Thursday, June 30, 2011

Revision thoughts

After days of staying stuck on some technical aspects, I've finally gotten back on track with my revisions. I'm now past a quarter of the way through. So I'm pretty thrilled with my progress. 

Still, having an Internal Editor who is alive and well can have its side effects. 

I almost decided to cut out two of my favorite supporting characters. Because they're supporting characters that only really find their places in Book two. But as I was about to write down the memo, I realized that I couldn't get rid of them. Because introducing them in Book two will feel wrong in the story that I will want to tell. So they stay. 

On the other hand, I realized that I'll have to emphasize the stakes a little more on one of my story line so that I can get the Epic back into my Epic Fantasy. So there will be some serious changes later on in the book. Very close to where I am right now. This change is one I embrace, though. One I look forward to. 

Still, those thoughts above reminded me of something that is becoming increasingly scary to me: Killing my babies. There might still come a point where I will have to cut out characters and scenes. I've already cut some, but none of them have been particularly important to me. But I know that the day will come that there will be a scene that I love that will have to go.

And that gives me the jitters.

So... who else is revising? How do you decide what goes and what stage? What do you do when you have to cut something you love?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A guest a guest, my kingdom for a guest!

Hi all! I've been checking up on my calendar just now and got struck by a terrible realization. In three weeks, I have no one to post on Friday.

For those of you who are new and have no idea what I'm talking about, Guest Post Friday is a feature where followers on this blog can guest post about any writing/literary world related topic.

Now I must ask... Do you guys enjoy and/or appreciate Guest Post Fridays? Because I know that it attracts hits. But do you really enjoy it?

If you guys aren't all that keen in it anymore, I'll have to end the feature (but I will put up the few guest posts that have been booked for the rest of the year). So please let me know what you think.

And the winner is:

Thanks to everyone who entered into Judy Croome's competition.

I drew using and chose:


I hope you enjoy the prize!


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stories for Sendai Blog Tour

Hi all! Today I have the honor of welcoming J.C. Martin to My First Book. She's here on a blog tour to market Stories for Sendai, a charity anthology where the proceeds will go to the victims of Japan's tsunamis. So please click here for more details.

In the mean time, here's J.C. on writing short stories.


Big thanks to Misha for hosting a leg of the Stories for Sendai Blog Tour de Force!

As some of you may know, Stories for Sendai is a charity anthology containing twenty uplifting and inspirational short stories. Despite many major publishers being reluctant to publish short story anthologies, claiming that they just don’t sell, they have remained alive thanks to the efforts of smaller publishing houses.

Personally, I adore short stories. They are short enough that I can complete one or two stories on my commute to work. While a novel is one long story from beginning to end, a collection of short stories gives me lots of different stories for the price of one book—now how awesome is that? Plus, most writers I know of started their writing career with short stories before they wrote full-length novels: Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway...Edgar Allan Poe is famous predominantly for his short stories.

Short story writing can be an art form in itself; because of the restriction in length, every word needs to count, to deliver maximum impact. While I have written a number of short stories, with a few in print, I don’t profess to be an expert in the art of writing the short story. However, I am willing to share with you what I know.

By classic definition, a short story is a work of fiction that can be read all in one sitting. The actual definition, by word count, is shady, but anything below 7,500 words is safely in short story territory. Any longer, and it strays into the gray limbo of the novelette...

Unlike novelists, short story writers do not have the luxury of a generous word count to indulge in much back story and world-building. This does not mean that there is no character development in a short story—far from it. Rather, the challenge is to be able to convey this change in as few words as possible.

Most of the following advice can be applied to writing fiction of any length, but I feel they are particularly important in a short story:

Leave out unnecessary details

Have you ever noticed that in a well-written short story, you very rarely read a description of the characters, yet somehow get a vivid image of what they look like in your mind? In a way, a short story is a more interactive read than a novel. We rely on the reader’s imagination to picture the scene. There is no room to wax lyrical about wavy blond hair, striking blue eyes or dimpled, chiseled jaws. Let the reader cast their own actors in the story. By all means, include a feature if it is integral to the plot, but omit all unnecessary descriptions—leave them to your readers’ rich imagination.

Start close to the end

A novel could involve a series of different events, but a short story revolves around just one key event. So start as close to the thick of action as possible to grab readers’ attention, and end it at the earliest logical point.

Have a beginning, a middle and an end

Follow the basic steps of a story: have an inciting incident (call to action), a climax (turning point), and a resolution. A graph of the action as your story progresses should follow a bell curve. Many short stories have an open ending, for readers to draw whatever conclusion they wish. That is fine, as long as there is some attempt at a resolution.

Show, not tell

Short stories, more than any other form of prose, requires a lot of ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’. Infer what is going on rather than coming right out and saying it. This helps draw the reader into the story, put them into the thick of action rather than making your reader feel like an outsider looking in.

Stick to only one or two scenes

Since a short story centres around just one event, it should not involve anything more than one or two different scenes. If you find your story moving from scene to scene to scene, perhaps it would work better being expanded into something longer, like a novella or novel.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of things to bear in mind when writing a short story. What else should you consider? Have I missed anything important out?

Once again, thanks to Misha for hosting this, and thanks to everyone for reading! Stories for Sendai will be on sale by June 30th. For more details, including purchase links, the blog tour schedule and details of an awesome prize draw, click here!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Writing with our eyes

Today on my blog wanderings, I visited Claudia's blog and found this quote:

A writer should write with his eyes and a painter paint with his ears.
Gertrude Stein

Now, I'm not so sure about the painting part, but the first part really got me thinking today.

Not only is that part true, but it's a vital part to our writing.

So how does one write with our eyes?

It's a two step process.

The first step involves paying attention to our surroundings. Wherever we go, there are objects that surround us, people that move about in our awareness, things that happen. That's the first part of our learning experience. Noticing how people move. Noting how they air their emotions. The big movements, the slow movements.

Then of course (and this is just as important) we notice people interacting with their surroundings. Some keep their heads down on rough ground, because they don't want to injure themselves. Others are so secure in their ablity to navigate the dips and bumps that they go about with their heads up, walking about as if they own the place. Have you noticed how people act when they walk into a crowded restaurant? Some never walk in alone. Those who do tend to avoid eye-contact with the masses and dodge their way to a table and find something with which to keep themselves busy. Books are dug out almost before the menu is opened. I-pods are switched on as soon as the order is placed.

People's interactions with their surroundings can, if we pay attention, tell us a lot about the people.

The second step to writing with our eyes involves applying what we saw on the pages of our writing. Does the bolt for the nearest table and attempt to vanish in the masses or does he walk in as if he owns the place? Those actions can be especially important when the writing isn't dealing with a VP character. They give the reader impressions to work with to build a picture of the character's personality.

Writing with our eyes also serves another important purpose (that I know I forget sometimes): Grounding the scenes. I've read more than a few stories where there's wonderful conflicts and brilliant tension. The characters are interesting. The plot has me intrigued. But there's a big problem.

The action is taking place in a white haze of nothingness. I can't work out where they are. Or if I am told, I have no clue as to how it looks.

BUT this is not a problem solved by pages on pages of description. It's solved by smart interactions by the characters.

For example, if something happens outside, we shouldn't be describing the weather. Our characters should be stamping their feet. Their breaths should be coming up in white puffs floating up to the clear moon...

And so on.

It places characters firmly in relatable surroundings without giving readers the feeling that it's a stage set.

Do you write with your eyes? What does the phrase mean to you? How do you do it?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Strains of Woe

 “…so shall I taste

At first the very worst of fortune’s might,

And other strains of woe…”    (Sonnet 90, Shakespeare)

What beautiful words! But, to an unpublished author, they are no consolation when the lash of fortune’s might is another rejection letter (or e-mail) from a publisher.

I’ve been writing since 1997. That’s fourteen years and seven completed novels. That’s a lot of rejections I’ve had to learn to live with.  Rejection becomes easier when a new writer finally realises that rejection letters are all part of the process of becoming a professional story teller. Rejection letters can be worn like a badge of honour, but they can also bring the curse of self-doubt.  And self-doubt can become your greatest enemy, for it freezes your creativity and weighs your writing down with your most secret fears.

What can a fledgling author do to overcome the rejection blues? Here are five stepping stones that can help you find your way from rejection to publication:

Seek Emotional Detachment

·         Rejection isn’t personal. Really, it’s not. Even though it feels very personal when you all you receive for your efforts is a bland form letter. But you need to be able to separate yourself from your writing. No writer, no matter how brilliant or famous, is able to produce a mistake-free manuscript.  Not even you.

·         Be neither too critical nor too generous when you chip away at the tiny flaws in your manuscript. If you're too critical, your inner critic will delight in freezing every future creative idea you have. If you're too generous, your ego will never allow you to admit to yourself that your work still needs improvement. To gain an objective view of your manuscript you need to fuse your inner critic (which can't see anything right in your work) with your ego (which can't see anything wrong in your work). Recognise both the strengths and weaknesses inherent in your story. And then start again.
Take Positive Action 

·         Continue learning: Read a book on the craft of writing. Attend a live webinar on writing. You can learn something new about your craft every day.

·         Get active on Social Media: Start a blog or, if you have one, write a blog post. Visit other blogs. Submit your work to on-line communities (but check their credentials first.)

·         Join a writing group: Search your local papers, or the Internet, for writing groups in your area or on-line forums. Find one that suits your needs and your personality and join in. Be pro-active; participate in doing critiques of other's works as well as in submitting your own work for critique.

·         Go to the movies: Or watch your favourite DVD. Follow the plot. Watch the characterisations. Listen to the dialogue. Then think about how you can do the same in your writing.

·         Read: Go back to your favourite authors' books. Find their best book and their worst one. Every author, no matter how great or ordinary their creative talent, has that one book which is the pinnacle of their art...and they also have at least one book which just doesn't "work". Reading the first will keep you humble. Reading the second will inspire you. And being An Author will, once again, become a reachable dream.
Write, Write, Write:

·         Taking positive action can easily become non-action. Reading a book on “how-to-write” can seem to be very “writerly”.

·         But no matter how useful, there is no substitute for actually doing your own writing. Even if the story you create is half a page, the sheer act of writing again will start your creative juices flowing. All you're trying to do here is unblock any inner resistance or fear of writing again.

·         Write what you want to write without worrying about what someone else will think. Just have fun!

Avoid Comparisons:

Only your unique voice counts. Maybe that voice isn't as profound as some; maybe it’s not as humorous, but it’s yours. And your job as a writer is to strive for the best work you can produce at the current level of your skill and talent. It’s not your job to decide on how good or bad your writing is. Only the readers and, ultimately, history, will decide how your writing compares to others. All you have to do is let your voice soar across the page and fill the woods with your unique song.

Choose Another Path:

With the advent of eBooks, and the rapidly changing face of the publishing world, many new paths are opening for writers. You can traditionally publish or, like me, you can become The Fool and take the leap into independently publishing your own work. Whichever path you choose, make sure it is the right one for you.

Once these five steps become second nature, the next rejection letter (or the reader’s equivalent, a bad review) that you receive won’t feel like the worst of fortune’s might. Instead, you’ll continue writing and soon rejections will be nothing more than a conquered woe and you will be A Published Author.


Misha, thanks so much for hosting me here. I really enjoyed my visit and, to say thanks, I’d like to ask you to draw the name of a random commentator, who will win a US$15 gift voucher (from their preferred choice of book store.)

If anyone would like me to do a guest post on their blog, please email me at to discuss a suitable topic and a mutually agreeable date.


Judy Croome lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her short stories have been published in ITCH magazine and “Notes from Underground Anthology”.  She was recently shortlisted in the African Writing Flash Fiction 2011 competition. Her independently published novel, “Dancing in the Shadows of Love,” is available from Amazon and Smashwords.

Thanks so much Judy. I will be drawing the prize for the US$15 gift voucher on Wednesday, 29 July. To stand a chance to win, all you need to do is comment. You have until 1 pm GMT on Wednesday to enter.

So... How do you deal with rejection?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Twenty Questions With...

Hi all! I had another idea that I wanted to try...

Twenty Questions with...

Basically it will be a game involving one of my favorite writing-related exercises: Character interviews.

It's a really good exercise to do, be you a plotter or pantser, because the answers help you to know your characters on multiple levels...

So how does it work?

My friend, Theresa and I are picking ten (this time eleven) questions, alternating who's asking. Then we're letting one of our characters answer then. After that, we have a more specific section where we ask the characters specific questions. 

Her character's interview will be posted here. My character, James Braden from Doorways, will be on her blog.

So, without further ado: Please welcome Mia to My First Book.

OK, Mia, we're going into some easy questions first.

1)  How old are you?

I'm not sure.  Nobody ever told me and since I was so young when I was taken from my mother  that I can't remember.  I am of "indeterminate age".  I guess I am about 18.  Maybe a bit older.

2)  Where were you born?
In a small house near a river.  My first memories are of bright light shining off the surface of the calmly flowing water.  It is still my favourite place.

3)  Do you like animals?

I guess so.  The only pets I have ever had are the rats that share my room.  They are really kind creatures once you get to know them.  My owner had a dog once but it was vicious and dangerous.  I avoided it at all costs.

4)  What is your favorite pass-time?

I like to think about what it is like out there.  I see people walk about without someone guarding them.  I wonder what it is like to go to the park.  I walk around the city in my imagination.

5)  If you could take a holiday anywhere, where would you go?

Home.  I would go back to where I lived with my mother.  Maybe she is still there.  Then we can go to the beach like we used to.

6)  Who's your best friend? Be honest.

My best friend is Charlie.  We don't talk much.  He is actually my guard when I get to go outside the compound.  But he once bought me an ice cream.  I think I like him *blush*.

7)  What really gets on your nerves?

Incessant drinking.  And people who treat you like dirt.  I know I am just a servant, but would a little kindness and consideration really hurt that much?

8)  Have you ever wished anyone dead? Who?

I have wished that Jules was never born.  He is my owner.  He treats me like dirt.  Please refer to previous question.

9)  Have you ever been in love?

Not officially *smile*  Maybe a little bit with Charlie.  Please don't tell him!  He would hate me forever.

10)  What would you rather have: a house or a car?

I would prefer a house.  Who needs a car when you can walk?  But I would love to one day have a place of my own.  With a bit of garden.  I know it is highly unlikely that that would happen though.  Unless Jules sells me as someone's wife.  I think he's up to something...

11)  Describe yourself in three words.

Strong but frail.

That's an interesting combination. OK then, on to the more personal questions:

12)  How did you end up working for a beast like Jules?

He bought me from my mother when I was three. She had to pay off my father's drug debts. I was all she had to pay with. He would have killed her.

13)  Three?! Wow. How did you survive growing up like that?

I had to. My mother wouldn't want me to give up. The important thing is to not draw attention to yourself.

14)  You said earlier that you think Jules is up to something. Does he get up to stuff a lot? What does he do?

Jules is a drug lord. He has gang wars, orgies, you name it. But lately he talked about getting rid of me. At first I thought he would kill me. Now I think he has something much more sinister in mind.

15) Like what?

Strange as it may seem, I have never been ... Used. I am very valuable as a wife.

16) You mentioned that Jules might sell you. Would you see that as an escape?

It depends on who he sells me to. I don't think his usual business partners would treat me well. But maybe a stranger... I don't know.  This is all I've ever known.  I am afraid that a change would be for the worse.

17)  Rather the devil you, know...
Something like that. Still, maybe I could get away one day.

18)  Why would you wait to see what happens? Why don't you escape right now?
Where would I go? Who would help me? I am no one. The police would put me in jail because I don't have papers. Nobody would give me a job for the same reason. I am on my own.

19) I see... And Charlie? Does he make you want to stay too?

Charlie.  In a way I want to stay with him. But he made his choice. He is here because he wants to be here. If he wants to leave I would definitely go with him.

20) But if you had your chance, you'd leave him to Jules?

I... I would leave him *sniffs*

Aw. I really hope things work out for you, then. Best of luck, Mia!

Thanks for lending me your character, Theresa. It was fun!

So, ladies and gents. What did you think of the characters and the interviews? Anyone else interested in playing? I've got plenty of characters who'd love to talk. Let me know if you're interested. Extra reminder: Tomorrow's post will have a voucher up for grabs. So don't miss Guest Post Friday!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gone Fishing...

Actually, I've just gone to J.C. Martin's blog to be interviewed.

So I decided to use that as an excuse for me to be lazy.

See you tomorrow! X

P.S. I'm thinking about visiting my many blogs and sharing ones I like and why. Would you ladies and gents be interested in something like that?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Doing something different today...

I haven't gotten round to anything writing related today.

It all started last night. My told me this morning that I've been talking in my sleep. When I asked her what I said, she said she didn't know, because I was babbling in French.

Now, I haven't babbled anything in French for about four years, so I took that as a sign that my mind wanted to pick up the language again.

Which I am now doing with wild abandon.

I found a great website where I can learn phrases for free and communicate with first language speakers. I also bowed to peer pressure (both my mom and my best friend are learning Italian) and took a second language as well.

So far, I'm finding it so refreshing that I decided to take the day off from writing and revisions just so that I can give my mind another kind of exercise. And let me tell you, my brain would have clapped its hands if it had them.


If you're interested in joining up, click here. My profile name is MishaG, if you want to friend me there.

Have you ever tried different languages when on a writing break? Which languages would you love to learn?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Don't you love/hate when this happens?


I wonder if I'm the only person out there that this happens too. I get favorite characters when I watch movies. They tend to stick around afterwards. Like Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday:

Or... Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes:

But on Friday I watched a movie (not for the first time) that got me to a new level of squee. (Again, not for the first time.)

I can't explain it. It goes beyond Gerard Butler being VERY sexy in this role.

No... I can hear his voice in my mind... (DUUUUUHHHH DUN Dun dun dun duuuuuhn...)

And he isn't going away.

Now, there are worse things to have on the mind, but I can't just write him down and finish a story. He's just... a tad too well known.

He's too distinctive for me to blend into my writing.

I mean, where will I find a psychopathic (if deeply sexy) man with a deformed face running around an opera house?

How would I be able to transplant him with all of his complexities to another story? He makes me cry every time I watch the movie. Despite all the terrible things he does, my heart still goes out to him.

Especially after I made the mistake of watching this clip:

So I'm stuck. Probably until Darrion kicks his ass out of my head during revisions.

Anyone else suffer from the same character stickiness as me? Who stays with you after you read/saw him/her?

P.S... For the record, I think Christine was an idiot.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Series and Standalone Novels

Hi all! Please extend a warm welcome to one of my newer bloggy friends: Amy Lunderman. She's really sweet and her blog is always a fun place to stop for writing tips/experiences, blog fests and author interviews. So please head over there and say hi! ^_^

Hi there, many thanks to Misha for having me today! My name is Amy Lunderman and I’m a newly self-published author of They Walk and They Stumble. Which are the first two books in my They Walk Trilogy, a paranormal romance thriller with zombies. Mostly though, I’m a stay at home mom with a passion to write anything paranormal whether they are adult or young adult.

This brings me to the topic I want to talk about. This is the preference in reading and writing either a series or a standalone novel. Both options can be a tricky feat, in reading and writing the same. And everyone has their own opinion on it. For me, personally I’m a pretty big series fan. Mostly because, once I come up with a story idea it’s very hard to compact it all into one novel.
Thus, bores my question in how can do you choose between one and the other? What are the similarities and differences when choosing, and how do we know we’re making the right decision as writers? The answer is that as writers, we never know if we’re making the right or wrong decision. Or realistically there is no right answer. Every story is different, and all take the writer and reader into its own journey on its path to conclusion. To break both options down, I gathered my thoughts on what makes a series and standalone work.

Standalone Novel: With a standalone, there is one mind set to finishing, and that is to make the entire thing come to a conclusion. It usually starts with the introduction to the plot, and it reaches a crescendo, and then the plot pieces fit together and unit for the finish. This is what I usually have trouble with as a writer, it takes me forever to try to conclude the plot in just one book. As a reader though, I love getting right to the point in a story where everything has its own place and makes sense.

Novel Series: With a series, this is most times two separate mind sets. The first is a single plot that is spaced out through the entire series. The second is where the main plot is wrapped up in the first book, and then using the same theme a new plot is created for the continuation of the series. This is where a series is my choice, because you can continue the story and make it what you will. As a reader, I like to join in on the journey of the characters and see where the story takes them.

That is my take on the series vs. standalone preference, but what is yours? Do you love having a story that you know will have a conclusion with one book? Or do you love having the story carry you to places unimaginable with a series? The reading and writing world is very vast, and every part of it is a journey worth taking.

I briefly interrupt normal programming...

Hi all!

Sorry to fall in with randomness like this. Just wanted to let you know that I've finished most of the updates to the new blog rolls.

Please feel free to check if your writing/industry/book blog is in (and in the right roll). If it isn't, please let me know so that I can fix it.

Also, Some of my lists are still sparse, so feel free to give me some suggestions of blogs that I should add.

Thanks all!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Revisions are taking over my life.

It really hit me today. A realization of the extent to which revisions take over my life.

The little things. 

Like conversations at the dinner table alluding to things that are supposed to be common knowledge. Except that I don't know about it. 

Or the fact that I'm missing my blogging friends because I haven't been around as much as usual. I'm three days behind visiting commenters.  

My voice is slow on the take-off during solo-lessons because I hardly speak. 

Where I never had a TBR pile, I suddenly have a back-log of fourteen books. Not counting the fourteen books that I gave back to the library because I gave up on the idea of reading them. 

I (and this is big to those who know me) haven't been to the movies since February. 

I'm starting to get cabin fever. 

It's just that I'm getting into this place in my head where I feel what's going on. I get sucked in so much that I don't realize just how deep in I am.

So... part of me wants to take a break. Catch up with the world. The other part of me is pulling me to go on. That part I get. That's the part that's been pulling me through to page 115 yesterday.

I am going to go back to university this coming semester, so the more revisions I get done, the better.

Still, I can't help being a little afraid that I'm losing me somewhere in there.

Has anyone felt like this before? How do you deal with it? What should I do? Take a break or keep going?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Showing vs. Telling

I knew this post wouldn't take long to get onto my blog.

After all, a large portion of my revision time is spent searching out Telling sentences.

So what is a telling sentence?

To my mind, almost every sentence containing some form of the verb is. Worst case scenario: form of verb is and a form of verb be.

E.g. He was so annoyed right then.


He was being occupied by that girl again.

Brrr. Terrible.

But how to solve it?

I try to do it in a few steps.

1) I look for the point I'm trying to convey. The first sentence is about the guy's annoyance. The second one is about the girl occupying him.

2) Then I determine the feeling that I'm trying to bring across. In the first sentence, it seems to be about the guy's anger/frustration/annoyance. The second one is about the View Point Character's annoyance with the situation (the that gave it away).

3) Finally, I put the two together, using actions, stronger verbs and the VP Characters feeling. Note: There's no rule that says that all this has to be done in one sentence.

So sentence one will change to:

His eyes narrowed as his anger rolled over me in waves. My bravado fled as he took a menacing step forward. I really shouldn't have pushed him this far.

And sentence two:

No... that bastard wouldn't rush for the world. Not with the leggy blond draping herself over his shoulders. I grasped my champagne glass and downed the contents.

Those sentences still aren't that perfect, but at least they give me something to work with in future round of edits.

How do you convert "Tells" to "Shows"?

Monday, June 13, 2011

WARNING!!! Virus Threat

Good thing I've taken to updating my blog roll. I stumbled across this post on Deborah Walker's Bibliography:

Virus Warning

Now you guys, I'm sure you're smarter than me. But if you do notice a big spike in your blogger stats, 50 hits a day from someone you follow, don't go and check them out. Otherwise -- kerplammy-- you'll might get  virus fever just like me.

I've nicked Chris' computer to write this, and the lovely people at Dell are trying to sort me out, but I'm still a little feverish.

I don't know where the virus came from, I can't blame Blogger. But there's some funny business going on.  

I cannot say for sure if this is the case. 

BUT I am well aware that my blog stats has spiked AND that it has made other people spike as well. 

I would feel terrible if my blog causes the loss of data, information and money to my friends. So please, as a personal favor, I am BEGGING you to update your antivirus software right now and do a scan. 


I also want to ask you to please spread the word in case the threat is real.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Usual Suspects That Weaken Your Writing

Hi all! Welcome to another installment of Guest Post Friday! Today's special guest is D.U. Okonkwo, although he's probably better known as D.U.O. from D.U.O Says... For those of you who haven't been there before, D.U.O. Says... deals with the various aspects of writing, from waiting for agent responses to talking to ourselves as well as some other aspects to life. This is definitely one of my favorite blogs that I visit without even looking at the post's title. I hope you'll go over there and say hi! 

Take it away, D.U.O.

The Usual Suspects That Weaken Your Writing

I'm part of different online writing critique groups and get to review other writers opening chapters. In return I get mine reviewed.

Something I've noticed while reading is that many writers don’t seem to read enough. Reading makes it easier to avoid what I call ‘The Usual Suspects That Weaken Your Writing.’ These suspects are rarely seen in published novels.

When I get to review a great sample chapter it’s awesome, and I’m immediately intrigued as to what will happen next. However when I struggle to get past the first line I know I’m in trouble.

Some of the things I've noticed with the stronger chapters are the following:

1. Great characterisation - You can instantly visualise the character because they’re authentic. Consequently you can relate to the problem they face.

2. The writer is trying to hard to write lyrically. With this I mean the writing is simple and therefore brilliantly effective. Every word is there for a reason and it flows well. Trying to make a piece of fiction read like poetry rarely works.

3. Dialogue is realistic - Dialogue can be the hardest thing to write, but when it's done right, it's great.

Some of the things I've noticed with the weaker chapters. These are the usual suspects:

1. Exclamation marks throughout the prose. This is trying to force the reader to have a strong reaction to what you've written. This rarely happens. The reader is new to the story so unlikely to feel any strong emotions yet. Better to craft a scene that engages the reader to have a strong reaction.

2. Making stars out of secondary characters. Others may disagree but for me, I need to know who the main character is. I need to know their name, what their purpose is, and why they are the narrator. Secondary characters should never have a bigger presence than the main character. It’s the main character that should be at the centre of the readers’ mind.

3. A lot of tell, not enough show. We're all guilty of this, and this is where the process of editing makes your writing shine. Instead of saying, 'Mike was angry,' for example, you can replace it with something more demonstrative such as, ‘Mike’s face tightened / Mike gritted his teeth.' The word angry needn't be said at all, the reader will get it.

What do you all think makes a good/bad chapters? Any pet loves/hates when reading?

Thanks so much for this great post, D.U.O.! I know I now have a few things to look out for in my writing.

Any of my bloggy friends can book a Guest Post Friday slot. I still have plenty open, from the third week of July onwards. You can post about anything you like, as long as it is reading/writing/literary world related. If you're interested, please contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com for more information or to book a slot. Can't wait to hear from you!

The benefit of multiple critique partners

Yesterday (today for my friends a few time zones back) was one of those days where my day took a completely different spin from what I expected. But it was necessary to do, so there you are. Anyway, I hate that my posting is getting a bit erratic, so I'm posting now to compensate for the lack yesterday. My regular GPF is going up later today at 2PM(ish) CAT.

I've been thinking about crit partners last night as I went to sleep. A lot of people seem to believe (me included) that the best thing about crits are if they all pick up something for you to correct. 

But then I was struck by something. (Sorry if this is old news.) All of us are wired differently. I'm a stickler for plot and characterization. I've been lucky enough to have  found a CP who's great at Voice. 

Still another one is great at pointing out mediocre word choices and crutch words. 

All of us have different talents. Which is great for me. 

See, the devil is in the details. Those small, subtle errors that you miss won't get past someone with a knack for picking up those types of errors. 

I think that's the beauty of being in the crit group or having more than on CP. It's just that more likely to get the mistakes spotted.  

So, what are your strengths and weaknesses when you write? Are you part of a crit group or crit partner arrangement?  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I took a writing break. To write.

To think that my day started out a little bleak. 

I couldn't explain it before, but I realized today what it was. This might sound a little weird, but I blame one of my characters. 

See, when I first started to write Doorways, the characters came into my head and told me what happened. 

No, I have to get the voice to come out strong. I have to get into their heads. 

And let's just say that there's a head that I don't find very comfortable. When I started  to revise this part of the story, I thought it would be easy. Only one voice to deal with, right. 

Uhm... Yes... But... 

That one voice is trying to drag me to memories of me the closest I've ever been to depression. 

So... no. Not easy. Because there's just no freaking break from it. I can only hope that it reads better than it writes.

Anyway, I ended up writing the first part of a book that's been in my head for a while, but only fell into place when I went to visit friends a few weeks ago. 

Just like that, my day improved. I really like the story premise. And to be honest, I love the thrill of drafting something new after months of only focusing on Doorways. 

I'll get back to the revisions tomorrow, though. Don't want to fall behind just because my focus wandered. 

Doorways is still the love of my life. 

I'd just made a new friend. 

Have you ever needed to break from writing or editing because a character became too much? Has something like that ever happened to you? How do you deal with it? 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My interesting discovery about plot holes.

Hi all! Just want to leave another reminder to pencil in 24 June. There's a voucher at stake! ^_^

Then, I want to ask you to go over and say hi to my friend, Theresa. I did a double whammy and drew her over to the Dark Side. She's starting to write and... she's starting to blog. So please head over to I Need To Write and show your support and love. :-)

So... plot holes.

The bane of our existence, right? Every writer I know from the trenches had to face this nasty little weapon of mass procrastination.

Everything goes along swimmingly. Characters come and go. Story lines flow.

And then we almost stumble over a cliff. What do we do?

Turning back is an option (if you're drafting on a computer), but then we have to live with the fact that you might have to settle for an end destination that wasn't your first choice. I hate that.

So... we stare at the abyss trying to find around or down.

Well... that's my discovery about plot holes. They shouldn't make us change direction or retreat.

It should make us think harder, knowing that every plot hole has a solution if you think about it long enough. And those solutions! They can potentially solve more problems than the ones you can see now.

So now I've come to love plot holes, even if it's just in the way I love annoying family members.

Because those cliffs aren't there to stop me. They're there to teach my writing how to fly.

How do you go about solving plot problems?

Monday, June 6, 2011

I was planning to answer tag questions, but I'm neck deep in revisions so...

Hi all! Just want to advise you to pencil in 24 June. There's an Amazon voucher being given away...

So... revisions.

Interesting things... I was demoralized on Sunday because I didn't get as far as I'd thought I would.

Then today happened and I'm at page 51 of 467. Now that might not sound all that spectacular, but if you put in in proportions, I've done one ninth of my first round revisions in four days.

And the day hasn't ended yet.

I think I can get first round out of my way in three to four weeks if things keep going well.

But I have to work my hide off now, just in case some of those days are difficult.

So... That's me for today. Sorry that this is so short. I just wanted to let you know that I haven't been abducted by aliens or anything like that. I'm... just being possessed by my characters.


Normal procedure, really.

See you all tomorrow!

Ooh! I'm dying to know: How are you all doing? Who's doing a first draft? Rewrite? Editing?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

From a dark and evil YA writer...

I just read this article, so please excuse me if this post takes on ranting proportions.

But this sort of thing just grates me to the point where I want to hit something... So... Here's my say.

I write YA.

I write it because teens are at that stage in their lives when anything and everything can happen, depending on the choices they make. It can be a time of endless potential.

The whole world can be an adventure waiting to start.

It can also be a personal hell.

Indeed. Just because we want our world to stretch before us pure and unspoilt, doesn't make it so.

Throwing a tantrum in the press won't make global warming go away. It won't stop the hike in homicides. It won't make rapists think twice about what they are doing. It won't make people stop bullying.

In fact, it will make the person throwing the tantrum seem a little naive.

So how does this lock in with the above mentioned article?

Well (and some of my readers might have read this before) we writers have a function in society.

We don't teach.

We don't preach.

We don't tell.

We show.

We show the world with its flaws. We show violence. We show the ramifications of that violence. We show that teens aren't the only ones with self-image problems. We show that people subjected to the most terrifying and horrible of situations can come out of it.

We're not Teachers. We're not doctors.

We are oracles.


And refusing to reflect some things just because it makes certain elements in society squirm is an abuse of our skills of writers.

Rape Exists.
Homophobia Exists.
Murder and Suicide among teens?

You guessed it.

Now, I also can't stomach every terrible event that occurs in YA, but that does not give me the right for criticising writers for being brave enough to pen those words down.

Because writers have a duty to show the pain inflicted as much as the joys experienced. The dark and ugly should get as much attention as the beautiful.

People lose things. 
People lose people that are close to them. 
People suffer from mental conditions and those "unspoken" pathologies. 

Will it hurt them more to read something like that? Only if they're masochists. Because most people put down books that they can't handle. 

YA is not as terrible as it is being made to seem.
All YA books aren't there to say: "Oh look at me! I'm smut and want to ruin you for future generations." 
Good YA books say: "Look. You're in a scary phase of your life, but you can get through it." 
Some are motivational: "You're not alone. You're not the only one with problems and you can face them no matter what. Now go live your own story." 
Some are cautionary: "Please don't make the same mistake as..."

But they ALL have a function for certain sorts of people.

How dare anyone decide for us which books should be allowed and which ones shouldn't.

Smut don't reach readers because people don't like reading it.

But while we're on the topic of smut... who has the right to decide what is smut and what is acceptable? Smut depends on taste. It depends on individual perception.

As a final point of objection:

Is it so wrong to object to the censoring of good books just because The Guardians of Collective Morality decided what should be allowed?

Oh it is?

I'm sorry...

Then let the burning of books and the live burials of writers begin...

What's your opinion?