Archive for December, 2011

Crutch Words

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Every writer has crutch words—ones they use too often.

When I gave a manuscript to my friend Liz, she pointed out that I had a lot of justs and a lot of wells. So I went through my 95,000 word document and found almost 260 justs. I cut out 2/3 of them. I didn’t have as many wells, but I got rid of quite a few too.

You can search you Word document and find how many numbers of a certain word you have, but you might not know what those problem words are. For that, now you can go to the internet to use programs that create word clouds (or tag clouds–I’ve found several names).

An example of a word cloud is on the right side of this blog. It is a visual representation of text—or in my case blog tags (categories). On these websites you can upload your text (or blog page) and it will find the most used words and put them in a fancy design. If the word is bigger, it’s been used more often.

This is a really great application because it pulls out your most used words. I went back into Frosty and did this and here are my results of the top twenty used words—the one at the top being the most used.

Brooke
Corbin, didn’t
Dani
don’t, going, Lana, looked, wasn’t
Mom, couldn’t, wasn’t
Asked, room, school, Sydney, wanted, Jim, door, eyes

So with this, now I will go back and look for a few of these words and try use different ones. So far I’ve done looked. I went from 183 to 38. And with going, I went from 195 to 61.

I’m glad that just and well didn’t show up, even in the top fifty. That’s a good thing, but I will search some of the others in this list to using better more descriptive words.

If you want to do one of these fun clouds, just search word cloud or tag cloud and you’ll come up with a number of sites. It’s fun.

Nerve-Wracking

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

On Saturday, I got to watch Lincoln be a (fully dressed) goalie for the first time. In the locker room (where they stuff several teams into a tiny space), one of the coaches from another team asked if I was ready. I assume he meant ready to watch my son as a goalie. Which is probably nerve-wracking for parents of goalies.

But really, this is a first year mite, the pressure is not all that high. They score like ten-twenty goals per game.

What was nerve-wracking was that right after I got his leg pads on, I realized he didn’t have his breezers. And it was almost time to go. Luckily another coach (each team has like 4 coaches) was just sitting there and he helped me get the leg pads off and on a second time, assuring me that he too had once forgotten to put the breezers on his son.

If this does not sound like a big deal, you have never put goalie leg pads on in a rush. On Tuesday, Lincoln’s coach showed me what to do so this was my first time assembling the goalie gear on my own.

Many parents say they don’t want their kids to be goalies because of the cost of all the gear. Or the pressure on the goalie. I think it’s cause putting on the pads is the biggest pain in the butt.

This is what you have to do to make sure you keep the leg pads on.

One strap runs through the skate and you have to buckle it.
One set of laces (yes, shoe laces) wraps around the blade and you have to tie it.
Two Velcro straps stretch across the leg.
Two straps with buckles are pulled tight on the lower leg.
Two straps with plastic buckles go across the thigh.

Multiply all this by two, because a goalie has two legs. From the front, goalie pads look all cool. From the back, they’re a nightmare.

Then you have the chest protection, which also runs all the way down their arms. The neck piece. His helmet. Skates (put on before the leg pads). And breezers (put on before skates.) Two gigantic, odd-shaped gloves and a stick. No wonder they walk funny.

Although Lincoln enjoyed being a goalie, I don’t think he has any long range plans for continuing on. (YEA!!!) He still prefers left wing. I do too because then I can watch him score goals.

What does this have to do with writing? Not much. Although I can say that someday it’d be interesting to write a story revolving around hockey. Maybe a girl middle grade story. Or a girl who plays on a boys team because there is no girls teams. The ideas are already swimming in my head, but unfortunately I don’t have the time to work on it now. I’ll just have to write them down in my little notebook and one day I might get to it.

IMA Beta

Monday, December 12th, 2011

I’m a beta, he’s a beta, she’s a beta, we’re a beta, wouldn’t you like to be a beta too. Be a beta. Be be a beta. Okay, the tune popped into my head when I started this post. Dr. Pepper is my 2nd favorite pop after Coke, so it fits because I’m now a beta reader now.

I belong to a site called AgentQuery Connect, a forum for writers and aspiring writers. It’s huge—contains all sorts of information/advice. They have it split up into all different areas; query help, info on agents, publishing/networking, groups on different genres… it’s a lot to wade through and I could easily spend hours looking though everything.

Anyway, a woman posted that she was looking for beta readers for her young adult novel. She gave the description and I thought it looked interesting so I replied back and said I would do it. It’s good timing because right now I’m letting When the Mist Clears sit a bit before I pick it up and start editing.

I read through it the first time, only making small notes. Now I’m going through a second time, making my comments and proofreading. (I’m no expert proofreader, but I can help a little.)

It’s actually kind of fun. I like the story and her writing style is easy to read.

One interesting thing to see is the different words she uses, that I attribute to being in a different region. On AgentQuery Connect, your profile states the part of the country you live in—Midwest for me.

Know what nalgene is? I didn’t, until I googled it. Another one was a booshie restaurant. So either I’m not hip anymore or it’s a regional thing. Of course I live in a state that is known for a lot of things—hipness not being one of them. By the way, a nalgene is a plastic bottle and booshie means uppity/fancy.

But back to the beta reading. I hope that by analyzing someone else’s work this closely, it will help me with mine. I’d definitely do the whole beta reader thing again. It would cool to be a part of someone else’s publishing experience. And when her book comes out, I can say I was a part of it.

Flashbacks: good or bad

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

When I finished writing When the Mist Clears (WTMC), it had a lot of chapter length flashbacks. Then I’d read somewhere that literary agents are not big fans of flashbacks. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, especially if they’re done well—but apparently new writers don’t handle them very well.

I decided to ask some friends for their opinions. Should I start on the day of my main character’s suicide and weave the flashbacks into the story or do I start further back in history putting those flashbacks into the present time. Two friends said one way, two said the other way. I guess I was the tie-breaker.

Then I started researching flashbacks on the internet and why they can be bad if not done right.
Apparently, they slow down the pace of the story. The reader wants to see what’s going on now, not in the past. A lot of time, the information provided in the flashback in not relevant.

I looked at my story to see how mine worked. As I said, initially I had several chapters of flashbacks. But I couldn’t go back to the time of when my flashbacks start (a year previous to the suicide), that’s too early for the story.

So I compromised. I started my story about two months earlier, pulling some flashbacks from inside the story and putting them at the beginning in present time. I’ll probably have about 15-20% of the book before the suicide, which is okay, but I don’t want to get too much more because really it’s about what happens after the suicide.

Why is that important?

I recently read Dark Song by Gail Giles. The jacket cover talks about how this girl’s life is falling apart because her of her parents’ mistakes. She falls for a guy who is a bad influence and turns her against her parents. The book description focused on this guy—who sounds violent and creepy. To me, he was the interesting part of the story.

As I’m reading, I kept waiting for this guy to show up. And waiting and waiting. I don’t remember the exact point, but it was at least halfway through the book before he appears—which annoyed me. I’m not saying that the beginning part was horrible, but it wasn’t as interesting as when the bad boy shows up, which was closer to the end. (I still liked the book though—was a good read.)

I don’t want to do that with WTMC–the main focus of my book is what happens after the suicide, so I’ll stick with starting two months before the suicide.

My next thing to analyze is how much I need of those flashbacks that are still in the story. Can I take that chapter of flashbacks, break it up and incorporate the most important parts as small flashbacks? Or should I leave that chapter length flashback in the story. This is where I need a good friend with fresh eyes to give me an objective opinion.

Another thing to do is find successful stories that have lots of flashbacks. Some stories are centered more on flashbacks that the present action and I need to find examples of how it’s done well. I don’t have any names of those books yet, so I’ll have to search on the internet.

And hopefully I’ll find the perfect balance for my story.

I saw the light

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Last week I saw the light. Literally and figuratively.

We drove to the Chicago area to spend Thanksgiving with  Cory’s extended family. We’ve done this every year for seven years, except this  was the first time at Thanksgiving.

Illinois likes toll roads. I do not.

This year a flashing sign located at every toll station said  that on January 1st, toll rates were going up. Then it gave the amounts for cash and for I-Pass (the prepaid card that allows you to zip  through the toll station without stopping). We of course do not have an I-Pass,  because we go there once a year. We will have one by our next trip.

The big news was that I-Pass holders pay about half the  price as cash payers. I don’t know if Cory knew this, but I hadn’t. Sure they had signs posted, but Cory drives and I was usually busy getting change ready  to pay attention to those little signs posted on the wall.

But that’s not only what burns me… it’s the price. Illinois  is totally ripping of non I-Pass holders.

On this trip we paid $7.40 to drive on three toll roads.

Next year, when we take the trip again, we would be paying  $14.00 to drive those same stretches of pavement. Yes, $14.00.

Except that next year we won’t be paying $14.00 because I am  going to get an I-Pass. I refuse to let the state of Illinois rip me off any  more. (Because really, it’s not the only way. I think gas was $0.30/gallon more  there too.)

Maybe residents get used to driving around these toll roads,  but since we don’t have much of that around ND, I’m not. We have one toll  bridge in town, but it’s owned by a private company, not the City or State and  it’s only there for convenience to those who live on the north side of town.  You can take any number of other bridges to cross the river.

So next year I hope to be the (proud?) holder of an I-Pass  and pay half the price as those cash paying suckers.