Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Naughty Words

I have a problem.

I like to use naughty words.
No! Not THOSE kinds of naughty words! Gees.... I write Young Adult, people!

But although the words of which I speak are not the taboo, four letter bar-of-soap-in-mouth kind of words, they ARE words that will make your writing posse cringe, send your editor into a red-pen scribbling frenzy and cause your agent to loose sleep at night...

That is, if I had an editor.... and an agent.... which I don't....


Nonetheless, the words of which I speak, are words I'm certain you've all been guilty of over-using at least once or twice in a WIP:

was, were, very and--sadly--anything ending in "ly."

I try not to. I really do. Last week during my writing posse meeting, I was [see, there I go again with the was!] so excited because I had gone through and scrupulously eliminated all but 3 or 4 was-es from my pages.... only to find out that I had overdone it with the "ly."

Can't a girl ever win?

I used to think it weird that people actually noticed the use of "was" and "ly" adverbs in manuscripts. I have to admit that--until recently--I didn't notice it at all, either when fellow struggling-to-get-published friends used them, nor when actual published authors used them.

HOWEVER, now that its been pounded into me by several of my writer friends, including--but not limited to--Kristi-freakin'-sparkles-Pritchett (thanks, girl!), have t to admit:

I notice it now. 


I think writing is better without it. 

Look what you've done, Kristi Pritchett... you'd done gone and made me a good writer!

Its still a struggle. At present, my natural inclination is to use "was," "were" and "ly" all the time. But the good news is: I notice it!

Which basically is just another way of saying that my editing process is much LONGER, because I have to sit and think of ways I can say things different, but still get the same idea across. [sigh] No one ever said this job was easy!

But seriously, I love being apart of a writing critique group. Simple little mistakes (like the was-es) that I don't often notice and wouldn't have thought were "bad," can be fixed with a simple suggestion. Which will, in turn, be a great improvement to my writing. This, I think, is the awesome thing about being in a writing critique group.

Well, that, and the social aspect, of course ( :

[That was my shout out support for critique groups... if you're not in one, take a hint and go join one! They're the best!]

But enough about me, what are some of YOUR formidable writing sins?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Admit... Sometimes, I Judge

We've all heard the proverbial saying before...  I mean, its only been pounded into our heads like a million times since infancy. And don't tell me you've never heard it before.

Because I know you have....

Don't judge a book by its cover.

See, I told you you've heard it.

And don't get me wrong here, I know that's good advice. Really, I do. There are plenty of fantastic books I've read whose covers were, well, less than inspiring right off the shelf.

BUT... sometimes its just too gosh darned hard NOT to judge. Like this one:

I mean, how do you pick up that book and NOT want to read it?! Especially when it has: "A rousing adventure story in the tradition of The Hunger Games" plastered at the top. As an avid Hunger Games fan, that got me.

And the weird water eye thing? Yeah, that got me too.

There's something to be said for marketing, my friends.

And since I know I can't possibly be the only judg-er out there, what book covers have inspired--or UN-inspired--YOU?

P.s. This actually did turn out to be a pretty freakin' fantastic book. I read it in like 24 hours... I couldn't put it down! My only complaint was a slight issue with the ending. But I won't tell you what that issue was... don't want to give away any plot details! But for those of you who HAVE read it and would like to discuss spoilers, I'd be more than happy to hash it out with you!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Accent Predicament: to use or not to use...

So, dear readers, in a never-ending quest to find that perfect story my future agent just can't get enough of, I've begun a new adventure! I'm still editing Keepers, polishing and perfecting and the like, but there really isn't that much left to do. As such, I've move onto the other characters dying to get out of my head and onto paper.

My new story, which shall, for the moment, remain title-less due to lack of any flashes of brilliant inspiration, takes place here:

...on the coast bordering the beautiful Highland mountains of Scotland. It involves a strong, handsome fisherman named Kade, who probably looks something like this:

...who falls in love with a beautiful, cunning, trickster maiden with violet eyes, wild dark hair, and... oh yeah... she's a mermaid named Alastrina. She might look something like this:

...with darker hair and dark violet/blue eyes, of course. 

My story is completely outlined (thanks to Blake Snyder's beat sheet and Save the Cats) and I've already started writing the first few chapters. I'm SO incredibly excited about this story, as its not like anything I've ever written. I'm thrilled to be diving into this unique world!

But I'm having a "wee bit" of a problem.

For the life of me, I can't decide what to do about the Scottish accent.

Born in Nebraska and raised in Idaho, I'm about as American as they come--accent and all. True, I've spent a fair amount of time traveling and living abroad. However, this still has not prepared me for writing in another language, (so to speak).

Because I've imagined my story in Scotland, and I'm trying to draw on Scottish folklore, I really want to make sure the reader can hear the unique roll of the Scottish accent coming out of my characters. HOWEVER, at the same time, I know that writers who try to execute accents in their stories often frustrate and confuse readers.

This, I do NOT want to do!

I took the first chapter of this new story to my writing posse this week for critique. They had some wonderful suggestions on how I could execute the Scottish-ness without going overboard. I'll probably implement many of their ideas into my writing.

But I wanted to extend my advice, and 'cast my net'--so to speak--even further. Have any of you had experience writing accents/dialect other than English? I'm particularly interested in hearing from those of you from other countries, or who have lived abroad for any period of time. How would you suggest going about writing a Scottish accent--if at all?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Importance of Support

I just finished reading my friend, Lauren's book, called: The Evil Overlord Society's Guide to Becoming an Evil Overlord! And besides having what I think is an incredibly cool name, the EOS (which Lauren has dubbed it for short) is a quirky, snarky, fun novel with a new twist on what it means to be a superhero (yes, costumes, alter egos, masks and all!) It'll be on the shelves in... oh... I don't know... say a year or two? I'm not sure when--Lauren and I are both anxiously waiting replies for agents who may or may not decide that we're worth their time. But someday, people, S.L. Hennessy and her Evil Overlord book will be sitting on the shelf at your local Barnes and Noble, and guess what?
Yup, that's right, I'll be able to say I read it before you!

Of course, being a part of a writing group, I have the opportunity to get sneak peaks at a LOT of books that will undoubtedly make it on the shelves someday. But Lauren's is the first manuscript--besides my own--that I've read from start to finish. The opportunity to read Lauren's book not only provided me with a bit of fresh, new literary entertainment, but it also gave me the chance to support a friend and fellow writer, something I've been thinking a lot about over the past few weeks.

Since graduation, and with a tinsey bit more time on my hands, I've started to make a greater effort to reach out and become involved with other writers--both in person and virtually... [*waves* to all my virtual friends!]. But this wasn't an easy decision...  

I entered the virtual world of book blogging and my real life circle of writers with a fair amount of trepidation, wondering what I would find. Would I be liked? Would others scorn my efforts at writing? Would it be a cut-throat competitive world? Would people try to tear my writing down in order to bring themselves up? At the prospect of extending myself to other writers, I had so many questions, doubts and worries floating around in my head. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea... I wondered if it would be better to simply go about my writing in private, and remain disconnected from other writers.

I am SO glad I decided against that option!

After joining a writing group and becoming more involved in the book blogging world, I was met with a staggering amount of encouragement, empathy and what seemed like instant and endless support. Its incredible... like one massive cheer squad... or--as the nerd in me would prefer--one massive pep band!

Of course, I've found a few negative people amongst all the positive. But to say I'm surprised by the amount of loving support would be an understatement.

And I'm so grateful for it!

This is what we writers need... the excitement and encouragement from other writers going through the exact same thing we are. You are the best kind of support. You understand me. I understand you.

We "get" it.

So, THANK YOU, my fellow writers [and non writer supporters too, of course!], for your camaraderie and "go get 'em" attitude... for empowering me to meet my potential, and for laying a foundation of confidence for me to blast off of. Its been much needed and much appreciated as I've marched my way through this "writing journey." I truly hope that I've been just as good to you as you've been to me! We're all in this together, and I sure hope I've been that kind of friend and support you've been to me.

You're all awesome! And as editor and author Chuck Sambanchino would say: Rock on!

Or just: Write on. Which is so much better, right?!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I just have to vent for a minute.

Like many of you, my dear YA readers and writers, I got excited this past weekend, for the upcoming release of the first official Breaking Dawn trailer.

[cue applause and boos for respective lovers and haters]

Like I do with many much-anticipated books and movies, I posted the trailer on my fb page. NORMALLY, this action doesn't merit much of a response from anyone. Exhibit A: I was thrilled with the Water for Elephants release, but when posting my excitement about it on fb I got maybe 2 comments, at best. Exhibit B: I'm equally as excited to see The Help (which is coming out this summer) as I am for Breaking Dawn, but most people don't give a monkey's behind about The Help.  

So why, I must ask, is it that when I post a Breaking Dawn clip on fb, that suddenly all the haters seem to come out of the woodwork??

Yes, I admit, I felt the twinge of delicious anticipation at seeing the wedding invitation, squealed predictably  during the required Jacob-running-around-shirtless scene, and let out a sigh of giddy excitement at the sight of Bella was walking down the aisle with Charlie to an adoring Edward. And I must ask:

What's wrong with that?! 

Look, I get that there are more original story lines out there. I get that Shakespeare had a better grasp of the English language than Stephenie Meyer. And I get that--unlike Bella--when your boyfriend dumped you, it didn't hurt so much that you sat around like a sap for 6 months moping, which, of course, just goes to show how tough YOU are... [go ahead, pat yourself on the back].

But what does that have to do with me enjoying what I perceive as a good story?

People. I like Twilight. I like the Hunger Games. And I--most assuredly--am a Harry Potter fan (yes, I DID read HP 1-4 9 times before losing count). There's nothing wrong with being exited about a series (and all the good things that follow... ie: a movie franchise) if you really truly enjoy the story. And although the many haters of the world may mock and scorn me for my devotion to these beloved blockbusters, in my oh-so-humble opinion, one of the most ridiculous things is when a hater says:

"I just don't like it cause it's popular."

Okay, seriously? If you don't know what's idiotic and ironic about that statement I want you to go on a nice long drive and think about it until you have an answer.

In the meantime, can't I just enjoy my stories--however lame, predictable, badly written or sappy you may perceive them to be--in peace, please??

I'm interested in YOUR thoughts. What do you think about haters/lovers and hype surrounding popular blockbuster novels?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Saving the Cat

Recently, I received some--and I quote--"life changing" advice from a fellow-soon-to-be-published-writer, Nikki Loftin. She gave an absolutely FABULOUS presentation at the Houston Writer's Conference in May. She was seriously so stinkin' hilarious! My sides were painfully bruised from all the laughing. How did my ribs get bruised from laughing? I don't know. But they did. I heart Nikki.

And it didn't hurt that she handed out chocolate.

I heart chocolate too. Teehee.

ANY-whoo. During the course of her oh-so-awesome presentation, and whilst in the middle of nibbling on some delectable chocolate, Nikki adamantly recommended a book called Save the Cat, about which she said (and I quote again) "Page 70 will change your life."

Now if that's not motivation to read a book, I don't know what is. So of course, I acquired a copy of Save the Cat.

The first thing I did after acquiring said copy, was flip to page 70, eager to meet my "life changing" moment head on! Unfortunately, instead of jumping up and down with elated joy over happy life changes, my face looked something like this:
For those of you who have never before tried jumping into the middle of a book with the full expectations of understanding all intricate details the author is trying to convey, I suggest you try it. Then, your face too can look something like that.

It took me all of five seconds to realize that page 70 wasn't going to be my life changing miracle without reading the rest of the book first.

But, on the never ending quest to search for that golden piece of advice that will forever alter my writing universe as I know it, I read the context surrounding page 70.

No... not the whole book. Just the chapter.

But it was enough.

Page 70 is a compilation of the "Blake Snyder Beat Sheet," or in other words, Blake Snyder's really-awesome-guide-to-writing-a-superb-plot! I'm going to include it here in the hopes that because you can't really understand it without reading the WHOLE chapter (believe me, I've tried), that I won't get sued for copyright violations.

Blake brakes the story arch into 15 parts:

(1) Opening Image
(2) Theme Stated
(3) Set-up
(4) Catalyst
(5) Debate
(6) Break into Two
(7) B Story
(8) Fun and Games
(9) Midpoint
(10) Bad Guys Close In
(11) All is Lost
(12) Dark Night of the Soul
(13) Break into Three
(14) Finale
(15) Final Image

Now you see why my face was confused? Just remember, it makes sense after reading the rest of the chapter. Granted, this advice is meant to apply to screen writing... but I think it works just as well with outlining a novel plot, and I applied it as such.

The results? Fabulous!

I just outlined my new mermaid story today (yes, I decided to go through with my genre jumping... see post below), and with Blake Snyder (bless his soul!) as my guide, I was able to complete said outline in just a few hours! Outlining the Snyder way really made me think about all my intricate plot details in an organized fashion. Suddenly all of my oh-so-awesome story ideas about mermaids in the Scottish highlands were play-doughed into a cohesive, sensible and very intriguing story arch.

Read it, people. Love it. It really will change your life. 

P.s. If I ever get around to reading the beginning of the book, I'll do a follow up post on why the book is called "Save the Cat."