking your work might catch these too.
B.) The intro starts with a bit of back story set up that is written in past tense before it propels the reader into the present. It might’ve been more effective to keep the reader in the moment as the story unfolds, without the set up that doesn’t tell much anyway. I would almost rather have read THAT scene (of how the whole thing went wrong and how she was stuck with this hostage). Seeing the aftermath is less interesting to me.
C.) When Si first mentions that she “comes back with this son of a bitch,” it might be more effective to draw the reader’s attention to who he is referring to. Since this is in her POV, you could have her look at the guy and show the reader what she sees. Instead we have to wait until the end to realize who this guy might be and know he’s in trouble. The author has created a mystery at the beginning, but not capitalized on this hostage or teased the reader with who he is until after the fact.
D.) The use of profanity so heavy in the beginning can not only be a turn off to readers, but editors/agents too. Here the word fuck is used 4 times in such a short segment. There are times when this word can be effective and I’ve certainly used it before in my books, but I use it sparingly and in the body of the work. We’ve chatted about the use of profanity on TKZ before, but I wanted to point out that using it so heavily in this intro can be another red flag for an industry professional reading this as a writing sample.
E.) One of my editors asked me to change a word ‘spaz’ or spastic because it had the derogatory meaning of retarded in the UK and she didn’t want to risk using the word if it turned off that market. But in this intro, we see the word ‘retarded’ used several times, and coupled with profanity. I’m not sure how this would be received, but I wanted to point out what my editor found necessary to change.
F.) In the description of Si hitting her, it reads at a distance as if the author (or the character) is watching it from faraway. If I got hit in the face, I would not know what happened. I’d ‘feel’ more. My eyes would water, my jaw would throb, the pain would radiate through me, and I’d see stars and be dizzy. I’d feel embarrassed, hurt, and many other things, but the writing in first person has to come inside the character, using the senses.
G.) This is a nit pick, but the name of Si forced me out of the writing for a bit. It seemed like a typo. I’m Hispanic and the word “Si” with an accent mark means YES in Spanish. I thought it might be a typo for the word SO as well. If you have a nickname for your character, I would make sure it is more distinctive and not too similar to another word that would trip up the reader.
H.) The use of the word MAGI (for magistrate) sets this book possibly in the UK, but definitely not the US (not that it has to be). The spelling of ‘neighbourhood’ gives a hint of this too. If this story takes place in a specific country, I would be tempted to use a tag line to establish that with the reader right away.
I.) In addition, and my biggest point, the writing of this author is very sparse. It is quick snippets into the mind of our girl, Tay, but little else. I would like to get a feel of the setting and put the reader into the scene using the reader’s senses. Writing in a sparse style can move pace, but it shouldn’t at the expense of a richer character voice. That’s what would make this piece more memorable. So what would add color and ‘voice’ to this work? Try answering these questions and incorporate those thoughts into this intro to add flavor.
Questions to build what we know about Tay:
- What has driven Tay to be a mule for a drug dealer? Does she have a roof over her head? Where did she sleep last night? Is she doing criminal acts for money to survive or is she desperate to take care of someone else? Or are her motives a secret?
- What is she wearing? Is she cold? Hungry? Needing a shower?
- How does she feel about other people she sees at the park where the drug deal goes down? Is she an outsider to the normal people who are there for other reasons? Does the scene remind her of her past? How so?
- When she’s at the park, what does she smell? Does the hot dog vendor make her hungry? Does she see people with money, paying for things, and resent it?
- Who is the hostage and why does she take him? She knows she’s in trouble with Si, but bringing a hostage will put him in harm’s way too. Why does she do it?
These are just a few questions—and you certainly don’t have to answer them in the intro—but if you back up where you start and take it from where things start to go wrong for Tay at the drug deal, you could incorporate some of her feelings with a touch of her motivation and what she sees, hears, tastes, etc to make her more sympathetic by the time Si punches her for screwing things up.
The author could have a big mystery going as to why this out of place street kid is in the park in the first place–the furtive glances, the tension–until the drug deals goes down and everything unravels. She would come off as a criminal, take a hostage, but the reader might be compelled to read on if she comes across as vaguely sympathetic with hints of her motivation (without giving too much away).
Writing in first person present tense is a great way to bring the reader into the heart of the character, to really know what is in her head, but that doesn’t happen in this sample.
To make Tay more interesting, the author must give her opinions of her surroundings and her situation, and enough insight that will allow the reader to know why Tay deserves a starring role in this book. I want to care more about her and her hostage, but I’m not vested in them yet. Back up the time frame of this intro, and make us care about Tay and the poor guy who gets drawn into her mess, and you would have a more compelling start.
What do you think TKZers? Anything to add that might help this brave author?
Jordan Dane’s BLOOD SCORE now available in ebook at Amazon for the discounted price of $2.99 – Buy at this LINK.
A dangerous liaison ignites the bloodlust of a merciless killer