A Rebel with a Cause…

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I’ve always approached editing as a linear progression. Roll up my sleeves and start at page one, word one and sweep through the manuscript, cleaning up chapter by chapter as I go.

And it works, for the most part. Until I reach the middle of the story, then fatigue sets in. The words drag together, the plot blurs. I let weak sentence structures slide by, thinking I’ll fix the mess on the next sweep through.

And I do, for the most part. Round two usually proceeds much like round one: start at the beginning and work forward, leaving the middle to sag much like my sad, sad waistline.

I know I’m not alone. I read it every day when I pick up a published book. Few, so precious few authors, hold onto tension in the middle. The story often drags, the scenes are lackluster. My stories certainly follow this course.

Enough I say! Who writes the rules governing editing? Who says an author must start at chapter one, word one? Maybe it’s the rebel in little Ol’Sue, but the last time I began editing my Irish story, Summoned, I decided to start in the middle. It was time to skip those over-polished first chapters and give the middle section a much-needed workout. Seem silly? Maybe, but let me share 4 things this achieved:

1) Fresh perspective. It’s a bit like taking a scene out of context and viewing it from a different vantage point. It’s astounding how much I cut from chapters after realizing the scenes or sections are dragging the pacing or killing tension.

2) Enjoyment. Really, I love attacking these middle chapters guilt free. It’s like being the second or third runner in a relay race. I’m fresh, aggressive. I don’t have the start or the finish line in sight, just these pesky, fat chapters in desperate need of trimming.

3) Edge. I push characters. I strip away their defenses. I remove light banter or chitter-chatter. I think some of this exists in books from shear author fatigue.

4) Bliss. Okay, maybe that’s pushing it, but there’s something about the insurmountable task of plowing through an entire manuscript, screening for grammar, plot, character and pacing issues that wear me down. Focusing on the middle section seems so… doable.

I’ve completed edits on the mid-section of Summoned and loving it. The characters are stronger, the pacing is tighter, and though I still have a ton of work to go on this bad-boy, at least I’m confident the middle is no longer the weakest section.

What do you think? Care to give it a go?

Happy writing!

Sue

 

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Why I love, love, love….Wattpad!

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image credits: pixabay.com

Most authors have a favorite social media site. For some, it’s blogging. For others it may be Facebook, Twitter, or even Pinterest. For me, it’s Wattpad.

With the crazy my life has become, I’ve little time to spend in front of a computer. That means less time to write and less time to catch up with all you wonderful bloggers.

But it doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. Promise!

For those unfamiliar with Wattpad, allow me to extol its virtues.

Wattpad.com is a site dedicated solely to writing. Authors can create a free account and upload as many of their books (chapter by chapter) for readers to read. Authors can discover new authors, and read, comment and vote on their chapters. Many readers join Wattpad solely to read and discover the next big thing!

 

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hmmmm…. sounds like a win-win situation to me…

And that’s because it is.

I’ve been working on two stories: Fairless, a YA fantasy; Summoned, an historical fantasy. Both have gained readership with each chapter uploaded. Like all social media sites, one must follow and support others in order to gain followers… which for me is super awesome as I get to read some great books!

But here’s the icing on the cake… the kicker… the extra scoop of sprinkles…

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Wattpad allows you to see who is reading your books. How awesome is that!!

They’ve installed nifty demographic pie charts which show you:

1) percentage of readers who are male/female or unidentified (must be a dogs have learned to read).

2) percentage of age ranges reading your story

3) what countries they hail from

4) stats showing when your readers are reading

Here is what I’ve learned:

1) Fairless is read primarily by women over the age of 45 (go figure!)

2) they hail primarily from the US

3) is read by mostly other writers on Wattpad

4) Summoned is read by women primarily from 13-18 years old (really?!)

5) Most are from the US

6) Almost all are on Wattpad exclusively as readers

In a world where knowing your reader can help you sell books, how valuable is THAT information! Like I said before…

I’m in love!

Happy writing… and if you’re interested in scoping out my work, I’m on Wattpad under the name Vermontwriter. Just sign up for a free account and look me up. And who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with this delightful social media site too.

Cheers!

Sue

 

 

 

 

Passive/Active voice explained… finally!

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 image credit: pixabay

Today is my lucky day! Judy Post, a dear and wonderful writer-bud who is an awesome author of urban fantasy has answered my plea for help with passive/active voice. Please be sure to check out her links at the end of her informative, eye-opening article.

Welcome, Judy!

 

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Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog, Sue!

 

The writers in my writers’ group are fierce about catching passive and active verbs, so when you asked me to write about active and passive voice, I thought I can do that.  I get nailed on it a few times in every manuscript I read at Scribes.  But then I pondered what would be the difference between active verbs and active voice, and that expanded the question.

 

First, let’s look at active verbs.  Somewhere, in the mushy middle of every manuscript, I get lazy or mired and work so hard at keeping all of the story elements afloat and moving forward that my brain doesn’t spit out active verbs like it did at the beginning of the story.  In the last fourth, the active verbs return to me, because the pace of the story is picking up and pushing me along, and my verbs try to keep pace with the increasing tension.  But somewhere, inevitably, in the middle, I resort to lazy verbs:  the “to be” verbs.  “He was….”  “They were….”  “He had been…”  The big no-no’s of writing.  For instance, “Harper Lee wrote To Kill A Mockingbird” uses an active verb.  “To Kill A Mockingbird was written by Harper Lee” is passive.  Active verbs are stronger and give a sense of doing.

 

The more specific verb you use, the better.  For instance, I could say “The werewolf ran toward Reece.”  Ran is an active verb.  It shows action.  Action builds tension and pace.  But if I say, “The werewolf crouched and sprang at Reece,” I paint a more vivid picture.  Vivid pictures bring your story to life.  So not only do you want to use action verbs, you want to use strong, specific action verbs.

 

Strong, active verbs give a story momentum.  They carry it forward, but there’s more to voice than verbs.  For me, an active voice implies a protagonist who ACTS instead of constantly REacting.  I’ve read books where the hero or heroine is acted UPON and then he/she reels from the events and just keeps repeating the process.  There are times when people are victims or lost, but for an active story, the hero has to make decisions and act on them.  He might fail, but if he does, he makes another game plan and tries again.  I prefer strong characters over weak ones.  I write urban fantasy, so my characters are more than happy to grab a sword or wield magic, but strong can mean facing life problems head-on, digging into an obstacle and working to overcome it.  Life offers plenty of obstacles and challenges.  An active voice, I think, means the protagonist is determined to overcome them.  Every book starts when a protagonist gets tripped-up by life.  Something changes in his world, and he doesn’t like it.  The rest of the book tells how he deals with it and tries to fix it.

 

An active voice also implies persistent tension throughout the story.  In my mind, conflict and tension are two separate things.  A book’s conflict is something the protagonist must overcome—the book’s big question.  In urban fantasy, the conflict can be a demon that’s popped up in Bay City to feast on mortals.  My protagonist’s have to defeat him, and of course, demons aren’t easy to send home.  My friend, Julia Donner, writes Regency romances.  Romances, by definition, have to bring two people together by the end of the book.  These people have to overcome obstacles to finally find a happy-ever-after.  The hero’s conflict in her last book was that his father was a cruel tyrant and the hero had dyslexia—he couldn’t read.  Therefore, he felt inadequate and defensive, which led to a propensity to pound anyone who made fun of him.  He’d loved the heroine since he’d first seen her, but didn’t feel worthy of her.  The heroine, on the other hand, was at the mercy of her unscrupulous cousin, because her parents had gone to Canada and disappeared.   She needed saved.  The major conflicts of the two characters led to the tensions that kept the story moving.  The hero didn’t want the heroine to discover his secret.  He thought he’d lose her for sure if she did.  The heroine needed someone she could trust, and the hero’s evasiveness didn’t invite that.  Every single scene cranked up those conflicts and tensions.  Tension keeps us turning the pages to see what happens next.  It doesn’t always have to be big.  It can be a conversation between two people who disagree or between two people who don’t realize they DO agree.  Tension just means that inner squirm, when we FEEL for the characters in each scene.

 

I’ve probably talked about active and passive as much as anyone wants to hear, so thanks to Sue for inviting me again.  Here’s a link that gives more examples.

(and be sure to check out Judith’s links below!)

Amazon author page

webpage

blog

author facebook page

twitter: @judypost

A Plot for Panster-Sue…

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image credits: pixabay.com

If you’ve been around writing long enough, you know all about the labels of plotters and pansters. Some of you proudly embrace your title. Others refuse to be categorized as either. Some lucky ones have figured out how to be both!

Perhaps you’re all about plotting. You have the major turning points laid out, the chapters titled and organized for maximum impact. You’ve completed character wheels for every character, including the baddie…

control-427512_640Look at that outline, all neat ‘n tidy. If I sound snarky, it’s just because I’m jealous…

 

Or maybe you’ve accepted that will never be your style. You have to write organically. You need to write the story to know the story. Your characters have to show you the way, so you jump without a parachute…

 

 

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Okay, so I couldn’t find someone jumping without a parachute. Probably a good thing, anyway…

It’s a no-brainer where I fall. Yup, my brain lives in pantserville.

I’ve fought the pull of plotters. I’ve lived in mad envy of a well-oiled story. I’ve beat myself up for failing to plot one too many times.

So last week while on Sabbatical, I dove into my failed NaNo novel, Drift. I’d finished the first quarter of the book, right up to the first turning point, but was stalled on the mid-section of the book. I have tried everything to plot this story…

1. I outlined.

a. I figured out the major turning points or disasters.

b. I wrote them down.

c. I didn’t know what came next.

2. I created a Excell spreadsheet listing every chapter with summary.

a. Well, every chapter up to the first turning point. Then I got lost because…

b. I didn’t know what came next.

3.  I gave up and pretended not to worry about plot structure at all, believing it will all work out in the end.

a. I wrote some stuff.

b. I still didn’t know what came next.

4. I heaved a BIG SIGH

I’m not sure if it was the Sabbatical (which entailed a break from my computer for writing as well as for social media) or if I stumbled on an unused part of my brain, but for some reason, I finally figured out how to plot!

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yeah, me!

Now, to get back to the subject at hand (pun intended). As I said, I was stalled. I knew the major turning points, but what to do with all that stuff that goes in between?! Since I was going old-school, I took a piece of paper, wrote the turning point scene at the top and left it blank. Then it hit me – I knew what should come right before and right after that point. Out came more paper – each noted with basic information on top and left blank.

I continued this way until a full scene materialized. So, seeing as I already had a blank piece of paper and pen in hand, I wrote that scene. This led to the next and the next, and well, within the span of an hour or so, I had the middle and end of Drift plotted.

I’m not sure why this worked for me and why I couldn’t simply draft an outline like most able-bodied writers can. Something about physically seeing the chapters as separate pieces of paper clicked. And, as a side benefit – I was able to insert transitional chapters or move some around…

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Just think. All this goodness happened without staring at a computer screen. Lucky me!

And so, for those of you who roll up your pants and wade in, only to find yourself stuck mid-way through, I encourage you to give the Sue-thingy (that’s a real term – you can Google it) a go. You never know. Might work for you, too.

I wish you all the best!

Sue

 

 

 

 

a simple challenge from Sue…

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 image credit: pixabay.com

I’m back, refreshed from my computer/social media break. For six whole days, I relied on my cell phone only to check emails and read blog posts. For six days, I wasn’t glued to the one-eyed monster. I have to admit, I missed some things… others, not so much.

This quality Sue-break gave me some perspective. There’s a ton of pressure on authors, both to write and build a platform that requires extensive computer time! Argh! (right?!).

Just how do you find time to work on your novel when you haven’t posted and you need to update your Facebook page and Twitter and Instagram

Sigh.

We authors aren’t machines. We’re creative souls and creativity needs nurturing to thrive. And so, I challenge you to do as I did last week. Take a sabbatical. Take a break from social media and recharge. Perhaps you’ll find inspiration or work out that stubborn plot twist (like I did). Perhaps you’ll discover the simple joy of jotting notes on a piece of paper (again like I did.)

For sure you’ll gain perspective on how many hours you spend on a computer… and how important it is to unplug and recharge that precious creative spirit.

Wishing you all the best of weeks!

Sue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A snippet from Drift…

This is an excerpt from last year’s failed NaNo novel. But failure is relative, as I’ve continued to plot and love this ya story. And just to give you bearings, the “I” is True Spencer, a 17-year-old girl living on the run with her mother. Yup, the baddy is the dad.

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Monday morning, I drag myself from bed and dress in the dark for my first day at a new school. Mom’s still sleeping, exhausted from working a double shift at the hospital. She’s happy with her new job and furious when townsfolk continue to pop in unannounced, bringing home-baked goodies that smell heavenly and taste even better. She refuses to answer the door, so I smile and greet each one like it’s the most natural thing in the world to accept their hospitality.

Mom grows more distant with each visit and the only thing holding us here is her job. I have to change that. I have to keep the townsfolk a safe distance from us so she’ll settle down and we can stay.

Because, that’s what I want to do.

I want a chance with Jeffersonville’s elite gymnastics team. I want a shot at a college scholarship. I want a chance at normalcy.

I grab my backpack and head down the mountain, slipping in the fresh snow that continues to fall. The road’s too narrow for a school bus to navigate and there’s no turn around at the top, so I was told to wait at the Blue Line Diner.

I wave to Polly who’s setting up for the breakfast crowd and shuffle from foot to foot. My toes are frozen. My breath hovers in front of my face like a little gray cloud. I’m expecting a large yellow bus, so I don’t know what to do when a white van pulls up.

The door slides opens. “You True Spencer?” The woman calls from inside.

I nod. My teeth are too clenched to talk.

“Well, come on before you freeze to death.”

I climb inside the weirdest school bus I’ve ever used. It’s a mini-van—the kind parents use to drive their children to the mall, or to the park. It’s the kind of car that represents everyone else’s normal.

I don’t know the kids sitting in the two bucket seats and they don’t acknowledge me. Each stare out the window like it’s uncomfortable acknowledging a stranger. I climb into the back and plunk down on the bench seat, knowing they’re right to keep to themselves because I’ll never be more than a stranger.

Jeffersonville High School is set in a valley, sandwiched between jagged snow-capped mountains. Like every cookie-cutter school, it’s made of ugly brown brick. I find the main office, hoping my fake paperwork will be good enough. Mom’s been too busy to work her usual magic and that left me scrambling, trying to figure out a story and how to doctor up some documents that look official.

I tap my fingers on the formica countertop as I wait for the secretary to finish on the phone. Maybe I am too quiet, or my presence doesn’t register with her, so, when she hangs up and begins typing on her computer, I clear my throat.

“Be right with you,” she says. Each word is snapped out like I’m a bug buzzing her ear.

Another harassed school secretary, hating their job. Why are they always so nasty? Do they start out that way or does the job change them, draining away any ability to care?

Any hope I have that she’ll be lenient disappears with her impatient shuffle to the counter. It’s going to be a hard sell—my documents aren’t as official looking as the ones Mom should have created.

“Yes?” She says. Her glasses are too large and worn too far down on her nose. Makes her sound like she has a cold.

“I’m True Spencer. I’m transferring here from Texas.”

“Paperwork.”

Why do they always use one word? It’s like a game—see who can use the fewest words. The one who speaks in a full sentence loses.

“Sure thing. Here you go,” I say and slide an envelope toward her on the counter.  She leaves me staring and looking around while she goes back to her computer, my bogus paperwork in hand.

I hate waiting in a school office. I always feel like I’ve done something wrong. I breathe in and breathe out and count the seconds until I can get out of this office.

The secretary huffs as she looks through her glasses at the computer. My hands go cold and clammy. Huffing is never a good sign.

“I have no record of a transfer from this school.” She remains behind the desk, leaving me to lean in to hear her better.

“We moved just before the holiday break,” I say. “Maybe it’s delayed?”

She shakes her head. “This paperwork makes no sense. I can’t use it to record a transfer without something directly from your sending school.”

My breathing stops. This, I have dreaded since the moment I woke up. No transfer, no gymnastics.

“Can you give it a few days?” I say. “It should come through soon.” I need to buy time for Mom to get the bogus paperwork in order.

She disappears from the office without acknowledging my question. Kids don’t rate polite conversation, at least not to this woman.

I’m digging my fingertips into my palm and jigging my foot as the first period bell rings, summoning kids to their homeroom. I’m entering the school mid-year. I’m trying not to think about the catchup work I have ahead of me when the secretary reappears, carrying my fake paperwork.

She stamps it, writes something on it and finally approaches the counter carrying a clipboard.

“You can enroll. Fill this in. Until I receive confirmation from your sending school though, no teams, no sports.”

My heart drops to the floor and breaks into a million pieces. I rush my words. “But, when you get the papers, I can join up, right?”

“That’ll be up to the Board to decide.”

The Board, as in School Board? “Is it that bad?”

She looks at me over the top of her glasses. “Too many discrepancies. Too much missing information. No sports until your enrollment is all sorted out.”

The secretary returns to her desk, ignoring the kid that’s just arrived and waits behind me, leaving me to stare at paperwork I have no idea how to fill out and an empty place where my heart once existed.

 

Character development in five oh-so-easy steps…

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A compilation of my characters from three books, created by image credits: my uber talented daughter: McKenna Bahr.

My first story came from a dream. I can still see her–a woman standing in a crowded amphitheater, anxiously watching a man climb a stage and use it as a throne. All knelt before him, except her. She alone was unable to bow.

I’m glad I woke and scratched down the dream. Today it has evolved into a mega-epic Irish historical fiction called Summoned. Although the dream gave me a basic plot, it was the woman that captured my imagination. Who was she and why couldn’t she bow? Why was she so afraid?

Some characters are tricky. They slip through one’s fingers, evading clear definition. She did not.  I got her right away–a young woman named Kathlin, seeking control over her own destiny. It’s a tradition in our family to create at least one gift at Christmas time. My daughter painted this bookmark of Kathlin…

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Others, though, refuse to be defined. The appear well-developed, but a bit of examination reveals all the little character holes. You can’t fool a reader. They know something’s off, even if they can’t put their finger on it.

My protagonist from Fairless, Tipper Jones,  falls into this category.

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Unlike Shay, the golden-haired fellow on the right, Tipper has continued to elude my capture. Here is what I’ve struggled with:

First draft feedback: But WHY is she so against the Traditions? What makes it so bad that she’s willing to risk extreme punishment to defy them?

Second draft feedback: Okay, so she’s had these visions and is seeking a dream-boy. But what about her? What does she need that she can’t get without sacrifice? And she’s static–she continues to miss opportunities to change and grow. She needs to soften up in the middle and stop being so reactive.

Sigh.

Third round and boy, am I scratching my head. Okay, so better. But we still don’t understand what she needs. It isn’t enough! We want more!!! Gack. What is it with this character? How do I flesh her out?

I headed back to my old stand-by how-to books and came up with this oh-so-easy list. It’s helping me. I hope it helps you!

1) Take some time and journal. I like to write as if I’m the character. Details may pop up that won’t make it into the story but will flavor the scenes.

For instance, I didn’t know Tipper Jones struggled with a poor self-image until I wrote about her early school days. Then I learned how she saw herself–through the eyes of her teacher, who felt she was too loud, too brassy; and her peers who didn’t understand her doubts. Beneath all that reaction and anger, she felt she was somehow broken inside.

2) Journal the arc. Where does the character start and where do they end up?

This gave me the framework for Tipper. In the beginning, she’s stubborn, set on self-reliance, and doesn’t trust easily. Knowing this helped me create characters and scenes that would challenge her to change.

3) What’s the lie? What is one simple belief -or the lie- that influences the action of this character? Answer this and you’ll know your character’s dramatic truth.

Tipper believes she can fudge the truth. She can bully her way through any situation and somehow it will all come out okay. But her self-image is distorted and she doesn’t realize until it’s too late that every action comes with a consequence. Her dramatic truth: her brokenness is actually her greatest strength.

4) Understand the difference between compelling and sympathetic. I want my readers to relate to my characters, not feel sorry for them. Quirks are fine, but I like to dig deeper to discover the real nuggets.

This is from a scene near the end of the second act:

Tipper crept to the back room and found Shay lying on a bed of straw. Soft blonde hair fell across his incredible golden eyes. She resisted the temptation to move the]lock back. He needed sleep. And she needed time to form her plan.

She’d left her home. Tossed traditions aside, put her family in danger and for what? What was the real reason she had left?

Self-determination.

She needed to define herself without rules placed upon her by others. She needed to seek and know who she was and what she was capable of. Sadness flared when she looked again at Shay, but she pushed it away. She wouldn’t find it staying with this irritating, lying, beautiful boy-o. It is time to rise above her limitations without his interference.

She smiled sadly. Or what he would call help.

In the pre-dawn light, she opened her pack and extracted a pen and paper, careful not to wake Shay. He deserved better than this. He was only trying to help her and his sister, but she could see no other way. She’d leave him a note and try to put into words the dream that demanded fulfillment.

Dear Shay,

            How can I leave you, knowing how angry you’ll be when you wake and find me gone? And yes, I’ve taken James, so no need to check.

             I’m sorry for this and for the worry it’ll cause, but I could see no other way. I have to finish what I started. I have to do this on my own.

             Protect her Shay, watch over Gwen and I’ll seek Liam. It’s as it should have been from the beginning. You on your quest, me on mine.

            Forgive me?

            Tipper.

 

She wanted to write what was in her heart. She wanted to tell him she loved him. The words were there, just aching to come out, but she couldn’t say them. Not yet. Not this way.

She folded the note and left it by his bedroll where he’d see it when he awoke. There was no helping the betrayal he’d feel. She stood up. It was time to for the journey to continue. She walked through the barn, keeping her movement soft and light. “Be well, Shay,” she whispered as she closed the door.

“Be well, Shay,” she whispered as she closed the door.

5) Allow their brokenness to become their strengths. And know, some characters shine without any effort while others will haunt you forever.

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Shamus O’Reilly, from Fairless as imagined by my daughter, McKenna. He’s one of my all time favorite boy-os and one of my writer’s group most-loved characters. 

Both Fairless and Summoned are on wattpad.com.

I wish you happy writing!

Sue

a dozen tiny questions…

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image credits: pixabay.com

What do you listen to when you write? Classical? Rock? Jazz?

Or do you need silence? Maybe the sounds of nature to coax the Muse out to play?

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Do you listen to it loud? Do you channel your inner-teen, turn on some heavy metal, plug in some earbuds, and crank up the volume?

 

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Or maybe you write with a cup of tea and soft music floating gently in the background?

Does music help or hurt your inspiration? Do lyrics get in the way or take you in a new and unexpected direction?

What are you listening to today–care to share?

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I’ve set up playlists on my iphone – one for each story I’m currently writing. Each song means something to the story, whether it’s the lyrics or the mood of the melody.

I listen to Loreena McKennitt’s album “An Ancient Muse” while writing my Irish story, Summoned.

For Fairless, it’s the song “Flares”, by the Script, “Shatter Me” by Lindsey Stirling, and Ellie Goulding’s “Atlantis”.

For Drift, it’s music by Fall Out Boy- hard-driving, alternative rock.

And last, when I’m in the mood for mood music, I Youtube “Epic Music” and write to one of the most spectacular movie scores EVER (especially awesome for you YA fantasy writers out there).

My teenager accuses me with eye-rolls and a perpetual whiney Mooommmm that I’m treading on her toes, downloading some of these tunes. I assure her, without batting an eye that I AM! And I’m not apologizing. Not when this music inspires me to write.

Happy listening!

Sue

 

 

 

 

 

Five ways to fall in love with editing…

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image credit: pixabay.com

I love drafting a novel. I love the breathless feeling when I finally type “the end”. For a precious moment, I can sit back, satisfied my novel is complete. Characters exist, the plot is framed, the lump of clay has taken the shape of a book.

But then the moment vanishes when I realize this lump needs a whole lot of work to ever see the light of day. My heart speeds up. My throat goes dry, as I face down the beast formed from 80,000 words.

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Where do I start? How do I fix broken subplots? What do I do with characters who took on a life of their own and left my carefully crafted outline in the dust?

I’ve attacked this fear by studying how-to books. I’ve read blogs, gathered information and tidbits and sage pieces of advice, but no matter how much I’ve learned, I still don’t like editing.

Some of you buckle down and get the job done. Lucky dogs! I have to trick my mind into believing it’s easy. Here are five things I’ve found helpful:

1) Stop calling it editing. Call it (at this stage) what it is: revision. At this point, you needn’t be concerned with fine details. You’re looking at the BIG PICTURE. Which leads me to the next point:

2) Think of your mind as a lens. Imagine pulling back to see the larger view. Now is the time to look at turning points. Where do they fall? Do the characters have an arc? Examine primary plot points – are they resolved in the end? If you’ve followed my suggestion, you’ve printed off your wonderful first draft. Now is the time to dig in. I use post-it notes to mark turning points (which typically fall at the 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 way mark, depending on how many “acts” your story has).

3) Once you’ve examined the larger points, tighten that lens- but only a little- to look at chapters. Do they have dramatic tension? I follow the Snowflake Method which proposes that each chapter is driven by either a GOAL, CONFLICT, and SET-BACK or a REACTION, DILEMMA AND DECISION (if one chapter is a GCS, the next would be a RDD).  Using that theory, I note, right at the top of the chapter GCS or RDD. I even break it down a bit further by noting each element in the chapter.

For example: if it’s a GCS, I’ll mark the chapter this way:

Goal: The protagonist needs to find safety, which means tearing up roots and leaving again (she’s on the run from an abusive father).

Conflict: She’s part of a gymnastic team that is top-notch and heading for States in the Spring. If she leaves, she’ll miss out on her chance to place (and thus, lose out on chances for scholarships).

Set-Back: She has no choice. Father has found her. She has to leave, and abandon her dream.

It’s amazing how much this has helped me – both in editing and in plotting a chapter.

4) Let’s go back and play with the word “revision”, and tweak it to re-envision. Here’s the time to read through the chapter and let it play out in your mind, much like watching a movie.  This allows you to dive deeper into the story without worrying about small details like word choice and sentence structure. Which leads me to number five:

5) Take notes. Take lots and lots of notes as you re-envision. Resist the temptation to go back and rework the micro when you still have to fix the macro. Keeping a notebook handy keeps the ideas flowing and your creative juices primed. I’ve filled pages with everything from setting adjustments to mood and emotional content. Then, as I progress to the stage of editing (sorry for that word!), I won’t have to search my memory to pull forward all those picky details.

I hope these ideas help. Got some of your own and care to share? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy revising!

Sue

5 things to do before you edit that first draft…

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 image credit: pixabay.com

So, you’ve finally completed that first draft of  your novel. Congratulations! It’s an accomplishment, no matter how long it took to get there. Now that you’ve finished, you may be asking, What’s next?

Is your heart thumping wildly in your chest as you force yourself to sit down, a proverbial red pen in hand, starting at word one, page one? Do you tweak with sentence structure or word choice? And how do you tackle thousands of words when you’re not sure if they all add up to a plot?

Here are five things to do before you even begin the editing process.

1) Let it sit. Let it be. Resist the urge to open that document and peruse it’s greatness, or it’s lameness and give your brain a much-needed break. This is a great time to conjure up your next story, maybe make notes and write character descriptions. Or, if you’re like me, and you have numerous books all in different states of creation, you tackle one of those.

2) While your story rests, invest into some good books on editing. And I’m not talking line-editing, but BIG picture editing. Books like A Story is a Promise by Bill Johnson, and Writing the Heart of Your Story by C.S. Lakin. Read them. Study them. Soak in them in and learn how to look at your writing from the MACRO to the MICRO.

3) Read. Read novels in your genre. Find ones similar to what you write and study the pacing, the voice, the phrasing each author uses. Did you draft your book in third person, past tense and maybe you fall in love with first person, present tense? Maybe it would be great to change things up? You can make this big picture decision before you even edit a word.

4) Read. Read novels way outside your genre. Test yourself- how much diversity can you take? You may be surprised how much inspiration you’ll discover by thinking outside the box. And who knows, it may inspire your next best-seller!

5) Now that time has passed–at least a few weeks, if not a month, print your book. Use all that hard-gained knowledge from those how-to books, note changes directly on the page. We read the printed word differently than ones that appear on the screen.  It’s amazing how many mistakes I’ve discovered when reading my novel on a printed page!

I hope these suggestions help. Got some great ideas that work for you? Care to share? We’re all in this together…

Happy editing!

Sue