Tag! You’re it.

When someone reads my work and complements it, it feels amazing. When someone reads it and criticizes, I look at the critic and weigh the value of their opinion. When someone offers advice or points out errors, I thank them.

Recently someone pointed out that I use taglines too much. No I don’t… Oh wait I totally did. Huh.
Here is an example from a rough draft.

Bill ran into Grant who was waiting outside the room.

“How’d it go Bill?” Grant asked annoyed.

“Well. He wanted a firsthand report on the events.” Bill answered.

“That makes sense.” Grant said angrily.

“He said to move them today Grant, all of them. Are the rooms ready?” Bill asked ignoring Grant.

Painful right? It was how I wrote the rough draft. Just to get it out. It wasn’t super important for me to make sure everything was perfect, that’s what editing is for. I even grabbed the adverbs, angrily and annoyed and stuck them in.  Here it is now.

Grant stood outside the meeting room with his hands clasped behind his back. Bill was meeting with the boss Mr. Stork alone, without him once again. He cleared his throat as the door opened.

“How did it go?” 

Surprised by the ambush, Bill stopped in his tracks. “It went well. He wanted a firsthand report on the events.” 

“That makes sense, but without me?” He folded his arms across his chest.

“You weren’t there and didn’t see what happened. Anyway, Stork said to move all of them today.” Bill started walking down the hall, taking note of the hostility. “Are the rooms ready Grant?”

I knew better, yet I still included he said, she said, he asked, she answered a lot. Are they all gone? No, of course not, they have their place. Sometimes simple is better depending on the situation. Putting in action instead of telling emotion can make it flow and read better. Action tags are not the same as Taglines. For example. One should not laugh, giggle, snort, or sigh words. I do this a lot as well. 

“No way.” He laughed.

I still want him to laugh so instead I would say.

He laughed. “No way.”

or 

“No way.” He covered his mouth and laughed.

I remember reading and being taught to use end of sentence tag lines and action tags. I got some fantastic advice a while back. “Show it don’t tell it. Make the reader see what you see.” People read he said or she asked like a period at the end of the sentence. It chops the reading flow off at the knees.

My advice about taglines and action tags.
Recognize them and get rid of them if they are unnecessary. Don’t Jeopardize your sentences with laziness. It’s a great opportunity to take drab conversation and dress it up. Search your work for words such as; said, asked, answered and smiled.  Don’t forget to look for those pesky adverbs that go so well with said.

-Sheryl 

 

If you liked this, check out some of my older posts, if you haven’t already.

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Spell check doesn’t catch them all.

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

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

Silliness and seriousness

Silliness And Seriousness.png

She envied their innocence, longing to go back to when a scraped knee was the most stressful part of the day. ‘Don’t rush to grow up.’ Her mom had said it often. As a young adult, she understood the wisdom of those words too late.©

This character is often being silly and doing things that are typically something a child might do. Why? because growing up doesn’t mean dismissing the essence of Youth completely. She herself is young, yet old enough to see and understand the worldly restraints of adulthood. Life will punch her in the teeth and kick her when she’s down, yet she will hold onto the things that make her and others smile. Joy in life, the shadows of youth that keep her from losing herself in an already too serious world.  She doesn’t see herself this way, but others in the story do.

I wrote her this way to allow for a humour break from the drama, danger and violence. It gives a great opportunity for character interaction. The overly serious and stoic friend might find her enthusiasm annoying. He may or may not comment on it. He could find it charming and pay more attention to her. Or it could get her into trouble when she needs to focus.

In my life, I have come across adults who range from silly and carefree to starchy and unendingly serious. The diversity of maturity is present in the real world so I put it in my characters.

My advice.

Everyone was young once, even an adult character in a book. Who they were is who they are. Silliness and seriousness have their place, I don’t think it always has to be the obvious one.

-Sheryl

More on character building

What’s her name?

What happened to that guy?

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

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

The not-so-direct path to publishing.

The not so direct path to publishing.png

Something every writer has to think about at one point. For me, it was halfway through my third edit. Right around the time when I started receiving unsolicited advice. I love advice, I have to since I give it so freely myself. Nevertheless, I take it with caution. I like to figure things out and research.

Just a quick note before we get to the nitty-gritty. Apparently, it’s nearly impossible to contact a “real” publisher directly. I found a publishing company online that welcomed inquiries. I jumped the gun and contacted them unprepared. They called me with too many questions. I skirted them and asked how they publish. It seemed too good to be true that they called me with nothing submitted to them. I’ll get back to them later.

There are more than three ways, but these were the three at the top of recommended paths. I didn’t even entertain the others.

Self-publishing – Ready set, go. Um no, not so much. For this route, the book must be perfect and edited professionally. This is the out of pocket, do it all yourself approach, layout prep, find a printer, pay for printing, advertising, distribution, promotion, delivery and on and on. I’m getting a headache just thinking about it. Selling hardcopies this way is challenging, frustrating and exhausting. The other form of self-publishing is online or e-publishing. Lower cost, but risky, as it could be lost in the shuffle.

Vanity press – A smaller version of publishing house publishing. They have pre-set packages that vary greatly in cost and value and are confusing in options. (The place I contacted first was a vanity press.) They wanted minimum $3000 for the bare bones start-up. They were pushy and somewhat insulting.
I checked on them and other VP’s. The reviews were unfavourable and scary. -No, follow through. -Hard to work with once paid. -Minimum effort.
I found out some will recycle cover art so my book would look like a dozen other titles they printed. I can see the appeal, but they don’t care if your work is amazing or crap as long as they get paid.

Literary agent – A person that works solely on commision, to get my book published, and get me the best deal. Yes, they take a cut, but they do the hard work and they actually have access to the all-powerful publishers. A literary agent registered with the AAR, the Association of Authors’ Representatives is preferable. This is the advice I got and I felt was right. A literary agent shouldn’t ask for money, they work for me. If I am not published, they aren’t paid. Therefore, they want to get me the best deal possible.

The consensus I found is that it shouldn’t cost a penny to be published, but the opposite. (Unless I want to go vanity or self-publishing.)

The recommended path to publishing.
The literary agent first, if you exhaust this then Vanity press or self-publishing last. I have read from other authors that literary agents and publishing houses don’t look favourably on the self or vanity press published authors. In their eyes, your work wasn’t good enough for an Agent to represent the first time, it’s probably not any better now. Common sense and a lot of research told me the Literary Agent path is the one for me.

My advice on choosing your publishing path.

I recommend researching this and deciding which option is best for you. I know what I will try first, but that doesn’t mean the others are wrong, just not for me.

-Sheryl

I am getting closer to contacting literary agents for real. I will write about that another time and about what I’ve done and what I still need to do to prepare.

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