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.

30 June 2014

My Week Without TV

I came to a horrible realization on Saturday night: since I quit my job, I've gained five pounds. I thought after I left, I would immediately start losing weight because I ate the food at my work almost every day and it is not good for you. After I started at that job, I eventually gained 30 pounds (I've lost about ten of that...er...five...). My horrible will power can be a discussion for another day. I figured out my problem immediately--while I've stopped eating the work food, my eating habits haven't gotten all that better. I have a tendency to snack all day, which isn't helped by the fact that I'm home all of the time. My job also required a lot of movement, being on my feet for eight straight hours, and breaking a sweat on most shifts.

Basically I don't move anymore. Even when I am being productive, that means sitting on my bed with my laptop (or my awesome blue binder) in my lap checking out blogs and getting some editing done. The most I do is when I occasionally have to run errands or do the laundry.

So yes, I need to get up and move. I need to eat better. But there's something else that is both promoting my laziness and keeping me from being as productive as I'd like. TV. I just watch waaaaaaaaaay too much of it. Most of the time it's not even necessary. If I watched just the shows I like that have new episodes right now, it would only take up a few hours every week. But that is not all I watch. I have the TV on ALL THE TIME. Do you know how easy it is to get caught up in a Law & Order marathon? It's kind of ridiculous how much TV I watch. I've also developed a bad habit where I have to be watching TV if I'm eating.

So here's my plan: for one week, starting now until next Monday morning, I'm not going to watch TV. I may even have my fiance hide the remote or take the batteries to work with him. I'm also going to try and exercise every day. I think I will get SO MUCH DONE without the TV on. More time for editing, reading, writing new stuff. I can concentrate better when there's silence. I also think there's a good possibility I won't snack as much, since I usually associate eating with watching TV. And it's hard to hold a book while eating, but guess what, I have a Kindle! I can actually sit at the table and READ instead of watching TV while I eat.

So we'll see how it goes. Remember how I said I have horrible will power? I'm hoping I can work past it and get a lot done this week. Wish me luck!

27 June 2014

The Silly Sex Scene

I'm running out of titles for this topic...

This is something that bothers me on a daily basis. Because I've now written the sex scene twice--no, three times (once in the short story), and I still can't quite figure it out. You'd think it would be for the obvious reasons, that I'm a chick writing a m/m scene, but no, that's not it. I can picture the scene in my head perfectly. I have all the technical details figured out (for the most part, whether I wrote them well is another thing entirely). I also know why it's necessary for my characters to have sex in the first place. What's bothering me is the detail.

Or more specifically, how much detail. None of the ways I've written this scene feel quite right. Which makes me think I've included too much detail. At least up until this point, I've always figured the sex scene should be at least somewhat graphic, not erotica, per se, but more technically detailed, not really leaving anything to the imagination (with emotions and thought process thrown in as well, of course). I had two reasons for writing it this way. One is that there are several sexual situations throughout the book that are very detailed, so I thought being vague in the sex scene wouldn't match up with the rest of the book. The other reason is that you kind of spend the whole book waiting to see if the characters actually will have sex. I worry that there's so much buildup that if I don't pay off that buildup with at least some detail, it will disappoint the reader.

But I still can't really figure out why I can't write this scene in a way that feels right. I'm starting to feel like I'll never get it right. I'm thinking of scrapping every draft of it and starting from scratch. I'm even considering making it EXTREMELY vague, because I think this might work better from a thematic standpoint. But I'm not sure. I swear, I think about this scene so much it makes me feel like a pervert! But I still can't figure it out!

Ok, I know I'm losing it and rambling. This will probably be the very last thing I edit for the third draft. And it will just drive me nuts until then.

25 June 2014

Character Consistency

When you’re crafting the characters in your stories, you want them to be realistic. This doesn’t mean that they have to be boring; it just means that the reader has to believe that this person could exist, even if they’ve never met anyone like them before. Not every character is going to be some 9-5 cubicle working, nuclear family kind of guy. Just because you’ve never met a bounty hunter or a pirate or a wizard doesn’t mean these aren’t great characters to use. What’s really important is making sure that once you’ve established your characters, they have to act like themselves.

No two people are exactly alike. Everyone has their own way of thinking and acting—their own habits, nervous ticks, catch phrases. Sure, there can be similarities—my sister and I have a lot of the same facial expressions, or my fiance and I have a lot (A LOT) of inside jokes—but everyone does their own thing.

One of the things to note is how each character speaks. You wouldn’t want everyone to sound the same. A younger character might use more slang, swears, and contractions than an older person would. Some people may talk in fragments, others in long, drawn out sentences. A shy person might litter their words with things like “uh” and “um.” A teenager might have a limited vocabulary, whereas someone like a teacher or English major would probably have a vast knowledge of fancy words they regularly use. Think of a basic sentence that a character might say, something like, “I got lost because you gave me bad directions.” Now rewrite that sentence as if each one of your characters was saying it. You’d probably write it differently for each character (I know at least one of my characters would sneak an f-bomb or two in a sentence like that). One character might be timid, another might be screaming. If you find each character says the sentence in the exact same way, then maybe they don’t have distinct voices.

You also want to watch for different physical characteristics that are true to each character. I was going through a chapter of my second draft when I came across a very simple sentence—“He grinned.” You usually wouldn’t think twice about a sentence like that, right? Well, it just didn’t sit right with me. I circled the “grinned” with my red pen and scribbled next to it: “I don’t think [he] grins. Ever.” I’d have to do a search to be certain, but I’m pretty sure there are no other instances where this character grins. He’s more of a shy smile kind of guy. There’s another character, though, who does grin all the time (probably too much—but that’s what editing is for!). See, each character has his own set of facial expressions and characteristics. Think about what works for each character. One may bite her lip when she’s nervous, another may flare his nostrils when he’s mad. Just make sure each action fits the personality of your character.

As always, consistency is key. Make sure your characters act like themselves, and don’t let that grin sneak in.

24 June 2014

It's Beastly Blitz Day!

Today I’m helping to spread the word on an awesome new book written by an awesome blogger! I met Tara through this year’s A to Z Challenge and I love checking out her blog posts. And her book release day is finally here! I’ve always loved reading and writing fantasy, no matter how much I (or my muse) try to ignore it, so I can’t wait to read this book. Maybe in time for my first “Hey, I Read Your Book” post, right? Check it out!

by Tara Tyler
Release Date: June 24, 2014 - TODAY!!
B&N ~~~ Amazon
Publisher: Curiosity Quills

Gabe is an average fifteen-year-old goblin. He’s in the marching band, breezes through calculus, and gets picked on daily by the other kids at school, especially the ogres. But Gabe wants to break out of his nerdy stereotype and try other things. He has his eye on the new ogress at school. Though it’s against all beastly rules, there’s just something about her.

Gabe starts a fad of mingling with other species, forcing the High Council to step in and ruin things by threatening to destroy the school and split up Broken Branch Falls. With help from other outcast friends, Gabe sets out on a quest to save his town. They'll show 'em what different friends can do together!

Add it to your GOODREADS list!

Tara Tyler has had a hand at everything from waitressing to rocket engineering. After living up and down the Eastern US, she now writes and teaches math in Ohio with her three active boys and Coach Husband. Currently, she has two series, The Cooper Chronicles (techno-thriller detective capers) and Beast World (MG fantasy) She's an adventure writer who believes every good story should have action, a moral, and a few laughs!

Also by Tara Tyler, techno-thriller detective series,
The Cooper Chronicles, Book One: POP TRAVEL

23 June 2014

Stick to a Schedule

Do you ever have one of those days where you think you should just go back to bed so you can start over? Yeah, that's kinda happening right now, so bear with me. So far (after a not so great night's sleep) I've spilled milk all over my bed and the light fixture above my kitchen sink has just decided it doesn't want to stay up anymore, even with duct tape. I tried taking a bubble bath to relax but made the water too hot and so it was more scalding than relaxing. Hopefully that will be the end of the disasters for the day.

So last week was my first full week of trying this whole writing thing full time. It did not go as well as I'd hoped. I think I made more progress selling some old books and DVDs on Amazon than getting any writing done. However, I didn't have any sort of a schedule last week. I would try to make lists of goals, but I always only got about half of them done. Maybe I need a little bit more structure than I thought.

On Friday, I came across this post that talked about setting specific tasks for each day of the week. This was more about blogging and social media, but I thought I could definitely apply this method to my own work. So I figured, why not? I'll try it out this week and see how it works. Last night I broke down all of the days of the week, assigning specific tasks to each day:

Monday: Blogging/social media
Tuesday: Freelance work
Wednesday: Editing
Thursday: Poetry
Friday: Writing new stuff
Saturday: Agent research/query letter
Sunday: ???

So today, for example, I'm going to write all of my blog posts for the week and visit as many blogs as I can, as well as doing any other networking on Twitter (and possibly trying to figure out what the hell Google+ actually is). I still plan on visiting other blogs during the week, Wednesday and Friday especially as those are my other post days, but most of the work will be done today. 

I still haven't figured out a task for Sunday (oops!). It could be an off day, or maybe a second editing day, if I don't come up with a seventh task. I thought about making it a reading day but I plan on reading every day so that may be pointless. Well, it's the last day on my schedule, so I've got plenty of time to think about it!

I guess I'll try this new method out this week and see how it works. Anybody else use a schedule to get things done? 

Oh hey, still no takers on the Writing Process blog hop. I need three people! If I don't get volunteers, I'll have to start hunting people down. And that will just be awkward for all of us. :) 

20 June 2014

The Unseen Character

There are different kinds of characters in any piece of writing. There's the main character, the supporting characters. There are protagonists and antagonists. There are characters who may just pop in for a scene and are never heard from again. I've come to realize, however, that there's another kind of character, one that's different from all of these other ones for one very distinct reason--you never actually see them.

If you think of a story as a snapshot in the main character's life, then there are only going to be certain moments--and certain people--who matter. You wouldn't want to mention every single person your character knows. Unless having every member of your MC's extended family show up is important to the story, then we don't have to meet all of those characters, even if they have a big influence on the MC's life. I'm wondering, though--is it ok to mention a character even if we never meet them?

I've been thinking about this a lot through my editing process because I've come to realize that I have not one, not two, but THREE unseen characters. These are characters who are mentioned now and then but never appear in any page of the novel. Is it ok to do this? Or does mentioning a character without ever bringing them to the page going to disappoint or confuse your reader?

The way I see it, each of my three main characters has a person who has (or still does) influence their lives in some way, but these people never make it onto the page. For example, it's hinted at that my MC's mother has some sort of relationship with her boss, this being the main reason why she is never home. But we never meet her boss, and the few times where she shows up, she never mentions him, either. The boss is basically only mentioned by the narrator to give some sort of explanation to the reader about his home life, and why his mother isn't around.

I'm not so worried about this character. He's not all that important to the story, so I don't think we need to meet him, even if he is mentioned. I am struggling with another one of my unseen characters, however. Another character frequently mentions his sister, and his family history actually plays a big role in the way he sees himself and how he lives his life. But she is another character that we never meet. The big problem with this is that my book is in first person, and there is no possible scenario where my narrator would meet this person. So I wonder if it's ok to mention her as many times as I do. She was a new character I added to the second draft to sort of tie everything together, explaining why my more important character (her brother) does certain things. Basically I felt there were a lot of unanswered questions in the first draft that I answered by creating her. Now I'm only left with one--if she's so important, why isn't she actually in the book? It's not very easy to figure out. I wouldn't want to stretch things out, make a scene that isn't important to the plot just to justify a character's existence. But if I remove her, I feel like everything will fall apart again.

What do you think? Is it ok to mention a character that we never meet? Do any of your stories have an unseen character?