Melissa and I have been blogging friends for quite some time and have gotten to know one another through her friendly and helpful posts. She also has been a frequent visitor to my blog, always leaving uplifting comments.
So I was so happy to hear about publication of her book, The Christmas Village, and even more excited when Robyn from WOW! asked if I would like to host Melissa on my blog.
"Of Course!" was my immediate answer.
Melissa is author of the charming children's book, The Christmas Village. Here's a synopsis of the book: "Jamie Reynolds wished that he could live in Grandma's miniature Christmas village, and now that wish has magically come true. But is the village really what it seems? What stunning secrets does it hold? And how will Jamie ever get back home? Join the fun, come along on the adventure, and find out!"
Here's what Melissa has to say about the two techniques that helped improve her writing the most.
The first activity I use to tighten my work is reading it aloud. The brain is a funny thing – when you think of a word that fits perfectly, your brain likes it so much that it wants to use it again – two sentences later! Reading aloud helps you to catch redundancies when silent reading does not. It also clearly shows up words or sentences that don’t flow smoothly and it helps you catch missing words and errors. Poor dialogue is especially highlighted when you read aloud – if it doesn’t sound realistic when you say it out loud, it won’t sound real to the reader either.
The second activity I recommend is making sure to use descriptors in all five of the senses. It’s pretty easy to describe sight and sound, but we usually have to dig deeper to effectively convey touch, smell and taste. The effort is well worth it though, because including a broad range of vivid descriptors is one way that we achieve “showing” versus “telling” - which is what makes our story come alive for our readers, and helps them get lost in the worlds we’ve created for them.
To illustrate, let’s take these sentences excerpted from page one of my book, The Christmas Village:
“ … They had been driving all day through gloomy weather, stopping only for bathroom breaks and a greasy hamburger at a place called Red’s Diner … The overly warm car smelled like stale air and leftover fries. Jamie’s eyes had grown weary from reading the book that now lay face-down in his lap. The monotonous thunk thunk thunk of the windshield wipers made him drowsy. To amuse himself, Jamie squinted so that the lights whizzed past in a kaleidoscope of streaks and swirls.”
I wanted to show that the characters have been driving for a long time on a dreary night. But more importantly, I wanted to show that Jamie’s mood is gloomy too. Using descriptors that crossed all the senses helped me achieve both those goals.
I found that using these two techniques tightened my story and brought it to life in a way that I’d never achieved before. I hope that you’ll find them helpful to your writing process too.
If you would like to win a copy of Melissa's charming Christmas story The Christmas Village, leave a comment here by November 17. The name of the lucky winner will be announced November 18.