Constructing Paragraphs in Fiction

Last week, I discussed writing nonfiction paragraphs. Many of the rules that apply to this type of paragraph also apply to fiction paragraphs. Descriptive paragraphs within fiction can often be written in the same style as nonfiction paragraphs.

Usually, writing factual or descriptive paragraphs is not a problem for most writers. However, the same cannot be said for writing fiction paragraphs involving characters. Although the same rules apply, they are slightly different.

A Few Rules for Writing Fiction Paragraphs

  1. They should contain only one idea.
  2. Each time a different character speaks, acts or thinks, a new paragraph must be started.
  3. They should be no longer than 1/3 of the page and preferably shorter.

Regarding Rule #2, if a new paragraph is not started when a different character speaks, acts or thinks, readers will be confused and not know who is doing or saying what. Here’s an example of what could happen if this rule was not followed.

Wilma was one day away from retirement and walked with a spring in her step towards the bus stop. When she spotted her friend Rose, she waved. “How are you this morning,” said Rose. “Happy. Excited.” She hugged her friend. “I bet you can’t wait to leave on your around-the-world trip.” “I stayed up half the night packing.” She looked to see the bus approach. “We better hurry. I don’t want to be late for my last day at work.” Rose looped her arm with hers and tugged her forward. “It would be a bad omen for your retirement.”

Writing like this confuses readers, and it wouldn’t take long before they dropped the book and went onto something else, like cleaning out the chicken coop.

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Injecting Life into Archaic Words for My Fantasy Novel

McGyver-ScatteredStonesFRONTI love finding new words that describe what I’m trying to say perfectly, especially if they are not common words. I often find these words have fallen out of use and are labelled archaic.

Using them and introducing them to readers who have never before seen them is a treat. I love sprinkling these little gems throughout my story.

I’ve had a lot of fun finding new words for Scattered Stones. They are—of course—archaic because Ath-o’Lea is in the past, long ago before electricity and engines and words like trailer.

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Scattered Stones Cover Release and Proof Order

The novel I conceived in the second half of 2009 is now in the birthing canal.

Yesterday I placed an order for a proof copy of Scattered Stones. After I hit the CONFIRM button, I sat back and thought about the journey to give me a better perspective of what I had done.

In May 2010, I had written the last 60,000 words in a rush to reach the end. Then the manuscript went through multiple edits, being read and sporadically edited by beta readers. I edited and revised when I found time, often between stints of working outside the home. For six months in 2014, I barely had a chance to look at it because I worked six to seven days a week, putting in ten-hour days at a garden centre. This sort of schedule doesn’t leave much time to eat, sleep and say hello to the kids, let alone hours bellied-up to a computer to edit a novel.

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Reclaiming my Disclaimer to reflect my personality and the story

A few months ago, I happened upon a post on The Book Designer blog regarding writing disclaimers. I have never given much thought to disclaimers; they’re as necessary for publishing as ISBNs, and just as boring.

I created the disclaimers for my novels by consulting already-published books to see the wording they used. It’s all pretty standard, and I’ve never read one that stood out. The main point was to tell everyone you didn’t write this book about a real person, so you wouldn’t be sued if someone thought they saw themselves within the story. Basically, you wanted to tell the world, “This is fiction. Nothing real to see here. Move along to the end and buy the next book in the series.”

Original Disclaimer

The disclaimer I created and used in print and eBooks came out to read as…

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Help Me Choose a Cover for my Epic Fantasy Novel

Scattered Stones 03Over the past few months, I’ve been toying with the cover for my next book: Scattered Stones. I’m usually not an indecisive person but with covers, I’m starting to flip flop.

A cover is vital to a book’s success. Almost everyone at some point in their life has judged a book by its cover. It doesn’t matter if the story is awesome or cruddy; the cover alone can sell a book. The goal, however, is to catch the readers’ attention long enough that they give you a second look to see if they want to buy your book.

I’ve learned a lot about how to make covers, but I know there is a large room for improvement. I also don’t have the programs designers use, so I use what I can. And I keep my ears and eyes open for tips.

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Writing a Book Acknowledgement

Scattered Stones Diane Lynn McGyverThere are many sections to a book. The two important parts that need the most attention are the story and the cover (in that order). For the past several months, I have focussed on these two things; without a doubt, I want them to be as close to perfect as humanly possible.

As launch day approaches for Scattered Stones, book 2 in The Castle Keepers series, I need to start playing with the other parts that go into a printed novel, the little details that occupy the spaces between the front cover and the story, and the back cover and the story. Playing is the exact word I want to use.

This time around, I want to be less formal and allow a slither of my silly side to lighten and brighten these little details. I love fun, funny and silly. And I love putting a twist into things that readers don’t expect. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

I have never written an acknowledgement for any of my books, but I’ve seen many books that include them. In essence, it is a few words to thank the people who provided a helping hand to bring the book to life. This might be direct or indirect help.

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Update on Editing Epic Fantasy Novel Scattered Stones

EditingLate last week, I completed the first serious edit on Scattered Stones, the second book in The Castle Keepers series.

First, let me define serious. The dozen or so edits that occurred before focussed on over-all story, aligning the characters and the plots, and removing unnecessary material that would never play into future books. I edited large sections at a time, but never from start to finish, and I didn’t focus on each particular sentence. Non-serious edits are quicker. I can do a page every five minutes or so.

My serious edit focussed on each sentence individually and at times, it took an hour to do a page. It looked at every verb and weighed it to see if it was the right one, the strongest one for the situation. If there were two verbs in a sentence, I evaluated them both to see if they were necessary. The weaker one—if unneeded—was removed, shortening and tightening the sentence.

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How to write a killer book description to attract readers

Lessons in Self-publishingDuring my Sunday morning reading, I came upon a podcast by Libbie Hawker posted by Johnny Walker at Author Alliance. Hawker spoke about writing book descriptions.

I loved the way Hawker broke down the process into five easy questions. I recall a similar discussion on promoting books last year by someone else. It’s so simple anyone can do it.

At the moment, I’m writing, revising, tweaking, second-guessing and editing the book description for my next novel, Scattered Stones. It’s an epic fantasy story, so I have to have an epic description.

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Writing Tip: How to Make any Story Good

Writing TipLast week while I was cooking supper, my thirteen-year-old son walked into the kitchen and asked, “Do you know what makes a movie good?”

I looked up from peeling potatoes, and the expression on his face told me it was a rhetorical question. He didn’t want to know what I thought; he wanted to tell me what he thought made a movie good.

My son is a Marvel fanatic. He’s watched them all: Captain America, Hulk, Thor and, his favourite, Iron Man. He’s also seen Guardians of the Galaxy multiple times. He’s analysed them, critiqued them and guessed at the story line. Immediately after watching a movie or Agents of Shield (the TV show connecting with the movies), we know to expect his mind—travelling at light speed—to start churning ideas, and his mouth—also travelling at light speed—to start sharing them.

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Transforming a Paragraph

EditingAs many know, I’m editing the second book in the Castle Keepers series Scattered Stones. When I began, the fantasy novel contained 161,435 words. It currently sits at 160,522 words. My goal is to reduce the novel to below 150,000.

To reach this goal, unnecessary words need to go. To do this, I evaluate each sentence. This is a long process, and after 13 days, I’ve completed only 63 of 271 pages. Mind you, I only get to work on these edits about two hours a day.

This morning, as I worked on a paragraph, I got lazy—blame it on the late nights and early mornings. I let a few ‘was’ words slide without putting in effort to see if I could eliminate them. Not all ‘was’ words should be removed; there is a place for them, but laziness isn’t that place.
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Overview of Scattered Stones Manuscript

Scattered Stones UpdateOn January 1st, I created a fresh file for my next major project: Scattered Stones. Before this, the manuscript was divided into two files due to bad formatting and conflicting system changes that occurred a few years ago. I wrote the draft of this fantasy novel before I knew the importance of plain formatting.

As I read and edit, I’m drawing a line. Everything above the line has been nuked by the Eraser and reformatted into plain text. It’s also been scrutinized heavily, every verb, every line, every sentence evaluated until I’m satisfied. I’m weighing the worth of every word because I have major trimming to do.

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The Confusion of Had

I learned a lot about proper writing (punctuation, spelling, grammar) in school back when the education system thought it was more important to be able to write well than to dissect a literary story.

Over the past sixteen years, I’ve relearned a lot of these rules and honed my skills with the written word, so I could write well, be understood by readers with various education levels and tell a good story.

Still, writing is a big ‘process’. It’s full of intricate details we need a life time to explore. Sometimes I think it’s impossible to know it all. Each aspect of it must be scrutinised individually to decipher how it works.

One of those instances for me is the proper use of ‘had’. I know the basics, how it might be used and how a sentence sounds better when it is included. But I admit, it’s a challenge when the nit-picking begins.

I was faced with this today when I once again, faced with the dilemma of using ‘had’ or leaving it out. Here’s the paragraph in question (Scattered Stones; Book 2 of The Castle Keepers):

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Juggling Summer, Kids, Sheep and Writing

Summer timeThroughout the month of June, I wrangled with what to do with July and August. I didn’t want to see two months pass with nothing accomplished. After all, I have big plans for the fall and couldn’t have things stall over summer, creating a back-log of work for September.

No, I couldn’t do that.

Keeping up with the pace I had set over winter wouldn’t do either since the six hours of ‘free time’ while the kids were in school was gone while they enjoyed summer vacation. Many ideas came to me. Putting my blogs on hold and focussing on my novel and column writing was the obvious course of action to get things done, but I didn’t want to lose ground on the the social front.

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