Friday, February 27, 2009

From Gimmick to Substance

Based on the advise I’ve gotten from several blogging writers (*coughInkyGlam&Davincough*), I updated my query letter once again (v3.0). Glam said I need to be more specific, Inky taught me about “the sentence,” and Davin suggested I try to summarize the novel in five sentences.

Well, I don’t know if I succeeded on all three fronts, but I certainly tried. Oh, and almost everyone said to shorten it. (was 360 words, now 215) When I finished v3.0 I reread the old one for comparison and noticed something in particular.

The original query (the one that got sent to EE) read like a gimmick. Like I was trying to get an agent to read my ms as if he or she were browsing through a store reading back covers. It contained little actual substance, but lots of catchy lines:

“kidnapped by a supposed myth that turns out to be all too real”
“complete with magic, myth, and a cast of characters that act so human, they’re actually related”
“must wade through the layers of intrigue and outright lies”


I think the new one tells the story better, without the gimmick. I felt like I was on the right track with v1.0 and now I’m on a whole different track. You don’t know what you didn’t know until you know it. (Follow?) Well, I learned some things and I have my fellow bloggers to thank for it. I don’t know whether I’ll stay on this track or if I have more to learn to get to another track, but it was a positive step forward in any case.

Here’s the new version:

[redacted for your sanity and my eyes. it did improve from earlier versions, but still... ugh]

Better, no? It still feels a bit synopsis-y but I think it gets the point across. My big problem with it now is that while it certainly gets all the main points across, it feels dry and doesn’t hook me very well.

I think this is largely because the story is ABOUT Paige's growth from the events that happen, but the query doesn't express this. She IS the angel undercover, even though the story contains an actual angel who is undercover. What I mean by angel undercover is that she is an amazing, good person in a surprise package. No one, leastwise herself, expects her to do the things she does and be the person she becomes. Make sense?

Suggestions? Good, bad, and ugly, I want to hear it all. :)

Editing update: Chs 2 and 3 are done, with 2K shaved off between the two of them. I cannot thank my CC and blogging partners enough. Without what I’ve learned from these people, I wouldn’t know what to focus on when editing AUC. So thank you all!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Just Can’t Win

The tree was easy to spot. (breaks the passive “was” rule)
It was easy to spot the tree. (breaks the passive “was” rule)
I spotted the tree easily. (breaks the adverb “ly” rule)
I spotted the tree with ease. (sounds funky, especially from my 14 y.o. protag.)
I spotted the tree. (blah… see Spot run.)
Found tree. (even simpler)
Tree. There. Good. (caveman)

No, this one sentence isn’t enough to blog about, except as an example of my revising frustration. I’ve found that short sentences are harder to fix up than longer ones because I have fewer words to work with. In the example above, what’s your pick? Have any better suggestions?

Yes, it’s just one sentence and rules can be bent and broken – “I was ly-ing”s can be used in healthy moderation – but it’s good exercise, no?

Sidenote: I finished going over chapter two and ultimately (haha! I can use adverbs in my blog to my heart’s content) shaved off 917 words. Yowzah! I read through it and vastly prefer the shorter version. The tree sentence comes from chapter 3, my current project (originally 6K!) Too long to be reasonable on CC even. 650 words shaved so far…

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Good Frustrations

Wow… using the “I was ly-ing” edits, I cut nearly 500 words off of chapter two of AUC. It went from 4,600 words to 4,137 without losing content. And if my estimation serves me, it gained a whole lot of clarity from cutting all those unnecessary words. At that rate, it’ll be easy to whittle this beasty down to 80K.

I’m rewriting chapter one (it needed it!) and then using “I was ly-ing” on the rest of the novel before posting any of AUC on CC again. And even then, I’ll probably start with Ch 1 again just because it has changed so much.

That’s not to say “I was ly-ing” isn’t frustrating, particularly the “was” part. There are places where critiquers suggest I change from passive to active voice and if I do it doesn’t make sense or mean what I meant it to. I think it’ll be a task in and of itself just figuring out where it’s okay and where it’s not.

My next post on CC will either be Ch 1 of Snatch or my short story “Foolish Nonsense.” Can’t wait!

“I was ly-ing” Round of Edits

Today’s post comes to you from a technical standpoint. In the most recent round of crits on my story over at CC, some technical points were made that I decidedly wasn’t aware of before.

I – overuse of the pronoun in first person POV
Was – was, were, be, being, been… overuse of passive verb choice
Ly – overuse of adverbs and adjectives that end in “ly”
Ing – overuse of present tense clauses. “I sat on the rock, thinking…”

It wasn’t until my third posting up on CC, that anyone suggested to fix these things. Now, I know all of them are fine in moderation. Apparently the reading flows smoother when they are few and far between though, so as I bring draft 3 up to draft 4, I’ll be working on these four items to see how much I like playing by the rules.

So tell me, how much has playing by the rules affected your writing? Good or bad, frustrating or pleasant…

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Stab at The Sentence

Miss Inky had a great post up last week about The Sentence, so I decided to try writing a few sentences myself.

The Sentence is "a protagonist with a compelling need, set against an antagonist with a compelling need, doing interesting things in interesting places, with something slightly askew." (Holly Lisle) See Inky's blog for futher details.

So, applying this method to three of my novels and two short stories, this is what I came up with.

Angel Undercover:
When amoral idealist Maisen uses her sister as a tool in his world-altering plan, Paige Moss must intervene, which leads to a self-discovery and confidence-gathering experience like no other.

(updated version 4/9/09: When Paige gets kidnapped, she must get past her shyness in order to save her sister’s integrity, her friend’s happiness, and her city’s existence from the manipulating grip of a deranged visionary.

The Snatch:
Xindlepete Henderson, a sort of Robin Hood figure, struggles to make his atypical idealism work amidst the much harsher realities of the crime world in Iphesia.

Foolish Nonsense: (short story)
Janice Martin doesn’t believe in superstition – at least not until the day she dies for it.

Tonight I Hunt: (short story)
Estranged from her people, Pearl, a predator by nature, adopts an abandoned prey whelp and holds onto this unnatural relationship, despite that it may starve them both to death.

Of The Sea:
As a selk born without a pelt, and thus no way to join the world of her kin, Colleen struggles to learn of her heritage and reconcile the possibility that she may never be able to call the sea her home.

For those of you familiar with The Sentence, did I do a fair job?
For anyone, do these sentences hook you? Which work and which need work?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Updates to the 'ol Query Letter

Post-EE discussion. Yes, I realize I said I'd wait a couple days 'till the comments stopped rolling in, but I got all itchy and impatient. Here goes.

Old Query (the one that went up at EE)


And now the new, revamped version. I've focused it down to just the main conflict, which removed a lot of words, but then I had to add details to explain the conflict, thus it's only marginally shorter than before. I think it's too long even though it does fit on one page. If any of you see a way to make it smaller, please comment! :)


EDIT: Trust me, you don't want to see the old versions. I'm trying to forget them, personally. :)

Evil Editor's Turkey Ogres

Well it’s up!

Watch out, there are Turkey Ogres ahead. EE is a riot. :)

He and the other commentators left me quite a bit to work on. If any of you leave a comment on EE’s post, I’ll see it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Query Quivering

I have returned from my weekend out of town. Naturally, one of the first things I did was check blogger, critique circle, and of course email. And I noticed that my query is on the top of Evil Editor's list AND it's absent from the "guess the plot" section.

By my estimation that means it's due to go up any time now. *shiver* I wasn't really nervous until now. I find myself suddenly second guessing everything I wrote, even the plot of my novel. Is it too convoluted? Too rambling? Ugh...

Well I guess the only thing to do is wait. I'll post a linky up here when it does go up. For now I sleep. Have a wonderful day all you day people!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Writing - To Create Art

Warning: the following post is a little more emotional and a little less cerebral than is typical of me. Feel free to skip if that's not your style.

I get rare moments of lucidity after viewing some art forms – whether it be dance, musical, or the written word – that are brought on by either the emotional depth or a sense of carpe diem in the piece. I feel as though this is one of those times…

Every day, we writers are thinking about our work – how to make the plot flow or the character feel alive, how to mold our language to support the scenes we create, how to captivate and enthrall the reader and make them want to know more… to read more. To care. But in this routine, I find that sometimes I forget what I’m really doing. Why it’s a passion. I sometimes get lost in the technicalities – word choice, punctuation, phrasing, use of tense or point of view.

And then it’s nice to sit back and remember, or realize, that what we as writers are truly doing… is creating art. Sure we all know that writing is a creative art, but have you ever just thought about what that means. We are making something out of nothing and we are attempting to do it in such a fashion that it appeals to our fellow people. To their minds. To their emotions. To whatever is in us that makes us human.

Of course within the plethora of stories that have been written, there are varying degrees to which this is accomplished. How many novels out there contain that spark of humanity? If the world were a warehouse, containing barrels of rocks and gems as stories, how many would be diamonds?

Some of you may disagree with me on this point, but I judge the quality of the books I read based on how much I care about the people in them. Did I laugh at their antics, their flaws, their quirks? Did I cry when their world crumbled or hearts broke? Did I get so mad that I wanted to reach into that world and act? The stories that do this to me are what I view as diamonds.

I’d say the same thing about movies and plays. The ones that amuse me are great, but the ones that touch my spirit… those are the ones I love. The ones I watch again and again. Those are the kind of stories that I want to write. They don’t have to be serious or dark. They can be playful or vibrant. But the characters have to matter. And as an artist, I want to create characters that matter. Fictional people with which real people feel some connection. Sympathy. Empathy.

I suppose a lot of this could go without saying, but as I mentioned, in the day-to-day world of pursuing our passions, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the details and forget what exactly we’re doing. Whether we write mysteries, horrors, science fiction, romance, westerns, thrillers, or fantasies, we are all commenting on the human experience.

The only real questions are: to what extent and what impressions are we leaving?

Writing is a solitary, quiet art, mostly devoid of the fanfare that comes from dancing or singing, from acting or playing an instrument. But it is indeed an art. An art of creation.

So my new question to myself is – how can I get readers to connect with every character I create? (a question which deserves its own blog post to answer). Later gators!

Friday, February 13, 2009

New Blog - My Novel

I've finally decided to take a leaf out of Miss Glam's book and create a blog for my first novel. It's completed and in draft 2.5 stage, and I would LOVE to get some feedback and advice on it. If you would like an invite to read, just leave a comment on this post or shoot me an email (

For those of you who havn't been with my blog long enough to know what Book 1 (AUC, aka Angel Undercover) is all about, you can check out this post to see my sample back cover and hook page. It is a YA fantasy and is currently at 100K, though I'd really like to whittle that down to 80K or less.

I've stared at the thing for so long that I'm not sure what needs cut and what needs expanded on, so I come to you, my fellow writers/bloggers for advice. I sincerely appreciate any imput you may have, strongly dislike sugarcoating, and will reciprocate if let me know what you want looked at.

Thanks and here goes nothing!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Thursday Three

1. I feel like I don't blog often enough. In the past couple months, it's only been about once a week. The reason? My blogging is almost directly proportional to how much I'm writing. To those of you who like to read this blog, I'm sorry! I prefer to post only when I have something insightful to say. Sadly, today is not one of those days.

2. Lately I've been on Critique Circle a lot, mostly working on helping other people with their stories. And the comments that have been left on my posted work have helped me immensely. I love it! Whoever thought up that site is genius. I recommend it to any aspiring author. You have to have thick skin though and be ready to sort out the good advice from the less useful tidbits. (Aren't I tactful today)

3. I've been working on several new story ideas. At some point though I'm going to have to pick one and stick with it long enough to write it. I'm plotting and outlining on a slipstream, a thriller, and a fairy tale. Plus I have a horror short story on the side. All of which means that I'm working, but have very little to actually show for it. I've pretty much put Snatch (Book B, my NaNo project) on hold indefinately. I'm just not feeling inspired even though I think there are only six chapters (20K) left to write. It makes me feel extremely down that I can't seem to kick myself into gear on that. I hate leaving a project unfinished...

Be back, hopefully soon, hopefully with something more insightful to share.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

For Better or For Worse

I'll admit I havn't been writing much lately. Shame on me, I know. As it stands:

-I'm updating AUC to a draft 3
-3 complete copies of draft 2 are floating amongst friends and family reviewers
-I'm at a stalemate with Snatch (book B, my NaNo project) I need a swift kick in the toosh with that one
-My muse continues to visit me with ideas, which I write down
-I have started my first horror short story
-I'm plotting out OTS (book C)
-I've spent hours of enjoyable time reading (Jim Butcher and Rachel Vincent recently)
-Chapter 1 of AUC went up on Critique Circle this week and based on the critiques I recieved, I've updated it. Most notably the first 250 words have changed a lot. So I've decided to post up both the draft 2 version and draft 3 for your comparison. I'd love to hear your thoughts on if its improved as much as I think it has or if it still needs a lot of work.

Draft 2

School was the peace in my life.
Once inside the schoolyard each morning, I was able to relax. In here, there were limits to how bad kids could be. Teachers wouldn’t think twice about sending someone home for misbehaving and all of us, no matter how tough, would rather be in here than out there.
Sadly, we were just three short days away from autumn break and the end of my second to last semester here. I wished I wasn’t so close to turning fifteen. I wasn’t ready to graduate. I reveled in all the blissful moments of calm I could get.
But as I left Crossroads Fundamental School each afternoon, I felt like a target walking.
I hurried from the very heart of the city up the gentle slope toward my home in the upper east quarter. My heart fluttered nervously whenever anyone walked too near.
Rose Creek Bridge. I was halfway there.
A man sat in the middle of the bridge, playing a lively tune on a strange amber flute. He seemed completely unafraid, steadily meeting the eyes of each person that passed him. His boldness was unheard of in these present times. It made me wary.
I slowed down, not sure I really wanted to cross within arm’s reach of the man. He didn’t look scary, I reasoned. Unsettled as I was by his confidence, I stepped forward, muscles tightened, ready to run at any moment.
As soon as my foot touched the bridge, everything changed.

Draft 3

“See you tomorrow, Paige!”
I ducked my head and waved to my classmate shyly, berating myself for lack of backbone. Then I neared the school’s iron gates and more important matters required my attention.
School was the peace in my life. Within these fences, I reveled in a blissful calm that only came from enforced limits. Our instructors dealt with rabble-rousers by sending them home. And all of us, no matter how tough, would rather be in here than out there.
I hurried from Crossroads Fundamental School up the gentle slope. The fire pit was near my home, deep within the upper east quarter. My heart fluttered off-beat whenever anyone passed by too close. In the open streets, I felt very much like a walking target.
Halfway there, a man sat in my path on Rose Creek Bridge. He was playing a lively tune on an amber flute. I slowed my pace as he steadily met my gaze. I really didn’t want to cross within arm’s reach of the strange man. His boldness was unheard of in these fearful times and his music seemed to belong to some other, happier, place.
He didn’t look scary, I reasoned. And there was no safe place for me to go if I turned back. Unsettled as I was by his confidence, I smoothed the skirts of my school uniform and stepped forward, prepared to run at any moment.
As soon as my foot touched the stonework of the bridge, everything changed.

So let's have it... is it for better... or for worse? Does it hook you? I'd love to hear your feedback.