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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Giving Thanks

Good morning!

It’s the last day of what turned out to be a very eventful month. Next month will be even better, you should see the posts we’ve got planned. FUN STUFF!

Right now I want to take a moment and ask you, beloved readers, when was the last time you sent an email, a tweet, a Facebook message, whatever, just thanking the people who read and critique your work? It can be the ones who tell you not to give up, the ones who love whatever you write, your Megans, and the ones that stand by you, be it in real life or on the other side of your internet connection. You get the idea. You put your heart and soul into your work, and when they spend time reading or critiquing it, they put a little of theirs into your work too.

I know I’ll be sending an email to my special readers/critiquers today, just to say thank you for reading my novels, for never telling how much they suck or laughing too hard the silly mistakes they pick up, and then reassuring me that I can send it to them again. Ah, such suckers for punishment, my readers/CPs.

So go on, send a tweet, a DM, an email, or post on their FB wall. They’ll appreciate it.

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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Conquer the Revision Blues

   

   “Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” 
                 ~e.e. cummings

     I’m a pantser. I love to navigate the deep wells of my subconscious and let the story surprise me.

     Lately, I’ve been fighting the current and arbitrarily praying someone will toss me a life saver, or perhaps a posh Caribbean Cruise liner.

     This is what the revision process became to me- dark waters toiling with monstrous squid and piranha. And they were all hungry. My fear ran like blood. Sure enough, the big kahuna shark came sniffing. Les Edgerton, author of finding your voice dubs this big fish “Critic Nag Dude.”

     Critic Nag Dude had me right where he wanted me. I considered shelving my manuscript.

     Then, I remembered something a wise little fish once said:

                  

     And this:   “Finish your sh**.”

                     ~Chuck Wendig

     I couldn’t ignore an animated fish with short-term memory loss and the guy who tells aspiring writers,”Your jealousy and depression do not matter.” (If you love Dory, buy the movie.  If you love Chuck, read more here.)

     So, I’ve been back to work. To be honest, I know this is going to take awhile. I’ve read the blogs and author interviews in which the writer says revising a manuscript takes them anywhere from a mere two weeks to four months, on the outside. To a mewing pantser-me-that’s daunting.

     I hereby grant myself permission to do the work that needs done in the amount of time it takes to make it amazing.

     Whether you’re a pantser or plotter, I’m sure many of you’ve found that revision changes the relationship between writer and story. It’s more painful, we must kill a few darlings and come to terms with our little foibles.

     But there is a balance between the red ink, hives, and lack of sleep.

     This is the balance, the secret:

     Revision is your opportunity to crawl inside your story and live there for a while.

     I love words and I’m a poet by nature. But I’m taking this opportunity to re-examine my language and voice. I decided the most important element for me is voice-not just my own unique personality, but my main character’s voice. I went through my notes one day and found a note. It read, “Evie says she didn’t do it.” This was scribbled on a purple post-it, so I assume it was one those episodes in which I jumped out of the shower, suds in hair, to jot down a flash of an idea.

     This was a moment worthy of a head smack for me. I pulled out my first draft and read it from beginning to end. And it was in there, a mere zygote, but it was there. It reminded me why I started the tale in the first place. Evie, my main character, appeared to me before her story did. In true ghost fashion, her image haunted me. I knew what she wanted and that only I could give that to her.

     It is only now that I comprehend what pantsing means to me. I can’t fight my organic nature as a writer. I had to take a step back to realize that my first draft is more of a skeleton, with some muscular structure. Now, I can take out the unneeded bits and begin the layering process.

     And guess what, I’ve learned to love revision. I believe in my story, and myself, again. I know I’ll be a better writer when I’m done, and that new ventures – query letters, rejections, more edits-await me. I’m learning to stop comparing my own long, strange trip to that of other writers. We can offer each other advice and support, but we can’t teach intuition. It’s different for everyone.

     I read that magic happens outside our comfort zone. It’s true. I’m enjoying the show.

     If you’re thinking about putting that story in a cubbyhole, don’t. It may go to The Land of Lost Socks and never be heard from again. Ask yourself what pulled you into that world in the first place. Perhaps it’s only the bare framework, but there’s something bright and inquisitive in there, trying to speak to you.

     Keep on swimming and finish what you start.

 

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Personal Perspective: Why I write 1st person POV

Over the past couple of years I’ve had the privilege of going on the most amazing adventures. You guys wouldn’t believe the places I saw firsthand, the people I met, and what I experienced while on those journeys.  Or maybe you would, if you’ve ever read a 1st person POV novel.

2011 was an exceptionally good year for me and my adventurous nature. I was a tribute in The Hunger Games and survived to tell my kids about it. My sister was murdered in Dublin and I went to find out the truth behind it, only to discover that I can see through fae glamour to what’s beneath, and that I can do a bunch of other neat tricks(this was a favorite of mine). I got to be a half-angel, a kickass shaman, a girly girl who wears too much pink and carries a tazer with her, and a shape shifter. Those are only the things I remember right now.

This is exactly why I love 1st person POV so much. I get to be the character, experience what he/she is going through, go to the places they go, and do things I never thought possible.

Some of you might remember I posted about tone and first lines two weeks ago. I received a comment from one of our regular commenters, bwtaylor75, who asked why I preferred my POV. I took it as a challenge. He wrote a post of his own wherein he stated why he dislikes 1st person. I’m writing this not to prove him wrong, only to share my view.

The first three paragraphs of this post do a pretty decent job at starting my reasoning for why I write my POV. Yes, I read 3rd person as well, I’m busy with such a novel right now, but there’s a little something extra special for me in 1st person POV.

They say ‘write what you know’. Then they say ‘write what you don’t know’. I once read ‘write the story you want to read’ and that’s exactly what I’m doing with every novel I write, have written, and will write. And what I want to read is 1st person POV.

This might be a little selfish, but I write 1st person for me. I get to be this character I’ve put together and decide to torture by having her make bad decisions, sending her into situations that most likely won’t end well, and I enjoy every second of it. If I’m going to spend between 65k and 80k words with her, I’m going to make sure that not a second of that time is wasted.

I don’t write it because it’s easier, never that, each POV offers its own challenges and difficulties. I write it because of the reasons mentioned above and because it works for me. It’s my preferred POV.

I’m going to say that, and you can disagree if you want, if you think writing 1st person POV is limiting, you’re not doing it right. There are ways to make it work and you have to find the one that works for you.

This once again comes down to personal preference. If you as a reader find 1st limiting, that’s okay, read something else. If you as a writer find it limiting, it’s okay, writer another POV. It’s as simple as that.

You say 1st POV has its limits. Yes, my main character can’t be everywhere and see everything BUT THAT’S PART OF THE FUN AND MYSTERY. I say 3rd POV has its limits. No, sometimes I don’t get to the bones of who your main character is BUT I GET TO EXPERIENCE OTHER THINGS AND VIEW YOUR WORLD FROM A DIFFERENT PLACE. We work around the obstacles both provide and make them work to our advantage. How’s that for compromise?

And I dare anybody to say writing 1st person is easier than 3rd because I’ll say to you WHAT! Both of these POVs have their own challenges and we write the one that will work best for our stories. Mine just happen to be 1st. Yours is 3rd.

Taylor, you’re a kickass guy and I always love reading your comments, but I respectfully disagree with most of what you posted about the limiting light of 1st person. I know you won’t take this wrong, and we’re having fun with this discussion. My POV isn’t one dimensional, and saying it is, is like saying the person sitting next to you experiences and sees the world in black and white with no shades of gray at all. Conflicting emotion, circumstances, external and internal situations, and problems. Those things create the shades. We as the writers have to do right and make sure those things are done correctly. Maybe you just haven’t been reading the right 1st person POVs.

I’m just saying, have your thinking be as wide as the ocean. No limits. In YA especially, our main characters are MCs for a reason. Yes, he/she is that important. We wouldn’t have a story otherwise.

So why do I write 1st person POV? Because I get to be somebody else for a while. I write it, and read it, for the adventures it sends me on. A little selfish? Maybe. But they also say we should write for ourselves, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.
Why do you write what you write?

 
26 Comments

Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Characters, Personal Experience, Writing

 

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Being a Confident Writer Before the Contracts

Last month I posted about being a new writer and the challenges we face emotionally with the daunting task of completing a first novel staring us in the face. I wish I could say after we do that, it’s all smooth sailing from there on out, but the truth is, it’s only the beginning. Sometimes the only thing scarier than the impossible (I wrote a novel) is too many possibilities (now what?). Because the question that comes after you’ve accepted you’re a writer is, “What am I going to do about it?”

I remember the very distinct shift I felt when my first draft freedom disappeared and the reality of how little I knew about novel writing settled around me in it’s place. I felt suffocated by how much needed to be fixed and how much I had yet to learn. And the question of whether or not I really wanted to go down that road. I had every right and every reason to continue simply writing for myself and my closest friends, but like you, I knew that would never be enough for me. I had something to share with the world.

Despite my enthusiasm, my confidence was shot. I didn’t need someone to tell me I sucked (though, trust me, they did). Like Kristin Lamb said in her vlog, Writing 101, people had told me my whole life I had a talent for writing so I guess I thought it would just come naturally. Ahem. Not so much. It was painfully obvious I had no idea what it took to write a novel and I went through a long period of writer’s depression when nothing I wrote felt good enough. In my mind, I was a horrible writer.

So how do I feel today? Please, put your coffee down for this one. I can say, without a single hesitation, that I am an amazing writer. Yep, I still get that swelling feeling in my chest every time I say it. And I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself by saying it here now. It may sound like I’m being proud and probably delusional but I’m not. Here’s why–

Am I a New York Times Bestselling author? No.

Am I even published? Nope.

Do I have an agent? Um…no.

Is everything I write perfect? Not a chance!

So how can I possibly be so confident in my writing prowess? For these reasons:

  1. I’m dedicated to my story. I have a story inside me and I have to tell it. Remember that this is why we’re all writers in the first place–not to get published, not to make millions of dollars, not for the fame. We all write, day after day, deep down, because we have stories to tell and we want to share them.
  2. I have a passion for my message. Beneath the surface of the stories I write, there’s something meaningful I want to say. It means so much to me that I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make sure I get the chance to say it.
  3. I’m dedicated to learning. Because I want to do my story justice, I know I have to learn the best way to tell it and I’m up for that challenge. Not only up for it, excited about it. There is nothing more thrilling to me than growing as a writer.
  4. I love writing. All planning, productivity, and career goals aside, my reward for writing each day is the writing itself. I literally want to jump up and dance after penning a great scene (sometimes I do). It gives me so much happiness and an incredible sense of accomplishment. Every day I get to write is a day worth living.

Some people think being an amazing writer means having people love your work or having a publishing contract, but it simply isn’t true. A great writer is born long before you get the golden ticket (though if you stick with it, and publishing is your dream, those emails will come). If you have a passion for writing that energizes and fuels you, and if you are willing to do whatever it takes to keep writing, you’re already an amazing writer, publishing contract or not.

Don’t be afraid to say it.

Even if only to yourself.

Photo by Enid Yu

 

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Just One More Page, and Then I’ll go to Bed

How many times have you said, “Just one more page, and then I’ll go to bed?” when reading a book? Did you say, “A million times!”? Me too! What keeps us reading until we look over at the clock and realize we have to be at work in like, oh, three hours? Obviously it’s a myriad of things: good writing, characterization, pacing, tension, and something that often gets overlooked in the craft of writing: the very last sentence of a chapter.

The fabulous, Jani Grey did a post last week on setting the tone with the first line of a book. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. I thought I’d do a companion piece to that, because lately I’ve been studying not only the first line of the book, but the first and last line of every scene.

The last line of a scene is what keeps a reader, well, reading. They must find out what happens on the next page. This can be tricky, because as writers, we often want to wrap things up in a pretty package at the end of each chapter. Not necessarily for the reader, but for ourselves. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it. A chapter can still be laced with tons of tension and still end with the character not getting what they want, but that last line not only needs to convey just that, but it needs to convey it in a way that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.

In Donald Maass’ The Fire in Fiction he says, “Does it matter what is the last line of your scene, or the first? Apparently, many authors do not think it does. Most last and first lines in manuscript scenes are quite forgettable. That’s a shame. Like a handshake, an opening and closing line can create impressions and expectations. They can set a tone. They can signal where we’re going or what we’ve done, or serve any number of other useful story purposes. Whatever the case, solid first and last lines can give a scene shape. Creating them deliberately is a discipline worth developing” (Maass 2009, 69).

I’m on my eighth millionth revision of my current novel, a YA Horror. That’s right, eight millionth (well, maybe not, but it sure feels like it). I’m in love with this piece. It’s the most complex thing I’ve ever written, and I’m damn proud of it. But one thing I’ve noticed during this latest revision (and after reading the chapter in Fire in Fiction), is the last sentence of some of my scenes feels flat. Don’t get me wrong, they still have a lot of tension, but it would be much too easy for a reader to say, “This is a good place to stop. I’ll pick up again tomorrow,” which tells me that it’s not good enough. They may go to bed that night thinking about my book, but it won’t be that last line. They could lose their sense of urgency to finish, and what if something happens and they don’t come back to my book?

I’ve been going through each of my chapters and doing a major overhaul on the last sentence of each scene and the first sentence of the scene directly after. I want to share a couple that I think need some work.

This is the last sentence in chapter one, told from the viewpoint of my main character, Jackson:

“Everything spins as darkness envelopes me.”

It’s not terrible, but I feel like it could still use some tweaking. There’s a lot of tension here. This is the start of Jackson’s, “Am I insane? Is that a ghost? A hallucination? What’s wrong with me?” problem and the beginning of her character arc. It leaves the reader with a lot of questions, and they’ll want to know what the hell is going on with this crazy girl. This is good.

Here’s the first sentence of chapter two:

“A faint barrage of noise travels through the broken glass.”

I’m not as happy with this one, and I’m going to change it. Jackson is waking up, but is this really the best way for me to show it? I don’t think so. I want to pull the reader in, and this is too subtle. It needs to be more memorable than her hearing noise through broken glass. Not that this sentence can’t be used directly after, or somewhere else in the paragraph, just not as the first.

We all know there are a ton of craft techniques we can use to make our writing stronger, and honestly, it can be overwhelming. If you’re drafting, don’t worry about this kind of stuff yet. Keep it in mind if you can, but focus on getting through your draft. I’ve found it easier to make a note of the things I want to work on after I’ve drafted, and then afterward, I’ll work on this kind of stuff. Everyone will have different ways of doing this, and they’re all right. Do what works best for you, but don’t think this is something you have to do immediately. I wanted to throw this out there, because I know how hard it can be to draft and think, “I have to worry about this, too?” It can be paralyzing.

With that said, have you gone through and looked at the beginning and last sentence of all your scenes? Do they leave the reader craving more? I’d love to hear some of them. If you feel comfortable, please share the last sentence of your first chapter and the first sentence of your chapter two.

 
21 Comments

Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

And Then There Was One

The empty champagne bottle sits on the kitchen counter. The celebration dinner is over. The contract’s been signed. The book’s been delivered to the editor. The cover has been commissioned. No more congratulation cards, e-mails, or messages flood the inbox.  Life returns to normal. And then it hits you.

That’s it. You’ve achieved what you’ve waited your whole life to achieve. You’re going to be a published author. You’re going to hold your book in your hands. That dream you’ve had your whole life, the one that deep down you wondered if you would ever achieve, it’s not a dream any more. And the funny thing is that the very thing you wished and sweated and bleed into being should fill you with joy but you suddenly feel as empty as that champagne bottle. Drained dry.

I had been warned. My friend, Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moria Leahy and blog mamma of Writer Unboxed said to prepare myself for the low after the high. I must admit that I didn’t quite believe her. But it was a mighty fall from cloud 10. And here I sit, feeling almost numb. Trapped in a state of limbo and suffering from emotional fallout.

I am a deep dark void. I am a blank page. I am a fresh canvass waiting to be filled with words of colour.  Waiting. Wondering. Doubting.

This is the point where the voices of fear and doubt creep in through the cracks, louder than they ever were before. A two book deal. More than you could wish for. And you begin to wonder if it’s a fluke. If you can do it again, but better, if you can grow as a writer, if anyone will buy it, read it, get it, if, if…

SHUT UP!

It doesn’t matter how professional,  deiciplined, or confident you are before being published, the doubt always follows you. Nothing can every truly prepare you for the big moment. The only way to shut the negative voices up is to do what we were born to do. Take a breath and reset yourself. Put words to paper, work through the self-doubt, forget about the world around us, publishing, deadlines, editors, marketing, book sales, and re-capture the magic, the joy of losing yourself in the story.

A lone writer, a blank page, a world of possibilities.  Nothing has changed. Everything is how it should be.

 

Your legacy

Change. It happens to the best of us. It can come in many guises. We all know that. Recently, I’ve had some changes. In the past four months, I’ve lost my grandfather and an uncle. They’re gone. Nothing I can do will bring them back. Would I, if I could? Yes. I’d bring my uncle back so his wife could have another day with him. In my head, they’d talk and he’d tell her he was okay. He would tell her she didn’t have to burst into tears when she sees another man wearing his favorite sports team’s shirt. He would tell her that even though he died on Christmas Eve, it’s okay to celebrate the holidays because he’s always with her.

My grandfather, I’d bring him back for just a little bit. You see, after my grandmother died, he remarried. The woman he married was someone he’d loved since the second grade. They didn’t have a long life together, but they had fun. He was in a nursing home and she was in the hospital with pneumonia when he died last Wednesday night. I know she understands that he’s gone to a better place, but I know she’d love to talk to him again and have him actually remember who she is. I’d love to have him know his whole family just one more time.

I guess that brings me around to the point of this blog. We get one life. One life to live, laugh, love, smile, and for those of us who are writers – one life to fill with the stories of many. I admire the people who say they have no regrets, but most people do. On that note, if you knew your last days were here – would you write? If so, what would you write? If you could write one story, one book that would define who you are as a writer – what would it be?

Is your current work something you’d be proud to leave as a testament of your talent? If not, why? What would you change? Some people take years to write a novel, while others do it in a matter of months. Some writers put their heart and soul into their work, while others write light and chase trends.

A lot of writers say they’d die if they couldn’t write. I realize that’s an exaggeration, however, I want to say to them – write the best you possibly can. Don’t make excuses and don’t worry about your writing colleagues and how much they’re producing.  Show the world your voice – something no one else has. Your voice and your stories are unique to you and only you can tell them. You and your voice are beautiful, take time to cultivate that beauty and showcase it. It’s okay to take the time. After reading the beginning of this post, that’s probably not what you were expecting me to say. Look at some of the most enduring stories of our age; Gone With the Wind, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Wuthering Heights, and Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland – just to name a few. What is special about these books that they’re still read so many years after being written?

They’re classics, to be sure, but look at Harry Potter – it’s not that old and yet it’s considered a classic already. Why? How can you write a book like that? Honestly, I don’t know, because if I did – I’d have done it already. But I will say this. In an interview J.K. Rowling did, she said her quickest book took a year to write (http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/interview-j-k-rowling). However, look at the legend she’s left. People will be reading her series for generations to come.

Don’t be afraid to take time. Write what you want, don’t follow trends. Write the stories that matter to you. If you chase trends, more than likely, they’re going to be on the downhill slide by the time your book goes into publication. Life’s too short to be anything but true to you and your writing. Be original, be a trendsetter, but most importantly – be you!

 
18 Comments

Posted by on April 16, 2012 in death, Inspiration, Motivation, originality

 

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