Last night was workshop night. DFW Writers’ Workshop meets in Euless every Wednesday night for announcements, readings, and critique.
After the critique sessions, many members meet up at the local IHOP to decompress, debrief, and de-stress. Lots of great advice is shared over hotcakes and hash browns.
Thank Goodness. As a novice writer, I can use all the help I can get.
If you give a writer a pancake, he might share these suggestions:
Please don’t tell me Dr. Wiggle-bottom is an evil but brilliant neurosurgeon with jet black hair and a penchant for mushroom and Swiss omelets. Let me discover Dr. Wigglebottom’s secrets through action, foreshadowing and dialogue. Build characterization and detail into your story.
Please don’t drop a big, steaming, stinky pile of back story info-dump right in the middle of my plate. Reveal world-building details in moderation at the appropriate time and in natural places within the story. Don’t describe the giant scalpel in Dr. Wigglebottom’s secret lab until he’s using it to perform a lobotomy; or at least wait until he uses it to cut his omelet.
Please choose active verbs over passive ones whenever possible. All those is’s, was’s, and began to’s leave a bland taste in my mouth. Check, please.
Please don’t drizzle too much description over the basic plot. Too many adjectives and adverbs overpower the flavor of a good story. When in doubt, leave it out.
Please don’t allow irrelevant facts or scenes interrupt the flow of your story. Syrupy vignettes about unimportant details slow the action. Molasses belongs on a biscuit, not in your pacing.
Please trim the fat on your dialogue tags. Stick with he said, she said; not exclaimed, chortled, snorted or explained. Too many embellished tags clog my arteries.
I remind myself of these suggestions each time I rewrite. Utilizing the advice of experienced writers helps me a lot. I try not to turn my nose up at critique. Yes, thank you. More, please. Delicious.
Oh, I almost forgot. Don’t use cliches or corny food metaphors.
Here’s a recipe for gingerbread pancakes. These cinnamon infused flapjacks sweeten the sting of rejection.
1 cup flour
2 tbsp. flour
1/3 cornmeal (yellow is best)
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ginger
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
¾ cup sour cream
¾ cup milk
¼ cup oil (canola or vegetable)
1 ½ molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cornmeal, spices and salt in a big bowl. Stir, stir, stir to distribute the baking powder evenly.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sour cream, milk, oil, molasses and vanilla.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients.
Set aside for 5 minutes. Heat the skillet or griddle while you’re waiting. Edit a few dialogue tags. Grease skillet or spray it with non-stick cooking oil.
Use about 1/3 cup batter for each pancake. Turn pancakes over (about two minutes) when bubbles form on the edges. Turn only once.