Writing is a lot like life. Enjoy the journey. And let God handle the details.
Archive for November, 2009
[Update: The link above no longer works. Harlequin has taken the page down as reported by Ted Dekker. Read comment #2 for the history behind this post.]
Terms that cannot be used in a Steeple Hill novel:
- Breast (except for breast cancer if necessary)
- Buttocks or butt (alternatively, you can say derriere or backside)
- Damn (try “blast” instead)
- Devil (except in the religious sense, but the circumstances would be rare)
- Dang or Dagnabbit
- Father (when used to describe a religious official)
- For heaven’s sake (can use “for goodness’ sake” instead)
- For the love of Mike
- For Pete’s sake
- Geez/jeez (but “sheesh” is acceptable)
- Heat (when used to describe kisses)
- Hell (except in the religious sense, but this would be rare)
- Holy cow
- Need/hunger (when used to describe non-food-focused state of being)
- Sexual attraction
- Tempting (as applied to the opposite sex)
- St. [name of saint]
- Swear, as in “I swear…” – Christian characters are not supposed to swear.
- Undergarments – of any kind
The following are allowed only in the context mentioned:
- Angel – only when used in a Biblical context
- Miracle – only when used in a Biblical context
- Oh my God/Oh, God – ONLY allowed when it’s clearly part of a prayer
- Heavenly – only when used in a Biblical context
- Although you can say “He cursed” or mention cursing, do not overuse. Furthermore, only non-Christian characters can curse.
Situations to be avoided:
- Kissing below the neck
- Visible signs or discussions of arousal or sexual attraction or being out of control
- Double entendre
- Nudity – people changing clothes “on screen” or any character clad only in a towel
- Hero and heroine sleeping in the same house without a third party, even if they’re not sleeping together or in the same room
- Also, Christian characters should not smoke, drink, gamble, play cards or dance (except in historical novels they may dance but please limit to square dances and balls, no “sexy” dancing like waltzing cheek to cheek), and terms associated with these activities should only be used in connection with bad guys or disapproving of them or such.
- Bodily functions, like going to the bathroom, should be mentioned as little as possible and some euphemism may be necessary but we don’t want to sound quaint or absurd.
You should already know to avoid adverbs throughout your writing, but did you know there are some sneaky ones that don’t end in ‘ly’? For examply, the word “this” can function as an adverb. (See: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/this)
Everybody go ‘Boo! Hiss!’.
So here are three grammar rules for first lines that I’ve gleaned from my sources and distilled for your reading pleasure.
Rule #1: Don’t use adverbs in your writing. If it can be said with an adverb, it can be said stronger another way since the only function of adverbs is to strengthen weak verbs.
Again, everybody go ‘Boo! Hiss!’.
Rule #2: Use pronouns sparingly in your first lines. Generally, the more specific your language is the better.
Lets look at an example:
- He gathered up this strange coat into his arms.
- Ronald gathered up the strange, patchwork coat into his arms.
Which example do you think is stronger?
Of course there are exceptions to every rule. Consider the following:
- On February 24th, 2005 he remembered that his daughter’s boyfriend was coming over at about 6:15 that night and decided to get his gun out for cleaning.
- Today Samuel remembered that April’s boyfriend was coming over this evening and decided to get his gun out for cleaning.
Again, which is stronger?
Rule #3: Stronger verbs mean a stronger emotional response in the reader. Robert Frost has a great quote on this: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”
So, how about this next example:
- I watched when this thing bearing teeth came out of the hole.
- I recoiled as a creature bearing teeth came out of the hole.
Which comes across as stronger?
(Since the image is so tall, I’ll leave my comments here.)
A very interesting image, don’t you think? I bet more than a few writers would have loved having this in front of them when they were writing a period piece.
Oh, and did you notice which toy appears twice?
I think the most difficult part of any book is the opening chapter. Every word has to count. You have to draw readers in and get them interested in the characters and the plot. Hence, I spend more time working with the opening paragraphs and then the rest of the initial chapter than I do any other facet of the book.
But here are a few things I’ve come to believe about reviews:
- They don’t have to trash books, even the ones that are less than great or maybe even terrible. Writing, after all, isn’t easy, and the author of the book should be respected for his efforts.
- Reviews should be honest. A reviewer who always says the current work he’s discussing is the best thing since C. S. Lewis, simply loses credibility.
- Most books have strengths and weaknesses. In mentioning both, reviewers actually gain credibility. Plus, many readers will decide that the things that bothered the reviewer aren’t significant enough to dissuade them from buying the book.
- Reviews should not serve in place of discernment. Again, in discussing the strengths and weaknesses of a work, the reviewer is actually putting the ball back in the hands of the reader, forcing him make his own decision.
- Recommendations can be tailored. Because I as a reviewer may not like a book, does that mean no one else will, or should? Absolutely not. However, if I make judgments as to who I think might like the book and to what extent they may like it, my recommendation can then guide others to consider whether or not they are part of that audience.
Some good points to keep in mind when writing and reading reviews.