Saturday, August 21, 2010

No Point in a Refill...

By Bryl Tyne

...I think my cup's got a hole in the bottom. Asking me to blog about pet peeves is akin to asking me to write an epic novel on grumbling, which I could easily do.

I'd write about all those times I've griped and whined...yes, I've been known to whine on occasion. I'm easily irritated. I tend to blame it on my encroaching age but in truth, I think it's just me. Anyone approaching my property, for example, might as well take his or her chances sneaking up on the Monster House, and I'm sure my hollering can be heard a good quarter mile away on a clear day. Because something irritates me or ends up on my list of pet peeves, however, doesn't make it treacherous, though at times, I think I'd like to believe it does. Again, I'm sure it's just me stuck in my "the cup's half-empty" mode.

Looking at my current path in life, I came up with one thing I could bellyache about in each of my more prominent roles—as a reader, as an editor, and as an author. And of course, I'm going to share them with you.

Wouldn't be bellyaching if I didn't.

As a Reader, nothing peeves me off like excessive description, which to me means—anything more than a few words for a character or a single sentence for a setting. I skip over all of it most times... I don't care what he or she looks like or where he or she is—unless either has to do with the action or meaning of the scene or the story.

Here's an example of what I consider good use of description during a scene: He pushed to his feet and stepped to the coffeemaker to refill his cup. "You won't go through with it." He turned and set his unfinished coffee on the kitchen table. "I know you."

What does that tell you about the scene, the characters? Scene: They're in the kitchen, drinking coffee, having a discussion. Characters: One has a goal, and the other is determined to undermine that goal or at the very least exude a show of power or discontentment with the decision by not even finishing his coffee and setting it down as an act of finality, a way of showing he is through with the discussion. Period.

Now, I didn't have to tell you all that for you to already get it. That's the point. Less is more. If this scene were littered with narrative from one character eying the other, telling me exactly what he looked like, what he wore, or his every move down to the finger placement on the cup in his grasp... I would've missed the meaning of the scene because I might have skipped over the last two-thirds of it with no other thought than ... OMG, not again. (Of course, there are those exceptions. If this were strictly erotica, something as minute as his finger placement on anything **cough** may be worthy of noting in detail—great detail).

As an Editor, I'm bothered by writers who turn in unpolished manuscripts, who then pitch fits when asked to revise/resubmit or come uncorked when edits take longer than anticipated.

Publishers list guidelines because they're bored and just make up these lists for something to do with their spare time, right? Wrong. Some publishers go the extra step to list grammar and style guides they wish used also. Why? Maybe they're testing you; maybe they just want to run their business as efficiently as possible. Either way, if you, as a writer, aren't capable of following direction, why should an editor want to deal with you? We deal with enough crap on a daily basis—passive sentences, divas, plot holes, divas, repeated words, divas, dangling modifiers, divas, run-on sentences, divas...

Lastly, as an Author, my biggest pet peeve besides my ever-growing list of unfinished WIPS is my unfathomable ability to piss off my editors with my peristent inability to follow their direction. I'm not a diva. I'm not a diva. I'm not a diva...I'm not!

Check out Bryl R. Tyne's My Way Column at The Pagan and The Pen!

Bryl R. Tyne is a wrangler by nature and a writer by choice, published with Noble Romance Publishing, Ravenous Romance, Dreamspinner Press, STARbooks Press, Untreed Reads Publishing, Changeling Press, and coming soon to Amber Quill Press/Amber Allure with the Gay Western: Tough Guy.

You can find more about Bryl at:


  1. Love your covers, Bryl!

    And yes, when I was writing my post, I kept thinking, "I'll bet I'm someone else's pet peeve".

    Thanks for joining us at the Grip!


  2. I'll bet I'm someone else's pet peeve"

    I think that goes for all of us, Lisabet. It's inevitable we piss someone off at some time. Hell, I'm pretty sure I do it just by breathing, most days.

    Thanks for having me here today.

  3. Bryl,

    Excellent post. And I have to second Lisabet's comments. After reading all the peeves this week, I am now panicking that I'm bugging some poor reader with my bad writing habits.


    Ash (who is also not a diva, no matter what anyone says)

  4. Hi Bryl!

    Welcome to the Grip.

    I thought that was particularly interesting what you said about description. In my stories I'm often very short on description and I'm always worried that people want me to describe everybody's appearance. In some of my story I never describe the character at all. Other writers describe a lot, and I'm not sure which way is best. Hemingway wrote stories in which there is no description at all. Other prominent writers pack it in as soon as the characters appear. Raymond Chandler made it part of his signature style (“a big man but not more than six feet five inches tall and not wider than a beer truck.”).

    I've been cruising around the Smutters Lounge at ERWA this morning and I'm reminded again how much good material there is out there from writers like yourself that I can learn from. Thanks for coming to our blog.


  5. Thanks, Ash...
    Not a diva, and The Diva doesn't quite fit.
    Understood. Completely.

  6. Not sure one can judge a "best way", Garce, other than to remember not to waste one word. If it adds nothing to the story, no point in it being there.

    Some of my readers claim they want to know more about my characters... I'm sure they're happy when I tell them I write the way I do on purpose.

    One truly pulled into one of my stories must resonate with the character and his actions/reactions. The rest is up for reader interpretation in most cases. I admit, I do have a "I must know the height" fetish. Other than that, anything goes.

    Thanks for your comments, Garce.

  7. Hi Bryl,
    I don't find you a diva at all, quite patient during our editing, answering all my questions and there are many! I pretend I don't hear your huffing in exasperation at yet another newbie question.

    You know I love your writing and I am learning much from you being my editor. I am blessed indeed, and to my daughter's disgust, I did the happy dance when I got your email telling me we were to work together.

    I can't guarantee you I totally understand passive sentences, but I am trying, promise.

    Descriptions, we differ, slightly, but since I write historicals, I think the time period needs to be established. I didn't over do it though did I?

    This was a great article. I enjoyed it and I enjoy knowing I am not the only one who has a list of pet peeves. Oh, to get me started...

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  9. Brita, sweet Brita...

    You are too kind, but I don't think it's the newbie questions that get to me. How else would we learn?

    To answer you question, right off hand, I don't recall excessive description in your story, no. Do know that this post is not aimed toward any one person.

  10. I didn't think you aimed it at me. I was teasing. For questions, wait till you open up the MS!!

  11. Bryl - Welcome to the Grip. Thank you for an insightful post.

    I wonder sometimes if writers who send in an unpolished MS realize that it isn't ready for publication. How annoying is that?

  12. Thanks, Kathleen.

    I'm not referring to new authors. When I first started, I did that myself--sent in a MS thinking it was the best thing since sliced bread... only to open it up three months later after a rejection and cringe in disgust wondering how in the world I ever thought I knew how to write.

    But when authors who've been published and edited over and again still push out story after story into an editor's hands incorrectly formatted, unpolished, etc., in effect, dumping the extra work on the editor, it gets rather tedious.

    I confess, on occasion, I too have done this when behind on my deadlines. As with any ill-prepared business transaction though, I showed a lack or respect for my work and my publisher by doing so. I'm just grateful they've chosen to put up with me.

    I would hope that once an author's been through a couple rounds of edits, he or she would grasp what to look for in his or her future writing, learn something for the next time.

  13. Bryl -- Thanks so much for joining us this week. See, told you that you would have fun with this topic. : )

  14. One thing that has always impressed me about you Bryl is your ability to be down-to-earth and considerate. You are not a Diva. I'm with you on the long descriptions. I have to admit that I often skim through them too so I can get on with the story. Your unique ability to write succinctly, but with such emotion blows me away. I'm in the infant stages of learning to be a writer, but when approaching one of my WIPs I find myself wondering WWBD? How would he describe this scene? Then I go back and take out half the words. LOL Thank you for what I've learned from your wonderful stories.

  15. Thanks, Michelle. Yes, and I would've never guessed bringing up one's pet peeves could generate such fun either. Interesting week of posts. I've enjoyed reading them all.

  16. Oh, Arlene! WWBD?? Go there is you wish. Personally, I would never recommend such a brazen move. What works for me, may very well not work for someone else. Seek a balance, take advice you feel works for you, ignore the rest. In the end, you have to live with yourself and your decisions. WWBD? LOL Sorry, but I got a chuckle out of that one.

  17. I could have written this almost to the letter. Either we're serious curmudgeons or geniuses. You pick.

  18. To get a chuckle out of you was my intention. LOL I'm such a smart ass sometimes--weird sense of humor. I realize that everyone has their own style and I will develop my own in time. I doubt that I would want to write EXACTLY like you (especially the um... graphic stuff.) I blush too easily. he he However, I mean it when I say that I do admire your ability to say a lot in a few words. :)

  19. Ha! Valerie, I'm going to say it is definitely the genius.

  20. Thank you all for commenting and for making me laugh. Y'all at Oh Get a Grip! thanks again for having me here. I do believe I've enjoyed today.

  21. Hey, Bryl!

    What a great post! Like Brita, I learned a lot from working with you on how to tighten up, trim down my MS, and breathe life into my characters.

    I find knowing I don't need excess descriptions to make my characters believable or real to the reader, very freeing indeed. I've always preferred picturing the characters I read in my head with little help from the author. Just enough to give me the basics and the rest is up to me and my experience as a reader!

    Congrats on your latest release!!

  22. Hello Bryl.

    I find myself in agreement with you, and on both sides of the description argument. Firstly, I don't enjoy what I consider "flowery" stuff. I don't need to know the bedspread was mauve, I just need to know how it looked wrapped around her ass.

    As you said, though, erotica has different requirements at times to other fiction. I like to know she's tall for a woman or he's growing a paunch. But agreeing with you (again), it needs to be something which furthers the story. She's tall? How has that shaped her situation RIGHT NOW? He has a paunch...because...?

    Sci-fi, for instance, would go almost nowhere without descriptions, and it can get quite cyber-flowery at times. It's rarely lush description, but it's often excessive.

    Nice post.

    Willsin Rowe


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