Life on Oahu Couldn’t Be Better

Rey here.  I’m taking over for the boss today.  She’s juggling time and tasks this week and keeps dropping the ball, but not necessarily coz she’s clumsy.  She’s just . . . time deficient, I think Linda might call it.

Speaking of, Linda’s taking a week of holidays and is heading to Maui tomorrow with a couple of surfer buddies.  No, there’s no romance brewing or anything like that.  She’s still off guys since her ex-boyfriend Makjo ran off with a bride last year.  At least she’s not making any more voodoo dolls; they were so creeping me out.

And speaking of boyfriends, JJ’s sailing with that “sometimes” boyfriend, Cash aka Richie J (undercover agent – drug dealer).  They have the weirdest relationship.  I don’t get it.  Come to that, I don’t think JJ gets it, either.  She’ll figure it out one day.  I hope.

Me?  I’m minding the agency today.  Have a few calls and emails to return.  We’re still wrapping up our latest project, the one we gals at The Triple Threat Investigation Agency have started calling The Forever Poi Case.  You’ll be able to read about it—if the boss can stop dropping those balls—come end of November.

I feel for her.  She’s got so many ideas, and so many dreams, but they’re not doable given her situation right now.  Let’s just keep the faith for her.

On this end, I can’t complain about a thing.  Life—and work—on Oahu is awesome.  I’m so-o glad we moved here.  Sure, things aren’t perfect, but nothing in life is.  We just accept things as they come and do the best . . . and, if necessary, juggle, juggle, juggle.  If one of those bleepin’ balls falls, we pick it up and start all over again.  It’s all good, JJ would say.  I totally concur.

Aloha!

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Proofreading = Checking = Correcting . . . or Bloopers & Blunders Begone

Let’s continue with the topic of editing, but shift a wee bit.  What about proofreading (or proofing)?  Or copy-editing and line-editing?  There are actually quite a few, but for all intents and purposes, let’s stick to proofing and editing.

Although they’re often used interchangeably, yes my friends, there is a difference.

Proofing basically entails reviewing a completed document to locate and fix typos, grammar and style mistakes—what I jokingly call bloopers and blunders.  The emphasis is on correcting superficial errors in spelling, grammar, composition, punctuation, and formatting.  Think of it as a “quality check”.

Editing includes proofing, but it’s more intensive.  In addition to the above, you’re taking into account how facts and details, and ideas are organized.  Editing isn’t a one-time action, by the way; you really need to edit several times.

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Whether proofing or editing, set aside your work for a while after writing (a half hour, a day, week, or longer if you’re not in a rush).  This allows for “fresh eyes”.  You don’t always see the mistakes when you’re proofing or editing as you’re composing.

Between you and me, I find it best to proof and edit from a printed page.  But that’s l’il ol’ me (I’m still kinda old-school).  Some peeps do fine eyeballing documents on screen.  Whatever works.

I’ve heard it said you should read your work out loud to “hear” the off bits.  I’ve never done that once in my life.  But if you’re new to proofing and editing, it might prove a worthwhile endeavor.

Feel free to use a spell checker, but bear in mind it won’t catch correctly spelled words that have been erroneously utilized.  A simple example: “its” versus “it’s”.

There are also some fantastic on-line proofreaders.  I hear Grammarly is one of the best and you can use certain components for free.  If you plan to use one, do your due diligence and determine which is best for you.

Happy proofing!

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Here a Script, There a Script

Continuing with the theme of scriptwriting, set by a previous post, let’s touch upon a few “must know” / “must do” notes.  The dry yawny stuff.  But totally relevant and required.

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Here are some quick [painless] facts:

Fact:  Scripts/screenplays are typed on 8 ½” X 11” white paper.  Who knew it’s supposed to be 3-holed (obviously not me, LOL).  As I’m assuming you’re simplifying your life by using software like Final Draft, I’ll refrain from margin dimensions and page numbering (zzzzzzz).

Fact:  Courier 12 is the font of choice in the great U.S. of A.  Why?  Interesting enough, it’s all about timing. One script page with this font = 1 minute of on-screen time.

Fact:  The average feature film script is between 95 and 125 pages long, (with an average of 114).  Dramas are generally longer than comedies.

Fact:  Scripts are written in three acts.  (If you’re really curious, go on-line to check the actual number of pages per act in relation to a given genre.)  The first introduces characters and situation(s) and sets up the plot.  The second provides challenges and obstacles, and character development.  The third presents resolution.

Fact:  Action is written in present tense, active voice.  (Tom watches furtively from behind a curtain as Cecilia takes aim.)

This circles back to editing (something I thoroughly enjoy, though there can be some agonizing this-really-needs-to-go moments).  Check for dull dialog, nonsensical actions or reactions, flat characters.  Watch the number of scenes—is each one moving the story/plot forward?  If not, delete it.  You want a clean, crisp script . . . just as you want clean, crisp writing (be it a novel, article, or post).

All the dos and don’ts truly comprise a [big, fat] book.  But if you use scriptwriting software, you’re halfway on your exciting quest.  The rest comes from doing due diligence and practice.  Get feedback, too; don’t be scared to show your work to friends and colleagues.

Happy scriptwriting.

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So You Wanna be a Scriptwriter?

I do.  I sort of am . . . or, rather, I used to be.  (Did a few for an existing company that has yet to make sales.  One day, perhaps.)

I’m actually writing one for a San-Fran based acquaintance.  Hence the post about scriptwriting, a deviation from the intended [continued] one about editing.  And yet, scriptwriting is all about editing, because you must use a limited number of pages to communicate to [effectually] detail action, mood, and dialog.

If you’re thinking of writing a script/screenplay, but are intimidated, don’t be.  There are some great programs out there to help.  I use Final Draft and have dabbled with Celtx.  Both are good and will enable you to conform to required criteria, including rules re physical format.  You can develop a professional-looking script—without breaking into a sweat or tirade.

Assuming we all know what a script entails, the first question will likely be: where to start?  Have a book, idea, story outline ready.  Or, if you’re feeling confident, do it from scratch (something already summarized or sketched makes it a trifle easier, but to each his/her own).

You’re not narrating a tale, but showing it.  A script involves visuals—you are documenting what the viewer is seeing and hearing.

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You want your audience to emphasize with your main character, to be drawn into the plot, to feel as if they are part of the action.  You also want conflict, which is integral to any story, on screen or off.  There should be some sort of struggle, be it physical or mental/emotional.

This is where I’m currently at: creating a logical struggle the protagonist must undergo before evolving into a true hero.  Writing a script is great fun.  It’s challenging, sure, because you do need to write your tale within a set number of pages, but descriptions and details abound.  The sky’s the limit.  You just need to utilize your creative noodle.  How fun is that?!

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Clarity & Verbosity – Friend & Foe

The former’s what you want to achieve and the latter’s what you want to crush—through editing.  Clarity is our friend; we like simplicity and clearness.  Verbosity is our foe; no one cares for longwindedness or wordiness (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).

The previous post touched upon word usage, so let’s stay on point (to a point).

Editing is a great way to develop as a writer; it sharpens talent.  No matter what you’re writing books, yes, you’ll have to do a few edits.  Or not.  It’s entirely up to you.  An aside: I know someone who refuses to do even one edit.  Sadly, it shows.  “X” wonders why he’s never been able to attract an agent or traditional publisher, given X totally believes he’s an awesome writer.  (Kudos to confidence: reproach to arrogance.)

You’re a committed writer; as such, you’ll edit.  So write, write, write.  Put the finished product away for a while.  A few days at the very least.  Return to it with fresh eyes.  Then edit, edit, edit.

The process truly isn’t as daunting as you may imagine.  Sure, there might be some initial trepidation.  You may even think (with tremulous breath) what if:

  • my writing sucks
  • I can’t do a proper edit
  • I get overwhelmed, and/or
  • find 100 things wrong?

You know what?  You’ll do fine.  Just take your time; rushing is never good unless your aim is to be a contest winner.  If it’s a novel, do it in stages (not all at once).  Cut out unnecessary narrative and superfluous words.  Remove useless [“no value add”] information and passages.

But editing isn’t all about cutting, either.  It’s about adding—providing supplementary descriptions and depictions, or enhancing plot and augmenting information.  Think of yourself as an artist painting a picture (also known as masterpiece).  Which brings us back to . . . yup, clarity.

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Read your work like its creator, not a reader wanting to be entertained or enlightened.  Focus that critical eye—analytically and decisively.

Remember: you’re merely improving what you’ve done, which is already pretty darn good!

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What’s in a Word?

A lot.  Which takes us into a new post about editing, the first of several.

Too many words and you may lose your reader/viewer.  Too few words and writing may seem “static” (dull, stagnant, boring).  How you present ideas through written communication will be based on what you’re offering (fiction or nonfiction) and your audience (who you’re writing for).

Let’s begin with word usage.  Every word has its own nuance and merit.  Here’s a simple example:

  • Bradley said he’d start work on the project next week.
  • Bradley divulged he’d start work on the project next week.
  • Bradley declared he’d start work on the project next week.

The bolded words relate to a form of verbal communication, yet each offers a different spin.  The first one tells us Bradley spoke; the tone isn’t conveyed so maybe he’s sad, angry, or bored out of his mind.  (If we add an adverb—dully, excitedly, sleepily—we have a better idea of what good ol’ Bradley is thinking or feeling.)  The second one suggests something secretive had been going on and our buddy has finally revealed this.  In the third example, Bradley Boy is stating something emphatically—i.e. making an official announcement.

Maybe you’re just starting out as a writer/blogger and you’re still getting a feel for your “voice”.  That’s fine.  It takes time to hone skills, just as it takes time to refine writing.

I love a good thesaurus, but years as a writer and editor have taught me to use it judiciously.  Feel free to utilize one and give thought to the following: 

Tip #1: Don’t throw in synonyms willy-nilly just to “jazz up” your post or writing (you may inadvertently “jam up”).   Tip #2:  Make certain that the synonym is appropriate; check the definition, even if the word is familiar.  Tip #3:  Ensure the synonym is recognizable and applicable to your audience.

Use the right words to correctly convey the message.  Write and edit (polish) accordingly.  Sure, it takes extra time: consider it an investment.  Clear and concise writing sells [much] better than that which is garbled and long-winded.  Trust me on this one—been there, done that (many a time).  Lesson [happily] learned.

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Avoiding the Blog Snooze Factor

Snoozey blogs are a bore.  But keeping them interesting or appealing can prove difficult, regardless of your blog’s focus: to sell, advise/inform, promote, or entertain.

Nobody wants an eye-glazingly boring/bad blog, so let’s give some thought on how to maintain one that’s attention-grabbing.  (And, yes, even if your blog is about the Luna Moth, it could be super fascinating . . . with the right approach.)

When you’d first thought about starting a blog, what [should have] popped into your mind?  Ri-ight.  Your intended audience.  And?  Are you writing for—and attracting—that audience?  If not, consider using tools like Google Analytics to determine whether you’re succeeding.  If you’re not, you may want to rethink your approach.

The first thing I did when setting up a blog was create an “About Me” page.  It’s not a requirement, but if you decide to have one, make it interesting and/or funny, classy and/or silly, and ensure it reflects you.  In fact, why not write one as a tale—about you?

Blogs generally tend to be personal, so you may want to write in first-person.  I love first-person (can’t imagine writing any other way).  It’s an ideal way for readers to get into your head and understand the real you.  If you’re shy, suck it up—sell yourself.  You can do it.

Ensure your writing is clear and crisp.  Going off on tangents, rambling incessantly, adding too many descriptive words (those things called “adjectives”) probably won’t engage your readers much.  You want to embrace—uh, what’s the right word?  Yes!  Simplicity.

Simple = straightforward = uncomplicated = clear-cut.

On that note, also ensure your writing is to the point and not overly long (avoid run-on, mind-fogging sentences).  You want to engage readers, not bore the hell out of them.

Feel free to break up posts, too.  Visuals “pretty up” posts, make them appealing and easier to follow.  Use [judiciously] different fonts, colors, spacing, and bullets.  Too many words chockablock in one post can resemble a giant square or sticky note, and may prompt readers to move on.  Draw attention, pull them in, but don’t go overboard; too many visuals can be as detrimental as none at all.

Never be negative.  I have a tendency to express regret—like that damn mailing list I often mention, the one I just can’t find the time to do (or wrap my head around, if I’m totally honest).  See?  Did it again.  <LOL>  Don’t you do it.  Freely share ideas and feelings and thoughts (in context with your blog).  It’s fine to communicate opinions and emotions; simply take care as to how you sound (and what image you convey).

On the “never be negative” note, make certain not to insult or condemn people, gossip or berate.  Stay factual and objective.  Mind what you share and say.

Be original.  Don’t plagiarize or steal.  You have your focus: stay on point.

Being typo-free is good.  (I’ll readily admit that I’ve caught a few in mine, so slap on hand to me.)

Enough tips for now.  I don’t want to run on and un-interest you.  Next post: editing tips (which lend themselves to keeping our posts all of the above).

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The Further Adventures of The Triple Threat Investigation Agency . . . We Wish!

Okay, those “adventures” ain’t that much further, the three of us admit.  We’re kinda, uh, slightly stuck.

Rey here.  The boss asked us to write a post because she’s overloaded with that other job (the 9-to-5 one she’d love to see go bye-bye).   Since Linda’s surfing on the North Shore for a couple of days (she met a guy named Lindor who’s got her all googly-eyed) and JJ’s volunteering at the animal shelter for the next three days on account of employees being sick and/or on vacation, yours truly got the honor.

I’ve got an idea about writing posts from watching Linda.  Seems they have a purpose—to inform or instruct, or entertain.  I’m not gonna waste your time or mine by writing too much—coz I’m a doer and watcher, not an “author”.   So, here’s an update on where we’re at.

The gals–that’s us–at the Triple Threat Investigation Agency are wrapping up the fourth big case, “Forever Poi”.  Yeah, you heard this a wee while back.  Unfortunately, we hit a couple of brick walls—big time—but I’m sure (!) we’re gonna nab our villain(s) real soon.

We’ve got lots of “gut instincts”, some dead bodies, but no hard evidence, that’s the prob.  I’d share our thoughts as to who the killer is, but my fellow P.I.s would have my hide.  Besides, the killer might read this post and then where would we be?  Up Shit’s Creek without a paddle, or something like that.

Please, hang in there—like we’re doing—and all will be revealed soon.

And a super big thanks for your patience.

Yay.  One task done.  . . . Think I’ll hit the beach and have a Mai-Tai.  Cheers!

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When Life Gets in the Way

. . . of your writing/blogging dreams and desires, you can:

  • weep
  • have a meltdown or two (I’m particularly skilled at these)
  • curse and swear (too melodramatic, but for a few seconds, delightfully effectual)
  • blame it on bad energy or luck (and curse it to death).

Or you can:

  • suck it up, take a few dee-eeeeeep breaths, and work at what’s doable.

Life’s been challenging lately.  The stress level has been Shanghai-Tower high.  This isn’t good, so I’m gonna nip it in the bud—now.

Okay, so there’s no mailing list yet.  The truth is, currently there simply aren’t enough cycles (silly company jargon for “time”) to do all that’s required with one, like monitoring, analyzing and responding.  As you know, like many of you, there’s a full-time job and Mom to care for.  But that mailing list will [eventually] happen.

Okay, so the fourth Triple Threat Investigation Agency mystery isn’t completed.  It’s getting there, slowly but surely.  I’m taking those baby steps mentioned in past . . . and those are better than none at all.

Okay, so at the moment there are no ads.  Investment $ aside (I ain’t Trump rich), there’s the measuring/assessing that goes with them.  Then, if you attract followers, you’ve got to take action.  Action = time = not doable [yet].  But one day, ye-es, they will run—fast and furious like a gazelle pursued by lions.  [That’s good ol’ Rey’s melodramatic contribution.]

Okay, so followers are minimal at this time (thanks to the aforementioned).  Right now, it’s difficult to offer more than two weekly blog posts on A Writer’s Grab-Bag and the one on Typepad (and a weekly Wattpad installment for “Odd Woman Out”).  The awesome thing: they are being done.

If you’re in a similar situation, don’t despair.  It’s all good.  It may not seem like it (just ask colleagues about my huff-and-puff moments), but it will transpire.  I truly believe there are no coincidences, just as I avidly believe in—and trust—the Good Lord.  It’s all about faith and conviction.

Believe in yourself.  If you have to deviate from the course you’ve set, don’t beat yourself up (like I too often have, coz let me tell ya, it hurts!).  When Life gets in the way, just say, “Bring it on.  I can handle anything.  I’ll get through this . . . and I’ll grow as a result.”

Approach Life’s trials and tasks like a matador: challenge with passes, stand firm, demonstrate conviction and face your “opponent”, present the muleta . . . .

You’ve got it in you.  You know you do.  It’ll happen, my friends, it’ll happen.

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Mystery Writing 101 . . . or . . . What the do I Know about Writing a Mystery?

As a writer of mysteries (The Triple Threat Investigation Agency series), it’s no secret that I’m also a lover of the genre.  Which would go without saying, of course.  But I just did.  <ROTFL>

Nancy Drew, as often stated, was [still is] my heroine.  I first read her when I was eight and was hooked, big-time.  Solving mysteries with her and George and Bess was fun.

It’s still fun, although these days I keep company with more heavyweights.  Having that challenge—just who is the killer?—sends a shiver of anticipation along the spine with every novel cracked open (I like the feel of a real book, sorry Kindle).

So, you’re considering writing one?  That’s good, very good indeed.  But you’re uncertain where to start.  Well, acquainting yourself with the genre should come first, but I’m assuming you’ve got an idea of what the world of whodunits entails.

Let’s consider a few “musts”.

You must introduce your main character(s), the sleuth(s), as soon as possible.  The villain should be presented fairly early on, as well; readers must have an opportunity to pull the baddie(s) into their musings (as they endeavor to solve the mystery).

Make the major crime evident within a reasonable period, such as the first three or four chapters, as you want to create—and prolong—tension and suspense/excitement.  With mysteries, what’s that major crime?  Yup, you got it: murder.

Give the murder careful thought and plausibility.  Maybe there’s only one body, maybe a few.  If there are numerous ones, have the “surge” sound logical.  Sure, there could be a serial killer, a whacko, maybe even more than one killer.  Who doesn’t enjoy the roller-coaster ride of a thrilling serial killer case?  If you intend to write one, ensure that it’s compelling and believable, given the characters and circumstances.

Keep your story twisting and turning, but don’t drag it on forever.  And don’t make the killer(s) obvious.  You want readers to keep solving your challenging mystery, not yawning and heading off to do something more exciting, like garbage disposal or counter cleaning.

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As I always say, do your due diligence.  When you’re writing—creating—make sure to include facts.  This could include details about the murder (perhaps from a forensic or law enforcement angle), description about the state of the body (if you’re writing a cozy, you may want to sugar-coat it and keep intense details/facts to a minimum), states of mind, and so forth.  Present a sense of realism.

Consider writing a mystery like a paint-by-number kit.  You’re completing it in a painstaking manner: every little piece should uniformly connect (“bind”).

Now that you have some food for thought, I’ll let you digest.

We’ll look at how to develop your detective next post.  In the meanwhile, slap on that sleuthing cap and pursue that ever-winding writing/solving trail.

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