...  Publishing New Writers

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 May, 2005


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The Basics: Setting

by Sandy Tritt


Setting is the time and the place where a story exists. This seems simple enough. But the selection of setting interweaves with both the character and the plot. For example, Kerry lives in the rural south, far from the site of his dreams. This is what complicates his plot. Mike’s story can take on different facades, depending on whether he lives in the District of Columbia, New York City, or Small Town, Idaho. And poor Harmond is stranded on a mountaintop, far from any civilization, perhaps surrounded by frightening snakes and spiders. The setting must add dimension to—and interact with—both the plot and to the character.

We present setting through description. We must be able to visualize where we are. We should be able to smell it, hear it, feel it. If at all possible, visit the area you are describing in your story. If you are writing a scene that occurs in a forest, take a field trip to the nearest woods and hike into it a ways until you can hear the birds, smell the pine, feel the dampness. If you can’t physically go there, close your eyes and imagine yourself there. Then, think beyond your first impressions and try to identify sounds, smells, sights, feelings, even tastes, that you didn’t notice at first. These will give your description that fresh, unique feel. And always try to include as many of the five senses as you can in your descriptions.

If you are unable to visit the location of your setting, research it. Find photographs, watch videos, talk to someone who was there. Try again to get beyond the everyday description and discover something unique about the setting that can add zing to your prose.

The second part of setting is time. What year, what time of year, what day, what time of day, does the scene occur in? We can show each of these—and the passage of time—in creative ways. If you are writing a novel that occurs in the present day, keep your eyes and ears open for sights and phrases that may someday date your work. If you are writing a novel that occurs in the past, do your homework. Research the time period very carefully. Check out the styles of clothing, the manner of speaking, the popular music, the way of life. I especially like to add music to my writing, as this gives the setting a special flavor and incorporates the sense of hearing. I keep a copy of The Billboard Book of Number One Hits on my desk, which lists (and gives details about) every song that made it to Number One on the Billboard Weekly List. That way, if I’m writing about being in a nightclub in 1956, I can expect to hear Elvis sing “Heartbreak Hotel.” If I’m at the same place in 1965, I can expect to hear the Beatles sing “Eight Days a Week.” In 1975, I’ll hear the Eagles. In 1987, Bon Jovi. In 1995, Mariah Carey. And so on. By referring to particular songs by particular artists, the time period becomes more vivid.

Likewise, if you can accurately and completely describe the style of dress of your characters, the food they eat, the things they drink (who would have ever heard of bottled water in the 1800’s?) and so forth, you bring integrity to your work. An added bonus of research is that often you will discover something that adds a dimension to your writing—something you hadn’t thought of.

It is also wise to check out any events that occurred during the time period of your novel. Perhaps you don’t remember exactly what years the Great Depression occurred, but if your character is living during those years, it must become a fabric of your work. Wars, natural disasters, assassinations, discoveries, diseases—all of these add realism to your setting and make the reader feel the full impact of the time.

Until I am finished with a novel, I put the date of the scene right in my manuscript, so I’ll know what day of the week I’m in, what happened on that day, who was in the news and so forth. Later, when I’m finished, I remove these. They are there just to keep me honest, to keep me true to the history of the time period I am using. I also print out a yearly calendar of the year, so I’ll know what day of week a certain date falls on, when Easter is, when Elvis died, and so forth.

Setting can also help us show passing time. Surely, the trees in the winter look differently than they do in the fall, summer or spring. And by showing the leaves budding, blooming, changing color and falling off, we can document the passing of the seasons. We can also use weather, depending on where we are—snow, tornadoes and so forth—to add dimension and show the season. And the morning sun looks differently than the setting sun and the moon and stars change as well.

One final word on setting: like character description, it should be fed to us in pieces. Not one long description, but a sentence here, a couple of words there, sprinkled throughout our prose so the reader is constantly aware of where and when they are, but are not overwhelmed by lengthy passages.

(c) copyright 2002 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except for those listed here. May be reproduced for educational purposes (such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt at tritt@wvadventures.net for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.

   Keep writing!

Sandy Tritt

Inspiration for Writers tritt@wvadventures.net







The Writing Process:

When your editor has reviewed your writing.

Winona Rasheed

Managing Editor


There you are sitting at your computer, feeling exhausted and yet happy as you type in the last word to your story. A broad smile appears on your face with a look of complete satisfaction emerging in your eyes as you sit back and look at the finished work. “All done,” you say. “I am ready to submit.”

But after you have submitted your work for an evaluation, you soon find out that your story; even though you considered it to be one of your greatest accomplishments, comes back showing that it isn’t so perfect after all. Don’t loose heart; this is a normal aspect of the writing process.

Just because you have written, “The End” doesn’t mean your story is complete. All writers, old and new have room for improvements.

Revising improves your manuscript. It means going over your work from another point of view, going in and digging through your story structure, its development of characters and description and making every detail clear and precise. Revising is going through the dialogue to make sure the speech is logical and effective. Revising is adding or deleting information that is or is not necessary to make your writing effective, presenting a clear picture for your targeted audience.

Revising means editing for grammar as well, this comes after you have revised your sentences and paragraphs, making them more complete and structured. When you are editing for grammar, you should look for the proper verb tense, subject verb agreement and the correct usage of capitalization within your writing. Remember the proper use of when to use a comma or a semicolon within a sentence or a paragraph, eliminating the pesky adverbs that are referred to as “lazy words.”

A well written story is one that leaves your reading audience turning the pages, without bringing confusion or misunderstanding of what you are presenting. It’s a picture perfect description of scenes, plot and dialogue that will capture the minds of your readers, leaving them with a lasting impression even after they have put the book away.

If your editor has returned your manuscript for a revision and he or she has recommended that you take into consideration the comments and suggestions that they have advised you on, go ahead and listen; rewrite, revise and tighten up your story, so that you can present a finished, well written manuscript that is bound to catch that particular publisher’s eyes.

Critiquing Special

  • Limited time special, one cent per word.  Just mention Publishing New Writers  Newsletter (May, 2005).

    Critiques by Sandy Tritt

  • Unlike most editors, I consider my role to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other writers.

  • Treat you with respect and compassion. All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.

  • Mark your manuscript, correcting grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where appropriate, line-by-line.

  • Highlight areas that are especially well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.

  • Where appropriate, offer suggestions for plot development, character development or other areas that could be strengthened.

  • Return a two-to-four page written analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting, characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks, etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.

  • If appropriate, recommend reading or resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.

  • Answer any questions you  have via email.

  • Provide my telephone number for a personal follow-up, if you desire.

For Sandy's success stories, see http://tritt.wirefire.com/Manuscript_Critique.html

Write Sandy at tritt@wvadventures.net

(See Sandy's article - above.)








Book Fest Bliss

by Tena Green

Copyright 2005 Tena Green

All Rights Reserved 

            Book fairs are spectacular events, bringing readers and writers together from as far as hundreds of miles away. Coordinating the event is just as spectacular, and more than worth the effort.     

When the Midwest Book Fest was taken on in January of 2004 the end result was over 100 authors attending, and the only advertising was word of mouth. The footwork was incredible. All total, there were over 700 hours logged to make the MBF happen, and as it turned out, 700 work hours equaled one unbelievable state of bliss.

            To coordinate a book fair be advised it's best to be prepared. The first step is a committee, which you'll want comprised with doers. Some good choices are librarians, someone with computer knowledge, writers, and reporters. Once you have a committee you'll need volunteers. Double the numbers you think are needed. This allows time for your volunteers to visit the book fair as a reader or writer.

            You must decide if your book fair is going to be non-juried, non-biased or neither, and in order to accommodate traditionally published authors you'll need a bookstore on board. Small independent bookstores are thrilled to attend, and eliminates the headache of communicating with a large chain.

            A review committee should be created outside the main committee due to the time involved in reading Submissions .

            The necessity of having sponsors is obvious. The best place to start looking is a newspaper or a publisher, but don't hesitate to look further. There are many people who are interested in promoting literacy.

            Last and certainly not least are your authors. Without authors there is no book fair. You must be willing to take time with these people. Almost all authors work full time and writing is a second income. Not because they want it that way, but because there is little money in writing. Therefore they will overlook things, forget things and procrastinate, all those annoying little habits we are all guilty of. After all, they're people too, so be patient and remember they are the key to your success.

            The most important factor, is believing in the importance of literacy. Without this conviction, coordinating a book fair is nothing more than 700 hours of work, minus the bliss.

The 2005 Midwest Book Fest will take place September 17th in Bellevue, OH, and is now taking Submissions . The Midwest Book Fest, where readers and writers meet, because the importance of reading and writing can never be overstated. Click here for more information.

God Created You: A Guide to Temperament Therapy

New AuthorMe Paperback...   (Released 2005)

By Dr. Rick Martin

From chapter 2... "How a person behaves is a combination of temperament, living in the strengths and/or weaknesses of their temperament environment, decisions they have made or not made, conclusions they have drawn about right and wrong, their relationship with God or the lack thereof..."


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Publishing New Writers,

May, 2005 (no. 605)


Publisher: Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.  Fax (847) 428-8974.

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