December 14th, 2010
A million and one people in the publishing industry will tell you: Make sure you infuse your story with voice. A strong voice is essential.
(Are there a million and one people in the publishing industry? Hmm. Maybe. Don’t hold me to it.)
But voice can seem like this elusive pie in the sky that you’ll never be able to reach. It did for me at first anyway. Then I realized what I was doing wrong. I was trying so hard to write “well” I wasn’t letting my own voice flow. I began to understand that the way I talk is what separates me. It’s what makes me original.
Let’s face it, no two of us talk the same way. Where I choose the phrase “Thank all that is good and chocolate” you might say a simple “Thank goodness” or “Thank you, sweet chocolate”.
You can tell a lot about a person by the way they move as well. If they talk with their hands, have very expressive faces, or if they’re stoic and cold. That all lends to voice as well. It’s all part of the whole “show don’t tell” philosophy.
Without voice, telling: Rapunzel started getting scared. Maybe the Prince wouldn’t come to save her.
With voice, showing: Rapunzel’s hands began to shake and her breaths came in rapid gasps. She swallowed hard trying to press the lump in her throat down, but the bile was determined to rise. Clasping the ledge of the window to brace herself, Rapunzel looks out on the courtyard, but there’s no Prince. Maybe he wasn’t coming. Maybe she would be stuck in this tower forever, left to waste away to nothing.
Obviously these are not perfect examples (and make pretty much no sense), but you get the picture. Right?
Is voice something you struggle with in your writing? Or does it come easily for you?
I’ve found in my own writing that the voice comes with a really strong character. One I fully understand and relate to.
October 12th, 2010
I had a brainwave this morning. How many writers out there have a proficient way to track their queries? Do you know how to use excel? Do you pay for one of those tracking services?
I’m really curious. For my day job I do accounting type things, so I use excel every single day. It was a natural choice to turn to for my tracking spreadsheet. But what do other writers use?
For today, I give you — my spreadsheet, and the basic tools to create your own.
And here’s a quick rundown of how to make this jewel:
The title — merge the cells together using the little a symbol with arrows on either side. Highlight the cells you want to merge and click it. Bold and increase your font.
Column titles — these work for me, you may want more or different ones. I just made them bold
Body — fill in all your vital info. I like to have everything I need to query right there in one place. Email address, agent name, guidelines — you won’t have to go re-hunting if you have a spreadsheet like this. One thing I do on the submission guidelines column is wrap the text. Highlight the cells and click “format” then “cells”. Then click “alignment” and there’s a little box at the bottom that says “wrap text”. This way your spreadsheet doesn’t wind up 50 pages wide.
That’s basically it! You can get fancy with the borders and colors if you want, but with this you’ll never query an agent twice, and will always know what is outstanding.
Helpful? If you have more questions about excel, don’t hesitate to ask.
July 13th, 2010
Ways to keep enjoying the sometimes arduous process of writing and revising.
- Reward yourself- Any achievement deserves a celebration of some sort, whether it be a candy bar or a glass of your favorite wine. Did you meet your deadline? Celebrate! Did you finish a particularly difficult chapter? Celebrate!
- Share the experience- Talk to people! Tell your mom, sister, co-worker, the cashier at the store — whoever! They’ll be excited for you, and in turn will increase your excitement.
- Blog surf- Visit other writer blogs! You’ll realize that all of us go through the same range of emotions and frustrations, and it really does help to commiserate together.
- Remember why you started writing — because you enjoy it. Not to get published or to make millions, just because it’s something you love to do.
- Don’t forget to write for YOU. I know for me anyway sometimes I get blocked and can’t write a darn thing on my novels and it’s simply because I have too much “real life” on my mind. If I can write out my thoughts and worries, I can write my stories again. This ties right back to number four — so don’t forget to include YOU on that to-do list.
To aid in your celebrations:
Pack glass with ice. Pour the Midori in first, then add the Peach Schnapps. Fill the rest of the glass with Sprite or 7-up.
July 6th, 2010
Writing “rules” I could never follow.
- Write every day – Sure, I do writing related things every day, but even before there was revising and blogging to be done I didn’t write every day. Sometimes you need time to think, too.
- Write what you know- Yawn. I’m a researchaholic and I like to write things I don’t know just so I can research them. I’m also easily distracted, so if what I’m writing feels too familiar, I can’t do it.
- Don’t read what you write- Um, but I’m supposed to write what I want to read. And keep reading while I’m writing. They aren’t mutually exclusive! I’m sorry, but every chance I get I’m reading Harry Potter and you can’t stop me. I think my book is better for it — it reminds me to stay fresh and original.
- Lower your expectations- No. No freaking way. My expectations are what fuel my drive.
- Pay for an editor- Psh, please. That’s what crit partners are for. They’re amazing people that evaluate your novel for no monetary fee, they just want you to evaluate their own. Now, I’d pay someone if I were going to self publish, but I’m not.
Those are just my own that I purposefully ignore. What about you all? Do you have any writing “rules” you like to break?
Speaking of rule breakers…one of these would do the trick. I’ll take one!
- Blueberry Schnapps
- Blue Curacao Liqueur
- 7-Up® Soda
- Sour Mix
Fill glass with ice. Pour blue Curacao and Blueberry Schnapps, splash of sour mix and fill with 7-up
June 22nd, 2010
Here is a simple list of questions I ask of each character to help form them, and their personalities, in my mind.
- Good, bad, or in-between?
- How would you react to a family member’s death?
- Are you vengeful?
- What motivates you?
- What is your goal?
- Where do you see yourself in ten years?
- Do you have any tics or habits?
- If you could do anything, what would it be?
Obviously there are many more questions that go into character development, but these are my basics. What I start with when a new character arrives.
What about you guys? What kind of things do you want to know right off the bat about your characters?
And for your tipsy pleasure…
Mai Tai- Myer’s Rum, melon liqueur, triple sec, pineapple juice, orange juice, lime juice, and grenadine.
June 15th, 2010
It’s important to have a space, no matter how small, designated to writing. Mine isn’t much — a desk in my bedroom — but it is my space that nobody else touches. Everyone’s needs are different, but these are the basic essentials I keep at hand when I write.
- Pictures- I like pictures, I have them everywhere, so naturally they’re on my desk too.
- Caffeine- We all know caffeine, in whatever form, is a writer’s lifeblood.
- Books- When I’m feeling blocked, I read. It helps grease the wheels and get me back on track.
- Kiddo Cup- Well, obviously if you don’t have kiddo’s you wouldn’t need this. But it keeps him outta my hair.
- Computer- Duh.
- Kiddo Stuff- Again, keeps him out of my hair.
- Baby Monitor- So you can kick the kids OUT.
- Note Pads- For scribbling ideas, outlines, whatever.
- Conference Funds- Like my pretty jar? I’m a visual saver. With it staring at me every day, I feed it much more frequently to make it stop yelling at me. Plus it’s a little additional motivation to work harder and longer to be ready for the next conference.
- Calendar- You can’t see mine here, but it’s hanging on the wall. Write firm deadlines on your calendar to keep you motivated!
And that, my lovelies, is my writing space! Is there anything I don’t have in my space that you have in yours?
And an essential for my writing space on any Tipsy Tuesday would be a glass of Moscato wine, my favorite. It’s light, sweet, and only slightly bubbly. Mmmm. Make sure it is nice and cold before you pop the cork. A delightful treat.
But, make sure it’s Italian. Domestic Moscato just isn’t the same.
June 8th, 2010
How NOT to become a werewolf under the full moon:
- Do not, under any circumstances, hang out with sparkly vampires.
- Avoid all contact with anyone named Bella.
- Don’t work out. Muscles = Werewolf
- If you’re suddenly struck with a 105 degree fever, go to the hospital. It is NOT mono.
- Don’t get mad, get glad!
And if you’re a Twilight fan, you can read The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner online for free right now! Just click the link!
And why not have a Bloody Mary while you read?
1 oz Smirnoff® No. 21 Vodka
3 oz tomato juice
2 red hot sauce
2 green hot sauce
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
0.5 oz lemon juice
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
1 stalk celery
June 1st, 2010
Well, seeing as I experienced the writer’s worst nightmare this weekend, I thought I’d share some resources to help make it not so nightmareish.
There are a couple places I’ve found that will store up to 2GB of files for FREE:
They also both offer upgrades for larger storage space at pretty low rates. I use Dropbox…I didn’t know about Mozy until I started compiling this list, but it looks just as good.
Carbonite was recommended by a commenter on Saturday. It offers unlimited backup capacity for $50 a year. That’s probably a better deal than both Dropbox and Mozy if you have a lot of files to save.
Geek Squad also offers online backup- 25G for $50 a year. Again, Carbonite is the better option if you have more than 25G.
So, even if you only back up your novel files and the most important pictures — please, please, please do. You just never know when Mr. Murphy will visit you for a day!
Are there any other good places out there to back things up that I missed? Grated, this isn’t an all-inclusive list.
May 21st, 2010
First of all I just ran across this- Official 2010 Write Your A** Off Day. Looks like fun doesn’t it? It’s a challenge to write 3,000 words in a day. I bet I could do it — if I sat and stared at my WIP for hours. Ha. I’m a short bursts kind of writer, so it’d be interesting to see what I could pull off on a whole day devoted to nothing but writing.
I feel like I’m always linking to Nathan Bransford’s blog, but it’s for good reason — he’s a flippin’ genius. His blog post yesterday was on writing your one-line pitch.
According to him there are three basic elements in a good one sentence pitch:
- The opening conflict
- The obstacle
- The quest
So, in the spirit of good fun, here’s what I’ve come up with for Emerald’s Keeper.
Mandy may only be fourteen, but faced with a darkening world and a villain she loves, she must find the strength to do the right thing — or turn to the dark.
What do you think? Need some more work? I’m seriously struggling with this one sentence deal.
Share your one-liners in the comments!
May 18th, 2010
Not to make myself sound all important or anything, ’cause let’s face it- I’m a rather newb to all of this. But, I thought I’d share a few of things I’ve learned over the course of writing my novels, and the ridiculous amount of editing I’ve done.
Without further ado, the writing process:
- Don’t stress out over the first draft, just write it.
- Yay, I’m done! Wait, revisions? Oh, you mean more work? But I just wrote a novel!
- Realize a shortcoming- My absolute favorite word to abuse is said. Everybody said something. Just ask my crit partner- she’ll nod her head and confirm that she did, in fact, have to bust me over the head with the said stick. Figuratively.
- Stress over the revisions. How many -ly words can I possibly know? I must have used them all 400 times, at least.
- Stress some more over MORE revisions. Would Mandy really say that? Come on, she’s tougher than that!
- Begin enjoying revisions again. Hey, my characters are, like, people now!
- Revise again. It’s fun, okay? I want to go play with my friends!
- Put it away and start something new.
- Realize you didn’t know what you were thinking when you put that scene in Chapter 2 and snatch it out immediately! I mean, really, who cares about the cat? Nobody. If it’s not moving the plot forward- goodbye!
- Begin to see your penchant for exclamation points. They’re just so fun, and so…shiny!
- What? Stop working on it? You’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers!
Haha, okay so maybe the last one was a teeny bit dramatic. Just thought I’d have a bit of fun today, hope you got a giggle out of my craziness.
Today’s cocktail of choice: Melon Magic
So, I’ve never had this drink, but the name speaks to me. I’m totally trying one this weekend!
1 part Midori (melon Liqueur)
1 part Vodka
1 part Orange Juice
Lemonade to top up
Shake midori, vodka and orange juice together with a little ice. Top up with lemonade to taste and pour into a glass. Decorate with orange slices and melon balls.