Something To Write About

I’ve been taking some family time off this summer and posting a little less frequently.  My newest book is taking almost all my free time and it’s amazing how much fun I’m having writing it.

When I look back over my year since I started blogging I have to admit I’ve learned a lot. Things that I didn’t know and might never have discovered if it wasn’t for starting a blog.

Grammar is something that can always be improved upon (IMO) since I know I’m not a grammar genius I take all the advice I can get. I have also done a lot of research to find out the little things I had no idea about.

I’ve blogged about dashes, commas, tenses, filter words (A huge issue for me), Interjection, dangling modifiers, exposition, hyperboles, clauses, fragment sentences and so much more.

I’ve also learned that inspiration can come from anywhere. Honestly anywhere!  My new book was inspired by an insignificant everyday thing. I’ve blogged about people watching, seeing the world and not just what’s in front of me, I’ve talked about sources of inspiration such as vacations, the beach, amusement parks, the bar, barbeques, and anything that involves people, places, and things. Being more aware and seeing the world around me has become a great source of inspiration.

I’ve met a great number of writers since I started this journey, both online and off. Each and every one of them a unique talent that brought my attention to various styles of writing. I’ve since dabbled in first person perspective writing and it’s a lot of fun.  I’ve also found that reading others works’ and appreciating

I’ve also found that reading others works’ and appreciating their style is a wonderful way to understand my own. Whether it is books, poems, short stories or songs everyone has a voice. I may absolutely love how someone else writes, and they may influence me but I have my own voice and copying someone else’s style or voice is a waste of time. It won’t read as well as my own.

Distractions and writer’s block are a writer’s worst enemy. Through other bloggers and writers and research, I’ve learned what can be done to minimize both issues. Breaks and living life are necessary for both getting the creative juices flowing and for keeping the mind active and able to focus.

Story structure or the arc of a story is important and I have spent a good amount of time researching the various styles and methods used to write a story. Some people plan it all out before they start writing. While others go with the flow. Myself I’ve discovered I’m a little of both. I think and think and plan it out but I go with the flow and if things change along the way then so be it. I do know having an end in mind is of the utmost importance. Otherwise, the story becomes either too long or pointless.

Keeping the reader engaged and delivering an entertaining story is the most important part of writing. I know if I like what I write, then others will too.  Therefore I don’t worry about what others think and I never let it influence my writing. I write for me and then I share it.

I’ll continue to touch on these key aspects of writing and since I’ve learned so much and still have plenty more to learn I’ll be revisiting some of them with more information.

I don’t think anyone can know everything about writing and there is always room for improvement and expansion.

My advice about writing 
Never be afraid to try something new, or visit something old. Looking back momentarily is a great way to move forward monumentally.

-Sheryl

My Posts From The Start

Independent Clauses depend on nobody.

Influential Words

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved
Delivery

233 Is A Lot

Someone asked me the other day why I’m back to working on a rewrite of my book. “I thought you said it was done. Why aren’t you published yet?”

It was and it wasn’t done, and traditional publishing takes time, commitment and a lot of work.

I’m not perfect and I’ll admit that openly. This whole journey has been a process of learning and discovery. A crazy wild ride of ups and downs and insanity in between. There have been times when I’m certain I’ve lost my marbles for doing this. Then I think, hey, marbles… how can I write them into my story.

I looked back at all my posts and I have at this point and there is 233 of them. 233 is a lot for someone that never thought she’d ever write a blog post. That means over 200 things I’ve learned, researched, discovered and reflected on. All about this journey to become published. That’s a lot.

My Posts From The Start   

When I started writing BiaAtlas I had no idea my life would take this path. I had no idea it would be a life-altering accomplishment. I had no idea it would spark a passion inside me to write and create stories that I never thought possible.

As far as publishing goes, I’m not there yet and I have a long way to go.  All I can do is keep moving forward and never stop trying.

Re-writing my book wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I realized it needed to be done. It was the first novel I wrote, it was bound to have problems and mistakes. After writing so many blogs and working on other exciting projects I was able to look at my first attempt and see what I could do to make it better.

I survived the onslaught of rejections and even the nay-sayers telling me to quit or if I’m rejected that much my work is crap. (Even if they’ve never read it they say it.) Why should I listen to that? The rejections were an indication something needed to be fixed. I’m betting on word count and the first three chapters. So that is what I fixed. Now I’m revising and finding a lot of slack that needs to be fixed.

I’m happy I’ve taken the time to write about my experiences and what I’ve learned. Partially for myself and for others that might be struggling with some of the same obstacles I myself faced and will face.

My advice about writing and creating.
There is more to it than just typing out words. And the more you put into it the more value it will have for yourself and for the world. Keep writing and creating and let no one bring you down.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved
Commit

(Insert description here)

There are times when I’m writing and I’m totally in the groove. I’m in the moment, writing and it’s moving along well then I have a scene that needs detailed description that I know will not only slow me down, but possibly derail my thought train.  I have a conundrum. I don’t want to stop to describe the walls or carpet,. I want to write, so I’ll plop an (Insert description here) and keep going.

This is totally okay. In fact, I heartily encourage this from my own experience. Here are a few reasons why leaving descriptions until later is a good choice for me.

  • Story flow and ideas will be stifled by slowing down to describe Sasha’s haircut and colour
  • The juices are flowing and describing the apartment will cause the events to slip away
  • I’m not overly familiar with how a police officer’s office might look and it requires research or a bit more time to imagine it correctly
  • I haven’t decided exactly how the office layout will be, so I let it go for now.
  • I know an outside distraction could occur any moment, I need to get my ideas down, and descriptions can wait.
  • When I need to consult a map and that’s time consuming

Part of the reason I do this is not to interrupt my creativity the other part is that I want scenarios, descriptions to be perfect, and a part of the story not a separate entity. Sometimes I need to write the scene before I can determine exactly where they are. I have even changed the location of a confrontation or dialogue solely because what I first imagined wasn’t quite good enough.

Things I’ll describe later because I’m in the groove.

A person’s appearance (Less is more IMO)

The setting for a scene

A building

An object of fascination or use

A place I’m not familiar with and requires research

A task or job I need to research further

An object that I’m not familiar with or it’s use

A food/drink I haven’t had before, so need to try before writing about it.

The point is that I often find myself wanting to write the story and not stop to focus on the little things that make the story savory. I can add them later or during revision as long as I leave myself a reminder.

My advice about Place markers.
They can be helpful. I do however recommend making them stand out by highlighting them in some way.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Silliness and seriousness

Negative or positive

It’s really very unnecessary

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Conundrum

It’s really very unnecessary

I’m back to redundant words, they take up a lot of my time when revising. Really and very take the stage. Just like up and down, very and really very often have an entourage of unnecessary words tagging along for the free ride. I know when I’m using these words that I’m getting wordy and to slow down. I go through what I originally wrote and take a good look at what needs to be changed.

Generic spell check programs will catch some of them, but not all.
For example:

The very blue sweater was really loose on Sasha. (9)
Sasha’s blue sweater was loose. (5)

See? Same point, four words less.

Cal was very late. He was really going to get a lecture from the Sargent this time. (17)
Cal was late. A lecture was imminent from the Sargent this time. (12)

The temptation to say it’s ‘very’ anything is really strong. 😉

She held her hand up. It was very dark, too dark to really see her hand in front of her face. (21)
It was too dark to for Sasha to see her hand in front of her face. (16)
Or
It was too dark to for Sasha to see her hand before her face. (14)

When I search for the redundant words or filter words I only search one at a time. That way I can focus on what I need to fix. Usually I find other things to fix and other words to remove along the way.

My advice about the very unnecessary and really redundant words.
It is really very easy to plunk extra words in, it’s really very unnecessary so just don’t do it. Get that search/find feature going and nix the redundant ones.

-Sheryl

Related posts

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

The “word count” down.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Original

Covered up with paint and lies.

When I write depth into characters can be complicated and simple at the same time. Complicated because they need a history, a set structure of behaviors, actions and reactions. Simple because they are human and can be unpredictable when necessary. When I start out building the foundation for a character like Sasha, I have to have her backstory set out and ready to work from. She struggles to get a head and seems to fall short on the luck end of the scale. Something from her past haunts her and holds her back. Now her boss handed her a project laced with false promise and subtle threats, the content goes against her morals but she needs the money. I tend to start someone like this already low, have life toss her a few more blows before she is able to shake them and rise above. Sasha is the kind of person that hides what’s beneath, not well, but she tries. Her shame is in her self-perceived weakness of character, a failure as a woman who should be strong in the face of adversity. 

Sasha hung up the desk phone hard on her friend Anne and sat back in her chair. Anne and Valery weren’t giving in, they were going to drag her out to the bar tomorrow no matter what they had to do. She reached over and closed the ominous file that her boss gave her hours ago. She packed it in her briefcase with her laptop and sighed heavily. The project had to be illegal, everything about it felt wrong. The email she just read from her lawyer said the Smithson’s lawyer won the argument and they didn’t have to pay her back for the leaky roof they lied about nor the huge crack in the foundation they hid. Of course not, why should Sasha catch a break today? It was a long shot but the shady owners had left a lot of nasty surprises that they covered up with paint and lies.

She swallowed hard as her turbulent mind made her stomach jump and taught nerves cry to go home, the falling down shamble that it was, and crawl into bed and stay there for the next week. Valery would be popping by in a minute to make sure she wasn’t going to bail and run on their dinner plans tonight. Sasha closed her eyes, took a deep breath and composed herself. She slipped into an uncomfortable façade and smiled as her door opened. Best to play along, then they would leave her alone so she could cry later.

People in the real world behave this way, smile, fake it and let nobody know. People react differently to situations and not always the way I would. I try to pay attention to others and to how they handle things. Sometimes it goes against my sense of logic and that is what I need to write in to a character. Something that frustrates or annoys people. Because that is real. I can’t have everyone doing and reacting to things the same way. They can’t all agree and they can’t all get along. They can fake it, they can even show their displeasure, they key is consistency. Sasha isn’t likely to yell at her friends for being friends, she will suck it up and crawl into her misery shell later. Sasha is coming up to the anniversary of the day that reminds her of the worst day of her life. Her friends won’t let her wallow, and things are not looking up for her. The meanie I am will write her downfall and it’s going to be a hard fall. Don’t worry someone will help her through it all, support her while she gets back up and dusts off the crap I throw at her.

Some, not all people put on airs of one sort or another. A false face presented to the world. Not everyone pretends to be happy, some people pretend to be jerks, or unhappy or even sick. I mean come on all you have to do is look at co-workers, how many are genuinely happy to see the boss emerge from their cave of wonders to  judge your efforts on looking productive?

My advice about facades in characters.
They make people interesting so I recommend adding them to make a character feel real to the reader. Take some time to watch people, real live people in action. Pay more attention to them and even yourself.

-Sheryl

Other posts

It’s a love hate sort of thing

Over used and oft abused.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Facade

Taking the next step

BiaAtlas book update.

I have decided to start querying agents. I worked on my Synopsis and Query letter and got them to a decent quality. My manuscript is still too high on word count, however I decided to go ahead even though the revision is unfinished. I have indicated in the query that the word count will be brought down.

This is believe it or not, very nerve wracking. Once submitted it is a 2-8 week waiting period to either hear back that they are interested… nor not. And the not is usually nothing.

Here is what I’ve learned so far about Literary agents and the query process.

Types:

Independent or small firms (1-5 people)
Boutique (focus on small scale, lots of attention 1-5 people sometimes more)
Larger outfits (6-25 people I haven’t seen higher than 25 yet)

They all have their benefits and drawbacks. This is where research comes in.

Within these there are senior and junior agents. Seniors have published books under their belts, juniors may have one or two.  While the seniors have more experience they are targeted more frequently and therefore have more applications at one time. Juniors have less experience but are highly motivated to prove themselves and build client lists. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Each agent will have a bio and a list of books they are working on and or have published. Each agent has a list of what they are looking for in Genra and style. This is important. I wont query an agent if I don’t like or resonate with who they are and the work they do. It is silly to query an agent that doesn’t represent your Genre. That being said I look for agents that have a strong like for New Adult Science Fiction. That’s my primary Genre.

 

The process.

Choosing an agent is somewhat personal. They should all be AAR accredited. Association of Authors Representatives. This is important and excludes the ones that might not be legit.

Each agent has their own submission requirements and not all are open for queries. Every agency has their own rules. Sometimes they are the same and sometimes they are different. Read carefully.  If they ask for 10 pages double spaced and you give them 15 they will notice. If they ask for no attachments and you attach a pdf of your synopsis they will disregard it. If they ask you to cut and paste into the body of the email do that. So far the standard rule is only one query can be submitted to on agency at a time. So if you query Joe, you cant query Jane, Jill or Jack from the same company until your query expires. Each agency has different times on this too. If you break this rule they say right on their site in the submissions guidelines that your queries will be disregarded.

It is important to get a feel for the Agent/agency and personalize the opening paragraph of the query. NONE and I mean NONE of them like gimmicks or over familiarity. Keep it formal and professional. Treat it like a job application only more important. That being said dry and stuffy doesn’t work either. Find a fine balance of your personality and professionalism. They are after all interested in you AND your work.

I have made a spread sheet keeping track of the day I submit, name of agent if available, email, method, website and their specific timeline(this varies greatly) This is handy for those that say they will respond to verify receipt of query. Again read carefully.

It is quite the process, strict and linear. They receive hundreds of queries a day so they have to be.

The industry standard is 15% commission. That sounds like a lot. But when you look at all they do it is worth it. I have discussed this in the not so direct path to publishing.

My advice about Querying Literary Agents.
Do your research, read carefully and make sure they are the right agent.
I will probably talk more about the process in further detail as I query more this week. There is a lot to talk about.

-Sheryl

Related posts

The not-so-direct path to publishing.

Query letter “creativity drought”.

The first 50 pages.

The prickly process of writing a Synopsis.

The “word count” down.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Unfinished

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

Bam! Pow! Kaboom!

There is a part of my writing that makes me actually sit up and enter typo land as their unchallenged champion.

Violence and action. I LOVE a good action scene in a book, especially when it’s fun, interesting and Fierce. When I’m preparing to write my own, I sit and envision the scene over and over. Each persons’ actions and reactions and what’s going on around them. It’s a lot to take in let alone get out into written word.

My first action fight scene is a long one, several chapters in fact. It had to be, a lot happens. The entire story is pulled in, the whole point of it all is laid out and the villains for the next book are introduced and humanized.

That isn’t the first violent action scene in the book, but the first one I wrote. After I finished the first draft it was evident something was missing. So I wrote an intriguing and dangerous introduction for a character who is basically the reason the whole story takes place. I honed and revised that chapter so many times until I knew it flowed well and was pleasing to the imagination.

Writing violence is fun, but risky. The temptation to become melodramatic, cheesy or start telling vs showing is strong. I had oodles of tag lines, filter words and typos in the action scenes. Some of the reactions were over the top and they needed to be toned down to more realistic responses. Sure the science fiction allows for a certain amount of embellishment in the action department, but even fantastic it needed to be believable within the parameters I set throughout the story.

My advice about action and violence.
Get it out of your mind and onto paper or the screen. Once there, whip it into shape and draw the reader in by showing not telling the events. Action is exciting and violence is thrilling, it’s a great way to jolt a timid story or give a character reason to progress, regress or become someone altogether different.

-Sheryl

 

Related posts:

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

“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

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Cheat

It’s funny you said that…

Originally, this blog was going to be about trapdoors, but that fell through.

Humor in writing is difficult. Not everybody has the same taste or sense of humor. Chances are if it’s funny to you, it will be funny to someone else too.

I found it’s all about set up. A well-timed joke or funny comment or moment requires foreshadow. Not the, hit your reader over the head with an Obvious set up, but something subtle.

The thing about humor is it’s personal. Not just to me the writer, or to you the reader, but mostly to the character in the story. If they don’t have personality or a pre-designed history the humor might fall flat. A sarcastic person is not likely to be droll but may use self-depreciating humor. A person prone to dry humor is likely witty and might lean on morbid humor. This is where its important that I know my characters.

Similes, metaphors, satire or irony are great methods of humor. A funny moment doesn’t have to be directly in the conversation either, it can be in the narrative or environment around the characters.

There are of course books galore and articles explaining how to be funny. They have some examples, but ironically are not funny in themselves. Or at least the few I attempted to read.

I found as I developed my characters funny moments just happened naturally. Conflicting or contrasting personalities helps.

Puns are easy, lazy and often work:

They were exhausted and ready to drop. As usual Carl was pushing them hard and receiving death glares from more than one in his unit.

“Come on boys bend like you actually give a squat!”

Larry leaned his head toward Cam. “Yells the guy doing diddly-squats.”

Cam snickered nearly losing his balance.

Maybe that’s funny, maybe not. I liked it.

My advice about humor.
Don’t sweat it, nothing slays the dragon of humor like overthinking it. If you’re stuck I suggest thinking about things that make you laugh. Next time someone says something funny write it down and think about why it made you laugh.

“It’s difficult to explain humor to kleptomaniacs, because they take things literally.” -unknown

– Sheryl

Other blogs you might find funny.

Silliness and seriousness

What happened to that guy?

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved