Saturday, March 25, 2017

Spring Cleaning by Sorchia DuBois


Hey Roses and Readers, please welcome Sorchia DuBois as guest blogger today.


It’s the time of year when winter’s dust hangs heavy in the air and everything in the entire house seems dirty.

Time to wash blankets and comforters and hang them in the sun.  Time to scrub the floors, dust the shelves, and then move outside to clean up the gardens.

This year, spring cleaning also means putting the finishing touches on a couple of works in progress which have been lingering through the winter.  Revision and self-editing is hard work!

Elmore Leonard (famous guy, author of Get Shorty and a boatload of crime and suspense thrillers) said, “Try to leave out the parts readers skip.”

Easy to say, Elmore, old buddy. My words are all golden and tossing any of them out is about as easy as chopping of a thumb.

Stephen King (also a famous guy and author of nightmares for over fifty years) advises writers to “kill your darlings.” Steve—bubby––have a heart! Oh, yeah. Nevermind.

But, of course, both of these guys are 100% correct. So here’s my question to you as readers, writers, citizens of the world—what parts do you habitually skip?

Here is a list—by no means exhaustive—of things I tend to skim over. And let me preface this by saying I am as guilty of any other writer of foisting elements of a similar ilk on an unsuspecting and undeserving public. I try not to. I get stuff betaed and edited, but sometimes when I look at a story I wrote in the misty past—BLAM, there it is.

Descriptions

I love Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, Edgar Alan Poe, and various other authors considered classic literary figures. But boy could they talk. As a young reader, I did skip those pages-long descriptions of everything from characters to scenery to the lineage of minor characters. As an . . .ahem . . .more mature reader, I kind of  enjoy those parts and linger over them like a fragrant dram of a very old single malt Scotch. So I think an appreciation for descriptive prose may come with  . . .ahem again . . .maturity. That said, Sweet Mother Merryweather, sometimes enough is enough.

Meaningless Dialogue

I once started to read a book which began with a detailed conversation over breakfast. I know the author was trying to build character and achieve a sense of time and place and situation, but geez. We had things like:

“Pass the salt.”

“Here’s the salt.”

“Would you like the pepper?”

“Yes, please hand me the pepper.”

No kidding. That’s how it BEGAN. And it went on like that for six pages. She did a bit of description and included some action tags (i.e. Charles passed the salt.) But all in all, what little I learned about the characters and the situation could have been accomplished with a couple of lines of dialogue and an action tag. I skipped a bunch of it, thumbed ahead a bit to find more of the same, and put the book aside thinking maybe, when I had time and patience, I would pick it up again. Never did.

Backstory dump

Pages and pages of backstory. Things you need to know but presented in a dizzying whirl of characters, conflicts, plot twists. And it’s still an info dump if one character talks for seemingly hours about past events the other character would be well-aware of.

I’ve done it! The best advice I ever got was to include only the info the reader needs to know to understand that particular scene—no more, but no less. If you do that, you eventually get them brought up to speed and they enjoy the journey. That’s the theory, anyway. Easy to say, hard to do.

Other

I could include things like unlikeable or insipid character descriptions, stereotypical characters and plots, purple prose, problems with unity or flow, errors in historical fact—all things I admit to doing as a writer but try to fix and all things that may doom a book to banishment for me as a reader.

So tell me, dear reader/writer/citizen, how should I prioritize my literary spring cleaning? What needs to be tossed in the trash with last year’s magazines and those lids to plastic containers I no longer have? Leave a comment with something I can add to my Spring Cleaning To-Do list.

 A little note: Catch up with me at WWW.SorchiaDuBois.com for updates on these pesky works in progress, a monthly giveaway, and spooky, creepy things that say “BOO” at unexpected times. It’s always Halloween in Sorchia’s Universe.

And check out my latest release Zoraida Grey and the Family Stones before book 2 in the series hits the virtual book stands Summer 2017.

Blurb

Granny’s dying, but Zoraida can save her with a magic crystal of smoky quartz. Too bad the crystal is in Scotland––in a haunted castle––guarded by mind-reading, psychopathic sorcerers.



Getting inside Castle Logan is easy. Getting out––not so much. Before she can snatch the stone, Zoraida stumbles into a family feud, uncovers a wicked ancient curse, and finds herself ensorcelled by not one but two handsome Scottish witches. Up to their necks in family intrigue and smack-dab in the middle of a simmering clan war, Zoraida and her best friend Zhu discover Granny hasn’t told them everything.



Not by a long shot.



Buy Links

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/ZGandFSBN



Wild Rose Press:http://bit.ly/ZGandFSWR



Excerpt

“You always assume I can’t take care of myself.” I pull away and take a couple of tottering uncertain steps into the chilly, dark hallway. He catches me, hoisting me into his arms again.

“Is it so hard to admit you are frightened? The place is a labyrinth. They’ll find your frozen corpse in the cellar if you aren’t careful. You’ve had a difficult day and a lot to drink.”

“I’m not frightened and I’m not drunk and I’m not helpless.” I think about that for a minute. “Well, I’m not helpless.”

“I quite like carrying you around.” His voice rumbles against my hair. “I won’t always be here to save you from the dark.”

“I don’t need you to save me from anything.” My tone is unconvincingly weak, and the fact that my head is plastered against his shoulder does not aid my case.

The darkness is complete, but he strides down the hall with surety. Up a flight of stairs, down another hallway. He sets me on my feet outside my room. I sway, steadying myself with a hand on his chest, twining my fingers in the dark hair peeping through the front of his robe.

“You need to be careful.” He moves closer, covering my hand with his own.

“Of what?”

The draft in the hallway chills me clear through— except where he touches me. Tense and warm, inches away. His breath on my cheek tastes of whisky. I close my eyes, imagining the scratch of the stubble on his face, the soft touch of his lips, the solid strength of his arms.

“Of everything. Everyone.” With a jolt, he releases me. A blue shimmer recedes down the hallway with the sound of his steps. I lean against the door, shivering.

He doesn’t trust me. It takes a powerful wizard to wield something like the Stone of Adamantine. Michael and Ursula fit the description. So does Shea. And so, they all imagine, do I.

Bio

Sorchia Dubois writes Gothic romance and paranormal mysteries from her upstairs office overlooking a piney Ozarks woods

Her books delve into the occult—reincarnation, psychic powers, mysticism, ancient cultures, and good old fashioned “ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night.” 

A proud member of the Ross clan, Sorchia incorporates all things Celtic (especially Scottish) into her works. She can often be found at swilling Scotch at Scottish events. 


12 comments:

Leah St. James said...

Welcome, Sorchia! Great post. I love the excerpt. Adding to my TBR pile!

As far as cutting, I think one of the hardest things to learn about this writing craft is where the story actually starts, the part that will grip readers and make them turn to the next page. I often have to put my project aside for a while to get a fresh look at it.

I confess to liking description, both reading and writing, at least to a point, and depending on the topic. If it's pages of technical terminology, or a detailed how-to of birthing a cow, my eyes might glaze over.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Hi Sorchia. I think Leah is write about chopping off some of that beginning stuff some times. I read a book recently by Nora Roberts who breaks the rules but she's earned it! But this book could've used some spring cleaning. It seemed like she wanted us to be impressed with how much she'd learned about training dogs. Did not add to the story.

Sorchia DuBois said...

Thanks Leah! The beginning is so very important1 I obsess over that first chapter and still never feel as if I have it exactly right. I agree that this is the most essential place to know what to cut and what to leave. Thanks so much for commenting.

Sorchia's Universe

Sorchia DuBois said...

Thanks to Roses of Prose for hosting me. You have a lovely place here!
Sorchia's Universe

Sorchia DuBois said...

Thanks, Brenda! Nora has certainly earned the right to break the rules. Still, a slow beginning is a slow beginning!
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Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Welcome to the Roses of Prose, Sorchia. We're happy to have you. What parts do I skip? Said tags. Pages of emotion. Make something happen, for goodness sake!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Glad to have you here, Sorchia. Filler words make prose ponderous, but we've all learned how to eradicate those. Where I'm having trouble is the 'thinking' my characters indulge in right along. I'm reading Taylor Caldwell's Captains and Kings right now (for my book club), and the deluge of words describing a thing...I mean how many adjectives make the 'thing' clear? I'd tell Taylor: too many. But the 'thought' part...Caldwell goes on and on...my editor would have struck through 3/4th of the mind reading. So, Sorchia, I know what's too much for other authors, but I don't know what's too much for my own writing. Good post...fine excerpt!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Nice to have you with us today, Sorchia. Welcome. Thanks for an entertaining post. For me, where not to cut would be an easier question to answer. Essential action and necessary dialogue stay. The rest is expendable, right? Uh-huh. Seeping in backstory slowly is a true art form I have yet to master. As a native of Detroit, I got to meet Elmore (Dutch) Leonard. Great guy, he was an ad man by trade, hence his 'get to the point' advice. Thoroughly enjoyed your excerpt. One for my TBR pile too. Good luck!

Barbara Edwards said...

I tend to skip sex scenes. Not because they make me uncomfortable, but because they are either too detailed or too stark. I guess I still like the old scenes from movies where they closed the bedroom door.

Jannine Gallant said...

Interior thoughts. More than a paragraph and I skip right over it. My theory is, if the reader needs to know what the character is thinking, then I'd rather it was in conversation. A phone call. A conversation with the dog. Anything but pages of interior thoughts! Thanks for visiting us with a great post.

Sorchia DuBois said...

Thanks so much for the great advice and kind words. I have to watch that internal reflection stuff--and usually put it in dialogue. Sex scenes--poorly done and I cringe and move on--but the good ones develop character--at least that's the theory. Would love to hear what any or all of you who grab a copy of Zoraida Grey think of her--Reviews are always appreciated.
Sorchia's Universe

Alicia Dean said...

Welcome, Sorchia!! So sorry I'm late. This is an excellent post. I'm likely to skip all the things you mentioned. Although, if there are too many of those elements, I'm likely just to give up on the book. Like Barbara, I often skip sex scenes. I'm no prude, and I've written a few myself, but honestly, I find them boring. I am all about action. I agree with the internal dialogue skipping too. I am sure I'm guilty of all of these, though. :) Your excerpt was fantastic...I didn't skip a word! :D