I’ve been Published in “Quantum Fairy Tales”

Quantum Fairy Tales” is a newly formed non-profit online publication.  They describe themselves as a “nonprofit, all volunteer, all donation, quarterly e-zine showcasing art and literature with elements of science fiction, fantasy, and the supernatural, with weekly website articles and author/artist highlights.”  They’ve just released their second issue, and one of my poems, “Shadow,” was accepted for the publication.

The poem is a supplement to “Manifestation.”  If you’ve looked through Gabby’s Diary on the site, you’ve probably seen the various poems written from Gabby’s point of view.  The first and third poems seen in the diary were originally written exclusively for “Manifestation.”  The second and fourth are revisions of poems I wrote in the first version of Gabby’s Diary, before I “rebooted” her story for this novel.  As I’ve said before, both Gabby and Tock have been written extensively in other stories (several dozen each) before I started them both over in the new, more organized fashion of my current novel.

When I began “Manifestation,” I already had ideas in mind for where both Gabby and Tock would go.  Their powers, some of the key events in their lives, their families, and their personalities were already worked out in advance.  Many details have changed, and the overall plot of the novel differs greatly from anything I wrote in the previous versions.

Gabby’s Diary also changed a great deal, since her diary entries are based on the specific events she lives through in the story.  However, while the events of Gabby’s life are drastically different in this version, the emotional development has remained largely the same.  In the long run, while she experiences different events, those events were chosen, from the beginning, to take her on a certain path of character development.  A lot of this deals with shame, guilt, and loss.  Those are themes that can be seen in the other four poems already posted on this site.

I’m currently working on the sequel to “Manifestation” (which is not yet titled).  Once again, Gabby has an in-character diary during the novel, and in that diary, she writes poems.  So far, I have about five poems included.  All of them originally came from the first version of Gabby and her diary.  “Shadow” is one of those poems.

“Shadow” has undergone multiple revisions.  The draft that finally got accepted at Quantum Fairy Tales is the sixth draft.  The first draft was in the old version of Gabby’s Diary.  I then revised it twice before submitting it to a poetry contest at my school (it was rejected).  It was then revised twice more and submitted to Avant, my school’s literary magazine (where it was rejected again, though with good feedback and praise).  Frankly, I’m not surprised or bothered that it was rejected from those first attempts at publication.  I was never quite happy with it (I’m my own worst critic).  The sixth draft, which is published at Quantum Fairy Tales, has finally fixed most of the issues I had during the multiple revisions.  I’m pleased with the results (at least, as much as an insane perfectionist like myself can ever be).

Quantum Fairy Tales allows the writer to retain the rights to their work, so I’m free to publish “Shadow” again elsewhere.  And I plan to… it’s already one of the poems incorporated into the sequel to “Manifestation.”

I hope you enjoy the poem.  Anyone who is familiar with Gabby’s character and the nature of her magical ability might find extra depth in it, but even if you know nothing about her, I believe the poem is a compelling read by itself.

Advertisements

“Peep Show” of Manifestation and its Sequel

Melanie Sokol tagged me in an interesting challenge.  It involves giving a sneak peek of my current WIP.

Now, considering that the rough first draft of “Manifestation” is already posted on here, I don’t think a sneak peek of it will be all that interesting (though this will be a view of the revised version [Draft Three], which has undergone SUBSTANTIAL changes).  So, I’m going to take this a step further and offer up a sneak peek of the sequel as well.

The Peep Show rules are, go to the 77th page of your WIP, count down 7 lines, write the next 7. So here goes:

“After he counted the money, the Captain frowned at her and asked, “Do you know how much shit I’d get into if anyone found out I’d let a stowaway on board?”

Minerva had no energy left to haggle with the man.  She pulled the rest of the money out of her pocket and gave it to him. “‘At’s all I’s got,” she said.  She pulled out the tablet and handed him that, too.  It was easily worth a few hundred more.  “Please? I ain’t what gots no place else ta go…”  Her bruised and blackened eyes pleaded with him, her mind blank of anything else she could do.  She was completely drained, having spent the last two days running from what she’d done.”

That’s not all that different from the first draft, so here’s something from Book Two to make things more interesting.  Of course, Book Two is only up to 41 pages so far (since most of my time and effort is currently devoted to revisions).  Therefore, I’ll post from page 7 instead of page 77:

“She could make anything she wanted.

She looked down at Minty and Pinky and asked them, “What should Mommy make?”  They both peered up at her and shrugged.

She wanted to build her magic city.  The one from her dreams.  Filled with clockwork people running everything, and mechanical soldiers to protect them from harm.  Towers reaching high into the sky, formed in shapes the laws of physics wouldn’t allow.  She looked down at her hand and summoned the power, watching azure sparks fly forth.  She had already done the impossible with her magic.  What could physics do to stop her?

“Physics is my bitch,” she declared, closing her fist and releasing a spark of mana into the air.”

That’s more than 7 lines, but I felt it was needed since that last line there is pretty epic.  Anyone who read the Prologue to “Manifestation” should recognize what Tock is referring to in that scene…

Random SwiftKey Story

So, I’ve recently been introduced to an app called “SwiftKey.” If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a new type of keyboard app that can be downloaded to your smartphone.  I’m using a free-trial version right now (I believe the full version is like $4 or so).  I’ve been enjoying it a lot.

Compared to a normal “autocorrect” program, SwiftKey has a few advantages.  It’s far more intuitive and actually learns as I type.  For example, whenever I type the word “Dr.,” SwiftKey knows that the next word I normally use is “Caldwell,” one of my main characters. The suggestion bar across the top of the screen predicts that use for me to select.  It saves a lot of time typing.

Also, the SwiftKey program is far more intelligent about correcting errors. One of the common errors I had on my old keyboard is hitting “b” instead of the space bar, ending up with mistakes “likebthis.”  The old keyboard couldn’t understand that, but SwiftKey recognizes I meant to type it “like this.”

While using SwiftKey I came up with a strange idea.  Since it always suggests words based on my usage patterns, I decided to see what it would come up with if I used the suggested words every time.  I wrote the following story doing just that.  The word choices offered to me were based on the patterns I’ve been using while working on the sequel to “Manifestation,” but there’s a fair amount of randomness in there as well.  It’s almost as if the story was based on a jumble of words taken out of what I’ve written in the sequel.  The result is mostly nonsense, but I thought it would be interesting to read how the intuitive program of Swiftkey would sculpt a story on its own.

I present it here, completely unedited:

——————————————————————————

 

The following is a military operation. The thorns were writhing and growing, but she needed to find shelter. She was likely curious about your business and leisure. She was born in the forest and I have been in the distance between the ages. The tingling sensation was happening in your life. I laughed at the thornbush. It was somehow worse than the sight of the herd of the store’s employees. I tried calling the police, but she hadn’t heard back from the people who have been in the last few weeks. We are going to be late to the bush and making sure that you are looking for her. Though at the same time, there are no surprises. She was a gas station and the temperature was dropping rapidly. She kept moving closer to the bush and making sure that you have work to do with the cacophonous bell ringing in the distance.

She had learned to recognize the sudden look of pain on someone’s face. The only way to contain the last few times a week or so of her heart she felt that the effects were just different. The thorns were writhing and growing. She was infected.

” Get back! ” As part of the dream of a squad of soldiers. The thorns grew long and deadly. She was likely curious about Tinker’s use of language. For example, if Maximus repeatedly asking for help, and she felt like she could not find any information about this, but this is a helpful thing.

The thorns were just talking about the world. I don’t know why.

But now that I think about it, it always happened when people got closer to me. Maybe I’m radioactive. She was likely doing well. Hopefully this will be a lot more than twenty feet from her.

Her left side tingled like a weight. She struggled against the grip of her captors. She was quite curious about what they could collect and the glow suddenly brightened. ” Thank God for the nearest store. The only other subject of confidential. For example, if you wanted to, and the bush grew up in the densely populated suburbs of the herd, and the energy flow into the man.”

Get back here. I don’t know. Maybe there’s something about them that makes them different.

Adapting to a New Schedule

So, I haven’t revised in a good week and a half.

Part of that (just part) should be blamed on A Memory of Light (which, by the way, was TOTALLY worth the 16 year wait).  Another part is that I’ve been doing some work on the sequel to “Manifestation.” (Currently, the sequel is untitled, but the theme will be development, building, etc.  The third book is expected to be titled “Collapse.” I just need to figure out the right thing in between: “Manifestation,” “______,” “Collapse.”)  The sequel is currently up to 13,000 words.  I have an outline of all the expected chapters and major events to take place in it (much of which I already knew before I started the first book, since it’s all a continuation of the same plot).

But revisions have been lagging.  And now, as if this week, I’m back in school at Rowan University for my last semester before graduation.  Though I’m also going back in the fall for my master’s.

I tried to get to revisions last night.  I really did.  Except that I had to read one chapter of one book, three chapters of another, six PDF readings, build a course blog for one class, and schedule an appointment to meet with my adviser.  All in all, it’s a rough start to the first week of the semester.  I need to figure out how to rearrange my schedule in order to accommodate revisions into my work and school week.

Hopefully, I’ll figure that out soon.  I’m itching to get some more work done.

Critiquing my Favorite Author

20130116_144218[1]

So I’d like to tell a story.

When I was about fourteen or fifteen, I made a (rather poor) attempt at writing my own novel.  I made a ton of rookie mistakes.  I started with the title, which is a bad idea, since the title should come later from the ideas explored within the book.  I based the book on Dungeons and Dragons, which in itself works fine if you have ever read something like the Dragonlance Series, but I did a bad job with it.  I was too focused on the way combat rules and specific spells worked in D&D, and it hampered my creative freedom.  I had no idea for a plot when I started, and just sort of wrote randomly whatever came to mind.

Then I read “The Eye of the World,” by Robert Jordon.  To this day I consider him (and his successor, Brandon Sanderson) to be among the best authors I’ve ever read.  At the time, however, reading his book made me look at my own with disgust.  I threw it in the garbage; to this day it’s the only piece of writing I’ve ever discarded instead of saving.

Now it’s more than sixteen years later.  I’ve been studying writing at Rowan University, and I’m about to graduate this spring with a major in Writing Arts and a minor in Communication Studies.  I’ve read Stephen King’s “On Writing.”  I keep a copy of Stunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” by my desk where I can always reach it.  I’ve attempted at least half a dozen novels that stalled out by 50 to 100 pages, completed three that have a full first draft done, and my main project, “Manifestation,” is now on a third draft and I’m determined to publish it no matter what.

This week I started reading “A Memory of Light,” Robert Jordan’s final book (ghost-written by Brandon Sanderson from Jordon’s notes, after Jordon’s death).  I started this series sixteen years ago.  It’s the fourteenth book.  I’ve been waiting half my life to read it.

And I’m not just reading it.  I’m critiquing it.

I still don’t think my writing in on par with Jordon and Sanderson.  Yet at the same time, I’ve developed a critical eye.  The story is amazing, the world Jordon created is phenomenal, and the writing style is excellent… but not perfect.

When I threw out my first ever WIP, I thought my writing would never be that good.  Today, I can’t read this book without analyzing what I’d do differently… yes, I’m reading a book by my idol, and in my mind I’m proposing changes.  Minor ones, the sort I’d give to someone during a critique at a writing session.  Nothing to change the overall course of the story.  But there are still things I’d suggest he do differently, here and there.  Sentence structure, punctuation, a few spots where the pacing could be adjusted.  Minor things, but things I never would have seen sixteen years ago.

Somewhere along the way I turned from an appreciator of fine work to a critic of it.  Which isn’t to say my analysis is critical in the negative sense of the word.  I still think it’s amazing writing.  But I’ve reached a point where I go beyond appreciating it, and see the flaws.

I imagine this is what most published writers do when they read the work of their peers.  We learn by reading the work of others.  We see what they have done, and consider whether we’d do it the same way.  Some things I see in this book are giving me ideas to improve my own writing.  Others are things I see and decide not to do.  Either way, it’s a learning experience.

And learning is something I never want to stop doing.

Liebster Award

So, a couple of people nominated me for another award. I’m constantly impressed that people think so highly of my little blog-thingy. So, without further ado, I’d like to thank Bridget Shepard (@bridgetashep ), Bobby Salomons ( @D2Dbooks ), and JLuis Licea (@JLLicea ) for nominating me!

So, how does this work?  Beats me.  Let’s find out!

According to my three nominators, it goes something like this:

You got the Award, now what?

– I list 11 random facts about myself.
– I will answer the 11 questions asked of me by the person who nominated me.
– I will then nominate my 11 picks for the award along with my 11 questions for them to answer when they post a response.
– If you’re nominated, your name/link will appear at the bottom of this post along with your questions. Follow the same format; paste the award badge to your blog, give us 11 random facts about yourself, answer my 11 questions, and choose your nominees…but you cannot nominate the blog who nominated you.

So, wow, that means I need to list 11 random facts about myself AND answer a total of 33 questions posted by my three nominators!  Damn!  Well, here goes!

11 Random Facts About Me:

1. My parents got divorced when I was 10, and it was a wonderful moment for me.  I’ll never forget the day they told me they were getting divorced, because I thought, “Thank God, this means there won’t be any more fighting.”

2. Due to various breaks for personal and financial reasons, I’ve been working to complete college for the past 14 years.

3. I’ve spent 10 years of my life working pizza delivery.

4. I have a wooden statue of Buddha by my computer. He is my anti-virus God.

5. I have lots of pictures of fairies and princesses hanging in my house, and I don’t care if you judge me for that.

6. When I was 16, I threw a WIP book in the garbage because it wasn’t as good as Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” series. (It was probably for the best, it was a horrible, horrible manuscript.)

7. I was an outcast in grade school, and while the other kids played together on the playground I sat off to the side with a book.

8. I once had a calculator stolen in my high school cafeteria, and the teachers just said, “Oh well. You should have kept a better eye on it…”

9. When I get a sandwich at the deli, I order the cheese on the side.

10. I suffer from crippling self-esteem issues.

11. I never go anywhere without writing utensils close at hand.

Whew! Okay, now to dive into the 33 questions from my nominators:

From JLuis Licea: “11 Questions For you, My Amazing:”

1. What do you think about when you hear the word ‘Book’?
An object made of paper, bound together along a spine, and filled with symbols used to represent language, arranged in a specific order to tell a story.

2. In one word, describe a book you love.
Epic.

3. What animal do you fear the most?
Humans.

4. Favorite time of the day to read?
Always. Is that a time?

5. Coffee person? If yes, do you drink it with milk, cream, or just plain? If not, what do you drink instead?
No. I can’t stand the taste of coffee.  When I need energy, I drink Monster energy drinks.

6. Have you published a book? If yes, share the name and a link! Brag! If not, are you working on one that’s on its way to the sea of sharks?
Not yet. I’m working on my hopefully first to be published novel now. Keep your fingers crossed.

7. Favorite candy and why?
Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. Do I really need to explain why?

8. Tells us, what inspired you to become a writer/blogger in one or two sentences?
My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Aloi. She was the first person in my life to ever encourage me and tell me I could do well.

9. Every beginning has an end. Do you prefer a happy ending or one that just satisfies?
I prefer an ending that provokes a strong emotion.  Happiness can be one, but in most stories, the happy ending lacks any real punch.

10. If I pay for you to go anywhere in the world with someone, where would you go and who would you go with?
Hawaii, and preferably with a girl that cares about me (Let me know if you find one, okay?)

11. What is a dream you have and always keep alive?
To write and become published.

EXTRA CREDIT QUESTION: What do you dry first after you come out of the shower?
My hair.  I start at the top and work my way down, because if I dried my feet first, they get wet again as I’m standing there, dripping.

From Bridget Shepard: “My questions for my nominees (shamelessly ripped off from Cait and Kat mostly)”

  1. What category/genre do you write, and why?
    Pre-apocalyptic modern fantasy with a touch of Steampunk.  Because everyone writes post-apocalyptic and we never get to SEE the apocalypse.
  2. What music are you listening to the most right now?
    Abney Park and Professor Elemental, as per my growing obsession with Steampunk.
  3. Plotter or pantster or what?
    Plotter with a touch of pansting.  I have a rough outline of about 3-4 books for my current story, and a semi-detailed outline for the second book in particular (since I’m working on it right now).  But I tend to go where the story takes me, and the first book was very different from my outlines.
  4. Big 5, Indie, or Self? And why?
    I think Self.  Mostly because I want to retain ownership of my own intellectual property, I want to have complete creative freedom without interference, and I want to be able to write side-stories outside of my main series without worrying about whether the publisher thinks they’ll sell.
  5. What’s your weirdest/most interesting talent?
    Hmm… Intriguing.  I’d have to say my etymological studies.  Remind me to post a rant on the origin of the phrase “The Whole Nine Yards.”
  6. Dog or Cat?
    Cat.  Dogs are smelly, obnoxious beasts that need to learn to behave, whereas cats are our feline overlords destined to rule the world.
  7. What inspires you to write?
    That’s a trick question, right?
  8. What is your favorite character you’ve written?
    I’m torn between Tock and Gabby, my two current MCs.  During the last few years, I wrote a good dozen or so characters on collaborative writing and roleplaying sites.  These two were always the strongest with the best stories to tell.  To an extent, I like Tock better because of her quirky personality, but at the same time, Gabby has far more depth and in the long run will be going on a more epic journey.
  9. What is your favorite character you didn’t write?
    Batman.
  10. Which book do you wish you’d written?
    The bible.  So I could teach people to understand the difference between metaphors and literal tellings of events.
  11. Name three things you will do this year.
    Graduate college, enroll in grad school for my master’s degree, and publish a novel.

And from Bobby: “And, last but not least, 11 questions for my nominees!”

1. Have you ever read one of your old stories and felt disappointed or embarrassed of what you wrote? If so, what was it about and what was it that made you feel that way?
Every. Single. Thing. I’ve ever written more than three months ago.  My writing back then was horrible crap and I want to kill it with fire.

2. You get an offer for your book to become a major movie, but they demand that your main character changes race and/or gender. Do you give in?
No.  My main characters are both strong female protagonists.  I’d find it offensive to have someone insist they be made male.

3. You wake up and stand before the character in one of your works that you’ve made suffer the most. The character demands an explanation for their suffering. What do you tell him/her?
Oh God.  That would be Gabby.  What I tell everyone else is “Making her suffer makes for a better plot.  She is destined to be a tragic character because it makes it that much more rewarding when she finds strength at the end.”  But I don’t think I could tell her that.  So, I’d cop out and tell her I didn’t choose the plot, the plot chose me.  Then I’d go drink heavily to drown out the memory of her tears.

4. Self-publish or contract a publisher?
As I said in the previous question set, I’m leaning to self-publishing.

5. Critically acclaimed by your writing peers or best-selling author loved by audience but hated by critics and authors alike?
I’d rather write something good than something that sells a lot.  Anyone can write mainstream crap that sells a lot of copies.  That’s the fast food of the writing industry.

6. A cover that is entirely what you have in mind and final say in or that will be highly popular and attract large but cheap audiences?
Considering I have like, NO idea right now what kind of cover to use, I’d go with highly popular.  If I had a vision for the cover, I’d refuse to sell out on it, but lacking a preference, I’ll go big and broad.

7. Pen, typewriter or computer?
I used a typewriter when I was like 9.  There isn’t a single thing about it I see being better than a computer.  I occasionally write by pen, but only when I want to get a more personal, journal-like feel to the story and voice.

8. What is the most embarrassing thing that could happen to you as a writer?
Being told my work is unoriginal and derivative.

9. If you could pick any song that symbolizes you as a writer, the world you create and that which you aspire as an author, what would it be? (e.g.: Imagine being a guest on Ellen and they play a minute long clip of you and your work, pick the background song!)
Hmm.  Well, I’ve been fairly obsessed with Abney Park lately (as mentioned above), but I don’t know if it “symbolizes” my writing.  That leaves me fairly uncertain what else I could pick.  I’ve got plenty of “favorite bands,” but I’m not sure any represent me, as a writer.

10. What kind of book would you never want to write? Why?
Bland crap with no story development and flat characters.

11. Name one author you “personally know” (internet counts too) you would want to co-author with?
Well, I have yet to read any of the books of the authors I’ve met on Twitter (mostly because my to-read pile of books has over 100 books in it).  And I’ve never met any of the authors I already read.  I have, however, beta-read for a few authors that don’t yet have their manuscripts published.  Of those, I’d definitely go with Kai Kiriyama (@thekiriyamaheir ).  Her book I’m reading now has clockwork cybernetics and a style that I think could compliment my own very well.

EDIT: Wait, what’s this? I apparently have four of these to do.  I got so mixed up I didn’t realize I’d missed one.  The fabulous Melanie Sokol also nominated me.  Here’s hers:

11 Questions I’m making up:

  1. If you could pick one character from any story ever (movie, book, fairy tale, etc), who would it be and why?
    Agatha Heterodyne from Girl Genius. Because Steampunk.
  2. If you were going to write about the end of the world, how would it end and would anyone survive?
    I am, actually, going to write about the end of the world.  I can’t tell how it happens because SPOILERS!
  3. If any animal in the world could be domesticated, what would you pick as a pet?
    A platypus.  They have poison claws.
  4. If you could be a supernatural being of any kind, what would you be and why?
    Probably some sort of telekinetic.  I could do a million different things with that.
  5. If you could relive any year of your life, which would it be and WHY?
    Any of the four years I was with my Ex, by NOT living with her this time around.
  6. If I were a broken record, would you let me play or stop me? Why?
    Play you until it got annoying, then stop you.  Too much of anything is a bad thing.
  7. If you could only read one book over and over again for the rest of your life, which would it be and why?
    A blank one.  My imagination could fill in the pages.
  8. If you were a mutant, what powers do you think you’d end up with? What powers would you prefer?
    Can I say telekinetic again?
  9. If you could change the genre of your world, what genre would you pick and why?
    The only other thing that might work is medieval fantasy, though I am preferring modern.
  10. What, other than writing, would be a dream career for you?
    Working for a publishing company in some other capacity.
  11. If you lived in the Disney universe, would you be a vegan? Why or why not?
    No.  Why can’t Disney characters eat meat?  Sure, some animals talk and have personalities, but there’s some that are just ordinary animals.  If it doesn’t talk, you can eat it.

OKAY!  That’s 44 things about me all together.  Damn, that took awhile.  Wait, what?  Now I need to pick 11 questions for other people!?  Oy…

It’s gonna be hard to pick people to nominate, since my 3 nominators already also picked half the people I might have considered.  So, I doubt I can get a full 11 people.  But here’s who I think is pretty awesome and should have an award:

Ksenia Anske
Kai Kiriyama
Trisha “Red” Schmidt
Danica Rice
Elise Valente
Casey Roach

Go check their blogs out! They’re all cool people!

Oh, and I almost forgot to ask 11 questions #Fail.
Here goes:

1. Paper or plastic?

2. Train A leaves New York traveling east at 50 mph.  Two hours later, Train B leaves Chicago traveling west at 60 mph.  If both trains follow at a steady speed the entire time, does this question annoy you?

3. Of all the books you’ve read, which do you wish would have a sequel, or that you’d write the sequel yourself if you could?

4. Playstation, Xbox, or Nintendo?

5. If a video game could be made about your book, describe what the game would be like?

6. Mac or PC?

7. Do you ever cheat and read the last page of a book first?

8. Are you a robot? Please type in the following: XtQrte76az

9. What happened to Amelia Earhart?

10. Are the aliens going to bring back Elvis?

11. What?

Verbed-ing My Verbings

So in my last post, I included a bunch of links to various websites with tools and writing tips I find helpful.  One of them in particular has become a pretty big part of my revisions for the last few days.  The end of the post discusses removing confusing -ing constructions, something I ended up realizing is a problem all throughout my draft.  The issue is that past progressive tense is mostly supposed to be used for things that happen simultaneously, and often I’ve used it for things that shouldn’t be simultaneous.  Also, -ing words are a problem when it comes to active vs. passive voice.  Then there’s a few subtler issues that weaken the writing, all involving -ing words.

Once I started looking for -ing words, I found issues with them all over the place.  I’ve been revising them out ever since.  There’s a few specific ways I’ve been going about fixing this.  I thought I’d discuss a few of the issues here, and give examples of how I’m correcting them.

Here’s an example where it’s technically correct, but I think it’s a weak sentence:

“Tock snorted, pulling her shirt on, then grabbing her backpack off the ground and slinging it over her shoulder.”

Tock can snort while pulling her shirt on at the same time, so it’s not an incorrect use.  However, I don’t feel like the sentence is strong enough.  Overuse of the progressive/continuous form makes for weaker writing.  So I revised it out:

“Tock snorted as she pulled her shirt on.  She grabbed her backpack off the ground and slung it over her shoulder.”

The revised version feels, to me, like it’s more direct.  It’s in simple past tense form, which is generally stronger and more active.

Here’s a slightly different issue:

“Tock blinked, not having realized for a moment that someone was speaking to her.”

When I read this, I see “not having realized” as a weak form.  The real issue here is placing the sentence in positive rather than negative form.  According to Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style,” a writer should “Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, noncommittal language” (p. 19).  That’s the exact problem I have here.  I shouldn’t be saying what Tock is not doing.  I should be saying what she is doing.  It’s like the difference between saying “Tock wasn’t telling the truth” instead of saying “Tock was lying.”  The second is more direct and succinct.  It’s stronger.

So I revise the sentence to this:

“Tock blinked, unaware that someone had been speaking to her.”

Saying she is “unaware” instead of “not having realized” is more direct and thus a stronger sentence.

The -ing in that example wasn’t really the cause of the problem, so here’s a better example:

““Is I gotta does ‘er over again?” she asked, dreading the idea of wasting time rewriting the paper.”

The dialogue portion, of course, is a grammatical nightmare.  But that’s just how Tock speaks.  The issue I have with this sentence is three -ing words, dreading, wasting, and rewriting, all lined up in a weak little row.  I feel like I can make it stronger.

So I try this:

““Is I gotta does ‘er over again?” she asked.  She dreaded the idea of wasting time rewriting the paper.”

Tiny change.  Barely any difference.  Two -ings are still there.  But the main focus is now “She dreaded…”  I feel like that has some more punch to it.

Here’s another one I think can be stronger:

“She held the blowtorch up for a moment, picturing what it would be like to cut the hot blue flame through his arm.”

Wow, talk about Tock having a temper, right?  But setting aside her psychotic tendencies, I’ve got another weak -ing in there.  But it’s an easy fix:

“She held the blowtorch up for a moment and pictured what it would be like to cut the hot blue flame through his arm.”

Somehow it has more punch that way.

Then there’s the really bad cases where the actions just CAN’T be happening at the same time.  Here’s an example:

“Tock swung her hand at the weapon, closing her fingers around it.”

Obviously, Tock can’t be closing her fingers around the weapon while she’s still in the middle of reaching for it.  This should be one action after the other.  So it needs to be changed:

“The weapon swung at her, and Tock reached out and blocked it, then closed her fingers around it.”

I’m still not entirely sure if I’m happy with that revision, but it puts the sequence of events in proper order.  She reaches out, then closes her fingers around it.

Anyway, that’s just a small glimpse into the changes I’ve been making.  Revisions are still underway, and will be months longer before they’re done.  I’m currently on page 189 out of 431.  That’s after about a month of revisions since I finished the first draft.

Writing Tip: Sharing the Wisdom of Others

By Venkat2336 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
So, lately I’ve been reading a lot about revisions.  I’m in the process of revising Draft Three of “Manifestation,” and I’m seeking all the input I can get.  I’ve read blogs, books, and advice on Twitter about what methods to use, what common mistakes to watch out for, and so on.  It’s all been very useful.

So I started thinking, “Hey, I have a blog!  I could share these same tips with everyone else!”

Then I realized I’d mostly be rehashing advice that’s already, like, ALL over the web.  While I’d write my own versions of it, the content itself wouldn’t be that different from what I was reading elsewhere.  So I figured the solution, instead, is to share some of the sites I’ve found to be the most useful!  That way you can get a list of different places you can look to get the information, all indexed in one place.  I’ll also include a few other handy websites with useful writing tools.

First off there’s Dictionary.com, which also has a thesaurus.  These two are a bit obvious, but they’re two of THE most commonly used bookmarks on my computer, so I figured I’d included them first.

Next is the Online Rhyming Dictionary.  This is most useful to me when working on poetry.  I can type in any word and get a whole slew of words that rhyme with it.  Having a long list of words to choose from can be very helpful when struggling for just the right rhyme in a poem.

Then there’s the Phrase Finder and Online Etymology Dictionary.  These are helpful for researching the origins of words and phrases, and how they’ve evolved over time.  As a writer, I also consider myself an etymologist, and I make a habit to study and understand words and phrases as much as possible.  It gives me a stronger grasp of language and how to use it properly.

On to more revision-specific tools, there’s the Emotion Thesaurus.  You can buy it as a full book, but the website there offers some samples that can be very useful.  It’s great if you’re struggling with “Show, Don’t Tell” in your writing.  Each emotion listed has a long list of phrases and actions you can use to describe a character’s emotions.  I’ve found it very useful when I catch a mistake in my manuscript and can’t think of the right way to “show” what I want to express.

Next up is Grammar Girl.  This is a very handy website with tips about the correct usage of various words and phrases.  Ever get confused about the difference between either/or vs. neither/nor?  Than vs. then?  Affect vs. Effect?  Grammar Girl can save your day.

A lot of sites suggest you watch out for “overused” words.  But how can you tell which words are overused?  Well, Wordle is a great tool for that.  It will make an image of your most common words (you can choose how many it will display), and the size of each word is changed based on how frequently it appears in your document.  If there is a really BIG word shown, that means it’s one you use a lot.  The options on the site can show you exactly how many times each word appears in the document.  Once you know which words to look out for, you can do a search through your document and replace some of the overused words with others.

Finally, a writer named Nat Russo (@natrusso on Twitter) recently posted a two part blog post about revisions.  His checklists are a pretty thorough and cover a lot of common mistakes to look out for during the revision process.  Definitely worth taking a look.

Do you have any other commonly used websites where writers can find help and advice?  Please share!  I’m always looking for more wisdom to spread around.

Edit 1-10-13: Here’s another good one recommended to me by Dale Spencer (@Dalespencerwork on twitter): http://www.dailywritingtips.com/

Blog Hop

Okay, so two lovely ladies, Trisha “Red” Schmidt and Carey “Carey Bear” Torgeson, have both tagged me in this Blog Hop thing.

(Side note: both of their blogs are way prettier than mine. I need to fix this place up a bit.)

So, even though I think I was maybe supposed to wait until later in the week to do this, I’m certain to forget if I don’t do it now.  I’m supposed to answer the following questions, so here we go:

What is the working title of your book?

“Manifestation”

 Where did the idea come from for the book?

Over the past few years, I’ve written on several online collaborative writing and roleplaying sites. On those, I developed numerous characters, but two in particular always stood out to me as having potential to do a lot more. I decided to take those two characters and create my own story. It shares thematic elements with the plots of some of the collaborative sites I’d been in, but I took my own unique spin on it and developed it into a far-reaching plot.

What genre does your book fall under?

I could probably call it pre-apocalyptic modern fantasy sci fi romance with a touch of poetry. I think “Multigenre” is a cleaner way to say it.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Gabriella Palladino was originally designed based on Anna Popplewell:

Anna Popplewell as Gabriella Palladino
Anna Popplewell as Gabriella Palladino

The fact that she has a bow is NOT a coincidence (hint hint Book Two hint).

Minerva “Tock” Zipporah is based on Alison Scagliotti:

Alison Scagliotti as Minerva Zipporah
Alison Scagliotti as Minerva Zipporah

Red hair, leather vest, awesome steampunk-style goggles.  Just give her a big tool belt and BAM, Tock.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The return of magic to a world that has dismissed it as myth and legend, with disastrous results as the ones who manifest these powers struggle to understand and control them.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Undecided as of yet. My main struggle with this question is the balance between a) the better chance of success/better marketing/more money that would come from traditional publication vs. b) the freedom to do as I wish that would come with independent publication.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I started it in September 2012, and finished it in December. I’m working on Draft Three right now.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hmm. Considering I can’t exactly fit it into the same genre as most books I’ve read, that’s a bit tough to answer. Most “Modern Fantasy” books and movies seem to accept that magic has existed for some time, and just been kept hidden from the public. There are elements of the story that are similar to the TV show “Heroes,” following the idea of people learning about their powers while living in a modern world. But my story is designed to follow more of a “magic and wizards” angle rather than “superheroes.” Plus many of the important elements of the long-term plot won’t appear until Book Two, where some steampunk/science fiction elements start to play a big role.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Some of the original ideas came from the old collaborative writing, which gave me the ideas for where the characters would develop, what would happen in their lives, and how they would react to the changes. The main plot itself then evolved from taking these characters, removing them from the old “world” I first wrote them in, and creating a new world designed around their developmental paths.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

One of the things many people seem to find most interesting is the in-character diary and poetry that Gabby writes throughout the story. This gives the reader a close-in glimpse of her thoughts and feelings as she reacts to the chaos and changes that are taking place in her life. The poems especially are a indication of the emotional development she goes through during the course of the story.

On a related note, yet another lovely lady, Mari “Doesn’t Have A Nickname Yet” Wells, nominated me for the “One Lovely Blog Award.”  Being the slacker that I am (Read: too busy revising my novel to work on the blog), I kept putting it off.  So I’m gonna kill two blog posts with one stone and post the award-related stuff here as well.

Here is the “One Lovely Blog Award”:

one-lovely-blog-award

And there are rules, which I shall re-post here to pass them along:

The Rules
These are the rules, should you choose to accept them:

Thank the person who nominated you (manners, people! manners!)
Add the “One Lovely Blog Award” image to your post.
Share 7 things about you.
Pass the award on to seven nominees
Include this set of rules (important, otherwise confusion and mass hysteria ensues
Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs.

7 Things About Me:

  1. I am a student at Rowan University with a major in Writing Arts and a minor in Communication Studies.
  2. I was originally a Computer Science major, but switched when I was bored with computers and instead spent my time writing stories in my notebooks.
  3. I also wrote another unpublished novel draft, “Rogue Traveler,” which is about time travel.
  4. I was engaged two years ago, until my cheating whore of an Ex cheated on me.  Good riddance.
  5. I’ve been writing since I was 11 years old, and still have the first story I ever wrote (a Halloween horror story).
  6. I like to play video games, especially Final Fantasy
  7. I have a recent obsession with Steampunk.

And now, the “Blog Hop” tells me I’m supposed to nominate 5 new people for it. And the “One Lovely Blog Award” tells me I’m supposed to nominate 7 new people for it.  So since I’m a no-good cheater, I’m gonna merge those lists into one (If someone listed has already received ONE of these awards, just do the other one instead!):

  1. Kai Kiriyama
  2. Mari Wells
  3. Carey Torgeson
  4. Trisha Schmidt
  5. Cylithria Dubois
  6. Casey Roach
  7. Leanne Creamer

So, all of you people, you’re nominated for BOTH!  For the Blog Hop, post the answers to the following questions on your blog:

What is the working title of your book?
 
Where did the idea come from for the book?
 
What genre does your book fall under?
 
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
 
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
 
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
 
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
 
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
 
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
 
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Then pass it along to 5 more people.

For the “One Lovely Blog Award,” follow the rules listed here:

Thank the person who nominated you (manners, people! manners!)
Add the “One Lovely Blog Award” image to your post.
Share 7 things about you.
Pass the award on to seven nominees
Include this set of rules (important, otherwise confusion and mass hysteria ensues
Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs.

And that, as they say, is that!

Writing Tip: Writing Outside Your Novel

By Nevit Dilmen (Own work (own photo)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Nevit Dilmen (Own work (own photo)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
In my current work-in-progress novel, “Manifestation,” two of my main characters came from previous writing projects I’d worked on in the past.  When working on collaborative writing sites, Tock was the main character of over 150 pieces of writing.  Each, individually, is of short-story length (I wrote anywhere from 1000 to 10,000 words in each one).  Gabby was the main character of about 85 similar pieces of writing, plus I wrote 30,000 words in her in-character diary in her original story.  The ideas in Gabby’s Diary here were largely inspired by her original diary, and a few of the poems I used on this site were revisions of Gabby’s old poems from the first diary.

I’ve found that having so much previous writing has been extremely helpful when working on my current novel.  There’s several reasons why:

  • It helped me develop the characters.  Before I sat down to write the first page of “Manifestation,” I knew who these characters were.  I knew their personalities, how they would react to certain situations, whether they were violent (Tock) or timid (Gabby).  I also knew that there was a certain developmental path I wanted to take them down in the course of the novel.  While the events in the novel differ GREATLY from the original writing, certain key points (such as everything related to Gabby’s family, or Tock’s magic city) were designed from Day One to follow a certain story arc.  I was able to do this because I took core ideas from the previous writings, rebooted them, and used them as goals to reach in the new novel.
  • It helped me create certain ‘core’ scenes.  Several of the scenes in the novel were taken directly from my previous writings.  Tock’s coma dream, certain poems, and a few important paragraphs of major scenes were taken straight out of my old writings, revised, and inserted into the novel.  Essentially, the old writings are Draft One (which is part of the reason I call the posts on this site Draft 1.5).  Also, even where I didn’t take the exact scene, there were several important scenes in the story that were inspired by some of my previous writings.  The details in those were greatly changed, but certain fundamental elements were inspired directly from previous writings.
  • It helped me develop the magic.  Both Gabby and Tock have supernatural abilities, and I had the exact specifics of HOW those abilities work figured out in advance, long before I started this novel.  This was especially crucial for the foreshadowing in Gabby’s chapters; we don’t find out WHAT her power is until the very, very end, but I knew exactly how it worked before I wrote her first scene.  That made it far easier for me to insert hints and write scenes in a way that, while the reader might not understand at first, when they look back it’ll all make sense.  All throughout Gabby’s chapters are examples of things happening a certain, precise way based on my knowing exactly how her power works.  That would be impossible to do if I hadn’t had her power figured out in detail before I started.
  • It helped me to know where the plot was going.  This novel is planned to be Part One of a (hopefully, if/when it’s published) three or four (or more) part series.  I have a huge number of ideas for where I’m taking the story.  Many of those ideas came from my previous writings.

So, how can this concept help someone else as a writer?  Well, my recommendation is to “Write Outside the Novel.”  Whether it be freewriting (just letting ideas flow without any real sense of purpose), writing an in-character diary or journal, writing short stories, or experimenting with stand-alone scenes, you can develop a lot of things on the side, which can then help strengthen your novel.  Here’s some specific suggestions:

  • Imagine a scenario you’d like to explore, and see how your character would react to it.  It could be the death of a family member, or how they face down an armed assailant.  It could be their first kiss, an intimate night with someone special, or their wedding day.  It could be putting them on stage at a Broadway musical and seeing how they react (I wrote a scene with Gabby, singing at a Broadway show.  It was great fun).  Since these scenes are “outside the novel,” you don’t need to worry about them counting as “real” or “canon.”  Hell, you could even write the character’s death scene, just to know how they react to dying.  You don’t need to kill them off in the novel itself, but you still get to see, as a writer, what would happen.  It can give you insight into the character, and help you learn things you wouldn’t have known.
  • Write something in-character, from that character’s first person point of view.  This can be a diary, a doctor’s notes, an in-character blog, or you could even write a fake Twitter account from that character’s perspective.  Writing in first person is much better for getting in touch with a character’s thoughts and unique voice.  If your novel is third person, then taking a break from that perspective can help give you a different way of looking at things.  Your character might surprise you when they write something unexpected, revealing their deepest, innermost secrets.
  • Write something in a different genre, with the same character.  Tock has been written in medieval fantasy, 1800’s steampunk fantasy, and modern fantasy.  You might find some good ideas if you take your modern-day character and insert them into a scene with knights and wizards, or take them to the future on a sci fi adventure.  If you get a really good scene out of it, you could revise the scene to your normal time period, make it a dream sequence, or find some other way to adapt the material to your novel.  Or you could just do it for fun, post it to your blog, and never use it in the novel itself.  The point is to explore as a writer.
  • Write a scene where the character does something you think they’d NEVER EVER do.  Is your character such a good and pure person that they’d never hurt a fly?  Write them committing cold-blooded murder.  Are they happily married and faithful?  Write them having an affair.  Are they a strong, wicked criminal mastermind?  Write them dancing ballet (I did this once, and found a way to make it actually make sense in character).  The point is, when it’s “outside the novel,” you can explore the ideas in risky scenes, without having to count them as part of the canon story.  It might teach you something about the character that you never knew before, and open up new possibilities in your novel.

Remember, writing is about growth, exploration, and discovery.  You won’t succeed at writing without taking risks.  Sometimes that means breaking out of your ‘comfort zone,’ and writing something new, different, and scary.  If you’re working on a novel now, any time you feel stuck, have writer’s block, or just need a change of pace, writing a short story or stand-alone scene that exists outside the novel might help you out in ways you haven’t realized.  And you might just create a perfect scene that actually CAN be inserted into the novel later on.