30 June 2014

My Week Without TV

I came to a horrible realization on Saturday night: since I quit my job, I've gained five pounds. I thought after I left, I would immediately start losing weight because I ate the food at my work almost every day and it is not good for you. After I started at that job, I eventually gained 30 pounds (I've lost about ten of that...er...five...). My horrible will power can be a discussion for another day. I figured out my problem immediately--while I've stopped eating the work food, my eating habits haven't gotten all that better. I have a tendency to snack all day, which isn't helped by the fact that I'm home all of the time. My job also required a lot of movement, being on my feet for eight straight hours, and breaking a sweat on most shifts.

Basically I don't move anymore. Even when I am being productive, that means sitting on my bed with my laptop (or my awesome blue binder) in my lap checking out blogs and getting some editing done. The most I do is when I occasionally have to run errands or do the laundry.

So yes, I need to get up and move. I need to eat better. But there's something else that is both promoting my laziness and keeping me from being as productive as I'd like. TV. I just watch waaaaaaaaaay too much of it. Most of the time it's not even necessary. If I watched just the shows I like that have new episodes right now, it would only take up a few hours every week. But that is not all I watch. I have the TV on ALL THE TIME. Do you know how easy it is to get caught up in a Law & Order marathon? It's kind of ridiculous how much TV I watch. I've also developed a bad habit where I have to be watching TV if I'm eating.

So here's my plan: for one week, starting now until next Monday morning, I'm not going to watch TV. I may even have my fiance hide the remote or take the batteries to work with him. I'm also going to try and exercise every day. I think I will get SO MUCH DONE without the TV on. More time for editing, reading, writing new stuff. I can concentrate better when there's silence. I also think there's a good possibility I won't snack as much, since I usually associate eating with watching TV. And it's hard to hold a book while eating, but guess what, I have a Kindle! I can actually sit at the table and READ instead of watching TV while I eat.

So we'll see how it goes. Remember how I said I have horrible will power? I'm hoping I can work past it and get a lot done this week. Wish me luck!

27 June 2014

The Silly Sex Scene

I'm running out of titles for this topic...

This is something that bothers me on a daily basis. Because I've now written the sex scene twice--no, three times (once in the short story), and I still can't quite figure it out. You'd think it would be for the obvious reasons, that I'm a chick writing a m/m scene, but no, that's not it. I can picture the scene in my head perfectly. I have all the technical details figured out (for the most part, whether I wrote them well is another thing entirely). I also know why it's necessary for my characters to have sex in the first place. What's bothering me is the detail.

Or more specifically, how much detail. None of the ways I've written this scene feel quite right. Which makes me think I've included too much detail. At least up until this point, I've always figured the sex scene should be at least somewhat graphic, not erotica, per se, but more technically detailed, not really leaving anything to the imagination (with emotions and thought process thrown in as well, of course). I had two reasons for writing it this way. One is that there are several sexual situations throughout the book that are very detailed, so I thought being vague in the sex scene wouldn't match up with the rest of the book. The other reason is that you kind of spend the whole book waiting to see if the characters actually will have sex. I worry that there's so much buildup that if I don't pay off that buildup with at least some detail, it will disappoint the reader.

But I still can't really figure out why I can't write this scene in a way that feels right. I'm starting to feel like I'll never get it right. I'm thinking of scrapping every draft of it and starting from scratch. I'm even considering making it EXTREMELY vague, because I think this might work better from a thematic standpoint. But I'm not sure. I swear, I think about this scene so much it makes me feel like a pervert! But I still can't figure it out!

Ok, I know I'm losing it and rambling. This will probably be the very last thing I edit for the third draft. And it will just drive me nuts until then.

25 June 2014

Character Consistency

When you’re crafting the characters in your stories, you want them to be realistic. This doesn’t mean that they have to be boring; it just means that the reader has to believe that this person could exist, even if they’ve never met anyone like them before. Not every character is going to be some 9-5 cubicle working, nuclear family kind of guy. Just because you’ve never met a bounty hunter or a pirate or a wizard doesn’t mean these aren’t great characters to use. What’s really important is making sure that once you’ve established your characters, they have to act like themselves.

No two people are exactly alike. Everyone has their own way of thinking and acting—their own habits, nervous ticks, catch phrases. Sure, there can be similarities—my sister and I have a lot of the same facial expressions, or my fiance and I have a lot (A LOT) of inside jokes—but everyone does their own thing.

One of the things to note is how each character speaks. You wouldn’t want everyone to sound the same. A younger character might use more slang, swears, and contractions than an older person would. Some people may talk in fragments, others in long, drawn out sentences. A shy person might litter their words with things like “uh” and “um.” A teenager might have a limited vocabulary, whereas someone like a teacher or English major would probably have a vast knowledge of fancy words they regularly use. Think of a basic sentence that a character might say, something like, “I got lost because you gave me bad directions.” Now rewrite that sentence as if each one of your characters was saying it. You’d probably write it differently for each character (I know at least one of my characters would sneak an f-bomb or two in a sentence like that). One character might be timid, another might be screaming. If you find each character says the sentence in the exact same way, then maybe they don’t have distinct voices.

You also want to watch for different physical characteristics that are true to each character. I was going through a chapter of my second draft when I came across a very simple sentence—“He grinned.” You usually wouldn’t think twice about a sentence like that, right? Well, it just didn’t sit right with me. I circled the “grinned” with my red pen and scribbled next to it: “I don’t think [he] grins. Ever.” I’d have to do a search to be certain, but I’m pretty sure there are no other instances where this character grins. He’s more of a shy smile kind of guy. There’s another character, though, who does grin all the time (probably too much—but that’s what editing is for!). See, each character has his own set of facial expressions and characteristics. Think about what works for each character. One may bite her lip when she’s nervous, another may flare his nostrils when he’s mad. Just make sure each action fits the personality of your character.

As always, consistency is key. Make sure your characters act like themselves, and don’t let that grin sneak in.

24 June 2014

It's Beastly Blitz Day!

Today I’m helping to spread the word on an awesome new book written by an awesome blogger! I met Tara through this year’s A to Z Challenge and I love checking out her blog posts. And her book release day is finally here! I’ve always loved reading and writing fantasy, no matter how much I (or my muse) try to ignore it, so I can’t wait to read this book. Maybe in time for my first “Hey, I Read Your Book” post, right? Check it out!

by Tara Tyler
Release Date: June 24, 2014 - TODAY!!
B&N ~~~ Amazon
Publisher: Curiosity Quills

Gabe is an average fifteen-year-old goblin. He’s in the marching band, breezes through calculus, and gets picked on daily by the other kids at school, especially the ogres. But Gabe wants to break out of his nerdy stereotype and try other things. He has his eye on the new ogress at school. Though it’s against all beastly rules, there’s just something about her.

Gabe starts a fad of mingling with other species, forcing the High Council to step in and ruin things by threatening to destroy the school and split up Broken Branch Falls. With help from other outcast friends, Gabe sets out on a quest to save his town. They'll show 'em what different friends can do together!

Add it to your GOODREADS list!

Tara Tyler has had a hand at everything from waitressing to rocket engineering. After living up and down the Eastern US, she now writes and teaches math in Ohio with her three active boys and Coach Husband. Currently, she has two series, The Cooper Chronicles (techno-thriller detective capers) and Beast World (MG fantasy) She's an adventure writer who believes every good story should have action, a moral, and a few laughs!

Also by Tara Tyler, techno-thriller detective series,
The Cooper Chronicles, Book One: POP TRAVEL

23 June 2014

Stick to a Schedule

Do you ever have one of those days where you think you should just go back to bed so you can start over? Yeah, that's kinda happening right now, so bear with me. So far (after a not so great night's sleep) I've spilled milk all over my bed and the light fixture above my kitchen sink has just decided it doesn't want to stay up anymore, even with duct tape. I tried taking a bubble bath to relax but made the water too hot and so it was more scalding than relaxing. Hopefully that will be the end of the disasters for the day.

So last week was my first full week of trying this whole writing thing full time. It did not go as well as I'd hoped. I think I made more progress selling some old books and DVDs on Amazon than getting any writing done. However, I didn't have any sort of a schedule last week. I would try to make lists of goals, but I always only got about half of them done. Maybe I need a little bit more structure than I thought.

On Friday, I came across this post that talked about setting specific tasks for each day of the week. This was more about blogging and social media, but I thought I could definitely apply this method to my own work. So I figured, why not? I'll try it out this week and see how it works. Last night I broke down all of the days of the week, assigning specific tasks to each day:

Monday: Blogging/social media
Tuesday: Freelance work
Wednesday: Editing
Thursday: Poetry
Friday: Writing new stuff
Saturday: Agent research/query letter
Sunday: ???

So today, for example, I'm going to write all of my blog posts for the week and visit as many blogs as I can, as well as doing any other networking on Twitter (and possibly trying to figure out what the hell Google+ actually is). I still plan on visiting other blogs during the week, Wednesday and Friday especially as those are my other post days, but most of the work will be done today. 

I still haven't figured out a task for Sunday (oops!). It could be an off day, or maybe a second editing day, if I don't come up with a seventh task. I thought about making it a reading day but I plan on reading every day so that may be pointless. Well, it's the last day on my schedule, so I've got plenty of time to think about it!

I guess I'll try this new method out this week and see how it works. Anybody else use a schedule to get things done? 

Oh hey, still no takers on the Writing Process blog hop. I need three people! If I don't get volunteers, I'll have to start hunting people down. And that will just be awkward for all of us. :) 

20 June 2014

The Unseen Character

There are different kinds of characters in any piece of writing. There's the main character, the supporting characters. There are protagonists and antagonists. There are characters who may just pop in for a scene and are never heard from again. I've come to realize, however, that there's another kind of character, one that's different from all of these other ones for one very distinct reason--you never actually see them.

If you think of a story as a snapshot in the main character's life, then there are only going to be certain moments--and certain people--who matter. You wouldn't want to mention every single person your character knows. Unless having every member of your MC's extended family show up is important to the story, then we don't have to meet all of those characters, even if they have a big influence on the MC's life. I'm wondering, though--is it ok to mention a character even if we never meet them?

I've been thinking about this a lot through my editing process because I've come to realize that I have not one, not two, but THREE unseen characters. These are characters who are mentioned now and then but never appear in any page of the novel. Is it ok to do this? Or does mentioning a character without ever bringing them to the page going to disappoint or confuse your reader?

The way I see it, each of my three main characters has a person who has (or still does) influence their lives in some way, but these people never make it onto the page. For example, it's hinted at that my MC's mother has some sort of relationship with her boss, this being the main reason why she is never home. But we never meet her boss, and the few times where she shows up, she never mentions him, either. The boss is basically only mentioned by the narrator to give some sort of explanation to the reader about his home life, and why his mother isn't around.

I'm not so worried about this character. He's not all that important to the story, so I don't think we need to meet him, even if he is mentioned. I am struggling with another one of my unseen characters, however. Another character frequently mentions his sister, and his family history actually plays a big role in the way he sees himself and how he lives his life. But she is another character that we never meet. The big problem with this is that my book is in first person, and there is no possible scenario where my narrator would meet this person. So I wonder if it's ok to mention her as many times as I do. She was a new character I added to the second draft to sort of tie everything together, explaining why my more important character (her brother) does certain things. Basically I felt there were a lot of unanswered questions in the first draft that I answered by creating her. Now I'm only left with one--if she's so important, why isn't she actually in the book? It's not very easy to figure out. I wouldn't want to stretch things out, make a scene that isn't important to the plot just to justify a character's existence. But if I remove her, I feel like everything will fall apart again.

What do you think? Is it ok to mention a character that we never meet? Do any of your stories have an unseen character?

18 June 2014

I Don't Write Reviews...

I did something weird the other day. I finished a book (no, that's not the weird part...ok, maybe it is) and I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. I almost never do that. I'm sure there are several reasons for this. I think because with most things, I tend to be neutral. I never love or hate anything (with a few exceptions, usually on the love side). If you asked me what my favorite author, band, movie, or TV show was, I probably couldn't answer you. It's hard for me to pick favorites. And honestly, I could count the number of movies I actually despised on one hand. For books, it's even harder. 

If There Be Thorns (Dollanganger, #3)I'm going to go off on a tangent here, I'm sure, but I find it amusing. The book I just finished was If There Be Thorns by V.C. Andrews, the third book in the Dollanganger series. I got into the series when Lifetime premiered the movie version of the first book, Flowers in the Attic back in January. I just decided to watch it one night and then started the book not too long after. The movie was pretty good considering its length, but the book (of course) was even better. After finishing the first book, I immediately started the second, Petals on the Wind. This I did not get through quite as fast as the first. I just couldn't connect with it--it seemed to drag on forever, so I would often just stop reading it altogether. I took so long, in fact, that Lifetime managed to make a movie out of it--a really, really bad movie. Seriously. I think I could forgive all of the changes they made from the book if it actually turned out to be a decent movie, but no...just, no. 

Where was I? Oh, right! I wasn't even sure if I wanted to continue reading the series, but the description for If There Be Thorns seemed too interesting to pass up. I started it on the plane to Las Vegas and read the whole thing in about a week (I'm actually a slow reader, so this was an accomplishment). I absolutely loved it. It kept me constantly turning the (Kindle) page, gasping at certain moments. I loved the change in voices, as there are two narrators whose voices are very distinct. The first two books were written from one character's perspective, Cathy, and the third changes completely, switching back and forth between her two sons. I thought Andrews' ability to craft these voices was incredible. It was something I hope to achieve in my own writing, since my narrator has a very different voice from my own. 

Here's the thing, though. I didn't write any sort of review after I rated the book. I never write reviews, good or bad, or anywhere in between. I just don't think I'm any good at it. I struggle to come up with anything to say. If I like the book, that's pretty much all I can think of. If I find faults in it, I feel like I don't have the right to point them out, whether it's a book by a well established author or someone new. Especially someone new, actually. I wouldn't want to ruin their day by writing even a sentence that trashed their book. So I don't even bother. 

I have an idea, though! Especially because my Kindle is full of books written by bloggers I know that I haven't even read yet. I'm going to start a recurring post on my blog, probably once a month, that will feature at least a snippet of a review of whatever books I've read by writers I know. They'll probably be short, highlighting what I really liked about the book, and hopefully I'll post these on Goodreads and Amazon once they're posted here. I won't call them reviews, though. I'm thinking of calling it "Hey, I Read Your Book!" and the first installment will be towards the end of next month. I'm thinking maybe the last Monday of every month, and I don't really have enough time to finish any books this month. But look out for it in the future! Maybe this will help me with my review writing phobia. 

I still need three people for the Writing Process blog hop, so if you're interested (and haven't been picked by someone else--this thing is spreading!), leave me a comment with your email and I'll get in touch with you. Thanks!

17 June 2014

Cracking the Whip...On Myself?

Today is the first day of whatever the hell it is I'm doing. My fiance and I got back from Vegas a week ago but he was still on vacation until today, so it was hard for me to really get anything done (we could really use two rooms...). I wanted to blog yesterday but we pretty much spent the whole day putting away groceries, doing dishes, and making tacos (yay!). Today I'm finally all by myself and I have to figure out what exactly I'm doing.

I know I don't want to find a job right away. But I also know I want to be prepared to get one. I need to create a resume, maybe a cover letter, and some kind of writing portfolio. If I'm checking for jobs all the time, even if I'm not expecting to find one, I should be prepared. That way if I find a job that I'm interested in, I can apply for it without worrying about getting everything together. 

I kinda don't even want to think about the *shudders* THIRD DRAFT of my novel. The second draft was more of a line by line rewrite. With this one, I don't have to do so much technical rewriting. It's more about big picture stuff, which, honestly, is even scarier than rewriting. I really want this to be the final draft that I'm going to send out, so I can't avoid any parts that I know need fixing (ugh...setting...). I did go through and highlight the entire Guide to Literary Agents and found a few good matches, and several to research further. So, fingers crossed! Now I just have to write a query letter...

I think my biggest problem is that I don't really know how to structure my work. I've never been good at giving myself a schedule. I've thought about having daily goals, like say, two hours of editing, one hour of blogging, etc. I've thought about devoting each day to one thing. I'm not sure if these ideas are going to work either. But I'm afraid if I don't structure myself I'm just going to get lazy, and without a day job to fall back on, I really can't afford to do that. I have made a list of weekly goals, which I guess is a start. I'll see how much further I want to take it. I think it would be better to start each day with particular goals in mind. 

I definitely need to blog more. And visit other blogs. And just network, network, network. I plan on blogging every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (shh...I know it's Tuesday...). I have some ideas but the thought of coming up with something three times a week is a bit daunting. I have like, sixteen blog hop posts to write. Ok, maybe just two. But I also need to find three people to pass one on to (any volunteers? Huh? You know you want to!), and pick ELEVEN for the other, although this is a bit easier because I just have to nominate people, rather than find someone who is willing to participate. 

Ok, I think I'm done. I swear my future posts will have more of a purpose. I do occasionally come up with ideas for writing tips. What is everyone else up to? 

04 June 2014

Stress Postponed

It's that time again! The first Wednesday of every month is the posting day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Click the link to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog and learn more!

First Wed of Every Month

I have plenty to be insecure about right now, but I'm not really thinking about it. I'm putting it off until next week because tomorrow I'm getting on a plane to Las Vegas with my fiancĂ©. I'm planning on five days of relaxation and fun, and if I'm lucky, maybe I'll win some money, although I'm certainly not going to try anything but slot machines. Mostly I just want to eat, drink, and lounge by the pool. 

Of course, when we come back next Tuesday, I'm sure reality is going to slap me in the face. Last night was my last shift at my job. It was a weird feeling, because I know I'm going to miss a lot of the people there, but I will not miss actually working there. Not one little bit. I'm sure it's going to be a little bit scary not having a source of income anymore, and to watch my savings go down as I pay my bills. But I'm hoping it will all be worth it in the end. 

I'm also a bit stressed out about my book. Sometimes I'll think, hey I'm almost done! Then I'll think the exact opposite--that there's so much work still to do. Ok, yes, there is a lot of work to do. But I'm not going to do another rewrite, just a lot of editing. I'll also have a lot of time to work on it. I'm thinking I'll work on my book at least three hours every day, as well as looking for freelance work, publishing jobs, and agents to eventually send queries to. My whole focus is going to be on building my writing career. 

So yeah, there's a lot to be stressed about. But I'll worry about that next week. Right now, my bags are packed, my Kindle is charged, all my high heels are shoved into my suitcase. And I've got my second draft and a red pen for the plane ride. :)