From Sarah, With Joy

Writer querying two novels and some other word babies. I tend to effervesce.

New post every Monday

Monday, June 29, 2015

Am I Showing or Telling?


Sometimes it can be really hard to tell.

We've all heard it so many times. "Show don't tell!" Yes. Yes, you think, I know. I get it. But maybe we get it in the same way my eighteen month old nephew "gets" eating with a spoon. Do we all secretly have mashed carrots on our faces and nobody's telling us? Wait where was I going with this? Oh yeah. Are we showing or telling, and how do we know?

Beware of "was." Lately I'm super, super grateful for amazing beta readers who help my manuscript become so much better by making it more active. "Was" is a great clue that you're telling rather than showing. If someone is "wassing" they're not doing anything. (Is wassing a word? Can we make it one?)

Avoid passive voice. I think sometimes bloggers throw things out there and even though as readers it sounds good and we try our best to follow it, we're not exactly sure what they're really talking about. Maybe that's just me. I've always found actual examples of passive voice to be super helpful, and if you just do a quick google search you'll find plenty. (Like this one, that also includes how to edit to active voice.) Essentially, just remember linking verbs. IS, AM, ARE, WAS, WERE, BE, BEING, BEEN. If you're using one of them in your sentence, especially was, were, or been, it's probably too passive. Change it to a simple "Subject Verbed" and stay safe.

Use active verbs. Good writing--good active voice--is more than just getting your characters to move on the page. It's about really seeing them. I'm getting an awesome lesson in this from my beta readers, and its been super helpful. Don't settle for okay verbs. Really see what your character is doing. Then your reader will too.

This advice is as much for me as anyone, but since it's what I'm thinking on lately I thought I'd write it out.

Write on!

Sarah Allen

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

5 Non-Writing Things Writers Should Do Every Day

Writing can be a weird, lonely game, especially on the day to day. So here are ten things I'm trying to do every day to help my physical, emotional, and mental health as a writer.

1. Go outside. I know, I know, it's kind of scary out there, but there's also flowers and clouds and fresh air.

2. Talk to other writers. I always feel better and pumped up about writing after talking with other writers. And if you don't have IRL writer friends, there's us online too! Even just watching stuff like National Book Festival author talks perks me up a little bit.

3. Exercise. Pick your poison, whatever works for you. The point is to try and get moving, get your heart rate up, a little bit every day. I know I always feel better for it, and feel very bleh when I don't.

4. Read. Reading is what reminds us why we do what we do. Either it's brilliant and we think, man I want to be able to make readers feel this way one day. Or it's...not, and we think, hey, I can do better than that.

5. Do something new. Explore a new place in your city or try out a new restaurant. Just doing something new can help you feel less suck in your own head.

Hope these help! I'm going to try and do better at them myself.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Go To The Gym Happy


It's got to be a big deal for me to want to talk about working out.

I've been trying to get serious about health lately. I've been a casual gym goer for many years (I'm still pretty casual) but I'm trying to add some consistency. One of my biggest problems with working out is that I've probably got something like asthma, and when I run for extended periods I get wheezy and have some pretty bad chest pains.

Anyway, on Saturday I got to hang out with my awesome mom. She was in town before flying back home, so we went out for lunch and talked and it was just so great. After dropping her off at the airport, I headed over to the gym. Because I'd spent the morning with her I walked into the gym feeling super happy. And let me tell you, that made all the difference.

I was feeling pumped and excited, so I felt up for trying new things that ended up working for me so much better than before. I finally felt that runners high I've heard so much about, without hitting up against the wheezing chest pain block first. It was amazing!

Ok, so why am I even telling you this? Who cares? Right. I don't care about other peoples work outs either, believe me. But here's my point.

Sit down to your writing or editing feeling happy.

Maybe blast some happy music first and dance around in your underwear. Or maybe make yourself some chocolate chip cookies. Whatever it takes. Even if you're writing something really dramatic and emotional, I believe sitting down happy is sitting down ready to DO this thing.

You may end up feeling drained and stretched, but if you go to work happy, you may find you have more of yourself to give.

Sarah

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Blogging: Have We Heard This All Before?

I've been doing some thinking lately about the best functions and purposes of a blog in current social media trends. I think blogs are just as vital as ever, though perhaps for different reason's than they once were, and I'll get to that. But I can I just complain about it for a second? I could use your guys opinions.

First, blogs just aren't the "thing" anymore. At least that's the impression I'm getting in my web usage. It seems to me that so many users don't have the attention span for even a short blog post anymore, and the new social media sites are reflecting that. We have the quick and visual Instagram over Facebook, and six second Vine videos in addition to YouTube. People don't have the attention for a five paragraph blog essay. (But we do it anyway, right? :)

Mostly though, I'm starting to feel redundant again. I started this blog as a writing blog, and I LOVE talking about writing and hearing about writing and hearing from you guys about your writing projects, and I do want to continue providing as much useful information and tips for you guys about writing that I can. But the thing is, when you've got 600 posts about writing in your archive, you start feeling like you've got nothing new to say. And I know so many of you amazing bloggers have a big chunk even more then that. (Props. Serious props.)

And like I said, I think blogs are still very important. They may not be the go to "thing" anymore, but they still provide one of the best options for what is essentially your internet "home" address. They're the place you can point people. They're your gathering ground.

So now I want to ask you guys. What do you think is the solution? Is this just me being petulant? What other functions do you see for author blogs? 

Sarah Allen

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

What Poetry Does

So I submitted ten pages of poetry to a competition recently and had to include a 200-250 word introduction. So I thought I'd share it with you here, too. Wish me luck!

Introduction:

I have always been jealous of what good actors can do with their faces. I think of the episode of The Office when Jim and Pam are at the hospital. Jim comes out of the hospital room to call a friend at the company picnic to say they’re not coming back. He looks at the camera, wide, shocked eyes starting to tear up, and you know they’ve just figured out that Pam is pregnant. All of this without words. Just faces.

Maybe poetry is just that: language’s facial expression. Maybe poetry is important precisely because there is so much that can’t be put into words.

It is important to dig in to poetry, to put it under the microscope at every angle. This is how you discover poetry’s internal organs. But I think it is also important to skim across the surface of a poem and let it leave you feeling slightly breathless.

My poems are an attempt at leaving the reader with a glimpse of someone’s face, like catching someone looking in at the window. I’ve enjoyed trying this in a variety of forms, including prose poetry. I believe poetry should be, like the best fiction, accessible, and like the best creative non-fiction, vulnerable. Whether based on actual life or an idea of real life, I believe the best poetry leaves you gasping with familiarity.

With this in mind, breathe carefully, but don’t blink.

Sarah Allen

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