Testing the waters

When I put my work out to the world I expect some people to respond. That response can be greatly varied from super negative and overwhelming to ultra positive and everywhere in between. Sometimes the feedback is just fluff, hate or nonsense. However, sometimes there is constructive elements to it.

It may not always be obvious. As I’m getting more and more no’s from my queries I start to wonder. Why? Sure there are the variables I’ve discussed such as the slush pile syndrome, to the agents being too busy or not actually open to queries (even though they say they are) or they’re not the right agent for the story. Whatever that may be, there are a great deal of reasons.

Keeping a positive outlook is hard to do. Still I strive to look forward to possibilities not back at what didn’t happen.

Yes I’m getting to a point. With so much negative response it’s easy to question myself and my work. It’s going to happen that is human nature. So what do I do about it? I look at it objectively. I try to recognize the criticism as constructive no matter what. There is no place for mega ego here that will get me nowhere. Since the first chapter is what all agents are looking at perhaps there is something amiss. I’m not going to say wrong but I have to be open to the possibility that it’s not quite right.

I’m not saying that it’s time to panic or second guess myself at all. Just that I’m aware. If I send out 300 queries and they all say no perhaps something needs to change. While the end of my query quest is far from the end i have a long way to go I’m looking forward and preparing for the possibility that I need to be objective and make a change.

This is where an outside perspective might help, but only if they can be honest and I’m not going to freak out. I won’t, I’m a fairly level-headed person.

So I looked at the first chapter and I looked at the tone, perspective and over all feel. While I love it and its perfect IMO, if I’m honest it has a slight military feel to it. Huh. Not at all what the story is about nor what I meant. However the method of the main character in that situation definitely comes across as military or police. Then I realized something. The first chapter POV is following the secondary not the main character. Hmmm… So my solution is to re-write the first chapter. Maybe once, maybe a few times with a couple different approaches. This for me will be a good way to see if the POV is what might be tripping up the agents.

There is no harm to do this because it’s just one chapter, that incidentally came after the book was written. This does not mean I’m scrapping what I wrote, just testing the waters to see if I got the tone or feel of the chapter off because of the perspective.

To be honest I’m a bit excited to try out a few other angles for the first chapter to the book. Since I’ve written a few more books that follow it, the opportunity to get it perfect, to craft the perfect version of the introduction.

My advice about being open to feedback.
Whatever the form it comes in don’t take it too personally, but don’t dismiss it altogether. It’s an opportunity to see potential if you’re open-minded about it.

-Sheryl

Other posts that are more fun than this one. 😉

It’s really very unnecessary

The jerk-face warrior

Bacon, Banter and Coffee

Missing body parts

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Overwhelming
Recognize
Craft

Speak up!

There is a style within writing that is unique to the writer. Unless one is completely mimicking another’s style, who we are as writers leaks into our work.

This is called the voicing of the book. The way the story sounds when read. I tend to write how I would talk, so my narration is relaxed and informal(Third person, not first). This means I use contractions outside and inside dialogue. There is no hard set rule whether or not I can or can’t, so long as I’m consistent and it sounds or reads well.

Everyone has different patterns to the words they use, how they lay it out and how they tell a story.  The authors voice is important. Which is why I took the advice ‘tell it how you would say it’ to heart.

There are authors out there that have written books that are very similar, in characters, story line and even settings. But none will be like over another simply based on how they voice the story. I’m not a fan of ‘word nerd’ writing where every other word seems to have been plucked out of a thesaurus or from the list of obsolete words. Unless it’s a historical story, I dislike dusty phrases or words that frankly nobody uses anymore. I’m not an idiot, I know what those words are, and how to use them. However if I can’t imagine someone speaking that way, scrunch my face at the pages when I come across to many in one chapter.

I was told that my writing voice is good, and that it’s clear I’m not attempting to copy someone else’s style and therefore it comes across as natural. This was high praise and it was what made me think more about it. It also made me realize that I have no desire to write in anyone else’s style but my own.

There is a lot to be said about how to write, what’s proper, what’s not, blah blah blah. What it boils down to, is my writing is by me, for me and from me. I write to please myself and logically there should/would/will be others that like it too. I write what I want to read. I like what I write and how I write it. This should, in my opinion, be true of every writer.

My advice about finding and using your own writing voice.
Write from the heart, with your soul and if you like what you write, others will too. The bottom line… just be yourself.

-Sheryl

Other blog posts

Quirky little quirks

In the eye of the beholder

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Crossing

That’s what she saw

Choosing a book’s POV, point of view is important. It is partly conveying I am as a writer. Sticking to the POV chosen is most important. Swapping or mixing is generally not a great idea. I have read stories that mix and it’s hard to read.

A frustrated reader isn’t reading. Third person POV is the style I write in. There are two types of third person. Third person Limited and Third person Omniscient.

Third person limited is the story revolving around one person. There is no conspiring behind their back, no major or minor events happening away from them. It’s not limiting, just restricted. Things can happen out of their eyesight (Unlike the first person) but the view of the story revolves around one character’s actions, thoughts, and emotions. You can still show the emotions of others.

Third person Omniscient allows the story to be told through multiple characters. Less is more. Two maybe three IMO.  Now some big famous authors do write with a plethora of characters view, however, they do one very important thing. They don’t mix the views. Some say keeping the views to separate paragraphs is good, and I agree it totally is if it’s one, two or maybe three and they are in the same room or area. However, if there are many characters being followed keeping each to their own chapter (unless they cross paths) is recommended. So if I were writing about Pirates and this part of the story was about a Pirate named Tapper who secretly refuses to rob and pillage, I would start the chapter off with   -Tapper-  that way the chapter is clearly labeled as from Tapper’s view. (This chapter labeling can also work really well for first person perspective if you have more than one character narrating.)

I use Omniscient in BiaAtlas, I have two main characters, a third that sort of gets a bit of alone time and a bunch of support characters. If I decide to give them the spotlight I am ultra careful to either use a new paragraph or they get a whole chapter to themselves.

In third person narrative, I as the writer know everything. Thoughts, emotions, actions and well everything. I can say, show and explain whatever I want to. As long as I stay out of my characters’ bodies/minds. No jumping into one’s mind and speaking from their view(that would be first POV)  This is harder than I thought. Filter words and emotional tags are a good indicator I’ve slipped to the wrong POV. It also means I’m being wordy and can remove some.

This is where Showing emotions instead of telling them comes into play. I talk about this all the time. Why? Because it is super important.

For example how not to third person…

Valery felt sad as she looked out the window feeling the cool glass against her forehead. “I feel helpless.” She couldn’t think of anything to do to help Sasha.
Jackson came up from behind sensing her distress and slid his arms around her. The draft from the window felt damp as it brushed his arms he could feel goosebumps rise on his skin.
“Ah baby, that you feel this way shows how good a friend you are. The police will keep her safe until they catch the guy.”
She didn’t think the police were as reliable as they used to be and snorted a response.
Jackson felt she needed a change of activity he wanted her to stop staring at the depressing rainy view.” Come away from the drafty window love.” (131)

Now I’ll take that rubbish and shift it to one POV, the third. Remove the filter words such as feel, felt, want and think…

Valery frowned as she looked out the window, the glass cool against her forehead. “I feel helpless.” Her mind stuck on her missing friend Sasha.
Jackson came up from behind and slid his arms around her. The damp draft from the window raised goosebumps on his arms. “Ah baby, that shows how good a friend you are. The police will keep her safe until they catch the guy.”
She snorted in response, her faith in the police not as strong as it used to be.
Jackson nudged her from the rainy dismal view outside. “Come away from the drafty window love.”  (101)

Not only did I remove 30 words from the original draft, but I managed to pull the reader out of the characters heads/bodies and let them be a part without jumping perspectives. I have to say once I figured out how to highlight the filter words all at once,(Well colour me silly) it made a huge difference in how I look at my sentences when revising a third person POV story.

My advice about 3rd person POV writing.
This is the most common for a reason but can be challenging. Stay focused and watch out for those damned pesky filter words and emotional ‘feelings’. 

-Sheryl

Filter word blog post No “Filter Word” Parking Here
Dialogue Tag blog post Tag! You’re it. 
A showy Blog posShow and tell 
What I mean by Highlighting Filter words Well colour me silly

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Pillage

What do you see?

POV. Point of view in the second perspective. I think writing in this point of view would be hard for many reasons. It is a narrative that talks to the reader as if they are experiencing the story. It requires assumption that the reader is okay with the story and choices being made for them. Now unless it’s a “choose your own destiny” book I personally don’t think that would go over well. People don’t generally like to be told what to do and how to feel.

Second person perspective uses the pronouns “You”, “Your” and “Your’s” to describe the central character. (the reader is the character…)

I would think this style shows up mostly in directions, advertising, emails, memos and songs. Maybe poetry?  I can’t say I’ve ever read a book entirely in the second perspective, I wonder if it would be odd? Or maybe uncomfortable? I’m going to have to find one I think and read it.

This perspective will stay outside all other characters and focus on the reader as the main. Telling instead of showing will be overly tempting and I wonder if it would be nearly impossible to not tell emotions or if you really can. Hmm. I’m going to have to go scifi-ish for this example.

When you woke this morning you probably didn’t expect to find yourself here. You opened the cover and now you are the sole guardian of the Omnis. The force of creation, the very being of the world you are imagining this very moment. The soft grass beneath your feet, the smell of life mixing on the cool breeze tempered by the salty sea in the distance. The pink and orange clouds in the evening sky casting their hue upon your skin. There is a temple not too far, hidden in the immense jungle before you. Making your way to it will be easy, unless you’re afraid of a challenge or two. Even when your soul leaves Somnium and you return to your body nestled in your so-called ‘real’ world you will take the Omnis with you.

Be aware the dark creatures that seek to destroy the Omnis. They will cause trouble and wreak havoc for you every day until you restore the balance. The lord will put a bounty on your head and they will hunt you relentlessly.
“Go on.”
What is this? Who said that you wonder.
“I’m Omnis, the source of creativity. With you I will defeat the empty darkness and banish the lord, Liber Mortis.”
You know what that is, it’s haunted you for weeks as you stare at the cursor on the screen. The words stuck unable to free themselves from your mind.
“He is there, and he has imprisoned you. Let’s go to the temple before it’s too late. Before all is lost.”

Yeah okay, that was not my best or even close to my favorite. I’m not sure I can or will ever write in this point of view for an entire book. Maybe if I put an email or letter in a book I might. I will definitely have to find a novel written in second perspective and see if it’s readable. I couldn’t see a way to incorporate second perspective into any of my writing unless it was a text or email. Maybe, but then it’s not really second POV is it? Hmm.

My advice about second point of view writing.
If it works for you, all the power to you. I don’t see myself writing this way for an entire novel but if you can go for it… I guess.

-Sheryl

Other posts (not in 2nd POV)

Hold your tongue!

It’s funny you said that…

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Bounty

What a view I have!

Point of View. This is a topic of great conversation. I have brushed on it multiple times in many blogs, but have not dived into it just yet. The point of view is the view or voice that the story’s narration is written.

When I write, I work hard to either stay in one POV or edit it back to one POV. BiaAtlas actually has two character POV. It started with three, but that was too much so I made it two. Honestly I’m happy with that and I still had a small sample of a third POV that I couldn’t quite get out completely. This is okay because I kept them separate from the others.

There are four types of POV writing, first, second, third – limited and third-omniscient. I will explain each but to give them proper attention and not have a mile long post, I’ll tackle one at a time.

Let’s talk about first person. First person writing is identified by the use of the pronouns I, My and Me.  (I see often when people mix first person and third, it’s a bit hard to digest.) From what I’ve seen first person is a go to for romance and erotica, likely because they involve a lot of feelings, characters inner thoughts and emotions. There are a lot of books written in first that are young adult and quite popular, they follow one character only and from their point of view they experience it all. Nothing can ever happen away from the main character when this is the View choice.

There was one horribly popular/famous “romance/erotica” series that I really wanted to like but couldn’t because of the lack of… a lot. Because of the limited POV anything exciting or interesting that happened had to be witnessed by the character. Nothing too interesting did, it was a lot of people telling the main character stories about what happened. Ugh… doooo something main character, be interesting.

Anyway I digress. First person writing can be liberating without having to worry about the show not tell rule when writing… um no, wait that still applies. It is tempting when writing in first to constantly tell. Now my writing is not in first person, but I’ll adapt a bit for this example.

I sat there in the dark counting my inhales and exhales. To say it was all I could do would be accurate. There was no light, no sound and nothing more than smooth cold floors and unforgiving walls. Well there was a door. The damned door with no handle, window or anything tangible. I left fear behind hours ago, well it seemed like hours ago. It could be minutes or even days for all I know. Go on the blind date they said, it will be fun they said. Sure if being locked in a light free room is fun. I suppose that counts. 

When the door opened I closed my eyes, resisting the instinct to look. I opened them slowly to adjust to the blaring beam of light.
“Get up.” Marko the abductor commanded. 
Gladly I thought. What Marko the asshole doesn’t know, might actually kill him. I shuffled to my feet looking as unimposing as possible. My shoulders taught and jaw clenched. He’d drugged me to get me here, it would be the only way. I was going home, unless he has a gun. I looked. No gun.
“Let’s go Brenda, I have a surprise for you.”
Oh I bet you do. I shuffled toward the door. The second I got close enough I reeled my right arm back, and slammed his head into the wall as hard as my five three frame would allow. It was enough. Marko slid to the floor after the sickening thud of his head on the door frame.
“Right.” I looked down at him.”Moron I’m special forces.” I pulled him into the room and closed the door behind me. Now to find a phone and call the police. 

Oh. That perspective is fun to write. I’ve never written in first, other than my blog posts. I feel like there is a possibility here to discover. I think I may have to give it some serious contemplation for my new book series I’ve been brainstorming about. In first person I have access to emotions, thoughts and the protagonist’s perspective. It was kind of like writing my thoughts, how I would think, behave, feel and act in a situation. Huh.

My advice about first person writing. 
If you do this, be consistent. Stay in the perspective of your main and if you divide between two, separate them by chapters to keep the readers from getting confused.  Oh and don’t forget to still show emotions.

-Sheryl

Other posts I’ve written that other’s like;

Time to flip the switch

Shhh… Don’t say a word.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Discover

Building chemistry

I have set down books that fail to build proper inter-character chemistry.  Why? Because there is nothing more awkward than reading stiff lifeless interactions that feel forced or unwelcome. They should flow and feel organic to the reader.  I love a story that sucks you in, makes you feel at home and a part of the story. So if conversation or interactions fall flat, chances are I’ll either slog it out or set it down. As a writer that would be the ultimate worst to know someone felt that way. Therefore I spend extra time building the relationships, good or bad.

So what do I do when it comes to interactions? I know that I respond/react/interact differently with different people. This should be true for my characters. If I don’t have a clear set idea of how that is I will make sure to keep notes on it in my character bio’s. I Cant have Amber being friendly with Sasha for no reason. Or Anne talking silly with Tony. These aren’t always super obvious things either, a reader will appreciate the detail even if they don’t outright notice it. In fact, they may appreciate it more if they don’t.

Some things that a person might do with one person but not necessarily another

Joking around
Teasing
Flirting
Show respect
Touching – touch an arm, back or hand
Intent listening undivided attention
Eye rolling or sneering behind back

Chemistry isn’t always about romance or the potential for it, however, it is what people think of when the subject comes up. It is a big factor in story telling. So I will focus on that as well. Building romantic chemistry is a very serious business. A lot has to happen. Physical cues, verbal suggestions, behaviors, actions, and reactions. It’s an elixir of buildup. If I’m writing a sudden ‘romantic’ chemistry the scene will be intense and hold a lot of action tags and cues.  If I can build it up over time I like to sneak in little tidbits. Like touching of hands, blushing and things like seeking out their company over others and maybe doing small favors that have great meaning.  Subtle and flirty.

Since chemistry is an internal thing, for me it is tricky. I don’t use internal or first person POV. So I use a lot of action and description to show the chemistry instead of telling the reader it’s there. I find this is the best way to suck the reader into the romance and build the hope that the couple will get together.

The chemistry between friends should, in my opinion, be about making each other happy or comfortable. Set them at ease and or rev them up for stress releasing fun. An awkward show of friendship in the form of stiff interaction or conversation would be unbelievable to the reader. Real friends chill, tease and care.

Dale leaned his head back on the sofa. Scott handed him a beer and flopped down next to him. After a long draw, Dale sighed heavily. Scott glanced over at Dale’s miserable face, picked up the remote and turned on the game. Distraction was necessary.
Scott decided to go fishing for the right conversation topic. “Amber was weird today.”
Dale nodded. “Sure was.” he lifted the beer bottle to his lips.
Scott smiled slyly. “Rachael tripped today. She did a fantastic face plant into the meeting-room floor.”

The tension left Dale’s shoulders. The non-Amber conversation welcome. “Oh?” He finished the last half of his beer in one chug.
“No blood, but the clients got quite the show.” Scott got up to retrieve Dale another bottle. “Thanks.” Dale took the offered drink, sat back and settled in to watch the game.
“You should have seen it.” Scott began to tell the spiteful story.

Romantic chemistry seems easy to write, but in reality, it can be difficult to stay in POV and show instead of telling. Fluid movements and simple reactions are, in my opinion, the best way to illustrate this.

The stars twinkled in the cloud-free moonless sky. Anne breathed deeply the cool air as they left the restaurant. Immediately Tony slipped his hand in hers lacing their fingers. With a small smile, she glanced at the delighted gleam to his face.
“I’m not used to this.” Her confession needed no explanation. 
“I know.” He squeezed her hand gently and rubbed his thumb over the soft skin.
“How?” She licked her lips. “How do you know?”
“Because.” He lifted their hands and kissed the back of hers. She sighed softly and he smirked. “You react to every little thing I do as if it were some grand romantic gesture.”
“Oh.” She looked away and swallowed several times. It was true, she just didn’t know it was obvious. 
“Don’t act like it’s a bad thing, Anne.” Tony stopped, let go of her hand and made her face him. 
“It’s not?” Anne blinked slowly as his right hand brushed her cheek, cupping her face.
His lips parted and he leaned closer. “No.” His warm breath played across her lips and she shivered. Their eyes locked and she held her breath. “I’d say it’s a good thing.”
It was all she could do to nod her head, speaking was not an option. 

Whether it’s romantic, platonic or rivalry, the interaction between two people should be personal. I do my best to keep it this way because it not only reads better but it elicits emotions from the reader. I really try not to mix styles between characters. Scott and Dale can chill and depend on the other for distraction, I wouldn’t have them behave the same way exactly with other characters. This quiet understanding is strictly for them. Same goes for Anne and Tony, he’s not her first boyfriend, but he’s the only one she gets breathless around.

My advice about building chemistry.
Start from the first moment characters meet. If they have met or already know each other before the story starts, show their comradery or chemistry subtly and often in little ways that will endear the reader to them and their Symbiosis.

-Sheryl

Other romantic posts

Setting the mood

It’s a love hate sort of thing

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Fishing
Symbiosis
Elixir

Blood

It is inevitable when I’m writing that my characters are going to get into sticky situations. It is very likely that they will encounter or give up some of their own blood, sweat and tears to entertain my readers. I write a lot about emotions, feelings and the senses, because they are a major part of being human and alive.

I’m not a writer of the undead, be that zombies, mummies or vampires. I don’t write about lycanthropy in any form or paranormal nor the preternatural. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of such fantasy, but I struggle with realism and can’t seem to venture very far outside of it… yet. Maybe someday, I do have some ideas rattling their cages in my brain.

So when I research or ‘people watch’ aka observe I try to compare every experience/action/movement/reaction etc. to how I have felt or reacted in the self and same situations(or near to) Then I think about how incredibly fascinating it is that people are so universally unique.

Recently I have been thinking a lot about blood. Yes, blood. Specifically how people react to it. In conversation, in movies, in real life, coming out of others and coming out of themselves.

Common reactions to blood on TV/movies
Grimace
Eye roll (Too campy)
Close eyes
Turn head away
Cover eyes/face
Turn off the TV or walk away

 These reactions are based on the knowledge that its not real. It also helps that if you’ve ever seen real blood in copious amounts Hollywood rarely gets it right.

Common reactions to seeing someone bleeding for real
Rush to help/Provide help
Turn away
Gag/vomit
Faint
Fear of disease/contamination
Panic
Crying
Grimace
Waving hands in front of self and shaking head
Fear of hurting the injured
Shaking from adrenaline
Calm in order to keep injured calm

Seeing blood is different from bleeding. From a little to a crimson mask from a tiny face wound to a bullet in the chest, bleeding can be tricky to write without overdoing it.

Common reactions to bleeding (Pain is not always a factor with blood)
Disbelief
Shock
Panic
Faint/Fainting
Shaking
Crying
Anger
Vomiting
Calmness (odd but true, some people just mellow out)
Disorientation

The idea is clear, either way blood = bad and blood = good.  Whenever tragedy strikes the heroes step up. They run toward the danger, the blood and those in need. However if there is blood, something bad happened. Duh right?

Like pain, a bloody experience is tempting for me to internalize, to shift POV and slip into my characters mind. Let’s find out what happened to Amber and why her head is bandaged.

 Amber laughed and spilled her drink on the floor as she retold the shrew in Sasha’s desk drawer story. She thought it was even better given Scott’s unscripted shrew comment moments before the discovery.
“It was magic, her screaming and blithering like an idiot.”
Amber’s audience held their martini glasses up in congratulatory cheers.
“I need to visit the loo.” Amber gulped the last of her martini and hopped off the tall chair.

Her foot slipped on her spilled drink and she hit the floor hard. She felt pain instantly as her head hit on the base of a chair at the table beside theirs. She cried out, the sharpness of the impact felt hot. Someone helped her sit up and she touched her forehead gingerly. She could feel the warm thick fluid streaming down her face dripping onto her light pink sweater. Like a suffocating fish, her mouth opened and closed in surprise. Amber pulled her hand away as others called for help. She was afraid and screamed, her shiny red fingers were covered in blood and she felt faint as her eyes fluttered.

That POV went all over the place. In her head, out, and back in again. Let me try a re-do, maintaining and external POV.

Amber wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes and sloshed her drink, spilling it as she retold the shrew in Sasha’s desk drawer story. It was even better after Scott’s unscripted shrew comment moments before the discovery.
“It was magic, her screaming and blithering like an idiot.”
Amber’s audience held their martini glasses up in congratulatory cheers.
“I need to visit the loo.” Amber gulped the last of her candy apple martini and hopped off the tall chair.

Her foot slipped on her spilled drink and she hit the floor hard. Her forehead connected with the chair-base at the table beside theirs, and she cried out.
Someone helped her to sit up on the sticky bar floor. Like a suffocating fish, Amber’s mouth opened and closed as she gingerly touched her forehead. Her fingers slid in the warm thick fluid as it streamed down her face and dripped onto her light pink sweater. Amber pulled her hand away while someone called out for help. She screamed as her shiny red fingers shook before her fluttering eyes.

Oh boy I definitely had to take the ‘feels’ and “ing’s” out of that first attempt, that was for sure. I also had to give Amber a little something for her nasty behavior, right?  I don’t care for the term “pumping” to me that implies gore. So I don’t use it, totally a personal preference.

My advice about bloody writing.
Don’t over describe blood with as many alternate words for red that you can find. Pick one or two and keep it simple. The word red works, and I only used it once.

-Sheryl

Here’s an older post or two

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Are you inging too?

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Fish