6 Reasons to Write a Short Story

Happy Friday to all our friends here at WITS! We’re doing some extra special posts this week as an advance thank you for helping us migrate to our new site next week. All will be unveiled on Monday!

Today our pal, Julie Glover, is here. *Jenny jumps up and down* Here’s an example of why she’s one of our favorite peeps. When we told her y’all love nice meaty posts, Julie responded with:

“I hope I delivered. I’m even hoping it’s bacon. All posts should be like bacon.”

Enjoy!

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My Sister's Demon, paranormal fiction by Julie Glover, @julie_glover

As a novel reader, I always believed I was meant to write full-length books. Yet I find myself entering the self-published market with a collection of short stories instead.

I wrote the first one on a lark—merely a story premise I wanted to get out of my system. But I liked the result so much, I started another. And then I got hooked, eventually completing six young adult paranormal shorts.

6 reasons you might consider writing a short story:

1. Writing short stories hones your skill for writing lean—a skill that will help you craft more effective scenes in a novel.

The limited space of short stories requires the writer to stick to what must be included and leave the rest behind. Mastering storytelling in short form can help you see your novel in a different light.

After working on short stories, I returned to edits on my book and suddenly recognized sections and scenes that didn’t pull their weight. Now that I better understand how to pack punch into a shorter word count, I can transfer that skill to writing longer fiction and create a more power-packed novel.

2. Short stories appeal to the our fast-paced lives.

It’s tempting as authors to expect everyone to be voracious readers like us, toting around thick books or an entire library on our e-reader. But today’s world is fast-paced, and many people simply don’t have time or make time to read a full novel. They might, however, be able to get through a short story and satisfy their urge for fiction.

A short story can be read on the subway or bus to work, while waiting to be seen in a doctor’s office, or in those few minutes to yourself at night before you crash into sleep.

Shorts appeal to our overfull schedules and keep readers reading.

3. Your story idea is great, but not enough for a novel.

Practically speaking, sometimes this is true. You have wonderful characters in mind and a story event worth telling, but it’s not layered enough for a full-length book.

Indie author Kait Nolan‘s most recent publications are her Meet Cute Romances, a series of shorts celebrating the first meeting of a romantic couple. She says:

“Ideally, for a novel, you’d have a full conflict and character arc that brings them together. And that’s great. But sometimes, all you’ve got is the beginning, that moment of promise that gives you a thrill of knowing this is IT, this is the ONE. And in your head you can see it playing out—as relationships often do in real life—with little conflict worth a full dramatic story. That doesn’t make the story of that relationship any less worthy of being told, it just means it needs a shorter format that zeroes in on that moment of spark.”

Not every idea is worthy of 300 pages or so, and sometimes you can tell a great tale in 10, 20, or 30 pages. So don’t toss that fabulous idea! Make it a short story.

4. Shorts help maintain reader interest in between full-length books.

Self-published authors and traditional publishers have discovered how important it is to keep an author’s name active in a fan’s mind. Since it takes a while to write, edit, and publish a book, how can you keep your readers engaged during the wait?

More and more, short fiction fills the gap—with novellas and short stories both teasing and satisfying a loyal fan base. Many successful authors, such as thriller author Lee Child (Jack Reacher) and Kathy Reichs (Bones), have added shorts to their series as a welcome bonus for their readers.

5. Anthologies provide an avenue for gaining new readers.

Collaborating with other authors can put your name in front of potential readers. If another author’s fans buy the anthology, they might give your story a shot and discover you’re their happy cup of tea as well.

However, participate in an anthology because you believe in the product or cause, not merely for exposure. Best-selling urban fantasy author Jaye Wells wrote “The Werewife” for the anthology Carniepunk: “Agreeing to submit was a no-brainer because the other participating authors are good friends and the carnival theme was irresistible. The side benefits of increased exposure was a secondary consideration.”

When choosing to submit a story for an anthology, Wells has this advice as well: “I’ve also learned that it’s often best to write stand-alone short stories because writing a scene or connected story with your other books comes off as an advertisement, which can annoy readers.”

You might pick up a new reader, not with a teaser story for an existing series, but for your unique voice in fiction.

6. Short stories are a powerful storytelling medium.

Remember the short stories you enjoyed? I vividly recall The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe, The Veldt by Ray Bradbury, and The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. These fiction greats understood the power of short fiction to hook a reader.

Indeed, the short story market is growing. While shorts never went away, they weren’t commercially viable with printing costs. The ebook revolution has given this powerful medium a resurgence, to the benefit of both writers and readers.

Why write a short story? Even with these six reasons, the ultimate reason is because you have a short story to tell. Many writers do, if they open themselves up to the idea and let their imagination go.

Have you ever written a short story? What do you like about writing short? If not, what keeps you from exploring short fiction? Who is your favorite short story writer?

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About Julie

Julie Glover, Writers In The StormJulie Glover is the author of “Color Me Happy,” a young adult romance story in the Orange Karen: Tribute to a Warrior anthology, and My Sister’s Demon, the first of a series of young adult paranormal shorts. She is also working on a novel and lives with her wonderful husband and two sons in her beloved Lone Star state. (That’s Texas, y’all.)

Find Julie at her website or on Twitter. She loves to tweet.

Posted in Blogging Guests, WriterStrong | Tagged , , , , | 73 Comments

Margie’s Rule # 2: Write the Hard Stuff — Facial Expressions

From CBS.com

From CBS.com

by Margie Lawson, @MargieLawson

If you watch NCIS, you know Jethro Gibbs, aka Mark Harmon, has rules. Fifty-plus rules. My next fifteen (or fifty) blogs will feature a different Margie-Rule for writers.

[Click here for Margie’s Rule #1:
Never Take Any Word for Granted
.]

Margie’s Rule #2: Write the Hard Stuff: Facial Expressions

Write the hard stuff.

Those words sound harsh. Nobody wants to write the hard stuff. And writing fresh facial expressions is tough.

It’s easy to write a sigh. It’s easy to write a nod. It’s easy to have a character shake their head.

It’s easy to write eyebrows raising, lifting, lowering, wagging.

It’s easy to write eyes narrowing, widening, slitting, squinting, winking, rolling.

It’s not easy to write fresh facial expressions.

You may be thinking, why write fresh? What’s wrong with writing overused facial expressions? Everybody writes them.

Lots of writers use those overused phrases. Readers have read those phrases thousands of times.

But clichés are invitations to skim. The reader detaches from the read. They take a mini-break. They tune out of your story and tune into their real word.

For many agents and editors, clichés aren’t just invitations to skim. They stop reading.

I’m not the only writing expert who wants to kill most clichés. Every basic how-to book for writers cautions against using clichés. I’ll share ideas from several How-to-Write books.

Here’s what James V. Smith, Jr. said about clichés in YOU CAN WRITE A NOVEL. This is from his “YOU MIGHT BE AN AMATEUR IF” section.

 You might be an amateur if you rely on clichés.

This item is obligatory for any writing handbook. Beware the automatic phrase, such as “white as snow” and “quiet as a mouse.” If your heroic character roars like a lion, she’d better be a lioness. 

One of the books on my top ten how-to books for beginning writers is THE FIRST FIVE PAGES by Noah Lukeman. He has sixteen pages listed in the index that address something about clichés. He includes this caution in chapter one:

I can’t tell you how many manuscripts either open with clichés or have one on their first page. This is almost always a sure indicator of a commonplace sensibility and will thus lead to instant rejection.

Trust the writing experts. Avoid clichés. Push yourself to write fresh. 

All the examples in this blog are from Margie-grads. Enjoy!

Blaze, Joan Swan, multi-Margie-grad, 3 time Immersion-grad

For an extended second his eyes remained steady and unblinking on her face. A deep vertical line pulled between his brows, as if someone had smacked him upside the head and he hadn’t quite recovered.

When she looked up, Owen’s expression held a mixture of decades-old emotions that stirred her heart and her libido.

Dirty Magic, Jaye Wells, multi-Margie-grad, 2 time Immersion-grad

Gardner’s expression went tense, like she’d hoped I would have forgotten about that. When he finally looked up, his eyes were shiny and red-rimmed.

His smile transformed his face from boyish to almost-mannish.

Sweet on You, Laura Drake, to be released August, 2014, multi-Margie-grad, Immersion-grad

Margie Lawson, Laura Drake

Margie Lawson and Laura Drake ~ RWA Nationals 2013

Her expression in the mirror looked familiar for the first time in weeks. She looked like a soldier; determined, tough, and ready.

The Cam in front of the cameras looked so different than the Cam she was getting to know. His face was closed, carefully composed. A Cool Hand Cahill mask.

Her lips attempted a smile, but her eyes didn’t bother.

Two Paragraphs:

He opened his eyes and studied her face. Her lips taut, her eyes cool, shuttered, and professional. And that hurt. “Will you have dinner with me tonight?”

Her look lasered to a hawk’s predatory gaze. No cool there now.

Dare You To, Katie McGarry, multi-Margie-Grad 

Beth’s face explodes into this radiant smile and her blue eyes shine like the sun. My insides melt. This moment is special and I don’t want to let it go. I’m the one that put that look there.

From over his shoulder, Dad indicates I should join them by giving me one of his rare I’m-proud-of-you smiles. It makes me unbalanced.

Mom shifts in her seat like a crow fluffing out its wings. The only thing she’s missing is the pissed-off caw.

Find Me, Romily Bernard, Golden Heart Winner, and multi-Margie-grad

“That’s good. That’s good.” Bren’s nodding hard enough to knock something loose.

Everyone else is talking and crying, but Tally’s motionless, staring at me like I’m the only person who has ever mattered. Like I’m a hero.

The Last Breath (MIRA), Kimberly Belle, to be released Sept. 30, 2014, multi-Margie-grad, 4-time Immersion-grad

A smile slides up Jake’s face and settles in. It’s a magnetic, no-holds-barred smile, a smile that’s fierce and undeniably sexy, a smile that tugs and tingles somewhere deep and low in my belly.

Now Cal doesn’t bother hiding his surprise, or his fury. His neutral expression mushrooms into something livid and then clenches. Slammed brows, squeezed lips.

The realization slams him back onto his seat and sobers his expression more thoroughly than ten double espressos.

I watch as every emotion I feared most competes on Jake’s face. Grief, disgust, hatred, despair.

Kennedy Ryan, When You Are Mine, to be released June 17, 2014, multi-Margie-grad, Immersion-grad

Kerris’s smile played tug-of-war with her sad eyes.

The smile Kerris pushed onto her lips felt like a too-tight sweater.

Walsh flashed a smile he’d been cultivating in expensive schools and exclusive parties since he was twelve years old, hoping no one was the wiser.

Two Paragraphs:

“Walsh,” his mother said from the head of the table a few feet north of him and Sofie. “Will you open the dancing with me?”

Walsh lobbed a silent yes-get-me-out-of-this expression to his mother. She returned with a mama-always-knows smile.

I’m so impressed with my Margie-grads. Stellar writing!

If you some of these examples grabbed you, tweet or Fb the authors, and post a comment below. They’ll all stop by the blog. Let them know they wowed you!

One more point about clichés. Reviewers notice clichés too.

I’ll share the last sentences from two reviews. They’re for different books, by different authors. One is from Publisher’s Weekly, one is from Kirkus.

The last sentence from one review:

Clichés roll past like tumbleweeds on the prairie.

The last sentence from the other review:

(Author’s name) message gets buried in a sludge pile of clichés.

AACK!

You do not want anyone reviewing your book to mention clichés!

I hope you all dig deep and write the hard stuff.

If you feel stuck, consider the lecture packet for the third in my Big Three writing craft courses: Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist. I teach that online course next March. That’s why the lecture packets are available through Paypal from my website.

You’ll find loads of teaching points and examples in my lectures. You’ll learn how to write body language and dialogue cues fresh, and it won’t seem so hard.

The more you write fresh, the easier it becomes. The more you write fresh, the stronger your writing.

BLOG GUESTS: NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!
Post a comment and you could win an online course from Lawson Writer’s Academy!

Check out the courses we’re offering in June:

1. Character-Themed Writing — Instructor: Elizabeth Essex

2. Love Your Voice — Instructor: Julie Rowe

3. From blah to beats: Giving Your Chapter a Pulse — Instructor: Rhay Christou

Due to my travel schedule to present at a university, at writing conferences, and teach six Immersion classes across the U.S. this summer, the next online class I’m teaching is in August: Visceral Rules: Beyond Hammering Hearts.

Margie Lawson, Brenda Novak

Margie Lawson with Brenda Novak at the CG Conference

Please check out my three donations on Brenda Novak’s Diabetes Auction. 

http://bit.ly/BidOnImmersion

1. Twelve Months of Online Courses from Lawson Writer’s Academy — $600 value

2. Margie Lawson’s 50 Page Triple Pass Deep Edit — $350 value

3. Immersion Master Class, Lodging, and Two Bonus Days with Margie Lawson! — $1550 value

Thank you!

See you on the blog!

All smiles…………….Margie

p.s. No you haven’t imagined it…we have an extra post for you this week as a thank you (in advance) for helping us transition to our new site next week!

IMPORTANT REMINDER
** Writers In The Storm is getting a makeover! **
We’re moving to our new digs June 2nd. Stay tuned for party news (and giveaways)…

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About Margie

Margie Lawson, Writers In The StormMargie Lawson —psychotherapist, editor, and international presenter – teaches writers how to use her psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques to create page turners. Margie has presented over eighty full day master classes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Writers credit her innovative deep editing approaches with taking their writing several levels higher—to publication, awards, and bestseller lists.

To learn about Lawson Writer’s Academy, Margie’s 4-day Immersion Master Classes (in Colorado, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas, Seattle, San Antonio, Houston, and on Whidbey Island), her full day Master Class presentations, keynote speeches, on-line courses, lecture packets, and newsletter, please visit www.MargieLawson.com.

Posted in Craft, Margie Lawson | Tagged , , , , | 73 Comments

Do You Know How To Edit AND Proofread Your Story?

proofreading, Writers In The Stormby Jenny Hansen, @JennyHansenCA

Editing and Proofreading: Two separate processes that equal one great story.

Like most writers, I hang out with a boatload of other writers. Still, I never saw much of other peoples’ works in progress until I coordinated a contest several years ago. Coordinating contests changed the way I see writing. Period. It was a window into both sides of the submission process.

Plus, I saw firsthand one of the important talents that separates the amateurs from the professionals: the ability to both edit and proofread.

In novel-writing, editing is King and proofreading is Queen.

Professional writers, whether published or pre-published know: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. They work hard to make a great first impression.

As a contest coordinator, I had to read every piece of paper sent between the judges and the contestants to ensure everyone played nice with each other. (It should be noted that nearly everyone did.)

There was an area on the score sheet called “Mechanics” worth a whopping twenty points.

One well-known author gave a contestant FIVE points, along with an amazing gift: she chastised the writer that these twenty points were the easiest points to ace in the entire contest. She told the contestant that “there is no excuse for not taking the time to get all twenty points EVERY time.”

Spelling, grammar, punctuation and neatness are nearly the only thing you can be completely confident of when you start writing because things like voice and pacing take a while to master.

I let this (very blunt) comment stand because I knew it might save that contestant’s career.

Many writers see editing and proofreading as the same thing. In reality, these two techniques employ very different parts of your writing brain.

Think of it like building a house. You can lay a solid foundation, frame the house correctly, hang the drywall, slap on some paint and that house is structurally sound, sealed and dry. It is a well-edited house and the floor plan is amazing.

BUT, if you don’t take some extra time on the finish work: painting the trim, adding some scrollwork or lining up the crown molding, fewer people will want to buy it. Worse, if they do buy it (for a much lower rate) they’ll walk away from the exchange thinking you did half-assed work because now they have to take time to fix it.

How is editing different from proofreading?

Here’s a great article that discusses the differences between the two. These rules apply whether you’re dealing with business documents, such as white papers, articles or novels.

Although many people use the terms interchangeably, editing and proofreading are two different stages of the revision process. Both demand close and careful reading, but they focus on different aspects of the writing and employ different techniques.

Editing

Editing is what you begin doing as soon as you finish your first draft.

  • You reread your draft to see, for example, whether your work is well-organized, your point of view correct, whether all the scenes support your plot and the transitions between these scenes are smooth.
  • Have you varied the length and structure of your sentences?
  • Do you tend to use the passive voice too often?
  • Do you use an excessive amount of clichés?
  • What about the more subtle editing techniques like deleting your echoes?

Note: Sharla Rae wrote an amazing blog on this topic, called Echoes – Repeat Offenders. It’s a must-read.

Proofreading

Proofreading is the final stage of the editing process, focusing on errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation.

It’s recommended that you proofread only after you have finished all of your other editing revisions (so you only have to do it once) but most writers do it as they go along. The danger in this habit is that familiarity can make you blind.

Some tips to help you to search (and find) your errors:

  • Don’t rely entirely on spelling or grammar checkers.
    These programs work with a limited number of rules, so they can’t identify every error and often make mistakes.
  • Proofread for only one kind of error at a time.
    If you try to identify and revise too many things at once, you risk losing focus, and your proofreading will be less effective.
  • Read slow, and read every word.
    Try reading out loud, which forces you to say each word and also lets you hear how the words sound together.
  • Circle every punctuation mark.
    This forces you to look at each one. As you circle, ask yourself if the punctuation is correct.
  • Proofreading is a learning process.
    You’re not just looking for errors that you recognize; you’re also learning to recognize and correct new errors. This is where handbooks and dictionaries come in. Keep the ones you find helpful close at hand as you proofread.
  • Ignorance may be bliss, but it won’t make you a better proofreader.
    You’ll often find things that don’t seem quite right to you, but you may not be quite sure what’s wrong either. If you’re not sure about something, look it up, and don’t be shy about asking others to proofread your work.

Some tips that apply to both editing and proofreading

Get some distance from the text!
It’s hard to edit or proofread a work in progress that you’ve just finished writing—it’s still too familiar, and you tend to skip over a lot of errors. Put the paper aside for a few hours, days, or weeks. In his book, On Writing, Stephen King recommends a minimum of 2-3 weeks.

Do something else.
Clear your head of what you’ve written so you can take a fresh look at the paper and see what is really on the page. Better yet, give the paper to a friend—you can’t get much more distance than that. Someone who is reading the paper for the first time, comes to it with completely fresh eyes.

Below are some techniques from the University of North Carolina article I referenced up above – I highly recommend reading the entire article if you have time.

  • Decide what medium lets you proofread most carefully.
    Some people like to work on the computer, while others like to sit back with a printed copy that they can mark up as they read.
  • Try changing the look of your document.
    Altering the size, spacing, color, or style of the text may trick your brain into thinking it’s seeing an unfamiliar document, and that can help you get a different perspective on what you’ve written.
  • Find a quiet place to work.
    Don’t try to do your proofreading in front of the TV or while you’re chugging away on the treadmill. Find a place where you can concentrate and avoid distractions.
  • If possible, do your editing and proofreading in several short blocks of time, rather than all at once—otherwise, your concentration is likely to wane.
  • If you’re short on time, you may wish to prioritize your editing and proofreading tasks to be sure that the most important ones are completed first.

Whew! Writing this made me feel like I’ve run a marathon already…how about you? I’m going to take a walk and come back and do some serious editing on the current novel.

What editing and proofreading techniques have you found the most helpful? Are there resources that you rely on during your editing or proofing phase?

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IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT
** Writers In The Storm is getting a makeover! **
We’re moving to our new digs June 2nd. Stay tuned for party news (and giveaways)…

About Jenny Hansen

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm. Jenny also writes the Risky Baby Business posts at More Cowbell, a series that focuses on babies, new parents and high-risk pregnancy.

photo credit: sidewalk flying via photopin cc

Posted in Craft, WriterStrong | Tagged , , , , | 41 Comments

Writing Agreement # 1: Be Impeccable with Your Word

Turning Whine into Gold
By Kathryn Craft, @KCraftWriter

Last year, Janice Gable Bashman and I co-wrote an article for Writer’s Digest Magazine, The 7 Deadly Sins of Self-Editing, that turned out to be quite popular. Apparently sinning resonated with writers (go figure!) who recognized that greed, lust, gluttony, pride, sloth, envy, and wrath might be waiting to trip up their creative souls.

But recognizing pitfalls is only half the battle when seeking a fruitful career and a meaningful life. We know what to avoid—but what should we be reaching for?

The Four Agreements, Kathryn CraftMany years ago I found great answers within the Toltec wisdom that inspired Don Miguel Ruiz’s 1997 book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom.

It’s a little book with a big message. Embracing its wisdom improved all aspects of my life. Today, however, I want to look at what the first tenet has to offer us as writers.

Be impeccable with your word.

Editors love authors who meet their deadlines. (Think about the implied threat here: cross the line and your story is dead.) Doing so shows you are respectful and focused and humble enough to see that publishing is a business concern much larger than your story alone.

Editors, however, will not be the only people to whom you will make commitments. As you take your rightful place within the time-honored lineage of artists who have passed on their knowledge to those who need it, the conferences, community groups, and other writers to whom you’ve made promises will also laud you for honoring your commitments. That said, everyone misjudges from time to time. If you can’t meet an obligation, renegotiate it as soon as possible to preserve your relationships.

Above all else you must act with integrity toward yourself.

Only by keeping your word to yourself can you can be the person you want to be. If you want to be an author, that means showing up at your chosen job so you can pursue your writing goals.

Is this important? We’re creatives after all—if we aren’t in the mood to write today, can’t we switch it up and watch TV instead?

Not if you told yourself you would write. Keeping your word with yourself is the only road to inner peace.

Interestingly, it is also the only road to achievement.

As someone who witnessed her husband’s self-destruction, I know a little something about the stakes here. To ignore this agreement is to introduce dangerous psychic dissonance into your life, which is the result of believing one thing, and doing another.

If you cannot hold yourself to your word and meet your writing goals, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of inner failure.

Think ten years down the road. Who will you be?

a)      a family joke
b)      an imposter
c)      a failure
d)     a dreamer
e)      a working writer
f)       a recorder of truth
g)      a go-getter
h)      an inspiration

I’ll take “e” through “h,” thank you.

To succeed in writing you must show up and do the work you’ve identified as your life’s mission. Or renegotiate the terms of your commitment, and find a life that you can live with greater integrity.

It’s okay to say that you will journal and learn and doodle for another year or two while your kids are little. It’s okay to say you’re going to work for one hour each day instead of pretending you can churn out an unrealistic word count.

I know for a fact that this sounds a lot simpler than it is. Writing is hard. Finding time to do it is hard. But whining doesn’t get you published. If you are ready to ramp up your career, you will have to raise your expectations, then meet your obligations to self.

I’ll explore the other agreements in future posts. For now, feel free to use the comment section as an opportunity to shout your personal truth to the universe.

What are your current writing and career goals, and how do you intend to keep your word to yourself?

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IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT
** Writers In The Storm is getting a makeover! **
We’re moving to our new digs June 2nd. Stay tuned for party news (and giveaways)…

About Kathryn

Kathryn Craft, The Art of FallingKathryn Craft is the author of two novels from Sourcebooks: The Art of Falling, and a second novel due Spring 2015. Her work as a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft, follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she now serves as book club liaison for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She hosts lakeside writing retreats for women in northern New York State, leads workshops, and speaks often about writing. She lives with her husband in Bucks County, PA. Although a member of The Liars Club, she swears that everything in this bio is true.

Posted in Inspiration, Kathryn Craft | Tagged , , , , | 55 Comments

10 Reasons Why You Should Know How To Format Ebooks

By Kait Nolan, @kaitnolan

I’ve been around since the fairly early days of self publishing. My first ebook went live in early 2010. Since then, the market has exploded and a thousand things have changed. Something that’s true this month may not be true the next.

But two things have remained more or less constant:

  1. Ebook formatting, while it has evolved, is still essentially as it was when I started.
  2. People keep perpetuating the myth that it’s hard.

If you happen to have seen me around since the early days, chances are you heard me railing against the latter. I have bullied (insulted?) more than one author into taking the plunge and educating themselves. I’m here today to tell you why you should, too, even if you opt to hire someone.

1. It is not hard.

Y’all, it’s really not. Formatting ebooks can be many things—a gigantic pain in the butt (depending on how many egregious formatting mistakes you commit in drafting), tedious, headache-inducing—but not hard. If you can read instructions, you can learn to format ebooks.

2. It does not take knowledge of CSS or other coding.

This comes under the heading of formatting being not hard. I can’t count the number of folks I’ve talked to who were under the impression that they needed to be able to do complicated code in order to format ebooks. While you can do it that way, you don’t have to (and, dear God, why would you want to?).

3. Self publishing does not come without expense. Formatting doesn’t have to be one of them.

There’s this saying in publishing that the money always flows to the author. This has changed somewhat with the advent of self publishing, and there are people out there who say you can’t self-publish without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars. I say bollocks to that (because, really, I don’t have enough opportunity to say “bollocks” in real life).

I published my first ebook with only $50 out of pocket (for cover art) and every single publishing expense I’ve had since then came from profits. If you’re on a limited publishing budget, your money needs to go to the important things you can’t do yourself, like cover art and editing.

4. You will want to be able to make changes and shouldn’t have to hire out to do that.

Part of self publishing means that you should be updating your books. Fixing those inadvertent typos that slip through your editor or beta readers. Or, at the very least, you’ll want to update booklists, be able to adapt back matter, add in affiliate sales links per sales channel, etc. These are small, simple changes, but if you don’t have any knowledge of formatting, you’ll have to pay somebody to do it, and this goes back to point 3.

5. You maintain control of the final product.

This just may be the gold standard for why so many of us choose to self publish in the first place. We’re control freaks. Formatting is just another one of those aspects you don’t have to trust to anybody else. Keep that hold on your precious!

6. You need to know what you’re looking at.

If you do choose to hire out because you prefer not to take the time or effort, it’s important that you understand what you’re looking at when you get the product back. You need to know whether the person you’ve hired has truly done a good job. If you know nothing about formatting, chances are you can’t adequately judge this.

7. It only takes a handful of programs.

My system doesn’t take any expensive, specialized software. Just Microsoft Word (which most of us have) or OpenOffice (free), MobiPocket Creator (free), Sigil (free), and Calibre (free).

8. If you train yourself out of bad formatting habits, it doesn’t take long.

Okay, this is possibly one of the biggest points. Authors have all kinds of horrible formatting habits. This is what has led to the idea that formatting takes forever and is the grandest pain in the fanny known to self publishing.

But guess what? If you train yourself out of those bad habits and set up your word processing program not to screw stuff up (Word likes to think it knows what’s best—it doesn’t), then you don’t have to waste scads of time undoing your formatting mistakes. That is, by far, the most time consuming part of the process.

For my own work, I can take a full-length novel and produce the EPUB, Kindle, and Smashwords formats in approximately half an hour from start to finish—for all of them. Because I write a cleanly formatted draft.

9. The people who can’t do it will think you’re a bad ass.

Due to that whole “OMG, it’s haaaaard” perception, if you know how to do it, you can buff your nails and be nonchalant while they goggle at you for your expert knowledge.

10. Knowledge is power (and time is money—save BOTH).

I think this speaks for itself.

And just so I’m not up here doing nothing but giving you a sales pitch, I’m here to share with you the two most common formatting mistakes (a tiny sampling of the stuff that’s taught in my formatting class). Both of these have to do with indents in your manuscript.

The Freebie Lesson

How many of you use either the Tab key or spacebar to make your paragraph indents? Show of hands? It’s most of you, I wager. Well guess what? You’ve just made yourself a lot of extra work. This is not the correct way to indent your paragraphs. The right way to do indents is through Paragraph Styles. But don’t worry. I have a nice little cheat that will get rid of all those unnecessary keystrokes.

Okay, see that little backwards P looking thing up in your toolbar? That’s the pilcrow. In Word they call this the Show/Hide button. It reveals your hidden formatting. In OpenOffice, this reveals what they call non-printing characters. Consider this the blacklight that’s going to reveal all the scary, bad formatting stuff in your manuscript. Brace yourselves and go click it while inside one of your manuscripts.

If You’re A Tabber

See all those right pointing arrows? Those are your tab marks. This is probably THE MOST COMMON bad formatting habit people have. It’s a quick and easy way to insert an indent at the start of a paragraph. And it’s BAD. WRONG. DON’T DO IT.

Open up your Find and Replace box (To do that press CTRL+H). In the “Find what” line enter ^t. The caret t is the symbol for tab. On the Replace With line, don’t put anything. You’re going to leave it blank. Then click Replace All.

If You’re A Spacer

So what if you aren’t a tabber? What if you’re a spacer instead? See that trail of dots in the middle of the line at the start of that paragraph? Same idea applies. Hit CTRL+H to get your Find and Replace box. Then, in the find what box, you’ll hit the space bar however many times you tend to do that for an indent, leave the Replace with box empty, and click Replace all.

Now, after you do that, you may find that in some places you still have one or two space bar spaces before the first lines of your paragraphs. If that happens to be the case, you can’t use the same process to zap all your single or double spaces because that’ll cause you to delete the spaces separating sentences. So the answer is to do a Find and replace on ^p space space, and then replace with ^p only.

This ^p is the symbol for a paragraph return (which looks like a pilcrow in the text), so basically you’re telling Word to replace all instances of two space bar spaces that immediately follow a paragraph return. This way, you isolate the space bar spaces that precede the start of a new paragraph. After THAT repeat it with a find and replace on ^p space, then replace with a ^p by itself.

The Right Way To Indent

Now, in Word you have these things called PARAGRAPH STYLES. These allow you to globally control the styling of your ebook. You’ll apply a different style to different elements of your book, and then to change the styling, you’ll just change the style ONCE and the change will take effect all through the whole book.

Paragraph styles control everything from font to spacing to indents. You’ll use it in the main body of the text, on your chapter headings, on the front matter, title page, etc.

You’re going to start by selecting your entire manuscript (CTRL+A) and setting it to what Word calls the “Normal” style. The default settings for the “Normal” style probably aren’t right either, but don’t worry, we’ll fix that in a bit. Why do we start with normal everywhere? Because the vast majority of your book will be the body—the words and paragraphs that comprise the main narrative. Then later, we’ll change the styles of certain areas, like chapter headings, front or back matter, etc.

Okay, now you’re going to modify the Normal style to actually be what you need it to be. In order to do this you need to click on that little expansion arrow in the bottom right corner of the Styles Box.

That will give you this menu that lists all the various styles Word has. If you hover over the pilcrow beside Normal, it will give you a drop down arrow. Click on the arrow and you’ll get a submenu. (In my class I have slides with screenshots from each point in this process). From there, select Modify.

That’s going to take you to the Modify Style box. In the bottom right corner, click on Format. That will give you another menu from which you need to select Paragraph. That’s going to give you this box.

 photo ParagraphStyles_zps6cbdf5f2.jpg

Now, particularly in newer iterations of Word, there will be all kinds of stuff to fix here. See under Spacing it’s got 10pt in the “After” box and has line spacing set at Multiple 1.15? Yeah, that’s all bad.

You NEVER EVER want it set to read EXACTLY or AT LEAST followed by some kind of point size specification in the At box. There should NEVER EVER be any entry in the AT box. You want just basic single spacing. No spacing before or after. And THIS is where you set your indent properly.

  • For print, the standard is usually half an inch.
  • With ebooks you often see less, anywhere between .25” and .5”.

I tend to prefer 0.3” for the first line indent. Some people prefer block paragraphs without indents. For fiction, I prefer a standard paragraph indent. Block paragraphs often work better for non-fiction. This is a decision that’s up to you, but pick one or the other, not both. I’ll come back to block spacing in just a minute.

You will keep your alignment set to Left, NOT Justified. Justified does funky stuff in ebooks. Now, when you click on okay in the paragraph window, you come back to the Modify Style page. Click okay again, and look at your manuscript. If you did things right, everywhere you have applied the Normal style, you should have properly indented paragraphs.

Ebook Formatting From A to Z

This is just a small sampling of the detail I go into in my ebook formatting class. Make no mistake—this is a class, not a quick seminar. It’s comprised of four lessons and designed to be done over time.

Each lesson is a streaming video that you can watch on your own time (as many times as you want). Then you’ll have access to interactive classrooms and discussion boards for more in-depth problem solving, as the need arises. At each step you will be expected to upload your manuscript for me to check over and help you correct so that you’re in good shape to move on to the next lesson.

I’m a teacher in real life, so I believe in the power of feedback for proper learning. At the end of my class, you will know how to take your book from a Word doc to all industry standard formats. You will be ready to self publish on any and all major platforms. Click here to register.

And if you’re still not convinced to learn how to do it yourself, I offer my services for ebook formatting over at The Forge. But I know y’all can do it.

Have you formatted your own ebooks already? What were your pitfalls or successes? What questions do you have for Kait?

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT
** Writers In The Storm is getting a makeover! **
We’re moving to our new digs June 2nd. Stay tuned for party news (and giveaways)…

About Kait

Kait Nolan, DIY epublishingKait Nolan is stuck in an office all day, sometimes juggling all three of her jobs at once with the skill of a trained bear—sometimes with a similar temperament. After hours, she uses her powers for good, creating escapist fiction. This Mississippi native has something for everyone, from short and sweet to Southern contemporary romance to action-packed paranormal—all featuring heroes you’d want to sweep you off your feet and rescue you from work-day drudgery. When not working or writing, Kait’s hanging out in her kitchen cooking and wishing life were a Broadway musical.

A passionate believer in helping others, she has founded a writing challenge designed for people who have a life (aka we NaNoWriMo rejects who can’t give everything up for the month of November). Please check out A Round of Words in 80 Days.

You can catch up with her at her blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pots and Plots.

Posted in Blogging Guests, Publishing With Amazon | Tagged , , , , | 42 Comments

Want To Write Like a Best Seller? Write Naked First!

by Tiffany Lawson Inman, @NakedEditor

NYTBSA_PhotopinThere it is.  LARGE bold print peering out at me from underneath the Life and Home section….THE NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLERS LIST, nagging me to grab my Kindle and start downloading fabulous fiction at lightning speed.

Sounds magical, doesn’t it?

Right now I’m talking about that list.  You know the one. The list that, if you are on it, says: You are a really-really-GOOD-writer-and-being-on-this-list-makes-you-special!

What makes that writing so darn special? 

My mom, Margie Lawson, creator of deep editing, and I have discussed on end why bestselling authors are bestselling authors. Using my background in theatre and hers in psychology, we probed the question.

No… bestselling authors are NOT walking around with fairy dust in their pockets.

Nope… they don’t have magic beans either.

The answer: It’s the words they use, the order they use them in, and how they tell their story.

Sounds easy, right?

Of course there are stylistic differences surrounding how each author of each genre approaches action, movement, and tension.

  • Some are minimalists when it comes to dialogue cues and body language and visceral.
  • Others push our senses to the max.
  • And a select few authors out there have the gift to use every aspect of scene writing to show evolving character relationships.

All are golden tools of scene writing!

While teaching Triple Threat Behind Staging a Scene, I ask the class members to pick out an action/movement, heavy dialogue, or multi-character scene from their favorite author. And to include an explanation on why they thought the scene kept them hooked and kept them reading.

Here are a few of the words and phrases my class used to describe their favorite bestselling scenes:

  • moves the story forward
  • natural dialogue, showed relationship and kept pace
  • understated dialogue  punctuated by bits of physical movements
  • visible tension in the body language
  • get to know the characters without losing interest  or forward momentum.
  • fluid internalization
  • seamlessly weaving all the elements of story together
  • multiple switches in tone
  • easy to read, no description or info dumps
  • tight choreography

Similarities: Tension, tight dialogue, show not tell, fluid internalizations, emotive body language, and smooth choreography.

Can you describe your writing with the words and phrases above?

Learning to train our reading brains to see emotional and dramatic patterns can awaken the bestselling writer within all of us.

The question is, HOW?

This is one of the many tools I use to awaken the bestselling authors within my students, so read carefully, this is privileged information  🙂

What if bestselling authors forgot about tension, tight dialogue, show-not-tell, fluid internalizations, emotive body language, and smooth choreography in their scenes?

What if I stripped their writing down to its birthday suit? Yup. Naked Writing.

What if, indeed…

Grab hold of your seats folks, I have stripped and re-written this scene and it’s not going to move you one inch. This scene is a HUGE turning point in a well known YA fantasy.

The protagonist thinks he is confronting a known serial killer, a man who betrayed his parents — that betrayal led to their death.  He and his two best friends are secluded in a room with this known villain and the protagonist is the only one with a weapon. This is his opportunity to avenge his parents and commit murder.

Black was on the ground at that point and he was out of breath. He watched Harry as Harry walked toward him slowly.  Harry’s wand was pointed at Black.

“Are you going to kill me, Harry?” he said.

Harry stopped walking, his wand was still pointing forward. Black’s face showed an ugly bruise and he had a bloody nose.

“You killed my parents, “ Harry said.

Black paused.”I don’t deny it,” he said. “But if you knew the whole story.”

“You sold them to Voldemort. That’s all I need to know.” Harry said.

“You’ve got to listen to me,” Black said quickly, “You’ll regret it if you don’t.”

“I understand a lot better than you think,” said Harry.

Hermione’s fat cat jumped onto the front of Black’s coat. “Get off,” he said, trying to push Crookshanks off of him.

Crookshanks was an ugly cat with a squashed face and yellow eyes. The ugly cat continued to sit on his chest. Hermione started crying.

Harry guessed he would have to kill the cat too.  Harry still held the wand out in front of him towards Black, but he was having a hard time with this decision. Ron’s breathing was loud. He was sitting by the bed next to Hermione.

Harry heard a noise from down the stairs.

Hermione loudly yelled for help.

Black tried to get the cat off of his chest again. He was unsuccessful.

Harry shook his wand. A voice in his head told him to kill Black soon. He could hear footsteps on the stairs. This decision was hard and he didn’t know what to do.

Someone opened the door. It was Professor Lupin and he had his wand out.  When he came through the door, he scanned the room.   Harry still had his wand pointing at Black who was on the floor in front of him. 

 Lupin then yelled, “Expelliarmus!”

OH, my goodness….did anyone stop reading after line 4? And you guessed it – that was an altered scene from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. That’s right.  This children’s book has adult size muscles packed into its action scenes.

I have to admit, it was kind of fun to strip the magic away…so-to-speak… 🙂

I WISH I could show you the whole scene, fully clothed. Alas, it is too large of a sample for me to retype without copyright infringements. If you have your own copy (and I know you do) crack it open and read this scene.  Not only is this a turning point for the book, but it is a turning point for the entire series.  Must read!

Here are the highlights:

  • Emotive Physicality:

Black was sprawled at the bottom of the wall. His thin chest rose and fell rapidly as he watched.         

  • Active Description:

A livid bruise was rising around Black’s left eye and his nose was bleeding.

  • Underlying Emotion:

“You killed my parents,” said Harry, his voice shaking slightly, but his wand hand quite steady.

  • Quickening Pace:

“You’ve got to listen to me,” Black said, and there was a note of urgency in his voice now. “You’ll regret it if you don’t… You don’t understand…”

  • Natural Dialogue and Emotive Dialogue Cues:

“I understand a lot better than you think,” said Harry, and his voice shook more than ever. “You never heard her, did you? My mum… trying to stop Voldemort killing me… and you did that… you did it…”

  • Smooth Choreography and Active Description:

But Crookshanks sank his claws into Black’s robes and wouldn’t shift. He turned his ugly, squashed face to Harry and looked up at him with those great yellow eyes. To his right, Hermione gave a dry sob.

  • Gripping Cadence and Visible Tension:

Harry raised the wand. Now was the moment to do it. Now was the moment to avenge his mother and father. He was going to kill Black. He had to kill Black. This was his chance…

The seconds lengthened. And still Harry stood frozen there, wand poised, Black staring up at him, Crookshanks on his chest. Ron’s ragged breathing came from near the bed; Hermione was quite silent.

And then came a new sound  

  • Fluid Internalizations and Seamless Transitions:

Black made a startled movement that almost dislodged Crookshanks; Harry gripped his wand convulsively — Do it now! said a voice in his head — but the footsteps were thundering up the stairs and Harry still hadn’t done it.

  • Active Descriptions and Smooth Choreography and Emotive Physicality:

The door of the room burst open in a shower of red sparks and Harry wheeled around as Professor Lupin came hurtling into the room, his face bloodless, his wand raised and ready. His eyes flicked over Ron, lying on the floor, Hermione, cowering next to the door, to Harry, standing there with his wand covering Black, and then to Black himself, crumpled and bleeding at Harry’s feet.

“Expelliarmus!” Lupin shouted.

By stripping away the Rowling bestseller qualities we are able to see what is missing. And by putting them back, we can see the quality and quantity of what she used.  Yes, there can be too much of a good thing and readers will put your book down if they can’t see what’s happening.

Look at your own writing with Naked Editor Vision and ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your writing already look like it’s been stripped?
  • Is your writing wearing too many layers of clothing? Is it hard to see what is really happening under there?
  • Have you overdosed the scene with one or two elements and scrimped on the rest?
  • If you stripped it down, can you still see what is happening? What do you see?  Does your scene still have all of its body parts?

Sound like fun? 

Comment below and tell us about your favorite scene writing author. How do they do it?  Have you ever studied their writing? What did it tell you? 

*  *  *  *  *  *

Tiffany Lawson Inman

Tiffany Lawson Inman

Tiffany Lawson Inman claimed a higher education at Columbia College Chicago. There, she learned to use body and mind together for action scenes, character emotion, and dramatic story development. Tiffany’s background in theatre provides her with a unique approach to the craft of writing, and her clients and students greatly benefit.

She teaches Action and Fighting, Choreography, Active Setting, Emotional Impact, Scene Writing, and Dialogue for Lawson Writer’s Academy online, presents hands-on-action workshops, and will be offering webinars in  late 2014.

As a freelance editor, she provides deep story analysis, content editing, line by line, and dramatic fiction editing services. Stay tuned to Twitter @NakedEditor for Tiffany’s upcoming guest blogs around the internet, classes, contests, and lecture packets.

Check out her previous blogs on WITS.

NYT photo credit: Timothy Valentine via photopin cc

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Character Eye Descriptions: The Window to Your Story

By Sharla Rae, @SharlaWrites

Sharla_EyePhotopinIf poets are to be believed, eyes are the windows to the soul.

Rather than using clichéd or common descriptions, why not use “explicit” eye descriptions to give your reader a real peek into a character’s psyche?

I’ll touch on eye color, movement, and appearance and, of course, I have some helpful lists to inspire ideas.

 Eye color

It’s a given that writers mention eye color as a character feature. Color can be mentioned every so often to remind readers what the character looks like. But! Don’t hit them over the head with it.

Besides using eye color as a facial feature it can sometimes be used to identify who is speaking especially if the color distinctive.

Blue eyes widened and she threw up both hands. “Now hold on a minute.”
OR
Her amber cat eyes narrowed. “xxxx”

A character might have plain old blue or brown eyes and that’s fine. But why not use color terms that say something about the character or what they’re thinking?

  • Eyes like silver lightning: sharp, doesn’t miss a thing, spirited, quick-witted
  • Gunmetal eyes: sounds like a lethal male, perhaps emotionless
  • Glacial blue: Can suggest nationality, or cold personality, angry expression
  • Milk chocolate eyes: sounds yummy, soft, warm
  • Chips of emerald ice: sharp, cold heated
  • Faded azure lace: an older person with blue eyes, lace suggests a woman, perhaps homey

Here’s a great eye color list that will help you describe “who” your character is. This is one of the best I’ve seen to date and includes pictures.

Want to know the most common and rare eye colors in the world? The following are listed from most common to least.

  • Brown
  • Hazel
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Silver
  • Amber and Black [rank about even according to which resource you’re looking at]
  • Red or Pink [mostly in albinos]

Just for fun here’s a website that tells you the meaning of the color of your eyes.

 Eye Appearance

 Eye appearance/shape isn’t too difficult to write — round, almond, bug-eyed, beady, sloe-eyed, hooded, upturned/cat, downturned etc. We might also include how the eyes are placed on the face: close-set, deep-set, monolid, protruding etc.

Certain eye conditions or disorders can affect eye appearance and are excellent descriptors. You may not want to use the scientific terms but the descriptions of the terms are also useful. See my list below.

Appearance also includes emotional expression and often involves the eyebrows.

Appearance frequently blurs lines with eye movement and more often than not demonstrates emotions and personality. You’ll see examples of this in the lists below.

Eye Movement

Is it just me, or do eye movements mess you up too?

No doubt you’ve heard or read something like: her eyes traveled/fell down the stairs where he stood.

Really?

The eyeballs rolled down the steps? Believe it or not, this is a common mistake. And yes as a newbie writer my crit group had a good laugh on me with such a mistake. Words like “gaze,” “visage,” “glance,” fixes the problem.

A tiresome descriptor for eye movement are the over-used look, looked and looking. If our eyes are open they are looking and it really doesn’t say much more than that. There’s nothing wrong with using look but never varying with more explicit substitutes is boring and causes echoes.

Try: gaze, glance, surveyed, glared, raked, searched, watched, scanned etc. You’ll find lots of these in the lists below. Notice, too, that some have very specific connotations.

As mentioned above, eyebrows are very much a part of eye movement and play an important part in expressing emotion. Blinking eyelashes show emotion too but at the risk of sounding silly, don’t overuse this one.

And now for my lists. These include eye movement, appearance/expression, disorders and conditions, eye parts and types of eyeglasses.

Eye Movement

Anchored her attention on
Angry gaze sliced
Assessing
Blinked owlishly
Blinking with feigned innocence
Brow furrowed as his mouth turned grim
Brows knitted in a frown
Bushy brows beetled
Cocked a brow in surprise
Dragged his hawkish gaze
Drilled her with
Eyed him demurely/boldly
Eyes caressed
Eyes crossed in exasperation
Eyes retraced their path to
Eyes rolled skyward
Eyes wandered
Flayed him with
Focused on her lips
Followed as the model passed
Gawking at girls
Gaze cruised her figure
Gaze dipped to her
Glance flickered
Glanced sideways
Glare traveled with unnerving thoroughness
Glared daggers [overused]
Inspected the cabin
Inventoried his surroundings
Lashes swept up and she blinked
Leveled a glowering look
Lingered over the script lines
Lowered her eyes/opened
Narrowed to crinkled slits
One heavy brow slanted in strong disapproval
Penetrating gaze probed
Perusing the sea of faces in hopes of
Plugged his eyes back into their sockets
Pried her eyes off the hunk
Probing visual caress
Raked with disdain
Searching the depths
Shifted her angry glare to
Shot him a disgusted glance
Sighted out the corner of her eye
Slammed her eyes shut and hummed the pain
Squeezed his eyes shut and gritted his teeth
Squinted
Staring fixedly
Strange pale eyes darted
Studied with piercing scrutiny
Subtle wink
Swung her restless gaze
Tracking the other man’s gaze
Unglued her eyes from him
Unrelenting stare
Up went his brows
Violet eyes strayed to the
Watched until distance obscured
Wrenched his gaze

Eye Expression and Appearance
[Some of these cross over with Movement]

Moon-eyed
Sloe-eyed
Burned fanatically
Devoured her beauty
Eyes implored
A look designed to peel his hide
All-consuming
Almond shaped
Appraising glance
Astute gaze
Avid eyes attested to his quick wit
Beady rat eyes
Beseeching
Bewildered
Blazed like torches
Boomerang brows like Ayatollah Khomeini’s
Bright with age
Bug-eyed
Bulging with fright
Chaotic, helter-skelter eyebrow—like his mind, unsystematic and fickle
Cold/cool/chilly/icy/frigid
Commanding visage
Cross-eyed
Crudely insulting stare
Deep set beneath heavy black brows
Disapproval gleamed in her eyes
Dissatisfaction plowed his brow
Disturbing smoke-hued
Elliptical eyes with heavy lids
Eyebrows like checkmarks
Eyes all gooey with
Eyes like a shark
Feline eyes
Flashed with gaiety/anger etc
Flat black, dispassionate as bullets
Frankly assessing
Get a load of those blinkers
Gleam of deviltry
Glittering with
Green flinty rocks
Hallows of madness
Hard as nails
Heart-stopping eyes
Held hostage by his eyes
Intent and unwavering/riveted
Irritated visage
Liquid pools of
Luminous glow of happiness
Magnetic
Mellow as the sky at sunset
Narrowed to slits
Nebulous gaze / unreadable
New moon-shaped
Penetrating blue of his eyes
Possessed the power to make her
Rheumy old eyes
Sardonic/disdaining/skeptical/mocking
Sharp with intelligence
Slits for eyes
Sliver of emotion in those cool eyes
Sloped down at the corners like a sad pup
Small evil eyes
Sneaky close-set eyes
So tired his eyeballs seemed to sag out
Steeply arched brows
Sunken in the head
Sympathetic
Tears of remorse flooded
The dark mystery of his eyes
Triangular brows/always surprised
Twenty-twenty vision
Veiled expression of
Visionary eyes
Visual exploration of
Watery eyes
Where did you get those peepers
Wild and frightened
Wore spectacles/glasses/winkers

Eye Disorders and Conditions
[You might like this website]

  • Astigmatism: causes fuzzy or blurry vision due to irregular curve in eye lens or cornea.
  • Gimlet-eyed: sharp and piercing
  • Goggle-eyed: bulging, rolling or staring
  • Megalophthalmic: unusually large eyes, often a congenital condition-think goldfish
  • Strabismaic: eyes are not properly aligned. Sometimes Cross-eyed or walleyed
  • Walleyed: eyes diverging instead of focusing simultaneously on the same point; eyes turned outward away from nose; also used to define a wild irrational staring, glare or fierce look
  • Cross-eyed: converging strabismus, eyes turning toward the nose
  • Diplopia: double vision
  • Cataract: opacity of the lens of the eye, cloudy
  • Glaucoma: hardening of the eyeball, often resulting in poor vision or blindness
  • Leucoma: disease of the eye in which the cornea becomes white and opaque
  • Pinkeye: highly contagious form of conjunctivitis-eye appears rimmed in pink, bloodshot, often swelled and sometimes full of pus.
  • Nystagmic: eyeballs moving rapidly and involuntarily
  • Ablepsia: lack of sight; blindness
  • Farsightedness: ability to see objects at a distance more clearly than close objects
  • Nearsighedness:(shortsightedness, myopia) see objects only at close distances

Eye Parts

  • Cornea: transparent covering of the iris that produces refraction needed to focus image on retinea
  • Eye socket: hollow of bone in face holding eyeball
  • Eyeball: globe of the eye
  • Iris: colored circular muscle in front of eye that controls amount of light that enters the eye
  • Retina: inner layer of the eye wall composed of nervous tissue stimulated by light to send impulses to the brain.
  • Optic nerve: nerve that sends sight impulses from the eye to the brain
  • Pupil: round contractile aperture in iris of eye, regulating light into the eye
  • Vitreous humor: jelly-like material that fills eyeball and forms its shape
  • Eye lashes: hair around the eyes

Eye Corrections
[A good overview of modern lenses]

Note: Although it’s not exactly known when eye glasses were first invented, they appear in a 1352 painting.

  • Aviator: sunglasses with oversized lenses; associated with pilots
  • Ben Franklins: glasses with small ellipitcal, octagonal or oblong lenses worn on the middle of the nose; in slang often referred to as granny glasses
  • Bifocals: glasses having split lenses to improve both near and farsightedness
  • Contact lenses: lenses worn directly on the eye
  • Eyeglasses or spectacles or winkers: worn to correct vision; lenses set in frames that hook behind the ears
  • Horn-rimmed: glasses with dark or mottled brown frames; frames are usually heavy
  • Monocle:single lens used over eye for correction
  • Lorgnettte: eyeglasses on a long handle
  • Lorgnon: (French – pince-nez) eyeglasses that clip onto the nose; framless, circular lenses that set on the bridge of the nose
  • Loupe: magnifying glass generally held in the eye and used by jewlers

Now let’s have some fun. What are some of the funniest mistakes you’ve made with eye descriptions or eye movement? What is your biggest pet peeve?

About Sharla

CC-Final-Small-Sharla has published three historical romance novels: SONG OF THE WILLOW, LOVE AND FORTUNE, and SILVER CARESS. SONG OF THE WILLOW, her first solo effort, was nominated by “Romantic Times Magazine” for best first historical.

When she’s not writing and researching ways to bedevil her book characters, Sharla enjoys collecting authentically costumed dolls from all over the world, traveling (to seek more dolls!), and reading tons of books. You can find Sharla here at Writers In The Storm or on Twitter at @SharlaWrites.

eye photo credit: Brittany Greene via photopin cc

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