#heebiejeebies

I write psychological thrillers.

Recently, I found several hashtags that brought forth a wealth of information for my psyche obsession. If you, too, write about things that go bump in the dark, whether the bump is real or in the mind of your protagonist, I recommend spending a bit of time on Twitter.

sandmancover1

 

Here is a list of some of what messes with the minds of our twitter brothers and sisters:

Cards against humanity played at midnight in a creepy victorian attic

Swarms of insects or the sound of swarming insects in the dark

Centipedes/millipedes

Black buttons for eyes

Someone standing stock still outside my window

Not being able to see what is under me when swimming

My best friend whispering to no one when we are supposed to be asleep

Being mauled by a rabid animal

Ouija boards

Teenagers circling me on an abandoned street

Skin rot

Someone saying, “I love you,” with a knife against my throat

Something happening to my kids

Internet scammers

Body jumping spirits

Rats

Over one hour on Twitter, I wrote so many story ideas into my story journal that my hand was cramping. If you are struggling with writer’s block, or if you just want to spice things up a bit in your current WIP, here are a few hashtags to get your creative juices flowing:

#heebiejeebies

#ImMostAfraidOf

#CreepsMeOut

Are there others that I should know about? Drop your recommendations in the comments.

What’s in a name?

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. – Ernest Hemingway

There is something to be said for those first moments of writing a new novel or short story, those moments when you simply let your fingers run free across the keyboard with no goal except to get the idea on the page. It is exhilarating. I wish sometimes that I could live in that moment forever. But I can’t, and neither can you if you want to get your work published.

There are many details to attend to after you get the skeleton of your new baby underway. Not the least of which is naming your characters. This may seem an easy enough task, a matter of preference, even, but it isn’t.

Let’s look at three different coming out stories, those of:

Florence and Bertha.

Pamela and Tammy.

Harper and Alexa.

In all three we have two young girls somewhere between fifteen and eighteen who are experiencing new love for the first time. Without knowing anything else about these characters, and before reading further, place them in a decade. Jot down some basic characteristics and features. Dress them. Decide where they meet. Continue reading “What’s in a name?”

Creating a vision board for your characters

Are you a visual person? Do you find yourself looking for pictures on Pintrest  of doppelgängers to the characters you are creating through words on the page? If so, creating a character vision board may be for you.

Generic vision boards tend to focus on sending a message into the universe about your desires and dreams. It is said that as far as the brain is concerned, this visualization is almost as strong as actually completing the thought or action presented. Hence, a vision board placed where you see it every day helps with positive programming and gives you a way to realign yourself with the song in your heart. Here are a  few great examples:

Vision board worksheet

EvelynLIM

Three steps to a five-year plan

These are great, and seeing them in action can give you ideas for your own boards as you apply the concept to your characters.

Turning the concept onto our characters

A vision board focusing on a character allows you to visually represent the background of that character in your work in progress in a way that puts the information in your face every time you look at it. This consistency brings him or her to life in your mind until you feel their reaction to every situation in a natural and consistent way. There is a bit of time involved with the initial creation, but the benefits of constant visualization is worth the upfront cost.

Here is an example of items you may want to include:

Character Visual Board
Making a character vision board is a individual as you are

Planning out your board

Jot down your characters values, goals, and inspirations. Think about the family and where she fits into the unit. Does he have a past or present love life? What was his favorite food as a child? Does she drink, smoke, party? Is she in good health or poor, has she ever had a surgery or nursed someone through an illness, or is she a loner who is estranged from her family? Does he like music, tattoos, a particular television show? Everything is important. You need to know this person as well as you know yourself, even if the information never makes its way into the novel.

Making your board

For the board, old school is best. Remember, you want this in a place that you can look at each day. Poster board works well.

You will also need images. Lots of them. Pintrest is a great source if you have access to a good printer. Also think newspaper ads, magazines, handwritten quotes, coloring books, photographs, flyers, brochures, and items from a craft store. Use whatever speaks to you. NOTE: If you use photographs that are precious to you, make sure you put them on the board using acid-free, removable adhesive.

The character vision board may work done virtually, as well, as long as it is somewhere you look every day, maybe several times a day, as you absorb your character’s idiosyncrasies.

Putting it all together

This is the fun part. Some people like a messy collage board, and others like things lined up neatly in groups or rows. Some like simple and literal. Others like complicated and metaphorical. Decide what you want, and go for it. For added depth and interest, consider using stencils, tape, stickers, and other decorative elements. When you finish, find a place in your work space where the board/s will live until the WIP is complete. And, after the work is in out for others to enjoy, you may want to take pictures of the board/s to draw interest from potential readers.

The ultimate goal is to create something that resonates with you and puts you in the mood to visit your fictional world every day. Connection creates desire. Desire creates words. Words create a story.

Your lack of respect for commonly confused words, confuses me

Yesterday a had a conversation that went, in part, like this:

ME: Your idea is good, and your protagonist is quite original and fun. One thing I would recommend is to research commonly confused words.

HER: It doesn’t matter. The reader will know what I mean.

ME: But it does matter. If you want to be taken seriously in your craft, you have to learn which word is appropriate in any given sentence.

HER: That’s what my editor is for.

ME: You have an editor?

HER: Not yet, but publishers have them, right?

ME: That’s kinda my point. If you want a publisher to find the wonderfulness of your content, you cannot let him or her be bogged down by the errors. There are too many people with wonderfulness out there. Fix what you can before you query.

HER: [blank stare]

It didn’t get better. And she is not the only one I have had this conversation with lately.

I was recently picked up by Flashpoint for my first novel. Before this monumental accomplishment, I queried a group of publishers, listened to their feedback, tweaked and tightened grammar and content, and repeated. My attention to detail did not make my manuscript perfect. Far from it. I will still be reworking parts and following the guidelines of my editor, but it was as clean and crisp as I could possibly make it.

For my friend above, her glaring error on page one was the use of the word “there” when she should have used “their,” and on page three was the use of the word “advice” when she should have used “advise.” One may have been forgiven, but two in three pages? Not so much.

If you know that you have trouble with commonly confused words, do a word search in your manuscript.

To get you started, here are a few of the most commonly confused words:

commonlyconfused Continue reading “Your lack of respect for commonly confused words, confuses me”

Prepping for NaNoWriMo in 5 steps

NaNoWriMoBlogIt is almost time!!!! NaNo Warriors take your places at the keyboard.

NaNoWriMo started in July 1999, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The first year there were 21 participants. By 2012, there were over 300,000 participants. The numbers continue to grow as more writer nerds find their people and gather to celebrate the craft during an intense write fest. Being a part of the festivities has always been and continues to be, free of charge (though you can get a halo for contributing to the upkeep of the site).

September is not too early

The first year I did Nano, I waited until November first to log in and start. I thought that was how it was done. I was wrong. If you know you want to participate, but you know nothing about the organization, September is the time to start learning. To begin your journey, read all about the timeline of this great community over on their history page.

As I enter into my fourth year as a Nano participator, my general advice to you is this: Start planning and plotting weeks in advance and get into the forums early and often.

Brainstorm and outline in October (or sooner)

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. This does not mean that you will stand up from your writing space after pounding the keys all month and have a publishable novel. If you are among the 99.9% of us who end up with a good working draft that needs lots of tender loving care in December and beyond, you are still a winner. This is about training your brain to get the words on the page without worrying about whether or not every word will stick.

The second thing I tell people who are interested in NaNo but have not yet committed is to remember this not brainstorming month, nor is it outline a novel month. When your calendar turns over November 1, have the preparation complete, and be ready to write! Keep in mind that most of the time the reason someone gives up on NaNo is that their story isn’t going anywhere or they don’t know what to write next. Save yourself the potential of being backed into a writing corner. Plot. Plan. Prepare.

If you are out of ideas for a new story, The Creative Penn offers some great advice. You can also find great ideas for stories in the NaNo platform itself, in the discussion forum. This leads nicely into the next piece of advice that I have for new NaNo enthusiasts.

Get into the forums before November first

The NaNo Dashboard holds valuable tips and tricks that extend far beyond the month of November itself. And, if you wait to log on until the first day that you need to produce 1,667 words, there will be little time to learn and/or take advantage of all of the greatness.

Look for the term “Conversation” on the menu bar, and choose “Forums.” Some of my favorite forum topics are below:

  1. NaNo Prep – This one is just what it sounds like. A place to discuss preparations for the November writing marathon.
  2. Reference Desk – If you have a question, someone likely has an answer. I asked how long it takes a body to disintegrate if buried in a dune on the beach. I had experts answering before the day was out.  I tell people that even if you do not get 50,000 words in November, if you you this forum you will be a winner.
  3. Adoption Society – Do you need a plot, a character, a title? There are lots of them to adopt in this forum.
  4. 30 covers – 30 days – I’ll let you discover the fun here for yourself. Year one I didn’t participate. Every other year I have.

In addition to starting early with the discussion boards, go ahead and find some buddies. Having a support system already in place will go far in helping you to hit that daunting 50,000 word mark by the last day in November. Ask in your writing groups who participates and what advice they have. Add a post to writer groups, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others, asking if anyone wants to be your NaNo buddy.

To add buddies:

To add a writing buddy, go to the main page on the NaNoWriMo site. You will see the search function toward the upper right of the screen. Type in the exact username you’re searching for. If it is off at all, the search functionality won’t find it. Once you locate your buddy, click on the “Add as Buddy” button to the right of the username. If you meet someone in the forums who you want to add as a buddy, you can click on their username to reach their profile page.

Find your favorite word counting and calendar tools

Finally, if you are like me, you find it nice to visually observe the fruits of your labor day-by-day. Some of my friends use a pretty, printable word-count calendar with inspirational words. Others use an app. Still others rely on the word counter on the NaNo site. Regardless of your style, there is something for you. I have a couple of examples below. There are many more.

David Seah has designed a simple tracking visual that can be found here: davidseah.com/node/nanowrimo-word-calendar/

Do you start to lose steam about halfway through an intense writing session? Using a reverse strategy for NaNo might work for you. The details are here: dailydishrecipes.com/reverse-nanowrimo/ 

Check out these other sites

If you want even more NaNo advice, there are many sites that can help. I am listing just a few below to get you started. Also, if you have tips and tricks for others, please leave a comment. It takes a village and allathat.

You can more on the art of writing, itself, over here.

Prep for NaNo in Seven Days (or Less): www.surlymuse.com

NaNoWriMo Blog: Building a strong plot: http://blog.nanowrimo.org/post/149858948126/plot-doctoring-9-steps-to-build-a-strong-plot 

Day by day outline for NaNoWriMo: http://www.betternovelproject.com/blog/nanowrimo-outline/

7 Tips For Revision

7TipsForRevision

Are you ready to start the revision process but not sure where to begin? Here are some ways to analyze your work in progress (WIP).

  1. CHAPTER TITLE HEADINGS
    • Make sure your WIP is easy to navigate by creating chapter title headings. If you are unfamiliar with this process, you can read more about it on Microsoft’s instructions for using the navigation pane on these pages.
  2. WORD COUNT CHUNKS
    • Checking word count in each chapter of your WIP is a good way to analyze for pacing issues. Variation isn’t a bad thing, but if you have some major outliers, those might be chapters to review more closely.
  3. CHARACTER ARC
    • Each major character should have an arc. Veronica Sicoe discusses this in depth. To see if your major characters have an arc, make a character arc chart for each. Ask yourself: Who is this character at the start, who is she at the end, how did she get here, what is her role in the cast of characters, what progress does she make toward her goals, toward the goals of the cast of characters, etc.
  4. CHAPTER GOALS
    • Speaking of characters, do they progress toward a goal in each chapter? Look carefully at each chapter in turn. If a chapter doesn’t address goals and stakes in some way, it likely needs to be cut. Ask yourself: Is the character on the verge of making an important decision? Is there an event in the works that will throw a character off balance? Is there a resolution on the horizon (that will likely be thwarted)? Do we learn why a character is moving toward or away from a thing? What is the most important thing that is happening in the chapter? How does it tie into the goals and stakes?
  5. REVISION JOURNAL
    • As you start to work through the above items, make notes in a revision journal, or start a revision outline. There is an example of this by “Into Another World,” HERE.
  6. CRUTCH WORDS
    • Use ctrl+F to find what editors and publishers call “crutch words.” You may have had someone point out a word or words that you use a lot. My most used crutch word is “had.” As hard as I try, it sneaks in way too often. Here are a few crutch words that are fairly common:
    • That
    • Just
    • Basically
    • Almost
    • Suddenly
    • Started
    • Really
    • Very
    • Look for words that can tip you off to passive voice issues (is, was, and were, for example) and feeling words that tell instead of showing (sad, happy, nervous, etc).
  7. HARD COPY
    • Double space your document and put in wide margins. This will give you plenty of space to make notes. Print the manuscript in its entirety. Use whatever is comfortable to take notes. I use flags of different colors to mark who is important in the chapter and different color pens to track the type of note I am making in a margin (character action, scene ideas, chapter movement, and inconsistencies are important). The idea here is to force your eyes to look at the document differently. Trust me. It works.

Do you want even more about the revision process? Holly Lisle has a great blog entry about this topic. In the end, if you are serious about making writing your career, you should not let your work leave your hands until it has gone through a rigorous review and revision process. You owe it to yourself, your readers, and your book.

 

 

A writer should never skimp on editing: 5 types to consider before you hit send

A writer should never skimp on editing

A few days ago I came across a self-published book that was rife with errors. I was sad, as I really liked the premise and thought it had much potential to be a great read. The author had added a passage to her text that said something to the effect of, “I did not get an editor or edit the work, as doing so would change the meaning.”

Um, huh?

I did not hit the button to buy, nor have I ever hit the button to buy on a book with multiple grammatical and mechanical errors in the first pages.

I get it. Editing is complicated.There are lots of different editing types. It is expensive. Charges are all over the place. And when you are trying to break into the writing business knowledge about process and money to support front end expenses is often scarce. BUT. And it is a big but. If you do not do your homework and invest on editing, you are likely not going to go as far as you otherwise might.

Let’s look at the two pieces of editing I mentioned above: Types and Cost.  Continue reading “A writer should never skimp on editing: 5 types to consider before you hit send”