More Details of the Craft
One of my favorite things to look up are "versus" concepts. I told you about further versus farther the other day. I've come across a few more worth sharing.
As if versus As though. The best answer I've found says as if refers to a more hypothetical situation where as though is more plausible.
Along those same lines, we have were versus was. Were refers to the hypothetical while was refers to the more plausible. And it has such a pretty name...subjunctive verb. Sounds like a stifled sneeze.
Purposely versus purposefully has also tripped me up. Purposely means on purpose or intentionally. Purposefully means with determination. It's such a slight nuance, they are often used interchangeably. But I like knowing the difference.
These little details are intriguing, no? It's all about refinement. So go forth, and refine! And if you have any other little tips you'd like to share, leave a comment!
Letter to Three-Years-Ago Me
In revising Asylum, I am taken aback by how much I've learned since it was published. To be terribly clever and to impress myself, I've written a letter to the young writer I was three years ago...
Hey, kid! How's life? Let's see...you're in the midst of preschool and diapers right about now, aren't you? Crazy days. They do get better, I promise. Just wait.
Oh, and congratulations on getting your first book published! That's awesome! I know you're really excited, but I want to give you a bit of a reality check. You're not a superstar yet. Just because you learned how to string some words together in a legible sentence doesn't make you a New York Times bestseller. So hold your horses, all right?
I've been reviewing your book, and while it's a pretty solid story line, I have some advice...
Quit trying so hard.
We don't need to know every little movement your characters make. Give us the basics. Let our imaginations figure out the rest. And along those lines, you don't have to repeat character motivation for things they say or do. We get it. The words or actions are enough.
Our language is full of great words, but there's also a lot you don't need in writing. Ditch that, just, very, really, rather, and any variations thereof. I'm sure you'll stumble across a few more as you continue to learn and refine your craft.
You've built a cool universe for your story, and while you want some things to be different, you don't have to alienate us. (Ha! See what I did there?) It's okay to pull in familiar items. And when you make up terminology for your world, you don't have to show it off. Sprinkle the seasoning lightly. Too much ruins the meal.
Fragmented sentences can be fun. And packed with meaning. And it's perfectly all right to use them.
One line paragraphs, too.
I know you're going to do well, kid. You may not sell a whole lot, but stay true to who you are and to your stories. There's a reason you're writing them. May not be for the masses, but there are those who support and love your work. Do it for them. The rest will fall into place.
Chin up. And knock 'em dead.
I'll be writing a lot about Asylum over the coming weeks, as I'm preparing to launch the new version. Stick with me.
Finding the Place
A couple weeks ago, my family and I took a journey into the mountains. I grew up in a small town nestled at the foot of Pike's Peak, so these hills are home for me. Our adventure took us to Rampart Reservoir, not far from the Waldo Canyon burn scar.
Water fascinates me. I've known people to be afraid of it. I love it. I could watch it for hours. Riding on it is a different matter. (I worked as a production manager on a cruise ship for two seasick-filled weeks...) But standing on a nice, non-moving shore tickles my fancy quite nicely.
I wrote a scene in Fusion where my main characters are following a dry riverbed. They are about to descend upon one of the villains, so something bad has to happen. Before they can escape the riverbed, it's filled with a sudden rush of water, and a couple of the characters face a life-or-death struggle.
One of them manages to fight the waters and swim to shore. He stands atop an outcropping of rocks, scanning the waters for his friend.
As I stood, looking out at this beautiful reservoir, I could envision the scene happening. I can't tell you how many pictures I took of these rocks (above), but they captivated me. In my mind's eye, Kaine stood right there, shouting down toward the water as he tried to catch his breath, his heart crying out for the one lost in the water. Behind him, Rider approaches, still hopeful, but doubt starting to set in. They climb down from the rocks and Griffin, always the voice of reason, insists on giving up and returning home.
They were right there.
It amazes me how often the escape--the fantasy--collides with reality. Perhaps it comes from writing what we know, even if it's in a setting we're not familiar with. Those memories shine through our sub-conscious onto the page. Or maybe a cosmic sign that we're on the right path--following our imaginations and our hearts.
Or, you know, it could just be that I'm absolutely bonkers. More than likely that. But I wouldn't trade it for anything.
I love my madness.
3 years. It's been 3 years since my first book was published. In some ways, it seems longer. But it's also been an uphill journey. The hard work didn't stop when the book came out. It just got started.
If you didn't know, Asylum won a writing contest back in July 2012 with WestBow Press. Normally, to publish with them, you have to pay thousands of dollars, but because my manuscript took the grand prize, I didn't have to pay. That's why I say WestBow traditionally published my book.
The editing process with them was insane. I submitted my final draft (the version that won), and they returned it to me with a round of basic edits. The deadline, though...the next day. Whew! I stayed up until the wee morning hours. At the time, I was a mom with young(er) kids, so that was rough. I had to do the same with the proof version--quick turnaround.
It was exciting when it came out. I had a book signing at our local library. I did various events and appearances. I felt like an author! When is my appearance on Good Morning America? Sure, I can do a book tour. I'll just arrange for someone to watch my kiddos, and I'll be there!
Ha! No, it didn't happen like that. Although I think a certain part of me hoped it would. Selling books is a lot harder than it seems. Getting readers to invest money and time in your work is tough. There are a lot of voices out there, and just like high school choir, we have to strive to be the loudest.
In recent days, I've been revising Asylum. Why? I pulled it from WestBow's catalog. It was stagnant. Going nowhere. (It costs extra for marketing packages.) Asylum is getting a shiny new cover, a nice overall polish, and the launch it deserves.
The new cover is amazing! I'll reveal it soon.
The revision isn't drastic. I'm just cleaning up the writing. I've learned so much since I wrote it years ago. It's been fun to look back and see how far I've come.
As for the launch, I want to actually celebrate this time around. The last one was kind of like spotting a lump in a rug. You know it's coming. Your eyes are on it, and you make a mental note not to trip...and yet you stumble anyway. Yeah, I won't do that again. When Asylum comes out, you'll know about it.
3 years. 5 books later. Who knew? Happy birthday, Asylum.
Years and years ago, my brother and I came up with The Addictionary. We had plans to make up as many words as possible and publish this fun book. The title was even one of those words...a dictionary you can add words to.
Rib-tickling fun, eh?
Yeah, well, others stole our idea.
Still, they didn't steal our fabulous words. And I'll share a few of them with you.
Phlooge: (noun/verb) to stick one's head (particularly a dog) out of a window of a moving vehicle.
ex. "Did you catch that sweet phlooge? His lips were flapping and everything!" OR "My dog likes to phlooge."
Extreme phlooging involves the full body, such as dogs in a pickup truck or on a motorcycle.
Debilerate: (verb) a combination of the words deliberate and debilitate. Essentially, arguing until one is stupid.
Adhese: (verb) To stick an object to another using an adhesive. (The real word is adhere, but we use adhesive, so where does that "r" come from?)
Engulge: (verb) To engulf with a very viscous substance
Bruff: (verb) Contraction of “brush off”
Scrungy: (noun) A grungy scrunchie (pony tail holder), such as one might find in the bottom of a lost and found bin.
Obulous: (adjective) Very messy.
Rantitative: (adjective) To be in the act of ranting
Ragitated: (adjective) Very angry and agitated
Franticity: (noun) The state of feeling frantic
These are just a few examples of some great words that should exist. Do you have any you'd add?
The Skeptic Awakens
I am admittedly a Star Wars nerd. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I wanted to name my son Anakin. Be glad that didn't happen. But I know the characters down to Dak Ralter, Captain Needa, and Admiral Ozzel. I've studied how to build a lightsaber and why they have a variety of colors. I can even whip my brothers in a round of trivia.
So why am I not super excited about The Force Awakens?
Well, I wish I could answer that. My stomach flipped just like everyone else's when, during the latest trailer, Han Solo stepped from the Falcon and said, "Chewie...we're home." Goodness, I wrote a blog post about the trailer itself.
But now, I'm sitting back and watching the whole thing unfold. The new trilogy. The spinoff movies. The merchandise. The theme park. And it's making me a little sad.
Star Wars used to be this great secret we nerds held onto. We'd test people we'd meet...
"So...are you a sci-fi fan?"
"Trek or Wars?"
"Wars, of course."
"Oh, my goodness, what's your favorite? Mine's Empire."
"Really, I like four, five, AND six. But the prequels don't count."
"Oh, I know! Do NOT get me started on Jar-Jar..."
"What are your thoughts on the EU? Canon?"
Yes, Star Wars will be introduced to a whole new generation. It will live on. It's an exciting moment in sci-fi history...
...but I am skeptical.
I'm not looking forward to a theater full of screaming high school girls who are there just because this series is the latest thing. Screaming fans is one thing...high school girls, quite another.
When Episode 2 came out, my brother and I took the day off work to go buy the new figures. It was the best day ever! But the merchandising is going too far...as predicted by that great prophet Yogurt in Spaceballs.
I really enjoyed reading the sequel books. The story lines involving Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin Solo were so good...at least in my opinion. To know they "no longer count" is indeed rather depressing.
I think the main thing that did me in was earlier this week when Disney announced plans for a Star Wars themed land. Okay, we all dreamed of that as kids. But George Lucas let go of the reins (and yes, I agree that it was time for that...), and the whole thing explodes! I love Disney. I'm glad they have the money to do big things with this...but I pray it's done carefully. And done right.
I do plan to see the new movie, but I'll probably wait for the crowds to die down. I won't buy any of the new stuff that's out. (Unless they have a really sweet lightsaber.) And I may consider watching the spinoffs. Now that there's enough Star Wars to go around, I will pick and choose what I like and discount the rest.
I guess we'll always have Firefly.
Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope...
Behind the Curtain
Did you know authors have lives? We don't get to just sit behind our computers all day and explore new worlds and characters. Okay, maybe some do, but I don't.
First, I'm a mom and a wife.
Today is the first day of school. My husband works across town, and he's already left for the day. So I'm trying to get lunches coordinated, get my kids ready to make first impressions, and keep myself together. (Yes, I sat down for a moment to blog, but my brain needed the processing time.)
Secondly, I have a full-time job. I am dedicated to what happens there, and I love my work. The team of people I work with is amazing. As soon as the kids are delivered, I'm off to my place of employment.
After that, I am a volunteer for a local writing organization. I've recently stepped into a role that is pretty awesome, but it will involve some work to get launched. I'm looking forward to that, and again...the folks there are wonderful to work with.
When I can, I squeeze in the writing. I know it should be my priority. I know it's important to write a little each day. But life happens. When it slows down, I can slow down and go back to my worlds. That's how I used to do it as a stay-at-home mom--naptimes and bedtimes. I just have to be more intentional about chasing those times.
Authors are people, too. We're all just trying to get by, living each moment as it's given. I wouldn't trade one aspect, though. I'm grateful for all the things I get to do.
But sometimes, I wish I could turn off my brain.
Details of the Craft
There are many things I didn't know when I started out as a writer. Yes, high school English teaches us a lot of basics, but there are layers of rules to learn before one can actually craft an acceptable book. I've mentioned point of view and showing versus telling before. These are larger concepts that will better anyone's work.
But there are more intricate details I've had to look up, almost on a daily basis. And now that I know these things, I see them all over--books, movies, television shows.
For instance, this morning, I watched a program where a character said, "I've proven myself to ______."
Incorrect! Proven is an adjective. This sentence needed the verb proved. Need me to prove it? Click here.
Another one I see is a mix-up of farther and further. Farther is a literal distance: "The Kwik-Mart is farther than the post office," while further is a figurative distance: "If you want to go further in learning this tip, click here."
Being a commercial fiction writer, I like to eliminate as many extra words as possible. In fact, this is one place where my critique group excels. That, just, very, really are just a few words to cut...in most instances.
So last night, I started to write the phrase a couple of days. And I started thinking, "Do I really need of?" A couple days sounds just fine. Guess what I did. That's right...I Googled it.
A couple days is acceptable, but informal. A couple of days is also acceptable, as well as formal. This could mark a solid distinction in narrative and character voice. Learn the rule here.
I love these little details. They make all the difference in good writing. I'll never become a master, but I am grateful for the collective mind of the Internet. If I don't know something, I can just look it up!
What's your favorite grammar/writing detail?
Isn't it amazing how life gets in the way of the stuff we really want to do? Not that it's a problem, but it's so easy to find excuses to put our passions aside and take care of the here-and-now.
Even in this instance.
I should be writing. I should be finishing Book Three. But I'm blogging instead.
It's an evil cycle, eh?
But I'm blogging for a good reason. I thought I'd update you on Book Three.
It is happening. It's coming along. Not nearly as smoothly and as quickly as I'd like, but this is a tough one to write. I've given myself a little freedom to take my time, because this one is crucial to the rest of the saga.
As it stands now, Arabella (Rider's intended) and Raven (Rider's sister) are on their way to rescue...well, Rider. He was one of my favorite characters in Fusion, and without giving too much away, I couldn't leave him in such a predicament. And of course, Cade, Jett and Griffin are off their own quest to save the universe. (If you don't know who these characters are, read Fusion.)
Each day, I discover a nuance to the story that adds depth to the characters or twists to the plot. I'm really excited about where it's going! Now, it's just a matter of getting there.
Which we will.
Make It Bleed
That’s what I say to my critique group. Their feedback and input on my manuscript is invaluable, and even though they don't use red pens, I love seeing their notes.
I spent many years as an author without a critique group. It was lonely, living in my universe with no one to share the adventures, joys, heartaches, and trials of my characters. Yes, I had readers once I published, but so few to interact with.
Last spring, I received an invitation to join a group that meets weekly. We submit six pages in an online forum, read them separately, then come together to discuss how we can tighten up our work.
I look forward to this time like nothing else.
Not only are we comprised of skilled writers, but we have expertise that is beyond compare. We have both male and female perspectives, various beliefs, and different political views. Every moment spent with these people is a treasure. I have learned a great deal in my time with them—both from receiving feedback and offering it.
If you don’t have a critique group, as a writer, you’ll find no better benefit. I highly suggest it. I thought I could do this writing thing on my own with the help of a good cover designer and an editor. But these four folks have made a huge difference in my writing, and I am forever grateful.
So find a group. Or start your own. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll grow.
Award-winning sci-fi author * Christ follower, wife, and mom * broadcast content producer. And yes, I am a real duchess. http://amzn.to/2eLTlH3