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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 ūüôā

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 It’s the unpublished version.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!


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?


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 ūüôā

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

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?

Great Agent Hunt – After Yes

27 Nov

What am I going to do with all this time once I can stop looking for an agent?

How many times have you or one of  your friends said that? A kazillion? Yeah. Probably. Trust me, I know the feeling.

Think of all the writing I’ll get done! I’ll finally do some really great deep cleaning and catch up on housework! I’ll join a gym! I’ll SAVE THE WORLD! Yeah, that’s what I’ll do! I’ll Save! The! World!

So, you may have noticed, the world (in general) is still in peril.

One thing I noticed thru the entire process is the understanding of the Before Agent and Post Agent friends. I’d always fallen firmly in the BA w/slight sympathy…but, yeah, there’s a divide.

BA looks like this: What do you mean your stressed making this decision? You’re picking from amazing agents who want to represent your work! It’s great! There’s no stress here!

PA looks like this: Don’t worry. They will get back to you. Yeah, it’s a big decision.¬† Just start the process as the emails come in. But, as long as you did your research, talked to people, spoke¬† with each agent and feel confident in the ones you narrowed it down to, it will be hard to make a *wrong* choice. There’s *BEST*¬†choice though, so make sure you do all the steps. It will be fine.

Then the decision happens:

BA: Now you’re a represented author. It’s all cake from here.

PA: Now you’re a represented author. It’s your gig to lose my friend. Nose to the grindstone. This is not the relationship to slack on. Do not forget, this is a business relationship so you have to focus. Yeah, you can be friends with people at work, but don’t forget this is your career.

Then the revisions happen:

BA: This is great, someone to tell you exactly what you need to do! You’re so in!

PA: Ok, so you’ve got general feedback, now you have to make it your own. How the heck are you going to do this? Yup, it’s time to read that manuscript start to end *again* Now get to work. PANIC PANIC PANIC…ok, stop panicking. The worst thing that happens on this first time out of the gate is failure to give her what she wants. FAILURE? I DON’T DO FAILURE? WHAT THE HECK IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN? Well, you’ll work this the way you work everything. Do it, check it, re-do it, have someone you trust look at it, re-do it and hand it in.

So, if you’re making these decisions and are really struggling with your friends not getting it, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. We didn’t get it when we were BA no matter how supportive we tried to be. It’s a path, and you can only see the path from where you are on it.

And, that’s as far on the PA path that I am. I can say, I’ve had a really stressful couple weeks (life-wise)¬†since signing and it’s definitely effecting my work in a negative way. I”m pulling out all the stops trying to work around that stress because, like our PA said above, this is work. This is the career I want. And that means learning new ways to do old things…It means that in every job. It means that no matter what life is throwing at me (and it really feels like it’s throwing a lot now) you push forward. But mostly it means that I need to learn to keep my writing attitude up-beat and focused. And that is something that as a PA I have to do, because it’s no longer a Oh, I can do this someday. It’s a I should do this now.

You can also check out GETTING TO YES Part 1 and GETTING TO YES Part 2 segments.


1 Jun

The revisions are done and in. This book feels “more” done than ever — itmAs — I’m happy with the new ending I didn’t want to write. My beta readers are happy with the new ending the couldn’t wait till book 2 for. The night before it was to be sent, I woke up and said, “OH! This needs to have chapter 1 totally tossed out and rewritten from scratch!”


Well, that was fun — not. Ok, maybe a little.


I learned a TON about my own writing and about reader assumption. Chapter one is even more important than we’re lead to believe. Here’s why.


I had two people who read MB look at it and report back that I have no description in the book. I found this shocking. My CP found this shocking. My other beta readers found this shocking. Several people responded (when I did a temperature check with them) by writing me lovely emails describing my character, the world, the temples, rooms… and they were all alike. That was good. Imagine if they were all drastically different!


Well, in an amazingly odd conversation after reading the rewritten version, my CP asks, “So did you move all that description to the next chapter?”


When I told her, no. I just added new description in the new version she was pretty shocked. She gave examples of what she thought I’d lose. Luckily, I knew where each of those descriptions were in the book and could point them out off the top of my head. That got us both to pondering what I HAD lost by rewriting chapter one….and the most shocking revelation of my (short) writing career. There was NO description in chapter one. Not. One. Thing…Oh, except for that lovely opening line that had to get tossed. We paged through together feeling a little shocked.


Then I hit chapter 2 and there it was. Description. Chapter 3…check. Chapter 4…yup. And so on.


I’ll admit, description…. not my favorite thing. I did have to go through and strengthen what was there in each chapter (and that darn chapter 1), but it was there.


I asked people what they liked to read and if it was in my book. To a person, if they liked something that was strongly shown in chapter one…they said it was in the whole book. If they liked something that didn’t come in until later, they said it was missing or light…even if it was strong later in the book (even if later = chapter 2)


It really drove home to me how important it is to really have a powerful, well fleshed out first chapter. The mind is a funny thing. We look for what we enjoy and we set up our total experience by the beginning. Just think of the last time you went out for a nice meal. How hard is it for the waitress to recover from a horrible start? Yeah, it’s hard (I’ve been a waitress working with a meanie hostess…tips were always lower when she worked the door)


So, what’s your first chapter lacking? I know mine won’t be lacking description – ever again.

Avoiding the Cheese: The Ending

4 May

This weekend I destroyed my hero, now I have to have that ending. That fabulous it was all worth it ending…and still avoid the cheese.


I just watched the end of Strictly Ballroom to get in the right mood. This movie is¬†a perfect example of where cheese could have taken over. There’s so much over the top stuff going on — a lot of it absolutely ridiculous, and yet it works.




Well, I was thinking about this as I watched it and I think I know — Scott and Fran stay so focused that the cheese going on around them is negated. Because, lets be honest, everything else going on in the last 7 mins of the movie is so Big and so Over The Top with diving and bad rugs and even a She-Ra shout out that its amazing it works. And yet the entire time Scott and Fran are so focused, so intense, that you can’t help but feel it.


The shot when Scott flies back onto the screen to land in front of Fran now wearing her red dress, her hands raised and waiting for him – shivers. Shivers I tell you. Every.Single.Time.


So, now I’m off to write the ending – to go Big but hopefully not Over The Top. To — if all goes right — give someone the shivers.

How Goes Life

30 Apr

Revisions. I’m learning a ton — but it’s taking more time than I thought.


I Did the first big pass – it took waaaaayyy more time than I anticipated. And then I had to enter the written edits in, which isn’t something I typically have to do as I try to work on the screen as much as possible. And then entering them in you always thinking of something just a little better in a c couple places which means stopping to read and rework again.


And now there’s the list of things that were big that you needed to read the whole thing over again to be able to do it.


My aim? Hand it to a beta on Monday. Is that doable? I have no idea. I didn’t think it would take over a month once I was feeling better to do this first pass.


So, that’s me and where I am. On the writing.


I also gave notice to¬†my landlord and to the little shop I work in for the big ‘drive around the country living out of your car because that’s all you can afford’ trip. So I also have a month to do that. Oh, and the yard sale next Saturday — which, if the beta has the ms by Monday should be just fine…yup…jjjjjusttt fine.


So, that’s me.

Bettering Bria’s Book…Revisions

19 Apr

Revisions. Requested ones no less.


That’s been my main focus since I’ve been healthy enough to focus on anything again…..and I have to tell you: It was hard starting them and I know the more difficult part is coming toward the end. BUT, how exciting is it? I’ll admit, at first it was hard to see request clearly. I mean, even when it was really exciting. But I found my own Magic View Finder for getting started.


Let’s pretend getting so sick it scares your doctor isn’t on the list and move on.

  • Read the email – several times. Ok, several times more than several times
  • Print it out and highlight everything you immediately agree with and know how you want to handle
  • Think about it a couple days and look at it again, repeat step two
  • Make tons of notes in your handy-dandy
  • Put them both away
  • Work on¬†a project that is so far removed from it, someone else may have been writing it
  • Print R&R work out
  • Re-read R&R email
  • Get to work

When I need to take breaks from the intense world of my YA Fantasy, I write little Rom Com’y stuff. You know, just funny stuff to kind of loosen up and clear my writing pallet. Only, the funniest thing happened. People who saw them, wanted to see more of them. That’s how Secret Girlfriend and Cami’s First Kiss (my Excerpt Monday serial) came to life.


The distance all of that gave me was amazing. Things that were easy to read over before stuck out like a sore thumb. There were actually things that weren’t mentioned that I noticed. I am so excited about the book again, it’s almost daunting.


Ok, take the “almost” out — it IS daunting. It’s daunting to really *honestly* start to see this book’s true potential and fear you can’t make it happen. To see that what you did WAS good, IS good, but it can be better…so much better. To be know the hard part is coming and that, while you’re excited, you’re also a little scared of what it’s going to entail and if you can pull it off.


Which, yes is weird since you pulled it off enough to get thru the first couple steps of this process. But (since it’s Patriots Day Weekend) think about it like The Boston Marathon. You’ve run really far. I mean, REALLY far. But you’ve run this far before, right? Marathons…you’ve even done a few, you know what to expect. You scoped out Heartbreak Hill the Saturday before¬†and saw the slow steady incline that finishes people off so near the end. You get it. You know it in your head. And then you hit that fricking fracking hill and as a friend of mine put it you’re “praying to die so they carry your body away for you or just finish the damn thing and black it out. But when you get to the top -you don’t even realize it until it’s behind you –¬†and you hear people shouting for you b/c of¬†the name painted on your shirt and there’s the next water stand and everything feels loud and quiet at the same time and you realize…you may not have blacked it out, but you’re past it and it’s done and you’re just another runner on the other side.”


Yeah, Revisions.

Where Am I This Week?

8 Apr

Just checked the blog and saw I’m getting a lot of hits this week — and haven’t even posted anything.


For those curious, I’m feeling much better. 2 months of being that sick is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But, what that means, is that I’m diving deep into the R&Rs I have. The GOOD thing about being sick for basically all of February and March (not to mention the personal stuff that happened) was that I got a ton of distance on my book and the requested revisions. I’m excited to be getting deep with the work, although it’s a little intimidating. This is the first time I’ve written in a directed manner…so, wish me luck!