27 February 2017

Balancing Multiple POVs (with Flashbacks!)

Things are complicated here in Shiny New Story Land. The good news is that I think I've actually figured a couple things out. It has to do with the order of the chapters. Since I'm dealing with two first-person POV characters, as well as action happening in the present and the past, it seemed a little daunting before I even started planning it.

A big factor about this story is that there's a secret that I want to keep from the reader until about halfway through the book. The thing that bothered me is that it seemed strange for both characters to actively be keeping the secret from the reader. Character A has more people in his life and needs to try harder to keep the secret, so I thought he would be more likely to have his walls up, even to the reader. I think if Character B was by himself, which he often is, he would have no reason to hide it from the reader. Plus, when the secret gets revealed, I thought it would be odd for both of them to suddenly be open about it when they weren't before. They're not the same person so having them act the same way will not help the book.

That's when I realized I didn't actually need Character B's point of view in the present. Not yet, anyway. There's really nothing that happens to him that's very interesting. It's his flashbacks that matter, at least until later on in the story when the more suspenseful moments begin. So I figured out a plan.

Here is what I think I'm going to do. For the first half of the book, it will go:
  • Character A Present
  • Character A Flashback
  • Character B Flashback
And will continue in that order. Character B will only get flashback scenes for the first half of the book. Then when we get about halfway through, the BIG GIANT SECRET REVEAL happens. It will go something like this:
  • Character A Present--secret is heavily implied but not actually stated (if the reader doesn't get it then I haven't done my job, or they have serious problems paying attention)
  • Character A Flashback--origin of secret is stated and discussed 
  • Character B--Present--secret is confirmed again from his point of view 
This is where things switch up. Character B will get his first present POV chapter to basically confirm the secret. From here on out, the chapters will go like this:
  • Character B Present
  • Character B Flashback
  • Character A Present
Basically I'm trading Character A's flashbacks for Character B's present. Ok, that may be a little confusing. Character A's flashbacks were pretty much just leading up to the secret reveal. After that, there really isn't anything to tell from his past. Character B, however, still needs flashbacks because his past story will keep going up until pretty much the very end. But now I need his POV in the present when things start to change. And now he can be open about the secret because it's not a secret anymore (to the reader, at least). 

I still can't decide how I'm going to differentiate between the past and the present chapters. I'm sure the pattern will help a little, but since I'm going to switch it up halfway through, I know I need some more indicators. For the character POVs, I'll most likely just put their name as the chapter name. But for the past vs. present, I'm not so sure. I could write the present chapters in present tense, and past in past tense. But I really just think I suck at present tense so I'm not so sure. 

There are a few other options, I guess. I could put the characters' ages at the beginning of the chapters. A is 18 in the present and B is 23. A's first flashback starts at 16, but B's start when he was 14. Since B's flashbacks cover a long amount of time, I know I have to show when they're happening. Or I could add something like, "9 years ago," "7 years ago." I'm not quite sure yet. I'd like to read some books that have a good amount of flashbacks and see what those authors have done. It won't really affect how I write the different story lines, just how they're formatted, so I can keep writing as I'm figuring it out. 

The good news is that I *think* I've come up with names for my characters. I'm not 100% certain but I'll start writing with them and see if they stick. These characters have been particularly difficult when it comes to giving me their names, and considering the fact that the most difficult character ever gave me his name right away, it's been frustrating. Characters can be jerks. 

Ok, this was probably super confusing since I'm the only one who actually knows what's happening in the book! But what can I do? The characters aren't the only ones who have to keep secrets! ;)

20 February 2017

Don't Avoid the Edits

Do you ever avoid doing something forever because you dread how difficult it's going to be? And then when you finally buckle down and do it, it turns out to be the easiest thing ever? Welcome to my life.

So I literally have on foot in Shiny New Story Land and the other in Editing My Novel City. It's confusing. I shouldn't be doing it. But since both stories are occupying my mind, I figure, what the hell? Go for it. Since most of the time I'm not doing much of anything, I want to take advantage of the sudden surge in creativity.

Last Thursday, I managed to edit Chapter Four of Uneven Lines. I've been avoiding it for quite some time. I can't actually remember when I got through Chapter Three. There was an actual legitimate reason for my avoidance though: MATH. No, really, look. Chapter Four has an actual diagram of angles for a math problem:

Ok, the novel doesn't have Instagram filters (I'm sure that'll be a thing someday, though). But yes, actual math. Here's the thing. I don't like math. I was relatively good at it in high school but I never liked it. And I didn't have to take any math courses in college. So anything that isn't basic everyday knowledge flew out of my brain a long time ago. But I made the fantastic decision to have math be a factor in my novel. Genius, right?? *cough*

So, I thought this chapter was going to be a nightmare to edit. To sum up the chapter, my characters are solving a geometric proof and flirting at the same time (did I mention my book is crazy? I love it). I've always been afraid that it would make no sense to anyone who doesn't have a whole lot of math knowledge (someone like, I dunno, myself). While I adore this chapter and think it does so much for the story, I worry it may not make complete sense to everyone. And that's why I've been avoiding it: I didn't know how to fix it.

Well, when I finally sat down and put red pen to paper, it turns out there really wasn't much to fix. If you look at the same exact scene in the first draft, it is a hot mess. It's just there; it isn't doing anything symbolic or intricate or even moving the story forward, really. When I rewrote it for the second draft, I cracked down on it like a crazy person. I somehow figured out what the scene needed to be doing and made it happen. But somewhere along the way I forgot. Silly me.

I kinda had to trust all the math stuff knowing that when I first wrote it I actually did the work and the research to make sure that actual problem is correct. There are words like "congruent" and "transversal" thrown around in this scene and after being away from it for a while, I'm just like, yeah, sure, ok. Math. Does the reader have to be a math expert to get this scene? I don't think so. I think it's doing way more than just showing you a math problem and that's just what's on the surface to make the scene happen in the first place.

And when I went through every page? Not a whole lot to edit. Some line by line fixes. One page had so many instances of the word "So" that it made my head spin a little. I get why they were there; there is a lot of dialogue that starts like, "So now we..." or "So how do we..." Yada yada. But I neatened it up a bit so that they're only there when necessary. My biggest change of the chapter was actually the very last line. Something about it always bothered me and when I figured out the solution I went a little crazy with joy. It was kind of like it had been staring me in the face the whole time but I couldn't see it.

So maybe from now on I won't avoid editing just because I think it's going to be hard. Because chances are it won't be as bad as I fear. Until I get to the last third of the book which needs to be completely rewritten, of course, but I'll worry about that when I get to it...

14 February 2017

Abducted Life Release Day!

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! I'm going to overdose on chocolate and also not go out with the hubby because I used to work in a restaurant and I'm not insane (well...). Today also happens to be the release day for Patricia Josephine's new book, Abducted Life! I've already got it on my Kindle, so once I wander out of Shiny New Story Land, I can't wait to read it! Check it out!

Savannah Janowitz’s perfect life was destroyed the night she and her boyfriend vanished without a trace. When she reappears a year later––alone––she’s a shell of her former self. Robbed of her popularity and her boyfriend, she has no memory of what happened to her. Savannah struggles to move forward as strange, new abilities manifest.

Evan Sullivan never gave extra-terrestrials much thought until the night he and Savannah were abducted. While Savannah’s memory was wiped clean, he remembers every horrific detail. Constantly reminded of the experiments that made him less than human, Evan hides in the shadows and watches Savannah rebuild her life without him. But neither can let the other go.

When their paths cross, Savannah and Evan finally see a glimmer of their old lives return. As they face what happened to them, they soon discover they aren’t safe. There’s more to fear than what’s hiding in the stars.

Available for 99cents at Amazon.

About the Author

Patricia Josephine never set out to become a writer. In fact, she never considered it an option during high school and college. She was all about art. On a whim, she wrote down a story bouncing in her head. That was the start of it and she hasn't regretted a moment. She writes young adult under the name Patricia Lynne.

Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo, has a fondness for dying her hair the colors of the rainbow, and an obsession with Doctor Who.

You can find her lurking on Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Wattpad. Find the latest news at her website or sign up for her newsletter. A link to all her books can be found here.

13 February 2017

What to Do About Flashbacks

Greetings from Shiny New Story Land! Where I should definitely not be residing. Where the story is so shiny and so new that the characters don't even have names yet! But they have made out a few times! (Priorities!) But seriously, it kind of feels like being a fugitive on the run. I'm currently hiding from the You-Should-Be-Editing-Your-Novel-Squad and the Federal Bureau of Anthology Blogging and Marketing. I'll have to assume a new identity.

The good news is that I'm actually using Scrivener for this book and trying to plan it out before I really get into writing it. But of course, this story is already complicated and I'm trying to figure out how exactly I should write it. The dual POVs may be tricky at first since I've never actually written that way, but I think once I get the voices down it should go more smoothly. So what I really haven't figured out are the flashbacks.

I'm not sure I've ever written an actual flashback. I've had characters quickly reference things that have happened in the past, maybe even a dream sequence or two, but never an actual whole scene that takes place in the past. It's not really the actual writing of the scene that seems difficult, but how it should be placed alongside the scenes that are taking place in the present. I know they can be distracting and jarring if not done correctly (or even done correctly). But with the way I want to set up this story, I need a lot of them.

I realized that I am basically telling three stories at once. There's everything that's happening in the present, which will be from both characters' points of view. Then there's Character A's flashbacks, which are pretty much all about how the characters met and formed a relationship. Then we have Character B's flashbacks, which are all about his troubled past. They all kind of collide when some people from Character B's past come back to cause some more trouble.

So far I think there will be a lot of flashbacks in the first half of the book, not so many (or perhaps shorter ones) towards the end. I'm just not sure where to place them. Should I break up each chapter into half present action/ half flashback (depending on how long the flashback needs to be). Should each flashback just be its own chapter? Do I put the flashbacks in italics or do I write the present action in present tense and the flashbacks in past? I've never been that good at writing present tense so I'm a little wary of this, although I do think it would make it much clearer for the reader (and reading all those italics could be annoying). And of course, I have to do all this not for one, but two characters.

So how the heck do I tell three stories at once without it being distracting? Am I already setting myself up for failure? I have no idea yet! I think I should find some books that rely on flashbacks as well as some writing tips or articles on the subject. Otherwise I'll just keep mapping out the story and try to figure out what works.

06 February 2017

Jordan Takes Over: Mix it Up (Also, I'm Not a Girl)

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

Look, I feel like there’s been some confusion for people who don’t regularly stop in here (I know the regs know waaaaaaaaaay better. Especially anyone who’s been to a Muse Party and had to deal with my sass in person). But it seems that every so often whenever I make my monthly post, someone comes along and leaves a comment that calls me Miss or Ms. Muse. Well, I’m just gonna have to put my foot down here.  

I’m not a girl. I am, in fact, a guy. I could explain this more graphically if you’d like, but Sarah says I have to keep it PG. And I thought I was allowed PG-13!! Not fair. 

Now I understand where some of the confusion may have started. I don’t really blame you if you just stopped in one day never having heard about me before and just assumed that I’m a girl. Well, first of all, this blog belongs to a girl. Most muses you hear about are also girls. And of course I have a name that could be a girl’s or a guy’s. So sure, fine, I’ll cut you some slack.

Or perhaps you were confused by me talking about a boyfriend or a hot guy or something. Well…you can do math, can’t you? (Let’s not talk about me and math. That’s a looooooooooooong story).

Plus, you can’t actually see me. But remember the Anti-Valentine’s Day Muse Party? With the cartoons? In which I am so clearly a guy?? Remember???? Here, I'll refresh your memory (this is also a fairly accurate representation of my relationship with Sarah): 

She's the one in the pink dress, if that wasn't clear. I don't like pink.

Why does this require an entire blog post, you say? I’m not just whining here, I swear. And it is not because of my "fragile masculinity," no matter what Sarah tells you. Yes, I can have that. Doesn't mean that I do.

Well, because writers can write about whatever the hell they want. And they can write from whatever character’s point of view that they want. So just because a writer is a girl doesn’t mean her first person narrators all have to be girls, too. She can write from a guy’s POV. Or vice versa, of course. If writers could only write about characters who were exactly like them, that would be soooooo boring! Blech. Ugh. No thanks.

That whole "write what you know" advice can be complete crap, really. What, are you all just supposed to write autobiographies? Have a little diversity, people. Mix things up. Write from someone's point of view that's different from you. Write about things that never happened to you. Research exists for a reason, right? I mean, sure, my life story would probably be pretty interesting (not trying to brag or anything), but is everyone's? Who wants a boring story? NO ONE. Duh. 

So, in conclusion: write whatever characters you want. Also, I am not—I repeat—NOT a girl.


01 February 2017

The Anthology Where It Happens

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's the posting day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Click here to learn more and sign up!

This post is kinda sorta a sequel to another IWSG post called "Wait For It." Ok, so the references will make a lot more sense if you've listened to/seen (you lucky duck! *side eye to my August tickets which may or may not be chained in a briefcase to my wrist*) the musical Hamilton. Because when it comes to my writing, how I go about it, how I deal with motivation, I am, in fact, Aaron Burr. 

Ok, so you may be scratching your head even if you know the musical inside and out. Basically, I would call myself a hesitator. I do not actively seek out inspiration, I don't even push myself very hard to get any writing done--even though I want to, and I do want great things to happen with my writing. And I do get terribly frustrated seeing other writers succeed and thinking, why can't I have that? All the while knowing deep down the answer is that I'm barely even trying. 

Still with me? Horribly depressed now? Don't worry, we'll fix that. This story has a happy ending (and does not end with a duel). 

So, you all know about the IWSG anthology. We'll talk about this year's in a bit. I actually have to go back to last year's anthology to tell this tale. When they first presented it, I thought maybe I would enter. I bounced around a few story ideas but didn't feel that strongly about them, so I didn't write anything and didn't enter. Obviously, you can't win if you don't enter. Of course, I was happy for the authors who won and were published, but I couldn't help thinking, what if? 

I put the thoughts aside for about a year, that is, until they announced the theme and deadline for the second anthology contest. I didn't have a concrete idea in mind right away, but I thought, I have to enter. Why would I want to be on the outside looking in over and over again? I can't get anywhere if I don't even try. So it was a bit of an epiphany. 

(I wanna be in the room where it happens, the room where it happens...err, I mean, anthology. You get it). 

The thing was, once I actually started plotting out my story, I just had this feeling. If I could get it done, and edit the crap out of it, I really did think I stood a chance to get in. And for once I was not horribly wrong. I did get in! It was good! I was no longer on the outside looking in! There may have been some dancing.

And you know why? Because I actually tried. Because not only did I put my mind to it (because ideas come easily to me), but I actually motivated myself until I pulled it off. I didn't just sit around and wait for an opportunity to come to me. I had to actually get it for myself. So, there you have it. 


On a related note, all of the authors for the Hero Lost anthology have created a website you can find here! There's lots of info on all of the authors and our stories. We should be adding some regular blog posts pretty soon, too!

30 January 2017

How to Immediately Over-complicate a Story

Do you like a simple story? Something straightforward, completely linear, no fuss, no muss? Well, this post may not be for you! But stick around for some exciting information and maybe you, too, can come up with a ridiculously complicated story before you even write the first word!

Ok, so maybe that's not a great selling point. But over-complicating a story is just kinda what I do. What's unusual this time is that I haven't even started writing it yet.

So getting a new story idea could not come at a worse time for me. I really just want to be working on my third draft for UL, and I've got a lot of anthology nonsense to work on. I just do not have time to be working on something new, or even something different. But the universe had other plans, because I just got a shiny new story idea. And boy, is it shiny! Meaning:terribly distracting.

I actually got this story idea from a dream I had last week. There were two characters who were in an interesting situation, and when I thought about it afterwards, it was like: "Huh. Now why would they be in this situation? What has led up to it? Where do they go from here?" And so I kept thinking. And before I knew it, a plot started rapidly unfolding. The beginning of the story wasn't completely clear, but the middle and end seemed pretty solid, and actually, exciting. I couldn't stop thinking about it (SHINY!!!).

Here's where it gets complicated. Based on the whole interesting-thing-about-my-characters'-relationship-that-makes-me-want-to-know-more-and-hopefully-the-readers-too factor, I know my story actually has to start in the middle. Why? Ok, I'll break it down. Basically one of main characters begins the story by telling the reader that he has two secrets. I'm thinking one of the secrets gets revealed during the first chapter. The other secret, however, I want to keep from the reader until maybe halfway through the book. I'll drop hints, of course, but I want there to be a reveal and have them go, "WAIT. WHAT?" Because why not??

So there's that. So basically the secret happens before the book even begins. I'm thinking there will need to be some flashbacks to explain how my characters got to this point. But that's not the only thing that makes it complicated. I know I have to have two POV characters. I really dislike doing it in most cases and try to pick a character to be the narrator, but in this case, I really think it has to be two. During some of the more suspenseful moments, my characters are split up, so you'll have to know what's going on with each of them. Plus one of my characters has a very complicated past and I know that will be the focus of most of his flashbacks. The other character doesn't really know that much about it but it will be important to the story.

So: two different POVs. Plus flashbacks. For both of them. Sounds easy, right? I don't know why I do these things to myself. But it's soooooooo shiny...