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Edit Cards

9 Jan

Let’s try this again… apparently, when I hit post yesterday, only the first sentence posted. SORRY

 

People ask about the edit cards all the time. A month doesn’t go by when someone doesn’t ask about them.

So, knowing they were on my 2012 goals list, I pulled them out last week to take a look at them to see if they’d be a fun gift to give to my writer friend Abby Mumford for her birthday –> and let’s be honest. Edit Cards are a gift only a writer could love.

But, after playing with them a few hours, I had a group of 50 that looked good enough to give to a friend.

Now, I’m going to pass them on to a few people for opinions. It’s always good to see if anything you use could be bettered.

If you don’t know about the edit cards, click the edit card tag. I blogged on them several times when I just started making them. They really helped me figure out what editing and revisions were all about, get through my first books, and organize my thinking & process.

Now the question I get a lot is, Are you going to sell them?

I don’t know. I have some things I’d have to do before I even considered that. I did use them before when teaching a small writing gig on the side and they were a hit, so maybe down the line. We’ll see.

So, there’s your Edit Card Update…and Abby’s birthday. Poor Abby with the working gift 🙂

Writers: Get Over Yourself

14 Nov

I’m about to write one of those posts that I fear every person I know is going to end up thinking, Omgosh, she’s talking about me!

Let me start by saying, I’m not talking about any specific person.

I’m a writer (ok, no newsflash there) – I’ve been writing for a few years now with the intent to get published.

Going further back in time, I’m a certified English (Lit and Writing degrees) teacher who didn’t teach very long. But I’ve tutored and covered a writing group and helped friends…and then I came back to writing and started my own journey.

That said, I’ve been pondering something for several months and I want to discuss it.  I don’t know if it’s ego or stubbornness or being blind to other’s abilities or blind to your own work, but I’ve seen something happen a lot. Something that kind of shocks me to be completely honest.

I’m going to start with myself (and one of the few things I did right) and move on:

When I started writing I was begging the world for mentors or leaders or teachers. I took classes, joined groups, went to readings, commented on blogs, went to seminars/workshops/retreats – anything where experienced writers would be and I might get the chance to learn from them. In the meantime, I watched so many friends get taken under the wing of writers I loved and respected and still, not one writer in my genre ever offered that hand.

I sent emails to people I’d met asking follow-up questions. I stayed to the “just social” rule at outings. I listened. I wrote it all down. I learned.

I sought out knowledge, correction and help wherever I could.

I’ll be honest. I never found a writing mentor. No one ever took  a shine to me and wanted to help my writing and career along. I know, it sounds horrible just saying it out loud. As I look at my friends and all the amazing people I know (and many of them DID have authors scoop them up to help along the way) I really am blessed, but as a new writer I wanted something more… Not the answers, just someone willing to help me read the map.

And yes, I’ve offered to do my ‘teaching crits’ for several people. I even had two people email and ask me to do them. (Please don’t everyone do that!)

My point: I’m a huge believer in getting as much knowledge from as many places and testing then utilizing what works for you. (I’ll do another blog post on how this can go wrong if you’re not careful later.)

If you are not doing that, you’re building your own barrier to success. If you believe you know all the answers, that you’re writing is good enough (or worse, it’s great and you don’t have to listen to anyone else) you might as well quit now.

Yes. I just said that: If you’re not willing to search out knowledge, listen to others, and utilize what you learn, QUIT WRITING FOR PUBLICATION.

Ok, I’m picturing all the angry comments now. That’s fine 😉

There are several goals a writer should have:

  • To continue to get better
  • To have a clear voice
  • To learn to judge and utilize input

I know what you’re saying: Bria, “To be published isn’t on there!”

Nope. It isn’t. And here’s why: If you’re not doing those three things, being published isn’t going to happen. Those three things need to start immediately and continue forever.

Working with betas and/or crit partners, then taking agent rejections an agent, then an editor, then writing the next book, then working with betas or crit partners then starting the publication process all over again… those three goals need to stay in the front of your mind. Always get better. Keep your voice clear. Learn & utilize new info.

And so, here’s some advice people don’t say often enough:

If you want to be a writer, GET OVER YOURSELF.

Yes, it’s your story. Yes, you have a vision. Yes, you don’t want that diluted. But, here’s the deal — How often have you heard someone do something amazing (inventions, cures, discoveries, etc) and they basically say they were able to achieve it because they were standing on the shoulders of giants?

If you’re not willing to do that, you’re going to be recreating the wheel. Good luck with that.

kk,
Bria

PS – this totally makes me want to do another SYTYCW contest, which happened about 5 MONTHS before Harlequin stole my hashtag in the last 2 weeks (Yes, I’m still ticked off about that. Come on Harlequin marketing group – don’t steal from other smaller groups – it’s rude and bad business)

Is Your Manuscript Golden Heart Ready?

9 Nov

The Golden Heart is huge. It’s a big, big contest for those of you who haven’t heard of it before. It’s the little sister of the Ritas (the end-all-be-all of romance contests). It’s the unpublished version.

I was lucky (and hopefully talented) enough to have finalled last year. I will never point and laugh again when an actress says “It was just an honor to be nominated” because after finalling in the GH (and sharing that final with 7 amazingly talented women) I know that there are times that’s true.

If you’re seriously considering entering, you may want to look (not so seriously) at my Should I Enter The Golden Heart flowchart as well as this weeks Golden Heart Checklist.

But, for now, let’s just focus on the details.

Is your manuscript ready? That’s a hard question. If I could challenge you, it would be to this: ASSUME IT’S NOT AND WORK FROM THERE.

I know. You’re all supremely insulted. But, this is the fastest way to success. If you’re assuming your ms is good to go, opportunities will be more difficult to spot. And, let me start by saying, of course there are exceptions.

So, here we go:

If you have just finished writing this ms, you’re not ready. It needs to sit. To get out of your head so you can see it fresh. There’s still time. Set it aside and fill your head with other stuff.

Read. A lot. Watch movies. Write something else. Try not to think about it. If you do think about it, make notes. Do not go back to the ms.

Let it become fuzzy. Let yourself come back to it with fresh eyes.

If no one else has critted ms, you’re not ready. I’m already hearing allll the people shouting about how they don’t need a second set of eyes. How there are brilliant people who never get input or feedback. I have a friend on her 9th book who doesn’t have them critted. It happens.

But, you’re not looking for an agent or editor who will think, “Oh, I ADORE this and it’s almost there! We can have her do so-and-so in revision rounds.” You’re looking to judges who are going to mark down entries for everything because you make — or don’t make — the finals by less than a point.

Don’t believe me? I had two entries last year. One finalled. One didn’t. By less than one point. ONE point. Can you spare that one point? I couldn’t.

Also, even if they don’t make suggestions about the story, the fewer typos or poorly structured sentences it has – the easier the read – the less places to lose points.

If you’re not sure where to cut off your pages, you’re not ready. Where you end your partial is not a matter of how many you can squeeze in, but where your best hook is. If you haven’t stopped and put a lot of thought in to that for pages 45-55, then you’re just not ready to send it.

You need to leave the judge excited, sucked in and a little annoyed to be on the last page. You need it to make sense. You need enough questions answered to have the judge — the reader — involved and enough raised to have them asking for more. You need there to be a little Dun Dun DA going on when that last word drops.

If you haven’t put a lot of work into your synopsis, you’re not ready. So, the judge is hooked — HOOKED — can’t wait to read more. So much so that she snatches your synopsis off the desk so she can find out what happens…and reads a meandering, non-sensical crammed story that doesn’t seem to line up with what she already read OR doesn’t give that “satisfied” feeling she expected. I know. It’s not fair. Synposizing is hard. Sooo hard. But, they have to do the trick here.

Just like when an agent or editor reads your partial and syno.

Best advice? Ask someone who hasn’t read your story and doesn’t know anything (or almost anything) about it to read it. Ask them to mark it up with questions about clarity, annoyance, wording, etc.

Also, ask someone who has only read the partial and someone who has read the full to do the same thing.

 If you haven’t cut, you’re not ready. Let’s be honest, most of us need to cut stuff out of the beginning of our . Whether it’s entire chapters, scenes, info dumps, descriptions, extra walk-on characters…whatever it is. Most of us need to cut.

Why is that so important here? You have roughly 50 pages to SELL this book to the judge. You have roughly 1 page to convince them you’re worth looking at.

There was a blog (and darned if I have the link) I saw last year. Someone asked judges to score the first page of several entries and then later, score the first 50 pages.

Over 90% of the time the scores were remarkably close. Almost never did the scores go up. If anything, the scores went down.

Make sure you have sucked them in, kept them hooked and sold them…starting with page one. Cut anything that doesn’t do that.

If you ever find yourself say, “Yeah, but…” during a conversation about a crit (or to yourself when you get one), stop. Think. If it’s because “the reader needs to know this” you’re probably doing it wrong…or not well… or overdone…or telling them something they already figured out… or, or, or.

We’ve all done it. But, let’s be honest, this is 100000% the time not to do it.

This isn’t an opportunity where your editor or agent can say, “Can you add something in the beginning to make this part at the end make a little more sense?” This a time when no one is going to see the end. They’ll assume you did it well when they see the synopsis…if you’ve convinced them you do it well in your pages.

Cut till it’s clean.

If you’re taking this advice personally and are insulted, you’re not ready. If you’re looking at this and telling yourself all the reasons why none of these apply to your book or your writing or you in general, you’re not ready.

No one on the defensive can see her ms’s flaws.

No one on the defensive can fix after she’s entrenched.

Let go of your preconceived notions about your ms, your writing and yourself and there’s nowhere to go but up… and up, with your talent (and maybe that luck I was talking about) is the direction to head for finalling…and selling!

KK,
Bria

Finding a Swarm of Words: #Aug1k1hr

8 Aug

What would you do with 24,000 more words this month? Would you finish a project? Would you be deep enough into the next one to not give up? Would you refine something you’ve wanted to send out?

No writing is wasted. Let me repeat that: NO WRITING IS *EVER* WASTED.

Everything you write moves you forward, solidifies your story and makes you a better writer.

This month I started a challenge on twitter, #Aug1k1hr. Because, what could you do with 1000 words a day?

Here’s how it works. Every night at 9pm EST you’ll see the #Aug1k1hr start shouted. Put your nose to the grindstone. Turn off that social media (yup, I’ll be doing that tomorrow), ignore the phone, tell everyone your busy… but just for 1 hour —> And Write!

It doesn’t have to be good or clean or even make sense to anyone else. It just has to be words on the page getting you closer to done.

Do the hardest thing a writer can do: Give yourself permission to write anything and to write it poorly. If you can get 1,000 words on the page every day… 1,000 steps towards The End… then you’ve won. 

1,000 bad words are far better than 10 good ones when writing a novel. Words are kind of like ants. They’re small, they come slowly, but once you have one… you have two. Two turns into four…and if you let them keep coming you’ll soon have a swarm of words shaping your world on the page.

So, if you’re not on twitter, it’s easy to join and there are a ton of great writer communities there. Why not start with #Aug1k1hr? Don’t be shy. Sound off at roll call and share your count at the end.

So, tell me. Are you in?

 

It’s All How You Say It

28 Nov

You may have seen my earlier post on Caridad Ferrer’s book WHEN THE STARS GO BLUE. If not, check it  out.

That post (and the subsequent discussion with Caridad on twitter @barbferrer) is what made this blog happen.

So, Caridad’s books have Spanish mixed in: endearments, curses, sayings, and sometimes snippets of conversation. I loved this. It was like being with the guy bff’s family (except, you know, that would be in Italian). She writes everything in a way that even the expressions I didn’t know (or weren’t close enough to said Italian for me to have picked up) made sense in context. Think of it like those vocab words you don’t look up when you’re reading because you get the gist of the meaning.

Anyway. We were talking on twitter and I got to thinking — never a safe thing.

Here’s Caridad’s responses to MG Buehrlen’s question about writing such great multicultural books that are accessible to all readers:

@mgbuehrlen I think it’s b/c I’m not writing multicultural, per se. I’m writing, in a sense, from my own experiences. #starsgoblue
@mgbuehrlen I think it was @melissa_marr who recently said “Write for the teenager you were,.” #starsgoblue
@mgbuehrlen Without being aware of it as such, that’s just what I’ve done. My experiences were both individual, yet universal. #starsgoblue

This is where the thinking started.

This is exactly how I feel… and yet, for me it didn’t work the same. Let me explain

When I was younger I grew up in a neighborhood that was second-hand Irish. Almost all the kids I went to school with were first, second or third generation. An overwhelming percentage were Irish-American. A whole little section of my neighborhood had moved out of the city from their street there…which had been where everyone from the same lovely area Ireland had moved from (no, not Kerry. No, also not Cork. There are other counties in Ireland, people.) There are — with any culture bound together — certain ways of doing and saying things that are carried over.

So, picture this: The girl with the southern-midwest twang from her mama’s side answering “How’s your day?” with a lovely American-Irish cadence, “It’s grand, thanks. And you?”

Since high school, the moving and studying and public speaking have stripped most of both of those things from me. And yet, there they are in my writing. They live underneath all of us and come out when we don’t notice them.

Once, Wine Guy (aforementioned Italian bff) and I were at a movie and when the lights came up I said, “I wonder who that Irish guy was.” WG informed me there was no Irish guy in the movie (with a look that clearly informed me he thought I was nuts.)

But, the man’s cadence was clear as day to me. It was obviously Irish. I went home and checked. I was right (ignore the neener neener part here.) Later – I rented the movie and I could see that he was using an American accent. The only other friend who noticed it (the cadence) was South African (I swear, I do have friends that are originally born here too…. it’s just that none of them will be discussed in this post apparently.)

 About now, you’re all thinking, “Bria usually has a writerly point in her ramblings. Where the heck is she going with this?”

Just like that actor using his perfect American accent but his natural cadence came out, it can happen in writing.

(Stop here. I just spent 30 minutes explaining the difference between cadence and accent to Wine Guy — Okay, go.)

Here is an example of something I’ve said in manuscript that didn’t translate on the page for my beta readers: We’re going to have weather.

It took me three months to track down where this started for me. I thought it was the Nana (the southern mid-western one) but apparently it was the Gram (the Irish one). Not one reader skipped marking  it. I asked each of them, “Did you know what it meant? They all said, yes, but no one says that, so you can’t use it because it stops the reader.

Well, “No one says that” isn’t correct. I say it. My family says it. My entire neighborhood (all three of them) say it. I asked on twitter and a handful of other people around the USA say it. 

My point. Because I’m writing in English about English speaking characters whose background comes from English speaking characters, there is an expectation of sameness. That, all over America, we speak (generally) the same. That, if you use a word differently, you’re using it incorrectly.

Growing up around Boston we said wicked. Wicked pissah if you’re from mostly the north shore. And it’s much classier cousin Wicked awesome if you’re from the south shore. Way back then, if you heard anyone say wicked you could be 90% sure they were from there OR talked to someone from there a lot. Now, not so much. These things spread. Cable tv makes a sameness happen. There’s less localization of anything. When I was younger there was a huge distinction between music in each of my home states. Three different sets of styles depending on who I was staying with. Thing how infrequently that happens now. You might say, “Well, we’d never listen to country western here.” Okay, you may not. But there’s probably one country station where you are and it’s playing basically what somewhere that has five country stations is playing … tastes may be regional, but the actual music-per-taste, less so now.

Back to writing. So, the overwhelming langauge of our country — English — is now expected to have a sameness. Unless you’re using something that is obviously a regionalism to make a point, that sameness drifts there working hard to not stop the reader.

And so, what got me thinking about this was the fact that I don’t speak Spanish. You want to throw down in Latin? Well, it’s been a few years, but let’s see what I can pull out… But, Caridad’s use of it in her book not only worked on the “regionalism” level (in this case, a clear sense of the heroine’s ethnicity and background) but also gave it the flavor from those two. But, after having chatted about this  with her I realized (actually, I’d never thought this, but it became obvious) that she wasn’t flavoring her book. That the turns of phrases in Spanish were just there. As they should be.

I do wonder what her editors said, if there were push backs. But, mostly I realized that if we want to step out of the sameness, we have to step out into a completely different set of rules. I’m sure that Caridad’s Spanish dialogue follows for her Spanish speaking readers the same rules the English follows for her English speaking readers.

And so, where do you play with language? How far outside can you go? Slang comes from somewhere. Someone is always first to coin a phrase. But is that a writer’s best idea? Unless it’s the character actually doing that…then maybe.

But, what it all comes down to – on both sides, no matter what — is writing a clean book, a great story, and letting nothing stop the reader. To let them immerse themselves so far in, at the end of the book they share your joy and sorrow that the trip is over.

Book Mapping for the Pantser

3 Aug

I’m a total Pantser… I just took the test at RWA to prove it (that’s another post, but coming soon) and so, if I use a tool, it’s in the aftermath of writing the book.

I’ve tweeted a couple times about either making or using my book map for Secret book 2. This tool has totally saved my life in trying to slot things that need to be added. One of the hardest things about slotting was that a lot of the book revolves around school and soccer games – five day week kind of deal.

Several people have asked what my book map looks like, so here’s the basics.

Along the top of an excel spreadsheet:

CH — SC — PG — NOTE — DAY — DotW

Simple, right – okay, good luck.

Just kidding.

CH: Chapter. Very easy —> 1

SC: Scene. I make these by chapter.scene —> 1.1, 1.2, etc

PG: This is the page that starts on. These will move and sometimes need adjusting. I always make the Page # for the first page of a new chapter a different color so I can scan the list and make sure my chapters are running at good lengths.

NOTE: This is a really basic note about what was important in this scene. I don’t do the whole GMC, I just do what I think I need to know from the scene. If you’re typing stupid stuff in there, you know you need to look at it again.

DAY:Time of day. This keeps things timed out pretty well without a clock. M/D/S/E/N —> Morning, Daytime, School (if weekday), Evening, Night

DotW: Day of the week. I also keep these last two in the chapter headers so that I can do the map really easily later.

There are several great reasons for doing the map afterward. First, it helps me slide things in and find things easily. Second, it’s a good gut check for pacing, time and events. Third, there’s your outline or synopsis started.

Mostly, I do it very loosey-goosey just when I need to make something fit. I’ve done it for 2 of my 3 books. I’m sure if I finish the next book and it’s not needing any big slotting I may skip the Book Mapping at the end. But, then again, I may find I needed it for the other two reasons.

So there it is – a pantser and her one post-writing tool — What’s your favorite tool? Maybe I can steal that one 😉

10 Minute Mentor – Dialogue and Punctuation

28 May

For me, dialogue is my default setting as a writer. My Fast Draft has tons of unpunctuated dialogue scenes that read almost like a blind script and need all the details put in later. The more you know the basics and automatically do them when throwing the first draft on the page.

And so, here it is, Dialogue and Punctuation – otherwise known at college who linked to my old blog as “the blah blah blah” post.

Making a statement:

If the tag is first, a comma should be placed after the tag, before the quotation mark,  and the period inside the quote. If the tag appears after the statement, there is a comma before the second quotation mark.

She said, “blah blah blah.”

“Blah blah blah,” she said.

 
Middle of the statement tags:

If your tag is in the middle of the sentence, same rules basically apply.

“Blah blah,” she said, “blah blah blah.”

OR

“Blah blah,” she said. “Blah blah blah.”

 
Asking a question or exclaiming:

When you ask a question or exclaim with tags/beats, the entire thing is written as one sentence. The question mark stays within the quotations and the tag is still part of the sentence just like with a statement:

“Blah blah blah?” she asked.    OR   “Blah!” she shouted.

She asked, “Blah blah blah?”    OR   She shouted, “Blah!”

 

These are the basics of dialogue mechanics. Also, if you EVER have a chance to attend one of Julia Quinn’s talks on dialogue, RUN, don’t walk, and get in line – it’s fabu! Seriously, she really dives deep and every writer, no matter their genre, can learn a ton in a short day with her.

10 Minute Mentor

17 May

Not long ago, a friend on Twitter announced she was ready to start her revisions again. Trying to be encouraging, I said, “You’ve got your list and you’re ready to go!”

Only, her response wasn’t, “Yup! Can’t wait!” It was, “What list?’

We jumped together to DM and started a conversation on revisions: what they are, what they aren’t, and how to do them. It was a *great* conversation – really made me personally think some things through a little deeper and solidify my thoughts and processes.

When she thanked me, I asked her to just do it for someone else some day.

That weekend, Darynda Jones and I were doing our monthly 4-hour drive to our writer’s meet and I mentioned the great conversation I’d had with the Twitter friend. We realized, that information, the stuff we’d been DYING for people to just tell us and explain the “why” also had probably taken (if we were talking constantly instead of tweeting and working) about ten minutes.

It hadn’t killed me, actually it helped me probably as much as her. There’s a wonderful saying that basically states if you want to learn something, teach it.

And, it was exactly what I’d wished someone had done for me a few years ago.

And so, The Ten Minute Mentor sprung to life in my mind. We’ll see how many topics I can discuss in the 10 mins timeframes and make them make sense…and helpful 🙂

Let me know, what’s a topic you wish someone had just given you the quick and dirty on when you started writing?

Twisting Things You Hate

4 May

There are things we all hate when reading. Some are as big as an entire trope, some are as small as little character pet peeves, but no matter the “size”, it ruins the read because we hate it.

One of mine is the “make the other guy the villain” ending.

What’s that, Bria? I hear you asking.

I love books where the heroine (or hero, but let’s keep this simple) has to make a choice between two great guys, or a guy she’s always cared for and a new guy who sweeps her off her feet. Between loyalty and the new love… etc.

That is such a great struggle. So many questions to ask. Am I just excited by something new and this will fade? Does loyalty fall into this? Which love will endure? And so many more. So, when you get toward the end of the book and Secondary Hero Guy goes from being great to suddenly being the villain OR to magically losing his temper and emotionally abusing the heroine, I’m always like W.T.Heck???

The first reason for this reaction is that I hate when everything magically changes and the man you loved for 320 pages suddenly takes the heroine hostage while holding up her father’s bank and stealing candy from small children… Well OF COURSE she’s not going to choose him now. Um, duh. End of conflict.

OR

When the heroine really can’t choose but loyalty (to him, to family, to tradition, etc) all has her going with that long-time love and then POW he’s suddenly yelling at her about what a *fill-in-the-blank-for-the-story* she is…. Oh, wow. Wrong choice. But luckily she’s able to go to the Hero and tell him she made a mistake and be with him forever. End of conflict, again, duh.

I hadn’t realized how much this bothered me until I read a couple books in the last few months like that. I think it truly steals from the romance when there isn’t REALLY a choice. Why write a choice that isn’t real?

Then, someone pointed out, I had done the exact opposite with my book (if by any chance you’re looking forward to reading my book when it hopefully comes out in oh… 2 years… stop reading. Really? No one? Okay, don’t say you weren’t warned.)

In my current manuscript (the one I sent back to TAA last week) there’s a reverse of that. The loyalty-love is a guy undeserving of the heroine’s affections. It’s clear from the beginning she’s “with” the wrong guy. The right guy has no problem actually pointing this out to her (which, of course, earns him no points)… but, as we near the end, things start to change. Loyalty-love guy begins to grow and change. He’s shown through outside events what he’s doing to his own life and the heroines. So, when the choice comes, it’s actually a choice now where it wouldn’t have been at the beginning of the book… Well, it may have been, but it would have been Stupid Girl Choice.

Vicarious Writing Girl came to visit me this week and during our 8 hours in the car for a mini-road trip, we discussed this and some other great “isn’t it fun when they do things backwards” and “I always hated those, but if you do it this way” stories and found that there are a lot of winners out there!

And so, I challenge you: Tell me some story plot/device you hate and a book that flips it OR how you could flip it!

Critique Partner Needed, Take 2

25 Mar

Trying again: Because of the new way I’m working, the speed and output I want to aim for and some other personal reasons, I’m looking for a second Critique Partner. So, when I said this on twitter last night, a bunch of people very kindly offered to “read” for me. Because that’s such a broad statement, I figured I needed to put some more thought into what I’m looking for and what I offer so people can see if they really want to come anywhere near me and my scribblings 🙂

WHY I NEED A CRITIQUE PARTNER

  1. That Darn Dyslexia has me. Things I can’t “see”:
    1. Misspelling words spell check doesn’t catch
    2. Putting words in the wrong order (sometimes more than just switching 2 words)
    3. Skipping words
    4. Putting words (or corresponding words) more than once
  2. Is what’s in my head on the page?
  3. Occasionally the phrasing I’m using is clear in my head, but not so much to someone reading it.
  4. And of course, overall thoughts, things that stop you, if a joke falls flat (that NEVER happens *cof*) and typical beta stuff.

HOW I WORK:

I’m looking to write 4 200-page books a year (we’ll see if I can do it!). I’m a pantser and so I’m not able to write the first 3 chapters and send it off to be crit’ed. I need to write the whole thing, go over it and then send it off preferably a fast turn around time. I’m willing to do that for you as well. I’m not talking weeks (unless your word count is REALLy high 🙂 )I’m hoping to find someone who would be willing to do large chunks in fairly quick turnaround times. Which, if we coordinate as long as it isn’t during a fast draft period or crunch time for either of us. Of course we’d set up some type of ‘warning’ system. It wouldn’t be, Oh, I’m sending you my entire manuscript tomorrow.

Do you have to write this much? No. But, I am looking at someone who can crit this much. If you need me critting that much too, we’ll do it! 🙂

WHAT I’M GOOD AT:

Continuity, spotting movement errors, plot holes and pushing you on your story, leaving your voice alone, pretty good with grammar. I’m honest and tough, but tactful. I also try to weave in comments about what you’re doing well and what I really liked. I think CPs should try to do that not just for encouragement or to keep the crit balanced, but sometimes we need others to point out our strengths so we can focus on those as well.

WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR:

My current CP writes and mostly reads adult romance. I’m looking for someone who writes YA preferably OR who reads YA a lot. Like, It’s-my-main-reading-for-pleasure-category a lot. I really am looking for a Critique Partner. So, not just a casual reader. Someone who we can bounce ideas and throw stuff around if we need to. I am completely willing to have a CP who doesn’t write. I know there are often people who enjoy the critting/editing aspect but don’t actually write for themselves.

WHAT I’M NOT LOOKING FOR:

I’m not looking for someone who needs help with stuff in a teaching or mentor capacity. I already have a few people I volunteer to do this for. I need this relationship to be a more even level of give and take. Please, if you’re considering this, your writing should already be “good” – I’m looking for someone playing at a competitive level 🙂 (Yeah, get used to the sports analogies. I write about a soccer team.)

WHAT I DON’T DO:

I don’t read erotica. Sorry. And if it’s hot or really violent I’m useless because I skim right over those to the next scene. We joke that it takes me about an hour to read a JR Ward book when I was trying her out.

WHAT I WRITE:

I write a series that at the moment I’m calling The Secrets. They’re standalone books about a group of friends in high school. Nothing paranormal going on (I know! Nothing!) Each book deals with a tough issue with humor (hopefully) while forcing the characters into making the tough decisions.

I also write YA fantasy… the traditional stuff. I’m not focusing on this right now. The first book is complete, but put away for a year while I work on The Secrets and 2 other ideas I’ve floated. I plan on reworking this over time and hitting the next book in the series as well. This is a much bigger endeavor. It has a big cast, its own mythology, it’s own world, gods who won’t stay out of the way, a war, hidden enemies…a lot to juggle J So, that’s there, but wwwwwaaaaayyy over there right now.

I will say, I don’t think that I’d be looking for a person here and a person there to dive in deep with like this since the time commitment to each other would be fairly intense.

ABOUT ME:

I’m newly agented and aggressively writing. I love to write. I actually enjoy editing (most of the time too) I love to read and go on genre binges. I lead a goals and accountability group to (so I’m big on balance). I try to be one of those people who doesn’t drop the ball – or warns you if something unforeseeable is going to stall me – if I say I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it.

So, if I haven’t scared you off and you think you’re a good match, drop me a line at briaquinlan@aol.com and let’s chat. There’s stuff that isn’t here and stuff I’m sure you’d want to say and ask as well. We can always try it out and see if it we’re a good fit.

Thanks!

Juggling the Writer’s Job Description

1 Feb

      It’s amazing how changing the game a little, changes it a lot.

     This past fall, I contracted with The Agent (curious? on the sidebar is my little series on the whole agent process start to finish) and I didn’t realize just how much would change. . . Just how much *I* would have to change.

     This weekend it really hit home.

     The Agent is getting notes read of my revised pages to me soon. Plus I owe here stuff. I just wrote the blurbs for my 7 current ideas for books — This is my first run thru of this process. I assume we’ll discuss what is strongest and most viable to work next. I need to get the next books synopsis written for I’m in the first stage of editing (we won’t discuss the pain and humiliation involved in me trying to synopsis). Also, this is usually the time I fast draft the next book so it can sit over in the corner ferment.

     But now, there’s other plans in the game. Another person…a business plan. So, if I get revision notes for book 1, reader notes for book 2 and start writing book 3 — Um, yeah, I think we all see where this is going.

     Let’s add into the mix that between books is where I try to pound thru all the reader responsibilities I have to my CP and beta readers. They’ve been kind… don’t worry, when you get to it… etc…But January has been so crazy that they really do have to come first right now. There isn’t an option.

     And so, with this next step comes the newest part of the writing game: Time Management Part 2.

     Typically Time Management is a fun game for me, but when you’re still not sure of all the rules, of what’s needed when… But that’s part of moving up in the world.

     I’m thinking of getting The Agent like a certain job I had out of college. My boss had…let’s just call it an early midlife crisis (and when I say crisis I mean complete break in reality) and promoted me up two steps with no job description and no guidance… Am I saying The Agent would do that –NO! But, writing is kind of like that: There’s no job description.

     Oh, we think the job description is: Write Books.

     I’m pretty sure anyone trying to get published has already realized it’s more complicated than that. So stick around as I figure out my own Writing Job Description…and wish me luck on Juggling February!

Finding My Writer’s Voice

27 Jan

      Voice – Writer’s talk a lot about it. What it is, how to find yours, fine-tuning it. It seems to be the most discussed and least understood writing topic. Here’s my first attempt at delving into the discussion.

     I’ve just finished the read-thru of the second book of my current series. I’d sent the first chapter to get a “rough feel” from Gwen Hayes (check her out, she rocks). Her response was that I’d finally embraced my voice as a YA Rom Com writer, that I was stepping into my own. Basically, I’ve separated my feelings about being a Fantasy writer and being a Rom Com writer.

     But, as any good writer would ponder, what did that mean?

     I thought about the process of book one versus book two. If you looked at my schedule and to do list, you’d think they were identical. They were so not identical.

     Book 2 was both harder and easier…and I blame voice. 

     There is one thing I’ve learned, voice needs to be BIG, but not noticeable. So many times during writing, I’d think “I can’t write that” and make a little note to insert something funny, clever, etc. I’d get to that point during the read-thru and still want to talk myself out of saying the same thing. And then it dawned on me: Why? Why not go bigger? Why not say the crazy thing that comes to mind every time?  If there’s even the itty-bittiest chance that I might say it out loud…or even think it to myself… why not let my character say it.

     I’m not that interesting… I know, I know, you think I am (Ok, maybe not, but  let’s all humor me), but part of my voice is taking the *most* interesting little nuggets in the back of my mind, bringing them forward and BLOWING.THEM.UP. Making them that extraordinary thing that makes my characters witty or funny or clever or tortured or humbling. I don’t…can’t…do that in my own day to day life, but that doesn’t mean those things aren’t locked inside me.

     And so, as I think about writers and how we work and struggle and craft things to bring voice out, I sat back a little… As the saying goes, I gave myself some leash…I let things run further than I thought was safe. And you know what? Those lines and scenes are the ones I’ve already heard positive feedback on. Dive into your character and give her permission to do whatever she wants. Don’t just give her more leash, but drop it and chase her through the park until she wears you out.

     We read for escape, to let ourselves do and say and think and feel and experience all the things we don’t get to in our real lives. In our safe lives. If we keep those characters safe too, then where’s the escape?

     I’m not advocating off-the-wall’ness that’s so absurd it’s not “buy-able”…unless that’s what you write… But there is a line we as writers draw for ourselves in the sand. A line that stands between our world and our characters. Often, because of so many personal reasons, we try to drag our character over the line and keep her safely tucked into our world, because people are going to read this.

     So, what have I learned? Stop kidnapping your character. She doesn’t appreciate it.

     Writers – what have you learned about harnessing your voice? Readers – is their a writer who has a great “feel” to their books you love…what?

Extreme Sunset Plotting

11 Jan

I’ve moved to New Mexico’s Northern Plains for a little while. It’s been an experience…veeerrrry different from Boston.

One thing I noticed immediately was the sunsets…or often lack there of stretching out over the miles of flat dessert.

There’s no middle ground. No soft, puffy, kind-of sunsets. There’s either either a spectacular splash of colors and textures painting everything as far as you can see or nothing. I don’t mean, oh just a little sunset. I mean “nothing”. The sun is up, then the sun is gone. It’s fast, the sky goes dark, it’s night.

So, Bria, what does that have to do with writing.

I had a little epiphany driving home today (if there is such a thing as a *little* epiphany)…those sunsets make great style points. There is something just as stunning at the minimalistic, shockingly abrupt sunsets that happen suddenly…no puffy clouds, no soft colors, no lingering light. There is something spectacular about the sun just being gone.

*POOF*

Sometimes, when we’re writing, we bring to the page lovely painted word pictures that linger in people’s mind’s forever. Turns of phrases other writers will pour over and note not only the beauty of the it, but its ability to convey more than one thing in a powerful move that draws us deeper into the plot and characters. Writers work hard to do this. It’s deliberate writing at its most. We revel (had to work that word in today 🙂 ) creating those. We post them on twitter and share them with our friends hoping they all appreciate the craft we put into that.

But, sometimes, the most stunning sentences, the ones that stay with us forever, are the abrupt sunsets: “I have a dream.” OR “Jesus wept.” The power behind these few words stays with the reader and impacts everything that comes after them, adding to the painting in a way that only white space can.

And so, I’m off to check out my power, my abrupt sunsets, and offer up a craft of the short impactful type. Bam. Like that.

Dinner With Michael Hague

28 Sep

There are times in your professional life when you stop and say, “Huh, this is a bit surreal.” A good example: Getting on  a roller coaster at the Mall of America with Michael Hague…but not the one that does loops because he didn’t want to throw up on us.

 

So, how does a girl end up in such a situation? Easy…kind of. Ok, I’m just amazingly lucky.

 

My CP is a member of the Midwest Fiction Writers who had invited Michael out to speak this past weekend. After his all day workshop, he offered to do some consulting gigs the next day. My CP was lucky enough to grab his last slot in the evening. I went along for the ride for two reasons: 1. so we could discuss whatever he told her on the way home and, 2. because I’m really allergic to her cats and any time out of the house cuts down on the migraine.

 

At the end of their meeting, my CP waves me over as Michael walks away and tells me he wants to see the Mall of America…um, okay. It had been on my list too because it’s part of the Minneapolis deal, but still it seemed weird. We get there and wow, these Minneapolis people love their malls, huh? In the middle of the mall is this amusement park with games, rides of kids, a flume and three roller coasters. I was shocked. Michael was excited. CP was just giving the tour 🙂

 

The next thing you know, Michael has us at a ticket gate. We clarify which one does what because, even before dinner, no one wants anyone else getting sick on them….this would be a completely different blog then. We even have the picture they take — all three of us in one shot — kismet I tell you.

 

But I’m sure, if you’re reading this post, this isn’t what you want to hear. You want to hear about the nugget of genius that Michael Hague passed on to each of us over cheap mugs of black coffee in some hip little joint.

 

Sorry, no can do.

 

We went to a lovely Greek restaurant where (I think) they almost had to throw us out…you know how writers are once they start talking.

 

Personally, I managed to horrify him with my choice of favorite movies and (maybe) convince him to go watch two he hasn’t seen. We got to hear about some of his VFC (otherwise known as Very Famous Clients) and what consulting on scripts is like. The differences between working with open-minded and not-so-open-minded writers. What his early workshops were like…the travel, the groups, the being told he could walk back to the hotel in Boston (some how, as the Bostonian at the table, I think I somehow got blamed for this, but gosh darn it, Boston proper is only 3 miles across).

 

One of my favorite parts of the evening was when he brought up Jenny Crusie and asked if we had met her. We got to tell him about being mentored by her at the LCMC and how much we learned. When he found out we weren’t in touch with her any more, he turned around in the car to look at me and tell me, “Call her tomorrow. Tell her I told you to. Let her know how you’re doing and tell her thank you again.” I had to point out we’re not all Michael Hague. My “Famous People On Speed Dial” list is relatively short. So instead, the command became: email her. (I did. We’ll see if she even remembers me 🙂 )

 

But honestly, hanging out with Michael is just an experience in story. For so many reasons. When he isn’t talking ABOUT story, he’s telling a story. Everything comes back to the story. People, places, movies, books, work, craft, travel, dinner…it all comes back to the story…to the Identity and digging into the Essence. It boils down and you have to watch for it, because everything he tells you wraps back to something else and if you blink, you’ll miss it.

Hate Her…But How?

23 Sep

Okay, “hate” is a strong word. No one yet has said they hate my heroine. And, to be completely upfront, most people have really liked her and identified with her immediately.

 

But….don’t you love that word…..this isn’t true of everyone.

 

It took me several passes of the people who didn’t like her (or the ‘other guy’ in the book) to figure out what they thought and what they thought collectively and what I thought. And it was an interesting study. And a lot of valid things to think about.

 

I’m finding this: People don’t want their heroines to be stupid or allow people to treat them badly. Ever. If it happened, it needs to have happened before the book starts and off the page. If one of the guys in the book seems like he might be bad…if he treats her badly…well, he might be the bad guy. Especially if there’s a great guy trying to win her over to, then he might be the good guy.

 

So, backing up to my heroine. She’s hurt, she’s lonely, she’s lost. We see this little by little and (I believe) understanding grows through the beginning as her motivations to let someone she worships treat her badly becomes more clear. To me, her on the page growth not only past it (as in, if it were something that happened BEFORE that she’s getting over) but THROUGH it is what makes Amy such a fascinating character. To see her grow through infatuation into her own self-worth to a young woman willing to risk everything because she wants (and deserves) something better is amazing to me.

 

And the hardest part is, no one agrees with where they don’t like her. This, I love. Honestly. I think it’s wonderful that someone wants to make her bad relationship “okay” but giving some evidence he’s not as bad as he is. Or that someone wants more of her past to make it “okay” that she allows the bad behavior. Or someone wants her to “grow a spine sooner”. But, that’s not Amy. And let’s be honest. It’s not us either.

 

Every woman (I’d love to speak for men here, but my time as a man equals zero) has mad a bad decision about a guy at some point. Some have even made a horrible one. Some have even made the same horrible decision more than once. So, to say that Amy needs to learn faster — or not make the mistake at all — it’s not her story. Her story is about finding yourself in that horrible situation and overcoming it. To me, this is a story I want more people to tell…especially to young girls. You NEVER have to stay weak. You NEVER have to stay with someone who is bad for you. You NEVER have to accept anything less than the best. And, if that takes you a week (it’s a week in the book) to figure out…you’re doing pretty darn good. Strength doesn’t come from never being weak. It comes from finding your weakness and overcoming it.

 

And that’s why I wrote this blog, to think that all out more clearly….why I love Amy and why her naive stupidity in the beginning sets her up for such amazing growth in the end. In the end, she’s a girl I would have loved to have as a friend in high school. I’m betting most people would look at what she overcomes “in real life” and feel the same way.

 

So that makes me wonder: Have we created so many amazingly strong heroines who have that single “flaw” that a normal teen can’t catch a break? Do the girls in our story have to be kick-ass or, on the flip side, so tweaked out that most of us don’t even know a girl like her for the reader to accept her?

 

Is Amy strong is a great question. My answer: Yes. Her family and background story come out and she really does have a pretty even keel for what she’s been through. But her past and insecurities do give the bad boy an in for how to take advantage of her. But her strength and intelligence give her the out, she just needs to find them for herself to become the girl some people want her to be in the beginning.

 

This is where the hard stuff starts for a writer. I can see the points these people are making. Yup, their suggestions would make Amy stronger – which would make people more willing to want to know/be her –because who really wants to be friends with a girl who is so blinded by love that she lets the guy use her.

 

But (see, it’s my turn to ‘but’ now) there comes a time when as a writer you have to say, “That isn’t my character. Yes, she is weaker in the beginning and I hope you ride to the end with her and see her growth and forgive her for where she starts.” Because that, to me, is a real story. It’s a real woman. It’s Amy’s story and I love her for the huge-gully-sized-flaws she has in the beginning.

 

I hope she wins over those people by the end too.