Not-So Happy Holidays?

The holidays bring out many emotions in people from one end of the spectrum to the other. It is this time of year that tends to inspire writers to put a holiday in their writing. I know I do. Holidays can be fantastic sources of interaction, story building and potential strife.

For me a book or story can sometimes be a small retreat from the real world. Even so, I prefer that sanctuary to be realistic within the boundaries of the genre. Writing a holiday can become unrealistic really quickly. Real family or friend gatherings are not perfect, they are usually not flawlessly rosy and completely happy events. People bicker, fight, argue, get stressed, overwhelmed, overworked, crowded to name a few.

They can put on airs and pretend all is well, coming across as fake and glazed over. Family members can have deep seeded issues that go back years. Secrets are always at risk of exposure by a thoughtless person. Especially if someone brings home someone for the first time to meet the family.

They can be amazing too, bringing a sense of love, peace, family, warmth and comradery to the surface. Fences can be mended, temporarily or permanently. Good news and celebrations all around.

Traditions, widely celebrated around the globe or specific and quirky to a person or group. They can be very exciting to write about and read. Real or fabricated.

The temptation to make a perfect holiday gathering in a story is strong, but and that’s a big but, it is soooo much fun to create chaos, embarrassment and hilarity. How people react to the Christmas pudding splatting on the floor can really set a mood. Mom might panic and cry over her shortcoming as a hostess, dad might chuckle, make light and start cleaning it up to make her feel better. Big sister the perfectionist might have a mini meltdown about diner being ruined. The moody uncle may cry bad omens and more foul to come.

Possible super drama causing Christmas disasters (and mini disasters)

Tree falls over or is knocked over
Wrong labels on presents
Relative gets too drunk
Turkey is burned
Table collapses
Power goes out
Everybody brought the exact same dish to the potluck
Car breaks down on the way
Huge personal fight with dirty laundry aired in front of family
Someone trips and falls face first into a gooey dessert
A child accidentally (or on purpose) pulls someones pants or skirt down
Everything that can go wrong does
Someone used the wrong/mixed-up ingredients rendering dinner inedible

 What will make the story is how the people react, act and handle things. I make sure to hold true to my characters behaviors and quirks. I love to take this opportunity to expose them or make them vulnerable to show a characters mettle as they make it through the holidays.

The thing is I don’t add a holiday in unless I can make it part of the story, make it have some meaning or influence on the characters or events. It’s not hard to do as long as I keep the basics and remember to have fun with it.

My advice about writing a holiday.
Perfection is boring, stir it up, make it drama and work it all into the main story-line not as detached side-dish that nobody really wants and only takes because it will hurt aunt Bertha’s feelings and ends up fed to the dog or hidden under mashed potatoes.
Happy holidays everyone stay safe and eat lots of turkey!

-Sheryl

Other posts

Covered up with paint and lies.

Hahaha oops.

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Retreat

Don’t burn the turkey!

Some would say there is a fine, delicate and balanced skill to cook the perfect turkey. The same goes for writing a book. Fresh or frozen(Genre)? How do I dress it(Content)? What temperature and for how long(Word count and style)? Moreover, how often to baste(Revise and edit)? Sure, that’s all fine and dandy for the poultry but how does that apply to my book? I need to pick the genre (Or write the genre my heart picks) Books take a lot of prep work, (even if that prep happens throughout.) Editing and revision is important, but how many times do I edit and revise? How do I know when it’s done and to take the book out and serve it to my readers?

For me I had some guidelines, a list of things I needed to accomplish.

Story flow
Word count reduction
Filter words removal(Started doing this one word at time)
Foreshadow check and instillation
POV check and correction
Action tag revision (Show not tell)
Dialog tag revision (Show not tell)

I ended up revising and reviewing BiaAtlas many times. I had others review it for me and point out the obvious, such as misspelled words (that are technically not misspelled), but clearly wrong. And then I revised again.

Word count became by biggest challenge. As a first time writer and this being my very first book it had to, I mean had to, be within an industry standard word count.

When I finished my first draft I found out my book was 15,000 words over the maximum allowable of 125,000.  Then as I went along and got it down to 125,000 with a lot of work.  I sought professional consultation and the consensus is, it needed to be below 120,000.  That was 5000 more to remove from a book I thought was done.

A little discouraged, yet determined I went about checking filter words and checking carefully for verbose descriptions. During this final review, I discovered one thing that I was stupid kinds of excited about and embarrassed over. I was up to this point reviewing one word or issue at a time. I’m not a professional editor to look for multiple infractions at a time… unless… as discussed in “Well colour me silly” I had a stroke of good fortune and had the idea to highlight all the potential trouble words at one time.

Holy Smokes! It worked!

By making all the words that might indicate a POV change or sentence issue, I was able to do one final and successful edit. I have only 704 words left to remove and 23 more chapters to go.

I made a list( A long list) Of words I know are filter, overused and issue words and made them stand out with bright colours. I made an excel file list with each chapter, the word count, how many were removed per chapter(entered as I finished), how many I had to go(This column was encouraging) and on average how many words I need to remove per chapter to achieve my goal(this changed with each line to reflect previous chapter edits)

As long as I stayed close to or over the removal average things moved along smoothly.

Now I will keep going and finish reviewing each chapter until I’m done and the further below that magic number I can get, the better chances I have of getting a Literary agent to look closer at my work and take me seriously.

I found there was some repetitiveness and verbose sentences that were easily reconstructed to lower word count and I’m beyond happy with how BiaAtlas now reads and flows.

So for me I know that BiaAtlas is nearly done roasting. Once I’m done getting the word-count down below 120,000 I will stop, take it out of the oven and let it rest(query more agents) and serve it to my guests(Get it published).

So thank you to all that bother to read, comment and like my blog posts. I appreciate every single one of you.

— an update since I pre-wrote this post on Sunday. I have 8 chapters left and I am now 233 words below the max!!  Woot woot! Now to keep going, the rest is just gravy.

My advice about not overdoing the editing.
Draw a finish line and stick to it. Know when to stop and say it’s done, potential imperfections and all. My finish line changed, I thought the turkey was done but the professional thermometer said otherwise. I adjusted and redrew my line. This time it’s firm and I’m very excited.

-Sheryl

Related blogs

Well colour me silly

The “word count” down.

I’m ‘that’ kind of writer

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