What I’m Up To – Update

What I'm Up To Update

I have finished my collaboration with my editor, and I’ve begun the process of querying again. I will be posting more about editors and what made me decide to go that route and how I chose one.

At the moment I’ve started wading through the Literary Agents, and I forgot just how much work that is. I’ll also be talking about finding agents and what to look for in an agent. I’ve talked about this before, but with all good things, a reminder is a good idea.

I’ve learned a lot this time around, more about query letters and writing a Synopsis. Needless to say, it’s been a long and involved process, and I’m both tired and excited. Oh and very, very, very, very nervous.

This time I have my act together, I’ve had my first 50 pages polished, my synopsis perfected and my query letter hammered out and ready to go. I have my handy dandy spreadsheet ready to keep track, and I’m using Query Tracker as well. I’ve already composed a few queries and bravely hit the send button, so I can now wait. 1 to 8 weeks is the standard.

Well, I have some blogs to write about all the things I’ve done and learned through this process. There are still a few details I need to work on in the manuscript. Exciting times are here for me.

Thank you to all who are following my journey.

-Sheryl

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That Was Random

In my last post, I mentioned a run in with a man who was so abrupt and rude it almost threw me for a loop. I maintained my composure, but it got me thinking.

I tucked him and his behavior away for a potential character and I couldn’t stop thinking about him. His outburst was random, and in my opinion unprovoked. However, if I look closer his behavior was probably normal or at least justified in his opinion. So why was this so important?

Characters.  

Character building is not just about what happens to a main character throughout a story but how to build one before putting any of them in. I’ve mentioned before that I like to give every character, minor or major, a history. I give them a past that determines how they are now. A back-story. 

Writing a random run in with a random person in a book can be tricky. If it has nothing to do with the story or the protagonist’s journey then it will be superfluous. However making it meaningful is just as tricky. If it’s blatantly obvious then the reader won’t appreciate it. If however I can make it part of the story and meaningful while keeping it totally random then all the better.  

My example is loosely based off another run-in with a man this weekend at the local farmers market. 

Amber checked her watch and took a deep breath. Ten minutes in line for the store to open. It took forever to figure out a birthday present for Dale and this store advertised they were getting the newest fit-bit in stock a week before the others.

The doors opened and she stepped forward. There were seven people ahead of her. She knew this because she counted them at least a hundred times out of boredom. As she got to the entrance a man in a Tommy Hilfiger jacket stepped in front of her.

“Hey.” She called out to the man. “Get in line dude.”

He turned and smirked at her with his beady brown eyes and graying stubble covered chin. 

“I am in line and I’m in a hurry.” He turned his back to her without a trace of remorse or anything resembling human decency. 

With fists at her side, she pressed forward. She went right to the counter and the man was just handing out the boxes to everyone as they approached.  She took hers, went to the accessory wall, and found the one she was looking for. She reached out for the last blue zipper accessory so dale would have options and a hand snatched it before she could.

She looked to see Hilfiger jacket man laugh and walk away. Normally she would scream and make a scene outing the jackass for what he is. 

“Karma will get him.” Amber muttered and took the dark green zipper accessory. She was buying a gift for Dale the least she could do was follow his mantra.

Karma had been more than a bitch to her so she knew damned well that you get what you put out. Pursing her lips, she headed for the checkout. There were two open and she got in line. If she was lucky, she could get to work on time. She inched forward until she was next.

“Next.” The cashier called out. 

Before she could approach, Hilfiger Jacket man stepped around her and took her turn. 

“Oh you smarmy little shit.” Amber uttered under her breath. “Karma, karma, karma…” She whispered as she got to the other cashier.

Luck was still on her side as she got to her desk before Valery strolled up.

“Good morning Amber, you look better today.”

“Thanks. I feel better.”

“I need to ask you a favor.” Valery smiled kindly. She approved of Amber’s new persona. She was working hard to make up for her selfish ways. It wasn’t a secret that she was pregnant. A single woman with no talk of a boyfriend, it was no wonder her stress was so high. 

“Sure boss.” Amber smiled back. “What can I do?”

“There’s a man in my office for an interview. I double booked and I have a man in Clifton’s office. Can you take the one in Clifton’s?” Valery asked and held out the interview questions. 

“Sure.” Amber jumped up and took the question sheets as Dale peeked around his cubicle and tried not to grin. 

“Be brutal they’re applying for the new assistant position and will be working directly under you.”

Amber nodded as Valery walked away. She gave a giddy squeal as Dale gave her double thumbs up. 

“You’re right about Karma Dale. I could have been a total bitch to some ass-hat this morning, but I let him be a miserable jerk and minded my business.”

“And now you’re getting an assistant. Go.” Dale waved her off and she went to Clifton’s office quickly. 

Amber opened the door and walked in to sit in Clifton’s chair. “Good morning Mr…” She glanced at the sheet. “Kyle Travis.”

The man stood and held out his hand to shake. His face paled as she smiled. Mr. Hilfiger jacket recognized her from earlier. 

Amber shook his hand. “Let’s get started shall we?” She sat as sweat beaded on Kyle’s forehead and he took his seat.

The original run in was a man who kept budding in front of my husband and I as we waited our turn at the market. It was very frustrating. Now I didn’t give him an interview, but he was so random and owned his rudeness that he made for great character fodder. Tucking these random run-in’s away for reference later, is key to good writing in my opinion. I take from what I experience and embellish, twist and maneuver it to fit into my story in a random and fun way. 

For Amber her journey is about becoming a decent human being. What she does now that she has this man by the proverbial short hairs will determine how far she’s come. It was nice to have her not pop off and take the high road. 

My advice about random run-in’s.
Write them down for future use. Inspiration comes from life and there is no better inspiration than a total jackass who gives you a great template to work with.

-Sheryl

Related posts

People Watching

Individual Arcs

Round vs. flat

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Trace

“Who’s Talking?”

I’m continuing on my dialogue punctuation quest. My goal is to hopefully see less of these simple, yet easy to make errors. Ones I know I myself have done in my typing haste, but hopefully catch them when editing and revising. I’d like to remind you that I’m not at all a professional, I never profess to be. I’m just me, a writer on the quest to have my books published. The fact that I even say books (As in plural) is amazing to me. Along the way, I’ve had to research and learn and discover new things in all aspects of writing, editing, revising and the quest to land a Literary agent and hopefully a publishing contract. Through this, I try to read and explore things, subjects and styles I’ve never tried or learned before.

I certainly hope my dear followers/readers don’t feel belittled by my tips and advice. I figure if the information/reminder/lesson is good for me, then it’s likely to be helpful to others.

Now on to today’s topic. Multiple lines of dialogue. Yup, generally when people talk there is more than one person participating. Unless you’re crazy like I am and talk to yourself. “Say what?” Oh boy I have some interesting conversations with me.

When writing dialogue (My favourite subject) Always start a new paragraph for a new speaker. This keeps the text easy to read and follow. It is crazy kinds of frustrating to have no idea who’s speaking or to have to sift through the dialogue to figure out who’s talking.

Example time:

Incorrect:

“Hey Amber,” Dale smiled. “How’s it going?” He put his hand on her back. “Really good today. Didn’t barf once, I don’t feel sick at all and for once I didn’t wake up already knackered.” Amber grinned and shook her hands excitedly. Dale hugged her tight.
“That’s a relief.” She squeezed back. “I’m so happy.” He said.

Oh my… What? Yes, believe it or not I’ve slogged through dialogue like this. What happens? I stop reading after cringing and becoming frustrated. This rule applies even if one of the speakers doesn’t speak.

Correct:

“Hey Amber,” Dale smiled. “How’s it going?” He put his hand on her back.

“Really good today. Didn’t barf once, I don’t feel sick at all and for once I didn’t already wake up knackered.” Amber grinned and shook her hands excitedly.

Dale hugged her tight. “That’s a relief.”

She squeezed back.

“I’m so happy.” He said.

OR (Single or double spaced is a personal preference. But the industry standard is double) If you go single, it’s very important to make sure each character starts talking on their own line.

Correct:
“Really good today. Didn’t barf once and I don’t feel sick at all.” Amber grinned and shook her hands excitedly.

Dale hugged her tight. “That’s a relief.”
She squeezed back.
“I’m so happy.” He said.

That was a great deal easier to read and understand who says what and how.

Dialogue doesn’t have to be hard, and as always it should have a point and not just be pointless conversation. People don’t want to read that, they can just go to work/school/home and live it… sigh. Readers want the juicy bits, the parts that carry and take the story forward. The parts that deliver the goods and not the stuff that drives a word count up for the sake of it.

My advice about Paragraphing Dialogue.
Um… you sort of have to so the readers can tell who’s talking. Well I suppose you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, but don’t be surprised if the reactions are not what you hoped for.

-Sheryl

Other dialogue related posts

Creative Dialogue Tags

Tag! You’re it.

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Knackered

One step forward and two steps back

The point of any story is to get from one point to another with entertaining bits in-between. Ideally, the protagonist is on a journey of some sort. Probably growth by emotions or achievements.  No path is smooth nor should it be. How dull would it be if nothing ever got in the way? If nothing pushed the hero off course and they sailed on through to the end easy-peasy.  Yawn. Double yawn even.

I am a huge fan of the setback, the ‘are you freaking kidding me?’ moments.  I don’t care for over the top non-stop terrible incident after terrible incident. The kind where the character can’t ever catch a break, so much that it becomes annoying. In those cases it’s more about bad luck or sensational writing without content. Like a sweet strawberry cream filled chocolate without the strawberry filling. It’s okay, because hey, chocolate. But where’s the gooey good stuff?

All in all, the protagonist should be steadily gaining ground and when setback they should triumph and move along to the next obstacle.

What about those obstacles? Well, I try to make them meaningful to the story in some way. Random death or destruction is fun but if it means nothing to anyone in the story, the reader certainly won’t give a rats ass either.

For example, I’ll talk about Sasha. She is pretty high up in importance at the design firm. She knows how to utilize others’ skills appropriately and is a team player. She lacks drive or the push to get her to do what she should really be doing and starting her own agency. So I’ve set Amber on her to make her work life hell and later someone else will toss her to the flames and really light a fire under her butt.  Now in her personal life. She has a secret and a few select people in her life know about it. Something bad happened and slowly, this will be drawn out by a series of relationship related events. Some good, some bad and some very much both. Her friends are trying to force her to move on, men are trying to drag her out of her self-inflicted misery, but eventually someone will give her the courage to let it all go and move on herself. Don’t worry the path is riddled with awful things that make her grow as a person.

Cal is a detective and loves his job. His journey has not been addressed yet, so no spoilers.

Not all journeys are for the greater good. A character can wander from the ideal path and become well… bad. These are fun to play with. You can get super mean and nasty to them to drive them over the edge. Or maybe they’re already there and are the ones tossing out the roadblocks on the sly for the protagonist to trip on.

Think of it like a ladder. The side boards are the progression, the protagonist will climb from the base of the ladder to the top. Some rungs may break and others may be missing. Eventually they need to get to the top. Some characters will be making their way down. It’s easier to go down and even fall fast. Then there are the rungs of the ladder. It’s okay to have rungs, the characters/events that serve only to help someone else up or down. They have no real part in the journey other than that one moment.

Overall, the strong emotion eliciting moments are the ones that will keep the pages turning. How are they going to get out of this mess? What happens next?

My advice about setbacks.
Use them appropriately with cause and purpose. If you over do the set backs then the reader might start eye rolling and get bored or frustrated. Remember its all about the endgame. How can a struggle or set back make the reward sweeter?

-Sheryl

Other posts

Desperately procrastinating

I’m just me

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Base

Daily Prompt: Obsessed

I have not responded to a daily prompt before. It thought I’d give it a try. I hope you enjoy.

The very definition of obsessed describes my journey greatly.  My thoughts are preoccupied with my book persistently. The characters, the story and my desire to create both. When I’m not thinking about my story I’m working on it. Editing, revising and writing.

My book consumes me and it should, it’s mine and I created it. Does that mean it has taken over my life? No, but it is a major part of it. My life is where I draw inspiration, it must go on for my stories to continue. All things in moderation. I don’t believe being obsessed has to be a bad thing or a negative force in my life. I can be obsessed with something and still function normally for everything else.

Being obsessed is how amazing things are accomplished. From fine works of art to a beautifully landscaped garden, obsession in one form or another helped sculpt an idea into reality.

In a perfect world, I would see everyone obsessed with my book, the story, the concept, the characters. I want everyone to meet them and love them as I do. To enjoy their story and adventure and live vicariously through their efforts and achievements.

As I continue my unexpected adventure I will share what I have learned along the way and what is yet to come.

-Sheryl

 

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via Daily Prompt: Obsessed