Friday, June 24, 2016

Y is for Why

Margaret lists questions to be answered before starting a book 


Writing a story is a whole list of why questions.

Why does the heroine act as she does?

Why does the hero act as he does?

Why am I starting at this point in the story?

Why are there trust issues?

Why does the heroine feel vulnerable?

Why does she fall in love with the hero?

Why does he fall in love with her?

All of these need answering before you even begin to write. It’s a necessary and intriguing process but a very useful one, and I’m sure there are far more questions you can add to this list.











Thursday, June 23, 2016

Y is for New YEAR'S Eve Revisions

Debra is working on edits and revisions.

Well, I'm supposed to be working on edits and revisions. Over a month ago I received my first edit for New Year's Eve at The Corral back from my editor. It was accompanied by this note:

I enjoyed this but didn't get the satisfaction I get from your others. In such a short space you weren't able to fully develop the characters. Ideas: More physical contact while decorating in that opening. Maybe everyone sits to eat before the crowd starts arriving--even if it's lunch instead of dinner. Not sure what to suggest. Did you have a beta? Was he/she happy with it as-is?

I did not use a beta reader...I rarely do which is probably something I need to reevaluate and perhaps do more of in the future. It is shorter than my other stories - on purpose - but maybe it's a bit too short. And while it's good to know she really liked my past work, obviously this particular one needs a bit more...something. So I told her I would see what I could do. I also told her I was busy with other things and wanted to do it right and that it would take more than a weekend or a week to figure something out. She said that was fine.

To be honest, I haven't done much with it aside from taking a passing moment or two and asking myself how I'm going to add some oomph and character development to this story. Between the end of the school year and some other projects I've been working on, writing has taken a back seat. (In fact I totally forgot about the release date for Fourth of July at The Corral until it was literally a day away.) This isn't unusual, I feel that my writing career goes in phases of spurts and stops from time to time. And to be honest, I'm okay with that. I always seems to have ideas in my head for stories, but I don't always have the drive to get them down in written format. When I do have the drive, I go full steam ahead.

Yesterday, however, I got a 'checking in' e-mail from my editor asking how it was going. It had been over a month since I'd been in contact with her, so she probably was wondering if I'd dropped off the face of the earth. I told her it was coming slowly (if a standstill can be considered 'slow') but now that summer vacation had officially started I had time to dedicate to the project. I'm doing a read-through. It's been a while since I've read the story, so hopefully coming at it with fresh eyes will help me to see opportunities to strengthen the story, more fully develop the characters, and really make it pop. I feel like I know my characters pretty well, since they've been appearing in the other books in the series for a few years now, but obviously a reader picking up this story for a read-alone is going to need a bit more to go on.

And so there's Goal Number One for summer writing.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Y is for Your and You're

Paula gets irritated by GPS errors i.e. Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling.

Your going to have to watch you’re grammar! Does this make you cringe? It ought to! How many times have you seen ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ used wrongly? Or Their, They’re and There? I can cope with this kind of error on Facebook and Twitter – after all, people are often dashing off quick responses, and we all make errors and/or typos.

I can usually forgive GPS errors in blogs too, since many bloggers are not aspiring to be authors. However, if I see this kind of error in a book blurb (as I did recently), or worse still, in the text of a published book, it’s a huge turn-off for me. All it says is that (a) either the author doesn’t have a clue about correct GPS or (b) he/she hasn’t bothered to do a thorough and careful edit or (c) has an ‘editor’ who hasn’t a clue either!

I firmly believe that, as authors, it is our responsibility to write correct English. By that, I mean we should know and obey the basic rules of GPS. Admittedly, some can be broken, but we need to know which can and which can’t.

I’ll stick my neck out and say the rules concerning apostrophes should never be broken, but frequently are. I’ve recently seen ‘Lilians’ hand’, and ‘The Bartlett’s were going on vacation’. In the latter case, the author (admittedly not a published author but one who writes a lot of online fan-fiction) replied to someone (not me) who pointed out that it should be ‘Bartletts’ saying ‘It looks better with an apostrophe’. I was speechless!

There are plenty of grammar websites where authors can check on GPS rules. Although I was fortunate to be educated at a time when there was great emphasis on grammar, I still have to check on things sometimes. I just wish some other authors would do so too!

What grammar or punctuation errors irritate you the most?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Y Is For Yay!

Jennifer sees improvements with editing...

My favorite part of writing is starting a new story. I love the inspiration that flows and allows me to sit at my keyboard, creating people and situations and ultimately, the happily ever after we all crave.

My second favorite part is typing “The End.” It means I’ve completed the project, seen my original vision through to the end, even if it’s very different from what I first imagined.

But then the difficult part starts—the editing. I usually leave a manuscript to sit for a few weeks so that I can tackle it with fresh eyes. And those eyes often weep when they see what first passed as “writing.” As I’m rereading and editing what I’ve written, I’m convinced that everything is horrible and it will never make an even halfway decent story. I question everything I ever thought, including why I wanted to be a writer in the first place.

If I’m lucky, though, the edits I make start to sharpen the story, further developing the characters and plot and somehow, make the good parts shine. And I can start to see that not everything about the story is awful. Ultimately, with a lot of hard editing work, things will improve.

That’s where I am with my current WIP. I wrote the entire book in February. I’m just getting to the editing now—life has been a little busy. And in my first pass, I was heartbroken, because as much as I want to like this story, it was pretty awful. But little by little, as I’m editing and being ruthless with what works and doesn’t, I’m sorting through it and focusing on the good parts. And there are good parts, which, with a lot of work, will make this into a terrific story, I hope.

The bones are there. The potential exists. Now I just have to put in the work!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The X Factor

Paula asks what gives a novel the X factor.

The dictionary defines the X factor as “a quality that you cannot define that makes someone or something very special.” The judges on the X Factor reality shows claim to know which singers have this indefinable quality; the members of the public sometimes have different ideas.

The same applies to novels. I’m not talking about professional critics versus the reading public, but about how different people can have very different ideas about what gives a book the indefinable X factor.

Has anyone ever recommended a book to you –and then you’ve read it (or maybe just started to read it) and wondered whatever they saw in it? That’s happened to me several times.

I’ve seen plenty of articles online that tell us the ‘essentials’ for a successful novel but, in the end, it’s not the writing tutor or even the writer who can pinpoint the X factor. It’s the readers – and, of course, their perceptions of that X-factor are individual to each of them. That's very apparent when you look at reviews, which can range from 1 star to 5 stars for the same book. Each review is valid, because it represents that person's reaction to the story.
As writers, we can’t hope to please all the readers all the time. All we can hope is that some of them find that 'indefinable quality' in our stories.

X As A Signature

Jennifer talks about signing your name...

Yesterday, Ana mentioned how X is used as a signature and that got me thinking. Well, honestly, I’d thought of X as a signature the night before as I was drifting to sleep, so technically, Ana reminded me, but I digress.

Before people learned to write, or for those unable to write, X is an acceptable form of one’s signature. I’m not quite sure why, since anyone can use it. It was often used by women who weren’t taught to write. It was definitely used by the lower classes.

It stuck in my mind because I’ve been filling out a lot of forms recently, which require signatures. Even my kids have had to sign the forms, and what strikes me is the look of their signature. Cursive is still taught in school, but not for very long. My kids type almost everything they do, and they much prefer printing to writing in cursive, so their signatures look like little kids are signing their names, even though they’re teenagers and one is almost legal, at least when it comes to forms.

As authors, we sign our books for book signings and when we give our books to someone we know (whether as a gift or not). If we just signed “X,” how would the reader feel? I know as a reader, I love when I get a personalized message from an author I know and like. An “X” wouldn’t be as meaningful.

I have some author friends who ask me to sign my books but not to write messages because they may want to use my book in a giveaway of theirs. While I love the idea of getting my books in front of other eyes, there is a small part of me that feels weird when they actually admit they’re not going to keep my book. Is it the same as admitting you’ve returned a gift or given it away? I’m not sure, but it feels like it sometimes.

One of the nicest things an established author did for me when I had my first book published was give me a roll of “Signed by author” stickers. She was happy for me and said I’d need them. Every time I sign my books, I think of her and her kindness. Someday, I’ll pass that roll (or a similar one) onto someone else.

Our signatures are more than an X. They are our identity.

Monday, June 13, 2016

X is a hard letter to write about

Ana muses about the letter X and x-treme astronomy

X is like a bull's eye, marking the exact spot where the arrow or scalpel should penetrate.
It swallows accompanying letters, like the 'e' in extra.
It's the default signature for those who can't yet read or who've suffered a serious stroke.
It can be penetrating, as in X-ray.
It's a choice for beginning names of new subatomic particles, which only a few scholars understand.
Curiously,  the light from a distant black hole is brighter than that of a visible star.