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  1. The Big Reveal

    December 19, 2014 by Suzi

    Welcome to the Big Reveal
     

    I enjoy reading author interviews, but often times they don’t ask the kinds
    of questions I wonder about. So I’ve assembled a group of writers at
    all levels, from un-agented to published, and every week I will
    have a new question for them.
     

    What word(s) or phrases show up way too often in your work?

     

    Stephanie Faris
    In fiction, I tend to rely on “said” too much, or so I’m told. At some point early on, I attended a workshop where we were warned to just use “said” instead of trying to come up with fancy dialogue tags. Apparently that rule has changed, because both my editors and my freelance writing clients have complained that I use “said” too much. In my freelance writing, I’ve realized I like to use the word “today” too much to start articles off. (“Today’s busy professionals don’t have time for…”)

     
    Tanya Reimer
    Every manuscript is different, but I find my characters use words in that first draft that help me identify their personalities. For example, my earth god uses DIRT a bit too much: “What in all this dirt is going on here? Give me that dirt. You scared the dirt right off me.” I don’t always notice because it’s how I identify them so that’s where good readers come in handy.

     

    Trisha Leaver
    Just, smile, hummed (as is tossed)…which oddly doesn’t translate outside of Cape Cod I found out :) I have a list of crutch words that I have accumulated from CP’s, editors and my agent. When I write, I ignore that list and simply let the words flow. But after the last word is typed, that list comes out and those words get slayed.

     
    Danielle Bertrand
    I don’t have a phrase per se but I have tendency to repeat words in a short period of time from one another. Which leads to my impulse to edit while I write instead of waiting until I’m done.

     

    J.A. Bennett
    I probably have a zillion things that I’m not even aware of, but right now I think the biggest ones off the top of my head is my affinity for the words that and just and the phrases I mean, and of course. My characters are always tipping and nodding their heads too.

     
    Jackie Felger
    I “just” did a search in my current WIP … the word “just” made an appearance way too many times. In past manuscripts, I overused the words grin and smirk, among others. Thank goodness for critique partners who catch things for me!

     

    What word(s) or phrases show up way too often in your work?


  2. A difference of opinion

    December 15, 2014 by Suzi

    I know two people can read the same book and have different opinions about it. Some love the writing, others will think it sucks. Some think it’s an original story, others think it’s cliche. I’ve read enough book reviews to see that. There’s many reasons why people look at books differently, including simple things like their tastes or deeper things involving their history and lookout on life.
     
    Yes, we’re all different, so we see things differently.
     
    But sometimes I question a reviewer’s take on a book–it just no sense to me. Just recently I finished Flawed by Kate Avelynn. I enjoyed the story and after finishing, read through some one and two star reviews to see what the people who didn’t like it said.
     
    And I read something that kinda shocked me.
     
    Spoiler alert. If you don’t want to know the ending, skip ahead to where I say spoiler end.
     
    The reviewer was unhappy because the MC had a HEA. And I was like, huh? A happily ever after?
     
    -The MC’s mother died during the story.
     
    -The MC will have to deal with the affects of her father’s abuse for the rest of her life.
     
    -The MC’s brother killed her boyfriend, who was also the brother’s best friend.
     
    -The MC’s brother, whom she deeply loved, also killed himself.
     
    That is nowhere near a HEA to me. I guess the reviewer wanted the MC to either be physically hurt or killed and anything other than that was a happy ending.
     
     
    Spoiler End.
     

    So obviously, me and that reviewer have drastically different definitions of happy. :) I can understand people view stylistic things differently, but this difference of opinion seems big. And honestly, it makes me wonder about this person. What they are like and how they generally view life.
     
    Have you ever had a similar experience reading a review, not just a difference in opinion, but something that makes you curious about the reviewer and what it was in their lives that helped shaped their outlook, and hence the review you just can’t understand. (Sorry, that’s kind of a mouthful.)


  3. The Big Reveal

    December 12, 2014 by Suzi

    Welcome to the Big Reveal
     

    I enjoy reading author interviews, but often times they don’t ask the kinds
    of questions I wonder about. So I’ve assembled a group of writers at
    all levels, from un-agented to published, and every week I will
    have a new question for them.
     

    Pantser, Planner or in-between?

     

    Stephanie Faris
    I am totally a pantser. I wish I wasn’t. In everything else in life I’m a planner, but writing is something I have to do without too much thinking. It seems like it comes from out of nowhere. Most of my projects are submitted as partials now, so it helps that I’m forced to stop at three chapters and write a synopsis. This forces me to plan the last half of the book.

     
    Tanya Reimer
    I always called myself a pantser. But! I realise the way I fly by the seat of my pants is a little planned out. My goal is to allow my characters (in that first draft) to run wild. I do not play god until later drafts. I give them an opening chapter, an end or near end chapter and plunk them in a world they must create. How they get there is up to them, yet along the way, I have markers that require they do things or arc or find something. They always hit their mark without much probing from me.

     

    Trisha Leaver
    When I start a WIP, I have a solid grip on the beginning and a vague idea about how I want things to end up, but everything in the middle….that is fair game. I’ve tried outlining my books, even taken workshops on plotting out chapters, but I can’t seem to make it work for me. It’s like once I’m locked into an outline, my muse disappears and I end up churning out what reads like a boring textbook. But give me a blank piece of paper for my characters to dance on and I can write all day long.

     
    Danielle Bertrand
    I’m usually a total planner. Characters, plot, names, places, timelines, outlines – everything is planned. Unless some crazy-cool idea starts bouncing around in the ol noggin and some little voyage goes astray; then I let it happen and it typically works in the characters advantage.

     

    J.A. Bennett
    I’m a pantser by nature, but I always follow Blake Synder’s beat sheet. I usually write out my beats before beginning the story. Then the story usually changes as I go, so I adjust my beats. Sometimes I just write until I hit a beat, then I figure out the next beat and write to that point. It works for me.

     
    Jackie Felger
    In-between. I use a very rough outline, and then pantser my way through it.

     

    Pantser, Planner or in-betweener?


  4. Author visits… yikes

    December 8, 2014 by Suzi

    Recently I got to see Mindy McGinnis, author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, when she was invited to do an author visit in my town. I didn’t get to see the first session, which was at a local college, cause of my kids—you know all their crap going on, but I went to the 2nd night.
     
    I’ve followed Mindy since before her books came out, maybe even before she was agented. She’s got an interesting blog and she’s been active in the online writing community. She seems to have an awesome sense of humor, which is probably one of the reasons why I keep going back to her blog.
     
    After seeing her talk, it made me think. How in the world will I do what she did? She was funny, had good stories, and seemed to speak easily to the group, which was adults, even though her stories are YA.
     
    That’s a lot of pressure. I mean, a book signing wouldn’t so bad. One on one talking with others. But getting up in front of a group and being interesting. It’s not something I look forward to.
     
    But… considering I’m not agented or anything, I’ve probably got some time to prepare. “_
     
    Do author visits make you nervous? Have you ever done one?


  5. The Big Reveal

    December 5, 2014 by Suzi

    Welcome to the Big Reveal
     

    I enjoy reading author interviews, but often times they don’t ask the kinds
    of questions I wonder about. So I’ve assembled a group of writers at
    all levels, from un-agented to published, and every week I will
    have a new question for them.
     

    Are you obsessive about backing up your work?

     

    Jackie Felger
    I do like to have a few copies, because I lost a big chunk of a story before… I hadn’t saved it. So now, I try to save my work in different places. Email and mem sticks work for me.

     

    Stephanie Faris
    I bought a Sony Vaio with Windows 8 in 2013 and it has issues. Something locks it up about once a day and I have to shut it down by holding down the power button. About once a month, this corrupts something and I have to reload the entire laptop. SO, needless to say, I use a flash drive for my work and back it up to Microsoft OneDrive once a week. (It comes with Windows 8.1 for free and it’s cloud-based.)
    !

     
    Tanya Reimer
    Yes. Obsessive is an understatement. Multiple copies. Various computers. Various devices. Email. Kindle. Any other ideas I could use? I’m still trying to figure out the cloud thing. It makes me nervous to think that my work might end up floating around in some cloud, so that one is still up for debate.

     

    Trisha Leaver
    I wasn’t until this past spring when I lost three entire days’ worth of edits to THE SECRETS WE KEEP that I became fanatic about backing up my work. I was plodding my way through line edits and feeling really proud about the progress I was making. Then along comes a random thunder storm, followed by a power surge and poof…three days’ worth of work gone. Vanished. Not even a single track change to be found. Now I’m religious about backing up my work. I have two thumb drives, one I carry with me and one that stays in my desk drawer, but everything gets backed up at least twice a day to two different places.

     
    Danielle Bertrand
    One place! … Talk about anxiety! I backup my work to several places. Desktop, laptop, mem cards, and yes, I’ve even sent myself the trusty email. OCD is my friend.

     

    J.A. Bennett
    I actually have this awesome program called Carbonite. It automatically backs up everything to a cloud the second you hit save. It costs like $30 a month, but it saves me a major piece of mind. It saves all my music and pictures too, so it’s worth it to me.

     

    Are you obsessive about backing up your work?


  6. Lying is the in thing

    November 30, 2014 by Suzi

    Recently I finished Gone Girl. For those who haven’t read it, neither of the main characters are likable. Interesting maybe, but not likeable. But what intrigued me with the story was the whole unreliable narrator thing.

    Image courtesy of
    Stuart Miles
    FreeDigitalPhotos.net


    Unreliable narrators can’t be trusted. They maybe lie, with-hold information or misrepresent what’s happening, but we the readers might not realize it until we get further into the book.
     
    It’s an unusual concept to me, and I was curious about other books with unreliable narrators.
     
    When I did a Google search, some of the well-known books that pop up are Lolita, American Psycho, and Fight Club—none of which I’ve read.
     
    There were a few on the lists I have read: Catcher in the Rye and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but I read those so long ago, I don’t really remember much about them.
     
    I’m curious though, and plan to read more about these scheming and deceitful characters. As a writer, I want to know what those authors do to make these liars likeable. From what I’ve seen, it’s not an easy thing to do.
     
    And I’ll probably start with Fight Club—I loved the movie after all.
     
    Have you read any books with unreliable narrators that you really enjoyed? Do you like the whole unreliable narrator concept?


  7. The Big Reveal

    November 28, 2014 by Suzi

    Welcome to the Big Reveal
     

    I enjoy reading author interviews, but often times they don’t ask the kinds
    of questions I wonder about. So I’ve assembled a group of writers at
    all levels, from un-agented to published, and every week I will
    have a new question for them.
     

    Do you ever get story ideas from songs, TV shows or movies?

     

    J.A. Bennett
    Yes. Actually, right now I’m working on a sort story for an anthology. Half of the idea is from a Kdrama I watched called My Love From Another Star (terrible title, excellent show) anyway, it’s about a 400 year old alien who falls in love right as he gets the chance to go home. I really liked how they portrayed him as an alien. So I’m writing a story with a 300 year old alien who’s dying, but that’s where the similarities end.

     

    Jackie Felger
    Sorta. I’ll hear a lyric or a line from TV/movie and an idea forms, but it takes me awhile to figure out the plot and create an actual story from it.

     

    Stephanie Faris
    When I wrote romance in the 90s, there was a song on the radio all the time called “Fall from Grace.” Amanda Marshall was the singer. While driving back and forth to work, I’d hear that song every day. One day I started thinking about titling a book Falling for Grace. It seemed so unique. I never sold that book (or any romance) and after that, I saw that title being used numerous times, so I guess I wasn’t the only person who thought it was a good romance title!

     
    Tanya Reimer
    I usually find songs that fit my story ideas as if made for them, but never the opposite. In movies, sometimes the way a plot is organised inspires me to try something different.

     

    Trisha Leaver
    Nope…all of my story ideas come from dreams, or in some cases nightmares. Interesting fact…I only dream in black and white, so my first goal when I finally put pen to paper is to literally give my characters some color. Eyes, hair color, clothing…all of that I have to essentially re-imagine when I wake up and start writing.

     
    Danielle Bertrand
    Of course! Inspiration is everywhere. I started an apocalyptic WIP titled simply as Survivors, influenced by several shows, movies, etc. Certain music I listen to helps impact plot ideas and word flow. A single line in a song usually steers my narrative to go one way or another.

     

    Have you ever gotten a story idea from a song, a TV show or movie?


  8. The Big Reveal

    November 21, 2014 by Suzi

    Welcome to the Big Reveal
     

    I enjoy reading author interviews, but often times they don’t ask the kinds
    of questions I wonder about. So I’ve assembled a group of writers at
    all levels, from un-agented to published, and every week I will
    have a new question for them.
     
    This week I have a whole new set of writers,
    so I’d like to say welcome, glad to have you here.
     

    For this first week, please let us know a little something about your current WIP. And then I want to know about titles. Are they hard for you?

     

    Danielle Bertrand
    Title: Timewalkers, Genre: Mythical Fantasy
    Titles usually come easy for me. Once I figure out a premise for a WIP the title will follow shortly after. Creating a title is one of the easiest topics for me when it comes to writing.

     

    J.A. Bennett
    Stealing the Stars — Contemporary Fantasy. I don’t have a process for choosing titles, which probably means they suck. I usually try to come up with something on my own, but sometimes I ask for help brainstorming. Titles are hard.

     

    Jackie Felger
    I’m writing a new adult contemporary romance for NaNoWrimo. I do have a title for it, but I’m keeping it as Untitled for now.

    I have several ideas for titles, even though I don’t have stories to go with them yet. My process is boring, in that, they pop into my head, and I write it down for later. But hey, it works.

     

    Stephanie Faris
    My book 25 Roses comes out in January 2015. Titles sometimes come easily, but sometimes I have to write an entire book before a good title comes to me. 25 Roses was one of those titles that came along with the idea. I was thinking about the carnation sales we had on Valentine’s Day in high school and I wondered what would happen if one of the students secretly purchased carnations and handed them out to the kids who never received any. 25 seemed like a nice round number, but 25 Carnations didn’t sound like a very good title. So I went with 25 Roses and made them chocolate in the book because…hey…chocolate!

     
    Tanya Reimer
    In the speculative fiction titles I’m working on are: Can’t Dream Without You (Paranormal fantasy), Cursed on the Prairies (Alternate history).

    I used to have a hard time with titles and just picked working titles but then I learnt a neat trick. Write the one-liner; who does what in the hopes of what—and slam that title at the end without thinking about it. Example: When a young man is bit by a spider he develops strange spider-like powers that allow him to save his city from a dangerous supervillain.—Spiderman

     

    Trisha Leaver
    My current YA Contemporary WIP is about a seventeen year old girl struggling to find her place in a family of virtual strangers. Its working title is a gripping, thematic WIP#5 LOL. So…yeah, titles don’t come easy to me. I usually don’t bother even pondering a title until the project is complete and I have a full sense of my main character and her struggles. Then I dig deep and try to come up with a title that conveys the theme and tone of my book. More often than not, this is a collaborative process between myself, my agent and my editor

     
    Do titles come easy for you?


  9. A useful tip

    November 16, 2014 by Suzi

     
    Right now I’m reading a big book. It’s just over 700 pages long. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?
     
    Well it isn’t. Cause it’s a large print. According to Amazon, Gone Girl is 432 pages, which isn’t exactly low, but it’s not 700. As most everybody knows, Gone Girl is the big rage now, especially because the movie is out. Which means that the book is hard to find at the library.
     
    There are 22 digital copies available through our library, and if I wanted to put a hold on it, I’d be number 185.
     
    Yes, that’s the 185th person waiting to check it out.
     
    I’m sure the hard copies have a big waiting list too although I don’t have that exact number.
     
    But I found a faster way to get it.
     
    Which is why I’m reading a 700 page book. When I first checked the book’s availability a while ago, the large print book was checked out, but nobody had put a hold on it. So I did.
     
    Reading a 700 page hardcover book is kinda a pain. I might end up with carpal tunnel syndrome, but it beats waiting.
     
    So remember that tip. If there’s ever a book you want to check out, more likely one that’s gotten pretty popular, check to see if there’s a large print edition because you might get lucky like me.
     
    Do you ever read large print books?
    Have you read Gone Girl? Seen the movie?


  10. Skipping ahead or leaving it all behind

    November 10, 2014 by Suzi

    Not long ago I finished reading a book. And by finished, I mean I read the last few chapters. But I didn’t read ALL the chapters.
     
    This book is by a popular author but I never connected with the characters, didn’t find the story all that interesting either.

    Image courtesy of Traffic Barrier by mapichai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


    Because of some busy times a few weeks ago, I put the book down at about the 60% mark, and I could’ve walked away. Would’ve never given it another thought, but I wanted to read the ending—which I’d sorta heard about anyway, but didn’t know the exact details.
     
    So I did something I haven’t really done. I just skimmed a few chapters and jumped to the end.
     
    The ending didn’t change my mind about the story, by the way, and I didn’t regret skipping 1/3 of the story.
     
    Usually, if I quit a book, I quit fully. I don’t look to the end to see what happened. I just stop. (Of course, I normally stop before the 60% mark though too. And really, the only reason I read that far was because it was going fast and I kept wanting to like it like everybody else did.)
     
    So I was wondering what others do. If you give up on a book, do you jump ahead to the end to see what happens? Do you read spoilers in reviews to get an idea? Or do you just walk away and forget it?