NaNoWriMo – Week 2 1/2. Illness, the Great Destroyer.

nano_logoMy whole office has been sick for weeks. They each took turns coughing. In my pride, I thought I could best the rampant, thriving sicknesses assaulting me every day.

And oh how my pride fell.

There were a number of reasons this particular week (and let’s be honest, it’s almost been two weeks) was awful for writing. Some were great reasons. Some were sucky reasons.

Reason 1: A fantastic friend of mine was getting married. That took up a Saturday.

Reason 2: Moving to a new place at the end of October means that our house is a disaster, and it has needed much time to get in any semblance of order. It still isn’t. (think organizing boxes, wads of laundry, constant cleaning, painting, trying to set up electronics…on top of regular life stuff.)

Reason 3: Regular life stuff. Bible study nights, family get-togethers, celebratory dinners, all things that suddenly make most of the nights in your week disappear.

Reason 4: Catching a nasty cold that wouldn’t let up for days. It was so mind-foggingly awful I could barely read a book. I spent three days watching The Office.  (Secretly, the break of not having to worry about or do anything besides rest was really great).

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This made me laugh far too hard. It’s also vaguely wordish related.

And so we came to a place where I hadn’t written in days. DAYS, people. And with the looming successive failures to write stacking up, it’s getting harder to want to get back in it each night. I said in my last blog post that failing was ok, but giving up is not.

So it may not be tonight, but so help me…(someone help me) I will get back into the groove this week.

How are other people doing? Are you racking up the word count or slogging your way through?

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Wordish Wednesdays

A Wednesday full of wordish alliteration wherein I throw words into the void. Wordish Wednesdays are for quotes, inspiration, or bits of my own writing projects. Here’s the first installment–a quote about writing from one of the greats.

 

C.S. Lewis_quote1

 

Any quotes out there that keep you going or inspire you as a writer?

Writing Physical Descriptions-the Crippling ‘are they Hot or Not’ Syndrome.

 

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“She was still attractive in a very ordinary way.”

That is an honest-to-goodness real sentence I plucked from a book I was reading. Not a book I kept reading for very long. And the author was a woman.

My eyes slammed to a halt reading it–at first with horror, then with roaring laughter at how stupid that sentence was. I mean, read that thing! What even is that?! This particular series was plagued with similar examples, but is a disease that flares up in many novels.

This is one of my writer peeves: introducing the character first and foremost by describing how attractive or unattractive they are.

I can’t even list how many times, as a reader being introduced to a new character, the first sentence started or ended with ‘she was beautiful’ or ‘he was ruggedly handsome.’ As if how attractive they were was absolutely necessary for me to continue happily reading or else I would be distracted with all-consuming curiosity about the hotness level of this character I was supposed to be picturing.

Whether the character is attractive or not does not need to be the first thing (or ever be) told to the reader.

This is plain bad writing, and makes me insane in the brain. If you haven’t noticed this before, start paying attention when an author introduces a new character to you and see how often this pattern emerges. When I noticed it, it was absolutely grating because of how unnecessary it was. Honestly, I started getting angry. Authors do not need to tell me if every character I read about is attractive or not before getting on with the dialogue or action. I’m good. They can describe key physical attributes and leave it at that, because I’ve got my own thing going on called my imagination that works pretty good on its own, thank you very much. I shape my value of characters based on how they act, not how they look.

If they are attractive, am I supposed to like them better? What a disturbing thought…

Give readers their imagination back, and stop devaluing the characters like this.

In my draft of my second novel, I have a character with a heavily scarred face and body. In that instance, I do mention early on how she physically views herself as it’s a clue to her personality: she doesn’t try to hide the scars. She’s not ashamed of something that could be viewed as ugly and disfiguring; her choice to leave her scars visible is an important bit of knowledge to share versus if she had tried to disguise them.

I also have a character who is handsome and actively hides it: he doesn’t want any attention drawn his way unless he chooses. It’s an important piece of his personality which is the only reason I specifically note that he has good-looking features. Otherwise, I deliberately chose to describe key physical attributes of other characters and nothing else unless it’s necessary for the story. No ‘attractive’ or ‘plain’ tag-ons.

As another real example, the fact that, “His face was hard yet sensual” does not give me as the reader valuable insight into his character. What does that even mean? And why note that? In case you’re curious, that’s a quote from the same writer as above…

Here is an example I wrote of where a character’s looks are important:

“The man sauntered into view. He was incredibly handsome, with sparkling green eyes, and a chiselled jaw. He was also the murderer of the Old Valley village. I could see why they’d trusted him…”

If the character is so beautiful it affects people around them, their attention, their trust, or if they have a feature that’s noteworthy, then mention it! If not, I have no desire for the author to tell me every time I meet a character if they’re hot or not.

Wrap-Up Tips

  • NEVER EVER use looks as a main-stay introduction to all characters in the book. It’s a splintery crutch to tack on that ‘she was pretty.’ Don’t do it.
  • If it’s not a plot point for the reader that the character is good-looking (as defined by the character viewing this person), then why mention it? Ask yourself why every time  you type those words…
  • Describe one or two important or unique features instead of trying to convince the reader he/she is good-looking. (E.g. His stomach was strapped on like a wide barrel. E.g. Her green eyes were as vivid as the new buds of a willow in spring.)

 

Do you have a writer or reader peeve? Tell me in the comments!

10 Words to Erase from your Writing Right Now

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English has its share of totally useless extra words ain’t no one needs in their writing no-how; however, all rules are meant to be broken. This is where your writerly essence of word craft needs to kick in.

Many times, these are filler words that can be deleted. Removing them makes your sentence crisper, gets to the punch, and often rids you of redundant words. Keep in mind, the below words are ok to use in the right circumstance, especially in dialogue where characters don’t need to speak perfectly-crafted English. If you find yourself using these words, examine it in its context to see if it’s necessary, and if the word doesn’t add or clarify the meaning of the sentence, get rid of it!

Here are the top 10 words I watch out for.

  1. That
    • E.g. I didn’t know that you were a vegetable wizard!
    • It’s unnecessary in most cases. Get rid of that.
  2. Just
    • E.g. I just licked the enchanted spatula.
  3. Very/really
    • E.g. The faeries were very upset about the menu. –Pick a more powerful word.
    • E.g. The faeries were in an uproar about the menu.
  4. In order
    • E.g I jogged to the armoury in order to fix the notch in my sword.
  5. Almost
    • “She’s close to almost finishing the curse, captain!”
  6. Began/started
    • E.g. I started to think those harpies weren’t being straight with me.
    • Get right to the action, and delete everything before “those.”
  7. Then
    • E.g. Then the princess slipped her leash over her nine-tailed fox.
    • Filler word. Don’t need it.
  8. Rather/quite
    • E.g. The mermaid wasn’t quite sure if she wanted the boat’s treasure or its food first. Both were rather crucial to her haul.
  9. Often
    • E.g. The changeling often contemplated staying in one state of being.
    • Generally this is a weaker word you can easily scratch or subsitute for something better.
  10. Slightly/somewhat/seemed
    • E.g. The vampire is somewhat tempted to devour your hairless cat.
    • Only somewhat? Say the vampire is tempted and get to it!

This one is extra because it’s not a single word, but writers should also beware using double past-tense language: “I had walked to the volcano.” “She’s already had several run-ins with the beast.” Again, cut out the redundancy. Your verb should do the talking by itself with its tense.

Are there other words you watch for in your writing?

Writing Contests: Don’t get Book Hooked

Book Hooked

I got a funny little tweet notification this morning.

It asked if I had a manuscript kicking around.

Yes…

It asked if I wanted to enter a FREE novel contest.

YES.

It was free to enter, open to any genre, and the winner would be offered a publishing deal. I got pretty excited. I jumped on their website, went up and down a few current submissions that looked alright, then dove straight into the contest description. Which seemed….light? Lacking? Feeling my excitement wane and my suspicion start to bud (it’s never terribly far away from me), I tried to hunt down the list of  rules and tiny FAQs you need to read in 8-point font. Only to find that there weren’t any.

The contest is simple, and “based on reader engagement” the website said. You sign up for the website (which is free), upload your manuscript with a few incredibly basic rules (you need to have decent English and follow their formatting structure), and then readers get to vote on their favourite novel. Whoever has the most votes, wins!

So blast your Facebook, Twitter, and blog with your submission to get the most votes!

I made a *that stinks* face and sat back in my chair. But was still curious. So I did a bit more research on other writers’ opinions about this site. There was not glowing positivity. In fact, one headline came up “Inkitt is trawling for submissions again” that locked in exactly what my tweet from this morning felt like.

In order for anyone to vote for your novel, they have to be members of the site.

Yep. There’s the catch.

“Reader engagement?” So we’re defining that as whoever happens to click the most ‘likes’ on your novel, whether they actually read it or not. And then my friends, family, and readers have to cross the barrier of signing up for yet another useless site they will never need to use again? Great. That couldn’t possibly get skewed. The novels that go up first have a longer time for ‘readers’ to vote, AND the most liked novels so far are prominently featured on the front page. Why go diligently reading your way through the submissions when the top up-voted submissions are right in your face?

Sure, this contest is an option. The way I felt about it after doing some basic, quick research is that it’s an option for writers who are desperate to see their novel up on an external website, so desperate that they’ll skim over the odd rules, the percentage the company will take off your book sales, the rather low quality of other works being tossed into the pool. Websites like this make me feel icky when I walk away, and glad I dug into it rather than gleefully submitting my novel in hopes of a brighter future. This contest isn’t sinister, but it definitely didn’t meet my expectations. It could have easily preyed on my first enthusiastic emotional response to just submit my novel without reading through the rules and thinking about all the little loop holes they don’t lay out. It’s easy to get excited about an opportunity when many of us are ‘desperate’ to get our novels out there and jump at anything that comes our way.

Writers, give your work some love. It deserves it. Do your research. Don’t submit without looking into the contest or the publisher.

What are the submission rules? What are your rights to your work? What percentage of your earnings are taken away by the publisher? What do other writers who have joined the website or entered the contest have to say?

Go out into the world and make wise decisions.

Writer Confessions: From Daunting to Doable

What I’m about to say is one of the most common of common writerly woes: writing is tough. It’s hard mental and emotional work. It’s tiring to sit at a computer for work all day, then come home to more computer–carpal tunnel anyone?

There is no immediate pay off after a long writing session when you walk away from your paper or laptop–I didn’t earn money that hour, I don’t know for certain that my time spent sitting there is going to give me anything back one day.

I wrote a post about how my novel progress was going about two months ago, with some key steps in moving forward. Being totally honest here? I’m only just barely scraping away at them. I’m pecking away at editing my novel, because those 130,000 words and scene revisions are daunting. But I am armed with logic and common sense, even if it’s hard and less fun than wanting to pick up my videogame, so what are the next steps?

Writer Confessions_daunting to doable

 

We need to break down the daunting editing process into manageable steps with a deadline. Arm yourself with accountability and a sense of urgency. Once you have identified steps, you can start on them piece by piece instead of being overwhelmed.

  1. Edit my identified areas, and then STOP. Stop picking at my writing like an old scab, and let it heal.
  2. I’ve decided to try traditional publishing first, which means step two is to hunt out a list of agents.
  3. Write query letters for identified agents.
  4. Step four is hard. It’s waiting. It’s taking a deep breath, and waiting for–most likely–rejection letters. Or let’s be optimistic and call them results, whether less desirable or fantastic.
  5. Keep writing my second novel in the series in the meantime.

Deadline: I want to have this done by June 30 (even though there is moving and several weddings in between).

Are there ways you tackle major writing or editing projects? Share them with me in the comments!

 

 

5 Ways Writers Should be Using Pinterest

Oh, Pinterest. You are the land of housewives and DIYers eager to discover the newest life hack or waist-slimming smoothie recipe, but I’ll give you this–you’re also real darn useful.

Writers, listen up. You can bend Pinterest to your will and make this site really work for you. Here are my favourite ways.

5 ways

 

1-Get Inspired

For some reason my writer juices react like I stepped up to a giant banquet table when they see a character design or a deliciously intriguing setting. Find pictures and art across the net that inspire you, intrigue you, want to make you come back and fill in the story behind it, and keep them in an inspiration board. This works whether researching armour, mentally designing a spaceship, or getting inspired by a harpy painting her toenails. Gotta groom.

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by Sandara, DeviantArt

2-The Writing Process

I like to keep my creative wordsmithing and the mechanical bolts of writing separate. Found a fantastic blog on editing? Inspirational tips on good dialogue, a list of active verbs, rules on creating a fictional culture? Yes, please. Toss that in my ‘process’ pile. When I’m looking for ways to enhance and grow how I write, I pop over to this board.

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3-Writing Quotes

If you’re like me, it hurts when you read a quote about writing that is so utterly right that you want to scribble it on the walls of your writing space. I keep those kind of quotes in their own board as a different kind of inspiration–the inspiration of empathy, of a kick in the pants, of fervour and passion and the yearning to keep on writing when it’s hard.

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4-Publishing

Whenever I get to that point where I want to pursue an agent to get published, it’s going to be handy to have those agents’ websites collected in one area. Or if I self-publish, I’ve already got a few of the countless blogs on costs, templates, and helpful hints logged away for reference. See book covers you like? Pin that. Interesting tidbits on the publishing side of life? Pin that!

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5-My Work in Progress

My novel in the works involves mythical creatures, full-body armour, and planes of existence colliding–not really a ‘write what you know’ scenario. It is delicious to come across a piece of art lovingly crafted that breathes out my world. Not only does this give my brain something to work with when describing the body of a gryphon, it gives me a sense of form and precision I can transfer in my own way into my world.  The idea is not to precisely describe another person’s piece of work, but to let that picture envelop my senses like wood smoke from a fire and inspire that writing that comes from it.

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Heaven’s Throne, by Pat Presley

Are there other ways you make Pinterest work for you as a writer? Let me know in the comments!