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Friday, August 1, 2014

Writing Tips: Describing Amounts

A fair amount of writers tend to write like very passively. Instead of proclaiming bold statements of events past, they merely suggest something might have happened. We see this with passive voice, adverbs, elongated sentences, etc.

Another place I've seen this, is in describing amounts. And yes, dear reader, I have done this as well, one hundred and one times, at least.

There are three tiers to describing amounts: vague guesses, rough estimates and exact amounts.

You may never have thought about this, but when you describe an object that is numerous or numerable, it could be described in one of the three aforementioned ways.

I will tell you this right off the bat: The more specific, the more believable. Don't believe me? Roughly half of you won't. But when I illustrate the point, you just might become a believer.

VAGUE GUESSES

Vague guesses are the worst, most passive way to describe a group of things. An example of this, is the very beginning of this post when I said "a fair amount." What exactly does that mean? What constitutes fair?

You see, you may have read right over it, but you had no clue as to what that actually meant. And if you (as the writer) don't know what that meant, neither will your reader.

The problem is that there is no concrete idea here. Without a mental picture, the words are really just filler. Now, I have done this, and after reading the statements later on, I realized how weak they were. It's really just a writer's crutch of not actually describing anything.

Avoid these at all costs, if possible (and it should definitely be possible).

Here are a few examples.
  • A fair amount
  • A good deal
  • quite a bit
  • some distance

Think about this for a moment: If I say that something is "a good deal away", is it five feet or five hundred? Exactly.

ROUGH ESTIMATES

These are much better, and stronger than vague guesses. I would recommend that if you can't at least use specific amounts, use these.

A rough estimate is exactly that: It's you, as the writer, telling the reader, that heck - even you don't know the precise amount or location of a given time, place or object. And you know, it happens. I believe that we, the writers, don't even know the full story until it's told, so this situation does happen. I've even seen even the best writers use these.

Rough estimates give an idea of something, without complete accuracy, leaving room for error. Again, the problem here is that it can lead to weak writing if you, as the writer, NEVER know anything, because well, you should know MOST. (again another estimate)

I suggest that when you use these, you use them sparingly.

Examples:
  • Roughly...
  • Nearly...
  • Almost...
  • about...
  • Something like...
  • Most of/some of/a little bit of/ a lot of...
  • A few...
Then these are followed by some extreme, number, fraction or percent, describing a noun.

Estimates are better for the sole fact that you can picture them. At the top, I said "roughly half of you." You can picture half of a group, probably people divided in a room or something similar. At least with these, the reader has a clue, but it's not the best it can be.

EXACT/PRECISE AMOUNTS

These are absolutely best. When I was in marketing, I learned that exact amounts make things credible, and I've seen the proof. If someone says they make 1,000 a day, it sounds fake. But if I say I made $1,387.94 yesterday, it seems real.

Why?

Because it FEELS real. It doesn't have to be, well not in fiction, at least. But when you see something that is spelled out, you can SEE it in your head. The combination of seeing and feeling something, makes it more credible.

And isn't that our goal as fiction writers? To make our story feel credible? Like it could happen? That our characters could or do exist, somewhere out in the multiverse?

To Prove my point, compare these two identical statements:

Linda had a few bills in her purse, just enough to buy a new pair of shoes.

AND

Linda had three $20 bills in her purse, just enough to buy a new pair of shoes.

In the first example, we not only have to guess what "a few" is, but we also have to figure out what each bill is worth.

The second example not only tells us she has $60, but that the pair of shoes she wishes to buy is somewhere under that.

See my point yet?

This is the strongest type of description as it gets. Use this all the time when you can, but be careful... it is easy to go overboard. I have seen dozens of writers take this role too seriously, and describe every facet on a piece of volcanic rock. *Okay, that last sentence was made up, but you get the picture (because I described it to you. I'm boss like that.) 

Here are Examples:
  • Specific Distance (20 feet, 71 yards, 2.4 miles, 1/4 mile)
  • Specific Days (Monday March 13th, Sunday 1:07pm)
  • Specific Amounts ($9.37, 51 gallons, 12.6 cups, 61% capacity)
This also goes for weight, height, etc. Pretty much anything (another vague statement BTW) that can be measured in some way.

COMPARISON AMOUNTS

There's also the business of comparing items, such as "as numerous as the sand on the sea shore." The best advice I can give for this is to compare things that are already easily visible. In this case, we get the idea that whatever that object is, it's basically like counting stars. It's impossible.

If you don't know exactly, or have reason to specify in this case, try to  find a visual representation that will resonate with some specific number. i.e. "as many ships as there were continents."

All in all, we should be striving to create stronger sentences, and better written prose. Don't be afraid of your own story; embrace it. Know it. Learn it. Give the reader pictures to remember.

I wish you the best of luck, and much stronger writing in the future.

- Coty Schwabe

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Crossblade Chronicles - Fast Paced Action Fantasy?

Now that my original story, Crossblade, has been written into the new story, In Search of the Sword, I can honestly say that it is a fast paced action fantasy story, that encompasses many of the familiar elements found in classic fantasy tales.

In this book, there are battles between several different forces. But it begs the question: Is it fast paced and action packed? How do we define that?

Well, if you haven't read the PROLOGUE for In Search of the Sword, then I highly suggest you do so, as it starts of where Acbain's story leaves off. From there on, the main characters of ISOTS have to overcome many obstacles to reach their goals.

The problem, however, is that many will be turned off by this type of pacing. Some are desirous of a slower paced book that meanders along, drip-feeding the reader minute morsels upon which to feast at a leisurely rate. That's alright for some, but being a young man of the new decade, I find break-neck speed is not only preferred, but necessity.

Haven't you seen videos these days? Intelligent or even somewhat wise novices cut out the boring parts, leaving the audience with only content. No quite parts, no boring bits, only content. While I find this to inversely be a great thing for entertainment value, it has also dwindled (in my opinion at least) the average person's attention span.

Take another example of action packed media: video games. Many of the best selling franchises are action titles, many of them shooters, though not ONLY shooting games.

When I was younger, I played RPGs, or role playing games. These may not have been in your face action packed, yet, they still involved combat in the story in the form of difficult battles of good and evil. To me, this is an underrated form of storytelling, as Final Fantasy is one of my favorite series. Many of the series' older titles blended unique stories, with intense action.

So, with that in mind, when I originally set out to write "Crossblade" my intent was to create a fast paced story that had action as not only as an additional requisite, but as a core, integral piece.  I find that even when I have tried ot stray away from this type of writing, it keeps creeping back in like virus not entriely sterilized.

What do you think? Have you read In Search of the Sword? Do you think its fast paced and action packed? And am I in the wrong here about the whole thing? Is action not as integral as I think it is? Tell me in the comment section below!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Afterwrath Part One Complete, and A Serious Question

Last year, about a year ago exactly, I started a project that I called "nomad." But due to other projects going on in life, and rewriting Crossblade into 'In Search of the Sword,' I was not able to work on the series like I wanted to.

Today I finished part one of the now titled "AFTERWRATH" series, (I like title, don't you?) and it is the beginning of Burk Wallace's adventure into the desert. Part One - Station, will be available soon. If you know anything about my writing, its action packed and filled with believable characters.

When the book is edited and the cover finished, I will let you know. Part Two, a Caw of Ravens, is already in progress.

Exciting stuff.

I have a question for you though. In my quest to feed the voracious appetite of readers everywhere, I'm curious to know something...

What do you look for in a fictional book? Is it believable characters? Original plot? Familiar tones? Realistic story and/or locations? Let me know in the comment section below.

Thanks again for stopping by.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hey everyone!

It's been a while, but finally I'm back. After a long stretch of writing, then editing, then writing, then editing, I'm finally done!

Yesterday I finished the rewrite for my first book, Crossblade. This new, improved version (kind of a Crossblade 2.0 if you will) goes under the guise of In Search of the Sword.

So what's different?

+ Many new characters added
+ Some minor characters dropped
+ Changed events
+ Different character profiles
+ Fuller backstory
+ Overall better story

If you already own the original Crossblade, be sure to redownload the book. If you have not picked up In Search of the Sword, be sure to start reading the sample of it on Amazon or Smashwords.

Thanks for reading,
Coty

Monday, December 30, 2013

Amazing Action Dialogue Tips

I love to read other people's tips for writing dialogue. Today I stumbled upon a page written by Mary Rosenblum that just about shattered my ideas about dialogue.

Can you really dispel the use of 'said'? And how can you get your reader to picture an eventful scene whilst shoving dialogue into their eyestalks?

This post really changed the way I looked at dialogue.

Is it really possible to have your characters talk without using 'he said, she said' and so on? I myself had included some of the elements she talks about myself, but the biggest piece of advice that stuck otu to me was this:

Whatever characters performs the action, the reader will assume is the speaker.

While I don't think that 'said' or speech tags can be eliminated altogether (nor should they) they can be cut back like a bargain bin movie.

Aspiring writers will want to read this:

http://www.longridgewritersgroup.com/rx/wc11/action_tags.shtml

- Coty, Out

Thursday, December 5, 2013

New Time Management Book Out Now

Hey all. My new non-fiction book, Time Management Voodoo, is available now.

Here's What You'll Discover:

- The #1 Thing you Should be doing DAILY to accomplish
- The Two BIGGEST Enemies to Being Productive
- Why You SHOULDN'T Multi-Task (and why you'll get more done)
- What Your 'Peak' is, and why its important to Know
- The difference between Urgent Tasks and Important Task
- How to PROPERLY set and reach goals (mess this up, and the whole thing may be a waste)
- Why you NEED to take breaks instead of skipping them
- How I went on to write over 8,000 words in a single day for one book - and on a day most people don't do any real work!
- And lots more inside.

Grab your copy today, and start seeing higher productivity in just hours!

>> Download from Amazon

>> Download from Smashwords

Friday, November 22, 2013

Two Book for 99 Cents - Limited Time

So I've been away for a while and I wanted to drop in with a quick update.

The story of Acbain is no longer free. I hated to do it, but in all honesty I wanted to get more people interested in the story of one of my favorite characters. However, the good news is that Acbain is only 99 cents and can now be downloaded right here on Amazon, or on Smashwords of course

The other exciting story I wanted to mention is my new mini-series, East from Eden, which starts with Book One: Wrath. The series follows Burk Wallace, a mysterious gun-wielding wanderer in search of two unknown people. While passing through a small desert town in Nevada, a supernatural disasters strike the town and globe alike, throwing Burk into a fight for survival. Will he survive? Click here to find out.

Last bit of news. The Crossblade rewrite, dubbed GotC, is coming along well, though I haven't written in a while. Once the holidays are passed, and I have finished a few other projects, the book should be finished by June of next year.

I'm currently working on two non-fiction books; one about time management (one of my favorite subjects) and the other one is about finding your purpose in life. Fun stuff!

That's all for now!

Regards,
Coty