The itch is back—luckily a good one.
Lately I’ve wanted to jump back into writing again, specifically my new WIP called Chloe (that’s the working title by the way.) I started it a few weeks ago and wrote 3000 words, but then other things took over.
I haven’t queried FROSTY since December and have been making changes. I think I’m done. I hope I’m done.
I’ve also been working on WHEN THE MIST CLEARS, making updates after having two betas read it. I finished with the major changes and have been tinkering with the little things. Now I sent it off to one more person, whom I’m sure will give me a great review also. She warned me that she is a hard critiquer, so is that sad that I actually look forward to her tough review? That I want her to point out the flaws in my ms? (So I can make it better.) Does that make me a masochist?
Seriously, am I the only person who looks forward to these reviews? I might have to add that question to my list for The Big Reveal: Do you get nervous when people are critiquing your work, or do you look forward to seeing their comments.
But back to the itch. I’ve got two full pages (front and back) of notes for my WIP, plus ideas for character traits and history. This is how I do things. I get an idea and I start writing notes down. Sometimes it’s dialogue, sometimes it’s just ideas for plot lines. Over time, I learned that once I get a few pages down, that means I can probably get about 10,000 words. Once I’ve written that 10,000 words, I have other ideas that lead to other stuff and so on…
I am predominately a panster. For those who don’t know, there are two different styles of writing (with everything in between of course.)
A planner plans. (Hmmm, bet you didn’t figure that out.) They outline the whole story out before starting writing, and they follow their outline as they write. I don’t do this.
I am more of a panster. I write wherever I want. I jump from middle to end to beginning, and rarely have I ever started a story at the beginning.
So I will look at my notes and find the scene that most interests me and that’s where I’ll go.
Being a panster is probably a bit more inefficient, but that’s my way.
So now that I’m passing off WHEN THE MIST CLEARS to my beta, and now that I’m done making changes to FROSTY, I am going to try get back into writing because my mind keeps filling up with ideas that I have to get out.
Sloppy Writing 101.06 Getting rid of my buts
I’m editing WHEN THE MIST CLEARS, and I recently went through looking to make sure I have a comma with my coordinating conjunctions. And, but, for, nor, or, so, yet. I don’t use too many nor, for, or yet, but I have lots of but, and and so. And I forget to get that comma in especially with the and.
He holds the phone behind my shoulder, and the bright light fills the car. (comma needed)
Will you mow the lawn and shovel the sidewalks? (no comma needed)
Honestly, I’m not sure if the rules are changing or if different people have different rules. I’m reading a book now, and often times the author doesn’t use a comma where I think she should. So is this a stylistic issue? I don’t know, but to be on the safe side, I’ll put commas in where I think they’re supposed to be.
Since I’m doing a find/replace, I can see every spot that has an and or but… and change it if necessary. One thing I started to notice was that I had an awful lot of sentences starting with But. I did a search and found 200. That means I started 200 sentences with But. Now my mc likes to make excuses for her actions, but that’s a bit too many.
I’ve cut it down to about half, and I’m sure I can get it down even further. On my search of And, I only found 123, which I can cut down too.
Little by little, I’m tightening up my ms—getting rid of unnecessary words.
I’m also looking for places where I can get rid of this conjunction. Here’s my original sentence: I lean over the seat, so I can see better.
I can write it as: I lean over the seat to see better. Two words deleted and much cleaner.
So there’s a ton more words to add to my list. Be on the look out for and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet. Make sure you get your commas right and don’t overuse them as I do.
I’ve been working on a few things. One is my pitch.
A pitch is a description of your novel in about 35 words or less. Usually in one sentence, but sometimes two.
And let me tell you, it’s not easy.
I entered a pitch workshop where my pitch for Frosty and my first 150 words were evaluated by one of three women. See Shelley Watter’s Site to see my pitch.
You have to be 35 words or under. You have to get your story across. You have to make it interesting.
And I repeat, this is very difficult.
I’ve revised mine several times—trying new things. I think my very first pitch explained the story to a T. But unfortunately, it was dry and probably wouldn’t grab an agent’s attention. So I’m trying to spice it up.
This opportunity was a workshop to improve my pitch. (The same woman had a pitch contest a few weeks ago that I entered.) Pitch contests don’t seem as common as query contests, but they’re still out there. Usually a pitch contest will be with an agent and if they are interested, they may ask to see your manuscript. So it’s important to get your pitch right.
The next thing I’m working on is my query for When The Mist Clears.
A query letter once again is what you send to a literary agent, hoping that they’ll like your story and want to see your manuscript.
Even though I’m only editing WTMC right now, it’s important to get that query ready because when I am done with my editing, I want to be ready to query and not wait two more months as I get my query figured out.
Query writing is hard too. But you have about 250 words to do it instead of 35.
Once again, you have to explain your story enough, but leave a little question as to what happens at the end. It shouldn’t be a synopsis, but should give them enough details of the story. It needs to have voice. It needs to grab the attention of the agent. It needs to be perfect.
Therefore, once I get my query ready, I will submit it to websites like Agent Query Connect or Absolute Write Forums where other members will critique it.
One thing I worried about a while ago was that I didn’t want to reveal the details of my story on the internet. But 99% of the people on these writers’ forums are honest and are not out to copy others. So I no longer feel wary of this. And it really is the best way to get help.
Sloppy Writing 101.03:That is my problem, not yours.
I want to tell you about something that I’ve been doing much too often. Let’s see if you can figure out what that is. Here are four examples that I pulled from the first page of Frosty.
…because we all know that starting a new school as a senior halfway through the year will be hell.
Did the caseworker think that Brooke and I would become close friends and that my senior year would be the best ever?
I figured that they threw a bunch of names in a hat and sent me to the first one they pulled.
So if you didn’t figure it out, the problem is THAT. I overuse THAT so much it’s embarrassing. There are two issues. The first is using it correctly as in that vs. which vs. who. I won’t go into a description of how to choose what’s right, so go to Grammar Girl if you don’t know.
Luckily, most of the time I got that versus which right. I say most, not all. And really, it was luck. Now I know exactly what the difference is and when to use which instead of that.
My problem was that I have so many completely unnecessary THATs. You can bet that I was slightly stunned when I went through my When the Mist Clears ms in January (after I figured out my problem) and found over eight hundred THATs. Wow—way too many. I have cut it down to three hundred something. Yes, I got rid of 500 THATs in one ms. And I’ll probably go through one more time.
This is definitely one thing that I’ll watch out for when I’m writing because I spent three hours (yes, 3 hours), finding all my unnecessary/wrong THATs.
So watch out for your THATs.
And did you catch all the unnecessary ones in this post? It might be a hard habit to break.
Editing sucks, you know. Writing is the easy part, the fun part. The way the words flow out of your fingers. Editing is slow and tedious. And repetitive. It’s not so bad after the first read, maybe the second. But by the 6th or 7th, it gets a little old.
I’m not keeping track, but I’ve spent way more time editing Frosty than I did writing. (which took about a month.) Reading Frosty straight through might take 3-4 hours. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it, but I’d guess at least 6-8 times. And when I read for editing, it goes much slower of course.
It’s also a good idea to read the novel aloud. Hearing your words spoken helps you catch mistakes and shows you where things might be choppy. But of course, reading it aloud is a very slow process and can give you a sore throat if you try getting it done in one or two sittings.
Every week I seem to learn something new in my editing—which is why I started Sloppy Writing 101. There are so many words you don’t want to use/overuse. Therefore, the easiest way to find them is using search/replace. THAT is one of my overused/unnecessary words. With Frosty, I spent 3 hours searching for and fixing the THATs.
Yes, that’s 3 hours for just one word. (The lesson here is that in when I’m writing, I should not overuse THAT.) But I had to do it because I ended up killing about 500 THATs.
Of course, in the editing process, you hopefully delete more than you add. I did with Frosty. A critiquer told me Frosty was moving too slowly and that I was in my mc’s head too much. I deleted lots, including about ¾ of one chapter. In a few weeks I went from 64,000 words to 52,000. That is huge.
This ability to cut the words down with Frosty gives me hope with the first young adult story I wrote. It clocks in at about 95,000 words, which is high for young adult, especially considering that I’m an unpublished author. That is the reason I decided to pursue an agent with Frosty instead. And now I’ve seen how much I’ve cut from Frosty, I will get to editing on my other novel too, in addition to When the Mist Clears.
I’d much rather be writing, but if you want to get published, you have to edit, edit, edit. I have several ideas for new stories, but I don’t know when I can get around to them. As things sit right now, I have written enough novels to keep me busy editing/revising for fifteen years. Therefore, I have to choose which I like best and hope that might be the one.
At least now I’ll know what things to avoid when I’m writing, so that in the future, editing will not take so long.
Just before Christmas I sat at my computer addressing a few Christmas cards. I got an e-mail from a friend asking for another friend’s address. It was weird, because I addressed a card to both friends not even five minutes before.
Things like that don’t happen often, but I’m running into those coincidences a lot more with my writing. Some of them are truly mystifying. I’d like to take these coincidences are a sign that I’m on the right track with my writing, even if nothing has come out of it yet.
Four times, this weird things have happened but I’ll start with the most recent.
In December, I set aside my current manuscript (ms) so that when I did my editing, I’d have fresh eyes. I then connected with someone who was looking for a beta reader for her story and I started doing that.
Just before I did this, I’d changed the name of a minor character because I had two guys whose names started with the same letter and thought it might be confusing. A few weeks later, I’m reading the other woman’s ms and one of her characters has that name too (except as a last name). She told me she’d added the last name, just before she’d sent me her ms.
We both have maybe 10-15 characters in our stories and having a name in common was a shocker. It’s not a common name and when I looked it up on the Social Security name ranking website, it doesn’t even show in the top 1000 names for the majority of the last ten years.
The second part though is even more strange. Halfway through her ms, I pick up a new book to read. To my surprise, the best friend of the main character has the SAME last name as the woman whose ms I am reading.
That stuns me. With all the millions of last names, I run into hers.
Coincidence or sign? I don’t know what it means, but I hope something good, for both of us.
I’m curious if these types of things happen to other people too.
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.
When the Mist Clears, a paranormal young adult novel, is my current project. I’ve just finished my first draft and am looking for feedback from a few friends (beta readers). If you’re interested in reading it and are good at analyzing stories, let me know. I can always use extra help.
So this is it… When the Mist Clears
At the end of a horrible day, seventeen year old Lyrica commits suicide. There are plenty of reasons why she is dead. Mostly because of her mother… who kicked her out of the house. And because of her boyfriend Eddie… who dumped her when she needed him most.
While living among her family and friends, Lyrica begins to see her old relationships in a new light. Lyrica understands that she has become a ghost for a reason, but doesn’t why or how to change anything. All she can do is stand by and watch as the lives of her sister and mom start to fall apart.
The guilt is enough to kill her, except that she’s already dead.