Saturday, December 31, 2011

Elements in Writer's Voice: The Music of Language (Part III)

This morning I was awakened by an owl hooting his greeting for New Year's Eve, a good omen my Native American friends might say, though I don't believe in such things. Due diligence, perseverance, using the talents given you. These bring good things to light.

I thought struck me today too, when considering a writer's voice. What sounds more musically lyrical than the Psalms?  

Okay, enough of my rambling thoughts. Here're today's tips on writing with voice:

3. Writing dialogue:

a.     For balanced, pleasing resonance, remember narrative is quiet; dialogue, loud.
b.     Good dialogue is conversation distilled, keeping only the most interesting, emotional or dramatic words.
c.      Dialogue should move story forward, provide information lightly, revealing character, sense of place and time.
d.     Don’t use same voice (or your voice) for each character
e.      Decide what each character wants, what forces drive their actions (ambition, greed, pride, evil, good, need for love and acceptance)
f.       Give each character an overlying attitude ( ex: bold, defiant, submissive, brash, insolent)
g.     Avoid exposition: have characters talk to each other, not to the reader, meaning don’t explain things the character would already know
h.     Make each word count, using contractions, incomplete sentences.
i.       Use interruption, silence, echoing, shifts in tone or pace, slang, sayings
j.       Make exchange clear, interesting, creating tension, building to a micro-climax, creating change with emotional soars or dips, relationship changes, change in plot direction
k.     Only use ‘say’ or ‘said’ as tags or use no tags at all. Anything else is considered lazy writing and is distracting.
l.       Always make dialogue consistent with a character’s internal thoughts, sometimes echoing those



Friday, December 30, 2011

Elements in Writer's Voice: The Music of Language (Part II)

Good morning Writers,

Today, I offer another glimpse into finding your unique voice by explaining what is voice:

2. What is voice?
a.     Voice is not a decision to write in first, second or third person POV, though POV does impact voice.
b.     Voice is not writing style per se, but choice of style can impact voice, meaning literary (very focused on word selection, slower paced, descriptive), straightforward (more plot driven) or satirical (comedic), to name a few. Maintain the same voice style throughout the work.
c.      Voice is the quality of writing that comes from an individual writer’s personality. It’s originality, gut-wrenching honesty; being true to who you are, not a copycat of TV and movies; be inspired by Jimmy Stewart, but create your own character.
d.     Voice evokes reader emotion, whether mood uplifting, tear jerking, rolling in laughter. 
e.      Voice can be used to describe a unique character, but is generally considered to be a combination of a writer's use of grammar, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works).
f.       Voice can be thought of in terms of the uniqueness of a musical tone. As a trumpet has a different voice than a tuba or a violin has a different voice than a cello, so words of one character or person differ in mood from words of another. One may have a voice that is light and fast paced while another may have a dark voice. Tone of voice is the writer’s driving intent, and can be witty, mocking, sarcastic, serious, intimate, joking, nostalgic, formal, precious, stuffy, boring, pompous, happy, sad, angry, trivial, pontificate.
g.     Good writing voice sounds like satisfying conversation.
h.     Voice is well expressed when a writer finds balance between dialogue, action and narrative.

Stay Inspired, my friends!- G.H. Sherrer

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Elements in Writer's Voice: The Music of Language (Part I)

Today I begin a series on writer's voice, a most important element for a writer to be noticed. Editors and agents alike are "wowed" by unique characters and voice. Don't leave voice to chance. Move beyond a mystical approach to a logical auditory art form, using techniques, such as punctuation, dialogue, sentence length, vowel and consonant sounds, and character development.
In this series a writer will learn:

1.      What distinguishes a writer’s voice, according to agents and editors
2.      What is meant by voice
3.      How to produce voice with authentic dialogue
4.      Tips for writing with unique voice
5.      Through reading and discussing examples of master writers
6.      Through writing exercise and reading work aloud
Writing is an auditory art form, more akin to music than visual arts, and just as one can learn to play music by “ear”, so can a writer learn good writer voice by reading, writing, learning craft. Good writing creates a satisfying symphony, or can be like static, jarring. Learn to control your use of language.

1. First, what “experts” say about writing with voice:

a.     Editor Katie Carella, Grosset & Dunlap, and Price Stern Sloan, Penguin Young Readers Group: “There has to be something original about your telling of the story, a unique character and voice.”

b.     Agent Stephanie Kip Rostan, Greenberg literary Agency: “I’m always wowed by great fiction voice.”

c.      Agent/author Tony Morrison: “I’m not interested… [in] just the narrative, it’s not just the story; it’s the language and the structure and what’s going on behind it. Anybody can make up a story.”

d.     Agent Elana Roth, Johnson Literary Agency: “For vibrant voice… don’t [write characters] vanilla or white bread. Use details, and spread them about. The stronger the voice, the better it will be heard.”
e.      Agent, Rachelle Gardner: “We’re always looking for new voices.”

Okay, writers, tune in tomorrow for Part II (see above list) of the Elements of Voice. Until then, Stay Inspired!!!- G.H. Sherrer

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Mall Street Sleuth Reviews

Three words which describe The Mall Street Sleuth: POWERFUL, DEEP and DIFFERENT… wow!-Yvonne Willie, Author: The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Be Black
Sherrer's pounding plot line keeps you rooting for her poor tortured heroine, a Starr who you know will shine even more brightly in the sequel.-S. Murphy, Columnist: Over the Mountain Journal; Author: Mad Dog Mom
As exciting a novel as I have ever read-right up there with Bloodroot, by Amy Greene-a national bestseller! The story and the main character captivated me and kept me until I had finished the book, and left me wanting more. The subject is very timely with the high rate of bullying, teen suicide, drugs, and dysfunctional families. The plot is intriguing, and shows how one youngster beat the odds. Love her dog! -I. Hodge-Latham, Author of Snookie
This wonderful story contains all elements needed to keep the pages turning - and wow! They really do. There is conflict, both internal- with her dysfunctional family and her missing dad - and external, with the bullies at school and the other sinister people lurking about, up to no good. Then there is the cruel force of nature - a hurricane that respects no one. Starr is not perfect; she is steals things, but this too is a sign of her disturbed mental state. Can she rise above all this? You bet!-Karl Johnson
This book will inspire any reader, young or young at heart. It tells the story of a young girl living on the stormy Carolina Coast surviving and succeeding despite the troubles of the modern world... a world of teen suicide, drugs, betrayal and the disappearance of her beloved father. With the help and love of those she first thought evil, she defeats the true evil and learns things are sometimes not what they seem. Friends are sometimes not friends at all, and sometimes real friends are found where you least expect them.-Roland Lee
I loved reading The Mall Street Sleuth. I know the book was intended for juvenile females but this, almost octogenarian, sincerely enjoyed getting to know Starr Bright and her difficult life. I especially liked the way the author introduced us to her, did not talk down to the reader or sugar coat her behavior. I also appreciated the way the author added hymns that she heard, not quoting them verbatim but rather I could sing the hymn in my head by hearing what it was about. The book remains suspenseful throughout. I looked forward to reading it and was surprised by my interest. The story moves, the characters are real and the author created a delightful leading lady. –Bill Kelly, Author: Dangerous Passage
A sterling Southern yarn, Starr is a keeper. I like her chances of becoming famous.  Jack Owens, Author Don’t Shoot! We’re Republicans!

The Keeper Chronicles Vol. One, The Mall Street Sleuth

The Keeper Chronicles is a Book Club Edition, Volume One The Mall Street Sleuth the author’s first of two novels published within one title, which explores the age-old question in Cain’s reply to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It is a contemporary novel with a winsome protagonist like Lucky in The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, and intrigue of Carl Hiaasen’s novel Hoot.

In a backdrop of America’s soaring teen suicides 12-year-old Starr is bullied, though her greatest concerns are a missing dad and the mobster living next door. Starr feverishly takes up search for her father while a beagle sidekick gathers criminal evidence for investigation at headquarters, an abandoned boat Starr dubs Blue Lady. Deadly forces of nature conspire to block success. In desperation, Starr latches onto old Miz Alma Washington, a Gullah basket weaver seeking her slave roots. Starr’s thoughts of suicide evaporate as she works to bring Dad home, though in reality she could be dead by daybreak, for a one-eyed stalker, the mob and a kidnapper make bullies seem kitten-friendly in comparison. In Book II, Starr’s adventures lead to the mountains, where more danger and mysteries await her keen eye and sleuth bent, but will she capture a predator and survive nature’s fury to see her dreams realized?   

One Novelist's Life: A Conversation With G.H. Sherrer

Birmingham Public Library Local Author Expo December 2011
Who are you?
G.H. Sherrer or Gladys Hodge Sherrer, book author (The Mall Street Sleuth),  an experienced instructor and public speaker available for workshops, conferences and book clubs. Also, I'm former registered nurse who became a techno-geek- writer and afterward a columnist/journalist and meeting exciting people like Pulitzer Prize winning authors and playwrights who inspired me. I won a few awards myself, including First Chapter Novel Award for my first novel in 2009, though I changed the book’s title to The Keeper Chronicles, Volume One The Mall Street Sleuth, which was published in 2011 and now is sold on, Barnes & Noble and many more online bookstores. It is now available on eBooks, including Kindle and Nook.
Words intrigued me from the beginning, and as a middle-child in a family of nine I’ve felt a need to be heard, I suppose, though one older sister wrote stories to entertain and took me to the library. I was always an avid reader. I studied a dictionary for fun in grammar school, won spelling bees, word games. Today I have a collection of words setting on top of my kitchen cabinets… for real.  They include “Faith”, “Family” “Love”… more words like that. My favorite TV game show? Wheel of Fortune. Favorite board game? Scrabble. Word games.
What and when did you first publish?
A small submission to Grit newspaper as an early teen, for which I was paid a pittance, taught me I needed to apply my talents elsewhere. Thus a more lucrative healthcare career caught and held my attention.
What life experiences molded your first novel?
Everything I saw or read was inspiration, “grist for the mill” as they say. The protagonist is an abandoned child Starr Bright… seriously, that’s her name. In a story about a teen pondering suicide, how ironic is a name Starr Bright? But I digress. Starr’s adventurous ways are inspired by my sister who enticed me to follow her into woods before I could toddle. By age eight I was cohort-in-crime, disobeying our working parents, jumping aboard a wooden pallet floating on a lake. There’s a bit of myself in every character I suppose, especially Miz Alma who becomes Starr’s mentor and more, though my choice in making her a Gullah basket weaver came from an old farmer from my childhood. Matthew, with skin like dark chocolate, worked in a kitchen garden for a nursing home across the road. While he worked, he sang hymns. At the end of the day he placed a basket of fresh produce at our door, never allowing payment of course. These were hard times: Mom working at UAB, Dad working “Up North” in Detroit or elsewhere. I felt abandoned like Starr, okay?  My healthcare career inspired often, as did my Christian faith and belief that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.
How the novel developed:
When I left career in 2006 in need of a change of scenery, I chose a condo in Phoenix, Arizona to clear my head of corporate rules and jargon. While there, I joined a writer’s inspiration group, and using a prompt supplied by the leader, wrote a short story about the character now known as Starr. Lo and behold, I became a grandmother, sending me skedaddling home to Birmingham where I joined a writing workshop. The teacher was novelist Anne Nall Stallworth who suggested there was a great deal more to the story than I’d written so far, a novel so she said.  Exercising my analytical side, I began with a story outline, made up a character list including birthdates, physical attributes, personalities, quirks. I decided on general plot (coming-of-age family drama) and premise (We are “our brother’s keeper”). I chose a setting, the Carolina seacoast, researched its flora, fauna and weather patterns. I’ve had more rewrites than I could count, all which were based on writer critiques, feedback, and my own striving to improve craft. I chose to make this a Book Club Edition with questions leading discussion found in the back of the book.
Primary Inspiration:
A change is needed. I'm appalled at the violence and like of substance, mostly fantasy fiction found on book shelves and produced by Hollywood today. Of course I've read widely noting each author’s style and craft, and during the writing of this book I read L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew mysteries, Tom Sawyer and many other classics I loved as a child plus a few of today’s novels, like Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis and Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me.  Also, I’ve always been detective-like in observation of people, nature and the world.
Publishing process:
For one whole year, 2010, I stopped all columnist gigs, knuckled down to writing query letters to agents and publishers. While awaiting their feedback I continued rewriting and editing and learning the publishing business. At the end of a year, I had amassed a collection of rejections, and though they told me I am “a good writer”, believed the story had “market appeal”, had “merit”, they said my writing is “lovely, pleasant, definite lyrical cadence”, blah, blah, blah, the message was clear. Novels selling today are mostly based on witches and warlocks, Dracula, fantasy. Did I want to write to sell, or write to fulfill my personal goal? After fifty-three rejections from agents and publishers, I sought self-publishing avenues, found Infinity Publishing in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania and six weeks later I had a fresh paperback novel in my hand. 
Next steps:
Volume Two of The Keeper Chronicles: editing is well underway, and I plan to publish in 2012. This book takes up the day after Volume One ends. The character Starr, now an angry teenager until she arrives in a mountain retreat, falls in love and finds her truest Father, still has crime to solve. Some of the mystery is resolved in this next book, Breakthrough, another page-turner for certain.
Sales and publicizing:
The publisher, Infinity, has an online book store at My first public sale and signing sold 21 copies. carries them, plus a number of online bookstores have picked it up. I’m getting good feedback from readers of all ages.  Copies can be requested and bought through all major bookstores worldwide.