Over used and oft abused.

Ah, the word shiver. Over used and oft abused. This is on my personal list of filter words. One that is injected into a sentence to replace showing an emotion. I find it in plethora among the words of a romance, horror or mystery. Or just dumped in to lazy writing, like I’m guilty of. 😉

At first I used this word freely, it’s a great way to express an obvious feeling right? Well yes and no. People shiver for different reasons, it’s those reasons that suggest this blanket word can be stretched out or removed altogether.

Example 1.

Billy’s fingers gently brushed the back of her arm sending pleasant shivers across her body. (15)

Not a bad sentence really. A few unnecessary words. If I’m also worried about (word count) I would remove gently and pleasant, they are implied anyway. Three words doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up quickly.

Her skin tingled as Billy’s fingers brushed the back of her arm. (12)

Example 2.

Elouise shivered suddenly for no reason whatsoever. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” She muttered to herself. (18)

Meh, it could use a little trimming and rewording.

Elouise frowned and rubbed her arms. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” (13)

Example 3. (I still write like this.)

Tod had never felt so bone achingly cold in his life. He was shivering so hard his teeth chattered loudly. (20)

Now I know enough to rewrite it to this. FYI the word felt is a super filter word.

Tod wrapped his arms around his aching body, unable to stop his chattering teeth. (14)

Do I never use the word shiver? No, it’s a fun word that evokes a personal response. I do use it sparingly or try to anyway. Sometimes a plain ole shiver is just what the story needs, especially if there is no established reason for it.

My advice about overuse.
Overuse can happen with any word, shiver is just an example. Make a list of ‘important’ words you see too often in your writing and then see how often you actually use them. Then see if you can switch it up or swap it out, but don’t jeopardize the story or the flow if you can’t think of a way to change it.

-Sheryl

 

Other related Posts.

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Shiver

Obvious

Jeopardize

“How could you?”

Me and my first.
“Are you cheating on me?” That question was a long time coming.
I cast my eyes away. “Yes, yes I am.”
“How long has this been going on?”
I swallowed hard. “Half way through revision I took a break.”
“A break!”
I need to be honest, to come clean. “Yeah, I started another book.”
“How could you? I thought I was your one and only!”
“You are my first, and I love you, but I need to move on. I need more.”
“So it’s over?”
I smiled and tilted my head. “Oh no, it’s far from over. You and I have a big future ahead of us. I’m sorry if you don’t understand, but I’m not a one book kinda gal.”

Moving on from working on one book to another is strangely emotional experience. I’ve spent so much time with my first book, reading, revising, and editing that it feels as if I’m being unfaithful. Which is funny because it’s a continuation of the story and characters. Even so, as I sit and read through my very, very rough draft of my second book, I feel as if I should be working on the first one.

I shake my head in amusement at all the typo’s, taglines, grammar errors, filter words and so on. I have a lot of work to do and it’s not at all daunting for me. I love editing my own work, because its mine. The satisfaction of seeing it go from simple raw ingredients to a beautifully decorated cake, is unbelievably rewarding. Unless it turns out to be a nut filled fruitcake, then something went horribly wrong.

With first book is finished and in sort of limbo. I have an appointment in a week and a half with a consultant to work on my first 50 pages, synopsis and query letter. Once they are perfected, I will begin the hunt for a Literary Agent. I’m so excited.

My advice (that has nothing to do with this post).
Go ahead and let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Then prove them wrong in a spectacular way.

-Sheryl

 

Other posts related to editing.

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

Show and tell

 

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Cheat

The first 50 pages.

“Drop and give me fifty!”
“Yes sir!”
“The first 50 Pages of your manuscript that is.”

Guess what? They are the most important. Who knew? I didn’t. Well I did but not in the context that they will make or break the deal. That’s why my first sentence ever written isn’t the first sentence you will read, it’s not even the second.

When they say put your best foot forward they mean it. To apply to literary agents I need to submit a Synopsis, Query letter and the first 50 pages of the manuscript. There are of course books written about how to make your first 50 stand out or to rise above the slush pile.

As odd as this is, it’s nerve wracking. To know I’m so close to putting it out there to be judged and hopefully loved. The trick is not to freak out about it despite the mini drill sergeant that lives in my brain yelling for me to check it again, and again. I like it so someone else is bound to.

I have revised the first 50 pages more than any other part of my book. Not only for the Literary Agents but also for the readers. If it’s not interesting, exciting or fun nobody is going to read further. For the past couple weeks my mind has strayed to chapter 2 and 3. They were originally chapter 1 and 2 until I added a much needed more exciting chapter 1. My problem was this. They were written first my first ever two chapters and quickly after that, my style changed. Sure they fit in fine but there was something about 2 and 3 that seemed slow. They were almost the same scenario from two perspectives.

Two days ago, I had the brilliant idea to meld them together. Pull out the repetitive crap and make one solid chapter. It came out longer than I liked, but still within a reasonable length for a single chapter. Once I put the two together, it made more sense. I knew something was wrong and now I’m glad I paid attention to my gut nagging to change them.

I will read it over again today and probably once more tomorrow. I have a few people reviewing it for me for constructive opinions. Then I will start the process of working with a consultant.

My advice about the first 50 pages.
Make sure they are clean, edited, well written and interesting. It is a fine line between writing to please someone else and writing to please yourself. I have set down a book because I can’t get past the first few chapters so I don’t want to be that writer, and yet I know others that rave it’s the best book they’ve ever read. You can’t please everyone so make sure it pleases yourself. It’s your book after all.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Query letter “creativity drought”.

What is a Query letter? To put it simply it’s the resume for your book, what you submit to a literary agent to get their attention. Single spaced and one page.

Everyone has a different opinion on this. There are bunches of websites dedicated to this and even one that maybe-might-possibly review it on their blog and tell you what works and what’s junk. Like the synopsis, there are even books written about how to write a query letter. It’s that important. I took my time and read samples, how to articles and found one format that I liked.

The basic gist is that a query letter is 4-5 paragraphs. You have 8 seconds worth of reading to catch the literary agent’s attention and have them read on. 8 seconds is not much.

The first is the introduction paragraph. The shortest of them. It has to be personal to the literary agent you are querying. Including their name and why they’re a fit for your work or why you like them or think you would work together. It varies as long as it’s personal.

The second is the quick catch paragraph. This part that must be interesting, well. This paragraph is where you set up the book to say “Hey read on, it’s awesome I promise.” It’s a mini-synopsis, but only the nitty gritty of the story without the spoiler. This paragraph can be two if need be as long as the whole thing is one page.

The third is to be about the author, me. My accomplishments in literature, prizes, awards, certificates and qualifications or relevant education. I don’t have any of those things per say. So I wrote about my experiences with writing.

The fourth is the how will I promote the book etc. etc. This one was tough too. The more exposure I have the more likely a literary agent will take me seriously. Thus I started this blog, registered domain names for an upcoming website and whatever else I could find that others have done to promote a book. I kept this short and sweet.

After my first few attempts at a query letter, my brain dried up. All my creative ideas evaporated under the hot pressure of the disapproving sun of self-criticism. I could not make it sound interesting. I realized I was being too hard on myself so I took a break, wrote and revised a few chapters. I waited for the rains on inspiration and tried again when they came.
I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m getting help for this just as I am for the Synopsis. For me it’s like writing my resume, it’s so hard to sell myself to others looking to hire me. The same goes for this. I know what to say, but I want to make sure it’s perfect. I have a Query that I think is decent ready to submit to the consultant. I wonder if he will agree or not? I’ll let you know.

My advice about Query letters.

Do research. Lots of it. Find the style that appeals to you and go with it. Don’t be afraid to get help or opinions on this, after all its part of what you will be using to sell you and your manuscript to a Literary agent or publisher if you are contacting them directly yourself.
If you find your query parched and dull, try a different approach or style. This is the face of your book. The first thing a potential literary agent will see. But hey, no pressure. 

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

The prickly process of writing a Synopsis.

The prickly process of writing a Synopsis.png

Synopsis, a pretty word for stripping away the petals, leaves, and thorns. They just want the stem, what holds your story together and brings it from the soil to the sky.

I found that there are 2 main types of Synopsis; the long and the short.

  1. Short Synopsis is 2 pages double spaced. It reveals everything of importance. This is what everyone means when they ask for a synopsis or short synopsis. This is what to submit with the Query and sample pages to the literary agent or agency.
  2. Long Synopsis is 4-6 pages doubled spaced with more detail. It also reveals everything of importance, but more of it. The long is a special request and will be asked for specifically.

Opinions everywhere and no one agrees. There are many opinions out there on how to write one, what is expected and what to show. There are even books written on how to write a synopsis. The gist of all the advice and samples I found is to keep it an active read, not to just drone out a monotone report of how the story goes.

  • Don’t write it in first person.
  • Make a point form list of major events to work with.
    • Make a sub point of any minor events that affect major plot.
  • Choose which characters to present wisely. This was tough for me the story is about a group of people, focusing on one main and her support character. However, one other person is very important to a major plot turn. I chose to work all three in.

So I sat down and started my synopsis. It was painful. Two pages fills up quickly and then some. The first draft I wrote was a whopping 5 pages long and hated it. I tried again a few more times and didn’t like any of them. I started over and got one to 3.5 pages. I liked that one’s direction so I worked with it to bring it down to two pages. Edit, revise, edit again and it’s done. Well, not really done, it’s dry and lacking personality or excitement.

Now because I feel I’m truly stuck on my synopsis and it’s very important in the process of seeking out a Literary Agent, I’m getting help. I am going to pay for professional consultation on my Synopsis, query letter and first 50 page submission. I will share this adventure and both the Synopsis and Query letter once they are perfected. Depending on how brave I am I may post the before and after.

I have bashed my head on the wall over this for many weeks. I can write a story, but to strip it bare and leave just the bones? I am struggling with it not sounding like someone’s reading a blurb on how to test and treat garden soil for alkalinity. My decision to get help on this doesn’t mean everyone will need to.

 

My advice about writing a Synopsis.

Write it, leave it alone for a day and revise it. Like pricking your fingers on a thistle you must pull barehanded. If you don’t let them heal between attempts and revisions you’ll have a bunch of holes in your fingers and your synopsis will be a bloody mess. At least that’s what I learned. I do recommend getting second and third opinions on what you wrote for your synopsis. (Assuming they have read or don’t mind complete and total story spoilers)

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

What happened to that guy?

The forgotten character who hasn’t spoken in chapters. Yeah, I know, sometimes people are forgettable. That is a problem. Now I have to bring them back into the storyline.

This has happened to me twice. I will admit it because this is an opportunity in my opinion. If I’ve neglected them it’s for a reason. I have imagined the story progressing without them. I figure out why and then find a solution. Are they boring? Not enough personality? Are they crucial to the story? Do they complicate things unnecessarily?

For me, it’s a chance to spice someone up or darken their edges. Make them more likely to insult, or cower or perhaps say something funny. A good villain can be born from dialogue neglect. If I’ve neglected them maybe my characters have neglected him too. Make it an issue in the story. I could go back and make them moody or shy. The options are endless.

My advice about inadvertently leaving a character behind.

In my opinion, a flat character is your chance to shake it up. If all else fails, kill them in a relevant way to the plot or main character development. That way the reader won’t be asking “what happened to Bob?” Because they will know. Bob stepped into traffic and was hit by a car. He was sad and distracted about Juan ignoring him for three freaking chapters. Now Juan is riddled with remorse.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

To live life: Do what makes you feel alive.

BiaAtlas1

I often find myself thinking about working on my book. Whether it’s writing or editing,  I enjoy it immensely. Daily I tuck situations or conversation tidbits away for future reference. I can’t help it. Would that work for the antagonist? What if my protagonist had someone talk to her that way? I find inspiration everywhere and it has really opened my eyes. I see more, I hear more and I pay better attention.

I have had the questions come up, “How can you work on it so much?” or “Why do you spend so much time writing?” (and variations on that theme)

The answer is simple and it’s easy to explain in context. I look at the person asking and I think about something they do in their spare time that they love more than anything else. Whether it’s reading, playing video games, fishing, dancing or whatever they do a lot of. I then say, “You know that feeling you get when you –fill in the blank-? It’s the same thing for me when I’m writing or editing my books.” It is okay if they don’t understand, they don’t have to.

When I’m passionate about something it’s a thrill to see it through. I’ve had more than a few hobbies and many ebb and flow in my desire to partake, but once I found my literary confidence I find my craving for writing is steady.

My advice about doing what you love.
To put it simply I love what I do and do what I love. That is honestly what I believe the point of it all to be. Whether it’s writing or snowboarding or stand-up comedy, if you become excited thinking about something and it fills you with joy, don’t ignore it or let others drag you down. If you are fortunate enough to discover your passion run with it. Do what makes you feel alive.

-Sheryl

 

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

Spell check doesn’t catch them all.

Blog Spell checkIf the wonk is actually correct, Spell Check doesn’t catch your misty.

When it comes to checking spelling I had to read it myself. I also had someone else read it too. This is where a copyeditor can come in handy if you can, want or are able to go that route.

I’m not saying that spell check is not helpful, it does point out the obvious errors. However, spell checking is more than looking for the red squiggly lines, its making sure that the words are appropriately used.

For example: And and an.
Yes, I typed that right. Even though spell check hates the heck out of it. 😉 Back on track.
Pepperoni an olive.
Pepperoni and olive.

Spell check didn’t have an issue with either option. Neither did grammar check (Blue squiggles). I am cautious when using spell check to correct my work, there can be words that look similar to what I want but are not even close.

One misspell or typo: Wunder gives me a choice of; Wonder, Winder, Wander, Under, and Wonders.  If I choose wrong, it will be “correct”.

My writing was littered with words like this. They are mostly typo’s that got away with existing because they are actually words. Not the right one, but a word none the less.

Spell check wont catch them all, they are not Pokémon. (Although spell check will correct the spelling of Pokémon.) I found reading out loud helps. Yes, I sound like a crazy loon reading to myself, but it totally worked for me. I had to learn to read slow and clearly otherwise I’d just skip over the errors.

One would think admitting to errors, many errors, is cause for embarrassment. I don’t think that way. I’m only human and I make mistakes. It doesn’t matter if I make one mistake or a thousand, because I have the time, patience and will to fix them. I found it easier to write what I need to say and stop worrying about the little things along the way. I did catch many as I worked but I didn’t sweat the every single one.

My advice about spell check.

I think of my self as competent at spelling and catching typos. I still found many mistakes even after the fifth or sixth revision. If you are not a confident speller, don’t rely on the spell check to catch them all, get outside help. That help can be a friend, relative or someone you hire such as a Copyeditor.

-Sheryl

 

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

What’s her name?

Blog nameWhat’s her name?

I thought naming my baby was difficult. This is worse!

They are people, but with a twist. I formed every aspect of them, their history their likes and dislikes. Personality and flaws. Physical appearance and even emotional state. I get to play with their development or regression in the storyline and yes, I can even play God and make them fall in love or snuff them out. *insert evil laugh here*

I found controlling a person in every way made me feel responsible for them and attached. Therefore, a fitting name is important and I needed to get it right.

The thing I discovered with a name is that it can be a well of opportunity for humour, banter and even ridicule between characters and in dialogue. To my surprise, I also found it could shape how a person develops or stays stagnant. People need to grow and change, good or bad it doesn’t matter as long as they learn something along the way.

How do I pick a name? It depends if I have a character already in mind (This is harder) or if I’m creating someone new that I just added because the story demanded it. Minor and sub minor characters get the close your eyes and pick from a list method. (Baby name books work great for this.) I was joking the other day about using scrabble pieces or boggle to create names.

I sometimes go for cheesy and name people things like Rose Thorny or I just look around, pick an object, and go with it. I’ve struggled with names and often I’ve asked someone what their favorite name for a girl is, or a boy. Or what name they think is sexy or annoying. Catch my drift? Ooh. Catt Drift. Nice. Except I like the 1-2 or 2-1 syllable rule for names. That would make her, Catelyn Drift or Catt Drifter. If the first name is one syllable then the last should be two or more and vice versa.

I actually used a placeholder for two characters until I found the right names for them. One was AAA and the other was SSS for no reason other than they would be easy to search and find and replace. They were my two main characters.

I wrote six chapters, hated someone’s name so much I changed it. It’s my story I can do what I please. That’s the beauty of being the all-powerful creator behind the Curtin pulling the strings and blowing smoke.

The thing about naming a character is that I tend to pull from experience and history. So if a name seems too familiar, I sometimes google it to see if it pops up in something recent, such as a movie or book. I’ll also say the name out loud a few times to see if it sounds good or not. “Hello, my name is Catt Drifter.”
My advice about naming your beloved creations.

If you don’t like it or you’re having a hard time visualizing your character because of the name, change it. Baby name books, baby name websites and ‘popular’ name websites are great. But don’t forget the old outdated names, I have found they make for great nicknames, shortened names or fantastic humor. Ironic names are fun if you know where the character is going or if their past is significant work it in.

-Sheryl

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Copyediting. Why I didn’t pay someone to destroy my fragile confidence.

Blog Copy editors

My book is my baby. I love it, I created it and I’ve nurtured it. Now it needs to be cleaned up and ready to present. At first, I thought about hiring someone to edit my book for me. I wasn’t in a confidence place yet to open up and ask anyone I knew to do this. I was well aware that my manuscript needed a lot of tender loving care. A lot.

It seemed a daunting task so I began the arduous search on-line for copy editors.

What is a copy editor? They will read my manuscript, check for spelling and grammar errors. They will check my sentence structure for filter words and for flow, for continuity and plot holes (They might not call it that.) They don’t do this for free. I also found out after contacting a bunch that they will rip apart my manuscript. Tear it to shreds. So much that looks like they massacred a red pen or ten and hid the evidence on the pages.
I wasn’t ready to have someone apply their opinion and style to my work, I may never be.

For 136,000 words approx. (Keep in mind this is way over the max allowable word count, and before I revised it even once.) I received quotes from $2000 to $3500 Canadian for a basic copyedit. I even had one say unless I’m a master Russian author there was no way my book was good at that word count. How rude! That was a great criticism. Really it was because he pointed me in the right direction of word count reduction, which leads me down the right path of editing for me.

So I thought about this cost and what they do long and hard. I thought about it as I read through and spell/grammar checked my messy work. If I got a copy editor to revise my manuscript, it would no doubt be torn to shreds with a red pen. Then what? I fix it and have to have them revise again? That just got twice as expensive. I don’t have thousands of dollars to throw around. Nor was I comfortable with the idea of becoming dependent on someone’s idea of how my book should be. Mostly it was a cost issue.

I made two decisions. The first to take all of my spare time, and edit it myself. I do not have a degree in English so this was a slow and careful task. (Still in progress FYI)
The second. When I’m done editing as far as I can go and I don’t get any bites from Literary Agents in one year, I will revisit the option of hiring a copy editor. (I will write about my experiences surrounding Literary Agents in future blogs don’t worry.)

With every revision, I became more excited. It is shaping up and reading well. I can’t express how rewarding it is to work so hard on something that means so much. It wasn’t as scary or daunting as I first thought, and to be perfectly honest it allowed me to hone the story and make it more streamline. There are sequels to this, my first book, so I was able to go back and plant little foreshadow nuggets. I am glad the sticker shock forced me to re-evaluate my thinking.

My advice about Copy Editors.

If you need them and can afford it, it is your choice. I know they are very helpful.
In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t. I feel pride in all the work I’ve put into my manuscript. I could not justify paying someone thousands of dollars to tear apart my manuscript. Just remember nobody can tell you paying for help is right or wrong, if you need help get it. Free or paid is nobody else’s business. Just be careful and check their references first, check to see if they are legit or a swindler. You are hiring them to read and revise your work. Make sure they are the right person/s to do that.

-Sheryl

 

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