What I'm reading: Long Lost, by Harlan Coben, RWA chapter contest entries.
Saturday, author Julie Elizabeth Leto was a guest speaker at our RWA chapter meeting. She spoke about "The Art of Layering: How to Write Faster AND Better." I'll share my notes here, interspersed with some of my own reflections.
The technique came about, she explained, when she was working full time and had only a short window available in which to get her writing goals accomplished each day. Rather than flounder, especially when she'd see the clock ticking away and anxiety interfered with getting the words down, she started writing only the dialogue. That way, she had a framework for her next writing session.
Her system covers four different layers, and particularly resonated with me because I find that system works for me, even though I'm not writing in a controlled amount of time. As a matter of fact, her handout resembled my own Dialogue Basics handout (still available on my website), although hers takes the 'whole book' approach, rather than only the dialogue portions. Then again, there's more to dialogue than the words the characters say.
So – her system:
First -- get the dialogue down.
Second – add setting details. Don't start the book with lots of description. Work it into the scene as needed.
Or, as Elmore Leonard said, "Never Open a Book with the Weather."
Next – write the action. She stressed that in a romance novel, the most important part is REACTION. Reacting is where you can show emotions and trickle in back story. Show it when it's relevant, and when it will heighten the emotional level, for both the character and the reader.
And the last layer – this is where she'll add the sexual tension, the sensual aspects, and descriptions.
Leto also talked about the editing, which is where she says one adds texture to the book. This is where the author's voice shows through. And where you have to be able to step back and trim what's not needed. Her hint: Look at the last sentence of your paragraph. Is it needed. Too often, it's merely a recap -- telling what you've already shown.
As she puts it, Write Hot, Edit Cold. The editing process needs to be ruthless.
And her three "Rules" which she says are posted above her computer:
1. Don't get it right, get it written.
2. You can't fix a blank page.
3. Give yourself permission to write crap.
(Note: these are Julie Leto's versions, but most likely can be attributed to 1) a city editor for a NY magazine, 2) Nora Roberts, 3) Anne Lamott.
Her parting words: Writing should be hard. If it isn't, you're not doing it right. She said any author who tells you her editor rarely requires edits or revisions is either lying, or has a lazy editor. There's always a way to make it better.
Come back tomorrow when author Linda Swift has fun with the language barrier between English and American.