The Struggle is Real

Writing is about being creative, but creativity is not limitless. I’ve hit a dry spell for both my creative writing as well as my weekly Wednesday updates on this website/blog. One reason for the latter is from no real dialogue or feedback on this site but another, larger part is the joy I feel about it, or rather – the lack of it.

I get a lot more joy and discourse on Wattpad, where I post my stories and help others with their own work, and so I find myself contemplating the time I spend on this website compared with the time I spend on Wattpad.

This isn’t to say that I won’t be posting any more editing tips and tricks. I’m going to focus on releasing Scarlett Burn (which will be out May 1st) and quite possibly the eBook version of The Lost City of Al-Kimiya (because really, they go hand-in-hand). After that, I’ll come back with more self-editing advice. Not going to lie, though. I may drop my posts down to twice a month.

I try really hard not to be too personal on this website but life has been hitting me hard both emotionally and financially this year, and will likely hit me hard again in 2020.

I lost my job this past February, moved, and am in the long process of starting my own business (that has nothing to do with writing). Until that job gets going, the only income I’ll have in May will be from eBook sales and editing jobs.

If you’d like to show your support, please mark your calendars for May 1st for the release of my stories and help spread the word about an up-and-coming author you know.

I hope you all have a wonderful and productive week.

~Elivia

Stack Those Words – Part 3

Last week, we discussed ending a paragraph with either an enticing sentence, a question, or a clever quip. Before that, we looked at why putting the most vivid word at the end of a sentence helps pull the reader to the next one.

I stand by both posts, but as I said in this one, breaking rhythm is important. You can’t – or shouldn’t – always have the last word of a sentence or the last sentence of a paragraph as the most vivid. Your writing will lose that alluring flow every good author strives to achieve.

To break your rhythm, consider repositioning your most striking imagery from the end of your paragraph to the beginning. Hit those readers hard from the start!

This is something I struggle with in my writing and I’m not quite sure why. I’m adventurous and considered a somewhat spontaneous person in real life, but it seems I like to ease people (and myself) into stories. Psychologists may have a better reasoning, but that want to ease into a story must somehow transfer over into how I prefer easing readers into a paragraph.

It was difficult finding examples in the prologue of The Lost City of Al-Kimiya (which will be published late 2019!), but I managed to find a good enough one.

Tragic events had plagued the Noire’s, but James held no illusions of there being an actual curse on the family. Zenetra was the heart of the nation. She had been on the cover of newspapers and magazines since birth. The Hive had a field day with the Noire sisters after the murder of their mother, and then again when the elder sister went missing eight years later. Zenetra was the sole heir of a dynasty of hard work and tragic ends.

Prologue, The Lost City of Al-Kimiya

“Tragic” and the extension “events” helps establish Zenetra Noire’s family reputation right from the start. It’s the first word characters (and now readers) associate with the main character’s family and ironically – the last. I even did that subconsciously by starting the sentence with the image of tragedy and ending it likewise, only now to realize it.

Kudos to me, I guess.

Writing these weekly editing tips and tricks has really helped me look at my own writing objectively. Perhaps that’s the teacher in me coming out. Helping others learn helps me remember. Case in point: the below paragraph was edited for the sole purpose of being used in this post as an example. It originally started out as, “The bells tolled…”

Bells tolled the arrival of the city tram, a free but crammed public transportation vessel. It was the slowest vehicle Noire Transport had ever created and wasn’t convenient enough to ride except when travelling long distances. Noire Mansion was too far to walk, so James elbowed his way onto the back of the public vehicle and hung half in and half out as it crept through the city.


Prologue, The Lost City of Al-Kimiya

How does it sound now? Crazy how a simple change can make a sentence more striking, eh?

Need a second opinion of your own story? Consider hiring me for your first chapter. For more info on that, click HERE and HERE.

Paragraphs (Part 2)

Paragraphs…they do more than you think. Last time, we stacked sentences to make a paragraph by focusing on rhythm. This week, we’re going to stack paragraphs to emphasize pauses.

Have you ever been in a class where the teacher asks for each student to read one paragraph aloud? Embarrassing for the students who have trouble with public speaking. I was one of those students, and eventually, one of those teachers.

Ironic, no?

There was always that one dreaded paragraph everyone hoped not to get. It was the longest paragraph, usually filled with complex words that took up half a page or more. As a student, you’re not aware of the reason why that particular paragraph is so long and the others so short. I didn’t understand back then but I do now. I even use it in my writing.

Generally, the longer paragraphs slow the pace of the story. Shorter paragraphs speed up the pace. Without longer paragraphs interspersed throughout the story, reading becomes as tiring as running a marathon.

I’m glad I’m aware of this now but at the same time, it also has me very worried. I’m old enough to remember dial-up tones on the computer, floppy disks, and rotary phones, yet young enough to appreciate YouTube, spark notes, and Netflix.

My future readers will always be of a younger generation. That may be a “Duh!” thing to say, but it’s actually hard to keep in mind, especially while writing. Longer paragraphs often demand more attention, yet so many of us readers tend to skim them. Our attention span is shortening.

Sad, but true.

All that world building, the foundation for plot twists, all the foreshadowing – if it’s skimmed, the world becomes duller, that insane plot twist is given an “Eh” by readers, and when something crazy happens in the story, a troll types a scathing blog post about major plot holes that aren’t actually plot holes.

So how do you stop a reader from skimming?

One way to do it is by adding humor at the end of a long paragraph. If a joke doesn’t fit, try an imaginative analogy or metaphor. Keep the paragraph as serious as you want, but give the reader something to latch onto. A skim reader usually reads the first sentence and the last. If you catch them at the end with some quip, there is a 50/50 chance they will go back to the beginning and give the paragraph their full attention.  

I tried to find a good example of this in my prologue, but this is the best I could do. The paragraph doesn’t end on a joke or a clever quip. It ends on a question.

First, try skimming it – read the first and last sentence.

James was instantly thrown back to the first time he had seen Captain Inglehart’s airship. Did he remember the way around a Kahiki? That was laughable. Buttons and levers, and a wheel that went tuk-tut, tuk-tut tuk when it was free to turn at will. Warmth from firestones and the crew who teased him as he watched the kukoo’s float around in the balance barrels. The porous rocks had fascinated him at the time. Setting them with firestones produced a gas strong enough to make a ship fly. What sixteen-year-old wouldn’t be impressed by that?

The Lost City of Al-Kimiya, Prologue

Did you find yourself interested in reading the whole paragraph? Was it an enticing enough end to the paragraph to make you consider going back?

One of my biggest insecurities of publishing is having a reader say, “Oh, I skipped that part,” or a review stating that chapter such-and-such was tl;dr (that’s too long; didn’t read for us old folks). With that said, let’s make one thing clear. Re-reading something that was skimmed is a mark against the reader. Re-reading something for clarity is a mark against the writer.

What are some ways you prevent readers from skimming your long paragraphs?