action verbs, adjectives, adverbs, Boots, D H Lawrence, design, Ford Maddox Ford, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, iambic pentameter, If, ly, lys, Manchester University Students’ Union, One Hundred Years of Solitude, onomatopoeia, Rudyard Kipling, Rudyard Lake, Scotland, Scott Carruthers, Shakespeare, sonnets, St Andrews, The Odour of Chrysanthemums
28-26: The weekly countdown continues to the biggest blunder to help you avoid them.
No pre-amble this week. Get your metaphorical sleeves rolled up and get your Google spying glasses on… Reet, lads and lasses.
28 Design/layout. Might seem a strange one to throw in, but the front cover can take a lot of time to complete. DO NOT do it yourself to save money, unless you are particularly skilled in art/graphic design. Your cover is the initial thing the potential reader will observe; you need one that will grab their attention. I purchased a painting from a Scottish based artist−Scott Carruthers a few years ago (http://www.scottcarruthers.co.uk/) which I had seen in a gallery in St Andrews, I loved it and grabbed my attention immediately. Which is a slight lie, I went away and thought about it and bought it two days later. I then speculatively contacted Scott to see if he would be interested in painting the covers for all three novels in my Robert Knight trilogy, he was keen. From the initial contact to the actual painting arriving took almost three years. If you want to know how much the painting cost and more about the story of the art go to my website: http://www.ianmpindar.com/inspirations.html It can take an artist a long time to complete a project, especially when they have many other better paid commissions pending. I only paid Scott for the materials and postage, but it was a win/win for both of us. Eventually he will paint all three covers. We have been going backwards and forwards with the final cover for five months already. Remember, as I have said before, people have busy lives’ and what might be a priority for you, might not be for them. It will not do you any harm to get ideas and the possible final cover completed early. When I started, I did try and produce covers myself and they looked like the work of an overconfident seven year old. I also use a graphic designer (firstname.lastname@example.org). Some things are best farmed out, don’t try and do everything yourself, time is precious.
27 Too many ly adjectives and adverbs. It is not good writing to use ‘lys’, of course if you read any novel you will find them, but great writing rarely does. It’s lazy and shows a lack of control. If the ‘radio rattled loudly’ we do not need the loudly, it is obvious the radio is on making a lot of noise. Stephen King used to comb through his work and take out virtually all the ‘lys’. Gabriel Garcia Marquez rarely ever used them. Substitute action verbs for ‘ly’ adjectives, for example ‘he punched forcefully’ How else would you punch, take the forcefully out. ‘Lys’ equal bad fiction writing, put ‘ly’ in your document finder and when you hit one, be 100% sure you need it, lots of writers will argue you do, but they are either lying or deluded, or both. Simple rule: one per page on average, but G G Marquez will be shaking his head from side to side if he was still around! This is a good site to have a look at: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/journalism/isaacs/client_edit/Verbs.html
If you are sending your work off to a publisher and claiming it to be a literary prose, if the pages are splattered with ‘lys’ the chances of them doing any more than skim-reading it are slim. Be ruthless. You can leave some in direct speech because people speak in ‘lys.’ “Hopefully I will get around to reading One Hundred Years of Solitude before the book group next Tuesday.” Remember to make your tone and verisimilitude (plausibility) realistic.
26 Movement in both, time, place and pace, use these as both a device and a way of keeping your reader engaged, use it to build to a climax or show emotion/boredom/ excitement. Don’t make it so complicated you confuse yourself, never mind the poor reader! It you are feeling really brave and thinking you have part mastered a lot of the craft. You might want to have a look at iambics, used more in poetry. Shakespeare used iambic pentameters in his sonnets (shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?). These will make your story flow better, but whether starting out or well on the journey, they can also make you pull your hair out to achieve perfection and volume. Apparently Ford Maddox Ford approved D H Lawrence’s first ever story for publication by just reading the first line of ‘The Odour of Chrysanthemums’, because of the rhythm and flow of the first line: ‘What we talk about when we talk about flow.’ The stress on the different syllables and the sonic undulation of the unaccented and accented syllables in the sentence is quite poetic, ‘as that is what it is my good friend.’ If it has scared you slightly, don’t worry, it has scared me as well!
Kipling is useful to look at for repetition; normally you want to avoid repeating words in close proximity, Kipling uses it brilliant to represent the onomatopoeic rhythmic monotony of marching:
We’re foot−slog−slog−slog−sloggin’ over Africa−
Foot−foot−foot−foot−sloggin’ over Africa
He also uses repetition in his most famous of poems, ‘If’− the one they used to make pupils learn at school, regardless of sex!
I emphasis this here to show that although fledglings, there are always other levels we can all aspire to. You should be reading poetry; the iambic structures of sentences maybe a step too far at the moment. Look at poetry for great descriptions of both emotions and the physical. Look at poetry for single words you feel restless until you have slipped it into your novel somewhere. Look at poetry for inspiration. Look the other way from poetry when the poet uses ‘lys’, as they have little time, and the novel writer has plenty. If you LOOK… you’ll be a writer one day my son (and daughter)!
I got a bit carried away with poetry this week, other poets are available.
Did you know: Rudyard Kipling got his first name because of Rudyard Lake (actually a reservoir) in Staffordshire (UK) where his parents first met on a day trip? By that reckoning my first-born shouldbe Manchester University Students’ Union! –but the iambics were all wrong!
Ian M Pindar’s latest books, under his real name are: ‘Hoofing It’ and ‘Hoofed,’ the first and second novels in The Robert Knight Series and are on special offer http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Ian+M+Pindar He has another three novels out this year.