Structure is the Name of the Game

No matter how experienced you are, or how many books you have published, it’s always helpful to ‘sharpen the saw’ and go back to the basics. I’m deep into a rewrite of my current work in progress, and found Sloane’s tips a vastly helpful refresher.
From Sloane Taylor’s blog, “Sweet as honey… Hotter than hell”
Sloane writes… Structure is the Name of the Game
Let’s work on Syntax and Tighten the Writing. By doing the former you will achieve much of the later.

Syntax is the patterns of formations of sentences and phrases from words and the rules of the formation of grammatical sentences in a language.

Don’t you just love Webster definitions? They make everything so unclear.

In plain English, Syntax means the word arrangement and sentence structure.

Remember that old song by Tom Jones, and later Joe Cocker, “You Can Leave Your Hat On”? It was sexy, vibrant, and made you want to, ahh… er… leave only your hat on.

The phrasing is great for lyrics and dialogue, but oh so wrong for narrative. Why? You should never end a sentence with a preposition. Yes, it sounds right. Yes, we talk that way. Grammatically it is incorrect.

How should it read? “You can leave on your hat.” Sure doesn’t have the same impact does it?

Frequently, grammatical sentences don’t have the same effect and if you find this to be true save the prepositional endings for your dialogue. Sometimes you can’t help but use them in narrative because you need that force or dramatic effect. It’s okay but use it sparingly.

Here’s an example of what Redmond O’Hanlon, Into the Heart of Borneo, Vintage 1987, got away with in his novel;

“My companion, James Fenton, however, whose idea the venture was, enigmatic, balding, an ex-correspondent of the war in Vietnam and Cambodia, a jungle in himself, was a wise old man in these matters.”

I don’t know if Fenton did this as a joke on his editor, if it got missed in the edits, or he wanted this sentence to read as written. But I will guarantee you won’t get away with this type of writing with today’s editors. Be sure to read your work aloud and correct any sentences that are convoluted.

ALOUD is the key word here. Read your work aloud. I can’t stress this enough. It’s the only way to allow your ear to pick up the errors. Sure you’ll feel stupid doing it, even if you are home alone locked in your closet. Get over it. We all experience the same reaction. Here’s your option; let your book go to an editor with written garble and expect a nice form rejection in the return mail.

When you read aloud look for;

• Does your intent come across – action, suspense, romance, sorrow?
• Does something detract from your meaning?
• Fine-tune your sentences until they sound perfect, rhythmic, to your ear.

To further Tighten the Writing get rid of unnecessary words. It will make your writing sound stronger. Those expendable words are, but not limited to;

• A little
• Almost
• Anyway
• At the present time
• Began to
• By means of
• Certainly
• Considering the fact that
• Definitely
• Even
• Is/was/were
• Just
• So
• Some
• That
• Very

Be concise, don’t ramble on with your descriptions. Think about the sections you skim or avoid when you read a novel. Don’t allow that to happen to your reader. Make sure you haven’t flooded a section with so much back story or description you are boring the reader. Get rid of the excess because most of it won’t matter.

Please don’t write you book via Roget’s Thesaurus. Today’s editors want meat in a book, not fat. Readers do not want authors to written down to them. Use the everyday words of your speech and not some $20.00 word that has your reader reaching for their Webster’s.

Avoid clichés like the plague. Get the idea? You are a writer – so write something new.

I’m not being bitchy here. I want you to get published. We should have millions of new books available from the reliable E-publishers and on the shelves of every type bookstore. But, if you don’t do your job the numbers will be low and our future generations won’t have the role models they need.

Have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be back Monday with The Immortal Tux. Until then…

Happy Writing!

Sloane Taylor

To all, hope your weekend is fabulous!
Rebecca E. Grant
Love is Unstoppable
LIBERTY STARR I Contemporary Cowboy Romance
Where the Magic Begins Sensual Contemporary Award winner, 2011 (RWI)

** Coming Soon **
NAKED HOPE | Contemporary Romance published by The Wild Rose Press
Read excerpt
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Deeper Point of View

This content originated from Vonnie Davis’ blog

Vonnie says, “Allow me to share some things I’ve learned. Then maybe you can add what tips you’ve picked up about point of view in your comments. We can learn from each other. How cool is that?
Years ago, books were written in omniscient pov, with the writer as the literary god who knew everything, saw everything, heard everything. By and large, that pov has gone out of style like teased hair and polyester leisure suits. Enter the singular pov. Many mysteries are written in first person pov (I suspected he was a liar.). Novels are usually written in the third person pov of the main character (Molly Brown hated liars.). Romances mainly include the third person pov of the hero and heroine (Fabio had to admit the woman fascinated him).
Remember, pov is the vehicle your reader uses to travel through your story. And you want your reader to ride in style from the words “Chapter One” to “The End.” We don’t want them riding on the front bumper as we tell them the story. No. We want them settled into the cushiony leather seats of our vehicle while we show them the characters, action, emotions and conflict of our story.
To quote Alicia Rasley in her The Power of Point of View (Writers Digest Books, 2008), “we see and hear and feel a particular event from the perspective of one person. We might not consciously think that we are in Johnny’s head and body during a battle scene, but we know that Johnny’s ears are ringing from the artillery fire, his vision is blurring, and he’s seriously considering dropping his weapon and heading for the woods. We get the vicarious experience of exhaustion, despair, and pain without actually having to fight the battle.”
Our goals, as a writer, are twofold. First, we want to tell a good story. Second, we want to draw the reader into the head and body of our pov character. We want our reader to experience everything our character is seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, thinking, smelling and feeling. In effect, we want the reader to become the pov character. We do this by becoming the pov character while we write.
Of course that’s not always easy to do, is it? I have no clue what’s its like being chased by a werewolf, for example, but I do know what it’s like to be chased by a swarm of bees. I know the effects of the “flight or fight” syndrome: heart pounding in my ears, rapid breathing, trembling, dry mouth, clenched stomach and so on. So, if I were to write a scene about being chased by a werewolf, I’d draw on those feelings to show readers what my pov character is experiencing.
Avoid using “she heard” or “she saw” or “she thought.” These phrases distance the reader from the character and are not needed. If we are in Sally’s pov, for example, the reader already knows you, the writer, are writing about what Sally experiences. Let me show you—
Sally stood on the corner waiting for the bus and heard the church bell chime eight times. It was so cold outside this morning she felt a shiver raise goose bumps on her arms. Instinctively, she covered the bruise on her cheek when she saw Mr. George walking toward her. Behind her, she heard Toby, her husband, call her name and turned. Just as she thought, he was still angry. Oh, how she wished she were already on the bus, far away from here.
Now, without the distancers (sorry, I know that’s not a word):
Sally stood on the corner waiting for the bus. The church bell chimed eight times, adding an echo to the crisp coldness of the morning air. She shivered and huddled into the fleecy lining of her jacket, blowing warm breath into her cupped, chilled hands. Footsteps crunched on the snow-covered sidewalk as Mr. George approached. Instinctively she covered the bruise on her cheek, her touch making it throb. She nodded a silent greeting to her neighbor, which he returned. Had he noticed the bruises? Toby called her name, and she tensed. When she glanced back over her shoulder, her husband was running toward her, unshaven, disheveled and clearly angry. Oh, how she wished she were already on the bus, far away from here.
Which scene did you feel more a part of? Since we knew we were in Sally’s pov, the distancers “she heard”, “she saw” and “she felt” were unnecessary.
Now, we’re going to talk about deep pov. In deep pov, we show the reader why. Why does our pov character behave this way? React this way? Think this way? Why does a woman tense when she’s alone with a man? Why does our male character distrust women? Why does a teenager hate family social functions? Why does a man turn to alcohol every day after work?
We all have a history. Our history helps shape our behavior and thoughts. Readers will also understand and accept a character’s bad behavior if they understand the pain or history behind it. This becomes our job as writers to show—not tell—why our characters behave the way they do. We draw them into the character’s head, into their psyche, if you will.
POV is more than knowing whose head we are in. As writers, we seek to draw our readers into the character’s body. By incorporating the senses, we can show them how scratchy wool feels against the skin, how a whisper at the ear can feather the hair, how yucky it feels when water gets into the character’s shoes or how a loud heavy-metal song jangles the nerves. As writers, we help the reader live the experience. We also make the reader privy to the emotional secrets and pains the character carries within. And don’t we all carry around pain from a past experience?
By using deep pov, we add texture, emotion and strength to our writing. Use the power of pov to make your stories memorable. Make the power work for you, your way, your style, your voice.”
Thanks for sharing, Vonnie!
Visit for her blog, Vintage Vonnie for her latest release, Those Violet Eyes
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