50,000 words of leftover casserole

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^^This is why I only wrote one blog post in November.^^

NaNoWriMo was hard this year. There were a few days, lumped together, that I didn’t write anything. Playing catch-up really killed the creative juices.

During the last two days of the month, I had to write 10,000 words to reach my goal. To me, that’s five chapters. Five! Those last words I wrote are comparable to mashing all of the Thanksgiving leftovers into one big glob of chunky casserole.

Early on, I’d prepared a nice, detailed grocery list, recipes, and outline for my Thanksgiving feast of words. See my outline HERE. I prepared for my meal all month and lovingly sprinkled words here and there like seasoned salt and pumpkin pie spice. They were glorious and touched on all of my senses. “Writing is the best thing ever!” I thought over and over, when I was naive and visions of delicious words consumed my thoughts.

The deadline drew closer and I still flitted around the kitchen with a smile, writing words that were beautiful to behold.

But soon it got sweaty in the kitchen. I couldn’t cook up the words as quickly as I had. The flavors began to muddle together. But I kept at it. I cinched my apron tight and pulled up my sleeves. I was determined to create something edible. The timer dinged just after I put on the last of the edible embellishments.

Edible is relative. Everyone has different tastes. I shrugged my aching shoulders and sampled my feast of words.

It stinks. The turkey is dry. The mashed potatoes are blobs of goo. My delicious novel is finished, yes, but it is dripping with plot holes, spelling mistakes, and red ink. Even the crust of the pumpkin pie is burnt!

It stinks BIG time.

But unlike a ruined feast, I can go back and fix things. I can take out and add and make it delicious. I can deconstruct the stinky casserole! The words are at least there. The concept, outline, and rough draft are there. I can clear the air and put gravy on the dry turkey. Pumpkin pie is better loaded up with whip cream and without the crust anyway, right?

After NaNoWriMo last year, I wrote a post on how to edit your novel. It is called “Whip it into shape.”  Here is the link.

I can fix this feast of a novel because I am determined to make it delicious!

Happy writing (and editing)

  • Tara

The Eyes are the window to our… P.O.V.

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(drawings are mine)

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(photo found on editing-writing.com)

P.O.V. when writing, stands for Point Of View.

Many years ago when I joined my first critique group, I was lucky and grateful that the amazing Janette Rallison happened to be in my local chapter. She has written over twenty fabulous and award winning novels. Teaching point of view, is her specialty. She is the P.O.V. queen and I remember her saying that P.O.V. issues are the first thing that will get your manuscript nixed. It is the largest area of novel writing that beginners struggle with. Me included! Seriously, she shredded the first draft of my first novel.

I have written in First, Third, and Omniscient Points of view. For some reason in the early conceptual stages, I see what point of view my story should be and my characters begin talking to me. The best way to decide how you are going to write your novel is by noticing how your characters speak to you. Do you feel an intense, close connection with your main character — enough to know how he/she would feel and act and what they would say? Or do you feel connections with all of your characters and want all of them to tell your story?

It helps if you notice what you like to read. I think this will make your story unfold more naturally if you are subconsciously drawn to a specific writing style. It’s kind of how I feel about present tense. My brain doesn’t think in present tense. Some people have passionate views for or against present tense, but it just doesn’t mesh with me and I have a hard time reading it, so why would I write that way?

Also, you could see what books are selling right now and what readers are liking when it comes to POV. Although, I believe that you should not write for mainstream. Write for yourself!

First, you need to decide whose point of view is going to tell your story. Deciding on how and who you want to tell your story, will change the entire outcome. Is it going to be:

First person – The story is narrated by a character, usually the protagonist, and the story will unfold with “I”, “me”, “mine”, or plural “we”. I like this point of view because we can convey the internal and unspoken thoughts through your character. This person takes actions and makes judgements through their eyes. I feel more intimate connections with characters that are written in first person.

Second person – This point of view is rarely used. This type of story is narrated by the character referring to the reader as “you”. It’s like the narrator is telling your story or making you feel like a participant in the story. I don’t have an example that comes to mind and I would love an example if any of you have one. Second person is often used in songwriting or poetry in an attempt to connect with the audience by making the reader feel it is them.

Third person – This point of view is probably the most common and gives the author the most flexibility to tell more of the story. I like writing this way for that reason. The characters are referred by the narrator as “he”, “she”, “it”, or “they”. Never “I” or “we” (first person) or “you” (second person). The narrator is an uninvolved entity who conveys the story, but is not a character.

Omniscient – This point of view is presented by a narrator that has an overall knowledge of everything. I like to think of it as an all-knowing entity, like God. The narrator sees and knows the actions and feelings of all of the characters within the story. This point of view is often used in epic, complicated stories that have many characters or children’s picture books. Although we get to see what is going on with all of the many characters, often times it is hard for the reader to connect or sympathize with the main characters. If not done correctly this P.O.V. can look lazy and is the sure sign of an amateur.

Alternating points of view – This is done by switching between different character points of view whether it be in first-person or third person. I also like writing this way because I can tell a more rounded story by being inside different characters heads. It is very important to switch points of views at a new chapter or page break so the reader is not confused. If you switch points of view without breaks, it is called head hopping, and that is bad.

Those are the bare bones of point of view. I could go into more detail, but I wanted to discect first and third person point of view.

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(photo found on icanhascheeseburger.com)

Thanks to Janette and wonderful editors, I am super sensitive to P.O.V. mistakes now. But sometimes those sneaky devils slip past. I’m going to give some examples… see if you can spot them.

* “He pointed his finger at me, wagging it as he did so. He was frustrated and upset and I began to cry.” — The problem with this example is that we see what someone other than the point of view character is feeling. We do not know exactly what others think. We can guess by their body language or reactions, but we do not know, so your character would not know either. Sometimes you can easily fix this by writing instead: “He pointed his finger at me, wagging it as he did so. His lips formed into a tight line, hinting to me that he was angry. The sting of hot tears formed in my eyes.”

another example:

* “My blue eyes met the steely gaze of his deep, coffee colored eyes.” — Cheesy, I know, but I wanted to illustrate that when in first person, the main character wouldn’t naturally think of her own eye color. Think about it, the reader puts themselves into the main character. When you look at someone, do you think. “Oh, my blue eyes are looking at your brown eyes.” Weird, just weird. And I admit… I used to do that when I wanted to tell or remind the reader about eye color! Ahh! – Bless you Janette.

When you understand P.O.V., most of your writing problems will be fixed.

* It helps with showing and not telling. You describe things as the character would and it comes out more genuine and believable when tied to a solid Point of view.

* It helps with description and pacing. The point of view of your character decides what they choose to see. Also, when the pace is fast (maybe a chase scene), the character won’t notice as many details

* Solid P.O.V. clarifies the goals and motivation. By getting into the characters head, the reader can see into their inner dialogue and desires. We feel what the character feels, and want what the character desires.

* It creates higher stakes. We get into the personality of the character and see what matters internally to the character and why they react the way they do. Therefore creating a stronger drive for the character to achieve their goal.

Point of View is one of those things that once you are aware, it begins to become obvious. When my edits went back and forth between me and my editor, I couldn’t believe what we still caught, even up until the final edits. Little, tiny things like, “your character wouldn’t notice this” or “she wouldn’t think this.”

What are some of your favorite points of view that you like to read or write? I’d love to hear!

— Happy writing and thanks for stopping by!

Tara

Info Dumping

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Last month while I was at a critique group, before I began to read my chapter out loud, I asked for them to look for Info Dumps. When I was finished I asked if anyone noticed any. Each person shook their head and said no. Phew, my little plan worked.

I had actually inserted a ton of info into the scene, but no one even noticed. The reason for this is because I turned it into a conversation between two and then three people.

I will describe what an info dump is.

Info dumps are chunks of information “dumped” into the story to bring in back story or information. They usually stop the story and interrupt the flow. They are often author footnotes that the author feels the reader needs to know. More often then not, it doesn’t sound like the character and feels like information shoved into where it doesn’t belong. The reader might begin to daydream or think “why is the author telling me this now?” Blah, blah, blah. An Information Dump occurs when background information is not interwoven with the narrative. Scenes in a playscript are often introduced with a brief information dump to explain the situation the characters are in. Blah, Blah, (have I lost you yet?) In serial television dramas, information dumps often appear in episodes as a brief montage of scenes from earlier episodes, prefaced with the phrase “Previously on [name of series]”. blah, blah, blah (Half of this paragraph are my words, other half was found in Wikipedia)

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“What did you just explain to me?” the person sitting at the computer asked with glazed over eyes.

“An Info Dump,” I replied.

“What is an Info Dump?”

“When the author crams in a bunch of unnecessary detail that makes the reader bored to death,” I answered simply.

***See, isn’t that basically what I needed to say?***

??? How to fix Info Dumps ???

* For me the best way to fix this problem is to include large amounts of information into a dialogue or better yet, an argument between characters. This way, characters can debate and you can sprinkle in inner dialogue and body language to show the reader more details about the scene. Of course, don’t have the conversation last forever either. Interrupt the characters, etc. The scene will then become fast paced and, like the above example with my critique partners, people seem to not even notice.

* You can also sprinkle bits of information and knowledge along the way so it doesn’t become one long piece of narrative.

* You can have the info dump become a problem between characters that brings in tension. The scene and characters can change and react as more bits of information and backstory are revealed.

* Try introducing an uninformed character. This person comes into your novel mainly to uncover details and history. You can bring information into your story by having your characters explain things to this new innocent person.

* Relate the information to what is currently going on in the novel. Have your tangents be current in the storyline. Maybe something happens to your character that sparks a short memory therefore causing a conversation starting with “remember when…”

Sharing information in your novel is a balancing act between giving the reader enough information that they don’t become confused — and not giving them too much that they become frustrated and bored.

To illustrate my point, here is a tidbit from my work in progress.

*******

“Sage?” He was looking at me with eyebrows raised.

“Huh?” I asked. “Did you ask something?”

He rolled his eyes, “I asked if you have seen many wolves when you’ve been out.”

“Oh.” I cleared my throat and sat taller in my saddle. Good, small talk is good. “Not lately, but I’ve seen clues that the packs are growing bigger.”

He nodded. “Do you remember after all the lawsuits and debates, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995?”

I shrugged and he continued, “it was before we were born, but I remember my Dad cursing those dang wolves. He would always get a healthy check from Defenders of Wildlife from their compensation fund. His livestock decreased by 50% because of the wolves.” He adjusted his wide brim cowboy hat.

I smiled. I always loved it when he did that.

He shook his head not knowing I was watching him. “And that was years and years ago. I worry that they have a monopoly over the food supply.” He continued, “Did you know. . .”

I settled down into my saddle. Whenever he started a sentence with “did you know,” it was a sure sign that you’d learn something cool, so might as well get comfortable. Joe knew a lot about a lot of things, especially those issues he was passionate about. He was always reading from the countless books of my fathers. I knew this was going to be a long debate or lesson in wolves.

“. . . the gray wolf is one of the world’s most well researched animals, with probably more books written about it than any other animal  I found all these awesome old black and white sketches of wolves in Yellowstone before 1926. Because, you know, that’s when the last wolf was killed in Yellowstone.”

“Hmm, interesting.” I said wondering where he was going with this.

His eyes lit up when he realized I was kind of contributing to this conversation. “Well, when the wolves were no longer here, the elk population boomed.” He lifted up his hands and spread them out. “I mean so large that they unbalanced the local ecosystem.”

“That’s weird, how so?” I asked.

“The herds grew so large that when they grazed over the meadows and river beds, they trampled over all the new-growth and small trees. So in the end, that’s why the decision to reintroduce wolves won out.” He was quiet for a while as we watched night drip around us. “So in essence, wolves have the power to change the land. They are an apex predator, only humans are their real threat. But I am afraid, because now — there are more wolves then there are humans.”

 *******

This was also pre-edit. I will slim even more of this conversation to just get to the bones of the information. I left it in so you could see the full conversation. I would love to hear if any of you have other ways that you avoid the info dump. 🙂

Have a good day 🙂

-Tara

Whip It Into Shape

It only took me around eight months to write my novel Broken Smiles.

It took me three years to edit the same novel.

Yes it was my first book that I finished to the end, and part of that was the submission process, but towards the end, before I signed the contract, I was ready to shelf the dang thing. In fact, I did.

It was discovered because I submitted my second book, a Christmas novella, “Eight Birds for Christmas” into a few Christmas competitions. It was rejected by some, but I also had a couple publishers interested. When it came time to sign contracts, I sent in my full novel on a whim and said, “here’s something else I have finished.” Right away the publisher I ended up going with wanted to get started on Broken Smiles first and then release Eight Birds for Christmas during the holidays. So that’s what happened.

I guess the moral to that story is, after you have done all you can do and enlisted the help of others in your circle, if it’s your best possible work with where you are now… don’t give up. I almost did.

With NaNoWriMo (click to find out more) finishing up last week, I want to talk about editing. I have done that crazy, whirlwind writing competition a couple times before. One year I finished, another year, life got too busy and I only ended up with 35,000 words. That type of writing is so fun for me. Turning off the editorial brain thrills me and the words seem to bleed easily. But then comes December and you are left with a mess of a story. For months you revise, edit, and slash those words into something readable.

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Below is my editing process. I am much more faster now, and my circle of people who help me has grown, but I think that this can apply to anyone on their own personal writing path.

* Before you begin the editing process, you need to learn track changes in Word perfect. There is only one person who I print full copies for, and that is because she is fabulous and old school. Other than that, everyone else edits with track changes. It really is a great tool and has sped up the process tremendously. Plus it helps save trees!

* First – I must admit… I have a secret weapon… My mother. I mean, just look at some of the pages she sends back to me!

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She is not your typical mother when it comes to cheering your book baby on. Yes, she is kind and loving, but she is also critical and looks at it with an editorial eye. Whenever I send her pages, I imagine her arming herself with pen as a sword as she prepares for battle. Also, she has written eight books and edits for other authors.

So my first bit of advise is to ask yourself “who is your secret weapon?” Is it a fellow critique partner, neighbor, friend? Someone who owes you a huge favor. (because that is exactly what this is) Who is willing to look at your very first draft after you have done all you can do to whip it into shape? That person is key because they will get you to the next step, which is…

* Second –  Alpha readers. (If you don’t have a secret weapon, this takes place) I feel sorry for these guys, really I do. They are given a mess because they are given your second draft. I say second because the first draft should be all on you. Do not waste your Alpha readers time by giving them a complete piece of junk. Just kind of waste their time by giving them kind of a piece of junk. First drafts have heaps of problems and these poor people who you asked to help, hopefully know what they are getting into. These people find holes in your story and help with content and overall story line. I think they usually catch blaring line edits as well. But mostly they are readers who read a lot and know the basics, not necessarily writers.

* The time I spent between my Alpha and Beta readers spanned over a couple years for my first novel. I am faster now, but it was a huge learning experience for me and I went through the roller coaster of wondering if what I wrote was any good. I bit the bullet and hired a content editor during this time. She helped me slash 30,000 words, moved chapters, and killed many of my darlings. I suggest you hire a content editor before a line editor. Do your research when finding an editor. You want someone thorough and who will almost make you cry, but also will cheer you on. It can be very daunting when opening up track changes and seeing that almost every line, I mean every line, has either a comment or change to accept or delete. Oh, and as a side note, keep track of your different drafts. Hide the past drafts within a folder in a deep dark corner of your computer so you won’t get confused. Rename the drafts back and forth to your editor with numbers or dates.

* Third – Beta readers. These people get your polished draft. Once you have gone over the harsh edits from your Alphas or secret weapons, and the editors (both content and line) it’s time to move to the next level. After you have gotten over the shock of realizing your story might suck, these Betas can help revive hope again. They usually are experienced writers or people who work in the business. After you have gone over the returned suggestions from your Betas, this is when you submit to agents and publishers. Or, I am guessing this is when you self-publish your novel. Although, if I was to self-publish, I think I would hire a different editor to look at the final, final draft before it goes live.

* When you get an agent or a publisher, the process starts all over again. And oh yea, there will be deadlines! Doesn’t that sound like the funnest thing ever! I couldn’t believe the things my publisher and new team of editors, proofers, and readers found. For that very reason, I was glad that I traditionally published first. I now know that you can never be done editing. I think some people jump the gun too early when it comes to self-publishing.

* The final step is releasing it into the wild unknown. By this time you will have become so sick of looking at the words of your manuscript, that you will hardly remember the storyline. It all becomes a blur of punctuation, adjectives, nouns, run-on sentences, point of view issues, etc… By this time and after all that hard work, next you become a marketer. And if you thought editing was fun and relaxing — you just wait!

I don’t want to discourage anyone. I have never learned so much in my life — not in school, or college, or from any book. It is a whirlwind of information that is hard to explain until you go through it. It is an exciting journey that should be enjoyed. Yes it can be stressful at times, but you come out changed and better at the craft.

One of the main things to not change during this process, is to constantly be a humble student. Don’t ever let your head get so big that you are unteachable. There is always something more to learn or another way to see things being done. Just last month I went to a conference and sat through a class that was titled “how to write your first draft.” I learned so much because the presenter shared examples and things I had never heard of before. So now, as I tackle a new work in progress, I am armed with yet another tool of the trade.

Best of luck as you edit your book!

-Tara

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Thank you Jodi Milner over at http://myliteraryquest.wordpress.com for the opportunity to be a part of this blog tour. Jodi writes epic fantasy and is a very talented writer. She is my Vice President in Anwa Storytellers. She keeps me in line and helps me, as the President, to remember upcoming dates, introduce new members, and nudges me to stay on track during our meetings! I tend to be scatterbrained. (ask my kids and husband!) I am always anxious to hear her feedback because she offers marvelous critiquing.

The blog tour asks for four questions.

What am I working on?

Well, a lot actually! I am deep into editing for my debut novel Broken Smiles, set tentatively for an August release through Astraea Press. To counter the rigorous brain-pain of editing, I have to write creatively.

My creative outlet right now, is working on the second book in the Vagabond trilogy. It is a Young Adult Fantasy and dark romance. Hop on over to my “Works in Progress” for more info on those books. I am so excited for this series! Although they still need work before I submit, I feel like my writing has grown since I started on them almost three years ago. I did get a request for the manuscript from my dream publisher. So, I am also polishing the first novel to send over to them.

How does my work differ from others in my genre?

My novel Vagabond differs because I want it to feel real. Sure, it has plenty of fantastical elements, but I also want to create a sense that my novels could actually be real. The creatures in Vagabond are a subject that many people actually believe in – Sasquatch!

For many summers, I would move horses through the mountains of Montana to a horse ranch. In college, the mountains called me home and I moved there. My love for that part of the world runs through my veins like the raging wild rivers that weave through that majestic country. I think because of my deep love for the mountains, the setting of Yellowstone National Park comes alive. I have actually referred to my journals and sketchbooks while I lived there, to echo into my novels. It’s been a fun world to escape into.

Why do I write what I do?

Um, because the story won’t leave me alone until I do!

I know this is ridiculous, but I have a contemporary Women’s Romance fiction (Broken Smiles), a YA fantasy trilogy (Vagabond), a middle grade series (from a young boys perspective), a Christmas novella, a screenplay, and a children’s book. It’s such an amateur move to write in so many different genres.

Do I care? . . . No!

I am still finding my voice. I am still finding my niche. I know I love writing romance, but I have really enjoyed exploring writing things my two boys would like.

How does my writing process work?

The process of writing, for me, usually occurs in the middle of the night, when everyone else is asleep. Or, I tend to be a professional daydreamer (hence the comment above about being scatterbrained!)

I have long sheets of butcher paper for every novel on the walls next to my bed. I have numbered all of the chapters in my books. During the dark hours, when my brain wakes me up with an idea or a passage of dialogue, I click on my Petzl headlight and scribble down my ideas onto the chapter where it should go. I can hopefully then fall asleep again. When the thoughts won’t leave me alone, I sigh, grab my computer, and head downstairs to write until the genius (see link) leaves me.

So I guess this explains why I look like a zombie sometimes and why I occasionally zone out when someone is talking to me.

 – Tara Mayoros –

I now will continue this blog on to a couple outstanding authors. Check out their blogs and books.

Jeff Salter – http://taketwoonromance.weebly.com

Bio: Jeff Salter is a Somerset, KY resident. Published by Astraea Press & Dingbat Publishing. Retired library administrator. Former newspaper photo-journalist & editor. U.S. Air Force veteran. Fiction already released: four novels & two novellas. Three new releases scheduled for 2014.

Brenda Gallaherhttp://brendabirchgallaher.blogspot.com

Bio: Brenda Birch Gallaher is a writer who has lived in 22 states and has visited 9 foreign countries. She is the middle of five children so she has plenty of accidents/incidents from her childhood to choose from to include in any given story she is writing on. She has one novel out to a publisher waiting for a good answer while working on her next project.