30 July 2014

Writing Coincidences

Let me start off by saying that I don't really believe in coincidences. Small, everyday ones, sure. But the bigger ones? I look at those as more of an intervention of fate. It can happen with a lot of different things--your eye just happens to fall upon an advertisement for something you need, or you just happen to run in to someone you know. I once went shopping at a Kohl's with my fiance (just boyfriend at the time) and we ran into my cousin's husband, then literally five seconds later my sister comes around the corner with her husband and daughter. We all just kind of stared at each other, wondering if we'd opened up some sort of wormhole.

Weird things can definitely happen in real life. So how do you work these kinds of moments into your writing? It's a rather tricky concept, because it's easy to feel forced. There's a good chance the reader won't believe this sort of coincidence will happen in real life. And if they don't believe what's happening, then you've lost them.

First of all, you really need to assess whether or not a coincidence is even necessary in your story. If you can think of a better way to make something happen, then you should probably do it that way. A coincidence should really only be used if it is absolutely necessary, if there is no other way to bring your character to a certain place or realization, or even bringing two characters together. My second tip would be to have your character(s) acknowledge it. Have them think, "hey, this is weird," or even wonder if fate is somehow involved. It may seem cheesy, but if it's just a passing thought and you don't hammer it over your reader's head, then by all means, play the fate card. Or heck, call it what it is--a coincidence!

I think my biggest bit of advice would be to not overdo it. Unless your entire book is about coincidences or the power of fate, you should probably only have one or two coincidences in there (if you need them at all). If you make something unbelievable happen over and over again, the reader is going to get annoyed. They're going to find themselves saying, "This would never happen!" And again, unless that's the point you're trying to make, this is not good.

Example time! I think (or hope, anyway) that I only have one coincidence in my WIP. Basically I had to get one character to another character's apartment for a pretty important scene, but with one major problem: he didn't know the address. In the short story version, the other character gives him his address, but as I reworked things, I realized this would never ever happen. So I had to think it over. I didn't really think this scene could happen anywhere else, and having the element of surprise when he just shows up at the apartment seemed to help. But where does he get that address?! I realized there was another character who had it--the MC's mother. Of course, he couldn't just ask for it. I thought about him rummaging through drawers and address books trying to find it, but that seemed silly.

Anyway, I'm rambling as usual, so I'll cut to the chase. Here's how I did it. Throughout this scene, my MC, Jordan, has been talking with his mother and the whole time she's been putting stamps on a stack of envelopes. He gets annoyed with her and announces that he's leaving. Then this happens:

            She threw the stack of envelopes at me. “Drop off the mail, then.”
           I would have glared at her but she wasn’t even looking, so I reached for the envelopes with one foot pointed toward the door. And then I had one of those perfect moments. If I hadn’t looked down for just a second, it might not have happened. But clearly it was supposed to happen, since the universe so conveniently placed the answer right in the palm of my hand. I mean, I’m used to getting my way, but this was more than that. This was a sign. Because guess whose name was on the top of that pile? And not just a name, but an address. 

Now, I certainly don't claim to be perfect with my writing, but I think I worked this coincidence in the right way. He acknowledges how this moment is weird and convenient, a sign, even. But he doesn't over think it. Once this paragraph is done, he doesn't mention the coincidence again. He just acts. He goes to that address, and the story moves forward. 

That's what a coincidence should do, really. It moves the story forward when it reaches a road block. You don't want to spend pages and pages over-analyzing the significance of this coincidence. Just let it happen, acknowledge it briefly, and move on. Let the coincidence do what it needs to do and then forget about it. Sure, sometimes coincidences are unbelievable, but you still need your reader to believe it. 

How do you guys deal with coincidences? Do you try to avoid them? Any examples in your books or ones you've read you'd like to share? 

28 July 2014

Getting Back on Track

All right, this is going to be a short one. I'm still coming out of a NyQuil induced coma. I was sure I was getting a cold yesterday but I think I fought it off. I don't feel sick anymore, but I'm still a little out of it. I was supposed to start my monthly book reviews today, but I've decided to push them to Friday. Yes, partly because I procrastinated and don't have them done. Partly. There are several other reasons, and I just think Friday is a better day to post that sort of thing. Anyway, moving on!

I don't remember the last time I worked on editing. It's probably been about two weeks. What have I been doing instead? That's a very good question. Lots of cooking and cleaning my apartment, a little reading, but all in all, I haven't been all that productive. I know I need to try harder, and stop avoiding things that I don't want to work on. I really, really, really need to work on my book every day if I ever want to get it done.

So that's what I'm going to do now. Stop procrastinating and get some stuff done!

25 July 2014

Reasons I Shouldn't Write a New Book, Plus My 1000th Movie!

I could have split this into two posts, but I've got something else planned for Monday, so what the hell? So I've been thinking about this sequel thing all week and I realize there are plenty of reasons why I shouldn't start it right now. So here they are!

Reasons I Should Not Start Writing a New Book
  1. How about I finish the first book before roaming off into sequel land, huh?
  2. I really just don’t have the time or the patience to craft a brand new character and create an authentic voice for her.
  3. I also may be permanently stuck writing teenage boy voice. I can’t even write poetry anymore.
  4. My muse might actually kill me for this one. Seriously. I come up with a sequel to Jordan’s story and he is not in it at all. He might be mentioned, but probably not by name. So he’ll probably sneak into my brain just at the right moment and BOOM—I fall down a flight of stairs.
  5. Actually, homicide isn’t really his style. But he would probably find some way to completely sabotage my life.
  6. I’m not entirely sure I can create a character in her mid-thirties (at least not without a lot of time and thought—which is not going to happen any time soon). When I picture her, she feels younger than she actually is. I see her hanging out with her best friend and I realize, wait a second, that friend is most likely married with a couple kids.
  7. Don’t make me research stuff! I kinda see this character being a florist, which I’d have to research. And her mother has a stroke at some point during the book, which I’d also have to research. And SETTING. I’d have to figure out where these people came from—what town, what is it like, blah blah blah.
  8. My original intent was to only HINT at things that happened in the first book, but I think that will confuse anyone who hasn’t read it and frustrate anyone who has. So I’ll have to have some big confession scene where my MC’s brother admits that he committed statutory rape. And I can’t picture her reaction at this point—she was molested as a child so there’s gonna be some resentment.
  9. I'm wondering if writing a sequel will somehow take away the credibility of the first book. I feel as though it SHOULD stand on its own, but I'm also really attached to the characters so I don't think I could ever be done with them. 
  10. No, seriously. I need to finish the first book. 
And just because:

Reasons I Should Write It at Some Point
  1. I think it could be a really good story—a gripping family drama where old wounds are reopened and secrets are brought to light.
  2. I could actually write from a woman’s point of view for once.
  3. I get to keep it in the universe of my first book, which I absolutely love.
  4. A while ago, I created this fabulous character, Anthony, who I thought I’d never get to actually use, but he would definitely pop up in this book.
So basically, it’s not that I should NEVER write it—it’s that I shouldn’t write it NOW. I do kinda want to outline this one, though, so it may be something to do when I need a break from editing the first book. I could always brainstorm a title, too, since it took me over two years to come up with the first one…

And now for something completely different!

I like to make lists. To-do lists, lists of blog ideas, etc. But there’s one list that I’ve been working on for years, constantly adding to it and making sure that I haven’t forgotten things. And that list is my movie list. The list of every movie I’ve ever seen.

A few years ago (haha few she says…it was 8) I found myself in an interesting position. I had just graduated high school but had deferred my enrollment to college for a year (life issues) and was waiting to move out of my house to a different town, so I didn’t want to look for a job until we moved. Basically I had a lot of time on my hands. I did do a lot of writing, after my late night coffee drinking/yoga sessions (don’t ask), but I also spent a lot of time on the internet.

I don’t really remember how I got the idea to make the list. I found a website called Lists of Bests (it recently shut down…sad face), which had several different kinds of lists you could follow and check off—movies you’ve seen, books you’ve read, places you’ve gone. And you could make your own lists, too. For some reason, I started one. I added every movie I’d ever seen.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s gotta be impossible to remember every movie you’ve ever seen. Well, not exactly. But it does take a LOT of time, which I had. I spent hours and hours browsing DVD pages on Amazon until I reached the very end, making sure I added each one to my list. I looked at every genre, looked for all of the TV movies I thought I had seen, and eventually it was done. Every movie I’d ever seen, in alphabetical order. It was quite the accomplishment. Occasionally I would remember a certain movie that I’d forgotten, but over time that stopped, so I was fairly certain I’d gotten every one, except maybe ones I watched but was too young to remember. And when I saw a new movie, I would add it to the list, making sure it was always accurate.

Anyway, I’m rambling way too much. When I found out Lists of Bests was shutting down, I had to completely redo my list on iMDb. You can look at it here (go on, you know you want to!). Here’s my current dilemma. If you do look, you’ll notice that right now there are 999 titles on the list. That’s right—I’ve watched 999 movies. Which means my next one will be the 1000th. It seems like a significant event, really, so I don’t want to watch just any movie. I want it to be a good one.  I haven’t watched any new movies in a while because I just can’t decide!

I’m open to suggestions! What the hell kind of movie should you see for your 1000th? There aren’t any movies out in theaters I’d like to see right now, and I would prefer to not have to pay for one, although the on demand movies would probably only be about $6, so what the hell? I have Netflix and HBO as well, but I just can’t decide! What should it be? 

Anyone ever need to convince themselves NOT to write something? What should my 1000th movie be? How many movies do you think you’ve seen? 

23 July 2014

Ideas are Like Flies

No, seriously. Think about it. When you get a new idea, doesn't it buzz around your brain like you're some rotten piece of fruit? You try to swat it away, you say "Shoo! I don't have time for you right now! I already have things to work on!" But it persists, zooming around your thoughts, distracting you from everything else. You realize you can't fight it off.

Ideas really seem to come at the worst times. When you don't have time to work on them. When you've already been working on a novel for three years and you really just want to finish it. But new ideas are exciting, too. They can give you a much needed break from the monotony of working on the same project day after day. They can give you reassurance that you have something else to work on once current work is done.

I don't even know where this new idea came from, really. It's kinda sorta a sequel to the book I'm working on now, but also not. The main character for this new book, if I write it, is only mentioned in the first book. She's the sister of one of the main characters (I mentioned her briefly in this post). For some reason I just kept thinking about her, wondering what her life is like, how she has to deal with things that happened in her past. And suddenly there was a story idea buzzing around my head! I never actually thought my book would have a sequel, especially one where Jordan isn't in it. At all. He's going to be mad at me for this one...

Here's my dilemma, and I think I'll go more in depth with this concept in a different post at some point, but I'll explore it briefly here. If I do end up writing this book, there will be this odd scenario where the reader will know more than the main character (assuming they've read the first book). I picture this book taking place about two years after the first one, but the MC has absolutely no clue about the things that happened to her brother two years before. I'm thinking I'll probably hint at it, possibly even have him confess to her, since the whole book involves their entire family dealing with their demons. It would also be the second book where I use a character and still not write from his perspective.

I'm not sure yet. I'm not sure if I'm even going to write it. It just keeps buzzing around my head.

21 July 2014

Editing Irony

Sometimes when you're editing your manuscript, you may think you know exactly what it needs. A certain idea may feel right, and you squeeze it in and move on, thinking that it fits in perfectly with the rest of the novel. But then when you go back and look again, does it still fit? What if the original draft was better than the new one?

Now, I'm not in any way saying that my first draft is better than my second. It's not. Not by a long shot. When I wrote the second draft, it was basically a line by line rewrite of the first. I moved around some scenes in the first few chapters, made the chapters shorter by having certain scenes stand on their own, but other than that, not much changed as far as structure goes. The events in the story still happened in the same order, and this draft was more about just making the writing better.

About a third of the way in, however, I found myself in need of a new scene. I had one scene for a chapter--a good scene, one of my favorites, actually. But it was only 2 1/2 pages. My chapters so far averaged about 4-6 pages each. I didn't think this particular scene could stand on its own, nor could I stretch it out without making it seem dull and boring--diluting it, basically. So I thought, hey, this is a great place for a brand new scene. I could sneak in some background info on a character that was long overdue, and wasn't there at all in the first draft.

So I wrote the new scene. It took me forever--about three weeks, actually. I couldn't really understand why I was having such a hard time. The dialogue was really hard to figure out for some reason, and I kept stopping because it seemed that the scene felt forced, and I really wanted to get it right. Well, eventually I did finish and kept going with the second draft until it was done. This was the only scene that was brand new--the only thing that there was no trace of in the first draft.

When I read through the second draft, I didn't like this scene. It did still feel forced, there was too much dialogue, and I was wondering if I needed it at all. I knew if I cut it, I would either have to write something new or do some drastic rearranging of scenes. But it just didn't feel right, and I didn't know if I could fix it.

It was easy to make the decision to cut this scene. The hard part was figuring out the hole it left. There were some elements in this scene that I thought I needed, and I figured out different parts of the book to move that to--places where they'll fit in better. And I realized that I needed that first scene to somehow stand on its own. I have no idea how yet, but I'll figure it out. I need to figure out a way to stretch it out without diluting it. I still want it to feel as strong as it does now.

The ironic part (I think...) is that the ONLY part that was brand new in the second draft is also the ONLY scene I am 100% cutting. Maybe I needed to write this horrible scene to figure a few things out, but in the end, it just didn't fit in. I wouldn't say that writing it was a complete waste of time, but I do find it funny how things turned out.

16 July 2014

Distractions and Disasters

I have no idea what to write about today. No, seriously. I don't. I don't have any good writing tips today, no big editing achievements to share. Nothing. Also, the fact that my last TWO blog posts didn't require much effort on my part just shows how lazy I am. Or perhaps idea drained...

I feel really distracted lately. My mind keeps wandering off to other projects--things that couldn't possibly help me right now. I know sometimes it's good to take a break when you're immersed in the same story for so long, but I don't feel like I'm getting anything done.

I feel like every idea I ever have to schedule myself never works. And not just when it comes to writing. I'm trying to exercise more and eat better, but my plans aren't going as well as I'd thought. Or maybe it's just because my body isn't used to doing crunches so after the first day my abs were in agony. But it's the same with writing, too. I try to structure myself and it never works. The whole editing hat thing started out great, but I find myself throwing numbers back into the hat because I don't want to work on those parts, which sort of defeats the purpose of the hat. Maybe just working on things randomly really does work best for me. I just feel like I'm not getting things done fast enough.

It's not all terrible, though! I've been doing some brainstorming on the subplot (which actually needs more work than the plot itself) and it's slowly starting to pan out in my mind. I also figured out some scene rearranging yesterday and I think it will all work out. I have to flesh out a particular scene so that it can be its own chapter, but as it's a very symbolic scene, I think I can pull it off. I'm also cutting the only scene that was brand new for the second draft (hmm, there's an idea I could blog about...just not today...).

Anyway, I should go deal with these minor characters. They're driving me nuts...

What is everyone else up to?

14 July 2014

SOULLESS Cover Reveal!

I'm super excited to be helping out another awesome author today, Crystal Collier! I just finished reading Moonless, Book 1 in this trilogy, and I could not put it down. I'll have a mini-review up later this month for my first "Hey, I Read Your Book!" segment. For now, check out the cover and details for the next book in the series, Soulless! *sigh* October?! I don't think I can wait that long...

Have you met the Soulless and Passionate? In the world of 1770 where supernatural beings mix with humanity, Alexia is playing a deadly game.

SOULLESS, Book 2 in the Maiden of Time trilogy

Alexia manipulated time to save the man of her dreams, and lost her best friend to red-eyed wraiths. Still grieving, she struggles to reconcile her loss with what was gained: her impending marriage. But when her wedding is destroyed by the Soulless—who then steal the only protection her people have—she's forced to unleash her true power.

And risk losing everything.

What people are saying about this series: 

"With a completely unique plot that keeps you guessing and interested, it brings you close to the characters, sympathizing with them and understanding their trials and tribulations." --SC, Amazon reviewer

"It's clean, classy and supernaturally packed with suspense, longing, intrigue and magic." --Jill Jennings, TX

"SWOON." --Sherlyn, Mermaid with a Book Reviewer

Crystal Collier is a young adult author who pens dark fantasy, historical, and romance hybrids. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, three littles, and "friend" (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her blog and Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

COMING October 13, 2014

PREORDER your print copy
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11 July 2014

Kyra Lennon's SIDELINED

**Today I have a very special guest taking over as part of the blog tour for her book Sidelined, the awesome Kyra Lennon! Take it away, Kyra!**

Hello, thanks for having me, Sarah!

Before I get to the guest post, here’s a little bit of backstory for those who are unfamiliar with the Game On series. In Book 1, Taylor was the girlfriend of Jesse Shaw, the youngest player on the Westberg Warriors soccer team. She was also kind of twisted, and her actions had an effect on a lot of the characters. In Sidelined, Taylor returns, and she is just as evil as ever! During the story, Taylor’s journal makes an appearance, and it reveals some of her inner thoughts. This guest post is an excerpt from Taylor’s journal – a snippet from her warped little mind!

So… I’ve been thinking about Jesse a lot lately. Yeah, yeah, I get it. I messed up. Okay, I didn’t mess up, I killed our relationship because I wanted something better. He was never everything I want, but he’s pretty close. Good-looking, famous, getting richer all the time. Plus, he was sweet to me. I miss that.

The problem is, he’s not stupid. He doesn’t trust me, and if I’m gonna get him to trust me again, I’m going to need some serious help. Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those diary entries where I spend hours writing down the options until I figure out the right thing to do. I don’t have time for that crap – I already know what I need to do. I need to get Bree back on my side. She IS an idiot. I can get her to trust me again, I know I can. All I gotta do is compliment her, and tell her how sorry I am, and she’ll be on my side in no time. With any luck, I’ll get her away from the clutches of Loser Leah and No-Fun Freya, and she’ll help me. She’ll sweet talk Jesse and she’ll help me get him back.

And Kayla! Jesse’s sister always liked me. She’s just a dumb kid – she’ll be as easy to win over as Bree.

That’s the problem with people who are brought up to always see the best in someone. They’re stupid. Naïve. My mom TRIED to teach me to look for the best in people, but what’s the point in that? There’s none. I look for the best people who can make my life better. Why hang out with people who can’t do anything for me? All this compromise crap is pointless. Jesse can give me what I want, and I can pretend to love him until someone better comes along.

But first, I need to figure out the best way to get Bree’s attention. Ha, perhaps I should leave a Prada bag and a cryptic note outside her door, or near her car. Maybe not cryptic, she’ll never work it out. I suppose with her, the best way to go is simple – a “chance” meeting or something. I better put my game face on – I got some faking to do! 
~     *     ~

Blurb: At the age of twenty-one, Bree Collinson has more than she ever dreamed of. A handsome husband, a fancy house, and more shoes than Carrie Bradshaw and Imelda Marcos combined. But having everything handed to her isn’t the way Bree wants to live the rest of her life. When an idea to better herself pops into her head, she doesn’t expect her husband to question her, and keep her tied by her apron strings to the kitchen.

Isolated and unsure who to turn to, Bree finds herself falling back into a dangerous friendship, and developing feelings for the only person who really listens to her. Torn between her loyalty to her husband and her attraction to a man who has the perfect family she always wanted, she has some tough choices to make.

While Bree tries to figure out what she wants, a tragedy rocks the Westberg Warriors, triggering some dark memories, and pushing her to take a look at what’s really important.

About the Author:

Kyra is a self-confessed book-a-holic, and has been since she first learned to read. When she's not reading, you'll usually find her hanging out in coffee shops with her trusty laptop and/or her friends, or girling it up at the nearest shopping mall.

Kyra grew up on the South Coast of England and refuses to move away from the seaside which provides massive inspiration for her novels. Her debut novel, Game On (New Adult Contemporary Romance), was released in July 2012, and she scored her first Amazon Top 20 listing with her New Adult novella, If I Let You Go.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

09 July 2014

My Magical Editing Hat

I've found an interesting and fun way to work on editing my book and busting out a third draft.

I finished my read-through of the second draft, marked it up with my red pen. I made cuts, added some things in, asked A LOT of questions in the margins. I made notes. I printed out all the emails from my beta reader and highlighted them. I was pretty sure everything that needed to be fixed was jotted down SOMEWHERE. I just wasn't sure how I wanted to start. I didn't want to go through like I did with the second draft, editing line by line, because that's really not necessary at this point. There are more big picture sort of things that I need to figure out, but the story itself doesn't really need to be rewritten. Some rearranging, some adding, some cutting, but not rewriting.

The first thing I did was open a new document and paste the
entire manuscript into it. I went through the whole thing page by page and put in all of my easy edits--all of the words I crossed out with my red pen. This took a few days but it was relatively easy. As for all of my comments and questions, I put those in as well, using the Comment feature under Review in Microsoft Word. Basically everything I wrote on my hard copy, I put into the digital one. Then I stared at it for a while, thinking, now what?

I didn't really feel like editing in order. Why? I don't really know, I just didn't. I hardly ever write things in order, either, so I wasn't surprised. There are some parts I'm really excited to edit, other parts I'm dreading (cough...sex scene...). I just had no idea which part to choose first. So I decided to leave it up to chance! I started cutting up little pieces of paper, folded them up, asked for one of my fiance's hats (he has a lot of stupid fedoras that he never wears but he gave me his Breaking Bad hat instead...) and voila! I had my magical editing hat!

How does it work? Well, each comment in the Word document is numbered, and there were 249 of them. Some are easy fixes--a quick rewrite of a sentence or paragraph, fixing some awkward wording. Some involve more thinking. Others involve complete scene overhauls. Each piece of paper in the hat corresponds with a comment. So I give the hat a shake, grab a piece of paper, and whatever number I get, that's the comment I have to work on.

But it's not just numbers. Oh, no. There are some bigger things that I didn't write in the margins of my manuscript. Figuring out the subplot, sneaking in certain moments or symbolism. So some of these pieces of paper contain a handwritten note instead, some requiring a free write about a certain character or rearranging a few scenes. Or I could get this one, requiring me to go through my LONG list of things to Ctrl+F and cut back on (364 "really"s. Really.)
Or I could get this one! Dun dun dun. 

It's working so far, except when I'm editing too late at night and pick a number that's too complicated to figure out, then just throw it back in the hat. It's fun, not knowing what I'll be editing next. I think it helps, too, to not be staring at the same page for hours trying to figure out how to fix a sentence. The back and forth keeps it refreshing, keeps my brain awake. Hopefully I can keep this up until I've gone through every little scrap of paper in that hat.

07 July 2014

Jordan Takes Over: Finding the Right Word

**The first Monday of every month, I let my muse take over the blog. I apologize in advance.**

I’m back, bitches! Did you miss me? I know, I know—I haven’t written a blog post in forever. And it’s not because of laziness (no matter what Sarah tells you) or anything. It’s just…well, the last time I did a post was sort of last minute and not all that thought out. And it kinda sucked, really. So basically if I don’t have a good idea, I’m not gonna write a post every month, even if a certain someone starts kicking me. Yeah, ok, she kicks. But I bite.

Anyway! Today we’re gonna talk about word choice. Sometimes it’s easy, other times, not so much. Sometimes when you picture a scene, the words will just pop into your head without any effort at all (and on behalf of all the muses—you’re welcome). Other times you can struggle for hours just trying to get one sentence out (we really don't have anything to do with that...). 

What I really want to talk about is finding a word that works. One that fits with the scene you’re writing as well as the voice of the character (or the narrator if you’re using third person). Sometimes these two things don’t coincide. You may come up with the absolute, most perfect word ever to describe what is happening, but then realize that your narrator would never use this word—he may not even know this word exists. So then what? Do you leave that word in and hope no one notices—that the reader will suspend their disbelief about your narrator’s vocabulary?

Chances are that word is going to stick out like a sore thumb (wait…do sore thumbs stick out? Who came up with that phrase?). You want your voice to be authentic, because even if one word feels off, the reader is going to notice, and it’s going to take them out of the story. You want them to be so engulfed in your story that they forget that they’re reading one. And if they hit one of those words like a bump in the road, it will hit them: “Oh, right. This isn’t real.”

So how do you fix this problem? Well, first of all, you have to know your narrator. You have to know how he or she speaks and what sort of words and phrases will be believable for them. Once you have the voice developed enough, it should come naturally to you. But if you have a bigger vocabulary than your narrator, from time to time, you might come up with a sentence that maybe you would say but your narrator wouldn’t. That sentence may seem perfect for the situation, and it probably is, but if it doesn’t also fit your narrator’s voice, it isn’t going to work.

Example? I thought you’d never ask! So in my book, I’m fifteen and so I don’t have too many fancy words that I would use. But when miss writer lady was writing a particular sentence, the perfect word seemed to be “pretense.” Here’s what the sentence started out as: “I just wanted to strip away all of our clothing and pretense until all that was left was him and me, nothing in between.” Uh, right. Like I would ever use that word. In theory, it was perfect—a noun meaning pretending or make-believe. If you have pretense, then you’re faking something. That was the point she was trying to make—that the characters were pretending, faking—that this act was what was keeping them apart.

But that word just didn’t fit. It felt off. It was something I would never say. So we went to the thesaurus. It wasn’t much help. Charade, act, façade. Nothing seemed to fit both what she was trying to say and the voice of the narrator. Which isn’t to say that the thesaurus can’t be your best friend. We’ve found plenty of alternative words when she came up with some big, fancy schmancy word that I would never use. But sometimes, you’re gonna have to do a bit more thinking, which is exactly what we had to do. We had to let that pretense sit there for weeks—months, even—before finding the answer. Really, sometimes the best thing you can do is to just walk away. Keep writing. Perfect the voice a little more. Get inside the narrator’s head a little more. Write him or her in different situations. And then maybe when you go back to that imperfect phrase, the perfect word will slap you in the face.

And that’s exactly what happened. Because the perfect alternative for “pretense” in this particular sentence turned out to be…drumroll please…BULLSHIT. I’m serious. Here, look at it now: “I just wanted to strip away all of our clothing and bullshit until all that was left was him and me, nothing in between.” Sounds better, right? Less awkward? Like something I’d actually say? Honestly, I think it gets the point across even better than “pretense.”

So trust your narrator and trust your gut. If you think a word is wrong, it probably is, and if you notice it, your readers probably will, too.

See you next month! Maybe.


02 July 2014

Some Minor Insecurities

It's that time again! The first Wednesday of every month is the posting day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Click the link to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog and learn more!

First Wed of Every Month

Well, I can't sleep, so I figured I would get this done now. I'm actually sitting in the empty bathtub with my laptop since my fiance is sleeping and I would wake him up with all of this typing. Oh, how I wish for two rooms.

I think I'm slightly insecure over several things right now. Not majorly insecure, just slightly.

I'm thinking of going to the Cape Cod Writers Conference in August. I don't know. I'm not very good at interacting with people. I can picture myself just going to the workshops and then sitting in my car for the rest of it. It would also cost a lot of money that I probably shouldn't spend, and it falls on my birthday weekend so I would be there the entire day. I was excited about it at first, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like I don't want to go, or that I shouldn't.

I finished my read through/ marking up with a red pen of the second draft a few hours ago, which means I have to start my final (hopefully) rewrite of Uneven Lines. This is kind of scary, for several reasons. First, I have to actually get it done. I have to fix all of the problems. I have to rewrite that damn sex scene (which will NOT be vague, I have decided after an email discussion with my only beta reader. Basically all of my fears about the buildup not being released would definitely be true if I were to make it vague). I should probably get a few more beta readers, you know, real ones, since all of my friend/coworker readers never said anything, not even that they read it at all (there's an insecurity all on its own!). I have to rip apart the subplot and figure out what the hell it's doing there. And I really want to get this done within a month. I want to get queries out (scary!). I want to actually do something with this book because I feel like I've been working on it my entire life (ok, not really).

I have to clean my apartment because I have a friend coming over this weekend. I have to figure out something to cook that I won't ruin! And dessert! Cupcakes? I always make cupcakes...

Anyway, I think I would stay up all night writing if it weren't so damn hot in the bathroom with the door closed. Off to bed.