putting words to work for you

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Classic Story-Song Craft: Part 4

Show-and-Tell: Eating the Pie in One Sitting

Time for the fourth in a series on various elements of crafting engaging stories by way of looking at popular story-songs …

Grab a cup of joe or what you like to sip on, because it’s nice to have something to drink with a BIG helping of dessert. This time around, we have “American Pie,” a song written and performed by Don McLean. Maybe you’ve heard the old story-writing adage of “Show, don’t tell.” Sometimes, of course, you need to just point-blank tell and not beat around the bush when weaving a yarn. So why is showing always put forth as a more engaging way to share a story? To answer that, here’s a song that is chock-full of all sorts of symbolic phrases that show rather than tell, like a pie stuffed with every kind of berry you can think of:

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Classic Story-Song Craft: Part 3

Telling the Raw Truth: Digging Into a Ballad from Bob Dylan (you knew he had to be coming sometime)

And the third of a series on various elements of crafting engaging stories by way of looking at popular story-songs …

This time it’s “The Ballad of Emmitt Till” (aka “The Death of Emmitt Till”), a tune written and performed by Bob Dylan (under the pseudonym Blind Boy Grunt on this recording). If you want a songwriter who pulls no punches, look no further than Dylan, and in this case, he doesn’t sugarcoat the story itself or his take on it.

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Classic Story-Song Craft: Part 2

Details, Details, Details: Sitting with Billy at the Ivories

Here’s the second of a series on various elements of crafting engaging stories by way of looking at popular story-songs. Next up is “Piano Man,” a tune written and performed by Billy Joel and a shining example of walking the knife’s edge of finding the perfect amount of details to include in a tale.

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Classic Story-Song Craft: Part 1

Economy of Language: Heading West (as in Country & Western)

This is the first of a series on various elements of crafting engaging stories by way of looking at popular story-songs. We start with two tunes from the world of country & western music, both classic ballads using a minimum of words: first, “Streets of Laredo” sung by Marty Robbins and, according to various websites, claimed to have been written decades earlier by cowboy Frank H. Maynard, and then “Big Bad John” sung by Jimmy Dean and written by Dean and Roy Acuff.

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A Poetic Storyteller

Just finished reading the hefty autobiography of Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run. As long as it is, I wonder how much got trimmed along the way by the author himself, as Springsteen the songwriter is an incredible poetic storyteller and knows the value and power of words (and music as well) … and it’s not like he could ever include everything anyway (was still sad that the book didn’t talk about his participation in the making of “We Are the World”).

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Basics of Formatting a Manuscript

Whether you’re planning to indie-publish or try the traditional route, publishers want simply formatted copy that they can easily convert to their house style. You’ll of course want to follow any specific guidelines given to you by a publisher or agent, but even as you craft your manuscript before submitting it for publication, you can ensure your document is going to meet industry expectations.

The following formatting specifications have worked well for my clients in this regard, as these specs provide a clean, neat document that’s easily read and easily transferred into a design program:

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Drowning in Details

In my most recent post, I took a look at how details matter in a novel—to the degree that you may lose readers if you flub up the details in your story. Of course, it’s also possible to make sure you have all the details straight and then go too far with them … as in drowning a reader in the details you give.

Let’s look at an example:

The sun-kissed, billowy-clouded azure sky overhead contrasted starkly with the terrifying obsidian-plated killer android that was sickeningly immune to the 7.62mm M61 150.5-grain armor-piercing rounds that we fired at it in staccato rhythm like there was no tomorrow.

Gurgle-gurgle … Blub-blub … And the reader has gone under. Continue reading

Little Details Can Make a Big Difference

Every so often, a novelist should make it a point to remember that most readers have about 54,000 other things they could be doing instead of reading a book. A novel will only hold your reader’s attention ahead of all those other things if it’s truly worth reading.

Aside from all the various mechanics and methods of writing that can turn off a reader, one item sure to doom your novel is goofing up on so-called little details—especially when you need to include subject matter that may not be familiar to you.

To wit: Continue reading

Another Thought on Writers Conferences

In my most recent post, I touched on why authors should attend a writers conference, focusing on two main reasons: First, it’s a great place to pitch your book to an agent or editor. And, second, it’s a place to be around other people who take writing seriously, allowing you to find new inspiration and encouragement.

In this post, I want to touch on another (multifaceted) reason why writers conferences are a great idea for authors: knowledge.

When you attend a writers conference, you have the opportunity to be empowered with knowledge from at least three sources: speakers, agents/editors, other writers.

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