Friday, April 17, 2009

What I learned from Miss Snark - part 2

Yes, it is that time again! Another lesson from the book of Snarktacus! :) Sit down, and buckle your seat belts. We're in for a bumpy ride.

At the start of the book, the chapter, the scene--give us action. Don't give elaborate descriptions until the reader is hooked by what is going on... then you can describe. Tell us what is happening, THEN tell us everything else.

Using "looked like" or simile, takes a reader out of the narrative, it makes someone else interpret for you what they are seeing. Using "was" or metaphor pulls them right in and describes what the reader is seeing, instead of the intermediary. This is particularly important for first person POV.

The first step for good writing is imagining deeply. - put yourself in the story and drag it around you, smell it, feel it, taste it and pull the reader with you.

Characters reading e-mail or letters is in general uninteresting. Don't use this in the first 1/4 of your book or at least show us what it says by reactions and not by just pasting it in the book.

Everything doesn't have to be explained fully--particularly people. Unless the characters eye color is integral to the plot, it doesn't have to be mentioned--particularly not right off the bat.

The only reason to ever have your characters sitting around doing "nothing" is to make the reader and everyone else feel the underlying tension. If that tension is absent, then the scene is pointless.

In regards to over-writing - try not to repeat yourself. If you have already made the point in one way, resist the urge to further clarify with another statement. Trust your readers and they will trust you.

When you have relentless action pushing you forward you aren't paying attention to much except what's going on. Don't put in things that you wouldn't notice at that moment if you were in that exact situation. (the color of the drapes or whatever)

If you remove your reader from the action and the characters with over-writing, you will fail to grab their attention.

Sentences starting with "when" or "after" or "even so" can pull the reader out of the action, because it usually doesn't put you in the moment. Likewise, starting sentences with "but" and "so" can be really awkward, make sure it is absolutely necessary before doing it.

Building the emotional connection with your character is almost as important as building the story itself.

Phrases like "by the way/did I tell you/so it began/etc" in narration break the 4th wall and jerks the reader right out of the narrative.

That is is for today folks. I hope you learned as much as I did :)

I have family visiting for the weekend, so I will be around next week. Have a lovely weekend!


  1. Great points! Thanks for the run down!

  2. Oooh, this list was even more helpful, especially because I am editing right now. Thanks! (I might need to revisit a few scenes)

  3. Another wonderful post! Thank you so much. I like a lot of these points. The stuff about pulling the reader out of the story is interesting. I'm not sure I agree with the first two points all the time, but the rest are great.

  4. Great post...I'm printing it out to go in 'the folder' :) It's funny how we think we know these things...but they creep into our writing (or at least mine) from time to time. It's so great to be reminded.

  5. I LOVE YOU! I have pasted all this into a document and put it up by my computer. It's like a little cheat sheet. Thanks!

  6. Oh, I agree with Davin, there are some of these things that I don't agree with, but overall this is great!

  7. What an AWESOME list. I love the one about pulling yourself right into the story. I need to remember to do that more.

  8. P.S. Just wanted to let you know I nominated your for a blog award. Come visit the post at

  9. My favorite bit is trusting the reader and they will trust you. It is easy to overexplain, but I want people with some brains reading my book so I should treat them like them have some brains.

  10. Thanks everyone! I am so glad you all liked it! I don't always agree with everything she posts, but I think every piece of advice Miss Snark gives is always worth some serious contemplation and usually more.

    Also, thanks Cindy for the blog award! You are awesome and I am honored! :D

  11. What a great list! I'm going to print it out too! I came over from Cindy's blog since she nominated you for the Lemonade Stand Award too! Sounds she was right in nominating you!!

  12. Jody - Thanks for stopping by! Happy to meet you! :)