Continuing with author Kaylan Doyle, the first question in particular I found interesting as Kaylan and I had totally different reactions to Margie Lawson. I blogged about her courses here before. Now, listening to Kaylan, I wonder if Margie is a person who presents better in person compared to the written, online courses. Anyway, Kaylan has a lot of interesting things to say here.
Lisa: Your pacing is fast, the story moves quickly – beginning to end – and still adds a lot of rich detail. How do you manage to keep up the speed, keep the reader in the moment, keep the pages turning?
Kaylan: My biggest struggle is with pacing. Several years ago an agent remarked that she loved my manuscript, but it read like a slow-moving promenade. Definitely not good. She also said if I revised, she’d love to read it again. Panic struck! I had no clue – either how to identify my problems or how to fix them. I found a local two-day workshop taught by Margie Lawson. I learned so much that I went on to complete her lecture packets and attended her Master Immersion workshop. The tools Margie taught me took my writing to the desired level. She’s the best, in my humble opinion! J
For ‘descriptions + speed’, I search for dual-purpose adjectives. These not only identify and describe an object, but also limit the number of words. An example would be something like ‘the cut-crystal ceiling’. In four words, I have a mental picture of looking up through a clear faceted sparkling ceiling at the sky overhead. It’s a little added work, but I believe the results are well worth it.
Lisa: What do you do to identify pacing problems? And what are the fixes?
Kaylan In my first edit phase, I do a ‘search’ (and destroy) on key words – finding and replacing passive words with powerful ones. They are: not, had, was, that, would, could, which.
This is my short list and I weed these mercilessly. My rewritten/reordered sentences are always more powerful than the original. I also apply a secondary list of ‘weak or overused words’ to make sure each sentence is as full and rich as possible.
Lisa: Can you share that second list and explain what you mean by weak or overused?
Kaylan: Sure! J They are: it, they, them, were, some, really, turn, stood reached, lifted, picked up, bent, might, very, feel, sometimes, even, indeed, maybe, look, smile, said. The second part of this includes a search for words ending in *ing* or *ly*. These often prove to be adverbs which almost always weaken the sentence rather than amplifying it.
In the overused/weak category, these are the comfortable words. Take smile, for example. If you search your manuscript for it – you may find several usages in the same chapter. Okay, maybe on the same page. J The challenge is to avoid substituting a synonym like ‘grin’ and continuing on. How many times does your character ‘look’? Instead – using non-verbal body language – we can paint a mental picture of the character’s actions in our reader’s mind.
Lisa: In your novels, do you always have a strong female protagonist? If so why, and do you have those you use as models?
Kaylan: The women in my family, my friends, and women I admire all have steel spines. Whatever the task or challenge, no matter how difficult, I’ve seen them take a deep breath, gather their internal resolve, and make it happen. Or accept and cope with dignity. My female protagonists, modeled on women I know, are a composite of traits. But the single common denominator they all share is core strength. Based on adverse circumstances (for which I am responsible … J), my women may question themselves, or appear weak. Forced to dig deep within, they always find untapped reservoirs of strength and purpose to save others or themselves.
Lisa: There is a comedic twist, dry humor although the subject matter is often dark, bloody. Do you draw on people you know or where do you find it?
Kaylan: You know those people who always seem to laugh (or find humor) in those inappropriate situations? Like when someone takes a tumble, and they could be injured, but the fall was so incredibly funny that your head almost explodes from trying NOT to laugh? That would be me. I have always seen the ‘black’ or ‘gallows’ humor and I just let it out to play in my characters.
On a serious side, people often use humor to lighten terrible subjects, to stave-off fear, or to distract others from uncomfortable or dangerous situations. Just another way, I believe, that we deal with the horrible when we have to. Because we do this in our everyday lives, I love developing my characters’ senses of humor – no boundaries, no hurt feelings (well, except for another character). J
Lisa: Have to admit, in my own writing, the things that make me laugh out loud are usually rather black! I love Kaylan’s word search. I do the same thing, and my favorite word, used way too much, and cut ruthlessly is ‘that’. I rarely find a sentence that isn’t stronger without it. Except maybe the one I just wrote.
Thanks so much to Kaylan for taking the time to do this interview. Words of wisdom, shared with humor. Doesn’t get better than that.