So Yesterday I attended the SCBWI Dakota Conference. It was a small event with only about 30 people, but we had three great speakers. Author Cindy Kane, Illustrator Carrie Hartman and Editor Brian Farrey-Latz from Flux—the young adult imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide.
Brian’s presentation was the one with the most information that pertained to me. He’s a dynamic speaker and is fun to listen to. One thing he spoke about was making sure we’re balancing the plot—the action, with the internally emotions of the main character.
Apparently this is one of my problems with FROSTY.
I signed up for the 15 minute manuscript critique session with Brian. (My first 1500 words) This was so cool because as I said, he’s an actual editor at a publisher that works solely with YA.
Some of the ladies there (ladies cause there were only 3 men out of 20 and 2 were speakers) were nervous about their critique. I wasn’t nervous, but I hoped it wasn’t going to be ALL negative.
He had some good things to say and of course pointed out the negative. Overall I was happy to hear what he said and the bad stuff didn’t surprise me.
Three months ago, I got a critique from someone else in the industry and she commented that things were moving too slowly at the beginning. And that I had too many inner thoughts. So I revised and deleted 12,000 words. I think I went overboard. It wasn’t balanced.
Setting and description isn’t my strong suit to begin with, but I cut too much of what I did have at the beginning. Many of the places where I cut are where Brian suggested I add more detail. I’m not going to bring back everything I cut because the key is balance. I just need a little more to establish my setting.
I also need to add some more internal thoughts. No big conversations, but just a line or two every occasionally.
After I met with Brian, I skimmed through his comments. Most of them are about adding a detail or two. Or to take a few lines and move them out of their current spot to somewhere else.
It was a lot of great comments and I’m glad I decided to do the critique. Even though it was a one day conference and didn’t have a lot of attendees, I learned a lot and met a ton of new people.
Now time to get back to work.
Have you ever had an editor or a literary agent critique your work? How did it go?
FYI: Amy Sonnichsen at The Green Bathtub is celebrating her birthday and getting to the 300 follower mark by doing a critique giveaway. Check it out. And Happy Birthday Amy.
Sloppy Writing 101.13
I have such a problem with some words. Read below.
-We sat down to do some paperwork and Jim wrinkled up his nose.
-I’d be lucky if I go to some crappy community college.
-I could save up for some two year college. (This occurred right after the above sentence.)
-I’d tell them a good story about some vacation I took there.
Obviously the oft repeated word is some. Now I can’t just delete it in all cases, but I need to use a instead–it’s much cleaner. I found 142 occurrences of some in an old FROSTY ms, and quite a few of them can be deleted or replaced.
Some would be a good word used to distinguish a character from another by using it in their dialogue, but otherwise I would clean away the others.
I have another word I seem to use too often.
-Lana did most of the talking as Brooke seemed to watch the den door.
-Everybody seemed to dump their bags and books on the floor, and I didn’t want to trip.
-He seemed to flirt with a lot of girls.
Seemed to is unnecessary in most cases, as you can see by my above examples, especially when it’s followed by a verb. Why would I use seemed to when I can just use the verb?
-Lana did most of the talking as Brooke watched the den door.
-Everybody dumped their bags and books on the floor, and I didn’t want to trip.
-He flirted with a lot of girls.
I cut out six words in those three sentences, which are much stronger now. You don’t have to get rid of all your seems, but just make sure they are necessary.
Sloppy Writing 101.11
When I first started writing, I used really a lot. Really, I did. Along with very, truly and fairly, really is one of those unnecessary words.
My examples from FROSTY.
-I didn’t really know where she went.
-If I thought they truly meant it…
Taking out really and truly changed nothing in the meaning and therefore they are unnecessary. Very and fairly have never been a problem for me, but I counted 43 reallys in FROSTY. I left a few that were in dialogue, but the rest I deleted.
I got rid of another fifty words.
So watch out for really, very, truly and fairly. You probably don’t need most of them.
Before I get to Sloppy Writing, I wanted to mention a new blog that is going live on April 1st. Some amazing ladies are joining forces to bring us something fun.
Kelley at Between the Bookends says
“The idea behind the blog is to give support. To teach, to share what we’ve learned and have you share with us what you’ve learned. We want to lift you up through the rejections, cheer you on through the process and celebrate your accomplishments big and small. There will be query critique sessions, shout outs for our follower’s work. The options are endless because it will be what you need us to give you for your journey.”
So April 1st, check out Falling For Fiction
Sloppy Writing 101.10 I noticed that I had a big problem.
Look at these sentences. Can you see what is wrong?
-Dani’s not as bad as Brooke, and I noticed that she was friendly with a lot more people.
-I saw how his head tilted up to the window.
-I looked over at him, and he winked before looking back to Mrs. Kindle.
You’re supposed to avoid words like look, notice, and saw. They’re okay to use sometimes, but most of the time you can get rid of them. FROSTY is written in first person, so of course Sydney is doing the looking and seeing. It’s redundant to say she’s doing it.
I would rewrite the above sentences like this.
-Dani’s not as bad as Brooke; she was friendly with a lot more people.
-His head tilted up to the window.
-He winked before looking back to Mrs. Kindle.
I deleted thirteen words from those three sentences. It adds up over a 65,000 word manuscript. Every word counts, they say, so watch out for these little buggers.
I have some really cool news about a contest I won. It made me whole week since I’d been dealing with the double computer virus problem. Gabriela Lessa, Brazilian editor, literary agent intern, and journalist, held a contest called The Best Future Manuscript Contest. The prize was $100 off any WIP coaching services—which are to help get/keep a writer on track. She wanted a pitch, a sample of the writing, and why you wanted help. Your ms could be at any stage, from just beginning to almost done.
I had just started a new project, Chloe—a contemporary YA novel, and had written about 8,000 words. Go here to see a little description. I am full of ideas for the beginning and middle, but I’m not sure where to go with the end.
My first idea is just to make it a life-changing story (where she grows and changes). My other idea was to tack on a little mystery that she had to solve.
That was my problem I presented. I don’t know which way to go because I’ve never written anything with a mystery angle. And although I didn’t plan on this story being a mystery exactly, the idea kind of intrigues me.
So anyways, I won the contest and am very excited. This is a great opportunity and I thought it would be something special to try. I’m not exactly sure how it’ll all go, but part of the coaching is Skype sessions to discuss the project. So next week she and I will be talking for the first time. I can’t wait.
Anyone ever done this before?
Now, back to my Lucky 7 MEME. I was tagged now several times for the Lucky 7 Meme—whatever that means (I haven’t found out yet), and was going to do this last week, but it was delayed due to computer problems. So here’s the rules.
1. Go to page 77 of your current WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next seven lines or paragraphs and post them written (no cheating)
4. Tag 7 authors and let them know
FROSTY (Sydney is the 17-year-old narrator)
“Hey, your haircut looks great—I never got a chance to tell you.”
Huh? I turned my head as Corbin walked away. What the hell? Corbin kept his smile until he reached his desk. He was probably trying to suck up for getting me in trouble. Asshole. What did I care about him?
“Hey, Corbin. Can you float me a twenty?” A short, stocky guy asked.
“No problem, man.” Corbin dug in his wallet and handed him the bill. “Just remember to pay me back this time. I don’t remember getting my twenty back a month ago.”
The other guy laughed, and Corbin slid his wallet in his pocket just as the bell rang. The teacher handed out the tests.
With ten minutes left to spare, I finished my test and glanced at Corbin. No way—he was cheating. He kept looking over at the desk next to him. I could tell the other guy was helping Corbin by the way he positioned his paper, and how he held his hands. Mr. Canter wasn’t paying any attention—totally oblivious, but then again, so was everyone else. Nora sat on the other side of Corbin, and not once did she glance up and see him. Corbin a cheat? Why should this surprise me? What a loser.
I’ve been going through trying to find people to tag, but most have done this already. Janet is the only one who hasn’t (I think), but everyone else has, so I’m just linking you back to theirs if you haven’t seen it.
By the way, if you’ve ever done WIP coaching with someone, I’d love to hear your experiences.
Sloppy Writing 101.09 I’ll try doing this right the first time.
Got my computers back, virus free, loaded them up and life is back to normal. The Big Reveal will be back on Tuesday. On Sunday’s post, I’ll have some cool news about a contest I won, and I’ll finally get to my Lucky 7 Meme too.
Another word, I need to watch out for is tried. Often times I wrote that a character was trying to do something. But in reality, the character did do what she was trying, so I should just say she did it instead of wasting the words tried to. Here are a few examples.
-Brooke tried to argue with me. (Brooke argued with me.)
-I tried to make polite conversation the first few days. (I made polite conversation.)
-I tried to tell him my mom didn’t even care that I smoked. (I told him my mom didn’t…)
I deleted six words in those three sentences alone. I had 62 occurrences of tried in my old FROSTY ms. My current version has much less, and I made sure I was getting across the point that I wanted—that the character failed at what she was trying. Here are some examples where I left it in.
-She was surrounded by Brooke’s cronies, and I tried to avoid them. (She tried, but was unable.)
-I tried to squeeze out of his arms, but his grip tightened. (She tried, but was unable.)
So check your ms to make sure you’re using try to correctly, otherwise you’ll have many unnecessary words.
Sloppy Writing 101.08
I started to think about what I should do next and figured out another pesky word to add to my sloppy writing list.
-I started paging through my textbook
-At the department store, Brooke started looking through the prom type dresses.
-My heart started to pound.
One word in common… started. In every sentence above, I can delete the started and change the verb to an ed ending.
I paged… Brooke looked… My heart pounded. In three sentences alone, I’ve deleted four unnecessary words. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you include them with all the other unnecessary words I’ve used, it adds up to thousands.
In a search of an early version of FROSTY, I found 82 occurrences of started. I searched for began too, but only found two. Apparently I prefer to start rather than to begin.
According to my current ms, I deleted 75% of my original starteds. Maybe I could find a few more to trash, but most of the ones I reviewed seemed to be okay.
So start watching out for your starts and begins because most of the time they are completely unnecessary.
If FROSTY were made into a movie, here are the actors I’d choose. Keep in mind this is off of looks alone, I know nothing of their acting abilities or even what all they’ve appeared in.
Sydney wears her hair in a ponytail most of the time and it was hard to find a picture.
Also, she’s not a big smiler, so this pic fits.
This is definitely Brooke, beautiful and classy.
I apologize the pictures are getting smaller, this is a resolution problem, not a me-sizing-it problem
I hate to jump on the Zac Efron bandwagon, but oh well.
Spikey hair, scruffy face… Corbin all the way.
I had a hard time finding “Dani.” Mostly due to lack of time, but Keke is beautiful and although she doesn’t have ringlet curls here, I found a kid picture of her with the type of ringlets Dani has.
Sorry I have no song, didn’t have time to figure one out.
I had been thinking of a new topic, and one jumped into my mind. So after I’d looked through my old FROSTY manuscript, I found many examples. Here they are:
-I’d had the worst caseworkers.
-She’d said whuut.
-You stole this, Brooke, and if they’d found it, I would have been arrested.
I have a problem with tenses. I wrote FROSTY in past tense, but often times I had used the past perfect tense by adding that unnecessary had in there. This is how these sentences should be written.
-I had the worst caseworkers .
-She said whuut.
-You stole this, Brooke, and if they found it, I would have been arrested.
Simple. I don’t know why I was doing it wrong for so long. From now on, I’ll avoid adding in that unnecessary had. But with all the manuscripts I’ve written, I’ll need to go back and do a search for all these: I’d, she’d, he’d, we’d, they’d
And that’s a pain in the butt. So watch your tenses and don’t do what I did.
2. Going To
4. And then
5. Like vs. As
6. But, And, Or…