Monthly Archives: March 2013

Too Close to Call

My last post was my 100th!  I can’t believe it.  Happy 100th post, WriteRight!

100 Posts copy

I want to talk to you today about what happens when you need to edit a book that you know way too well.  This has happened with Hellbound, obviously, but with other books I’ve written as well.  Still, Hellbound is the book du jour, so I will be using it as my example.

I recently received some good advice about how to improve Hellbound that made me wonder why I hadn’t thought of it myself.  After all, no one knows your book better than you, right?  So why can other people bring something to the table that you feel you never would have thought of on your own?  Has this ever happened to you?  It has to me.  A lot.

The reason, I recently discovered, has to do with how close you become to your book and your story.  On the one hand, it is inevitable that an author will start to know his or her story like the back of his or her own hand.  It is an important part of the writing process.  You want to become involved in your own story.  That’s how good writing happens.

On the other hand, what happens to me a lot of the time is that I read a section of a book I’m writing and think “Yes, this part is grammatically correct and follows the plot, therefore it does not need changing.”  So I leave that part alone, and I concentrate more on the other points I’m working on changing/fixing.  This has happened with Hellbound, as I said, where I have read a part of it so many times that it doesn’t even occur to me that it can be changed.  For example, this conversation from the first chapter of Hellbound:

“You’re trying my patience, Re-di-Tor,” the Devil gritted out.  “You have a job to do and I expect you to do it.”
“Yes, Tor,” Aiden sneered.  “What will it be this time, Tor?”
“I like that tone.  You remind me of your mother.  Keep it up.”
     He turned to one of his servants and signed yet another form, which disappeared a second later.
     “Your new assignment,” he began, “is in a school.  Some foolish teenager has actually invoked the Rit-di-Malos.  I need you to find out which insolent child the escaped soul is inhabiting and bring it back.  Promptly.”
     Aiden could barely believe what he was hearing.  It was almost too good to be true.
     “You mean I actually get to go to school?” he asked.  “I’m going to have to interact with other kids my age and socialize and live a normal life?”
      “Your age?  Kids your age?” Tor paused to bark out a laugh.  “There are no kids your age.  You’re three hundred and seventy-five years old!”
     “Three seventy-six, dad.  You missed my last birthday.”

That passage has been in the book almost since its start back in 2011 (I’m guessing about the year, but I think that’s right).  So it never occurred to me to change it.  Not until I received the suggestion to expand Aiden’s job.  I’ve always had the idea that Aiden would be told where he had to go, but it makes more sense to have him figure out where he needs to be himself.  This gives him more responsibility and works better for the overall plot.  (You’ll just have to take my word for it on that last bit, until you can read the book yourself and see why).

This is why I have always stressed the importance of getting outside opinions about your book.  Because sometimes you’re just too close to the situation to make that call, and other people can offer an unbiased perspective.

That’s all I have to say for the moment!

Writer's-Block-Strip-21

Word of the Day: Opine (v) – to hold or express an opinion.

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Mistaken Word Identity

Hello.  How has your life been these days?  Mine has been hectic.  On top of trying to find work to pay for my career as an author, moving to a new state, and writing, my computer is still pretty broken.  It won’t even open Firefox anymore, which sucks because I am used to using it as my browser.  I even tried uninstalling and reinstalling it.  No luck.  Can you even break a web browser?  Apparently I can.  I am that kind of special snowflake.

Anyway, I was on a plane for reasons, and I was reading a book.  The book was called Supernaturally.  It is the sequel to the book, Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White.  The first book had a unique enough premise, so I thought I’d read the second.  That’s usually how things go.  The problem is, the second book left me with kind of a bad taste in my mouth.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not terrible.  It’s pretty standard for the new Young Adult Paranormal Romance genre that is all the rage these days, and that I, myself, write for.  The thing is…I don’t know.  It just wasn’t for me.  One of the big problems, the one I wanted to talk quickly about, was that I think the author used a word incorrectly.  I know this shouldn’t be a big deal, but it really pulls me out of the book when I see a word used to mean its exact opposite.

So we’re going to do the Words of the Day a little early here.

Nonplussed (adj) DOES mean: utterly perplexed; completely puzzled.

It DOES NOT mean: Unfazed.  Cool.  Calm.  Unaffected.

That one gets misused a lot, because it sounds like it should mean what it doesn’t.  I will add the disclaimer that White might have been using it correctly.  The character could have either been confused or nonchalant, but I got the impression he fell into the latter category, in which case “nonplussed” was the wrong word to use.

This happened to me one other time, a while back when I tried to read a book called Tithe by Holly Black.  She used the word “enervate” to mean its exact opposite and I just kinda lost a few respect points for the author.  “Enervate” is another word that sounds like it should mean its opposite.

Enervate (v) DOES mean: to deprive of force or strength; destroy the vigor of; weaken.

It DOES NOT mean: To energize.  Give energy to.  Fill with life.

It just sounds like it’s supposed to mean that.

Watch out for those words, and others like it.  Just a helpful hint.  I’ve got another post for you about my recent editing process for Hellbound, so look out for that soon!  Hopefully with pictures.  (Dare I risk plugging in my tablet?)

Word of the Day (even though I already gave you two): Lugubrious (adj) – mournful, dismal, or gloomy, especially in an affected, exaggerated, or unrelieved manner.

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A Webcast for All Interested Parties

Ugh I just cannot get this book written.  It’s the intro that seems to be baffling me the most, so I think I’m going to try just…writing.  Without worrying so much about crafting the perfect introduction.  I can always come back and tweak the beginning later.

But this post isn’t about my quest to rewrite The Dreamcatchers.  It’s about a webcast that I…watched?  Listened to?  Both?  Whatever.  A couple weeks ago, at my agent’s suggestion, I tuned in (that’s a good way to put it) to a webcast on Publishers Weekly’s website.  It was called “The Next Generation of YA Stars” and it was quite interesting and informative.  Because I found it a useful tool, I thought I’d share it here.  If you are interested in being a YA writer, or any kind of writing in general, or you are just a fan of the genre, then you should definitely click these words.  That link will take you to the webcast so you can tune in yourself.  Maybe you’ll learn something new!

If you’re interested in taking a look at any of the other webcasts they’ve done or are planning on doing, go ahead and click here.  That link will take you to their webcast page.  A link to the one I watched can also be found there, in case the first link I gave you doesn’t work for some reason.

That’s all I’ve got to say for right now.  Just thought I’d share the webcast love.

Unfortunately, there is no comic today, and I don’t know when there will be one again.  As some of you may know, I have some pretty terrible luck with computers.  And mine is going crazy.  So until I can get it fixed or replaced, I’m gonna try to avoid using my tablet.  I don’t think my computer can handle that kind of thing right now.  Sorry.

Computer Not Feeling Well

Word of the Day: Hiatus (n) – a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.

P.S. I have gone the shameless route and added a Donate button to my sidebar.  It’s just a tip jar, really.  Finding work is hard right now, and I am far from getting published, so money is tight.  And apparently I might be needing a new computer soon.  If you could find it in the goodness of your heart to throw a couple bucks my way, I’d be really grateful.  But since it sucks to give something for nothing, I will try to make it worth your while.  How about a picture of Mini Bex in my next post thanking you and providing a link to your blog (if you have one) for my readers to click on?  That could work right?  I’ll do that.

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Editing

I’ve decided to put the sequels to Hellbound (Hellbent and Hellborn) on hiatus for the time being.  This is because I can’t possibly write continuations of the story until I know what the final product is going to look like.  At this point in time, I have no idea what the final draft of Hellbound will be like, so I just have to wait.

In the meantime I’m going back to one of my old books – The Dreamcatchers.

For those who don’t know, The Dreamcatchers was the first book I ever wrote.  Back when I was thirteen and had no idea how to make words go together.

FirstBook

In my junior year of highschool, when I was fifteen or sixteen, I rewrote this book from scratch.  Now that several years have passed, I am ready to rewrite it again.  Well, by “ready” I mean I am “ready to procrastinate and scratch my head a bunch while I try to figure out how to make this book better.”  I started a new draft a while back, and rereading it now has shown me that I still don’t quite have it right yet.  Let me give you an example of how the book has improved over the years.

Dreamcatchers intro from 2007:

Running is useless, exhausting, and all-around annoying.  That has been my belief for as long as I can remember.  Walking, however, is tolerable if the occasion calls for it; and just such an occasion happened to present itself one sunny morning.

Dreamcatchers intro from 2009:

Dying is painful.

It was both maddening and sad that I had come so far only to fail.  As I leaned against the cold stone wall with my arm over the deep gash in my stomach, I wondered vaguely how on earth I’d gotten into such a huge mess.  The first thought that came to mind was the day I saw my neighbor getting his newspaper.

Dreamcatchers intro from 2012ish:

Less than two weeks ago, life was fine.  Normal even.  I never found myself in life-threatening situations, like this one (Am I ever going to stop bleeding?  How long does dying take?).  The biggest risk I took was eating cheese that was one day past its expiration date.

My point in showing you these things is that things change.  Sometimes they even change for the better.  But as I said in my Writing Rules post, you are never as good as you will be two weeks from now.  Let me show you what I like and dislike about my latest introduction to this book.  Copied and pasted below are the first two paragraphs.  The bits in red are my comments.

Less than two weeks ago, life was fine.  Normal even.  I never found myself in life-threatening situations, like this one (Am I ever going to stop bleeding?  How long does dying take?). I like the bits in parentheses there.  They add personality to the narrative voice.  The biggest risk I took was eating cheese that was one day past its expiration date.  Kind of cliche humor here.

I remember the day everything went to Hell because I’d woken up to a prime sketching opportunity.  See, I was really bad at drawing noses.  They always came out looking like tumors, or potatoes…or potatoes with tumors.  This joke feels forced, like I’m trying too hard to be funny.  It should probably be removed.  And that morning, I’d glanced out my second-story bedroom window to see my neighbor across the street getting his newspaper.  It was perfect, because his nose looked just like a potato.  He was wearing a bathrobe over his striped pajamas, and a pair of slippers.  It was like he didn’t even care that people could see him like that.  That sentence is good because it shows the character of the narrator – she assumes that people should care about their appearances and how other people see them.  As quickly as I could, I grabbed my sketchbook and a stick of charcoal from my desk.

Overall, not terrible.  But there is definitely a lot of room for improvement.  I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately, and I think it’d be best to take this book in a little bit of a different direction.  No first-person narrator.  A more distinctive juxtaposition of the main character’s real life and her dream life.  That sort of thing.

For those of you wondering about the plot of this book, here’s the gist:

A girl named Shaina McKay has some major issues with getting along with others.  She also has an irrational fear of running and exerting herself.  Then one day she unwittingly buys a magic dreamcatcher which transports her into her dreams every morning.  Each dream challenges her to step outside her comfort zone and rethink her priorities, causing her to become a better person for it.

So anyway, wish me luck with the writing and everything.  This book is very special to me because it was the first I ever wrote, so I hope I’ll be able to get it published one day.  Maybe I can even make it into a series.  I don’t know.  I had a couple sequels written out for it but they were pretty terrible and I don’t know if I’ll be able to improve them.  We’ll see.

That’s all for now!

Writer's-Block-Strip-20

Word of the Day: Cogent (adj) – convincing or believable by virtue of forcible, clear, or incisive presentation; telling.

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Real Life Stories

Hey all!  I’ve had this post written for a while.  I was planning on drawing a comic for it, but moving is hard.  So here, have a post.  I’ll resume with the comics on the next one.

They say that the truth is stranger than fiction.  This may not always be the case, but I do believe that real life can be a fountain of inspiration for creative writing.  I’ve talked before about drawing on real life to accentuate your writing, so today I want to just tell you a couple of true stories.

The first happened at an IHOP.  I was there with a friend of mine and it was pretty empty.  There was an older gentleman sitting at a booth on the other side of the restaurant.  He appeared to be a regular there, because the waitress asked if he would like his “usual.”  I remember him asking her for coffee, and telling her that he was waiting for someone.  She agreed to come back later when his friend had arrived.

A few minutes later, sure enough, another old man walked into the restaurant and went over to the booth.  The two men greeted each other with a fist bump.

This is a true story.  Seeing this made my day.

Another story happened in the market.  I was browsing one of the aisles for something I needed, when a mother, her two children, and an older woman – my guess was the grandmother – came into view.  The two children were a boy and a girl.  The boy had one of those mini, child-sized shopping carts, which I never understood.  I really do want to know who looked at a child and said, “You know what this needs?  A miniature battering ram on wheels.”

Anyway, the mother was chastising her son for pestering his sister.  As she passed behind me, her son said sullenly, “I don’t love you.”  To which the mother replied, “That’s fine.”  This, in my opinion, is the proper response when a child says something like that.  But then the grandmother pulled him aside and began telling him off: “Who bought you that toy?  You go and apologize right now!”  This, I felt, defeated the purpose of the mother’s neutral reaction to her son’s outburst.

Anyway, the thing I want to draw your attention to is that the son said, “I don’t love you,” and not, “I hate you.”  I found this very interesting because the instance of a child saying, “I hate you,” is very well-known.  I’ve seen it happen on TV shows and everything like that, but I never considered that a child might express the exact same sentiment with different wording.  This is what separates the fictional scenarios on television from real life.  Not that a child would never say, “I hate you,” just that it is not the only possibility.

Speaking of children…

I was very young.  Maybe five?  Six?  I was with my mother in a Joann’s Fabrics, and I was wearing a little blue dress with a picture of Simba (young, not grown up) from The Lion King on it.  We were standing at a desk, possibly while my mom got some fabric cut, when another little girl saw my dress and ran at me screaming, “Mama look at that girl’s dress!”  She then proceeded to grab my dress in both hands and pull it out to look at it.  Her mother stood by helplessly while I shoved the girl’s hands off of me and said “Stop it.”  She just picked up my dress again, so I pushed her hands away once more.  This time it worked and she ran back to her mother.

Real life does funny things.  Got an interesting story?  Tell me in the comments.

Word of the Day: Accentuate (v) – to give emphasis or prominence to.

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