Belated Blogger B-day and I'm giving away a present.

It's a little late, but I just realized this blog is one year old. I started it last November when I began the long, arduous process of editing my first novel. I wanted this to be a chronicle of my path to publishing. A little of me, a little about writing, and a lot of fun.

In honor of my Blogs birthday, I am going to give one of you, my wonderful readers a present. (But, you have to read to the end to see what it is.)

Like most newbies, when I started writing I had no clue how many rules there were to the craft. I just wrote my story down as best I could. And, when I typed the last word to my first draft, I thought it was perfect.

"There is no way anyone is going to have anything negative to say about my baby. It's perfect. I'm a genius. I'll make the best seller lists and rake in millions."

Anybody else think like this?

Don't lie, we all have delusions of grandeur. =p

Upon submitting my first chapter to be critiqued, I was shocked and appalled with how it was shredded to pieces. Some critiquers hated it. And many more had lots of issues to point out.

Here are a few anonymous quotes from my masterpiece...

My fingers are aching to point out the passive/telling in this story.

I feel there's not enough action and when there is it seems somehow slower than it should be

One negative thing that kept cropping up for me was repetition of information and/or superfluous phrases.

I am not a huge fan of vampire fiction unless it is done in an original way. One of the problems besieging horror lies in unoriginality. ... I didn't see anything new here.

Okay, I'm thinking by this point, WHY ON EARTH is the MC sharing all this information with us???? You need to make this known pretty near the beginning of the story, I think.


So, as you can see, my first effort was clearly not the work of a writing genius.

I took my lumps in stride (I'm still taking them too) and worked hard studying the craft, buying lots books on writing, and started revising.

Well, this is a blog about writing, and there are many of us newbies out there. So I figured the best way to celebrate the blog's belated birthday, is with a post about some of the helpful tips and tricks I have learned over this past year.

So here are 10 great tips (if I do say so myself), in no particular order.

1)Started & Began
These are two words to avoid when writing any action. Since our writing should be in the moment. A character needs to "do" the action, rather than start or begin it.

Kind of like when Yoda says, "Do or do not, there is no try." In this case it is "Do or do not, there is no start."

A character should walk towards the door, not, start to. If he/she is physically moving then he is doing the action.

Example 1
He started walking towards the door.

Ok, so he started, but did he actually do it, or did he just take a step in that direction?

Example 2
He walked towards the door.

See, this time the reader see's him actually walking.

Now, the caveat to this rule is if the action is halted somewhere.

Example 3
He started walking towards the door when the shrill ring of his phone halted him in his tracks.

A character can start something if that action will not be completed, otherwise, make the character act. Same applies to the word began. He began to dance with the strange lady. He danced with the strange lady.

2)Dialogue tags and punctuation.
This is a simple one that I manage to screw up all the time.
When you use a dialogue tag like, he said. it should look like this.

"I'm heading to the bar,” he said.

Comma inside of the quotes, not a period. In this case, the tag is an extension of the sentence.

Now, when the dialogue is followed with an action you would use the period.

Example.

"I'll see you later.” He winked.

Notice the difference? Because winking (in this example) is it's own seperate action, it is not a part of the sentence, so a period is used.

I won't go into creative dialogue tags. I am guilty of using those too.

3) POV Shifts or Head Hopping.
Hopping in and out of various characters heads does tend to stand out to readers.
It's a no no.

Unless you are writing in 3rd Omni, where the entire text follows both/all characters thoughts, feelings,etc...

I've been beaten up about this more times than I can count.

The general rule of thumb, is to pick only one character's head to be in per scene.

However, if you really feel you need to show more than one characters thoughts and feelings in a particular scene, (if it is long enough to do this) is to pick specific spots to swap. Figure out what characters inner thoughts and feelings are most important, for the part of the scene you are in, and stick with that character for at least 1k or so words. The larger the gap between POV changes, the more willing readers are to accept it.

Also, each POV shift should be clearly marked with either a noticeable gap in paragraphs, or a symbol like this, # in between paragraphs. Not 100% clear on the rule maybe ### or *** are more acceptable. Many submission guidelines will tell you what format they expect. Always check your formatting before you submit your work.

4)Think about your POV.
This goes along with my head hopping tip above.
Always remember who's head you are in.

In first person, the reader should only see and hear what the MC see's and hears. The MC can only know what they know, and can only speculate on the intentions of other characters.

Example 1

George burned with desire for me.

The MC can't know for sure that George is burning with desire. She may be herself, but unless she can read his mind, she can't be sure.

Example 2
George pulled me into his arms. His hot breath blew across my ear as he spoke, "I need you."

Here, the MC tells us, through George's actions and words, that he does, in fact want her.


In limited 3rd, the reader should only know the thoughts and feelings of one character. The narrator can delve into the MC mind to tell us the characters internal thoughts and motivations, but not the secondary characters.

Example 3
George pulled Madeline into his arms, enjoying the feel of her soft body against against his own. "I need you," he whispered in her ear. Madeline sighed with contentment as she wrapped her arms around his waist.

Here, there is a minor POV change from George to Madeline. If the Narrator is in Georges head, they cannot know for sure that Madeline is content. A sigh could mean anything.

Example 4
George pulled Madeline into his arms, enjoying the the feel of her soft body against his own. "I need you," he whispered in her ear. Madeline responded with a sigh and wrapped her arms around his waist.


In 3rd Omni, the reader should know all characters thoughts and feelings. The narrator can delve into each person's mind and know their intentions and motivations.

No example here. I never write in this POV.

I won't even touch 2nd person. =p

5) Comparisons can be a good thing. In small doses.
When I first started writing, I felt the need to describe everything in painful detail. I have since learned that the occasional comparison can help convey the image I want without the extra, and often necessary words. However, they should not be overused.

Example 1 (too much)

A large, thick soled boot, like the kind a soldier would wear, came down hard on my hand. It felt like a lead weight. It twisted side to side, crushing my knuckles as if stamping out a cigarette.

Now this is obviously way too much. It does convey the image of a heavy boot, and the weight, as well as the image of it stamping on her hand, but it's overkill.

Example 2 (no comparison)

A large, thick soled boot came down hard on my hand, crushing my knuckles under its weight.

This is fine to convey an image of the boot coming down on her hand. It would pass my critique, but with the small, added ooph of something to compare the action with, it will pop.

Example 3 (revised)

A large, thick soled boot came down hard on my hand, twisting side to side, crushing my knuckles as if stamping out a cigarette.

6)Small sentences can make action feel real.
This was an interesting point I picked up while being critiqued. When I started writing, I had a tendency to write really long flowing sentences. I wanted to get everything-all the details in one breath. A critiquer pointed out to me that action, reads best with smaller sentences.

Example 1 (original)

Again, I yelped as hot tears streamed down my face. I tried to crawl away, clawing at the pavement to push myself up but before I could get far, a foot came down hard on my hands. A large, thick soled boot crushed my knuckles, twisting side to side as if stamping out a cigarette.

Example 2 (revised)

Again, I yelped. Hot tears streamed down my face. I tried to crawl away, clawing at the pavement to push myself up. A large, thick soled boot came down hard on my hand, twisting side to side, crushing my knuckles as if stamping out a cigarette.

Details get lost in overly long sentences. By making action sentences a little shorter, and focusing on one action per sentence, you emphasize what is happening so that no detail is lost.

Now I am not telling you to only write short sentences, you should always vary it up, lest it become too monotonous. Just remember to make the action pop!

7)Echo Echo Echo.
An echo happens when you use the same or similar word too close together. This is something you want to avoid doing whenever possible. It tends to stand out, like an annoying drum beat when done too much. When you are tempted to use the same word twice, think of ways to reword or restructure the surrounding sentences.

Example 1 (echo)

I surveyed the café, noticing that two strangers had sat down at one of the card tables along the painted mural wall. They did not seem like the type that frequented coffee houses, especially not a vintage cafe like this.

See the echo here. The word cafe is used twice in close proximity.

Example 2 (revised)

I surveyed the café, noticing two strange men sitting down at one of the card tables along the painted mural wall. They looked too clean cut, definitely not the type who would frequent a vintage place like this.

Sometimes a little reword does the trick.

8) Had, Was, Were... To be or not to be, that is the question.
A year later and I am still learning about passive voice in writing. I'm not going to attempt to give advice on that subject specifically, but I will give this handy little tip.

Avoid the "to be" verbs when possible. They have a tendency to make your writing passive and they are so easily overused.

Now, I am not saying never use them, just avoid where possible. Just like all words, they do have their place in writing.

Example 1 (unnecessary had)

I surveyed the café, noticing that two strangers had sat down at one of the card tables along the painted mural wall.

The had here is unnecessary and drags the sentence into the passive zone. Lets reword.

Example 2 (no had)

I surveyed the café, noticing two strange men sitting at one of the card tables along the painted mural wall.

Example 3 (unnecessary was)

My heart was pounding in my chest.

Sure the heart was pounding, but we could have gotten the same message in a more active sense without the word, was.

Example 4

My heart pounded in my chest.

You will find, in most cases, when you are tempted to use one of the "to be" verbs, you can simply rework the sentence and avoid it.

Now, there are situations where they are perfect to use. Had, for example is a wonderful way to let the readers know the information happened in the past.

Example 5

I couldn't understand why Hector refused my request. He had helped me many times before. What's stopping him now?

Here, had is used just to tell us of a previous situation. It works, as is.

9) Felt, Saw, Heard, Smelled, and other incomplete descriptors.
I have been beaten up on this one many times. Sometimes we forget the details and need a little reminder. In writing we have to give the reader as much information as we can to really let them experience the world we have created.

Don't tell the reader a character saw, heard, smelled, etc...something, describe it. Pretend that the reader is deaf and blind because they are as far as your story is concerned. They cannot see the imaginary world or hear the sounds in your book unless you describe it.

Example 1
She saw a bird among the flowers.

Well, what did the bird look like. Is it a small, brightly colored humming bird flitting among the pale pink honeysuckles? Or maybe a bright, blue robin? The reader won't know unless you tell them.

Example 2
She heard a noise coming from the other room and went to investigate.

What kind of noise? Is it the sounds of fighting? Bodies being slammed into walls. Music perhaps? Are there thundering, syncopated boom's coming from the other room. Perhaps it is crashing glass, like a vase being broken on a hardwood floor.

Paint a complete picture with your words. Use all of your senses to describe a scene.

10)In medias res.
Latin for "into the midst of affairs."
Originally, my first chapter was all back story. I have since learned, through many suggestions by critiquers, that this is a HUGE no no.

I'm sure you have heard this one a million times, start in the action. Start at the moment of change for your character. Hook the reader right at the beginning.

Many new writers, my self included, want the reader to get to know the MC before we start torturing them (the characters, not the readers. We never want to torture the reader).

Don't do it.

A standard adult novel is at minimum, 80k words in length (MG and YA excluded). There is plenty of space to weave in your characters back story. The beginning of your book needs to draw a reader in. You need to give them a reason to read on, so start with something action packed or drama filled to get them interested.

After the first few round of edits on Immortalis-Carpe Noctem, I whittled away almost 4k words of back story to start right at the moment my MC is ditched by her friends and left to walk home down a dark street. Those 4k words did not go away though, I found various places later on in the story to weave in her history. If I can do it, you can too.

Along those lines, skip the prologue, it works against the whole, in medias res thing and most people won't read them.

Ok, there is my 10 tips. Thanks for reading! On to the long awaited present.

Since this specific blog post is all about tips for better writing, I am going to offer up a wonderful self-editing resource as a prize to one lucky reader.

A gently used copy of

Renni Browne & Dave King's book, Self Editing for Fiction Writers.

Since I only have one copy to give I'm going to hold a drawing.

All you have to do to enter, is leave a comment on this post with a writing tip or trick.

Comments can be posted any time from now until Thursday night, December 3rd, at midnight PST.

At that time, I will put the names of those that commented with a writing tip, into a hat. The name I draw will win MY copy of this book. (don't worry it is like-new. I am gentle with my reference books.)

I will post the name of the winner on Friday morning along with how to contact me to arrange shipping.

Good luck and thanks for reading. It's been a great year. Here is hoping for many more to come.

Linky Linky

The Bookshelf Muse is running a contest. Go check it out.

One of the prizes is a full MS Critique! You know that can come in pretty handy! Good luck.



In other news, I decided to take the plunge. I'm now on Twitter. We will see how long this lasts. LOL

Follow me here http://twitter.com/QuixoticKatie
(Now I just have to figure out how to use the darn thing.)

New Moon, Review.

Well, I did it! I braved the masses of squealing fangirls (and boys) to enjoy a little over two hours of sparkly vampire goodness.

While I still think the overly "fabulous" vampire thing is completely out in left field, (really, they look like they are getting ready to go to a rave with all that glitter) I do still have to give Mrs. Meyers credit for a unique take on the vamp theme.

Okay, enough about my issues with the Twinkly er, I mean Twilight vampires. I promise not to bring it back up again until the next movie comes out.

I will not comment on any book-to-movie inconsistencies or any of the actual story and continuity issues. The books are all written, published, and wildly loved so I am not going to comment for or against them.

I will say this. With all Hollywood adaptations, things will be cut, things will be added, and things will be skewed. I understand that fitting in a huge tome of a novel into a 2hr movie is a daunting task and the people making the movie want both readers and non readers to enjoy it. Just remember this, don't go see this movie expecting it to be exactly like the book.

So, on to the actual movie.

First, some specific complaints... (Because it's always best to get those out of the way and finish on a positive note.)

1) The breakup scene. I really don't think they captured the depth of emotion they could have here. Where were the tears? Where was the desperation? It wasn't there. The actress needed to go deeper and really pull out the feeling of loss because it was meant to be a powerful emotional scene and I felt, it just fell short.

2) Jacob's wig. Seriously? I was so glad when he "cut" his hair. I love long hair on a guy but that wig was horrible.

3) Edwards' open shirt scene. Okay, after spending the entire 2 hours looking at Jacob's tan, muscular, and always on display physique, when Edward ripped open his shirt to reveal himself in all his sparkly goodness (whoops, I said I wasn't going to mention that again, didn't I?) to the people in Italy, I was just dissapointed.

Also, let me just ask. Was it really necessary to have Jacob half-naked through the whole movie? I'm all for eye candy but seriously people! I'm hard pressed to remember a scene where he has his shirt on. LoL.

4) The eyes. Now, I'm an eye person. That's the first thing I notice so I might be a little harsh where this is concerned. In the first movie the eyes were more subtle. Yes, you could see the amber in the good vamps and the red in the bad, but it wasn't so in-your-face. In this version. The eyes stood out so much, it was hard to focus on the faces. I think they could have toned that down just a bit.

5) The paper cut. Could they have been more obvious about it? Who cut's their finger in front of a bunch of vamps and holds it up for everyone to see? Really? Yes, I understand that just a drop of blood will cause them to go into a frenzy. Bella would be well aware of this, so why put it on display? They could have had her cut her finger and tried to hide it and got the same result. Vamps are still going to smell the blood. A visual of her holding her hand behind her back with the blood dripping to the floor would have worked too. Also, for that matter, if a single drop of blood is going to make them go insane, wouldn't they all just go nuts when Edward threw her into the wall? She sliced open her arm really good there.

Ok, I'll stop I am heading into tangent territory now.


Enough complaining. There were some things I thought they did well.

1) The passing of time with Bella's depression was wonderfully done. The 360 circle as the seasons changed was beautiful. It did exactly what it should have, it made the audience feel the utter sadness and withdraw the character was going through.

2) The CGI wolves were very nice looking. I loved how they showed their massive forms and the transitions from human to wolf did not feel jarring at all.

3) They fixed the supernatural speed issue. In the first movie, Edward seemed almost comical when he ran up the tree and through the woods with Bella. I think they must have had a better special effects budget because their movements were more in line with what we are accustom to seeing with supernatural creatures.

4) Seeing a visual representation of Edward, rather than his voice, excellent. This in particular was very well done. In the book it is just a voice, but seeing the character added so much more.

Well, enough of my nit picking for now. I'll finish with this last little blurb.

Given the fact that this was my least favorite of all of the Twilight novels, the movie was entertaining and set the stage for the next movie, which I will be seeing.

Just don't expect me to be one of the screaming fangirls running around asking which team you are on. I can't tell you how many times I was asked that. My answer was a simple, "I love vampires."

So tell me, what did you think of the movie?

How does it sound?

I was wasting time on YouTube and ran across a hilarious clip of Christopher Walken reading some lyrics to Lady GaGa's Poker face.



It got me thinking.

There are lots of variations and interpretations of this song.



Just a quick note, I love Faith No More!!!





And the original...




I promise I am going somewhere with this.

So as the videos above show, there are many ways to interpret things. So, that brings up the question, how does our writing sound when read by others?

We, as the writer, try to give our work a unique voice, but does that come across strongly to the reader? Do they hear our voice or something else?

That brings the question of, "How do I give my writing a unique voice?"

I chose the clips above to help drive home the point, that people interpret things in their own way. Our job as the writer is to try and make our voice stand out. Make the reader actually hear what we say and not just read the text.

But what is voice?

Now I am still pretty green here. Writing is a learning process, but from what I understand, voice, in a basic sense, is something that we create through word choice, the pattern of our sentences, use of (or lack of) contractions, and common jargon.

It's how we speak to the readers.

Think about it. Are you formal, technical, chatty, or laid back? Do you (or your characters) use slang?

Notice I added, or your characters, in that last sentence. That's right. Your characters should have a unique voice too. (get into their heads and think of how they would actually say something.)

Most of us as new writers, use our own voice to be the narrator. Imagine yourself sitting in front of a room filled with people, telling the story.

They way we would speak the story to others, becomes our voice. If we write as we would speak it, the narrators voice is our own, and that is the first step to creating a unique voice.

Of course, I would love to see Christopher Walkin reading a passage from my story. Voice or no voice, he has such a unique speech pattern it would be fun to hear his interpretation.

Writing update





Maybe instead of calling it NaNoWriMo, I should be calling it NaNoRevisMo. All I have been doing is revising and editing chapters. I've hardly written new material. I guess I just have too many stories needing revisions.

Since November started I have worked on multiple chapters for various stories.

Immortalis:Carpe Noctem - 3 chapters revised
Immortalis:Hunters & Prey - 1 chapter added and 3 chapters revised. (finished the first draft, finally)
Halloween Fantasies - working on draft 3.
Karma & Melodies - Character write up/description. Added one new section.

Photo credit

You know, it's funny...

Nope, actually it's not.

So my last post said something to the effect of, "I don't have the time to do the real NaNo..."

Somehow the fates translated that into, "Katie needs more time."

Oh, that's easy...

*poof*

No Job.

Yep, I'm being given the axe this week. Friday is my last official day as a paper pusher. I will now join the numerous ranks of the unemployed.

The layoff did not come as a surprise, though that doesn't diminish the effect.

I work or should I say, worked, for a commercial plumbing contractor. I was the paper pusher, aka Contract Administrator. Otherwise known as the girl who put's all those "sign here" stickers on contracts, then rushes around like a chicken with my head cut off to get the, big wigs to sign. With the economy in the dumps, construction has slowed to a halt and no jobs means no contracts. No contracts means no need for the, sticker lady.

Sad but true.

I'll be tightening up the belt a little while I am hunting for something new.

Sigh.

I'm doing my best to keep in good spirits though. Things will work out.

In the mean time, I have all the time in the world to write.

So here is a quicky *Modified* NaNo update.

Remember my *Modified* rules, editing counts. =p

Sunday - Edited Chapter 13, (the love scene) Hunters & Prey.
Monday - Edited Chapter 1, Immortalis - Carpe Noctem. (I got a personal rejection that suggested I tighten up my sample (Chapters 1-3)
Tuesday - Edited Chapter 2, Immortalis - Carpe Noctem.
Wednesday - I'm cheating here. Remember the 500 word count on ANY work? Yep, Blogging today to cover the required words... and working on my resume. LoL. I think I will hit 500 between both of them.

Well, that's all I have for you tonight. Good Night Blogger Land.