I was scheduled to post this while we had a family emergency. For those of you who are friends with me on FaceBook… Tim, a/k/a The Hubs, had another stay in the hospital this week with heart problems. When he got there they had to put nitro paste on him and wound up giving him 3 nitro tabs back to back to back (while the paste was on him too) to finally get the pressure to ease off. Then they ran the gauntlet of tests and great news… he is text-book material for what you want to look like post-op!!! They are treating him for angina right now and we are following up with his cardiologist.
So yesterday was my catch up on sleep day. And now I’m finally getting this to post….
I am excited to be hosting an interview for one of our panelist of the Southern Breeze WIK conference coming up next month. Please welcome:
Hi Janice and welcome to ‘a writers’ blog’.
I wanted to ask you some questions about the writing process and your upcoming workshop.
- Your upcoming workshop will help writers focus more on the ‘showing’ part of their writing. What is the biggest mistake a writer does?
I don’t know if it’s the biggest, but the most common is to shift out of the character’s point of view and start explaining, which almost always comes across as told and distances the reader from the character.
- What is the easiest way to spot ‘telling’ in a story?
I look for red flag words that often appear when we’re telling. Adverbs are big ones, as they can usually be rewritten to show more. Motivational flags like “to” and “with” are also common. A few emotional red flags include felt and saw. These are all types of words I’ll be talking about in my workshop, actually.
- How you approach your manuscript with an editor’s eye?
I let the manuscript sit for a few weeks to gain some distance on it before editing. That lets me see what’s actually on the page and not what I remember writing. It’s also helpful to pick one or two things to check on at a time so I can focus. Like I’ll check for character motivations, or look for awkward phrasings, maybe search for known troublemakers like passive verbs or my “use way too often” words (just and only are some of mine).
I’ll also do marco structure and story edits first, then work down to the smaller lines edits. There’s no use polishing text if the story itself isn’t flowing well and working as a whole. Once the plot and story arcs are how I want them, then I’ll start on the text itself.
- Has joining SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) helped in any way?
It’s been a great support and networking system, and the conferences are always fun and educational. We writers spend so much time alone, it’s good to get out and mingle with our peers.
- How do you handle teaching the fundamentals of writing?
When I was starting out, I found it frustrating to read advice such as, “show don’t tell by using strong nouns and verbs” that never went into more depth on the specifics. I knew what I should have been doing, but I had no clue how to do it, or if I was doing it right.
On my blog and in my workshops, I offer tips and examples that someone can apply directly to their work. The examples are incredibly helpful since I can point to exactly what’s making a sentence weak and show how a few tweaks can improve it.
I also like to analyze the whys of writing as much as the whats, because it’s all so subjective and what works for one writer might not for another. If we understand the reasoning behind a “writing rule” then we have the tools to apply that concept however we choose.
- What are some of the key steps you think new writers need to grasp?
I’m a huge believer that mastering point of view will solve 99% of common writing problems. If a writer understands POV, then showing comes naturally, description is easier to write, character goals are clear, the stakes are personal, and stories feel more organic.
- What about key ingredients to bring a reader into your work?
My high school creative writing teacher said something that has always stuck with me. Stories are about interesting people solving interesting problems in interesting ways. So I try to give readers an interesting character trying to do something intriguing and make them wonder what will happen next.
Basic terms: a great character doing something (not being passive) that poses a question the reader wants an answer to. For example, the opening line of my MG fantasy is: “Stealing eggs is a lot harder than stealing the whole chicken.” That poses several questions that might hook a reader. Why are eggs harder to steal than chickens? Why is the narrator stealing eggs? Will she get caught?
- Is there anything you see more experienced writers miss more than others?
I don’t think it’s a matter of missing things, more like everyone has their own pet peeves or styles. For example, I have a hard time getting into books with distant narrators, so omniscient third person is a hard read for me. I could say “that writer needs to work on their POV” but that’s not accurate, because they might be doing an awesome job at third omni, but it’s just not my preference. Same as someone who loves descriptions would probably say I need to work on mine, because I prefer to be sparse there.
- Any other advice you would like to give?
First drafts usually stink, so don’t worry if yours does. It’s more important to get the story down and then edit after. There is no right way to write, there’s just the way that works for you. If something isn’t working, try something new. Processes evolve as writers evolve. No matter what problem you might be having, take heart in knowing that another writer somewhere is going through the same thing. You’re not alone.
Thanks so much for your time!!! I know a lot of Breezers are looking forward to your workshop and will receive great advice.
Go check out Janice’s bio, her web site and have a great time at the WIK Conference all!!!
Janice Hardy Bio:
Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, BLUE FIRE and DARKFALL. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel. You can chat with her about writing on her blog, The Other Side of the Story, or find her on Twitter @Janice_Hardy.
and while you’re at it, go check out the other stops of our SOUTHERN BREEZE WIK CONFERENCE BLOG TOUR!
Aug. 28 Author Matt de la Peña at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews
Editor Lou Anders at F.T. Bradley’s YA Sleuth
Aug. 29 Author Doraine Bennett at Jodi Wheeler-Toppen’s Once Upon a Science Book
Author Robyn Hood Black at Donny Seagraves’ blog
Aug. 30 MFA program director Amanda Cockrell at Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog
Illustrator Prescott Hill at Gregory Christie’s G.A.S.
Aug. 31 Author Heather Montgomery at Claire Datnow’s Media Mint Publishing blog
Editor Michelle Poploff at Laura Golden’s Just Write
Sept. 3 Author Nancy Raines Day at Laurel Snyder’s blog
Author Jennifer Echols at Paula Puckett’s Random Thoughts from the Creative Path
Sept. 4 Editor Dianne Hamilton at Ramey Channell’s The Painted Possum
Author Janice Hardy at Tracey M. Cox’s A Writer’s Blog
Sept. 5 Author / illustrator Sarah Frances Hardy at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews
Agent Sally Apokedak at Cheryl Sloan Wray’s Writing with Cheryl
Sept. 6 Agent Jennifer Rofe at Cathy Hall’s blog
Author / illustrator Chris Rumble at Cyrus Webb Presents