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Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

 Have you ever struggled to continue reading a book? Skip a few chapters to read ahead, go back, read a bit more, skim again. Look longingly at the next book in the TBR pile that is starting to look really, really good? It happens.

Not too long ago, I was reading just such a book. It took until page 100 or so before it really grabbed my interest. And then I got to thinking—because that’s what I do—Why was it so hard to get into the story? I like to learn for other author’s mistakes whenever possible because I make enough mistakes of my own, so I really thought about it. 

The writing was good, the characters were interesting, but there was just a little too much world building. Too many details in which I was not interested. Now I realize that might be is subjective. You might be very interested in those details. For me, they just weighed down the book. Nothing was happening. That’s why I kept reading ahead. To see what happened, because I knew something had to happen sometime.

It cemented in me the importance of action in any genre. I think it’s admirable when an author plans his or her world out. I love maps, realistic means of transportation and currency, customs and sense of history… but that’s flavoring, not meat.

I don’t need to know that a fence lies between the river and the farm and that the fence still has new-looking boards from the time Uncle Pete got so drunk on ale he couldn’t see the wheel barrel until he fell in, careened down the hill, through the fence and into the river. Sure woke him up in a hurry.

Details like that add character, flavoring to a story, but too much… have you ever over salted a roast?

 The salt so overpowers the taste of meat that it ruins it. And I think that’s what this author did to the first 100 pages of his novel and that leads to the next question.

Why did I keep reading? I’ll answer that one later.

Have you ever had trouble getting into a book? Why?

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Chapter 2

*I didn’t plan this, but, why not? You want to hear about every little step I take writing my newest novel, don’t you?*

As far as I’m concerned, chapter 2 is the proof in the pudding. You’ve used your first five pages, the opening hook, introduced main characters, ended with a hook to keep the reader going and now… now, chapter 2.

That back story you kept out of chapter one, you just might have to put it in chapter two so the rest of the book makes sense. The journey begins with the proverbial first step, but it can’t end there. A second step is kinda mandatory and equally as important.

Chapter 2 is also where I begin having doubts about chapter one. Did I start it in the right place, right POV? You see, this is where the plotting begins to gel. If I get it wrong, there will be a lot of backtracking, deleting and re-writing. I don’t know about you, but the less rewriting I have to do the better.
And so the journey continues

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The Journey

 

When I was a little girl, I went on a lot of road trips with my grandparents. Some were 4 hour trips, others 15 hour trips. My grandfather had one goal: Get there. Fast.

And so, to support that goal, we packed a cooler of food and a coffee can. The coffee can stayed in the back seat with us kids. I never had to use it. No. I learned to hold my bladder for as long as the tank held gas. I can still hear my grandma’s voice saying “go even if you don’t have to”, before we left the house. And although it’s probably TMI, you say ‘get in the car’, and, like Pavlov’s dog, I have to go to the bathroom.

Well, now I’m an adult and I don’t look at car trips the way my grandpa did. Last weekend, we took an impromptu trip to the beach, as impromptu as you can with 5 kids. On the way, not only did we stop just to stretch our legs at Los Banos, we also stopped at Casa de Fruita and played for 2 hours before resuming our trip.

You see, I’ve learned it’s not always about the destination. There are some interesting stops along the way that you’ll miss if you keep your eyes on the goal and never look around.

So how does this relate to publishing, because everything relates to publishing, right? ; )

When I started writing, my goal was clear: New York. Once I learned a wee bit about the industry, I adjusted that to polish book, find an agent and then New York. Quite frankly, that is still my long-term goal, although the book has changed. Three times.

But even then, I realize my long-term goal is only a step in the scheme of things. Even after I polish book, find an agent and publish with a major New York publisher, there is the next book and the next.

But that is in the future. What about now?

Now, I am enjoying the writing process, the creativity, the discovery. I am learning about the industry and the craft daily. I have met wonderful people on-line and at conferences, and even in my home town.

I am enjoying the journey.

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Land Ho!

The last few months have not been exactly productive for me writing-wise. As most of you know, I’m working almost full time writing articles for the Examiner and Demand Studios, plus whatever other freelance work I can find. Coupled with the household and yard chores, the kids and life in general, my writing hasn’t just faltered, my sails hung limp and lifeless. Becalmed.

I’d committed to writing 500 words a day on my fantasy WIP. Quite honestly, I was lucky if I got to 500 a week. But it wasn’t just the amount of words I was getting on paper that bothered me. The enthusiasm was gone. There was no magic. I kept waiting for that moment when the characters breathe in for the first time and attempt to yank the reins out of my hands. For those times when I just couldn’t type fast enough to keep up with the banter between characters. Instead, I was forcing myself to sit down and stare at a blank screen day after day. 

Everyone has a different method to the madness that is writing a manuscript. What works for me, may not work for you and visa-versa.

I tried a few tricks that usually work for me, closing my eyes and imagining the characters, listening to music that had originally inspired the characters to life, writing character profiles to figure out what made these people tick…. Not a puff of wind. Nada. Nothing. Zip. Empty sails.

So I stepped back and took a good look at my life, because, folks, publishing isn’t just my dream, writing brings me joy.

I write for at least 6 hours a day, mostly non-fiction, well, okay… all non-fiction. When I am done with my self-imposed, and bills-imposed, quota, I ‘let’ myself write fiction. My thinking was that since fiction is my heart, I will be motivated. Well, it didn’t work out that way. Quite frankly, after 6 hours of writing, I’m burnt out. I can’t string five words together in a way that would make even me want to read them.

So was this it? Did I put writing fiction aside until the kids were older, until I was more stable financially and could take the time to indulge my creative side? No, I didn’t consider it giving up, but facing life. The weekends are as busy, or busier than, the weekdays. Remember, no significant other, which leaves the yard work, the grocery shopping, car repair, the cleaning and the kid wrangling to me.  And the fact was, in circumstances as they were, as hard as I stared at that blinking screen, I wasn’t writing anyway.

And yes, I know writing is a job, but it’s one that necessitates creativity. It’s also one that doesn’t pay well.

This was more than a dry spell, more than writers block. There was water all around me and not a drop to drink.

And please don’t tell me if you love something, you’ll find time to  do it. I love to garden, but there have been times I’ve let my plants die because my priorities were else where. I love to bake, but throwing a batch of cookies together happens about once a month. Those detailed menus I love to put together after searching my cooking magazines? Haven’t seen one in about a year. 

Writing is my heart’s joy, but paying the bills so I have a house over my head comes first.

So I took another look, this time at the finances, and decided that for one week, I’d put fiction writing first and see what happened. I ignored blogs, twitter-for the most part, promotion for my alter ego, etc. For one week, writing was my priority.

I sat down on the first Monday and read through the files that I’d collected. I was again reminded how strong these characters were and how much I liked them. I found some plot holes and called a friend to say, ‘Let me tell you about my book’, which is a method of getting the ball rolling I hadn’t yet used. After getting off the phone, I made copious notes and signed on to the bank to pay the bills. This was the first hiccup. I’d forgotten about a check, one not-so-little check, that rendered the account down to nothing. I admit, I faltered, but I could sense that excitement building for my story again, so I shuffled money around and reaffirmed my decision to write.

I kept a running total. When I started I had less than 17K. The first day, I wrote about 1K, the next, a little over 2. By Day three, I was writing 4K; yes, 4K. The total for the week, including deletions and time for research is over 16K. Yippee! I mean Yippee! But that’s not the best news. Last week I went back to ‘work’ but with a slight change. Before I get out the non-fiction, I’m giving myself one hour to write first thing.

Now, I’m not getting anything like 4 K done in that hour, but I am averaging between 800 and 1200 words–good words, damn-I-like-that words. Do-I-have-to-stop-now? kind of writing.

Do you feel that? It’s a breeze.

It feels good.

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My good friend, and awesome writer, Kait Nolan, recently published her first novel, Forsaken by Shadow, the first book in the Mirus series. If you know Kait on twitter, then you already aware that she’s witty, intelligent and a fun tweeting partner. Not only does Kait have an informative blog about writing, Shadow and Fang,  check out her blog on cooking, Pots and Plots, for yummy recipes.  

To wet your whistle, here is a blurb for Forsaken by Shadow

Banished from their world with his memory wiped, Cade Shepherd doesn’t remember his life as Gage Dempsey, nor the woman he nearly died for. But when Embry Hollister’s father is kidnapped by military scientists, the only one she can turn to is the love from her past. Will Gage remember the Shadow Walker skills he learned from her father? If they survive, will Embry be able to walk away again?

Today I have a special treat for you all, Embry from Forsaken by Shadow has agreed, after being encouraged by her author, to sit and answer some questions.

Embry, tell us a little about yourself.

I am a firecaster. Well, sort of. My father is a firecaster. He’s able to manipulate and control flame. So am I, but where I differ from others of my race is that I can produce fire. I can thank my mother for that—and little else. As a fire elemental she wasn’t what you’d call a maternal figure. She gave me up after I was born, so it was always Dad and me. And then came Gage.

Can you tell us a little about the Mirus?

I could, but then I’d have to kill you. You’re not supposed to know about us, you see. It’s our greatest law. But hell, after everything that’s going on with your military, I guess it’s only a matter of time. I’m already suspended…

Mirus is the collective term for the entire paranormal world.  There are many races—from the usual suspects of vampires, werewolves, and witches, to other shifters, shamans, wraiths, the fae.  There are many races that humans have no mythology to explain.  We’ve been around as long as the humans have, in some cases longer.  For the last several centuries, we’ve lived in secret, hiding in plain sight.  We’re governed by the Council of Races, which you might think of as a paranormal United Nations.  Each race has representatives on the Council and they vote and determine the laws.  The name of the game is secrecy, as that’s believed to be the only way we will survive. 

When you saw Cade, whom you knew as Gage, in the ring for the first time, what’s the first thing that went through your mind?

He’s alive. I didn’t believe it, not really. It was like being sucker punched. After all these years…Matthias let me think that he was dead. Because of me. If this whole situation with my father being captured hadn’t come up, I doubt he’d ever have told me.

Gage had fallen in with an interesting crowd. Care to tell us a little about them?

Well I wasn’t in New Orleans long enough to get to know them, but despite Matthias’s intention to get Gage entirely away from our world, Gage still managed to wind up surrounded by it. His best friend was a Wylk—a wolf shifter. A crazy Cajun one who owned a bar. And his adopted mother figure Jeannette—well, I don’t know exactly what she was. A witch of some kind, maybe. She wasn’t easy to read.

What did you do all those years you thought Gage was dead?

As far as I knew, he was dead because I didn’t have enough control of my abilities. So I focused on learning control. I couldn’t be a Shadow Walker like I’d always wanted—that wasn’t one of my abilities, but I could still put my training to use and did when I joined the Investigation and Enforcement Division of the Council of Races. We’re what you might think of as the paranormal FBI. I made a pretty decent name for myself until I went rogue to rescue my father.

Do you think you would have tried to find Gage if you’d found out he was alive but your father wasn’t in danger?

I couldn’t have stopped myself. I would have had to see for myself that it wasn’t a lie, that he really had survived. I don’t know if I’d have approached him. :pauses to reflect: In saner moments, I’d have recognized that what Matthias did, wiping his memory, was the safest thing for him. As a human in the Mirus world, he could never be truly safe, and that’s why I always planned to walk away again when it was over. No matter how much it hurt. But I don’t know if I really could have done it.

When you found Gage, even after he remembered who he was, he could no longer Walk. Can you speculate on why?

Yes, he could no longer Shadow Walk. We didn’t know why at the time. I thought maybe it was a result of the memory spell—that it was going to take longer for everything to come back than I’d anticipated. Or maybe he’d been living human for too long. He shouldn’t have been able to Walk as a human in the first place, and Dad always speculated it was because he’d come to us as a child, before learning that certain things weren’t possible. Living as a human, he’d have lost that belief. As to why he truly couldn’t Walk, you’ll have to read to find out.

Tell us a little about your father.

My father is a Shadow Walker. That’s like the Special Ops Force in our world. He can control the shadows, travel by them. That’s what makes the Shadow Walkers so good at what they do. Dad’s a career Walker, but he hasn’t always agreed with the Council’s orders. He broke all kinds of rules to bring Gage home as a child and train him as his protégé.

It was a little reckless of you to attempt to rescue your father with no plan. That’s out of character. What else have you done in your life that’s a bit out of character?

I wasn’t always like this. I didn’t always have a plan, and I wasn’t so regimented—a fact which Gage likes to remind me of with regularity. But when Gage died—or I thought he had—everything changed for me. It was all because I lacked control. There’s no group more controlled than the IED. Maybe the fact is that losing my dad like that made me revert back to that time, when I was little more than a kid, when I thought I could do anything and the rules just didn’t apply.

Thank you Embry, I know you’re a busy woman. One more question. What’s next for you and Gage?

A vacation? Seriously. The world’s about to go to hell…we should take one while we still have the chance. We have a lot of catching up to do.

Good point.

You can learn more about Kait Nolan on Facebook and Goodreads.

Forsaken by Shadow is available at Scribd, Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes and Noble,

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Wading

This weekend, I didn’t write a word. Oh, I critiqued a few chapters, but write one of my own? No. Instead, I cleaned my house in the hopes that next week, I wouldn’t be so distracted and I’d be able to write more than I did last week.

That’s the theory any way.

Time to fess up. I love this project. I love the characters, the possibilities… the premise. So what’s the problem? Why aren’t the words flowing? Why am I not running to the computer every spare five minutes I have to add to the word count?

I’ve thought a lot about that this weekend and I think it comes down to  a unpalatable fact: It’s been so long since I’ve written anything new, I’m out of practice. Writing is like any skill. You stop—even if you’re stopping to edit, and edit, and edit—and you get out of shape. The muscles get weak; it’s harder to get started. One week in and I have 5 thousand words. It wouldn’t be so bad except I’d already had 3 thousand written. That’s weak.

So what to do? Mind over matter. Get in there and write, even if it hurts, even if I’m not feeling like it, even if I feel like I’m wading through hip-depth mud. I write and eventually, the ease will come, the story will flow.

I’ll let you know how it’s going.

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Done.

This morning I finished the first draft of my new novel. Yes, it will still need to be polished, but really, it’s there. 103,000 words of pretty darn good fantasy, if I do say so myself. And until I send it out to agents (and it gets published) I will have to say so myself.

I’ve sat down to work on the query several times today, but haven’t actually typed a word. I’m experiencing the familiar melancholy of a finished work. Well, familiar to me. For months I lived inside my characters’ minds and they in mine. Now is when I distance myself from the characters and story and become the editor, ruthless with my delete key, unyielding in my search for exposition, pitiless in weeding out unnecessary dialogue. Now is when I ‘kill my darlings.’

There really is no other job like it on earth.

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Now I know why agents have to ask you to finish a manuscript before you send a query.

 

When I first started querying agents, I read that little instruction with a bit of disbelief. Why wouldn’t you finish the manuscript? Now, no longer a complete novice, I know.

 

I hate waiting. Waiting for a possible rejection or even a possible acceptance is excruciating and I’m already feeling it now. In first draft!

 

I’m progressing at a little over a chapter a day, about nine a week. Intellectually, I know this is a pretty a good clip. I’m writing not just for volume but for content. But I’m impatient with myself and I feel like I’m going agonizingly slow.

 

In between chapters, I’ve been working on a query. I’ve got a pretty good framework now and I entertained the thought, briefly, of polishing it and sending it to all those agents who only want a query. Maybe *gasp* even polishing the first five pages, a synopsis and the query, sending them all out and then picking up the manuscript where I left off.

 

We all know that it can take up to six weeks and longer for an agent to respond even to the initial query. By then, heck, by the end of February, the entire manuscript will be completed. If I send the queries out now, I can work on the manuscript while I wait. I’d be wasting time if I didn’t. What am I waiting for?

 

She sighs and hangs her head. No. I won’t.

 

Why? It has to do with professionalism and honesty. If I tell an agent I have a complete manuscript for his or her review, I’m going to have a complete manuscript for review; even if it means spending weeks waiting. I do already have the next project in mind. It’s not like I’d be twittering my thumbs or having writing withdrawals.

 

On the other hand, can you think of a better way to assure an agent asks for a complete manuscript in record time than to not have one ready?

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I’ve just reached the 60,000 word mark (60,085 if you’re interested)for the new manuscript and although my goal was to be done today, I’m not, nor am I going to be.  And I’m not going to  beat myself up about it. I wrote  those 60,000 words in about a month, not bad if I do say so myself considering the whirlwind that is my life. I also estimated this draft would be about 40,000 words. You see I’m only sketching the plot out. I planned to add some of the details backgrounds, etc in the next draft… obviously I was off by at least 20,000 words and my new estimate is that this rough draft will hit 65-70,000 before I break it down and start shaping it chapter by chapter, line by line. I’m calling it a good thing. My rough drafts aren’t nearly so rough as they used to be and the next draft will be that much easier.

I really don’t know how other writers work, except of course SO, who spends quite a bit of time on charts and graphs. It’s odd, I’m a chart and graph person except when I write. My eyes glaze over and my brain goes on standby when he shows me the charts he’s made to track his character’s progression and tension levels. He also has lists of every person, place and object of importance, where they first enter the manuscript and why.

When I look at these things through my glazed eyes, I mentally kick myself in an attempt to snap out of it, but quite frankly I just can’t seem to do it. I have a simple excel that is broken down into scenes and groups the scenes into chapters. I type in a summary of each scene, POV, and word count. That’s it. But it works for me because if I think, damn, what was the name of those mountains?  I can look back and see when she crossed them the first time, pull up the chapter and there they are. Again, it works for me but I wonder if it’s enough.

I know editors have comprehensivestyle sheets and copy-editors will know your book better than you do. SO has shown me their lists and oh are they comprehensive. Enough to make me think copy-editors must be saints, or crazy…. ; ) So I’m wondering, is my lax attitude about such things one of the differences between published authors and writers such as myself? but then that’s where I hit a wall head on (this does wonders to get that brain working again) If I were to make a graph, chart a course for each of my characters, list everything before I write the book, I’d never write the book. The magic would be gone. One of the things I love about writing, one of the reasons I do it, is because I want to know what happens next. I love when a small little side character asserts him or herself and becomes a very interesting side plot. This happened with Mohan in Obsession. It also happened with Nathan in this manuscript but I’m not ready to share him yet. Mohan started out as a thief who tries to steals Ilythra’s horse. I’d planned on using him for maybe one or two scenes for the sole purpose of slipping in some of Ilythra’s backstory. Well here’s a snippet:

“And you tried to rob me because?”

“From time to time I … relieve others of their excess baggage. Even things out. A service to society at large.”

“You’re a thief.”

“We all must use the talent we possess.”

Ilythra smiled. “Then take a piece of advice. Choose whom you attempt to relieve of their excess baggage more wisely.”

“I always heed the advice of a beautiful woman.”

She removed the blade from his neck. “You’re not dangerous.”

 “Why do I feel I’ve just been insulted?”

She ignored his question, reached for her scabbard and sheathed the sword. “So you’re a thief, though not a very good one. You have a name?”

“I object. I’m a very good thief.”

This is only part of a conversation that come to me so fast it was hard to write it down in time (right before I fell asleep with the computer already off, that’s why I keep a pad of paper next to my bed.) My point is Mohan and Ilythra had chemistry. The kind of chemistry that just happens or at least I haven’t got a clue as to how to make it happen and I wouldn’t know how to chart something like that. I do know my little thief turned into a major character. And now I’m pulled between the desire to share more and indulge myself a bit and fear that you will curl your lip and think, what drivel, that’s why she hasn’t been published yet, but I’m working on my confidence so here’s a little more of their banter just shortly after the first bit.

…For a moment, she’d been vulnerable. He hadn’t taken the bait. “Your name?”

“Mohan.”                                                                                          

“That’s not your name.”

“If I answer to it, what does it matter?”

“I think I might like you.”

He bowed. “And you? Do you have name?”

“They call me Ilythra.”

“Which is not the same as your name.”

“It is who I am.”

His teeth flashed in the glowing embers of the fire. “We’ll get along fine.”

“Good, now that’s settled, why did you try to steal my horse?”

“Why did you say I was no danger?”

In a blur, a knife whirled through the air burying itself in a tree behind and above Mohan.

“Good point.”

“Answer the question.”

“Can I ask you something?”

“You just did.”

 

 

And so it goes…. : ) I’m still tempted to explain that it needs a final edit, but I won’t except I just did…. *sigh* yeah it’s that confidence thing.. I’m still working on it.

 

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Agents

must  be clearing out last year’s mail. There were another two rejections of my  Awakening query in my inbox today. One of which I sent at the beginning of October. I suppose in the world of publishing where everything is hurry up and wait, or so it seems, that’s not such a long time. But in the world of waiting to see, it’s an eternity. So I checked. There are six agents I’ve still not heard from. And yes I ended the sentence in a preposition. Sue me. It’s not even that big of a no no. Yup, feeling a little um, frisky today. Warehouse grocery shopping does that to me, and crowds, and the crowds that frequent warehouse grocery places are in a class by themselves. In this particular place, D4 asks to be put in the cart instead of wanting to help push it. 

I digress. But what’s new?

As I’ve said before, I really have moved on. It’s time to give the new manuscript a chance. And on that note, as I was driving home, an pitch idea for the new book came to me.  First some background. Yesterday I was reading one of the writer-type blogs that I frequent and this obviously talented writer was musing about her 10 word pitch.

Agents like a line that grabs you and as a writer, you are supposed to be able to summarize your book in the following ways: 4-6 page synopsis;  1-3 page synopsis; in a one page synopsis; in a paragraph or pitch and yes, in one line or a hook. You can dispute the names but that’s pretty much it.  I’ve actually read some agents who have said if you can’t do this, you’re not a real writer.  On my bad days, well, I won’t tell you my reaction; on my good days, I want to ask them if they want a PR person, who can write a jingle, or someone who can write a manuscript. Completely different talents, I assure you. Anyway, it must be done and since reading said blog, I’ve been mulling it over in my subconscious. Here’s what it came up with. If you can, please tell me what you think.

How much do you owe the enemy who saves your life?

 

Thanks for any input. Now I’m off to do character profiles. : ) Oh and here is a link to a wonderful and fun grammar site. Yes, grammar can be fun. I hope it works

http://www.grammarphobia.com/grammar.html

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